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 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.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fun from Abroad

Cyclists are brothers and sisters by nature
I have to say, working in a bike shop was never my plan. I am an artist by design. Yes, by design. I would have thought that I would be running a quaint little design studio churning out all sorts of cool and maybe not so cool marketing and advertising hoopla. Nope…bike shop.

Every now and again, you get to meet people that I would never have had the opportunity and the joy of meeting. That is where Warren and Esther come in. I will be very blunt and quick-26000+ miles through 38 countries in 3 years ; that is what they have accomplished so far. No big deal right? People do that all the time…suuuuurrre they do. We have had the chance to give their bikes a complete makeover, mud facial, massage, ok not really, but the bikes did get outfitted with all kinds of replacement parts; including four new wheel builds, fenders, chainrings, etc. Lots of work, some challenges thrown in for good measure, a little cup of luck and you have a great recipe for success!

Lots of shops, but ours got the chance not only to do the work, but to get to know these two from the British Isles. Remember when you were a kid and you thought that everyone else had an accent but you? It is still true:) I guess the coolest thing about their adventure (not to take away the overall accomplishments), but just the people, stories and the scenery that I can only imagine was simply amazing. Yep, jealousy is sure to follow. Also just found out that Esther is an artist as well. You can view her wonderful watercolors on their site. Warren has a great eye for photography, something that is a must have for an adventure such as this.

I have to say, as an artist for 20+ years in a corporate environment would never have allowed this type of interaction with these wonderful people from across the Atlantic. I will get to see them again next week before they head out on their tour of the US and see them off. As Warren says "It will be the dogs bullocks."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I really couldn't come up with a title that truly encompassed my feelings of the is years winter in Maryland. I know people in Michigan and Alaska will think I am whining-I am, but not really about the temperatures, but the rain and snow seemed  to somehow have a master plan to thwart any attempts at letting us dirt merchants have our way with, well the dirt.

Racing is something I love to do. I love the competition, the camaraderie and just getting out there and pushing your body beyond and sometimes to the point of being introduced to Mr. Coma. Racing makes you faster and you don't meet a better group of menses and womenses anywhere in any sport. By now, I would have had 4 races under my belt, instead I have a ton of road miles and no races…nada. At first, when the first and second race was postponed, I was ok. They were rescheduled until the end of the month. Well it is the beginning of the next month and unless your name is Wilbur, you are not in a real jovial mood in regards to racing or riding for all that matters.

My training was on track and the stars were aligned and the birds were signing and well…ok. So it looks as if the next "scheduled" race is my favorite-Bakers Dozen. I will be teaming back up with Liz as usual and this year we are adding a great person and rider in Alex Mata. Alex and I have been racing against each other for some years now; although he has been running more as of late. Why, your guess. Anyway, we have a real good shot at the top spot (something that has eluded me for some years now.) No more bridesmaid…well maybe in some other life.

I am going to close with my chin up and my hopes high knowing that soon, I will be basking in 90° temps and all will be right with the world, or at least my mountain bike world.