Sunday, January 21, 2018

Announcing The Touring Series

A Guitar Ted Productions series
I was researching the "Minus Ten" post for this weekend when I rolled across an entry for my "Touring Tuesdays" series which ran from 2008 through 2009 on Tuesdays on this blog. I read a few entries and was prompted by the memories to post on Twitter the following:

"In 1994 I went on a self-supported cycling tour with two other guys for a week on $200.00 and came home with money to spare. #crazyvalueforthedollar So glad I did that then"

That Tweet got more likes than usual, so I thought it might be interesting to bring the series back for 2018. Here are the reasons why:
  • The "Touring Tuesdays" posts ran ten years ago. Many of you weren't reading this blog then, so you likely missed that.
  • Touring/bikepacking is seeing a rise in popularity. This series is relevant to this new interest.
  • I get a chance to revisit this and add any afterthoughts. 
So, my thoughts are now that I will run this on Sundays for the rest of the year to celebrate the "Touring Tuesdays" posts and to add any additional thoughts. Speaking of "additional thoughts", I figured it may make sense to give you a read on where I was at as a cyclist in 1994. Yes......that was a lifetime ago. Things weren't so good for me then as a cyclist and life in general was very alien to what it is like now days. Let me try to paint a picture.

In 1994, I was only about a year into my career as a mechanic/cyclist, at least in earnest. While I had been an off-road cyclist since 1989, and while I had been a fan of cycling, and maybe more serious about cycling than many, I was far from being "good" at anything on two wheels yet. I knew very little about cycling techniques and road riding was absolutely alien to me. I had taken a mechanics class, and my year of wrenching had taught me loads, but I was far from being "accomplished" at the mechanics and definitely far from an accomplished cyclist as I could be.

Then there were the times. Of course, the internet existed, but no one was on it outside of college professors and government people. (Generally speaking) There were no cell phones one could carry around easily, they were still super rare, and coverage was still in the dark ages. Google maps, Garmin, and anything that could enable easy navigation simply did not exist for the common man. Much less a scruffy cyclist. Paper maps ruled, and you had to do a lot of decision making and hope you were right. You couldn't "google it". There was no real good way to get information on a route through the back roads and byways of America. If you went off the beaten path, you may as well be flying in space or sailing in uncharted waters. There really was no way to know what you'd find "out there". There were still public telephones. People still were decent on the highways as distracted driving wasn't an issue. Your worst fear was getting hit by a drunk driver. Imagine that now days.

Finally, there was no easy way to photograph things. You had a film based camera, and shots were precious. You didn't take shots on a whim, so images from this time are precious and rare commodities. There was no social media. When you were on the road touring you were totally unplugged from society. No Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook sharing with their immediate, comforting, and enabling feedback. Nope! If you had an issue, you were on yer own! If you had a beautiful sunset, only you had that memory. So, I will be adding reminders about how things were very different then, because it may be taken for granted by us now that things were around then that weren't, and when I wrote this in 1994 and 2008, there were a lot of things that needed explaining that I never dreamed would need explaining.

It was a different day and age, and next Sunday we'll get to experience the first slices of those days again. I plan on adding a bit of commentary to each post. Stay tuned.......

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 3

Nothing is new: A Campy Record OR cassette crankset.
Ten years ago on the blog I was yakking about 29"er stuff, as usual. One of the topics that came up was gearing. See, when 29"ers came around, everything was focused on 26" wheels. That meant that the gearing, optimized for almost two decades for that wheel size, was too high for 29"ers. The gearing ratios were about 10% off. So a typical early oo's 26"er might have a low gear set up at 22T X 32T. That wasn't low enough for many on 29"ers. Interestingly, the focus back then was not on ultra-range cassettes, as it is now, but on lowering the range of triple crank sets.

Triple ring crank sets, you remember those, right? Well, the idea was to go to a 20T/30T/42T triple set up with an 11-34T cassette. That prompted some ideas from myself back then and a memory. First off- did you know that Campagnolo once made off road groups? They did, and despite their clunky, funky beginnings, toward the end of their run they actually had some brilliant ideas. Their cantilever brakes were better than many on the market, and they had a cassette style crank that would influence Shimano and later on, SRAM. Not to mention the after market companies.

The Campy Record OR crank set is probably one of the rarest "unicorn" components in mtb history. I've never seen one, nor have I ever heard about anyone having a set. But be that as it may, the Record OR crank predated the "spiderless cranks" of the early 00's which Shimano made and the later ones by SRAM and all the aftermarket companies. The Campy crank had only a big ring bolted in the typical manner to a hidden arm type, five arm crankset, not unlike the road version of the time. However; the inner two rings did not bolt to the crank spider, nor to the big ring. These two rings, the middle and the granny, were held on to the crank by a lock ring, the rings having a splined interface, not unlike a cassette cog. Campy claimed gearing could quickly be customized for different XC courses simply by swapping "cassette" crank rings.

Unfortunately, the next year Campy pulled out of the off road marketplace, so we'll never know if their ideas were really worthy. However; Shimano didn't wait long to take this idea and tweak it. In the very late 90's, XTR came out with a big ring which the other two rings mounted to. The whole assembly then was held on by a lock ring arrangement, not unlike the Campy design, to the driveside crank arm. This was trickled down to the other levels and I actually have a version which is the Deore, square taper crank take on that design. Most of those were the Octalink design interface.

Trans Iowa v4 Recon: 10 below zero craziness!
I also gave a brief report on recon for Trans Iowa v4. Unfortunately a huge Winter storm came only days before our planned trip and we couldn't see a whole lot of the course. It was -12°F below and all I really recall from that recon was seeing some young Amish/Mennonite children playing in the snow with their bonnets and hats on, all bundled up against the cold weather.

That Winter storm really put a kink in our plans but it portended an even wetter Spring. With the Winter run-off combined with copious amounts of Spring rains, we saw a lot of flooding pre-Trans Iowa. This also ended up being the last Trans Iowa out of Decorah, and those wet days were another reason for the change in venue, although for a reason one might not expect. In fact, it didn't have a thing to do with Trans Iowa other than I was connected to that. I'll leave it at that for now as that tale will figure into a Minus Ten Review this Summer.

Anyway, we ended up doing another big recon in the Spring in my wife's SUV. Then I had to go out a few times by myself doing recon of other sections of that course. There is another great story coming up concerning that while I was driving my "Dirty Blue Box". Who out there remembers that car?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday News And Views

Basically new cranks and bottom brackets with their own spindle size.
SRAM Introduces DUB- A New Bottom Bracket & Crank: 

SRAM is introducing a new size spindle and inner diameter bearing system for mountain bikes and fat bikes called "DUB". (Did anyone warn SRAM that is only one letter away from "not very smart"?) Anyway.....

DON"T SAY IT IS A NEW STANDARD! They don't like that, so I won't say it is. ( You can- many are) The big deal here is what SRAM is claiming as a better stiffness, (retains a big spindle at 28.9mm) and better bearing life with the new bearings designed for this system. It fits any current Press Fit or BSA bottom bracket with the correct spindle length for fat or mountain bikes.

I really don't like SRAM's website. It isn't very easy to pull out technical information without digging a few layers into it, which I find frustrating, but that aside, I don't see any issues with this as long as it actually does have better bearing life than BB-30 systems and as long as it really does fit everything out there. (Most crank sets are adaptable to anything out there, by the way.) The DUB system goes across several levels of SRAM componentry on the mtb side so you'll likely see it available on lots of OE bikes in the future. Whether or not road will get this hasn't been revealed, but I cannot see why it would not happen at some point.

SON 12mm through axle dyno hub- Possibility for the new MCD build
Dreaming Of Generators:

A conversation via text messenger and a new series on RidingGravel.com about lights has rekindled my interest in getting a hub dyno. This now would be a dream for the upcoming MCD build from Black Mountain Cycles.  

Both of those things sparked an interest in trying this dyno hub thing out. I'm not 100% sure about it, but having lights always at the ready might just be a reason to do more night time gravel riding in the Summer- a thing I've missed doing. Generally speaking, getting the lights ready, mounted, and whatnot kind of sucks the fun out of spur of the moment thoughts of wandering around in the country at night. The way my life is structured now, moments must be seized or they slip away. I only get chances to do stuff like night gravel rides on a whim most times because I generally have to slip out alone.

But would I do that enough to make a nearly $400.00 hub, (not to mention spokes, rim, nipples, etc) worth it? Hmmm...... Not sure about that. So, this is what I say it is for now- a dream. The icing on the cake, if you will, and certainly an expendable part of the plan for an MCD frame/fork build.

Time To Check This Out:

The other day I had someone ask if I'd ever consider doing the 24hrs of Cumming, (keep the jokes to yerself, people, it is a real town's name in Iowa) and I said probably not because it always falls on my GTDRI date. Well, this year the GTDRI is going to be on July 28th.

Then I found out that the Cumming, Iowa gig is the following weekend which is August 4th. So, then I was texting with my friend, Sam, a fellow Renegade Gent's Race team mate, and he asked if I wanted to tag-team the event with him.

Hmm....... So, I talked it over with Mrs. Guitar Ted and Sam with his lady and it looks like I am in on this. So, yeah...... I said that I wasn't going to do many big competitions this year. The thing is, I am looking at this as just a big mileage day in big hills with maybe some rad gravel night riding thrown in for good measure. Basically, fun. If we do the whole gig and we evenly split the distance/turns/laps, then I figure that I would have to do about a buck-forty and given 24hrs and rests in between, that's doable. Weather can affect that, of course. But we all know that!

Bonus Link: New Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast on The State Of Gravel Cycling & More: CLICK HERE

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Two Off-Seasons

New tires for a gravel tire review. Temperature well below freezing. Hmm....
Since about 2007 I have experienced several things every Winter. There are three of these things which are pretty consistent in their appearance though. One would be an "off-season" of sorts from whatever my primary form of riding has been previous to Winter. Lately that has been an absence from the gravel roads. When things get windy, real air temperatures dip below 20°F, and the roads are frozen solid as rock with ice and/or snow, I am not going to be doing anything effective out there. Even survival is questionable many days.

The second thing which I hate, but has been a regular visitor every Winter for years, is that I get sick. Really sick. Every late December or early January. I get pretty tired of that one! Next Winter it would be really good if I got an off season from that! 

The third thing is my off season from reviewing. December's approach generally sets off alarms here at Guitar Ted Laboratories where I can have three or four things going on at once in terms of reviews. Marketing companies seem to like to send out review things which should be used in hotter weather in the late Fall and early Winter. I never have quite understood this, but for over a decade now that has been a notable occurrence.

So, I generally am scrambling every day to do something which can further me towards the end of a review by late November. Once in awhile I get bonus December riding, as I did in late 2015. However; I generally am shut down sometime early in December and everything gets put on hold then until later into Winter or early Spring. Meanwhile I am in limbo, waiting, wanting to clear the slate, but that first 40° day and thawing roads is a bit a ways down the road yet.

Waiting to ride out there again too weighs on my mind. Sickness puts off even the odd commute and fat biking I can actually have fun doing right now. This off-season stuff is for the birds. I'm not a fan, but then again, I probably need the rest. Time off makes the time I can ride mean more to me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Winter Views

It's white for now, but not for much longer.
Last week we lost all of our snow in the first warm up of the year. Then we got a nice little dusting on Sunday evening. Essentially about 3 inches of Arctic fluff, but at least it was something. However; Monday we had blinding winds and that really blew off a lot of that fluff so it only covers the ground really, and just barely at that.

But, it is what it is, so I decided that Monday it was just too brutal to ride with that wind and below zero morning temperatures. Plus, I was just coming off the flu. So Monday was a no-ride day. Tuesday things were set to be a bit different though.

I felt great, for one thing, and the temperature at my departure for work was a balmy 1°F above zero with a 15mph Northwest wind. Of course, I ride toward the Northwest to get to work. But I did it. I made it there with no issues. Once work was over, the plan was to take the long ride home.

I decided just to putter around a bit. The wind was the same, but now it was 8°F! WooHoo! Actually, all kidding aside, it was Sunny and the snow was perfect. Now we are supposed to start getting warmer and by Saturday it will be 40°F and.....buh-bye snow! A replay of last week, it would seem. Sunday coming up another storm is due. We'll see what that brings. So, anyway, yesterday was going to be the primo riding day. I took advantage.

Lower Hartman hadn't seen much traffic and was a pretty nice ride Tuesday
I ended up wandering down to Lower Hartman Reserve where bicycles are allowed and wandered around on trails there. I first hit up what I know as "John's Trail", although I am sure that the CVAST group has their own goofy name for it. Whatever. It's "John's Trail" when I ride it as he is the one that put it in. Not that anyone cares anymore about history or anything...... Bah! 

So, anyway, the trail was completely navigable, and I decided to poke around some more. There is a tiny bit of trail South of old Shirey Way, (another lost name to the younginz), and I decided to take it back toward the Hartman shelter on the paved bike trail. Along the way I noted movement, as I had a bit earlier when I flushed out four deer. But these weren't deer. It was an older man and a woman following him hiking in the same direction as I was traveling. Of course, I was going to overtake them eventually.

I got about 30 yards behind them, my tires scrunching and screeching on the dry, fluffy, super-cold snow. I was making enough noise I figured that they would easily hear my approach, but they made no indication as to the knowledge of my presence. I could hear their talking, I was that close, but they couldn't hear me? Weird. Well, having had enough encounters with hikers to know that there was no way I wasn't going to scare them half to death, I decided to pull up to a huge cottonwood and prop myself against it while they went on ahead.

They got a good bit ahead, and I soft pedaled along, but I was going to overtake them again, so I stopped alongside another tree to sit and wait until they exited the trail and crossed over the paved bicycle trail into Upper Hartman. Then I proceeded to go my way. No harm-no foul. I am certain these folks had no idea I was behind them. No need to frighten the poor souls, so I did what I did.

"S" stands for Shirey. The old sand and gravel company used to own all the Lower Hartman area once upon a time.
After that encounter I went off a circumnavigated that big backwater pond next to the Cedar. That was fun, and then I started my way back home. I ended up riding for an hour and a half. Pretty good for having been off the bike since last week with a bout of flu in between. I was pretty hungry when I got home but my daughter saved the day with some good chicken curry and rice.

This is going to be a wonky Winter. Saturday I think I am aiming for a gravel ride, the first I will have done in 2018. We'll see. This weather swings one way then the next so hard it is difficult to keep track of what to wear and when. One day I am wearing two layers, or three, then a couple of days later I am wearing one jacket and feeling hot. Depending on what happens Sunday I may or may not have more Winter Views coming. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Another Option

"Well, of course they did.", is what I thought several weeks ago when my buddy MG let on that he was in the "DKXL" , a 350 mile version of the event, the Dirty Kanza 200. A couple of months previous to that I had been contacted by the Dirty Kanza 200 event director/co-founder Jim Cummins with a question about how I set up cut offs for Trans Iowa. I also noted that he and a group of other riders did a huge "bikepacking" excursion through the Flint Hills about this same time. Hmm.....something is up here, methinks! 

So, when my friend MG let on about the DKXL I wasn't surprised. It makes sense that is what they would do, especially after the other DK events on gravel seem to be maxed out in terms of numbers for participation. When your aim is to diversify, provide new ways to satisfy demand, and "grow", this news fits the bill. When your sponsor says things like, "The DKXL is very exciting to us because it represents a continued progression......in a gravel event..", well you know that some goals were set that are making them happy too.

At least, that's how I read the press release. YMMV.

So, some folks have asked what I think, because I run Trans Iowa. Well, I don't really mind one way or the other, frankly. It's their gig, they can do what they think is right by them and their customers. As far as a ride goes, yeah. It's cool. It would be a great challenge. I'm not sure what the DK Promotions has in mind for 2019, when they say they are going to have this idea fine tuned and ready for the masses to engage in. I would hazard a guess that it will be more expensive than the 200 miler. I cannot imagine it wouldn't cost some serious money to get into. So any ideas of this being like, say, an Alexander type event, well, that probably doesn't fit the DK200's "MO" of the last seven years or so. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but I wouldn't bet on it.

So, fundamentally I think it would be a different event than the older style ultra-distance events, but that's just a guess. When MG does this, I'll hear about it, and we'll know more then, I am sure. But at any rate, I  wasn't surprised about this and no- I really don't have any strong feelings about their doing this one way or the other. I'll be interested to see what they make of it next year for sure.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party Report

Guitar Ted pontificating. Image by Izabel Stevenson
The Saturday evening gig at Doughy Joey's almost didn't happen. Both myself and NY Roll, who was also helping to put this on, were deathly ill on Friday. I was fighting the flu and NY Roll had food poisoning, (he thinks). At any rate, collective sighs of relief were had by both parties when on Saturday morning we both woke up feeling human again. Whew!

So, I puttered around getting stuff together most of the day as we had to head over to the venue at 4:30pm to set up. NY Roll was already there, so we started hauling stuff in from the car. Oh yeah......I said "we". I should mention that my 17 year old daughter decided to help out. Izabel took all the images for today's post, by the way.

Anyway, people started coming in almost as soon as we got there. Des Moines was represented, and a few locals were showing up. I wasn't expecting a huge crowd. I had told NY Roll that if we got 30 folks I would consider it a success. He was fully convinced we were going to see a lot of folks. So we made a friendly wager that there would be more than 50 or less. I took the "under". Well, I was sooooo wrong!! 

People started coming and for a while, there was a line of people waiting to sign in for the raffle for tires and a seat bag. It was crazy! I was busy yakking to folks and before I knew it, NY Roll said, "That was 50!", and there were still folks rolling in. I think we eventually had 76 show up. Amazing!

A full house! Five more people and we would have been making the Fire Marshall upset. Image by Izabel Stevenson
A lot of people stayed and hung out well after I was finished. This started at 6:00pm and this image was taken at about 9:30pm. Image by Izabel Stevenson
There was free Grain Belt beer and pizza for all. Image by Izabel Stevenson
So, we had folks from all over Iowa and a couple of guys stopped in from Michigan as well! I was totally blown away by the attendance. The crowd was attentive for the most part and I received a lot of great feedback from people that talked to me afterward.

A few event directors were in attendance so we had them speak on behalf of their events. The Iowa City Gravel event director was there as well as the guys from the first time "Three Bridges" event which is happening in June from Waverly. We also talked about getting another Geezer Ride going locally this Spring for the gravel rookies in the area and, of course, anyone else that just wants to come and have fun. Then I was approached by the guys from Cresco Bikes that want to do a route in their neck of the woods and host a Geezer Ride, so it looks like I'll be heading North at some point to help with/ride that event.

Lots of great connections were made and I am hopeful that the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area can come together and get a vibrant, fun, inclusive gravel community together and that we start seeing a lot more gravel travel in the area. It certainly won't hurt to have more people on bicycles having more fun.

Soooo.... The $64,000.00 question: Will there be another Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party? Based upon the feedback we have received already? That answer would be a "yes". Very positive feedback. So, I don't know what that will look like, but I assume that this time next year we can expect something akin to what we had, at least, and maybe more. However; this was financed out of pocket, so funding for something like this in the future is a big question too. Stay tuned on that front......

Thank Yous: NY Roll, (financing) Riding Gravel (personality, resources, schwag), Doughy Joey's (venue), WTB (tire giveaway) Lezyne (seat bag giveaway), Izabel Stevenson (assistance, photography) and everyone who came out that made this evening worthwhile in spades!