Monday, September 16, 2013

interbike 2013: outdoor demo day one

Rode a few bikes today.  Liked all of them, but some more than others. In the order they were ridden:

Specialized S-Works Camber.  

I liked this bike.  A lot.  But I never got very comfortable with it through the corners, even through two laps.  Later I realized the problem was likely the lax head tube angle.  Too lax for me, anyway.  It's clear I prefer a more aggressive posture.  But I'm sure with time I could grow to love a bike like this.  With time.  I think I commented at the time, "Riding this bike would make me a much more confident mountain biker."

Pivot Mach429.

My brother loves this bike...but he admits he may be biased as he rides an earlier version.  But the bike was also my nephew's favorite.  It was not mine.  Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it, I did.  But it took a little while.  When I first got on it I was sure I liked the Camber better, but after riding it a bit I grew to appreciate it.  Again, however, the less aggressive angles and tall handlebars just really aren't my style, even if it makes descending the nasty nasty so easy and confident.

LaPierre Zesty.

Or it may be the Spicy.  I can't remember.  I don't know this brand very well, didn't know it at all before riding this one.  It's unique feature (besides its 650b wheel size) is that its suspension is electronically controlled.  Rather, the rear shock is electronically controlled.  The fork talks to the rear shock; the fork takes a hit the shock opens up, when the fork is doing nothing the shock locks up.  You can override the auto setting via the control computer which is integrated nicely into the head tube stack.

I liked this bike, even though the saddle was set much too low.  My nephew didn't.  But I should say this is the first bike I've ridden with 650b wheels, so I may have liked that.  Anyway, an interesting idea, and it's easy to see the idea taking traction in the future, but I can assure you that, for me, the electronics wouldn't be worth the $800 premium over the non-electronic suspension version.

Pinarello Dogma.

On my way to ride more 650b mountain bikes I got distracted by the Pinarello tent.  So I rode this bike.  I'm glad I did.  I don't know why, but I've had the impression that the Dogma was a bit of a, well...a dog.  But this one wasn't at all.  Light.  Stiff.  Responsive.  Nimble.  Really.  I really liked riding it.  And wish I could take it out for a several hour ride.  Maybe they'll let me take it home...

And this particular bike, well, guess who once rode it:

Pinarello Dogma XC.

After riding the road Dogma I wanted to try their F/S XC rig.  However, they only brought mediums.  And the large hard tail was out.  So I rode this extra large.  But besides looking super silly with just a touch of seat post showing, I really liked this bike.  I love me some tasty hard tail.  Other than that, I don't have much to say.  It's a hard tail.  It climbs well.  It feels like a real bike.  I corners well.  It's hard to keep the back wheel planted on the rough stuff.  It's a hard tail...

Specialized Epic WC Expert.

On my way back with the Pinarello I noticed the line at the Big S tent was short.  So, further distracted from finding more middle-sized wheel bikes, I hurried over to try to find an Epic to ride.  None in size large, but they gave me this one in an XL.  It was a bit big for me, but...  I LOVE this bike.

The funny thing is that people have been telling me I would love this bike.  They tell me that, but who knows.  And I hadn't ridden it.  But now I have, and I loved it.

This bike does what I want it to do.  It climbs wonderful.  In the saddle and out of the saddle.  I rode it confidently over all the big drop stuff (as big as I'm willing to drop) and while it certainly wasn't as cushy as the first three bikes I rode today, I felt strong and confident through everything.  But, best of all, it cornered so wonderfully.  It's that head tube angle again.  Steeper head tube angle on this bike and suddenly I just know how it's going to handle through the corners.  It knows where to go.  Or maybe my body just knows where to push it.  But it was a wonderful ride.  Fast.  Confident.  Fun.  I want one of these bikes...  (In a large, please.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the photo

Appalachia Visited Road Race, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

the old men of appalachia

I'm honestly not that cool with turning 40 (in like six weeks), but so far the 40+ has been good to me. My first foray into the category and I manage to stumble onto the top step of the podium.

Appalachia Visited Road Race. Saturday, August 24. With a Round Here win last year I had to represent. And this is your report:

There aren't many races in this area with an elevation profile like this.
Fairly decent-sized combined field left town at a Sunday-afternoon-ride pace. Two early mile-long climbs got the heart beating and sweat dripping but saw no real excitement. Then 18 miles in the first real climb, 5 miles climbing over 1,000' (the Strava segment shows 1028' in 6 miles), broke things up a bit. Gunner Shogren and I took turns pacing the group and we went over the top in a group of eight. Four 40+, three 50+, and one 60+.

The next 15-20 miles we rolled over hill and dale without a great deal of action, but when we hit the last big climb (Strava says 1,191' in 6.8 miles, or 1,002' in 3.6 for the business portion) I just went to the front and drilled it. First, two dropped away. Then three more. And then it was just Gunner and John Blumenauer, who has won all the other ABRA 40+ events this year. I jumped out of the saddle for a bit, looked back, and there was only Gunner. I let him sit for a bit and then jumped again. Poof. He was gone. And I had the last 1/3 - 1/2 of the climb to contemplate my victory salute.

Fast descent. Two mile flat TT. And that was that. (First in the 40+; first in the combined masters field.)

No one else in the photo. The only way to win a bike race.


Chistopher Woltemade made the selection of eight atop Texas Mountain and held on for fourth in the 40+. And, it should be said, was riding the early hills very well. Heading to the front, setting his own pace, and ripping the legs off lesser riders.

Can't manage to not look goofy on the podium. Second, third, and fifth, if you're reading this, please follow this link.

For those that don't know, USA Cycling calculates your racing age based on the age you'll be at the end of the year. As my birthday is in October, in USAC-speak I'm 40 all year long.

I really hope a photo surfaces of my crossing-the-line victory salute. We win so few races, you know? Well, at least I win so few races. I'd like to have it properly documented.

As I crossed the line I'm not sure that those few spectators at the finish knew (or cared) that I'd just won my race. There was so very little noise. It was so quiet, in fact, that I yelled, "Come on... Cheer! I don't win these things that often!"

The final descent near the finish was very fun. Its danger was grossly oversold at start. And since I didn't know the descent, I slowed much more than I needed to around the corners. In the end it didn't really matter (in terms of race results), except that it could have potentially been much more fun, and that I have fifth (in a tie) on the Strava segment...

Speaking of KOMs, turns out my push up the George Washington Highway climb was pretty impressive by any field's standard. Granted, I think our race was a bit easier on the front end than some of the other fields, but I presently hold the Strava KOM on the uphill by a solid 34 seconds. And I was lead wheel the whole way.

8/27 UPDATE: Thanks to the generosity of Fred Jordan, a photo of my victory celebration has surfaced.  And here it is.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

uci embraces its public image

Yes.  Unbelievably, this is the logo for the 2013 UCI Road World Championships.

Parody as reality.  Is this the UCI embracing (and laughing at) its obvious credibility problem?  Or is this some bizarre Italian cultural barrier which I'm simply not capable of doing the mental gymnastics to get over? 

(I'm sure it's the later, but it's still unreal.  Isn't there anyone in Geneva that has to approve this stuff?)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

bike tip of the day

There is often a right way and a wrong way to do things.  In cycling (as in so much of life), it's not always obvious what the reasons for the right way are.  In fact, I'm not sure it's even appropriate to ask.  Why.  (Isn't it enough, for instance, to know that Merckx did it that way?)  But it is appropriate to ask what.  And so here's your tip of the day:

Skewer position.

Can you tell me which pictures below depict properly positioned skewers?

What do you think?  Do you have it?

If not, I've created a handy graphic to help you.

I hope you had it right.

Now, usually it's not for us to ask why in such matters, but in this case I'll explain.

Safety.  If your skewer is in the position depicted in the upper right-hand picture, I will assume that your wheel is not fastened securely, and that over the next bump or around the next sharp turn that your wheel will be departing your dropouts for good.  Thus, a skewer lever pointed down means that a wheel is not securely attached.  That's the only reason one should be pointed downward.

Doucheness.  If your skewer is positioned like the one depicted in the upper left-hand picture, your bike looks ridiculous, and, by extension, it's going to be awfully hard for me to take you seriously as either a rider or, frankly, a human being.  So while you're droning on about your latest epic ride, if your front skewer lever is pointed the direction we're traveling, all I'm thinking about is how I can get you away from your bike for a minute so that I can quietly and discretely correct this sin against theology and geometry.  For the bike's sake, if not necessarily yours.  Don't be a douche.  Take care where your lever points.

Ok, so at this point you may be asking what rules actually govern proper skewer lever placement.  I'll tell you.

(1) Skewer levers are ALWAYS secured on the non-drive side of the bicycle.  For balance.  Aesthetic balance, if not actual balance.  Of mass.  There are no exceptions, no excuses.

(2) In the case of an internal cam-type skewer, such as old-school Campy, most Shimano skewers, and the ones depicted above, the front wheel skewer lever should align as close to parallel to the fork blade as possible.  But it may also dip down, clockwise, to the 3 o'clock position, but no further.  Basically anywhere between parallel to the fork blade and 3 o'clock is fine, but at either extreme is best.  With a suspension mountain bike fork, no position other than parallel to the fork blade is acceptable.

(3) When your wheel manufacturer has been discourteous enough to provide you with the other kind of skewer, an external cam-type, I would first recommend making every effort to get a new skewer (incidentally, the Angry Asian agrees), but if that's not possible, then the best position for the front wheel skewer is straight up, 12 o'clock, or any position between 12 and 3 o'clock, with preference again to the extremes or, in the best case scenario, and if your dropout placement allows it, parallel to your fork blade (this is always the case with suspension mountain bike forks).

(4) Internal cam-operated rear wheel skewer levers should be positioned parallel to the chain stay.  They may also rest between the chain and seat stays or, if you must, at 3 o'clock.

(5) If your rear wheel has the other kind of skewer, it should be positioned between the stays.  Or at 3 o'clock.  (If you're feeling iconoclastic, 12 o'clock is acceptable, but discouraged.)

That's it!

Follow these simple rules to keep your wheel skewer levers in compliance and may you enjoy many miles of safe, smug, stylish, self-satisfied joy upon your trusty steed. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

bike racing in central park

This past weekend a few guys from the team rolled over to the big city for the Maltese Invitational.  No results, but good fun. 

Bike racing in Central Park:  It is, to me, one of the great joys of bike racing. It is reward enough for doing what one does to become a competent bike racer.  I guess I've done it a half dozen times now (usually when no warmer than 30 degrees) and it just doesn't get old.  Something about just being in the middle of the big city (the BIG city), riding shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers, the breakneck pace (my field averaged 27.5 mph for 57 miles), the insane corner dives, the smell of burning brake pads, the collection of road grime on sweaty legs, the whir of a thousand spokes spinning in concert…  It just makes you feel…alive.  The picture of health.  Like the fulfillment of a bazillion years of evolutionary progress (the measure of my creation).  Like all the universe is rejoicing at my physical prowess.  There’s only one other thing I do that makes me feel that way…

But it's not just the bike racing, it's the bike racing in context.  It's New York City.  It's the BIG city.  BIG on a scale of nothing else I know.  Frightening.  Wonderful.  Intoxicating.  Obscene.  All of that.  A smorgasbord of sensory delight and horror.

Then Monday comes.  We’re back at computers with fingers click-clacking away at a living.  Like little machetes slashing through maze jungles of institutional bureaucracy.  A wheel.  A gear.  Flexing a muscle to turn a pedal.  All of that makes sense.  When engaged, one gains clarity.  A kind of tunnel vision of peace, purpose, and certainty.  But the rest of this…from the harum scarum ordering of symbols on my keyboard (a technological artifact frozen in the tar pits of social reality) to navigating the social order that controls the means of wealth and well-being.  This makes no sense.  It is a dark place of brigands, unnatural heteroclites, and (probably) R.O.U.S.  Mondays are when you discover one of your daughter's hamsters, dead, its butt half eaten by the other.  Mondays are NYC.  Bike racing in NYC is a kind of triumph of the pure, beautiful human over the everything that humans--as a group, a hive--create that makes being human--individual, autonomous--so difficult, confusing, heartbreaking, and painful.

And that's why I like bike racing in Central Park.

(I should have been a carpenter.)

 A too-perfect metaphor for the corporate subjugation of labor...wrapped in the gloss of materialism.  (Lego corporate logo constructed of colored Lego men.)

Reuben, contemplating his complicity in said corporate subjugation.

Monday, July 1, 2013

a quality saturday ride

This past Saturday, June 29, I had a great little ride.  Solo.  I'm confident I've never ridden this far alone before.  I remember once doing 85-90 miles on my own in high school.  That was a mostly flat ride.  I came home completely destroyed.  This Saturday I came home feeling terrific.  Some days are like that.  And that's reason enough to ride a bike.

113 miles.
9,300 ft.
243 NP.
Strava Suffer Score: 168
11 water bottles.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

dirt road magesty

Went for a lovely ride today, with about 15 miles of crunchy gravel dirt road, about two thirds of which I've never ridden before.

I took a picture:

Picture taken about here.

The forest is such an enchanting color after (and during, as it would turn out) a bit of rain.  And it's the second best time of year (after fall) to be riding in the woods.  Love.  Heart.  Good feelings all around.  When I finally came out of the woods, transitioning from gravel to paved road, I noticed with amusement that my hands were in the air, full-on victory salute style.  It was the kind of celebration one makes after rocking a particularly awesome water slide.  Or a great roller coaster.  Or whatever.  I was just having a lot of fun.

On a related note, my one disappointment with the EVO is that because of the angle in which the rear brake is installed, the bridge of the rear brake won't clear a 28mm tire.  (My Tarmac's fork had trouble with a 28mm tire as well.)

Which leads me to exclaim that my ideal go-to bicycle would be this: A top-shelf carbon fiber frame with zero-compromise race geometry, one size smaller than any bike shop would fit me, short head tube, long stem, with fork and stays wide enough to comfortably clear a 28mm tire.  Sturdy aluminum hoops.  Thick, heavy, puncture-resistant tires.  Top-shelf everything else.

So, basically what I've been riding for the past four or five years, plus the clearance thing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oh the cycling adventures I would have if I could have such adventures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

the podium celebration

I feel I need to make a brief, general note on podium celebration and demeanor in the age of Facebook.  Why does FB change things?  Because before Facebook no one saw your podium celebration and no one cared.  But if you're going to post your podium shot on FB, well, we probably still don't care, but you should at least put a little effort into getting it right.

In short, you only get to lift both hands in the air if you won.  The end.  Or if the stage begins to collapse and if you failed to lift your hands you (and other innocents) would be crushed otherwise.  This is the first and most critical rule of podium celebration.

In lifting your arms, there should only be the slightest bend at the elbow, if any at all.  If your biceps are parallel to the surface you're standing on then you're doing it wrong.

The winner may also only lift one arm if he or she chooses to.

If you finished second or third, you should lift one arm, but it must be the arm furthest away from the winner.  Don't try to steal the winner's thunder.  It's his day, not yours.  You lost.

When you lift your hands, they should have something in them.  Like a trophy or a bouquet of flowers.  If you don't have anything to lift, your gesture should be as if you are celebrating, animated, the fingers unclenched and extended, as if waving (without actually waving) to an intimate friend from across a crowded room.

Also, if you finished second or third, it's sort of badass to look grumpy that you didn't win, but it shows better sportsmanship to look pleasant. 

The winner should always smile and otherwise demonstrate the utmost in grace and charm (which includes being gracious, both to the promoter and to fellow competitors).  Act like you're not unfamiliar with the top place on the podium, but that there's no place you'd rather be.

Podium celebration done right.

Monday, March 11, 2013

central park sunshine (in my soul today)

After botching race registration for Grant's Tomb Saturday (not-fit-to-live), I nearly botched the start of the Central Park race on Sunday.  First, in my late night stupor I miscalculated my DST-adjusted wake up time by an hour--meaning that I overcompensated an hour.  My alarm went off.  I got up.  Bumbled bleary-eyed into the bathroom and there, with the clarity that accompanies a morning bladder void, I realized I'd got up too early.  Reset the alarm and went back to bed. Except I couldn't really sleep, so after laying there for 30 minutes or so I just got up and just took off early.

Having a little extra cushion turned out to be a good thing, because I didn't account for trying to find a bathroom pre-race.  I thought that perhaps racing so early (6:45--effectively 5:45 were it not for DST) I would be able to escape the need for the ritualistic pre-race bowel movement.  I was wrong.  Parked on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, I began to kit up and noticed, with an interest that turned from mild to piqued to anxious to emergency-action-required, that I would not escape the need to void yesterday's falafel and Cheez-Itz before racing.  When my interest level was at the merely piqued-to-anxious level I considered the Central Park bathrooms (not ideal), the woods (I didn't bring any TP, and this was bound to be messy), or a Harlem McDonalds (I didn't bring a lock...and, you know, Harlem).  However, when my interest needle began to dip into the red, I just started the car and high-tailed it to a Fort Lewis Dunkin Donuts.

After all that I didn't get on the bridge until after 6:10.  Rolled up to registration at 6:40.  Signed my waiver at 6:41.  Had my number pinned and was lined up by 6:43.

You've heard me say it before, but I love racing in Central Park.  It's like the road was made specifically with bike racing in mind.  Two lanes in which to maneuver.  Smooth, winding roads.  A few little hills to keep things interesting.  And the sun coming up over the park, lighting the sides of the high-rise apartment buildings that circle it in that magical early morning glow.

The racing was good too.  I spent the day jumping in or initiating every break I could.  A few attempts seemed promising, but things ultimately kept together until about eight miles to go.  At that point the pack of probably 60+ riders sort of split, with 20-25 of us moving off the front.  Cooperation was awkward, but it was enough to maintain the gap.  Still unable to coax a small group off the front, I set up for the little uphill finish.  Positioned perfectly behind the one dude who had a lead-out man (and who eventually won) I loaded my gun and waited to fire...  But, of course, we can guess how that went.  Even with the perfect position my Cat 5 jump is like a pea-shooter to the more complete arsenal of my rivals.  I was easily out-classed and I probably rolled in like 15th or so.

But I tell you what, bike racing is fun.  The adventure of riding in and out of the city was fun.  Doing it alone was cool, but, you know, it would have been better with company.  Anyway, it was a delightful way to spend a Sunday morning.

Crossing the GWB.

southern x

So a few weeks ago Paul and I road-tripped it down to northern Georgia for the Southern X.  Lots of fun. 

I was having a nice little run of it until about halfway through and then I began to feel like I really had been sick all week (I was trying my best to forget).  My 8th place became 12th.  Warm clothes and 400mg of Ibuprofen became all the incentive I needed to finish quickly.

Anyway, this shot was taken on my way up the second big climb, a few miles after I realized I was in real trouble, but still had well over an hour of racing to go.

The picture was posted on Facebook, by someone I didn't know.  But someone who knows me tagged my image, and then this:

Anyway, finished 12th on the day, but 7th in the under 40 (yah for not being 40!), which was good enough for a new pair of gloves and a podium shot.  :-)

On the way back Paul and I enjoyed some lovely camping, BBQ, and mountain biking in the mountains of North Carolina, and the whole experience left me wanting more, more, more.