Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday News And Views

Another bear sighting in Iowa recently. From the Iowa DNR page on Facebook
The Bears Come And The Bears Go:

Some folks live in "bear country", so this will be no big deal to them, but here in Iowa, bears are rarely seen. Last year I believe it was, there was a black bear sighting near Janesville, which is a village I cycle in and around often. This year in Northeast Iowa black bears were spotted again, which, for Iowa, is where you would expect to see bears. The terrain up there and the proximity to Wisconsin and Minnesota, both black bear homes, makes this occurrence less spectacular.

However; when you see that a bear has been spotted in Grundy County, which is due West of here, and mostly agricultural, it raises your attention levels. Especially in Fall. Spring and Summer bear sightings are most common, if you are to see a bear at all in Iowa, but Fall? I've never heard of it before.

Actually, I've never heard of black bears in Iowa until recently. When I was young, or in my 20's and 30's, it wasn't on my radar and no one spoke of such a thing. We would see the stray moose now and again, but never bears. Maybe I just wasn't aware of them and they have always been coming through Iowa. Hmm...... I just know that if I see one out gravel grinding someday I'll think I was hallucinating!

Ibis introduces the Hakka MX gravel/adventure bike
 Hakka (Gravel) Lugi:

Cyclo Cross spawned a subset of weirdness at one time which was sort of refreshing. I remember when Ibis debuted the cross bike they made in steel back in the day. They understood cyclo cross was a totally anaerobic, pain infested form of cycling, and the name they picked for their entry into the CX world reflected this in typical Ibis humor. They dubbed the bike the "Hakkalugi", in reference to how the lung searing efforts of cyclo cross would often cause one to hack up a large wad of mucus.

Well, cyclo cross got all serious, so maybe the humorous part of Ibis' past has been lost, but they have entered a rig in the gravel/adventure category and dubbed it the "Hakka MX". That's kind of a lame name, considering Ibis' past. I mean, it's obvious we don't have "MX" to "hack up", so whatever that means is lost on me. (I know......moto cross....whatever...)

The bike seems to be pretty on point as far as geometry and the current "multi-wheel fit" mania that has taken hold of the cycling world lately. Really.....who is going to actually swap out wheel sizes? It is a selling feature more than it is a practical feature, in my opinion. But however you see that playing out, it is a cool bike. It fits pretty big tires, and should make for a lightweight platform for a racy gravel rig. Plus, (little known TI fact), a Hakkalugi rider won T.I.v8. So there is that.


A T.I.v14 Rookie started an "event page" for Trans Iowa. Funny thing- I never was asked about it!
Things Unasked For:

Back when Jeff Kerkove launched Trans Iowa (V1), he did it on his Blogger page and on the MTBR.com Endurance Forum. Social media wasn't a "thing" back in late 2004, so, ya know, he did what he did. It worked, and it worked really well. Discussion about the event flourished on the MTBR forum for the first four or so Trans Iowas, but after T.I.v3, social media crept in and people moved away from blogs and MTBR's endurance forum became a sort of wasteland. About around 2010, I noticed more and more gravel road event promoters were either doing actual "dot-com" sites, using Bike Reg.com as a defacto event site, or even more so, using Facebook as a "free event page" platform. Now in 2017 I would estimate that 60% or more of the events we catalog on RidingGravel.com's Events Page are Facebook addressed websites.


I have doggedly avoided Facebook for Trans Iowa purposes. It has become necessary to use it to link back to the original Blogger site, or this blog, to get information out there, but I almost never announce anything directly on Facebook, and a Trans Iowa page has never been set up, until now. And I didn't do it nor did I ask for it! 

Apparently some Rookie decided Facebook should be utilized as a place for discussion about the event, and set up a page, which looks "official", (he even pinched my artwork without asking), and is set up as though you might think I had something to do with it. I don't, and honestly, I don't care other than that this is a pretty cheeky move on this rider's part. I mean, you would think he'd have had the decency to at least ask. 

I guess I'm all wrong about that!


Have a great weekend and get in some riding. Thanksgiving is coming!



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thoughts On Tubulars For Gravel Road Riding

A 40mm tubular from FMB proposed for gravel racing. Image pinched from BikeRumor.com
The tubular tire has a long history in cycling going back to the 19th Century. Basically, a round "tube" makes up the tire cross section. The tube is then made circular and tread is attached to the outside circumference of the tube. That then is glued to a rim which is specifically designed for this type of tire. This process of gluing can take quite a bit of preparation and time.

Flat tires can be ridden on, (until the tire carcass shreds or comes unglued), but repairs to tubulars are not often done and then only by skilled craftsmen and not immediately in the field. Typically one either carries another tubular tire pre-glued for replacement or one has to change out wheels from a "pit" on course or from a support vehicle, as you see often in Pro road racing.

So......why would one want a tubular for gravel road riding or racing? Well, for one thing, pinch flats would be non-existent theoretically speaking, as there is no traditional tube which would be separate from the tire to pinch. However, a cut tire is much more likely, if pressures are run low. Secondly, tubular tires have famously low rolling resistance and corner very well. Finally, there is a certain faction of cyclists that would find running tubulars something that would tickle their romanticized notions of cycling. So, for them, it would be justified.

I've written about the possibility of tubular tires for gravel road riding before here. In fact, I was so curious that I had Velocity build me a set of tubular wheels to try it out on based upon a tip from the folks at Challenge Tires years ago that they, (or someone) was going to make a big, wide tubular. That didn't happen so I actually laced the hubs over to some clincher rims this past Summer and hung the rims from the rafters.

With the typical gravel here in Iowa being chunky, loose, and deep, would tubulars survive the punishment?
I think certain places would do well with tubular tires. I think about Southeastern Minnesota, as an example, or anywhere the gravel is smaller in size, not very deep, hard packed, or really mostly dirt. However; that isn't what you will find everywhere, or in most areas that have unpaved roads. So, to my mind, this idea doesn't have enough merit to convince me that it is a solution that is better than a tubeless tire. While tubulars can be fantastically light, that probably isn't a good idea for a tire that will be getting constant roughing up by loose gravel. Not to mention riding anywhere there are puncture makers like goat heads and other thorny, pointy nasties on roads.

Tubeless tires typically are pretty bombproof out on gravel these days. It isn't impossible to have a flat, cut a tubeless tire, or to have some other issue, but those instances where tubeless gravel tires fail is rare and getting ever rarer. Even tubed tire use is easier on the maintenance side, and repairs are a snap in the field. Tubulars? Not so much.

This all has become relevant again because of a company famous for making tubulars, FMB, which has come out with an idea for a tubular gravel tire. (See the BikeRumor.com article here) In my opinion, this FMB tire is a stab at seeing what the reaction to a tubular for gravel racing might be. There is really no sense in the tire shown otherwise since the casing is huge, exposed badly on the sidewalls, and the tread is simply a CX tread glued on to this bigger casing. It isn't a practical design.

If this gains favor amongst racers, and FMB actually does a design worthy of use, which this design exercise clearly is not, then what? Well, it will be one more reason for the riders who are using these to call for support vehicles. I mean, you aren't really going to expect anyone in their right mind to carry a spare tubular and rip off the damaged tire, replace it with a pre-glued spare in the field, and carry onward, are you? Of course not! This isn't going anywhere unless gravel racing becomes just like Pro road races. So, unless the UCI gets behind this, or unless gravel races open up to going in the direction of Pro road races, this idea has zero merit. Because tubeless tires are already a far better idea than this is.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hubba

Paul WORD hub- Now with Boost
Its no secret that I like hubs, spokes, and rims for bicycles. I enjoy building my own wheels and I like riding them when I do build them up. There is just something really amazing about taking a bunch of wires, brass nuts, a hub with nice bearings, and a nice rim and making all of that in to a wheel.

So Paul Component Engineering just released news about a new version of their WORD hub. This is a hub that claims to be the very first production single speed mountain bike hub. If it wasn't, then it is close to being that. I know it has been around a long time. I bought a set of the first version of the Disc WORD for mt Karate Monkey back in 2003. Those hubs are still around although I need to re-lace them to new rims.

While I don't have a Boost spaced, single speed device around, it may happen someday. Who knows? It's good to know that a hub option exists that will work for a dedicated single speed set up. And even in polished silver! That's even sweeter.

While I am on the subject of Boost spacing, I've heard a rumor that it is coming to road bikes. Gravel road bikes, actually. It seems that a "certain component manufacturer" that doesn't have a great front derailleur design and is pushing 1X wants to introduce this so they can get you to buy a 1 X12 system for your next gravel bike. This is not all that surprising, and it will be touted as a solution for the gravel people who race in the earlier Spring events with mud and what not. But here's the thing......

DK200 2015- The infamous 3 mile mud march. Image by A Andonopoulous
Front derailleurs are not the problem. It is the rear derailleurs that stop folks from finishing these muddy, wet gravel events. The Land Run 100, the 2015 version of the DK200, Trans Iowa, and various other events have seen their fare share of rear derailleur carnage due to mud and bad conditions. Maybe a clutch style rear derailleur will be more mud resilient, but then again, maybe not.

At least it will be easier to set up a damaged bike single speed with a narrow-wide chain ring......possibly....maybe.

But why Boost? Well, it seems that many manufacturers are looking to stuff 2.1" 29"er tires into these "adventure/gravel" bikes. But you might say that many mountain bikes are using the "old" dimensions and are doing fine. You would be correct. So, again- why? Well, we are going to hear all the "stiffer, stronger. lighter" arguments, of course, but that isn't really why either. Think about it- If you already have tooling for Boost 1X12 why develop it in any other format than Boost? So, you are going to see a split in gravel/adventure. More "Cutthroat-ish" bikes with Boost and the more narrow Q factor bikes we have now with compatibility with road components. Then again- I could be all wrong about that.

In the meantime, I'm thinking those Boost WORD hubs and a nice, simple steel gravel rig, set up single speed would be the ticket. Hubba-hubba!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Broken

Whoops! Must have forgotten the LocTite!
So the other day I had my son out for a fat bike ride. He's a much bigger fella than he used to be, almost "man-sized" these days, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised if he breaks something.

The ride was going well. We were in the Green Belt riding out to do Marky-Mark and then we were heading back around the lake back there. I was up ahead of my son by about 50 yards when I heard a big "crack!". Then I turned to see my son dismounting his bike and exclaiming, "You've got to be kidding me!". I figured he snapped his derailleur off.

I rode back to where he was standing beside his bike which was laying drive side up in the trail. I looked at the rear wheel but all was fine there. Then I saw it. A folded over chain ring. What?!! I had heard about such things happening but I'd never had that happen to me. Well......it wan't me, but I did build the bike. Hrrumph! I must have forgotten the LocTiite on that bolt. My bad!

So, I told my son to hit the parking lot, which was about a quarter mile away, and then I rode home as fast as I could in my"high range" on the Blackboow DS. Spinning out on a bike with 4.8" fat bike tires weird deal. Roaring tires on pavement and a bit of bouncing, despite my best efforts at trying to be smooth. It was quite a scene!

Well, I got the "Truck With No Name" and rescued him as he was sitting in the parking lot in a light drizzle. Then I dragged the wounded bike down to the Lab where it has been since waiting on a new Race Face chain ring in green ano to replace the broken one.

I think I'll hang his old one up in his room after I get it off the bike, just as a reminder of the "good times"!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Single Speed 50

The Pofahl at the meeting place.
Last week I got a text message from Martin. ".....Would you be interested in a 40-ish mile ride Saturday?" I definitely was interested, and to boot, Martin was proposing to ride a single speed. In fact, it was a bike I used to own, an '07 Salsa Cycles El Mariachi.

We discussed via text what times and about a route. Martin sketched out a loop Eastward toward Independence Iowa because the winds were forecast from the Southeast and at a forecast upper 30's temperature, we didn't want a lot of headwinds. I liked the idea, because I hadn't been out that way previously. Lots of new-to-me roads, so I was very much game to go. It was decided we would ride at 11:00am from the old Waterloo 3GR meeting spot, a swimming pool parking lot on the Northeast side of Waterloo.

My Pofahl, now with the correct 180mm rotor (!!), has those new Donnelly MSO 50's on it and I set those up tubeless. I tried to accommodate for the cooler temperatures we would be riding in by airing up to 40psi rear/38psi front, realizing that after about 15 minutes I would be at something more in the mid-30's for psi. Then it was all about donning the garb to make it around the loop. Martin said it was about 45-46 miles, and I had about 3 miles to get to the meeting place, so I had to prepare for a good 50 miles of riding.

I wore thermal bib tights, an Omniwool base layer top which was long sleeved, a Twin Six Standard Wool jersey, short sleeved, and my Bontrager windproof jacket. On my head I wore my gifted Endspurt Hamburg liveried tube buff and my Bell Super helmet. On my hands I wore a thin base layer glove and Lycra Bontrager gloves over that. My feet were covered in long, calf high "Sock Guy" wool socks, a vapor barrier made from plastic grocery sacks, and 45NRTH Fasterkatt boots. Oh, I also used Spy Optic Daft glasses with tinted amber lenses.

Okay, on with the ride!

A farmer tills the land under sullen, grey skies
Martin showed up with the old El Mar, now sporting a stout 42 X 18T gear combo and the rest as I remembered it being. The notable feature here would be the voluminous Maxxis Ardent 2.4's, tubeless on Blunt 35 rims. More of a mountain bike set up, with gravel gearing! Martin wasn't spinning much! He was grinding it out and the initial miles featured some rollers which were not giving us any quarter. The gravel was the typical chunky goodness I'm used to, so that wasn't of any concern.

First stop: Rearranging some clothing and having a quick bite to eat.
The wind was a quartering headwind as we were headed out on a 12 mile stretch straight East. I wasn't cold, except for maybe the bottoms of my feet. Perhaps I will have to consider a thin insulating layer or a heavier sock next time I ride in conditions like this. I suppose the wind chill was well into the 20's. That's a bit under the recommended range for those Fasterkatts anyway. Any colder and those boots wouldn't have been a good choice anyway.

But beyond that we were making great time. Martin said later our average speed was 12.5mph, so we weren't slouching by any stretch. I didn't pack any gizmos or traditional computer for mileage or data gathering. Martin was using a Garmin device of some kind. He didn't have the route downloaded though and about a third of the way in to the route Martin handed me the cues and he verified turns by matching up the mileage on his Garmin. That kept both of us engaged in the navigation.

Eventually we reached the roads I was unfamiliar with. Big Rock Road all the way to Buchanan County, then some meandering as we negotiated the roads around the Wapsipinnicon River valley and the river itself was crossed at Littleton. Martin was hoping to route by a resupply spot in case we needed to warm up or get food and water. Neither was necessary, so we motored on through town and took a right to round the eastern side of the loop Martin had sketched out for us.

We had a running buddy for a little bit.
We hit this narrow, tree lined road South of Littleton. Surprisingly it had a lot of car traffic!
Headed back West now.
So, here we started going West again, but the wind had laid down, or wasn't really a factor, because we weren't feeling any effects of it anymore. Just as well as the cold temperatures would have felt worse with a stiff wind. Martin said at one point as we were going back that it was 38°F. With the gray skies, it certainly looked, and felt a lot colder than that!

The roads on the Eastern swing were really smooth and fast. The gravel was chewed up to be a lot finer and less deep. We were running right on the road bed in many places. It was certainly really dusty, and it was evident that we needed rain, or lots of snow over Winter. Ironically enough, it rained all night Saturday night, but on our ride the dust was about as bad as it gets. The cars passing us by left clouds of dust which were impenetrable as far as seeing through them. Thankfully what little wind was left blew it off the roadway rather nicely.

The miles were winding down and we were thinking about cutting off a bit of a Northward turn to make the ride a bit quicker. Martin was also feeling the effects of the tall gearing, and hills were getting more difficult for him. We had stopped for our last extended time at an old country church so I could get another cemetery gate pic for the album. This was the St. Francis cemetery on Airline Highway. I had ridden past it earlier in the year going North on the road near to the church, but I hadn't ridden right past it until the ride with Martin on Saturday. This stop gave us the chance to rearrange boittles and grab our last bits to eat before we made our final push.

The Pofahl looking a bit more dusty than it was in the beginning.
A giant erratic about the size of a small house poking out of the corn stubble.
The dust was incredible for late Fall/early Winter.
The rest of the ride went according to Martin's original plan. That was because we had to use the original route. Our planned short cut turned out to be impossible since Airline Highway didn't go all the way through. It was interrupted by a pesky field. So, we turned North and went to Big Rock Road anyway.

The rest of the route then was a retracing of our route going out. That was okay because all these roads I knew quite well after so many years of running around out there. The end was back at the parking lot where I decided to hitch a ride from there to the house since Martin was going that way and he offered to give me a lift. I already had 50 miles in, so I was good with skipping the last three.miles back to the house.

I was pretty pleased with the outcome of the ride. We didn't mess around, covering the entire loop in slightly less than four hours. I felt pretty good. I am happy with how I am coming back after being ill and off the bike for the better part of a month without any real long rides. Unfortunately, with the iffy weather at this point in the year, I may not get in that SS Century Ride I wanted to do. I am pretty sure I could take a stab at it soon, but me having the time and the weather lining up is getting tougher to have work out.

But that's okay if it doesn't happen. I'll keep working on things and next year I hope to be pushing more century rides and having fun. Till then, it might happen again this year, it might not. Trans Iowa v14 is calling too. Lots to do before 2017 closes out.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 45

Riding the North side of Camp Ingawanis on an SE Stout SS rig.
Ten years ago on the blog I was still riding and testing stuff for the old "Twenty Nine Inches" website. This was a weird time for me as I had a bunch of stuff I was obligated to test with very little time to test it out. It was November, after all, and who knew when it might snow to the point we couldn't ride anymore? This made for some stressful times.

Interestingly enough, the cycling industry was, and still is, quite interested in sending out items for testing and review at this time of year. I always was a bit taken aback by this. Don't they know it snows in the upper Mid-West? But of course, when the vast majority of companies are based in cycling-centric SoCal, or in other warm, comfortable places, then I suppose it makes sense that they might not take harsh Winter conditions into consideration. Whatever the case, I was always pressed for any time for anything outside of testing stuff from late October till whenever the snow flew or the temperatures dropped to the teens or below. That was the point at which it made any kind of riding more a game of survival than anything.

Understanding companies would sometimes allow us to hang on to bikes till Spring broke and we could ride again, which was always appreciated. But, that wasn't always the case, so I had to ride as much as I could back in '07-'10 during this time of the year. After that, I had Grannygear in SoCal and our German based rider, cg, to rely on since their weather allowed for riding in Winter with no real problems.

It was a different world back then. Once Winter snowed out the trails, it was over for riding unless the gravel was open and I could ride in the country, but sometimes that was too icy. Fat bikes weren't a thing yet. I normally would wish for enough snow to XC ski, but barring that, it was a time of rest and waiting. Trans Iowa stuff was usually done during this time, and ten years ago, I was still running registration for v4.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: "Gravel Cycling"

The copy of Gravel Cycling that I paid for has been read now. How was it?
Instead of a typical "Friday News And Views" post you are going to get my take on this new book about gravel cycling called......"Gravel Cycling".

I know, an amazing title, right? But it gets right to the point. The book is by Nick Legan, who you may remember from his stint at "Velo News". Nick is an admitted gravel cycling lover and he also has a penchant for bikepacking. Yes- he managed to squirrel that into a book called "Gravel Cycling". 

So, how's that work? Well, it does to the extent that a certain event is arguably the defining event for the bikepacking genre'. That would be the Tour Divide. The course for this event, early on known as the "Great Divide Race", has been described by one of its early promoters as "a boring gravel route". So there ya go. It fits in that vein, I suppose. Oddly enough, when you read the book it actually does fit together. This gravel to bikepacking leap is more seamless than you'd imagine at first.

And that is really a feat. Nick Legan has basically shown us that in between the go-fast, shaved leg world of road cycling and the full-face helmet wearing, knobby tired world of mountain biking, their exists a realm of cycling based more on adventure and challenges. Ridden off pavement, this realm of cycling ranges far and wide and this is where "Gravel Cycling" is aimed at. The places, people, and gear that help define this genre's place in the cycling world is what Nick Legan has attempted to show us here. Is he successful?

Well, for the answer to that you can click HERE and read my review on "Riding Gravel". What I will say here is that if you are new to gravel road riding, "gravel curious", but maybe never intending to ride gravel, or if you have been reading these Trans Iowa Rookie advice posts all week with great interest, I suggest that you get this book. It's only $24.95, and I will tell you- you'll get more good tips than $24.95 can buy you elsewhere. In other words, just the knowledge within the pages is worth the asking price. But you also get some awesome photography as well. The book is loaded with stunning images.

So, for the "real review", read my piece on "Riding Gravel". But yes- it is a good bit of work and I feel that many who enjoy gravel road cycling will enjoy this book.

Note- I bought "Gravel Cycling" with my own damn money and I was not bribed nor paid for this review.