Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Long Time Coming

Sooooooo…It has been quite some time since I last bored you with mindless acts of random bantering and senseless acts of blogging Thom Foolery. Where to begin, huh.

So I am a believer in things happening for a specific reason. I don't always agree with the end results to said reason, but none the less, it is what God has planned for you. My last "job" at a bike shop ended on a really crappy note and at first I felt guilty about it, but looking back now…I am glad it happened and wouldn't change a thing.

I am in a much better place and I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off me both physically and mentally. You don't realize how a negative environment affects your every breath. Your every thought. Change was needed and it came like a summer thunderstorm.

I am now the general manager at The Hub and Scott has been wonderful to me. He understands how a business should be run and allows me to do the things that I feel will help the shop move forward. I also am reunited with trace from the other shop. It is just as it was, but better-er. Now, I am not perfect by any means, and I still have so much to learn, but it is nice to know that the person who hired you to do a job trusts you and has faith in your decisions and treats you as an equal, not an outsider. He is not just my boss, but I consider him a true friend. I know that if something happened to me, he would be there; that is a great feeling. Ok, enough with the mushy garb.

So, I have also decided to officially retire from the racing scene this year. After my leg opening, knee
My last official race, and I had a blast!
damaging crash at Bakers, I decided that enough was enough. It has been really nice to just go out and ride. Now I still throw in a hill day or two for kicks and giggles (alright, not giggles), but man it feels really good to ride for the sake of riding. Still competitive…oh I will never lose that, but it will just be on a different stage.

Now I certainly didn't decided to quit racing because of losing my edge. In fact I turned in 4 more laps after my injury and were very fast times. I am proud of my record as a mtb racer. I have great memories of being on the Trek/Gary Fisher 29er Crew and am grateful to have met some great people along the way. I accomplished all of the goals including winning the 12hrs of Cranky Monkey twice (once in the duo male open and once with my 2nd wife Liz in the duo co-ed category). I had three top 5 finishes
(3rd, 4th and 5th at Sugar Hill). 7th at the 24 hours of Big Bear and too many to list top 5's in others. So it has been a good run. The best part is I still get to ride with those people on a daily basis now.

My new position also allows me some extra time to show other riders from out of state the joys of Patapsco and gettin' dirty. Yes, that is a dual suspension Trigger I am riding…shhhhhh.

So it has been a great year so far and the future looks good for a change, real good.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

Riding the Virtual Island of Zwift

In the cycling world, there are a few things that come along that you say, "Wow, what took this so long, and why didnt I think of it?" Most of the time it is more on the lines of what a stupid idea.

Now, I am not a gamer at all, I will play some old school Unreal Tournament with my son or Doom, yeah, thats how we like it. So the idea of a virtual on-line cycling "game" was not real enticing at first. I have seen such things in the arcades, yes arcades and they were less than spectacular. So this whole Zwift thing made me curious. It is more than just a game, it is a way to interact and ride with others from anywhere in the world, but not just interact, but engage others. Heck you can have group rides together, race each other and it is fully interactive. Here is their explanation:

Zwift is an online community of like minded athletes united in the pursuit of a better indoor training experience. Created by cyclists for cyclists, Zwift brings the things we love about outdoor cycling indoors and adds a dose of fun. Yes fun!

How do we do it? We start with the best of massive, multiplayer video game technology - our “Zengine” - add in a little voice communication and a whole lot of math. Zwift works across multiple platforms seamlessly connecting to all your existing devices wirelessly via ANT+ and *Bluetooth Smart protocols.

So what does this mean to you? FREIKIN' AWESOME! thats what. Here is the deal, the weather here in Maryland sucks this year...period. Snow, temperatures in the my hoodles want to crawl up inside me and never return range and just miserable cycling weather, So this program comes at just the right time. Now, it is easy to say that something like this isnt really cycling, and you would be correct in saying so...until you actually get on. Now, you must have an ant+ dongle and/or power meter of some sort (they do support some classic trainers). You must also request an invite as well. The requirements are steep, but the payoff is worth it. I had no issues at all get it up and running. It also saves your file directly to Strava, very cool.

Now this in the beta stages, so there are minor tweaks that are needed, but you find yourself immediately immersed in the stunning graphics. Now, depending on your setup, you may or may not be able to truly appreciate the surroundings; things like headlights, shadows, the sounds, etc. It isnt hard to find yourself "in the moment." Now, I am no tech geek, so I dont know the algorithms needed to make such an idea a reality, but I will tell you that you will work (if you want) and you will feel the pain (as you should) of riding here. You control your speed and wattage and "your" rider reacts to your input via the ant+dongle. I know what you are going to say, "but I can just watch a video and get the same workout."...nope. Here is the deal, on a trainer watching a video, you are not interacting with the video. Your input has no effect at all on the what happening on the screen. With Zwift, in order to climb a certain hill, you must put the effort in. So for instance, there is a polka dot jersey climb at the top of the mountain, your results (I use a Power Tap hub) are directly affected by your input; more watts=faster speeds and wearing the red and white dots...it that simple. It also uses your weight as well for real world physics. You can draft, coast downhills. Now of course, there are people out there that have found ways to cheat of course...yes just like the real world. You will see some erroneous times and speeds (people using low weights). Those are the people that have to be first at everything and yield no results when actually riding.

I have found that my "rides" feel and produce results of what I would accomplish outside. My wattage is spot on with my garmin. Of course the speeds reflected on the Garmin are way off. Thats where it gets interesting. I may average 28mph on the Garmin, but my Zwift results are more real world. On the same ride, Zwift will show 20.4, which is the more accurate speed. So this is why; since Zwift is using algorithms that require your input to ride up a climb at a given speed, it forces you to really ride a climb like you would outdoors. I know, sounds unrealistic, but trust me it works. Other than the people who cheat (various ways) you cant fool the system by setting your trainer to an easier setting...doesnt work that way. It reads your wattage directly, so if you aint putin' out watts, you aint getting up those hills. It is hard to explain the "reality" of it unless you are doing it. All I can say is that I come away from a riding feeling as if I was really, well riding! 

So, this isnt a game, but something to have fun with and can be used as a training tool if you want. I think this ranks right up there with Strava in terms of the impact it WILL have on the cycling community. I know this is a bit of a scattered review, but I will have more to come for sure.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Emonda SL Update

Well the weather here in Maryland has been just terrible. Temperatures below 0° a few days and the others hovering around 7°, so road time has been nearly impossible or at least not desirable.

Back in Black Baby...
I have had only a few rides on the new Emonda SL, so it is hard to give a real update, but this will be my first impressions so far. I have to admit, I wasn't really looking to get a new road bike. I was actually looking to get yet another dirt machine. Working at the shop allows for some crazy deals through Trek that allow employees to get bikes, frames at a crazy price. Now, I loved my Pistola. I loved everything about it. It was light enough (16.6lbs) for a steel bike. The fit was great. It looked awesome and rode like it. The one area that it wasn't as nice (now we are talking about a steel frame) was the small amount of flex when hammering on flats or climbs. Now again, I am not saying the bike was horrible when it came to efforts like those, it did what most steel frame do and that is provide a great all day ride. Anyway, I felt I needed something a bit stiffer, but still somewhat comfortable.

The Emonda line is dubbed the lightest road line ever…wwwwwell, it is if you are looking at the SLR
Yes, there is a saddle there. 98g of comfort
series, but that will set you back 15k. The SL series frame weighs in at 1305 grams (with mast, headset, fork, etc.). To put that into perspective, my Pistola weighed 1865…without seat post. I built mine from the frame up with all my Sram Red parts from the Pistola and the total bike weight w/o pedals was 13.82lbs, with Speedplay chromoly pedals comes to 14.23lbs. in a 58cm frame. Now of course to get the weight down required some chance on my part. I love the Selle Italia Aspide saddles; always have. So when I found that our manufacturing brethren in China are producing an exact copy of it in full carbon…at $30 free shipping and 97g!

So the limited ride time so far has yielded what I pretty much expected; fast, light and surprisingly comfortable. I hit a few climbs (winter riding climbs) at about 60% effort and you feel the immediate acceleration, even at base mile speed. Of course I am riding the superb Bontrager XXX lite carbon wheels, which add to the lateral stiffness. The fit is aggressive, but not so aggressive to feel like you need to be racing in the Tour. The fit is almost identical to my Pistola, a tad more aggressive, but not enough to make any noticeable difference. I think Trek hit it right with their Ride Tuned seat mast, too. It acts bit like the Domane, without the extra hardware; very comfortable and it looks pretty cool. Trek also has the nice integrated chain keep to keep from destroying your frame in case of chain drop. I am still up in the air with the whole drop in bearing thing when it comes to the bottom bracket. I know it has been around a bit now and it saves weight and adds stiffness, but I still like the outboard bearing design for its ease of replacement and options.

I haven't found anything that I would really change other than the gloss finish. I would like the matte finish of the SLR10 myself. Although, this is one of the few paint jobs that I like from Trek…just the name an a minor stripe. Stately, but not overstated un-like most Trek finishes.

So, I need to get some real ride time on this thing to get you some real numbers, but I will leave you with this did bit for now and go back to shoveling snow...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Losing Weight with The New Emonda SL

Havent posted in quite some time, but I promise to get more going. I will leave you with this 14lb beauty, though.

Decided to go carbon and lose some weight and gain some watts...

I will post my initial thoughts this week, but so far so good; even with 20 degree temps, ugh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rockburn CX Revisited

Fun, pain, nervousness, pain, fun, pain, pain…yep, that was my first cx race in two years in a nutshell. I can say that racing with a bunch of cat 1 cx guys in the single speed category was certainly an adventure in discovery for myself.

I have raced cx before in cat 3 and that was pretty tough itself, but not SS. I don't think there really is such a thing as a slow guy in cx, especially SS. Of course I had to pick one of the tougher course that I have raced. Lots of little climbs and tight off camber turns, not too much unlike a good technical cross country race course. It is much longer than a normal cx course (2 miles) which makes for some long time out of the saddle.

Sunday was a normal, cold day for cx and I started at the back and it wasn't long before the horn blew and we were off. It was the first time putting the Raleigh Furley through its paces, and it performed well. I ran a 39x18 which seems insane considering I run 32x17 on my mountain bike. I really didn't know what to expect for speed, but quickly found out that I would need a lot of it. We were off at a blistering 14-15 mph (sounds slow, but trust me it aint). I was sitting around 19th (out of 22) and new
that I had to make a move now or I would be stuck here. I passed a few guys about half way in and tried to move up to catch a couple more when I got slowed by a guy in the sand pit which stopped my and my momentum. I got back on and quickly caught the few guys I was chasing. I knew I wasn't going to even try to catch the top guys; they were gone, so I picked a few more guys to tag. I wasn't really sure were I was at this point, but after the 4th lap, everyone was pretty much in the spots they would stay in. 

It wasn't too eventful for me in particular, I was just trying not to bonk and keep hammering. I have to say I felt decent, the hip was ok on my mounts and dismounts. I ended up 12th and I was pretty happy about that all things considered. I would have finished 7th in the 35-45+ cat 3 guys had I raced in the category. 

What I was most stoked about was I had a small fan base. Johnny K and his family along with Carl-Eric-Kerl (he has many different names) and my family were on hand to watch and heckle. You know that you have good friends that support you when you are out there.

If you haven't raced cx, do it. It is a completely different experience than road or mountain races. It is more intimate and you can see most of the race from one vantage point. If you like beer, it is a prime haven for it-I myself have never indulged in such heathen activities, though. Seriously though, it is an awesome and sometimes humbling experience to get out there and push yourself beyond what you thought was possible. I may just do another one here soon, just for fun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

CX Race or CXing the Line

Well it has been 2 years since my last official cx race. Dont know why it has been that long, but I have decided to give it a shot. It will be my first race on the SS CX as well. My biggest concern is trying to mount and dismount my trusty steed. My hip feels great, but I dont have the range of motion I had before. I am a bit nervous too. CX races are a whole different breed. I feel pretty good, but really havent been tuning the body to go through this either. I think what always worries me about cx races are the fact that they are basically flat. I dont like flat. Despite being 186lbs., I am a climber, not a flatter. All of my races in the past have been on geared cx bikes, so maybe this will be my Phoenix rising; probably not.

It will be the first official race on the Raleigh Furley as well. I have it set up 39x20 on a fairly flat, but technical course. I am running old school Michelin Wildgripper tires too (love how the green tires clash with the baby blue color). I am looking forward to racing cx again, but I dont race these to gain podium spots, but just to have some fun and push myself to the brink of a self induced coma.

So, onward to this weekend with a bit of apprehension and a whole lotta fun with the family.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Trace Experiment (aka Just a matter of time)

Is it possible to imagine life on a bike other than your single speed? I mean, once you straddled one for the first time you felt liberated; almost totally free from concern and (sometimes reason), but none the less, you felt like a new person. Your body likes physical activity, despite what fast food restaurants want you to believe. Your body thrives on being pushed to its limits; pushed beyonds its limits. So what other way than a single speed.

I know that the single speed "craze" has maybe hit a plateau of sorts, but everything does, doesn't it? Some things pass on to never be heard or seen from again, while others sneak back in to our lives for a brief moment only to be resurrected again later; but there is something about riding this simple machine. Ok, let me get to my point. Trace works with me at the shop and was a 100% roadie, I mean nothing could have been further from his thoughts than playing in the dirt, let alone on a rigid ss, right? I mean to the point where it was you will never get me on a mountain bike…ever. Now, I don't want to take any credit for this transformation because it comes down to the bike itself. Just like I tell everyone…just ride one and you will never (maybe too harsh) ride a geared bike. For Trace, it was a gradual road to freedom. Starting with a geared 26" On One Inbred (which I now own) and moving to an All City SS cx bike and finally a 29er Soma Juice geared and then converted to SS (which was mine that I traded for the Inbred, thats how us guys at the shop roll you know, trade and trade again).

Now, I have to say I really didn't know what to expect from Trace. I wasn't sure If he would be like eh, its ok or like man, this is awesome! I sorta knew it would be the later, but just had to give it time. I am proud to say that the later is correct, so correct that he has been on the mountain bike for two straight weeks! It has been awesome to watch as he has gotten better fairly quickly. There is some techniques and balancing that he needs work with, but it has come pretty fast. It is now to the point where we are doing longer rides with more elevation (he hates me most of the time when riding), but I am ok with that.

What I am most impressed is that he wants to go out and progress and hone his skills even more. We have a great time when we are out there and he gets to pick up some tips and tricks from me. I have to admit, I do go places at times that may be a little beyond his skill level now, but he is progressing pretty quick and getting a better idea of the terrain, how to balance through technical sections, moving the cranks around and pushing the bike down when climbing.

Traces' Gear Removal Machine
So The Trace Experiment has worked out great. Actually, he gets all of the credit because he allowed himself to step out of that box and he is a better rider because of that. You see, riding a SS isn't about being cool (ok, well it is), or being different (yep, it is), it is about pushing yourself beyond what your brain tells you what you are capable of. I know, you have to listen to your brain sometimes, but your brain can fool you into being complacent and dull…riding a single speed is neither.

So throw that well groomed, sleep on a dog pillow, crotch licking pure bread in the trash and emerge like the nasty, haven't bathed in weeks mutt that riding a single speed deserves!

I couldn't have said it any betterer

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  Wow, can you really say it any betterer than that? I was hoping to write a longer than usual, mindless bantering of my life as a bicycle rider and what makes riding bikes so darn special; I think Mr. Doyle made quick work of that. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Progress, it is what we all strive for recovering from a cycling injury

Well, it has been almost two months since I tried to crush the asphalt with my hip and  I still can't believe how quick all of the events have transpired. I mean, I was on crutches, barely able to get around and here it is, the first week in October and I feel like my old self again, well close.

The original down time was to be 6-8 weeks, which would have put my first ride on the bike this past week. Well, I have been on the bike since the first week in September. Not sure if the doctor knew of this, buuuut…what he doesn't know won't hurt (maybe me). It was sloooow going at first and i was really not eager to get back on the bike at first. What!!?!?! Seriously, I didn't feel the urge to straddle my  trusty steads. It felt like a job, not a passion. I even felt a little like not riding at all for foreseeable future.  That would be a quitters attitude you say? Not quite.

I am sure that there are many of you that have something you enjoy; whatever it is. I mean something that you are so passionate about, that it is a part of your every being. You live it, breathe it. It almost consumes you (careful not to go too far, eh?). It is so much of your everyday life; it is an extension of you. It defines you (to a degree). Now imagine that is gone; for some it is permanent, and for others like me, temporary. So for that month, I felt as if I would not be able to ride at the level that I was used to riding at. So, I thought if I couldn't ride at that level, what would that mean. I know it sounds selfish, but it is my blog and my feelings.

The first few weeks were rough. I mean I saw my HR get back up to 201 on quite a few occasions. I knew I would have a lot of work to do, but that was showing how much indeed. I struggled with sustained power and my legs and lungs didn't seem like they wanted to join the party.

The last two weeks has seen some amazing results for sure. I am feeling about 85% right now and I feel as if my legs are getting much stronger. My recovery times are still a bit slow, but being that I am 46 and coming off of a broken hip, I guess I have to deal with it.

Funny thing is I feel really strong on the mountain bike, but a bit slower on the road. Not sure if riding the single speed had expedited the strengthening process or not, but I am ok with that. I have put in almost 12k of climbing this week so far and 10k of that is on the mountain bike. My heart rate is back down to a more comfortable 188-191 on most efforts. My leg are a bit fatigued, but it is a good feeling knowing that I am able to push hard again.

Today was the first day I was able to ride the fixie again which is the icing on the cake. I don't run brakes, so stopping was the big issue with my hip. I stop by skidding or hopping the rear wheel and I was pain free, so all is good I think.

So I have some words of encouragement for those of you coming off a riding injury or an injury that keeps you from riding. Always remember that cycling is what makes us who we are. It is a part of our social fabric and more importantly, it makes us more social beings and that should be enough to keep your head up and help keep your recovery goals in sight and know that if this 46 year old single speed moron can do it, there is hope for you. Stay single and ride rigid!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How much can you get for aluminum crutches at the recycling center?

Friday was the best day I have had in 4 weeks; good thing too, cause I was getting a bit looney. Originally the orthopedic doctor said at least 6-8 weeks for my recovery time, but friday the doc gave me the green light to begin light activities again. I was hoping that was the case, but you never know. 

I have been feeling much better during the course of the last few weeks, but sleeping was still uncomfortable. He basically said for me to listen to my body and take it in stride. Of course I asked him about riding. He said to ride easy if you can handle it, but again, be careful. What, me not careful? 

Well, it didn't take long for me to walk out of the doctors office without those stupid crutches, albeit a bit gimpy, but none the less liberated. Now, I can't dis my close friends too much, they did help me get around for 4 weeks. Unfortunately for them, they were the transition girl for me.

So decided that saturday would be the day to try my hand at straddling my faithful steed again. Wasn't quite sure what to expect, honestly I didn't expect to really ride too far. My friend Trace said that he would accompany me on first outing to experience the magic. I didn't plan on riding too far; just to stay out for an hour. It felt very strange to get on I have to say. I felt a little twitchy and unsure if I was ready for this or not. Off I went and for the first time, I was using that little 39t chainring and spinning away. I ended up with 12 miles and a trail blazing average speed of 11.4 mph! A good sign was my heart rate never got over 138. I was concerned that I would be red lining at 200 from not riding. 

I was relieved and a bit disappointed at the same time. I really thought getting back on the bike would bring this overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment…but it really didn't. Don't get me wrong. I was happy as heck to be riding again, but not as happy as I would have thought. I suppose this feeling will go away once I can get back to riding and racing hard again. 

All in all I feel really good all things considered. I have been really tired, though. Even took a few naps here and there (which I never do). I lost lbs. in the last 4 weeks instead of my initial fear of gaining a lot of weight. That is a good thing.

Anyway, I went out today and pushed just a wee bit more and ended up with 12 miles at 16.6mph. No pain, just a bit of discomfort in the groin area. I am pretty optimistic about getting back to normal, but the doc did say that there is a good chance that I will always have a bit of pain in my hip and groin. I may have to practice my Kegels to strengthen my inner thigh muscles!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

One Week Down…? to Go

It has been one week and the pain is less prevalent now, but still lets me know that it is with me.

I went to the orthopedic surgeon on wednesday and he gave me some interesting news about my injury.

He basically told me the fracture was not from the impact (what?), but my Piriformis muscle (the muscle that is attached to the Greater Trochanter, is so strong that it actually broke the bone and pulled it away; which also cause the muscle to tear a bit. He also said that because this muscle is so strong, that it prevented the complete fracture of my upper femur. Hurray for strong muscles, eh?

This explains why it hurts like bleep when I make any sudden movements to the inside or outside. So basically I just sit and wait for this thing to heal up. The real bad news is that I will miss the entire Cranky Monkey series and the first CX race of the season-Charm City Cross…ugh. I guess, judging by what the doc said, it could have been a heck of a lot worse. I do have a great wife to take care of me and I can't ask for anything more than that, but she better be prepared for the next few weeks and dealing with a cyclist used to riding everyday and is wild mood swings! Anyway, good luck to those racing in the upcoming month or so and remember to stay single and ride rigid!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What the Heck is a Greater Trochanter?

Hmmm, that isn't suppose to look like that, is it?
What the Heck is the Greater Trochanter? No clue. Couldn't have told you. Maybe a treaty signed by two unknown countries to prevent the spread of Trochanters disease. Maybe the piece that you blow through on a set of bagpipes. Strangley enough, it wasn't any of those-go figure, right? Well yesterday I found out what it feels like to fracture one…it doesn't tickle. It is the part of of the upper femur that is located near the hip socket. Now, in 25 years of being on a bike; mostly mtb, I have never broken anything. Nothing. A few install injuries here and there, but nothing that compares to a trip to the ER to find out that you broke your dang trochanter!

Ah, it was a day like any other day for the shop ride. Lots of riders, most of them regulars. Temperatures were 70° and everything was perfect. It actually started out as being our fastest ride to date for the shop ride. We were averaging 21.6 mph and riding everything hard. I felt awesome, everything was looking good. We came on one of the more popular climbs on the ride and everyone was gathered tighter than normal (which I try to avoid). We were running about 20 mph. I was about to move to the left to get clear, when all of a sudden, the group slowed down in front of me and my front wheel caught the rear wheel of the rider in front of me and before I knew it, I hit the deck, and hitting hard. I got rear ended from another rider and everything came to a stand still. I was on the ground for what seemed like forever. Of course, the only thing I could think of was the bike. Unfortunately, when I tried to get up I couldnt move my left leg. Look up Tim Conways dentist skit-you will see what I looked like.

I got up and surveyed the damage to myself and the bike. My leg was pretty cut up, but my hip would not participate in my attempts to move forward. So I tried to lay down, but the shooting pain on the inside and outside of my hip was excruciating. We were about 5-6 miles from the shop and figured I would try to ride back…ahhhhh! Time for plan B, ride back one legged pedal style. Why didn't you get a ride back you ask? Well, I didn't know it was broken at the time and just figures it was a bad bruise and was just really sore. So I rode back one legged style and although it was tough, I had good company to shuttle my haggard rear end back. I have taken a pretty good ribbing about riding back, but again, who knew?

Well, so long story short, I will be off of the bike for at least 2 weeks. Of course to add to the humiliation of the matter, I am using my father in laws walker around the house. You don't realize how much you feel helpless until you are told to stop being active and are using crutches. It sucks. I think most of the pain is from the tendons on the inside of my thigh being traumatized. Either way, it hurts like @$%*!

So, the next few weeks are gonna suck big time, but I will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of this great set back, YES, I will ride again! ok, thats enough of the poetic non-sense. See you on the trails.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pondering the Pointless about Cycling (aka why we ride what we ride)

I know my posts have been very sporadic as of late, mainly due to baseball, but sometimes I need to take break from my mindless bantering…as well as you. So, working in a shop, I get to hear, see all sorts of things and conversations about, well…cycling and how it is a great way to stay in shape, fun with the family, good way to meet new people, but there is a dark side…a world seldom seen, just as real…but not as brightly lit…a dark side. Yes, I stole that from Dark Shadows, it works.

Yes, there are those of us walking and driving on this great sphere of potpourrious humankind (yes, I made that up) that feel bicycles are toys and serve no other purpose other than to provide entertainment for their kids. Now, there are those who can't afford a nice bike, I understand completely. As long as you ride a bike, I am happy, but don't question what we ride because you don't get it. This is for the population that doesn't get it; why we ride what we ride.

I have had a few conversations with said population and it usually starts with, "Why do you spend that kind of money on a bike?" or "I don't see the purpose when I can by a bike from a department store." Well, just like Pete Seeger said "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; and I think a time to ride your bike and have fun…not real sure about that last line, but it works. Ok, so back to my original thought.

What I find amazing is what people are willing to spend on cars. I often will throw that in the conversation. "Why do you drive a 60k vehicle?" The usual response is because it drives nice, it is safe or (the one I have most) because I can. Now, some of these people that are driving expensive vehicles that come into the shop are the most guilty, very nice, but guilty just the same. They want a safe vehicle for their children and family, but go to Wal-Mart or any other store that claims to sell bikes and get their child the biggest turd, let alone unsafe turd they could find. I do understand that buying a 200.00 bike for a three year old is a bit much, but these are parents with kids that are 7-11 years old and ride 3k+ bikes themselves. Now I am not saying it wrong to own an expensive vehicle, I am just making a point about the strange disconnect that people have with cycling.

So, here is what I tell those people why we ride what we ride.

Cycling to me is not just for fun, but a way of life. It is an expression of what makes us who we are. It is not just something to do when you are all out of things to do. Yes, it can be a fun "toy", but it is much more than that. I see them as a social and environmental tool. They are like the guy with the baby in the park…everyone gathers around and ogles over the baby. Bikes can be that way to (weird, I know, but true). When was the last time you were in your car and drove up next to someone else at a light and started a conversation about cars or anything else? Right, you don't even give the person in the car next to you the time of day. Gotta get to work or go to the store… I need to focus damn it now leave me be! Nowwwwwwww, ride up next to someone on a bicycle and watch what happens. See, that is it…people are afraid of human interaction anymore. I will text you this or I will email you that. People have lost the ability to communicate with each other.

This is what makes cycling so freakin' awesome. It doesn't really matter what type of bike it is, cycling brings people together in a positive way. It doesn't matter if you are a commuter, weekend warrior or racer, cycling is a positive mark in this day of sometimes negative change. You can ride up next to someone and you will always get a hello, or a smile and maybe even ride a little with them. Now there are some bike snobs that will look down on some that have lesser bikes, but I don't consider them cyclists at all. They are cyclings version of any of those stupid "reality" housewives shows…clueless.

Why do I ride a 5k road bike or a 4k mountain bike? Because I ride at a certain level and it requires a certain level of bike. Could I ride a 300.00 bike in a race? Sure, would I end up in the ER for a month, probably. Does that make me an elitist? No, it makes my an intelligent consumer that knows what is needed or required for a particular level of riding.  I always tell people who question what or why we ride "if you see bikes as just toys, you obviously spend too much time in a car." Now, I always have fun with these types of people, it is always in jest, but in truth as well.

Bikes are a thing of beauty. Simple, efficient vehicles that have changed in form and unfortunately function as well. I would challenge anyone to do a commute to work or ride with a bunch of other cyclists and see what happens. Visit your local bike shop and just stop in and talk a bit and get educated on this great sport of cycling. Heck, watch a bike race and say that it doesn't get a bit exciting.

So why do we ride what we ride? It is simple…bikes just make people happy. period.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bring it on Home Nabbing 1st at 12 hrs Cranky Monkey

At some point, you reach that age where you sit back and think, "wow, it is time to take it easy and just enjoy riding my bike for the sake of riding." Well, that time…aint here yet. I feel like I am in the best shape I have been in in quite some time. My eyes are going south, but as long as I can hear the trail, I am sitting pretty good.

This past weekend was the weekend of the 12 hours of Cranky Monkey. I have always loved this race. I have won it before (with a 17 year old as I was 42) and I have finished 2nd more times than I like to admit. One of those times being last years sufferfest at Quantico with my endurance events race partner Liz. So this year it was redemption time in the co-ed duo field! Lord can I get an Amen!

Only 11 hours and 58 minutes to go...
This year's event was held at Schaeffer Farms. I have raced there in the past, but this would be the first 12 hours there. This would also be one with out my always sensationally ravishing (yet quietly comical) wife Bambo (no, that is not her real name). Anyway, I remembered this venue as fast with a lot of little climbs. What I found was, roots and rocks and the climbs felt much different than before; like I am older or something and my body is telling me that you need to take it easy…stupid body. Each lap was 9.3 miles and 1000ft of climbing; pretty tough. It was cloudy and the chance of rain was spotty at best. You know when things seem to be not quite what you want them to be, but you're not sure what it is? Well what it was, was the fact that both of us thought that each other was going to bring a tent. You don't have one? Man, I thought you had one…well together we have none. Not a good day to have none. I am sure we looked like some bike derelicts just looking for a place to hang for a while…sad. I should have put out a hat and played "I'm a Loser" by Beck and maybe we could have raised some money to buy an umbrella.

It was decided that I would be the lead-off guy and get us on board quick. Normally I don't try to get too close to the front on these events, but today was not going to be the case. I headed in around 12th and quickly moved up to around 7th. I quickly found out that it rained earlier and it was like an adult slip n slide only roots aren't as easy on the body as grass is. No crashes, but just relentless pounding on the arms and legs. I brought 4 kits to change into and by 3 or so, they were all wet, muddy and quite frankly I would have rather rode naked. Careful with those dangly things. My socks were soaked, my shoes felt like moon boots and my helmet smelled like a stable, but we were winning.

Riding the rigid singlespeed certainly made my technical skills take it up a notch just a bit. My first lap was a scorching 48:27 (good enough for 10th overall for the day). I felt a little tired, but not bad. I came in and Liz was off, but not before telling me that her tire on her geared bike got broke, so she was off on the ss. One thing about Liz is that I know what to expect and when to expect her in. My lap put us 2:12 ahead and Lizs lap added another 5 minutes. We never looked back. Our lead built on every lap, well except my third. Just as I head off, the skies opened up and I swear I saw Noah's Ark. It was wet, muddy and borderline sketchy. I basically took it easy to ensure my streak of non-hospital visits due to cycling. I turned in a 56:12, which took 3 minutes from our lead. That would be the last time.

Again, as the day went on, my times got a little bit faster. Liz continued to put out consistent times as well. Now, I love numbers and most of my time in the pits was spent at the timing tent to keep track of our times and 2nd and 3rd place too. By 4:00, we were sitting comfortably 21:32 minutes ahead of second. Those are numbers that I can live with.

During these races I love to mingle with some old friends and getting a chance to meet some new "friends" as well. Scott McGill was next to us and allowed use of his trailer to change and get dry between laps and of course play with his dogs. Never officially met him before, but now that is no longer the case and chalk up another friend thanks to this great sport we call cycling. I just love being able to catch up with guys that you just pick up where you left off. I am going to call out some people that I have raced with, raced against and just happy to call them friends: Don, Joe (won the 3 male division), Vijay, Adam, Chris (who won the solo male), Christian, Scott and Bill (won the 3 male cat) and Jeff. These guys are great competitors and even better people.

These races are completely different from the shorter times races. You are competing with others, but you get to talk to them and discuss how the race is unfolding (and lying about how good you feel and you could ride all day like this) and what each other is feeling. It can be really nerve racking at times and you have to start to figure in some race strategies to get you to the end.
Top 3 in Duo Co-Ed
I knew by 5:00 that (barring any mechanicals or injuries) that we had this thing in the bag. We were up by 31:00 at that point which allows for some breathing room for sure. I was super happy with how I rode. I got faster as the day went on and was able to hammer through some pain and fatigue. I really was able to stay focused-wet roots and rocks have that effect I suppose. I ended up with 6 laps and 55.46 miles with 6527ft of elevation. Liz also got in 6 laps. We finished with 12 overall and 1 lap ahead of 2nd…that is what I call a victory my friends.

This isn't meant to sound conceited or anything, but I love the fact that I can hammer on a rigid ss and put out times that are pretty close to guys half my age. Hey, an old guy has to keep that carrot dangling in front at all times. Seriously though, It does feel good to be able to go out there and stay competitive and be able to hang with those young rodeo clowns.

I am glad that Liz finally got her top spot in this race. She is an awesome teammate and a fierce competitor to boot. I wish my wife was there to enjoy our victory, but she is allowed to take a break too.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

12 Hours of Cranky Monkey Recap

It has been sometime, but I am still here and have all kinds of stuff to bore you with.

In the mean time, I will post on our latest attempt at the top spot in the co-ed duo division tomorrow, but I will say that we are no longer bridesmaids…and in grand fashion.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ritchey P-29er First Impressions

Normally I would put a few more miles under a bike before I give my two cents of useless and most of the time, worthless point of view on a particular ride. I am going to step out of my comfort zone and give it a shot.

You know that feeling of anticipation you get when you know something cool is coming your way and you cant wait any longer only to be let down or you let yourself down by getting too excited? This is one of those times that the build of the excitement did not disappoint. I have waited a long time for Ritchey to make the 29er version of the original steel beauty from the early 90's. I was not financially set to have one of my own back then, but working in a shop does have its perks.

The Parts:

So here is a quick run down on the important stuff. The frame is made from Ritcheys own Logic II tubing with sliding dropouts, which retail for 999.99. The website claims 4.74lbs. in a large frame and it weighed exactly that. Cant remember when a manufactures weight was spot on. The head tube is a thing of beauty in itself. It is machined and almost comes close to a 1" diameter, but flares out to accommodate drop in bearings. The welds are very nice and smooth. It can be run as geared (why) or ss thanks to the Tange stainless dropouts. Im a Bontrager harlot, so nothing but Keith's best was invited to this
monocog party: RXL stem, wheels (dt swiss made hubs), bar, XXXL post, saddle, Sram XO crank with MRP 32t bling ring, Niner carbon fork, Avid Elixir CR brakes and 18t niner cog to round out the package. All told, this beauty comes in at 18lbs. 13oz. in a large frame.

Now many things are going to affect the way a bike rides and handles, component selection (which Iwould highly recommend what I selected) is going to make a huge difference. I am old school so I like it low baby low. No spacers on the headset and a 110mm  -7° stem.

The Ride

I will start by saying I no longer own my Superfy SS. Gone (not forgotten). Honestly, I don't miss it. I finally had a chance to put some miles on it this last weekend at Bakers (58.1 to be exact). This is the perfect course to test your rigid singlespeededness..sss.ss. Lots of roots and rocks and twisty, tight single track. I have never said this about a bike before, but this is THE best riding bike that I have had the pleasure to throw a leg over. Why? After 7 laps at Bakers, it is the first time doing that race that I have come away feeling good. No fatigue or saddle soreness. I didn't feel beat up afterwards. I would highly recommend the Niner carbon fork; it compliments the steel frame perfectly and keeps the front end tight and stiff. Man, good thing this is a clean blog. Compared to my Superfly; a fast bike in its own right, but stiff. This frame gives you the right stiffness but still feels very, very comfortable. It handled the tight, twisty turns just like a 26er and light enough to flick around yank it over obstacles. I felt very fast…seriously. This thing just went. I haven't noticed any unwanted flex in the bb area or the sliders. My only small complaints was that the seat post did slip a bit at times, but added some paste and all was well again. The other minor nit pick is the use of Campy bearing for the headset (which use a 41.8 bearing OD), not major, but if you need one in a pinch, not something shops have sitting around.

Final Thoughts:

So, I sold the Superfly hoping that I wouldn't regret doing so. I sold my favorite race bike with its own share of podium spots. I sold a bike that weighed 17lbs. I sold my Superfly for a bike that I wish I had before I bought my Superfly…thats all I have to say.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 Bakers Re-cap

This is what 5th place looks like
Yes, another year and another great day for racing on the farm. Bakers was, as usual, another hammerfest of epic proportions (ok, maybe not epic), but none the less, pretty darn exciting and of course fun.

This year the temps were in the 80's and limited wind; couldn't ask for better conditions.

For the last three years, I have raced three different classes: 2 person male open (2nd place), 2 person co-ed (3rd place) and the ultra competitive 3 person co-ed (5th). This year I teamed up with my usual female counter-part in Liz, but we added Alex to the mix this year and teamed up for the 3 person co-ed.

Now, I can honestly say that I knew we would finish pretty high up because of our make-up. Lipstick
My wife loves my clash
and blush can really make a difference in how a man feels about himse…wait a minute, this is not going in the direction I thought it was. I have raced against Alex for years and knew what to expect from him. Last year, I was a little cautious with my first race with Liz, just because I had actually met her AT Bakers for the first time right before the race. I quickly realized that I didn't need to be cautious at all and quickly gained a new friend and race partner. So this year, we were poised to quick some butt.

Now, I look over the numbers in every category, not just the one I am in. I know what teams are going to be there until the end and the ones who will decide when to call it quits. I know from the past races, that the 3 person co-ed is a very competitive class. Super fast women and men, so we were not going to have an easy task at all. Now everyone on our team is 45+ years old and the teams that finished 1-4 are all in there 20's and early 30's; not hard to do the math here now is it?

Just good times with my friend Matty O'  from AFC

I was extremely happy with how I rode. It was the best Bakers I have had, at least from a consistency stand point.  My lap times were very close and got faster as the day went on-38:18, 38:17, 38:54, 37:43, 37:29, 40:13 and 46:35 which was a slow lap just to ensure a 5th place finish. I ended up doing a double night lap for Alex because he wasn't to keen with riding at night. All good. We finished in 5th place with 19 laps for the day and the Ritchey rode amazing. The farm is littered with roots, ruts and rocks everywhere and the bike handled it without a whimper. It was the first Bakers that I didn't come away feeling like I had just been beaten in the streets of downtown Baltimore and left for dead. The Bontrager RXL (dt swiss hubs) were super fast-no joke. I felt fast and the wheels certainly helped in that arena. I was passing geared guys all over the place and my frien Mark Stahl said he had trouble catching back up to me (he is fast) on his geared rig. He finally gave up. I had it geared at a smart 32x17 this year-perfect. I did throw a chain a couple of times, still not sure what caused it, but no big deal.

The team as a whole was spot on every lap as well. These types of races, especially near the end require a bit of strategy in order to keep pace, so it is great to have a team that you know how fast they are and when you can expect them in to the timing tent. It was a good fit this year and everyone was very excited to be there and just keep churning out laps. Liz was her usual, consistent self and is a great competitor. I am lucky to have her as a friend and team mate. It was also cool to finally get to race with Alex and not against him. Spending all the time running didn't hurt his riding abilities at all.

This is by far one of the best races around. The people, the course and the promoter all make it worth the drive and the time spent racing. You can catch up with people that you don't always get to chat with on a daily basis, but that is what makes the whole mountain bike scene what it is. You just pick up where you left off just as if you had just spoken with them the other day. I also got to see Jonathan Zawacki (friend of the shop) on the trails with the AV kit in all of it glory. At one point, I came up behind him and told him I was passing on the left…he paused and then yelled out "F-you, you are gonna have to earn it!" I had to keep myself from laughing out to hard for fear of choking on the dust, but that is what makes these races fun. Shout outs to Jon, Marc and Jeff Calderone, Robbe Smith, Ray Mercado and his crew and to all of the other cool people that I call my bros in the mtb arena that were all in attendance and of course my wife who always supports me on these crazy days.

This year saw a lot of crashes, some on the "eeeks" scale, but everyone was alright in the end. I came away unscathed. My wacky nutrition for the race was: saltines, peanut m&m's, water and Heed. I felt great all day. No soreness, no fatigue, no cramps…perfect.

If you have never tried a race such as the Bakers Dozen, think about it. You will make some lifelong friends and you may just have a bit of fun to boot.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Looking forward to Bakers

I think, wait…the word I am looking for escapes me…the word is MIRACLE! Yes I will actually have a race this weekend! Bakers Dozen (13 hour lapped race) with Liz and Alex and we are looking to throw it down. Thirteen hours of mountain biking ho-down in Leesburg, Va. This is one of my all-time favorites and the last two years has seen a second and a third…aint gonna be nothin' but first this year. Again, this is my first 3 person coed, so it will be a lot of fun. The last four years, I have done solo and two person. The three person format will allow for some much needed rest in between laps. We have always done doubles (doing two consecutive laps, instead of one on and one off). This year we will be competing against 25 other teams of three, so giddy-up partner and ride hard.

I am super excited to FINALLY get to race my new Ritchey P-29er SS. Now if we could just get Alex to make the move to the dark side and get rid of those stupid, loud and obnoxious extra weight, we would be perfect. I haven't decided on the gearing yet, but in the past I have run 32x18 and spun out rather quickly, so I will probably run a 32x17 set up.

So, it is first or nothing this year and I couldn't ask for a better team.

On another note, here is the rankings (by points awarded by Strava based on how high up in each segment you place). Not bad for a 46 year old monologging fool. 6th out of 2200+ riders aint too shabby. the only 40+ year old in the top 10 I might add. I think it is very cool to be able to ride hard and see how you are progressing (or digressing in some cases).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kids Health and Fitness Expo

This must be a sign of getting old. I missed my first AFC Sugar Hill Race at Patapsco since it was started in 2009. Why…I attended a children's health expo. Actually, it was a lot of fun. It was geared towards kids so this was right up my alley.  My wife is in charge of the unit at that hospital and they asked if I was interested in participating; lots of kids, chance for some Tom Foolery? I am in!

It was held in the immense PG county learning and fitness center and this place was HUGE! Indoor olympic pool, full gymnastics center, indoor track,
weights and that is just the first floor.

I got a chance to meet some great people and a ton of kids; my favorite being the PG county jumprope squad. They spent at least an hour on the bikes I had set up on a couple trainers. Each one trying to out do the other. The tall girl in the first photo, Saela (12 years old) was the most impressive of the girls. She pedaled for 30:04 for 5.47 miles and then proceeded to the jump rope competition-go get em Saela! Of course, not to be out done by a girl, Joshua (11 years old) pedaled for 41:00 and 8.43 miles! I think that our group was the most popular booth by far.
I didn't really have anytime away from questions and a ton o' fun. The kids were really more inquisitive than I originally gave them credit for. Some really had some knowledge of cycling and asked some pretty good questions. All told, everyone  logged an amazing 34.67 miles. If that isn't inspiration enough for you to get out and ride, then maybe synchronized swimming is in your future.

There was quite a few activities for the kids to engage in. Alex tried his hand at tennis and he just picked it up like he knew what he was doing. We had one of the instructors come over and asked if Alex was interested in playing, but driving to PG county aint gonna happen on a weekly basis.

I think all in all it was a success. I got to hang out with some cool kids and the kids went home with a better understanding of cycling health and fun. Now, don't go thinkin' that I am gonna missin' races all over the place all the time! Really, these are the kinds of things that missing a race or two is ok.

Thanks to Twyla Cathion and my beautiful wife with her help today from Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital for having me.