Thursday, June 30, 2011
mechBgon won the series again for the second year in a row. Nice work for what appeared to have been a very competitive field this year. I got to see him receive his trophy and prizes though without any fanfare or hoopla as is characteristic of this amazing guy.
Two Wheel Transit was represented by Matt, Mitchell, Taylor, Tom and me tonight - thanks guys for coming-out, giving it your all and representing the shop in a positive manner. The shop jerseys are instantly recognized and really pop in comparison to others out there. At one point I was still outbound on the 2nd lap and caught a flash of Tom across the woods but had no trouble identifying him because of the jersey.
Several people mentioned how much they appreciated the videos of the races posted by mechBgon. I know these take hours of editing and final production on his part. Just want to thank him in writing for going above and beyond for the benefit of others.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Last Wednesday was the sixth of the seven-race Wednesday-night series out at Riverside State Park. As you all know, the weather was quite warm on Wednesday, which encouraged an excellent turnout. I got there very early, pre-rode the course (and measured the distance for Gino), and still had time to burn.
Riding in the heat made everything tougher. The course was diverse, featuring most of the rock gardens from the 24-hour course, as well as about 900ft elevation gain per lap, and finished with a singletrack climb up Boat Hill, followed by a 35-40mph doubletrack descent leading down to the Start/Finish area (if you watched last week's video, it's last week's first section in reverse). The competition turned out to be quite tough as well, and it was great fun seeing how it was all going to end up. The video below gives a blow-by-blow account; if I do this next year, I'll make sure to get a second camera to capture the rear view.
Next week's the final race of this year's series. If you've ever wanted to try a mountain-bike race, give it a try. Don't let the video intimidate you, that's just the front-line action... there's people having a super-fun race all up & down the ranks. Hope to see you out there! :)
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Those of you old enough to remember watching Andy Griffith show reruns on TV during the day when you stayed home sick from school will know what I am talking about when I say last night's Spokane Summer Parkways was like being in Mayberry. Absent Barney Fife asking Andy whether he should get "the bullet" to defend against some dangerous threat. (As a policeman, Barney had to carry a gun but was made to do so without any bullets due to his excitability.)
The Summer Parkways event on the south hill last night reminded me of the idyllic setting of the show called Mayberry RFD. The pace of life was slower, things were simple and everyone always had time to stop and visit with neighbors. People did not rush home from stressful jobs, close the garage door and hang-out on Facebook.
I saw people enjoying the lovely summer evening walking, skating, cycling and stopping to engage in unhurried and light conversation. Smiles were everywhere. The event which covered a loop from Manito to Comstock Parks and back engaged people with their neighbors and neighborhoods. Hats-off to the organizers, volunteers and civic leaders who made this event happen. We were fortunate to have been a part of it as the sponsors of the bike decorating celebration. Here are some of the efforts we saw last night.
Well done Spokane.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A few weeks ago I posted a photo of the construction in progress from Hatch to 57th in Bike to Work Commute - Road Less Traveled. Since that time the first phase has been completed and the second appears to be very near. The new section has a real turn lane, real shoulder and real bike lanes - all on baby bottom smooth asphalt. The traffic routing was conducted with only slight disruption to local residents and businesses. Here is what it looked like on June 20th.
If you look closely in the upper right portion of the photo, you can see the continuation of the bike lane on the second phase. Those that have ridden this section of road know first hand how treacherous the lack of turn lane, shoulder, unbroken asphalt and paint made this for bikes. Now it almost looks inviting.
We can't say the same for Manito Boulevard from 37th to High Drive though on Monday they were beginning to roll asphalt. In all fairness, this was a much more extensive replacement of utilities and not just widening and repaving.
We expect that both motorists and cyclists will appreciate the improvements and safety afforded to both in this project. Nice Work!
Friday, June 17, 2011
As we rolled out with Miss C and a bunch of male riders, she stated that the pack should be "nice to the girl" but I suspect she was referring to me. Because of the small group, the pace averaged about 18 mph though some of the riders were capable of much more. We welcomed a rider who had not ridden with us before and enjoyed his company along the way - we hope he can make it out more this summer.
Tomas did a great job of managing the pizza sponsored by Summit Ridge Christian Fellowship. Two hot pies were being delivered just as we hit Cedar and 1st - Swiss precision in the form of pizza. They were finished quickly and everyone headed for home.
Thanks to all who rode with us. See you again soon.
Up until Tuesday, the weather outlook for the fifth of seven Wednesday-night XC races looked promising. Then the forecast began calling for rain showers instead. I was hoping for good weather and a good turnout this week in particular, since it was Two Wheel Transit's night to sponsor the race and we'd put a lot of effort into our schwag bundle.
Sure enough, there was rain as predicted, and only about 50 racers this week. Well, that means more schwag for them, right? Pro tip: always come to Two Wheel Transit's race. ;) Incidentally, if you haven't been to the Wednesday-night races, one of the awesome things about them is that the schwag is given away by random drawing, not by how well you placed. And you get to pick your prize from whatever hasn't been given away yet!
I rode out to Riverside in intermittent rain, with time for a full course pre-ride, and was intrigued by the first section of the course. I liked it! The first bottleneck was about 1/2 mile in, after a steady ascent that had some passing opportunities, but also some sections with just one good line, so any passing on the ascent would need to be done decisively. At 1/2 mile, racers funneled into a fast singletrack descent, connected with the 24-hour course, climbed 5-Minute Hill and Devil's Up, descended Devil's Down, and then hung left and came down The Spine.
My own race went OK, weather notwithstanding, and since JT wasn't there for this race, I've now sneaked into 1st place overall in the series for the Two-Lapper Men category. Here's my video summary below, if you're into these:
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I saw what looked like a great big earthworm on the road and thought that I recognized the pattern of a particular snake. After a quick U-turn I confirmed that it was indeed a snake that had the misfortune of being hit by a car. Normally, common snakes such as garter, bull and gopher will sun themselves on the road that winds through the Hangman Valley. You have to keep an eye out for them when riding or driving so as not to hit them. I always stop and encourage them back into the brush with whatever is handy. Usually, a squirt or two from the water bottle is all the encouragement they need to head to safer ground.
Today, the pattern was anything but common and the small snake was mocha brown with smooth shiny skin - classic Rubber Boa (Charina bottae). In the 20 years I have lived in this area, I have never seen a Rubber Boa on Hangman Valley Road until today. They are only one of two species of Boas that live in the US. They get their common name from the fact that they look like they are made from natural rubber. (I swear I am not making this up)
|Photo by Ryan Hoyer: www.rubberboas.com|
I learned they also like being handled by warm blooded humans and are quite calm and docile as a result. They will wrap around your hand and just hang-out for the warmth. I brought one home for the kids to learn from and we even took measurements and photos to send to Ryan Hoyer who has dedicated a site to research at http://www.rubberboas.com/index.html.
I really had not thought much about these cool little snakes until this morning and wondered how they had made it this far downstream and so near my house. I had to wonder if the deceased was the offspring of one I had brought home for viewing years ago. I had made a cool temporary habitat for it to live in for a couple of days and returned home to find that my tender-heart wife had let it go into the "wild" rather than letting me return it the several miles to its natural habitat. The wild in this case was some brush at the edge of our development which turns-out to be about 100 yards from the snake on the road. Coincidence, maybe.
Regardless, I root for these little guys as they are slow and seem like easy prey to predators and cars alike. I will be on the lookout for more this summer and hope other riders will too.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
More information at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wednesday-Night-Mountain-Bike-Races/65619745403
Monday, June 13, 2011
There was no wind for a change and I spied a rider up ahead on the Baltimore grade so the effort went up a notch or two. Without the computer, all I had to judge my effort was my breathing and how my legs felt. I had not ridden for a few days and the legs felt remarkably fresh. None of that heaviness I often experience.
Nothing to look at on the bars so I took in the sights and marveled and how quickly the surrounding Palouse was turning green and lush. So often when riding solo I think about maintaining a certain speed on each section regardless of how I feel that day. Not this day, I rode comfortably and enjoyed being out on two wheels on a clear day - just pedaling for the joy of it.
I saw people I knew out and even chatted with a couple for a mile or so - adding to the joy. I returned home from the ride refreshed and optimistic about the day ahead.
I think from now-on I will remove the computer once a week just to remind myself to take the occasional joy ride.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
The fourth XC race of the Wednesday-night series had a very good turnout (83 riders, including five junior racers!), and we enjoyed nice partly-sunny conditions in the low 60s. I got there early enough to pre-ride the entire loop with Steve. The course was mostly open, so bottlenecks weren't much of a factor this week. For this race, I switched to a favorite non-tubeless tire of mine, the fat-but-light 2.2-inch Continental RaceKing Supersonic, and opted to use light 125-gram tubes... they're not as resistant to pinch flats, but this is a very easy-rolling, easy-accelerating combo that I've also used for fast times in the Midnight Century.
When I got back from my pre-ride, I noted several powerhouse riders, including U.S. singlespeed CX champion JT Fountain, as well as Mike Gaertner and Doug Krumpelman of Vertical Earth, so I knew how the script was going to go: I'd hang with the leaders for a while, then hit the wall and get dropped on a climb ;) We got started, everyone gradually strung out and found their racemates, and as expected, I was clinging to the wheels of JT, Mike and Doug through the first lap and part of the second. Unfortunately I let my bike go too wide in a corner and put it into the trees (see the video below), and couldn't quite bridge up afterwards, so it was a distant 4th place for me in the end.
Two Wheel Transit's the bike-shop sponsor next week, so let's hope for more good weather and another good turnout. See you out there!
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Madone name started as the top of the line frameset at Trek. It has grown to include most of the road bike collection with a variety of numbers from 6.9 down to (I think) 1.2. Along the way you will start at steel frames and modest, price-point components. At the stratosphere, you will find the 6.9 SSL with Race XXX Lite wheels. And, not only at the stratosphere of the Trek line-up, but also just below some freakingly good riders, including the Radio Shack and Leopard (please pronounce this "Lay-o-pard)-Trek team. Pretty good company, no?
So what are they riding and why should you care? Because this bike is awesome, that is why. It is light in a way that frightens a big guy like me; it is stiff in a way that impresses and pleases a big guy like me; it handles in a way that is positive, linear and comfortable for anyone; and it is weirdly quick going uphill even for a big guy like me.
Two Wheel Transit Owner, and contract specialist, Geoff, was there for the Demo Days and made the comment that the bike helped him see the efficiency in his pedaling, or lack thereof. What he was referring to is the crazy light wheels on this bike that provide so little resistance to your pedaling action that it is easy to find the deadspot in your stroke. Think about moving a really heavy coffee table on carpet - you push and it moves. If, in contrast, you push a really light coffee table on a slick floor, you can easily exert enough force that you accidentally push it away so that it moves out of your hand and you have to move your quickly to catch back up. This wheelset on this bike is like that. You push the pedal and the bike immediately moves forward with no perceptible resistance except gravity. If you are on the flat, there isn't much and it is easy to squirt forward in the strong part of your stroke. On an uphill, you don't have that momentary lightness but you do have an oddly responsive and quick movement up a hill. So, think about that - that you have to pedal more smoothly because the bike is so light and responsive. Wow, what a problem to have.
The downside of light is usually that the object is not strong. Definitely not the case here. The bottom bracket has a rock-solid, no movement feel. I may not usually go uphill fast, but I can put out some watts (yes, for a limited and useless period), but it does mean that between some leg strength and weight, I can find the flexy or weak points in a ride. This bike exhibited no such characteristic. It was amazingly stiff and strong.
Similarly, the wheels, despite their light weight and lack of rolling resistance, seemed very stiff as well. Carbon absorbs vibration in a completely different way than other cycling materials, so that road chatter is smoothed, but it is also stiff in other directions, so while every bike claims to be "laterally stiff but vertically compliant" it is true in some instances. You aren't, however, looking for that in a wheelset. I once read a scientist type saying that riders can't really tell which wheels are more or less flexible directly, but they do easily communicate whether they feel "comfortable" going downhill at speed. Well, it turns out the more downhill comfort, the more stiff the wheels. In this case, I only got one reasonably fast descent, but there was no hesitation on my part from the wheels or frame, although this does raise the one issue that I noticed about this bike.
I noticed that as I turned at higher speeds, the frame slightly resisted going off of center before it leaned, then it leaned appropriately and in a smooth linear fashion, but then as soon as I started to come out of the lean, it seemed to come back to vertical very quickly - more quickly than I remember any other bike. This seems like it is an issue of some combination of rake or trail or some other metaphysical bike geometry property, but it could also be a size, stem, etc. combination that wasn't quite perfect for me (remember, this was a demo bike and "close" to my position). In any case, it wasn't bad, it was just different than other bikes. In thinking about it, it could also be the wheelset again. Did I comment on how light they are?
I think that Trek has always tried to balance the various attributes of bikes. They want strong and light and durable and comfortable. Some companies go just for one attribute - aero or light or stiff - but the trick is to get all of these in the right combination. Trek has done that with this super-sweet, super nice bike. I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to try it out if you missed Demo Days, but if you do get the chance - hop on it. You will not only not be disappointed, you will be amazed.
Monday, June 6, 2011
— Julia Child
One time, as reported in A Night of Firsts we had tri-bikes, road bikes and mountain bikes all riding together. This combination made for an interesting dynamic since everyone was trying to grab the wheel of a mountain bike and the tri-guys acting all aero and stuff. But again, it was fun (and freezing) with, you guessed it, pizza afterward.
Last week it was only a group of 6 hearty riders who braved wind, rain, cool temps and the threat of lightning to go out. It was one of the rider's first time on the shop ride and here he was in some of the worst weather. I have to admit I was ready to cancel when someone called my bluff and indicated he was going regardless. Well, there was pizza to eat afterward so off we went.
With the weather warming (finally) we hope to see the ride numbers grow again - each with its own feel and memories. When two or more riders come together - the recipe is right. Bon appétit.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Last Wednesday's XC race used a course I especially remember from last year, except it had to skip Little Vietnam due to the river's ongoing flood stage. The course uses several sections of the 24-hour course, but in reverse. It also has a notable hillclimb that I think should have "cardiac" in its colloquial name, if it doesn't already. And there are a few turns that come up so fast it's easy to overshoot them... after racing this course last year and having that problem, I decided it was a good idea to arrive early enough for a pre-ride. So after checking in, I pre-rode part of the course to remind myself of some of the sudden corners, as well as the bottlenecks and passing opportunities.
The race went so-so. I was having an off day as far as bike-handling went, and at the start, my heart rate climbed pretty fast, so I didn't get to the first bottleneck with the leaders for fear of totally blowing up. Hey, it's a 16-mile race, there's time... Then again, my racing strategies usually work as well as the villain-capture plan in a typical Scooby Doo episode. ;)
Anyway, if you have ten minutes to burn, the video below shows how that all worked out, plus a bonus feature of a young Two Wheel Transit customer racing on his Trek 3500. Cliff Notes version: I pursue but lose time on the lead group, and end up riding by myself for 1½ laps, finishing 3rd, throwing on my raingear, having a couple root beers, and then riding home.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
This past weekend I accomplished something quite impressive. Yes, I rode THREE DAYS IN A ROW. I know, I know. This sounds less than impressive. But hey, it’s been a tough year for me and riding time has been difficult to find.
So after an intense solo ride on Friday and a collegial yet sporting outing with the Morning Ride crew on Saturday, I woke up early Sunday to sore legs. After breakfast and coffee at 6:30 it was nice to hang around the house, play with my daughter and read the paper.
Around 10:00 I rolled out of the driveway headed for a ride I call “Super Rambo.” I’ll post a Garmin/GPS link another time, but this ride is the bastard lovechild of the Rambo Road loop, Four Mounds and Charles Road. So yes, it’s a lumpy loop sure to get a person’s heart rate up.
Because I didn’t intend for this post to be a ride report, I’ll move on, but first need to share a funny (I think) and pathetic (to be sure) story.
I haven’t been training and I ate an early breakfast. I was also tired, and left the house with no food and nothing put H two ohhhh in my bottle. As a result, after about two hours I began to bonk. Then I did bonk. Tunnel vision, flashing lights, the whole nine yards.
And here’s where the pathetic part comes in. I bonked hard enough that on the way home, I had to make a detour into the 24 Hour mountain bike race pits to find Two Wheel Transit’s support area so I could eat some of their race food. Bad form? Whatever.
Thoughts on climbing. The real reason for today’s post.
OK, so here’s the real reason I’m writing today. Climbing. I did a bunch of it on Sunday and started recalling the many questions I’ve had over the years about how to improve one’s ability to ascend. Now on the surface of things I might be a surprising person to ask about this. I’m a less than gifted climber. On the other hand I can occasionally hang with good climbers (and hopefully beat them in a sprint), and used to spend time with much faster people, who were incredible climbers. So, a person could be forgiven for assuming I know what I’m talking about.
Back on track. Here is my likely overly-pragmatic list of advice to improve your climbing. Agree? Disagree? Let me know.
1. 1. “Be a friend to the climbs.” This was the advice my good friend, and a former US Postal domestique, suggested. In other words, don’t drive yourself nuts trying to figure out the best interval workout. Instead, incorporate as many hilly rides into your routine as you can. Go hard not for two minutes or whatever the guest columnist in Bicycling suggested, but until you get to the top of the hill. When in doubt, go uphill. Learn to spin up hills. Focus on your breathing. Be friends with the hills.
2. Position yourself. Too often those of us that don’t like going uphill start at the back of the group. Inevitably gaps open and it’s impossible to keep up. Starting out at the back makes a bad situation worse. Don’t think you can make it to the top with the leaders? Read the next entry. Oh, and you sure as hell shouldn’t be taking a monster pull before the base of the climb. I know it makes it an easier justification for going as slow as possible uphill, but it’s still unnecessary.
3. You can do anything for 15 seconds. Many moons ago, in a race that had way too many fast guys, and far too much climbing for my DNA, I tried something that actually worked. Halfway up the climb I was still with the front group, but starting to fade. I didn’t want to be the prick that opened up gaps, so I pulled over to the left, but forced myself to ride for 15 seconds next to each person as they passed me. By some miracle it worked. I faked it till I maked it. If you can’t do 15 seconds, try 5. Just try.
4. Shrug your shoulders. Want to see someone wasting a bunch of energy? Look at the rider next to you next time they’re on the rivet. I can almost guarantee you their shoulders will be scrunched up and their body twisted on the bike. This slows you down. Trust me. Next time you start to suffer pull your shoulders all the way up to your ears, then let them go. Feel the difference? Now…
5. Don’t forget to breathe. Sounds basic, but control your breathing. You'll be surprised at how much it can help.
6. Meat on Bones. Back in the day I hired a sports psychologist named Jerry Lynch to work with one of my teams. He used to drill into our guys, “Like meat on bones, like meat on bones.” What does this mean? Have you ever seen footage of a cheetah hunting? Check out its face. Loose, relaxed, like meat on bones. Want other examples? Look at a Kenyan marathoner. Meat on bones. Check out Alberto Contador climbing. Meat on bones. The point is that you want to focus yourself, and focus your energy on the muscles that are working. Similar to point number four.
7. Remember that the climb doesn’t stop at the top of the climb. Want to bring someone to the woodshed? After you crest the climb go hard for another 30 seconds. All those skinny climbers that loved throwing down going uphill? Return the favor at the top of the climb. They’ll hate you for it. Of course you're just keeping them honest. And that's a good thing, no?
8. Lose weight. Everyone, especially me, hates this advice. Except in pretty extreme circumstances, if you’re lighter you’ll climb better. A couple of years ago Rider Two lost 15 pounds, and bought a bike that was five pounds lighter than his previous anchor. It made for a very uncomfortable spring. For me. Others will have much better advice. Mine? Eat more vegetables and less bread.
9. Put your heart rate monitor/power meter/biometric brainscan device in your pocket. This is probably imperfect advice, but there’s nothing more annoying than someone saying, “I’m already at 165 beats per minute. I won’t be able to keep this up for much longer.” Are you sure?
10. Get new parents. This part sucks, because it’s hard to do anything about it. One of my favorite quotes was during a press conference at a mountain bike race. Someone asked Rishi Grewal how much of his success had to do with his genetics. His answer? “50 percent. 50 percent from Mom, and 50 percent from dad.” That’s funny!
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Fortunately the weather cooperated this year and was mostly clear and cool after several days of rain. That meant the camping was much more hospitable and the course was almost without any dust and only a few mud holes which soon began to dry. Two Wheel Transit had a team of 6 riders registered, of which 5 raced the entire race in the 10 person corporate division. We wish we had cool video like the preceding post, but we do not. Given that it was a 24 hour race here are some highlights and observations rather than a detailed version of the entire race:
Jeremy only raced two laps due to a commitment on Sunday morning. What made his laps noteworthy was that he did both in flip-flop sandals on regular pedals.
Alec thought it would be a good idea to have some pizza, jerky, trail mix, soda and other goodies prior to doing his 10 pm night lap. This was not a good idea and in fact a bad one that led to no sleep and massive stomach cramps the remainder of the night - looked like he was done for the rest of the race.
Tom ended-up doing 2 laps back to back because the above racer was unable to ride his designated 4:38 am lap due to pizza induced misery.
Alec rallied for a 3rd lap after memorizing the inside of the latrine in great detail. He was later seen enjoying pancakes and then lasagna later in the day.
SOMEONE forgot to sign-in for his 1st lap which means the lap can be disqualified (this will be important later) so the team can lose the lap. Somehow the recorder person did not catch this, so the lap was counted. After discussing it among themselves the team decides to report the oversight and throw themselves on the mercy of the race directors. Race directors were out of mercy Sunday morning - so the lap was to be lost. Race directors later call for a representative of the team and informed him that after further investigation, credit for the lap will be granted.
(I did witness a rider for a winning team who had done just that. He came in from his lap, asked to be signed in for the lap and then scanned the timing chip to end his lap so there were other instances of grace on this rule.)
Some favorite team names - Pedalphiles, One Hour Lap Dance and On Your Right
Tom, Dan G. and Dan W. turned-in very consistent and fast lap times which carried the team - they are all great riders to whom we are grateful.
Geoff did his usual go out too fast on the beginning of his first lap and then try to recover during the second part after turning his lungs inside-out. He missed his chance to redeem himself on the second night lap when both of his lights died at the same time half way into the lap. (Those lights just don't charge themselves you know.) It made for a very interesting lap as he rode the remainder with his back-up flashlight strapped to his helmet.
The race organizers, sponsors and volunteers did a fabulous job of running a first class event.
Two Wheel Transit finished 2nd out of 32 Corporate teams with 23 laps and had a lot of fun. Had we lost the lap mentioned above it would have dropped us to 4th place and off of the podium.