Archive for May, 2008

On a handful of Fridays this spring, I’ve taken my cross bike out on the Lacamas Park trails. The trials aren’t terribly technical but there are some tricky sections for a cross bike and there’s plenty of elevation. Since the weather was nice yesterday, I took advantage and hit the trails. Most of the trails are wide crushed gravel paths but there is a smattering of singletrack suitable for a cross bike. There are a few rocky uphill sections that I’ve been working to clean. Yesterday, I managed to clean one for the first time but blew it on an easier section farther along that I’ve ridden many times. My foot hit a root.

I hit the McEnry loop (a whopping .2 miles) both directions and there is a steep section at the end of the counter-clockwise direction. There are some erosion control logs (really repurposed fence posts) across the trail and the surface is crushed gravel. There is one rather exposed log right at the crest of the steep part so it takes a sublime combination of power and finesse to clean that log. I’m pretty sure I could manage it with a granny on the mountain bike but I haven’t been able to clean it on the crosser. On my most recent attempt, I managed to get my front tire against the log but didn’t have the umpf to get up and over. Maybe next time.  On my clockwise loop through, there is a rocky rise that I almost negotiated. Instead, I stalled next to a tree and pinned my hand between my bars and the bark. My middle knuckles are pretty swollen today.

I have no idea whether trail riding on the crosser is going to help my handling in the fall. I do know that it injects some fun into my workouts.

I climbed a hill today on my bike. This was a pretty big step for me since it’s been months since I’ve ascended a proper hill. Sure, I’ve been up and down some bumps but they were trifles I could power up in the big ring if I really wanted. Today’s parcourse had me climbing for some minutes, sometimes in my lowest gear.

Hills are good. They make you stronger. They make me stronger at least.

I was a little scared since I resemble the Pillsbury dough boy. However, my pride was the only casualty and that’s something that should take a backseat to proper training anyway. I managed to get to the top with both lungs in tact. It took me a bit longer than at this time last year but so what. I don’t need to be in shape for a while yet.

Am I going to be ready? Hell yes.

I finally managed to ride my bike today. I was heading down a long gentle hill when my brain took a bit of a vacation. First, let me mention that my rain bike has been a piece of bike rack art at work — taking up a space better used by the real commuters. Anyway, it’s been sitting there for about a month. I have been riding it at lunch every now and again but it hasn’t seen my garage for a while. Consequently, I haven’t pumped up the tires and they were probably a nice cushy 75 or 80 pounds.

Now back to that gentle descent. I was just riding along when I ran over something like a rock. Or a muffler. I don’t know what it was honestly but I knew it was going to put a hole in one of my tubes, if not both of them. Sure enough, the rear end started wandering all over the road as I pulled the Redline to the shoulder.

As I stood there changing my tube and getting my fingers extremely grubby, a considerate cyclist stopped by to see if I had everything I needed. I did and told him so but he hung around anyway. I’d seen him out at lunch before. I can’t remember his name since is was Greek but he was nice enough and we ended up riding back to work together since his large consumer electronics company was just down the road from my large consumer electronics company.

He turned out to be a pretty good rider. My first clue was his European heritage, shaved legs, and overpowering aura of cologne. On the way back to our respective shops, there was one longish moderate hill. He got on the front and set a pretty good pace. I stayed on his wheel. Of course I would have come around him and dropped him like a lead sinker on one of those WallMart kid’s fishing rods. I would have if I were faster. You know, and not quite so fat. And maybe actually in shape or something.

I took the front for most of the balance of the ride. It bumped by some rolling terrain and I bled though my eyeballs to stay on the front since my manhood was at stake. I could tell he was still back there since I’d catch whiffs of his cologne as I went around corners. He was a nice enough guy and perhaps I’ll ride with him some more.

I try to do a little satire and it falls flat. I won’t be trying that again soon.

And on to other things … I meant to go riding this weekend but the weather didn’t cooperate too well. Saturday I had stuff to do so I set up Sunday to ride — even had a babysitter for the kids. However, it rained until noon and I didn’t really feel like riding in the rain and then had obligations in the afternoon and evening. I was also going to get up and ride this morning but it was raining again. I’ll get back into the swing of things this week.

Two years ago, I came into Memorial Day in worse shape than I am now and still managed to get things together and have a decent season. If I can get my schedule working, I can do it again. Here’s what I’ll do this week:

  • Get up a half hour earlier three days during the week and run
  • Pass on the extra snacks and desserts

That’s my plan. Can I stick to it? Yes, I can.

Let’s check the Crosscheck index. I’ve looked around and there just aren’t a lot of Crosschecks out there. I’m not sure whether this is indicative of a cyclocross apocalypse or a rennaisance. Let’s face it, the Crosscheck is a heavy steel bike that marketed as “do-it-all” machines that still performs well for the occasional race. The reality is that the bike is a conflicting mashup of compromises, a jack-of-no-trades, it you will. The average rider wants to ride it to the coffee shop yet be seen as a hard man who races in bone chilling rain and mud.

This first listing is from the Portland, OR craigslist.

2007 Surly Cross-Check 62 cm w/ only 600 miles – $600 (Clackamas)
[original URL: http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/bik/685987831.html]
Reply to: see below
Date: 2008-05-18, 6:33PM PDT2007 Surly Cross-Check complete in excellent condition, 62 cm with only 600 miles. Commuting gear–Topeak rack and trunk bag, Ortleib panniers. $700 for all, $600 for bike only.

crosscheck1.jpg

Clearly, this guy has decided that the cross mistique was working for him and he might as well ditch the Crosscheck and buy the Long Haul Trucker he should have bought the first time around. The fact that he thinks he’s going to get six hundred bucks bodes well for cyclocross. Obviously he is banking on the strong allure of riding in bumpy cirlces in poor weather. Some freakishly tall dude is gonna see this listing and have an epiphany — “Cross! Yeah, chicks will dig it!”

Here’s another craiglslist ad, this time frmo NYC.

Surly Crosscheck 56cm road/touring/city bike – $1000 (Midtown)
[original URL: http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/bik/684795080.html]
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2008-05-17, 7:38PM EDTUp for sale is my grey Crosscheck. Check out surlybikes.com for the geomoetry and more info if you’re not familiar with this bike. The frame/fork are about a year old. It’s set up as more of a long distance road/touring bike at the moment. Ritchey cranks, stem, seatpost, headset and bars. Handbuilt Mavic wheelset. Panaracer tires. SKS fenders. Salsa cross levers. Tektro brakes. I can include a Tubus Logo rack for $75.Cyclocross looks really strong in NYC. A grand for a slightly more than stock Crosscheck and the rack is extra. And he’s so confident about the listing he doesn’t even include a picture.

With a CCI (Crosscheck Index) of 600 in Portland and a whopping 1000 in NCY, cross is looking strong. However, I’d like to introduce a note of caution: both of these ads featured the Crosscheck as a touring bike. It looks like the days of selling these bikes as raceable cross bikes is coming to an end. The sellers are probably quaking in fear that potential buyers might check out the Surly site and discover the LHT.

I also noticed another indication that cross may be in danger of jumping the shark. It seems that some east coast copycat blogger — some dude who disses just about everything — just wrote this suck-up piece in a PRINT MAG about cross not being in danger of jumping the shark. A blogger writing for print? That’s just sucking up to the man. Talk about jumping the shark.

fonzie_jumps_the_shark.png

It’s been a while since the good old days of cyclocross season when I could whip out some awsome charts and generally graph everyone’s ass off. Since I’ve been pining for those bygone days, I figured I’d whip up a chart that tracks my motivation since the first of the year.

 motivation-chart.jpg

As a bonus, I’ve also plotted my weight as represented by Star Wars characters. As you can see, my motivation is bouncing back somewhat but the downside is that just makes me a motivated Jabba the Hutt.

spongebobpinata.jpgI know you peeps are hanging on the edges of your collective seats trying to figure out why I’ve been infrequent with the posts this week. I’ve got a cold. Actually, most of the bad feeling is done now but the rattly cough and viscous snot is still with me. There were a couple of days there where my head was all stuffed up like a pinata. Not a cool pinata with good candy and great toys. I mean one of those crappy ones that looks like Sponge Bob, has been on the shelf for four years, the candy is hard and crumbly and mixed with sawdust, and it cracks open with the first feeble whack from a repurposed whiffle ball bat. All I wanted to do was sleep but the cruel irony was that the post-nasal drip leaking down my throat kept waking me every time I felt like I was about to drown in my own bodily fluids. And that was like every fifteen minutes.

The last time I went for a ride was last Thursday. That is until today. I had just made the executive decision to bail on riding for the day and let my snot machine quiet down a bit when a teammate at work suggested a ride. Okay I said but I don’t want to hammer. He’s actually the kind of guy that might not take that as a challenge to ride me into the ground and leave me a limp hacking mess.

The ride worked out pretty well except for the last couple of hills. He set a pretty good pace up the hills and when I got to the point where I figured I was doing more harm than good, I shut it down and dropped like a stone. But really, I could have kept up if I had wanted to. Honest.

Really. I’m not just talking smack here.

I am inadequate to make any kind of introduction but I feel it’s my duty to do so. I’ve shit into a tube on a ledge hundreds of feet up the Washington Column in front of three friends. I’ve got two kids. Poop stories don’t faze me. If you can’t handle that kind of stuff, turn away. Now.

Still with me? Then point your browser on over to Jame’s blog where he waxes poetic about one of the underreported dangers of convalescences.

Impact!

By now I’m sure you all have heard about David Millar’s bike toss after he broke his chain yesterday in the Giro during a final five-up sprint with the remains of the day’s break. Here’s the video. I can relate, man.

I put a big dent in the down tube of my Waterford R-14 a few months ago. I investigated their crash replacement policy but I just don’t have the money right now. Instead, a friend gave me a screaming deal on a Trek 5500 frame and Reynolds Ouzo fork. Yesterday evening I hauled the bike stand out into the driveway and I swapped parts while my kids played in the yard.

First I stripped off the parts from the Waterford and put them in a box. I snipped all the cables and tossed them. I made sure that everything was working acceptably well and cleaned up a few things. Next, I stuffed the seat post into the Trek, hung it from the stand, and started assembling. I was struck at just how simple a bike is. A few easy to comprehend parts that one person can handle with a few special tools. I managed to strip a bike and hang the parts on another frame in a couple of hours. That includes trimming the dérailleurs and brakes and taking it for a spin in the street to make micro adjustments to the seat, bars, and cables. I’m an adequate mechanic and I’m sure the shop guys can smoke me for time. But still, simple.

The bar tape is still in the box and I’ll wrap the bars this evening. It ain’t a Waterford but it feels pretty good — during my several minute test ride in the street with under inflated tires. I think that part of my approval is due to the fact that it’s a road bike. And it feels so much more responsive and light that the Redline with fenders I’ve been riding for months.

I’m going to try to get in the first real ride on Wednesday.

Bikes are cool.