Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday News And Views

The new route was done to keep this road in the final T.I.V11 course

Back when we did the first big Trans Iowa recon at the end of September, I mentioned afterword that I was contemplating a reroute and that we still had about 80 miles at the end to look at as well. I did end up doing that reroute and it came out to almost the same mileage as before. Tentatively it is 1.7 miles shorter. We have to check that out, but that will likely be about right.

The main reason I did the reroute was to get a convenience store in at about the Checkpoint #2 area, so riders going into the night on Saturday would have a chance to resupply. This reroute should take care of that issue. Secondarily, I didn't like the bits of pavement we were being forced into using, and this reroute erases a lot of that. It does add in some more dirt road though. Oh well......

Look for a full recon report Monday and along with that a bit of an outlook on the Veteran's registration opening up next week. I know that the registration this week wasn't all that exciting, but I have a feeling that next week we will see the category filled in two days or less. In fact, I wouldn't at all be surprised to find that the category fills up in a day. It is going to be nuts, I think. I just have seen a lot of cards posted to Facebook over the week, and while I didn't keep track, I bet I saw at least a dozen cards shown. That is one third of the allotment right there!

Fattening Up: Update

Okay, the brake upgrade was well worth the effort. Oh my! The difference between the Avid Elixir 9's and these "entry level" Maguras is night and day. The Maguras have twice the stopping power- maybe more, with waaaay less effort at the lever. Did I mention that they are quiet? Yes. Really. Very. Quiet.

I ordered up the Surly OD crankset, so when that gets in, all I have to do is get a new chain, and I am pretty sure the cassette is still okay, but yeah.... I am going against what I would recommend here, but I am going to try to run the old cassette. I think I can make it work. If not, I'll know pretty quickly, I think! The bottom line is that after measuring up the crank I have now, the OD will give me just about every gear combination without tire rub, and maybe all of them. It'll be very close.

The old crank and bottom bracket will go into the parts bin awaiting the rebuild of the Snow Dog. I am almost certain that will be a triple crank set up. I originally had a triple set up on the Snow Dog and I remember really liking it. More updates later......

Steel Upgrade:

I also ordered up a new steel free hub body for the Fargo Gen 1 which should get that rig back on the trails here soon. The minimal amount of weight gained by going with a steel free hub body will be easily off set by allowing me to use any cassette with single cogs and avoid the dreaded "digging in" that occurs with the aluminum free hub body. Convenience, and ease of maintenance. Win-win, as they say. I suspect the ol' Hope hub will be happily "clackety-clacking" along again. Those Hope hubs are definitely not quiet! 

Besides the hub upgrade/repair, I have to inject a bit of sealant into the tires for Winter, and then see if I can fit the Cascadia fenders back over those big Kenda Honey Badger tires. I may have to resort to a clip on arrangement for keeping things clean over the Winter, but at any rate, I feel like this Winter I may actually have a significant amount of miles on this rig. We're not supposed to be so snowy they say, so fat biking to work may not be always a necessity, or desirable. We'll see.  

Okay, it's cold, windy, and getting more like Winter, but there is no bad weather for cycling, only poor clothing choices! Get out there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Registration Daze Update #3

There has been only one tandem team at Trans Iowa up until now....
It has been a slow news day for Trans Iowa registration today and for the last couple of days. The big news is that we have a second ever tandem team committed to race in the event next April.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the first tandem team that had ever tried Trans Iowa. It was back in 2010 at Trans Iowa V6, which was the first one we ever pulled off out of Grinnell, Iowa. The previous year, a relatively unknown married couple from Idaho tried the Tour Divide on a tandem and finished the event. It was Jay and Tracey Petervary. When they signed up for T.I.V6, I was told privately by a few folks that I should expect big things from these two folks, and they delivered for sure.

Riding pretty much the same set up that they rode to success in Tour Divide, the Petervarys were stalwart and steadfast in an event that threw strong rain, winds, soft roads, mud, and intense lightning at them throughout the event, which eventually was called short in North English, Iowa at a malt shop Saturday evening. My lasting impression of the Petervarys was from watching them leave a convenience store in Pella, Iowa. They both mounted their Vicious Cycles tandem, clipped in, pushed off, stood up out of the saddle together, and rode off, all in perfect synchronization and without a single word. It was as if they were communicating by unheard signals, but later, I found out that it kind of just worked out that way through constant repetition of tasks on the bike.

L-R: J. Petervary, T. Petervary, C. Parsons, M. Braun, on floor- M. Gersib
That event was brutal, and the Petervarys were still truckin' when we pulled them off at the end. Would they have finished if the conditions hadn't been so brutal? Maybe. That will never be known now. I will say that they showed every sign of having the total package for clocking in with a solid finish, but you just never know in any Trans Iowa what will befall the competitors as they try to reach the end of the road.

That was then, and now we have another team signed up which will be captained by former T.I.V7 winner and multiple Trans Iowa finisher, Dennis Grelk. He will be teaming up with Christina Anthony, who technically is a Rookie, but since this is a tandem team, and Dennis is a former winner, I gave Christina a free pass on getting in together with Dennis. It is kind of unknown territory for Trans Iowa. We so rarely ever get a tandem team, (this being the second one ever), so I felt that by doing this it might be seen as an encouragement to others to try it out. Personally, I think Trans Iowa is a great event for a tandem team. The dynamics of a team working against the challenges could be a positive, but just as easily could be a huge negative. I like the possibilities I see in it. Anyway.......

Finally we saw the man from Duluth, Tim Ek sign on. All I will say publicly about that is that Tim is one you should keep an eye on and that he is one of my favorite Trans Iowa competitors and one of my rewards that I have enjoyed from doing Trans Iowa over the years. Thanks Tim!

Okay, Registration for this group will probably peter out Friday and Saturday. We'll maybe see a few straggler post cards show up, but I suspect that I will be adding at least six spots or so to the Vet Class allotment for their registration next week starting Monday.It'll get weird Monday, so stay tuned!!!

The Future Is "Wide Track"

Wider IS better!
Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you've probably heard about all this wider rim that and wider tire this chatter on the bike forums, in ads, and in reviews. The bicycle industry is rediscovering its roots in stuff with width and volume for your wheels.

It used to be that rims for mountain bikes were pretty wide. Heavy, but wide. Tires were.....well, big tires weren't easy to get. They were out there, but if the early mtb guys had the really big meats, we would maybe have had the voluminous rubber sooner than we did. Then something odd happened.

Rims back in the early 80's weren't all that great, and like I said, they were heavy. The best stuff was going to roadies. Keith Bontrager saw that and started rolling down some old Mavic rims to get 26"er size with the strength and weight that he felt 26"er mtb bikes should have. Of course, these were skinnier rims, but what could he do? Without thinking about it, the industry just jumped down that trail and started pushing skinny rims for mtb and we never really recovered fully until recently.

Velocity's Dually- Meet the new width for rims.
Think about this: Stan's Flow rims were considered All Mountain/Trail rims when they were introduced. They have an outer width of 28mm. That's considered an XC width today! Want proof? Velocity USA recently introduced a new Blunt SS rim, 30mm wide, XC light weight. Okay? So what......

Well, the new set up for the XC/Trail rider is to slap on a 2.1"-2.2" on these wider rims because the tires are better supported and can be run at lower pressures to absorb more of the trail surface and go faster. And what if you are not an XC/Trail speedster? Well, you go even wider. Trail rated rims and tires are going to go fatter and wider. The diameter of the wheels are going to be......unusual. Next year, by all accounts, you'll be seeing these wheels, and they will be called "B+". Oh.....and you'll be seeing them all over.

Muy Grande' Gravelo!

 If you run gravel, or even on the road, you also will be seeing wider stuff, and really, you already have. Road cyclists are now considering 28mm tires because 25mm tires have become "normal". It wasn't all that long ago that riders were pining for 20mm tires and "big" tires were 23mm.

The missing piece of the puzzle here is tubeless technology. Companies are working on it, and before long, it will happen. Pushing to go with wider tires will help. However; the hurdles to jump over with this are proving to be high. Riders need to be able to service these tires out on the road if necessary. That hasn't been the case so much as of yet.

Then there are fat bikes. Yes- you will see more and more of these out there too. They will slowly shed the "snow bike" nomenclature and become more of an "ATV" on two wheels in most folks minds. Weights will stabilize at under 30lbs for most average fat bikes, and at the high end we'll see a 20-ish pound fat bike someday for sale anywhere. It won't be an odd thing. The "other" fat bikes- the "mid-fat", 29+ bikes and aforementioned "B+" stuff, that will become more and more accepted and widespread. It is my opinion that out of all of these, B+ will become the most popular choice due to its better fit for most riders and its balance of weight and fat bike flotation characteristics.

The bottom line is that the 29"er and traditional road bikes will fundamentally change and become less prevalent on bike shop floors and on trails and road ways. Wider will become the new normal, and "skinny" will be weird. 26 inch bicycles will go the way of 27"ers and become the "old" bikes with about three tire choices. Tubes will be weird, and everyone will know and understand how tubeless bicycle tires work on the wider formats.

That's the future.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fattening Up

Corpulent Titanium
There were some issues with my set up on the Snow Dog that made me want to do something different. I was thinking about swapping out a few things, but then something else motivated me to go in a totally different direction. I found out that the Blackborow, my planned corpulent answer to Winter, wasn't going to be showing up until December, and well......I know how that can go sometimes.

Now maybe it will show up, but just in case, I had to start coming up with a "Plan B". That was going to take the form of titanium. I have the extendo-Alternators which would boost clearances. I could swap over the carbon Fatty fork to keep the brake standard the hub has. As long as I was at it, I decided to ditch the ridiculous Avid Elixir 9 noise makers masquerading as brakes and put on some real brakes. Namely, the Magura MT-6 stoppers which have traditionally been reliable and more importantly, powerful and quiet. 

So a Saturday spent down in the Lab transformed the MukTruk into By-Tor the Fatty. The transformed titanium beast is super smooth and the fork handles well on this bike as it did on the aluminum Mukluk. There is a bit of a drive train issue in the granny gear. This will be helped a bit if I get a Surly OD crankset. So, I think that's the final piece of the puzzle until the Blackborow comes. Well, I may also be swapping to a wide bar/stubby stem here as well. Anyway, the Winter steed is almost ready.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Registration Daze Update 2

T.I.V10 winner, Greg Gleason will be back to defend his title.
Well, we are not even a third of the way through registration and the Trans Iowa field is looking stacked. Last Spring's Trans Iowa victor, Greg Gleason, will be coming back, and will try to "just finish", (his words), Trans Iowa V11. Greg has competed at a top level in several events over the season, so if he shows up in form, I expect big things from him.

On the women's side, we will have two strong riders in Sarah Cooper and Andrea Cohen. Sarah and Andrea have both shown grit and toughness throughout the '14 season and should both be considered favorites to take out a win in their category, or even for the overall.

Single speeders Troy Krause, Mark Johnson, and David Swanson are also very capable of taking out an overall win and should be watched closely. These guys could very well have an advantage if Trans Iowa is wet this next Spring since their drive trains are less likely to fail in the unforgiving grit and dirt of Iowa roads.

Anther guy I'd tab to win is Corey Godfrey, who could, if he can avoid calamity, win this event easily. He's shown that he can get out front and stay there, but it seems that something always bites him about 3/4's of the way through. He is way overdue to take out a win. Chris Schotz is another guy you cannot count out. He will be at the front if he shows up in form. I don't think Chris has ever finished outside the top five when he has finished.

There are others that could snatch away a victory if these folks fail. Charles Parsons is tenacious and has finished several T.I. events. Lots of experience is on his side. Same with Charlie Farrow, who had a gutty ride on a single speed last Spring, showing that while he may be aging, he still has that intangible "something" that makes him push through things others simply cannot. Better watch him too. I think I saw another Duluthian's card on Facebook, and if that shows up, there will be a multiple T.I. bride's maid with some formidable capabilities at the start line. Oh yeah......this could get interesting! 

And we haven't even gotten to the Vets and Rookies yet. Could be the best Trans Iowa field ever. Can't wait to see who else signs up in the coming days.......

Fat Biking Sunday

Following the boy on the leafy single track
Sunday was another big ride for my son on his fat bike. He is getting a bit cocky with his one handed riding and drinking from his bottle, but otherwise he's doing well.

I probably don't get him out often enough, as he's not gotten some concepts down that maybe he should know by now. Trouble is, in the neighborhood we live in, I cannot let him ride this very far out of eyesight, or some ne'er-do-well would knock him off it to steal it. That's not a wild imaginative thought here- it's a real possibility. I've actually witnessed this happen years back. Sad to say it, but that's how bad things have gotten since I was a kid.

So, I take him out as often as I get chances to, but it isn't like when I was young and I rode ten miles a day for days on end, learning everything about bicycles I could learn in a fast paced learning environment. That all by myself with my parents often not knowing where I was at. Not a once in a while outing with a parent, like it is with my son. But that's another story.....

Our ride was great. A bit trying at times for both of us, but great none the less. Learning isn't easy this way, but it is forward progress.......

Monday, October 27, 2014

Registration Daze Update

T.I.V11 mailbag- It's just the beginning!
Trans Iowa V11's first day of registration went down much as I expected it to, albeit maybe with lower initial numbers. There were surprise visitors, nice e-mails sent, cards came by all manner of delivery methods, and some folks screwed up again.

It never ceases to amaze me how registration gets goofed up by some folks. I try hard to be super clear, I try hard to link to details, and I think I have made things really simple to understand. 

BZZZT! Wrong. Wrong again.......... ah well. 

We're humans and by definition we are not perfect or even close to being able to communicate clearly all the time or in certain cases, any of the time. Why should I be any different? I am not. So, I simply must shrug this off and take solace in the fact that most of you get it and things go mostly quite well, actually.  For those of you that have stumbled due to my set up, or for whatever the reason- haven't gotten this straight in your mind- I apologize. I'm positive I did my best, but it may not have been good enough for you.

But anyway...... 17 folks signed on so far. One from the pool of 12 winners, the rest are past finishers. That means we have 11 spots reserved for past Winners and 14 left for past finishers. If the Winners spots are not all taken, I will toss up to ten of those over into the past finishers pool. If there still are left overs, they will get passed down to the Veterans for next week's phase of the Trans Iowa registration. We're going to have a roster of 120, so this is how it will work from this point. Stay tuned tomorrow for updates on the progress of Registration.

Any questions? Hit the comment section, please. Thanks!

Registration Daze

Mail bag from T.I.V10
Today I suspect will be a bit of a strange day at work. Trans Iowa V11 registration starts today for Finishers and Winners. Veterans and Rookies will have to wait their turn. (All the registration details can be found here.)

This week will be the week where we will see 30 spots filled by past finishers of Trans Iowas and there are 12 spots reserved for past winners of Trans Iowas. I've seen several shots of cards sent already which were posted to Facebook over the weekend. From this intel, I can already tell you that last Spring's victor, Greg Gleason is coming back to defend his title, and that a few guys that haven't been back for a few years or skipped last year are making their intentions known that they will have to be dealt with next Spring for V11.

The end of October and beginning of November are usually pretty slow times at the bike shop where I work, as they are in many regional bicycle shops here, so this bit of distraction is a welcomed thing now. We'll all be curious to see who walks in right away with cards today and what the mail man will bring us. I suppose we'll even see the FedEx lady and the UPS guy will likely be in early as well. Plus you never know what surprises lie in store for us today. We've enjoyed some pretty unusual deliveries in the last ten years!

Whatever happens, I'll have a report on it for tomorrow and I will try to update the roster throughout the day. How long will it take for all the allotted spots to be claimed? I bet it won't take long! We'll see........

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 7

Not for hire. Mooo!
Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

  Last week I covered Rule #5 This week I cover the following rule seen here.....

 6: Competitors may not advance on the route by any means other than bicycling or in the case of a mechanical, by foot. There will be no hitching of rides via Iowa farm animals. Moooooooo.

Okay, this week we have a rule which is pretty self explanatory. It is a self-supported event and you have to either ride your bicycle or walk. There isn't any real way to get confused here, you would think. If your bicycle breaks down in this long event, well, walking isn't really an option, or is it?

Charles Showalter's Gravel Mutt at the finish of T.I.V8
Actually, during Trans Iowa V8 we had two separate instances where competitors mostly walked the last seven or eight miles to finish. In that version of Trans Iowa, there was a surprise B Maintenance road near the end of the event. It claimed two derailleurs- One on Charles Showalter's "Gravel Mutt" and the other was on Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey's rig- his second Trans Iowa "derailleur-ectomy" in as many years.

Charles was the first. He called me to get a clarification on whether he would be counted as an official finisher if he walked in with his disabled rig. I confirmed to him that it was well within the rules to do so, and he proceeded to scooter, coast, and walk his bike into the finish for his first Trans Iowa finish.

Corey had whacked his derailleur the year before, which was well documented in the film, "300 Miles Of Gravel". In that event, Corey got his rig converted to a single speed, went back out and rode 300 plus miles to just have the experience, even though he was out of the event due to his getting a ride back to Grinnell to get repairs. However; Corey notched an official finish for V8 by doing essentially the same thing as Charles to get to the end of the cues for that version of Trans Iowa.

Next Week: If you cannot ride, and walking is out of the question.....Rule #7!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Night Time

Doesn't look like a trail much.....
A night ride or two has been happening of late. I have gotten a Lezyne helmet mount for my old Super Drive light and with the Trelock 950 on the bars I now have the perfect, (for me), night riding set up.

The Lezyne has a more intense light and the fill type wash that the Trelock puts out really work well together. I have a hard time distinguishing them from one another. They really blend that well. In the image to the left here, my tail light is washing in with the light from the Lezyne which is up on my helmet.

That's an old log crossing. The bits stuck in there to help you cross that log are sort of decayed now and beaten down. They need to have a bit of work. There are two other logs down back in there as well. Oh.......this is on Marky-Mark, by the way. The rustic, nearly overgrown connector trail between the two forks of the Green Belt Trail along Ridgeway Avenue.

I made the trail all in one take without any bushwhacking this time, but the West end of it is sketchy to figure out now and with all of the fallen leaves, it'll only get worse. My memory was taxed hard. I would imagine that darkness made that issue greater. However; I think those who find the East end would be hard pressed to do the last quarter of it on the West end without a great deal of luck and sunshine.

Almost went into the drink here.
Of course, I had to ride back from Marky-Mark. I was pushing the Snow Dog's speed up and I didn't catch a hard right hander, which was a reroute made over a year or so ago to account for some river bank erosion. You can still see the old, burned in single track line and I followed it right to the edge. Slammed on the Magura brakes and halted the fat rig about a foot from going off the edge. That was too close!

I backed off a bit after that, but it was a glorious night out on the trails and I have had a few other nights just like that. Mostly on the Snow Dog too, although that is going to change here in a bit. I am going to pull off the 29+ wheels from the MukTruk and swap wheels with the Snow Dog. Brakes too. A special experiment is the reason why. I cannot say more about it now. However; the MukTtruk will again become By-Tor and with the extended Alternator drops I am hoping that the gears will all clear the monstrous no-name tire I am using now.

Besides the experimentations, I also want to have all my best stuff on one fat bike coming into Winter. Things should get to a point where a fat bike makes a lot of sense for commuting again soon, so there is that as well. I probably won't see the Blackborow until December sometime, if it makes it on schedule, so that is another reason I want to do this. The Snow Dog? I've got plans for that too. Stay tuned......