Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Jacob!

This is a photo of my son, Jacob, photobombing a family picture I was taking recently
14 years ago today at approximately 5:00am in the morning I was sleeping in a motorhome in Oskaloosa, Iowa when I was awakened by a phone call. It was Mrs. Guitar Ted. She said, "My water broke...". That set in to motion a series of events which saw me leaving my post as a mechanic on RAGBRAI, getting dumped off in front of a HyVee grocery store with my duffel bag, and trying to get a hold of my sister, or anyone, to get me back to Waterloo so I could be there when my baby was born. We knew it was to be a boy, and his name would be Jacob.

Well, as it turned out, that was the last time I wrenched on bikes for RAGBRAI. It was a bonus that I got off the route early, and my sister did get me back in plenty of time for the birth. I wasn't sure I'd make it at all there for a while, as I sat on a pile of water softener bags out in front of that grocery store, looking like some kind of hobo. Fortunately, RAGBRAI's presence in the town masked my oddity. So, this rascal's birthday is always a good reminder of that day for me.

Anyway, it's been a blessing to have had him come in to my life and I just wanted to give him a special shout out on the blog here.

Happy Birthday, Son!

No Dust Ride

A field of flowers and puffy clouds. A near perfect riding day.
We've had some real gully washers lately around here. Rain at night, generally speaking, has been heavy and persistent, most of the end of last week anyway. It rained once while I was at work so hard that I knew it was raining by the sound I heard on the roof. Where I work it has to rain really hard for me to hear it.

Well, Saturday was sunny, but it was beastly humid. I rode a couple errands on the Big Dummy, and that about wasted me. I think I got a bit of heat stroke last week on my Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational recon, so the residual effects have stuck with me throughout the week.

I ended up not doing much after the errands so I decided to wait until Sunday afternoon when the weatherman was saying that the humidity was going to start clearing out. Only one thing- there would be a stiff, Northwesterly breeze. I'll take it over no wind and high humidity and heat any day!

So, I set up the Tamland for the ride. By the way, my daughter has named this bike "Captain America", since it is red, white, and blue, and she is in to all the super-hero movie stuff. I'm good with that, so from now on, you'll see the Tamland referred to as "Captain America". Okay, so with that out of the way.....

Yeah, I was ready for a ride after lunch and headed out straight North toward Burton Avenue. There was a wind, sure enough, but it wasn't so bad that I could not just keep grinding away at it. I stopped to take a picture of a field full of flowers and then headed on Northward. I never really knew how far I was going to go. I was just making plans as I went based upon how I felt.

I saw a lot of Monarch Butterflies.they seemed to like these orange flowers.
I ended up going all the way in to Bremer County and then hitching a ride East on the Waverly Rail Trail which then turns into the Readlyn-Grump Trail, (Really! Readlyn-Grump!) Readlyn has a "Legend of The Old Grump" and holds a celebratory "day" every year to observe it's legend. Anyway..... I didn't go to Readlyn Sunday. I turned off before that thinking I'd get a nice tail wind push back to town, (which I did), and get in about 40 miles of riding. I came up short on the mileage by a mile and a quarter. Oh well! My math skills aren't the best.

The gravel was pretty chunky Sunday. I couldn't find much for smooth lines in either county I rode in. The weird thing was that it wasn't dusty. Usually chunky, fresh gravel equals dust and lots of it. However; those rains I mentioned must have washed all the dust away leaving just rocks. I looked down several times at my WTB Resolutes and they were clean and bluish-black looking. Generally you look down at your tires after riding several miles here and they are off-white. The dust usually coats the tires in a fine gritty mess. Even the cars I saw, which were few, weren't kicking up much dust. That was kind of weird since it wasn't cool and wet or raining.

The ride was good.  I didn't feel anything negative due to last week's rough ride nor did I have any issues, really. It was fun to get away form the town of Waterloo for a bit and enjoy some solitude on the bike. While I did not get any further with the recon for GTDRI, I did get out North on the gravel, which I had not done for a long time. Too long. I like riding up that way a lot. I also thought that it was a nearly perfect riding day. It was so beautiful out, and despite the wind, I had a great time. I likely won't experience a "no dust ride" anytime soon out there, that's for sure!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

GTDRI '17: Update

As of now.....this is the route!
GTDRI Update: 

Due to last weekend's recon, I had to revise the route. That was actually a good thing. Now, I may have to revise it again. I may find something this weekend that will cause further rerouting. I also may do a "B" route without dirt roads in case of wet weather, but I may just fly by the seat of my pants and not do that. If it rains, what the heck. We'll decide to do something else. Whatever that may be.....

Here are the salient points so far, including news on the reroute.
  • The reroute actually forced me to clean up a couple of oddball things I had in the route and now it flows beter.
  • I also got in three more miles of dirt road, but I likely lost at least one. Net gain- Two miles of dirt, including the low water crossing of Wolf Creek near Traer. 
  • There should be a solid 25% of the mileage in dirt roads on this 102+ mile length route. 
  • We will pass by Dysart, but I really do not want to have to stop there. It would add two miles- out and back- to get to the Dysart Casey's convenience store. 
  • The first planned stop will be in Traer at about Mile 49. 
  • The second planned stop will be at Mile 76 in Garwin, Iowa
  • After Garwin there will be approximately 27 miles to finish up at the Broad Street Brewing Company in Reinbeck. 
  • Start Time: 6:00am in front of Broad Street Brewing
  • Finish time: Approximately 6:00pm. This will depend upon weather, the group, and winds. 
  • Plan to meet rain or shine. If it rains we are going to wing it. The dirt roads won't be rideable. The route could be completely different. Be prepared for chaos and adventure if the weather goes pear shaped.The route could be 25 miles or a century if that happens. 
  • Plot A Route gpx file will be available pending recon. 
  • The ride has no fee, no swag, no prizes. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!! 
  • Be prepared to ride at least 50 miles with all food, water, and repair items you think you will need to be self supported. 
  • NO SAG AVAILABLE! Plan accordingly
  • Cell service WILL BE SKETCHY!
  • There will be farm dogs and possibly wild animals. 
  • There will be deep, fresh gravel, dirt, and maybe some sand. 
  • We will cross highways and run alongside HWY 63 for a 1/2 mile total in two different places. 
  • This ride will be primarily in Tama County with short forays in to Grundy County and Benton County. 
Stay tuned......................

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 29

"The Pines" on the North Side of Ingawanis
NOTE: Due to computer maintenance this post is a little late today. 

 Ten years ago on the blog this week I posted about riding on the trails at the Boy Scout Camp Ingawanis. Ironically, there was little going on for riding on the South Side in those days. All we rode was on the North, for the most part, and those were the best trails by far back then. They still would be, but for some oddness having to do with two factions.

The most grievous thing was that the North side trails were also used for horseback riding. When the trails first opened up to mountain biking in the early 00's, the mountain bikers cleaned up and extended the trails in the North Side until there were some issues with the horse folks. They used all of the new stuff, but even though they were not averse to complaining about trail conditions, they never lifted a finger to help out. Secondly- The horse folk, who tpically have a lot more disposable income, were paying rent and event fees to pasture horses on Camp properrty and to have horse back trail riding events at the Camp. The Boy Scouts were looking for money any way they could get it and a measly mountain bike race didn't compare to the thousands of bucks horse people threw at them to use the land.

So, when we bikers complained bitterly about having to maintain the trails with no help, having to deal with trail being obliterated by grazing horses, and having the trails shut down to us during horse back riding events, the Scout Ranger turned a deaf ear to us. That's what pushed the development of the South Side into high gear, because those trails were off limits to the horse back riders due to the fact that the COPE area was there, and the rules for the Boy Scout Camp forbade the horses and riders to be anywhere near that area. Somehow or another mountain biking was allowed, but even we had to keep our distance from a certain hilltop on the South Side. Anyway..... it worked out that by about 2010-2011 we were not riding on the North Side much at all, and a couple years later we weren't riding that side.

David Pals checks his camera settings during recon for the 2007 GTDRI in Tama County
By 2014 the Camp was in such dire straits money-wise that the Scouts had dispensed with the on-site ranger and pretty much had shut down any mountain biking on the North Side. Logging of both sides, which the Scouts allowed to get more money,  also disrupted trails. The South Side trails were repaired, the little used North Side ones weren't always maintained back into rideable shape. The increased development of more sustainable and exciting trail on the South Side made this a moot point, however. Now there is talk again of re-entering the North Side and doing trail work for mountain biking, but the equestrian question and how we would deal with the Boy Scouts of America has not been addressed, so I am not too hopeful at this point that anything will happen in the near future.

Also, I was discussing Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational details. The route was mainly devised by my then Trans Iowa co-director, David Pals. He devised a route in and out of Marengo, Iowa, where he lived at the time. The recon took in several gnarly Level B Maintenance roads, one of which is pictured here. David inferred at one point that this pictured road, along with another that followed it, are now no longer open to travel. I have not been down that way since T.I.v6, so I have not confirmed that, but I need to get back down that way to have a look and see what the situation is.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday News And Views

This and three other designs coming soon....

I found out yesterday that my partner in Riding Gravel, Ben Welnak, has come up with four new stickers that should be available sometime soon. When I know more I will pass it along here.

There will be "Addicted To Gravel" stickers in this run, in case you were wondering. Stay tuned.....

News on next year's Grinder Nats has come out...
 Grinder Nats, Gravelleurs Raid Join Forces:

The Gravelleur's Raid event has been an annual event for a while now and when Grinder Nationals announced that they were going to have an event in the same area, but later in June, it sent out a red flag to the organizers. To their credit, instead of fighting with each other these events have now joined forces and Grinder Nationals will now happen in conjunction with Gravelleur's Raid on April 7th, 2018.

Here's the Press release:

PRESS RELEASE: Alright gravel peeps here we go.
The Gravelleur's Raid 100 mile gravel road race will now be your gravel Grinder Nationals event. It will be a fully supported gravel event.
It is owned and operated by the United States Endurance Cycling Federation.
We will be growing the event and making it one of the top gravel races in the United States.
More info to come.
The 50 mile non-competitive event will be called Gravelleur's Raid and become a bigger and better event also.

There ya go......

Commentary: There will be a lot of folks that want to piss and moan about how "gravel racing is being  ruined", or by expressing some similar comments. I have talked with one of the USECF head honches, Troy, worked alongside of him, and have interviewed him. He gets it. The USECF grew up out of a grassroots background. The USECF wants to keep the vibe that gravel racing has always had, but they want to also have an opportunity for its best racers to gain recognition and be rewraded with a jersey that shows that. As far as I know, that's all they want to do. 

Like I have said, I've spoken with Troy from the USECF. Have any of the other commenters dug into this and asked folks from the organization what's up? Or are we just shooting from the hip? Uh huh.......

I will pass along this: The USECF jumped at the chance to do a "Gravel Nationals" because they knew that the USAC Federation was going to try to do it. I doubt that USAC would be interested in doing things in a "grassroots way" judging by how they have operated throughout their history. So, there is that nugget to chew on as well.

Finally, I feel that the Grinder Nationals is not doing anything now, or will do anything in the future that say, an event like Dirty Kanza has not already done before. That's likely what the organizers are shooting for here. So, the DK200 draws well over 2000 racers and supporting folks to Emporia every June. If that is the Grinder Nats template, I don't see how that "ruins" gravel racing, or the scene. I guess if it rankles your feathers, you could always just not bother with it, ya know....... We do have a choice.

2018 Trek Roscoe 8- A 27.5+ rig (Image courtesy of Trek Bicycles)
Trek Resurrects The Roscoe Model, Gives it Plus Wheels:

Remember the old Fisher Roscoe? Well, Trek has dredged up another old Fisher Bikes model name and tacked it on to this new, 27.5+ wheeled hard tail. You can think of it as a smaller wheeled Stache.

There will be two models offered to start with. The Roscoe 7 will retail for right at a grand and the Roscoe 8 will basically be $1200.00 list. The Orange Roscoe 8 has an aluminum frame with internal rear derailleur and dropper post routing, an NX 1X 11 group, and comes with a dropper. It also has a 141mm, open drop out rear end that is like a Boost hub but with a quick release. The fork has 120mm travel, by the way, and the bike is surprisingly shown with Schwalbe tires.I imagine at some point Bontrager will have 27.5+ rubber for these bikes.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out going forward because the X Cal series, also redesigned for 2018, is in this same price point. Trek will certainly be eyeballing which line does better and I wouldn't be surprised to see one or the other go away in the future. But then again, this is Trek and they manufacture a boat load of models.

I like the Roscoe 8. It seems like a better spec than a Timberjack and you'll likely be able to actually find one to test ride. I am a little leery of the rear axle spacing, which seems out of step with the current "axle du jour" standards. But otherwise it seems like a decent entry to plus bikes from a good name brand company.

Okay, that's it for this week. Have a great weekend and stay cool!

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Velocity rim/hub on lower left- Bontrager rim/Velocity hub upper right
Okay, so back a few years ago I heard that Challenge Tires were going to make a big, fat tubular for gravel riding. In fact, they asked me if I'd try out a pair if they made them. Since I am all about tires, of course, I said "yes".

Trouble was that I did not have a tubular wheel set. That's kind of a problem if you want tubular tires. So, something had to be done!

That "something" was fulfilled by Velocity USA and they set me up with a Major Tom Disc wheel set. Disc because.....oh, I don't know. I figured that would be the coming thing then. I was mostly right about that part!  So, anyway, here I was, all set for some fat tubular gravel tire action. I was told that the ride quality would be amazing, and I still do not doubt that it would be the case. I was also told that there would be a new, pressure sensitive tape which would make gluing up tubulars a thing of the past. I was stoked about it all. So, I waited, and waited.....and waited........

And it never happened. Those wheels hung in the Lab for tubulars. I looked in to buying some to just give the idea a try out. Gulp! Fat, quality tubulars exist, but my goodness......... No, I wasn't going to pay that price for an experiment that, in all reality, not many people would have benefited from, and I wasn't that curious. So, what the heck! I had these wheels that were no good to me.

I tried selling them, but to no avail. So, I came up with this crazy idea to "spoke over" some compatible rim to this wheel set, freeing me from tubular prison. I looked at the wheels and they were 24 spoke count wheels?!! Uggh! That made finding a good rim candidate a lot harder. As did the ERD for the Major Tom, which is larger than many rims in the 700c category for disc use. 

Finally, I came across some close out Bontrager Scandium rims which would work. So, they were rim brake rims. this point, I didn't care. I got them and the process of swapping the rims out is complete now. Wheels transformed! Now I can actually make use of them. They are TLR, meaning the rims are designed to use the excellent Bontrager tubeless rim strip, so that will be getting installed soon along with tubeless valve stems. I was pretty happy that the wheels ended up weighing 1600 grams on the dot. Not bad at all.

Now, the wheel with the silver rim pictured above is not the "before", tubular wheel. It is a completely different wheel  from a set I just bought from a co-worker. That wheel set is going to go on the rebuild of my original Inbred 29"er. So, stay tuned for that.....

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blame It On The Bottom Bracket

The lowly bottom bracket. This one is a thread together PF replacement by Wheels Manufacturing
Many of you know that I have been a bicycle mechanic for a long time. Just about 20 years now, and I also was a car mechanic for 5 1/2 years as well. I really like working with my hands for a living.

That said, in all my bicycle mechanic years, I would have to say that the lowly bottom bracket gets blamed for everything. Especially noises. Those always seem to come from the bottom bracket! 

Okay, before I go on let me say that I know not all noises come from the bottom bracket, and so do many of you. I speak as one who works retail. In that world, bottom brackets do get blamed for an awful lot of things that they shouldn't be blamed for. It's kind of like the proverbial saying where someone has a little bit of knowledge and then is "dangerous" with it.

Besides being blamed for all sorts of creaks and groans, some of which bottom brackets are to blame for, these components get blamed all the time for not conforming to "standards". I think what many folks get bent out of shape about is the seemingly never ending parade of different, competing bottom bracket styles. You have your Press Fit 30, Press Fit 41, Outboard Bearing cup, BB 30, fat bike, Press Fit 121, GXP, Shimano 24mm, BBright, and who knows what else. That seems absurd, but you really have no idea what absurd was concerning bottom brackets unless you go back about 30 years.

Remember these clunkers? This was actually pitched as a "standard" everyone should use!
I laugh at the complainers today when I think about the machinists cabinet we used to have to look through to match up spindles. There were about seven rows eight drawers across filled with different ones. Then you had to match up the cup threading. It could be English, French, Swiss, or Italian. Then you had a different taper for Campagnolo compatible square taper bottom brackets too. Then you either had bearings in a cage, or you packed in loose ball bearings in a few different grade choices. Oh yeah......and you had to choose your grease. Then you had to have the correct tools to install the cups, but wait! Did you chase the threads and face the shell first?

Yeah....bottom bracket standards. Those were the days, right?

I also remember a time when "The Industry" was trying to standardize the bottom bracket without Shimano. There was a bottom bracket which was an alternative to Shimano's "Octalink" cartridge bottom brackets that was going to sweep the industry and everybody would be using them. It was the ISIS style bottom bracket, developed as an "open standard" so there were no patents to observe or licensing fees to pay to utilize the design. There were only going to be three spindle lengths in three bottom bracket shell sizes. Simplified bliss! We would all cheer for joy because bottom brackets had finally been standardized!

Except that one niggling detail- they sucked at actually working for very long. 

Yeah....that's a problem. So then we all forgot about trying to unify the competing bottom bracket factions under one style to rule them all, and now we have all these wonderful choices.

Choices are good.......right?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I Am A Road Rider

This is a road. I like roads like this to ride bicycles on.
I was made aware of this post about "never riding a road bike on the road again". I took a gander, and you know what? I kind of took issue with the post, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

First of all, I am a road rider. My roads just are not paved. Small technicality, but one many people make a big distinction on. I know that I have been a big advocate of riding gravel, but I have been careful about not saying anything about it being a completely different discipline in the general sense, because in my mind, it isn't.

Now, the manufacturers will tell you it is different, and the cycling media heavyweights will definitely poo-poo the idea that I am a "road cyclist". They have condescendingly called what I do "groad" riding and people that do it "groadies", as if it is something to be laughed at or sneered about. And whether that is actually true or not, that is the vibe that these editors and writers put out there.

I call it "gravel grinding, because, ironically, that's what the old roadies that trained on gravel called it before me. But the media wonks don't want to hear about that. They had to come up with a dumber sounding name themselves for it, and they succeeded, I might add. What a stupid term for road riding.


This is a road bike. It is pictured on a road.
The point is that the story I referenced at the top says that road riding is too dangerous. Well, yeah.......if you ride where the traffic is heavy, or fast, it is. However; we have 70,000 plus miles,  just in Iowa, of roads that are not paved. These roads have almost no traffic. These are the roads I enjoy riding all the time without fearing for my life. These are the roads I ride where I do not get buzzed by cars going 60 plus miles an hour. These are the roads where car traffic, when I do encounter it, often slows down and pulls off to the side of the road to give me more than three feet. Heck, most of the time the drivers actually wave a friendly wave at me. 

So, my question is, "Why would I want to ride on paved roads anymore?" The answer is, I do not. Because I have a resource right outside my city limits that affords me the opportunity to ride all day long and see only a handful of cars, if I see any at all. 

I can also see things I would not ever see on paved road rides. I see remote, rustic farms, animals- both wild and domesticated- and I see landmarks and natural features I'd never see on paved rides. I can ride all day by myself, or if I ride with a friend, they can ride beside me and no one gets angry about it.

That said, I did agree with the author of the tagged post above that cars are too easy to drive. Combine that with the last decade of increasingly self-absorbed cell phone usage, and you get a dangerous stew. Cyclists are not the only ones suffering from the collateral damage caused by this phenomenon. Pedestrians and other motorists are also in harms way of the "distracted driver". While some things are being done about it, and more sweeping measures should be taken, I, in the meantime, will not be found on paved roads unless it is for my commute to work.

That isn't to say riding gravel roads is completely safe from motorist doing harm to you as a cyclist. (Ask me how I know.) But I'll gladly take the odds for being hit on gravel or dirt roads against riding on paved black top roads and highways any day.