Friday, October 24, 2008

Gear 10/19/2008

I am a big fat gearhead. I love cool stuff and always have. I'm not talking just about bikes, but for this place....bikes it is!! I thought I'd share the cool things I see on the web. I also thought I'd post up links to those for sale items I see that seem like real bargains or unique buys.

Please stop back to this weekly. One post per week, updated all week long. I may not always update these things, but when Ive seen some cool things I'll post new.

Here's a sweet looking track bike from Winter cycles. Functional or stiff or just eye candy You decide.

As some of you know I am trying my darnedest to get my own line of electric bicycles to sell. At one end are the el cheapo ones on Amazon and on the other is this state of the art bike from Schwinn in collaboration with Toshiba.

I'll be somewhere in the middle, but quality is number one.

Group buy on BB30 alloy frame for $400? YOu betcha!!! But heres an idea for you all to consider. What if an American company went to American frame builders and said, here an order for X number frames. What can we do for this amount of money? I dont have a problem with products made overseas. Heck I buy them all the time and so does everyone else. Underwear to cars, its a fact of life. But how cool would it be if I gave some work to those US based bike builders instead? Thats my other project. Small batch US made frames. Steel and Ti cross bikes probably at first, then move to road and mountain bikes come spring.

Heres an example of what I am talking about. This UK based company buying frames made in the US and selling them at a great price. Sure no custom geometry, maybe a bit less tube manipulation and internal butting, but that saves money for us off the shelf bike guys.

I am mountain bike crazy!! I want to ride all the time. I'd love to try a 29er too, but Kirk Pacenti has introduced his 27.5" wheel size amidst the final acceptance of 29ers (and the established 26" wheel). The 650B as its called has had rave reviews from magazines, blogs and the boutique brands have started to make frames while the mainstream tire and wheel manufacturers are very quickly warming up to it as well.

In a nutshell, whats all the hub bub about? Well a 29er presents geometry and fit headaches to builders when trying to fit these large wheels (almost identical to a road 700c) to 16" and smaller frames (like women specific). Niner has 29 inch wheels pretty well dialed though. When you talk full suspension and 4" to 6" travel bikes that are all the rage (called trail and all mountain bikes) now 29ers present new issues. The bikes are usually restricted to 80mm of travel. Some say for 29er wheels that's enough. Some like full suspension or demand it for the style they ride.

Here's the deal, 29ers are superb over really rough terrain. They roll over things that 26" wheels get stopped by. Or require much more finesse by the rider to get over repeatedly. I have heard stories from a couple local riders who say they clear sections at Vultures knob, etc, that they never could on a 26" wheel bike after years of trying. First time on a 29er-done!!

650B wheels are 1.5" taller than a 26" and 1.5" smaller than a 29", but require virtually no modification on the part of the frame builders (and shock and fork manufacturers) to incorporate. Though Kirk does not recommend this nor do some brands of forks, but you can actually fit 650B wheels on many current frame/fork combos to try them out. WHAT does that mean? To ME this means you can build a 650B wheel bike for people who are 5'8" and shorter without the 29er issues. You can also build a big hit bike with loads of suspension travel. Now WHY would you do this? Very simple, a 650B wheel rolls over obstacles very much like a 29er the magazines and initial users say. But the bikes, rigid to big hit full suspension are almost standard geometry and the wheels are lighter than 29er wheels too. I for one like the idea, but like the 29er when it first came on the stage, its a hard sell to the real guys and gals who have been pounding it out on the single track for years or decades.

I'll let you make up your mind. btw-I'd love to have some 650b bikes made in smaller sizes and women specific to prove my theory. Maybe put one under an emerging or top female mountain bike racer and see how it does. Look at what Katie Compton did for Primus Mootry!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

More misc ramblings

Yup-its Monday and hitting the deck HARD Saturday has its lingering effects. But thinking back I have to put something away in the data banks!! How could I have not crashed the first time up the hill? Well believe it or not I actually practice stopping and lifting my rear wheel and placing it to the side. My goal is to have the control to ride, stop, lift my rear wheel and rotate 90 degrees and start riding. Then once that is mastered, move to 180 degree spin. I am at about 5 degrees so far...haha...okay maybe 15 degrees on a good day.

So I could have hopped my rear wheel possibly so my foot cleared the stick then rolled down the hill. Hopefully its committed to memory now.

Its probably no surprise I am always looking for a great deal on trick bike supplies. I am a bit of a weight weenie (except not a very well funded one) as you all know. Searching the swap and sells is much easier and a lot less hassle than ebay so I try to be diligent and check often.

I usually see what I want mid day and find out its already sold or realize I hadnt checked in a day or two and same thing. Back on page 3 or 4 is a deal of the century on something I need. But today sitting on top of page 1 was a new add for a 10 speed DA cassette and the DA chain (both new when started and lightly used together) for $75 shipped. That my friends is what I am talking about!! Now I have a dedicated 11-23 cassette for my disc wheel and can LEAVE this 11-23DA cassette on my best road race wheel. I PM'd the guy, he sent a Paypal invoice and even said Congrats!! yeah-he knew this wasnt going to last. Booyah!!

And last, what started out as a "building" year for cyclocross has started out as being better than I could have imagined. I started the year with no desire to race for position. Sure i am being naive to think I wouldn't race hard, but I really just wanted to get better. But now that the season has started I feel as engaged and focused on cross as my road racing. I am not training like I should due ot all these spills and schedule conflicts that keep me off the bike mid-week, but the racing seems to be keeping me in shape. But as one of my fav old sayings goes: "once the green flag drops, the bullshit stops".

I'm having a blast out there. I am anxiously anticipating when we hit the mud and singletrack, snow and ice how badly I will fade. If there's one thing I hate is training in wet AND cold. So going out to find mud to train on and gain valuable slip and slide skills is not happening. Got to get that experience in the races. I only want to clean my bike and shoes once a week!! What I am Trying to say is the weather is playing in my favor right now. But I will enjoy those nasty races in that sick kind of way too.

It was always a bit of a dream or "whats it like" for cross. Sort of like cross country skiing too. Always wanted to do them. Both have exceeded expectations. Sure makes a blah Cleveland Winter a lot more fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Spin Cyclocross Race

As I sit here in pain all over and a headache I am actually kind of happy. I had a great A race today at the Spin Cross Your Heart and Hope to Die race, no matter how you put it. I paid for it dearly in bruises. It all started in warm-up when I tried to dismount before the log in the parking lot and my left cleat did not release putting me to the ground right at the log. My front wheel hit first as I fell and the sudden stop of momentum sent my right knee hard into the bar or stem. That stiffened up all race day. Anytime I stopped and got moving it was hard to pedal at first.

I have been thinking about this race since last year when I had a good race (till the end when I crashed a few times due to exhaustion) and a lot since the Leroy CX race. I needed to get a great start and I did. I was in the top 7 I think as we headed for the first 180 hillclimb. I was on my single speed again.

When your on a SS the first lap in traffic is hard. One reason a SS is so fast is because you have to ride them balls to the walls. So when we hit the approach I gunned it up the hill and started to pass a Lake Effect rider on the left. But being so heavily overgeared I started to lose speed and as we hit the stick he cut tight to the stick cutting me off completely which left me to almost track stand for a second as he passed right in front of me. And once stopped there is NO way to get going so I hooked left and my left foot caught the stick, I went flipping down tangled in my bike and my great start was done. I was so dejected when I saw what seemed like the whole field going by. I mean I was like "F@#$@, Might as well quit".

I got passed by a couple guys in open fields which wasnt a good sign, but I got my head screwed on and started going the right way through the field. I caught single riders bit by bit and watched as Thom Domonic flew up the running hill like last year. Then I saw two LE riders riding nose to tail and finally caught them. One was Rudy and the other Craft. We battled for laps, back and forth wed go and gaps would open and close. I was riding the corners faster and faster but was slow out so I was not in a position to pounce on them till the end of the lap. My remounts really sucked today too, but I was quite quick after the bleachers and around the sweeper for some reason and through the baseball diamond.
looked like a wall when approaching it
Finally Jeff made mistake and had to tap a foot on the super steep wall of a climb and now I was between them. Strategically I knew this was my chance to get by and start opening it up. Now they would have to follow me slow out of the corners, then I would hopefully get on top of my gear and roll. I followed Rudy and made the pass going into the baseball diamond and tried to open the gap right away. I went hard because Thom, Zak, Hollaran had been closing the gap to us and I couldnt get Jeff or Rudy till they were split.
mudpit got nasty for the A race
I went hard down the hill before the first uphill 180, sprinted through the rocks and then the hay and then BAM I was on the ground. Front wheel washed out. I was going that hard because I was getting tired and I needed max momentum to make getting to the 180 easier. My right knee got trapped between the top tube and bars and again I got to watch rider after rider come by. At least I had already opened up a little gap and I had been going for it!! All out!!

This time when i got up I was going no where fast. Luckily with two to go I only lost one more position to Dan Quinlan. I didn't say before, but my left lower back was hurting anyways and combined with the hard body slam to the ground I pretty much was done. This time it wasnt mental. I was discharged, no batteries left.I rolled in at about 70% effort and called it a day. My family, bro and sister in law were there and I was bummed they didn't get to see me racing with Martin, Gamm, Ernesto and Matt Weeks if only for a couple laps early on. But I got the start I wanted, felt fine at the front and I was fast for awhile on my SS.

I got a bigger surprise at awards at The Willoughby Brewing company when the guys I was racing with were top 10!!! Congrats guys-I had a blast racing you all today. So I was about 7th when I went down on lap one and battled back to 8th or 9th when I hit the deck the 2nd time. Damn thats sweet!! I mean I am not trying to say I am proud of hitting the deck 3x times today just that I kept going after the first and clawed my way back to the top 9 at least (out of 30). I ended just out of the money with a 16 to 17th place finish to boot.

It was a tough day and because of the crashes I wont make Orville tomorrow and lost some points for the Lake Effect series. Bummer. I need to rest up now. Really sucks because I havent had a real solid week of riding in a long time. Always getting banged up. But I can see how the SS is helping my power and strength and the mountain biking my much needed technical skills. Its been tough, but overall the cyclocross racing has been going great. and if I can plug Zak's Dieringer SS, its been rock solid and I love it.

And a big thanks to Spin for another well run race, great purse for the A/Masters race and another amazing and exhausting course. Pics of the C race at my Flickr

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A little of this and that.....

Nothing really to report except I got in a great weekend of road rides. Went with different groups each day and got to do some hills at race pace. That's always fun. Saturday's 50 miles concluded with me doing a one up sprint across the bridge over I271 on Fairmont and hitting a PB for 5 sec power and a maybe my highest max watts since I weighed 22 or 23 lbs more in 2006. I think its the racing on the SS bike thats given me a bit more pop.

Ive also been staying true to my 09 TT goals and have now done 3 training rides on the TT bike on the trainer. I do them Wednesday morning and let me tell you, its a mental bitch to do the routine. But its the kind of workout that is gonna build muscles and bio mechanic (is that the right term Sean?)adaptations specific to my TT position.

Also I am soon going to be a 10!! Okay, my CSK cross bike is going 10 -speed, but not for any reason you might imagine. It starts because I have a few sets of winter wheels/cross wheels. Some are to be used on the cross bike, some on the Cannondale Six 13 while commuting or crappy weather and hopefully on the CSK cross bike for really shitty weather commuting. But my cross bike is 8 speed (which is more than enough mind you) and my six13 is 10 speed. Long story short, now all my wheels will have a 10 speed cassette on them. Easy!!

On a side note, the 09 Rival is a nice step forward with Zero loss tech and crisper, better shifting. So the new Carbon levers will find there way on the Six13 and the older Rival on the CSK cross bike. I already own a spare Rival rr der and 4 10-speed cassettes so it was an easy upgrade. The CSK will probably lose another 75 to 100 grams now too!! I guess if I needed to justify this more, the 15 year old 8-speed ultegra lever was getting crappier and crappier in shifting anyways (especially when its cold), is heavy and takes a different shifting method than Rival.

And last on Monday I went for a 2 hour mountain biking extravaganza!! This time I improved 10 fold more, but also crashed more and came home in my usual state of bloody, jammed finger (fat and purple) and the usual bruises. But it was a great ride and Chris took the time to hop off the bike and watch me descend a couple tricky, steep and loose descents or try and hop some logs and with his instructions I improved so much at both. I feel like bunny hopping something big RIGHT NOW!!

I'd go mountain biking again tomorrow, but Id like to not be bruised and beat up for this weekends Spin cyclocross race on Saturday and possibly the Orrville race Sunday.
Whoo hooo, already thinking about the start and that crazy steep and long hill. You know the one!!

So I have coined a new term for my training and that's Mountain Mondays.

Monday is usually a day off, but now its a day to play. To improve on technical riding, have a blast (scare myself silly) and laugh and sometimes curse at myself. And it is 5 or 6 days before my next race!! Hopefully plenty of time for those cuts to heal, jammed fingers to unjam and the bruises to be less bruisey!!

See you all Saturday!! More Cowbell man!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

No pain, yes gain.

Today's training was supposed to be a 30 minute run. I got home and hopped on my mountain bike instead, made sure the tires were nice and squishy in case the single track was wet (lots of rocks and roots) then headed for the first section (the harder possibly of the two). I found a few easy sections to warm up and then started to wonder where the good stuff was. I finally found the right spot to "drop in" and got rolling.

What a huge difference from the last time. Arms loose, feeling a lot less scared. sometimes steering the bike around tress and through tight climbing sections and ONE finger braking. Its amazing how much stuff is down there because though I rode some familiar stuff, there were parts I didnt even see that I recalled from last time or saw them form the corner of my eye.

Yeah I still unclipped, but this time only because I messed up, not because I decided no-way. Well I did once. Your on a narrow path with the ravine on your left then you go into a deep ditch with hand laid slabs of stone at the bottom and large rocks and a short, but steep climb back out and right into a narrow rocky ascent between trees. I started to walk it then I manned up. I went back 20' and rode it.

I mean I rode ditches for an hour Sunday, this is just a ditch with scary rocks everwhere!! I almost made it out too, but I just had to tap a foot and I was on my way. And the very next section was more super narrow (like the E&C trail where ti winds down the side of the ravine)) path with a drop off on one side. Last time I walked it, but this time with Josh's words ringing in my ear I kept going and cleared that too. He said the key to this is to just keep pedaling!! Boy did a stiffen up my arms a few brief moments and almost stiff armed myself down the ravine.

That stiff arms thing happened a lot less today. Chris said you just have to ride it a few more times. Way less braking, way less bailing...ahhhh...very nice.

After returning home and swapping a bike jersey for a running top I took my dog for a short run and enjoyed the new Halloween decorations popping up in neighbors yards all over Cleveland Heights and University Heights. I ate dinner and still something was bugging me, something about tonight was different....

Then it hit me, I just came home from my first mountain bike ride without getting cut, bashing a shin or knee or hitting the deck or sore hands from death gripping the brakes and bars. In fact I dont feel any different now than before I left and that I got to tell you is a super nice way to feel!! Finally!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Berkshire Challenge. Get with it!!

Hey all,

Remember my post about the unofficial Berkshire Challenge?

Well theirs still time to post a time and get it to me. Nothing on the line but a post for posterity sake. Maybe next year you'll beat it.

I STILL want to have an outlaw TT up a local climb. I had timers and unofficial officials who kindly volunteered, but I dragged my feet and thats all it takes for the weeks to fly by.

I will make it a priority next year to find a date and a wicked little climb for a show up and race and keep on riding Hillclimb!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leroy Center CX race-getting better!!

Who was that timid guy warming up Sunday for the Leroy Center Cyclo cross race? Who was scared to try to ride the ditches? On first try he stopped cold in the mud and the next try endoed bashing his shins and hurting his left hand? The same guy who freaked out on the mound of hard dirt and concrete and stone chunks and unclipped?

That guy would be me! But once the race started I hit the mound and cleared it slowly, but without problems and when I approached the first of the deep and steep ditches which was the marque section of this new CX course I was full of confidence and i cleared one and two every lap without a hint of problems. Dismounted quickly for 3 (and rode it a few times)and rode through 4 and 5. A lot of guys and gals who were riding (not running) the ditches would swing out into the road for more momentum, but I found I could just come up, do a 180 and drop right back in and up saving a lot of time. That timid pre-race guy has got to get his act together.

The race start was busy with just a quick dogleg and 180 before the barriers and a field of 21 A racers. All the usual suspects were there too. I got into the top half of the field and then laid back. I didnt get in front of some fast guys because I honestly didnt want to crash in front of them or ride the techie bits slow. The funny thing is some of those guys have crashed right in front of me before holding me up so I dont know why I always feel so obliged to not want to ruin anyones race or slow anyone down. Especially since I can race pretty clean, if not a bit slow in the techie bits. I mean really, thats part of racing and after a lap or two-I am not in that zone anymore.

I think on lap 2 I had cleared the ditches cleanly and I am slow, but able to negotiate the mound so I finally open it up and when i do I go past at least 4 guys I was racing with in between two corners with a hard sprint and I am off. My best section was coming out of the ditch section after the gravel road. I could really drill that section past the ball fields and around to the start finish line. I was on my single speed again and I must admit it was hard accelerating in the grass all day on it. That was a surprise because the ditch section was hard on my legs with the SS.
Leroy Ctr CXTP photo, Plank and I dueling
I put time into the group with steady pressure and was looking for the next rider and I see Mike Plank of Spin. It takes me a few laps to close down the gap and I really push through the fields and I finally get him, but he is staying close. Those laps were probably a lot faster than the rest because I realized I had really closed down the gap on Rudy and Tony Marut too. They were having a nice tight battle as well. As I entered the mound they were just exiting.

But the effort to catch and keep putting time into Mike in all of the open fields at full HP started to take there toll. I kept an eye on Mike behind and an ear on Lynn counting down the laps. 4, 3 and finally 2 to go. On 2 to go I saw that Rudy had put time into Tony and they had both pulled out more time on me as I entered the mound they were now gone.

During the race I was thinking not only about being clean and riding better and better lines in the technical and curvy sections and getting the weight just right for the ditches I also thought about Julie's blog post about the pre-hop while remounting. Well, I'll be damned, I hop not once, but sometimes twice before remounting my bike wasting time and energy.

So I worked on that and as long as I cleared the barrier or ditch clean and set my bike down without a bounce I did the superman jump, got my inner right thigh and was clipped in and back to cranking on those Dure ace cranks in a flash. Why do I think about this stuff mid-race? Heck if I know. Maybe it helps a tiny bit to forget about the pain. Sometimes out of a ditch or barrier I took one step, set bike down, jump and clip in!! Very, very, very fun and rewarding, but still needs work. Did anyone see that?? Nope, not a soul in sight. But that was whicked, ok, back to pushing that gear.

I completed the last lap, back hurting again, but not as bad as last week and rolled in 7th!! I am very happy with that considering my first two laps. I think I could have gone with Rudy and Tony had I been on their wheels at the start. I know my first lap is one of many weaknesses, but like all things I am working on them slowly but surely. I do want to be as good as I can be at cross. I definitely think I made some headway in bike handling Sunday and that's great for me. Dismounts and slippery and/or slow cornering are gonna take a lot more work.
pic by Todd Palmer
Now I have one question for the top 6 guys! How come Dave Steiner and I were covered from head to toe in mud and 1/4" thick layer on both shins while all you guys were clean with a powdering of dirt (on body and bikes)? Well later I saw pictures and at least Rudy was smart enough to ride around the middle of the dirt puddles. I rode around them in warm-up, but told myself at race time, straight through the middle and go fast. Well, it seems that going around was probably faster. Not only did you not bog down as much, but you didnt carry an extra 1 or 2 lbs of mud on your body and bike!! and mus loves grass so now youve got mud and grass collecting in your brakes and sidewalls too
Notice the mud on shins, TP pic
The harsh reality of cross also set in with a lengthy hosing off of both bikes, hitting the mud encrusted shoes with a bristle brush and drying in the dryer. And the muddy kit? well lets just say Oxy clean is Da Bomb baby!! But still I wrote CX on the labels in the shorts and bibs. These ones are now broken in and ready for a full cross season.

That was fun and thanks for all the hard work put on by the promoter and staff.