Monday, April 20, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: A Big Hurdle Overcome

My view for most of the weekend
The cues are printed. That's a huge relief for me to be able to write. A lot goes into the production of these cue sheets and a lot of combined efforts are needed to gather the information and verify the data's accuracy. All of that comes to a head when I push the button to print. That process takes a while in itself, since I do everything "in house", literally, since it costs a lot less for me to do it that way.

The ol' printer is accurate and does a great job of printing, but it is sloooooow. How slow? You may be surprised to find out that I have about 13 hours on the printer just to do the cue sheets. It isn't like I can throw a switch and walk away either, since the paper tray can only handle maybe 20 sheets of card stock at a crack. That means I have to be around to keep the thing fed. I've learned how to do that so the printer never stops as well, which saves a little bit of time.

I know, many of you are probably thinking I should do something or another to save time, or make this more efficient. The thing is, I save a lot of money by doing this myself. Time? Yes, it costs me a lot of time. In this case, pretty much an entire weekend of free time was eaten up by this process, but I cannot afford to print these at a printer for anything near as cheap as I can do this at home. I know, because we used to have Trans Iowa cue sheets printed at a printer in the early years. That's when we only had 50 folks to provide cues for. And it was still far more expensive then than it is now for me to do it for almost twice as many people. So save your ideas unless they are super cheap to do.

At any rate, I now have to only do a bit of chopping, bagging, and packing then I can comfortably say Trans Iowa v11 is pretty much ready to go. There is the outstanding 76 miles of the end of the course that we didn't get to look at last weekend. I have a plan to check that out along with the bit to CP#1 on Friday before the Pre-Race Meat-Up, just to make sure there are no surprises.

Then the only thing we have to worry about is the weather. Of course, it rained heavily all over the course Saturday and Sunday. That said, it looks like we are to have several days of sunny skies before the event and no rain. If that happens, it should dry things up nicely, but it will be rather cool, with night time temperatures to dip below freezing a few nights coming up, which will delay drying somewhat. I really don't expect that we will have water or wetness issues coming into the event though. Whether that holds up for the weekend is still not 100% known yet, but things look to stay dry throughout the weekend right now.

Finally, I want to apologize to the readers here that are not so into Trans Iowa, but if you've been here long, you know that this is the time of year that Trans Iowa dominates the blog postings for a couple of weeks here. Stay tuned.......

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: On Track But Getting Derailled Again!

Getting sidetracked by Trans Iowa- Maybe worse than a flat tire!
Well, I've been really pleased with the riding of late. The last time I checked in I had just done the Renegade Gent's Race and had felt really good. The next weekend was the Geezer Ride and I was really happy with how that went. The next step would be taking some longer rides, and I sure would like to, but, ya see.......I have this little race to put on.

Honestly, Trans Iowa is one of the main reasons I don't usually sign up for Dirty Kanza or the Almanzo 100, as well. They come just a bit too close on the heels of the grind I put in for Trans Iowa. Doing any sort of meaningful training is pretty much out of the question the week beforehand. The week afterward I am emotionally drained while trying to get back to some semblance of a decent backlog of repairs at work. That brings me right into May with an almost two week time period where all I can get done is commute to work and back.

I suppose I'll have to chalk it up to a period of "rest" for the body. (<===HA!) It is what it is. I sure hope that I can put together a few long rides in the few weeks I'll have left to me before I hop in a truck and head down to Emporia. I'll have to make the best of things in the meantime.

Tamland call up to duty......
Equipment Choices:

Well, I still have to decide what bike to ride, so I have made a decision to swap the WTB rims/tires from the Vaya over to the Tamland and ride that bike in the event. I'm going to carry water bottles, I think, and I can easily get four on the bike, five if I think I need to. The race intel is that there will be "oasis" stops in between the start and the first checkpoint and between there and the final check point. That means I should be able to count on four refill opportunities. I figure on consuming a bottle per hour.  Maybe a bit more. I should be okay with this plan if I stay within a pace that I can maintain without burning myself to a crisp.

And that may not be avoidable, depending upon the weather which, if very hot, will roast me and it will make things very interesting, that's for sure! Heat and I do not have a very successful relationship when it comes to longer rides.  I have slogged through a few, so it isn't like it is impossible for me to do it, but the margin of error becomes very thin indeed when the temperatures soar and I need to do big miles.

Well, I don't expect I'll have another update on the Dirty Kanza for a while.......

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Update

The Super-Limited, Hard To Get, T.I.V11 Shirt
Well, this year I decided to do something that I am pretty excited about and I wanted to share the story of how this all went down. But first, I wanted to give a shout out to a few people without whom this would have been totally impossible to pull off- Ari, Sam, and the staff at 8/7 Central.

First is Ari Andonopoulous. Ari is a good friend, a great supporter of Trans Iowa, and heads up the Slender Fungus Cycling Association. Ari is also a fellow bicycle mechanic. He was crawling around in some forgotten place at the shop where he now works and found a rare, ancient bicycle tool with a certain caricature on it. He suggested we might be able to do something cool with this. I decided to play around with the design a bit, and drew something up for the shirt. But then, how to get it done? 

Well, now I have to bring in 8/7 Central and Sam Auen of Tacopocalypse fame. I found out that Sam has his businesses t-shirts done by 8/7 Central in Des Moines. So at the Gent's Race, I asked if he could tell me about the place. He offered on the spot to help facilitate the design process and work with the 8/7 Central staff. I sent the design rendering down to Sam and he and 8/7 Central did the rest. 
 
So, the t-shirt is done and will show up at Trans Iowa V11. But it will be only going out to a very limited set of folks. Ya see, I only had 50 done, and they are all spoken for. These folks that get these will be mostly behind the scenes supporters and foundational people to the event. Last year it was all about the riders, and this year it will be about those that help bring this event to the riders. I hope that makes sense. 
 
The Weather: Of course, a big topic of discussion going into any Trans Iowa is the weather. It hasn't looked all that great up until now as the forecast has been getting fine tuned as we get closer and closer to the day. Now it's looking cloudy, windy, and cool. That describes about 80% of Trans Iowas ever held, so no big surprise there. However; we're still waiting on what the final say will be on rain. Right now they've taken the rain out, but I wouldn't make any bets until Thursday this coming week! One thing for sure- It sure looks as though we are not in for anything severe. Not like last year, at any rate. 

Last year's sticker
Stickers:
 
Last year a few of you got these Trans Iowa "mileage stickers" and those were courtesy of T.I. finisher and Tour Divide finisher, Mike Johnson. Well, Mike is up to it again and is going to have a little "motivational" sticker for Trans Iowa again. You'll have to show up to find out what it is exactly. 
There should also be some of the "traditional" Trans Iowa stickers in the racer packets as well. So, look for that when you come to get your stuff Friday at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Finally, a word on that "packet". Maybe you've gone to some events that have some fancy pants stuff for a race pick up, or swag in the bag, or maybe you've gone to the Almanzo 100 and got one of Chris Skogen's fantastic creations when you signed on. Well, Trans Iowa is decidedly "dirt bag" in its presentation, so all yer gonna get is a number, some cues, maybe some stickers, and all of that in a plastic Wall Mart bag.

Really. 

Cues: 
 
I have spent the coin and now I have all I need to start cue sheet production. Once those are printed we're pretty much home free and Trans Iowa will be a go. Stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter for updates on my progress! 
More soon.............




Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday News And Views

They grow up so fast!..........sniff! (Image courtesy of B Fornes)
Raleigh Introduces A Carbon Gravel Bike:

Back when I got my Tamland Two, I guessed in a post here that if this gravel bike thing caught on, there would soon be carbon examples for the genre. I turned out to be correct, but I was disappointed to find out most of them have cyclo cross inspired geometry, or are merely cyclo cross bikes with more tire clearances. That isn't at all what would work best for gravel road cycling. It is merely marketing to a group of cyclists with what is convenient. It is easier, and therefore, you get the following: "why do you need a gravel specific bike when cyclo cross bikes already do that." Or: "All road bikes are gravel bikes". That last one is one of my favorites. Daft logic for sure.

Anyway, Raleigh didn't fashion this carbon bike by tweaking an existing cyclo cross offering. Nope- this has Tamland geometry, now in carbon fiber. Even the fork rake is the same as the Tamland's is. It's dubbed the "Roker", and will be available in early Fall, '15. It features three bottle mounts, a flared drop bar, and will come with tubeless ready wheels.

WARNING! My Opinion Follows: I'll tell ya what- if it rides like my Tamland does, it will be the premier gravel road riding rig available today. I've seen what the projected weight is for the complete Roker Two, and it is very, very competitive with the upcoming Warbird Carbon. That Salsa bike may have those wild seat stays, and the Roker may not have that sort of compliance, but I'm betting this new Raleigh will be neck and neck with the Salsa, and handle slightly better. We'll see......

Twin Six's Standard Rando (Image courtesy of Twin Six)
Steel For Gravel:

However cool a carbon fiber gravel travel bike may be, there are many that adhere to the steel frame camp for crushed rock roads and won't be changing their minds soon. Twin Six has just started shipping their "Standard Rando" rig to satisfy such cravings and at a very reasonable price. $600.00- $670.00 gets you the frame, fork, and maybe some cool painted to match fenders if you go to the upper end of that range. 

Now, ya know this rig is going to look killer because it was designed by those Minneapolis whiz-bang designers at Twin Six. Their stuff has been cool since like, '05 or so. They are trying their hand again at doing a bicycle line, and this time I think they hit it outta the park. The geometry is pretty dang good, and it has clearances for big tires, which is good. Overall, "good" is going to work well for most folks. Plus, like I say, it looks awesome. The price is right, and if it rides well, then this could be the best deal in a steel frame for gravel out there.

Well, well! Looky there! (Image courtesy of TNI.com)
The 27.5+ Wave:

My friend, Grannygear, who steers the ship over at Twentynineinches.com these days, told me he expected a huge wave of 27.5+ stuff at Sea Otter, and it looks as though he wasn't wrong about that!

I checked the Facebook page and all there is to see are 27.5+ rigs from Jamis, Specialized, Rocky Mountain, and over at the WTB booth, he saw this strange apparition with Salsa livery.

Now, I am betting that this whole "Plus" sized wheel thing will go in two directions: One is for Enduro. The bigger meats with higher volume will be perfect for swallowing smaller bumps, giving beau-coup traction benefits, and a boost in diameter to almost 29"er proportions for better roll-ability. Two: Bikepacking/Adventure riders will eat this up because of the easier acceleration of the smaller than 29+ wheels and fatness of those larger wheels in smaller packages which should help with sizing up smaller folk as well.

Don't get me wrong- 29+ has a place at the table too, but the "Industry" is going to decide that 27.5+ is where the focus will be at, so get used to it folks. It's the "Next Big Thing" in mountain biking and we're just seeing the tip of the ol' berg, as it were.

Oh! And that bike is a prototype Salsa rig with Boost148/Boost110 axle spacings and 120mm of travel.  We'll probably see more of that around Saddledrive time, I'd expect.

Okay, that's a wrap for today. Get ready next week for an onslaught of Trans Iowa craziness as I am one week away from the Big Dance. Weather, packing, last minute preparations, and more will all be discussed and fretted over. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

News Season 2015: Titanium & Weirdness With Big Wheels

Wait.....what the....!! Half an elevated stay?!!
Elevating The Species:

Trek has had the Stache model in the lineup for a couple years now and while it was well received, I thought they kind of missed the boat by using too long a chain stay length when everyone else was clamoring for sub 17" stays and was getting it from other companies. I stayed away and got a Singular Buzzard instead.

Then Trek came out with a 29+ tire in late '14 dubbed the Chupacabra. Of course, they did not have a bike for it. Well, it was no secret that they would do a bike for this tire, the question was what it would be. Waiting for the frame geometry to be dialed in and for a fork to be produced specific to the design, Trek was biding their time.....until now. 

There is a lot going on here, and Trek has been doing work on this idea for three years now. The testing showed that the design needed to have shorter chain stays than the original Stache and that the then new 29+ idea was perfect for a trail hard tail design. In fact, Trek is claiming this redefines the trail hard tail. Being that the Manitou decided to jump in and do a 29+ and 27.5+ specific fork, Trek could push this idea to fruition. The fork comes in at two levels and is dubbed the "Magnum Pro" and "Magnum Comp", by the way. It takes its design cues and internal workings ideas from Manitou's previous Dorado and Mattoc forks and features the new front spacing standard of 110mm, called "Boost110". This makes for a more laterally stiff wheel which is smart. (I think they should have just gone to 135mm, but hey! Whadda I know?) Clearances for 3.25" tires on the fork, by the way.

So, 420mm stays when the through axle is pushed all the way back in the sliding drop out, (Stranglehold drop out is actually an ovalized slot type drop out that is fully enclosed.) , and it is single speed compatible. Compatible with 29, 29+, and 27.5+ type rubber, so its really versatile. Three versions, (Trek says more are coming, and I'll bet some are 27.5+), plus a frame set.

Obviously, with all the elevated this, squished seat tube that, you aren't going to run anything but a 1X system here. This is what makes a frame like this possible though, and in many ways, this is the culmination of an idea Gary Fisher and Mark Slate worked on back in 1999/2000 where Gary wanted short chain stays, longer front center, and a suspension fork, which ironically was a modded Manitou back then! Looks like things have come full circle, eh?
Stache 5 with rigid 100mmOD fork

Stache 9 with dropper post and Manitou Magnum Pro

The return of a classic gravel bike.
 Vaya Titanium v2: 

Ever since the Vaya came out in a titanium version, I have wanted one, because they make killer gravel road bikes. The geometry of these rigs is darn near perfection, and with the frame done up in smooth titanium, it makes the perfect gravel travel rig. However; the titanium Vaya was always hard to come by, even when they did make it at first, and then they switched to stainless steel with couplers. Not a bad idea, but not exactly titanium either. Plus, that steel frame came with a titanium price tag, which was vastly misunderstood by most riders. May as well buy a titanium bike, right? So, I decided to stay on the sidelines again....

Then yesterday, in a surprise announcement, Salsa Cycles comes back with a Titanium Vaya, and it has a modernized head tube, fantastic geometry again, and big tire clearances. WooHoo! But, it isn't all perfection here.

I still am not a huge fan of an adventure bike having paint on it if it is a titanium frame. Frame bags, dust, and the rough and tumble nature of gravel riding means that stuff isn't going to look good after a while. Titanium always looks good if it is bare, and maintenance of the finish is simple. I like the "purposeful" look and when you slather on the frame bags, who cares what color the tubes are?

The other thing is that while the rear drop out is replaceable, it isn't single speed compatible. While SRAM thinks we need 1X for gravel to simplify our gravel adventures, they and Salsa didn't think about what usually happens out there- rear derailleur carnage, that's what. Give me a solution to that and keep yer durned 1X gruppo and replaceable hangar to yerself! But, yeah......I am digging this new Vaya.

Deore XT 11 speed
SRAM Says 1X, Shimano Says "Whatevs!"

Shimano is killing it, in my opinion, and the new Deore XT is another step in the right direction. Offering everyone an option, and not forcing the front derailleur-less group on the masses, Shimano has come out with such a wide range gearing set up it is crazy. 3 X 11? Are you kidding me? 11-40 and 11-42 cassettes without a weird driver? Nice.

Now don't get me wrong, I like 1X stuff and I see where it makes sense, but when you deny me triple, and even double ring, crank sets, that's not cool. I rode a Deore level triple on a test bike last Fall/early Winter and it was eye opening. The cadence and momentum advantages were very evident. The shifting was super smooth, quiet, and not an issue at all. The range was spectacular. This was a 3 X 10. Imagine a wide range 11 speed cassette and a triple that was efficient in shifting performance with a bike packing set up. I mean really, when was the last time anyone blew up a front derailleur on a tour? Rear derailleurs and cassette bodies? Yeah, those get roached all the time, but you rarely hear about a front derailleur issue, only that it wouldn't shift. And Shimano has that sussed out now. The front derailleur isn't evil, (Anymore. At one time, yes- maybe), and I feel many would benefit from using them if they understood how. Because some people do not is not a reason to dumb down the drive train to 1X, but again- maybe it will make for a great entry point for non-cyclists until they learn the skills necessary to operate a triple. You know, gaining a skill set should be seen as something worth doing, not something to avoid, or made a negative.

Okay.....rant mode off!




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Important Things To Know

With a mere ten days to go till Trans Iowa V11, here are a bunch of important things to remember or consider before we all show up in Grinnell, Iowa April 24th for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Remember- the sign on at the pre-race meeting is mandatory and you must show up before 6:30pm or risk not getting to ride. This is serious and not just a threat. Here's what one T.I.Vet said to me recently in an e-mail concerning this:

"I kind of view the Friday 6:30 pm signup as checkpoint zero: One cannot even start the race if (they) don't make this (check point). Might as well sign up at 4 pm just to be safe."

I think that sums it up perfectly.

But besides this, I can tell you that getting the space to hold this Meat-Up is due to the Trans Iowa folks coming that will eat at the Grinnell Steakhouse, or at least get a drink or two there. I really appreciate those that come and eat and drink. It is helping Trans Iowa, and it helps a local business, which is cool. I can tell you that the staff of the Grinnell Steakhouse is very excited to see all of us, since I was there chatting with them last weekend after I ate an awesome hamburger there. Did you know the Grinnell Steakhouse is always one of the finalists for the best burger in Iowa? Yep.....it's true.

Trans Iowa Radio: This will be a similar set up as it has been for the past two Trans Iowa events. Mountain Bike Radio's  Ben Welnak will be running the knobs and sliders for the call ins from the riders and myself. The number for this year is 888-573-4329. Riders can use this number to leave a brief message about how their ride is going during the event and listeners can tune in to the updates via the Trans Iowa Radio Page, (Where you can listen in to the past event's updates), and there are phone apps that will allow you to listen in that way as well. 

We're still planning on having Ben show up at Trans Iowa v11 to get in the field reports as well, which will be a new feature for the event and Trans Iowa Radio. Stay tuned for more on this as it develops.

The Barn: Again, this year we will have the big red barn West of Grinnell on Jacob Avenue as our finish line. The festivities there will be limited to Sunday morning only, so please be aware of that. It shouldn't be a big deal, since that is about the only time anyone has shown up in the past. Usually, in a typical year, a finisher comes no sooner than around Sunrise, but be advised that the best info concerning how riders may be finishing will be found on Trans Iowa Radio. 

Check this out and give your feedback!
Rider Info Cards: Thanks to a suggestion from Trans Iowa Vet, Mike Johnson, and his work on this, we will be putting a laminated card into your rider bag that has the DNF number, the Trans Iowa Radio call in number, and a short explanation of the re-route procedure should there arise the need for that. 

Please comment in the comments section on your reaction to this and if you think anything needs to be added or subtracted. We felt that it would make for one less thing to try to remember and might be an easy reference for you folks out there during Trans Iowa.

Changing Classes: You can change classes from Single Speed/Fixed to Men's Open or vice versa, yet this week, but after Saturday, things are locked in. Also- if you cannot make it to Trans Iowa v11, please let me know ASAP!!

  • Ride Right- Keep to the right going up hills!!
  • Cue Sheets: The cue sheets will be the same size as previous years with a similar formatting. If you are not familiar with T.I. cue sheets, Read This.
  • Numbers: Please read this concerning our number plates for Trans Iowa HERE.
  • Checkpoint #1  53.49 miles CUT OFF @ 8:30am Saturday
  • Checkpoint #2:  167.09 miles CUT OFF @ 8:00pm Saturday
  • Finishline The Barn: 331.77 miles. Cut off time 2:00pm Sunday
  • Convenience stores will be no more than 90 miles apart and all available stops past CP#2 are open 24 hours a day 
Okay, that should cover things, but of course, if you have any questions, feel free to add a comment or e-mail me @ g.ted.productions@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Final Recon Report

Sunday mornin' comin' down- Recon started bright and early.
Thanks to Wally & George, who once again volunteered to drive five hours to Grinnell and spend a day bouncing around on gravel to check out my cues, Trans Iowa has had an excellent reputation for accuracy. The triple checking of cues never ceases to turn up mistakes and suggestions for fine tuning the cues. I am deeply grateful and without their assistance, along with that of Jeremy Fry, I would not be capable of doing cue sheets with such a high degree of accuracy and clarity as I have been able to provide with their capable guidance. If you get the chance to meet one of these three fine gentleman, please give them a hearty thank you. They more than deserve it.

The recon went pretty smoothly and, as mentioned, turned up a few things I need to straighten out before I can print up all the sets of cues we'll need for T.I.V11. However; the intentions of this post for you readers is to let ya'all in on how things are shaping up out there for the course. So, here is what I saw and my comments......

It's Really Dry Out There! Despite the recent rains, we didn't notice very many wet areas at all, and when we did, it could be chalked up to the rain received Sunday in parts of Iowa. Creeks and streams were noted to be extremely low, and the gravel was dusty, loose, and blown out in many places. However; I wouldn't read too much into that right now. With two weeks to go, the county maintenance crews will be changing things in many places. In fact, we saw lots of freshly laid gravel all over the route.

This was typical: Fresh gravel. Deep, and looser base. Hard to drive on. 
George was driving his Ford truck, and he had his hands full a lot of the day. Looser gravel spots would grab a wheel and cause the big truck to jerk sideways and lurch as the momentum of the wheels would be sucked away. We saw a lot of work that needed to be done in areas as well, and I am certain that if dry weather persists over the next two weeks, we'll see more of that fresher gravel and grading to help smooth out those softer spots.

The B Roads were dry, but many were rutted so badly that we're not sure they will be rideable anyway if they do stay dry.
B Level Maintenance: Again, we didn't get to see two or three stretches of B Level Maintenance road, but what we did see was dry. That's good, but they were not "smooth". There were many badly rutted dirt roads and some were so bad that we had a hard time keeping the bottom of the big ol' Ford from scraping on the dirt due to the unevenness of the roadbed.

There are a few low water crossings. Only one had water actually running over it, and it was maybe a couple inches deep at best. However; we do have re-routes available for these if necessary. I am having the capable help of Tony McGrane and Mike Johnson, who has been in five Trans Iowas, to help advise me on roads like this ahead of riders going through. Again- we'd like to have it be challenging, but there is a point where we will make a re-route if we feel the conditions warrant it. Right now my feeling is it would have to rain a lot over several days to get us into a range where this will become a problem. You can check the 14 day forecast yourself and see what I am seeing. I don't see a problem........as of now. 

Overall Thoughts: My feelings now are that this course is challenging in ways that are new for Trans Iowa.....at least from a recent Trans Iowa perspective. I have taken several comments made in recent years to compile what I think is going to be a very different course than I have devised before. I think once the riders that are Vets of T.I. have seen it, you'll hear them remark about certain features, and the truth of what I am saying will come out. I think it adds a dimension we haven't exploited before, and we'll see how it plays out. For these reasons, I am a bit anxious and worried about this Trans Iowa, more so than in years past. I'm not worried about the riders- the roster is stacked with veteran talent. The Rookie Class is small, and there is a lot of experience that will be out there this time. The riders should be fine. What I am concerned about is how this course will be received and how it will measure up to past T.I. courses. Time will tell. When you do something risky, I guess being anxious and worried a bit is only natural.

For some other perspectives on Trans Iowa V11, the Geezer Ride 2, and  on how you can get some images from Trans Iowa, see Wally Kilburg's post HERE.

Anyway, time to get cues cranked out and put the finishing touches on T.I.V11.