Yesterday at Battle at Barlow my son did the kiddie race. He was actually in the lead coming into the first turn. The kid next to him overshot the turn and zoomed right off the course and crashed. My son slowed down and turned his head all the way around. I'm not sure what he as thinking. Morbid curiosity? I dunno. Anyway-- he go passed and then crashed himself in a rough section.
Later that afternoon, we were chillin' at a nearby coffee joint.
I asked him about the race.
"You were going pretty fast there, kid."
"Were you scared?" I asked. I was kidding here-- I was fishing for something other than a monosyllabic response.
"No. I was having fun. That's what bike races are for! And seeing who finishes first."
Priceless. I'm making t-shirts. :)
That's right, son-- that's what bike races are for: having fun.
I will say one quick thing about the course of the 'Battle at Barlow" CX race:
That run-up composed of rail-road ties? I think I'll forever recall it as the "stairway to heaven" because each time I get to the top a few things happen:
1. I think I'm going to pass out-- my heart's just hammering. 2. I'm glad I made it to the top. So glad that it's done. 3. I fear the next lap when I have to climb it again.
Shane Young of Oregon Velo took some amazing shots on the stairs. (photos.oregonvelo.com)
Here's a nice overview from the guys at pdxcross.com. You can see where some wimps took the singletrack option to the left. The True Believers are on the right, snapping their achilles tendons on the stairs. Booyah.
The day before I was standing on my toes on one of the back fence stringers talking to my neighbor. I'm standing there chewing the fat for so long that my calves get tired.
Later that evening my calves and achilles feel sore. What the hell? Did I go and strain the achilles tendon in BOTH legs?? Sunday morning both legs were feeling stiff and standing on my toes hurt.
Seriously, I can't believe this. And the course at Barlow features an amazing run-up made out of railroad ties.
So here it is, Monday AM and both of my achilles tendons are hurting and the kick-off of the Cross Crusade is this weekend. I'm stewed. The course at Alpenrose also has a cringe-worth run-up. One characterized by Barry Wickes thusly: "When I got to the top I didn't know if I was going to vomit or shit my pants."
My question right now is this: Am I doomed? I'm beside myself. This sucks, big-time. I'm pissed and upset at my own frailty (And wondering why I didn't get a flippin' step ladder 5 minutes into the over-the-fence conversation. Damn!!)
Well, I've got three cycling health books: one each by Pruitt, Burke, and Baker. Over lunch today I'll have to see what they have to offer. ("Doom! Doooooom!")
It seems like just about every bicycle-related blog and media outlet are a-buzz with the news of Lance Armstrong's return to competition. And how he's racing for "free" with the primary aim of raising awareness of cancer prevention and treatment.
I've never even sipped the Lance flavor-aid. Sure he won Le Tour a record 7 times in a row. But that's all he did. In that respect he was a bit of a one-trick-pony. I don't deny that his return from his fight with cancer was nothing short of miraculous. It was spectacular. Inspiring. A "booyah!" to nay-sayers everywhere.
Even so-- lauding his accomplishments as a competitive cyclist seems to ignore everything accomplished by others in his sport. Men AND women.
I've harped on this before. Maybe it's because my cycling personality was cast during the early years of the mountain bike "boom". I grew up reading about Jacquie Phelan, Ned Overend, Greg Herbold, John Tomac, Cindy Whitehead. And Jeannie Longo (now Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli).
Lance has his foundation, but its finances sound a little too sketchy to me to really get behind and become a cheerleader-- the LAF CEO gets over US$300,000 a year? Good grief! It's great that he's really ringing the cowbell for cancer awareness-- research, prevention, a cure. It's a scary horrible disease that frankly gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it, but his foundation could do a little better with the money it raises.
However, other pro cyclists have done significant things for the world of cycling. Things that are, I think, just as important as what Lance is "doing".
For instance, Jeannie is a more enduring hero. She's still racing and a fierce competitor. She's kicking ass and a living legend. When she came here to Portland, Oregon, to race in the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, her presence was largely overlooked. A damned shame, in my book. Want a role-model for getting more women involved? Look no further. But she seems to be the legend that no one's ever heard of. Maybe it's because she's not a man? I don't really know. She could be a recluse, mean, terse. Maybe it's because she's French.
How about Jacquie Phelan? Awesome. She was kicking guys asses back in the early days of MTB races before there were separate men's and women's categories. (Probably because the guys were tired of having their asses kicked.) Know what else she did? have you ever heard of "Safe Routes to School" Well Jacquie developed and taught teachers the skills course for the first "Safe Routes" program. She was instrumental in bringing more women into the sport. She was a co-founder of NORBA. I'll leave it at that-- just Google her name. You can read a bit more at the Mountain bike Hall of Fame site.
Saul Raisin suffered a horrific crash in a race that left him in a coma and significant brain damage. He beat the odds and made a tremendous comeback. His foundation is similar to Lance's but it focuses on brain injury-- recovery, research, and support.
Christine Culver, once a pro mountain bike racer in the 1980's, is now the Exec Director of Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, an organization advocating for cyclists on the road and improved infrastructure.
There's plenty of examples and my fingers are getting tired of typing-- not to mention that I've got work to do. My point is this-- it's good for bicycling business (getting folks on bikes, getting kids inspired, bike sales) that lance is coming back from retirement, but there are lots of other stories out there that are just as deserving of attention. It's just unfortunate that one has to dig so deep to find them.
What folks stash in their seatbags is something that I eventually wind up thinking about on group rides, especially large ones.
I guess it's one of things that tells something about the owner. Kinda like how they wear their socks.
Are they "devil may care" and carry only a patch kit and pump taped to the seatpost? Are they an "expeditionist" (my made-up wordification) and pack just about everything in an expanding seatbag/duffle? Somewhere inbetween? I suppose it's those choices that I find most interesting and revealing.
This is somewhat related to my story from a couple of months ago where I got caught up in a flat-tire perfect storm. In a nutshell, the flat victim was carrying more tubes than I could believe, lots of stupid CO2 cylinders, no patches and, save for intervention, would not have been able to ride out of the woods.
I loathe large seatbags. There's no need for them. A seatbag is your bike's survival/first-aid kit. Carry your own stuff in jersey pockets, Camelbak pack, wherever. Just not in the seatbag-- that's for your bike. Little, teeny seatbags are cute, but then why bother? Why not just use a toestrap and cinch a tube and pump to the underside of the saddle (or seatpost).
Over the years, I've refined my bike's trailside kit to what I consider some essential pieces, but not an absurd notion of "the bare minimum". And fortunately Crank Bros. has made some excellent stuff that fits the bill nicely. In fact, I think they make the best stuff you could want to carry with you.
I typically buy a seatbag no larger than what a manufacturer would call a "small". Something termed "micro" is too small and I've found "mediums" to be too big. Remember-- this bag is just for your bike. Do not stash your crap in it-- carry your own stuff.
Here we see Performance Bike's "Trans It" small seat bag. (This is NOT an endorsement of Performance Bike product.) This is on my cyclocross bike-- part of its summer trail-riding kit. During CX racing season the bottle cage and seatbag come off. The seatbag goes into my race-day duffel.
It's stuffed, but not bursting at the seams. Note the carefully packed interior (some shifting occurs). I have had to carefully consider the shape of each piece and decide where it will best fit and utilize the space fully. Generally I have to partially load the tube and pump, then slide both in together. The other bits slide in the sides.
Depending on the bag's design, closing might be a bit of a squeeze, but never so tight that I worry about the zipper breaking and tossing everything.
Now here's the bag with it's entire contents. This is the least I will carry, on-road or off. Actually, I may leave the toestrap, but that's the only thing I really consider optional.
So, we've got: Innertube (700x28-32 in this case) Crank Bros. PowerPump (the smallest, plastic-barreled one) Park Tool tire levers (apparently indestructible) Park Tool "glueless" patch kit Toestrap (amazingly useful for all sorts of unexpected things) Crank Bros. multi-tool (19 tools)
You need only one spare tube with you. Not two or three. You use the spare tube to get going again right away. If you flat again, that's what the patches are for. I've used the Park Tool glueless patches for years now and I'm still using tubes that were patched years ago. I've read that others have had longevity/durability problems with the patches. I'm sure "your milage may vary" but I've had these patches hold up over years of use on an MTB and subjected to year-round rides, applied in rain, left wet and muddy for weeks (trapped moisture in an MTB wheel, yuck!) and they're still working. So I recommend the Park Tool patches without reservation. I can't vouch for off-brands or Slime Skabs.
The Crank Bros. pump is probably the perfect seatbag/emergency/trail-side pump. The CO2 inflators are just stupid, stupid, wasteful, and stupid. I'm sorry if I offend someone out there, but what do you do if your CO2 cart malfunctions? What if you fumble getting it on the valve and you wind up blowing most of the charge into the atmosphere? I know lots of people use them successfully. But listen: A pump like the Crank Bros. PowerPump will never run out of air. You pay for it once and use it and use it and use it. There's nothing to discard.
I carry the Park Tool tire levers primarily to help out other folks I might encounter or for other riders in my group that might have tight-fitting tires. Save for my road bike, I don't personally need tire levers to dismount and remount tires. But it's good to be able to help out others. I worked my way through several other brands of tire levers before settling on the Park Tool levers. The tires on my road bike are super tight. I must use a tire bead jack to remount the tire. I've broken countless tire levers and even a Quik Stik on that tire/rim combo!! But never a Park Tool tire lever.
The Crank Bros. multi-tool is a perfect distillation of multi-tool form and function. Its tools cover just about every bolt on your bike, plus spokes and chain. It can be disassembled to replace tools (Crank Bros. service is awesome) and is nice and flat. Easy to pack.
The toe strap is just so general-purpose handy-dandy useful for things you've never even thought of. I've used them to lash jackets to my bike on cool-days-turned-warm; to secure a seatbag that had its primary strap rip; hold a shoe closed. The possibilities are endless. (What have you used a toe strap for?)
This is the same kit that each of my bikes carries. Only the bags and tube sizes are different, but the stuff inside is all the same-- same pump, tool, levers, patch kit. Why not just move the one bag around, you ask? Because these are emergency kits and it's too easy to forget to switch out the proper size tube.
I load the seatbag thusly: First the multi-tool goes in the bottom, the more rounded side facing down. Then I slide in the pump part-way. I begin to stuff the tube in on top of the pump, then push them both all the way into the bag. The tiny patch kit tuck in under the head of the pump. The tire levers slide in on one side and the toestrap is folded up and stuffed in the other.
Since this is your bike's emergency kit-- no, it really is. It's not for day-to-day mucking about. That's what your shop tools are for. Pack your seatbag and leave it alone until you need it to save your ride-- or someone else's.
Here we have one of the "junk bikes". A 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp. Back in 1989, the only difference between a Rockhopper Comp and the Stumpjumper was a paintjob, stickers and Deore XT components.
The original bike shipped with Shimano's Deore group. At the time, Deore was only one step down from the top of the line XT stuff. In 2008 Deore is what? Bottom of the barrel just about? Now, the only components of the original bike are the frame, cranks and seatpost.
Let me give you a quick tour of the Rockhopper Comp in it's reinbikenated state:
First it's sporting a Bonty CX drop bar. A midge is definitely in this bike's future. See the stem? Short and high-rise. That's the way to set up a drop bar for off-road use. Right now it's a bit low, but riding in the hoods is pretty comfy. You'll note that the hoods put my hands in about the same spot they would be if the bike had a conventional flat bar. A Midge will put everything within easy reach, but for the time being I rather like the John Tomac 1990 Worlds' drop-bar look. I never could figure why he'd run a handlebar like that when Jacquie Phelan had shown everybody the proper sort of drop bar for off-road use. Well, Johnny was wearing a skinsuit too, so...
Anyway. Tange Switchblade fork. Remember those? A little "me too" action from Tange imitating Bontrager's fork. Bonty still produces the Switchblade. Don't know what Tange is up to these days. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tried pushing on the handlebars to compress the "suspension fork". This was about the time that the very first Rockshox became available.
"Is that one of them shock absorber forks?" They'd ask me. "Nope. Just a rigid fork with replaceable legs." Then they'd step over and grab the handlebar and give a good downward shove. "It's not a suspension fork," I'd remind them. "Hm." Would be the response as they walked off.
I remember being a little concerned that some folks might think me a cheap-ass poseur wanting to fool people into thinking that I had a real suspension fork.
I replaced the old, pitted Deore hubs with some used Deore XT hubs. The old freehub was making ominous clunking noises, too. So yay! Finally got me some Deore XT on the Rockhopper! (A nice score at the Community Cycling Center)
The bike originally shipped with Deore cantilevers. I replaced them with the very nice looking Dia-Compe 986's. Then... in order to secure passage to Moab one spring break I offered to trade with my roomie for his "shitty" Suntour XC SE brake set. He was stoked to get some "awesome" 986 cantis and I was stoked to finally get some of the Suntour brakes using the Scott-Pederson SE brake design. Suntour wimped out big-time and only produced rear self-energizing cantilevers. Conventional (and still nice) cantis on the front. That seemed to squander the SE's tremendous braking power by putting them on the rear only. Perhaps the lawyers were worried about over-the bar lawsuits? Anyway-- the Scott-Pederson SE brakes were legendary at the time for locking up like a pitbull. I recall that many folks (shop mechanics included) would actually de-tune the brakes to reduce their braking power. This was accomplished by toeing the brake shoes out at the front or radically toeing them in so there was no chance of the full braking surface coming into contact with the rim.
Well the rear Suntour SE brake was really worn-- the tiny ball bearings had pitted and worn their helical channels within the brake arm. I scored a set of Suntour XC cantilevers on Ebay and now the bike has XCs on the front and rear. The XCs were different from the XC pros in that they were painted black instead of nicely polished. With some brand new Kool-Stop Eagle IIs in there, they work just fine. Linear pull brakes? Eat your heart out.
Remember when Avid was a purveyor of fine machined alloy bits that were colorfully anodized? Well, I always fussed over my straddle cables and set them up using a measuring caliper. So the Avid Tri-Dangle was the apple of my eye. I could measure everything out, turn the set-screws down, and forget it. Plus it was red-- my favorite color. (Unfortunately the front Tri-Dangle is black.)
I've got a couple of narrow-ish 1.75" Maxxis OEM tires. They work pretty well for getting around town and hitting the little dirt trails here and there.
I've still got the old Sachs-Sedis chain. That thing must be... about 16-18 years old? It's not even worn that much according to my Park Tool chain checker.
The Performance Bike single-speed conversion kit saved me from attempting to replace a worn out Deore DX rear-derailleur and trying to find a 7-speed cassette. The SS conversion kit was an excellent -- and inexpensive! -- way to ignore the past and sidestep the future.
It's been about 10 years since I've used regular pedals and toe-clips. It's kind of nice! I just wear whatever kind of shoe I happen to have on and go riding! Again with the Performance Bike brand here. Pssst... they're made by Wellgo and are pretty decent with sealed construction and two cartridge bearings inside. I had a set of "Joe's Clips" that used two toe-straps per pedal. Unfortunately I could only find one of them. I'm sure that now that I've paid for new clips they'll turn up the very next time I root around in my parts box.
I love this thing. It's not a junk bike by any means. I intend to get it powdercoated next year-- maybe spring or summer? I just can't decide what color. Maybe red? Or basic bad black?
Road rage seemed to be on many folks' minds over the summer. The notion certainly got more press coverage than I've ever seen before. One idea that seemed to be repeated is that at the core of the motorist-cyclist conflicts is the notion that bicycles are perceived as "toys" and that their users are out playing around on the roads and hindering the rightful movement of automobiles.
I've touched on the notion before that cars are a childish preoccupation. Anyone with a child will recognize the desire for toys and candy and easy things and making noise and a lack of consideration for others.. Part of growing up, of maturing is learning that worthwhile things take some work and the best way is not always the easy way. Being mindful of others and learning one's place in community.
From this perspective it is easy to see that cars are, in fact, the "toys". Very little about them is practical (although one could point out various types of bikes such as DH or TT bikes as being impractical). Cars are expensive to run, maintain, they are loud, polluting, shiny. In short, very much like a toy, a novelty. Once inside them, many people begin to act like three year-olds: lacking in basic social graces and behavior. Selfish and rude and with a tremendous sense of entitlement.
This seems like such a fundamental realization to me. As a species we desire or cling to cars as both symbols of status, power and wealth. They are our prized possessions, our mostest favoritest toys and the roads are our playgrounds.
As we as a species gow and mature, stop fighting so much, perhaps we can leave the fossil-fueled car behind.
A fabulously sunny Saturday in September. Kind of hot, even. This was the first edition of Portland Velo's "Pain on the Peak" cyclocross race on Bald Peak in Hillsboro (Oregon).
Fantastic views all around.
My wife and son came out too-- the boy was stoked for racing and his skills have improved greatly this summer! Riding off-road is now wayyyy more fun and far less frustrating for him. Which is good.
Overall it was a fun race, and a great venue. It would have been super-rad with a little moisture, but hey-- I'll take what I can get.
Let's do a little post-race analysis: First I load up on Nutella slathered (gluten-free) waffles a mere hour before the event. Mmmm. Oh yeah. Good stuff.
I drank one cup of water and two or so cups of tea with breakfast and a final sip of water pre-race. (When I got home and took a whiz, it looked like orange juice. Whoops! I guess I was just a teensy bit dehydrated. I wonder why? I drank like a fish the rest of the day.)
Warm-up? That's what the first lap is for.
After the first lap I feel like vomiting up my waffles. However, given how precious Nutella is to me, there is NO WAY I'm letting those go. So they keep insisting to be let free for most of the rest of the race. I also have zero go-power. Doubtless a result of the massive carbo-bomb that my gut is dealing with. My legs just have nothing to give. Zip.
So sad and pathetic.
I'm also being treated by my chiropracter for a wacky neck. So every little bump on the course I can feel amplified in my shoulder and neck. I feel better if I keep my head down so that just adds to my overall whupped appearance to spectators (and contributes to my hang-dog feeling... I suck.)
Going into the race I didn't feel especially competitive. Indeed, that morning I felt really out-of-sorts. Like this was my first race ever and I had no idea what I was doing. Bleah.
The dust was epic. Ankle deep and powdery in places. Incredible stuff. There were points where I couldn't see the gound in front of me-- I had to look way up and follow the crowd of helmets-- everything else was obscured by the billowing brown clouds! Breathing was kinda like squeezing a bottle of baby powder into your gob. Hack!
My son had fun and did quite well-- he was obviously pushing hard and didn't whine even once! (He's five.) Well... he did complain that the race was too short and wondered why he didn't get another race. (The adults were still racing... why couldn't he?) So I took that as a good sign. He's really liking the bike-- definitely a good thing. The announcer pulled my son aside and tried asking him about his race-- did he like it? Did he have fun? Did he get dirty? That sort of thing. My son got stage fright or something and only answered "yes" and "sure" and "uh huh".
In the end it was a fun time. The organizers (Portland Velo) did a great job of putting on a class-A event. the OBRA folks also have my undying admiration for all their work providing the "glue" that makes all this stuff hold together. Oregon is an awesome place to ride and race bikes! I look forward to next year's race!
Unfortunately I eventually had to wash of my dirt tattoo. I called it my "Pain on the Peak tat".
The first CX race of the 2008 season is nigh. This Saturday! I'm already nervous. Will I suck spectacularly? Will my bike remember what to do? (It's been enjoying some off-time as the MTB has been doing most of the playing.)
I'm going to go to the CX clinic tonight-- hopefully I'll pick up some tips that will help me banish my "stutter-step" remount. Curses!
I still need to reposition my brake levers slightly downward and re-tape my handlebar with the super-yummy orange Cinelli tape. (I love the feel of the Cinelli tape, but its adhesive backing makes re-wrapping almost impossible.)
I've thought about this subject quite a bit. Just about every time I go out riding. During races. The last few wretched miles of a century.
I should train more. I should train- period.
Work on my core by sitting on a big inflatable ball, do crunches. Maybe some yoga. Pilates.
Drop Sets. Intervals. Hill surges. VO2 max something-or-other. Get a power meter? HR monitor? (Thanks Bicycling mag! Honestly-- reading that magazine every month just gets more and more depressing. Plus they keep referencing stuff I don't understand, like "stock portfolios" and "golf" and "luxury, SAG supported bike trips". Seriously, WTF?)
Most times I just thumb my nose at the notion of "training". It seems an impediment to fun-on-a-bike. I have a job. I have a child. I have a wife. I have a house that always seems to have something breaking or needing repairing. When I DO get out on my bike I want to enjoy it. But I also want to be able to enjoy racing and longer rides without feeling like I'm going to barf or my knees are going to explode. *sigh*
I have recently discovered/realized that "training" also means more time spent riding. Now THAT I can agree with.
The Bike Snob just neatly skewered the whole training notion. It's a lovely piece of work, really.
Today was the last day of "freedom" before my son hits Kindergarten. I can't believe that this idea didn't occur to me sooner, especially on the hotter days we had earlier in the summer.
A Slurpee run!
Remember back when? When you were maybe 10 or so. Head out on your bike to ride a few blocks to the 7-11. (Back in the 1980's 7-11 was the Starbuck's of the time... there seemed to be one every few blocks and more popping up every minute.) Dump your bike out on the curb, proceed directly to the Slurpee machine in the back of the store, get your Slurpee, check out the comic book rack and then sit out front on the curb chasing that last little bit of Slurpee slush with the "spoon straw" with a comic book balanced on your knees.
So anyway-- I take my son out this afternoon. It's maybe mid 70's out. Not ideal Slurpee run weather, but nice enough by any standard. We're both rolling on red and black singlespeeds! I love it! (I finally got clunker #1 converted to a drop bar. It's no longer a "clunker" thankyouverymuch.)
This is one of the great joys of parenting a young child. It's like you are a guide to a visitor from another planet. He has no idea how things work, what things are called and no concept of the "Slurpee run".
"Where are we going?" "Are we there yet?" "What are we going to do?" "Now what?"
It's a distinct pleasure to introduce him to the various little things that make life fun. (Visits to the doctor for shots? No so much fun.)
The bike can get you where you want to go. He's gotten this idea pretty quickly and deeply. The other day he wanted to ride to the grocery store. Unfortunately I didn't have any way of ttransporting the quantity of groceries that we needed to move.
The bike can get you to good things like Slurpees. The bike makes getting the fun things... fun.
So we got to the 7-11 and got our Slurpees. He even grokked the idea that you mix several colors all together. Right on!
He wanted to know how we were going to get the Slurpees back to a park we had passed on the way. I told him that typically Slurpees are to be consumed on the premises of the 7-11. In a few years, as his skills improve, I'll let him know that the Slurpee can be consumed while riding home, one-handed.
No. For years and years and years I've dreamed of putting together my own bike. Bikes? You mean plural? Oh good heavens! Get out!
Well guess what? I'm livin' the dream. More or less. Mostly less.
No custom frames here. Not even midrange Shimano componentry. Wellll... not quite true. I did snag a set of old XT hubs from the Community Cycling Center. I wish they were in my community. Anyway-- the 18-or-so year-old hubs run much smoother and are a definite upgrade from the Deore hubs of the same vintage. Ooh-la-la. Deore XT.
Anyway-- So now I'm building up a pair of singlespeed clunkers. #1 is my old 1989 Rockhopper Comp (In 1989, the only difference between a Rockhhopper Comp and the Stumpjumper was paint, stickers, and Deore vs. Deore XT.) #2 is a poor, neglected "MTN TEK". It came to me as a 7-speed so it's probably late-80's early 90's vintage. It's a Taiwanese frame, so doubtless it rubbed shoulders with other frames destined for decidedly fancier headbadges and downtube stickers. I remember seeing these things crowding the bike section of sporting goods stores like "Pedersons" and ski shops in southern Idaho.
Whatever. #1 has already been reincarnated -- reinbikenated -- as a single-speed with a Mary handlebar. I hooked up the trailer-bike to it so it sports the hugeugly hitch. Now it's getting a drop bar. The MTN TEK will get the Mary bar and become the loco for the trailer bike. It'll also be the town bike/errand bike. It'll actually be sharing these duties with all the other bikes since I'm equal opportunity that way and don't believe in "rain bikes" or "commuter bikes". They all like to take turns at different kinds of rides. (The road bike doesn't like the trail stuff quite so much since it seems to flat every time I do that. Even with the sausagey 25c tires.)
#1 is getting the Bonty cyclocross drop bar that I pulled from the LeMond Poprad. I'm not sure if I'll like that or not. I have a feeling that I'll need to score a used Midge on Ebay eventually. To be happy. We'll see.
Still. I never imagined that I'd be building up a couple of bike from used/scrounged/Ebay parts.