Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Surprise! MTB racing is here!

And by "here" I mean close to home, races that don't require an entire day or overnight stay. (I'm such a homebody/family man.)

I don't know why this surprised me-- the "Horning's Hustle" MTB circuit race is this weekend and I'm not really prepared mentally. I was also off the bike for most of the last two weeks-- a one-two punch from work and personal life. Fortunately my bike's ready to go. There's that at least. And it's really raring to go. I've been on the road so long... I can't wait to hit the trails.

But I've put a different stem and saddle on it and haven't been out on them yet. It's looking like this race will be the first time. No drastic changes, though, so I should be okay. I dunno-- if the saddle kills my ass I guess it's better that this is a relatively short circuit race instead of a much longer XC race.

Wait-- I do need to rebuild the pedals (Crank Bros. Candy Cs). I'll have to double check those-- maybe they've got one race left in them.

The next race is towards the end of April-- the Bear Springs Trap XC race. That was an awesome one last year. There may still be snow up there at race time. We'll see.

A different sort of place, a different sort of bike commuter...

We spent last week in sunny SoCal in that happiest of places-- Disneyland.

We stayed in a hotel a few blocks from the park gates and had a rental car. I had the need to visit the local grocery store a couple of times and so go to see how the locals did things.

I was heartened to see plenty of adults riding on bikes. At least I figured it was "plenty" considering that I was in Southern California and all roads seem to be what we would consider "highways". I did note some interesting differences between the riders there and what I'm used to seeing around here in the Stumptown area.

Not a fixie to be seen (Not entirely true--I did see ONE as we were leaving Disneyland one afternoon) and every bike I saw was on the department-store variety. All the riders were in jeans and long-sleeved shirts and none appeared to be riding for "fun".

This reminded me of an article in Bicycling magazine a few years ago. I think it was titled "Hidden Riders" or something similar and was about folks (mostly immigrants) in L.A. who rode their bikes -- depended heavily on their bikes, in fact -- strictly as transportation. The notion of a bicycle over US$500 was the wildest of fictions.

Anyway, I don't really have a point to this. It was just interesting to see so many bikes being used as transportation instead of status symbols, toys, or hipster fixations. (Pun intended.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dropping 20 bucks to ride around in circles...

Part of the reason why I enter races, despite being far from awesome, is that a race presents an opportunity to push myself harder than I ever would during a recreational ride. Even if I'm doing intervals ("fartleks").

A race tests me like I cannot test myself. Sure, on some sunny Sunday afternoon in the park I might be able to run barriers and feel like a juiced Belgian pro doing it, but on a cold and soggy Sunday morning, in with scores of other racers, screaming spectators and clanging bells? Yeah-- I can only BUY that. Can't simulate it.

Anyway-- I finally fixed the flat on my road bike and took it out instead of my SS. Wow. After three months off it felt... weird. Different. "Whippy."

I also caught myself just noodling along at one point, taking advantage of all those gears. (Well, the bike is only a 7-speed. Don't laugh, it's a 1994 Cannondale.)

I keep thinking that all the time I spend on the bike (Which I love.) must be doing me some good, right? Maybe not, if I'm slackin'.

I read a good training article ("Finding the Time") by Jason Sumner over on VeloNews. It's got some good advice about the difference in quality versus quantity in relation to busy and changing schedules (you know-- life is what happens when you're busy making your kick-ass training plan.)

"...the key is finding that critical balance between high intensity and adequate rest. Better to crush yourself a couple times a week, and then have several short truly easy days, than to noodle around whenever you can and rarely take time off."
Noodling around whenever I can is a lot of fun. I love riding the bike. But if I want to kick just a little ass this summer and especially this fall I need to stay focused. I want to kick just a couple of asses, that's all. A few maybe. About a dozen or so. I don't need to squeeze all the fun out of noodling around, but maybe not so much with the noodling.

Another good idea presented by the coach in the article is this:

“Try practicing some strategies,” suggested Coach. “Plan a scenario where one teammate is the attacker and another set ups to counter if the move keeps getting brought back. Doing things like that is great way to have a purpose for a training race instead of just dropping 20 bucks and riding around in the pack.”
Of course! It's fun to race, but I should also take those opportunities to look around. Practice some tactics. For instance in CX (or any short-course, multi-lap race) I need to accelerate out of corners rather than just sitting on my duff and mashing the pedals. Watch the good guys and the lines they take. Chase the guys that pass me. Dice with them. Work on my form through the barriers. (Like Tonkin teaches-- run through the barriers, don't jump over them.) Every race is an opportunity to learn and improve, not just go round and round.

Although the last sentence provides me with a great out: "Yeah.. that was just a training race for me."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lance Armstrong shares tubeless sealant removal technique

A few weeks ago I bought a couple pair of ("New To Me!") tires. Two of those tires have old dried-up tubeless sealant on the insides. I posted a question to the OBRA email list looking for a quick-n-easy way of removing the stuff.

A tacky film of tubeless sealant-- likely Stan's

I had hopes of receiving a reply that entailed the use of a squirt of Oxi-Clean and a quick swipe of a ShamWow leaving me with like-new looking tires.

Not so. I got a couple of useful suggestions, but those sounded too much like work.

Undaunted I ran my problem by the email list again. I added in a smidge of sarcasm hoping that this would spur cooperation from my fellow OBRA-listers. This time I received what I assume was a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to invoke the name of the "Lance Armstrong". I thought that I would go one better and seek out the legend's wisdom directly. (Thanks to Rick Johnson, fellow OBRA-ite for the suggestion.)

I appealed to Lance, showing him the above photo of the tacky, elastic membrane.

Lance's unsurprising reaction to the residue of sealant.

After some thought, he came back with this advice: Use your thumbs. (Actually, what he said was "Make your mechanic use his thumbs to get that gross stuff off." I told Lance that I don't have a mechanic, that I was my own mechanic, to which he replied, "I didn't understand a word you just said.") So off I go working working working at rubbing off the cursed rubbery crap with my thumbs. And you know what? It wasn't that hard and it was very effective. No mess. However, this is was my reward for about five minutes of work:

I felt a bit like Brett in Alien when he discovered the xenomorph's molting. Ick.

Nice-- a little stretchy wrinkly bit of junk that looked like something one of those creepy Giger Aliens might leave behind after vigorous dermabrasion at the day-spa. My thumbs were a little crampy, too.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to leave one of my moltings laying around like that. Here, let me take care of that for you."

Anyway, squicky artifacts aside, the technique was relatively quick and easy to do. Well, maybe a little labor-intensive and kinda hard on the thumbs. Well, here's what the tire looked like after about five minutes:

So we've got "after" on the left and "before" on the right.

I showed the results of my work to Lance. He made a show of being pleased with my progress and patted me on the head. He then asked if I thought I would be able to match his power output of 600 watts while removing the rest of the residue. I asked him about Mr. LeMond's persistent questions about doping... to which Lance responded by hurling my Poprad under the wheels of his black and yellow Hummer and driving over it repeatedly until it was unrecognizable.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Timbuk2-- Seriously Awesome

I recently bought a bag directly from Timbuk2. The whole experience was fantastic. The order confirmation email was fun to read (Yeah-- I actually read these things and they're typically very dry and to-the-point.)

The coolest part? The bag itself was good -- typical Timbuk2 Awesomeness -- but the bag it was delivered in was sheer genius. The tough plastic bag was also a MAP. Of downtown San Francisco.

Click the photo to see a larger image.

No-- I don't live there nor will I visit anytime soon, but as a graphic designer involved in marketing and branding I just totally flipped my lid over this. I've never ever seen such bitchen packaging.

Apple's packaging is also cool-- but after playing with it for a couple of minutes and admiring the lustre of the material and the spare graphics it's off to the recycle bin and/or trash.

But the Timbuk2 shipping bag? Inspired.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Still going...

Yesterday was awesome. Another day to lift my spirits-- another message that spring's on the way.

Today is a bit more gloomy and cloudy.

But I'm still riding. I think I'm riding more than I ever have. (Well, it's only 12 miles during my lunchtime that I'm squeezing in, but still...) It's nice because I generally feel better and less irritable. The downside is that if I miss more than a day I get all grouchy and crabby.

My ss is just filthy and there's not much point in washing it. I just go after the dried road grime with a toothbrush.

I hope that this pays off later this year...