Foundry Cycles expands its line of performance titanium bikes with the Flyover cyclocross model. In addition to internal cable routing and a slightly higher bottom bracket, the Flyover also features a lightened 44mm headtube and rear flat mount brake. Both of these features aid in keeping the overall weight of the Flyover down.
The Flyover is available both as a frameset—which utilizes Foundry’s custom double and triple butted 3Al/2.5V titanium tubing and includes a Whisky No.9 fork, DT RWS front and rear axles, Cane Creek headset, and a seat collar—and as a complete bike.
The complete version features a SRAM Force 1 drivetrain with HRD hydraulic brakes, DT Swiss R23 wheels, Zipp Service Course SL cockpit, and Clement MXP 33c tires. The frameset and complete bike will retail for $2,595 and $4,695 respectively and will be available in June.
Foundry also updated its Overland, the bike that won the 2015 Gravel World Championships. The bike keeps its custom double butted 3Al/2.5V titanium frame, thru-axles, removable fender mounts, 41c tire clearance and mixed-surface geometry.
The Overland complete build now features a SRAM Rival 22 drivetrain with HRD hydraulic brakes, DT Swiss R24 wheels, Zipp Service Course cockpit, and Clement MSO 40c tires and carries a new reduced price tag of $4,295 (previously $4,695). The Overland is also available as a frameset —which includes a Whisky No.9 fork, DT RWS front and rear axles, Cane Creek headset and a seat collar — for $2,495.
In addition to a spec change and lower price, the Overland also comes in a new Olive Green frame color; with a painted to match Whisky No.9 fork. For longer days in the saddle, Foundry added a third water bottle cage mount to the underside of the Overland’s downtube. Framesets and complete bikes will be available in May.
More information: foundrycycles.com
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #157, published July 2011. Dirt Rag is our sister magazine focused on mountain biking. Check it out. You might like it.
Words by Guitar Ted. Photos by Steve Fuller and Jeremy Kershaw.
Not beholden to any sanctioning body, having devised their own rules, and in a lot of cases with no entry fees, these events are carving out a sub-culture of cycling across the nation. Oh yeah, did I mention that they don’t occur on dirt? Well, there is some dirt! These events take place on the back roads of America. Little-traveled rural by-ways covered mostly in crushed limestone, flint and glacial till. Events most often called “gravel grinders.”
Events are happening on these remote gravel roads that range from fun, “no rider left behind” type rides to all-out, ultra-endurance type events like Trans Iowa, which just completed its seventh running in late April .
Birth of a New Discipline
Trans Iowa is a nutty event, concocted one November day in 2004 by current Topeak-Ergon rider Jeff Kerkove and myself. At the time we worked together in a bicycle shop where, back in the early 1980s, a group of road riders tried to ride across Iowa on pavement in less than a day. That amounted to about 320 miles in less than 24 hours. They actually pulled it off too. We thought, “What if you tried this on gravel roads? What if it was a self-supported ride, similar to the Great Divide Race?” (A monstrous challenge that takes riders down the spine of the Great Divide from Canada to Mexico). We thought we could pull something similar off in Iowa. That was the inspiration for the first Trans Iowa, which took place in April 2005.
Events need rules and ways of doing things. We borrowed heavily from the 24-hour race ethos and from the way events like the Great Divide Race were run. Mike Curiak, the endurance race icon that helped form the “GDR” was tapped for much of the framework for Trans Iowa.
Our rules were pretty simple: Riders had one checkpoint to make at 127 miles where they were allowed support, much like a 24-hour race pit crew, and then they would have to slog out the rest of the cross-state route alone. Re-supplies of water and food could be had by stopping at convenience stores along the route, but hand-ups, aid stations or other roadside support? Nah, not so much! Oh yeah, there were time cut-offs which, if not met, meant you were done. One more thing: If you didn’t make a time cut-off, or were pulling out for any reason, you were on your own. Trans Iowa wasn’t going to bail you out. All navigation was by cue sheet on a route kept secret until the day of the event.
The first event was slated to cover approximately 310 miles and had a time limit of 32 hours. Subsequent Trans Iowa races were even longer. How hard was it? “I knew we had a hard event on our hands when I saw a top Wisconsin cyclist sitting quietly in a convenience store staring with eyes glazed over onto a slice of pizza covered in Cheetos. He didn’t move. He didn’t say a word. He just sat there and stared,” says Jeff Kerkove.
The self-supported, maverick ethos of Trans Iowa is the backbone of many of these and other gravel grinders today. Consider the Almanzo 100, a century-length event in southern Minnesota that had around 400 participants in 2010, and over 700 participants this past May. The Barry-Roubaix in Michigan pulled in 900 riders last March. The Dirty Kanza 200 (featured in Dirt Rag Issue #151) started in 2006 with a handful of riders—this June upwards of 300 riders took part in the grueling 200-mile event in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
The events that follow this style have often simply “cut and pasted” Trans Iowa’s rules right into their own, while others have modified them slightly. One rule that seems to remain constant with all of these events: “You Are Responsible For Yourself.”
With rules set in place, you can have an event with somewhat of a fair playing field, or so you might think. More times than not, weather throws a wrench in the works at Trans Iowa, and windy, wet and wild weather has stopped the event short three times in seven years. Heavy spring rains often turn the dirt roads into sticky, unrideable quagmires. As Kerkove said, “Water usually signifies life. In Trans-Iowa it means things are going to be miserable. Extremely miserable.” Riders seem to take it all in stride, amazingly enough.
“If it’s not rain, it’s wind. If it’s not wind, it’s a batch of crazy farm dogs. If it’s not the dogs … then it’s their owners in their busted-ass pick-up truck. Trans-Iowa might be one of the most unpredictable cycling events on the planet,” says Kerkove.
Lucky Number 7
The seventh running of Trans Iowa was on Easter weekend. Fortunately it didn’t rain, but the previous days of wet weather did make things a bit gooey to start out with. That didn’t deter the record number of Trans Iowa starters from taking to the gravel. At 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, upon the call blown through a Dirt Drop handlebar, the 76 riders set out into the darkness of rural Iowa. Soon enough they would become splattered with grit and mud.
Drivetrains groaned and popped in the extreme conditions. Some actually detonated, a few riders were forced to make their way back to the start only a couple of hours into the event. One such rider, Corey “Cornbread” Godfrey, had his derailleur explode. He managed to limp back to Grinnell, find the local bike shop, get his bike converted to a single speed, and rejoined the race. He was out of contention for an official finish, but he wanted to see the course. So onward he went on his single gear.
As race directors, our job was to drive ahead of the pack to make sure the over 300 miles of roads hadn’t been closed in spots, or that there were no unforeseen dangers. Once, three years ago, we were out ahead of the riders, hacking down fallen trees on the course, re-routing around flash-flooded roads, and eventually had to cut the event short due to a washed-out road a hundred miles from the planned finish. We have our own endurance test. Part rally car drivers, part course checkers, and part rolling race reporters, our job lasts as long as the event.
Wet, seldom maintained “B” roads forced riders to walk mile-long sections. Gusting winds and the never ending parade of steep hills knocked out 34 riders that couldn’t reach the first checkpoint at mile 53 by 9:15 a.m. The remaining riders settled into small groups to work together to navigate by cue sheets to a remote checkpoint at mile 173. The route is essentially a “big assed loop,” as former race director Kerkove put it. Staring in Grinnell, Iowa, we went around clockwise and meandered around until the course eventually went back to Grinnell again. At Checkpoint #2, the riders would be 150 miles away from the start.
As the day wore on, there were more crazy B roads, steep, unrelenting hills and, of course, miles and miles of crushed limestone and chert. Riders either carried their own provisions or stopped at convenience stores to resupply in the occasional small town. Some riders would make navigational errors, causing them to have to retrace their steps back to a known point to get back on course. Even as race directors, my partner, David Pals, and I would often have to stop to try to understand the cues through our own sleep deprivation and confusing county road markers.
By the time Checkpoint #2 had closed at 10 p.m. Saturday evening, 22 riders were still in contention for a finish sometime on Sunday. Darkness wasn’t just falling on the Iowan landscape, but also within each remaining rider’s mind. An internal battle raged within, calling them to quit the madness. Sleep deprivation set in, which only caused more confusion with navigation. Still, on through the night of more hills, B roads and gravel, riders pounded out a rhythm while the stars shone above. A leading pair of riders were chased by a few others still hoping to win, trying to will their minds to stay on task and their bodies to fight through the immense suffering. Other riders were merely looking to finish. Just reaching the end would be counted as a victory.
The main protagonist of the race, a former Trans Iowa winner named John Gorrilla, set an incessant pace. For 190 miles, the chasers tried in vain to track him down, but late in the event John started suffering flat tires. The chasers caught John, and eventually a fifth flat ended his hopes of winning another Trans Iowa. The eventual winner, Dennis Grelk, saw his chance, put in a huge effort and finished an hour ahead of second and third place finishers Tim Ek and Troy Krause.
Slowly over the course of Sunday morning and early afternoon, 15 more riders would overcome the 322.8 mile challenge to finish back where they had started. This included Trans Iowa’s first ever female finisher, Janna Vavra, who came into the finish with just 10 minutes to spare before the final cutoff of 2 p.m.—a full 34 hours since she and fellow racers set out on their rocky, dusty quest.
What about Cornbread? Well, he came rolling in too. Just happy to see what he described as an “awesome course.” He bagged over 310 miles of gravel, and the awe of his fellow Trans Iowa riders.
“It’s like a train wreck in many ways. You can see the imminent disaster coming from a long ways off, the witnesses can’t look away and the participants can’t seem to escape it,” says Grelk.
So, why would anyone want to do something like Trans Iowa? Heck, I don’t know the answer to that. As the organizer of this event, I keep expecting to get punched by a rider, but they keep asking me to put it on again the next year. Even the riders that get knocked out of the event want to keep coming back. It is more than a race, it is an event where folks find a common thread, a bond words cannot describe, forged by suffering and dust. It is said by some that have come to Trans Iowa that it is “Very hard, very special and very beautiful.” Some people I know that don’t do things like Trans Iowa say it is goofy—or worse! The truth is probably found somewhere in between, somewhere off the grid of everyday life, on a lonely gravel road.
For more information on Trans Iowa transiowa.blogspot.com
Gravel Grinder Gear
The bike: While anything and everything is fair game as far as a bicycle goes, (I’ve seen everything from road racing bikes shod with 23 mm tires to Surly Pugsleys), the savvy gravel grinder can usually be found on a cyclocross bike, or a “monster-cross” set-up that accommodates fatter rubber. That said, your mountain bike would do just fine.
Set-up: Typically gravel grinder rigs use cyclocross gearing (46/36), or compact road bike gearing (50/34), but singlespeed is definitely an advantage in less than ideal conditions. Tires don’t need to be huge. Anything from 30 mm to 50 mm covers most rides well. Go skinnier and you’re asking for pinch flats. Drop bars, alt bars like Jones H-bars, and flat bars with aero bar attachments are commonplace. Suspension, while OK, is mostly unnecessary.
Bag it: Gravel grinder folks have taken cues from ultra-endurance racers and bikepacking enthusiasts. Frame bags, top tube bags and oversized seat bags usually allow for any bike to carry as little, or as much, gear as you’ll need. Pro tip: Put your hydration pack bladder in a frame bag to get the weight off your back for the ultra-long rides.
Miscellaneous: Don’t discount riding gravel at night. It’s a blast, and you can do it with a bright commuter light, or makeshift set-up made from LED flashlights on the cheap. Bring rain gear, sunscreen, eyewear, a camera and a good back road atlas. Get out on some gravel and grind!
We’ve published a lot of stuff in 26 years of Dirt Rag. Find more Blast From the Past stories here.Tweet Print
Words and photos by Russ Roca and Laura Crawford
From Issue #28
It was somewhere on a torn-up stretch of Forest Service road, pitted with kiddie-pool-sized craters, that I began to question my commitment to catching fish. What began as a leisurely ride on a crushed gravel trail was turning into a slog through unpaved and unmarked dirt roads filled with baby heads and puddles of indeterminable depth. All this for the faint notion that we might, at the end of the day, get the chance to wave some fly rods over the water.
When I asked Michael, the person responsible for choosing our destination, how he had decided that we should fish this particular creek, he said, “I saw a photo of someone fishing there on Google Maps and it looked pretty nice.” Okay. It wasn’t the most scientific approach, but it was what we had.
Riding the Iron Horse
The Iron Horse is a remarkable rail trail just 30 miles east of Seattle that virtually no one knows about. It is part of a larger trail known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail that crosses the entire state of Washington, along what used to be the old Milwaukee Road rail line. The eastern portion of the trail is undeveloped, with little shade, services, or water; and involves navigating around trestles that no longer exist and passing through unsound tunnels. The western portion of the trail, between Cedar Falls and the Columbia River, has been developed as a multi-use gravel trail.
Laura and I had been dreaming about riding this western portion when, by chance, our friend Jason (from Swift Industries, an independent pannier maker based in Seattle) invited us to join a little gravel grinding fishing trip. We were on the bus to Seattle with our bikes a few days later.
We started our ride at the trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake. From there, the Iron Horse Trail climbs at a mellow railroad grade for several miles. The surface is a rideable gravel, which adds to the overall backcountry experience. Lush trees loom overhead and silence the sounds of nearby I-90. You can ride for great lengths of time hearing nothing but the crunch of gravel under your tires.
The Iron Horse also offers four backcountry campsites, complete with tent pads and vault toilets, directly adjacent to the path. It’s also unique in that it features the longest tunnel open to non-motorized traffic, the 2.3-mile-long tunnel under Snoqualmie Pass. Riding through the tunnel is an eerie experience and a test of even the best headlights. The other end appears as a tiny pinprick of light and everything is strangely calm. Though you know you’re moving, you’re not quite sure, because it feels so dreamlike in the profound darkness.
We took the Iron Horse as far as Lake Easton State Park, where we cut north to follow forest roads to a campsite along Kachess Lake. As is always the case with forest roads, there are many more spurs and road-like trails than actually appear on the maps. We decided to stay on the most “main” looking dirt road, which quickly became a less and less obvious choice. The road climbed and descended with no regard to contour and crossed small streams and “puddles” that spanned the entire width of the road.
Our progress was slow but steady with lots of false starts and huddling over iPhones. No one had brought a proper GPS so we were at the mercy of cell phone coverage (which wasn’t strong) to figure out where we were.
At the point where it felt the most remote was when we heard crying. Around a corner, we encountered the unexpected sight of a father and not-too-happy son, bumping along on a tandem. Stranger still, a few hundred feet after we passed the tandem, we exited the forest and found ourselves in a surreal suburban development, complete with two-story townhomes, big picture windows, and people wearing board shorts and aviator sunglasses flipping burgers on their front lawn. It was difficult to figure out who was more disappointed.
From the Suburbs of the Woods to the campground at Lake Kachess was straightforward. Into the campground we were on signed roads with little traffic. The next morning, our sundry group of six set out to do what we rode all the way out there to do: fish. Jason had brought a five weight, I was double-fisting a 5wt and Tenkara rod, and Michael had brought some lightweight spinning gear. Joe came for the ride and was content to relax by the river, Jameson bought a ukulele, and Laura planned to simply watch with great amusement.
Our goal was Box Canyon Creek, a small river that feeds into Lake Kachess. From the campground, we followed a gravel forest road alongside the river, passing numerous dirt turnouts with parked cars. We spotted a promising trail with no cars and followed it a few hundred feet to a flat area by the river.
The stretch had small boulders and eddies and one obvious short run with slightly deeper water that looked like it held fish. The river was no more than 30 feet wide, only a few feet deep, with lots of short tricky seams that would make controlling drifts a headache, so I opted for the Tenkara rod.
Tenkara is a Japanese style of fly fishing that is perfect for small water. There is no reel or hundreds of feet of line to manage, just a single piece of a light monofilament tied in a loose knot to the tip of the rod. Think of it as the fixed gear of fly fishing, where everything that is unnecessary is stripped away.
We all took our posts by the river, reveling in finally getting our flies on the water. Jason had just picked up fly fishing and was hoping to land his first trout. Michael, who had worked at a fly shop, was calmly stalking the water. I hit the short run that I had eyed when we first arrived. Since there was no hatch going on, I tied on a prince nymph. Miraculously after only the third drift into the run I felt the solid weight of fish on the other end and set the hook. After a few minutes, I brought the fish in and saw that it was a solid shouldered eight-inch rainbow.
There were smiles all around and it marked an auspicious start to a glorious day. Hours passed in the quietness of the forest, with sunshine flitting through the trees, until our enthusiasm began to wane and the reality set in that the first fish caught would be the only fish caught. It was then I began to realize that, even if we didn’t catch another fish, it was entirely worth the ride and the simple joy of standing in a river. Besides, we still had a campfire to look forward to that evening, and the long beautiful ride back on the Iron Horse Trail.
Fly rods are categorized by weight. Two and 3 weight rods offer delicate presentations on small water, 8 to 9 weight rods have more backbone and can cast weighted flies to bigger fish. If you’re uncertain of the water you’ll encounter, the 5wt is the best all-rounder fly rod you can you use—think of it as sort of the cyclocross bike of fly rods. On this trip, in addition to a 5wt I used a Tenkara rod that is ultra lightweight and collapsible and is perfect for fishing small rivers and creeks.
Purists will want to “match the hatch,” or carry flies that mimic the exact kind of insects on the water. If you are traveling on bike, you won’t have the luxury of carrying every possible fly permutation to match the exact bug of the moment. However, there are a few flies that will work almost universally. For dry flies pack a few Elk Hair Caddis, Pale Morning Duns and Parachute Adams in various hook sizes. For wet subsurface flies, Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ear and Woolly Buggers in various sizes and in both weighted and unweighted varieties. These are solid patterns that you can fish anywhere and will produce.
GET YOUR FEET WET
If you’re fishing in summer months, you can usually forgo the waders and wet wade. However, many mountain streams are snow fed and can still be toe numbingly cold in the middle of August. A good lightweight alternative to waders is to wear neoprene booties with your water shoe of choice. This will give you just enough warmth to make standing in the frigid water bearable. I usually pair them with my Keen sandals that I also use for pedaling.
CATCH AND RELEASE OR CATCH AND KEEP
It pays to look into the regulations of the water you are fishing to avoid hefty fines. Some allow you to keep fish if they are of a certain size (a good tip is to mark your rod with the minimum keep size with some tape). Some water is catch and release only and also requires you to fish with barbless hooks. For me, the joy is mostly in the thrill of the hunt so I let most fish go but will keep one or two a year for a special riverside meal.Tweet Print