Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Update

This bridge will be on the route this year.
Here's the last update on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational I will be posting here. For my previous update go HERE or see the "Official Site" of the GTDRI.

In this post I want to cover some finer details of the event and the course in particular. First of all, the route cues were independently checked by two separate and unknown to each other sources and four miscues were identified which have been changed now. NOTE: If you copied the cues that were in bold type like this there are mistakes. Please go back to the GTDRI page for the 2014 cues HERE and re-copy them as they are certified to be correct now.

Okay, with that out of the way, I wanted to give you my viewpoint on the route this year. As many of you may know, this is essentially a modification of the 2009-2010 version of the Death Ride which was a 118 mile loop out of Echo Valley Park. While I could just go and do that same loop again, the thing is, it doesn't accommodate a larger group of folks at the start/finish. Echo Valley Park is an amazing park, but it is primitive and lacks space to take on many cars for parking, and it isn't as accessible as I'd like it to be for out of towners.

David Pals and I chillin out in Strawberry Point in '09
However; a park exists near the route that is both easily accessible for travelers and has amenities like showers and copious amounts of campsites along with parking for day visitors. Plus, it is a short way to a town on the route that could accommodate those wanting a motel. All I had to do was to modify the route slightly and it was a done deal. Only a hair over two miles shorter, at 116 miles, it will give us all the feel and scenery that the '09-'10 route gave us with a better start/finish to boot. Not only that, but in my view, it does something else which I think is a positive for the riders this year. It breaks up the brutal hills into smaller bites.

The '09-'10 route started from Echo Valley Park with a few rollers which opened up the legs, but then it dove down a big sweeping hill, (where I about ate it at 40+mph in '09), and went pretty much dead flat for 25 miles. Then the route went into Elkader where we would eat breakfast, then we left and immediately hit some really tough climbs until we got a brief respite at Garber, then back into the frying pan for the worst hills of the route until we got just East of Strawberry Point, where we had another brief respite until we hit more crazy hills right up until the end of the route which was capped off by climbing the same sweeping down hill we had in the morning.

This new version will start out benignly enough with an easier route up until about 20-ish miles where we hit big hills that were near the end of the old circuit. This will go on until we get another 10-ish miles in and reach Volga. Not far up the road is Wadena where we will stop for morning vittles. Rollers ensue until we get to a couple big hills then we dive down to Echo Valley Road on the same down hill we had in '09 at about 47 miles. Then it's an easy 20-ish to Elkader where we will break for lunch.

You'll be here on this year's route if you come.
After Elkader we will cruise a few easy miles then it's up to the highest country of the route and the closest we will get to the Mississippi. Down and up will become a familiar theme along with an insane dirt road which will drop us down to the Turkey River and a brief respite from hilly madness through Garber Iowa at mile 84.50.

Better enjoy that brief rest because the steepest, longest climbs of the day await us after Garber. For the next 15 miles it will be a brutal awakening for those that think Iowa is flat at all. (As if you haven't been convinced enough of that before this point!) Fantail Road. That's all I have to say about that!

The good news is that the last 15 miles or so of the GTDRI for 2014 is a lot easier than it was in '09-'10. Strawberry Point will come in again with about ten to go, so if anyone needs a last minute boost, we can get it there. We may very well need it! In '09-'10 we had to gut out the last 20+ miles with no resupply and no real resting points. Plus, we ended at a primitive area that had nothing for us to refresh ourselves. This reroute should address both those points well.

So that about sums it up. The weather man is saying there is a possibility of showers Saturday morning, but no matter. I am going unless there is really severe weather. I'll be meeting any riders that show up at the river crossing in the center of Backbone Park on the main through road at 6am sharp to get the ride started Saturday morning. If you come as well, it should prove to be a good time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

News Season Part 3: Tires V1

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

There were some questions I got recently about tires and today's post covers some of that. Keep in mind that we will be seeing a lot of tire intros now through the Fall. Here's V1 on Tires.....

Bontrager Hodag fat bike tire
Bontrager Hodag Fat Bike Tire:

This is the tire due to come on many Trek Farley fat bikes. It will be a 60TPI tire with a tubeless ready bead and a 3.8" width with folding Aramid beads. This tire is made to work tubeless with the Jackalope rims which are 80mm wide from Bontrager. No word on when or if these will be sold separately, but all indications are that this will be the case. 

Retail price is set at $149.99 for the tire.

Comments: In a day and age when many fat bike enthusiasts are fed up with high tire prices and in combination with many brands offering similar fare at $50.00 less or more per tire, the Hodad will be a tough sell separately. While it boasts a tubeless set up with the Jackalope rim, I see this as only an advantage to those buying a Farley or upgrading one. Besides, isn't just about everyone looking for 4-4.5" tires now?

The Maxxis Chronicle 29+ as shown on Greg Matyas' new Corvus
Maxxis Chronicle 29+

More 29+ tires will be getting out there really soon and one of those will be the Maxxis Chronicle.  Maxxis makes some decent treads so I suspect that this one will be well liked. Another benefit of the Maxxis mtb tires are that they generally convert to tubeless well and don't seem to show any ill effects from sealant.

Commentary: One side note- Maxxis is a big OEM supplier, so you have to wonder what brand may have laid the foundation for this tire's production, as it is doubtful that Maxxis just decided to produce it of their own accord. Whatever the case may be there, it bodes well for 29+ that someone with the "horsepower" of Maxxis is getting behind it, even if only for a bit.

Mammoth indeed! A Maxxis fatty.
Maxxis Mammoth: 

I've posted this here before, but it maybe needs to be mentioned again that Maxxis is also doing a fat bike tire dubbed the Mammoth in a 26 X 4.0" size. The tread looks like a modification of a Crossmark 29"er tread with a bit of the old Endomorph's webbed barring in there as well.

Commentary: Once again, the existence of a Maxxis fat bike tire begs the question- Where will this show up and on which brand's fat bike? I just find it really difficult to believe that this wasn't made for an OEM customer, but again, I could be all wrong. The thing is, it is the right size and tread pattern for a stock, higher end fat bike from somebody. Then again, Maxxis has been known to put tire models out there fishing for OEM business, so the tire very well may have come first.

Vee Tire "Trax Fatty" 29 X 3.0
Vee Tire Trax Fatty 29+ & B+

This tire is a pretty well known entry by now, or at least it should be, but Vee Tire now has it on their site with details.

Available as a 29 X 3.0 in 72 TPI wire or folding bead at 1025 grams and 980 grams each at $100.00 , $110.00 respectively. There will also be a 120TPI version said to clock in at 920 grams with an Aramid folding bead for $120.00. The B+ version will mimic the bead selection, prices, and TPI selections with weights as follows starting from wire bead/72TPI: 895,820, and 800 grams. The width on this one is said to be at 3.25", so wider than the upcoming WTB model in B+.

Commentary: Vee Tire is pretty aggressive with tire introductions and the B+ and 29+ entries are really no surprise. I think the B+ model is too wide to be practical for swapping into current 29"er frames and with a current dearth of wide, 27.5"/ISO584 rims, it seems to be either a dead end tire, (for now), or it signals another OEM bike we don't know about yet. To be sure, wider 27.5 rims are coming, but they aren't quite here yet. (That said, by the time you read this a certain bike company may have made their announcement of a B+ sized rig, and that may change the landscape somewhat.) The Vee 29+ tire is another example of downward pressure in terms of price on a market that Surly has had to itself until now. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out in the future.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Travelin' South

This section was a fun one.
I had decided earlier this year to get out and about a bit more as far as where I ride my bicycles. That's one of the reasons I ditched doing the 3GR this year. Yes, those are fun to do every Saturday, but they also had me pinned down to doing the same thing every season for two years. I felt like a change up was necessary.

So, I had my sights set on riding at the LAMBA trails system in Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids for some time and Saturday I made that happen. I'd been there once before with MG back at the end of Winter when I attempted to ride through the snow on the Buzzard.

 It also wasn't the first time I had ever ridden off road in the Cedar Rapids area.  I used to ride some rogue single track in Cedar Rapids years ago. Like back in the 90's, but that was not these trails. In fact, I am not even sure just where we used to ride, but I feel in was up in Marion and East side Cedar Rapids somewhere. Anyway......

The trails I did ride were very different than Ingawanis Woods. I was on the Buzzard, once again, and this time the Beverly Park trails were perfect. Dry, hard, and fast. Ingawanis gets like this as well, but the trails at Beverly Park are not as flowy as Ingawanis, which has a much more "wide open" feel. Beverly Park is a bit more tight, twisty, and definitely more technical. They also feature some structure down there. Not a lot, but Ingawanis doesn't have anything of that nature, so that stuck out for me.

A bit greener than it was last time I was here with MG!
The trails at Beverly Park feature signage indicating the trail difficulty level, which was pretty nice. I would say that compared to other trails I've been to that do similar things, these markings are on the conservative side. That's okay, as far as I am concerned, the main thing is that they are marked because there is a much higher level of difficulty involved in some sections of Beverly Park than at Ingawanis.

Optional lines exist in many places at obstacles, but not at all of them. So, knowing which trails are "Most Difficult" may help make your day better.

The trails are well kept, mown (mostly) and free of downed trees, limbs, and litter. I was very impressed by the condition of the trails in that manner. As for mileage, I don't do computers, Garmin, or Strava, so I don't have a figure on that, but I feel that it is at least good hour jaunt through there if you do most of the system.

As for myself, I like going into a trail system with no map and just wing it. Getting a little lost is okay, but after a while I found myself wanting to wrap things up. I was not able to find the trail head after going around in a circle three times and finally I just cut out down a hillside to the road, which I knew would lead me back to the truck. I probably could have eventually figured it out, but I was under a self imposed time constraint. That said, if you go for the first time, it wouldn't be a bad idea to print out a trail map and take it with you for reference. The trails fold back in on themselves so much you can really lose your reference points!

So, to sum it up, I really had fun down there and the trails are excellent, tight, twisty, and more technically challenging than anything up here. I'll be back again.......

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Another disjointed blog post with the only real thread  holding this together being cycling.......

Not now.....but soon.
 Surly 650B Straggler:

Smaller statured folk rejoice! (Well.....if you've always wanted a steel bike for bombing around on that looks like this) Surly has let it be known that a smaller wheeled version of the Straggler is on the way. This may be good news to you or someone you know.

It will also be good news to tinkerers and those who want more 650B tires that aren't all "frenchy". It looks as though this bike will have 650B Knard 41's. I don't think "knard" is a French word, so this is why I find that it is different from most of the fare for this wheel size which seem to try to evoke some sort of higher brow, continental flair with their monikers. I don't think anyone will accuse Surly of being "refined" in that manner!

Lions, Tigers, and.......Bears? 

The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational may be traveling through  black bear territory. A recent news story circulated around this week indicates that near one of the pass through towns on the route a black bear and possibly two cubs are roaming freely around the countryside.

While I think the likelihood of our small band of riders coming across such critters is small, it is a possibility since we will be riding in some of the more remote areas in Clayton County. I find this development incredible since during my time living here in Iowa we have gone from almost no wildlife beyond rabbits, racoons, birds, and muskrats to having abundant amounts of critters that were the furthest thing from my mind when I was a child. Bobcats, mountain lions, turkeys, and Bald Eagles are just a few of these that simply didn't exist, or were so rare as to be legendary when I was a younginz. Now we're talking about black bears? The DNR says that if this bear does have cubs it would be the first such instance on record in 140 years. Amazing!

Mumbo Jumbo- Fat bikes are mainstream now.
Fat Avalanche Of Rubber:

Back in late 2010 the fat bike riders were stoked to the gills because there was going to be one other fat bike tire available. There was the recently discontinued Endomorph, (a moment of silence, please), and the new "Larry". It was party time for fat biking as we knew it then. 

Now, not five years down the trail, there are so many tire announcements and models coming online to purchase that it is almost easier to say which companies don't make a fat bike tire than to name those who do. It used to be something of an inside joke to talk about when Schwalbe might make a fat bike tire. You know, if they did, fat biking would be done and gone mainstream. That would never happen, right?

Right. Well........apparently fat biking is "over" then. It looks as though Schwalbe is actually going to be producing a fat bike tire, or at least have one branded. In typical Schwalbe fashion, it bears a ridiculous name.

All this seems so much like "cashing in" and manufacturers basically admitted to as much when the 27.5" bandwagon was cranked up a couple of years ago. No one wanted to "miss the party" like many did due to dragging their feet on entering the 29 inch mountain bike game in the late 00's. Certainly, by the looks of it, no one could be blamed for doing such with regard to tires for fat bikes! All I know is that in my simple mind the power of economics should sway prices to the lower end of the spectrum. I just do not see how the fat bike market can sustain the growth and with so much new product coming online, it would seem that supply will be bigger than demand. Good for fat bikers, hopefully, that want new treads.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday News And Views

Route sussing machine.
GTDRI Update: Hopefully everything falls into place for me to get out to check on some of the new route I added in for this year's Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. I need to verify a few details as well.

I just checked on the camping situation, and all reservable sites are gone, so there are a chunk of first come-first served sites that they hold back. There are showers available there. Cost per night for tent camping starts at $11.00 per night. It shouldn't be too tough to nab a tent site.

I have heard positive reaction to the event in the form of verbal commitments numbering up to about a half dozen riders so far. The weather is looking fine so far, so I suspect that if the weather prognostications hold up, we will have a nice group at the least.

I sure hope that my new camera shows up in time to take it along to get images from this ride. In fact, I hope it shows up before the ride with time enough practice and get to know it. If it doesn't, I may have to commandeer my son's camera!

Gravel. Single Speed.
So I have been kind of yearning to ride the single speed on some longer gravel rides lately. The rig I have set up for this is the Singular Gryphon. Trouble is, other stuff has been pushing back the chances to get out there on this rig.

Way back when before I got caught up in all this reviewing of stuff and what not, I would just ride a single speed on gravel for miles and miles and I was okay with that. It was simple and I had a lot of fun. Ideally I would have a lighter weight rig, but the Singular really handles riding on gravel well. I rode it at Gravel Worlds once and I thought it did really well. Plus I also have the Pofahl which I like for the same reasons.

I figure that once everything settles down after the GTDRI I should have options to ride single speed gravel a lot more. I am certainly looking forward to that. The new ride I am planning for October, the "Geezer Ride" will likely be done on one of my single speed rigs.

That's a short post but that's all I got today. Stay cool out there and get out and ride!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What It Is And What It Is Not

This is a gravel road. We have over 69.000 miles of it in Iowa alone.
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

I have noticed of late that many bicycling companies have been bandying about the term "gravel grinder" again, and many media write ups of late have also been poking the badgers out in web-land with this term as well. I wanted to address this, (once again), and also point out what is and what isn't a bike good for gravel riding. 

I don't mean to come off as some smarty-pants know-it-all, but when you are born and raised in Iowa, you damn well sure know what a gravel road is, and what isn't a gravel road. If you were like me, you didn't even bat an eyelash at riding a bicycle on gravel, but that isn't the point. Yes, you can ride any bike on a gravel road, Captain Obvious, but you also could ride any bicycle on the Porcupine Rim Trail in Moab too, but you use a mountain bike, because it works better. And guess what? We know something other than a road bike, or even a cyclo cross bike, could be a better bicycle on gravel. That is the point.

It is great that the industry is listening, but you don't have to.
The industry is jumping on a trend, no doubt about it, and since when has that ever been a surprise? Well, you'd think that some folks had never recognized this fact by their reactions to "gravel grinders" as a term, and that they had never heard of "free ride", "NORBA geometry", "aero road", or "enduro" before. (I could go on.) You know, you could simply ignore and ride whatever ya want to. That is an option, ya know.

I am stoked to see gravel bicycle design and components, for sure. However; it doesn't matter if it never happened at all. It just makes riding gravel better, and like I said, we all knew it could be better than using a cyclo cross bike, or a 29"er hard tail. In the end, it is just about riding though. That said, here we are, and companies are saying things about bicycles that are not really hitting the mark. They are using the term "gravel road", "gravel grinder", "dirt road", and other terms to describe bikes I wouldn't ever consider for any of the above here in Iowa.

Their tires cannot handle gravel here with aplomb because they are too skinny, or their geometry is so close to cyclo cross that it isn't "road-like" at all. Look, it is called a gravel road. We are not going to hop barriers, ride in ruts, or need to pedal through corners at high lean angles. But don't listen to me. I'm just some old, grouchy bicycle mechanic at a small shop in Iowa. What the heck do I know about bicycle design? You know those racer guys, they have a much better handle on geometry and what works and what doesn't, so let's see what one of the most famous racers in the world right now has done to influence bicycle design that is one small detail away from being the perfect gravel grinder bicycle.

Design input by Fabian Cancellara- Trek Domane
I guess maybe ol' Fabian Cancellara knows what a rough road is and what kind of bike you'd use to tackle it. The Domane by Trek is an "oh-so-close-to-perfect" gravel road machine that I cannot believe Trek themselves haven't jumped at the chance to modify it slightly to fit what gravel road, rough road, and pavement riders around the world need in a bike for everything but true mountain biking. In fact, other companies than Trek have similar rigs that are super close to what I would design as a gravel road bike. Why give us lukewarm cyclo cross bikes?

The Domane features a truly low bottom bracket. When you read about these other bikes pretending to be "all road", or gravel grinders, look at their numbers. If they are not below 70mm of BB drop, they are not really a gravel specific design. They are warmed over cyclo cross designs. The Domane has a BB drop of 80mm-75mm across the size range. Now that is a low bottom bracket! I totally agree with Fabian and Trek on that facet of rough road geo. It helps with stability, a major plus for a speedy, good handling gravel rig.

The head tube angle is another place a lot of these so-called gravel road/dirt road bikes say they are "slacker" at. Really? The Domane has a 71.1° to 72.1° head angle across the range. Many of these other pretenders have 72.5° head angles and steeper. I think the Domane is borderline too steep, by the way, especially on the large end of the range. That said, Fabian probably knows a thing or three about what he wants in a front end geo for rougher roads.

Then there is the brilliant de-coupler seat tube design which is an obvious advantage for the "paint shaker" gravel roads we have here. Even the chain stays aren't ridiculously short at 420-425mm across the range. (I'd go a bit longer, again for stability, but that's me.) That said, there is one area that the Domane, and many of these other so-called gravel bikes, fail at. That would be tire clearances. If the Domane could handle a 40mm tire, it would be dead on perfect for gravel. Of course, add in the disc brake option that future Domanes will have and we're really looking at a winner at the rough road game here.

So, there ya go folks. Measure these so-called gravel rigs from GT, Specialized, and others against the Domane, (keeping in mind we'd want bigger tires), and see how they measure up to Fabian's vision for a rough road rig. And oh, by the way- it's a race winning design as well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Update

Jason Boucher going up a B Road from the 2010 edition
In about a week and a half we'll be taking off from backbone State Park just South of Strawberry Point Iowa for the 9th annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. I've had inquiries already about the ride and several folks thinking about heading over for it have told me they may show up. Just to be clear, here are some of the finer details I have for you, if you should also want to show up for this ride.

  • Anyone can come: This isn't that big a deal folks! If you want to come and ride, show up. No fees. No hoopla. Just a big, no drop group ride for the fun of it. 
  • July 26th is the date: It is a Saturday. Start time will be 6am sharp! We will be leaving from the campground at Backbone State Park. If you are running late, or are staying in Strawberry Point, we should be rolling through there by 6:30am, and we will be leaving town by the West on Highway 3. Plan accordingly! (The ride will come back through Strawberry Point and return to Backbone State Park)
  • Giant, Approximately 116 Mile Loop: The course will start and stop at the same point, (as mentioned above), and will be about a 116 miles. There will be tough, 12%-18% grades all day interspersed with some flatter terrain. Towns we will go through include Strawberry Point, Volga, Wadena, Elgin, Elkader, and Garber Iowa. I plan on us stopping at Wadena and Elkader for resupply. Elkader is 45-ish from the end, by the way. The loop has tough climbs in the first third, then a middle section that is scenic but relatively flat, then a butt kicking ending. Be ready to suffer some, but also- bring a camera. You'll see some awesome sights of Iowa. Be prepared to carry water and food to get you by for 50 miles at a crack.
  • Rain or Shine: I'll ride no matter, unless there are severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. 
  • Friday Night Get Together: I will be camping out at Backbone, so if you want to come out to camp Friday night, look me up.
  • Cues: I'll post a printable cue sheet for the ride soon, but don't worry unless you think you'll be bailing out or going on your own at some point, because we will stick together. If you think there is a possibility of you not making it, print out or bring a detailed map of Clayton and Fayette Counties for reference. There is no sag and You Are Responsible For You!!
That's about it. Any questions? Want to give me a shout out that you are coming? Hit the comments section or e-mail @ g.ted.productions@gmail.com Look for details on my easier, shorter Fall ride dubbed the "Geezer Ride" coming soon!