Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It looks different to me

After racing for 23 miles without a front brake I decided to go back to good old reliable BB7's and FR5 levers. I love the way those calipers and levers feel together.
I never really liked my Juicy 5's. I think there was something wrong with the front from day 1. It was always a pain in the butt to set up, whereas the rear always went easy. Ironically, the rear's lever has been broken since about the second week I owned them, and still works fine with the temporary rubber band repair I made to them. The straw that broke the camel's back was when I was trying to un-freeze the front's pistons and blew fluid past the seal shooting one of the pistons out of the caliper. The other piston still ain't moving.
So anywho...I swapped the brakes, and somehow the bike looks "cleaner". Maybe it's my cable routing, or the simpler levers, but it seems somewhat Spartan.
I like that.
But I did have to go and swap the rotors for these crazy Gusset ripsaw looking things to offset the weight of the mechanicals.

I hope they don't suck, but if they do, I'll happily take the extra 2 ounces and go back to the centerlocks, and the reliability they provided.
I'm quickly relearning the lesson I learned last year; reliability trumps light weight seven ways to Sunday.


Other than better exposure, does it look any different to you?

By a factor of M

I don't have a power meter, and I found I really wasn't using a heart rate monitor to any useful effect. I would look at the numbers after a ride and say to myself "Yep, I was working hard". My perceived effort told me as much.
So how can I judge my progress from year to year?
At the risk of seeming like a crazy stalker and confessed math geek I have come up with the following method to judge "form".
The Factor of M.
MM actually, as in Mike Montalbano.
Monte does the same early season races as me and my 503 Cycleworx mates, so a little of the old cross multiply and divide and I can find how we are doing. Conditions can change year to year but Monte is a constant variable.
Monte = FAST.

Here is the data I've compiled:

James= M+4%, Charlie=M+16%

Winsted Woods
James= M+14%, Josh= M+8%, Charlie = M+16%

James=M+10%, Josh=M+9%, Charlie=M+22%

James=M+.3%, Josh=M+5%, Charlie=M+13.5%

Winding Trails
James=M+.01%, Josh=M+2%, Charlie=M+9%

James=M+2%, Josh=M+3%, Charlie=M+13%

So what does this all tell us?
I am showing some signs of improvement, James is getting F'ing fast, and Josh should ride a singlespeed all the time.

I must admit I did take a liberty with the data; I assumed I could do an extra lap at the same pace at Winsted Woods and Winding Trails to come up with a figure for me on those races, but HB, and SSAP, I raced the same length, so going from +16-22% to 13% does suggest something.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Singlespeed-a-palooza 2010

The Podium: Josh 3rd, James 2nd, Monte for the 2peat!

Saturday was about the most perfect day. 70 degrees, clear blue skies. Perfect day for bike racing. Thing is I wasn't racing on Saturday...I was racing on Sunday.
Sunday was mid-upper 40's, with light rain. Perfect for racing...in a different way.
Earlier in the week I had decided on tires and gearing and resigned myself to not second guess my decision. I even had the chance to swap tires as I had to replace a spoke on my front wheel, but decided to stand by my original choice.
The start was about a mile from where they had us park, which ate into my warm up time, but I figured I had 24 miles to warm up so, it wasn't too much of an issue, and everyone else was in the same position.
The 10 fastest men from last year got a call-up, which was not me, but I managed to get a spot near the front of the rabble (I proudly consider myself rabble).
The count down was sort of odd, "get ready, go!" and we were off. Myself and Jim Brockway were leading the "the best of the rest" as the Pros quickly gap'd us. So far the the conditions were how I expected; wet but firm.
One of the main features of the course is a climb named "Major Mike". It was a little loose, but not too bad. The descent off the back on the other hand was extremely greasy...and I had no front brake!
About 3 miles in and I'm riding a skid steer.
In the gooey, slick singletrack a front brake would have been really nice.
About 5 riders pass me. I'm willingly letting them through; I don't want my condition slowing anyone else down.
In a strange twist, I'm actually using the flat tarmac and fireroads to control my losses.
I'm starting to get the hang of how I have to ride this thing now. 60's Ford Falcon rally style. Gun it on the straights and idle around the corners.
On the second lap I start catching the rider up the road. When I make contact I ask how he's doing and promptly dump it on a gentle corner. There goes a lot of work down the drain.
But as Major Mike looms, I'm on my turf; climbing. I pull him back in and manage to stay in front of him on the mudslide of a descent that follows. It amazing how the conditions can deteriorate after 250 riders pass. I actually catch the next rider up as I dismount and run down a section of the hill.
The first rider I caught has now latched onto me as we wind through the singletrack, I offer to let him pass, but he's not interested.
As we pop out on to a road section, we see another rider 200 meters up. I remember to drink and I set to getting that cadence up.
I think this gives me a gap on the guy I was riding with.
I catch "my carrot" (he was riding an orange Niner). I asking how he's doing. He says he just wants a hot dog.
I'm feeling decent, so I start throwing some coal on the fire, and start to gap him.
I get to a little rock ledge I rode the first lap, and get stuck on it. I'm like a 1/4 crank from making it. I freeze like a deer in the headlights. I'm straddling my top tube and I can't figure out what to do. I hear a bike clank behind and I remember.
There is about a mile of singletrack and maybe 100 meters of fireroad left.
I lead to the fireroad and it's a sprint for the line.
I loose.
When the mud is cleared from my eyes it turns out I got 12th!
I'm psyched with that.
I don't like to make excuses but listen to me now and believe me later Doug Kennedy (11th place), if I had a front brake...but that's racing.
But speaking of not making excuses. James Harmon got 2nd without a rear brake. He was riding all Fred Flinstone rubbing his leg on his tire to slow down.
I was disappointed that two racers I've raced with had to pull out due to mechanicals; David Wilcox due to brakes, and Jim Brockway FUBAR'd his chainring.
Root 66 riders did exceptionally well too. Monte won, James got 2nd and Josh Wilcox got 3rd.
Rob Stine got 4th and Sean Cavanaugh came in 6th behind nationally sponsored Niner rider Dejay Birch. Not too shabby.
Not only did Darkhorse Cycles treat the riders right with giveaways, raffles, free hot dogs and beer, they also donated a portion of the proceeds to The Humane Society. If you ever have the opportunity to try one of their races I highly recommend it!

The aftermath

The schwag
The list

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bold Predictions

My goal for Sunday's Singlespeed-a-palooza is to finish exactly where I did last year. 20th.
"20th? Not a very lofty goal Charlie" you say.
Well if Thom didn't decide to breakout in performance art and hang his bike in a tree last year I would have been 21st. Not to mention the Pro/Expert field is 20% larger than last year, and I ain't getting any younger. Last year, 20th put me in the top 40%, so this year it would put me in the top 1/3.
About 20% of the Root 66 Pro field at Winding Trails were on singlespeeds, and yeah. they're all showing up.
The front of the field should be exciting. James has been nipping at Monte's heals this season and the start list is impressive to say the least.
Can't wait!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be Like Mike

I raced a big (for me) gear at the Fat Tire Classic. Next weekend is Singlespeed-a-palooza, which will also require a larger than average gear. Swapping to my regular trail gear just seems like such a hassle to only have to swap it back at the end of the week, so I just left the big (for me) gear on my bike.
So anywho, today I was riding at one of my usual haunts, with the big (for me) gear and it was awesome. Never did I feel over geared, and I even made all but one of the little, short but steep technical climbs.
Hmmm, maybe Monte is onto something?
I wouldn't even think of pushing Monte size gears (sorry no numbers, but there is a race coming up, just take what ever gear you think is stoopid big and go bigger and you're almost there), but once you get accustomed to the pushing the bigger gear, it becomes ordinary.
Just need to take baby steps towards the big meat.
Only question; do I have time to get used to even bigger?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bottlestand 2000

Mark @ Cycle Snack captured the brilliance of Bottlestand 2000 in action. I have taken the yet to be authorized photo sequence from his website to illustrate.

Hopefully the attorneys at Cycle Snack will not find any copyright infringement with the following sequence and sue me for the use of Bottlestand 2000.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic

Winding Trails is my "home" race being only a ten minute drive from my house. Fast, winding singletrack connected by rooty doubletrack. This years addition; Awesome!
We had 21 entrants in the Cat1 Singlespeed class this year; that rivals the size of the largest groups around here and was the second largest Cat1 field at the race.
The bikes ranged from the jury rigged geared frame to the blingiest plastique, to subtle, purposeful and elegant steel.
The start was a total cluster flock. The start time was published 15 minutes apart on two websites so people just showed up at the line and started lining up without rhyme or reason. The starting gate was too small and funneled us out onto a very sandy fireroad. A good deal of the field rode off to the left on the grass around a stand of fir trees. On consequent laps I regreted not taking this line, because I don't believe it was considered cutting the course and might have been faster.
Speaking of faster, Winding Trails is a fast course. Having 21 singlespeeders geared similarly on such a fast course leads to exciting racing. Full bore.
Entering the singletrack I think I was in the top 10. It was tough to tell because of the speed and the melee at the start. The pace wasn't really fast enough for me in the singletrack and I was afraid I was going to loose the front of the field due to the elastic effect. I dug deep and made a wholesale pass which brought me up to 4th or 5th on the next fireroad.
From there the top 5 spots swapped back and forth, but in such a way that we weren't slowing each other down. We were separating ourselves from the field, but not by much.
Coming into the third lap, it was time to give bottlestand 2000 it's chance to shine. But there was a lady standing in front of it in the feedzone! I'm waving and shouting for her to get out of the way, but she was oblivious. Kerry's wife Sandy even tried to get her attention to get her out of the way. In the end, I just rode straight at her and at the last minute she got the idea, and I got a bottle. Success!
This was the impetus for Steve from Bikeman to catch and pass me. I stayed close to him on the third lap and passed him going into the forth (that put me into third). Jim from Pawling Cycles was beginning to eat away at Will from IBC's lead; Will was running a 58" gear and I think it was beginning to wear on him.
Jim, got him, and on a climb, and soon after I got him too.
Not too long after though Steve passed me back on a fireroad. I actually wasn't too concerned because his breath was pretty labored. But he was going fast!
And Will was right on my wheel!
Rats! I thought I dropped him, instead he was getting what little draft he could off me getting a little relief. He passed me and then made a cheeky pass of a lapped rider going into the singletrack which gave him a little breathing room. I guess I could have tried to get around her in the tight stuff, but it was off camber, and tight, and the chances of making her crash, or even crashing myself were too great; passing would have ranked high on the Dick-O-Meter.
There was one hike-a-bike for us singlespeeders near the finish, as I approached it Jim and Steve are running up it side by side!
In the end Jim won the sprint to the finish. I got forth. There was only 49 second between 1st and 4th. Now that's racing! Full out, balls to the wall racing!

Mad Props and Notes
Tim Burton of CVC /Subaru of New England was in the mix for the first 3 laps, but cramps took him out of contention, but up to then he was crushing it.

503 Cycleworx again had a stellar showing with James Harmon taking 4th in the Pro class and Josh Wilcox snagging 9th. Brian Cantele grabbed 2nd in the Cat1 40-49, and Alex Combes took 2nd in his mountain bike racing debut in the Cat2 30-39.

Right before the race Kerry Robair from Biker's Edge told me he was running a 34x20. Although I said I wasn't showing my hand, running a 49" gear at WT would be racing suicide. I had an 18 in my truck that we quickly swapped out. The first couple of laps I'd see him 20 second or so back, but he began to drop his chain and lost some places. So I don't no if in the end I helped him or hurt him. From my pre-riding I think it was probably the former as I was able to trim 4 minutes off my lap time by running a 32x17 instead of a 32x18 (54.6" instead of 51.6").

4th place puts me in the lead of Cat1 SS class in the series...at least for now. I'll probably loose the lead next weekend as I chose to race Singlespeed-A-Palooza instead of the Root 66 race. Hopefully that will only be temporary.

*I've edited this stupid post a half dozen time today; hopefully I'm done now!*

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lay it On The Line

In the spirit of singlespeed brotherhood, transparency, and altruism I had planned on reporting what my tire selection and gearing was going to be for the Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic. But then a little voice said "Charlie, what are you fooking stupid, you don't give up any home field advantage! Fooking crazy talk! This is racing we're talking about!"

"You kiss your mother with that mouth? But I guess you're right Pat" I replied.
The true spirit of sportsmanship is also contingent on who has done their homework and is best prepared. To triumph over one environment and opponents. I wouldn't want to take that away from anyone, but since I was going to lay it on the line, here's "Lay It on The Line" by Canada's own Terry Malloy, Triumph.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good and bad about numbers

The good thing about being anal retentive about cycling data is I know that I shattered my record for Pennwood tonight . My average ride time for Pennwood is about 1:20 . Today I did it in under 1:15.
While I'm psyched I'm riding faster, the conditions were ideal but they've been this good before, I'm a little bummed that what was once a hour and a half of riding is only 1 and a quarter now.
I guess I could go back out for a little more out and back, but once you're back at the truck, you kind of loose motivation to ride back and forth just to meet some preconceived number.
Since Hop Brook Dam(n), my right shin has been all tingly to the touch. It doesn't hurt or interfere with riding, but is peculiar.

Keep on growing!

I tend to be something of a numbers geek. I'll pour over results comparing times across ages and classes for endless hours. On long drives my mind often wanders to gear ratio calculations.
As I was reviewing the results from the Root 66 race series first race, Hop Brook Dam, I made note of the size of the SS fields; they're getting bigger.
The median field size for Cat1 was 13 riders; Cat1 SS was 14.
The median for Cat2 was 13.2; Cat2 SS was 10.
This is awesome.
Last year I rode against geared riders because the size of the SS field was often too small. If you didn't get to the singletrack or the first climb at the front you were hating life.
This past weekend racing against all singlespeeders was bliss (in an anaerobic kind of way); the only time you'd get stuck behind someone sitting and spinning was when you caught a rider, and at that point they didn't really have any effect on the race.
I hope the fields keep following this trajectory.

Piece of Mind

Right before KoB, I started having problems with my shoes coming unclipped from my Crank Brothers Eggbeater SLs. I thought it might be an issue with shoe interference, as I had recently replaced my shoes. After replacing cleats, trimming the shoe tread, trying different shoes, I determined it was the actual pedals themselves; comparing them to newer pair there was all kinds of play in the retaining bars.
After corresponding with Crank Brothers, they sent me an RA and I shipped them back for repair. Last night they responded they'd fix them for $20.
No thanks.
I don't mind that they need to be maintained, I do mind they need to be sent back to have that done.
I also wasn't crazy about the two times that the pedal body came off the spindle (different pedal sets, but within weeks of each other). First time I was able to get the body to stay on the spindle and limp out of the woods, second time I had to try and ride the greasy spindle out.
I wasn't crazy about the Eggbeater MXR pedals on my commuter being disposable either.
So that's it, going (gone) back to Time. I had made the switch back mid race season 2009 after the pedal off spindle incidents, but was lured back by the light weight.
Time's are heavy, at least the old school ATACs I like are, but they are bombproof.
Saving 1/4 doesn't do you any good if you can't pedal to the line.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hop Brook Dam(n)

At lunch on Friday I get a phone call from a local Pro with a question on tires. In the course of conversation he comments about me racing the Cat1 SS instead of my age group. I'm getting the distinct impression that he feels by not racing my age group, I'm not challenging myself (i.e. sandbagging). This starts getting at me and I decide I'll try and switch to my age group at registration.
Well when I get home I check the confirmed riders and none other than Kerry Robair has signed up for the Cat1 SS!
I gotta race Kerry!
So now my mind is at ease with my choice (it is Cat1, heck it's an open class too so any young buck with a Cat1 license and 1 gear can race it) and there is nothing left to do but go through my anal retentive race preparation.
Wake to a crisp clear morning; perfect race weather.
Get down to Middlebury and it's like a family reunion. It's so great to see all my racing friends! One of my favorite parts of racing is all the people I've met and become friends with, which is a big help getting through the pre-race jitters.
On the line we have 14 guys lined up. 14 guys racing singlespeed! One of the reasons I raced my age group last year was to race against a decent sized field; psyched I got it today in SS.
Kerry and I line up down the right hand side of the course next to David Wilcox of Geekhouse and Emrah Aghan from Marty's. It seems to be taking forever to get things started, but that gives me a chance to socialize and say hi to friends in the different race groups. I pull the old "can you hold my bike" on David Wilcox so I can run back and wish Brian Cantele good luck.
We finally get to the line, just wishing for Jill to blow the whistle, nerves ramping up, and...
we're off.
Holeshot baby!
Me and Emrah swap places back and forth on the grass going around the lake, but I get to the singletrack first, followed closely by Kerry and David. I bobble a technical spot and Emrah passes me, but as we pop out on the black top, I pass him back. The four of us are beginning to quickly establish a gap.
As we ride up the fireroad grinder after the levee, Kerry, David and I start putting a little real estate between us and Emrah.
I lead most of the first lap, but before we pull out for the last section of blacktop, David makes his move and passes me. He's making it stick pretty well and quickly builds a gap on me.
As I get to the feedzone, I reach for a bottle from bottlestand 2000 and...fail! I'm going too fast and can't get the bottle out.
For 2/3rds of the second lap I'm leading Kerry. Then we get passed by a geared rider from the class that started after us. No problem, but we are climbing, and he's now in our way. I bump his rear wheel and loose my line. This is Kerry's chance to scoot around me.
That's cool. I get back to Kerry's wheel and I'll just stay here, marking him.
We get around to the feedzone, I slow down a little more, and...fail! I actually have to stop and go back to get my bottle. Fortunately Kerry doesn't go apeshit through the feedzone and I get back to his wheel.
When we get back to the blacktop, I start pulling around him, but don't want to start wasting a lot of energy yoyoing back and forth with him, so I give him a little push to keep him in front.
That little push leads to a little gap, and the elastic is beginning to stretch. Kerry is riding away from me.
At the top of the biggest climb I still have him in sight, and now David Wilcox. Wilcox is running his bike around the last corner, Kerry rides it.
As I get to the top, I can see them in the singletrack going the other direction. Kerry's catching him!
I don't know if I'll be able to get him, but I'm stoked for Kerry.
Then at the bottom of a rocky descent I pass David fixing a flat, and Kerry is nowhere in sight.
I catch a geared rider who built his bike the night before the race. His bike is noisy. I hate noisy bikes. We swap spots back and forth, if the trail points up I go to the front, down he does. Finally after the feed (I didn't even try), I put some distance between us so I don't have to listen to it.
The rest of the last lap is uneventful. I start getting glimpses of Kerry now and again, but there is no way I'm closing that gap. I keep on looking over my shoulder, and no one's back there... until Ken Welch from the 50+ group comes blazing past.
Kerry gets the win and I get second. If David didn't flat, it might have been a pretty tough battle for that spot, but as they say, that's racing and he finishes 4th behind Emrah.
My Swift, BluSteel, performed silently, and flawlessly, helping me limit my losses on the descents with it's superbly balanced geometry and superior fork. The more upright position definitely didn't slow me down and probably helped me keep consistent lap times throughout the race by keeping me fresher.

It's great to be racing again. All the pre-race nerves, race prep, after race clean up and recovery are worth it once you finally begin to test your meddle. Sounds like WT Fat Tire Classic is going to have a great turnout too.

Notes and Shout Outs
The night before the race Kerry e.mailed me as to what gear to run. I jokingly replied "it's really steep, run your very smallest gear". Kerry took it at face value and did just that. I'm glad it worked for him, because I'd feel like a total dick if he was spun out.

503 Cycleworx represented with Brian Cantele taking home the Cat1 40-49 win in his return to racing and James Harmon taking 5th in the Pro race. Congratulations! Great riding guys!

Day before the race I bought a pair of shoes and glasses at Berlin Bike. I bought my first custom wheelset from them back in 1994 which is still in service on Kim's bike. I hardly ever shop there, yet Chris still showed me the love. Great staff and great selection. I'll have to shop there more.

Stay the fook out of the way pre-riding when people are racing. I appreciate you want to get to know the course and warm up, but have respect for those who are racing.

I'm not really in this for the prizes, but I thought it was a little lopsided that all the winners from the Cat1 age groups got wheelsets, while the winner of the Cat1 SS got a jug of energy drink powder, and the Junior winner got a floor pump. If anything I think the junior riders should get the best schwag, and although I'd probably rather a floor pump than a heavy 26" wheelset, I think the prizes should be a little closer in value.
No medals either. I love those.

When the results are posted online I will edit this and replace "Marty's" with the actual rider's name (which turned out to be Emrah Aghan). I didn't catch it on the line, he didn't stick around for results, or pre-register, so I'm working with what I got.

Had a couple of pictures, but my camera phone isn't speaking with the internet right now, so the Google Maps shot will have to do.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Maximum Mojo

Hopbrook is what I consider the start of my season, and being such, I'm not taking any chances. Got my lucky red socks, drive to the race music, and St Patrick ready to help me overcome any physical short comings.
King of Burlingame was a way to clean the pipes as they say, and Root 66 is really my priority.
I've always done well in races that I've worn the red socks. First race I ever one I was wearing them. Only race I won last year I was wearing them too.
Curtis Mayfield might not seem like the ideal choice of pre-race tunes, but I find I'm amped up enough with out listening to something like this, this, or this; I need something to mellow me out.
St. Patrick? Can't hurt.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Almost There

Mechanically the bike is all sorted. New brake pads, new chain, and apparently stainless steel doesn't last for ever so a newish cog to replace the one below.

Tires are all topped off with Stan's, so as far as the Swift is concerned, all systems are GO!

Over the Winter I bought a pair of shoes to replace my once ├╝ber comfortable, but now quickly deteriorating Pearl Izumis.

I wore them through the Winter commuting to break them in. But I guess you really don't get to know a shoe in the 1-2 hour legs of a trip to work while wearing thick warm socks.

As I began to log longer hours it became apparent XC-1's were not the Answer I was looking for. Serves me right for trusting my feet to an internet closeout.

It got so bad on Tuesday, it felt like someone was stabbing me in the toe with every pedal stroke.
As far as cycling shoes goes, I'm part Imelda Marcos, part hoarder. I've been meaning on throwing out some pairs of shoes for a while now, but glad I never got around to it. Fortunately I still have these gems. No fancy ratchets, but oh so comfortable.

Now it's just a matter of testing bottle stand 2000, pre-riding, and for better or worse, the season is here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Home Field Advantage

First time out since my RI humbling. I don't know if I stumbled onto a traction secret, or if it was just the home field advantage but my tires were sticking like glue last night. Which was particularly surprising as the rain had stopped about 4 hours before I hit the trails, and that's usually plenty of time for the trail slime to develop. Stuck mostly to the perimeter of the Res. and the service roads to avoid the gooey center. Happy to report the trail bed is pretty well established, but on days like these, it's easy to remember what the purpose of the reservoir is; to collect and funnel water into storage "reserves" for later consumption.
Other than having Journey stuck in my head, an awesome night of riding.

I thought some clever beavers had built a really neat dam in this pond. Then I realized it wasn't a pond or a dam, but a pile of wood chips in a flooded field
Running stream of water down the trail
The fixer
Maybe I'll go the other way. For those not familiar with the Res., the gravel hill beyond the puddle is really steep, and considered something of a challenge