Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alternative Energy: Man Power

Contain your inner "racer boy" and focus on getting one of your old, curmudgeonly compatriots on the path to energy independence this year. Kill your TV, drink with your friends, play with floppy-eared dogs, and be the change that you envision.

Frozen Digits and warm BM's

I have pretty poor circulation especially in my hands, but I have tried not to let this infringe on my winter miles. Typically a good set of windproof softshell gloves are great for temps down to 30 degrees, but for temps down to 10 degrees F I have used Pearl Izumi Lobster claw gloves. The big problem with thick gloves is reduced dexterity and the fact that once you start sweating you are gonna soak your gloves.

Wet gloves = cold hands

Jay Buthman of Amoeba R&D laid out a pretty cool idea last year (scroll down its a long post) that got me to thinking.

Pogies. Numerous people make their own versions of flat bar pogies, and they all work pretty well. These have a lot of advantages over gloves, you can wear no gloves or just liner gloves, if its Super Cold (less than 10 degrees F) you can toss hand warmers into the pogies, and also store your cell phone, gel, or Clif bars to keep them from freezing. Snow bike wacko’s like DG swear by these things

Enter Bar Mitts (BM) for Drop Bars: being warm never looked so dumb. I don’t have heaps of style working for me to start with, but these things are incredibly dumb looking. I was going to buy some new winter gloves last month, but seeing that Bar mitts were gonna cost as much as some really nice gloves I just went for the bar mitts. Best money I have spent this winter. I usually just wear a thin wool liner glove so that when I take my hands off the bars they don’t chill as quickly. I rode 45 miles of gravel on Saturday morning with no gloves (just BM’s) and was fine.

You can still toss chemical hand warmers and a phone down in them, and ride all day, no matter what the weather. BM’s are neoprene so they block the wind and retain quite a lot of warmth even if your hands get really sweaty. The down side is that you are relegated to riding on your hoods, and you are gonna look dumb and attract the ridicule of people like Shim. But fear not, you can feel smug knowing that they are relegated to trainer purgatory while you bask in the glory of a stiff north wind.

How Dumb will you look? On the sliding scale of bicycle style: Bar Mitts are in between the little rear view mirrors that go on your helmet and aero bars on a hybrid…..although all are well conceived, they are often poorly executed.

I liked my drop BM’s so much I actually bought a set for the mtb too. I know that Bike Rack at 140th and Maple has some in stock (both styles). Not sure who else in the Big O might carry these? Mark and Bryan at the Trek Store might have a little too much style to carry something like this (Mark would sell you a hybrid AND aero bars, but he will not be responsible for combining them).
I have NO IDEA why my formatting just went all to pot. I hate you blogger (shaking fist at sky)
FYI The snow is still too deep at L&C for riding other than going downhill.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stream of Consciousness Announcing

I have been a huge fan of how Colt and the folks from Cycling Dirt have tried to bring races and race reports to the masses by turning around highlight videos and post race interviews of racers. At first I was just kind of amused that it just sort of seemed like Colt was just doing this on a shoestring budget, then the guys got the support of Greenware to broadcast the USGP of CX in conjunction with Velonews. The broadcasts were definitely not the highest quality, but the enthusiasm of Adam and Colt made it worth watching. Today they have Mark Gullickson (from USAC) commentating in the womens race, and I can't help but cringe at the monotone and lack of vocabulary that he uses to announce. I watch the World Cup CX races in Europe that are commentated in Flemish, dutch or some other euro-centric language, but I can typically follow whatever is going on based off of HOW the commentator is speaking, not on what he is actually saying.
I can't speak Dutch, but I did take two semesters of Spanish in high school....... Bon Jour!

Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful that USAC, CyclingDirt, and Velonews got together to put this out there, but Gullickson was like listening to my high school science teacher drone on about matter. They could at least "voice over" the race announcers. I was also sad that in the womens race they only really covered KFC, but since she had a 30 second lead for most of the race it would have been nice to see some of the other battles going on behind her.
But make no mistake, I am stoked to get coverage of any type.

On the other hand, I converted my Reba from 80mm of travel to 100mm. Took like 20 minutes and 18cc of fork oil. If you want your Reba travel adjusted just let me know.......I have enough 5wt oil to do 40 forks (since its winter I am only using 5wt, not a 50/50 mix of 5wt and Red Rum) I can do the conversion with your fork on or off of the bike. No charge, but a six pack would be appreciated.
Time to freshen up my beverage and get ready for the Elite Mens race. Viva la CyclingDirt! (take that eurotrash and bitter Canadians).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Full Suspension Thoughts

So it happened again, I managed to dupe someone into letting me ride their FS bike. This time Ryan Feagan let me ride his 07 Giant Anthem that he currently has up for sale. It is a medium, and really liked the steering and reach on the bike. I had to drop his seat post about 20mm, but the suspension was perfectly set, as ryan and I are close, weight wise. General observations about the Anthem:

  • It’s a lot easier to keep your outside foot down as you really carve into the corners on a FS bike. On my Scott Scale I have a hard time really being comfortable staying seated in choppy corners, and keeping my outside foot down in the corners. Despite the fact that Scale really carves, I usually ride through all but the smoothest of corners with my pedals at the 3 and 9 o’clock position, and I feel like I have to scrub too much speed. Trying to stay seated over really bumpy sections on a stiff bike with a 34.9 mm seatpost is tough on your back (and bottom) .
  • Small bump compliance: There is much to be said for being able to stay seated and lay down the power when you are in the chatter. Ryan had the RP23 “PUSHed” last year, and it does a great job of smoothing things out with feeling like its wallowing underneath me.
  • I think that sizing has a lot to do with how comfortable you are going to be especially when you are on more “race” oriented bikes. Despite numerous tweaks I was unable to get comfortable on the Top Fuel that the Trek store let me demo earlier this year. So when I showed up at the Casa de Feagan I had my own saddle with me in attempt to really experience a bike and not be distracted by saddles that might not love my bottom.
  • I left the ProPedal on the entire time I was on the bike, and according to the occasional glance down to the “o” ring, I was using all of the travel. The Maestro suspension was far superior to the other suspension designs that I have ridden with the exception of the Epic (I am sure your bike is sick, but you never let me ride it). The suspension was firm enough that I could discern no noticeable bob when I stood up to climb, but was not so stiff as to be harsh.
  • I was also surprised how light the anthem was. There was no part of Ryans build that I would remotely refer to as “weight weeny” but the sled was still well under 25 lbs ( I have very nice singlespeeds that weigh more than that).
All in all I was really impressed with the Anthem. Definitely on my radar.

On the other side of things I also got surprised by my wife today. She bought me some new Crocs. Woah, Wait……CROCS?

Yeah, I wear crocs. I wear the crap out of some crocs. They are in my mind one of the most useful pieces of gear I have owned in the past 5 years (Ali bought me a pair when we first got married). They are great for driving, changing in parking lots, showering, loitering down by the river with John Waller, Portaging in the BWCA, they float, they are supple enough that I can slackline with them on, relatively cheap, and they weigh next to nothing. I really cant think of anything else that cost so little, that I have gotten so much use out of.

Loafin on Decker Flats 'tween Ketchum and Stanley, ID

fjording the mighty Buffalo River in AR


Monday, November 29, 2010

Jingle Cross

I felt like a piece of meat out there (yes, I am in this picture). Image from Brittany McConnell's FB Album

This event was referred to as the CX Midwest World Championships, and it was easy to see how it got this moniker. There were monsters in every field, and every field was deep. Last row starts guaranteed mediocre finishes (with the exception of Matt Tillinghast who battled back from a horrible start in the Mens Masters 35+ race to finish top 5 on Sat). Fields quickly strung out as the run ups and soft, sticky off camber sections slowed down the fields, allowing the leaders to make quick get aways.

Raced the 3’s race on Satuday, last row start, finished 19th. Took a pretty good fall on the downhill of the first lap. Some dude was standing in the middle of the double track descent jacking with his chain. Rather than bury my handlebars into this honkey’s kidneys, I tried steering up the hill. That wasn’t happening in the gooey mud, and down I went. Quickly rolled under the fence so I did not cause any more carnage, and once the coast was clear I went back at it. Chased Kansas homeboy, David Niedinger, up till the last lap, and managed to close it down on the run up. Noah Marcus finished 15th.

One thing that struck me as pretty humorous, was seeing a Crank Brother Eggbeater pedal head laying in the mud on the super sketchy off-camber hill side. It was like the pedal interface totally separated from the spindle. It does not take much to entertain me.

Sunday I gave the Singlespeed race a go and managed to come in 4th. The ground was still frozen in certain parts of the course, and as a result some corners you could just rail through; while others required constant vigilance and a steady hand. Once we lined up in staging we were told that we would not be going up and over Mt. Krumpet since the descent was still froze and slicker than grease owl sh...stuff. This did not make me sad, as I was dreading that descent. On the first lap I got a bunch of cheers from the crowd for a save when I nearly high-sided going into a corner way to hot. It is a good feeling when the crowd is shouting for you. I ran super low pressure (26 psi according to the pump that the SRAM rep had) in my Stans ZTR Alpha 340’s Rolling on Hutchinson Bulldogs. I was not disappointed with how it handled, but with a lap go I had the front wheel start to washout on a icy corner, only to catch on a frozen rut. The sound that resulted from this was not what I would describe as a burp, rather, it sounded more like the tire bead snapping into place. I could not see any stans on the rim that usually indicates a burp, and I could not discern any loss in tire pressure. But, it was not a comforting sound with the one-to-go ringing in your ear. I watched the guy that had been in 3rd place for most of the race close from a LONG way back, to pull out the win. Closing late in a race is not my forte.

It was also really cool to hear Lefler announcing with Towle. It truly was "on like donkey kong". He also threw out a new one to me, "wattage cottage".

The Iowa city fans were awesome all weekend, and were great hosts. The dudes that were running concessions to raise money for the fairgrounds were giving me a hard time for dragging my very pregnant wife around on the cold, but it was all in good fun, later on we talked hog farming.

Jingle cross should definitely be on you calendar

Monday, November 22, 2010

The SuperFan Cometh

I made it to last years Lincoln CX Race and was looking forward to seeing all the shenanigans again this year.

Pic by Bruce Thornton via Sydney Brown

I got more than I bargained for.

Saturday I raced the 3/4's raceand got to the line a little late. Late enough for a last row start. Right from the start Mike Miles cracked the whip and was gone. I just could not make any headway on the first lap. I could see the lead chase group about 15 seconds behind a blazing Mike Miles. I continued to hang in about 12th until half way thru the 2nd lap. Then I was able to start slipping 'round folks and going solo into the wind. With 4 Laps to go, I managed to make the bridge back to the lead chase group of Mark Lavin, Noah Marcus, and ....... We could see that Mike was slowing down and that we would be bringing him back in soon.

With 2 to go we had brought Mike back and the group was down to Lavin, Noah, Mike and myself.

Once we hit hooligan hill again it appeared that Noah had fallen off the pace. Then a few moments later I heard Miles start swearing and I presumed that he dumped a chain.

And then there were two.

I gave chase on Lavin as we wound our way through to low grassy parts of the course. I was able to hang on but I did not have the juice to do anything more.
After a rather ugly barrier section (that spawned lots of internet ridicule) we got spit out onto the tarmac with a 300 yard sprint to the finish. I was slapping SRAM for all I was worth trying to get some big ring love.

Pic by Bruce Thornton via Sydney Brown
I am not a sprinter. I always get smoked on road ride sprints, but I can run through some gears without having to stand up on the pedals. I just went through my gears and managed to slip by Lavin about 10 yards from the line. My first CX win since the 2008 KS State Championships in the SS category, and my first ever win on a geared bike. Yeah gears!

Mike Miles finished strong to hang onto 3rd place.

Sunday I brought my SS CX bike out of the barn and put it through the paces in the NE SS CX Championship. I was gunning for Ryan "The Albino Rhino" Albertson, who rode away from Rafal and Keith Walberg in Saturdays race.

Image shamelssly jacked while Facebook creepin!
Any dude that races back to back in a circa 1992 teal gree womens camisole (or whatever that thing was) is a legitimate badass.......don't kid yourself. No one knows what level of depravity someone like that is capable of.
We rolled off the line 15 seconds behind the 3/4's and we all proceeded to get our spin on. I bobbled a few times, and found myself chasing Ryan, Rafal, and TJ Davis. Once we hit the long tarmac section my 42/18 gearing kicked in. I was feeling good so I just tried to stay on top of my gearing. I caught Ryan on the tarmac and he was right on my wheel for all of the next lap. Every time I though I had a gap, there he was, looking as angry as someone that wears lingerie can look.
Then I caught Schmidty right as we were rolling down the hill towards the tarmac. He took a big pull and it was all I could do to stay spun up on his wheel. That would prove to be all that I needed to get a gap on the Rhino. I was able to stay out of his clutches for the rest of the day to make it a two fer weekend. Great times.
Tip of the Hat to Troy, Schmidty, and all of the Midwest Wheel Masters for putting it together.
Then it was time to shuffle up Hooligan hill to contribute to the delinquency of the hooligans.
Fans are the best part of CX racing, and Lincoln has some pretty awesome fans.

Late Edit: Dang! my legs hurt from the SS race. I haven't had to stand on the pedals like that in quite a while

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It will not go quietly into the night

Some bikes just will not die.

When they first arrive its like the honeymoon.

Then they become a workhorse.

Occasionally a thoroughbred.

Then they get put out to pasture.

But they really never stop dreaming about a comeback.

Putting the shine on, but not everyone is impressed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Danger Pins

I have safety pins everywhere. In my race bags, toolbox, truck cupholders, jacket pockets, the lint trap of my dryer.....everywhere. I hate safety pins.
Previously I have used 3M's Spray Adhesive "45" to adhere race numbers to my kit, but have been unable to find it at Menards (or anywhere in NE).

There are like 6 different kinds of 3M spray adhesive and they will all stick your number to you, but the higher the "number" the more residue will be left on your kit. This residue is also compounded if the spray is applied to heavily and applied while adhesive is still "wet". Remember its like gluing a patch on a inner tube, gotta let it dry a bit.

So I when I was loafin in Menards today I found Loctites version of "45". The other nice thing was that it costs half of what 3M "45" does.
When you are putting the adhesive on the back of your race number make sure to apply it evenly around the edges and some towards to middle. I like to lay my jersey out on a flat surface before I slap the number on so there aren't any wrinkles underneath. If you are rocking the skinsuit its best to have your number applied after you kit up.

There will probably not be many more tandem jaunts till after Feb. as Ali commented that her knees were starting to hit her belly. I like this time of year.

This fatherhood thing is sinking in! Next year there will be a trailer behind this rig!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Belated Spooky Cross

Yeah so this ones a little late.

Saturday saw two cars full of Nebraskans headed east to do battle with the loathsome Iowegians for Spooky Cross. Rafal started out the day for our motley crew racing his SS in the 4’s race. After a poor start he slowly muscled his way through the pack to wrest a podium spot away from some honkey with a bike that cost more than my first car. Then he started talking about margins, and I started making polish jokes.

When we first rode the course, it was obvious that this course was pretty rough. There was also a little seeping spring that we rode across, that would become a giant sucking mud hole by the end of the day. When the 3’s and 1,2,3’s race came around Mike Miles, Noah, Marcus, Rafal, and myself lined up along with fellow Nebraskans Rich Pearson and Kevin Murray. With a Cannon blast we were off. I had a pretty descent start, but Noah and Mike were up front. On the first run up I was behind two riders from Iowa City that were on the same team that were side by side. I felt like going a little faster so I started to squeeze between them pushing my bike. Fullerman was on the right, and had shouldered his bike, as I went by he turned his shoulders to avoid the limbs on the side of the trail. This turn of body swung his back tire around and smacked me right in the mouth. I managed to get by, but Fullerman can back around just a few moments later and would prove to be the lone Iowegian on the 3’s podium that day. At that point I was sitting in 4th trying to keep Mike Miles in sight for the first few laps. But he just kept stretching out his lead.

At this point I started trying to do dumb stuff. For some reason this year I am not taking 100+ degree turns with a wide approach. I am trying to ride the shortest distance, right up to the apex and then muscle through it, instead of staying wide and leaning into the curve to carry some speed. This was the reason I went down down last week, and why I went down again this week. Both times it was not the act of going down that cost me time, rather it was having to realign my front end. While I was messing with handlebars, Rich Pearson came around along with a few other riders.

Now I will say this, Rich Pearson is my hero. I mean when I am his age I hope that that I have a modicum of his speed on the bike. That being said, I don’t want him to beat me in a bike race. Well, in true proverbial fashion, experience and cunning triumphed over youth and stupidity.

I managed to reel back in the other guys that came around but I never got within a hundred yards of Rich again. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of Miles, but Noah was out of site, as was Fullerman. It was Noah that would prove to be the victor. Mike , Rich and I would round out the top 5 in the 3’s. Matt Farnham would bring home 3rd in Elite race. Nebraska was well represented.

I also was impressed at how awesome the fans are in Iowa. As I walked back to our cheering section Rafal handed me a warm Busch Light……having never been the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth, I took it and started making polish jokes. One of the ladies that was walking by proceeded to offer us all cold beverages, and then gave us gift certificates to a local restaurant. Sweet! Thanks Lee!