Sunday, June 28, 2009

Putney West Hill Shop Race

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As I hit the Vermont border the rain started. "Oh this can't be good" I thought.

Stopping at the rest area for a nature break I cursed myself for removing my undershirt from my back pack as the rain chilled me. But when I got to the actual race venue, things began to let up, and the chill started to fade from the air.

James and I hooked up for a pre-ride lap. Things were slick, but my Conti Race King's were handling the slop better than I expected.

Lining up we had a huge field. I don't think the economic down turn has effected grassroots mountain bike racing; fields seem bigger and bigger!

The whistle blows and I get the holeshot. I get to the woods first, only to be passed by Jonny Bold on the first descent. I keep him in sight and pass him on a climb before the first technical section (James had pointed out on the pre-ride I would pass Mr. Bold there). I was thrilled to be leading Jonny for whatever short amount of time I would; when he and his teammate Kevin Hines line up, the top steps of the podium are spoken for. This bothers some, but I like the challenge.

As things turn down again Jonny passes me and starts building his lead.

Another Corner Cycles rider and I swap 2nd and 3rd back and forth. Hill goes up Charlie moves forward. Hill goes down Charlie falls back.

On the last descent of the first lap, another Corner Cycles rider, and Matt from Bike29 pass me. I pass them back on the climb to the start/finish, only to be passed en mass on the first descent.

I keep the group of 3 in sight on the second lap (Bold is long gone), and pass them on the final climb again.

The third lap, I lead our group for the most part. The course is getting super slick. The climbs are really starting to suck the energy out of me. On the final climb, Matt and I have separated ourselves from the Corner Cycle boys (well, if you can call guys racing 40-49 "boys"). About 3/4th of the way up the climb, I spinout. I think I stayed in front of Matt, but by the bottom of the first descent we were together again.

He took the lead on a descent. My hope was I could repass him on the big climb up the back of the course. I made it about halfway up, and just didn't have anything left to give. I had to take the "walk of shame". Every step, Matt put just a little more real estate between us.

Now my focus turned to damage control. I had about 1.5 miles to go, with a couple hike-a-bikes, and one slick, steep climb to go; I just wanted to preserve whatever position I was in (I wasn't sure at the time if I was in 3rd or 4th).

Last hill, again I only made it about 3/4th up before I spun out. Quick peak behind showed I'd hold my place to the end. Pushed my bike to the closest not slick spot, fumbled clipping in and crossed the line.

When the results are posted, I did get third! That's my second podium this year, and gives me a strong hold on 3rd place overall.

A couple of race notes:

  • At first I was thinking my tire choice was a bad one, but after thinking about it for a while, I don't think I have any other tires that would have performed better.

  • After rinsing off my frame, my bike still weighed about 1.5 lbs more than it did when clean from all the mud still stuck in the tires

  • They sure got the name right; my Garmin recorded over 3600' of climbing for the 4 laps

Thursday, June 25, 2009

As the Wheel Turns

The other night Kim pops down to the basement to see what I'm up to.

"Oh just swapping all the fancy bits from the orange bike to the black bike".

She rolls her eyes and say "It's like a soap opera, I can't keep up" as she turns back up the stairs.

She's right.

I've raced 4 times this year, and haven't raced the same set up yet.

First race of the year, I rode the Soma rigid because I had been enjoying it over the Winter.

Winding trails, I decide to ride the Karate Monkey as a HT to try and not loose so much time on the descents.

An annoying creak began to plague me, and no matter what I tried, I couldn't eliminate it. Out of frustration I swapped all the fancy bits to the Soma. Guess what? The creak didn't go away. But it was too late to swap everything back so the Soma it is (creak turned out to be the rear QR).

I did pretty good too; Winsted was my best finish so far of the year. But I realized even w/ a suspension fork, I wasn't making up any ground on the descent, so I might as well ride rigid.

I pickup one of those fancy Chinese plastic forks, which lopped a pound off the front end of the Soma. The weight savings probably didn't have any effect on Singlespeed-a-polooza, but I liked how it was stiffer, yet not harsher than my steel forks.

Last Friday I broke a spoke on my main rear wheel. My backup wheel has some oscillation in the hub. I replaced the axle to no avail; there was still some wobble. Now I'm not going to listen to my brake rub, so I build up the Karate Monkey that was waiting to be built in to a "Monstercross" bike, with it's rigid steel fork (It had BB7's installed, which have more pad clearance than Juicy 5's).

Boy did I miss that bike. It's one of those things where you don't realize how good you have it, until you try something else and come back to the original wondering what the hell you were thinking.

So now all the "race parts" are back on the Karate Monkey. "Mary Jane", will make her racing debut with the rigid carbon fork Sunday. Ironically, I rode her Tuesday w/ Juicy 5's and my backup wheel, and didn't notice any brake rub.

Guess I could have left well enough alone.

(glad I didn't)

(don't name your bikes)

(naming your bikes is ghey...)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little riding music

Quite the eclectic soundtrack for my ride today.
As I crested and came out to Little Moab, some late 80's rock/funk was the tune de jour.
I'm super psyched to actually find the two songs I was swapping back and forth between in the same clip.
I started to feel that oneness that Mary Jane and I once shared coming back, so of course the next song was this.
Up next was pretty unexpected. Sure I'll listen to classic rock, but this song surprised me.
I guess it was a "classic rock rock block" because one oldie just wasn't enough.
As I descended down the fence line, again I was taken back to my old friend.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Stumble Through the Woods

The Tour de Talcott has become a Father's Day tradition for me, and now that James has joined me twice he's stuck; it's a tradition for him now too. Hopefully the weather we've had these past two years won't become become one as well.

Maybe it's the hours I've been on the bike (11:39 this week, over 22 in the past two; my usual this time of year is 8-10 hours), but I was fumbling all over the trail.

I just built Mary Jane up again. After breaking a spoke on my main rear wheel, I was running my back up wheel. When I was adjusting the brake, I noticed a lot of oscillation in the freehub. Must be a bent axle I thought. Maybe I bent it when I was riding fixed over the Winter? Swapped it out, easy peasy. Still oscillating. The hydro calipers on the Soma don't have as much clearance as the BB7's Mary Jane's been sporting, so instead of dealing with a slight rubbing when I rode through puddles, I decided to build the Ol' gal up again (frame, fork, headset, and bb were together).

So maybe getting re-acquainted, was on my mind?

Whatever was on my mind it wasn't the trail. Log after log I slid off the trail. James finally had the good sense to take the lead, instead of being stopped by my carcass laying in the trail.

Things started going better once I started following James' lead. That is until I started thinking about how things were going better following James' lead. On the floor again.

Maybe it was the Bloodhound Gang. I just couldn't get Three Point One Four out of my head.

I can't blame the bike; other than some skewer slip (operator error), she performed flawlessly.

Can't blame the trails; after all the rain we've had, I should be used to riding in this slop by now.

I guess some days are less "graceful" than others.

But I guess that's OK, 'cause I had a blast!

I also had the privilege of being on Selma's debut ride. Super Schweet rig. Beautiful, beautiful bike. James is going to rip it up on that thing! Other than me slowing him down, he's taken to the Salsa quite well.

happiness is

that's tight

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Most of my riding is solo, especially during the week, so today I had the rare opportunity to show Doug Jansen, the Hill Junkie, around my home trails. But that's not all! Special guest rider Alex "Mookie" Combes also joined us.

They both have big events this weekend so a social / recreational pace was requested. Fortunately I was able to get there early enough to try and get my ya ya's out before leading them through my rocky muddy home trail network.

When I did get back to the trailhead, in classic Charlie style they were waiting for me at one end of the parking lot as I waited at the other. We finally hooked up and hit the trails.

I was glad the trails had some chance to drain, as they were a sloppy mess on Tuesday. The Kerry trail was still a mess, and I took the fireroad up to the East fence line, to avoid the inevitable mud pit on the trail to the fence from the lower Antler trail.

When I first started riding at the Res., I looked at certain technical sections as challenge stages, much like the arcade game Galaga. As I approach these sections even to this day, the theme music to that adolescent favorite still rings through my head.

Anyhoo...challenge after challenge, Doug and Alex took in stride, cleaning technical climbs still slick from this non-stop rain we've been plagued with. Sections regulars at the Res. hardly ever clean, they made look easy.

Speaking of easy, it sure is easier riding with a good head of steam. It harder to float over the roots and rocks when you slow it down a notch. But it's probably good for me to vary my intensity.

It was great meeting Doug, and I was super impressed with Alex's new technical abilities; Motor+skills=Podium.

What better after a ride: rice/bean/avocado burritos!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbors Bike

Just when I think I'm getting some sensibility about myself James goes and buys a new bike! Well a sweet new frame that he's building up.

So clicky, clicky and I'm surfing and searching.
I can get a On-One Slot Drop Scandal delivered for $401. Or a 2008 Niner One-9 for $600.45 shipped to my door, from

Either one of these frames would drop over a pound off my bike, and IMO, are great deals.

But other than the fact that I don't have $401, or $600.45 is dropping 7% off my bike weight and about 1% off the total Charlie / bike weight really going to make a difference?
I'm trying to keep telling myself NO, NO, NO!

These slide rule toting bastards tell me I'll gain 10 seconds over a 5k 8% climb.

But....NO,NO,NO! Must resist....put the card away... even though you can write it off...must be strong...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up

I should use my basement as a barometer of trail conditions. If water comes in, there'll be standing water on my fair trails.
This was the case Friday. We had heavy showers Thursday night, and the basement was wet. After 8 humid hours the trails only dried enough to get slimy.

I fumbled through my training loop, loosing confidence with every rocky, and slippery turn. I soldiered through it to get an accurate mileage. Turns out it is shorter, and thus I am slower than I thought. Rats!

Saturday my body needed a break. Great day for the fixie, which proved to be the perfect choice. One of those days where you get to your turning spot and decide to go further. But duty called at the shop and on the home front, so I had to succumb to reason and turn for home.
On the way back I caught up to a group from Central Wheel. Twice. First time I caught them, I went an alternate route to get some more climbing and distance in. Second time was only 4 miles from home so I sat in for a couple of miles. Spoke with the owner who was very friendly and enthusiastic. Sounds like they have a good program of group rides if that's your bag.

Sunday I woke to a wrench in the works. Rain.

The plan was to go riding early, go to church, and then Celebrate (the fleecing of) West Hartford, then family swim at the gym.
I guess my ride will be pushed of to a later time.
In looking at the schedule for Celebrate (the fleecing of) West Hartford, I noticed the road race would be at 9:30 Am. Getting off our street would be next to impossible for Mass.

Sorry God,I'm going riding!

First sign (well second if you count the puddle in my basement)that a road ride was the wiser move were the steady streams running to the storm drains. But I felt great, and wise moves would be out of character for me. The fixie had given my upper body enough of a break to get me back on form.

Friday I was questioning my bike as I rode like a small child on his first ride without training wheels. Must be the bike, it couldn't be me! Started considering giving up the Karate Monster project, and making the Karate Monkey my race bike again. But today, the bike was great. Flickable, and fast. I don't think the trail dried enough for the slime to start to form, and I didn't feel beat up from fighting the trail and my bike.

Riding rigid you need to attack somethings, and if you or you confidence isn't all there, you're going to have a hard time. Finesse is great sometimes, but aggro has it's place too! You need to keep that momentum going to smooth out the rough stuff.
In the end I got over 11 hours in, which is good for me, and all part of my top secret training plan.

Refreshing drink?

Happy girl above West Hartford

Kim and the kids on the "Scrambler"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Viva la France!

Quick release pedals?

Saturday, looking to put 1:45-2 hours in on the bike, I'm being annoyed by an intermittent clicking.

I hate a noisy bike!

When I conclude the noise is my pedals, I pull over and give them a quick inspection. The right seems OK, but the left can move laterally on the spindle about 6 mm. This can't be good.

In a uncommon moment of sensibility I decide the wise thing to do is end my ride early. Only an hour of saddle time.

At home, of course I have every socket but the 8 mm I need to overhaul the pedals, so next best thing, swap out the questionable pedal, and grease the right and the replacement left.

Sunday is supposed to be a big day. 3.5 - 4 hours to make up for the lameness of my week.

Besides making the mistake of skipping coffee after only 5 hours of sleep, things are going remarkably well. I feel like I'm riding through a fog, but I'm cleaning everything challenging, which isn't to say I didn't dab on the simplest root or rock to balance everything out in the karmic universe of singletrack.

Meet up with some friends, ride some more, everything is going great, get to "Stumpy's Switchback" on the Antler Trail... and my right foot flies off the pedal throwing the pedal body up on to the rocks.

Another thing that can't be good.

Of course there is no way to re-attach the pedal body to the spindle, so I get to ride from the ridge to home trying to keep my foot on the well greased spindle. Only 2:50 of riding. The lameness continues...

I switched from Time ATAC's to Eggbeaters 1.5 years ago for better snow and ice clearance after 13 almost trouble free years of riding Time's with only a couple of minor problems...but they never came off the spindle!

Heavy, expensive, reliable.

Viva La France!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I shouldn't complain...

When I finished my ride this evening, I was somewhat disappointed. I wanted to ride at least 1:45, and my ride was only 1:36.

The only other ride I've had this week was at Case, which was more technical noodling than training so I wanted to put in a good effort today.

I've put together a new training loop this year at the Res. that incorporates more fireroads so I can work on my spin and descending. In the past I would do a sort of reverse out and back to get the maximum amount of climbing and singletrack in, but this route I've come up with has all the climbs (and more) of the original, but cuts out the backtracking.

The fireroads work well for trying to ride at a high intensity too; less burst of power, more constant effort.

So I was feeling decent tonight, I had my computer on mileage, not time, when I got to the spot I usually start descending back down to the trailhead I decided to keep climbing so I could take in one last technical climb. I had checked my time at the 10 mile mark and I was at 1:06; a good time for the spot, and although this route is newer, I was pretty sure I'd make my time goal, especially with adding the extra 1/2 mile.

Back at the truck, I feel good; it was a good workout. Then I checked my time. 1:36? Not only had I not rode as long as I wanted, at that pace I could have eek-ed out another mile or two before I wandered into bad-dad territory.

But I guess I really shouldn't be complaining; when I got home and checked my ride log, my previous route best was 1:39 on the 1/2 mile shorter route.

Maybe racing more this year is paying dividends? Maybe I need a new route?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Summit shot. Camera phones don't do too well shooting into the light

I had a delivery out to Pawtucket RI yesterday, so since I'd be East of the river anyways, I figured it would be a perfect day for Case Mountain.

On the drive out to RI I made a few observations:

  • Beautiful country out RT6 in Eastern CT; must be some fine ridin' in them thar hills

  • All the closed /for-sale commercial property out there is depressing

  • The engineer who designed the highway through Providence must have been drunk

  • Finally, people heading West out of Providence must have been sharing with the engineer

After some Mapquest follies, I find my way down to the Spring Street parking area and the fun starts.

Case is a really great place to work on your technical skills. Twisty rocky fun with some natural and man made features to challenge you.

I don't know the area well enough to put together a good cardio loop, at least from that side. I have come home from the Birch Mt. side pretty spent though.

Fortunately this was sort of a last hurrah ride for me, as business is picking up enough that I'll be relying on the kindness of family for deliveries out that far.

Perfect day for a "hurrah".

Mountain Laurel tunnels

Mysterious "ladder trees" conveniently fall in the forest

Monday, June 1, 2009


My Mom thinks I'm #1 too

A race just for singlespeeds? No gears?

Darkhorse Cycles thought it sounded like an interesting idea, and maybe they could get 90-100 people to show up in Stewart Forest for some fun.

204 preregistered riders later they had the largest gathering of singlespeeders on the East Coast.

The portion of course I was able to preride was tight and swoopy. It would be very hard to pass. To spread things out before we hit the singletrack they started us about 3/4th of a mile up a fireroad. There were 49 of us in the Pro / expert class: this is the biggest field I have ever raced against (back in the 90's the biggest was 45).

I lined up behind hole shot master James, and the whistle blows. I go backwards. I'm pedaling as fast as I can, and people are coasting past me. I enter the woods in the mid 30's (I think).

In the singletrack it is much more satisfying racing with singlespeeders; I feel I could be going a little faster, but there isn't the frustration of being stuck behind guys sitting and spinning in the first lap singletrack conga line that usually forms.

Slowly I start picking off riders. Power past a few on the first forest road, a couple more on wider technical spots. The gear I chose is very good in the woods. I can climb everything and can keep good speed in the swoopy stuff.

By mile marker 6 I'm grouped up with 4 other riders. One never passes me, but makes a few comments about how great the course is. Two in Bulldog jerseys. and one guy on a Superfly.

We are swapping spots back and forth quite a bit. When we get to a fireroad I go to the front and try and open something up, only to be passed en mass entering the singletrack as the fireroad pitches downhill.

The jockeying continues, as the Bulldogs, Mr. Superfly, and I constantly try and find what ever advantage we can over one another.

Racing singlespeeders is hard! They know all my tricks, and are playing to the same strengths as me.

Entering the second of two laps, the shuffling continues, and one of the Bulldogs can no longer hold the pace. Rootbeer Rig Bulldog, Mr. Superfly and me shuffling positions is becoming almost comical. At one point I suggest to Rootbeer Bulldog we should just set up a sprint finish for the end.

I'm glad he didn't take this offer, because even though he's still pulling passed me on the fireroads, his breath has become labored.

On the first two technical climbs they dismount to run which forces me to do so too. I'm able to run past Rootbeer Bulldog, only to be passed on the next fireroad.

On the next techy climb they run to the right, but I ride over a small rock ledge on the left and pass Rootbeer on the rock, and ride past Mr. Superfly before he remounts.

There is still a little more incline so a give it a good go to try and put some daylight between us.
I'm listening for them to be coming up behind me, but singlespeeds are so quiet, it's hard to tell. At intersections with spectators, I listen for applause behind me and try and judge what advantage I have.

Fear of the chase has pushed me up within sight of another rider from Ommegang Brewing around mile marker 6 (these are great to have on a race course by the way). Slowly I'm reeling him in, but before marker 7 he gets wind of me. I'm still gaining ground, but at the 8 mile marker he gives a good push and thwarts my advance. At the finish he told me he saw he only had 2 miles left, so he left it all out there (maybe mile markers aren't so hot).

In the end I finished 20th out of 49. Top half was my goal, so I'm psyched! Especially with the starting list I was racing against.

I felt real bad for Pro Thom Parsons who I saw calmly working on his bike he had hung from a tree. Seems he flatted twice, and had to settle for finishing a couple spots back from me, instead of dueling for the podium.

I probably could have used a bigger gear, but Josh, and James ran the same gear, finished 4th and 5th respectively, and went home with envelopes full of cash!

Major pros to Darkhorse Cycles for throwing a kickass event! Fun was had by all, and I'm definitely look forward to Singlespeed-A-Polooza 2010!

Kim reaps rewards from my two wheeled follies