Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Me & Mable

From the basement she called to me. So I went to her.

"Why are you leaving me?"

I'm not leaving you. I just needed some time to think.

"But in your last post you talked about another bike. One that has things that I can't give you like gears, and rear suspension. You even had a picture of her. She's prettier than I am".

Well I don't know about all that. I was just thinking. We never did anything. It's not like I brought her home.

"Don't I take care of you? Why would you want another?"

Yes! You've always treated me better than any other bike I've ever had.

"Even better than the Rig?"

Now, that's not fair...I still have feelings for the Rig and you know that. The Rig and I were together long before I even met you...

"Will you talk about me on the blog again? That makes me feel special".

You are special, Mable. And you always will be. Tell you what, I'll put a picture of you and I together on the blog. How's that?

"I'd like that".
Me & Mable at the finish of the 2008 Assault on Liberty Mountain

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A different direction?

So I'm at it again...thinking. Thinking usually gets me in trouble, or at least into a quandary. I've been thinking about something different. I've been riding and racing on a 29er singlespeed since 2004. I did a slight departure in 2007 and raced a Gary Fisher Paragon 29er for a bit before coming down with some weird mystery illness that derailed my entire season. The thought keeps rattling around in my brain about jumping into the Old Man Expert class next season and leaving the singlespeed class to the youngsters.

It's not that I don't feel competitive, I do. I had a pretty good season and can point to what I did right and what I did wrong and how I got the results I got. I'm beginning to understand how I respond to training and I know how to make next season even better than this season. I'm just not sure what kind of bike I want to do it on.

I love my Niner One 9. It rocks. But I can remember the wicked long rides I could do right from home on a geared bike. Back when I had my Giant XTC SE1, I'd saddle up early in the morning and ride up over Ft. Lewis Mountain, and put 4 or 5 hours under my belt. It's hard to do that on the singlespeed. Not because of the distance, but because of the flatness. You run out of gear quickly when you only have one to choose from.

And yes, the picture you see is a bike with 26" wheels. And gears. And front and rear suspension. A fully suspended 26er would weigh in a bit lighter than a 29er hardtail. My biggest concern is that I've been on 29 inch wheels for so long that I don't know how difficult a transition to 26" wheels would be.

I have a whole lot more thinking to do. This type of bike could open up a whole new type of riding for me. Just think, the places that I have ridden in the past 5 years would be totally different on a bike with gears! Dragons Back? I could actually ride Dragon's Back, not push most of it. I could see some silly long rides taking place. From home to Ft. Lewis to the Cove and back. 50 and 60 milers could materialize real quick-like.

Oh, I hate the off-season. I have too much time to think about things.

Friends Beer Knives Pumpkins

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Battle of Yesteryear

Could we see two more monumental comebacks in the 2009 TDF? Could Floyd Landis possibly find his way back into the Euro Pro peloton? Would he be allowed to compete at this level again after being stripped of the 2006 TDF title? Would he be able to? Will Lance be competitive, or a post-retirement flop? Will Floyd punch Lance in the face? I don't think these two guy like each other a whole lot.

Question: Lance vs Floyd in a cage match...who wins?

Did you know that Ivan Basso is back in the mix too? Good Lord...maybe Greg LeMond and Miguel Indurain will un-retire also! LeMond doesn't care too much for good ol' Mr. Armstrong either.

Question: Lance vs Greg LeMond in a cage match..who wins?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

'Cross Face

A chill is in the air. This morning our 8am ride started in 37 degree air, to be precise. Time to grow some natural insulation. My first 'cross race is in two weeks...hopefully the air will remain cool so I can grow out my whiskers and look like a mountain man. Or better yet, like my hero Bob Roll.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Everything old is new again

...or in my case, everything old still sucks. Last year the first race I attempted was the Dirty Dawg at Mountain Lake. It was early in the spring and I was racing Vet Expert onboard my now departed GF Paragon. My tire choice was the Stan's Crow. I had ridden them a few times and was blinded by their lightness. Blind to the fact that they pretty much suck in every way except their weight. Long story short; I cut the tire's sidewall 15 minutes into the race and pulled a big fat DNF.

After hiding them from myself in a tub of forgotten tires in my basement, I decided that now would be a good time to try them again to see if my first experience was a fluke, or if these tires really were a POS. You see, Stan's has just released a new version called the Raven with bigger side knobs to protect the sidewall a bit - something that was much need on the Crow - and for more cornering traction. I figured I'd ride the Crow a bit more to discover their redeeming qualities, which would help me to decide if I was willing to lay down some cold hard $$$ for pair of the Ravens.

Now after about a week of regular riding (regular meaning that I'm not trying to take it easy on them), I can say that they may not be as bad as I thought.

First let's examine some terms we will be using to describe tire performance:

Gription [grip-shun]noun: grip + traction = gription. When you are climbing out of the saddle on a singlespeed, your back tire needs to have plenty of traction so you don't spin out. When you are riding on an off-camber sidehill trail that is chock full of roots, your tires need good grip so you don't slide into a ravine. Both of these elements together form gription, dig?

Spinnage [spinach]noun: Loss of tire gription due to leaf salad.

Leaf Salad [leef-salud] noun: The damp, wet coating that forms on the trails during the fall months composed of wet leaves and moisture.

Lateralage [latteral-ige] noun: Front tire wash-out when you loose gription in a tight turn or switch-back.

As stated earlier, the reason I picked up a set of Crows was their light weight. This translates into climbing speed, and they are still the fastest "off-road" tire I've tried. I use the term off-road loosely as these tire would be almost useless on a loose, rocky singletrack climb. They are meant for hard pack dirt, and that's where they really shine. Gription over larger rocks, roots and even off-camber roots is pretty darn good. I run about 25lbs of tubeless pressure up front, and around 30 in the back with a tube (the tire has a whole in the sidewall - see paragraph #1).

The weaknesses start to show themselves in turns and on downhills. The lack of side knobs results in some lateralage in turns where you could push a knobbier tire hard. The lack of center knobs causes the rear tire to skid out of control on most high-speed descents. On more than one occasion I found myself in the woods as I overshot a turn at the end of a descent.

Climbing on loose gravel or dirt is awful. Anytime I attempted to stand on this type of terrain would send the back will into spinnage. Even less severe climbs covered with leaf salad caused some problems for the crow. Spinnage again.

I have been riding in mostly dry conditions. The first ride (well, excluding the DNF race) was a bit damp. Bottom line: Crow + wet = crash.

I plan on doing a few more rides on the Crows before trying some other light weight racing tires. I'm still not 100% convinced that adding just a higher side knob to the Crow to form the new Raven will have that great of an impact on the tire's performance.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ohhh! Phew, yuk...eeeew!! I needs me some new shoes.

My DMT mountain biking shoes are close to biting the dust. I've had them for two full seasons and they've held up really well, but I think it's to the point where I'm asking too much from them now.

They've seen a nasty drought last summer, when they were so dirty that puffs of dust would billow from every nook and cranny with each pedal stroke. And this year has seen a fair amount of rainfall bringing damp and soggy trails, thus damp and soggy shoes.

But what's really driving this decision to start shoe shopping is something else. You guessed it...they stink. The last couple days were the worst. I rode the 'cross bike to work yesterday and wore my mountain shoes as you would expect any self-respecting non-road bike riding commuter to do. On the way home the skies opened up. I was drenched in the first 1/2 mile. Pooling water on the roads made matters worse. I drenched my feet in funky standing water about 5 different times as I had no choice but to ride straight though giant puddles. Nasty.

When I got home I stuffed my poor DMTs full of newspaper to help them dry. It was still 100% humid outside, so they fermented over night with very little actual drying ever taking place.

This morning came and as I packed for the weekly Thursday MTB ride, I tossed them into the back of the Outback, but not into the gear bag so as to help them air-out a little more.

Wow. Bad idea. When I opened the car door at noon to go snag a sandwich, the stink-o-meter broke. It smelled like dead fish wrapped in roadkill dipped in three-day-old spilled beer. Needless to say, I drove with the windows down until I got home tonight. Mega-yuk.

I'm going to look into these Six Six One shoes a bit. I own two pair of their gloves and they are made really well. One pair I've abused for over four years. I hope their shoes are of the same quality...or at least smell good.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Title search

Yep, it's that time of year again when we switch venues of the Thursday Night Ride. Since we call the ride "Get Dirty at the Cove" when it takes place at Carvin's Cove, I thought it was only appropriate to come up with an equally catchy title for the ride for the months when we hold it at Explore Park. Here are some suggestions:

1. Explore Roar Night Ride

2. Get Giggy at Explore

3. Dora's not riding at Explore...uh, but we are

4. The "I thought this place was closed" Night Ride

5. Thursday Night Search For Bigfoot Ride

6. Once A Week With a Bunch of Geeks Night Ride

One of these is gonna stick, ladies & gents.

Whatever name it goes by, there will be a new post-ride venue to help participants re-fuel. The fine foks at Blue 5 will be graced with our smelly presence each Thursday evening. Always good beer, good food, and good music.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Time Warp

It never ceases to amaze me...when I come back home to western PA the things I see just totally defy explanation. Friday night after a hour of tearing my legs off on the 'cross bike, I asked Pookie and my folks if they were up for going out for some pizza. We all jumped in the car and headed to a little dive called Patrick's Pub in the giant metropolis of Apollo. It was amazing. I felt like I had stepped back into 1986. Mullets were everywhere. Male and female versions. High-top Pony sneakers and acid-washed jeans, topped off predominantly by Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirts. I don't get it. These folks have been sitting at the same bar since I left almost 20 years ago. Nothing has changed.

Still the most popular look for bands in western PA

So Saturday I'm all hyped to get out for a nice 8am ride on the cross bike, but I awake to raindrops and 45 degree temps. So I sit inside and read Bobke II. Maybe I can squeeze in a couple hours Sunday when we get back to Virginia!

The reason for the whole trip is fast approaching: My niece's wedding. Should be a hoot. I'll be sure to take pictures of anyone there who is stuck in the 80s time warp.

Shucks! (or is it shacks?) No riding today.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Let me do it all wrong...again

Coaching guru: If you want to have success in racing, then there must be nothing but racing in your life.

Racer: What about my marriage?

Coaching guru: Your spouse must be behind you 100%. There can be no complaining about you training too much. There can be no resistance to going to races.

Racer: Cool. She's behind me all the way. I try to help out around the house and stay on top of all the yard work and home improvements to keep her happy and...

Coaching guru: Home improvements? You can't be doing home improvement projects when you are in the midst of training and racing! You need to put off all of that stuff until the off season.

Racer: Well, we just bought a new house and...

Coaching guru: WHAT? In race season? Are you trying to fail? Do you want to get your butt handed to you?

Racer: Well, no. The timing was right, so I did it. It's a good investment.

Coaching guru: Your training is the only investment that you should be worried about during race season. Even your job comes after racing.

Racer: Well, my new job demands alot of attention since I'm trying to make a good impression...

Coaching guru: NEW JOB? Your fired. You are no longer one of my clients.

Racer: But I'm the one paying you.

Coaching guru: Doesn't matter. You're still fired. I just can't work with someone who doesn't want to win.

***Of course none of this ever happened. No cycling coaches or racers were harmed in the writing of this blog post. Since I am self-coached, I am actually both the coaching guru and the racer in this story. I've been arguing with myself all year. Yes, I bought a new house. Yes, I started home improvement projects. Yes, I started a new job. And, no I didn't have a terrible season...just not a great season. Perhaps I'll get it right next season. Until then, it's train as much as possible (within reason), have some fun racing cross, and get upgraded to Cat 4 road and Cat 3 'cross for next year. And most of all, enjoy riding and racing my bike.***