Matt's Perspective: GTDRI '11

So, you know, Alo and I drove 16 hours to do a 100 mile gravel ride through Nowheresville, Iowa...big deal. Barreling west down I-80 this past Friday I mentioned that I'd never been to Iowa before. Turns out that wasn't completely true, I'd driven through it twice on the way to and from a spring break trip out to Colorado, probably pushing ten years ago. In spirit, though, I'd never been to the Hawkeye State. Whoa boy have I been missing out! Fell in love...in love I tell ya! I mean everyone there is super duper friendly, there's corn everywhere, and the best part...gravel roads for miles in every direction. Not to mention it's the home of the one, the only "Guitar Ted", who was Iowa style friendly enough to invite all souls brave enough to his annual Guitar Ted Death Ride.

We rolled into Cedar Falls around 10PM, hit the sack by 11, and rose at the ungodly hour of 4:30AM to prepare for the ride. We arrived at Hickory Hills park, met up with our crew of around a dozen, and took off a bit after 6AM. The scenery during the roll out was flippin' amazing. Really, it made waking up so early worth it, and for me to say that it takes a lot. This morning's fog was thick but the rising sun blasted on through making for some incredible scenery. Magic Hour.

That's me on the right, gettin' all emotional

We all commented that even though visibility was limited, the fog and low temps would be a fond memory later in the day. More on that later...

We chatted the first 15 miles or so away and made it to the town of Traer to fuel up and shake the dew off. A scant mile or so down the road Adam comes rushing to the front of the group, declaring he's left his keys back in town. So we pull off while Adam goes on a little recon mission back to Traer. This proved to be the perfect opportunity for Mark (Guitar Ted) to drop a little knowledge bomb on us. Apparently, there's a phenomenon called "derecho" that afflicts Iowa from time to time. One of these straight line winds had come through the area in the previous weeks, and the effects were obvious.


There were entire groves of trees that had been uprooted. Farmers placed the once great spires into roadside ditches, now transformed into make shift burn furnaces. Outbuildings were ripped apart, bits of tin roofing material were strewn everywhere...it was serious carnage.

So yeah, Adam comes back, defeated, still without keys. We soldier on, hoping the attendant at the gas station will turn something up and call, or some other miracle would happen. I think we just tried not to think about it. If you've read Alo's post, you know the outcome of this episode so I won't try to hold you in suspense.

The next 35-40 miles went off pretty smooth with temperatures remaining manageable, only hinting at the heat that would come later in the day. We traveled over some chunky gravel, some finely ground smooth stuff, and put in some miles on some SWEET B level roads. These 'unmaintained' roads were smooth and fast. Some rutting, but I mean, who doesn't like to jump over stuff like that?

Friggin' awesome B level!!!

About five miles shy of Toldeo, our second and final stop, Alo hit the wall. The hills were getting more intense, the sun was waaay up in the sky, and we were both about out of hydration. So we limped on, caught up with another rider, Steve, and banded together for the final push into town. Upon arrival, we found the group chowing on pizza and ice cream, ready to take on the remainder of the course. Alo and Steve called a ride and headed back to the starting point. I hooked up with the group and we sped out of Toledo towards the hilliest section of the ride. Just out of town, the crazy mofo on the Mukluk picked up some glass and had a flat. I was in the middle of one of the larger climbs of the day when the call came up, so I made it to the top and pulled off to wait. A bit winded from the climb, I look to my left and what's standing next to me?

These guys!!

Zebras in Iowa say whaaaaat?! That really made my day. What better place to wait around for a bunch of dudes to take turns pumping up a Mukluk tire. There were five adults and one foal, just hanging out keeping me and a few others company.

From here on, it was hot. It was really friggin' hot. Oh, it was hilly too. Riding one of two singlespeeds in the group, I had no choice but to just throw down and get after each and every one of the hills. It was go hard or walk, and it was too damn hot to be walking. I needed the wind on me to stay cool. These tactics kept me going but split me from the group. I'd look back every minute or so and they'd be farther behind, so I decided to press on alone. Following Mark's perfectly executed cues, I made my way from one sweltering hot road to the next. Every so often a cloud would cover me, which was a welcome solace from the heat. There was even one point where I was riding under a cloud which was moving with me, which spiked my spirits in a big way.

Nature Boy, Iowa...Iowa, Nature Boy.

About 20 miles from the finish, I ran out of water. Things were starting to look bad. In what seemed to be a mirage, I caught a glimpse of hydration heaven in the form of an elderly gent cutting his lawn atop his Allis Chalmers tractor. I stopped over, said hello, shot the shit for a few minutes while he told me how crazy my directions were, then filled my bottles. Upon leaving he told me I was gutsier than he, to which I replied "more guts than brains, sir" and pedaled on into the heat.

Knowing I was near the finish, bottles full and with no companions in sight, I turned on the gas. Rolling into the park my legs really started to let go. Perfect. Mark, your ride whooped my butt. I found Adam napping in the air conditioned haven of his car, woke his ass up and started drinking beer. We waited around for the group to show up and proceeded to drink beer and eat cookies together. What a blast! I'm in love with Iowan gravel.


All City Nature Boy, 42x18 | 700c x 34 Hutchinson Piranha tires

A23 Pro Build wheelset-

Seriously? 1,400 gram road wheelset, 20/24 bladed Sapim CX Ray spokes to alloy nips. SO AWESOME...didn't budge out of true. If my 180lbs can't knock these out of true on semi smooth gravel roads, bunny hopping B-levels, and through generally un-smooth riding habits, I've got to imagine a rider much heavier than I will have no issues with them for road riding. At around 52 psi, the rim/tire combo were like pillows. Pillows of fury ripping down the road. These wheels make me smile.

Most of these photos are courtesy of Guitar Ted. Check out his ride report here and here.


  1. Matt, glad you came out to see what all the fuss is about and liked it. Next time, we'll try to keep everyone all together, and drink beers afterward together as well!

  2. Well written, I was dirty, sweaty, and dehydrated just reading it.