Thursday, July 28, 2011


If I bring a road bike to Martha's Vineyard, I like to ride as close to the circumference of the island as I can.

In breaking with tradition I took the time to take some pictures.

It's good to get an early start because there's a lot of bike paths

 A whole lot of bike paths...

I usually avoid them and just ride up island

Wasting away again in Lobsterville
 I'm a sucker for a Farmall

No trip to MV would be complete w/o a ride on the Bike Ferry

Next time I'll have take the ferry to Chappaquiddick to more completely cover the island.  But it takes cars too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dear Google

I was going to go on an angry tirade about how poor Google Map's bike directions are, but maybe we can make lemonade out of lemons with this.
Google maps directions are wrong and incomplete,  They need closer inspection to be ready for prime time.
Google, friend, here is my suggestion:
Hire ME to be your official bicycle route tester.  

I'll ride around the country following your routes, critiquing them and reporting back discrepancies.
It would be a win-win-win!

Other than  the guy peeing on the promenade in front of the Science Center the first wrong turn happened in Manchester.  The bike path didn't go where google said it would.  After looping around and around, I headed in an Easterly direction and hoped for the best.
As things were getting more and more residential, I thought it best to recalculate my route.
After a few more google vaguities (I just  made that word up, you can use it), I was on the right track again.

The next misstep was my fault.  A 45 year old man reading an iphone screen while riding without his glasses is going to make a mistake.  That and the fact that google regurgitates an endless stream of minutia in their directions. But after a foray into South Glastonbury I was back on track and making good time.

When google kept my route to roads with route numbers every thing went fine.  When they sent me on short cuts that turned out to be rocky dirt roads that end in people's backyards; not so much.

Sometimes google made assumptions when it said "continue on".  Like that I should know in certain cases "continue on" means to take a left then a quick right, and another left.

After such an instance I recalculated my route, looked at the clock and realized, I was going to have to haul ass and make no more wrong turns if I had a chance at making my boat.

I was low on water, but if I kept the pace I was on, it would only be a couple of hours to N. Kingstown.  Unfortunately I hit another googlaugity (hey look another new word!) in Sterling.  Hope wasn't lost yet, but I really needed to stay on the rivet and on track if I had any hope.  On a side note Sterling never gave up on the metric system and has it's road signs in kilometers.

I entered Rhode Island.   One last recalculation.  As I looped around the area google claimed the East Coast Greenway was I saw two things: singletrack with a sign reading "Dangerous Trail, horses use caution", and a man unloading his car from a trip to a local warehouse club.  I asked the gentleman if he knew of any bike path in the area.  He pointed to the aforementioned trail and said "they haven't finished it yet".
I did take the opportunity to speak to an actual resident of the area and he was kind enough to point me in the right direction.
At this point I'm screwed.  I gave myself almost 7 hours to make a 90 mile journey, and the only boat I'm catching is the failboat.  Before my phone's battery is completely dead, I call my family and let them know I'm not going to make my boat

As I pass a farm stand I see the glare of a glass cooler door.  Glass door = cold drinks (or dairy products)!
1 coke, 1 gatorade, a water, plus the reassurance that if I continue on my current track I will indeed get to N. Kingstown.
Following human directions is a lot easier.
When I hit Rt1, I use the last drops of juice my phone has to find out where I am in relation to the dock.  I pass a Subway, but really want to get to my final destination, and if this ferry is anything like the Steamship Authority there will be plenty of food options at the dock.
As I make one of the final turns to the boat there's a sign "No Pedestrians or Bicycles".  I'm within 2 miles of the boat...

I get to the ferry dock.  It consists of a rusted barge and a trailer in a gravel lot.  I have 3 1/2 hours to kill with no phone or food.  They do have a vending machine with cold drinks and I really don't want to figure out how to get back to town without riding on the highway, so I whack back 5 beverages over the course of my wait.  The trailer is air conditioned, but I stay outside; I realize I must truly be offensive (to smell) at this point.

The boat arrives late and leaves late, which ironically if my original boat had done the same I might not have missed it.  But they have a snake bar, and in less than 2 hours I'll finally be with my family on the Vineyard.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Wrath of the Boneyard and the Curse

My day was not going well.  Actually it wasn't going bad but I was in a foul mood.  I was looking a gift horse in the mouth so to speak.  There was a race only 20 minutes from my house, but I was thinking I'd rather be tearing down my fence.  2:00 PM just seemed like an inconvenient time of day for me to race (either that or a convenient excuse for not getting anything done all morning).  If my parents were not coming up for the race I'd probably have bailed.

Which leads us to the curse.

I love my parents, but my racing track record has not been stellar on the occasions they've come out to show me support.
First race they came to I crashed about a quarter of a mile into it and broke my frame.  Next race I got the mother of all flats where the Stan's had done such a good job sealing the tire to the rim, that it took me over 20 minutes to break the bead and fix it (ironically the Stan's couldn't seal the puncture the nail made).  The next was a CX race in Simsbury, which although no mechanical catastrophes, was only a mediocre performance.  Finally this year I got 5th at Winding Trails behind some pretty tough competition (I was pretty happy with that).

I get out to the venue, pick up my number, pull my bike out of the truck computer.
How can I be all anal-retentive with metrics without my computer?!

my computer, on my road bike, and yes it's in my kitchen...wife's away, Charlie will play or at least not bring his bike downstairs

I've got the strava app on my phone, so I guess I'll give that a shot to feed my sickness.

There are only 3 Cat1 singlespeeders, but they start us by ourselves.  They send us on a little neutral parade loop.  Jake's not waving and smiling like Miss America, so I don't think he truly understood the idea of "parade" and leads thru the Start / Finish and up to the climb of the feed zone.  Because it is up hill and my parents are standing there at the ready I feel a certain obligation to pass him.

Jake doesn't take this lightly and begins to draft me.  There wasn't any aero advantage to this being as The Boneyard is quite possibly the most rocky technical course on the Root 66 series.  He's not giving me an inch, just waiting for me to make a mistake.

About 3/4th of the way thru the first lap he sees one of his friends broken down on the side of the trail.  I think this snapped his concentration, because as I got to one of the more significant climbs on the course a gap was growing.

From there I tried to go hard wherever I could to grow the gap.
Entering the second lap I was already getting racing chills, so I made an effort to drink as often as possible.

The first half of the course is the rockiest.  It's all rocky, but up to the "Boneyard" it is brutal.  For me riding rigid, there was a descent before the race's namesake that was the worst.  At least picking your way through the Boneyard you weren't being sucked faster by gravity.
Speaking of brutality about 1/3 of the riders in Cat1 DNF'd.  Mostly due to flats.

One the third lap I caught TJ.  I commented that there couldn't be too many more 30-39s in front of him.  "Just Alex" was his reply (Alex "I should really be racing Cat2" Combes would hold on for an impressive first Cat1 victory).

This gave me a new goal; catch all the 30-39s and not get caught by any 40-49's.  Well I failed because shortly before the "Boneyard" Alby caught me.
This was good fun as I got to heckle him in the rock gardens.
Then I got caught by the second place 40-49.  I gave him an easy pass, but when  we started climbing again, I had to take the lead as his spinny gear and my standing gear were not playing nice.
When I passed him I reassured him I'd let him by again.  At the bottom of the next descent the tape was torn down, I didn't see the arrow, and went straight.  Number 2 didn't say anything.  If you were aware that I rode off the course and just let me go, not cool Brochacho (very possibly he was concentrating on his own thing and was not).
I got back on course and held on for the win (4th fastest Cat1 overall)...breaking the curse.  Good thing too, because having my parent there was really a godsend; with the heat I needed 3 bottles.
End of the lap I was hearing a grindy brake kind of sound.  Since I was almost done I just ignored it.  At the finish line I was alerted I was missing a caliper bolt.

Guess I forgot to snug that down when I took my bike out of the stand to help TJ with his.

I'm glad I sucked it up and went.  The Boneyard is a unique racing experience, and I do love the spoils...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Race Nightmare

Friday night I had a dream.

I went to a friend's house before the race to visit for a bit, but when I got there his wife threw herself to the ground and started wailing.
Their house seemed strange.  Most of their furniture was missing and they had a downstairs roommate.  He had the stairwell lined with empty Harpoon IPA 12 packs.  Their floors were newly refinished, but had deep scars.
When I got to the race it turned out it had already started.  My parents had come to help.  I rushed to get ready to make up some of the 14 minutes I was already behind.  I asked my Dad for a water bottle and he just stood there smiling and nodding his head.  I asked again and still the same.  It was as if he just didn't understand what I was saying and was just nodding out of habit.
I gave up on getting the bottle from him and looked for my jersey.  It was at the bottom of my cooler, wet and dirty from my last race.

Fortunately I woke up.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My family is going to Martha's Vineyard for 2 weeks and I'm going to join them for a week. For me to drive my truck to the ferry in Woods Hole, park for 8 or 9 calender days, and take the ferry would cost about $175.
BUT if I rode my bike to the fast ferry in RI my travel expenses would be reduced to $53!


If I rode to the fast ferry in New Bedford I could save another $5, but I'd have to ride through Providence.

Only problem is my road bike has tubulars, which are fine around here, but who knows in the wilds of Eastern CT, and RI? I carry a spare tubular when riding, and rarely flat, but what if I got a double? I couldn't call my wife, because she on an island.

So I've been meaning on building a new set of wheels for cross season. I had bought some Miche hubs over the Winter for that purpose, and was going to lace them to some Alex tubular rims I had (I raced on GL330s and GEL 280s last season; great climbing wheels, not really up to the rigors of CX).
But I also had some Sun EQ21s I was racing on the mtb before I swapped out to Stan's Crest rims. I'd have to spend stoopid money, to get anything much lighter.  For that fact, money period for any other rim.  This would give me a wheelset I could go tubeless with for CX and have a set of clinchers for the road bike.

I built them up, put tires and a cassette on them and weighed them. 100 grams heavier than the tubulars I was riding.
But now I no longer need to carry a whole tubular in a big tubular sized bag, so my static weight for all but racing has dropped by 140 gram (I haven't done a road race in a decade and then I'd whip out the GEL 280s).
Can I notice the difference of 100g rotating mass or 140g static? Of course not!

Central Wheel felt I couldn't go bigger than a "23" on my vintage CAAD4. On the 21mm wide rims, the Conti Gatorskins measured 24mm (the Tufos on the tubular set measure 22mm), and it looks like I could probably fit a 24 or 25 in there if I wanted; good to know.

How do they ride you ask?
Pretty good.
The Gatorskins were chosen for durability and reliability.  They mounted up easily and for a tire with protection are pretty fookin' light at 220g.  They roll fast, but aren't as supple as the Tufos or for that matter the Pasela 28s on the Fun Machine.  But comparing a durable 23 with a tubular or a 28 is like comparing apples to oranges and avocados.
The wheels didn't seem as stable descending as my tubular set, but it was pretty windy today so I don't know if it really is a fair comparison.  I would think a 460g box section rim would roll downhill pretty well though.  Maybe due to the suppleness of the tires?
...or the wind.
You've got to really torque down those Cheezmaster 3000 skewers; first climb over 5% I pull the wheel out of the dropout.

Clearance Clarence

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Boneyard Preview

Wrath of the Boneyard or whatever it was called back in 1996 was the first race I did as a "Sport" rider.  It is where I coined the term "middle third" as to not say I finished in the bottom half (even if I finished in the bottom half of the middle third).  That year it was in April and it was raining.  I remember laying face down in a puddle at some point...
Flash forward 15 years and Fabian was kind enough to give a preview of the new "Wrath of the Boneyard" race course last week, and here are some of my impressions.
It is a challenging course.  Has more climbing per mile than Domnarski Farm, and is probably the rockiest course in the Root 66 series.
The rocks look intimidating, but are very rideable.  People have been asking me if I'll run a suspension fork for it and the answer is "probably not".  With a little speed and careful line choice, you can ride the crests of the rocks pretty well.  The descents are actually some of the smoothest, rock free sections of the course, which may or may not be saying something because the course as a whole has a lot of rocksThere are some sections of singletrack through pine needles too.
Eastwood, is doing the Boneyard as his first Cat3 race gives his impressions here.
Fabian is going all out for this race and I'm sure he and his compatriots at the Meriden Motorcycle Club are going to make it a stellar event.  This guy here goes so far as to say they put on a kickass event.
Should be fun, and it's only $23.

Here's a little footage of it's name sake.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Funny

I make a little trials bike look like a chopper!

After doing a lap at a human pace with Craig, Fabian, and Eastwood of the Wrath of the Boneyard, Fabian thought it would be prudent to whip out the trials bike to lead Neal and I on another.  Bad enough trying to keep up with Neal, let alone Neal keeping up with a MOTORCYCLE!
I'll have more info on the race next week.

In the mean time enjoy some 4th of July flag cake!