Friday, July 31, 2009

Competitive Commuting

I've gotten into a competition of sorts; I feel I need to break what every "record" I set on my commute.
Wednesday was faster than Tuesday, and Thursday faster than Wednesday.
I'm checking splits, and calculating speeds on the road.
Are these hour long hammerfest of any value? Hard to say. Last night I had a hard time keeping up with Lillian (the slowest walker in the world) on our walk to the bookstore my legs were so wrecked. Recovery is pretty good though; I don't feel too worse for wear this morning, but I'm glad I need the truck for work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I realize on the mountain bike I'm a total geartard. The time I've spent riding singlespeeds has rendered my ability to select the proper gear for the situation moot.
But on a road bike?
Come on, road bikes are easy. You just keep on shifting until you reach the desired amount of suffering, I mean resistance. How hard can that be?
I used to ride geared road bikes all the time, but since last Fall, I've been on a geared bike maybe a half dozen times.
Two of those time were this week.
On Monday, everything went wrong due to poor preparation (I'm firing my mechanic!), so Tuesday I was back on the Fun Machine as a sort of bicycle sorbet, to clense my pallet.
Pretty good ride too. My ride into work rivaled some of my quickest rides in on any bike.
So today, I gave the Univega another chance. I had gone over it last night to make sure I had crossed my "i's" and dotted my "t's".
Mechanically it performed flawlessly, but I felt I was fighting it the whole way in. I kept thinking "this hurts, why am I going so slow?".
When I got to the shop I was indeed slow; 1:45 slower than the day before.
WTF (that's "text" for what the fuck)! Why am I slower on a lighter geared bike than a heavier fixed gear?
On the ride home, I was grinding up the climb to Roger's Orchard, you know sitting and spinning, looking at my speed. Man am I going slow. Maybe I'm this slow on the fixed gear, but I don't realizes it because I can't see the speedo standing?
The climb after the orchard, I jumped out of the saddle and it dawned on me. I don't have sit and spin muscles anymore.
All the fixed and singlespeed riding has developed my muscles differently than if I was trying to do a Lancy-pants impression.
From there on I decided to ride to my strengths. Don't shift down to a spinny gear and sit, but stand and use my upper body, like I'm used to. Ride like "me".
By the time I got to RT10, I was equal on time to Tuesday's commute.
By the time I got to the spot I flatted on Monday I was 30 seconds up.
Finally, when I got home I was up by 55 seconds. I pulled back 2:40 on the ride home. This was in the rain too, so I couldn't capitalize on coasting down hills either.
So what does all this tell us:
  1. Geared bikes are faster
  2. fixed gears are more reliable
  3. Charlie has too much time on his hands
  4. absolutely nothing
  5. all of the above

Monday, July 27, 2009


RT 91N, exit 40.

That's as far as I made it.

Bike was prepped, food and drinks were packed. I was well rested, and had a good week of riding leading up to Sunday (not too hard, not too easy).

But there were some rough edges that needed to be smoothed, that were weighing heavily on me.

I guess some things are more important than racing my bike.

In the half full / half empty category, 1st, and 3rd place in the series also didn't race the CAT1 40-49 (Jonny Bold did a road race, and Kevin Hines came in 2nd in the Pro / CAT1 open). So I didn't gain, or loose any ground. All even stevens and the like.

In lieu of 4 hours in the truck I did have time to change the bars on my Univega (wider is better). Due to said rough edges I was rushing it, and things were not going smoothly.

First going with wider bars meant replacing cables and housings. Somehow the derailleur housings which seemed way too short, worked out by re-routing them on the inside of the bars, but there was no way around the brake cable housings.

The little tape strips under the brifters wouldn't stick, or would the fancy finishing tape, so I ended up wrestling with bar tape for far longer than I'd like, and I had to finish the ends with electrical tape.

Riding in this morning, I realized I didn't tighten the brifters, as the left slide a 1/2" out of place. So I got to re-tape the left side once again.

Another thing I forgot to do in my rush was inject more sealant in the tires. I remembered this as the sky turned black.

Then I heard pft,ftftftftftffffffffff.

So as I admire the blister on my thumb, I'm thinking that was a lot of work for a bike that's not nearly as fun as, well, the Fun Machine.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can't Wait!

Last week I was whining about driving long miles to races, this week I'm chomping at the bit.
After racing 3 weekends in a row it was nice to have a weekend at home with the family. Got to go for a ride with the kids, go to Stratton Brook State park for swimming (well the kids swam). Got to pull weeds, cut down brush, clean gutters and other productive homebody stuff. I did miss the noon cut off to get all my brush over to the recycling center watching the Tour though.
But that's enough.
I'm ready to race.
Looking forward to back to back weekends of obsessing about tire and gear choice.
Rigid or HT?
What food should I bring?
Should I carry all my water or build a stand?
Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Product Review: Continental Race King

I've been riding Continental Race King's (29x2.2) for about a month now, and here's what I've found.
They are fast. Scaryfast.
Because they roll so fast you need to pay attention, or they'll be telling you "Look fat boy, we're working here, stop daydreaming and keep your head in the game or we'll throw you on your ass".

Their rolling resistance is such that I found myself carrying way more speed into corners than I anticipated. At first this might cause a bobble or dab, but once I was used to how they continued to carry speed when I let off the gas, I adjusted.

At speed traction is excellent, but be warned this tire is meant to go fast. If you are looking for a tire to play Han Rey with, picking a line through a rock garden look else where. Slow speed stuff in slippery rocks is a weakness.

Now if you hit the rock garden with speed and rode the crests and spines of the rocks, or if the rocks aren't all slimy from record rainfall, the Race Kings will perform excellent.
The sidewalls are pretty stiff, so I can run them down to as low as 20 psi without bottoming them out. The sidewall stiffness is in part due to a puncture protection layer, which is a nice reassurance in rocky New England.

I raced them in the mud of the Putney West Hill race. They did pack up a bit (after I washed my bike off they were holding 1 pound of dirt), but on the course the continued to provide traction (no unplanned dismounts if you know what I mean).

I chose not to race them at Domnarski, or Pats Peak, but in retrospect, they would have worked as well as the combo I did choose.

My pair weighs in at 640 grams a piece, not lightweights, but not bad for a 29" tire, and 10 grams less than Conti's claim. With the piece of mind of sidewall protection, I'll take a few extra grams instead of the walk of shame any day.
Also the easiest tire I've ever set up tubeless; sealed without sealant. A first for me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Singlespeed Heart

I took Quinn and Lillian for a bike ride on Saturday. We started on a nice smooth crushed stone bike path in Simsbury. I spied a blazed ribbon banking off to the right and thought "That looks like fun!"

A pretty tame path for someone who regularly mountain bikes, but on the challenging side for an 8 and 10 year old.

As I coached Quinn over some roots and up a difficult climb, I see Lillian up ahead pedalling until she can't go any further, calmly dismounting and beginning to push her bike up the rest of the hill.

No complaining, no drama. She just accepted she did the best she could, and she'd just have to push it the rest of the way. It was beautiful.

Besides the fact that she never shifts the gears on her 21 speed bike, she has the heart of a singlespeeder.

When you ride a singlespeed you don't make excuses. You make it or you don't. You don't blame your tires or your gear choice. It is what it is.

I was riding with a friend a week or so ago and on a challenging two part technical climb, I made the bottom half over the ledge and roots, but couldn't make the turn at the top. He consoled me that making it that far was making it.


If I make it that's great, if not, no big deal, I'll try again another day.

If your racing and you're getting blown away because your gear is small for the flat stuff, maybe you'll make it back on the climbs, maybe you won't, but don't worry about it. That's just the way it is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"What's It Weigh?"

I've been getting that question a lot lately. Mostly at races from geared riders. They are astounded by how "heavy" it is. Conversely, singlespeed riders usually think the weight is on the lighter side.

I'm not above weight weenie-ism; I have a little fishing scale in my shop that I'll weigh tires and other parts on. I'd say more out of curiosity than anything else. If a products works well, and is heavier so be it. However if something is lighter and works as well, I'll probably go with option "B". If I end up having to walk my bike 5 miles out of the woods because option "B" wasn't up to the task, then that weight savings really wasn't too helpful.

I know weight makes some difference, but how much? My Cannondale weighs 16 lbs., whereas my Univega weighs 20 lbs. Riding the Cannondale, it definitely "feels" lighter. It's "feels" like it accelerates faster, and is quicker handling. But when I check my ride averages, I'm no faster than on the Univega, even on routes with a lot of climbing.

Which would I choose for a hillclimb? The Cannondale, no doubt.

So what does it weigh?

My Karate Monkey has been as low as 21.75 lbs with linear pull brakes and sub 600 gram Ignitors. It's been close to 25 lbs with rigid steel fork, BB7 disc brakes, and Nevegals. With disc brakes and the rigid carbon fork, hovers around 22 lbs with the right tires. Right now with Conti Race Kings, and a Rockshox Reba it's 23.8 lbs.

The only time I really notice the difference from its heaviest to lightest is carrying it up the stairs out of the basement.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Celebrating my Inner Geezer

At Putney and Pats Peak I just got shelled on the descents. As much as I hate to, I think I need to go back to a hardtail. I don't think a suspension fork is going to win a race, but after the pathetic display of descending I put on in New Hampshire, I think the positive will out weigh the negative.

  • More control descending
  • more speed in the rough
  • more speed on descent
  • More weight (about 1.7 lbs when you add the weight of the sussie fork, less the weight of not needing such a gnarl tire up front)
  • Some bob on the ascents
  • Joining AARP

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I just realized the initials to my blog form the acronym C.R.A.B.
I think this might be quite helpful.
If you like what I write, you might say, "that was some tasty C.R.A.B".
If not you might say "This C.R.A.B. is making me nauseous".
I don't think there will ever be any Charlie Rides a Bike schwag, because who wants C.R.A.B.S.?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Negative Nancy goes to New Hampshire

I had a bad attitude. It was the last day of my vacation and the last thing I wanted to do was spend 5+ hours in the truck.
There were so many things I would have liked to do with the family on such a beautiful day, but instead I was chasing points.

I woke to Tour De France coverage through the breath taking Pyrenees. I'd rather ride my bike than watch people ride their bikes, but the scenery was awesome.

Driving to the venue, New Hampshire reminded me of the TdF mountain passes. Makes you want to do a road ride through this pristine landscape. Oh that's right I pre-registered for a mountain bike race...No road for you!

Grumble, grumble, grumble, I get to Pats Peak (no, I don't believe there is an apostrophe, much like Tim Hortons).

Big effing grassy peak towering in front of me.

Pre-ride the first big climb, and at least my gear is a good choice. The course has some nice churned up mud bogs from the 24 hour race in the rain yesterday. Nice hike-a-bike singletrack turned to mud holes too. Awesome!

For the start they lined us up at the bottom of a grassy hill to make sure we get enough climbing in today.

The whistle blows, and there is a Corner Cycle pace line formed w/ Kevin Hines, Jonny Bold, and Mark Stoltz. The three of them fly off the front as I lead the rest of us for the first half a lap.

Gray Eldridge and Bike Barn rider Todd Bearse stay close to me on the climb and make short work of getting around me on the first descent. Todd pulls a sweet jump when he passes me. Very impressive.

Fortunately there's another climb soon enough. I get around Gray on the fireroad, and Todd in the ascending singletrack.

In the descending singletrack, they are right on me, and I'm descending like shit. This seems like it would be a lot of fun to ride, but I can't ride to save my life. Eventually I crash, loose my glasses, and they pass me. They turn on the turbos and are out of sight.

Depression sets in. I don't want to be here, this is hurting, I'm dropping through the ranks like a stone, and most importantly I'm just not having fun.

Lap two I'm trying to stay motivated, but secretly wishing my bike would break so I can just go home. I pick off a few back markers on the climbs, and they fight to get around me as I descend like a novice.

But then on the third lap, going around the snow making pond, I see a Corner Cycle jersey. Is that Gray? Yep.

As things start to go up, I begin to reel him in, on the big service road climb I catch him. He offers me some encouragement, and as I get to the ski lift, I see a Bike Barn jersey ahead. Am I coming back?

I catch Todd on the fireroads before the singletrack climb, hoping to stay in front of him on the way down.

Some of the 30-39 y/o's, and Todd are really pressing me on the descent, and get around me near the bottom. I pull him back when again climbing across the hill, only to take a wrong turn!

Maybe it was wishful thinking, because I turned right and down the hill instead of going left and up.

Todd has opened up a good gap again, and my only chance of beating him is to reverse the gap between us before the descent.

The first big climb I get him, and am lucky enough to catch back up to 50+ strongman Andrew Chambers. We ride side by side for the climb, and he takes the lead on the descent.

This is working to my advantage; instead of having riders breathing down my neck, I have a rider to try and keep up with.

Last time down and I'm finally riding the descent with some degree of competence and make it to the line secure in 4th.

I'll take it. I'm 4 minutes off the podium. If I had a better attitude could I have made up those 4 minutes? Maybe a suspension fork? Who knows? Usually I'm a little faster the Andy Chambers, and the last time I raced Mark Stoltz (Putney), I beat him by about a minute (I know these facts because I obsessively pour over the results calculating time differences and lap times). Guess it just wasn't my day.

We'll see if I do MT Snow or not; I don't know if they make a big enough cog for me to get up those climbs!

Congratulations to Corner Cycle for sweeping the podium. Sorry I couldn't stick around for the ceremony, I had to get back to pick up my daughter, and Pats Peak was a long way from home.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Domnarski Farm

First off, Why'd I listen to Mike and James and run the Nevegal / Ignitor combo. What a train wreck. Thanks alot guys.:-(

Just kidding; tire combo worked great.

Domarski Farm has been described as a "real" mountain bike race, or a "Man's" race. It's a 10 mile loop of singletrack, rugged fireroads with huge puddles, some nice rocks to give it that New England charm, 3 long hard climbs as well as numerous short sharp ones, water crossings, swamp crossing, and of course some mud bogs.
Before the race I joked with Royce that I was going to try and ride the first short steep hill off the start, only make it halfway up and make everybody else dismount. I could hear the choir of "Effing Singlespeeder" already.
We had a good field again; not the 21 of Putney, but at least 12. Way more than I expected from who preregistered, and being a Holiday weekend.
I was goofing around when they announced the call up so I would be starting in the second row.
Jill gave us an extra detailed count down and we were off.
I found a gap through the front row of riders and got to the first short sharp hill in 2nd or third position. Gray Eldridge was leading and I was relieved when he dismounted and ran the hill. I followed his lead and didn't hold anyone up (no one was cursing me that I could hear). He lead until the first long climb, which is where I made my move.
My gear choice was perfect for that hill. I was standing,as usual, but it was very comfortable. I opened a little daylight between myself and the pack.
Until the climbing ended. Once things started descending I began hearing a rider behind me. He was making up ground on me and quick. It was Mark Gunsalus. He caught and passed me on a fireroad, but I stayed on him and followed him comfortably through he singletrack.
I was feeling good, but I figured I would not press him; maybe if we rode together we could keep a gap on the field.
But once we got to the next fireroad section he began to inch away. I could pull him back in the singletrack, but couldn't spin my perfect gear on the hills fast enough to keep on him on the fireroads.
Then the course funneled onto pavement.
Good bye Mark.
On the two big climbs up the back of the course, I pulled him back in, and when He was gingerly walking/running the planks in the swamp, I just said screw the planks, and ran through the swamp.
This lit a fire in him and he really began pushing down the fireroads and the last paved section.
When I crossed the start/finish, Mark was no longer insight. For that matter other than Rob Stine who DNF'd due the the rock monster in the mud bog, and some back makers, I was in no-man's land.
It was sort of disorienting for me. I kept on feeling I had missed a turn. At one point I actually slowed to almost a stop to try and figure if I was going the right way. It was very reassuring when I'd pickup a back marker, that I was actually on the course.
On the big powerline climb up the back I saw Mark's Fuji jersey near the top. He looked so close, yet, he was about to start descending, and I had a lot of hill left ahead of me. After this climb there just isn't enough vertical for me to do much other than hold my place. Which after some of the nastiest mud bogs in Massachusetts is what I did. I finished second. About 20 minutes faster than last year.
I'm psyched!
At the bike wash Mark told me he finished 2nd in the Housatonic Hills Road race, and won the KOM, I was super psyched. Feeling a little like Raymond Poulidor, but psyched none the less.
When Matt Domnarski handed me double the prize I was expecting, super, super, psyched!

About that rock monster. Rob Stine and two guys from my group both rode into a mud hole, only to come out with a flat tire. Matt had made a warning about something in a mud hole, but I missed that announcement due to the previously mentioned goofing around.
Kim, Lillian, and Quinn joined me too, I was worried they'd be bored, but had a blast on the zip-line, and in the pond. Kim even read a page or two of her book.
Sorry no pictures; even though I had a captive photographer, the batteries in the camera died.
Finally, major props to Josh Wilcox for finishing "in the money" in the Pro class. Awesome job Josh!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Decision Decisions

What tires should I race Domnarski Farm on?

Last year it was pretty sloppy, and I rode my Stumpjumper on Kenda Karmas. Wasn't my best race, got sent to bitch school, but I calk it up to being out of racing for a year and having commuter legs.

It was pretty sloppy at Putney and I ran Conti Race Kings. They performed well above how you'd guess by looking at the shallow tread, but there was some slipping on the climbs and maybe a little less confidence in the corners.

So my choices are Nevegals front and rear, Nevegal (f) / Ignitor (r), Ignitors (f&r), or stick with the Race Kings.

I leaning towards going Ignitors all around; they perform well for me in all conditions. But the idea of having something a little more gnarl up front has some appeal.

What do you think?