Saturday, August 19, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 33

Rich Dillen has a town named after him in the Cheese State? Who knew?
Ten years ago this week on the blog here I actually had images posted! Crazy. Anyway, one of the deals I got to go to back in the day was Trek World, the dealer only show Trek holds in Madison Wisconsin. Well.......except that it isn't a "show" anymore. And, not all dealers can go, plus the ones that can have to pay to get in. It isn't any big deal though, because you can learn all about Trek's newest bicycles online these days if you have a dealer portal. Still, it isn't the same as seeing the bikes with your own two eyes. That was special.

Plus, you got to meet people like Gary Fisher, the engineering team, product managers, and more. It gave a face to the company and you felt as though you were not working for some cybernetic, faceless corporation. Yes.....some dealers and international dealers do still get this treatment. They get to see the people and the bikes. It's pretty obvious that Trek doesn't see the US bicycle shop as being worth courting. In fact, they are buying up bike shops. But that's another story.....

In other news I talked about what was going on with my Special Projects. The two bicycles were the custom builds I had done in 2007. The Pofahl would be the first to get built but at this time ten years ago I was waiting on the fork to get corrected as it came to me with the rear disc mount instead of the correct front disc brake mount brazed on.

I got this swank Ergon rucksack to try out.
Jeff Kerkove was gone by this time and living in Colorado permanently, which he has been ever since that time. He arranged to have a new Ergon BD-2 sent out to me to try. It was an odd ball rucksack which had this solid plastic hip stabilizer and a ball joint which the pack actually hung from. The idea being that the rider could move without having to overcome the weight of the backpack to do so. The ball joint, or "Flink", as Ergon called it, allowed the pack to pivot on the back of the wearer.

It worked as advertised, but the rigid bits of the pack were.......annoying. The design also pushed the weight of the backpack and its contents away from the rider, which seems like a benefit at first. However; it meant that the weight of the pack and its contents had a more effective lever on your back and a heavy load seemed to be more of a burden than it should be since you were always countering that weight hanging off your back instead of having it closer to your body, which feels more natural. Anyway..... It was a neat pack.

Actually, I still have it. It's in a gear pile in the basement. It just seems like there is something about this which was a "parting gift" from Jeff, and I am a bit sentimental. So, I really should ditch it, but......anyway. 

I also was telling folks ten years ago that I was a confirmed member of "Team Stoopid". (Some say I always have been!) Team Stoopid was a four man endurance racing squad that tackled the 12 hour racing category at the Iowa 24 in 2007. All of us used rigid single speeds to race on, thus the name. It was the most fun racing I had ever had up to that point. But more on that in the near future.....

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday News And Views

This new gravel grinder that spans the Mitten will happen next May
Point To Point Madness:

There is something about a point to point gravel race/ride that appeals to people these days. It's weird. Think about this a minute.....

The idea to span a state seems to be the intriguing factor here. I doubt a point to point event from, say Sibley, Iowa to Mason City, Iowa would generate the interest that a border to border state crossing does.

Then there are the logistics. You cannot do something like this on your own, unless you ride back to get your car at the start. There is a level of teamwork involved in doing something along these lines. I remember when Trans Iowa started out the riders thought Jeff and I should have a bus to drive everyone that finished back to the start again. I wonder if the guys that put on The DAMn or that are putting on this "Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder" get e-mails with that subject in them. Anyway......

The days of yore were different. When the gravel grinding scene was getting cranked up over ten years ago, promoters were thinking border to border was a cool idea, but really bad for logistics and in reality, who cares? Border to border is an arbitrary thing anyway, but apparently, there is some cache' to doing things point to point, border to border, which appeals to the psyche of the gravel road rider.

I know I've had folks tell me they would never do a Trans Iowa unless I did one border to border across the state of Iowa. Really?!! I find that.......weird. Plus, if I did do one that way, it would be so hard to do logistically that no one would want to do it. There would be no checkpoints with teams waiting on riders, or even a course that anyone could know about to find the riders. Then you'd just have to go to the finish and wait on folks, to see if they did finish, or fetch them when they called in from a previously unknown point in Iowa. I don't think anyone wants to do that. Besides, it would suck about 150% more to put on than a loop course. You couldn't pay me to do that.....again. Not that I got paid for the first two, but you get the point

Anyway, who even says there would be another Trans Iowa? I haven't......and maybe I never will again. So, go race across Michigan. You'll love it. It is a way of life........

The gravel family reunion at Moose's Tooth/Cycle Works will happen again today. Image courtesy of unknown
Gravel Worlds: 

Well, today I am gone. I am traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska to be a part of Gravel Worlds for the third consecutive year now. It is a great event which, in my opinion, brings the best of all of the elements of the gravel culture together in one place. For one thing, it can be argued that the Lincoln scene was one of the earliest gravel grinding hot spots in the nation, predating Trans Iowa or most any of the gravel events you've ever heard about. The folks there get it, and it shows.

But it isn't just about riding, fun, and camaraderie. There is the serious competitive aspect of the event, for sure. The jersey idea may be tongue in cheek, but over the years, the Gravel Worlds jersey has come to mean something. Not just any ol' jack or jill gets one of these deals. That's why there are some heavy hitters racing this in 2017, and I bet you'll start to see more in the future.

That said, the good Pirates of the Cycling League do know how to keep it fun and keep it real. That's why so many folks return year after year to see each other and ride over hill and dale in the humid late August air there in Nebraska. That's why, since Odin's Revenge folded, this is my favorite gravel event that happens that is of the mold set when gravel riding and racing took off in 2005. It isn't my all time favorite event. No.....that would be the Gent's Race, but since that is a team event, and not like most others, Gravel Worlds is my favorite "typical" style gravel event. Anyway........

I'm there and if you are, look me up and say "hello'!

Otherwise, have a great weekend. I'll have an event report starting on Monday.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Couple Of New Things

This is a new book by gravel aficionado, Nick Legan.
First- A New Book:

Well, I've been waiting at least a couple of years, maybe it has been three? I don't know, but I've known about this book being written by Nick Legan for quite some time. The reason being is that Nick was leaning on me with several questions about the gravel cycling scene and I helped give him some answers/opinions about his queries.

So, now it is almost time for this book to be hitting the shelves at Velopress. However; in the meantime you can pre-order this book from Nick on his site, "Rambleur"

Note: I have no skin in this game other than that Nick may have written something about me or used information on things I told him about. So, order the book, or not. It doesn't affect me. That said, Nick Legan is a good writer, (he wrote for "Velo News" for several years among other freelance gigs). He is a good dude, I've met him a couple of times, and he has always been gracious and kind. He also loves gravel road riding and racing. I actually got to congratulate him after his 2016 Dirty Kanza 200 finish when he was riding his pink Black Mountain Cycles frame.

So, all that to say that Nick is the real deal and I expect this book to be pretty good. I actually ordered up a copy for myself already. I'll have a review of the book here and maybe on once I lay hands on it.

Jones Bikes SWB w/27.5+ rear and 27.5 based fat front
Second- A "New" Bike:

Jones Bikes- Love them or hate them, there isn't anything else really like them. I'll give Jeff Jones credit- He has evolved his design and continues to do so. It would seem that he never quits trying to push the design ideas he has forward. Not many can say that in an industry that trashes a design one year and jumps on another the next for their models.

This news isn't all that surprising, but Jeff Jones now has two basic design ideas which facilitate two different ways to approach the "Jones Geometry". The "Plus" bike was the longer, 29+ wheeled bike and then you had the original design with 29"er wheels. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea. Now the original was not "plus" rated, but going forward, it is. That bike gets a new moniker, the "SWB", which stands for "Short Wheel Base". It can handle 27.5+ and 29"er wheels and tires. The "Plus" model now will be known as the "LWB", or Long Wheel Base" model and will be the go to bike for 29+ and 29"er applications where a longer wheel base makes sense.

So, the old "Plus" model remains unchanged, it goes forward with just the name change. The SWB is; however, slightly different in that the wheel base was lengthened a bit to accommodate the 3" 27.5+ wheels it was intended to handle. Not by much, but that's the main difference. Here is a super-detailed look at the two models.

I've always been intrigued by the Jones Plus, or now the Jones LWB model because Jones claims that it" quite possibly the best bikepacking, gravel road, and general purpose bicycling bike ever made...". Best gravel bike? Hmm..... Well, I'd give that a shot. I do know that it looks as though Jeff Jones went to great extents to make a 29+ wheeled bike work well. That's really what I'd be interested in- a 29+ wheeled bike that works well. My experiment sure wasn't a very good experience, that's for sure!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pack Rat

It's not like I don't have enough places to put stuff!
Packing for Gravel Worlds has started up and I have to be careful. Careful not to go overboard and pack too much. I tend to overthink things when these big, self-supported events come up. "What if......" (Fill in the blank)

That can kind of drive you nuts, if you let it go on. I have to try to pare back things when I get going on packing up. I also tend to forget what I already packed and pack the same or a similar item again later. Like small bottles of lube, or multi-tools, or bits of chain. Things like that. I've come back from these events and unpacked three multi-tools out of bags I've had on the bike, and found several items that I've packed that I never even came close to having to use.

I know some people pack up, then unpack, to check over what they have done, and pack it again with deletions, and so on. The thing is, I have so much going on that packing for these events has to be fitted in to an already tight schedule. I have one shot at getting it right. Not an optimal way of doing it, I know, but it is what it is. When you throw in variable weather, this can be amplified, but fortunately, Gravel Worlds is just hot and humid. Makes it easy to figure out from that perspective! I cannot imagine what packing for a Trans Iowa must be like!

Then there is the finding of stuff. I have a terrible habit of just coming home, parking the bike, and letting everything sit for days, sometimes weeks, before getting around to de-bagging, unpacking, and cleaning up stuff. This means that in the meantime I might cherry pick out items from bags and maybe even just take bags off bikes and use the bike, then totally forget where stuff ended up. Then when it comes time to "get the band back together again" it is almost like the "Blues Brothers" when they try to find all their old band mates. It gets comical sometimes around here!

So, I'm doing that dance again this week. Hopefully I don't forget anything important!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Missing Linkage

I rode this fork in the 90's. Linkage forks could be a good thing, if not a tad ugly.
So, there was a bit of a hullabaloo in the mtb community about this "new" design which features a linkage fork. Actually, it isn't anything new, or revolutionary. Linkage forks have been attempted and used in mountain biking since suspension became a "thing" back in the 90's.

My friend from So Cal, Grannygear, suggested that the "newest" incarnation of  this idea as shown recently could be miniaturized and employed as a gravel going fork. Actually, even that already exists. It is called the Lauf Grit fork, which doesn't use pivots, but it uses "leaf springs" which link together the two separate structures which make up the drop out and fork legs respectively. Lauf manages to eliminate pivots and a separate spring which a more "typical" linkage fork uses by making the links the springs. It is genius, and it seems to work. The negative here is that there is zero damping. Of course, with the short travel and higher frequency of bumps a gravel going bike would see, this is less of an issue than it is for a mountain bike.

An example of the German Answer "Kilo" linkage fork.
 Let's say we want damping though, well, then you get into pivots and a separate damper unit. Okay, but why? Why would you even want to put one of these ghastly contraptions on a bicycle?

Well, I happen to have some experience riding a linkage fork. I rode an AMP fork for a few years there on a couple of different bikes. In fact, I have two of these unicorns in my basement. Anyway, they did have a very good small bump compliance and steered really well even deep into their travel. There are reasons why that was.

While there have been, and are, many different types of these beasts, what is attractive here are two things. First; You can rid yourself of stiction- the term refers to the energy required to break free from/overcome the friction of bushings and seals on a stanchion sliding in uppers/shock can in a typical cylindrical, telescopic damper unit. (Suspension fork/rear shock) Linkage forks rely solely on pivots which are much freer to move, or as in the case of the Lauf, just any input overcoming the spring force will allow the wheel to move upward.

Secondly, linkage forks can be designed to control the axle path and can be designed to have "anti-dive" characteristics when applying the brake. Think "Split Pivot" for the front wheel, if "anti-dive" doesn't make sense.

Obviously, eight pivots and a damping unit are going to be susceptible to dirt and moisture and the damage those things can incur upon bushings and bearings. That's why most linkage forks put "the business end" of things where the fork crown is. That arrangement, well......actually anywhere you put linkage, is typically not a very attractive solution but it is an effective solution for bump absorption. Much more so than a telescopic suspension fork is, and generally speaking, lighter to boot.

A linkage fork wouldn't necessarily have to look ugly. Weird? Well.....yes.
In terms of gravel riding, a long travel of the wheel isn't a desirable trait, nor is it necessary. Many forks being positioned in this category feature 30mm of travel. That isn't much and wouldn't require much of a damper unit.

So, in my estimation, a fork like the recently shown mountain bike fork, with its frame altering design, is not at all necessary. A short linkage could be designed which would not only give the right amount of travel, but be aesthetically appealing as well. It may even be able to be made to be so compact that the fork could look nearly traditional. 

But then it could be argued that we don't need a suspension device at all. In fact, many would argue that a simple, rigid fork with an adequate amount of compliance will work with a voluminous tire to provide just the right amount of wheel movement without any unnecessary complexity. I happen to be one of those folks, and I think that many companies miss the boat on this when they spec these big section, beefy looking, unforgiving carbon fiber forks.

Many folks feel that carbon forks will damp vibrations. Really? If you own one of these beefy looking carbon forks you should check this out: When your front wheel impacts a road irregularity sometime, watch the fork blades. (Being extremely conscious of where and in what situation you do this, of course.) More often than not you will see the fork blades remain in plane, but the wheel moves backward a bit. What you are witnessing, most times, is a flex of the top and down tubes of your bike, not the fork blades themselves. This is because manufacturers are deathly afraid of fork failures, the industry testing standards are too stringent, and because of the manufacturers reliance on the fairy tale that carbon forks absorb road chatter. Now some do, but most don't on gravel bikes. 

That said, a smartly designed, short travel, tunable, good looking linkage fork with damping is possible, it just hasn't been done yet. If it ever is, I'll definitely want to try it out. It may just be the missing link between rigid forks and full on, traditional style suspension forks for gravel bikes. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dusty Shakedown

Smoke on the horizon? No- That's just a car up ahead in that dust cloud!
Gravel Worlds is coming up this weekend and I am focusing my attention on this event now. I made some changes to the Tamland that I wanted to get out and test, just to make sure I liked the set up and to make any small adjustments if necessary.

The day was perfect for riding. There was a North breeze, but it wasn't bad. I decided to ride up Burton Avenue and it was really, really dusty! We sure could use some rain around here! UPDATE: Wish granted! It is raining pretty good here this morning!

I was kind of hoping it would be really humid, as Gravel Worlds tends to have that sort of weather. Unfortunately, as I said, the weather was perfect. Low, low humidity instead of the typical "dog days" we get in August. I could feel the sweat evaporating off my body and it actually chilled me. I'm sure that Gravel Worlds will not be so dry and comfortable. Oh well......

The set up is a suspended one- BodyFloat seat post, Redshift Sports ShockStop stem, and I am using a Ritchey Venturemax handle bar. The tires are the very nice riding WTB Resolutes. All combined to make the test ride a comfortable one. I did end up tweaking the position of the handle bars a bit. Otherwise, it all should be great for Gravel Worlds 150 mile course. Now all I have to do is clean up the rig and check over the drive train.

It was so dusty Saturday that my tires looked white at times.
So now I wait and see what the weather will bring. I see that right now the weather for Lincoln is to be mid-80's with Sun and it is supposed to be humid. Mid 80's? That would be a gift, in my estimation. I believe that is about the same forecast as last year. Of course, most of the middle part of the course will be in to a head wind. Why wouldn't it be? Well, maybe I'll be wrong about that part. That would be good, actually.

The course gets sent out Wednesday. I have to figure out if it will download in to my Lezyne, and of course, I will print out cue sheets. I will be leaving for Lincoln on Friday morning with my friend Tony, so I have a lot to do before then. Buy nutrition, dial in the fine details on the rig, and get packed up and ready to go.

Oh! A side note on Saturday: There is a new dog on Burton about a 1/4 mile South of the church on the corner of Burton and Gresham Roads. The house is on the East side of the road. I hadn't ever had any trouble with a dog here until Saturday when a herding type of dog came out and expertly cut me off and I had to stop. A big old Lab came trundling out behind, so I had both these dogs to contend with. I had them talked off the ledge when suddenly they went berserk, and that was because the owner came out. A tall, middle aged woman who was very apologetic. She said the herding dog was new, and that it hadn't been trained yet.

And the ironic thing is that the dog is named Tony, just like my gravel riding companion who is going to Gravel Worlds with me. Ha!

So, anyway, if you are a local, and if you ride up North on Burton Avenue, you may get a welcome from Tony. Now you know.......

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Little Bit More On That Stainless Steel Bike

It is a fine rig, that Warakin. A darn fine rig.
The Otso Cycles Warakin I have on test was the rig I rode on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational last weekend. The review, as it sits so far, for can be found here. I just wanted to share a couple things here about this stainless steel thing since it is a rare deal to see a frame made from this stuff.

Now having ridden this bike I have to say that it is actually pretty nice, maybe a bit stiffer than typical steel bikes, and maybe that is due to the fork. What would this bike ride like with a nice steel fork? That would be interesting. However, I probably will never know. It is a test rig and it goes back to Otso pretty soon.

The frame has ginormous clearances for bigger tires. The 45mm WTB Riddlers fit with clearance to spare. That's a good thing, and I am glad Otso figured that out. It does make for a big bend outward at the chain stay though, so if you ride "duck footed " you probably will find your heel striking the chain stay. Other than that, the bike was not an issue for me at all. Everything worked well. The 105 components actually worked better than my older Ultegra ones do.

The Warakin came with a 50T/34T crankset and I don't really prefer that. I rode my Tamland today with the 46T/36T set up and I seem to like that better as a big ring over a 50T. Personal preferences, to be sure, but I found I had to do a lot of "corrective rear shifting" whenever I dropped to the 34T on the Warakin. I do not typically have that with the Tamland's set up.

That all said, the stainless factor seemed to me to be about a slightly stiffer ride, a stiffer BB, and the look of titanium. Everyone said it looked so much like a Ti bike. It really does too. Now why don't they make a Ti bike? They said the stainless frame is a better price and has many of the same bennies as the Ti one would. Okay, fair enough.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 32

I did a "Lube-Off" ten years ago. This is from last year's Lube-Off.
Ten years ago on the blog this week there were no pictures again! Apparently I did that quite a bit in 2007, but I didn't think I did. With 2 years under my belt you'd think I'd have figured it out! Ha!

Anyway, one of the things I was doing back then was a test of a few bicycle oriented lubrication products to see which one did the best job. I found that DuMonde Tech did the best job back then. Oddly enough, I haven't found anything better since then.

I was just reapplying some to a chain here in the house the other day when my daughter took notice. I should say that I get away with a lot of things here since everyone is on board with my bicycle nerdiness. Lubing the chain in the kitchen probably wouldn't fly in your house! Anyway, DuMonde Tech off-gasses a very potent smell, so beware of doing lubing in an enclosed area.

That smell is very distinctive. I always thought it was a smell I knew, but I just never could place it until my daughter described it as smelling like bleu cheese. Bingo! She nailed it. DuMonde Tech smells like blue cheese. I like blue cheese. Weird......

So, back to ten years ago.....

An argument arose based upon a story posted in "Dirt Rag" about who built the "first" 29"er with a WTB Nanoraptor. History Alert: WTB built the largest volume, 700c based, mountain bike treaded tire ever made to that date in 1999. While it was just shy of actually making the overall diameter 29 inches, it was so close as to be not worth mentioning. The real point being that you could actually mountain bike like 26"ers did with this tire, not babysit your rig because your 45mm Panaracer Smokes were too low a volume to handle things. (So, this is why all other previous attempts at 700c mtb were not successful and certainly were not 29"ers.) Any of the pioneers of the Nanoraptor 29 X 2.1" tire will attest to this fact and tell you that is why they pushed for "The Tire" to be made. See my page about the history of the modern 29"er here. 

Anyway, there was that deal, and there was also new idea concerning fork offsets for 29"ers which On One and Gary Fisher Bikes brought to the table. It was not a well understood concept back then, so a lot of banter was being written on-line about it all.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Lauf "True Grit" gravel bike Image courtesy of Lauf.
Lauf Suspension Introduces A Gravel Bike:

I heard a story from last Spring's Dirty Kanza 200 about a ride one fellow was getting to be extricated from the course after DNF-ing. He was in a car with the Lauf Suspension company's owner. I heard nothing but good things about the man and his love for gravel events. So, it comes as no surprise to me that Lauf has a complete bike now on offer for gravel grinding.

Of course, it is carbon fiber, since it is aimed at racing, which is also cued by the saddle to bar drop you see here. It also features the second generation of the Grit gravel fork. 30mm of undamped travel are on tap here. There is one thing I really like about this bike and one thing I really do not like while there is another thing that I feel is just aesthetically wrong. (I bet you can guess the last one.)

I've been an advocate for slacker head angles and longer offsets for gravel bikes for years. Just as with mtb designs, this idea has a lot of merit for the rider doing lots of gravel travel. Lauf did use a slacker 70.5° head angle which I think is fantastic, but they stopped short of going long on the offset with a 47mm offset. I suppose they are using the slacker angle to account for a slight steepening of the head angle as the fork sinks into its travel.

I do not like the bottom bracket drop here which is right in line with Euro cyclo cross geometry at 65mm. In fact, for gravel bikes, that height is ridiculous. There really is no benefit to using a high bottom bracket for gravel bikes, and it takes away from stability at high speeds on looser gravel. I'll tell you something- I stop having interest in any bike sporting CX type BB height. It basically seems to me to be a nod to making this bike a possible CX bike choice for those buying in, but to my mind, it takes away a vital facet of stability which, in my opinion, cannot be compromised on. Your mileage may vary, but Lauf made a mistake here and the bike could have been so much better. Too bad.......

Besides, The Duke wouldn't cotton to a bike making compromises that is named "True Grit", now would he? I don't think so.

Gravel World's rig
Gettin' Ready For Worlds:

Ha! How pretentious does that sound? Like I deserve to be in a "worlds"of anything! Well, I cannot help that they call the event "Gravel Worlds", so there! They let me in, so I am going.

And.....I'm taking "Captain America". (Note- My daughter dubbed the bike thus, so I am going with it.) I've done a couple of modifications here which are note worthy. The first is adding the BodyFloat seat post from Cirrus Cycles. I used the same post on my Fargo last year to great effect. The washboard gravel they have down there around Lincoln is no match for this post.

I also added the Redshift Sports ShockStop stem to the Tamland. The stem should also reduce front end induced vibrations and over the course of 150 miles, I should feel fresher than I would without it. In my test run Thursday morning I was pretty happy with how smooth it felt. Together with the BodyFloat, the bike felt much calmer in rougher stuff that would normally have your arms shaking.

Finally, since the Tamland doesn't have an under the down tube bottle mount, I swapped over the B-Rad system from the Otso Warakin and this will allow me to have two easily reached bottles, a third on the seat tube, and one stashed inside the top tube bag. With all the chances at convenience store stops, and oasis stops, I should get by just fine with that amount of water on-board.

I'm choosing to run the excellent WTB Resolute tires for the event on my White Industries, WTB rimmed wheel set all tubeless, of course. I'll have 46T/36T X 11-36T gearing for plenty of low end and good high end ranges without running a wonky chain line. I also will be using the Ritchey Venturemax bar on this attempt at Gravel Worlds.

MONe Bikes El Continente
This Gets Me:

So, I have a few things in cycling that will always get my attention- Plate crown forks, fillet brazed construction, single speed capability, and drop bar specific, non-suspension corrected designs. I also have a fascination with 29+ wheels, as I think the possibilities of that wheel size are mostly misused and misunderstood by most companies that try to use them.

Well, I saw someone post this frame from a company called MONe Bikes on Facebook and I was like, "Dang it! There is a bike I can get behind! "  It is steel, fillet brazed, uses a plate crown fork, is a drop bar specific design with no provision for suspension, and can be set up single speed. Plus it is a 29+ wheeled rig.

Yep. I sure do like it!

Some Salsa Cycles honches asked me a couple years ago what I would do for a 10th anniversary Fargo. Well, had I seen that MONe Bikes El Continente back then, I would have just handed them the image and said, "Do that!" If I could persuade them to do it now, I would. But as the 2018 stuff will be released September 8th by Salsa, that probably will not happen. I doubt they have the hutzpah to just go with a non-sus corrected deign, for one thing, much less a specific 29+ rendering of a Fargo.

Maybe, (hopefully), I'll be wrong.

Have a great weekend and get some bicycling done!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

GTDRI '17 Report: Part 4- The Best Was Yet To Come

I Avenue..... Really, this IS a road, but barely.
After getting across Highway 63 we hit some beautiful territory. Some of us saw some deer watching us from a fence row. Wildlife was not super prevalent during the day. We did see a big buck run across our path, a vulture, maybe one hawk, and lots of domesticated animals, of course. So, for as long as we were out there, we really didn't see much for wildlife.

The big climb up to the II Avenue Level B Road was just as I remembered it. Longish, but more importantly, it kicks it up a notch near the end to be pretty steep. The guys were way ahead of me at this point, but I did not mind. I was battling falling asleep by this point, and energy levels felt low. I sucked it up and climbed through the turns and met up with them as they awaited me at our left hander. That section of Level B Road is definitely a great section. Highly recommended to seek that out, and it was getting good comments from the guys after I caught back on. But it wasn't going to even be the "best" Level B Road. That was yet to come.

We didn't have far to go West before we were to turn right at I Avenue. It was not but 3/4's of a mile away from our last Level B, but where we thought the turn should be was masked by weeds. We finally recognized the signage which was back off the road we were on a bit, and in fact, the Level B sign was upside down since the upper bolt was missing that fixed the sign to the post originally. It was quite the scene. No images. You need to go find this before it comes to be a C Maintenance Road, which, I would wager, is not long from happening.

I only offer you the image from my phone, (to the left here), and trust me when I say this road is rugged and choked with weeds in many places. I doubt a vehicle has passed this way in a long time, but maybe I'm wrong about that. It reminded me of roads from Odin's Revenge quite a bit, as far as the rugged nature and decay of the road itself was concerned.

A terraced field in the distance. Garwin was over that ridge to the West....
We finished that road which got rave reviews and then faced a big climb to the West. Garwin wasn't far away and our last rest stop awaited us. I was looking forward to a little more rest there so I decided we should get on with things and we ground out the final miles there without much chit-chat or fanfare. Once we pulled in it was all hands on deck to grab the grub and water we'd need for the last 25 plus miles to get us back to Reinbeck. I felt confident I'd make it, even though I didn't feel very energetic anymore. I grabbed some trail mix, a Coke, some water, and sat outside to relax. No other food sounded good to me at this point, and I only ate half the bag of trail mix before stowing it away.

The convenience store was kind of seedy, but the guys were saying that the bathroom wasn't all that bad. I thought that sounded hopeful, but at the time, I didn't need to use the facilities. New York Roll did, and when he emerged, I asked if he had "destroyed the bathroom". His answer was, Yes. But it's okay. They have Febreeze!".

Laughter ensued.

Well, we couldn't stay there forever, so we finally got up and headed out North to another Level B and then up toward another one, G Avenue, that I had not ever been on before. It turned out to be a pretty good one as well, but not quite as rough as the one before Garwin.

G Avenue was pretty rustic as well, but not as rugged. 
At the end of G Avenue I was greeted again by my waiting companions who were getting rather concerned about my dropping off. I explained about the camera situation and that I had to keep stopping to grab an image. Then I noticed Rob E eating gummy bears. I had a sudden craving and asked for a few. I got four and that really was what I needed. It picked me up and I was back to riding strongly after about 15 minutes had passed after I ate them.

We were closing out the route, but not before several miles of Level B road heading east on 190th. This brought us back to K Avenue and the brutal climbs up to Ridge Road. Rob E and I brought up the rear, and then it was on to Ridge Road to the Northwest. By this time we had about ten miles to go. Well, New York Roll and Robert F could "smell the barn", as they say, and those horses took off, not to be seen again on the route. Meanwhile Martin, Nick, Rob, and I soldiered in to Reinbeck all strung out along the road.

The Otso Warakin at the end of the ride.
Robert had rolled on home. He got in over 140 miles total! New York Roll was already cleaned up and came into the brewery with me, Martin, Nick, and Rob. Kevin was there to say farewell also. He made it back under his own power and had hung out in Reinbeck to see us arrive.

I had a couple of brews and headed out. I would have liked to have stayed and enjoyed the company further, but I was cooked and sitting there any longer would have meant that I would have slept there in the brewery! I don't think they would have appreciated my stinky carcass there all night!

Epilogue: The best Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational ever? Well.....there is a strong case for that argument. I will say that was the best day of cycling in August I have ever experienced on one of the best, most fun to ride routes I have ever been on. So, it ranks up there pretty darn high on the scale. I'd be hard pressed to find a better route, that's for sure. And maybe, we'll never get to ride it again this way. It was obvious that Tama County is making changes, and that Level B on I Avenue isn't going to be public much longer, in my opinion. This route is online, but if you are thinking about doing it, I'd get after it this year. Anyway.....

Other than that, I had a great time with those who came out. Thank you to Martin, New York Roll, Nick, Rob, Kevin, and Robert. We had no serious issues with health or mechanicals. The roads were stellar, the Level B's were fantastic, and I've already told you about the weather. I'll say it again: The best August weather for cycling ever. It won't likely ever be repeated. Glad I got to experience all of it.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

GTDRI '17 Report: Part 3- Unexpected Surprises And Big Hills

GTDRI Barns For Jason
The stop at Traer was lingering on and it was getting time to leave. I mean, it was 11:30am for cryin' out loud! Ha! Actually, I wasn't at all worried about time. I got to meet another Mark as a gentleman walked up with a furry dog in his arms and asked about whether or not we were out riding gravel. That led to deeper conversation and perhaps a ride with a fellow graveller in the future. (Thanks for the chat, Mark!)

We had convinced Kevin that the best Level B Road was coming up and it was only 25 miles to our next break. Well, Kevin bit on that, being the trooper that he is, and we set off toward Ridge Road and O Avenue. Based upon the recon I did of O Avenue I figured on seeing that weedy two track that looked as though it would disappear into nothing. It was about as remote and lonesome a road as you could ask for. Unique in these days and times, but 150 years ago, it would have been commonplace to see the roads like that and be "out in the middle of nowhere" for real.

So we went across the low water crossing of the Wolf Creek which was dry, and then onward to the first miles of O Avenue's dirt. Then I saw it......a road closed sign. Well, that was a surprise! Of course, I was thinking it was closed for good. However; when I rolled up, I got a big surprise.....

Ah.......hold on a min!
The once super rustic, weedy two track had been graded, the ditches defined, and vegetation all cleared. It was a gravel road except there wasn't any gravel! It certainly wasn't the Level B Road I saw just two weeks prior. Fortunately the widening only went about a half mile, but the entire three mile stretch had been bladed "smooth". Well, "smooth" if you consider that the grass was scraped off and the embedded rocks were torn from their resting places revealing a million fist to head sized pock marks in the earth. It was rough! Oh much for the "best" Level B Road on the route! 

 So we came out on the Southern side of that long run and went West and a bit more South on a couple of roads I hadn't been on in years. Then a turn onto N Avenue where I had never gone revealed some of the toughest, most scenic riding of the day.

O Avenue. Bladed! Gah!
Super long climb, (for Iowa), which had to be around two miles at least. Looking South on N Avenue.
That image above is the second to last one my camera got before the battery pooped out. Dang devices! Gotta be chargin' somethin' all the time these days, it seems. So, anyway, I didn't get a ton of images after this point since when I did, I had to get off, pull out my iPhone, and use that camera. I'm not adept at shootin' from the bike with that ungainly, slippery thing!

So, as we wore on into this next 25 mile section, it got kind of hot there for a while, and my legs were feeling cooked, plus, we were still going waaaay too fast! It was an "endurance race pace" when we were riding, and stops didn't last long. Speaking of which, Kevin, who had a body that wasn't having anymore of this nonsense, pulled the plug before the N Avenue climb and headed back to Reinbeck at his own pace. I'll have to go check that climb out again sometime, but I thought it was one of the toughest ones in the area on gravel. So, we were back to the six of us by the time that I decided to plop down in the ditch at the end of that N Avenue climb for a long rest.

No one seemed to be in a hurry to get up and going again, so I felt at ease with the stop and it was good to get a breather. I knew a bit of the upcoming roads, having had them on a GTDRI in the past, and there was one doozy of a climb coming that I wanted to be ready for. We chatted, laughed, and pretty much had the best time up there on that hill. It was a grand day, and we all felt super lucky to have been out riding in what can only be described as perfect weather for August.

So, we finally got off our duffs and headed Eastward, crossed Highway 63, and headed toward that climb I mentioned. The other guys were sprinting away from me, but I had to go my own pace. My gut wasn't wrong, but it felt odd, and I was super drowsy. Usually that means it is time for some sugar, but I had zero. Bummer! On I trudged..........

Next: The Best Was Yet To Come

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

GTDRI '17 Report: Part 2- History And Trouble

Our third sector of Level B Road was fast and smooth.
As we swung back to the South and West again in Benton County, the roads were chunky but the scenery was good. Better than I had expected, actually. Yes......I had never been on these roads before. We passed an awesome looking C Maintenance road I would have loved to explore, but not only did I not have the time, I would have to get permission. Not likely....

There was some scuttlebutt going on between riders concerning Kevin's fate. He was not feeling it and needed to bail. Apparently New York Roll was saying he would escort Kevin back to Reinbeck, but Kevin would have none of it. Instead, he asked for a route to Traer where we planned to end up for our lunch stop. That was a pretty easy 10-ish miles from where we were. So, a parting point was identified and Kevin was all set to find his own way to meet with us later. It was hoped that he could manage to rest up enough to ride more.

So with that discussion over we turned our attention to the next Level B sector which took us back in to Tama County. The plan was to allow a possibility of a stop in Dysart, but if it wasn't needed, we could skirt the town on the West side and continue on South and West. Since we were killing it on time, I decided to just have us keep going. No one in the group seemed to mind either. In fact, it was about around this time that I started saying that we were going too fast and that "We have all day, ya know...." It didn't seem to matter as we still kept steam rolling down the miles as the day moved on. By now, it was much warmer and the sky was full Sun.

There were several of these cement posts at an old farm site.
Nick and I had spied a couple of interesting cemeteries on the ride already. We had chatted about things we had known about some of these places. Then, not long after parting with Kevin, at the end of another stretch of Level B Road, we came upon what looked like a carefully manicured site with strange columns or posts sitting in a somewhat circular pattern. Then when we reached the corner, the road was marked at its entrance with two more of these.

Well, cameras came out and we were wondering about this strange place. There was a sign with a couple's name, Richard and Barb Winterroth, a Century Farm designation, and the words "Schwinheit Acres". There were no buildings left on the premises, but it was obvious that someone was taking care of the posts that now stood as sentinels to someone's past lives here.

I tried to do a bit of online research on the name, but came up empty handed. At any rate, it was a fascinating find on the route, and again, obviously on a road I had never been on before. This is the sort of thing that makes me keep wanting to explore the gravel roads of Iowa. You just never know what you might come across. Sure, you get miles of nothing that great, but when you find that gem mouldering away in the middle of nowhere, it is gold.

We headed Westward at this point. We were just North of Clutier at this point in the route and we were to be heading over to a Level B Road I had used on another Death Ride, but this time we would be going the opposite direction. Along the way we saw some amazing flowers in the ditch. I also was a bit confused here since I had obviously not written down a cue. I knew I was off, but others had the GPS track, so we figured it out okay. Blame the late night rush to get cues written up after I found out the printers were out of ink!

Some good flower action just North of Clutier, Iowa
This Level B Road kicked up pretty steeply at the end to a turn on to R Avenue.
The Level B North of Clutier wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. We seemed to tame that hill quite nicely. Then it was a fast down hill Northward on R Avenue toward our last miles to Traer where we were to hook back up with Kevin and stop for resupply. It was early still- about 10:00am, and we  would probably pull off 50 miles well before noon. Of course, it was the weather which was to blame here. The unprecedented coolness and low humidity was awesome. But then someone said "Flat tire!", and we had to stop again.

New York Roll was having a tire issue. Fortunately it resolved itself and he was able to continue.
New York Roll was having an issue with a leaky rear tire. He had to stop and pump it up, checked to see that the sealant had sealed it up, and then we were off again. He also was already suffering from a creaky Press Fit 30 bottom bracket, which would squawk any time he got out of the saddle to pedal hard. Actually, that wasn't all. He would also have a loose front Center Lock rotor clanging off and on between tightenings as the ride wore on.

The last B road before lunch was just South of Traer.
 One last Level B Road before Traer and it was a good one. I kind of forgot about all the Level B's I had put into this route, so it was a nice surprise to turn and find a Level B road sign waiting for us. This last road was one of the nice surprises!

We pulled in to Traer before 11:00am, and I had to remind a couple of the guys this was the "lunch" stop! We had been making such good time that it seemed lunch should be up the road yet, but it wasn't. Traer was it. Kevin found us and we all had a nice rest before heading back out for what I thought would be the best Level B roads on the course.

Next Part 3- Unexpected Surprises And Big Hills.

Monday, August 07, 2017

GTDRI '17 Report: Part 1- Getting Rolling

The sky wasn't red, so we'd be okay.......right?
The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational for 2017 was to be a homage of sorts to what the Pirate Cycling League in Lincoln Nebraska does with their annual "Tour of Dirt Roads". My goal was to jam in as many Level B Maintenance roads into the route that I could. Once the route was finished, I had approximately 25 miles of 102.7 miles total in Level B Roads. Not too shabby, I'd say.

Of course, the risk in doing that is if the weather gets wet. Then all bets are off and one quarter of your course is unrideable. Therefore; the weather was on my mind, but all for naught. As it turned out, it was perfect. I doubt that any GTDRI in the future will ever have weather this tranquil and nice. Sure, it was chilly to start out with, Martin said his Garmin showed 48° at one point, but once the Sun got up it quickly zoomed into the mid-70's where it stayed the rest of the day. Humidity was unusually low for August. The wind, while making its presence felt at one point as a headwind early in the afternoon, was really a non-factor. Varying cloud cover meant we didn't get cooked. Weird weather for August, but no one was complaining.

The next thing about the GTDRI is that you never know who might show up. Early in the week I had confirmations for four folks. Three of them dropped out. Then I got one more confirmed rider via e-mail and Friday another came in to the shop and committed. So.....there would be at least four of us. But then you have the surprises. Every year people show up unannounced, which is kind of fun, in the case of this ride. I figured we'd see a couple more folks show up.

One of the unforseen GTDRI riders was Dave Roll
I got up at about 4:30am after a week of not really getting enough sleep at all. It didn't help that the night before GTDRI I found out that neither one of the two printers in the Guitar Ted Headquarters had good cartridges. Bah! I had to hurriedly scribble out handwritten cues and laminate them with packing tape before I went to bed. Another late night!

So, I drove down to Reinbeck and saw that New York Roll had decided to show up for the ride. He's a local, so that was cool, Then Rob E. from Lincoln made the drive up alone with his Pugsley. Nick H. from Iowa City was there with a sweet, skinny tired Gunnar Cross Hairs. Martin B. with his'17 Ti Fargo was there along with Robert F. who had ridden over from Cedar Falls. With me that made six. That was a nice sized group and about the average for turnout on these deals.

We were supposed to head out at 6:00am, but we weren't quite ready to go until five minutes after six. Just then, a Toyota Tundra came wheeling up and Rob said, "Well, it looks like Kevin made it after all." I looked in surprise as Kevin F. jumped out and asked if we could wait for him. So, we were seven riders and didn't get started until 6:30am. Kevin had driven starting at 2:30am from Omaha, Nebraska to make it, so it was the least we could do. Once Kevin was ready we rolled out Southward from Reinbeck to get the ride started.

It was pretty chilly to start, but spirits were high.
We held a pretty good line through the first few miles and it soon became apparent that this group was strong enough to go at a pretty good clip. Robert, who had ridden over, was freezing since he had sweated out and stood around too long before we got going again. I figured an elevated pace would aid in his recovery, so I allowed us to push a little harder than I thought we should be for a long day in the saddle.

The first Level B Road section featured three miles of smooth and fast dirt goodness.
We reached the first Level B Road section with no issues and halfway through we decided it was time for a quick nature break, the first stop of many throughout the day. Then it was on to some gravel travel which led us across the entire width of Tama County until we reached the next section of Level B Road.

The morning miles features mostly flatter and maybe some gently rolling, terrain.
The second stretch of Level B Road just before entering Benton County.
Along the way to the second stretch of Level B Road Kevin was suffering from bad back syndrome, tight hamstrings, and from just being unrested from his long drive to get over to Reinbeck. By the time we'd reached Benton County is was apparent that he was going to have to bail out. Just how we were going to get that done was yet to be determined.

Next: Part 2- History And Trouble

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 31

Ten years ago this week I got the Badger out of its box.
Ten years ago here on the blog I was yakking about the potential pluses and minuses of the "new" 650B platform for mountain biking.

Essentially, what the advocates of this 650B size were saying was that the size would embody the "best of 26" and 29" wheels. Obviously, that is not possible. What it was in the end was a way for the industry to market a "new" thing and obsolete 26" mtb wheels, thus making sure folks would be looking at a "new" bike rather than continuing to upgrade an old one. It took about 4-5 more years to get there, by the way. Had the industry decided as a group not to do this, it is my belief that 650B mtb would be akin to fixed gear bikes today. It would have been a "thing" for a while, but it wouldn't have lasted.

Then I mentioned my condolences for the tragedy which occurred ten years ago when the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed.

The Badger frame and fork landed at the shop, so I had that to look forward to building up. Unfortunately, at that time, money was tight. I had already splurged on the Pofahl frame and fork as well. It would take ten years for me to get this bike built finally in the way that I had envisioned. Not affected in no small way by perceptions shortly after I received the frame about Badger as a company. That made me a bit reluctant to even ride the thing. But that is all behind me now.....

Walking a muddy B Road in a thunderstorm during the GTDRI #2
I just finished up the 12th GTDRI yesterday. Oddly enough, ten years ago the second one happened. This particular version was the master mind of David Pals, who was my co-director in Trans Iowa at the time.

It turned out to be a pretty epic afair. We got caught out in a thunderstorm, had to take refuge in a shelter house at a County Preserve, were caked in mud, and we finished up with a big headwind and heat and humidity that was stifling. Afterward we had a bit of a pizza party in David's kitchen in Marengo. It was a lot of fun, that's for sure.

It was a ride that included Paul Meyerman. He was the guy who worked tirelessly at making sure the Boy Scout Camp trails at Camp Ingawanis were always clear and open. You could find him up there on any given Summer day, covered in vegetation wielding his weed whacker, or chain sawing up dead falls, or manicuring a new section of trail. It was Paul who put in what is known as "The Bottoms" at Ingawanis Woodland.

I made a suggestion after Paul's death that the folks that were in charge of the naming of trails change "The Bottoms" to "Paul's Trail", but although I was told it was a good idea, nothing ever came of it. I find it a shame and tragic that any memory of a man's passionate work on those trails has been swept away, especially in light of the fact that another section of trail is named for its maker, who is another deserving individual.

Anyway.......maybe its just me.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Friday News And Views

Salsa's Beargrease goes to 27.5"ers on the current style frame.
Saddledrive 17:

The annual Saddledrive show is going on now. It is the show where QBP shows select dealers the newest rigs that will be, maybe, on dealers showroom floors this Fall and in to 2018.

Only you don't get to see any of it until September 8th. Thus saith the Q.

Apparently QBP wants to control the message more so than in the past, where dealers were pumping out images on social media and talking up stuff that wasn't quite cooked up enough for the Q to have out there quite yet. In fact, dealers were sworn to secrecy by the Q with an embargo agreement. All the 2018 line was shown in a special room sequestered away from prying eyes. This isn't entirely new for QBP, by the way. They did something similar when they announced privately to dealers the DW Split Pivot bikes.

So, all you are going to get now is a peek at Mukluk colors for 2018 and the Beargrease with 27.5" fat bike wheels. Same frame, by the way, just different wheels. Surly has the ECR in 27.5+ wheels in size medium on down and 29+ in size medium on up. The Straggler gets a new, blue sparkly colorway. That's about it for now.

So,stay tuned until September 8th when the wraps are lifted off and Salsa (and I assume Surly as well) is free to disseminate the new 2018 stuff.

Cyclo cross is hard, so e-bike it!
 First They Said You Can't- Then They Say You Should:

Remember all that ballyhoo about the Belgian cyclo crosser that had an electric motor in her seat tube and got banned from CX for it? The UCI got real serious about all of this and they even went so far as to develop testing machines that officials could employ at future events to detect any "e-doping" that may be occurring. To date, I have not heard that anyone has been busted.

So, e-biking in UCI cyclo cross events is a no-no, yes?

Well, maybe not! 

Apparently there is going to be a cyclo cross event at the next UCI sanctioned Cross Vegas, dubbed a "fun event", where e-biking will not only be allowed, but encouraged. Check the following quote out from the press release for this event: "The event is open to men and women riding any style of e-bike. It is a "bring your own bike" event; however, 15 lucky entrants will ride a Focus e-whip for the race."

So, any e-bike? Like, even modified, no speed limited e-bikes?


I know cyclo cross is hard, so ya know......let 'em use motors, I guess. I'm just waiting for the basketball hoops to be lowered so even I can dunk. "When everyone is one will be."
Sheesh! Giving us a break, I see.

GTDRI Is Tomorrow:

At 6:00am tomorrow, the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational will head out from Reinbeck, Iowa to ride 102+ miles and 25 miles of that dirt. The ride will have four people on it, as far as I know, plus myself.

The weather is weird for this event this year. Usually it is in the 70's at the onset of riding and gets into the 90's with high humidity by the afternoon. This, combined with some of the stupid-difficult courses I have come up with, have conspired to make the ride a real "death ride", or as close to real death as you'd want to get.

This isn't a totally unprecedented situation though. I do recall the first attempt at the Egin-Elkader-Garber-Strawberry Point area course where the temperatures were mild with low humidity. That was nearly ten years ago. The second GTDRI was cut short by a thunderstorm, which we were caught out in. That one wasn't too bad either.

But typically it was almost always hot, humid, and really hard to ride. This year it seems we have caught another break as the heat and humidity have been tempered by a cold front with cooler, drier air, that blew through here yesterday. Hey, I ain't complainin', I just think it is odd.

So, I think many of you might be surprised to find out what rig I am taking on this adventure. You'll have to wait until Monday to find out what it was. I am pretty stoked to give this a whirl, that's for sure.

That's all I have. Look for a recap of the GTDRI to start on Monday. Have a great weekend and keep the rubber side down, y'all!


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Knowing When To Say When

Even remote gravel events can be dangerous......I know!
Maybe you've been too busy to hear about the tragedies suffered in the ultra-endurance cycling scene this year, but there have been a few deaths in some of the higher profile, longer distance road based ultras this season. Probably the most notorious death of recent times was that of Mike Hall. The recent events concerning these deaths have brought the microscope of criticism and cries for solutions. The "something must be done" drums are being beaten loudly.

What this means for the future of ultra-cycling events is not clearly known yet, but the responses have been typical. Here is a post which should give you a pretty good idea of what I mean here.

First of all, I think we have to call out some obvious points that are not being discussed, (at least not that I have seen), and the first and foremost of these is that someone's death does not always mean we "have to do something" to prevent more deaths. I think this is more a philosophical viewpoint than maybe we are really seeing here. Think about people dying. It happens every day in many ways. We are not "doing something" about many of these deaths. Are these lives worth less than the lives lost by higher profile ultra-cyclists? I ask this more as a point to ponder for us all. Because it seems to me that it is easy to get indignant and raise our passions when we are saddened by the loss of someone we feel is an iconic figure for......whatever, but we don't raise an eyebrow for certain (you fill in the blanks) folks when they die. So, there is that facet of all of this which is really more than a cycling issue. I'll leave that for others to discuss.....

Second of all, we seem to have an issue with death. You will have to search your own souls concerning this, but when the spectre of death is brought up, many try to deflect thinking about it. You've all seen it on the waivers we sign- "This activity may cause serious injury or DEATH"- but few consider this a possible reality for them. You should though.......Death is a thing. It is real. One day, you will experience it......

Mark Johnson was dancing with hypothermia for hours at T.I.v13. Image by Jon Duke
 I've contemplated dying on several occasions during gravel events. I've heat stroked, bonked, passed out, seen visions, and fallen asleep raging down hill on my bicycle in these events. I don't finish a lot of these events due to my pushing the limits so far. I also have a front seat to witness such things as other riders wrestle with their "demons" during Trans Iowas. Saying we all have "danced with death" might cause most folks to roll their eyes, but I believe we're on the knife's edge more than many might suspect. The trick, the gift of higher guidance, wisdom, or......dumb luck to know when to say when is the difference here, I believe.

That more than anything is what makes these events what they are, to my mind. You- the rider- get to decide when enough is enough, and having some other entity try to govern that is......well, it may seem like a better idea, but it guts the challenge of the thing and the meaningfulness of doing these kinds of rides, in my opinion. So, what is the answer then?

Well, I think prudence is something that has to be considered upfront by race directors. I'll use the Route 66 Challenge as an example. I- and this is purely my opinion- didn't think it was very prudent to stick to the Route 66 course through busy metropolitan areas like St. Louis, or to keep the riders on heavily trafficked roads. I would say that sort of deal is raising your odds for seeing someone get hit by a car and get injured or have someone die due to a car crash. That doesn't seem like a prudent thing to have someone do. I also will say that the riders could have also been more prudent in taking on that sort of route. There is honor in making wise choices, and in the case where a route is deemed unsafe due to heavy traffic, I think riders have a right and a duty to decline to ride such courses. I think these sorts of courses and riders accepting the situations which are clearly unsafe is where prudence and wisdom sometimes gets thrown out the window. For what? Well, that's another long blog post........

Clearly, there are certain challenges that are okay. It is a sticky wicket, but when you look at what folks are getting upset about here- riders dying due to bicycle/car crashes- removing that possibility as much as possible would seem to be the choice to go with. I think what I am saying here is somewhat obvious. Paved ultra-cycling courses that are not closed in any way, or that don't have follow vehicles are probably not great choices. Then again- there are no guarantees.

You can die anywhere by any means. Those who decide to gamble with their lives may have to pay the ultimate price. It's not an easy question to answer, but when do you say when? At what point do you "pull the plug". Should race directors and course/route designers be staying away from risky, high traffic roads? Do we go as far as having significant family members sign away rights to sue in case a loved one dies in an event? I don't know. These are just some of the questions, I am sure there are many more....

All I know is that it is time to say "when" for this blog post to end!