Monday, December 22, 2014

Framed Minnesota 1.0 (YAY FAT BIKES!)

Ok so I guess its time to finally post my take on these wonderfully wide tire'd marvels of modern ingenuity.

I've got about 35mi on my new Framed Minnesota 1.0 and I'm a believer. Fat bikes have been the talk of the industry in a major way for probably the last two years or so.  Now that they have plowed through the gimmick phase more and more manufacturers are getting in on the game and offering tons and tons of options.

I had been waiting for the solid budget option seeing as much of my winter money goes towards skiing.  It very much seems like Framed has become the budget model of choice at least by what I can tell by chatter in New England.  Seems like I was hearing them talked about constantly this Fall and they certainly have figured out a pretty good formula with their Minnesota line.

I added more reflectors since this pic

Classic XC geometry, modest parts spec and super affordable.  Perfect stable bike if you ask me.  Get in cheap, make sure you like it and will use it regularly and then upgrade parts accordingly.  I prefer the trickle down approach so as I upgrade my race bike my fat bike also gets more awesome.  I feel like the Minnesota 1.0 is to fat bikes what the Redline Monocog was to SS when it was the stable bike everyone wanted to experiment with a few years ago.

So far the bike is holding up well.  I beat on it pretty well this past weekend.  Headset needed to be snugged up at about mile 20 of our ride but that's no big deal and very possibly could have come a bit loose from the factory.  I got my first pinch flat as well which was fun.  Dealing with fat bike tires/tubes trail side is hilarious.

I was running Central NH snow riding pressure not Southern NH dirt/rocks pressure and found a big rock and got the biggest snake bite I've ever seen.  I don't even own spare fat tubes yet so I had to patch a tube for the first time in years.  Luckily I was actually riding with my camelbak and had a patch kit.  I think I'm going to need to purchase a new trail pump for fat biking though.  My little crank brothers pump doesn't cut it.  I would probably still be out there pumping if I didn't get a pump from someone else.

The bike rides really well.  I feel at home on it like I did with my old Monocog.  That standard XC geometry just seems to work well for me.  Climbs a lot better than expected as well which is nice.  The only thing I need to get used to is the inertia of the wheels and the whole 'self steering' phenomenon.  Its a weird feeling that is hard to explain but suffice it to say there is a lot of rolling weight and sometimes it just kinda does what it wants.

I was commenting on it on this past ride and several of the more experienced fat bikers said tires can make a big difference with that so I might be looking into a new set based on their recommendations.  I also always seem to get better at offsetting it the longer I ride it.  Start out a bit shaky but within a few miles I'm good to go.

I can certainly see the appeal of these things.  They definitely bring back the adventure aspect of riding.  A little less emphasis on fitness and efficiency and more on FUN.  I think its the same reason gravel bikes are as big as they are right now.  Its the same concept but for roadies.  Cyclists are currently buying adventure and fun.  You can call the bike whatever you want but that's what we're buying right now.  The nice thing is while I'm having all this adventure and fun my legs are also hauling around a 35-40lb bike with a good portion of that weight being rotational. #secretworkout

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 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 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 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!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gordon Barker No Brakes Race 2014

I finally figured out why my cross results aren't quite as good as I thought they might be...I'm not actually fit! Like really at all!  Well I mean I am decently in shape, I haven't been doing nothing all summer but I certainly don't have the "normal" amount of race efforts etc. that I have in my legs this time of year.

I sort of had it in my head that despite that fact I had ridden enough to be in similar shape to years past.  I had this in my head because I hadn't had a good familiar race MTB effort to inform me otherwise.  Until yesterday when I got dusted at the No Brakes race.  Apparently the sharp end of my fitness is about as sharp as silly putty.

I suppose in my defense the Expert field was a bit stacked.  These late season races have a tendency to only bring out the folks who trend a bit more serious and fit.  Who probably all have a full season of racing in their legs.  And also in my defense I was in the back of the front group for maybe the first mile or so until putting my transmission in reverse.

It happened slowly but just about every time there was an extended climb or there was a prolonged straightaway power section or just about anything that required that punch, it just wasn't there and guys would pass me here and there for just about the whole first lap.  I didn't feel bad on the bike and I was riding cleanly it was just like being at 3/4 speed and trying to hit the gas and getting nothing.

I got over it pretty fast though.  I adjusted my expectations and just got to enjoying the fact that I was riding "hard" on my mountain bike and my wrists weren't really hurting.  The trails at Stratham Hill Park aren't super technical by any means but they are certainly more than Franklin Falls which is really just about all I've been riding off road this year.

Even though I was hanging back in the tail end of the field there were still guys back there with me and it felt like racing.  I got to battle with a guy second lap a bit.  We were together for much of the lap.  I was a bit smoother in the turny stuff, gaps would open and close.  Ultimately I tried to 'attack' him right before the last climb of the day but really all I did was eliminate myself from contention once and for all.  All my last little effort did was suck the last remaining glycogen stores out and initiate a nice little mini-bonk.

I was a bit lazy with race prep and probably didn't have enough calories before / during the race.  We were only about 1mi out from the finish and if I had really cared I probably could have kept the pace up and battled and just collapsed after the finish but I definitely didn't care that much.  Struggled up the last climb and soft pedaled in to the finish.  Even got nipped about 20ft from the line by a guy finishing strong haha.

I really enjoy the course at No Brakes and I've said it before and I'll say it again I hope the promoter thinks about making the leap into one of the summer series.  The facilities are great, the course is well balanced and the proceeds go to building and maintaining the trails at the park.  Can't ask for much more than that.

My wrists are somewhat holding up this morning albeit a bit sore.  I think this race was a good indication that I'll be able to get back into things next year at least on courses that aren't too crazy.  It felt great to be out in the woods hurting real bad on some sweet trails.  I didn't really realize how much I missed it.  I think I can eventually get over not being as fit as I was in 2012 and just focus on being pain free and having fun.  Here's to hoping I'll be back at it in 2015.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hanover CX 2014

Oh the humanity!

I'm coming to realize that sometimes you just miss the giant race changing pile up and sometimes you don't.  That's life and that's racing.  And sometimes the entire race is a massive mess of pileup after pileup where your only hope is trying to minimize the damage.

I exaggerate a bit.  Today wasn't quite that bad but it was probably the closest I've seen to that in my short CX career.  Hanover is probably the most technical course I have seen to date and it was apparent that many guys in the 4/5 field don't spend a lot of time on singletrack that has roots and leaves and short/sharp hills.

The course had several singletrack sections most of which had a steep incline into the trail and then a very steep but short descent dumping back out onto a path or road.  So gearing was key, picking the right line was extra key and the knowledge of when and where to apply pressure so as to not spin out and fall over was at a premium.  There was also a huge beach section next to the pond in the park that was really interesting.  This weeks heavy rain had created these little drainage fissures running through the sand as well as these pretty deep depressions where water had pooled.  It was three sand straightaways with corresponding 180 hairpins.  The straightaways were pretty easy but the corners were chewed up soft/deep sand.  Pretty easy to ride early but got harder and harder and ultimately probably got faster to just run.

The first lap crazy was a bit extra crazy.  There wasn't quite enough of a run out before we hit the first chokepoint which included a steep run up straight into singletrack.  I got to the top and was greeted by a parking lot.  Standing room only, guys just milling around waiting for their turn to move.  Luckily I'm pretty good and making passes in singletrack parking lots so I started hauling up the side running past people as they tried to clip in in traffic.

Got up to about where I wanted to be at that point somewhere in the 15-20th range and got into a small group heading into the sand.  Had to run a lot of the ups and downs into singletrack because of the traffic.  Made a few more passes but also got passed here and there.  I REALLY need to work on my power at threshold.  Far too many of my hard earned passes in technical stuff come right back when it flattens and widens out.  GOTTA MAKE THOSE STICK.

Second lap was my fastest.  Things had spread out and the group I was in was working pretty well.  I was able to ride most singletrack sections that lap due to clean paths to make a solid attempt.  At that point I was fairly certain I was in for a good day.  I was racing for top 15 and legs felt pretty good.  Then we lapped through and got up and around the first little chicane and were heading down to the sharp 180 into the first run up aaaaaaaaand our group exploded.  Quite literally.

I was taking a wide line in the middle of the group and getting ready to dismount heading into the turn.  Just as I clicked out some sort of something happened back and to the left (BACK AND TO THE LEFT).  I'm guessing some guys got tangled trying to turn and ended up going straight.  Right into me.  Basically got sideswiped and went down pretty hard on my left side.  Picked up even more rash on my left leg to add to my shin gash but the biggest casualty was my left brifter.  The next time I tried to get into my big ring it was no dice.  Almost seemed like the two paddles were stuck together somehow.  I was stuck spinning to win and was having a hard time holding the tail end of the group.

Then I finally got into the big ring and things were fine...for a bit.  Until the next time I had to get off the big ring.  Rinse and repeat as necessary in order to loose almost ten places over the next 2-3 laps.  Lost all rhythm and got bogged down or spun out repeatedly for the rest of the race.  By the last lap I think the paddles finally freed themselves and it seems fine now that I've cleaned the bike up.  I made two or three passes on the last lap and was about to make one more but ran out of race.  Came in 23rd  of 60ish? (exactly where race predictor said I would).  I was staged 30th so even with all the strife I'm ok with the outcome.

It was a really fun course.  Although I would have loved to race it with maybe half the people. Now its back to racing for NEMBA tomorrow and Orchard CX next weekend! #braap

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Night Weasels Cometh


After all these years of following the fun on the internet I finally got to experience Night Weasels in the flesh.  It's a certified HOOT.  Especially when its wet, which from what I've heard is always the case.

Eric and I showed up early.  We walked the course trying to find the inevitable choke points and to watch the Cat 5 Carnage Extravaganza. There were a few good crashes, some stair failures but overall not too bad.

I was excited for the course.  Seemed like it was going to cater to some of my strengths compared to most other racers, at least from my experience so far.  This course is a bit more climby than most which helps neutralize the bigger/heavier power guys and those climbs mean descents which neutralize the guys who can't steer a bike.  Add in some greasy mud and slick grass and I'm a happy camper.

Our start was the combined 4/5 under 40 and 40+ fields which meant 102 guys toe'ing the line. #YEEHAA.  I was staged 52nd or so, although they were calling up rows of 8 and I noticed several guys drifting a bit forward as we rolled up.  All things considered the start was pretty civil and issue free.  No massive pile-ups (that I saw or was involved in anyway) or bad stop and go traffic.  I was able to move up a bit in the early goings on the first climb but I would say most of my passing was done on the descents.

best thing about our Chainline kits? easy to spot in a sea of #meatpylons

hammering along in the group that formed early

(photos courtesy of Russ Campbell Photography - he's got some great work check it out!)

Lots of weaving in and out of dudes.  My Clemente PDX's were hooking up great.  Plenty of times I can remember coming into corners way hotter than those around me while they washed out and I railed past.  Most guys don't round their lines out nearly enough (particularly when its wet) and their abrupt attempts to turn usually end in sadness.  Luckily I'm getting pretty good at quickly identifying guys who have it wrong and I'm even getting good at anticipating when/where they are going to lose it so that I can avoid them.

Ultimately I ended up in a small group yo-yo'ing a bit for the middle laps.  A few guys would stay close enough on the downs to catch me on the finishing straight but they wouldn't have enough to drop me on the climbs and I would pass and gap them on the descents.  Eventually that group dwindled as some of the guys ran out of juice with 2 laps to go.  One guy packed it in mentally pretty spectacularly as the announcer called '2 laps to go!' as we were pulling through and he yells 'Wait...2?!'  Never saw him again.

When I attempt to upgrade to Cat 4 early I'm just going to send this photo subject "c'mon"
(photo courtesy of Nick Czerula another great cycling photog)

this looks like I'm about to implode against that barrier but I can assure you I cleared it with impeccable form.
(obstacle photos courtesy of Katie Busick. So many good photogs at cross races!)

I had a pretty good battle with a Minuteman Road Club guy last lap.  He put in a good dig on the first longer climb.  I was at my limit and made the, probably incorrect, decision to let him go a bit knowing that I had the better of him on the downs.  He got a bigger gap than I would have liked and he was taking bigger risks on the descents than he did on previous laps and the gap was not coming down as fast as I thought it would.  Heading into the final climb and descent I could tell he was starting to fade and I was getting closer.  I pushed as hard as I could and he was bleeding seconds.  Rounding the bottom of the lift heading into the last little chicane he had maybe 15-20ft.  We were passing some lapped traffic coming into that turn and I got a bit jammed up.

He got into the finishing straight first as I was taking a wide line around the traffic.  Gap opened back up a bit but I got back up to speed pretty fast and I was closing immediately.  I definitely had a bit more left than he did and I was coming up on him fast. Buuuuuuut I ran out of road.  Got me by half a bike length.  5 more feet and I would have had it.

Ended up 34th in the full 102 rider field and I think 15th in under 40.  I'm happy with that.  Moved up about 20 places or so from my start position and lowered my crossresults points.  Thats a win.  Great course, great event.  It was a blast watching the pro men and women under the lights.  They go real fast.  If I stick with this whole cross thing I will certainly come back.

(another great shot for Chainline Cycles from Katie Busick)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

White Park and Sucker Brook CX

NH Cyclocross weekend! #brapp #embro #handupsarenotacrime #keepcrossweird #etc

I (double) dipped my toes into the world of CX this weekend!  First go at it was White Park in Concord NH on Saturday and Sunday it was Sucker Brook down in Auburn.  I think it was just about as perfect an introduction as I could have hoped for.  Saturday was cold and dry and Sunday was wet and wild.  Aaaaand I'm pretty much hooked.


As I'm trying to think back on things now I'm realizing CX races are going to be very hard to recap.  Fast and furious and at your limit the whole time are not the ideal conditions for remembering accurate details.  But here goes I think I at least have most of the good / relevant / funny stuff in my memory banks still.

White Park:

The 4/5 races seem to usually be the first ones to get the day started.  Start time at White Park was 8am, luckily I didn't have to drive that far.  It was still pretty crisp at that early morning hour, somewhere around 40 degrees at race time.  My fingers and toes got a bit cold but other than that max efforts warm you up real nice, real fast.

I don't have any points yet (but I do now!) and many races stage based primarily on points.  I found out the importance of call-ups and staging almost immediately.  I was square at the back of a 65+ rider field at the gun.  My original plan was to maybe try and shoot up one of the sides but the particular nature of that start chute made that tough combined with the fact that EVERYONE had that idea.

I got pinched at a few of the early corners and was fully entrenched in some pretty hilarious traffic.  All while the front two rows waved bye.  Then we got to the first tiny little incline heading into an immediate hairpin 180 turn back down and some guy went 3/4 of the way up and then just straight up tipped over right in the middle of the course. Still clipped in.  TRAINED.

Things finally opened up for a bit as we worked our way around the baseball fields.  Made it through the barriers pretty smoothly and rounded a corner into the first steep S turn climb.  More clipped in tipping over.  More ridiculousness like this ensued for most of the rest of the first lap and much of the second as well.  Towards the end of my second lap I was settling in and getting a bit more comfortable with some of my lines etc. bombing down a short little steep hill into a sharp 90 I took a line a bit more inside and hit some kind of bump or something.  It was a sharp enough impact at speed that my handlebars rotated forward in down in my stem and the tip of my saddle wrenched down.

Luckily shortly after I was able to push down and forward on my drops hard enough to get my bars back to just about normal but I had to deal with a cock-eyed saddle the rest of the race.  I lost a few seconds trying to get situated after that as well as a few places.  Seconds are HUGE in cross.  Little mistakes are big mistakes.  I got back to business but had a hard time getting into a good rhythm.  Not sure if it was the course or me.  Probably a combo.  I was having a hard time 'putting everything together'.  I kept forgetting to shift at the right time and was getting over geared in spots.

I was in a small group for most of the rest of the race.  Passing in the technical spots and getting passed back in some of the more open stuff.  Last lap I was able to get away from them pushing it a bit through some corners and got in for 26th.  Just a bit better than mid-pack.  I was kind of expecting to do better in the 4/5 field but I was basing that on nothing and no experience.  I learned some lessons, had a good time and was even back home with most of my day still in front of me.  I'll take it!

Sucker Brook:

The forecast for Sunday had been great all day Saturday and then Saturday night I check again and things had shifted around to 'rain all day'. Oh good.  And It wasn't even really a sarcastic 'oh good' I was glad I was going to get a full blown muddy cross race in my first weekend.  I had a feeling I would do better in conditions like that and probably have a ton more fun.  I was also told that Sucker Brook was much more open and fast than White Park and I figured some adverse conditions would hold up some of the watt factory guys that like that stuff.

ridin' durtay

Luckily the temps were higher Sunday so the rain wasn't all that uncomfortable and it actually let up for the most part during our race but the damage was done.  Slick mud in the corners, standing water in spots...a good ole time!  The course was certainly more open than White Park but I thought it had a bunch of interesting turny bits and cool features.  Stairs, bridge, one set of barriers, big log step-up, sand pit.  Plenty of places to take advantage of and or suck at.

I was again staged on the back row of a slightly smaller field because they split the Open 4/5 and the Masters 35+ by 1min this time.  But I still had a solid 50 people in front of me.  This start chute had a bit more promise for me.  False flat pavement hill to a left hander onto gravel and then right into the grass/mud.  Gun went and I nailed my clip in and the guy right in front of me did not.  Just like that, up one row.  The road was wide and some pockets opened up and quite a few guys started off a bit over geared and as they attempted to get up to speed on the false flat I was able to sneak a bit farther up.

many thanks to teammate Sam for taking pics!

I was maybe about mid pack heading into the turn onto gravel and shortly after that there was a small depression that had some standing water and just a bit of mud.  I have no idea how this happened but somehow a guy about 5-10ft in front and to my left EXPLODED.  Full flip, bike in the air, dirt nap.  Two guys to my left plowed into him and got tangled up and everyone immediately behind him was held up.  But I was just to the right and snuck by.  Now I'm probably top 25 with a slight gap to the rest of the field.

The first part of the course was all the turny bits and very early I realized I was gonna have a better day than Saturday.  I was holding speed better than a lot of riders in my vicinity and making passes here and there.  I was making the right gearing calls, navigated my first go at the stairs cleanly and even made a pass there.  Some of the passes I would make would come back on the tail end of the course with the wide open fire road haul.  Definitely need to work on my leg strength and raw WATTS.

post sand-pit hammering

Shouldering and running through the sand pit went ok.  Shouldering the bike is a bit hard with the wrists but its a quick motion so it wasn't too bad and I didn't seem to be loosing any ground on the run.  Much of the rest of the laps were a bit of a blur.  I kept it upright all day which is more than I think most of the field can say.  I even had a mini battle with a guy on my last lap.  I passed him in the turny stuff but he closed on me in the longer straight sections and passed me back.  I was able to get on his wheel and passed him back in a quick down/up with a 180 degree turn that he tried to ride and stalled; I had been running it all day which I think was the right call.  I got a tiny gap that he quickly closed and we went into the barriers side by side.

why does my ankle look like its broken?

I did them a tad cleaner than him and got another tiny gap heading into the LONG fire ride haul.  He passed me but I was able to just barely grab his wheel.  I had to dig pretty deep to stay there and almost called it but then I remembered WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAVING ENERGY FOR?!  I gained a bit of ground on the log step up and I was right on his wheel heading into the sand pit.  I had a slightly cleaner dismount and the tiniest of gaps on the run.  I think I must have had a better remount as well but I didn't waste much time taking a peak back.  I got back on put it in the big ring and put as much down as I could muster.  I got out to the pavement climb coming into the finish and opened up my sprint.  Still had some decent power and figured I had it but snuck a peek under my shoulder to see where he was.  I had maybe 20-30ft and that was all she wrote.  RACING BIKES!  For a mediocre finish (16th) in the 4/5 field!  But who cares, we both enjoyed it.  Shared a fist bump after the line and I look forward to stalking him on in short order.

I have to pour over results a bit more, but I think I beat a good amount of people Sunday who beat me Saturday.  I'm gonna call this weekend a 100% win.  A marginally successful entrance to a new discipline and a whole ton of fun.

all clean. lets do it again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hoppy Red

Can it be? *insert phoenix metaphor*

Yes its true.  I'm brewing again.  And just in time for #Squamtoberfest.  Gonna be cutting it close with this one, but I'm brewing on a weeknight just to make sure I've got a bit over 4 weeks into this batch before its time to drink.  Should be enough but I usually like to take a bit more time even with kits that claim they are good in 4.

I wanted something simple yet flavorful.  Simple to make the time constraints but flavorful because its basically Fall now and the time for Shandy's has passed (even though that makes me very sad. although in another few years I feel like I will just drink those year round because #yolo).

Sooo I ended up going with a basic Red Ale but with a recipe that is a bit more in the West Coast American tradition.  A bit more body with a nice citrusy hops finish.  Chinook, Perle, Centennial and Cascade hops in this one.  Pretty interesting mix, should make for a nice profile.

Even though its been a while I picked right back up with the process.  Contrary to somewhat popular belief I didn't take this hiatus due to my now accepted British Bitter dud of a batch but more due to hauling around large quantities of liquid and having to twist wrists to dump things out etc. wasn't really doable.

Home Brew Injured Reserve.  Its a thing. Its still not all that easy or pain free but its doable now.  Its good to be back.  I'm thinking about getting another IBA going for winter.  I love me some IBA's.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Macho Man beef'd up

Twitter keeps telling me that #cxiscoming.  Its also telling me #crossisdead.  WHICH ONE IS IRONIC?! Although I think my favorite is #crossisdad due to the fact that so many guys who race cross are middle aged fathers.

I'm officially reg'd for some races and I'm ready to get this experiment rolling but my bike was still in 'road mode' until yesterday.  Conversion to cx mode was incredibly easy and just reaffirmed my thoughts that this is the best build idea I've ever had.  So versatile and so orange.

Conversion really only consisted of new chainrings and tires and swapping pedals.  Thats it.  BOOM cross mode.  I also splurged on some bar tape.  Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm, pricey but AMAZING.  Its a bit 'rubbery' for lack of a better term but the increase in shock absorption is awesome and its even got a bit of stickum to it.  If you can get over the price tag I Highly recommend it (with a capital H).

Swapped out the 50/34 compact road setup for a more cx friendly 46/36.  Its still an ok range of gears for general road riding so I probably could still put the 25c tires back on there if I wanted to do some longer road rides this fall.  Although I definitely missed the 34 on a couple of the steeper dirt roads back by the house on my test ride this morning.  I actually got away without needing to drop the FD a bit.  Shifting was fine on the stand and on the ride this morning but I'll probably drop it a bit before racing to make sure I'm not dropping the chain constantly.

For tires I went with the Clemente Crusade PDX.  Eric is all about the Clementes and they seem to make some great stuff.  Particularly in the gravel and cx arena.  They mounted up awesome.  Ever since #shittywrists became a thing I have a huge appreciation for tire manufacturers who size stuff correctly so you don't need to give yourself a hernia getting the tire on the rim.  Not going to run them tubeless this year.  I've had so many issues with tubeless on my MTB that I've just assumed that the Universe doesnt have that in the cards for me this year.  Plus I've heard some horror stories of tubeless setups not working well with cx at all but I guess we'll see.  They seem like a good all-round tire and traction was great on the jeep roads today.

I'll probably be modifying some of my lunch rides to have some cx practice mixed in.  Maybe ride Gyro and ride around in fields and run up embankments and the what not.  Maybe jump some barriers, who knows I don't know how this stuff works.

keep CX weird

We got a diagnosis or what?!

I'm kinda getting sick of talking about my #shittywrists but I figured one final(ish) update made sense.  I went back in to see my Ortho last week(?) week before maybe, I forget.  Mainly to touch base and bring him up to speed on the progress made during my first big block of PT.

He seemed to think that based on the progress I've made and the behavior of the pain / recovery that it is unlikely that it is anything really nasty like RA.  Which is good news.  But he did say that based on everything hes seen between X-ray, MRI, and his physical examination of my wrists etc. that in his opinion there is some sort of 'seronegative arthritis' present.

Seronegative is a very general term that is used to describe a whole bunch of different kinds of arthritis (caused by all different kinds of things) that don't have the rheumatoid factor and will not show up on blood tests.  These types of arthritis are commonly much less severe and can in some cases completely resolve themselves.  They can also be very cyclical and can come and go based on some trigger or other environmental factor.

Many seronegative forms can also target tendons not just joints which is why he is leaning in that direction because one thing we have learned through the course of PT is that the last remaining pain/mobility issue that I have and more than likely the root of my problems is an angry Extensor Carpi Ulnaris or ECU.  In a lot of ways you could probably call my issue chronic tendinitis.  We just don't 100% know what is causing the inflammation.  Could be arthritis or it could be I destroyed myself riding rigid started the repetitive stress train rolling and now I can't stop it.

The (sort of) good news is that either way; seronegative arthritis or epic repetitive stress the strategy going forward is the same.  Work any and all anti-inflammation techniques and supplement with PT to keep mobility and strength.  So thats whats I'm going to do.  Targeting the ECU has really gotten me to that next plateau.  I can ride my road/cx bike basically pain free on lighter terrain.   Diffuse pain during the day is far less and if I keep compression on the tendon itself that helps a lot.

As funny as this sounds there is an off chance there is some shoulder and back involvement as well that could be hampering my recovery which could have been introduced from ergonomics at work.  I've made some tweaks recently and I have an appointment to have some Graston done on some back and shoulder muscles to try and hit the reset button and loosen everything down through.

So there you have it.  For simplicity sake I think going forward I will refer to my wrist issues as chronic tendinitis possibly caused by seronegative arthritis. I'll keep battling and getting gnar as best I can. #POSITIVITY

Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Month Slips by...

You'd think by my silence here and with my continuing health issues that I'd be doing nothing and falling into a deep deep depression.  But you'd be wrong.  If anything I've been too busy to post and my wrists have been ping-ponging so much every time I think I have some progress worth reporting things relapse and I think I'm screwed once again.

But I'm happy to report that my wrists have trended well for long enough that I feel like updating on that front as well as all the other crap I've been up to.  Last really bad weekend I had was my bach'fest weekend.  I don't know if anyone noticed.  I've gotten pretty good at compartmentalizing the pain.  Not sure what I did but Saturday night into Sunday morning was less than awesome.  Luckily that weekend was 150% full blown awesome so it more than balanced things out.

Luckily I had a PT appointment shortly after that trip and we tried a new treatment called Graston Technique.  It's fairly brutal but I love it.  Basically involves a series of metal tools with different shapes / edges that get 'scraped' along muscles to break up adhesions.  Doc went to town on my right forearm and the next day was a complete 180 from that #shittywrist weekend.

There have been a few mini relapses since then but I've gotten a second Graston treatment and some new stretches to focus on the remaining aspects of my mobility that have improved the least since we started and they really seem to be helping.  Everyday I'm gaining more and more confidence that this isn't something nasty that is insurmountable.  I'm heading back in to see the Ortho in a week or so and I will be pressuring him hard to use his Doctor brain to posit some additional theories other than Rheumatoid.

In and among the ups and downs I've managed to stay pretty active this summer, albeit without any racing.  This ordeal has created a bit of a shake up in what I can and can't do for fun and fitness and some good has actually come from this.  Not only have I managed to stay fit but I think I'm probably climbing as well as I ever have on my road bike.  VAM numbers are consistently over 1,000 and I've even been flirting with road KOMs again.  Ideally I would love to be able to ride off road a bit more but road seems to work a bit better for me right now and being able to do gravel and dirt on the Macho Man has been awesome.  So many new loops and opportunities for really interesting rides.

For instance last week Eric and I rode out of the shop and in the span of 18mi got over 2,000ft of climbing taking in the access road up the back of Belknap Mountain.  Crazy steep dirt switchbacks, actually felt like a true alpine climb although it wasn't really all that long.  Then after the sketchy descent we cut through the woods on an old trial that was just a bit wider than singletrack.

My inability to get on a bike first thing in the morning due to wrist stiffness has also introduced the lunch ride into my arsenal.  I loved commuting but I think I might like consistent lunch rides better.  I think one of the big reasons my fitness is what it is right now has been these faster / harder 10mi loops on lunch.  Target a few segments and before you know it I've been accidentally training for CX for weeks.

Speaking of CX that should be hilarious.  I've got my USA Cycling license and I'm looking forward to showing up to my first Cat 5 race in a full on pink skinsuit.  I think CX could be my savior this year.  I can get my racing fix without a huge time commitment or as much risk for my wrists.

I'm interested to see what this will mean for me long term.  Assuming I get past this whole wrist thing I can't honestly say its likely I return to my full blown MTB race schedule of years past.  If CX works and I like it I see myself targeting 2-4 MTB races with the primary goal being the team and having fun then getting a few additional CX races in the Fall.  I know now I can get my fitness without racing a bike hard all the time.  Without the full race schedule this year I've gotten to spend more time with Gina which has been great.  Trips to the beach, getting up to Littleton.  I was able to snag a 4,000ft'er with Mike.  Racing is great, setting and reaching goals is great but ultimately meaningless when compared to the other stuff.  Don't forget to enjoy the view.

Who knows maybe I had spent too much time leaning in one direction and this whole year has been the Universe helping me to balance things back out.  I would have preferred a less drastic approach but if I'm being honest with myself nothing short of this would have worked.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Linking Franklin Falls, Highland XC & Spaulding Woods

I've had this idea in my head for a bit now, maybe a year or so?  Highland and Spaulding have come a long way in a short time with their XC trails.  They don't have a ton of mileage per se but the quality of what is there now is really good and definitely worth checking out.

I was fairly certain that linking them all up via bike would certainly be possible but I wasn't sure if it would be more of a slog where you could say 'OK I did that but never again'.  I'm happy to report that not only is it not a slog at all but it is down right reasonable if not fully enjoyable.  That is if you like riding your bike for 4-6hrs.

I pitched the idea to Doug P. who certainly likes riding his bike for as long as possible and he signed right up. We started the day at FFD riding everything on offer there.  Its nice to be able to ride the first 10 or so miles there as a warm up without really needing to haul much gear because you can always stop at the car to grab extra gear before hitting the road.  Grabbed a few bottles and my camelbak and we set off down the road.

We took Babbitt Rd. off Rt.127 to Sanborn St.  Eventually Sanborn turns into dirt (at Calef Hill) road name might technically change as well but who knows really. After a short distance that dirt road veers right and probably turns into someones driveway but if you stay straight it turns into a logging / jeep road that Google calls Pest House Rd.

Pest House was actually a pleasant surprise.  It was interesting riding terrain, a bit like some of the stuff in NH100.  Rutted out double track with some boulders here and there  There was a small logging operation going and there was a sign that said 'Motion Cameras in Use' but I think that is probably more to deter the jeeps tearing everything up.  It was a nice little climb heading out and a really fun/fast descent coming back.

The rest of the way was pavement over to Highland.  A nice cruise into Tilton and then a bit of a climb up to Highland.  Highlands XC network was interesting.  Really well built trails but geared a bit more towards the dualie crowd if you ask me.  Don't get me wrong they are some sweet trails but if you are on a hardtail you had better stay attentive.  Lots of up and down (ski hill go figure).  Up the fireroad climb and pick a trail down...repeat.

Getting over to Spaulding Woods is incredibly easy.  Basically a straight shot on Keasor Rd. which turns into Reservoir and then you cross Bay Hill and get onto Spaulding Rd.  The School cut a nice access trail called Pat's Outback so that you can get to the trail system without cutting across the school trails/property.  After getting everything  at Spaulding its a nice easy cruise down into Tilton and a stop at a gas station for a refuel.

After that its a gentle climb back up to Pest House a fun rip down and back to FFD.  Around 40 miles with half of that being single track.  Not too shabby.  AND its some of the best flowy / fast single track in NH along with some great technical / enduro-ish stuff at Highland and a bit of a mix of everything at Spaulding.  Something for everyone.  Dare a say a perfect little endurance ride?  Good ratio of trail to connector. Places to stop for calories at good intervals not sure what else you would really need?

I'm looking forward to doing this one again as well as linking FFD and Page Hill and maybe one day linking them all.  I'm also trying to figure out linking Ahern to Ramblin Vewe on the other side of the lakes.  That should be another easy one and if I new Laconia a bit better that would be mostly singletrack but I don't know the sandpits well enough yet.  Maybe I can talk Eric into that one soon....BIKES!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Spot Rocker Wuss Mode Complete

As most of you know I've been slowly working my way to a modified ride that my new frail body can handle and actually ride consistently without crumbling under the stress.  And even though #kevinsfakingit I'm convinced now that I have made the right call and that I'll actually be able to ride this thing consistently in a way that will make me happy and allow me to keep riding it even on consecutive days.

Will I ever really be able to race it again? Maybe yes maybe no.  Thats where things get a bit weird and my answer to that changes constantly.  In the days leading up to today it would have been a certain yes but this morning I had a somewhat random bad day where riding (at least this morning) would have been totally out of the question.  If today had been lets say July 19th there is no way I could have started Carrabassett.  Never knowing when those days are going to happen makes it hard to drop $115 on race reg.

So in the mean time I'll just try to ride my bike a bunch.  #wussmode Engage!


This transformation happened somewhat piecemeal but here is the full change log:

Wuss cockpit: 10mm shorter stem to bring the bars back and shift more weight off my hands as well as some riser bars to bring my stance up.  Finished it off by going back to the GX-1 Ergon grips.  I think they do a great job of relieving pressure on the ulna side of the wrist which is my biggest trouble spot.  The pair I had before had stripped clamps but it feels like they've made some design tweaks since then and I don't think spinning or stripping will be an issue with these. I went with PRO white, which is always a mistake because they get gross looking eventually but for now they look SWEET.

Wuss drivetrain: 1 x 10! Its the new single speed! Literally everyone is doing it.  If I was healthy I would still be SS without a doubt but I actually really like this setup.  I actually surprisingly took right back to riding gears at NEMBAfest.  I really like the ability they give me to ride lots of miles and not get tired.  This setup makes the riding I like to do that much easier for me to pull off reasonably AND allows me to do those rides much more frequently without being utterly exhausted.  True, I'm not getting as strong as I would be doing that all single speed but I've become ok with that.  Like Jake said I've put in enough pain, its time to cash in.

Plus gears work so much better now than they did the last time I used them 8 years ago! Who would have thought that was even possible??? These new fangled wide-narrow rings are pretty simple and amazing.  Completely changes the game with these '1 by' setups.  And these clutch derailleurs are spot on, quiet, they come with a lockout for easier wheel changes and maintenance.  Just about everything I hated about gears has been addressed.  Nice work bike industry!

My Strava feed is going to be polluted with all kinds of rides like this one.  Look for me to be linking everything, all the time, worldwide.

Monday, June 23, 2014

NEMBAfest 2014

Sweet Jesus.  There is no way I'm going to be able to adequately put into words how awesome this event is.  If you ride a bike in New England (or beyond) and you somehow come up with some reason to not attend you are probably a bit mental.  Sure there are some legit excuses but all attempts should be made to experience the awesome of a full weekend of killer everything bike related.

My weekend went about as well as I could have hoped for.  I had some reservations as to how my body was going to hold up.  This was my first time back on dirt in weeks and I was going to be testing out all of my bike modifications for the first time.  All of which it turns out were good decisions for me, at least for right now.

Cockpit changes are definitely a lot more comfortable and the gears allow me to sit and grind heading up so I don't have to rip the front end back and forth.  I was certain I was going to ride a geared bike all wrong but surprisingly I remembered to actually use the gears in most cases and even remembered to shift before the drivetrain was under a lot of load.  Hard to say if I was truly any faster over all.  I wasn't exactly hammering and I was certainly climbing certain sections slower but I can tell you without doubt I was riding similarly fast MUCH more efficiently.  Riding gears is so easy.  I kept waiting to get really tired and it never really happened.  All told I got 50+ miles on dirt this weekend.

It felt really good to be riding a bit like myself again.  I still get some pain when the speeds get high and the terrain gets a bit chattery or chunky but for the most part I was riding about how I would have.  I was even accused by Mick of faking this entire time.

I was still waking up with quite a bit of stiffness and soreness but some painkillers and stretching got me back on terms by mid morning to the point that I felt ok to ride again with help from my braces.  Didn't really seem to get any worse day to day so there was no real cumulative effect.  So I guess the order is keep working at the PT and feel free to mix dirt back into the mix.

The only thing I'm worried about is that now that I'm close enough to "full health" I'll just go back in full bore and I'll never make it past this point so I'll need to be careful / smart.  I'm already itching to do bigger rides on the MTB now and I was even starting to think about Carrabassett being a reality for me.  I'm going to try and be good though and go at this in a very calculated way.

Weekend didn't go ALL good though.  The biggest tragedy was snapping the rail on my beloved SDG Bel-Air that I have been riding probably for at least the last 10 years.  It finally gave up on my night ride Friday but like a true gladiator it somehow remained solid even with one completely sheared rail and got me home just fine.  Luckily I was able to get a saddle at the expo the next day.  My best option was a WTB Silverado Slimline that I actually kinda like now after riding it 30+miles Saturday and Sunday.  If you are going to break something do it at a giant festival, you'll be covered no problem.

I was also really pleased with the team presence at the event.  It really seems like at least a subset of the team is really 'gel'ing' well.  I have high hopes for the future.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Check 1, 2

Oh man has it really been a month since my last post?

So many things movin' and shakin'.  PT has begun and progress is being made.  I still can't really rule out there isn't some nasty underlying issue causing all this but it definitely seems like I'm going to be able to get myself to a better place doing these various stretches and exercises regularly.  I've got all kinds of cool PT toys now and I'm doing things like the 'reverse waiter' and 'the chipmunk game'.

I'm also crashing my cross bike and getting covered in road rash.  Does that count as therapy?  I didn't put my hands out to break my fall so no setbacks in that department.  Just a bunch of annoying scabs on my elbow and knee.  This was the first time I've crashed on a 'road' ride since I got pinched out of a B2B ride peloton into a parked car.  It was a pretty classic dirt road goof on my part.  Too much speed into a 90 degree turn and choose the wrong rut to commit to.

I was probably only 2 miles from home at the end of a 55+ mile ride.  I was pretty gas'd and just trying to limp back in.  I had a few options on how to get home and I choose the one with a bigger early descent instead of finishing off a bigger climb.  Whoops.  That steep descent led to the turn in question.  Dove into the turn and the dirt just disintegrated and my wheel dug in.  Luckily it sloughed a bit and I didn't endo and explode.  I tried quickly to muscle through but I was just too tired and flopped into the ditch.  It was relatively "controlled" but it doesn't take much for that gravely dirt to shred all your skin off.

I am thoroughly digging these mixed dirt/road rides I've been focusing on lately.  Getting in some new routes and locations that I've been missing out on all these years.  Dirt roads around here seem to be guaranteed hilly and many of these rides have been chock full of vert.

On the MTB front the mods continue.  Finally got around to installing my new cockpit setup.  Shorter stem, riser bars and (although not in this pic) I re-found my Ergon grips that I ran a year or two ago.  I had totally forgot I had them and remembered that the only reason I stopped running them was because I couldn't get them to grip my carbon bars and they would spin under higher SS torque.  Bar is aluminum now and there will also be less torque due to my second mod decision which is GEARS.

I know. Blasphemy.  It was a hard decision to make.  But I think it was the right one.  At least for awhile.  Sitting and spinning at times will be much easier for my wrists and gears will actually allow me to do some of the longer format rides I like to do a bit easier and more time efficient by being able to actually pedal the flats etc.

Bike is at Chainline now, parts are ordered for the 1x10 conversion.  Just waiting on a new dropout with a hanger from Spot and hopefully I'll have it converted and ready to ride for NEMBAfest.  That will be my first time back on dirt in weeks.  Cautiously optimistic.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Plans and Mods

The battle continues...

Lately I feel like I'm making a bit of ground. Emphasis on bit.  I'm laying off the MTB for now and lately I've really been trying to avoid pronation and supination (rotational wrist movements) as much as possible.  Lately it seems like that is causing me 80-90% of my pain and avoiding it and making modifications to my day to day dealings at work and at home seems to be working.

I met with my ortho this morning and he is still pretty hell bent on me having inflammatory arthritis and RA specifically.  He was ready to refer me to a rheumatologist and put me on steroids but I told him to chill out and that I wanted to try PT and continue with pain management and activity modification first to see how far I could get.  So I've got a referral to an upper extremity specialist and I start in just under two weeks.  I'm hoping they are so booked because they are really good.

As part of this process I also made a few purchases this week to change up my riding position a bit on some of my bikes.  Shorter stems for my road/cx and MTB to bring the bars in and put a bit more weight back and off my hands.  Gel pads for under the bar tape and some road gloves full of gel as well (SO MUCH GEL).  Also got some riser bars for the MTB to bring the hands up and back even more.  I'm also going to try double wrapping my MTB bars in padded gel bar tape instead of grips to see how that works.

I have high hopes for the PT.  I'm trying to be optimistic but I really do think that I could get to a much better place if I was doing the right stretches and strengthening exercises regularly.  I'm hoping that between a stronger joint and some ride position modifications I can at least ride pain free if not quite as intensely as I'm used to.  I think I can eventually let go of the drive to become a faster racer/rider.  What I really need at this point is to be able to ride (on and off road) and not be completely wrecked in the following days.

But seriously, who wants to ride some Gran Fondos? June 14th. VT. Be there.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rollercoaster of PAIN

Peaks and troughs. Loopty-loops. Zero gravity. This ride has it all.

Here's your monthly? weekly? I forget how often I've posted about my well being already. Dementia must be setting in.  We'll go with 'periodic' health update.

By now you all know that TVR went pretty bad.  Even taped and braced TVR was just too much.  Set me back a bit but I got back on top of things in time for a little road ride Wed.  That ride felt pretty good.  Fitness is maybe a bit behind but still within my normal range for this time of year.  Wrists held up fine and I even noticed on one of the climbs that rocking the bike back and forth and using my wrist flexor muscles actually alleviated some pressure in my wrists.  I continued with some very light exercises later that night and the next morning that really seemed to help.

Further confirming a theory I've had of late that not all of the acute pain I'm dealing with now is arthritis.  I think there is also a muscular / tendon issue in there as well.  A while back I randomly realized that putting some pressure at certain spots on my flexors or extensors actually provided a bit of relief.  As funny as it sounds a tennis elbow strap actually seems to provide me a small amount of pressure release as well as a small increase in range of motion.

I think I may have developed some kind of muscle imbalance that might be snowballing on me a bit.  Riding off road seems to be getting a bit harder/worse for me lately than it was even a few weeks ago.  I rode Franklin last night which is in no way anywhere near TVR and by many accounts is probably one of the buffest places you can ride in New England and it was still way more painful than I would have liked.  I was able to get around at a decent pace but it hurt and I've definitely got some swelling and even during riding I was starting to feel some fatigue and pain in my forearm muscles further confirming my thought about some sort of developing muscle issue.  It seems like the issue I'm having now is more with grip strength and pain created by compression in the joint while griping/holding the bars and my EVS braces can't really guard against any of that.

I go back to the orthopedist next Wednesday and the plan is to try and get setup with a PT hopefully who specializes in upper extremities.  My gut is telling me there is a good chance that if I can figure out the puzzle of which muscle(s)/tendon(s) is tight/loose/aggravated I can get to a much better place.  In the meantime I think I need to steer clear of the MTB.  Its not working right now and I feel like every time I ride it its setting me back.  Road still seems to be fine so I will be racking up the miles in the meantime.  Maybe this year I'll just do Gran Fondo's and Dirt Road Randonee's.

But to be honest, who the hell knows.  I think at this point I've changed my outlook and plans 300 times in the last 6 weeks.  So this weekend I'll head to Willowdale for the team and to volunteer but I'll be chalking up a DNS unfortunately.

Who wants to ride some road?