Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Local Knowledge

Usually I wouldn't be terribly excited about working later than I planned, but with the way the building and remodeling market has been, I could have kissed Bobby when he placed a rush order today...but then he probably wouldn't be placing anymore orders (or would he?).

Being pressed for time, it's good to know all the ins and outs of a trail system to get the most out of it in what time you have. For me this was before darkness fell completely.

Another advantage is you can vary your ride to suit the conditions or your state of mind. It was slippy, and the well worn trails and braids were muddy. The whole catch 22 of slick riding starts to play on you; you don't want to go too fast, because it's slippery, but if you aren't carrying enough momentum you're going to be more likely to crash.

Conditions and darkness led to a little fireroad flying to get me back to the truck before nightfall.

Blasting down fireroads got that cross jones going again.

I might have to plead some sort of insanity; if I don't get this cross fever out of my system, I can't be held responsible for my actions.

Now if I can some how sell this, I've got a couple more decisions; What race, and which bike?

Ice Weasels is only $15, but it is far away. But it's at a farm so maybe there is a tractor* there that I can ride on/sit on.

Beer cross is $5 more, but it's closer. The prize list is beer, which doesn't do me any good, but maybe would help me sell it to the Lovely Ms. Kim.

I could race my Singular, or the Fun Machine.

The Singular would be the team way to go, but we'll see if Sam can get to the mail box with my jersey before then.

The Fun Machine is more of a "cross bike", but the fancy Paul Component brake although pretty, kind of blows, and I haven't been very successful at flat free riding it in the cross vein. Although the Fun Machine has taken everything I've thrown at it, it is a 30 year old touring bike, and I'd hate to break it doing something stupid (like racing for beer).

*If it's a Deere, I'll fart in your general direction

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Offroad Fixie

Watching the cross racing really put a bug in my head. Sunday's original plan was a mountain bike ride. But I was craving a bit more speed, so I yanked the Sunday Princess down from her hook, lubed the chain, and spun through the gears.

Then something TJ had said at the cross race popped into my head; "there's a service road that runs below the ridge from Tariffville to the res".

Hmm. Maybe instead of a road ride, I could do a fireroad ride? I kept getting flats with cross tires on the Fun Machine, but what if I rode the "non-race wheels" with their 27mm tubulars?

They aren't the ideal tires for the job, but "back in the day" they rode with far less.

Just to be on the safe side, I injected 30ml of sealant into them, and pumped them up to 70 psi front, 75 psi rear.
After riding a quick loop on the streets to test the theory that there are no tail winds (I forgot my pump at home), I was on the trails.
Everything starts off familiar as ever; fireroads I've ridden hundreds of times over the past 15+ years

Filtered out to an overgrown powerline utility road.

The slick tubulars are not the best on damp grass.
Old skool energy bar (pecan / pear bread, mmm)
The powerlines funnel down to this over grown single track through dried out reeds and briars
and abruptly end in these dried out wetlands.
Well, so much for my off tarmac adventure. I did ride about 13 miles on dirt though. Although the Challenge Paris-Roubaix tubulars were not the best on the damp grass the did surprisingly well on dirt and gravel. Twice I nailed my front rim on a rock and braced myself for the inevitable "psssst" of a flat, but it never came. Makes me think about a possible 2010 cross campaign (tubulars+sealant=Happy).
The 65" gear I was loving on the dirt, was now a hindrance on the paved roads. 20 mph required a cadence of 104 rpm.
But it was Sunday, and I was riding my bike, so what's few rpms between friends?

Friends Racing Cross

Title says it all.
Here's some shot's of the Cheshire Cross race. Looked like a ton of fun. Quinn enjoyed it too, but I think the highlight of the race for him was digging a good sized rock out of the earth by the finish line.

I think if I raced cross, I'd love it too much, which is one of the reasons I don't race cross; I don't need another racing season...but watching it is making me think things!

Some of the back markers in the races didn't look like they were loving it though; looked like the living dead.

Waiting for the 3's start

"The Hill People" or "That noisy costume party" as Quinn called it.

James running after the "Hill People"

James Riding the sand pit
James crossing the line to become State 3's Champion

Singlespeeder in a kilt. He was "almost" able to ride this one hill that everyone was running. I say almost because if there wasn't a geared rider walking it he would have made it.

Jerry racing the 4's

Kerry racing the singlespeed race. A last lap flat robbed him of a podium spot. Next time he'll have is Motobecane as a pit bike.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Night Ride w/ Tom and Mark

Tom's Dad was nice enough, or rather fortunate enough, to have me make him a vanity top.
This was an excellent opportunity to get in some riding w/ Tom and Mark out in E. Granby.
I haven't been doing much night riding, in fact this would be my first ride with lights since late Winter.
Trails were great. Company was great. My lights worked great; really was a treat to have two working lights. Mark's lights died a couple of miles from home, so we had to make a Mark sandwich so he could share our illumination.
I swore I'd get some picture since I rarely get to ride with others, so here's what I got:
That's a picture of Tom; great likeness.
Some guy Bill we me on the trail
Tom demonstrates why derailleurs suck.
Here, in full motion, Tom once again demonstrates the pit fails of having something hanging off the rear of your bike controlling the chain.

Got back to Tom's just in time to see Roxanne (Tom's wife) back her Volvo into the side of my truck. When you're up to your neck in it, what's a little more?
Black Friday
(death march)

Mountain bikers sometimes have something of a counter culture air about them. Maybe this stems from the hippie origins of the sport, or that they are riding bicycles further offroad then had been previously thought possible. Mountain bikers wanted to stick it to the man. I remember a time when there was a separation between roadies and mountain bikers. Roadies were stuck up snobs, with rules of etiquette. Mountain bikers were free spirits. Roadie were the man.

Well, now every roadie has a mountain bike and vice versa, and we all hold hands singing kumbaya around the campfire (or bs around the chimeneas with microbrews). Who are we going to stick it to? Who's the man?

Linus van Pelt and Charlie Brown knew who the man is.
What better way to stick it to the man than not shopping on the biggest day in retail sales and riding our bikes along the path of one of this countries first rebels who stuck it to the man, Metecom?
Enjoy the same views as he did as he watch Simsbury burn from the Talcott MT ridge. Only in anaerobic debt.

Where: Meet at The West Hartford MDC parking lot on RT 4 / Farmington Ave.
When: Friday, 11/27/2009, 9:00 AM
Route: East side of the Res. thru Res. 6, Pennwood, to Tariffville, possibly into E. Granby
and back.
Pace: If you fall behind, your bike will be stripped of bling and you'll be left to fend for
yourself. Seriously though, its a ride not a race. You'll be riding for 4+ hours or so at
an intermediate pace.
Misc.: Be prepared! Have you bike in proper working order, bring spare tubes, tools,
and enough food and water for the ride. Don't spoil everyones fun breaking down
physically or mechanically (shiite happens, but lets try and avoid it, m'kay?).

Hope to see you there.

As an interesting side note, it turns out the dude who help spark Metecom's War, Josiah Winslow was the nephew of a distant relative of mine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Different Approach

Last night I tried something different; I rode with my computer in my jersey pocket.

I loved the freedom it provided while riding on a well known loop. I knew approximately how long my ride would be, so I knew I'd be done before complete darkness, but I didn't obsess about how fast or slow I was going.

I just rode.

I pushed as hard as I felt like and enjoyed the ride.

But being the slave to numbers I am there is a fly in the ointment; my computer is less accurate in my pocket then on my stem.

Maybe I can construct some sort of computer burka?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Need for Speed? Adventures in the Mundane

I wanted to go fast.

I've been riding lately, but I haven't felt "fast" in awhile.

This could be do to the race season being over for me, as well as the actual changing of the seasons, with wet leaves, cooler temps, and shorter days.

I made a point of not stuffing myself at work. In "season" with racing and commuting I can't eat enough. I once tried to calculate the amount of calories I was shoving in my pie hole on a typical Summer work day and stopped counting somewhere North of 3200 calories. Now's the time to break those eating habits.

Got out early enough to do the regular "New Old Skool Loop" at the res. before darkness. But in the rush to get out I left my "in truck" water bottle "in shop", so my usual pre-hydration would have to be done on the bike.

My shoes were still nice and swampy from the stream crossings and one axle deep puddle out at Nassahegan on Sunday.


Other than that things started well enough. The slight climb right out of the lot that usually saps my strength on cold legs was remarkably easy. Cleaned the first "Challenge Stage", then coming around to the fence line I scared the living shiite out of an Asian lady trying not to startle her. She was either really shaken or English is not quite a second language.

Okay, back on track, climb the fence line just fine, clean the first of a zillion downed trees (Connecticut is the deadfall capitol of New England), dab on the next challenge, but that's okay, with the leaves, I haven't been making that lately.

Power up to the powerlines, make the gravel climb, things are starting to gel again, on to the "Kerry Trail" (note to self stay off Kerry trail, it's a fooking mess), clean more logs, do some math, descend to the levees, politely pass a rider, back into the woods I make the first half of the enter /exit challenge over the washed out roots, but end up hoofing the rocks at the top of the climb. Par for the course.

The Antler trail is cleaned with the exception of Stumpy's Switchback, couple more logs and up to the East fence line for the descent to the lot. Turn a corner and a poodle makes his great escape under the fence and starts chasing me. Usually dogs will get bored chasing me soon enough, but "Bogey" likes the taste of freedom, and is going to follow me to the ends of the earth. I have to stop, and ride him back to his hole to be scolded for such antics.

Okay, back to the descent, I'm loving the fork on this bike, log walk goes alright, I have to launch before the end, but if anyone was there to see, I could get away with saying "I meant to do that", Log Pile Grande"... Doh! Now I have to redeem myself on his little friend... Rats!

Only a little more trail until I'm back on pavement, slow to politely pass a guy with a rear blinky in the woods(?), pass his friends waiting for him, back to the fireroad hug the right side to give a milf walking her dog plenty of room, back into the woods to "my own little slice of heaven", back onto the pavement, slowed by a car? Why is this old man signaling on a straight road?
Only 15 seconds faster than last week?

Maybe it's was the conditions, maybe the traffic, maybe I needed this song in my head and ended up with this one in my head, maybe it was my protein packed legs last week, but I somehow feel let down.
Probably should just enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Invitation

You Are Cordially Invited To Ride My Trails

That is come ride some of my off the beaten path trails at the res. and pack down some leaves. Most of the main trails are getting there, i.e. you don't just ride off the trail because it is totally obscured by leaves. But on some of the lesser known trails, we've got 6"-8" of them, and even some deeper "drifts".

It always amazes me that at a place that is so popular there are trails that to the general public are still unknown. I'm still discovering rustic gems in this suburban / urban center.

So please, come, enjoy, and when the leaves are compacted just relax and look into the light...

Monday, November 9, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Sunday I was dragging. I had this swell new bike and my legs were dead. I was thinking to myself "how do people race from April thru December without completely imploding"?
Maybe my protein level was low, or maybe it was in anticipation of my afternoon's activities, but I was whipped.
how I spent Sunday afternoon
But today, on this glorious close to 70 degree day, I was renewed. I figured I'd still be sucking wind, but I had legs I hadn't felt in weeks.
When I got home on Sunday, I fried a couple eggs; the smell of eggs came wafting from a house close to the res. during my ride and set off a craving that had to be satiated. Later that day I ate Quinny's PBJ since he was having nothing to do with it (can't waste good food, right?). For my own actual lunch I had a soy burger.
Today, again I had eggs, as well as my usual cereal, and for lunch, lentil bean soup. Maybe my tank was just low and needed to be topped off?
I had planned on jumping on this training program; I had followed a similar diet my junior year in college, but had supplemented it with cigarettes and beer.
Maybe I'm going to actually think about what I put in my body, or rather should I say, what I eat. But I don't know, could lead me down a dark path. One of training plans, intervals, specificity, 4x4's and all sort of math.
Ooh, "shudder"...and this started off about what a great ride I had today!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Impression Weekend

I couldn't wait for the end of work to come on Friday. I had a fairly light day planned, which would leave me plenty of time for my maiden ride on my new Singular Swift. After sitting in traffic on 95, and getting in a little face time with customers, I was at the trail head.

Now it's always a good idea to take a bike you're getting used to riding at a place you're not all that familiar with. Added points if hunting may or my not be allowed in the forest, and hunter's trucks are park at the perimeter.

So I found myself at Cockaponset.

I was in that part of the state, and I'm getting a little bored with the same old same old, so here we are. Riding out of the trail head the first thing I noticed about the Swift was the height. The A/C is 20mm higher than any other fork I've ridden plus the head tube is almost an inch longer than that of my Karate Monkey, giving the Swift about an inch and a half more height at the bars. But all my contact points were where they should be, so off we went.
Another thing I noticed pulling out of the lot was a little braking vibration. This concerned me; I don't want the front end shuttering around every time I brake. Fortunately my concerns were unfounded. Not once did I notice any vibration braking out on the trail.

Climbing felt awkward at first. It would take some time to get used to the bars being this high I thought. But on the other hand maybe I should give it a chance before I run out and get a stem with more negative rise because I was climbing everything. Wet, leave covered, rocky climbs that I'd only ridden once or twice were evaporating before me.

The Swift is very balanced feeling. In the singletrack everything is super intuitive. I got to a downhill section of mountain laurel choked switchbacks and thought to myself "No way are you making this" as I came to a particularly tight turn. But being so centered on the Swift, the rear end just followed me around. Conversely on the way back, I though "there's no way your making this climb", yet other than riding off the trail at a turn do to leaf cover, I did.
I was impressed with just how much stuff I was making. I consider myself a decent technical rider, I guess you have to be somewhat adept to ride in New England, but I was surprising myself with some of the stuff I was making. And the fork. It has got to be one of the best rigid forks I have ridden. Those long slender legs do a great job of absorbing chatter, while remaining precise.


Riding on my home turf from home, this would give me a more honest and accurate impression of the Swift. I hate to sound like a suck up, but this frame is really growing on me fast. I'm getting used to the higher front end and I'm starting to think there might be some advantage to it. Climbimg doesn't seem to be hindered, and I think it might be aiding me on the technical stuff. I was making all sorts of "challenge stages" (remember Galaga?), in fact I made some things I haven't made in ages, as well as something I've never made before. I rode up "the shute" of Little Moab along the powerlines (if you know the res.). I found myself hammering down descents that I'd usually be coasting and braking( I'm usually something of a, how can we put this politely, a big pussy, on descents). Again can't say enough about the fork; just spectacular.

More of the same. High front end? What high front end? Although the frame and fork has been confidence inspiring, 72 y/o Charlie Beristain reminded me of just how much of a pussy I am as he blasted past me on a hairy fireroad descent (I was going 30.5 mph!). When we got to a more technical, all be it slower descent I took the lead again. He felt it looked like I was effortlessly carving the downhill. I don't know about effortlessly, but without a lot of thought I'd say.

So to sum thimgs up, Sam must be really good at math and junk, because the frame and fork work exceptionally well for the riding I do.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Exciting New Development

In my last post I refered to "an exciting new development", well here it is:

When Cadel Evans announced he was leaving Lotto to persue new challenges, the rumor was he was going to attempt the most highly saught after cycling prize; the SSWC and it's much coveted tattoo. Obviously he'd be riding for Singular in a show of Aussie solidarity with Singular's founder, and head honcho Sam. That'll show those damn Kiwi's!

Well that didn't quite pan out.

As a consolation Singular gets ME!

Their people talked to my people, who talked to their people who talked to my people,who talked to some other people and a deal was struck.

I first became aware of Singular on the Velonews bike talk message board. I thought they were beautiful, but singlespeed? 29'er? Disc only? Never work for a guy like me.

Fast-forward 4 years and I wouldn't consider riding or racing anything else (SS, disc brakes, 29'er, etc). Live and learn.

The first thing that struck me about Singulars was the color. So reminicent of one of my childhood loves; the Bugatti type 35.

But beauty is more than skin deep. Sam's attention to detail and careful consideration of the engineering are what really count. He has a belief on what works best for any given cycling application and sticks to his convictions. For instance, I'm on the very edge size-wise that Sam feels a 29'er is a benefit to. Any smaller and the Hummingbird 26" (or 69'er) would be a better fit in his opinion. That's why his smallest size 29'er is a medium. Also, the fork is designed with a long 485 mm axle to crown length and 48 mm of rake; seems like all the bigger players are jumping on forks with greater offset these days; hmm....

So without further ado, I present the Singular Swift, my race bike for 2010.

Derailleur hanger in case I succumb to using gears.
Phil Wood EBB
It even came with all these cool housing / brake hose clips so you don't have to use zip-ties.
Not only that, but it comes treated w/ Frame Saver, head-tube and disc brake mounts faced, threads chased, and thread lock applied to the water bottle bolts.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Soup Sandwich

In anticipation of exciting new developments I was stripping some of my favorite parts from my Karate Monkey. While I was at it I figured it was a good time to set it up fixed for the Winter. I found it quite ironic that after completing the swap, I stumbled upon this blog, and an alternate view of fixed gear mountain biking.
Without a rear brake and a racer-boy light rear tire Mary Jane was a svelte 21.2 lbs; lighter than I'd ever seen her.

Out on the trail there was an awkwardness that was expected. Getting back up to speed riding fixed offroad has a bit of a learning curve. It's easier than people think, but does take a little getting used to. The biggest thing is when you get to a log, or ledge or some obstacle you have to follow through. You can't try to set up for it like you would on a freewheeling bike. Once you're up on the log you'll likely just be able to pedal through it, you might hit a pedal and fall on your ass, but more than likely you'll just pedal through it. Once you get your fixed legs, you'll be able to hoist your rear wheel and adjust your pedals when your wheels in the air.

Anyways, just riding along, lalala, fixed is fun, riding along the ridge, cliff drop to swanky homes to the left, trees to the right and SHAMWOW! I crash on an outcropping of rocks. As I being riding again, I here a tink tink tink.

Rock x (spokes+high tension)=Broken spokes.

Stopping to inspect my wheel, not only were two spokes broken, but a crank ring bolt had abandoned ship, it's 4 friends wanted to follow suit, my crank spider had come loose, and my Surly Fixxer was loose.

Fucked up like a soup sandwich!

Now this was going to take time to fix. Fixed is about not having to repair your bike. Simple easy. In out done.

Good thing I had an extra hour Sunday.

A little "fixed-gear's friend" on the Fixxer
Making a new single ring crank bolt

Riding fixed downhill offroad feels like when a cheesy action film (think Road Warrior) speeds up the film to make things seem like they are moving faster. I don't know if this actually has any value as far as training or performance. It's like being able to rub your belly and patting your head at the same time. Actually it's a lot easier, because I can do it.

Crazy stupid fun.