Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Stay Away From Me If You're Contagious - Gravel Worlds 2020 Virtual

It takes two to make a thing go right
It takes two to make it outta sight
It takes two to make a thing go right
It takes two to make it outta sight
Hit it!

Photo Aug 22, 7 06 54 PM

Photo Aug 22, 11 38 43 PM


Last Saturday would have been the 11th running of the always well attended Gravel Worlds race out of Lincoln Nebraska. It would have also been the 6th consecutive time racing it for me personally. Things being what they are currently you might as well just clear the day planner for this year and try again next year. However not all was lost, instead of large crowds and potential exposure, Gravel Worlds opted to do their race virtual like many other events have done in previous months. The virtual format seems to be working fairly well, it's no replacement for an actual event with the gravel family but it is far superior to nothing at all and it still seems to draw in quite a few participants who ride/race on their own or in small groups.

Rob Base was perhaps an unknown prophet from way back in 1988 when shared some valuable and insightful lyrics that might as well be the tagline for the year that has been 2020, "stay away from me if your contagious". He also proclaimed that "it takes two to make things go right". Not wanting to discount his prophecy, it was decided last Friday that we would attempt to ride the 75 mile Privateer on a tandem. This plan was of course contingent on us actually finding a tandem to use. You see, neither of us owns a tandem and neither of us had ever ridden a tandem together at all, ever... let alone 75 miles, in August, on gravel, through the Bohemian Alps. As luck would have it we were able to borrow a tandem from Paul and Jes, game on! Even thought the bike had been secured the plan could have still gone off the rails at any of the remaining steps that we had to navigate to enable us to actually get the bike to the gravel. On Saturday we drove to pick it up, crammed it in the back of a Toyota 4 Runner and when I say crammed I mean crammed, the thing barely fit in the back with the wheels off. Fit it did however so we were still on track to start this crazy endeavor on Sunday morning, who needs practice. I mean it is as easy as riding a bike after all. 



Being a borrowed bike it wasn't the ideal setup for us and we tried to change as little as possible yet make it work for us. A raise of a saddle here, lowering of a saddle there, tweak this slightly and that ever so slightly and we were set  to sail from Fallbrook a little bit past 9:30 am. An hour a wee bit more of a reasonable for starting out than the pirates usually allow. We did take a few laps around the building before heading out just to make sure we had any hope of not falling over immediately. As it turned out those two laps were so confidence inspiring that we proceeded to go find the gravel seas and start this adventure.


Photo Aug 23, 10 45 38 AM

Photo Aug 23, 10 45 25 AM

We made the 10 miles out to Malcolm without any real issues and tackled some decent hills on McHILLvie Road (McKelvie for those not familiar with Lincoln) and we were feeling pretty good about actually being able pulling this off for 75 miles. Just to ward off any bad juju we opted to sacrifice a couple of adult beverages to the bike Gods in hopes that they would continue to bring us luck. We did make a few more minor adjustments to the bike while in Malcolm, I mean the best time to do those things is after you've cracked open an adult beverage, seems silly to do it before. 

Photo Aug 23, 10 24 11 AM


While in Malcolm we also ran into Jason (of the Gravel Worlds team fame and course designer for 2020) and his wife, Annie, who were riding the Buccaneer. We tried the official Privateer course last week before we had to tuck tail and run from the storms at mile 40 and decided that going to official course was probably not in our best interests on a tandem. This week we decided to modify our route quite a bit from original, the original course was setup before it was turned into a virtual race so SAG stops would have been on the course for the actual race had it happened. However there weren't going to be any SAG stops out there on Sunday so instead we rerouted a couple of turns here and there to make it a tour of small town Nebraska. In all we had a town ever 10-15 miles just in case we needed them for resupply, a break down or we decided after riding the tandem that we just didn't want to be near each other anymore and needed someone to come get us; perhaps in separate vehicles... I've heard of such things happening with others who have tempted the bike with two seats. Our newly modified tour included Malcolm, Garland, Dwight, Valparaiso, Davey and Raymond in a big loop so we'd still see our fair share of elevation but I felt it wasn't going to kill us.


Hopefully this is not the skull of the last person attempting the route on a tandem.


Photo Aug 23, 12 04 10 PM


Sidewalks were all rolled up in Garland on Sunday so we just sat in the shade by the old Bank for a bit enjoying the day, the views and the slight breeze before shoving off toward Dwight.  





Shortly after Garland we started hitting the MMRs, those were fun! I initially just let go of the brakes and bombed the first one, I mean if you're going to crash you might as well do it in spectacular fashion... yard sale anyone?  I think my co-pilot was less sure about the tandem skills I'd acquired from just a few hours of riding. Either that or the record was skipping because it was a lot of the same one or two word sentences on rapid repeat all the way down the first few hills. After safely, if not smoothly, navigating the first MMR we opted for a beer stop in the shade to make sure the needle on the record player was clean to avoid skipping anymore tracks in the future. Surprisingly those huge 200 mm rotors on both the front or back did not slow the Powderkeg as quickly as I had hoped they would so braking had to be planned well in advance, butt puckering could however be applied instantaneously and sometimes was.   





Photo Aug 23, 1 31 57 PM

Mile 30 and we rolled into Dwight Nebraska and decided to grab something cold to drink at Pivo's Tavern, the Coke and the PBR hipster coffee really hit the spot and lifted our spirits. Temps were starting to climb into the mid 90s and the breeze was very slight so it did not do much to cool us down at all. We ended up staying a little longer than I think we had planned on but we struck up a conversation with a very chatty local and we sort of lost track of time.



The Bohemian Alps were a bit of a test of our resolve and teamwork but I think we sailed right through them with flying colors. A big help for both of us was that we are both regular gravel fat bike riders, riding a tandem up hills is a very similar feel to pushing a big wheeled bicycle up those same hills. Oddly, even though the effort was similar, the legs felt much fresher during the entire ride and even after we finished they seemed fresher than they usually do after coaxing the fat bike down the same roads. 










By the time we rolled into Valparaiso at mile 40 the party had already started and we had to pull over because of the traffic jam. All kinds of old farm tractors that had been fully restored rolled down the main drag, the parade probably carried on like this for 15 or so minutes, there were that many farm tractors.


While moms and dads watched the farm tractors the little ones frolicked in the local park where it seemed like the sprinklers being on was a regular occurrence. I suppose it might be more water efficient than a cement water feature in terms of evaporation. I had never seen this done before but it seemed like an ordinary Sunday thing here.



More miles of MMRs awaited us after Valparaiso but as we began our way out of the Bohemian Alps  we were all smiles with the knowledge that the worst of the hills were now behind us. I'm not sure why the tandem gets such a bad rap, I had an absolute blast on the thing.


Photo Aug 23, 5 10 01 PM

Mile 60 saw us in Davey Nebraska and the Davey Tavern, we stuck around here for a little bit enjoying a cold beverage, some much needed A/C and we got mesmerized watching the crazy finish to game 4 of the Mavericks vs. Clippers series. Last second, three point buzzer beater to keep the game from going into double overtime and tying the series at 2 apiece, if I was more of a basketball fan this might have been a bigger deal but it was still somewhat exciting to watch none-the-less.  


While the bike was good and the partner was great, I think we were both ready for the ride to be over after 60 miles in the heat so we didn't stop in Raymond but just kept on chucking back to Lincoln and the finish. These two were with us all day, like a tandem of tandems.

Photo Aug 23, 7 08 02 PM

Photo Aug 23, 7 59 36 PM

Photo Aug 23, 8 09 12 PM

For our troubles I ended up with a sweet dirt tan, a cold beverage, a great meal and fantastic memories of my first ever tandem Gravel Worlds. I've always had a thing for tandems and have wanted one for years but could never find anyone insane or trusting enough to copilot with me. In an already crazy year, I can not think of a better odd ball bike to complete the Gravel Worlds virtual on than a bicycle built for two. 

All in all I think we did really well for our very first time on that bike and our very first time riding tandem together, in all honesty it was only my second time ever riding a tandem. We ended the day with a tad over 76 miles in 5 hours and 46 minutes of moving time for an average of right around 13.2 mph. We won't talk about the total time, I knew with that many towns to stop in it was going to be an all day adventure but that was fine since it wasn't a race against anyone else anyway. While it was a great day on the bike I really hope next year we can get back to the same old Gravel Worlds event that we have come to expect and love. See you all there hopefully but in the meantime get out and get your own GW virtual done before the end of the month. Don't forget to donate too, we are so close to having the money needed to build the Randy Gibson memorial seating area at the trail head in the new South Haymarket Park. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Elec-tric-al Banana Is Gonna Be A Sudden Craze

Photo Aug 15, 6 46 17 AM


Last Saturday was the redo date for the 17th annual Wear Yellow Nebraska ride, pushed back from May. I managed to borrowed a titanium Bearclaw Bicycle Co,. Frank, fat bike for the ride, this bike is really a fat bike in name and  tire size only. This beast might weigh pretty close to what the Giant Revolt weighs, it would give it a good run for it's money anyway. I still had to push those massive 27.5 x 4" tires for 56 miles but it was almost like cheating.

Photo Aug 15, 6 40 43 AM

With the mass start being pulled for this year, we sort of milled around the vehicles in the parking lot waiting for the rest of our group to make an appearance.


Of course no Wear Yellow would be complete without a banana incident and 2020 was no exception. I'm not entirely sure how it all started but it dates back to 2017 and has continued every year since, we were short one Carlos so we had a stand in banana hand.





A tiny bit of pavement and we were out on the gravel and a few MMRs in no time, weather was almost perfect for August with low temps, low humidity and gentle breezes.


If there was one hit on the course, it would be the lack of towns or places to get water and food, there were no actual stops on the route at all and only two towns that we rolled through. I know that gravel is often touted as self supported and for the most part it is, we require little to no SAG support but 56 miles without a town is long haul. We veered off course in Elmwood and took advantage of the Co-Op for a little sustenance and happened upon this cool old Chevy to boot.




Closed bridges can only mean one thing, bridge beers, Busch Lattes to be exact, sipped from a silicone drinking receptacle, because COVID has made us classy AF.


Fear not, there were much better adult beverages consumed also, we aren't animals after all but the Co-Op in Elmwood was heavy on Busch and a little light on craft.



A few more miles down the road and the 2020 edition of WYR was in the books. Pics might make it look like we meandered along but I can tell you, that pace was plenty brisk. Ended up with about a 14.9 mph average for the ride which I was pretty surprised by considering that the Frank is a fat bike. For comparison, I finished the Solstice Quarantine race on the Revolt a few weeks back with a 15.1 mph average, so about 2/10 ths of a mph difference between 42mm and 4" tires. I'll take it! Frank was a great riding buddy, speedy, stable, rolled over anything and comfy to boot, not sure I have Ti money but if I did...