Saturday, December 20, 2014

Salomon Q-98's and BCA Magic Carpet's AKA my new AT Setup

New Toys!

After a few seasons of only a few AT excursions PSU students had to go and vote for Waterville Valley to receive the Student Senate Ski Package this year and dramatically heighten my need for a slightly more legit AT setup.  My old G3's served me well and were a great setup at a great price for my introduction to touring.

Now they are again the first setup for a freshman at Bowdoin and I met the guy to sell them at the exact same location I met the guy I bought them from.  Nice and poetic.

I was very fortunate to get a Salomon hookup through a coworkers wife who works at a nordic center.  Proform is a very niiiiiiiiiice.  I ended up going with the Q Series Q-98 in a 180.  I needed some convincing from Dustin that 180 was the length to go.  Felt long, but I've been a bit out of the ski tech game for a bit and these early rise tip/tail skis ride quite a bit shorter and Salomon even has a honeycomb tip structure that is super light and makes for low swing weight.



Also ended up finding a deal on some Tyrolia Adrenaline AT bindings through Promotive.com as well as the BCA skins making the whole setup downright affordable.

This past Thursday I got a great opportunity to get my first test run on the new boards in 4-6in of fresh powder that eventually turned into some heavier junk bumps mid day.  First few runs were magnificent.  Such a good ski for me.  Super well rounded.  Confidence inspiring at speed, great edge hold.  Floats well and is surprisingly quick.  Once the terrain turned a bit more variable is when they really shined, particularly compared to the K2s I've been on to date.  Super stable, weren't bothered by crud at all.  Held lines like a champ.

And can I just say hook free taper is GOING TO CHANGE MY LIFE.

Such a simple concept but I doubt I'll ever want to ride a ski without it ever again.  Basically the widest part of the sidecut is quite a bit farther from the tip than is traditionally the case.  Keeps the tips from hooking in rough snow as well as the tips of the skis from getting hung up on each other when getting knocked together.

I've always had a huge problem with that with my K2s because of those damn decorative rivets they insist on putting on skis.  NEVER AGAIN.

The only thing I didn't get to test is how they do in the really tight trees.  My guess is there will be a slight learning curve.  Because I have been on softer park-esque boards for so long I think my style in the trees has adopted a bit of a 'smear' vibe that will probably be harder to do on these skis.  But with them primarily being my AT setup that scenario probably won't be too common anyhow.

Skins arrived a few days ago and I trimmed them up today.  Kinda wanted to just get G3 skins again but was able to get a much better deal on the BCA's and the reviews were pretty good.  They do seem like a solid skin although I definitely like the tail clip from my old G3s better and I also really appreciated the trim tool with built in offset.



I actually ended up just running the skins right to the edge and skipped doing the offset all together because it was just that annoying.  I also found enough articles of people who actually don't do the offset either for various reasons so I figured what the hell.  I can always trim the offset in later if I have problems.

Very much looking forward to my first tour on these bad boys.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Single Speed Cyclocross Build

I built a bike!

I feel like its been awhile since that has happened, and it took place mostly in Manarea v2.5 AKA the refurbished basement shop.  I've done hodge-podge work in the basement the last few winters but it was always a hack of a setup and it was primarily just to avoid the really cold days in the shed.

It was always on the to-do list to rework things in the basement, it was pretty gross down there.  I just wasn't sure how far I wanted to take the project.  In an ideal world I would have dug a bit deeper and graded everything and poured cement. But 'aint nobody got time for that so it turned into ripping out the old moisture barrier doing a bit of digging and raking to grade the dirt floor out and then laying down a much better/thicker moisture barrier.


I inherited a work bench from the demo project of Tony's garage, hung some bike hooks and BOOM.  Cold weather hibernation shop is a go!

Ok to the build.  This time of year Nashbar move out their model year generic frames at next to nothing ($79 to be exact).  They have gotten me with this three times now.  The blue chromoly MTB frame that was a monster cross for a time and is now Jake's go to whip.  The green frame which was my light touring / commuter for several years and now the red frame, a steel CX bike.

My commuter wasn't getting ridden this year really at all, due mostly to my wrist / stiff joints in the morning issues I've been dealing with.  That may not always be the case but that bike was always way over built for what it was doing 90% of the time and I really only used it on a touring ride one time.  Which was awesome but I have just never gotten around to doing that kind of riding and I think its unlikely I ever really would.

Now that I'm racing cross (and will probably continue to) I felt like I would get a lot more use out of a SS cross bike now plus I can always still commute on it here and there and get a good workout.  And at $79 for the frame and being able to swap almost all parts over this build ended up costing me maybe $130.


look at how awesome it is!

I pretty pleased with how it all came together.  All the leftover available components all matched completely.  White/red/black saddle, white stem, black fork, black bar tape...it was meant to be.  I had some left over cx tires that I had bought on clearance a long time ago and then never used because I got a deal on Clemente's through Chainline.  They get reduced in volume really bad on these old road rims though.  Eventually these will need some new wheels but this is more of a beater bike and will probably get 'new' parts as they trickle down from my 'better' bikes.


Only extra parts I had to buy were the handlebars (wanted something wider than I had for better SS torque), A better cable hanger for the front brake (the one I had been using on my commuter was a joke) and a chain ring.

I agonized a bit over gearing.  I have a very intimate knowledge of SS gearing for MTB but how certain gears translate to CX courses was a bit of a mystery.  I actually shift quite a bit at times on my geared bike.  I  did some research but there are too many body types and preferences when it comes to SS to get a good across the board recommendation.  I usually take what I read online and subtract a few gear inches (I'm a spinner) and go from there.

I settled on getting about the biggest ring I could find for a 104BCD crank that would create good ratios with all of the MTB sized cogs I already had.  Settled on 42-19 for my go-to race gear for now.  Most recommendations fell in the 55-65 gear inches range and 42-19 comes in at 59.7 (for reference I rode 44.4 inches for MTB).  This might end up being a bit steep for me depending on the course but I think its the best place to start.  It also allows me to easily step up to a 20 if I need to or down to 16 for commuting on the road.


I'm using the DMR STS tensioner I had been using on the party bike.  That build has gone into hibernation for a bit until it can inherit some better parts and I find the time to improve the braking.  This should work for now but I might eventually get a better tensioner and some sort of chain watcher for up front.  I'll have to see how it works once I can start riding it.

Now I can double up at CX races I have to drive farther to.  Race my category and SS so I'm not driving 2hrs to race for just 45mins.  Will probably also make a great winter training bike that I can either mount on my actual trainer or put the fenders on get ridiculous out on the snowy roads in the spring.

Who wants to buy a nashbar touring frame, real cheap?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New England Regional Cyclocross Championships 2014

Now I know why most people just call this race Fitchburg.  Thats a mouth full.

Unfortunately the 4/5 category is not a 'championship' category so we were not battling for the Champions jersey.  Not sure why that is, maybe a USA Cycling thing?  Just because we suck and we're slow means we can't attain Champion status?  I guess that makes sense actually.

Start of the SS race. Looking forward to joining these guys a bit next year.

Even though there was no sweet jersey on the line it was still a very well attended race particularly the 4/5's.  Max 125 pre-reg'd and I believe there were about 120 staged at the start.  I think that is the biggest field I've been in to date.  Lots of sandbaggers too.  Top 20 guys or so all had less than 400 crossresults points, some even had low 300's.  I was staged back mid pack at 56th.

Due to the flat and fast nature of the course and the large field sizes the promoters had incorporated a prologue loop for the start in an attempt to line things out a bit before heading into some of the more narrow parts of the course.  The last 1/4 mile of the course was a super wide (maybe 40ft?) flat grass highway so for the first lap they had us come through the start finish and then take a left instead of the usual right and we entered that last 1/4mi to drag race it out back through the start/finish and off to the rest of the course.

Because of this the promoters spent probably 5-10mins explaining that you didn't need to go nuts off the gun in the tighter finishing straight (with metal barriers on each side etc) because there would be plenty or room/time to pass in the massive grass highway.  GUESS WHAT HAPPENED????

Bunch of doods got tangled and exploded in the first 50ft.  Carnage happened about two rows up and to my right.  I was just able to sneak by the worst of it on the left but a few guys popped out of the front corner and collided sending one dude into the metal barriers. I just snuck by him as he fell over back into the course.  Crisis averted and I probably moved up at least a row or two in all the commotion.

Much of the rest of the day was a big ring hammerfest.  There were a few interesting features, small loose run up, an little up/down section on a small side hill with some logs to get over, small pinwheel followed by a chicane through a sandpit but the rest was all flat wide open grass.

I was bleeding spots most of the race.  Always in the long straightaways.  Luckily I had moved up pretty far in the start.  I would hang in a group for a bit, get dropped.  Catch back on at the run up or turny bits.  Hang with the group for a bit longer, get dropped.  Kinda went like that all day.  I was feeling ok and riding cleanly I just didn't have the mass and power to hang on those long drags.

At one point a gorilla of a dude came by me (must have been 250+?) going probably twice as fast as me turning a massive gear.  He probably hates hills but loves smashing guys like me on courses like this.

I was a bit isolated the last two laps dangling just outside top 30.  I was trying to catch two guys in front of me but was worried about saving some energy for the grass highway of doom.  And sure enough heading into that section I put my head down and tried to muster as many watts as I could but in the widest stretch probably 250yds or so from the finish a small group swamped me and just like that 4 guys go past.  I was able to get on the 4th wheel but I could hear more behind me as well.

We took a slight left (into a slight headwind) and continued to mash.  I was running out of juice and a small gap started to open to the wheel in front of me.  We rounded the last corner into the finishing straight.  I dropped a gear got out the saddle and tried to punch it but there wasn't much there.  I got back up to 4th wheel but didn't have enough to get around.  I had drifted right a bit and got a tad boxed in and a kid came back with a ton of momentum up the left had side and nipped me at the line. #whoops.

Lost 5 spots in the last 1/4 mi to fall from 35th to 40th.  Stings a bit, but considering I'm not built for grass crits at all and that I was predicted to come in 56th I still feel pretty good about it.  Decently strong end to the season for me.  I've still got Ice Weasels in a few weeks but I can't see myself taking that one too seriously.  What with all the beer and probably snow/cold etc.  Plus my training from here till then will consist of Thanksgiving and Thanxmas.  #foodwatts

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Paradise Cross Frenzy 2014

This race and this blog should get married.  Bikes and beers. Racing at a brewery. I like it. a lot. Except that this course wasn't all that great for me.  But its all good, its not about results for me in CX.  Just fun and a good workout and this delivered.

Even though this race is put on by a local shop (Paradise Sports) I feel like they should make it more obvious that the race takes place at the Harpoon Brewery.  I feel like this race should have been way better attended.  It wasn't a ghost town but I mean come on guys ITS AT A BREWERY.


Course was trending a bit more towards grass crit, probably the first real 'power' course I've done so far.  Longer straightaways, false flats, pretty much all grass, one bigger run up followed by an off camber descent into more straightaways...180....straightaway...180...repeat.  Don't get me wrong I'm not saying the course was bad in any way I just don't have the mass to throw down on grass.  Now if this course had been wet? Oh man...game on.

It was a pretty small 4/5 field, maybe 33 pre-reg'd(?).  No staging or call-ups so I ended up second row, probably about where I would have been anyway.  I think race predictor had me at about 13th. Start was fast and then it was pretty much full gas, very little recovery the rest of the race.  Most of the turny bits were very quick and offered no respite before you were out of the saddle and hammering down the next straightaway.  There were a few punchy little climbs as well that did a great job of murdering my legs.

The steep run up was fun, I'm finding I'm much faster getting up stuff like that then most others.  The off camber descent was interesting.  As the race went on it got a bit choppy and because you are just remounting at the top you have to be real sure you hit your pedals otherwise things got sketchy fast.  One of my middle laps I remounted too fast / sloppy and had a hilarious descent of almost exploding about 4 times.



I was in the front group of about 10(ish) for the first lap and a half.  I was on the tail of the group getting whipped around a bit as I would try to hold wheels in the straightaways only to get jammed up in the corners and then have to sprint back on.  Eventually that rubber band snapped and they drifted away.  I was solo in no mans land for a bit until a few guys caught me.  Spent the rest of the race yo-yo'ing with a few of them.

It felt like a really long race.  Probably because it was so fast.  Felt like we ended up doing maybe 6-7 laps instead of the usual 4-5.  No real idea where I ended up (stuck around for a bit but never saw results)  Maybe top 15?  I believe I made 2 passes on the last lap, one on the run up and another just after the barriers.

Reg came with a free beer wooden nickel which was awesome, way better than a t-shirt (mountain bike promoters take note).  I'm fairly certain I'd do this one again.  Although I'll pray for rain next year.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Orchard Cross 2014

orchards make great CX venues

As my cyclocross experiment continues I think I have found my favorite course/event so far.  Orchard CX at Applecrest Farm has some serious production value.  Farm equipment on hand to build interesting course features, a full blown farm stand/market complete with cider donuts and hot cider, a petting zoo, pick your own apples...oh and a cross race.

tower of power

The 4/5 race was loaded.  Full combined field with the juniors of 100 and 91 starters in my race.  Luckily my current points got me staged third row.  First part of the start went smoothly.  Everything was fine until we reached the second corner with a short rise up to another straightaway.  Corner was gravel so of course a guy crashes right in front of me.  Luckily he popped right back up and it only held me up for a moment but it was enough to kill momentum and lose a few spots.

Luckily most of the rest of my 1st and 2nd lap went great.  I was feeling good and the course was great for me.  Many of the corners could be taken at pretty high speed if you knew what you were doing and that is an area where I know a bit more than others.  Carnage was minimal early on although there was plenty of dudes catching tape and/or apple tree branches.  There were some really cool man made features on the course the best of which was probably Cowbell Corner.



Basically a huge bermed turn with a whoop and then a miny table top right after.  The high line was top fun.

I got into a good group and was racing for top 20 for a bit on my second lap.  Heading into the 3rd lap things started going a bit less ideal for me.  The super fast juniors started working their way through and caught us about 1/3 of the way through the 3rd lap.  One of them crept up on me and tried to come around wide on a high speed slick sweeping corner.  I didn't know he was there and as I was using the course to drift out and scrub my speed without taking too sharp of a turn we bumped and because he probably saw me coming he prepared and held his line and I ended up sliding out and going down.

Wasn't a bad crash but enough to tweak my shifter a bit and drop my chain and lose the group I was in.  I can sit here and try to blame him but that's cross.  I probably would have just given him the pass if he said something because I wasn't technically racing him but ultimately its on me.  If I had known he was there I would have also prepared and just put him in the tape.  Oh well, I can always take out the juniors in my next race.

Took me a bit to get back into the groove after that.  I was probably still top 25(ish) at this point but it looked unlikely I was going to get back up to that bigger group.  Luckily a few other guys dropped off that group as well and I swept them up about half way through the last lap.  Passed one heading up a false flat drag into a high speed corner that I was able to take much faster and got the next at the main run up where he bobbled.

I was able to put a bit of real estate on them but I was getting tired and pushing hard for the finish and starting to make some mistakes and poor line choices.  I think keeping a level head last lap might be something I need to work on.  Less frenetic more business.  It looked like one of the guys had cracked but the other was surging.  I had maybe 5 secs heading into the final barriers which I thought was going to be enough.  Until I completely missed my remount after the barriers.  Like completely missed my pedal on both feet and came to a dead stop heading into the false flat sprint to the finish.  Not ideal.

My 5 sec gap decreased rapidly and I was looking at a 100yd sprint against a dude that was built quite a bit better for sprinting than me.  I put in a valiant effort but he nipped me by maybe half a wheel at the line.  Ended up with 23rd of 91.  My best result to date so far.  I had been in the group that ultimately contested 17th-21st. I seem to be figuring this cross thing out, points continue to lower and I'm having a good ole time doing it.

Next race will probably be at the Harpoon Brewery in VT.  Can't beat that!