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 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 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!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Grassroots Events, Sponsors, And Sanctioned Racing

A Guitar Ted Productions Editorial
The series I posted dubbed "The State Of The Gravel Scene" a while back spurred a lot of positive commentary. Mostly I get the feeling that many of you out there lament the potential loss of the more "grassroots", inclusive events that don't have the "uppity", cliquish feel that maybe your USAC criterium is often accused of having. (Note- It isn't necessarily my experience, because I don't race crits. But it is an accusation I hear a LOT about crits.)  I don't know if any of that matters, I just know that the "feel" a lot of events I go to has is what it is that people are attracted to.

Well, with that in mind I found a parallel instance where the "grassroots feel" is being threatened by change and a change motivated by the need to accommodate sponsors. This is something which I feel is kind of a subtle influence on events and promoters. Of course, having a great sponsor is a wonderful thing for a lot of reasons, but sometimes, perhaps, there are perceived obligations that, maybe, can influence where events go in their futures. Well, I think the following link will take you to an article that paints a good picture of what I am talking about. It is an example from motorsports, a sector of sports I follow, and has to do with an event specifically. It is called the "Chili Bowl" and is a dirt sprint car event in Oklahoma. Here is the article by Jeff Gluck which might help explain how sponsors become influential on the "feel" of an event.

The other thing I want to say here is that sponsors are not a bad thing. It's how promoters and events use those sponsors and cater to those sponsors that can be a reason things get beyond the grassroots level. I know of great events that have excellent sponsors and still retain that "feel". So it isn't like we have to eschew sponsorship totally and refuse to be "influenced" by the monetary or other tangible and intangible factors at play when you get a sponsor. It doesn't have to be the "you sold your soul to the devil" thing that some folks I've talked to and messaged with say that it is.

And, as I stated in my series- some people actually like events where sponsors have radically changed the feel of the event. That isn't crazy talk either. It is a real thing. Just look at the Dirty Kanza 200 as a prime example. They wouldn't be having that lottery they had Saturday for entries if people didn't actually like how that event has changed over the years. So, in the final analysis, grassroots events still exist and serve their purposes, but so do the slick, high end, "bucket list" experiences that many people want. Choice is good, so don't be a hater. Just support the events that you believe in. The rest will take care of itself.

Another point that I wanted to make was on sanctioned racing. This scares the hell out of a lot of the grassroots folks. Here's the thing- there are a lot of folks that believe points, categories, closed courses, and "proper race environments" have a place in competition. Some are saying gravel events should be offered to satisfy this segment of racing. Now, I am not one of those folks, but hey! If they want it, build it and they will come. As a matter of fact, it already exists in many places. Try the Iowa Spring Classic as a prime example. Those events have occurred for several years now and guess what? It hasn't affected grassroots gravel racing one iota. They both coexist in harmony. Again- Choice is good, so don't be a hater. Just support the events that you believe in.

I'm not big on all the categorizations and points and whatnot, but hey! It trips some folks triggers and why not let them have an event on gravel. Ultimately it will be something that flies or not.  Grassroots or "big, slickly produced event", doesn't matter if you just pay attention to what you like and let the rest go. Both ways have their place. I think it is a good instance of "Live and let live".

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 2

The first Gary Bar, offered in silver, has been long discontinued.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was gabbing about stuff still relevant for 2018. One of those things was (surprise!) the weather, which ironically mirrors what we've had here this week. Snow looked great, then there was a thaw, which ruined the snow, then fog, which froze, and a threat of ice or snow that would sit on ice and basically screw up Winter sports activities for the remainder of Winter. Yep! Checked all the boxes for what is happening here currently. Weird!

Then there was the mention of "rumors" and knowledge I had of products about to be revealed. Same. The situation this time is that I happen to know about two new series of gravel bikes that are going to be pretty significant. On one hand there will be a "price point" set of gravel bikes coming that I think will present a great value to the consumer who is looking to get a "serious" gravel rig but doesn't want to spend a lot of cash on one. The second will be an innovation which I have seen coming and will, upon its debut, be the best gravel bike you can buy, in my opinion. It will become the bar everyone else will shoot for in gravel bikes. Expensive? Yes. But there will be a range of models and there will be some more affordable ones in the range.

Then there was Trans Iowa. Well, of course that is the same, but the details were not. In 2008 we were looking at doing the second "big assed loop" version of Trans Iowa. I was hinting that it may only be 320-ish miles maximum, and that the route would be "awesome". It was notable that I mentioned that I had many folks asking me to let them volunteer. That's been an ever-present thing about TI ever since then. I never have had to push for volunteers, ever. That's incredible and it still is happening to this day. In fact I had a request this week. One last week, and I will get more, I am sure.

I'll forever be amazed, humbled, and grateful for the volunteers I get for Trans Iowa. There is just no way to thank those folks enough when I know that other events have a tough time even getting enough folks to run their events. I have to turn folks away every year! Amazing! Thank you, thank you, thank you, volunteers! You rock!