Monday, December 17, 2018

SSWC 2018 BendOR! Part 2, the fun stuff

They know how to throw a party in Bend.  Well certainly a bike party.

On arrival to Bend's downtown square, The Crow's Feet Commons, we are showered with race schwag:
Drink coupons
Metal number plates
Beer cozies
Neck gators

and what I assumed was a tube of some sort of natural lip balm...
not lip balm

There were multiple group rides during the day and some sort of adult festivity every night.

Race Day!
Second dose of antibiotics downed, breakfast consumed, time to "race"

This is serious business

As we roll out, and get away from the cacophony of the start, I hear my rear brake rubbing.  Oh well.  Someone points it out to me, but there's not much I can do about it now.

After a long but festive roll out of town, we hit the dirt, then we hit a sand pit loaded with rocks, then we begin to climb.

First aid station has whiskey, bacon, beer, and water.

More climbing.
Climbing to a final hike a bike crescendo 

Followed by a little descent...
click the link, it's worth it

Even opting for the short course had some wickid cool features

Did I mention the dust?

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to ride with Chuck

and of course Christine

Next time we're going longer

Monday, November 26, 2018

SSWC18 BendOR! Part 1

When I heard the Singlespeed World Championships were in the US this year I knew I had to go.  Being in a not so busy time of year and in a location where a lifelong friend had relocated didn't hurt either.

Although I'd be competing just for fun and the experience, my season had been focused on endurance events in the latter part of the race calendar.  I had pretty good form.  With The Coney LTD in transit to Bend, I was on Mi Putita Roja for the first time in almost 2 years; a great bike as well but with vastly different geometry than it's successor.  All I had to do was stay healthy...
Crashing over the bars was not in the plan.

Crashes-smashes, I'll get over it.  I've got a whole week to recover. 
The following Tuesday, 2 days before flying to Bend, I wake up with chills.  Maybe skipping the morning ride would be wise?

This time of year, I'm usually still in shorts, but instead I'm wearing every layer I can find at work.  When I get home, Christine tells me I have a fever, should take some ibuprofen and go to bed.

The next morning is the same.  We are driving to Boston that evening to stay at an AirBnB close to the airport and I'm burning up, or so I'm told; I'm freezing!

Ibuprofen  keeps it at bay for 6 or 7 hours, but it comes back with a vengeance.  On the plane, I'm borrowing layers from Christine to keep the shivers at bay until the next dose kicks in.

The warm high desert of Bend is welcome relief.

After another night of chills/fever/sweats/repeat Christine strongly suggests we stop at the walk in clinic to get me checked out.

Lungs, ears, throat, are clear.  Blood pressure normal.  The doctor is checking off boxes and is perplexed.  "I don't know why you have a fever"  she exclaims. 

Christine interjects "show her your chest".  The doctor examines the wound and thinks it's healing well.

"Show her the picture of when it happened"
"Eww!!"  she exclaimed. 

I think that's doctor talk.

She begins to probe it again.  "Hm, that does feel a little soft, maybe an xray is in order"?

When the xray comes back, she thinks she sees something but wants to hear from radiology first.  When they come back with "everything looks normal" she calls them back to ask for a second look as she see something right under where the wound is.

"It doesn't seem to be viral, so go home and when I hear back from radiology, I'll call in an antibiotic for you, but I want to hear from them so I know how aggressive to go".

We go back to Chuck's.  I build Christine's bike so she can go for a ride while I rest waiting for the doctor's call.  On the way home we bought a thermometer.

After a few hours, I take my temperature; 102F.  I call the pharmacy to see if the prescription is ready. 

Nope, hasn't been called in.

I call the clinic, radiology hasn't called back. I tell the doctor my temperature, she says "Jesus".

More of that fancy doctor talk.

I build my bike.

At 6:50, 10 minutes before the doctor's shift ends, I call back.  They still haven't heard back so they just called something in.

15 hours before the race I take my first dose of  antibiotics.

A case for outside

With the early snow and unusually cold temperature this past week Winter training is brought to mind.

I am a big fan of outside.

Even with the advent of such impressive tools as smart trainers, and interactive websites, there is great value to riding outdoors in the Winter for mountain bikers.

Riding outdoors in the Winter improves your handling and balance.  Riding on frozen leaves, snow, and ice can be unpredictable.  You need to adapt to the unexpected becoming acutely tuned to the pressure you are applying precisely to your bike and it to the ground.  Rock gardens become that much more challenging when you add in an ice flow.  Riding across glare is possible without studs if you are balanced and smooth.

You learn to use momentum.  If there are leaves or unpacked snow, you need to carry every bit of momentum you can or you'll be walking that next hill.  Have fun when your cleats and pedals are packed with snow and you can't clip in. That glare ice too; if you can roll across it  without pedaling you have that much better of a chance of staying upright.

Winter riding recruit more and different muscles.  You'll be using your whole body to keep moving let alone keep momentum. You thought you were utilizing your glutes and quads to their full potential before!

Strengthens core.  See above.  A strong core is essential to mountain biking, for control and endurance. Winter is the perfect time to concentrate and build on that whole body strength.

Finally, it's just fun.  What can be better than building strength, skills, and base while playing in the snow?!  That's what it's all about; fun (or maybe the hokey pokey).

Sunday, November 25, 2018

VT50 2017, scratch that, 2018: Goals

"They" say you should set goals.  For personal achievement you should have a scale of goals; The seemingly unattainable, the stretch, and the what should be attainable.  For The 25th annual Vermont 50 Mountain Bike Race those were, in that order, win the singlespeed race, podium in the singlespeed race, finish in under 5 hours.

It was a remarkably warm morning for this year’s addition.  No thought to layers was necessary .  Lights were charged, New tires with fresh with sealant; ready as I'll ever be.

After the mandatory 5:00 AM check in, and 5:30 rider's meeting we were lining up.  At two minutes to go I pulled the old "Hold my bike" on Jordan.  There was some audible cue and we're off.

Bottom of the hill, leaving the resort and the lead rider heads right...ignoring the State Trooper and course markers pointing "go left".

First real climb of the course the young guys power off the front. I summon my inner geezer inspirational speaker, and tell myself they're going out too hard and will be back.

Yo-yoing with Scott Livingston, almost a contemporary, I finally begin to pull away. The youngsters with giant quads are out of sight to the front, and Scott's light is fading in the distance.

I was alone.

Maybe it was when I was fiddleing with the switch turning off my light, maybe I was deep in  concentration, but all of a sudden I was at a major intersection (for VT), and there wasn't a course marshall, or markers.  How do I know to go left or right?  Wait a second...


(I didn't say fudge ripple)

Time to backtrack and reassess some goals.

I started writing this over a year ago and lost interest or was distracted or something.
But I enjoy writing and sometimes miss it so maybe for my own head, it was time to dust off the old blawg.

Goals was going to be the title of this year's VT50 recount, but low and behold it was already in use.

So goals.  It's good to have them.
The Ultimate, the stretch, and the attainable.

For the 2018 edition of the VT50 the were as follows:
The best I had done at the VT50 was 4th, and there was a pretty solid gap to that bottom step of the podium.  Let's face it, I'm not getting any younger.
Sub 4:40
What I think I would have been able to do last year without the detour
Sub 5 hour
The two edition finished had been as such

According to Garmin, the temperature at the start was a balmy 36 *F.  In true XC racer douche style no knee or leg warmers were worn.

Corralled at the start, I'm contemplating doing the old "hold my bike" and going pee, but the new starting area did not provide easy access to the woods, so I convinced myself I really didn't have to go that bad.

The whistle/gun/horn, I don't remember how they started us but somehow they did, goes off, and at the bottom of the hill, everyone goes the right direction!

Praying for the first climb in the sub40 temps, trying to not loose too much ground to geared riders, to only inevitably end up yoyo-ing with for the next hour up and down the hills, until there are some flatter (for VT) dirt roads for them to get away on.

On the first climb, I'm able to hold Dave pedal stroke for pedal stroke, on the second climb youthful exuberance carried him and an anonymous rider from NY away from me (ie. Dave and Shane were stronger and faster than yours truly).

I went with an easier gear this year, but it somehow seemed harder.  Not only did it not seem easier, there was a greater futility with every passing geared rider on the open road.

The yoyo-ing.  Ah the yoyo-ing.  Clusters of riders coming and going, passing and getting passed.  Hauling ass past me on the open flats (for Vermont), being caught when things got steeper or in the more technical (VT50 is anything but technical).

One such case was on the way to Margaritaville, an uplifting party of a rest stop at the top of a big climb where they crank classic rock and hand out ice cold beer.  I've never stopped there but it always lifts my spirits.  A  rider on a Salsa hardtail who flew in from out West for the race has been playing the game with me and was up ahead.  As we ascended he caught a buddy who had also traveled from afar to come and race.  Spinning little gears up the twisty singletrack chatting it up as I churned slowly behind them with no place to pass.  Glancing back I see the next singlespeeder, Skip Thomas, closing in.  He is in striking distance with the ability to shatter my number one goal.  As we reach the top Salsa guy's buddy want to stop for a beer. I explain my urgency and plead for the easy pass.

Permission granted.

From Margaritaville the race gets more funnerer.  More singletrack, more descents.  With Skip hot on my tail (does he know this?) I need to summon my limited technical ability and try and get out of sight.

Being chased is a great motivator in it's nerve wrecking way.  Constantly peaking over your shoulder, not letting up, you know, BECAUSE HE'S RIGHT THERE!

Your mind plays tricks on you; is that him, maybe a teammate, is he closer, are my tires soft, do these shorts make my butt look big?

They added more singletrack to the second half of the race (yay!), looking at my computer and where I am on the course, the B Goal is in jeopardy.

I think if I can make it to the top of the 1 Mile Climb, a zigzag up an open hay field about 2 miles from the finish, with any kind of gap I can hold him off.  Again, is that him or a teammate?

It is uphill so if I don't blow up or have a mechanical or get attacked by wolverines, I think I've got this.  What I don't have is my C Goal as the 5 hour mark is quickly approaching.

But who cares about C and B Goals when you've got A?

Entering the woods at the top, confidence is growing, doubt is waning.  I keep on the gas crossing the mountain, pushing up the last few punchy climbs.

The final descent down the ski hill.  Feelings of elation start to seep in.  I've got this.  Age group riders fueled by their own personal goals and ego are passing me in the grassy switchbacks.  I don't care.  I've finally made the podium at the Vermont 50.

Well, I actually didn't reach the podium.  I was back at the condo eating candy when they had the podium ceremony, so Mike Sliverman just handed me my bottle of syrup.

This year the Vermont was actually 50 miles with the additional singletrack (yay!).

Sunday, October 28, 2018


Riding today, headed up to the ridge, a coyote came trotting down.  We made eye contact and he continued his jog towards me.  Then there was a light in his head, "oh fuck, it's human" and he turned perpendicular to the trail and head back up the ridge.

Last week the same thing happened with a couple of deer.  They were nibbling along the eastern fence line, I stopped, and one of then just starts walking towards me.  It wasn't until my freebub startled him did he think better of it.  Even then he didn't get too far.


Thursday was a beautiful Autumn evening.  Chill to the air, just past full Hunter's Moon, dry with a slight wind from the West.

Great night for a commute.

Riding East on Rt 4, a well lit, straight road with wide shoulders, I'm making good time thanks to the favorable wind.  I should make it to Christine's in just over 30 minutes.  

I love riding at night.  There is a certain peace to it.

She's not, oh my god, YES SHE IS!  


The beige sedan abruptly turns without signaling into my path. There is no time to do anything as my front wheel slams into her quarter-panel.  I'm airborne.  The force of the impact has sent me perpendicular to the road, tumbling sideways across the tarmac.  

My bike lands on the grass, expelling everything not bolted on to it (pump, bottles, headlamp).

"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, you're not going to call the cops are you"?  

I've already dialed 911.

"What is your emergency"  they ask.

"I was hit by a car"

"You were hit by a car'?!!

"Yes, I was"

Emergency responders show up.  I know the officer.

EMTs shuffle me off to ambulance.  'Rich is the best at bandaging, he not just good at driving"  the EMT filling out the paperwork tells me.  Rich wraps me up like a mummy but is ingenious in how he bandages my knuckles.

They ask me if I want to go to the hospital, "we can't make you, but if you decline we need yo to sign a release"

I don't need stitches, and nothing is broken, so I decline.

Second call was to Christine.  She knew why I was calling.

Waiting in her car warming, waiting for the police report in disbelief.  How could this even happen there?

Officer "J" gives the driver her tickects, she is crying.

He comes up to the passenger window with the accident report for me.

"I hope you weren't planning on getting rich off this" he says.

"I sighted her for driving a car with a suspended registration, no insurance, and failure to yield the right of way to a cyclist",

I am angry.  Not even so much about the act of violence that she committed against me but what she has done to my psyche.
I am afraid.  I don't want to ride my bike at night.  She has stolen freedom from me.  

This is not the first time I've been hit but it has effected me the most deeply.
I don't want any compensation; I want to be who I was at 7:15 PM Thursday night.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hardening the Stereoype

There is a stereotype that BMW drivers are dicks.  I guess it isn't a stereotype because scientist confirm this by using science.

On the morning commute, I took the lane at a red light. The right third of the lane, as to not get "right hooked" at a  busy interchange where people are turning right.

Waiting in line, a black fender pulls up next to me.  Why they can't wait in line like everyone else is beyond me.  Imagine if the same thing happened to you in your car; waiting in the lane and a car nudges up in the space you are already occupying?

The light changes, traffic begins to move, and as we clear the intersection, the black BMW X5 pulls up next to me, slows, the driver smirks, and waves.

I reply with an expressive hand gesture.

Infuriated, the X5 driver slams on his brakes hard enough to skid...but his ADD must have kicked in because he then accelerated hard, cuts in front of a car in the left lane, brakes hard and turns left.

I guess he didn't have time to play.

The commute home was much better.  I saw the largest black bear of my life galloping across a suburban road.  He slowed to a walk when he spotted me, then continued his gallop into a small cell of undeveloped land.

I guess he didn't have time to play either.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"I think it's the bottom bracket"

Noise.  Bikes make noise.

I hate noise.

At the shop, if someone comes in with an annoying creak, clunk, click, or squeal, inevitably the first words out of their mouths is "I think it's the bottom bracket".

I think "bottom bracket" is the only component name some people know.

It very well may be your bottom bracket.  It may not.

Bikes make noise.  Lots of noise.

Even well maintained bikes can develop noise...not as likely as non-maintained.
(I'll refrain from future snark from the high

Noise can come from anywhere two parts come together. 

A dirty freehub, headset, loose or worn hub bearings, loose pedal bearings, clipless pedal cleats, spokes, nipples, quick releases, frame fittings. saddle, seatpost (obviously can be eliminated by standing). cranks, chain ring bolts, etc, or sometimes even the bottom bracket.

You can see how diagnosis can be a challenge.  Especially in a carbon bike with it's acoustic properties.

Sometimes it obvious, often it's not.
Often a huge time suck down that rabbit hole.

Sometimes...Sometimes not.

It very well may be the bottom bracket.

or not.