I’ve got to figure that you and I don’t match up exactly on political issues, which is not a bad thing. And, in general, I tend not to bring up general, non-cycling political issues within the four walls of this blog. However, one huge issue that faces everyone who votes (and some who have chosen not to do so) is the actual counting of every citizen’s vote. If you care enough to educate yourself on the issues, if you feel these things impact you, if you haul your buttocks down to the polling place, fill out an early ballot, vote by mail or whatever you do, that vote ought to be counted.
There is some significant and valid concern that this is not occurring. This is also not new news to a lot of folks, so I apologize for playing a familiar tune. But, it’s on my mind this morning, and I wanted to just give two quick links, sort of pre-election day homework, so you can be ready if someone challenges your right to vote on election day.
This is a free comic book you can download. It has some history of the HAVA (Help America Vote Act of 2002), issues surrounding that legislation and steps you can take if your voting rights are challenged on election day.
This site has state by state references for confirming voter registration. Yeah, I know you registered. But why not check?
Anyway, that’s it. Now back to your regularly scheduled bike-geekery.
This last week had little-to-no riding for me. After feeling fine-ish last Monday, I woke up Tuesday with bongo ears and zeeeero energy. Whimpered and slept and managed to work from home for a couple days, finally feeling like whatever it was hadn’t quite gotten it’s puppy teeth into me by Thursday. But, by then it was catchin’ up and classes/engineering all weekend.
On the upside, I popped out of bed before the alarm clock for the first time since Tashi’s passing, and didn’t feel like I still needed a couple more hours of sleep. As everyone who doesn’t live in California’s photos show, the leaves are turning (oh yes!) and nature is getting serious about fall now. Out back, the winter’s lemon crop is starting to swell on the single tree. Things feel as though they are shifting, locking in, settling a bit somehow.
Maybe it was sleeping solidly all night, might have been successfully finishing the crossword with my wife last night, maybe it’s the silence of morning, before anyone but the squirrels are up.
Change is in the air. Slightly ominous events like talented ride buddies pondering the threat of layoffs, but reaffirming journies like LFoaB landing on the West Coast, a historic election next week with the ensuing epic laundry list of issues to solve. More tiny indicators from the morning fog to the reverential quiet of the crows this morning. All smaller issues in the grand flow of things, but somehow clicking like tumblers, dropping into place with a reassuring resonance. The general sense of petty fears and confusion dropping away, like a bit of debris in the wake on a calm sea.
And, I’ll be riding today.
As my recently-delivered pencam recorded above, my surfing screen printer dropped off a fresh box of shirts yesterday, so I’m now back in stock on Large and XL sizes. If you haven’t heard the pitch before, these are long-sleeve Hanes Beefy-T’s, so they feel all warm and comfy. If you jump on over to the “Stuff” page on the cyclofiend.com site, you can see the image a little more clearly, and place an order directly off the page. It has the “One Cog - Zero Excuses” mantra which is compatible both with both fixed-gear and singlespeed systems. Some happy owners have said that it seemed to give them that extra bit of “ooomph” over tough terrain.
Since there seemed to be measurable performance benefits to wearing the shirt, I was trying to get a high-fallutin magazine to review it, but all they wanted to know was if it was vertically compliant and torsionally stiff. When I told them that it seemed to move equally well in all directions, their tone cooled noticeably. There was an audible gasp when I mentioned they were 100% cotton.
But, then again, 100% cotton doesn’t give you startling suprises like this:
The coolest part of the day was running into Keven from RBW, after my race. We were back at the car, with the bike leaning up against the side of it. We all greeted one another and then he looked at my bike, laughed a bit and said, “Homer looks bad-assed!”
I’m pretty sure that his views were his own, as a reasonably avid (and quite talented) cross racer, rather than an official statement on the part of Rivendell Bicycle Works.
But, I’ve kind of gotten ahead of myself, haven’t I?
Leading up to this race - the first of the season on the BASP schedule - I’d done little “high-end” work and minimal running. By that test, I pretty much had no business lining up with the rest of the folks in my group. On the other hand, I’d been trying to punch things a little more on the commute miles, ride either fast or slow (staying out of the murky middle), and I felt pretty danged clean on dismounts/remounts when trying them.
I’d also been trying the Anti-Costanza approach to riding. This might require a bit of explanation.
I never really watched Seinfeld when it ran, grumpily saying something about not caring too much about neurotic city-dwellers’ lives. (Hey, I was younger and more opinionated). However, since it finished its run, the show - like World War II - always seems to be found, at any hour, on the television. Thus did the reruns seep into my conciousness. Somewhere in there, an episode exists wherein George decides that since everything he’s ever done has led him to his current feeble existence, his best move was to figure out what he should do and then do the opposite.
There’s a beautiful kernel of truth in such logic. Enticing. Alluring. Parting of the clouds, epiphanic moment of enlightenment kinda truth.
For the past year and a half or so, I’ve been on this cycle of “going well” followed by “aw crap, I’m sick again!” Now, a lot of that has had to do with work issues and the aforementioned lack of regular sleep. But, my hours have become a bit more regular of late and actually feel like I have some resilience built up. And, historically, that’s when I’ve overcooked it and slumped back down for a week or so.
With the Anti-Costanza approach to training, when I feel tired or wobbly or sorta/kinda funky, I rest. Y’know, pull back and read or sleep or nap.
This is revolutionary stuff. If you need to reread that last paragraph, feel free.
It dovetails neatly with the way I’ve been trying to ride for the last week - either fast or slow. It’s certainly not a novel concept, and if you read about real cyclists who have real speed, they allude to it in one manner or another: once you’ve got an aerobic base in place, you want to stay out of the middle area as much as possible. Theoretically, you are either teaching your muscles and system how to go fast, or you are recovering from that effort. It’s why intervals work. Overload followed by recovery.
You may have realized that I’ve been emphasizing a bit more of the recovery end of the equation. In practical terms, I’ve been slowing bringing things up until longer-ish rides don’t hammer me the way they did back in July and August of this year. When I get that feeling of, “Man! I feel good!” on a ride, I’ve eased up a bit and made sure that I took it easy. I didn’t have any preconceptions that it would somehow make me fast.
And besides, I do this for fun, anyway. Which more or less brings us to the race held Sunday.
The Mclaren course is interesting. As lauren wrote, it’s kind of a cyclocross course that pretends to be a cyclocross course but is really a mountain bike course. Personally, I’m kind of split on the issue, as I feel supremely confident flying down extended, narrow, bumpy-as-hell, off-camber sections on a cross bike, where my mass and lack of concern for personal safety combine in what is at times an altogether frightening episode of momentum. However, since most bike races take place using Euclidian geometric standards, stantial downhill sections generally mean that there will be climbing involved.
Curse you, mass! Damn you, fickle mistress of momentum!
There were two such spots on the course this year - the (in)famous “Beast” which is a runup from the start level - and the asphalt path which climbed up from the parking lot. becoming a trail to the woodsy overlook bit. Stuff we had dropped down on last year. Since the soccer fields have now been finished, they had reversed the directions a bit, and cut out some of the back and forth and up and down from the upper section 2007 Course.
It kinda went like this:
Start under the trees between the fields, scent of bbq brats and beer, coffee and chainlube in the air. Follow the perimeter of the baseball field to the runup. No preamble barriers this year, just off and scrum up the hillside. Hard right turn in the dust and then a little jiggle-joggle before dropping in for a downhill run. This was bumpy, curved up and contoured the hill in pedal-strike-ville, then dropped again to find the asphalt path. Asphalt path uphill, cut right to the trail and follow up and around the edge of the park (nice overlook) until it tucks under the trees. Gaining momentum, you are presented with the first challenge - bunny hop the log and gain a boatload of time, or bunnyhop the log and make the Best Crash Video. After regaining composure, you follow the spine of the hill, then enjoy a little drop and loose right hand turn, follow the bumpy S-turn down to the top-o-the-runup level. From there, you swoop down the pavement, negotiate some root cracks in the asphalt and hit the fields again. The organizers stuck a nasty little forced left-right-left set of turns on dirt infield, then you continued across the grass to line up the “Super Quad” - a set of four level barriers. Following that, you hopped back on, turned hard left and started the process again.
Ya lines up. They warn ya. They blow a whistle and the younger older pups take off. Ya waits another minute and they blow another whistle. And yer racin’…
This was from the first lap, I reckon. I like it because the blurriness makes it look like I’m moving really fast. Rather than, y’know, just having appeared in the frame while the camera was focused on SWoo’s friend behind me. I’m pretty sure that was the first lap, as I’m still wearing my glasses. About another half lap in they were so fogged up that I left ‘em perched on my nose until I could get a hand free to stow them. (I actually almost tossed them to someone I thought was my wife…)
As you can see here, there were still folks around me at this point. After lumping my way up the climb, I was ready for a short nap, but everyone kept riding and I decided to honor my preparation and keep going.
For my preparation, I’d settled on a mix of half Italian and half French. My hope was that it would bring the best of Gino Bartali’s relentless climbing tenacity and Jacques Anquetil’s smooth style and ability to win regardless of how late he had stayed up the night before. Instead, it seemed to create a hybrid of a surly Vespa repairman and that French exchange student who you are pretty sure stole your best jacket. I’ll have to rethink the caffeine implementation before the next race.
When we hit the downhill bit, I had the disturbing experience of catching folks who had gotten safely away from me. This was briefly heartening, until I realized that someone in the 35+ group had caught a pedal or hammered the brakes at the wrong time, and there was a bottleneck at the transition to the asphalt path. By this point, I’d reminded myself that my goal was to finish and keep momentum going through the race. This was probably a good goal, but maybe a bad strategic idea. I pulled it back a touch, well, far enough so that I no longer made the whining dog sound when I breathed, stayed seated and climbed.
Got caught. Got passed. Got caught and passed. Got passed without caught being thought.
Under the trees and momentum returns. Opted for the off-and-leap to deal with the log, as did everyone nearby. Tried to recover a bit on the swoop to the next bit, did the drop, muffed the turn had to order some momentum. Then before I knew it, there was asphalt under the tires and we swung down towards the ball field again. For most of the ripply grass surface, my legs were asking me just what the flip I was thinking. Couldn’t quite hit the right pace to skim over the top, and the good line bore the marks of sprinkler-induced mud. Suddenly I was lining up for the barriers and habit took over.
(original photo by nadiamac)
It also seems that adrenaline did too, as there was no barrier within sight that would have necessitated lifting my bike that high. Those 1 x 12’s seemed pretty danged tall, by that point…
Now, there is usually a point during a cross race where you feel like complete and utter crap. You want to stop, sit down and get your breath back. I know that it’s there, and await its arrival. It probably has a lot to do with the body’s response to rocketing off the line, full of adrenaline. Adrenaline runs out, and there’s a precipitous moment where the brain forgets that there’s other fuel to run off of. As Kent Petersen once opined, “Keep pedaling, it will get better.” If you can keep going, something else kicks in and you continue.
This race, interestingly enough, that didn’t happen. I actually felt a little better lap by lap, prodigous amounts of phlegm nonwithstanding. But, I never really felt that first spike and drop. Have to feel that it was actually caused by a lack of spike. But, hey. That’s what speed work is for, eh?
It continued like that - hurting on the runup, big-ringing the descent, hurting on the climb, trying to recover, and then enjoying the barriers - for another four laps. Ended up fully and completely DFL in my division.
Yeah, so, anyway. I did have fun, and it was actually encouraging to feel like something was left in the tank. Probably could’ve started pushing things a lap earlier or so, but that’s always easy to say after the fact.
So, it’s Candlestick Park in a couple weeks!
Good photo sets:
Went to the trails, worked my way up to full speed on dismounts and remounts. Totally muffed one, which is a good thing to do when there aren’t 45 rabid, slobbering, blood-sensing cross dogs howling behind you. But, felt good enough to put myself through the 40-50 minutes of sensless running around with a rideable bike on my back down at Mclaren Park tomorrow.
Came home and cleaned and teched. Got things ready. Tools and spare stuff packed. Camera batteries charged. Washed some really salty wool jerseys which have been in the drawer too long. Then visited the local dermal inking facility for that extra mental edge.
Knew it before I even heard it.
Got to work a little late, and whipped off my jersey to change. As it passed over my head I felt a subtle change in the mass of the garment, a slight fluctuation in the air pressure, thought, “oh. crud”, and then the sound came - “twack”
Not a large sound, mind you. Just a definite ceasing of vertical motion of a small plastic housing upon a reasonably solid concrete floor. Only one part jettisoned. The battery housing contact plate. Ever hopeful, I placed it back where it went and closed the cover.
There was as small impact gouge at one end, and that was pretty much all it took. Certainly, taking the jersey off had jettisoned the pencam in an upward arc, so it was a little more than just a clumsy drop-to-the-ground. I tried a few little digital-device CPR tricks, but it was to naught.
So, that makes - what? - five I’ve munched.
I’ve found myself thinking about this too much in the last 24 hours. My spirally recursive thought loop goes something like this: I bought the pencam so I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking a good digital camera. But, because the pencam doesn’t cost much, I’m more prone to putting in into a jersey pocket so I can easily get to it to snap a photo or two. The inexpensiveness of the pencam encourages me to engage in risky behavior. If I used a higher quality piece of gear, it might lead me to use more care in its protection - putting it into my bag, for example. But then, I’d take fewer photos. Of course, if I had to pay for film and processing, I’d probably take fewer photos. So, the whole cycle begins with supreme ease of snagging digital images, which is in turn amplified by the attractiive venues for sharing them. Which leads me to want to have a method for taking them. Since using my camphone is reasonably high-risk, using my regular digital camera is slightly less so, we’re back again to wanting a cheap camera to have at the ready.
The problem is that this is also making me realize why I don’t really like cheap stuff. It too easily becomes disposable. And as Annie Leonard articulated all too well, disposable has real costs. So I find myself fantasizing about an impact-resistant camera (or phone), kinda like those Panasonic Toughbooks. Maybe there out there already.
But then again, so is another pencam. Cripes, maybe I should just start numbering ‘em like Pete Townshend. Or, I guess I could be a bit more careful next time.
The first CX race came and went last month. In the week before, I toyed briefly with idea of heading over and toeing the line. It would’ve been hard. I mean, cross races are always hard. But, I hadn’t really done, well, anything to prepare for it.
Riding had been at least been a bit more consistent, if labored. A quick trip to the trails gave me a pretty good wake up call, and made me realize that I really had no business duking it out on the circuit. It wasn’t really the impending lunch-scorching, bile-tasting chewy goodness of the race effort. Instead it was a definite feeling of lack-of-connectedness to the bike when the topography got bobbly.
Though I’d been riding more regularly, almost all had been on paved roads or pretty smooth bits. While out on the trails that day, I could feel myself tensing up on some more technical passages, not quite able to commit to a move which was necessary. After playing around with some dismounts and clambering drills, I sat down for a minute and pondered the teachings of two spirtual guides -
“There is no try. There is only to do or not to do.” - Yoda
“Walk left side of road, walk right side of road. Walk in center of road, sooner or later you get squashed like grape.” - Mr. Miyagi
It was pretty clear that I was trying to walk down the middle of the road. Bad recipe. Good plan for getting good and hurt. So, I opted out, slept in, made a nicer breakfast for my wife that weekend.
I was going to write something about it back then, but it began to seem pretty trivial against the backdrop of the financial circus that still swirls around us. It still does, I suppose.
But tonight - a few weeks later - walking the little dog in the near daylight glow of the full moon, I found myself thinking to the 1920’s and 30’s, when folks did crazy things like show up to watch bike racing on the road or at the track. How maybe cheering and excitement made things a little easier, gave a little bit of hope.
Any line drawn between then and now is tenuous at best. Times have changed, to be sure, and whether or not I show up at the next race won’t make a damn bit of difference, except for the many folks who roundly school me as they blow past on the way to the finish and get to have another person behind them in the final standings.
On the other hand, there’s some reason we watch, yell encouragement or feel compelled to toe the line. We see the efforts played out at such close quarters. Maybe a goodly bit of artiface crumbles, and we might find similarities. Maybe we find our better selves for a while. Maybe we just like to watch men run around in dresses.
The dog continued to sniff and piddle, then patter along slowly towards home. We traded the lead several times as I breathed in the cool and dry evening air. You can feel fall is here now, even though we’ve been having warm days.
I’ve been able to ride a little harder of late, banging around the trails on Saturday with C. Xavier Hilsen and following that up with a trail-n-road fixed ride on the Quickbeam. The legs felt ok running up some steep bits with a perfectly rideable bike on my shoulder, but then locked up a bit on subsequent tries. Not precisely where I wanted to be right now, but it is where I is…
Got an email from the fine folks at Pilarcitos tonight. They were updating folks on some changes to the McLaren Park race this Sunday. They say that since the soccer field projects are finished, the course will be rerouted a bit. It sounds like there will be a bit less climbing, though the 30 meter climb they call “The Beast” will remain.
Of course, the “bit less climbing” may be the equivilent of hitting yourself with a claw hammer as opposed to a ball peen hammer.
On the other hand, I’m currently opting for a many-geared system, so how hard could it be? Oh. Yeah. I remember now. It is curious how easily we forget stuff like that. They are adding a “Super Quad” set of barriers to the new “flat” section. And I actually like barriers…
I’ve mentioned Ken Y. a couple of times. He’s on the Rivendell list. He used a Quickbeam to ride the Trans-Iowa, and has been using the same bike to run up an amazing string of commute-to-work days over the past year. This is not some wimpy, SF Bay Area commute like I have. The guy has to deal with serious Minnesota winters. It’s been awe-inspiring and more than a bit humbling to read his postings. And he just keeps on commuting.
Well, until yesterday, it seems. Looks like he got tapped by a car on his Friday homeward leg.
Not a lot of specifics, but it seems to be part of a rather disturbing trend in that state.
His blog is here, and it might be nice to drop a comment or wishes his way. My personal belief is that his string continues - it shouldn’t be broken by events such as this.
Didn’t attend Interbike this year, so I’ve been living vicariously off reports and photo spreads (and what exactly is it about the .mac/.me gallery function that generates such slooooooowwwww response and ultimately “Unresponsive Script” warnings? Gimmee Flickr!) for the past week or so. Rawland and the Salsa Fargo seem to be getting noticed, which is great, and the Longbike Revolution seems imminent, which is even better. Moots was slapping Rivendell Rolly-Pollys onto their models, another indicator that peacefully coexisting, we will get you riding larger tires.
But, one wrinkle I hadn’t noticed until this morning was the Bruce Gordon Cycles BLT from the Taiwanese deli*:
(*um, sorry for the unfortunate sandwich-y reference. dont’ know what came over me.)
In which you, yes you, can get the above rig - that’s frame, fork (1″ threaded steerer standard, but threadless available as an option), and the some of the best danged touring racks available - BG’s 4130 tubular racks - for $925. The T/BLT page goes into more detail, and it’s worth a look.
Shouldn’t be any confusion regarding which frames were made where, eh?
Specifically, this entry:
Garnered this response. It’ll be interesting to see the server traffic count by week’s end.
It’s been fun to read both the initial presentation and the ensuing comments on his blog. The bike is certainly unlike any other in the galleries, and has a - shall we say? - reasonably diverse parts pick. In all honesty, I did consider passing on this entry, as the use of carbon as a frame material (or more specifically, the tube material), does put this submission in a very small group. On the other hand, it is from the early days of carbon, and as such has a unique place in the design evolution.
Then of course, the locational diversity of the photographs suggests that the bike gets used, which really is one of the prime considerations for inclusion. The owner supplied quite a few photographs, which I cut off at number 6 (letting him have one more than max), and, although he may be preying upon my rather sketchy knowledge of sites around New York City, there seemed to be more than a few miles between them.
I suppose it’s possible that he tossed the bike into a cab and toted it from spot to spot, but I like to think otherwise.
Plus, for the lack of a better phrase, it seemed like a very earnest effort. And as I worked my way through the backlog of entries, I kept looking through the photos in this entries. The bicycle certainly wasn’t even slightly derivative anything I’d seen before, and while reading the straight-forward description he included, I kept having an image of the owner scorching through the streets of NYC on this thing, with a huge smile pasted on his face.
So there it is.