Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thats what I was thinking!!

A few things on my mind!! First I finally found a fixie frame built exactly like how I envisioned a fixie for roadies should be done. Its not steel sadly (but light), but it has a sporty geometry, but with room for fenders and the proper braze-ons and drilling for racks, fenders, two brakes and is stylish. This is what I was talking about before.

I am still tossing around the idea of my own frame though. I just think it would be cool to have your own frame!! I am so back into cycling and all that that implies!!

Also, don't forget to vote for your favorite bike shop on Fox's Hot list. My votes in for Bike Authority.

Vote here:

Hey, I commuted to day. Not a big deal, but what is is that right now its gonna be a strong tailwind home for a change!! Its funny, the wind doesn't bother me and most of the time I find it a benefit because it applies a force that constantly needs to be overcome. Like a TT effort and now racing on grass. Wow, even I know theres something seriously wrong with me when I say and I guess I mean, "the wind is my friend." Still. its gonna be fun (and real fast) riding home with a tailwind.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Orrville CX, A race-Ive Been Lied Too!!

A sunny 50 to 60 degree day met us at Wayne College for what some were saying (complaining?) was a Euro style course. After the last two great BA courses that offered multitudes of challenges for me it was fun to face a course with simple corners, lots of grass, asphalt and a bit of single track. To be honest I loved the course and I thought it had a great rhythm to some of the sections.

The A's lined up with some fast roadies like Paul Martin, Jeremy Grimm and all rounders Rudy Sroka and John Adams. Also last B race winner at BA Fairport Cameron Jackson has stepped up to the A's for the Orrville races. Mark Lopresto missed his B race so he too was lining up for his first A race.

The ~1.5 mile course starts at the end of a wide blacktop road that leads onto the grass over to a short rise and around a tree for a 180 and down between some evergreens and a long run to the first only set of two barriers. At the whistle I got right into my pedals and was 4th or 5th. I sat down and settled in behind Rudy which was a mistake because Dave Steiner passed me, but I somehow got back around before the 180. Dave got me again as we made our way through the trees , but Dave went a bit wide, I went wide and had to hit my brakes hard. No harm, no foul, but it did open a gap to Dave and Rudy I had to now close.

I got through the first barriers clean (quite tall ones too i think) and then its a long grassy run to an easy 90 to the right. I followed Dave to the corner and re passed on the exit as we headed towards the parking lot again on a long run of grass. This grassy section was harder then the previous and shaded better from the headwind. Another right up a small rise and now your running parallel to the parking lot and again the grass is soft making progress a bit harder. I am breathing hard, everything is burning and the lead group is going away!! So much for my pre-race plan of staying with the leaders for as long as I could. At the end of the run your at the corner of the parking lot into a really fun sweeping 180 down off the grass into the parking lot. No brakes, just turn, lean and get ready to sprint!! The parking lot was quite large and we went end to end right back into the wind.

The next section was really fun too and it was a wide open 90 into a sweeping downhill left hander (decreasing radius) out of the parking lot up into the grass and up around some more evergreens. Think of that section as a fishhook shape and I was leaned over right on the side blocks of my Michelin Muds forever it seemed. From here it was a serpentine run through the trees and roots and pin needles and pine cones. I am hammering and leading my group, but the PM, Grimm, Adams and Sroka group already have an increasing gap.

Out of the trees and up and over two very short whoop de doos like on a motocross course or rollercoaster ride then into this really bumpy hard packed dirt path into a strange little corner. Not more than a slight bend of a turn, but with a fence on the right and soft ruts on the left and bushes and tall grass on the left a smooth line was important. Next up was more soft grass, this time a medium long run to another 90 degree right turn, again with bushes on the exit, around the bushes to the left into some really soft rutted grass and a fast left with a large pond on the right. Fast into a blind left hander that dropped steeply into some single track.

The line was critical here because you could carry a lot of speed, but if you hit enough ruts youd start to drift left instead of making the sweeping right across a wood bridge. Off of the bridge it was more moist dirt, a slight bed to the right with roots, up a short steep dirt hill and back inot what looked like a children's story book backyard. Very scenic if you took the time to look, but grassy and uphill winding to an asphalt path. Through the twisty path up to where you started on the asphalt road (again slightly uphill) past start finish and back into the grass. Did you get that? It was a 5 to 6 minute lap I believe so lots of laps to be done in 60 minutes.

I kept my head down and kept trying to see if I could catch Rudy who was now just off of the lead pack. On the third lap I got stupid and decided I wasn't dismounting like I had practiced and I changed my dismount at the barriers and almost went down. I somehow managed to stay on my feet in a squat, got stood back up and was able to jump the two barriers. Zak said nice save and he had to go around the barriers. I was breathing Heavy and decided to back it off just a bit and to just dismount however I had the first few laps.

I now noticed now that our group wasn't a group at all. Only Zak Dieringer and I were together, but I could see behind, but pretty far back was Cameron and behind him I thought I saw Dave Steiner. I stayed on the front I think, but I was now starting to think strategy. I figured Rudy was too far gone to catch (though he was still very much in sight) and I figured I was setting a pretty hard pace and was hopeful that we would distance ourselves from the rest. So how to play the race? At first I thought I had better let Zak around and I was making it easy by blowing different corners, but he stayed in my draft. Eventually I blew the odd bend, went wide just into the weeds and picked up a branch in my rear triangle. Zak hesitated then started to go (not attacking) while I tried to pull it out. I finally yanked it with all my might and it came out and I sprinted along the grassy path to catch back up to Zak.

Now I decided that this was definitely our race and I wanted to come out ahead. so I didnt come around Zak and I learned. I think it was about 32 minutes in and Zak's pace wasn't bad, but between drafting and being a gear or two lower in the grass I started to feel better and better. But more importantly I studied how to get through the corners so that if I tried to attack him on the last lap, he wouldn't just catch me in the corners. At first he'd open gaps through most of the corners, but after 3 or 4 laps I was the same 3 or 4" behind him all the way around the course.

When i saw 45 minutes tick by across the start finish I decided to test Zak and I opened it up all the way to the barriers, out across the fields and into the parking lot I sprinted and was going 4 mph faster then any previous laps. Zak stayed with me through all of it and I started to back it off a bit because I figured he was strong enough for my attacks, but I kept the pace higher then the last few laps anyways. I was worried that maybe I would tire myself out, but I stuck with my plan. Out of the woods and into the backyard and up the hill I drilled it again and now I could sense he was dropping away by just a few feet (where as he was usually within inches as I had been).

Past the start finish I kept pushing through the grass, around the tree and to the barriers. I nailed the barriers clean with a good remount and sprinted again and noticed it was really quiet. I looked back and Zak was gone. It felt awesome to have made a plan executed and took a gamble. Had I not attacked Zak and pushed him for a whole lap he probably would have made it to the finish with me and who knows who would win the sprint.

But now I had a new problem. As I was running along the parking lot in the grass I noticed John and PM going into the barriers. Still a big gap, but you have to figure they will be gobbling up 30 seconds a lap so I kept on it even though my place wouldn't change. My new goal was to not get lapped!!

I pushed through the finish area one more time hoping to hear the bell, but no bell! But the bell rang for others behind me and the leaders were getting closer. So again I pushed and I worked hard to maximize Smoothness, not speed in the corners and found with every corner I was coming out in more control and with more speed, not less. My go in hard, brake late and hard and turn method was going away and being replaced by earlier, smoother braking (or no braking at all), turn and pedal out. I learned a lot for such simple corners.

So through the start finish area again and its now over an hour I am very happy to be done and I didn't get lapped!! But what is this?? They hold up one finger (not that finger) and say one more lap for me. Turns out I am the last guy on the lead lap and need to go around again. I am sure I'll get lapped now, but I look back and no one. John and PM had there sprint and I was left to go around one more lap. Victory lap for me as far as I am concerned. I beat my guy, got 5th, was ahead of 4 or more guys who had beaten me at other races and I didn't get lapped on a fast , short lap time course. All good for me. Thanks for the guys and gals cheering from the side and thanks to Zak for a really fun race together. I am sure it was a bit scary behind me at first with all my bobbles.

Now to address the lies!! You guys said cyclo cross was 60 minutes of pain!! I know I went all out because mid race I could taste breakfast, but my stopwatch said I did 69 minutes, not 60!!! Lies, lies!! :)

I'm really loving cross regardless and cannot wait for the next race. Thanks to Katie for the great pics yet again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Business with Pleasure

Doesn't seem to matter what I am doing I always want to take it to the next step-involvement. When I raced RC cars (yes-thats Remote Controlled cars, try and impress someone with that) I co-owned the local race track got involved with selling the NiMh batteries that powered them. The battery business is and was a volatile business, but it was on track to be a million dollar a year gross sales venture in its first year. As you can guess I am not driving around in a Ferrari or riding a 700 gram Rue frame so that deal didn't last too long.

I am now back into cycling and I have the unique flexibility in my job title (whatever the heck it is) to investigate new sales opportunities. I keep having this nagging idea to import something. Something like racing frames or light weight parts. I call it nagging because these ideas are always doing just that, nagging at me. I do some research and it always comes down to the same old thing. Too damn many people doing it already.

How about a niche market? Problem here is do you fill a niche or is it a "if you build it they will come?" I have no idea. Making huge sums of money really isn't the idea, but it cannot lose money either!! Best scenario would be to have it become a cash cow, but the reality is that if it just paid for itself and my bike racing and a bit more (enough to sponsor a team or a race series?) that would be a success.

I can tell you two nagging ideas I keep having and I hope someone else with more drive doesn't steel my great ideas!! Yeah, I'm just kidding about that last sentence. I should be more concerned with people laughing at my two ideas. My first is a fixie for roadies. I have just about had it with trying to find a steel frame in my size on ebay that fulfills all of my ideas of what a fixie should be. First and foremost it should be the right size. Next most important it must be cheap. And last, but not by much it has to have a sublime style.

A steel frame and fork with straight legs and 1.125"steerer with a single color paint job (no painted over logos or at most removable decals and a sweet headbadge) and rear entry track dropouts (or horizontal, but no rear meche attachment). Another thing that would set it part is the flexibility of having front and rear brakes and braze-ons for the rear brake cable. I mean most roadies aren't trackies and they certainly aren't bike messengers. Steel would be my number one pick though aluminum or Ti has that leave it out in the rain appeal that steel will never have. 126m rear spacing would be a feature so that it can easily accept 120 or 130mm track hubs. What else?? Fender mounts on the fork and rear dropouts and spaced for 28c tires, but in a traditional road geometry (not touring and not track). Steering should feel Balanced, but Aggressive enough to feel racy. Only enough compromise to fit in fenders easily, not as an afterthought.

Heres my other idea. How about a new steel cross frame (no fork) for $650.00 or less?? It seems to me that if you want that wonderful steel ride in a cross frame (without disc brakes like the 08 Lemond Poprads) your stuck with going custom or buying used. Most custom steel frames either have a long wait, high prices and for some the fear of the custom process or a combo of the three. Some people are just off the rack and even more don't have thousands of dollars or the time for custom builds. It would be as traditional as they come with canti bosses, 1.125 headset, 27.2 seat post and work with many of the forks on the market (anything from a Alpha Q to a Surly) . The one unique feature (besides a great price point) would be an ovalized top tube for portaging and maybe an over the top tube front dérailleur cable with a pulley at the BB to bring it back up to the front meche, but that might make hitting the price point just a bit tougher.

So there you go, the gears are just churning away in my old noggin. What does everyone think? Should I do one or the other or both? And maybe even more important, what would I call this business? A cool name is Huge don't you think? I have a couple ideas, but those are definitely staying secret for now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Some workouts make you smile

Funny how some days you just feel good with the world. Maybe its the sound of your daughter waking up (sounds like a herd of elephants upstairs, but only 40 some lbs of 5 year old), scratching your dogs neglected ears (since 11:30 the previous night) or maybe its the cool temps, the howling wind and flashes of sunshine through a partly cloudy and blue, blue sky?

I don't know but you just have to love riding your bike on a days like today. I hit the farm again to get in some big gear work on grass. I also took this opportunity to find as much single track as I could and I actually found quite a bit. Nothing too difficult and I had no problems riding over the ruts and loose rocks on my cross bike. I did have to dismount on a steep climb when I let my speed drop too much and started to spin my tire. Thats alright-I jogged up. Still happy.

I also rode down to the bottom of Fairmont and then rode back up to the entrance of the farm. Normally Fairmont is too hairy with traffic, but it would seem 10am is the perfect time to ride up it. Being that I love climbing Fairmont, but rarely do thats just another plus on this morning's ride.

The CSK bike continues to impress me with how well it sprints and corners. It really corners well so I keep upping my speed in grass because its giving me that confidence. I now have my DT wheelset on it with Ritchey Speedmax tires in 35c. They still don't seem that big given there 35c designation. The grass was fairly dry today so I couldnt tell if they felt superior to Mich Muds. I guess I wont know till I can ride them in the rain and mud. They felt faster at the same pressure, BUT the grass was mowed a bit shorter in some places too. So many variables to consider. I enjoy that though. Figuring out whats faster and why and when.

Now I am at work in my little office and I wish I was back on my bike. Oh how I like that cross bike. You know its still got that new car smell to it!! and who doesn't love that?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More pics

It seems the photographer warmed up on the B race and really got his stuff together for the A race. I recommend you watch the entire #2 race in slideshow.

It really gives a feel for the course.

I especially like these shots:


Sunday, October 14, 2007

BA Cross Race #2, Lake Front Park

As I lay in bed napping I tried to think of a clever way to start off this race report. A unique and fun way to say that I got my derrier handed to me today. I am not bitter, not at all in fact I am happy for those young whipper snappers who have won the last two B races. Tony in week 1 and now Cameron Jackson in week 2. Congrats Cameron!! Hmmmm...nothing inspriring is coming....

I am also in perfect understanding in what went oh so wrong today. Plain and simple I didnt know how to ride in sand and it cost me 30 seconds on lap 2 or 3 at least and easily massive chunks of time every other lap. I am also still slow as dirt in the technical riding sections. I am getting faster and braver, but basically as I have said before i am not wired for this stuff. Show me and I can start to work it out for myself. Problem areas as they appeared on the course were the right handed steeper descent followed by the sand dune and the brief, but deep sand run back to the parking lot. And not to be outdone the long sand run that finished with the logs. But hey I was pretty good through the barriers and I handled the tight 180 at the top of the hill and the following left hander donwhill pretty well.

So again I dont have a great start, but I am hanging top 10 as we make the run upthe hill and I make up some positions. I lose precious time in the right hander as I would every lap and play catch up on the short run to the crazy convuluted rythm section. The A boys are great and are shouting gaps and they say 15 seconds to the leaders I think. A lot, but doable. I am accelerating and going fast where I can to make ground up.

But on lap 2 or 3 I blow everything. I make a mess of the deep sand after the dune and have to get off from a dead stop. Then I stop twice or more times almost falling over on the beach and end up running to the logs and remounting. That right there was basically race over for another top3.

I get passed by 3 or more guys and spend the next two laps (along with Brett Davis) tracking them back down and slowly dropping them one by one. I got to thank Brett because without his help, I wouldnt have finished anywhere near as high as I did. He says to keep my weight back on the sand and I do and it helps...kind of a LOT!! I am still slow in the sand, but now I am staying pedaling. I am pretty clean in the sand the last two laps. Brett and a UPMC rider gap me and I dont have the HP to chase them down.

A rider with a Camba outfit on and I have a good race. I blow by him like hes standing still and he is so much better than me that he passses me back anywhere theres sand. I mean he is making up a lot of ground quickly-poor poor me!! We go back and forth and its fun, but he blows the line as we go through the deep sand and we go off course and we both do a 2' stright drop down onto the sidewalk. I am amazed the fork and wheel on my CSK bike withstood that and I ride away clean. He hurt himself-I am guessing where-you can too!! But I take off. He again gets me in the sand on the beach and for the last time I drop him on the bell lap.

I run clean the last lap all the way around and I finish a very dissapointing 7th. But again its not all bad. I did get better in the sand and its the truth, I have never raced or ridden in sand before. Well sure maybe across a volleyball pit, but thats a whole lot different then 200' or a deep sand dune. OK, I am making excuses so I'll stop!! I ran hard the whole race too and I am kind of sick right now from the effort. Ughh...morr meds please.

After the race I go do a lap with Brett who does his best to show me how to descend the right hander. I get faster, a lot faster, but now I miss the barrier and go off course to the left. Did I mention I was losing a ton of time at this one point too? Yeah-wheels locked up skiddering down the hill every lap, but I never crashed. I thought I worked out those bugs at Edgewater!! Hey practice makes for more practice-I said it and now I am living it.

So maybe racing on the beach at Lakefront is a game for kids. Yeah thats it. Let the young guns play on the beach, next time I'll kick my flip flops up and down a tasty Pina Colada!!! And get this, my daughters friend brings over her Magic 8 ball. I ask it "Will I win the next BA CX Race??" I give it a shake and wait for the answer.....It says "dont bet on it" OUCH!!! Any other little whipper snappers want a piece of me next race?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

CSK Cyclocross Frame

Here is my first piece of hardware from one of my sponsors for 2008. I played around with the idea of custom as you may ahve read, but in the end went with off the rack. THis fits like a glove and so far it sprints fast and corners really balanced, but still aggressively. IT gives me the confidence to pick my line and it stays on it. Got to love that. AT least on grass. Havent experienced the mucky muck yet!!!
I think it goes without saying that fit is everything and although I thought it would be wisest to go with the Fuji till 2008, now that I (And Mark Lopresto) built this, I know it was the right decision in so many ways.
Just a few ways are that I can pick-it up and shoulder it in one move, it feels balanced and aggressive in corners and I feel like I am over the center of the bike if you can feel in your mind what I am typing. When I hit bumps I dont feel picthed over the nose is kind of what I mean and more.
The frame is imported by Seigler Imports Talk to Joe Holmes if your interested. Please take it for a test ride on any given Sunday. Maybe a local bike shop will pick-up the line.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Practice Makes......

Rain, yes rain, rain more. Thats what I was thinking all day yesterday. I wanted it to rain so when I got to Spin's Edgewater CX practice I could flounder around on wet grass in semi race conditions. It did rain, it was cold (49 degrees) and Zak did not disappoint on his course. Technical is what we were calling it, but I got to thinking about it more in auto racing terms and it was a course needing commitment. Like going flat out into a blind apex. Commitment.

I'll be honest, on the warm up lap I was thinking, maybe I'll just do my own thing. The course was kind of scary. But once the race started for our 5 laps (which finished in near darkness!!) I was having a blast and I didn't crash once and only once dismounted other then for a run-up or barrier. I really blew a lot of remounts though so I'll have to practice those more.

Also every descent was curving, two were off camber and they were all of course on wet grass. Two were full on brake affairs that ended on the gravel road by the lake. I heard that a few guys crashed at the bottom of these instead of taking a plunge into Lake Erie, but that might be a bit dramatic. And instead of going down the hill in the single track, we approached it from the other way and ran up it. My favorite descent was off camber downhill towards the lower parking lot then turn around and climb up the slippery leaf hill. It was fun because it was modulate brakes, get off brakes, trail brake to the apex (a tree) and grind up the hill all while feeling like you might just slip down the side of the hill due to the camber. By the last two laps it was so wet that my rear tire slipped multiple times up the hill. I need traction control.

I am constantly on these steep learning curves and thats fine with me. I like the challenge and I think its a riot trying to stay upright in these conditions. Thank goodness many of the local riders have been so helpful, but theres still so much to try and learn on your own. Like first time down the big long descent its all good till the bottom where the ground gets bumpy and being full on the brakes pitches your weight forward as you hit them. Every next lap I'd ease up more and more on the front brake as I hit these bumps and it would be better. In retrospect I now think that I should have let go of both brakes for the last 5' and just rolled onto the gravel road. But hey I made it 5 for 5 on every challenge last night so thats a plus.

Some things are just a matter of sheer will to overcome. You just have to drop in, see what happens, try not to screw up and definitely do it better then the last lap!! Sometimes you do, sometimes don't.

How did the race/practice go? Well I rolled around sheepishly for a lap then picked off a few guys who I had been following or dicing with including Gary Burkholder. I put in some big accelerations by the highway and across the open fields so that I was solo for the last 3 laps. A spin rider slid down the off camber descent when his cassette packed up with grass and he lost drive and I got by and pushed a few times to open up a gap. Up front Zak and Dave Steiner were duking it out and Dave attacked on the last lap to win and I came in third around 30 seconds back. I maintained the gap to them pretty evenly, but didnt push 100% to try and close it. Thom on his single speed finished 4th I believe which is quite an achievement considering this was not a single speed course this week (if Edgewater ever is).

In the end, Practice makes for more practice and some day maybe practice will make for perfect!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fall is here

Ahhh...the leaves are a changin and the weathers getting cooler (YEAH RIGHT!!!). But its nice now that the road season is over that I can play a bit. Thom Domonic helped me build up a "hooptie" fixie out of old parts and a way too big frame. I finally took it for a long ride (1 hour, so not that long) and with the exception of a few "what do i do" little situations at stop signs, etc. it was as expected. A pure cycling experience. Its kind of annoying though not getting to coast on long downhills. Theres only so long my legs like to be spun at 140 or 150 rpm it seems.

I do like the near silent whir of the drive train and the sound of the tires on the road. The old frame is Tange 1 butted steel and I got to tell you, steel is real. I always get this buzz or connection with the road on steel frames. But I am such a weenie I cannot give up the weight that aluminum and carbon bikes offer. I will build back up my Waterford Paramount one day. It will be 10 speed with downtube shifters. A little of the old with a little of the new. Mate that with a nice set of handbuilt tubies and it will be one sweet ride for those long Sunday centuries.

I also recently sold my mountain bike (Thats was new). No one was more happy than my coach because every time I got on it I hurt myself. Two times I got hurt I was at Ray's Mountain Bike park though. Other times were pulled muscles from trying to bunny hop and do wheelies. Sometimes you just got to admit your not as young as you once were. Not that physical adaptations wouldnt occur if I rode them more. Thats code for just quit being a cry baby. I'd sure love to get another mtb though so Ive got the option to hit some easy singletrack when the boys decide to go to West branch.

For now the cross bike will have to do for the offroad thrills fulfillment job. Talking about Psycho cross, I should have a new frame soon to to replace my too small Fuji. I am going from a 48 to a 52 which sounds huge, but its actually only one jump for a lot of companies. The problem of being short of inseam!! I'll have pics as soon as I get it. I am excited and hope it builds up fairly light with all my not so light components. It will depend a lot on what the carbon fork weighs.

Well, enjoy the fall weather, pumpkin pie and apple cider.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

brrzzzrppp...short circuit

Did you get that Brrzzzrp-think the sound of sizzling electronics, popping diodes and acrid smell of melting wires, only this is my brain and this is my brain on frame geometry. I mean its really not that hard on one level. Seat tube, check!! Top tube, check!! OH, but what about if the frame has a raised bottom bracket like a cross bike? What seat tube length is right for you now? Or maybe its a cross bike and has a low BB like a road bike (trendy now they say). Some give you the dimension of BB height and some use BB drop.... One I know, one I dont....

I buy myself a cyclocross ebay special thats small. I actually like it, but when I get serious this week about dialing it into my Wobblenaught position I find out its not even close. And get this people, Fuji has stated in its catalogs for years that its 48cm frame has a effective top tube length of 534.6mm and I believed them. Guess what-its 508mm!! What does that mean? It means that I bought a frame with a 2.5cm too short top tube. How is that possible? Maybe its done with the new math my daughter will be learning.

I contemplated a custom Cross bike too. Most likely a steel frame from Zak Dieringer. But I have decided I just dont have the computing power to make all the right decisions on trail, rake, seat and head tube angles, Compact or level top tube, BB height, front center distance, chainstay length, wheelbase and how they all interact to bring together a dream race machine that plain old just WORKS on the race track. I mean, one major mistake and its all my fault. NO blaming the manufacturer on this one. Too bad too because Zak's frame will probably never be this reasonable.

So its looking like its off the shelf for me. Ahhhhhh, thats a load off my noggin. But is it?? Lets see there is the Cannondale X6, Jamis Super Nova, Kona Jake the Snake and Major Jake, Specialized Tricross, S-Works tricross, Ridley Supercross, (old) Lemond Poprad, CSK Cyclocross, Seigler Sport carbon.....

Uh ohhhh...Brrzzzpppp...sizzle, sizzle, pop......