Friday, October 29, 2010

This is probably a mistake, but...
I thought I would give it a go. Looking at the profile of the Moser Farm, race it looked like it could be really slow in some parts, and really fast in others.
So...think, think, does one gear for a course with very slow spots and very fast spots? Very fast flat spots.
With mtb I never really have the "what if?" running in the back of my head when I race singlespeed. It is what it is, and I'm happy with that. That's not to say I'll rule out gears someday, maybe even someday soon, but cross is different.
There is limited elevation change, and one of the major factors I've seen in my brief cross career has been the consistency of the course surface, or lack there of. Sand, grass, mud, hard pack, and tarmac all can be part of one 1.5-2.5 mile loop with only 50' of elevation change.
So how do you gear for that? Rather how do I gear for that?
Wednesday I bit the bullet, dug out an old Campagnolo Daytona shifter, stole the derailleur off the Sunday Princess and did the deed.
God invented parts bins for a reason
But then Thursday, I went for a mtb ride. My second since I started cross. I was feeling super strong on the climbs. My time didn't really reflect this, because I also spent a good deal of time crashing on leaf covered rocks. But I felt real strong crashing.
This got me thinking. Maybe sscx was having the desired effect? Maybe it was making me stronger on the ssmtb? Maybe I jumped the gun with the shifty bits?
Well they're on there now, so I guess I'll give them a shot.
Campy levers don't play nice with v-brakes
An old derailleur makes a great chain guide. Notice the chainstay protector. Like my old buddy Bongway (RIP) would say when he bought ribbed condoms, "Because I care".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I feel cheated!

Cheated by you Thom P.!
I donated to the "fund the insanity" fund in the belief that you were headed to the island on the left of Oz to bring singlespeed glory back to New England.
Not only did you not go to NZ, you started riding XX!
Now I realizes my donation wasn't very much; just enough to buy some in flight porn or a bottle of designer water, but I feel I need some sort of retribution.
On the drive home from Millstone Grind I heard Black Sabbath's N.I.B. After riding and racing the super swoopy trails at Millstone, I thought this song would be a great accompaniment to a helmet cam video.
So Thom, I think you should make a helmet cam video of swoopy techie trails with N.I.B as the backing track and we can call it even.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recovery Ride

Sunday whilst riding I came upon a couple of gentlemen discussing the demands of racing at the Sport level (Cat2 in the Modern USAC caste system). I got out my soap box (I carry it in my left jersey pocket), and began to extol my vast training knowledge on them.
"Recovery rides are bullshit" I exclaimed. "With only 6 hours a week to train (that's the commitment they were considering) you've got to make every second count, you've got plenty of time to recovery with your everyday life".
Well, as I headed out for my afterwork ride yesterday, I began to yawn. I was beat. I didn't want to ride, I wanted to sit in the cafe drinking coffee, "renting" bike magazines.
But I was wearing good socks, and it would be senseless not to ride with such a nice pair of socks on, so I headed out.
Once you get riding it's always better, right?
To use the interweb vernacular, Meh.
When I got off my bike for a run up, by the top I was practically walking, barely able to swing my leg over the saddle.
Pulled the plug at less than an hour.
After dealing with the clogged drain from Lillian dropping a bar of soap down the shower, and making sure homework was done (they better not have been lying!), I was asleep by 8:30 PM. That's early for even me.
Today was going to be a mountain bike ride (yeah!), but I woke to my head being spackled shut with an endless supply of gooze (boo!).
So maybe I'll share the love and go get that coffee today instead?

To try and dress like all the cool kids, I swapped my v-brakes for wide profile cantilevers.
They take more hand strength, something I'm lacking, at least for rear braking here in the States where we put our levers on the correct side of the bars, and they hit my calves when standing on the pedals in the 3/9 o'clock position. For the life of me I can't see how they would provide better mud clearance than v-brakes.
I'm going back to "V's"
I know which side of the argument I'm siding. Discs for cross. I hope there is a long drawn out controversy too. That way I'll be riding with superior stopping power, driving deeper into corners and barriers, while traditionalist (I wish I hadn't already used "whilst", because "whilst" would have gone really nice with "traditionalist") try and scrub speed with their archaic 19th (yes I meant 19th) century stoppers.

Hugs and Kisses,


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smith Farm CX; Kill Bill Vol.1

Going into Smith Farm I had two goals; top ten, and beat Bill Thompson.
Comparing our times from the previous week. it looked like we were fairly evenly matched. But he had raced a couple hours earlier than I had, so who knows how consistent the conditions were?
I had finished mid pack on Sunday against a pretty stacked field; technically no one was sandbagging, but there were some terribly talented riders in that field. Racing the Master's 45+, there still would be a depth of talent, but at least they'd be my own age.
The course started with a long straight away, that in most cases would leave me hanging off the back, but although we haven't been deluged with precipitation recently, the way the field we were racing in and the one across the street drain, it was pretty soggy.
We started 22 abreast and trudged down to the first hairpin. Thanks to the conditions and a fairly spinny gear, I got there in the top half.
After some zigzagging about we came out to a surprise set of barriers. I must correct a previous statement I made concerning the barriers; they are not 2x8s stacked two high, they are 1x10s stacked double, screwed to 2x4s, anchored into the ground with rebar. That makes them 18 fucking inches tall! And they are triples.
Following the barriers was what is becoming a Tobacco Valley staple; The Spiral of Death.
The Spiral of Death somehow winds in upon itself (forever), and at it's center, reverses course and somehow spits you out the other side. They put it in the dampest part of the field. I believe two things; 95% of the course was in the Spiral of Death, and Jim Thompson is a sadist.
Oh, but such a beautiful sadist!
The rest of the course was a bucolic jaunt through the orchard, interrupted by six more 1x10 walls.
Back to the spiral.
In the spiral things began to separate. Handling and power began to sort things out. My gear was pretty good, and I negotiated the turns pretty well, but watts is watts, and lets face it, I aints got alots.
Never the less, I was ahead of Bill the first lap.
But I wasn't ahead of Tom from Thule, or the guy with the sweet Sycip.
Then lap 2 happened.
As I catch the Sycip and Thule riders in the spiral, Bill catches me as we reach the back of the orchard. Thule Tom decides the Thompson Express is something he'd like to get in on, so he latches on and passes me.
The next couple of laps they dangle in front of me. I can pull them back a little on the hills (very little), but they keep on adding bits and pieces on the downhills.
I didn't see it, but going into the last set of barriers on the forth lap, Thule Tom crashed. That's where I caught him.
After that set of barriers, is the long drag down to the first corner. I put my head down and tried to spin my gear up as much as possible. Going into the zigzags alone, I had lots of room to stay on the power.
When you get to the Spiral of Death, you can see your chasers, and they see you. You try and stay on or find a solid line through the widening quagmire, trying not to misjudge the line and tangle yourself in the tape.
When I got to the second set of barriers, Todd Holland's son was cheering him on, "He's right there Dad, you can catch him!"
I don't like the sounds of that!
I'm trying to keep it going for the last part of the course; it really is quite lovely, except for the impending doom of Todd and Tom hunting me down.
I'm either catching lapped riders, or guys from the 3/4 race are pre-riding; getting caught behind or slowed by someone would not be good.
Getting to the last set of barriers, Todd's son again is shouting encouragement, "You can get him Dad"!
Fortunately he couldn't and I edge him out by a few seconds on the line.
Seventh place.
Bill is sixth.

Being a half full kind of guy, I'll say mission accomplished (by 50%).
I'll need to find at least 16 seconds for our next meeting.

I'm really beginning to warm up to this whole cyclocross thing, at least the little local races I've been doing. I can go race without wasting myself completely or devoting my entire day to racing. With a mountain bike race, even a local one, I'm devoting at least half the day to the event, and I'm usually completely useless for anything other than eating and being horizontal. Saturday, I raced, hung out to see friends race, and still got home and took my sons to lunch, looked at chickens and met Mr. Erik Jungk, aka Duck, and his lovely bride (who wasn't given a silly high school nickname by your truly) for some hoity toity cuisine.

As a bit of comic relief, on the first lap of the 3/4 race, a racer, before the second set of barriers, threw his glasses to a lady watching the race. He then began to shout instructions to her about what he wanted her to do with his specs. I guess he didn't realize how close he actually was to the barriers because he slammed into them full speed. Jim is quite the carpenter / engineer because the barrier didn't budge!
Other than his ego the rider was fine.

Turns out Smith Farm was my Mom's stop for apples back in the day, so I picked her up a bag of Macouns .

Surprising to me, I'm making up time on the barriers by driving in closer to them before dismounting than my competition. Now if I could only improve actually getting over them and remounting...

I think this whole cx thing will be a boon to mtbing. Even though my muscles are pretty tight today, I felt pretty strong on my ride this morning. My first actual mountain bike ride in about a month.

look! Cyclocross type debris actually hanging from my bike!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I decided to take the Kite on a more "traditional" loop today. I started out with the first couple legs of my "cross" loop to make sure I got enough log jumpin' and bike liftin' practice, but then I headed up to the ridge.
Amazing how much rockier it seems with 32 mm tires.
Not only did the terrain slow me to a uselessly pedestrian pace, but it also knocked my headset out of adjustment, which I didn't think was even possible.
I was getting bummed out.
I was wishing I was on my Swift, but having a race on Saturday, I felt I could use all the time on the Kite I could get.
I decided to pull the plug.
But on the way back to my truck, things began to turn around for me. Riding on trails and fireroads more suitable to a cross bike was letting the Kite shine once again.
Horses for courses I guess or some such nonsense.
Turned out the starnut in the fork was slightly crooked, so after a few good whacks, the top-cap settled in. I added a spacer to hopefully prevent this.
I also swapped out my super sweet Raceface Turbines for my beat to hell FSA Energy cranks. Yes they are lighter, but the main reason was they are 170s (Turbines are 175s). I went through a 175 phase; the leverage is nice, but I think the shorter ones work better for me.

I've also decide to race my age group this weekend. Not only does the time work better for me, but I won't have to race 24 year olds with Pro MTB licenses (just guys my own age who are as fast as 24 year with pro mtb licenses).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stratton Brook CX

I had a bunch of woulda coulda shouldas that I just deleted; no one wants to hear that.
So let's just get right to it shall we?

I was talking with James and Josh from 503 Cycleworx after they finished the Elite 123 race (4th and 7th respectively, great job guys!) when all of a sudden guys are lining up. I run back to my truck, loose my bottle and arm warmers and stage behind Kerry and his Biker's Edge posse.
Whistle blows and I'm off well, in the top 10, as we go over the first set of barriers, and into the weird tape curly Q they set up.
I'm feeling pretty good on the descent to the bike path, and pleased to be holding position on the flat, stone dust path.
But then as we start climbing the almost mountain bikie trail people start passing me.
Did they not get the memo? I'm supposed to be something of a climber!
We get around to the bitch, I mean the beach, and it just sucks. I make it half way around and have to run the second half. Right after the beach is the third set of barriers followed by one last power sapping little climb to the start finish. The barriers are wicked tall (unlike me), and all 3 sets are set up in triples.
Not cool.
Second lap I think I have a gap on Kerry but all of a sudden after the curly Q, he's on me like white on rice...and then he's around me.
He's riding strong and getting a gap.
Then he makes a wrong turn at the beach and I get around him and ride the sand.
The beach / barrier / hill combo is an ass kicker!
Third lap I'm holding my position, but Kerry is methodically reeling me in. Again I ride the beach.
Coming into the start / finish, I'm praying for the sweet relief of the bell lap.
Shoot, two more!
Forth lap Kerry passes me before the sand, I tell him to stay to the right and stay on his wheel to the start / finish.
I begin to plot my last lap strategy.
Over the last 3 laps I've gotten pretty good at riding the sand. The plan is to keep Kerry close, and try and get around him before the beach; who ever gets through the sand first, will win our little battle.
But then in the singletrack, at the worst possible spot, Kerry drops his chain!
I get around him and begin to close in on a Paradise Racing rider.
On the bike path to the beach we pass a Colavita / Sutter Home rider, but the Paradise rider gets to the sand first.
I close the gap, and am right on his wheel having to soft pedal my gear staying on the one rideable line behind him.
James is there cheering me on like crazy, telling me to keep pushing and get around him.
I pass him in the barriers, and head for the last climb.
But he easily spins past me as I'm grinding my 36x16 out to the end.
14th out of 30something.

  • I felt good, but thinking maybe I should have used a 17. Would a 3" smaller gear make a difference? Maybe, maybe not.
  • I was a little disappointed with my result. After finishing 7th out of 33 in my debut I was expecting more out of myself. But different course, different conditions (it wasn't freakishly warm), different racers. Gives me something to shoot for.
  • On the other hand, my time would have put me into 5th place if I raced the 45+. Is it sandbaggy to race my age group?
  • About those barriers: They were like 15" tall; is that normal? Must have been comical watching me get over them. I know it was a hoot watching the kids in the kid's race lifting their bikes up, throwing them over the barrier, and then scaling the "walls".
  • Kerry was definitely stronger than me today; without the wrong turn, or dropped chain he probably would have placed a couple places ahead of me.
  • My Mom and Dad came out and the curse has been broken; no mechanicals (I haven't had good luck when they've come to watch me race)!
  • The Singular Kite performed admirably. Balanced, neutral handling on a course that would favor a mountain bike. Being 2 pounds lighter than my Swift in race trim was definitely a plus every time I had to summit a set of walls.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do the Double?

Okay, I'm signed up for the 3/4 race at Stratton Brook in Simsbury on Sunday, but should I sign up for the Masters 45+ on Saturday in Mansfield Hollow?
I chose the "B" race in Simsbury because Mommy and Daddy are coming out to see their only son race his bicycle, and the 12:00 PM start time is oh so convenient for all involved. Maybe not such a good idea since the last time they came to one of my races I had an air retention malfunction brought on by a nail, and the time before that I crashed and broke my plastic bike frame.
But do I go get beat up by the boys my own age on Saturday too? In this case the 10:00 AM start works out well with family pumpkin pickin' plans.
I know some guys would race a couple of races both days, but that would take away the hit and run aspect that is appealing to me about cross. I can warm up, race, hangout, and still only be out for a 3 or 4 hours.

Millstone Kicks

The shoes I won at The Millstone Grind Showed up on Monday, and I have to say I am impressed.
Mavic Razors.
I love the super pimp white with the red trim, and the sole feels pretty grippy too.
They fit real well. The toe box is more traditional than the cavernous one on the Specialized BG shoes, but it is not tight; your feet just can't set up a campsite in there (not a good or bad thing).
Super psyched to try them out, but they are so pretty; I don't know if I want to get them dirty!
Many thanks to the Millstone Grind promoter and supporters, and to Mavic for the awesome prize.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The F word

The "not race wheels" are now the "cross race wheels".
What was originally built as a set of special wheels for long leisurely Sunday fixed gear rides, will now be abused on Autumn weekends, 45 minutes at a time.
They were my cheapest route to light(ish) cross wheels; just needed to buy tires.
I took them out for a test shake down today. I wanted to test both my glue job, and the puncture resistance that the tubulars would afford me.
I glued the tires in my typical manor. I use 3M Fast Tack, putting a layer of glue on the rim (over the existing glue), a layer on the base tape, and then mounting them with a wet layer on the rim. I've read about people having problems with Fast Tack, and about the Belgian tape method, but my way has worked for me for over a decade, so I figured I'd stick with what I know.
But I only had about a third of a tube on hand, and the company I ordered more from sent me some other 3M adhesive by accident. That being said I planned to go as far as I could with what I had on hand without skimping or trying to stretch the glue out.
I got my first layers on the rims, and base tape, and started in on the wet layers. I had plenty for the front wheel, and figured if I ran out on the rear, just look at it as an extra dry layer. I look at gluing tires sort of like roofing; you can put on a few layers before you have to strip it down and start fresh.
So to make sure I didn't skimp, I was really generous with my glue on the rear, and had a tiny bit left in the tube. Having that little bit left made me wonder if I could have used more on the front.
I wanted to give the tires and wheels a good workout so I could race with peace of mind. I went to the res with about 38 psi of air and 35 ml of Stan's in the tires. Lately I've been getting a lot of flats at the res. Saturday I had a little tube patching party after flatting there twice in the morning.
With the rockiness of the trails I banged my rims multiple times, actually even knocking the front wheel out of true enough to hit the brake blocks.
But the air stayed in the tires where it belongs.
I tried to take some corners as hot as possible too, and the glue job held up to whatever "G's" I could generate.
I seemed to be breaking loose a little easier than with the clinchers, but I was also faster, so I guess a little wheel slip on loose, sandy, gravel fireroad climbs isn't so bad.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Eagle, err, Kite has landed!

After an extend tour of the of the mid-west, a box of goodies arrived from SW England.
A cap, a jersey, a skinsuit and a prototype Singular Kite frameset!
Sam also included some of those fancy Euro cantis that all the cool kids are running.
I'd have to steal the brifters from my Cannondale, or the levers from the Fun Machine, use some crappy old Diacompes from the bin, or heaven forbid spend money on levers.
Or I could just be uncool and run v-brakes with the long pull levers I have for disc brakes.
Well, I didn't want to cannibalize any bikes, or run gears (maybe some day), so v- brakes it is.
Turns out I had to steal the Fun Machine's wheels anyways since even though a giant box can make it's way across the Atlantic in a couple of days, a couple of tires can't get from Indiana to Connecticut in a week.
After a couple of weeks of foul weather, and a migrating cold (started in my head, went South to my chest and hopefully will be flushed out by the weekend) I've got some work to do to do this gem and the accompanying supersuit justice.
My kinda work!
Had no idea I was color coordinating my pedals with the decals
Not Euro cool, but they work
Classy as always

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Coming soon...

It's crossed the Atlantic, now it just needs to get from Cincinnati to WH.

View Larger Map
8:00 AM update:
Wait a second, it's in Franklin Illinois now? It's going the wrong direction!