Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

So long 2009

Digging deep in my suitcase of courage !!

2008 sucked see here ( if you care.

2009 was a lot better. Thanks to all who supported me, and there were plenty of you.

2010 can be super. I'll do my part. I get to move up a cat for Nats. Whoo Hoo.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Everybody else is doing it so why shouldn't I ? Or, what I learned about Cyclocross in 2009

If you look close you can see the "Chismis" lights on my bike

1 Tubies
Hank confided that when Russell Stevenson was teaching him about Cyclocross he said brakes and tires matter, everything else on your bike is secondary. In September when Sam and I were under the tutelage of our personal coach Ryan Trebon; I asked him about how to take corners faster, he smiled and said one word, “tubulars.” After Starcrossed, Kevin was jumping around like he was about to explode he was so excited about how his tubies had worked. He said he felt like he was cheating. He insisted I put his front wheel on my bike and ride around the field and see what it was like. I couldn’t get the tire to slip. It was simply amazing. I found some rims that were a steal and laced them to and old front hub and a used rear I picked up on eBay and after all of the research I could handle, I glued on some tires. Soon I was groovin’ on the tubies.’ They are the real deal. A couple riders on the team ride clinchers at 65 psi. and swear that is the way to go. They also think scars are cool.

2 Chatter
Yes Virginia, I finally understand chatter. Leonard Zinn waited until the last week of my season to explain the root cause of front brake chatter on cross bikes. I now realize all of the fixes that are cross folklore are really just ways to make your front brakes less effective thereby reducing chatter. If you want to kill chatter and have good brakes you need to not use your noodle. You need to use a travel agent and V-Brakes. The difference is amazing. Like the tubies, I feel like I’m cheating now. If you happen to have the stiffest front fork ever made, you can ignore this and enjoy your braking as it is today.

3 Hottie
Don’t think that listing her way down in third is a reflection of her influence. I raced in sixteen races in 2009 and she was there for all of them. Because she was photographing other races before and after mine, I would guess she photographed close to a hundred races. My Teammate John called her the hardest working photographer in the business. She is my biggest fan and I am darn lucky to have her on my side.

4 Training
I sure worked hard in 2009. I now look back and realize my training was incredibly counter-productive. I am just glad there isn’t anyone named Bif to give me a noogies and call me McFly. I have designed training plans for runners for thirty years. They all have hard days followed by easy days. To get better you increase the intensity of the hard days. In 2009 I tried to go hard all the time. I felt tired and kept pushing. I only rested when the wheels came off the bus which they did many times.

5 Focused Training
I read that someone had a power meter on a cross racer and the maximum length of a hard output in a race was 23 seconds. Cross is a series of bursts and rests (perhaps technical rests, but from a power perspective, rests none the less). If you want to be good at it you need to mimic these bursts in your training and when you have to put in a big effort in a race, console yourself that the push will be short in duration.

6 Team
It was sure fun to be on a team. I enjoyed training with the guys in the off season as well as having people root for me during the races. There were guys to swap stories and opinions with about course conditions, equipment and life. The discount on bike equipment and clothing was also pretty sweet. For Nationals a dozen of us made our way to Oregon and the camaraderie was wonderful.

7 Curtlo Frame
Carbon smarbon. Steel is so real. I loved the way it hooked up and was compliant and stiff at the same time. In Bend I rode where others slipped. When the pros were racing in Bend I noted all kinds of carbon frames slipping and sliding. That isn’t to say that steel or aluminum wouldn’t, but I know the carbon frames were several times the cost of the metal frames and while they were probably lighter, weight is a few rungs down on the list of important cross frame characteristics. I wanted to say I learned how to handle my cross bike in 2009, but the credit goes to the tubies and the Curtlo. I’ve got my frame, do you have yours ?

8 34 degrees
The first three months of 2009 the majority of the Sunday morning rides with the team were between 33 and 37 degrees. Through repeated trial and error I was able to perfect the ultimate outfit to combat that range of temperatures down to the Holy Grail of cold weather riding; gloves. Head to toe here is what worked best: Helmet, thick earband, optional thin skull cap, LS baselayer, thick jersey/jacket, vest, bibs, thermal tights, wool socks, shoes, toe covers and shoe covers. On the hands: liner gloves and Swix XC ski gloves.

9 Warming Up
I was resistant to using a trainer for some reason. When I did I was able to settle in to a fast pace in my races quicker. The race to the first corner seemed easier when I had warmed up on a trainer. If anyone thinks there is any point in the race more important than the first minute, let me know. I also received a monster jacket from work that has become my peel-it-off-at-the-last-minute-in-the-starting-grid jacket. It saved my shivering bacon in Bend.

10 Giving
Hottie saw dividends from her kindness on the photography end of the sport as her fans became her promoters. At a cold race this season as our juniors were shivering as their parents raced I dug out no less than three beanies to keep their heads warm. At Nationals Andrew battled hypothermia every day and he welcomed our propane heater with a level of gratitude usually reserved for those liberated from POW camps.

11 Pit Wheels
If you bring them, you better practice swapping them. That is all I am going to say about that.

12 Low Pressure Clinchers
This is the way to go if you want to visit the pits or end your day early.

13 Thirteen
If you get this number honor cycling tradition and pin it on upside down. The cycling Gods will show their gratitude.

14 Sunglasses
I had always avoided glasses because of my fear of fogging them up. I realized that because I don’t stop until the end, this isn’t actually a risk. Mud in my eyes in more than one race led me to try it in Bend. It worked. I guess that is why, like the trainer, everybody else does it. Duh !

15 Fun
I did the Single Speed World Championships in Portland, and the Clydesdale Championship of the Universe in Bend. Both were silly, and as much fun as a guy can have on a bike.

16 Oatmeal
Steel cut oats are so much better. Go ahead and add buttermilk. I know it sounds gross, but it is the best (don’t forget huge amounts of brown sugar of course).

17 2010
Look for Cyclocross to continue to explode. We are on the verge of reluctant acceptance in the cycling community and the sport is growing faster each year.

18 Lexicon growth
Heard this year relating to Cyclocross:
“I was praying for a mercy mechanical”
“I am groovin on the tubies”
“(There is a) Hurricane of pain heading for the finish line”
“I rode that corner with an outrigger”
“I was digging deep into my satchel of grimaces’”
“This was an expensive season for me”

19 Hot packs
Hot packs in my shoes made Bend tolerable for my feet.

20 Running on Ice
If you think you can carry your bike and run on ice, you’ll find yourself screwed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CX Nationals Day 4 the end

Can you say, 'INTENSE'

Hottie and I enjoyed just a bit of a lay in Sunday morning. When I went outside I was able to see the place in the daylight for the first time since arriving Wednesday night. We weren’t interested in seeing the collegiate races, so our objective was the women’s elite race at 11:15. We took our time and loaded the war wagon for the return trip, and left the condo for good.

We arrived in time to see Zach McDonald battling for the win in the collegiate race. It was perhaps the best race of the long weekend with the lead changing multiple times each lap and Zach sprinting from behind in the final straight to take the win by a bike length. The swag came out and Hottie and I collected our fair share. We staked out our spots for the elite women.

Katie Compton rode with precision and power. The day was sunny and the ice that I had battled for three races was replaced by mud and grass. Katie rode like she was on a rail and she is so smooth, it was like watching a clinic. The other riders were gunning for second place and the morning was exciting.

The men’s race was set to be a showdown with six men who each believed they would win the day. Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon both had multiple National CX titles and had been standouts all season long. Jeremy Powers had recently beaten them both in Portland and was in peak form. Todd Wells likewise was coming on strong in a late season surge. Jonathan Page had returned from Europe where he had recently collected a top ten finish and he was planning on earning his first star and stripes jersey. Olympian Adam Craig and Jamie Driscol had both been hot of late and so the front of the starting grid was the who’s who of American Cyclocross in 2009.

At the gun Jeremy Powers took off like a bat out of hell and pushed the first lap. Trebon and Johnson were about four seconds back and Wells, Page and Driscol about four more back. On the second lap J-Pow went down hard on Satan’s off camber (perhaps falling into the divot made my Evo’s big ass when he fell fifteen hours earlier). He was slow to get up and had to straighten his bars and when he remounted he had dropped to seventh or so.

Johnson pounced on Trebon to take the lead and looked like he was putting in a surge with all he had. Five seconds back Page and Wells were trading jabs and trying to catch the leading duo. Johnson grimaced as he wrestled his bike around the corners not letting up for a second. Trebon looked relaxed and appeared to be waiting to attack. At this point my money was on Ryan. I figured Johnson couldn’t keep up the intensity and Trebon would power away.

Lap after lap, Tim Johnson grimaced and gained a second or two while Ryan Trebon waited for an opportunity to unleash his power. As the laps wore on, the relentless effort of Tim Johnson added ever so slightly to the tiny gap until he had twenty seconds.

At the finish Johnson threw up his arms in victory. Trebon arrived moments later to rousing cheers for the local hero. After congratulating Johnson, Trebon’s first words were that he had ridden too conservatively. Page and Wells dueled to the line and J-Pow claimed fifth and the final podium spot.

Next Year...

We collected the propane heater from a grateful Andrew, let him download Hottie’s photos and we set off for home. We arrived late and I had to submit a report for work that went electronically just before midnight. I unloaded the wagon and left my packed bags downstairs.

I had exchanged some Pearl Izumi Thermal legwarmers I bought in Bend for a smaller size because they fell down so quick I was shocked. At home I tried on the smaller size (a large for those playing along at home) and they fell down before I left the room. Pearl, you make some great stuff, these legwarmers aren’t among them…

Hottie’s back was on fire and we were both staggeringly tired. Although our bags were not unpacked and there was bike work that still needed to be done we called our Nationals weekend done.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Championship of the Universe Race Report Day 3 CX Nats

The most wonderful thing about tiggers is this is the only one !

The long drive down, the late nights and two days of racing and photographing all day had taken their toll. We were tired when we got up Saturday. We had riders in the first two races of the day and I grabbed some hot Joe whilst Hottie began documenting the day in digital images.

Our local hero U23 stud Zach McDonald was set to contend in the U23 race. By now the combination of SLIGHTLY warmer temperatures and the course having been pummeled by a thousand racers riding lap after lap had made the course change again. Mud was starting to emerge and the possibility of a dry Sunday for the pros was contemplated.

Zach broke a wheel (a la Hincapie) and had to run to the pits and was essentially out of it a minute or two after starting. While he was able to pit and change bikes, he lost too much time and was playing the part of me and found himself the lantern rouge. He wisely chose to accept his lot and hold something out for the collegiate race on Sunday morning.

Hottie shot the races and I toted the gear and while we were tired, the prospect of my 9:00 PM race loomed over both of us like a dark cloud. After the last race we made our way back to our abode away from home and really just snacked on Spaghetti and Pizza leftovers. They were, however, good leftovers.

I took out the bike for a quick test ride to confirm the repaired tubie would hold air. All was good as I dressed for my race and loaded the orange machine into the wagon. I was sensing the temperature dropping fast. On the way to the race venue I watched the temperature drop from 31 to 27. Any hope of avoiding ice was gone. Hottie pleaded for me to be careful, or skip it all together.

John “The Destroyer” and I passed our tests and were admitted to the race. They were handing out bike lights and I gladly took one. It turned out to be quite the light and for the time being has suspended my longing for the light & motion 150.

The race director had encouraged creativity and we responded accordingly. I had lights on my bike and a cape on my shoulders. I took some laps on the icy course and warmed up. In fact, I kept riding just to fend off the cold as long as I could. When the chosen hour was almost upon us I noticed riders milling around a section of the course that was icy. Summoning my leadership skills I said, “follow me,” and they did. We lined up and my spot became the official start line.

I got a good start and was riding about sixth. Someone tried to pass me on the inside of a tight turn and bobbled and went down and the riders were stopped behind him. I took advantage of the new gap and was riding well. The crown was loud and large. Fans were spraying beer on riders on the off camber and big sweeper turn. I held my spot all through the first lap and rode up and down the icy hill of death on this first lap. I came down and sprinted on the pave’ and was still holding my top ten spot at the beginning of the second lap.

On the second lap as I approached Satan’s off camber I saw what looked like a cloud but turned out to be some kind of liquid spray. I rode the off camber as I had thirty times before on this long weekend of racing and my wheels shot out from under me on the ice that had formed from the frozen beer spray. I hit my right side hard and heard “The Destroyer” shout encouragement as he passed me. I quickly got up and my hobnails gripped and I was back on and chasing. I was a few places behind The Destroyer and I was looking for opportunities to pass. I was pretty fast over the barriers and aside from a bobble on a hairpin turn was riding well.

When I was approaching the icy hill of death I could see too many riders in front of me. I guessed there would be a bump, or dab, or something, and expected riders would soon be walking up the hill. I hit the bottom fast and saw my fears materialize. I dismounted quickly and ran, shouldering my bike. I passed some riders and was working my way back up. I was behind John as we hit Satan’s off camber for the third time. The Destroyer slid out and I rode around him to the raucous cheers of an inebriated crowd. John and I hung together the rest of the lap and picked off more riders. We both managed to ride up and down the icy hill of death and then we rode together on the pave as fans cheers us on in our matching costumes. On the fourth lap we both successfully navigated the off camber and after hitting the barriers a second apart, it was all over.

We were like rock stars as the crowd continued to cheer as we stood around in the frozen night air. The fans were shivering, only the riders were warm. I assume we collected top ten places, but alas, perhaps we will never know.

The race with hypothermia began shortly thereafter and we changed and returned home and showered. It was close to midnight when we called it a day. I prepared a story for Andrew and sent it off at an ungodly hour.

It had been a long season and I had been looking forward to reaching the point where I could say, “done.” Now that the moment had arrived, I kind of wanted it to go on a little longer.

We had decided to skip the next morning’s races and sleep in. I tiptoed into bed, closed my eyes, and I was out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CX Nationals Day 2

Friday dawned clear and slightly warmer. We had been fearful that it would again be a single digit morning for our juniors who would start the racing for the day at the painful hour of eight o’clock. Fourteen degrees had never felt so warm. The field was small in both dimensions as about a dozen seventy pound girls took off at the gun for the first race of the day. Our own Claire finished fifth and was able to stand on the podium and bring home a medal. Sadly there were some little league parents who were seeking vicarious glory at the expense of their frozen children. I am glad to say our team was encouraging to our young riders without instilling any fear, guilt, or unrealistic expectations.

The course had gotten worse and worse each lap during my race the afternoon before. I figured that since the conditions were changing all the time, I questioned if I should take a few practice laps during the open course period at noon, since my race was at 3:30. I decided the benefit of riding the course was eclipsed by the hassle of changing into riding clothes, then changing into warm clothes post ride and changing again for my race.

I warmed up on the trainer and felt ready to go. The sun was warming the day and I decided to wear knee warmers instead of full legs as I had the first day. I put on my huge jacket and took it off in the starting grid. I was 134th in my field of 150. I hooked my helmet camera to my stem and shot video of the first two laps. I was lined up behind George Jackson who won my category in the Seattle Cyclocross series.

At the gun I took off, but I knew there would be a cluster at the first turn and I would be walking, so my motivation to hurry up and get in line was poor. After the first turn I was still on George’s wheel and I thought that was pretty good. I stayed upright and was doing well. A little past the pits, I swung wide on a corner and found myself on a bad line, and lost some places. At a tight turn a hundred meters later a few riders went down and others were stalled behind the crash and I moved past them and held my position.

When we got to the mini off camber I ran it and moved up some more places. I then bombed the cliff and was feeling pretty good. I held on up, across, down and back on to the mesa and passed some riders as we paralleled the pits. Sam was manning the pits and I appreciated his yelling on our behalf.

The fun part of the course allowed me to pass some more riders at the barriers and on the pave’. I rode the steep hill while others were forced to walk. This also gained me some places. I remounted and let it fly down the hill. I figured it was a bike with round wheels and if I just hung on and didn’t over think it the bike would do its thing and I would arrive at the bottom alright. This na├»ve approach worked fine for me.

Then I opened up on the approach to the finish line and tucked in front of another rider as we turned back onto the frozen stuff. The second lap was good and I passed some riders with power and at other times just by not going down. I was moving up on my teammate when I felt the horrible rumbling of a tubular going flat. I leaned way over the bars to take weight off my flat rear tire as I wasn’t too far from the pits. I entered the pits and tried to yell for Sam, but I was out of breath and my face was numb from the cold so my yell sounded more like a seal call.

Sam appeared and we had about the worst rear wheel change in the history of Cyclocross. I finally jumped on and was able to fly with the lack of traffic on the course. The lap times were quick and the size of the field meant I was already four minutes back on the first lap. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be lapped and subsequently pulled from the race. I rode hard and on an icy corner where my tubulars had afforded me decent traction earlier, my rear clincher slid out and I found myself running as my bike slid on the ice alongside me. I quickly grabbed my orange machine and chased for the pack. On the fun side of the course I was indeed caught and pulled as I crossed the line. I had started 134th and finished 93rd, so I passed a fair number of riders before my race was called. I had been riding with George, and I count that as good and I was rumored to have been catching Big John, so tick off another one in the good category.

Sam was apologetic about the horrid wheel exchange, but I was philosophical and said it would help me prepare for my Championship of the Universe race Saturday night. I put on my big jacket and rode my put wheels back to the war wagon.

In short order we were back at the condo and after a wonderful, but short, hot shower we were eating salad, bread and spaghetti. After dinner I managed, to my absolute surprise, to repair my punctured tubie. I then put lights on my bike in preparation for my final race of 2009, scheduled for Saturday night.

Despite the good company we were all tired and soon we fell into bed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CX Nationals Day 0 and Day 1

I am splitting my accounts into daily bits.

Day 0 and Day 1
On Wednesday the plan was to depart from my work at 2:00. Hottie and I pulled out at 3:00 under clear skies and freezing temperatures. As we crossed over the Cascades the sun moved from low in the southern sky to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and we enjoyed a cloudless starry night. Nineteen, fourteen, twelve, zero, and finally negative four, were the temperatures I called out as we continued to hit new lows while we drove through the inky darkness to Bend, Oregon for the National Championships.

We pulled into John “The Destroyer’s” condo a little past ten at night. John and Hank were quick to help unload the war wagon and soon I was sitting in the hot tub with a beanie keeping my hair from freezing.

Early Thursday morning John and I set off to set up the team tents. The outside temperate was -7 F. Dressed like Eskimos we were soon setting up in the site we had reserved amongst the pros and vendors. We picked up race packets and coffee and returned to the condo.

When we got back to the race venue our teammates were there and the tents were populated with propane heaters glowing a beautiful orange. By this time it had warmed to near 15 degrees. Because it was so cold I changed into a ton of cycling clothing with the urgency of a ten year old boy fidgeting in line for the bathroom after guzzling a half gallon of Mountain Dew.

The course was an icy nightmare and riders were dropping like there were trap doors on the course. On dry surfaces you fall when your momentum overcomes gravity and, like a falling tree, you tip over. On Ice it is like that falling tree has wheels on the bottom and the motion is straight down. The falls were fast and the ground was frozen so the falls hurt. Some sections had snow and could be navigated with some semblance of control. There were a couple spots that had been cleared of snow and although the grass was frozen solid, it seemed it could be ridden. There was ample profanity on the course and lap times were slow.

When it came time for my race I found myself in the middle of the pack and at the gun I took off like the rest of the lemmings. Someone went down on the ice in the first corner and after others fell on the pile up on as if it were a football fumble, the rest of us had to dismount and walk around the carnage. I felt like I was trying to get into Wal-Mart one second after the doors opened on Black Friday. Once I was able to get on and ride the race was almost fun. I was passing riders and getting passed as anything other than the single line was just crap.

Here is my description of the course:
We were staged at the end of a road and the first one hundred meters was only ridden at the start and then closed off for the remainder of the race. Another hundred meters of straight asphalt took us under the finishing banner and then we climbed up a short steep grassy hill to another tight ninety degree left hand turn. Then a long gradual descent on bumpy rutted ice and snow led to a sheet of ice where we (were supposed to) turn right and parallel the pits. Then a gradual right hander and a slight climb to an icy off camber that had a rider go down and break something on the first lap of my race. I had seen riders go down there on every practice lap I took, so I exercised a degree of caution. The course then zigzags around trees and finally emerges to run alongside a road before a series of tight turns and a wicked off camber that seemed to take riders down without rhyme or reason. I ran this section in my race and passed fallen riders, or those stuck behind fallen riders, each lap. Then we went down a drop off that made me want to close my eyes it was so steep. The more cautious riders actually walked downhill in three areas of the course and this was the first one. Then a steady climb where you wanted to apply power; but if you pedaled too hard, your back wheel would spin out and you found yourself going sideways if you were lucky, or going down on the ice if you were not. A steep drop into a series of horribly bumpy, icy S-curves and then a climb up to what we referred to as the mesa. You had to quickly get up speed and huck your bike up to get on top and then an icy left hander to test your balance. Then in twenty meters you hit a drop that had been snowy when I warmed up and was now an icy rut-fest. This drop scared me to death. If you managed to stay upright the drop itself gave you too much speed to make the icy one eighty that brought you back up on the mesa. There is nothing like braking AND turning on ice to make you question your motivation. Now we were on a gradual downhill that let you build up enough speed so that when you hit the left hander you could go down like a bowling pin. Getting back up you now had a long straight past the other side of the pits. A steady climb followed by some S turns takes you across the road and into the “technical” section of the course.

The “technical” section of the course is what the Clydesdale event was held on so the balance of this would be the description for that course. A bumpy descent on frozen grass was about the safest portion of the course (there were several serious crashed on the pavement) then you grabbed your brakes for a banked right hand turn. Winding around you reached the run up, which was a set of wooden stairs that had composite shingles on them so they had good traction the whole week. At this point you are parallel to, but heading in the opposite direction to, the finishing straight. The course then descends a wicked off camber that should have been guarded by a Troll as it took down random riders from ten year old girls to the man leading the pro race, Jeremy Powers. This off camber was as slippery as a moss covered rock except much harder. If you survived this you hit a sweeping banked corner that was a dream to ride in every condition. A one eighty turn up, then down, a hill followed by barriers that you hit at full speed. Full speed barriers are fun. In the Seattle series we always seemed to have barriers just past sharp turns to you seldom had much speed. After the barriers you had a snowy, icy series of one eighties and onto a short bit of pave. At times this pavement was icy and riders going down here collected some horrid road rash. Two tight turns brought you to a hill that could at times barely be ridden, and at times not at all. I rode it most of the time, but on early laps of my races one person having to dismount meant we all had to dismount. Your reward for reaching the top was a steep icy descent that many chose to walk even during the races. A hundred and fifty meters of pave brought you to a right turn onto the one hundred meter finishing straight.

So I raced this course lap after lap. I was in front of some riders with whom I had contested in the Seattle series. I felt pretty good about this. To my great horror the drop offs were getting worse and worse each lap. The technical sections provided recovery time between power sections so I could have ridden longer. The fear factor kicked in and when they shouted ‘all done’ as I crossed the line I was both sad to have the race over because I felt I had more in the tank, but thankful to be done with the downhills of death for the day.

I quickly put on a thick jacket and beanie as I tried to beat hypothermia that was trying to take over my bones. We packed up and headed for the condo. Later than night more of our team arrived and we had all the pizza we could handle as we swapped stories of our heroic exploits.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I’ve made the list and checked it twice. I tweak it almost every day. I’ve got all the tricks set for CX Nationals in Bend. Hobnail boots, check; De-Icing spray, check; hot packs to put in my shoes, check. Saint Bernard with embrocation….

The last minute running around has been a little hectic; but so far it has all gone according to plan. John is handling wardrobe, I got some spikes to anchor the tent in the permafrost. The bike is dialed in. Pit wheels are ready to go.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I slept in today

Some people think cyclocross is boring. Can you imagine ? Give this guy a cowbell and turn him loose..... I think this was one of Santa's helpers getting rested for the big night..

Friday, December 4, 2009

Curtlo CX frame review

Proud Evo with the orange machine

I was assessing my season and had come to the realization that my bike handling skills had gone from a D to a B. It was a long time coming. Then reluctantly I realized it wasn’t me, it was the bike.

In 2009 I was fortunate enough to upgrade to a Curtlo Steel CX frame. For a completely custom frame it was very affordable and it was built by a true veteran frame builder residing in the wilderness Nirvana of Winthrop, Washington.

My past CX riding had been on three different aluminum frames. I started on a Specialized CX frame with a Campy drive train. I later sold that frame and went to a Kona Jake the Snake. I added a carbon fork and although I painted the Jake and loved the way it looked, I was forever washing out the front wheel and it just didn’t seem to want to hook up when the terrain was rough. I picked up a spare Ibex CX frame which I built into a single speed, and despite the anonymity of the Ibex bike name, that frame (to me) handled the best of the three aluminum frames. The Ibex later evolved into a commuter bike for me.

My hope was that a custom steel bike would fit me better and provide a more compliant platform. I could not imagine being any happier with the results. I wanted a more upright riding position to improve handling and a slightly sloping top tube to give some clearance without looking like a step through frame. I was able to pick my color and discussed my desired ride characteristics at length with Doug Curtiss (The “Curt” in Curtlo).

I am big for a cyclist, but I am usually able to find a decent fit at the top end of most stock frame sizes. Lucky for me, I am not tall or wide enough that I need to shop for clothing in special stores. About the only real oddity is that I run 180 cranks when I can find them, and for my cross bike I haven’t found them.

When I first saw my CX frame, it was proud to be in my team color of “Eddy” orange and sported a tall head tube, which I had said was okay. The sizing was perfect and it made going from my road bike to my cross bike painless. I had asked for the holy grail of bike building, a compliant back end for traction and comfort, and stiff front triangle so when I applied the power it went into forward progress rather than frame flex. Once again, the Curtlo frame delivered. The elegant tubes were shaped to provide the stiffness I wanted and the seat stays are gently curved to enhance the compliance. The joints are beautiful and the simple lines give the bike a timeless look that speaks class.

I had won some SRAM swag at a race a while back and had set up my commuter with SRAM Rival controls and drive train. My oldest was riding that and when I was tuning it for him I was so impressed with the ergonomics I stripped off my Campagnolo Record right shifter (and Chubby left hand brake lever) and installed the SRAM shifters. They work like a dream with my Campy Chorus back end. I picked up a Dura Ace crankset (175) with worn out rings and painted it black and coupled that with a Chris King BB to complete my Rodney King (Can’t we all just get along?”) build.

The frame is able to handle the stiff crankset, yet I can stand up for anything loose without losing traction. I still have to keep it planted to maintain grip on slippery mud uphill’s. I can roll through corners faster and with much more control than any aluminum frame. I also haven’t washed out my front end once all year. It is light and agile and the angles are perfect for cross.

A few seasons ago the guy I always found myself battling in the final lap was a fellow named Steve. I would power past him on climbs and long straights only to have him squirt past me on technical sections. I was all muscle and he had the bike handling skills. Although I haven’t seen Steve for a couple years, this season I was the one with the bike handling skills and when I combined that with the power that I still have, I was pleased with the results. Part way through the season I also made the leap to tubular tires and that was also a huge improvement. Based on the time I rode on clinchers, I am convinced the frame was fully half the equation.

Evo flying atop the Orange flash !

There is more than a little Karma packed into the frame from its builder Doug Curtiss. While some proudly point to their carbon steeds that were made far away in smelly factories by people wearing (I hope) hairnets, goggles and breathing apparatus. I feel an eerie power from the Zen that went into metal tubes that were measured, cut, ground, shaped and welded by a man whom I have met and talked with. I know the bike was made in a place where the air is fresh and the snow piles high in winter. I am honored to ride the handiwork of the artisan who crafted my bike with the same skill that he used built bikes that were ridden in the Olympics and in races around the world.

This is an awesome ride !

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Say goodbye to Hollywood

Lights, camera, traction ! For what I sincerely expect will be the final time in 2009 I rolled out of my driveway a few minutes after five in the morning for a pre work training ride. The air was a brisk 34 degrees and my face felt like I had just splashed on a heaping helping of Old Spice for the first five minutes. The climb warmed me and soon only my eyes were cold.

The new batteries were a huge improvement to my feeble light, although I still yearn for the Light & Motion Stella 150N which strikes a good balance between cost and performance for my occasional pre dawn outings (and can be found on sale from time to time).

My purpose this morning was to just log some saddle time, burn calories and not go hard. I will confess I really enjoyed the last part. Especially since there was abundant frost on lawns, cars and the like, this was a day where not being in a rush was a much safer way to roll.

I am realizing that my training needs more contrast. I am riding a few days a week, but I haven’t really allowed myself many “easy” days. I need to make my hard days harder, and my easy days easier. I think I have inadvertently trained myself to go at 90% all the time.

When I left work last night the moon was rising in the east (where it usually does) and the sky was cloudless and the moon looked like a spotlight. This morning the moon was in the western sky and still as bright as ever. Even as I pulled into work this morning the moon had not yet set. It was a reminder of how short the days are now.

Next week I will be racing in Bend where it will be sunny and below freezing. While I spent all last winter perfecting the 35 degree ride, it will be colder in Bend, and I will be racing instead of just riding.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seattle CX Series Finale Monroe Race Report

I guess I thought it meant lungging..

With mixed emotions I bid farewell to my 2009 Washington State Cyclocross campaign. It was a great year and I truly enjoyed the camaraderie of being on a team. The foolish (and I would not pass up an opportunity to be foolish) among my team will be journeying to Bend, Oregon for the Cyclocross National Championships in December.

I raced in all of the 2009 Seattle Cyclocross races as well as the warm up races of Starcrossed, the Rad Racing GP, and the Labor Day flat tire fest. I am expecting that the scene in Bend will be worthy of a report or two and I am expecting an epic final chapter to my Cross Season saga. I will therefore end my ruminations about the season and confine the balance of my report to this race.

On a last minute whim, I decided to run a local neighborhood fun run on Thanksgiving morning. Perhaps a hundred runners set off in a light grey drizzle and Zach promptly bid me adieu and shot to the front of the parade. He would finish a very honorable third. I found myself moving up and to my amazement I think I collected what has become my race place, fifteenth. The large meal later that day was uneventful, and I went to bed only a little sore from my race.

I slept in Friday, but when I did decide to get up, my legs screamed at me. My quads, my hamstrings and my calves all felt like they had been beaten with metal pipes. I ran competitively in high school and college and despite thousands of miles of cycling, and limiting my runs to a short jaunt once or twice a month, I somehow still see myself as a runner. This perception may finally be changing as it took a concerted effort to get ready to ride Sunday. Massage (thank you Hottie), Aleve, hot showers and finally a visit to the Shoreline YMCA to soak in the hot tub Saturday evening, were all aimed at getting this broken rack of bones ready to go fast Sunday morning. I’m not sure which race or illness I am still recovering from; but I spent an amazing amount of my four day weekend sleeping. The slumber helped tremendously and I was able to suit up and complete my Cyclocross mission this past Sunday.

When I was loading the final provisions into the war wagon Sunday morning the only thing that really hurt was going down the stairs. Since the only running we normally do in Cyclocross is on level ground for barriers or uphill for run ups, I figured I was safe.

I was wrong yet again. The course had a downhill-off camber-uphill sequence that looked like it would be best to run it at least on the first lap in heavy traffic.

The start was the usual circus, and I gave up some spots only to gain them back quickly on the grassy turns. I had two guys that were near me in points, Bob from Old town whom I had just snagged last week at Sedro Woolley and Francisco who I had battled most of the year. Bob and I were separated by a single (drop the lowest race) point and whoever prevailed Sunday would prevail in the series. Up on “the grassy knoll” I was chasing Francisco and Bob was chasing me. I fought to keep a gap and whenever there were hairpins I could see my teammate Mike ahead and I was on Francisco’s wheel and Bob was behind me.

When we came to the downhill-off camber-uphill challenge, I knew it was going to be painful. This first lap as everyone bunched up and grabbed their brakes to creep down the steep loose hill under some semblance of control, I dismounted and blasted down, across, and up and passed four or more riders. The downhill hurt and a patient person could search and find my contorted face on Hottie’s smugmug site and laugh at my plight.

The loose corner was best negotiated with an outrigger..

As the race wore on, Bob lost contact and Francisco and I were closing in on Mike. With half a lap to go we had gapped any other riders in our category. I sat on Francisco’s wheel and, like a hungry cat, I waited to pounce. The downhill-off camber-uphill sequence went fine and I held off till the run up. I blitzed him by taking a steep line to the left that was more like climbing a ladder than stairs but it gave me the inside line as the course turned left. I muscled through the wet sand and deep mud had a good corner coming off the hill. I stomped it on the gravel road and took the pavement of the finishing straight really, really fast. I crossed the line and I’ll check the results to see what his time was. To my amazement I wasn’t as cooked as I have been after other races. Perhaps my tender legs had kept me under control?

Hottie continued to shoot the races and got some outstanding shots on the day. I collected some swag when they started tossing it to the crowd. While I may not be able to win many awards in Cyclocross races, if they gave away finishing positions based on how well one did on jump balls, or how well one could jump and collect swag when standing among women who average less than five and a half feet tall, I’d do okay.