GIRG Ride – Sun 15 Sept

I’ve been a little restless since returning from Steamboat Springs a couple of weeks ago.  I figured this would probably happen.  There’s always a bit of a letdown for me on the backside of a big event.

Somewhere along the line I decided that I needed a new, expensive, carbon-fiber gravel bike. SBT GRVL was sponsored by Canyon and Lauf threw their weight behind Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, and so I had bikes on the brain and was thinking that maybe I was missing out on something important.  This is how advertising works.

Fortunately, I’m pretty grounded.  The more I looked, the less I liked.  The Lauf True Grit was interesting.  So was the Open U.P. frameset.  I was able to rule everything else out.  I was in the process of planning a trip to Lincoln to ride the Lauf when  I stumbled onto an old blog post by Guitar Ted.  Just about everything I know about gravel I learned from Guitar Ted, so when he has something to say I listen.  Here’s what caught my attention:

“I remember ten years ago when I was thinking about building a custom gravel bike. Some tool a bit sharper for the job. But that said, I had been having a blast on a 2003 Karate Monkey on gravel for years up to that point. I had a Fargo 29″er, which I still have, that is my all-time favorite gravel sled. You don’t need a gravel bike. I’ve said that for years. However; it has reached my ears that now people think that they do. Not only that, but many think it has to be carbon and that it has to be expensive.”

Hmmm.  I have a Fargo.  If I had to get rid of all my other bikes and keep just one, this is the one I’d keep.  I also have a Karate Monkey frameset I just bought in February.  I’m building it up with 3.0″ rubber.  It’s going to be a bikepacking rig and it will work fine on just about anything.   Guitar Ted is right.  I don’t need a gravel bike.  I don’t need carbon.  I don’t need expensive.  I think I’m going to spend the money on a hot tub instead.  I owe this man…big time.

So no new bike but I’m still feeling a little out of sorts and then it hit me.  I could just ride another gravel race!  We have a few weeks yet before winter sets in.  Why not?

So off I went to the Gravel Cyclist event calendar and there it was.  It’s called the GIRG (Gravel Iowa River Greenbelt) Ride and it’s only an hour or so away from home.  It starts and finishes in Steamboat Rock, Iowa at 7:30 AM on Sunday September 15, 2019.  The distance is 100.9 miles and there’s “only” 3,469 feet of climb.  It will be my first “race” as a 60 year old so I’m very excited about it.

The GIRG Ride looks to be about as grassroots as gravel gets.  I entered by inquiring on Facebook.  Two minutes later I was in.  There’s no entry fee, though they asking for merchandise donations for tornado victims in the area.  I like that.   As for the event itself, it sounds like some riders will be racing while others will be stopping at restaurants and watering holes along the route.  They assured me that either approach will work just fine.

Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 12.32.27 PM

The course looks like a lot of fun.  It basically follows the Iowa River in and around Steamboat Rock.  I suspect that most of the climbing will have to do with the river valley, as that part of Iowa is mostly flat.  In fact, it looks a lot like the kind of terrain I typically ride, as Jefferson sits on a similarly sized river.

Speaking of Jefferson, I’ve been spending a lot of time on local gravel since our return from Colorado.  In fact, I’ve ridden more in the last three months (15,000 mile annual pace) than ever before.  This is absolutely the best time to ride the rocks in this part of Iowa.  It’s still warm but the higher humidity of June and July is mostly gone.  The skies have more of a western feel to them and there’s a hint of fall in the air.  The county road people seem to have lost interest in maintenance, and so a lot of the roads are hard packed and fast as opposed to loose and deep like they were earlier in the year.  All in all, it makes for some great riding.

My ride this morning started with lightning in the predawn dark, but then the storms moved out without dumping hardly any rain at all.
Storms this morning.  Even the clouds look more western now.
Last night…northwest of town.  It was 73 degrees with low humidity and not a cloud in the sky!
But I really need to get better at timing railroad crossings.

So now I feel better.  Life is good again.  I’m riding a lot of miles and have something to shoot for.  Labor Day weekend is upon us.  I hope you have a chance to spend some time unwinding with loved ones.  I hope you get some miles in, too…on or off pavement.

Have fun.  Be well.  Ride on.



  1. Bob, on ragbrai I did the gravel loop on the first day. The carbon gravel bikes that passed me were horribly loud and scary sounding. I still don’t understand how anybody can ride such a beast on these rough roads. They literally sounded like they were going to fall apart with every bump and every chunk of rock that they hit. I am a steel guy all the way. While my Fargo is steel it does have a carbon fork but all my other bikes are steel frame and steel fork. I’m biased but I am not a fan of carbon in any way shape or form.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cory, I hear you. I am a steel guy, too. FWIW, the gravel at Steamboat wasn’t really gravel at all. It was mostly a smooth clay-like hardpack. There was also 40 miles of pavement (out of 140 total) on that course. There was one 7 mile stretch that approximated a B road and one or two rock gardens, but probably 80 miles of what they called gravel was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Probably could have ridden it on a road bike and been fine so maybe carbon would work better out there. Our gravel is so much more technical and especially all those awesome B roads at SWIGG. The primary reason I was looking at a new bike is because my Raleigh Tamland was inherited from my wife and it’s one size too small for me. It’s not terribly uncomfortable, though. It’s steel with a carbon fork. My Fargo has the steel Firestarter fork. It’s somewhat heavy but an absolute joy to ride. I may slap a pair of the Lauf Smoothies on the Tamland, though, as the price point isn’t terrible and I really like flared bars, esp. in the down position. The Woodchippers on my Fargo are awesome. That’s pretty much about as carbon as I’m going to get.


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