Thursday, October 30, 2008

75 dollar rubber boots.

I get the feeling that, because I live in the Portland area, publishing my sentiments about this product from this particular company may border on treasonous. Still. $75 for rubber boots?

Vanilla bikes are anything but and Mr. White (the builder) is basically a superstar in the bike culture of Portland. But $75 for rubber boots?

Speedvagen bikes are awesome and I don't know anyone that wouldn't give their eye-teeth for one, but $75 for rubber boots? With the Speedvagen shield?

I suppose these might actually fall under the protection of the "PRO" label, making me just another "wish I could" dork riding a mass-produced piece of junk lacking in any sort of taste or skill whatsoever. But, seriously, $75 for a rubber boot? That's soooo BKW.

The thing that tweaked me, after the crazy price tag, was the fact that they were "US made" and much special-ness was made of supporting US manufacturing.

#1: I have a set of Bad Black Boots that were made in the US. Servus brand. Rubber. Almost up to my knees. Bad Basic Black.

#2: They cost $19.99 at GI Joes.

#3: Buying a US made product should fall under the category of "buying locally". Yes, one is supporting US jobs, but one is also cutting out all the transportation of getting the product to the US. No foreign carbon footprint. Just a domestic carbon footprint.

#4: You really can't top Bad Basic Black. It goes with everything!

#5: What could the saved $55 be better spent on?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A cyclocross Halloween!

This past weekend was the Halloween race. Two days of cross fun in the sun in fabulous Astoria, Oregon (Goonies!). The weather was awesome for dragging the family along. I normally like my cross weather cold and soggy, but that sort of weather is not so fun for the family to stand around in. It's no fun wearing a costume in that sort of crummy weather, either.

Since we were going to be staying the weekend I decided to make a super-fun maxi-cross-blowout and race both the Master B ANNNNNNNND the singlespeed categories. Two races each day, one right after another, for 90 minutes of hypoxic, anerobic joy. Each day.

I went into the weekend realizing that there was no way I could actually "race" in my usual category and have any fun the remainder of the weekend. I'd be thrashed and hatin' life. No attitude to have on a family weekend at the coast OR on a bike.

My results reflected my strategy! I came in DFL in the SS category on day one and third up from the bottom in SS on day two-- the costume day. I can only attribute this to the fact that there must have been two other riders that were hungover and wearing full-on gorilla suits or something to have done worse than me!

Day two, the costume race, was a blast. I was already a little spent from day one and decided to focus entirely on having fun. Strategy: Rather than a 45 minute race, it was a 45 minute, short course costume parade! We were the Star Wars family that weekend. My son was a Clone Trooper, my wife was Princess Leia (she rolled her own hair up into "star puffs") and I wore a kid's Boba Fett costume. We had to separate the body suit at the waist seam so I could actually get it on. My midriff showed and made me feel a bit like "Bubba Fett". Ha!

Just a couple of days before the race I hadn't settled on a costume-- first I was going to be Chowder (from the eponymous cartoon), then Flapjack (he of the "Marvelous Misadventures of...") . On Wednesday night we were at a party supply store looking at costume stuff -- I was hoping to find a little sailor's hat to kick-start my Flapjack costume -- when my wife spotted an inflatable Boba Fett jet pack. My inner nerd-child went all a-squee over this. My costume fate was sealed! It was just a matter of finding the largest child's Boba Fett costume we could.

Thanks to Shane Young of and HP Chiropractic for the free photos of the weekend!

There was a goup of about a dozen racers that all had Tron costumes. They were most excellent-- they had all hand-painted the colored "traces" on their bodysuits. They had set up on the back section of the course, reds on one side and blues on the other, and were having a disc battle across the course! Not a shark tank, but way more fun. (Apparently all the bodysuits were custom made! I had originally thought they were from a dance supply or something.)

On my third lap through the disc gauntlet Boba Fett decided it was time to dismount and put some Mandalorian-style hurt on the rogue programs. Jumping around and aiming my wrist-mounted flame-thrower and snare-projectors I was able to sow some consternation and confusion among the ranks. Oh, they can dish out the disc abuse to un-costumed racers, but they were unprepared for a little Mandalorian smackdown. They rallied quickly and I was soon forced to retreat. Unfortunately a "wardrobe malfunction" delayed my departure and I was quickly set upon by the Tron guys...

As I was pulling away one of the Tron discs found its mark, striking me squarely in the head. Momentarily stunned, the back of my pants got hung up on the nose of the saddle. Two of the Tron guys were attempting to get me going again. "C'mon Boba, get your shit together!" My pants were pulled back up, I was pushed off and one of them stuffed some candy down the neck of my shirt. A couple of wobbles and the rockets gave a feeble blast and I was off. I was in a curious state: I was laughing my butt off, but because I was already winded I couldn't do much more than gasp.

On the back side of the course there was the dreaded six-pack of barriers. Followed by an increasingly unpleasant uphill. Fortunately Boba Fett had a cheering section-- thanks guys! You helped pull me up that damn hill.

After the Master B race I only had a few minutes to scarf a few Clif bloks and chug some water. I was already ravenous and thirsty. Another 45 minutes on the singlespeed and my stomach would be chasing my liver around my insides. I was hungry! I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but the folks that ride singlespeed are incredible. They can seriously drop the hammer on riders with geared bikes. I found it pleasantly uncomplicated. Just ride. (Although I'm using a chain tensioner and have too much slack so the chain kept bouncing off on the rougher sections of the course.)

I was already in the red zone half-way through the first lap. I didn't even bother attempting the hill after the six-pack. The Boba Fett Cheer Squad was still there and seemed a little surprised that Mr. Fett was back. For all but the very last climb they kept Fett jogging up the hill. By the last lap, my legs were cramping badly enough that I was forced to walk-- which was even more painful.

I have never been so hungry as I was after that race. I was trembling and if I let myself sit down there was no way I was going to want to get up for a couple of hours. The fries and hashbrowns from the fries vendor were ambrosia. And the cold TurkeyBLT sandwich waiting for me back in the car was the best tasting sandwich -- best tasting food! -- I've ever had. If it had been delivered on a beam of sunlight from the heavens there's no way it could have tasted better. I think I ate and drank during the entire two-hour drive back home. And I was still hungry!

Right after the SS race was the Kiddie race. My son really seems to be getting into these races this year. It's too bad that the kids only get to do one lap-- my son is primed for many more and always keeps going for an additional 2 or three laps. If there hadn't been another race I don't think we would have been able to get him off the course! He also seems to have developed his own, very smooth, dismount proceedure. In fact, several spectators nearby were saying things like "Wow-- look at that little kid go! Has he been practicing?" and "Hey! Somebody's learning!". His remounts are very good too-- I think smoother than mine! Really!

It was an awesome weekend-- great weather and loads of fun. Perfect.

Again, thanks to Shane Young of and HP Chiropractic for the free photos of the weekend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gallery: Masters Category B 35 , Masters 50 and Jrs

Gallery: Masters Category B 35+, Masters 50+ and Jrs

Posted using ShareThis

The above was created by using the new sharing capability installed on Shane Young's Oregonvelo photo site.

He takes some really nice photos at the cross races.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This is advertising...

...And now I want to go for a ride!

This is an ad? It's awesome. I love it! I immediately watched it twice. I'm going to buy nothing but Hutchinson tires from now on. :)

(No... I'll still buy what works.)

Still-- this is great and I don't mind that I'm doing what the adversisers hoped folks would do. Repost on their blogs.

Share and enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The finer points of the "Porta Potty"

Through numerous bike races and other cycling events, I have become quite familiar with the "porta potty". Initially it took some nose-holding and psyching-up to get into one of these things, plus a lack of conveniently placed bushes. (What the heck-- pissing just adds nitrogen to the dirt. A good thing.) But sometimes you just have to deal.

Used to be, my attitude was that I'd rather my colon implode rather than use one of these things and the forest with all the bushes? It had to be ablaze. With squirrels running out of it.

It was a hot day in July during the 2002 Seattle To Portland that forever cured me of my porta-potty aversion. An added bonus? It was a #2 and there was NO hand sanitizer. Could have been worse, I suppose. The TP could have been out. I could have experienced the dreaded "poke through". Just no hand sanitizer and the prospect of spendinging another 4-6 hours with a ninky hand.

I was wearing full-finger gloves so that wasn't really an issue, I suppose.

It was during those two sweltering days on the road that I developed an appreciation for the finer accoutrements of porta-potties. And to this day, one of the first things I do upon entering one is to perform a quick assay of the facility.

Is there a hook upon which to hang a coat/gloves/helmet/whatever? A mirror? After launching snot-rockets sometimes there's a little, shall we say "blow back". It's nice to be able to check for this. However, it doesn't matter much in the company of cyclists-- we all do that sort of thing and nobody really cares all that much. Still, it's nice to be able to check one's visage.

I've seen shelves, even. These are nice for holding things that don't hange well but don't substitute for the utility of a hook. A wadded up jersey, for instance is too likely to just un-wad and fall onto the piss soaked floor. (Note: Taking one's jersey off is necessary to do a #2 when wearing bib-shorts. That's why I'd need to take my shirt off in the bathroom-- it's not a George Costanza thing.)

However, the bar was raised infinitely high today by the folks of Team Beer. At the Rainier High School cross race they were hosting an exclusive porta-potty with an attendant. (Or a valet?) They had incense and 2-ply TP. This is all second-hand info, you know. I just didn't feel worthy to visit this particular establishment.

My porta-potty, on the other hand, featured miserable TP that was so thin you could read a newspaper through it. Even when it was doubled up.

No hook either. Or mirror.

Here's to you, Team Beer, for daring to set a new standard.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Look at me, I'm a winner...

...Not at all.

But I got a taste of what it must feel like to be a winner.

Last Saturday was the first race of a two-race series: Willamette Valley Cyclocross. This first race was held at Heiser Farm in Dayton.

If not for a scheduling conflict I would have skipped this race in favor of Sunday's Cross Crusade race at Wilsonville (an awesome race by all descriptions). I'm glad I didn't miss the Heiser Farm race. It was a good course with plenty of fun parts-- a nice looong and deep mud puddle and a smaller mushy bog that defied efforts at control and skewed my bike back and forth threatening to sling me off. (Will Cortez put it zenly: "Let go of the brakes and let the bike find its way.") There were a couple of nice, slippery climbs and, I swear barriers that were waist high.

Oh, about that "winner" part? Well, the fields were very small-- about 10 or so in each one so I was assured a top-10 place. I took 8th. (I note with interest that I finished proportionally in about the same overall position that I usually do, no matter the field size.)

The best part was that I got to lead for a portion of the first lap-- I was in the lead! In front! First! (This is a big deal to a somewhat flabby, desk-bound, wish-I -could-get-out-to-ride-more, ugly-duckling like me!) At the first off-camber turn, the leader washed out and fell over and the guy in second (at the time) almost overshot the turn with a "Fuckin' course!!" Then the guy in 3rd moved up ahead of me and he slid out on the following off-camber short and steep descent. So then for a glorious few minutes the clouds parted and the sun shone down on me. I was in that rarified territory: First Place. I began to have visions of scoring that $20 first lap prime, or even the 6-pack. Unfortunately the clouds of reality closed in again on the first straight stretch and the power-wagons behind me dropped me. Then the demons of the "late-feed" showed up and my stomach decided to remind me of why I shouldn't eat anything within an hour of the race.

It was a fun race though and the organizers did a good job of course design.

Next up: Rainier High School-- Race #2 of the Cross Crusade series. Back in with the teeming masses of racers. I had my shining moment of glory, and maybe I can score a repeat if I line up 45 minutes before race start...

Thanks Will, for the photos. I'll bring my camera to the next race and snap a few (possibly blurry) of you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ultimate proof that bikes are RAD

Oh my goodness. This is wayyy better than Kevin Bacon facing off on his fixie against a car-wielding thug in "Quicksilver".

I must find the DVD.

Behold! Lady Is The Boss: bike fight!

Does your bike have a soul?

We probably all start out with a bike. Most of us, anyway-- a very unlucky few never get a bike for whatever reason-- economics, geography, over-protective parents. Do you remember the summer days that you went everywhere by bike? You could go places without having to convince your parents to drive you there. You had a degree of freedom that mere walking can't provide. Then, sometime in our early teens it becomes uncool to ride a bike-- it's almost better for your ego to walk. A car is the thing to get. If you can't have one of your own -- a beater is acceptable -- then hitch a ride with a friend. If you can't do that, then walk.

Then, maybe in high school we might have a "renaissance" of sorts where we come back to the bike as a sport rather than as... something more. It's okay as a sport but don't use a bike for transportation. Our attitudes may shift a little as we move into our college years and become tightwad scroungers.

After we graduate, get jobs, get married, move around the country or world the bike may fall by the wayside again or be forgotten completely.

Then we may experience a "second renaissance" of the bike.

* * *

I can't remember the book title exactly... maybe it was "Illusions: The adventures of a reluctant messiah"? You know, by Richard Bach. (Don't groan.) Anyway-- I read one of his books in one sitting when I was a teenager. There was a lot of stuff in it about flying and some of the sentiment appealed to me as my interest in bikes was really deepening. One notion in particular has stuck with me these past 20 years or so. In the book one of the characters (maybe the messiah character?) was explaining to another pilot friend that if you took care of your plane and listened to it, respected it... that when it really counted the plane would pull through for you. My memory may have embroidered upon this a bit over the years, but the basic notion is there: Take care of your ride and it will take care of you.

But what does that mean? I suppose that some interpret it literally-- of course if you maintain your bike properly it will not (should not?) fail you.

For me, there more to it than that. It's not a goofy anthropomorphization of the bike, but something different. None of my bikes are "tools". They aren't ascribed roles such as "rain bike", "A bike/B bike", "race bike", "beater". All my bikes do whatever. I try to respect the basic nature of the bike by not junking it up. You just know it when you put something on your bike and it doesn't feel right. It's not a personal fit issue-- it just doesn't feel right for the bike. It can go the otherway too-- you can tart a bike up with expensive stuff and then it feels unnatural. Like a chicken with lipstick or something.

Some would argue that the dissonance is indeed a personal fit issue and I'm just projecting it onto an inanimate object. *shrug*

What about when you get rid of a bike or sell it? What happens? What if you can't sell or git rid of a bike-- is it because you'd feel like you were losing a bit of yourself? I remember selling two bikes when I was in high school. The first two bikes of my "renaissance". A Schwinn Mesa Runner and a Schwinn Sierra (black chrome, AT-50 cantilevers and Light Action derailleurs). I don't remember feeling any particular attachement. The next bike I still have-- the Stumpjumper. It sat fallow for a few years, getting a little rusty around the edges and I even thought about selling it. I just couldn't do it. Maybe it was made easier by thinking that the bike didn't have any significant resale value.

Is this what is meant by "sentimental value"? Have I invested some portion of my soul in the bikes? Is that how they have "soul"? Is it just my sould these bikes have or is it all in my head? Or is this why I enjoy carrying my bike from time to time? (More so in cyclocross...)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Another carbon post eats it...

In my race at Alpenrose, just after the concrete barrier by the fence, I heard a loud POP from the rider in front of me. Oh yes-- that distinctive sound of a carbon composite tube giving way.

The rider looked up and yelled "SEATPOST!" I'm not sure who he was yelling at.

So the damn thing obviously broke as he was remounting. Nice. Could have been much worse, I suppose. Could have taken a core sample of his inner thigh.

Thank you, Thomson, for the awesome non-carbon seatpost.

People, people! Enough with the damn carbon seatposts already!! If you want light-weight, get a Thomson Masterpiece. But please, stop wasting money on carbon seatposts! Okay? Alright. I'm done.

Later in the day I spied a true tragedy. A broken Paul cantilever brake! Oh the huge manatee! One of the cantilever arms had snapped right at the pivot. I suffered a case of "the vapors" when I saw that and someone had to dash over and cut my corset strings. Hm. I read somewhere that forged alloy is supposed stronger than machined. All of Paul's stuff is machined, I believe.

It's sort of making me rethink my desire to get some Paul cantilevers for my bike. (Not really-- but there are so many rather nice looking new cantis from the likes of Tektro and Avid.) I wonder what his replacement policy is?

Yay! Cross Crusade is ON!!

Yesterday was the first race of the Cross Crusade series. My favorite.

Which? The first race or Cross Crusade in general? Yes.

I was a bit worried that it would be sunny and dry. My fears were alleviated somewhat when the weather running up to the Big Day was overcast and rainy. I held my breath as the rain continued through Saturday and smiled big as Sunday dawned overcast and rainy. It was also mid-60's.


Jogging through the slippery grass parking area I slipped and realized that I had forgotten to install the toe-spikes on my shoes! Oh noes! The velodrome run-up of doom will eat me.

I survived the run-up four times and only slipped once-- almost going down. I had to look for the "steps" in the mud left by hundreds of other feet and do a sideways duck-walk kind of step to get up.

My re-mount is teh suck. I've forgotten EVERYTHING and it's like I never even knew HOW to remount! What on earth is wrong with me?

Alpenrose was a fun course and it was nice to have it muddy instead of dry like it had been for the previous two years.

Somewhere around the next to last lap I decided to back off a bit and really soak up the ride. I didn't give up. Just gave in. Gave in to the experience of the moment-- the perfect weather, cyclocross, the noise. The feeling of movement through space. I was having fun. I wanted to enjoy it. I've been accused of being too much of a "sightseer" in races.

The noise on the run-up was good, but it was sorely lacking in other places, with folks just standing around like zombies. C'mon folks-- make some noise. I know I may be slogging along and slobbering down my front, but I need cowbell as much as the leaders.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nervous making

The first race of the Cross Crusade series is just 12 hours away. Alpenrose. The run-up that makes Barry Wicks confused about whether he's going to shit his pants or vomit after he runs up it.

My last two races have been just horrible.

I'm nervous.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Barry Wicks on cyclocross- true, true.

I totally identify with Barry Wicks' description of his early season prep:

...I will open my cellar door, look at my ’cross bikes, contemplate their functionality, decide that too much work will be involved to get one up and running, and grab my road or mountain bike.

Exactly two days before the first ’cross race of the year I will panic and realize that I am about to leave town to do a ’cross race and should probably think about trying to clean the nine-month old muck from the previous winter off my bikes and try and make the brakes work properly again.

My prep this year was similar. I used the first couple of races -- Pain on the Peak and Battle at Barlow -- to sort of "ease into" this cyclocross thing. you have to understand that procrastination -- along with beer and waffles -- is just part of the whole thing. So my bike still isn't 100% ready. I've got my A and B wheels all discombobulated. I'm trying to decide which wheels go with which tires. I don't know why I'm even making a deal out of it. I'm also wondering if I should rotate the cassettes since the B wheels got a new one and saw very little use in the past 9 months. Alpenrose is just two days away.

Anyway-- Barry's article is a hoot to read.