NE Iowa Gravel

It’s been over a week, but still it gives me happy thoughts.  Being a city dweller, riding around on quiet, picturesque, rural gravel roads is a bit of a treat.  I’ve been riding bikes purposely on gravel roads for a few years, so this is nothing new to me, but not usually with the same kind of pleasure and enjoyment I did on this day.  It was a bit of adventure, as I did not have a detailed route to follow.  I had a compass (built into my bike computer), a rough plan of a route, and a rough idea of the distance I wanted to cover, which helped me decide when to turn back.

I started in Decorah, made my way out to Freeport, then almost to Waukon.  Then I found my way back, a different way.  Along the way, I took a turn down Lower Dam Road.  It brought me here.  Cool, huh?
IMG_20160529_100915341After a brief stop, I carried on.

I had hoped to find the Sattre store, along the way.  I crested a hill, and there it was.  And not much else.  A cold Coke and a short break sitting out front of the store was exactly what I was hoping for.  Later in the day I heard some interesting tales of this place.  I wish this place and the new owners well.


A little later, I stopped at this place.  Only wide enough for one car, and I actually saw two cars almost collide.  (sort of)  There were many, many birds flying around this bridge, swooping and diving.  I don’t know what they were, but I’m sure they were chasing and catching some kind of insect.  Didn’t see any fish, though.



I saw quite a bit of wildlife.  Deer on a few occasions.  Eagles, vultures, turtles.  I came upon a mink, looking like he was laying on the road, belly down.  Like I see squirrels do on hot days sometimes.  I saw some snakes, too.

There was a pretty sight around every corner, really.  Great gravel roads for bike riding, and challenging hilly terrain.  It really couldn’t have been any better.



Mill City Cycle

I’m going to say, it’s official.  We have our tax id’s.  Officially a business in the state of Minnesota.

For now, we are going to specialize in custom hand built wheels.  We will be building some inventory, and making things available for sale through this site.

And we can take wheel orders here as well.  No problem.  We’ll be adding pages soon, and more detail.

We can make you something like this.


Or this and this

Mountain, Road, Touring, ‘Cross, Gravel.  Wheels.

We have a Facebook, too.

Planet X London Road Official Review

Well, it’s about time I said a little something more about this bike.  I’ve taken it, or it’s taken me, through two not particularly easy gravel events, and a few hundred miles of commuting, give or take, at this point.  So how is it, right?!

59466558-TMB_7071 (1)Well, it’s great.  It’s a fantastic bike.  It is superb on the gravel, on the trail, and the commute.  Though I’m currently riding mixed condition somewhat aggressive tires, it is very fast.  It is truly a bike for any road, and all conditions.  And it handles them all well.  Well done Planet X.  Great design and execution, and at an incredible price point.

Planet X

The Dickie Scramble was my most recent event, and a pretty dang good test for this machine.  There was much climbing, and seemingly endless slogging through a relentless headwind.  Some very fast and twisty descents as well, both gravel and Tarmac.  But then — a treacherous steep, muddy, and rocky descent and then a similar (except less muddy) ascent.  We call these MMR’s around here.  Minimum Maintenance Road. This could hardly be called a road.  More like a mountain goat path.  But the bike handled all of it like a champ.  It was made for this kind of stuff.


So, yeah I really like the bike.  I gave up two other bikes, both which I quite liked, but it was all worth it.  And I will say this.  For those who have avoided aluminum frame bikes, like I had, you might want to give them another look.  One of the main concerns I had about this bike was “would it be comfortable enough”.  Would the bike gently carry me through 100 mile bone jarring events, or would it beat me up the whole way?  I will say, unequivocably, the former and not the latter.

Roll OutOver the BridgeWhen I get a little more time, I’ll come back and talk about some of the build details and components.

59466557-TMB_8477 (1)

But now, I’ve got to get out there and train.  Because the only thing the London Road is missing now is a better motor!

London Calling

I guess this bike (frame set) was released last year, and sold out, but I didn’t hear about it until some time this winter.  I decided I had to have one, and made a pre-order.  A bike swap was attended and items purchased, the pre-ordered frame set arrived in stock and shipped early, and a very promising looking weather forecast had been revealed, which clearly seemed like the end of winter.  And so I find myself, a few weeks later, with a completed Planet X London Road, custom build.  And riding it around in balmy Spring weather.  Awesome!

london road in stock

This is what it looks like.  How ’bout that color, huh?  Zesty!  So what is so great about it?  Well, if it isn’t obvious…


Planet X kind of pitches this bike as a full time commuter and part time cyclocross bike, and potentially a bike with which one could do some touring.  But here in the US, gravel racing is kind of a big thing.  I’m sure there must be dirt and gravel roads in England, but perhaps not to the extent of rural North America.  So calling it a “gravel bike” to an English audience would not make a lot of sense.  Fair enough.

But this is indeed a gravel bike.  And a commuter, a tourer, and a cyclocross bike.  It is a disc road bike, with rough road and off road capability.  Because of tire capacity (40mm+) it can offer a greater measure of comfort than other road bikes, if you desire or need.  But no reason it can’t go fast, too, with the skinny tire bunch.  I think it is a brilliant design, combining things in a way that I don’t think has quite been done before.  In the early days of gravel racing, people were adopting bikes that already existed, but now there are bikes and frames designed and optimized for this kind of riding, and I think this is one of the best.





Counting the Days

Punxsutawney Phil was right.  But at last, we are now days away, to a major thaw and warmer temperatures.

weather chart

The first of the European Pro Cycling Classics have come, and the first gravel event of the season arrives, for me, in less than 4 weeks.

This winter has been spent in preparation – the body, mind, and the equipment – and now it’s just a few more days, to wait for the weather – to get out there on the bike and get on with it!



Looks like Mark Cavendish is back on top of his game.  Cracking!

Ride Race Rest Rinse Repeat

It’s been quite a while.  Last post was after the Almanzo, way back in June.  Can’t help but thinking some times “really, do people actually read this blog?”  But you visitors do keep coming (and my devoted regulars).  And so, if your curiosity and your search engine brought you here, I will try to bring you something worthwhile your visit.

IMG_1616Who am I?  I’m a guy who spent a lot of time building things.  Homes, garages, townhouses, commercial buildings.  Then I renovated and remodeled buildings.  Then came the time that my body, back, and mind had its fill, and it was time to move on.  But move on to what?  That is a question that is still being answered.

But for the last 5 years, my life has been filled with bikes, and cycling.  Cycling has been a part of my life, since I was a kid, but has become a renewed passion, more than it has ever been.  I’ve been busy tuning, repairing, building, rebuilding all kinds of bikes for a lot of different kinds of people.  And for myself!  I’ve got a nice little collection of bikes, all of which get ridden in different venues and different times.  Some more than others.

Although I did a fair amount of riding on my road bike, and another bike for commuting, it is my gravel bike that has gotten a lot of miles lately.  (What is a gravel bike, you ask?  That is a good question.  Stay tuned for more on that subject.)  This is my gravel bike.

cotic snip

In 2012, I learned about gravel racing.  I rode 2 events.  The first one I didn’t even finish.  I missed the registration of a couple more.  I made it into a second race late in the year, and finished.  Last year, 2013, guess what?  More gravel.  And my bike changed, pretty radically, like three times.  And above is the result of the changes and experimentation last year.  I’m really happy with this bike, it has served me well.  But I will curtail talking more about it for now.  And try to talk about what has transpired this year, which is, basically lots of riding, and racing.


At the Filthy 50, I was with this group, for a few minutes…

Yes, racing.  It became apparent that certain folks would show up at these events, and amongst themselves things were quite competitive.  Last year, I found my times and results getting better as the year went on.  My appetite was whetted for more.  I began to pick the events I would attend in 2014.  I tried to maintain or improve my conditioning through the winter.  I lost some weight.  And I entered a bunch of races, the last of which will be tomorrow.  And sometimes I find myself riding with guys like the above.  And other times, I’m chasing.  Make no mistake, this is a work in progress!  But there is progress.

pit stop kids

But I don’t want this to develop into something too painfully long, and so I will cut it short.  Let’s just for now consider this a preview to a few more posts going into more detail about this cycling season, now drawing to a close.  One more race on my calendar, the Dirt Bag.  October 25, 2014.  Tomorrow!  So stay tuned for more, now that the summer’s silence has been broken.

2014 Almanzo 100

I rode the Almanzo this year.  100+ miles on gravel.  Gravel, dust, wind, steep hills, 42mph descents, river crossings, and horses!


Here is my recap– It was a beautiful morning, and a beautiful day.  Chris came along, and met up with her parents.  My support crew.  I wanted to quit at mile 40.  And then again at mile 67.  But I didn’t.  The winds blew up and the climbs were steep.  And I made it to the finish, with a few tears I’ll admit.  I know that’s not really macho or badass, but that is how it happened.



And that All City Mr. Pink is a new bike to me, and rode quite excellent for this day.

So basically, I rode my ass off, conquering gravity and the wind, and summoning the will to finish this thing.   And the horses, who broke free just to run along side of us, we won’t forget.





And here is a little gallery of some nice photos, taken by my soigneur and now race photographer, Chris.