gravel_road

What to ride

How should I set up my bike? That will be the question on every registered rider’s mind in the days leading up to the Dubuque Gran Fondo, so we’ve decided to be proactive and tap into the vast experience of a few local cycling experts and ask them what they would ride.

Brian Walsh has owned Free Flight Bikes since 1995, and has been riding the roads of Dubuque for longer than he’ll admit here.

Cross bike or road bike?

Road bikes will be great on this course,  a Cross Bike will do fine too, keep the tires light and fast. The Heritage Trail will be very firm and fast in August, even a road bike will be fine on the fine crushed lime surface.

Tires and tubes recommendation—be sure to take your time here, as this will be vital. What size tires? And most importantly what tire pressure? Tubeless? Sealant?

The roads in Dubuque County aren’t in perfect, so keep the pressures up to reduce your chance of a pinch flat on a pothole. Locally we mostly run 23c and 25c tires. For the early adopters running road tubeless, you can easily drop to 90 psi since pinch flats are so rare.

Gearing—what cassette would be best? Is a compact crankset the way to go?

Potter hill is steep, and long enough to hurt. Most commonly we see people with compact cranks and a 27t or 28t low gear in back. It can be done with higher gears but everyone but the fastest guys will always conceded that it’s really nice to have the low gears. There are several other places on the course where those low gears will be helpful. Iowa may be known for being flat, but not along the Mississippi River, the bluff-y terrain here is full of relatively steep climbs of 200-400 vertical feet.

After 25 years in the manufacturing industry, Dave Hartig made what could be called a lifestyle shift into all things cycling. His day gig is as a bike shop employee at Bicycle World. Other related uses of his time and energy include cycling advocacy, the Dubuque Bike Coop, race team ownership and management, race wrenching—and riding—when he can fit it in!

Cross bike or road bike?

Looks like a fair amount of gravel if I’m reading the route map correctly; Heritage Trail for quite a while on the outbound? That said, my personal recommendation (because it’s how I roll) is a road bike that will accept 25mm or larger rubber. I ride Heritage often with 25s and there is always a hard line and the spots where my tires cut down are pretty few and far between. So cross tires are not my thing here.

Tires and tubes recommendation—be sure to take your time here, as this will be vital. What size tires? And most importantly what tire pressure? Tubeless? Sealant?

Every shop has a tire preference as do many riders. Pinch flats are simply a result of being too lazy to check pressure before a ride or inattentive riding. Most punctures can be avoided by running hard case tires. I do not run sealant, but I damn sure carry an extra tube…nothing special.

I am not a traditional “skinny and hard” tire guy under any circumstances, especially this one. I am comfortable suggesting bigger road rubber and tapping off up to 10% of one usually runs in 23mm tires.

Gearing—what cassette would be best? Is a compact crankset the way to go?

As for gear cluster/crank: It’s doubtful that folks are going to switch out a crank just for this ride. However I would have no trouble recommending a climbing cog. I run a compact with a 25, but flatlanders might like a few more teeth for the climbs. Most current rear derailleurs have enough jockey cage to accommodate a climbing cog.

However, if one is considering a new driveline, I almost always recommend a compact crank. Truth is, most folks don’t have the power to make full use of a 52 or 53 big ring versus a 50. And another truth is that we are all getting older, which means that the small chainring on a compact looks better every day!!

Most folks are still running 10 speed clusters so Bicycle World will probably lay in a few extra 12/27 and 11/28 cogs. Best value is Shimano 105 at about $65 retail. This change will often require a longer chain so again, 105 is a good value at $35 retail. Good policy to mate up a fresh chain to a new cog anyway.

What tools or supplies should racers carry with them?

Tube, CO2 Inflator, extra cartridge, Multi-tool, tire lever and quick link (I recommend KMC because it is reusable and pretty universal).

My personal philosophy, although Bicycle World will happily serve our out of town guests, is that folks should try to feed their own LBS for their setups. The internet or some clever bike maintenance app will not take a personal interest in the quality of one’s riding experience. Riders should visit their shops well in-advance, talk nicely, and bring small but meaningful gifts for the poor souls slaving over workstands!

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