Archive for the ‘Road Cycling’ Category

Chris King To Host “Gourmet Century” In Oregon

June 7, 2009


From the lovely state of Oregon comes news of Chris King’s plans to host another event involving food. (For those of you that don’t know, Chris King is a food afficianado of the highest order, and a pretty dang good cook to boot!)

 Chris King will host his first Gourmet Century in Oregon on October 17th of

this year. Registration for the event opened Monday June

1st and is limited to 350 participants. Chris King would  enjoy having you attend the event and ride the

fantastic roads of his beloved home state of Oregon.

In previous years, The Gourmet Century has hosted riders with themes

such as Italian Cucina, Salsa!, Greek, Country French and Pacific

Rim. This year’s theme, which was  revealed on Monday, the opening of registration,  celebrates the

cuisine and culture of Spain. The event also benefits the Livestrong


Check out this link for more information:

Trans Iowa V5:“Beyond The Rocks, Dust, and Dirt”

May 6, 2009

Photos by Guitar Ted and Corey “Cornbread” Godfrey

Trans Iowa V5, the fifth running of the ultra endurance cycling event run around on Iowa’s back roads, is over. The reports are coming in from the event’s participants, and in all I would have to say it was a grand success. The question that many outside the circle of “gravel culture” may have is, “Why?” Actually, that is a great question, and one that is still being answered.

 “There are plenty of races out there anyone can finish, it is nice to have some out there like TI to keep posers like me in their place.”

                                                             Jim McGuire, 5 time Trans Iowa participant.

 Known to racers as “TI”, “The Trans-Iowa”, or as something that haunts their unconscious mind until they tame the beast, Trans Iowa has been something of a cult. It seems to be a passion that is hard to explain to others unless they have been bitten by the bug that infects the soul of any who dare to toe the line at the late spring event.  

 With that in mind, let’s take a look at the running of T.I.V5 and perhaps you will see a hint of just what it is about this event that elicits such a passionate outflow of training effort, determination during the event, and praise of the event and fellow participants afterwards. 


The backroads of Iowa offer unique challenges

The backroads of Iowa offer unique challenges



So, you show up for a 300 plus mile event, and you do not know the course, or exactly where you are going. It is discovered along the way. Faith or craziness?

 The course must be completed within 34 hours and each checkpoint has time cutoffs. Riders often do not have time for anything other than a quick stop to refuel or exchange clothing layers. Checkpoints are at convenience stores, and convenience stores are on the route, but the riders must use their own judgment to resupply or not. No services are supplied by the race promoters.

 The roads are mostly crushed limestone and are dotted with sections called “B-Maintenance” roads that are usually nothing more than a dirt slot graded into Iowa’s rich soil. Hills and flats intermix to create a mosaic of pain that many riders find not only a great challenge, but a surprising and intoxicating mix.


“ Bravo for creating, developing, and continually enhancing such a masterpiece that is the Trans-Iowa. I have been around cycling for 30 years and the Trans-Iowa is to my mind the most incredible citizen’s event in USA cycling.”

                                                                                                            Charlie Farrow, 6th place finisher of T.I.V5

This year saw 52 participants take the rolling controlled start at 4am Saturday, May 2nd under starlit skies. The opening salvos of the event were rather flat or gently rolling hills. Iowa has a reputation for being somewhat of a flat state, but that notion would soon be laid to rest not long after Checkpoint #1 had been passed.

 At about mile 65, the riders turned north at a town named North English where the big, incessant rollers started in earnest. The grade is steep, and one hill follows another with no respite. The roads were also interspersed with several of the infamous “B Maintenance” sectors that give one a feeling of remoteness and a hint of what our predecessors had to deal with in their Conestoga wagons 175 years ago. Although mud was at a minimum, the rutted, uneven surface of some of the B roads was difficult enough to force riders to walk the climbs.

 Added to any Trans Iowa event is the wild card of weather. Sometimes the weather is such a factor that it precludes the possibility of any finishers at all, (Trans Iowa V2), or severely limits the amount of finishers and truncates the planned course (Trans Iowa V4). This year the weather was a benign factor for the most part with the exception of a stiff afternoon breeze on Saturday that happened to coincide with the riders traveling the part of the loop that caused this wind to be at their faces. The resulting mix of headwind, bright sunlight, hills, loose gravel, and B Maintenance roads was too much for a great part of the field. Only 25 riders would leave Checkpoint #2 due to others missing the time cut off, or “DNF-ing” before reaching it. The weather had its say in Trans Iowa V5, albeit in a subtle way.

 Leaving Checkpoint #2 after 151 miles of the course was not an easy decision for some. Over half the course remained, and now it was going on into the dark of night on massive hills, B roads, and more gravel than you can imagine. For a few, the night time was a nightmare.


“What kind of insanity drives one to repeat this back of the woodshed total body beating year after year? That is the question my shivering, pain racked body was screaming at my brain with every turn of the pedals on the long road back to Williamsburg in the wee hours of Sunday morning.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Jim McGuire

      Some “pulled the plug”, some wretched and vomited, some pedaled in a zombie-like haze to the beat of some voodoo playing in their minds. Whatever demons the racers dealt with, we can not totally fathom. However; the results of the pain and misery were evident upon the faces of the competitors as I observed them coming in to Checkpoint #3. Dave Pramann looked like he had aged ten years in the space of 65 miles. Charlie Farrow, whose body shut down on him in-between Checkpoint #2 and #3 limped in and hit the convenience store for much needed fluids and calories. Tim Ek was drenched in sweat and moving gingerly. It was plain that “the pain cave” had been visited somewhere along the way.

 Now moving on into the depths of early Sunday morning, the final 15 riders left in the event forged on in whatever way that they could, relying on each others company to continue on in what would otherwise be a futile attempt to finish the last leg of Trans Iowa V5.


“I honestly don’t know how many people could have finished this entire ride alone. I’m pretty sure there’s no way I could have”

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ben Shockey, fixed gear rider. 11th overall

  The final leg was done by the first three finishers in just under 25 hours. Which was an incredible feat considering the toughness of this particular course. Joe Meiser took the finish line first with Dave Pramann and Tim Ek having made a gentleman’s agreement on the road to tie for 2nd out of respect for their helping each other along the way, both physically by drafting and mentally by just being there.


“I’ll never forget when I was drifting backward after a pull down the line past you and you (Dave Pramann)  looked over at me with a huge smile and we held hands for about five seconds without a word spoken, we were winning the Trans Iowa.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tim Ek, finisher of T.I.V3 and T.I.V5

   Trans Iowa is a bit unique in its own way when you think about how it breaks a person down. The obvious thing is the physical part. The brutality of 300 plus miles of Iowa back roads is not to be taken lightly. However; the mental and emotional part is even more shocking, really. Grown men crying as they sit on the ground at the finish line. Freely given and accepted hugs, handshakes, and words flow amongst competitors and promoters alike. Alliances made upon the road become life-long friendships. It is hard not to feel it well up inside of me even now as I type out this story. Trans Iowa is like that. It gets into you, it breaks you down in my opinion.


“I’m still a bit unglued mentally from it, actually… but in a good way.”

                                                                                         Matt Gersib, 8th overall, T.I.V5

  “When we crossed the finish line and the stories were being told for about 10 minutes, then suddenly, slowly the group started to clap for us. I did all I could to not start crying in front of all of you”

                                                                                           Tim Ek

 So, what is it that gets into you and why? How can it really be explained to those that have not taken on such a challenge? I am sure this bit of writing falls very short of the mark in regards to answering those questions.  I just know that it even has gotten into me, as a promoter/organizer. I can’t tell you how many times I have sworn off ever doing another Trans Iowa event, but somehow the “itch” comes back, and I am not satisfied until I have scratched it. Not just a little bit either, but maybe until it is bleeding. I think that the 15 finishers of Trans Iowa V5 would agree, and that many of the folks that fell short of the challenge would not only agree, but say, “Hell yeah!”  Let’s do this again!


I think maybe it is all summed up in this quote from Ben Shockey: “…thanks doesn’t seem to cut it but it’s all I’ve got right now. You allow us…encourage us to chase a dream no matter how crazy it may seem to others”

That is what motivates me and keeps myself and David Pals doing this year after year. It is why folks come back and do this event year after year, and why new folks come to throw down what they’ve got in the face of this huge challenge that we craft for them. It isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely a life changing experience that all of us involved with Trans Iowa can attest to.


Even though T.I.V5 has just been completed, a T.I.V6 is already in the works. Look for updates on this event at


Pain and suffering are on the menu at Trans Iowa

Pain and suffering are on the menu at Trans Iowa

Mud, dust, rocks, and the weather all conspire against the riders

Mud, dust, rocks, and the weather all conspire against the riders

The technical hard data on this event barely scratches the surface of what takes place out there during a Trans Iowa, but it is important to realize what the challenge is that is faced by anyone that pulls up behind “The Dirty Blue Box” at 4am on Saturday morning. Trans Iowa V5 was a 314 mile long modified loop course run out of and back in to Williamsburg, Iowa. Along the way each rider had to navigate themselves using cue cards provided at the start and at each checkpoint for the following sector of the loop. No one knew where they were going until the evening before when they received the cues for the first 40 miles in to check point #1 at Washington, Iowa.


Tarmac Tales: Where I Stand In The Road

April 29, 2009

As The Cyclist evolves, we will be tweaking the site, adding and subtracting, and making some necessary changes. We will experience growing pains, and we won’t be perfect. One of the first big steps we are going to undertake is the start of coverage on road bikes. You might take notice of the emphasis on “road bikes”. I did not write that we would be covering “road racing bikes” . I think it is a very important distinction, and there are some good reasons for this decision.

First off, there are already a plethora of sites and print media devoted to road racing, it’s machines, and riders. To add another site, or media outlet for such a well documented part of cycling seems to my mind to be a bit silly. I’m sure most reading this would agree with that assessment.

Secondly, road racing and its bikes are not a great solution for most folks cycling needs, in my opinion. I work in a bicycle shop, and I see the ramifications daily of what the outcome of buying in to today’s philosophy and definition of what a road bike is on customers. Ordinary recreational cyclists looking for a fast paced road cycling ride experience are not cut from the same cloth as your typical Pro cycling athletes. Why should they subject themselves to the same sort of fit and performance standards that most road bikes foist upon them?

I think there is a rising awareness of this situation amongst cyclist and manufacturers alike. The resulting bicycles are fast becoming top sellers in their brands lines. Seems obvious to me why, and this is the sort of road bicycle I want to write about and feature on The Cyclist.

My writing has mostly been focused on off road, 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes, and many of you familiar with my work may wonder what in the heck do I know about road bikes anyway. Okay. Fair question.

I would first point out that my bicycle mechanic experiences have taught me much, as I have alluded to already. Furthermore; I am actually a fairly accomplished road rider. I have done several fully loaded and self supported tours, and many road rides around my native Iowa countryside. (You can search for my “Touring Tuesdays  articles on my personal blog, Guitar Ted Productions.) I have ridden parts of many RAGBRAI rides, and did the whole enchilada in 1996. In fact, I wrenched on two RAGBRAI rides as a mechanic, so I have seen that ride from both ends.

So although I am not known for being a road biker, I’ve logged a fair number of rides on tarmac. But road bikes don’t just belong on paved surfaces, and the mixed terrain rides are becoming more and more popular. We’ll be looking in to that sort of thing too. In fact, this is really my cup of tea when it comes to road riding. Going exploring, taking the roads less traveled, and using the right tools for the job.

So come on over and check out The Cyclist if your road riding veers from the mold cast by road racing. Not that there is anything wrong with road racing, but that is just a small part of a much larger road cycling world out there, and that’s where I’ll be going.

New Bike Brand “feepish bikes” Is Announced.

April 28, 2009

I have been promoting this crazy little gravel road race in Iowa for awhile now and through this event I have met several cool individuals. One of these folks is Rusty Kay. Rusty was a guy that made a big impression on me by riding a full on road bike in Trans Iowa while everyone else was riding mountain bikes or cross bikes. (You can catch a glimpse of Rusty on his road bike in this Trans Iowa V2 clip here.) Even more impressive was that he was doing this in conditions that were miserable and unfit for such a rig.

Well, Rusty has decided to start his own road bike brand called “feepish bikes” and will be trotting out some fine Lynskey Performance Design built titanium rigs in the near future.

"feepish bikes" sponsored Trans Iowa V5 with these excellent t-shirts



Stay tuned for updates on “feepish bikes” as we learn more