FIVE THINGS is a weekly feature on the Banjo Brothers Blog and it's a short interview about life and bicycles with a notable person. This week’s FIVE THINGS is with Guitar Ted, a.k.a., Mark Stevenson. Guitar Ted is, among other things, an Iowan, a seasoned bike mechanic, guitar player, and as you will find out, an accomplished, inventive home cook. Guitar Ted started Gravel Grinder News in 2008 and is now one half of the website ridinggravel.com. He is the race director of Trans Iowa, a self-navigated, self-supported, 300-plus mile gravel road event held in late April primarily on Iowa gravel roads. Enjoy this week’s FIVE THINGS.
BANJO BROS: WHAT ARE YOU RIDING?
GT: With the change of seasons to Winter I have moved to riding my fat bike, a Salsa Cycles Titanium Mukluk. I am a bike mechanic and longtime "bike nerd", so I have a LOT of bikes, but wintertime commuting and fun riding works best on the fat bike for me. People always ask, "Isn't it hard to pedal?", and you know, the answer isn't an easy one. It is and it isn't. I like it when I have to work a little harder against the wind, or to climb a hill, because it makes warmth. That's a good thing in winter. Plus cars give you a bit more leeway for some reason. I call it "The Fat Bike Effect". You also get to make all those "Styrofoam ripping" sounds on snow when the temperatures are below zero. Fun stuff! So for right now that's my favorite. It is my Ti Muk.
BANJO BROS: WHERE ARE YOU RIDING?
GT: I'm a long time bike commuter, so I ride to work whenever I can. I commute about 4 miles each way. I also do recycling and other errands by bicycle in Waterloo here. Otherwise I have a green belt nature trail a few blocks from my home that gets me my dirt quota. It's where I learned to mountain bike in the late 80's, so I have a deep affinity for that strip of river bottom land. Otherwise it’s about 6 miles to gravel and I have miles and miles of the stuff around here. I like riding down to a little town called Reinbeck to a place called Broad Street Brewing, ya know......for refreshments!
I have a vision where gravel riding is just where folks go to get away from the city, de-stress, find beauty in nature, learn history, and just be. They can just use whatever old mountain bike or hybrid they already may have. The roads are a lot calmer, more beautiful, and there is just so much to see out there that you never will on pavement or in a vehicle going 65 mph. However; that message is getting drowned out in the din of competition, "big epics", and chasing the latest goods.
BANJO BROS: WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
GT: So, I really do play guitar, and I've been a fan of all sorts of music. Early in my life I was exposed to a lot of country music. I even saw Roy Clark twice as a kid. That dude can shred! I recently was turned on to a documentary of "The Minutemen" featuring their old bassist, Mike Watt.
I was an early convert to punk rock back in the 70's, but there was so much of that genre I never was exposed to, living in Iowa, so catching up on things like the Minutemen was fascinating for me. The part where Mike Watt discovers what a bass guitar really is was reminiscent of my own journey. It is a pretty cool documentary. I highly recommend it. Otherwise I am into Americana sounds, the Blues, and really about anything with guitar in it.
BANJO BROS: WHAT ARE YOU COOKING/EATING/DRINKING?
GT: Okay, so I have this cooking hobby. I "invented" this egg/tortilla thing. I fry up a couple of eggs, you could do it any way you want, I like over easy. I'll maybe toss in some bacon bits or, my favorite, Italian sausage bits. Pepper the heck out of it. When the egg and whatever you put in there is done, remove it from the pan and place it on a large tortilla with some shredded cheese of your choice. Wrap the egg in the tortilla with the cheese inside and then put a pat of butter in your fry pan, turn the heat back on to medium, and fry the tortilla on both sides for a few minutes each side. Remove from the pan, plate it, throw some hot salsa on there and chow down.
Okay, I admit I probably didn't invent that, but I haven’t ever seen it done quite like that either. Goes good with fine coffee or a Peace Tree Blonde Fatale beer. Or heck- Why not both!
BANJO BROS: WHAT'S STUCK IN YOUR CRAW?
GT: I suppose I am known most for things related to gravel road cycling. I have been involved in that for well over a decade now and lately I've had a lot on my mind about where the scene is going. One thing I have noticed is that the industry has grabbed this idea and turned it into something I wish it wouldn't be. You may have noticed I haven't used the words "gravel racing" and there is a good reason for that. We've got way too much of that going on now.
Maybe this is the naive side of me coming out, but I feel that gravel cycling is for the people. It becomes less that way when the focus is put on racing, or on "rad adventures", or equipment heavy means of cycling like "bikepacking", which all tend to be things that foster an exclusionary vision for the average rider out there. Like they can't be that guy or gal. They can't be training for racing, or really don't want to. They can't afford a $2500.00 carbon gravel bike, or all the custom bags, or whatever.
I have a vision where gravel riding is just where folks go to get away from the city, de-stress, find beauty in nature, learn history, and just be. They can just use whatever old mountain bike or hybrid they already may have. The roads are a lot calmer, more beautiful, and there is just so much to see out there that you never will on pavement or in a vehicle going 65 mph. However; that message is getting drowned out in the din of competition, "big epics", and chasing the latest goods. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with any of that, but those things only serve a few. I think a broader view of gravel cycling would be better for more people.
It's ironic that a person like Steve Hed felt the same way. He asked to see me at the last Interbike show he was at with his company. I was there and met him in his booth where amongst all the aero this and that he had this beautiful gravel bike made from steel by Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. Steve pretty much told me he was cut from the same cloth as I- Both of us just wanting to get out on a dusty road in the country and just soak it all in. The industry and cycling really lost a voice for that, which was untapped, really, when Steve died. I hope that I can do at least a little justice to that vision in the future.
MORE ABOUT THE FIVE THINGS INTERVIEWS FROM BANJO BROTHERS
A big Banjo Bros. thank you to Guitar Ted for participating in this week's edition of Banjo Brothers' Five Things. These short interviews about life and bicycles will appear every Friday on the Banjo Brothers Blog.
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