Monday, September 01, 2008

Fhead TT

Did two time trials at Fountainhead over the last few weeks, looking for irrefutable scientific proof that singlespeeds are indeed faster than geared bikes.

Short version:
Rigid 29er singlespeed: 45 minutes
Geared full suspension 26er: 58 minutes

Long version:
With my Dee-Salvoo still in FedEx limbo I hit the Bike Lane for a demo bike to tie me over and got set up with a nice GR Hi-Fi (geared, full suspension, 26er wheels-- yang to my yin). Got to Fountainhead for an early 7am spin with Pete, Mike and Mike (a few weeks ago it was with Pete and Pete. I've also been on rides with Joe and Joe. Parents: time to start thinking up some new names for your kids, like maybe Helbert. But that's another blog post, I digress). Amazing how a geared full boinger feels after riding rigid ss for a few years. Like riding a couch. I flew through rooty downhills with nary a shiver. On the hills, a magic flick of the shifter and the pain subsides. Climbing traction was also surprisingly good over the rough stuff and the "pro-pedal" setting worked like it should, keeping the bobbing to a minimum. When everything was working right, I felt I could climb just as fast on this bike as on my ss, maybe even faster. Ah, but there's the rub, and the reason I did away with gears a long while ago. Things didn't always work right, and I'm too stupid to fix them. I was reminded of this today when I was treated to some nasty episodes of ghost shifting and cassette grinding.

Still, the bike felt fast and I was curious to see just how fast it was compared to my ss. So after the ride I went back for some alone time. Noted the time on my car's clock and off I went. Felt really good after a couple of miles, good enough to start thinking that my previous 45 minute personal best was gonna fall today. Got to the "Dead-End" loop, blew out the back tire and realized I didn't carry a spare tube with me. Hmm. Walked the rest of the way out. 58 minutes later I'm back at the car. See, singlespeeds ARE faster.

Still trying to find the right words to do poetic justice to SSWC, but having a hard time rhyming something with "Merkin". Hang on a bit longer kiddies...

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Wow. Do a Google search for "single speed race" and this NY Times article is the first hit. Be sure to view the slide show. However disturbing it may look, I can assure you it was more so "in the flesh."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SSWC08 prologue (Stoner faces Death)

The first of a dramatic trilogy that began at 11:59pm, December 31, 2007. Here,we begin with a facinating field study of Homo-erectus Stonerus and his battle with Death on the barren steppes of the Imola passage.

IMG_4573Wednesday: we rolled into Skyline Park, Napa CA, put up the tent in a haste and did a course pre-ride with the gang led by Rene and Brita. Stoner stays behind anxiously waiting by his cell phone for the call signifying the arrival of his new Jones frame-- a theme that will be repeated several times over the next two days. My first experience with the course confirms what I had been thinking over the previous week or so-- Steve Spearman is a weenie. I like Steve, but he's a weenie. A weenie for trash talking the SSWC course thereby forcing us to live up to the smack. This course is not easy. There are long climbs, tight switchbacks, and techy downhills that rival those at our East Coast stomping grounds. All of the techy stuff is ridable, but a brief loss of concentration can lead to disaster, as Stevo hisself demonstrates on race day. Plus, it's hot and the Poison oak is growing aplenty. Overall, it's an extremely fun course. Curtis and crew (the organizers) have done a great job laying it out.

Back at the campsite, still no news of Stoner's frame. Calls to Jeff Jones (JJ) wind up in voicemail. I tell him flat out, "Jason, something's happened. Jeff is not coming." Stoner remains optimistic. "Well, it's a long drive from Oregon and maybe he stopped along the way and doesn't have cell phone reception, and..." (Denial).

IMG_4575Thursday morning, Gina, Kathy, Jo, and I head out to St. Helena to check out the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and sample some wineries along the way. Ricky stays behind to do some more riding. Still no call from JJ. Stoner stays behind to find new ways to stalk and sulk. I tell him he can borrow my bike to get his riding fix, because that's the only riding he's gonna get to do since his frame isn't coming. He shoots back dead silence (Anger). The road to St. Helena is lined with wineries big and small. Most display their pedigree on their sleeves, i.e., driveway signs such as "Winery of the year 2007", "Best winery according to such-and-such...". These places usually have gift shops,picnic areas, gardens, and the largest crowds. Nice places to take pictures. Other places are more unassuming-- a simple wood sign, a small tasting room, not much else. Not a wine expert myself, but the quality of the wine seems to be inversely proportional to the amount of fluff. My favorite place, AO (and Kathy's recommendation), fell squarely into the latter category. Wound up with 8 bottles and a wine club memberhip at the end of it all. Good stuff.

Alpha Omega Winery Back at camp, there's word that JJ is doubting the travelability of his van and has not left Oregon yet. "See, I told you he's not coming," I remind a glum-looking Stoner (skipping the Bargaining stage altogether, fully into Depression and preparing for Acceptance). Gina, Kathy, and I go for another quick spin on the course before heading out later that night with Ricky and Jo to the big culinary adventure that is Julia's Kitchen. Now, I've been known to "play" chef once in a while, but the schiz at Julia's is the real thing. Scallops, oysters, and summer squash for appetizers, lamb, ribeye, trout, and duck for main courses, triple sorbet, an almond pyramid, and macaroons for dessert, and a few freebies thrown in-- we left 3 hours later, satisfied, but without the feeling of gluttony, even though I think we did eat a hell of a lot of food.

Rolling into camp, Stoner has his frame and is building it up in the dark (Salvation). JJ came through in spades. The swoopy tubes are beautiful and the welds are perfect. With similar bikes on the way to Ricky and JoeW, I try to supress the thought that somehow, my beautiful DeSalvo will soon be relegated to fourth, maybe only fifth hottest bike on the local trails (Denial). I look around for bike parts to hide-- to somehow delay the inevitable build (Anger). But Stoner is onto my tricks and is watching his stuff like a badger. "Well, maybe I'll still be faster," I think to myself (Bargaining). Faster?!? Who the hell cares when you have a frame built by Jesus hisself (Depression).

Jeff Jones

When the bike is finally built, the campsite looks like a Nativity scene. Wise and not-so-wise men have come from near and far to admire the new creation. We spend the rest of the night taking turns riding Stoner's new bike around the camp (Acceptance).

more to come...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I loves me my cross bike

Cross check w/ gearsFinally put my Cross check together from parts that I ordered last year. Put on an LX rear deraileur, stole the 9-speed rear wheel from Gina's road bike, WTB dirt drop bars, Shimano 105 shifter/brake lever, blue bar tape, a couple of fat tires, wala! Cross bike! Not the lightest or prettiest cross bike out there, but it's not bad for a cat C crosser like myself. Took it for a spin this morning around the neighborhood and adjoining trails. Gotta love the freedom of a cross bike. Not confined to asphalt, but it also doesn't suck on asphalt like a mountain bike. Rode around Burke Lake, then hit the fields of the South Run rec center for some cross practice. I got a little bit of everything on this morning's ride: paved road, gravel road, singletrack, and the hardest surface of all: grass. I'll take mud over grass any day. Something about me and grass don't go together. It's sticky AND slippery, but only when you don't want it to be. I did a hard effort this morning and it sucked. Think I blew up after 15 minutes. Now I have a week to pull a 40 minute cross race out my a$$. Gonna do the Lake Fairfax race to wrap up the season and then get back to doing what I do best-- procrastinating on my "training" for next year. How I miss me those 100 milers.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Wild 100

There's no starting line, heck there's not even a starting bell. They simply hand you a map and you go. 5 checkpoints, hit them in order, the route is up to you. If you do it right, it's about 100km give or take 40. There are no markings on the course because there is no course. Except for some "illegal" pavement sections and private property, bushwhacking is allowed. If you think you have the navigating skills and guts to wander off into the woods, well, you did sign the insurance waivers didn't you? The Wild 100-- a true backcountry race.

Given our combined lack of navigating skills, I'd been trying for a couple of years to get Rickyd to do this race with me. But after I got turned down twice, I decided to find another equally navigationally challenged race partner: Gina. My three goals: 1) get off the course before dark, 2) have lots of fun romping around in the woods, 3) remain married to Gina at the end of it all. Glad to say I accomplished all three.

Gina and I stayed at one of the Elk River Touring Center extension cabins. I recommend this to anyone doing this event since the overnight temps can get quite cold even in August and nothing beats a good night's sleep before the race.
Pre-race jitters? nah...

Another reason to get a cabin: access to the (very clean) restrooms in the main lodge instead of lining up for the porta-johns before the start.

Race day started with my usual pre-race trash talking and flexing of the muscles:
flexing the "muscles"

Intimidation personified. I was not alone in this respect:
bunky and mike (first-timers/winners)

That's Bunky and Mike. They would go on to win the first-timers class. And of course Bike Lane teamie, Camp-- business as usual, looking cool as a cucumber:
LC is all business

The race started with a long fireroad climb that taxed the early hard chargers. I stayed off the gas for the most part and stayed back to watch Gina mix it up with some folks that we would wind up spending most of the day with.
Gina mixing it up with the boys

After the fireroad came the Jeep trail of mud:
Muddy Jeep trail

Then a little bit o fence hopping
Gina negotiating an "obstacle"

and bushwacking
hiking up to Gay Sharps Knob

...and we found ourselves at the first checkpoint some 15 miles later.

real backwoods racing

Gauley Mountain mud

From the picture, you'd think we were in a tropical rain forest. The vegetation is all over the place, from tropical looking banana tree-like plants, to dessert cacti, to loomy ferns:
primeval forest

We hit checkpoint 3 not long after this pic was taken. And that would be the end of the race for us. There was no way to make the next checkpoint before the time cutoff, so we called it quits. Ten hours and 53 miles later, we arrived back at the lodge.
still smiling after 53 miles (and 10 hours!)

This was Gina's longest mountain bike ride by far, more than double anything she'd done in the past. Glad to see she was still smiling at the end of it. I hope I can get her to do it again next year, but I think I'll wait a few more months before asking her.

It would be great to see more coed teams doing this race. Consider this the callout for next year! What say you, homies?!? Ya got 8 months to train, and I know a good divorce lawyer.
day's end

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bear country

A while ago, Gina and I hit the GWNF to cram some base miles in before the Wild 100. Basically the same route that ChrisH and I did, but this time we climbed the road to Woodstock Tower instead of doing that infernal scrag hike. The Massanutten trail from Woodstock to Edinburg is a hidden gem. Just flat out great technical ridge riding typical of the GWNF. The trail doesn't see much bike traffic though. It's a little further from DC than its more well-known siblings, Elizabeth Furnace and Buzzard Rocks. And it's also a highway for bears. So bring your bear bells and use them correctly, i.e., make sure the person *in front* has one. Otherwise, the lead rider (me in this case), rides right by the bear, and the person with the bell (Gina) scares the bear and sends it running up the trail-- toward the rider in front (me). Luckily, it was only a cub and the trail was wide enough to let it get past me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Adobo ride

A dozen Pinoys and Pinays lightly browned, and a dash of vanilla. Shake vigorously and serve on the rocks. Ah, smells like the first ever Adobo ride at Gambrill, a.k.a., the largest ever gathering of Pilipino mountain bikers on the North American East Coast Universe.
A good blend of Gambrill first-timers and veterans, two groups of riders toured the Yellow Loop and rendezvoused for a post-ride pot luck. A few new faces and some I hadn't seen for a while. Props to: Jojo rockin the singlespeed for the first time at Gambrill; Gina, not so fresh after yesterday's GW ride, still rockin on the new Kish; Garret emerging from out of nowhere and rockin the rigid cantilevered-brake bike; Darwin sneaking out of church to ride with us and rushing back for the final blessings; and thanks to the group of first-timers I led for not killing me when I got us lost.

yellow a hardcore garret

It wouldn't be the Adobo ride without...
adobo ride picnic