Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear D.I.N.K.s

Dear D.I.N.K. bastards,
I hate you!
Well, that's a little harsh.
I'm jealous as all HELL of you.
Green with envy even.
I know, I know, I made my bed, now I should lie in it. Frolicking around the mild SW can't compare to the warmth of Fatherhood can it?
This has been one of the best Winter's for riding we've had in a long time, but even so, getting away from it and the joys of parenthood for even a weekend is more than somewhat appealing.
So when you are here:

Think of me here:

Contemplating if I should add another layer with temps in the single digits (I shouldn't have), or if I had enough calories to last the ride (I didn't).
At least bring some glory and stories back to the North East so I can live vicariously through you.
Ah, I feel better now.
Hugs and kisses,


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

They say bad things come in threes

What about good things?
Started the day with a pre-work mtb ride. Temps were a couple of degrees below freezing, so other than some crunchy frost heaves and some not quite frozen spots in the really wet areas things were hard and fast. Nice.
Then I get to work and Brown Santa shows up with a couple of these:

I've been pretty happy with my wheels, but I've heard these mythical stories of people airing up their tires with just a floor pump (when setting up tubeless). Although my rims have never let me down, the initial installation of tires is never nearly that easy, so if I can make my life easier and loose some weight too? Seems like a no brainer. Other than they cost twice as much as my current rims.
If all that wasn't enough, when i switch on the ol' internet, Thom discusses his newest fetish.
Ah, life is good.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thinking out loud; Outlaw Bike race?

I was thinking...what if we had an unsanctioned, unlicensed, unmarked, unsupported, underground bike race?
It would be a very limited entry; let's say 20-25 people max. Everyone would put in $20 or $25. A portion of that could go to food and drink, and the rest would go as price money. If it was totally byo food and drink there would be more cash for the winner / top finishers. Money for the top 5; let's say 40% for the winner, 25% for 2nd, 15% for 3rd, 10% for 4th, and 5% for 5th? Or just top 3 splitting it 50/30/20?
I was thinking it could start and end at Pennwood. There are restrooms there, running water, and a covered pavilion (I guess being a pavilion it wold have to be covered). Head North to Tariffville, then South to the W. Htfd Res.
Being an unmarked course here's how to keep people honest. I'll pre-ride it and create a GPS map. Along the course I'll place different colored tokens of some sort at marked spots along the map that you need to bring back to the finish. You can head in any direction you want. First one back to Pennwood with all their tokens wins.
Everyone is responsible for themselves.
There would be a time limit too; say the race if from 8:00 or 9:00 AM to 12:00 or 1:00 PM. That way everyone is back and enjoying cookout at about the same time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Last Sunday I was riding with the CTNemba group ride @ the West Hartford Reservoir. I suggested an alternate route so we could hit the Secret Ninja Death Chute (SNDC). A chute off a rock ledge between rock and a tree, so named because if someone was just riding along the Metacomet trail in the MDC you could swoop down upon them from on high.
Like a Secret Ninja.
Reigning death.
The run up to the SNDC, you drop down a steep, rooty, rocky hill, and then immediately climb up a similar hill to a rock outcropping above the Metacomet trail.
As I led the way to the SNDC, I took my usual line up to the top of the outcropping and waited for the group before descending the SNDC.
When Fabian got there he attempted to ride straight up the rock as apposed to riding the switchback I always ride.
I gave him an A for effort, but explained the line was over there. Charlie Beristain then chimed in "That's the Cheater line, we used to ride straight up that (on our geared FS bikes)".
I'm riding the cheater line?
The shame.
I always pride myself on taking the original line, or most challenging line. I'm not like Al riding off cliffs, but if it's in the trail I'm going to ride it. Though shall not ride braids. That kind of thing.
I can't have this on my conscious.
Tuesday I was able to squeeze in a ride before work. Run up to the SNDC, not even close. But I see the possibility. Maybe a smaller gear? I had to keep moving; the sinks weren't going to buff themselves (If only they could!).
Saturday went for it again. Close but no cigar. But close.
Close enough to try again. Missed it by this much.
Third time's the charm? Nope, but I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel.
Lucky number 4 (actually my Sister's lucky number). Shazam! I made it!
Revisited it today to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Didn't hold the line exactly as I wanted, but I made it.
Of course I have no witnesses to corroborate this, so at this point it is just a fish tale.
You have to take my word, or am I a liar?
Would I ever tell a lie?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Commute #3

Just Kidding!

Have a great weekend!
I'm looking forward to taking the A-Game offroad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Commute #2

Wouldn't it be bloggerific if I posted a report from every single commute this year...and wouldn't it be smurfy if I kept using terms like "bloggerific"?
The weatherman spoke of the much feared "black ice" this morning. It may have been black from the seat of an SUV, but on a bike it was a white frosty velvet. My rear tire would break loose every time I'd accelerate from a stop light. Yes, I stop at lights, even when it's light out. Something about not getting dead. Can't say I've never sprinted for a yellow though.
Other than that pretty uneventful. My lights work fairly well when there is no other light source. I still need to get used to on coming traffic's lights. The ride home was quite pleasant with a mild cross breeze, and temps in the upper 30F's. Took 3 minutes off round trip too, making it the second slowest commute of all time!
If the weather stays so mild I hope to have a decent base built by March.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Bucket Cart

Yesterday I built a new bucket cart. The one it replaced was built in 1989 (which replaced a total piece of crap someone else built in 1987).
As I pushed my first bucket of matrix out of the mixing room, I was amazed at how effortlessly the cart moved across the floor.
Scary fast.
It's amazing what you can get used to over time. No more wrestling around corners anticipating a capsize on ever bump, leaning it against the table so it's one now "short wheel" wouldn't let the bucket start to slide and kick the cart out to the side. No more worrying about when the cracked 2x12 would finally give way to a 150 pound bucket.
What does this have to do with bikes?
Well the smoothness of the new wheels, the ease of motion reminded me of when you give your bike an overhaul. These days with cartridge bearings I don't think you get the full effect but back in the day (hop in the way back machine Sherman) of cup, cone and loose balls, that first ride after an overhaul would have the same sensation.
You would roll effortlessly.
So I suggest you find out just how nice a newly overhauled bike can be. Replace those bearing, cables and housings (if you have cables and housings), put on some new grips, and polish it up all purty. If you lack the skills or time to do it, it's a great time to bring it to a bike shop. Lots of shops offer a discount on off-season overhauls, and the mechanics probably would rather fix your bike than have to clean their work stations (but maybe not as much as looking at Internet porn).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Charlie!

On Saturday I had the privilege of riding with Charlie Beristain on his birthday. His 73'rd birthday.
Charlie is a former National champion, and Worlds silver medalist, and can usually hand it to guys half his age. There is no log or drop he won't try and ride, and as long as he has a pass from the Mrs., no "epic" he won't try.
So next time you think it's too cold to ride (my ear is pealing from the wind burn I received riding with him on January 3rd when it was 16F and there were winds gusting to 40 mph), or too wet to ride (Charlie was the only one to show up for the rainy Black Friday Death March) , just remember, Charlie's riding.
As we parted ways on Saturday, Charlie politely said "Thanks for riding with me".
No, thank you Charlie!

Friday, January 15, 2010

First Commute

When I got to work yesterday, by truck, I saw the above picture posted on Jussi's facebook page. It's his rush hour commute in Finland.
Boy did I feel like a velvet palmed dandy.
The gauntlet had been thrown down. There was no way I was going to match that mark, but if he can commute in the dark and snow (sounds like a Zeppelin song), I could handle needing lights both to and from work.
Who knows, maybe if I don't waste too much time on this I won't hardly need them on the way home.
It took me a little longer to get out of the house than I expected, and then I had to turn around and get the key to the shop after a couple hundred meters, but I finally got going about 6:20 AM.
I wore long fingered mtb gloves and a light jacket which at first I feared would be too light in the sub freezing (28F so only barley sub) morning air, but after 15 minutes or so I was feeling pretty good. I didn't want to be over dressed for what I anticipate will be a delightful ride home this evening.
You know how when you have extra milk left from your cereal you can top it off with a little more? Not a good idea right before commuting.
It was re-assuring to see a flag blowing in the breeze proving that I wasn't naturally this slow, that the wind was helping me to some degree. Never the less, I set a record for the slowest commute of all time this morning.
Which is nice.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Much like Buddy the Elf I need to make work my new favorite. It seems people decide that yes, they were going to finally start spending money on important things like cultured marble vanity tops now that 2009 is FINALLY OVER!
This means re-accustoming myself to a real schedule again. No more leisurely 40 hour weeks for me. No more slipping out at 3 PM to ride before dark.
Now I've got to stop staying up to the un-Godly hour of 10:00 PM watching TV shows that suck, so I can get up early enough to commute to work.
I was going to try and make today my first commute of the year, but the needing lights round trip sort of bummed me out, so I found an excuse to drive.
But I don't know how many more excuses I can think up!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter Riding 101

Winter can be one of my favorite times of year to ride. It can also be miserably frustrating. Fortunately conditions have been ideal this year. Here are a few things I've learned along the way that make it more pleasant for Me.

In Winter I'd much rather be in the woods with the trees defusing the wind. There is a certain tranquility to the woods in the Winter; a quiet cleanliness if you will. This holds true when you get out of the woods too; just let the snow melt off your bike and you're good to go for tomorrow. However the road isn't the end of the world. I used to avoid the road like the plague in the Winter, but riding with the 503 Cycleworx Badasses of the North showed me it wasn't as bad as I had made it out to be. The first 10 minutes is excruciating (below 20 F), but after that it's not too bad. But unlike the woods, be ready for a little clean up. Whatever snow melt your town uses can create quite a sloppy mess to take care of before you can kick back. Or worse, if they don't treat the roads well enough, tarmac isn't as soft as snow (neither are cars).

The Winter Hierarchy goes like this:
Mountain Bike
Road Bike
XC Skis
Watch iCarly and eat chocolate
Ride rollers or trainer.

Gear down: On my home turf I usually run about a 52" gear, in the Winter a 49", or better yet (as I found out this weekend), a 46.4". It's cold so don't worry about going too slow, and with the added resistance the snow creates, you'll be thankful for the shorter gear. Don't go too low though because you still need to keep some momentum.

About that momentum: Don't go ape-shit. Momentum is your friend, but too much Mo' + snow+ turn= crash. Just like when you're driving your car, you you need to build your speed smoothly. If you try and hammer, you can kick out your rear, and when you go to turn you can either slide out or go straight.

Realize your inner flat-tracker: People always are talking about counter steering, well in Winter theory becomes reality. Get ready to pontoon your inner leg, push on the right side of the bar to turn right, and left, vice-versa.

Steer with your rear: When the going gets slippy, stay off the front brake; hit it and you'll just plow through the corner. Use your rear brake to kick the rearend around the corner (see inner flat-tracker).

Stay low: Traction is at a premium. Hover above the saddle and "row" with your arms and core climbing. "They" are always talking about cyclist needing to improve their core strength; well climbing in snow is just the thing.

Tires: This can vary greatly depending on the conditions, but generally I like a big voluminous tire. On 26" wheels the WTB Mutanoraptor 2.4 was my favorite. So far on the 29'er, Nevegal 2.2's have worked best (although with the current conditions I've been very happy with Ignitors). In December I even found 37's to work well in the particular conditions we had (very dry powder over frozen hardpack). Some people put on stud the first snow flake of Autumn and leave them on until the Spring thaw. I always felt that was over kill. Once a year I'll be riding and think "Gee I wish I had some studs, maybe I should invest in a good set", but I never do. If you do get studs, there is only one choice; Nokian's.
From my experience a specialized bike like a Pugsley is only superior in very specific conditions. Ones which we rarely get in New England. But if anyone is interested I know of one for sale with an extra set of tires.

That's it for now. If I think of anything else, we'll have Part Deux. Get out there and enjoy it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow Devil

Definitive proof!

I'm not the most superstitious person in the world, but sometimes things add up to 666!
I was just riding along, minding my own business, psyched about being the first human to pass along this trail since the snow had fallen. First human I say because some hoofed beast, I presumed a deer had made first tracks. Well all of a sudden the hoof prints end and boot tracks begin!
Now I bet you're saying there must be a simple explanation, like the calories from the bowl of cereal I had 5 hours earlier were depleted and my mind was playing tricks on me. Or the wind had drifted the snow creating a Wintry illusion.
How do you explain having Metallica and Disturbed in my head? Not exactly common tunes for me to be humming along to.
How do you explain me not having my phone with me to take a picture of this phenomenon? I've had my phone with me all week, and as I was leaving I said to myself, "what could you possibly need your phone for?".
I don't think so.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I hadn't been out since Sunday. 3 days. That's a long time for me. The backlog from Christmas break, plus a healthy flow of orders this week have conspired to keep me in the shop long hours. It's been cold, but the conditions for snow riding are so good right now; I'd just look at the clock, and then my workload and sigh. Not complaining; bring it on I say! I just need to plan better and charge up the lights. I've just become accustom to the flexible schedule the recession has afforded me.
So today when Mike from Gilley Kitchen and Bath called to tell me not to make a special trip up there today, it let me shift some stuff around so I could get out before sunset.
The sweet nectar of unexpected singletrack is oh so rewarding.
Even with smaller than usual 49" gear, the snow made for a "power" ride (you can stop laughing now Mike and Thom), not too much spinny spinny. Yet still near perfect snow riding conditions; loose enough to make it interesting, yet not too icy as to crack open your skull.
Made some Hans Fooking Rey moves and felt like the king of the world. Good enough to forget about the relatively pedestrian moves I boned on account of a crusty snow drift or hidden patch of ice.
This Winter has been rather cooperative as far as riding goes. There have been a couple of days where I've had to ride the Fun Machine on the road, but all in all, this has been one of the best Winter riding seasons in a long time.
I hope I have to do some night rides!

I had another post all set to go about "The Man", but riding today was such a blast, it'll wait, or maybe it'll be rapid fire blogging, or some such nonsense.

The Man

There is an element of counter-culture to singlespeeds. Riding a singlespeed goes against the convention that more is gooderer. Whatever.
Whether intended or coincidental, some might consider riding ss a way to stick it to "The Man".
That man being Shimano of course.
I have a love / hate relationship with the big S.
On the one hand I hate how they seemingly make arbitrary changes to standards making your current gear obsolete and incompatible. Leaving you to your own devices searching for UN73 bottom brackets.
I hate how so much of their stuff is disposable. Ever try and rebuild a STI shifter?
It works so fooking good!
On the road I've ridden Campagnolo for the past decade ( my geared road bike). I was drawn in by the mystique and the promise of rebuild-ability. Things I love about Campy.
But Shimano still shifts smoother.
There was a time when you'd be hard pressed to build a mountain bike without Shimano on it. Not so hard anymore. You've got the other big S(ram) now, who have their hands in just about every aspect of cycling. But everyone will always follow Shimano's lead.
With a singlespeed, it's really not too hard to avoid either of the S's. There are so many choices for the non-shifty bits on your bike theses days, it's almost like the CNC anodized crazed 90's in selection with a little less chance of the manufacture disconnecting the phone line and folding up the tent.
So what does this have to do with me?
The Swift is now sporting a set of Shimano Hollowtech II XT cranks. I haven't had any Shimano on my primary singlespeed in a couple of years.
I had a set of Hollowtechs on my Salsa back in '05-'06. They were noticeably stiffer than anything I had ever ridden before. But the bearings life was pathetic. 4-6 months was about the best I ever got out of them. I even tried upgrading to Phils bearings with the whole Phils bearing puller / presser apparatus, but they didn't really last that much longer. Word on the street was if you had your bb shell faced you'd get a good long life out of the external bearings. Well I don't have a bb facer, and never took too much stock in that theory; every modern frame builder "claimed" to face and chase the shell before shipping.
But now with the Singular, and it's Phil Wood EBB insert we'll be able to test that theory. I don't think you can find a more precise hunk of steel than the beautiful piece of work created by Mr. Wood.
Hopefully my cynicism will be proven to be unfounded, because other than bearing life, "The Man" really has it figured out with these cranks.

I tried "labeling" this post. I think I might need to make up some stuff to attract the counter culture types who are sticking it to the man though. Not sure what counter culture I'm looking for, maybe S&M goat roper vampires for Jesus?