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Monday, August 20, 2018

Jones 29 Plus LWB - The Build

Last week, I posted some observations from riding a Jones 29 Plus LWB over the past four months on my favorite single track in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In response to several inquiries, I have listed the build specs for this bike, along with a few notes on the selection and build process.

Now that's a meaty bike ready to take on the Centennial Trail, and any Bulldog along the way.
My basic design criteria for the Jones 29 Plus LWB was to build an every day, every trail mountain bike to confidently and comfortably ride single track on everything from short local jaunts to multi-day expeditions. In concept, I envisioned a trail companion to my Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross that handles all roads. More specifically, I wanted a mountain bike to cruise around with friends, hack around some local races, explore remote back trails in the Black Hills, bike pack on trails overnight and longer, and maybe someday take on the Tour Divide and the Trans America Trail. Yeah, that's a tall order, but this bike is designed to handle it.

Once mentally committed to the Jones 29 Plus LWB, I started the process of selecting components to build it up myself, as I had done for my past several bikes. Upon realizing the extent of truly unconventional things about this bike, however, I decided against buying just the frame set. Rather, I decided to draw from the deep well of knowledge of the man himself, Jeff Jones.

Surveying the scene above Coon Hollow on the Storm Mountain trails.
For Jeff to build up your Jones bike, he asks to talk with you to get everything just right. My two hour conversation with Jeff was amazing. He first sought to learn my riding history, preferences and aspirations. With that basis, he launched into a detailed discussion, analysis and recommendation first on the style, size and material of the frame set and then for every component. Every single one.

The experience of going through this process with Jeff was remarkable. No detail was too small. Jeff covered everything, after comprehensively expressing every pro and every con. For the most part, I followed his recommendations. For example, he eventually talked me out of the new Paul Components Klamper disc brakes, citing too little improvement at too great a cost. In the end, the rest of the build ultimately looks much like I envisioned beforehand. Here it is.

After the build, Jeff Jones sent me this photo, which looks practically catalogue ready. Yes, that's my bike.

Frame Set 
Frame - Jones Steel 29 Plus LWB, Medium (black)
Fork - Jones Steel Truss (black)
Headset - Jones Sealed Cartridge Bearing H-Set (black)
Seat Post - Thomson Elite Zero-Offset (black)
Seat Post Clamp - Paul Quick Release (black)

Rear Wheel  (hand built)
Hub - Shimano XT Boost with CL Adaptor (black)
Rim - WTB Scraper i45 29er (black)
Rim Tape - tubeless tape
Spokes - DT Swiss Competition (black)
Nipples - DT Brass (silver)
Thru-Axle - Jones TA bolt
Tire - Vee Tire Bulldozer 29x3.25
Tube - WTB Tubeless valves, Stan's Sealant

Front Wheel  (hand built)
Hub - Jones 150-F (black)
Rim - WTB Scraper i45 29er (black)
Rim Tape - tubeless tape
Spokes - DT Swiss Competition (black)
Nipples - DT Brass (silver)
Thru-Axle - Jones TA bolt
Tire - Vee Tire Bulldozer 29x3.25
Tube - WTB Tubeless valves, Stan's Sealant

Stem/Bar
Stem - Thomson X4, 70x10 (black)
Spacers - Aluminum, 50 mm (black)
Handle Bar - Jones Butted Aluminum Loop H-Bar 710 (black)
Grips - Jones Kraton H-Grips for 710 mm H-Bar (black)
Tape - Jones B-Tape, rear crossbar (black)

Brakes
Front Brake - Avid BB7 200 mm Rotor
Rear Brake - Avid BB7 180 mm Rotor
Brake Levers - Avid Speed Dial 7
Brake Cables - Jagwire Stainless Slick
Cable Housing - Jagwire Ripcord, compressionless (black)

Drivetrain
Crankset - Shimano M-8000 170 mm, Boost, 34/24
Bottom Bracket - Shimano MT-800
Cassette - Shimano XT 11 Speed, 11-42
Front Derailleur - Shimano XT Down Swing, top pull
Rear Derailleur - Shimano XT Shadow+ SGS
Shift Levers - Shimano XT Rapid Fire, 11 Speed
Chain - Shimano 11 Speed
Cable & Housing - Shimano SP-51
Chain Stay Protector - Jones
Pedals - Time ATAC MX-4

Accessories
Frame Pack - Revelate Designs for Medium Jones 29 Plus LWB (black)
Handle Bar Pack - Jones H-Bar Pack (black)
Truss Fork Packs - Revelate Designs for Jones Truss Fork (black)
Spare Derailleur Hanger - Jones DMD Hanger for Thru-Axle
Saddle - WTB Speed Comp (black)
Extra - Jones Tumbler (stainless steel)

Bike Build
Build, tune, test ride, tune, test, check, clean, pack for shipping

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jones 29 Plus LWB - What It Is

The Jones 29 Plus LWB is an odd looking bike from any perspective.

What is it?

It's a mountain bike. It's a surprising, thought-provoking, fun mountain bike.

The Jones Plus 29 LWB in its single track element along the Centennial Trail
above Pactola Reservoir in the central Black Hills of South Dakota.
For the past four months, I have regularly ridden a Jones 29 Plus LWB on a variety of local, familiar single track trails. Despite its exceptionally long wheelbase, slack geometry, tall and wide tires, and upright body position, it rides like a mountain bike. A really fun mountain bike.

The Jones makes a big first impression. As in, that's a really big bike. But hop on it and the thought vanishes, immediately replaced with another, more concerning one. That's an odd body position on a bike. Very odd. One sits very upright, with hands very high, very far back and very wide. Picture Miss Gulch riding her bicycle during the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz. That's a mountain bike?

Oh, yeah.

Most common question - What's with that fork?
Next most - Is that a suspension fork?
Jeff Jones has been designing and building his unique Jones mountain bikes for many years now, with significant press coverage and reviews over time. In late 2014, Jeff announced the Jones 29 Plus in an extended, explanatory blog post, with subsequent videos explaining and demonstrating his designs. Bike geeks will love the innovative thinking and tinkering behind it all. New Jones 29 PlusJeff Jones Videos.

I'll leave the technical discussion to Jeff, who has developed his designs over years of creative thought, analysis and experimentation. Besides, with so many variables off the norm, it's difficult for me to isolate cause and effect of any one in particular. Somehow, it all works together marvelously.

Up and around Storm Mountain on classic Black Hills single track.
I will share some of my observations, starting with traction. Even on the steepest, loosest and roughest pitches I've attempted in years, I still haven't spun out a rear or washed out a front. Maybe it's the 3.25 inch rubber. Maybe it's the low gears on the 2x11 drivetrain. I think maybe it's the spot-on centered body position over an exceptionally long wheel base. In any event, there's no need to slide forward to the saddle nose or lean over the handle bars to weight the front. Just stay seated, or stand straight up, and the bike stays planted both front and rear. Straight up the loose, rough stuff.

Ditto for steep, loose and rough descents. I've yet to slide off the back of the saddle to move weight back and I'm riding harder and harder stuff every week. Admittedly, I'll never be much of a technical trail descender, no matter the bike, but this Jones is making more descents possible and more fun.

Let's go to cornering. One would think that a bike with 19 inch chain stays and a 48 inch wheel base would turn like an aircraft carrier. One would be wrong. Even at slow speeds, the handling is very intuitive, once I stop trying to analyze everything. When those 29+ tires spin up to faster speeds, it grips and rips through turns. Regardless of speed, I'm learning to think less and just let it go.

Comfort. The very upright body position and swept handle bars create a Barca Lounger ride, with essentially no body weight pushed forward. With several 3-4 hour rough single track rides so far, I have yet to experience what I would consider "normal" hand, wrist or arm fatigue. The upper body simply controls the bike, without supporting much, if any, other body weight. I can see this bike being very comfortable for all-day and into the night rides, day after day, on all kinds of trails.

Just cruising on the Centennial Trail.
I'm having a blast riding the Jones 29 Plus LWB on all my favorite local trails.

I can't wait to take it out for the primary reason I chose it.

Bike packing.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Freedom

Riding a bicycle on remote gravel roads is freedom. Freedom from fast, heavy, annoyed traffic. Freedom from distracted drivers. Freedom from convention. Freedom from "The Rules." Freedom to challenge, not merely compete. Freedom to just ride. Just Enjoy the Show.

Freedom to just ride.
Riding a bicycle in a gravel race also is freedom. Foremost for me is the freedom to choose amongst a veritable smorgasbord of experiences. That also means freedom to choose not to support events, as well.

The wonderful variety of gravel events results from race directors themselves having freedom to put together races their way, with relatively few barriers to entry and without a template mandated by others. More specifically, gravel race directors have not been confined by the dictates of a centralized governing body or by the "Shalt Haves" and "Shalt Nots" of elitists posing as self-annointed arbiters of all things gravel. Even with today's groupthink push to conform and accommodate, race directors still can create an event of their own design, implement and adapt their own rules to guide the event toward that vision, and live with the consequences of their decisions. Riders then choose to ride, or not. That's freedom.

Having options between many, very different types of experiences is a great thing. Out here in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a local rider named Lucas Haan dreamt up a crazy cool series of gravel races, each with a unique course and an unexpected twist. How about a rock infested, quad busting mile and a half spur up to an abandoned look out tower near the end of a fifty mile, 5,000 foot elevation gain gravel/dirt road race? Who does that? A Six Course Feast. Such gems are possible when race directors are free to create their own events.

With so many choices, preferences develop. Like everyone else, I certainly have my preferences and naturally are drawn to them. Almost three years ago, I even described aspects of gravel events that I liked best. Components of a Special Gravel Race. Whatever the preferences, however, it's one thing to turn toward your "likes" and away from your "dislikes." It's quite another thing to work to impose your preferences on another, or worse, on everyone. That's the essence of elitism. Try this instead. If an event doesn't suit you, leave that event to those who enjoy it and move to something else.

Here's a confession I'm reluctant to express as it may be misconstrued. Dirty Kanza is not for me, even though it's a highly publicized, influential and popular part of the gravel scene. Stay with me, here. Dirty Kanza is great for gravel cycling. I love that Dirty Kanza exists, that many swarm to it and that I rode it once. My experience was memorable, but overall the event is just not for me. That's OK. I don't knock Dirty Kanza or try to change it. They run their event as they see fit. They've earned that right and respect. I applaud those who work to make the experience available, cheer on those who ride it and simply commit my time and energy elsewhere.

In the words of William Wallace, " F R E E D O M ! ! "

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Best Coach I Ever Had

The sub-title above references "the people and rides to make it happen." One such person that has made many things happen for me is my Dad. To limit this post to athletics, he was the best coach I ever had.

Clifford Gerhardt Groseth
I played team sports for many years, with many good coaches. Starting from high school, I played American Legion baseball, played high school basketball in a state championship game and some college basketball at South Dakota School of Mines, and played high school football on back-to-back, undefeated state championship teams under the legendary Max Hawk, in honor of whom the South Dakota High School Coaches Association actually named an annual award. Good coaches, indeed.

However, regardless of the coach at those levels, I loved the camaraderie of team sports and especially loved the achievement of collective improvement. Winning often followed, but not always. In the end, getting better together was always fun. All this was a direct result of my Dad coaching me in all sports until eighth grade. He was the best coach I ever had.

Clifford Gerhardt Groseth grew up on a family farm originally homesteaded in 1874 near Centerville, South Dakota by his great-grandfather, a hardy Norwegian immigrant. After starring in four sports in high school, Dad played some semi-pro baseball, played football for South Dakota State and even made the basketball team at South Dakota State. After college, he taught high school science in Freeman, South Dakota, where he also coached the varsity football, basketball and track teams. With a growing family, Dad entered the business world as a manager with the International Harvester Company and played competitive men's fast pitch softball. As a pre-schooler, I loved the atmosphere of a ball park under the lights of a hot summer night and eagerly anticipated the end of his games to sprint around the bases.

Dad was my first coach in football, basketball and baseball, and basically my only coach until eighth grade. He focused on fundamentals, which included not merely individual skills, but a thorough understanding of the game. By middle school, we had more sophisticated offenses and defenses, in all three sports, than I had later in high school or even in college. He expected each player to know what everyone else was doing at all times and to support every teammate. No one was left behind or left out. As a result, every team he coached played much better than the sum of its individual parts.

More importantly, Dad coached every kid how to play the game right. He treated everyone the same and gave everyone opportunities to succeed. He encouraged, without badgering. However, if you acted inappropriately, you were on the bench, probably for the rest of the game. If you missed practice, for whatever reason, you did not start the next game. His players respected their teammates, the opposing team, the officials, and the game. If I did not fully appreciate his influence at the time, I did when I experienced the behavior of other coaches and teams during high school and college.

He was the best coach I ever had.

Thank you, Dad.

High scoring Cliff Groseth for Centerville High School in 1951-1952.

Coach Cliff Groseth with his 1958-1959 Freeman High School Flyers boys basketball team.


Precision Optical Little League Baseball team, Sioux City, Iowa 1971.
Half the kids on that team lived on the same block, and the other half lived within a block or two.
There was no recruiting at that time and place. You were on the team with all your neighborhood kids.

Groseth International Little League Baseball team, Yankton, South Dakota 1974.
By then, Dad owned an International Harvester farm & truck dealership, sponsored the team and coached it.
Two of his sons played (Craig, Cyler) and the youngest was the bat boy (Christopher).
This was just one of his championship teams and was the last time my Dad was my coach.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A Single Speed Gold Rush

Great. I got that "excited/scared" feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or maybe it's more - it could be 2 - it could be 98% scared, 2% excited. But that's what makes it so intense. It's so - confused. I can't really figure it out. 
Oscar Choi. Armageddon (1998).


Nothing like having a legendary professional capture the moment at the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.
Thanks, Randy! (photo by Randy Ericksen)
It's a mixed up mess of racing thoughts and swinging emotions when staring into the face of the start of something that stretches beyond one's preparation, ability or ambition. Whether school, work, athletics, kids, family, friends or whatever, it just goes round and round:

You're not ready. You know how to do this.

It's too much. Break it down.

You can't do this. You've done harder.

You should take it easy. And then what?

This is nuts. You got this.

No, really, this is nuts. Too late, it's started. Now I'm going to finish.

No! Go!

Gold Rush Race Directors Kristi and Perry Jewett, photo bombed by the irrepressible Jay Petervary.
At the early morning start of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, I lean over the top tube of my Black Mountain Cycles monster cross bike, for some reason set up single speed, while the reality of this race sinks in. 110 miles. Over 7,000 feet of elevation gain. So many variables. So much uncertainty. But one thing I know. I can't shift to an easier gear. Not ever. Pedal the one gear, or walk.

What was I thinking? I haven't ridden single speed on a long gravel race since 2013. This is nuts.

Friendly voices, some familiar and some new, break through the internal clutter and redirect my thoughts. Hey! Hi! At the start of such an endeavor, it's always great fun to reconnect with friends and to reach out to friends you're just meeting. This morning, it's downright therapeutic. By the start of the race, I'm ready to enjoy whatever the day brings. Just ride.

Old school Roddy Dowell from Missouri at the start, about to learn them young-uns a lesson!
My mind now may be ready but my bike is not. On the first little downhill, hitting the first little bump, I launch a stream of gels and bars out of an unzipped bag all over the road. By the time I collect the scattered pieces, the "neutral rollout" has long disappeared from view. That's a bit deflating. Though I've been dead no-foolin' last in the past, it's been at the end of a long, grueling race after much of the field dropped out. Now, I'm last before the racing has officially started.

So, this is what the day is bringing. OK. Well, I know enough to take my medicine and settle into a manageable pace. It's going to be a 10-12 hour day, mostly spent climbing nearly 70 miles up to O'Neil Pass and then shorter, but much steeper pitches up to Cement Ridge Lookout. The weather is perfect in the mid-sixties, with little wind and clear skies. The roads are hard packed and dry. I know the route well. It doesn't take much imagination to see that this can be a good day. Let it be one.

The long, lonely day of an event volunteer taking pictures of passing riders.
I believe this is renowned photographer and artist Les Heiserman.
After a few early rollers, the race turns south onto Sand Creek Road for miles and miles of gradual uphill through a shaded valley along a mountain stream. This idyllic remote road creates a sweet beginning to the long climb up to O'Neil Pass. At just a tad under 3 hours, I pull into the water stop at mile 36, where the 70 mile and 110 mile courses diverge. I enjoy the drinks and chocolate chip cookies offered by the energetic volunteers. For me, it's a solid start.

A couple of steeper pitches on Moskee Road reward with a welcomed descent before turning south again, now onto Grand Canyon Road. The meat of the climb starts now. Ahead lies almost 20 miles uphill without a break. Almost all the way to the O'Neil Pass Checkpoint. Well, alrighty then.

Gold Rush Gravel Grinder winding its way along Moskee Road. (photo by Les Heiserman)
Finding a rhythm on the steady, gradual grade, I feel strong.  It's a long climb for everyone and I occasionally pass another. The late morning heat can really build on this climb, particularly as it steepens at about mile 60 and the sparse shade all but disappears. But not today. Today, the temperatures stay moderate and, while warming up, the climb does not overcook. Nutrition and hydration are spot on, the legs feel good, and the one gear still feels right. I hit the 70 mile O'Neil Pass Checkpoint at just over 6 hours. That's a strong climb for me.

I check in at the Trail's Head Lodge, a supporter of the Gold Rush since its beginning. Off to the side in a dimly lit dining room quietly sit a couple of racers nursing cold drinks and a couple others nibbling at hamburgers. All that sounds good, but I'm not all that thirsty or hungry. I'm normal tired, for such a time, but ready to roll after filling a couple of water bottles.

Instead, I decide to support the Lodge by at least buying a Snickers bar and sit down for a minute to enjoy it. Almost immediately the other racers strike up a conversation, which not surprisingly is both engaging and encouraging. The burger monsters are Kurt Letellier and Dusty Oedenkoven of Pierre, taking a well deserved break and sorting out a plan to get to the finish line. They're strong, and determined, and they'll make it. I just love the gravel clan.

Calamity Jane and Potato Johnny energizing all at the Potato Station Check Point atop Cement Ridge.
Potatoes, potato chips, Hammer Nutrition products, water. Maybe a shot of moonshine.
But mostly, it's Calamity Jane and Potato Johnny! Thanks for brightening the day!
Eventually, I roll out for the 40 mile return to Spearfish, starting with a nasty little pitch to pop over a ridge and then a long descent on lumpy Rifle Pit Road. But the climbing isn't over until Calamity Jane and Potato Johnny say it's over. That means powering up another steep to the top of Cement Ridge Lookout Tower for the Check Point 2, aka The Potato Station. It's hard. It's hot. It's worth it.

Now it's downhill on School House Gulch Road, then the touristy Roughlock Falls Road and finally paved Spearfish Canyon Highway. I'm spun out on much of these last 20+ miles, so I casually coast and contemplate the day.

Heading home, on the long descent of Roughlock Falls Road, ready to flip the final page of cue sheets.
It's good. Everything about the day. It's all good. Well, except this gentle downhill, when I cannot go faster than 20 mph on this suddenly too easy gear. That's not all that good. But it's better than standing to grind 6 mph uphill. So, I guess it is good, after all.

I finally finish right at 10 hours, which translates to just over 11 miles/hour total time and almost 12.5 miles/hour riding time. That's a strong ride for me on a single speed on this course, and almost an hour and a half faster than I rode in 2013. It also gets me to the party at the park in time for the buffet and awards ceremony. It's a good day.

Why a single speed Gold Rush? Gotta do it, every now and then.

Stopping to smell the flowers before dropping off Cement Ridge.
Single Speed Geek Addendum
One of the many variables in preparing for such an event is choosing a gear. I kept the analysis simple by sticking to what's worked for me over the years. It goes like this. 42x16 for fixed/single speed commuting in town. 42x18 for cyclocross. 42x20 for long, hilly gravel.

At the inaugural Gold Rush in 2013, I pushed that cyclocross 42x18 gear and paid dearly. Afterward, I switched to a 42x20 to finish the hot and hilly 2013 Gravel Worlds and to finish second place (out of four single speeders) at the 2013 Odin's Revenge. Since then, I've ridden gravel geared. For a simple single speed conversion for this year's Gold Rush, I left on a compact double crankset and set up a 34x16 single speed, which is essentially the same gear ratio as a 42x20. That worked great for me.





Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trans Iowa v14 - The Last Lap

After the conclusion of Trans Iowa v.14, Race Director Mark Stevenson announced that there would not be a v.15. For Mark, the time had finally arrived and he penned a heartfelt post skidding to an abrupt stop this pioneering event. The End.

This post was to be a Trans Iowa race report from a volunteer's perspective. Mark's announcement changed all that. I didn't know where to start or where to go. I finally stopped thinking and just started writing. Here goes.

Mark Stevenson, aka Guitar Ted, setting the table at the Trans Iowa v.14 Meat-Up.

I learned of the inaugural Trans Iowa in 2005 on the mtbr.com forums, which essentially operated as a crude clearing house of oddball cycling events. Trans Iowa certainly qualified as oddball - a bicycle race across the state of Iowa, on 340-ish miles of gravel and dirt roads on an unmarked course, with no team support and no aid stations, in less than a day and a half in mid-April. There was nothing else like it.

Although I never really wanted to ride it, the race accounts were compelling. As the years passed, I relished reading Race Director Mark Stevenson's musings about all aspects of the race - home spun registration by post cards, crazy hilly courses navigated by cryptic cues, equipment fails and successes, wild weather swings, eccentric rules enforced without waver, and especially the self-supported rider mentality, with all that entailed and nurtured. Trans Iowa truly was a "Guitar Ted Production."

I eventually sampled some gravel and stumbled across Mark during some early miles at the 2013 Odin's Revenge, a legendary 180 mile gravel/dirt road race in central Nebraska crafted in the spirit of Trans Iowa. Mark warmly befriended this newcomer and patiently introduced me to the gravel culture. I was just another mid-pack guy in an obscure gravel race, yet Mark welcomed me like a long lost friend.

At the time, grass roots gravel events were popping up like May dandelions all over the country, blown by the winds of Trans Iowa. But with growth came change. The sheer number of new events and riders introduced conflicting attitudes and demands, including those from the conventional bicycle racing establishment. Some new events catered to that market, while many existing events morphed to accommodate it, increasing their numbers but losing their character. Others, led by Trans Iowa, emphatically did not.

In just a few years, Trans Iowa became not just oddball, but anachronistic. However, Mark refused to grow for the sake of growth. More to the point, Mark repeatedly, loudly and defiantly refused to allow anyone involved with Trans Iowa to "hit the Easy Button." While the cycling world around him demanded accommodation and conformity, he did it his way and kept doing it his way. In the process, he inspired countless others to do it their way, too.

This represented something I felt compelled to support. But Mark did not seek, nor seem to want, more sponsors, more schwag or more publicity. With little to offer of any real value anyhow, I quickly realized that perhaps "thank you" might be a more accurate characterization than "support."

But how do you thank someone for a warm welcome? For inspiration? For modeling character? For selfless service? For creating and nurturing an opportunity for others to stretch beyond their perceived limitations? For sparking no less than a paradigm shift in cycling?

Not knowing what else to do, I asked Mark if I could volunteer at Trans Iowa v14. I thought I could invest some energy and somehow help Mark with something over the race weekend. Maybe afterwards I could write about it from a perspective perhaps different from others. It wasn't much, but it's what I had. A Gravel Pilgrimage.

Surprisingly, he welcomed me again. He didn't need me. He had plenty of long time volunteers who had stepped up to help over the years and the logistics were well dialed in. I realized that, once again, Mark was welcoming me, including me and valuing me, as he has done for so many others for so many years. In my attempt to support and thank Mark, Mark was serving me.

I'm left with gratitude. I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in Trans Iowa v.14. I am grateful for the mere existence of Trans Iowa over the past fourteen years. I am grateful for Mark's service to the cycling community. And I'm particularly grateful for Mark's friendship.

Ride on, my friend. May we share some remote roads soon.



Here are a few pictures from my view of Trans Iowa v.14, captured for a race report not written.

Mark Stevenson holds court before the nervous, excited riders and supporters at the Trans Iowa v.14 Meat-Up.
In an evening full of happenings, the best moment came when Mark called each rider up by name to present their race bib, personalized by hand by Mark himself. So much emotion. So many emotions. The group hollered and clamored for all.


Waiting at the start, I meet Craig Cooper, owner of Bikes To You, opening his store at 03:00 am.
No, that's not normal. He's there to provide restrooms, free hot coffee and any last minute supplies before the 04:00 am start, which is right at his front door. Mostly, it seems he's there to help make it all happen, just a little bit better.

Checking in riders and handing out the first set of cue sheets at 03:30 am at the Trans Iowa v.14 start.
Craig Cooper of Bikes To You designed and fashioned the "GRINNELL, IOWA" sign out of glitter tiles.
(photo by George Keslin, for Wally Kilburg Photography)


With the racers deep into the hinterlands, a group of supporters and volunteers rode their own ride during some mid-day down time. A gorgeous, casual 24-ish mile loop around Grinnell for a taste of Iowa gravel, with some infamous Iowa B-roads thrown in. Thanks, Katherine Roccasecca and Jess Rundlett for organizing this little beaut. 

At Check Point 2, Mark Stevenson sketching out a map of the now famous cues
"BR on Keokuck/Washington Rd." and "Left on 120th".


The popular Check Point 2 fire at sunset, awaiting riders aching to beat the 11:00 pm cut-off for the next set of cue sheets.

Trans Iowa v.14 finish line gathering. The End was in sight. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Back to a Single Speed Gold Rush

By June, spring may swing by for a few days. Maybe just long enough for the Gold Rush.

Right here in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder draws cycling enthusiasts from all over for a spring gravel festival featuring the 70 mile Gold Dust, the 110 mile Gold Rush and the 210 mile Mother Lode, along with a host of attendant activities. Over the years, I've ridden each distance and enjoyed each one. Choose one based on your condition and ambition, and you're bound to have a good time. Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.

Powering up an early hill at the inaugural 2013 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, John Sundberg leaves me in his dust.
John crushed it on his geared Salsa Fargo with mountain bike tires, while I cruised on my cyclocross single speed.
We both had a great time. (photo by Gold Rush Gravel Grinder)

If you love the vibe of the Dakota Five-O mountain bike race, you'll love the vibe of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. Kristi and Perry Jewett know how to put together their events.

It starts with a Friday evening packet pickup at a city park, followed by a social gathering at a local microbrewery. Motels are convenient and a camp ground rests next to the start/finish area. In the morning, the high energy start launches riders into the forested Black Hills, where energetic volunteers amp up the wattage at the aid stations. Eventually, it's party central at the finish line, with live music, food, vendors, awards and door prizes. You're certain to leave with a smile.

There's your 3rd Place Single Speed (out of three) at the 2013 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.
I'm exhausted and happy just to finish. (photo by Gold Rush Gravel Grinder)
Back in 2013, I entered the inaugural Gold Rush as an alternative event after my grandiose scheme for a reunion 24 hour mountain bike team relay fell apart. Knowing virtually nothing about racing 100+ miles on gravel, I chose from my stable a cyclocross single speed shod with 32 mm knobbies. It worked out just fine, as it did for many others on many different types of bikes and tires.

Since then, I've learned a little from riding a few more gravel miles. I've sorted out some equipment issues, including finding a bike just right for where and how I ride. I've shared some memorable experiences with old and new friends. I've looked up and down for gravel and dirt road adventures.

 But now it's back to my gravel race beginning. It's back to the Gold Rush on a single speed.