Friday, May 29, 2015

It's A Bit Moist

Here in Emporia and it has been raining off and on since about 3:00am.  Cyclists are buzzing about and chatting each other up   Most of the talk centers around the "big boom" heard at 3:23am. That clap of thunder got all of our attention!

Now we are headed downtown to the expo and
The day should fly by. More later.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Disaster Strikes!

Fargo-not
Well, ya know what they say- "anything that can go wrong will go wrong." I guess that's what might explain what happened here. Yesterday, I was availed the chance to ride to work, since it wasn't raining, and I was keen to run the Fat Fargo through some clayish mud back behind a strip of stores I typically pass by on my way to work. There is some construction going on back there and they have made a mess of things with their vehicles and whatnot. Perfect for some mucking about to see how the drivetrain behaves before I find any mud Saturday at the DK200.

Well, it behaved badly!

I was moving along through a bit of tricky mud, and not the first mud I'd found by any means, and then I heard it: Snap! I stopped as soon as possible, making maybe only a half a pedal stroke, but it was too late. Here's my chance to use another tired old saw! "When handed a lemon, make lemonade!"

I decided to use the opportunity to test my roadside repair kit. I would surely find a hole in my preparations if there was one, because the chain was jammed behind the spokes down along the hub shell and the derailleur was...........destroyed! Well, not really, but the chain was jammed so tightly in the cage it wouldn't pass through it. Okay, now to get to thinkering!

I went through a couple of ideas, but when I found my needle nosed Vice Grip pliers, I knew I could wedge the nose against the biggest cassette cog and use it as a fulcrum to make the jaws of the pliers a pry bar of sorts. It worked! The chain was being extracted a little bit at a time. However, that dratted derailleur was now causing me some frustrations, since it was locked to the chain. I was able to find the quick link, so I undid that, and I loosed the derailleur from the cable. All that gave me enough "wiggle room" to finish extracting the chain. Then I could coast the bike.

Now I was only about three blocks at most from work, so I walked it in from there. Had I been at the DK200, my next step would have been to release the chain from the derailleur cage by undoing the bolts through the jockey wheel. Since I had a spare hangar, I could have then replaced it. Then I would have had to repair the cage, replace the chain, and reinstall everything again. The hole in my kit? No LocTite. Usually when you replace a jockey wheel, ya gotta put some LocTite on those bolts or they work themselves out and bang! Back in the pits again with a janky drive train! So....the lesson learned. Pack a little bit o LocTite!

The bad thing here is that I didn't trust that old Ultra 9 speed derailleur after that, and bought a new one at work. An XT 10 speed one. You know what that means? I either run my current shifter in friction mode or try to graft on my Gevenalle 10 speed shifter. I also have to look at the drive side spokes, and if those are toast, I will just have to bail on the whole Fat Fargo thing and go back to the BMC, which I would be okay with.

What did I end up doing? Stay tuned.........

UPDATE: I ended up sticking the Gevenalle GX 10 speed shifter on by swapping levers, then the 10 speed DynaSys rear derailleur shifted properly over the 9 speed cogset!!  I didn't realize that I had mixed 9 and 10 speed until I was test riding the bike in front of the house at 11:30pm! Oh well........it works, and that is all that matters right now.

On to Emporia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gettin' Real

Yesterday the Dirty Kanza 200 released cues and maps for the course this year. Yep......its gettin' real! They mentioned "contingency plans" for flooding if that is a problem come Saturday, so it sounds as though it's on no matter what. (Barring natural disaster, obviously)

One thing I've been doing is that I have been staying away from most of the banter I have been seeing about the event. It isn't doing anything for me but making me think too much about the ride. That's not good for my mental state, so I have been mostly making myself click away from possibly being sucked in. That said, I did note one comment about the cue sheets that made me shake my head.

Someone was complaining that the cues, as issued to be printed on paper, were bad because they could be damaged by water. Electronic cues downloaded into their device was their preference, or so I gathered. Look.....my opinion is that if you cannot figure out how to keep rain off your cue sheets, you maybe shouldn't be riding Dirty Kanza. Heck, we've been running my dirt bag cues for Trans Iowa since, well forever, and the folks that come to Trans Iowa have it dialed. It's not an impossible task, ya know. But I get it, because folks dumped 110 bucks on this event and they have expectations and demands in return. But still...... Get real man! It isn't that hard. Anyway......

Tony stopped by yesterday and we arranged for our depart time and my pickup. Then the other day, when MG was up, we spoke about our lodging arrangements. Don and I arranged for my support during the event and planned a rendezvous at Emporia for Friday to get briefed. Then Ari and I have been exchanging e-mails all along to keep ourselves sane and on track to ride with each other during the event. Finally, all the DK200 e-mails have been helpful in getting my mind wrapped around the course ahead of the game. It takes an army, eh? For myself, it is good to realize all the connections and that I am not in this alone. I am looking forward to the weekend and crossing that finish line in Emporia Saturday night.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Capping Off The Weekend

The sky was spectacular Monday evening
The long Memorial Day weekend was good on many fronts, but as for cycling, I was taking time off, resting, and getting myself in a state where I can take a crack at the Dirty Kanza 200, this coming Saturday. Well, at least I hope so. More on that later.....

This past Friday a box emblazoned with "Twin Six" showed up at the shop. Andy, my coworker was ready and willing to take it off my hands, sight unseen, but I told him to keep his grubby mitts offa dat box! Inside was a mean, lean, green machine. It was built up with SRAM Rival and had Avid mech disc brakes. The rig is a test bike for the RidingGravel.com site. So, you'll be able to find all the thoughts I have on that rig there. Well......soon anyway. I haven't written up anything beyond the introduction which is posted here.

I got it out and checked over the rig some during the weekend. It has these new Panaracer Gravel King tires on it. "Gravel King"......a pretentious name for a tire if I ever heard one. It was introduced earlier on with a maximum size of 28mm. That is not a joke either, but it is laughable. Now they have a 32mm, which is what this bike came with. It's an interesting tire, but from a Mid-Westerner's perspective, it is a pretty limited use tire based solely upon the width here. 32mm isn't going to give you a whole lot of volume to play with air pressures, and that can lead to unpleasantries. We'll see how they hold up.........

Fortunately, the Twin Six Standard Rando does have boatloads of tire clearance, so this nit could be rectified should the need arise. Only not with any tire named "Gravel King", which I find pretty hilarious. Mark one down for the marketing department at Panaracer. Of course, they could come out with a wider one, then things might be different.

Barns For Jason: Fresh round bales that smelled amazing.
So, anyway, the tires, being what they are, ride pretty nicely so far. The whole bike does, actually. I got it out at the end of Monday on actual gravel after a shakedown cruise Sunday to tune the fit and drive train. I headed out on the "short loop" which takes a little over an hour or so. I didn't want to get too far out of town for a couple of reasons- One: I wasn't 100% confident in the bike yet, (Would I like the saddle? Are the bars out there too far? etc),  and Two: I wasn't packing lights and the Sun was Westering already, casting long shadows by the time I reached the gravel.

It was windy from the Southeast, so I measured my efforts and concentrated on spinning circles, not wanting to pop a knee or something else stupid right before the Dirty Kanza. The gravel was really good. Despite the rains on Sunday, I didn't see much evidence of any wet roads with the exception of a few spots. It was good that way.

I did see some spectacular skies and smelled some great smells. Fresh cut hay. Animals. Dirt. I also saw some new flowers. Purples and yellows dominated the ditches in places. Turning out of the wind I began to pick up speed and it wasn't long before I was back in town, but that was an excellent cap to a long three day weekend.

Now as for the DK200- this could get interesting. They have had a lot of heavy rain which has caused minor flooding around Emporia, and I would imagine in the surrounding Flint Hills as well. The forecast looks more wet than dry going into the weekend and that will only prolong, or exacerbate the conditions they are currently experiencing. That said, here's a little blurb from the DK200 promoters concerning the situation which they posted on Facebook last night:

As promised, we will release course maps in the morning. If you are pre-registered for DK200, DK100, or DK Lite, you will receive an email from us with links to the maps. If all goes to plan, these will be the routes. If we get enough rain between now and race day to cause a problem, we'll enact one of our many contingency plans, based on the situation at hand.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Remembering those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I hope that all of you that see this will take some time today to consider what our men and women in the armed services have done for us in the past and in the present. Our freedoms didn't come free.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Packing

Sifting through gear and nutrition choices for the coming weekend
It is getting down to it. In four short days I have to have everything packed up and ready to head down to Kansas to give the Dirty Kanza 200 another go. At this point my fitness is what it is. I cannot fix up anything more in that regard. I have my mental state and maintenance with sleep and eating and drinking right up to the event that I can do there. So, with nothing else to work on in regards to fitness, I have turned my attention toward packing up now.

The thing is with me, I have gear over here, over there, and all over yonder Guitar Ted Productions. I have set ups for this bike, that bike, and for a couple hydration packs. Heck, I have stuff that I can't find because it is in some bag or another in some hidden pocket. So, I spent the better part of Saturday evening just dumping out bags and digging through stuff. Sifting and sorting.

Some things were obvious- Lezyne pump, tubes, Remo patch kit. Some things were necessary due to the likely conditions this year- packable rain jacket, wind breaker, lights. Then there were choices to make for a tool kit from the three major ones I have assembled over time. Chain breakers, multi-tools, and special tool just for this event. I also packed in some Hammer Nutritional supplies since they were easy to put in there. Hopefully I don't forget about that stuff while I am out there! Usually I pack stuff in my top tube bag and totally forget all about it until I see it weeks later when I unpack my stuff.
An image published by the DK200 showing a rain soaked road.

I will be packing clothing and more yet today and Monday, but my goal is to be completely ready to leave before Tuesday. Then it will be onward to Emporia, where it has been raining and tearing up the roads out there. They received rain all day on Saturday after this image posted by the Dirty Kanza 200 promotions was posted Friday showing a rain soaked road being rutted up and washed clear of most of the smaller, finer road material.

So, all of that really bolstered my choice in bike along with my friend, MG's. He was up Saturday evening to visit and we chatted a bit about the coming event. We both agreed that since Trans Iowa many of the gravel events have seen their fair share of wet, nasty weather, and that perhaps the Dirty Kanza 200 was going to perpetuate that streak. One thing I know is that with the forecast that is out now, the temperatures don't look to be brutal, as they have been in years I have tried to ride this event. I'm not particularly good in heat. My record isn't too good in events with heat, that's a fact. However; if it sticks to what they are predicting down there, it would play into my wheelhouse. Rain? I'm okay with that as long as it is without violence and lightning.

Whatever the weather is, MG and I, (and my friend Ari), have decided that we're going to ride our bikes all day, have the most fun we can while doing that, and finish the course of the Dirty Kanza 200, no matter what it is.

This will probably be the close to the Chronicles for this Dirty Kanza. From here I will be putting up some random posts, but of course, there will be a full report here after the event is over. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Don't Say The "G" Word

The word "gravel" is so divisive that even Twin Six wouldn't use it to name this bike.
I had lunch last week with a good friend of mine that I get to see far too little. But that's another story, and likely you wouldn't be all that interested in our relationship. The point is, he works for a company that is a purveyor of a "gravel road racing bike". They actually use that term. The thing is, this friend of mine related to me, is that not everyone "gets it", or even understands it.

This friend of mine, he is a wise man, despite his lack of years, and he deals with this lack of understanding in a clever way. He asks what the locals call their back roads or unpaved byways, and then he calls this gravel road racing bike the "_________bike". (Fill in the blank with whatever they tell him.) Then they understand perfectly what the bike is all about. Brilliant!

There are many others though, and this crowd bristles at the term "gravel bike", and they blame marketing for coming up with another "unnecessary bike " and trying to get people to part with their money, which, ya know..........is totally evil. Especially if they are foisted into  believing they need this so-called "gravel bike", because, ya know..........it isn't a thing and that kind of bike is evil. Or so we are led to believe by the punters and "Negative Nancys" that populate social media and forums these days. Many whom have pretty, niche bikes of their own hanging from pegs in their garages, apartments, and homes. But never mind those specialized purpose bikes........

Here's an idea for those who don't like this whole "gravel bike" deal- Ignore it.  I mean, how hard can that be?

Anyway, the mere fact that these people that react so negatively to that is telling. In the end, I find it rather disingenuous and sad, especially seeing how many of these same folks are not being consistent in their logic. And I need to take my own advice and ignore all of that. Which I do most of the time. Just consider this a Public Service Announcement to you to advise you that the "G" word may cause an unreasonable and unwarranted negative reaction from some people.

The more you know.......