Monday, April 28, 2008

Carbon contemplations

Every-so-often I get a wild idea in my head. This time it's the idea of taking the tried-and-true REBA off of the Rig and going to a carbon fork. Why, you ask?

1. Weight
2. No power loss while climbing
3. Front wheel tracking
4. Coolness
5. I'm a mental case

I've been riding the Poprad off road all winter with the Bontrager Switchblade carbon fork handling the duties up front and I dig it. It soaks up way more rough stuff than you may think.
Besides, I often run the REBA locked out (she has a bar-mounted pop-loc) for better tracking, so why not go all the way?

I rode the Rig fully rigid a couple years ago while REBA was off being rebuilt. The Zion steel fork was great for climbing, but it left a lot to be desired when pointed downhill.

I heart the White Brothers Rock Solid. The all black look is very Darth Vader-esque.

Jesse LaLonde has a white-trimmed Bontrager Switchblade 29er carbon fork on his Superfly and just like Run DMC said, it's tricky.

If the stars and planets all align properly, I could save enough for a new titanium Niner when they hit the market. I would love to see how light the build would be using my existing Stans wheelset and a carbon fork. I'd say around 18-19 lbs. If the ti thing doesn't happen, a One 9 Scandium with a carbon fork would also build out sub 20 lbs.

But, is it worth it? Can I go just as fast with a rigid carbon fork as I can with my REBA? Remember, fast means uphill and downhill. Will the carbon pay dividends for climbing? Will it be a liability for descents? Oh, the things we must contemplate as mountain bikers...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Skinny tires make skinny tracks

Sometimes I just don't understand myself. I used to love road riding. I liked the fact that I could roll out my door and ride a few hours, then roll right back in. Being mostly a mountain biker, I was tired of always having to load the bike on the car, pack all my gear, drive to the trail, unpack the gear, blah blah blah...

Road biking was easy. In and out quickly. The road has always been a great way to train because of the ease in which you can accumulate miles and hours.

But, all that changed last year when I sold my road bike in favor of a shiny new cyclocross machine. It's the best of both worlds - I can still roll right out my door, but the CX provides variety that the road bike just wasn't capable of.

But with all of that said, for some reason I still opted recently to swap my 'cross tires for 23c road slicks. I guess that I was thinking "summer training = road bike". I was excited about heading out on the pavement again (it was November that I last rode really skinny tires) to get some tempo training. What I found surprised me. Every time I saw a gravel or dirt road I wanted to go explore it , but the lack of tread and fear of flats deterred me. I saw many unknown (to me at least) dirt roads and gravel paths and alleys. I wanted to ride them all!

Yes, the slicks are faster on the road. Yes, I have thought about buying another road bike. But, since I have no plans of road racing anytime in the foreseeable future, buying a dedicated road bike would pretty much a waste of money for me. I will be racing the Ironcross in October. The perfect reason to continue training on the CX. The skinnies are coming off this week, and the new Ritchey cx tires will take their place.

So why did I lose my desire to be a roadie? Maybe it was the group rides that turned into races. Maybe it was the fact that I don't like blowing through stop signs and red lights like the majority of hard core roadies do. Maybe it's just not fun to ride with other roadies. To me, It's more fun to ride 20 miles on the road, then turn off onto some singletrack for a few miles, climb a fire road across a ridge, then roll back onto the pavement covered in mud. I especially like riding up behind mountain bikers on a tough, technical trail with my drop bars and 35c cx tires. I've had more than a few comments about how crazy I must be. Nah, just having fun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You rang?

I knew it before the big move, but all doubt has been removed as to the quality of friends that have helped us make turning our lives upside down so much easier than if we had to do it alone. Mark, Dave, Brian, Aaron, Chris and Angelia, Ron…I’m humbled by the amount of work you all did for us. We are forever in your debt. Pookie and I will be there whenever we’re needed. Please just pick up the phone and call.

Now that my wheels are rolling again after the big move (3 hours last night on the singlespeed at the Cove), I’m feeling a lot more at ease than I had felt over the last few weeks. The unpacked boxes bother me far less than just a couple days back. The big stuff is now behind us - the move, the closing, getting used to living in the belly of a huge old house – now we just have to settle in and make it a home.

Skip, Adam and I headed up Buck and all the way across the boring-as-hell fire road (good steady climb though) to enjoy the downhill ride on Hemlock Tunnel. A particular highlight that stands out in my mind is when Skippy and I, while at the bottom of the steepest section of Comet, lamented tearing our legs to smithereens by attacking the brutal and just long enough to make you quit climb. We both did it, then complained about it afterward. Yea, it’s good to be back to some sense of normalcy. Then there was the inadvertent dismount when a giant mud hole ate my front wheel.

It was nice to ride an hour or so with friends, then I peeled off and rode two more hours solo. The second time up brushy mountain hurt a bit. I survived. My bride and our friend Jen were also out on the trails somewhere. I arrived at the car to see there vehicles still in the parking lot with about ½ hour of daylight left. I threw on my long sleeved Team El Toreo jacket to fight off the chill, then headed out to see if I could meet up with them on the tail-end of their ride. 10 minutes later and we were all three spinning back on the paved road fulfilled by our evening’s adventures in dirt.

We chatted with some friends we haven’t seen in a while, congratulated them since they are expecting their first child, then changed back into our grown-up clothes. I followed my wife (we drove separate since we both left directly from work) through the back roads and onto the highway that leads us back into the city we call home. She pulled off into a gas station, but hadn’t mentioned that she needed to stop on the way home for anything. I reached for my phone to call her to see what was up, but I was already pulling into the parking lot behind her. I rolled down my window to get the story. “Debra has your phone.” she said. Apparently I had left it on the rear bumper of the Outback when I was changing. Careless I guess. Luckily they were able to play sleuth and discovered that the mystery phone (that they found in the gravel parking lot) belonged to an exhausted (and fairly embarrassed) singlespeed rider.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Cross training (and other false claims)

If I've learned anything in my 5 years of mountain bike racing its that you need time off of the bike sometimes to concentrate on other athletic pursuits in order to become a more well-rounded bike racer. There will be times in certain races when off-the-bike training becomes the difference between finishing 34th and 35th. The difference between just barely finishing and just barely quitting. The difference between simple embarrassment and complete humiliation.

One of the hardest and most challenging off-bike activities that a cyclist will ever undertake doesn't present it self often. In fact, until this weekend I hadn't even thought about it for 5 years. Yes folks, I'm taking about MOVING!

Pack up your whole life, unpack your whole life. Pookie, my wonderful bride of almost 13 years and I are just starting our moving process. (I have to go heavy on the niceness to Pookie b/c there are a few time today that I wasn't too nice) We were able to take possession of our new place, but haven't really moved anything yet but some boxes of "stuff". Not a stick of furniture. The real moving begins tomorrow and will continue through Friday when we have to be out of our old house. Today we cleaned, and cleaned, then cleaned some more. The home we're moving into has been empty for eight months, so the dust and dirt from the traffic of folks looking at the house while it was on the market needed to be cleaned up. It's also quite a bit bigger than our current home, so it took alot longer to clean. And, we went over everything with a fine toothed comb to ensure maximum cleanliness. (We're kinda neat freaks - it's the whole OCD thing)

Lucky me! The cross training continues! Pookie and I both agree that we must make time to get a good ride in on Tuesday evening before we end up killing each other.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


The monkey gets what the monkey deserves.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Solo zen

Have you ever had one of those rides? One where you just feel like the place where you should be at this exact moment is just where you are - on your bike? It's hard to explain. Last night I took my cross bike to Carvins Cove for a couple hours and just cruised around by myself. I didn't have a plan, and I didn't feel like it was appropriate to have one. No interval work, no set amount of time riding in a particular zone...I just wanted to enjoy the nice early spring evening.

I had a groove going almost immediately. Riding wasn't hard, but it wasn't easy either. I just was going at the pace I was supposed to. I rode things on the cross bike that seemed difficult the last time I rode them on my mountain bike. Not effortless, but more like effort-appropriate. My body knew when more output was required and supplied the right amount of energy. Not too much, and not too little. Just right.

I felt like I was going just the right speed. I didn't feel at any point that I needed to drop the hammer any more than I was, but I didn't ever feel the need to slow down. The obstacles in front of me arrived under my wheels just when I expected them to.

I had rhythm. I didn't bring my MP3 player, but I had a steady beat in my head. If I could capture and contain what I was feeling last night, I could package it up and sell it for a million dollars a box.

The strange part is that it wasn't even the fastest I've gone or the strongest I've felt. I just wanted to be there exactly at that time doing exactly what I was doing. I was sad when it was over and I don't know if I'll ever have another ride like it again in my life. But, the next time I go out, whether on the cx or mountain bike, I'll try to get back to the place I was on this ride.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Name Game

I read today where the UCI is imposing immediate limitations on the length of team names because they wouldn't fit in their databases. These databases are used to track riders whereabouts so that they don't sneak off to get blood transfusions or visit doctors known to provide performance enhancing drugs to riders. This is a gem of a story. There are so many things that intrigue me about it, and so many things that make me laugh.

First, the UCI will now attempt to track riders to keep them from getting to the doctors known to aid in doping. The first obvious question is who will track the doctors? If the riders must always provide their whereabouts to the UCI, don't you think they would catch on pretty quick and say "Hey Doc, I need some stuff. I can't come there, can you meet me here?" I guess I don't see the point if this can happen.

Second, what kind of archaic, 286-powered crappy database only allows 32 characters in the team name field? Yep, I said 32. That's pathetic. Pictured above is the An Post-M. Donnelly-Grant Thornton-Sean Kelly Team. They would have to just call themselves Team Long Name.

Third, who names their team An Post-M. Donnelly-Grant Thornton-Sean Kelly Team? What were they thinking? Having sponsors is good. It's good for cycling and it's good for business - especially in Europe. But, you have to be a pretty bad businessman to tell every sponsor you get that they will get equal billing as all the others. Set some priorities people!

Finally, I loved a particular line in the story by Raol Awileus on about the new limits. An unnamed UCI spokesman said "We also suggest that the teams leave off 'pro cycling team' or 'cycling team' from the name for brevity's sake. If you're in a bike race, we all know you're a bike racing team, isn't it a bit redundant?"

Well duh.