Saturday, September 26, 2020

Post Derecho Ride on the Chichaqua Valley Nature Trail

Today's long ride was on the wonderful Chichaqua Valley Nature Trail.  We usually do this trail few times every year and this would be our second time in 2020, my third time this year, and our first since the Derecho knocked down and uprooted thousands of trees on this 20 mile long trail.  The trail was closed for weeks as the damage took a lot of time and resources to clean up and make the trail rideable again.

We started at the original trailhead east of Bondurant, Iowa, and rode all the way to the end at Baxter, Iowa.  It was a windy day with a strong wind from the south and later SSW with gusts over 30 mph.  But this kept us cool as it was forecasted to be a day in the upper 80s to low 90s.  The crosswind was favorable for us on the trip to Baxter.

The first 3 miles of the Chichaqua Trail is under a canopy of trees.  Since it is autumn the trail was covered with beautiful leaves and I regret not stopping at the time to photograph them.  After all, we were heading downhill with the wind at our backs.  

The beauty of the trail was marred by the extensive tree damage.  The closer we got to Mingo, Iowa, the more pronounced the damage was.  Mary mentioned that she worried about the loss of habitat for the birds that live there.   They will have to share next year.  The shoulders of the trail were littered with downed trees, many split in half and others cut and moved off the trail near where they fell.  The Chichaqua Trail has always had steep drop offs next to the shoulder that could seriously injury a hapless cyclist that somehow and for whatever reason rode off the trail into the ravine.  Now that injury may include impalement.  What out and ride accordingly!

From the park shelter in Mingo, one of many split trees.  Of note, the kybo is there and the water fountain works but the bottle filling machine is not working.  There is a water faucet next to the shelter that is operation.

Lots of this...

And this.  Lots of sticks on the shoulder.

The ball diamond in Mingo.

Soft shoulder falling in.
Another bridge that got hit.  Railing damage.

This bridge railing took a beating!

It was good to see the farmers harvesting their crops!!

Some of the structures on the trail were damaged as well.  The long bridge crossing the South Skunk River had a significant section of its railing destroyed.  Another bridge closer to Mingo was damaged.  Fencing at the baseball diamond in Mingo was also knocked down.

The trail itself is fine.  We did encounter a section of shoulder that appears washed away but not even a percent as bad as back in 2008.  The equipment used to remove the downed trees left a few marks and piles of gravel from the shoulder in various locations.  Just keep a look out.  Dangerous places such as damaged bridges and shoulder cave ins are marked with orange snow fence and barricades.

Tree damage becomes more visible near Baxter.  Just inside town a large pile of trees and limbs awaits their fate.  This collection seemed to be the size of a house perhaps bigger.  We rode to the caboose at the trailhead and then to Kountry Korner convenience store for hydration needs.  We laid our bicycles on the grass as it was so exposed to the wind which seemed to be over 20 mph sustained and 50 mph gusts (my phone said 17 mph and 73*F) to prevent the inevitable fall over.  I also checked radar just in case a storm was approaching.  Nope, just wind.

We took our road bikes today and saw many riders on a variety of bicycles including a lot of skinny bikes as one would call them. Everyone was in a great mood and smiling and nobody seemed concerned about trail conditions.

PS  They best thing we saw was a squirrel running down the trail with an ear of corn in his/her mouth like a dog carrying a stick!  Roundup Ready this squirrel was!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Tomorrows Bicycle: Domane SL 5

If anything good came out of 2020 it's this, Mary and I got new road bikes.

Obligatory photo at the Casey's near the Summerset Trail in Carlisle, Iowa.  Started this with our tandems years ago.  Here is the Class of 2020.

A decade or so ago I said that my dream bicycle would be a 16 lb road bike with dual suspension.  This month I came very close to that goal.  18+ lb.  Well, it's been 13 years and time for a new road bike.  Once again I found myself flush with cash from a career change and looking at topless cars.  No true, there was a legitimate need for a quality road bike purchase in 1994 as mine was a built from the bin with a spray painted frame a friend gave me.  But in 2007 and 2020 I was test driving convertibles.  Technology changes a lot in 26 years.  I'm excited about 2033!

Domane is an anagram for Madone, Trek's flagship model.  Also it the plural form of the Italian word "domani" which means "tomorrow."  Trek's other road bike series is called "Emonda," another Madone anagram.

1994 old school carbon "screw 'n glue" 3 carbon tubed triathlete bicycle with integrated brake/shifters (Ergo not STI as Campagnola was trying to break into Shimano's jackbooted dominance of the component market) 8 speed cassette.

2007 full carbon frame with 10 speed and STI since the Ultegra/105 was the option for those willing to spend 2K not 3K.  Lighter and more of an upright position my LeMond became my "Century Machine" for 100+ mile rides

2020 full carbon frame 11 speed built in dual suspension "endurance" road bike with the ability to fit 38's if the need ever emerged.

The changes in technology and categories from 2007 to 2020 are mainly the continued movement to a more comfortable all around bicycle.  Disc brakes became the standard despite the additional weight.  Not that I was in the market for them, road calipers have never been an issue for me as the pads are simple to change.  But with a new niche to fill between pure racing bikes and the new market of "gravel" bicycles require disc brakes because of wider tires.  The "endurance bike" subgroup of road bikes is one that is filled with bicycles with wide tires.  Wider tires are more comfortable and are rumored not to slow the rider down.  The Domane is no exception.  Introduced in 2012 to take on Specialized's Roubaix on the famed cobblestones of the European racing scene, the bicycle has clearance both in the fork and in the rear triangle.  Room for 700x35 but 38's have been used!  The Domane like the Roubaix has internal suspension for both the front and rear end of the bike.

Big cables sticking out the front of the bike are not unlike radar antennas cropping out of this night fighter.  Aerodynamic drag and messy looking.  This was ditched for those hidden in the nose of planes.

The real selling point of the bike is the cleaning up of the shifter and brake cables.  This was my "Clockwork Orange" moment (during Alex's treatment he was forced to listen to his beloved Beethoven and afterwards could never listen to him again).  After looking at the top of the line Treks and a few others I noticed an absence of cables hanging off the front of those bicycles.  When I looked at other bikes I saw cables everywhere.  Once again technology and craft have changed.  My vintage Trek 660 like all road bikes for decades before its arrival has brake cables sprouting out of the top of the brake hoods.  My 2001 Cannondale RT3000 (Ultegra STI) and my 2007 LeMond (105 STI) have their shifter cables protruding out the inside of the brake/shifter combo like some WWII German night fighter.  I have a mountain bike from the 1990s and a hybrid from 2007 that have 3 exposed cables on the very top of the top tube like some junkyard bicycle themed guitar.  I also have several bikes with cables slung underneath the top tube which get pressed against the frame if hung on certain bike racks.  Of course almost every one of my bikes have the two cables along the bottom of the downtube on their way to the derailleurs.

Shimano did finally route the STI shifter cables underneath the handlebar wrap but near the stem they emerge with the brake cables like a grill.  What Trek and a few others have recently done is to carefully hide those cables inside the frame and fork of the bike itself.  Integrated handlebars route the cables inside and down the stem on high end models. The Domane has some cable exposure at the end of the bar wrap near the stem but the cables then go into the frame just behind the stem.  And after seeing the absence of cables every time I look at a bicycle I see cables.

But the cable routing issue goes back to the bicycle manufacturer.  It is up to them to fully embrace and sort out the details with intelligence.  I notice now that some bikes have internal routing but the cables enter the frame in poor locations such as on the downtube far behind the headtube.  Others on the side of the headtube or on the downtube close to the welds where it connects to the headtube.  Results are the same, cables everywhere.

80's vintage Trek 660 languishing in restoration.  Classic example of brake cables protuding from the top of the brakehoods.

Tiagra 10 speed shifter and brake cables emerging from underneath the bar wrap and forming a grill of sorts before venturing down the tubes to their rightful components.

2020 Liv Avail2 showing how its internal cable routing enters the frame.  The derailleur cables enter the headtube while the rear brake cable enters the side of the downtube.  The front brake cable just hangs until it is ZipTied to the fork.

The original Trek carbons had the rear brake cable routed through the lugs and top tube.  Photo is of the rear.  Not a bad design and it offers a "clean" line from the brake lever to the rear caliper.  I purchased this bike new in 1994 and I have never had this cable or housing replaced.  Just brake pads.  Thousands of miles on this bicycle.

The front lug of the Trek 2200 with the rear brake cable entering the frame.  Of note is the sloppy wiring of the rear cadence cable for the Cateye computer.  New threadless stem adapter and stem have arrived so this mess will be corrected on some rainy day.

This is the #2 reason I prefer Ergo over STI back in the day.  Shimano took at least a decade to learn and produce a shifter cable that could be routed underneath the bar wrap instead of protruding out into the open.  IF I can find a pair built for triples I'd buy them.

My 1996 Trek 950 was my first bike with the "banjo" routing system on the top of the top tube.  Both derailleur cables and rear brake cable.

My Winter Bike.  In 2007 the "banjo" system was still around for my FX 7.5.  Front derailleur cable is gone because I removed the front derailleur as it got destroyed every winter.  I imagine that fenders may have kept the derailleur cleaner but winter is very hard on bicycles that average over 100 per week commuting.  Less work to do around Thanksgiving to prep this ride for winter.

All four of the Domane SL 5's cables enter the bicycle just behind the stem on the head tube. The cable for the front disc brake exits from the inside of the left fork blade just above the brake mechanism.  The other three are routed inside the down tube exiting at appropriate position near their components.  All cables are in cable housing until they are within the devise they operate.

First Impressions

Beautiful bicycle IMHO.  Really wanted the "Purple Flip" frame but that was no longer available in my size.  2020 bicycles are rare as production stopped early because of the Novel Covid-19 pandemic.  If one failed to by the bike they wanted by mid-April they would be hard pressed to find it in August.  White was available but that's possibly my least favorite color for bikes.  A step down to the SL4 offered a black frame with cool decals but Bike World said one my size would not be in until November.  I said thank you and walked back to my vehicle and after some thought and input from my loving wife we went back in, after purchasing a mask from Casey's, to look at the Orange/Lithium Gray model available in my size.  She liked it.  BW called their sister store to make sure it was there and then ordered it to be delivered to the Urbandale location by Tuesday when I said "I'll be back" for pick up.  Sure enough it was there on Tuesday.  When greeted at the door I told the woman at the front and she looked it up and said "who!"  Apparently she liked the bike, too.

The weight issue.  The SL 5 seems a bit heavy compared to the LeMond.  Disc brakes and larger frame.  More carbon was used to make the frame.  Most noticeably is the front end.  The headtube is almost 3" wide to make room for the IsoSpeed suspension system and room for cables.  The Lemond is less than 2" and the 1994 Trek is barley 1.5".  Trek claims that the aerodynamic improvements in the frame more than compensate for the weight gain.

First ride was Wednesday morning before work.  Just a 5 miler.  Had to remove pedals from the Trek 660, awaiting restoration.  The first thing that struck me was the width of the front tire.  BIG!  700x32 clincher mounted on a tubeless ready wheel.  Looking at it while riding reminded me my old Schwinn Caliente 10 speed from my childhood.  Strange, my touring bikes have wider tires and drop bars but the fact that the Domane is not a touring or gravel rig put the 32 in a different context.  Then the ride.  Smooth.  Bumps, cracks, tree debris and whatever I rode over were muted out.  Tires or the suspension system or both I do not know except that the bike handles rough roads with the smoothness of 70's era full size sedan and the precision of a Porsche.  I could feel the wheels rolling over something but it was not jarring and the bike did not bounce.  Well done Trek, well done.

Thursday and Friday I increased miles and did a route/loop I have been doing almost every morning.  Felt great.  Saturday was a 30 miler out in the country on paved roads with hills and Mary rode along with me to check it out and offer advice.  A notoriously bumpy section of pavement of Evergreen Ave near Easter Lake offered good test.  There's a short decrease in elevation and a lengthily flat for big ring action.  The pavement, asphalt with chip rocks, is showing its age.  Need to watch the line but DAMN the speed one can get here is wonderful!  Kick in the jets and ride past the lake!  Today was no different and the roughness of the road disappeared as the bike ate it up!

There is a short series of hills after we turn left and head to SE 45th to climb the hill on the way to Army Post Rd.  It is fairly long and steep.  Got to the top without issue or the need shift very often.  Once on top I glanced at my cassette to see how many gears I had left.  It was a surprise to count how many were left, possibly 5 or 6 and the real big cogs had yet to be used.  Granted that the Domane has an 105 11 speed but after years of riding the 2200's 8 now 9 speed cassette and the LeMond's 10 speed with optional granny 30T chainring but much tighter cassette range I was impressed.  Warren County is up next for hill climb testing.

Last week I did 76 miles on the Raccoon River Valley Trail on the Domane.  Some sailing again although the section from Herden to Cooper is VERY rough with full width deep cracks across the trail.

A note about the suspension.  I found myself riding over conditions that I would have avoided on other bikes.  This caused some concern about Mary following me.  Although her roadie has 32's she might not be able to see the condition of the road that I covered on a bike built to handle such adverse conditions.

The Glove Box

I have been saying this for years, with all the ability to form and mold both aluminum and carbon fiber why not create a space inside the frame for stowing necessities?  The biggest waste of space on a bicycle is the inside the tubes.  Sure, frame bags are available but I find they detract from the beauty of a bicycle and make crosswinds less fun.  Make the tubes a bit wider and put a door on it.  Specialized offers a box like thing that fits above the BB and between the down tube and seat tube (see link below).  Trek, on select models including the Domane, actually put access on the downtube.  They also proved a tool bag that holds a tube, CO2 cartridges, tire levers and a multi-tool as well as snacks.  Since the cables are in housing there is no issue of interference as long as items are in the bag and the tube is not overstuffed.  My frame is on the small size because I am short but I can stash 3 airplane bottle bottles of booze in the frame.  With autumn here I am considering stuffing a light jacket or sleeves inside the compartment.

Domane v LeMond

After 150 miles on the new bike I busted out the LeMond for a spin.  It felt like it was on rails.  Not in a bad way but fast.  The Versailles is noticeably lighter than the Trek.  Lighter frame, caliper brakes, no monster cassette on back. Was the ride harsher?  Definitely felt the road a lot more.  Feedback, is that what they call it?  But the Lemond felt faster from the start.  But the true test will be a century.  Now if the rain and family and work obligations would ever end...And then I discovered the possible advantage the Versailles has over the Domane: tires.  Not the size but the pressure.  When it was time to add more air to the Domane's tires I noticed that 70 psi was the recommended high.  The Versailles' tires have 100 psi minimum.  This will be addressed soon as sacrificing comfort for speed should not be a big issues for a bike that has "dual suspension."


I did a bit of research before making my purchase.  The internet and the covid lockdown gave me the time.  First I checked out all the websites of local bike shops to see what was available.  I looked at Specialized and Salsa but really did not see anything that caught my eye.  It's all form and function, beauty and performance.  AND PRICE!  Stopping at Barr Bike I spotted a beautiful Cannondale left over from 2019 that called my name.  That was difficult to pass up.  I've been looking at Vitus bicycles from the UK website that I purchased my Verenti Substance gravel bike from and liked what they offered and the efficiency of their website and the purchases I have made from them. But here are a few of the "almost mine."

The 2020 Gios Vintage Veloce.  10 speed Campagnola groupo on a steel frame with traditional racing geometry.  I would love to have this but I already have several with similar set ups.

2019 Cannondale Synaspe Ultregra. Why do women's' bikes have the best colors?  Spotted this one hanging at Barr Bicycle whispering to me "take me home, take me home."  Fell in love with the color.  I would have exchanged the saddle and given it to Mary for the touring tandem since hers is old and worn.  But see the cable near the drop going into the top tube and the one hanging from the bars and disappearing into the fork?  After looking at the Domane and top of the line Treks I cannot unsee those cables.  But it was so very close to becoming my bike.

Vitus Zenium CR.  Great paint scheme.  The men's' version has the teal and black reversed on the frame.  With so many bikes going with stealth black or grey I found myself looking at brighter colors.  Not the lightest but a touch over 18 lbs.  From Wiggle/Chain Reactions Cycles in the UK, pay the extra $6.34 in shipping and it will arrive by the end of the week.  They pay the tariff.  In the end despite looking at Vitus bikes for a few years, I wanted a local bike.  Also the cable issue.

Further Reading

Specialized Roubiax v Trek Domane

Scott Foil 2021

TdF Fastest Aero Bikes

Monday, September 7, 2020

ISO The Red Prairie Trail Where the Buffalo Roam.

A few weeks ago I glanced at the 2020 Edition of the Greater des Moines Regional Trails map that the Bicycle Collective puts out.  The small folded map available at bike shops hand out and the kiosks on Gray's Lake offer for free.  Something in my memory about "37 changes" for 2020 when I obtained mine most likely at the Bike Expo.  Not that I need one but I like to have them to hand out to new members of the cycling community.  A small section shows the entire metro region and for 2020 there is a new trail connecting Mitchellville to Lake Red Rock.  What really caught my eye was the "anticipated completion summer 2020."  Well, summer ends in less than a month, let's see for ourselves.

Red Prairie Trail in yellow.  Do I ever see loops when this is completed.

We loaded the Fisher tandem into the CR-V and drove to Prairie City.  A short drive from Des Moines and right off of Highway 163.  Once there it was time to find it.  No Joy.  Searched by the elevator assuming that the trail would use the defuncted rail line.  No.  Headed east on old 163 where said railroad used to be.  Nothing.  So we gave up.  Obviously, a typo on the map.   Plan B: ride elsewhere.  Had we more time and had eaten lunch we would have taken the county highways to Monroe or Mitchellville but alas...

Since we were already in the area we chose the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge renown for its herd of bison.  We parked at the first pull off kiosk where parking was available and took off on the tandem.  There are like lanes on both sides of the road.  From where we parked it was 4.5 miles to the Visitor's Center.  
Love the color of the beans this time of year.  We remove the wheels from the tandem before turning it upside down and placing it in the center of the CR-V.  All doors and windows can shut once loaded.

This would be our first venture on the tandem since May when we did the Kewash Trail so it took a bit of time adjusting to it.  Having recently putting a few thousand miles on singles and lately brand new high tech roadies the tandem took sometime to get reacquainted.  Wow, the handlebars are wider!  The brakes are weak!  OMG we are hitting 30 mph without effort!  Going to get a hill workout!  That was within the first 1/2 mile.  By mile 2 I had the gear shifting on hills working properly.  How long have we ridden this bike?  29 years.

The road was smooth, the bike lane clean, traffic very very light.  Shame it was such a short trip.  Sadly, the visitors center was closed, covid.  Also sad was the fact that the gravel trails were meant for pedestrians.  Oh well.  We could have taken the "auto route" but the dust clouds from SUVs on those gravel roads was not inviting.  Journey back to our Honda.

From a distance with the naked eye this looked like an average Iowa herd of cattle.  But there was a lookout point with a pair of binoculars and I took this photo by placing my camera to one of the eye ports.  These are buffalo.

In Prairie City at the park and start of the Plainsman Trail. Mary and I plus our new friend.

Took this photo almost as an after thought.  Did a U-turn on the grass with the tandem.  Crunchy.  Drought!

It was decided that a treat at Casey's was in order so we blasted past our vehicle and headed into town.  Here we stopped at the bison statue and then rode on the Plainsman Trail in Prairie City.  Not much of a trail but nice for the people of that town.  Perhaps it will be connected to the red prairies Trail.

Further Reading