Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: The Weather Is The Wildcard

Sure looks to be a wet and cold one.
The weather for Trans Iowa is usually a topic of great discussion and cause for consternation amongst those involved in the event at this point every year the last 13 years now. This single factor has such a great influence on this event that besides mental fortitude, it probably is the single most important influencer on how or if anyone can finish in any particular year.

Take last year, for instance. Yes, it takes tough, prepared athletes to finish any Trans Iowa, but I don't think anyone will argue that having a tailwind for the first 160 miles, a clear blue sky, warm temperatures, and a relatively calm, warm night period contributed to the record number of finishers. I also think it is obvious why Trans Iowa v11 had zero finishers with the awful weather that was experienced on that weekend.

So, you might understand why folks wring their hands and over-think their gear and set ups when Trans Iowa gets close and the weather forecasters start to dial in the forecast for the weekend of the event. Especially with how this forecast has been shaping up.

Here's a snippet of what I've been reading about the weather from the Iowa Storm Racing Network: "Despite several periods of rain, the trend for heavy rainfall is shifting to the South and East of Iowa. We should still see periods of moderate rainfall but the threat for heavy rainfall is shifting southeast. Although temperatures will fall into the 30’s, expected cloud cover and winds at 10 to 15 mph should prevent frost from developing over the area."

Last year this was the only mud we saw on Trans Iowa, but the riders didn't see any of it. This year?
 So, it is fairly certain that this year the Level B roads likely will be muddy messes. Ironically, there is a large contingent of Trans Iowa riders that wouldn't have it any other way. They call years with these conditions "real Trans Iowas", or they describe the years that are challenging as the years they wish that they could finish a Trans Iowa.

So, there is that distinct possibility that the weather will cooperate to provide just such a Trans Iowa. Not so difficult that it cannot be done, (v11), but not so......easy?, hmm...... Well, not so T.I.v12, let's say, and that a greater challenge would exist. I am just relating what I see on social media with those comments.

Personally I just want to see everyone come out on the other side safe and with something to take home with them. Whether or not they finish isn't the biggest deal. There is a lot more to it than that, I believe. I'll leave off today's post with a quote sent to me by Jess Rundlett, who does work with the State Historical Society, I believe. Anyway, she sent this from a National Historic Register concerning travel in the days before the great Lincoln Highway crossed Iowa. Jess thought it rang true for Trans Iowa, and I agree. Here it is:

"Traveling over these sorry roads, which were dusty in the summer and quagmires of sucking mud in the spring, was complicated by the fact no one knew where the roads led or whether there was a dead end or a river crossing beyond the next hill."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Tire Day For Gen I

New tires AND different wheels.
The ol' Gen I Fargo has been modified for the umpteenth millionth time. This time it is the wheels and tires that got swapped out.

I had been running some Sun Ringle' Black Flag wheels which have rims that are based on the Stan's tubeless bead socket standard. That doesn't play well with many tubeless ready tires since Stan's bead socket thing is really meant to convert non-tubeless tires to tubeless. This means that the tighter tolerances of many tubeless tires are not an ideal fit to a Stan's rim.

Now, before y'all fire up your keyboards to tell me how your such-and-such tires have been awesome on Stan's rims for years with zero problems, you need to understand that I am not saying you cannot put tubeless ready tires on Stan's rims. You can. I have. It is just that many tires are not an ideal fit. As in, you may break tire levers getting them on or off. That isn't a good thing if the fit is that tight.

Ideally, you should be able to mount and dismount tires with no tools. If you have to sweat bullets and use a massive DH rated steel tire lever to mount your tires, or if you have to use some "slippery-slide" type concoction to mount your tubeless tires, something is not right. Why? Because you won't be field servicing that set up if the need arises, and you should be able to do that easily. 

So, the long way around to say that my Teravail Sparwood/Sun Ringle' set up was stupid tight and was a big problem waiting to happen. So, I ran that set up for as long as I felt I had gotten some good out of the money I spent on them and then I was going to ditch those things off. Actually, I had figured that this wouldn't have happened just yet. The thing is, the Sparwoods, while great in Kansas Flint Hills, really aren't very good in Iowa. In fact, they are what I would term as "not very good" riding tires. But that's another story for another day.

Terrene Tires' Honali 700 X 50mm
So, I have these new Terrene Honali tires in for testing at RidingGravel.com. They have tubeless ready casings and I wanted to use a tubeless ready designed rim. I happened to have a wheel set I built up for an old TNI test with WTB Frequency rims. 

These rims are tubeless designed and have a 23mm inner rim width which is perfect for a 50mm wide tire. They mounted up with the Honali tires with a simple.almost dead, 15 year old Blackburn floor pump. I mounted them by hand. I could remove them with the aid of one plastic tire lever if I needed to do the job quickly. In other words- This set up is completely field serviceable with your hands or simple bicycle tools with little effort. 

Now, it is completely possible that I won't like the Honali tires any better than I do the Teravails, but I can say that the Honali feels twice as supple already and that the profile of the Honali on the rim is already better than that of the previous tire set. So far.......so good. 

The wheels have American Classic hubs, which aren't the best in terms of engagement of the hub, but they have been reliable and for gravel travel the slack engagement shouldn't be an issue. Plus, these hubs are loads quieter than the Sun Ringle' ones were. Those things were really loud! That got on my nerves a few times on longer rides. 

So, at any rate, I am set with new wheels and tires. I'll give this a go and then report back soon......  

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Calm Before The Storm

Des Moines International Airport.......waiting.
I had a long weekend. Not by choice, and it was weird, and it was good in the end. Things happen for a reason, I guess, and several things came together in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise.

So, to kick things off I had to fetch my wife back from her trip to see her family and arrange and attend her father's funeral. She was flying in to Des Moines, the kids had the day off from school by chance, and so we were all there to greet her. That was great.

Then the Trans Iowa t-shirts were finished, so my friend Sam had them ferried by bicycle from the printer to his establishment, Tacopocalypse. It just so happened that Mrs. Guitar Ted came in at about 1:00pm, so we went to Tacopocalypse for a late lunch and to pick up the t-shirts. Bonus: Sam met us down there and we all got a chance to chat with him. Sam even helped load the boxes into our car. Thanks Sam!

None of the above was "planned", necessarily, but it all came together in a way that was better than we could have planned it. Draw your own conclusions........

Of course, there was a long trip home and then we settled in to have something to eat- leftovers, so Mrs Guitar Ted wouldn't have to cook, and we cashed it in for the night then.

I did manage to mount the Terrene Honali's on the Gen I Fargo before bed Friday night. 

Friday afternoon I got a text from Mike Johnson, who had the cues printed for T.I.v13, and he wanted to know if I wanted to meet at a local restaurant to eat and then have our "cue sheet stuffing party". I agreed to meet him and so at 7:00am I found myself sat at the table ordering up breakfast and staring at a job which entailed collating and bagging 280 sets of cue sheets. By hand...... In a busy restaurant. 

A crab apple tree in bloom. Image taken while on a ride with my son in Waterloo
We finished in a little over two hours, but the middle set of cues had one bag with a mixed up set of pages. We knew this because we were short one page for the last set and had a duplicate page left over. So, I left a hefty tip for tying up that table for so long and went home to sort through 96 bags to find the one with the messed up set of cues. Of course, I had to sort through most of them before I found the one, but I found it. With about 35 bags to go! I and my daughter went ahead and inspected all the bags anyway, so we know we are spot on now.

That was it for Trans Iowa work, and I spent the rest of the weekend with the family. Next weekend I will be gone the entire time except for late Sunday. So, I wanted to invest my time wisely by spending it with my family now. I cycled with my son a couple of times, barbecued, took a couple of walks, and generally just hung out with them. It was nice and fairly peaceful, never mind the drive-by shooting Sunday morning and the SUV that caught on fire down on the corner. All just part of living in the 'Loo.

So, now four days till "go time". It is all coming together for another go-round with this Trans Iowa deal. The weather is looking rather on the wet side. There will be wind of some sort. It should be a scene. I'll get to hang with my gravel family Friday night and then it'll be myself and MG squirreled away in a Suby for 30-ish hours. Stay tuned, it'll be something to share, as it always is.

The calm before the storm was good, but now I am ready. Let's get this over with........

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Cue Sheet Details

All cue sheet pages are numbered for T.I.v13
The cue sheets are an integral part of how Trans Iowa works. This year we decided to add a couple of features that we wanted you to be aware of if you are in the event. We think you will appreciate these new additions.

This year all the 4.5" long by 4" wide cue sheets will have numbered pages. The numbers will appear as  follows: First you will see a "P" followed by a numeral. The numeral will indicate which set of cues that page belongs to. So in my example here with the number circled in red, you see "P1". That means this cue sheet is from the first set. The next page would also have the "P1" designation. A cue sheet for anything after Checkpoint #1 will have a "P2" designation, since that sheet would be from the second set.

Following the "P" and the accompanying numeral you see a "-2" in my example above. This indicates that this cue sheet is page #2 from the first set. The following page would have a "-3", and the previous page would obviously have "-1".

So, if you drop your cues, or if they get messed up in your bag, or if you want to make sure you have them all, you can use this handy-dandy page numeration scheme to figure out what is what.

And no.........I am not telling you how many pages there are. That doesn't matter. Just ride the route and you'll know. All the bags have been checked and all bags have all the cues. There should not be any bag with doubled up or missing cues this year. That is the main reason we numbered them, by the way. You just get the side benefit.

You'd better plan on keeping track of this card!

Secondly there is a new information card that will be handed out to riders at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. We tried to do something similar a couple of years ago with a laminated strip that was printed pretty small and wasn't part of the cues. So, a lot of riders didn't remember to use it. This year we actually printed this as a cue sheet.

This sheet has information on it that you as a Trans Iowa rider will want to hang on to throughout the duration of your ride. First and foremost is the DNF number which you should call if you are dropping out. You can also call this number for questions about the cues, route, or to get directions to have someone get you off the course.

Next is the Trans Iowa Radio number. This is your opportunity to call in and have anyone you know following the event get an update on your progress and state of mind. Ben from RidingGravel.com is doing this service all weekend for the riders, so please give him your shout-out for doing this with his time.

Following that is a detailed description of the Trans Iowa reroute procedure which you may need to navigate by in case we have a bridge out, road closure, or some other concern.

At the bottom you have the cue sheet legend. We used to have this on about every card or every fourth card. We decided not to do that and use that space now for actual cues. So......this is the only cue legend you will have. Another reason not to lose it.

So, we are liking these changes and new features. Hopefully you riders will also.


Minus Ten Review- 16

I got this saddle from the Sea Otter in trip in '07 and now it is my son's saddle on his fat bike.
Ten years ago on the blog there were only two subjects talked about- Sea Otter and Trans Iowa. Some things never change.

A decade ago it was my first trip to the Sea Otter venue. It was a big deal for me, but after three of those trips I'd had enough. Sea Otter followed directly be Trans Iowa was just too much. By 2010 my friend Michael, who was helping me with Twenty Nine Inches, was willing to do the Sea Otter gig. He lived in California and it was only a five hour or something like that drive for him.

Trans Iowa, on the other hand, was my gig after 2007. Yes, I had David Pals as my helper starting in 2008, but as much as I wanted to try to make him a co-presence when people thought of the event, it just never worked out that way. Honestly, I don't think David was all that comfortable with being that anyway. So, it became "my deal" whether or not that was how I actually thought of it. Back then, I certainly did not think of it that way. In fact, I was going to stop the whole deal after V3, (which was before David joined me), since I thought that it was all Jeff Kerkove's deal and that it wasn't Trans Iowa without him.

Obviously, that never happened

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday News And Views

Honali. The tire, not the land where Puff lived.
Yesterday I received two Terrene Honali tires for test and review on RidingGravel.com. These are not really tires for gravel, specifically, but since they are aimed at the touring crowd, gravel would be on the menu for these. Especially in a "world touring" sense.

These are  a claimed 700c X 50mm tire and tubeless ready. I found both claims to be very true. They pumped up with some sealant with a rotten old floor pump on my WTB Frequency i23 rims easily. The width at 40 psi was 50.22mm right after mounting.

I put these tires on my Gen I Fargo because it is most like a touring bike and it does gravel very well. Plus it has the clearance for the tire! That's kind of important. The Honali also has a reflective sidewall and a nice, capable looking tread pattern. It will be interesting to see how it does on gravel and dirt. Terrene says that they designed the tire with dual sport motorcycle tread in mind, and the tire does give me that vibe. So, it will be fun to see how "dual sport" the Honali really is.

By the way, the Honali I have is the "Tough" casing model but there is an even burlier version available for those who abhor the thought of getting a flat, or who just are wanting a bombproof tire for some expeditionary concerns. I'll be mentioning this tire from time to time here but the real review will be happening on RidingGravel.com.


Haulin' the goods for T.I.v13

Trans Iowa T-shirt News: 

 My friend Sam is really getting back to his roots by having gone all by bike of late. That's right, he has eschewed his vehicles for bicycles and is doing all his errands by bicycles now.

Here is a pic of Sam's rig picking up the Trans Iowa v13 t-shirts with his "Bill" trailer from Surly Bikes. I love that Sam is back to this routine again and it warms my heart to know that these t-shirts started their journey being pulled on a trailer by a bicycle.

I have a trailer, but I don't often use it. I find that I like doing things by Big Dummy better. To each their own, but there is something about hauling stuff on a Big Dummy that I find more satisfying than I do by piling it all on a trailer. I suppose there are certain things you have to use a trailer for, and that is cool. I just don't really even think about my bicycle trailer much.

At any rate, the t-shirts are on their way to me. I have to meet up with Sam today and pick them up from him. I will be in Des Moines anyway to pick up Mrs. Guitar Ted from the airport after her trip to be with her family. So, it should all work out for the good.

Trans Iowa Radio:

Just a reminder that next week at this time we will be cranking up Trans Iowa Radio again on RidingGravel.com . The deal is that not only will you be able to hear about the goings on with Trans Iowa v13 from me, but also from the riders themselves. This is a great way to keep track of anyone you care about that is doing the event. They just have to avail themselves of this resource we are providing.

The way it works is that the riders will have a number to call. There will be a short message and a bit of a pregnant pause, then the rider can leave up to a two minute long message on whatever they want to talk about. Most give a brief update about how far along they are, the conditions, and a bit about how they are feeling.

It will be a fun way to keep track of the event and with the goings on lasting 34 hours, you could probably find new updates when you go to the bathroom at 3:30am Sunday morning. If you want to, that is!

Okay,that's all for this week. Have a good one and ride your bicycles!! 



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sea Otter '17 News

The Manitou Mastodon Fat Bike Fork
Manitou Mastodon:

Sea Otter is starting today and so you will be seeing a bunch of news that will be pretty cool for us cyclists out here. One of the new things that hasn't been so secret, but which I've known about in detail for a few months, is the Manitou Mastodon fat bike fork. This fork will be a game changer in the fat biking segment.

Announcement details will verify whether I am correct here, but this fork was developed with Trek for their Farley fat bikes for 2018. It is my understanding that will be the only avenue that the Mastodon will be available through for the 2018 model year.

Trek will spec one aluminum Farley, a carbon Farley, and the full suspension fat bike they make with this fork. Availability is slated for this Fall.  Trek fat bikes will also all be 27.5 based only, so you know this fork will clear their tires. I've also heard that this fork clears a massive Vee Tire Snowshoe 2XL with room to spare on a 110mm wide carbon rim. So, it can handle any fat bike tire made today.

The Mastodon will also be the fork that makes the Bluto obsolete. Not only frm a standpoint of clearance, but also from a standpoint of performance. The fork is said to be not only better in terms of damping, rebound, and ride feel, but also in terms of stiffness. Trek has a long history of working with suspension makers to provide riders with highly tuned, high performing shocks, and it sounds like they have pulled it off again with Manitou.

If, as I suspect, Trek is the only avenue for this fork for 2018, you may have to wait until mid-year next year to get one aftermarket. Stay tuned on that one though.......

Get ready for a ton of "mid-plus" 29"er tires to hit the news
Terrene Teases A New 29"er Tire:

Sea Otter should be rife with tire news and especially in a "new" category of tires which will fill in the gap between 2.5" and 3.0"tires. The complaint many "plus" bike riders have had is that the tires available now have side walls which are too flexy and that leads to a vagueness in corners which is not desirable for trail bike handling. Trouble is that to make 3.0 inch tires stiff enough to withstand cornering forces, the tires would have to gain weight, (more material = more weight), and that would not work out for trail riders either.

The answer is to down size the tire, beef up the sidewalls, and provide puncture protection and/or sidewall protection. This as yet unnamed Terrene teaser in a 29 X 2.8 is such a tire. Look for tires like these to be getting spec on the longer travel 29" trail bikes we are sure to be seeing out there as well at Sea Otter. I showed you all the new Rock Shox Lyric fork news last week and keeping in mind that the Lyric will be available in a 29'er form with up to 180mm travel, I would think this tire, or tires like it, were what was in mind for that fork.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of this puzzle..... The pieces are coming together.

That's the new WTB Byway on my Twin Six Standard Rando
WTB Announces Another Road Plus Tire- The Byway:

And finally- In news that I have been a part of in a small way for several weeks, WTB will announce another 650B X 47mm tire, the Byway, and it will be available immediately to purchase from dealers.

This is a real similar casing, if not exactly the same, as the previous Horizon Road Plus tire but the Byway has actual tread. That means it has far better grip on dirt and mud than the smooth Horizon does.

I have already been riding the Byway for several weeks and it does very well on dirt and it even powered me through some mud/sand pretty easily that I came across on Petrie Road here a while back. So, it is pretty impressive in that respect. The combination of the minimalist tread design and width give this tire a flotation characteristic instead of the "pizza cutter" effect many 700c based tires have in similar situations.

I am reviewing this tire for RidingGravel.com, but there is more- This is the tire which is one of the options for Trans Iowa finishers to choose from. WTB is giving away one free set of tires to any official finisher of T.I.v13. They will get to pick from the 700 X 37mm Riddler, 700 X 45mm Riddler, or the Byway.


Trans Iowa v13: T-Shirts & Traffic

This is the T.I.v13 t-shirt design. Some will get this, some will not.
I am happy to report that the T.I.v13 t-shirt design is completed and paid for. The t-shirts are being picked up in Des Moines and transferred to a meeting place by Sam of Tacopocalypse. I will be meeting him Friday to transport them back to Guitar Ted Productions headquarters and they will be sorted in to piles to be distributed to those who responded to me back in the Winter when I asked if you wanted one and what size you wanted. If you were one of the few that did not respond you won't be getting a t-shirt at the Pre-Race Meat-Up.

I will have a list at the Meat-Up of those who responded and the size requested. If there is a mix-up, I will have a few t-shirts that I may be able to use to get you sorted out, but if you asked for a small and now you decide that since you bulked up for T.I.v13 that you now need an XXL, well, you will likely be outta luck there buddy!

Volunteers should all be getting one of these as well. I did not get around to all of you ahead of time but I do have shirts enough to cover all volunteers. Sorry! I may not have your preferred size, but I will have shirts. See me at the Meat-Up or send me an e-mail now if you don't think you've asked for one. It would be best to contact me sooner than later to insure you get a size that works for you. Thanks to all the volunteers! You guys and gals are awesome!

I'm stoked about how this take on Gary Cale's original T.I.v4 post card came out and I hope that if you are getting one of these that you will wear it with pride. Also-by the looks of the forecast, this version of T.I. seems like it will live up to the moniker on the shirt. That would be rad if it all worked out that way. Time will tell......

A Word About The Finish Line: I had a question concerning the proposed finish line at Miller Park/Lake Nyanza. I thought it might be prudent to make sure that everyone understands that this is a public park and that alcoholic drinks are not allowed to be consumed there.  So, please plan accordingly. 

Traffic will likely be a bit heavier than in some T.I. versions due to a few of the towns we go through.
A Word (Again) On Traffic:

Trans Iowa has taught me a few things about traffic on rural roads. One of those things is that the wider the gravel road, the higher the traffic count is on that road. So, as a rider, if you notice that the road is pretty wide, you should be looking for traffic. Again- KEEP YOUR HEADS UP! Ride to the right side as much as humanly possible and ESPECIALLY UP HILLS!

Trans Iowa will, as always, go through several towns and villages so you have the opportunity to resupply and get water. It is incumbent upon each Trans Iowa participant to FOLLOW ALL TRAFFIC LAWS! You MUST STOP AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND STOP SIGNS!! If we get wind of a group that has violated traffic laws or has caused a ruckus in a town that entire group will get DQ'ed. I will have a few cars out and about gathering info and checking the course, so there will be plenty of opportunities for us to hear about any shenanigans. Just be aware of your surroundings at all times and Ride Right! I am in no mood to hear about issues with riders that are not obeying the law and are not being courteous. I wouldn't test me in this if I were you.

Finally, as always, please make sure you are making smart decisions. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF at Trans Iowa.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hey There Blackbuck!

Old School 29"er design, but I like it that way.
The ol' Blackbuck had been sitting in the back of the Lab for quite a while. I set it all up last year to ride but the dang Vredestien tire on the rear wouldn't hold air for the world and I would skip over it to ride something else since I didn't want to "do battle" with another tubeless tire. I have enough to maintain already.

So, the ol' rig fell into a state of neglect. I kept seeing it and thinking how much I love to ride that bike, so finally I purposed to get the tires fixed and get it back going again. Even if I just commute on it now and again, I should be using this rig. Hopefully, it will be more than just that. It is an odd, low production number bike, so it is pretty cool and fairly rare to see one of these. Here's the background on it, as far as I can recall.

The OS Bikes brand (The "OS" stands for "Of Spirit") is/was the brainchild of WTB's Mark Slate, who was one of the founders of Wilderness Trails Bikes. Mark is a true mtb pioneer. He was there in the early days of the Marin founders and he also had a hand in guiding how and why we ride bikes the way we do. He is responsible for many of the tread patterns for tires we knew and loved. Even today, "SLATE" does the tire designs at WTB and guides the company forward into the 21st Century.

He decided to do a frame and fork, and why he chose the things he did is not 100% known to me, but he chose some very unique things to put into the Blackbuck. There really is nothing else quite like this bike. On one hand, it has a striking profile and looks sleek, but on the other, it is a design informed by the "26"er experience". In that sense, in my opinion, the Blackbuck is the pinnacle of early 29"er design, which strove to recreate the 26 inch hardtail experience with "wagon wheels". Most of the 29"er bikes of the 00's were striving for this goal, but most were flawed and some were outright disasters. The Blackbuck has it right and fires on all cylinders.

I think the modern interpretation of this bike would keep the brilliant rear triangle but would extend the front triangle out and slacken the head angle by several degrees, have a 44mm head tube, and accept a 120mm travel fork. Then you'd run a "stubby stem", wide bars, and be choppering all over the place. However; the Blackbuck hearkens back to 26"er design. It requires a longer stem, it rides best when your ass is up and your nose is down. It doesn't "pop", jump, or "flick" like modern "trail" (play) bikes, but it carves out a mean turn and flies up hills if you have the legs for it. Twisty single track? Bring it! The Blackbuck eats that stuff for breakfast. It's go fast up and down, if you have the nerve to pilot it.

Want to know how crazy this design is? The rigid fork option has a 51mm offset and brings the head angle to 73°!! (Work that trail figure out and you will get a "Rando Approved", low trail bike number) It has been told to me that Mark Slate rides this bike with a rigid fork with that steep, low trail geo down stuff that enduro guys have a hard time following him down. I've got that rigid fork, and when I've used it on the Blackbuck, it requires all your concentration to ride off road. Doable? Yes. Sketchy? Waaaaay! Props to Mr. Slate. I cannot imagine riding that bike with that fork down steep terrain!

Anyway, I could go on all day. Hopefully I'll have more opportunities this year to talk about that ol' Blackbuck!