Monday, January 26, 2015

Gravel On The RAGBY

Did Steve Hed like gravel road riding.....?
The big RAGBRAI route announcement party happened over the weekend and normally I only cock an eye sideways at this deal, since where the route goes does affect me for several months. Close to home and we're busy, far from home......not so much. So, while I casually cruised social media to see where the route overnight towns might be, I was messaged by a fellow gravelist, ("gravelluer"?....hmm...), that the RAGBY was going to honor Steve Hed with an optional 15 mile gravel road route tacked on to the second day of the week's festivities.

"Okay, that's pretty cool", I think. Then I think...."There probably are not many typical RAGBY riders that even know why this loop was added on gravel."  Then I thought, "Only FIFTEEN miles!" Sheesh! Someone of Steve Hed's stature surely deserves a full day's gravel route option, doesn't he? If you knew that Steve was a big proponent of gravel/rural/backroad riding, then you'd probably agree. He was not only a lover of that sort of riding, but his company, HED Wheels, actively supported the gravel racing scene.

Just look at the sticker he had made for his own personal gravel sled shown at the 2013 Interbike trade show. It says, "Gravel Nation", a moniker I hadn't seen before until I saw Steve's bike. He obviously saw himself as a part of that sort of thing, and he was, in fact, a huge part of it, although most cyclists would probably have never pigeon-holed him as such a rider.

Obviously a lot of fancy-pants road bikes will be there at the RAGBY slinging HED wheels, which are coveted for their aerodynamic properties. However; while that's Steve Hed's legacy in cycling, it isn't where his heart was. (I know- he told me this himself.) He was an adventurer, raised on the dusty roads of Minnesota, and he still was looking forward to many more miles of gravel, dirt, chip seal, and wherever the path may have taken him on an adventure. Unfortunately, he left us behind on an adventure of a different kind.

The RAGBY route comes to our metro area this year, so I suppose I'll be busier than last year. I'll be stuck in the shop, cranking out repairs, I am sure. I hope to not be so busy that I can't get out and put in a good, adventurous gravel ride in the day of his memorial loop. I figure it's the right thing to do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 18

 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 talked about the cell phone rule HERE, now it's on to a rule about "being in it together".

20: Racers can help other racers with mechanical support. We are not doing this event to leave someone out in the boonies of Iowa.

The "self-supported" thing was something really new for most folks coming to Trans Iowa early on. What did that mean? This was why this rule was put into the original set of rules set out by Jeff Kerkove back in 2004. It was to help define how far "self-supported" went.

We were getting a lot of early questions and many assumptions that due to the nature of the event, you as a rider could not even help another rider out in case of mechanicals. Of course, we weren't wanting it to be that way. So this rule was written to make sure anyone undertaking Trans Iowa would know that assistance, as long as it came from another rider in the event, was okay. This became different things as the event matured and riders began to interpret this rule through the years.

Rule #20 in action during T.I.V8
Of course, the original intention for the rule has persisted all along. If someone flats, your riding partner at the time is kind of expected to offer assistance. It's a "gentleman's agreement", but it is in the spirit of the event and is in the spirit of Rule #20.

However; "assistance" has grown to also include other things. The first time I recall seeing this in action was at T.I.v3 when Majiec Nowak, of "Team Polska", downloaded his remaining supplies for his mates to take on as they continued after he dropped out. I then was made aware of how small enclaves of riders were forming and helping to encourage each other through the evening hours of the event. In fact, this started happening right out of the gate at Trans Iowa V1.

Later, I would hear how certain folks would rely on a single individual to navigate by the cue sheets as the rest would simply grind out the miles and follow. However; this can be quite dangerous as we have learned. On several occasions, the designated navigator would start to become so fatigued that they would make mistakes and lead several others astray. Sometimes to the tune of several miles. Although this "assistance" is not recommended, it happens every year at T.I.

The result of Rule #20, by accident really, is that by it- and the nature of the event- riders have bonded in special ways out there as they have encountered difficulties, been broken down, and somehow still forge on to finish. The friendships and special feelings that this has resulted in may be one of Trans Iowa's greatest attributes.

Next Time: Getting off-line and back again.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Boo Bicycles Visits

Prototype carbon lugged, bamboo fat bike from Boo Bikes
Yesterday we were graced by the presence of Adam Blake of Boo Bicycles from Fort Collins, Colorado. He stopped by the shop to show off this beautiful carbon lugged bamboo fat bike prototype. If you raced at Triple D, you also may have gotten a glimpse of it.

Adam also chatted us up about Boo Bicycles and what the deal is with the bamboo sections of the frame. On this fat bike, the bamboo extends underneath the carbon overlay so that the chain stays, seat stays, top tube, and down tube are all full length bamboo tubes. The carbon is then wrapped and formed over the bamboo to join the tubes and stiffen them in these critical areas. The seat tube is fully carbon, as is the head tube. This composite structure has unique ride characteristics and attributes that neither a full bamboo or carbon fiber frame can attain to. We were told the fat bike is still a work in progress and that the final iteration for production may vary from what we saw in some fairly significant ways. Stay tuned there.....

There was a lot more discussed than just this fat bike. Adam told us to watch for a shift in focus from Boo Bikes which will be revealed very soon. Also, I have some things cooking regarding Boo Bicycles and perhaps some collaboration with RidingGravel.com. The second and third sentences may or may not be related. (<====HA!)

Stay tuned for more details............

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday News And Views

The Sun sets on another year......
Another Trip Around The Sun:

Today kicks off another trip around the Sun for me and this one will be a potentially pretty exciting one. Leaving last year behind, with being sick on several occasions, getting hit by a truck, and with all the changes at the end of the year- well, if the coming year is just calmer, it would be better! However; I have some exciting new things to do and to learn about, some of which has already been kicking into gear here starting with the new year.

RidingGravel.com has already proven to be fun and a game changer for me. I have been less stressed in regard to having to be an editor, reviewer, and organizer, so that's been a big plus and a change I am still getting accustomed to. Riding Gravel Radio Ranch has been fun, and a learning experience. So far, the response has been very positive to it, which is quite encouraging. Now my focus is not going to be torn away from gravel riding, which I have missed doing a lot of, and which will be happening a lot more in the coming year.

There also is potential for some bigger and better things regarding RidingGravel.com, and that's encouraging for me as well. Hopefully the being sick so far this year will go by the wayside and I can get on with all of those things and more. Spending time with my wife and two children is a big priority also, and the extra time opened up by the changes made so far should help that situation out as well. So, anyway......here we go again!

2010- The last time I looked at this view from a bicycle saddle...
 Announcing......

Many of you don't know that I have thrown my hat into the ring to ride 200 miles in Kansas at the end of May. Yep.......I will be riding the Dirty Kanza 200

The last time I was there I succumbed to heat related issues at Checkpoint #1. 2010 was the year that the heat and wind was really intense and many were cooked that year, not just myself. However; I've never crossed that finish line, and I have to check that box off my list. I figured that I am not getting any younger, so........ 

Next, I want to say that I am 100% sure I am not the first person to think about this, and I am sure more than a few are going to dedicate their 2010 DK200 effort to this as well, but my ride at the Dirty Kanza will be in memory and dedicated to Joel Dyke.

Then I want to say that you can also expect me to resurrect my "Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles", which I wrote as a training log for an aborted attempt at the 2011 DK 200, which didn't happen due to a family vacation to El Paso Texas to see family. Things will kick into gear as soon as I get my "medical clearance" from Mrs. Guitar Ted to start putting in some gravelly rides this Winter and Spring.

GTDRI 2014 course will be conquered in 2015!
Announcing Part 2......

And while I am at it, let's get this out- The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational will happen Saturday, July 25th out of backbone State Park. I have a score to settle there as well.

While it wouldn't have been pretty, I was well on my way to finishing that course last Summer when the aforementioned truck hit me at Mile 95. That obviously stopped the proceedings right then and there. I figure this needs to be put to bed the right way, so the same exact course will be run again, only this time with a much better outcome.

A Word About The Ride: I've had people come up and tell me that they would like to join this ride, but that they were not "invited". Look.........you are invited! Much like the Pirate Cycling League's "Gravel World's" is a tongue in cheek naming of a fun gravel race, so it is with the GTDRI. It is a pretentious name for a no-drop, anyone can come if they want to gravel grinder. So, don't tell me you didn't come because "I wasn't invited", because you are. Just show up at Backbone State Park ready to ride at 6:00am. Done!

And with that, I wish you all a fantastic weekend and hope you all get out and ride!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Trailblazered Fargo

They fit well, are an interesting ride, but still not sold on it......
So this idea of fitting the Trailblazer B+ tires to the Fargo Gen 2 bike got started on earlier than I had wanted to, due to the illness and all. I had time I had to fill that otherwise would have been spent riding. Yesterday I was "confined to quarters" by Mrs. Guitar Ted, but I just had to do a short loop as a test since conditions were ripe for finding out what I wanted to know.

What did I want to find out? Well, I'll list out a few things that have been on my mind concerning the concept overall and these Trailblazer tires specifically.
  • Float: 29+ has a decent quality for float- well, at least the 29+ Knards do that well. Do the Trailblazers have a similar quality?
  • Stability: Would the B+ tires have lateral stability, or would they slide sideways and be hard to control?
  • Would this set up be suitable for a long, gravel/backroad event? 
  • Is the bottom bracket too low with this wheel system?


Red arrows point to the track of the B+ Trailblazers in the mud.
The advantages of going out now for testing were that there are plenty of saturated muddy places and some slushy snowy tracts to test out how the B+ Trailblazers act on these difficult surfaces. I have noted that 29+ has a tendency to float up on top and also that those wheels would tend to slide sideways a bit, making for a bit more difficult handling.

The Trailblazer has a rather flattish crown to the tread area whereas the Knard is very rounded, almost a "peaked C shaped" crown to the tread. The difference in how they track through mud is noticeable. The Trailblazer sort of "sucks" the center part of whatever soft surface it is covering and tries to pull it up as the tire rotates off the soil or snow. Note the area I have highlighted with the red arrows to the left. If you click on the image, you can get a larger image to see this more clearly.

While the Trailblazer "cut" into the soil maybe more than a Knard does, it also adhered to the slippery surfaces better and did not demonstrate such a tendency to want to lose lateral stability. So, at least in saturated soils or wet snow, you might see a better grip and handling, to a degree, which could make for a better experience.

Stability is better, but float is not quite as nice as 29+ Knards. The last two questions I will have to wait for answers to until I get a lot more riding time on this set up. I have a plan for what this might get used for now as well, but that announcement will be on hold for a bit until I have a few things confirmed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Randomonium

Every ride requires a lengthy cleaning session of late.
Well, with having been ill most of 2015 so far, the riding has been on the down low. (Do people still use this term? ) Anyway, since that has been the case, I have a splattering of disjointed stuff to talk about today that may or may not make sense. Let's see......

Mucky-muck: Generally we have maybe two weeks that are really a mess as far as riding goes around here. Those two weeks generally happen in March when the snow is melting and the frost works up out of the ground. Car "leavings"- things like remnants of accidents, hub caps, and bits and pieces off autos can be found since their snowy hiding places melt away, revealing the junk for all to see and run over. This is typical March type fare for city riding around here. Well, that is exactly how it has been now.

The odd January thaw, for real this time. It's been weird, and really messy. My commute to work is across some grassy fields, parkways, and in some gravel parking lots. These areas are where I get mucked up the most, but even the streets are a mess these days. It makes for more maintenance work. I suppose it will freeze up again, since we are not even into February yet, and then we will get to do this all over again in March- when it is supposed to happen.

Image by Jacob Stevenson
With this strange weather we are seeing a lot of spectacular mornings and evenings. It has been fairly consistent for the past couple of weeks. Fiery skies, or pastel concerts of rose, yellow, blue, and purple. It certainly has been fun to catch these early or late atmospheric fireworks.

I've noted some folks on Facebook have picked up on this as well and I have enjoyed your posts immensely. Thanks for taking the time to post those, if you are one of the folks doing so. All across the Mid-West, West, and beyond seem to be experiencing this of late. I don't mind it one bit, but it is something to consider.
Stickered up and ready to represent

Frostbike: 

Hopefully the weather doesn't go upside down for Frostbike, (but it probably will), like it did last year when we drove through a blizzard to get there. This time I will be representing RidingGravel.com and I have gotten my kit in the mail and am all ready to go. Well......I need to line up a place to stay yet. There is that. Time to go shopping for a motel room, eh?

I will be busy doing another Riding Gravel Radio Ranch post. This time we will be talking to Trenton Raygor of the Filthy 50 gravel race. It should be a good time. I would think that the podcast will get posted later in the week. So far, in an amazing turn of events, I have gotten a lot of great feedback from doing these. It kind of reminds me of doing those old cassette tape machine "radio shows" I used to do as a kid. (If you are younger than 40 years old, never mind! You won't get that last statement.) Anyway, I like doing it and it has been fun so far. I hope to expand upon the scope of subject matter in the coming days. I'd like to get into having some racers on for chats, and maybe do something from a remote location. Possibly from an event or two. Look for things in that vein to pop up later in the year.

Oh yeah.....this section was supposed to be about Frostbike. Well, actually I will be doing some test recording there that may show up as audio on the Radio Ranch. Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

#psyck Part 3

Tired of sitting inside all weekend, I decided to break out and enjoy a Sunset. Glad I did!
Noticing a theme for 2015 so far?

Not that I wouldn't like to change that. It's been great outside, (for January), and I could have been piling on some miles. Oh well....... They say things happen for a reason. Perhaps it was a period where I needed to slow down, relax, and take it easy, and as much as I am not liking that, it may be true. Well, there is only so much I can take, so after resting all day Saturday and most of Sunday, I went out for a short jaunt on the Blackborow DS to chase down a Sunset.

I mentioned in my #psyck Part 2 post that the snow would be mostly gone by the weekend, and it was. There were a few stretches of mushy snow left here and there, but for the most part it was either completely gone, packed into ice, or forming big stretches of water. I merrily splooshed through the mud and water, trundling along in the "low range" on the Blackborow, and kept things chill. I didn't need to burn any matches, what with being sick yet, I just wanted some exercise and fresh air. Plus, the slower speeds kept the muck in check.

It always amazes me how little impact fat bikes can have on soft ground. (Note dog print in left foreground)

The Blackborow DS with its Clown Shoe 100mm rims and Lou tires really leaves little impact in comparison to anything else out there, and I know that any other bike than a wide tire type fat bike would have caused a lot of trail damage that day. Not that it matters in the Green Belt, but it is a good observation. I noted that pedestrian and dog traffic was leaving more evidence of passage, and more damage, than I was creating. In fact, all you could see in most places I rode were my tread block marks, as shown above.

You should ride this event.
This past weekend marked another running of the Triple D event in Dubuque. It is a three pronged event- when there is enough snow- and one of those is a fat bike race. I have done it three years in a row and decided to take a year off. Good thing! Seeing as how I have been under the weather for a couple weeks, I wouldn't have been able to ride it anyway.

They had record number of riders attempt the event this year, and by some estimations it was the fastest course conditions ever. Sounds good, right? Well, I admire anyone that tackled the event, but I am not sorry I missed subjecting my self and my equipment to that mudfest. Whoo-wee! The images that I saw of folks coming back in made it look as though they had been in a mud wrestling match with a herd of pigs. The bikes didn't look much better! I'm sure it was "fun" but that aftermath didn't look too great.

Let's hope that the rescheduled Iowa Winter Games fat bike event at George Wyth State Park on the 31st actually has snow. As of now, I doubt there is a whole lot left out there. Of course, you could always go to the Fatbike Frozen Forty in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Being further North, that event may have the best chances of actually being a snow event than anything down this way does this year. I probably won't get up there as it is the 14th of February and right before Frostbike, which I cannot miss. Well, unless I am still sick then! 

Which brings me back to that- If you have your health, don't take it for granted. Get out there, use it, and enjoy it while you can. I can tell you one thing- It ain't no fun sitting on the sidelines due to being ill, mudfest or no!