Going For A Gravel Ride

I have the opportunity this week to travel to northeast Nevada with my partner in life for a work conference. I will have a few days to explore the local gravel travel around Elko, NV. It’s pretty exciting as I haven’t really ridden much for actual gravel the last few years. “Gravel” in the Southern Nevada/California/Arizona area is actually just a mix of small boulders, sand, and dust. There is nothing remotely comparable to the rolling hills and rock roads of the Midwest, aside from MAYBE a few of the telephone pole access roads that run parallel to I15 near the California/Nevada border. Even those get super sketchy for long periods of time. I’m not complaining, as I really do appreciate the desert terrain and its challenges, but sometimes one pines for the long stretches of hardpack Iowa winter gravel…

Picking a route in an area you’ve never ridden is challenging, especially when there are zero gravel routes listed for the area on AllTrails, MapMyRide, or even Strava. The GPS based mapping/ride tracking apps are usually very helpful when looking for good local ride routes, but not this time. There are a few bike shops in town, I suppose I could call them up and ask some questions about routes but I rarely exercise that option and I’m staying true to that form this week.

For this trip I’ve decided to only use Google Maps for route planning purposes. The Street View function is fairly helpful when checking out potential roads, but remember those are not real time pictures so you absolutely need to check the local weather for the past few weeks to gauge what condition the gravel might be. My route leaves town heading west along the Humbolt River on Bullion Road, then off into the unknown of double-track ranch roads and ATV trails over to Grindstone Mountain getting as close to the summit as I can get. From there I’m hoping to find some sort of trail over/around Grindstone to South Fork Reservoir, then after a gas station lunch, head back north to town via the highway. We shall see how that all goes, and how the weather is this week. The ride out to Grindstone and back to town may be enough.

Bike Selection is a very important aspect of riding off into the unknown. You want to take into consideration all the terrain you may encounter, from paved to trail. I was planning on taking the Pink Bike for the ride, but the pictures of the area surrounding Grindstone are steering me toward bringing the Fargo. That’s probably going to be the way to go for exploration, and it will also enable me to hit a few of the MTB trails around town.

Anyway, enough pontificating. We are headed up in two days, should be a great time. I’ll check back in with a ride report.

DC

DIRT FIXIE/SS FOR SALE

2009 Salsa Chili Con Crosso Scandium Fixie/Single Speed, $950.00 USD

Great, super light cyclocoss/gravel bike currently set up fixed gear, but can be converted back to geared with the proper shifty bits and rear wheel. The rear triangle will fit a max of 700×38 (although you could probably experiment with chain length with the ENO hub to extend the chain stay length to squeeze in a larger tire), the front fork looks like it will accommodate up to a 400×45. This bike was used in a few cross races and a lot of midwest gravel rides, so there are quite a few little scuffs and scrapes but NO frame dents/structural damage.

Bottle Cages & Bell NOT included, pedals ARE included

Southern Nevada pickup preferred, but can ship in the CONUS at buyer’s expense. I will also be in the Elko, NV area on 3/31/22 and can drop off/deliver to you if within the Vegas-Elko route.

SPECS:

Frame: Salsa Chili Con Crosso Scandium, SIZE 58CM ACTUAL, 55cm according to Salsa’s weird fantasy size numbering from that era, but it is a 58 IRL.

Fork: Van Dessel Carbon

Wheelset:

-Velocity AeroHead rims

-White Industries ENO eccentric flip flop rear hub, ENO front hub

-WI Freewheel, Surly Track Cog*

-Schwalbe Sammy Slick Tires

Crankset: FSA Gossamer w/ 42t FSA chainring

Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beaters

Brakes: Tektro CR720

Brake Lever: SRAM S500 single speed set

Bars: Salsa Cowbell 3, 46cm

Bar Tape: “Carbon” Silver

Stem: Dimension 90mm

Headset: Cane Creek S100

Seat Post: Thomson Elite 300mm, silver

Saddle: Selle Italia Nitrox Gel

*The White Industries Freewheel does not match the tooth count on the fixed gear side, so you would either need to swap out for a smaller tooth count or use a longer chain to run the coasting side.

The Oh-Crap! Sack

How many times have you left the house without tools or tubes because you’re just going on a “quick ride” only to find yourself in imminent danger of walking home, or calling for a ride share vehicle for a sag? For me it is far more times than I can remember, let alone admit. No matter how innocuous the ride may seem, anything can happen out there on the road and being prepared at all times is more than just a Scouting mantra, it’s the way to successfully mitigate an Oh Crap! situation.

How does one prepare for an Oh Crap situation? The first step is to do preventive maintenance. Make sure your tires are inflated to the desired pressure, clean and lube your chain, check that your handlebars, saddles, and cranksets are not ready to fall off. Do a good walk around every once in a while. The OTHER first step is getting an annual tune-up by a trained professional. This means loading up your whip and taking it to your LBS. Truth be told, no matter how competent YOU feel about your wrenching skills, there is no substitute for a professional tune up/annual maintenance. In fact, it’s mid March so if you haven’t taken advantage of the winter months to get your bike to the shop you may end up facing the long lead times of spring. Remember this for next winter and you can help keep your favorite mechanic wrenching instead of cleaning out the back storage room. True story. The third first step is to make what I like to call an “Oh Crap! Sack.”

The basic Oh Crap! Sack is made up of tools and items that will get your butt out of a bicycle related jam. Remember Sack>Sag.

  • Multi-tool – bike-specific all-in-one tools from Crank Brothers are my choice for on-the-road bike repairs. You can also get kits that fit inside your handlebars from Wolf Tooth Components, which saves space in a bag
  • Spare tube – I can’t stress this enough: MAKE SURE IT’S THE CORRECT SIZE FOR THE BIKE YOU ARE RIDING. I once was stranded in middle-of-nowhere gravel boondocks with a flat on a 29″ wheel Fargo with 650b tubes. Talk about Oh Crap!
  • Patch kit
  • Tire Levers
  • CO2 cartridges/Adapter – the fastest way to get back on the road when you flat out. Most of the time.
  • Electrical Tape – A small roll of black (or whatever color you prefer) electrical tape can solve anything from bike issues to wardrobe gaffs.
  • Presta to Shrader valve adapter – These are little brass adapters that screw on to your presta valves in the case that you need to use a gas station pump or some other such situation.
  • This is starting to seem like a lot of stuff.
  • First aid – even if it’s just a few band aids or some gauze you can use with your included tape to make a bandage, you need to be able to cover a wound.
  • Food – you should always carry some sort of protein bar or “bonk breaker” type item. It’s often easier to face down an Oh Sh!t situation with a little snack. Stick with high-protein low-sugar solid food items, and stay away from energy gels.

Where does all this stuff all go? The idea is to keep everything handily in one place, so I advise getting a small waterproof roll-top stuff sack that can be tossed in a messenger bag, hip pack, or frame/seat/handlebar bag. There are also small seat bags that are dedicated dry bag holders that do a great job. In the past I have used an Arkel waterproof seat bag system to transfer my Oh Crap! items from bike to bike, it works quite well.

This little bag served me well for years

What do you put in your Oh Crap! Sack? Drop some comments and lets have a conversation.

D/C

Help Others Ride

During a recent conversation concerning finding the “one true bike,” aka the quiver killer (a bike that takes the place of all the niche bicycles you may have sitting around your home), it was reintroduced to my attention that there are many people out there in the world who really NEED a bike and do not have the means to acquire one. That turn in conversation brought back memories of a time when I was Dirt (Poor) Cyclist. Carless and in need of transportation, I built up a cheap track bike from an old beater 80’s Peugeot ten speed. It got me to work, to get groceries, and around the amazing trail system in my then-home-city. Incredible memories were made and some truly great people were met thanks to that old beater bike.

The unfortunate reality is that there will always be people in need who can’t get a bike to ride. Be it for commuting, getting to appointments or the store, or just enjoying the few free moments we get in life to take in the outdoors. People need transportation, public transport is often a big failure (it is here in my city), cabs and ride share are expensive, and the costs of vehicle ownership are prohibitive at best for those who are mired in the ever-expanding pool of poverty. Beyond the aspect of pure transportation/utility, riding a bike helps with one’s health, both physical and mental. Bikes can help bring together communities. Bikes can make things better, ergo you can make lives better by helping get people on a bike.

How can you help? Here is a non-comprehensive list of things you can do to bring someone joy by bike:

I encourage you to do some internet sleuthing for yourself to find what is being done in your local area and joining in or starting something new. A little effort on your part could change someone else’s life exponentially.

DC

Gravel Hall Of Fame??

Good Morning, Dirt Enthusiasts. In a rare departure from the DC norm, there is a post today AND it’s about cycling. It’s even about Dirt Cycling! Before we get into all of that, how have you been? Are you getting those base miles in for the spring season, or are you sitting around watching “Ride The Divide” and eating snacks? Are you thinking about putting your bike in for a tune up at the LBS? Now is the time, keep those wrenches wrenching! Anyway, on to the show…

Gravel cycling is old. It’s pretty young in a bicycle-industry-marketing sense, but despite all the pomp and “innovation” and talks of Gravel being the “Next Big Thing,” it’s been around since bicycles and dirt roads have coexisted. It’s always been a thing, at least since somewhere around the time of the Industrial Revolution.

One group of people recently realized that not only has Gravel Cycling been around for literal eons, but that it was missing a thing that all sporting events invariably produce after reaching a certain maturity: a Hall Of Fame

I present unto thee, the nexus of billions of collective miles of dust inhaling, dog sprinting, rock riding, soul crushing cycling fun:

https://www.gravelcyclinghof.com

I’m sure most people’s initial encounter with the words “Gravel Cycling” and “Hall of Fame” pushed up all cozy together brings up a mixed bag of feels. “Why? How? But seriously, whyyy?” Take a few moments to really think about it. There are some modern trailblazers whom un-paved the road to what is known as Gravel Cycling today. It’s not just the riders, although there are many great athletes who have come to notoriety through the “Gravel Scene,” the race founders and directors who dream up these nightmarish tests of torture for us commoners to attempt and the volunteers who help make that happen deserve some acknowledgement. Don’t you want to give these amazing folks a permanent high five? At the Gravel Cycling HOF your voice can be heard.

Click over to the GCHOF and nominate someone!

I’m looking forward to seeing how the initial list pans out, and if anyone I nominated made it. I’ll try to follow up when announcements drop!

DC

Healing

Quite a bit has happened in the year and change that I have been “resting.” This isn’t a post to give you the rundown of said happenings, just a quick reminder that the Dirt Cyclist is out here still.

As the world burns around us my hope is that everyone still out there has (or will) take the time to heal. Our current shared singular journey has caused more death, division and strife than any other event in our lifetimes. I think it’s time that we look at ourselves and our loved ones and assess our/their emotional needs. Talk to each other, spend time with one another, let the ones you care about know how you feel. Support each other in finding and utilizing ways to heal. It’s never too late, or a bad time, to heal our hearts and minds.

My heart goes out to all who are dealing with the loss and anguish of this upside-down world. Stay strong and remember to heal when you can.

Dirt Cyclist

Long Term Test: Resting

Wow, folks, it’s been quite the summer. Living in a furnace-like climate forced me into a kind of reverse-winter situation this year. It turns out riding in 115 degree weather sucks even more than riding in -10 degree weather with snow and mush. Who knew? My plan for next spring is to buy up someone’s barely-used indoor trainer for cheap and ride inside (mostly) from July to September. It’s a great plan, for certain, and will ensure that I don’t die of heat stroke out in the desert trying to get my miles in.

What have I been up to instead of riding? I took a trip out to pick up the rest of my bikes and cat from my former home base, and I will hopefully be putting some miles on those soon. I spent quality time with family exploring the western states, hiking, swimming, and spelunking a bit. I looked at my bikes a lot, which is something everyone should do when not riding them. I got a job. Yeah, I got a job doing food which has kept me super busy. It’s also all the way across the city, so bike commuting might be off the table indefinitely. It would be a roughly 50-mile round trip every day and to be honest I’m not feeling it. Driving across this city is hair raising enough, and a two hour plus commute home after a 9-hour day…not it. 10 years ago it would have been a cream dream, not today though.

There is quite the backlog of products to test and report on, and I’m searching for a new packable sleeping bag to replace my old trusty Lafuma 650 so that will be an article for sure, and there are ride reports gathering cobwebs in the back of my skull which need to be dusted off and given some light. Until I can get around to all of those things, here is a short review of my current long term test: Rest isn’t such a bad thing. Kick back, relax, and stay safe my friends.

Wiz

The Future Of Bikepacking/Dirtbagging

This isn’t a post about some super new bike or gear that will make your dirty adventures better. This is a real post speculating the future of what we do, and whether it will be any longer.

We have “made it” through what is being called the First Wave of COVID-19, states are reopening and some of the small communities us dirt baggers rely on in our travels are beginning to welcome us into their towns. I have personally traveled through most of the southwestern states since the reopening began and it’s still really weird out there. It has an almost Andromeda Strain kind of feel at times, while other times it feels like nothing ever happened aside from moving some restaurant tables away from each other and a few masks here and there. Some states have required a Plexiglas barrier between cashiers and customers, probably a good move which should have happened years ago, yet some places are business as usual. No masks, no barriers, just people awkwardly trying to avoid each other, shooting some seemingly judgmental sideways glances. It’s good to be back to doing some travel, but at what cost?

There is a purported new wave of COVID-19 happening as you read this, credited to the activities of people during the reopening process. One of my neighboring states (and a state I travel through frequently), Arizona, had 4400 new cases in the last 24 hours. The streets of Sedona had the social distancing of a bee hive. It was slightly disturbing. I’ve see the same thing on the news in coastal cities. People were sick of being cooped up, so now they act like nothing happened. It’s a very human reaction: Not being personally harmed by a thing means it didn’t happen and won’t happen to you. The “freedom loving” people of the US couldn’t give up their freedom to go to COSTCO long enough to actually free us from a global pandemic. Thanks, Karen and Chad.

This NWOC19 (New Wave Of COVID-19) could cause the gateway towns that have reopened to once again close themselves off to us traveling types. I’m part of a group helping solidify a new route for Bikepacking.Org, and we are in a holding pattern waiting for word from pass through towns as to whether they are going to let people come through or not. The stretch I’m planning on doing is probably going to be way too hot to ride until fall, so personally it’s no big deal if we have to safely wait out Wave 2, but it also makes me very uneasy for any travel, period. It also makes me wonder if we of remote travel will ever get back any normalcy.

I suspect that we are in for a very long haul, possibly a permanent haul, when it comes to being limited in our bike travel. The Canada/US border closing has been extended, so the Tour Divide is off this year. Will it be back next year? Gravel races are going the way of ITT, and the country’s oldest and largest bike tour, RAGBRAI, has even cancelled. Clearly I haven’t had enough coffee to be either informative or funny, so let’s try to wrap this up.

What do you think the future holds for our brand of cycling?

Age Of Quarantine

I made a commitment to myself that this blog would never have one of those self-excusing posts explaining why posts haven’t been uh… posted. I am breaking that oath.

During this Time of Quarantine life was redefined for us all. The events of the last six months have most likely affected all ten of you reading this, so there is a level of mutual understanding of the situation. COVID-19 draped a cloak of chaos over the world while simultaneously fully exposing the full extent of the fucked up political and social climate created by the world’s leaders. The socio-political discord and feelings of uncertainty about the safety of my loved ones re-triggered mental health issues that had been recently put to rest. I felt the need to withdraw from society while society effectively was on pause for the foreseeable future. Again, I am sure that most of you can relate as we were all on the same boat for that cruise.

The chaos and strife resulting from poor leadership created this new norm where folks could work remotely. I’m still at odds personally about the double standards which put the lowest earning parts of the workforce (grocery and big box store workers) directly in harm’s way while the “professionals” were allowed/forced to work from home. I’ll save my discourse on wage/work/QOL disparity for another time, though. Some of you chose to rise above the situation and use this quarantine time to be driven creatives redefining yourselves, or just getting out all the stuff you didn’t have/take time to do before. Some of you may have lost people or your livelihood. I am sorry if this was the case. I chose to step back and try to enjoy time with my people, the writing wasn’t so important that it couldn’t stop for a while.

While the sickness is not eradicated, it’s time to step out of the fog and take my finger off the pause button. That’s right, I’ll ease back into writing stuff that you may or may not read. Super. I know you were crying for my return.

WG

Dirtbaggers’ Guide To COVID-19(Boredom) Survival

We have all been gifted some time to dream sweet adventure dreams and plan for the next big trip, assuming the world doesn’t erupt into a fiery deathcano in the next few weeks, thanks to COVID-19. Here are a few helpful ideas to help you navigate through the Coronapocalypse…

  • Follow all WHO and CDC Guidelines regarding the COVID-19 virus. This is a good starting point. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Drivetrain Cleaning Time! It seems like no matter how often it happens or how thorough you think you have cleaned your drivetrain, there is always some more grime hiding in there somewhere. Check to see if you need new cables, or if your rear derailleur jockey wheels are in need of service or replacement, pull apart and clean your cassette, put some fresh grease upon all the greasy spots. Time to lean, Time to clean (your bike).
  • Rig Picture Time! Unpack your entire dirtbagging rig, lay it out, and take one of those “here’s all my stuff I take on trips” pictures. I’ve always meant to do so, might be time for that.
  • Gear Inspection & Cleaning Time! While you have your entire bike unpacked it’s a perfect time to inspect everything and see what needs to be cleaned, serviced, or replaced.
  • Gear Prioritizing Time! What has been hiding out for years in your bags that has never seen one use? Do you need it? Could that space be better used for something else?
  • New Gear Time! Have you always wanted some custom bags made? Now is probably a great time to start talking to one of the many bike bag makers out there about some custom jobs. I’m certain they would welcome the work, times are tough all over.
  • Trip Planning Time! We all dream about the next adventure, start putting it on paper. Selecting actual dates may be a little difficult at this time, but you can still look up routes or use an app like ridewithgps to make your own (or link a few together).
  • Start A Blog! No, really. You should have your own personal blog site in which to keep a record of your dirtbagging adventures, and to share with your friends. Don’t worry about followers or analytics or anything like that, just register a free blog site at WordPress or Blogger or something similar and start writing the story of your travels.
  • Help Out Your LBS Time! Get ahold of your LBS, many are doing curbside pick up sales and maintenance. Now is the time to send your bike off to the shop for some TLC if you don’t feel like tearing everything apart your own damn self. 2020 Pro Tip: you can now tip your mechanics in beer OR toilet paper. They are equal in value.
  • Be Safe Time! Most of all, please be safe and considerate of others in this contentious time.

There you have it, a few helpful ideas to help you pass the time. More on some of these too, I’m being summoned to go hike some rocks or something.

DC