San Francisco

It’s been five days off the bike, in San Francisco.  In lieu of pedalling, I’ve been hucking up SF’s steepest hills with a backpack and a 36 pound 5-year-old on my shoulders.  I have a few observations from my trip.

1.  I miss my local bike shop.  The shops in the immediate downtown area (at least those I’ve seen) have been overpriced tourist-magnets.  I didn’t get to Black Mountain Cycles or any of the cool shops in the Bay Area, and I didn’t even get over to Pacific Cycles (which was quasi-ok from what I recall of my last trip).  But what I have seen has been super-douchey.

2.  They have the makings of a great bike scene here.  They have the right laws in place, they have the right signs…

They have beautiful scenery, challenging hills, etc.  They have a huge population of bike-commuters.  And yet, things still seem confrontational.  I cannot tell you how many adverse interactions I’ve seen between cars and bikes–and there’s no clear rule on who is being the jerk.  I’ve seen cars drive like total a-holes, and I’ve similarly seen bikers instigating adverse interactions with careless riding.  Certainly the downtown riding scene isn’t symbolic of the whole area (man, I’d love to do some riding in Sonoma), but what it does show is that you cannot create a harmonious bike scene simply by creating bike lanes.  It makes me think, more and more, that what we’re doing with Axletree is the model of things to come, nationwide.  Working on civility and positive bike/car interaction is just as important as building infrastructure.

3.  People want to bike.  You wouldn’t believe how many tourists come here and rent total piles of crap–dangerously unsafe bikes–and huck them across the Golden Gate Bridge.  No, really.

It’s crazy.

(Sidenote: I can’t believe how many ride without helmets.  With streets that are loaded with cars, taxis, RR tracks, trolley tracks, e-train tracks, etc., I wouldn’t be caught dead without a helmet…pun intended).

This is also reinforcing what we’re doing with Axletree.  People want to ride bikes.  They see it as fun.  We just have to find ways of having these same people ride bikes when they get home…to make it a recreational activity at home…not just on vacation.

4.  Pedaling a paddleboat is challenging.

Pedalling at a low RPE (rate of perceived exertion) produces a base speed.  Doubling effort increases speed by perhaps 10%.  Doubling effort again increases speed by perhaps another 5%.  These bad boys just don’t want to go fast.

5.  BPaul is a monster.  Seriously.  He came in second at his first ‘real’ crit in 3 years.  Lenny is a monster too.  I ride with monsters.

I like to ride with Monsters.

We’ve got to do something about this.  We have the legs.  We need to get a team going.


(Note: a ton of pics of the new Salsa Carbon Mukluk have been released, following Saddledrive.  If you haven’t read about Saddledrive, read about it here.  I’ll have my thoughts at some point in the near future.)


Superfly SS

The El Mariachi is gone.  I loved the singlespeed experience, and genuinely liked the El Mar.  Something about our experience just didn’t click.  So the new steed in the garage is the Trek Superfly SS.

This was a 2 year old frame that I picked up, and have built up with a myriad of parts.

SRAM XX1 cranks, 32T chainring.

Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, 2.4″ up front, 2.2″ in rear, Niner nude carbon fork with carbon steerer.

The wheels are Chris King (SS), generic spokes, red brass nipples, and Stans Arch rims, set up tubeless.

XTR Brakes, ENVE carbon DH bars.

Thomson Stem.

Yeah, there’s a blue Chris King BB in there.  It’s from the Vaya, and I couldn’t bring myself to not use it.

ENVE 27.2 seatpost.

Tons of tire clearance in the rear, with the 2.2s.  2.5s should fit.

I’m ordinarily not a fan of bar ends, but on an SS, the extra leverage can come in handy on big hills.

Ergon SM3 Pro saddle.

Chris King 17T cog.

I was running 34/19 on the El Mar, so 32/17 is a bit faster/harder gearing.  32/18 is identical to 34/19, so if this doesn’t work out, I can swap to a bit easier gear.  A standard chain works perfectly on the XX1 chainring.

Neither the wheels nor the tires are not the lightest out there, but she’s still about 18.5 pounds, fully built.  If you wanted to go flyweight, you could build up wheels with lighter hubs, spokes and rims, run some lighter tires, go lighter on the bars and stem, grips, blah blah blah.  As-built, it’s a bullet.  It’s amazingly snappy.  FAAAAst.  And yet with the big tires, 27.2 seatpost, and carbon frame, it’s surprisingly comfortable, even on chatter off-road.  It positively kills on trails that have rollers (e.g. Saw Wee Kee).  It’s a lot more ‘popable’ than the El Mar–livelier and snappier.  On the other hand, its more aggressive than the El Mar, and not a bike that I’d pick for touring or super-long endurance rides.  But that said, it’s amazing–a super fun bike.  The more you ride it, the more you want to ride it.  More.

St. Charles Criterium

On Sunday, I rode out to St. Charles to watch the Intelligentsia Cup Prairie State Criterium.

Sidenote: I rode the Brompton, after converting it to 6 speed.  I’ll have details on that at some point…but it was a nice, pleasurable, easy ride.  The Brompton always draws a crowd.

The primary purpose for my going was to watch my friend, Lenny, hammer on the other riders in the Masters 1-2-3 race.  While most of the pack had $10,000 bikes with fancy wheels, Lenny was sporting a stock Madone 4, alloy wheels, and a helmet that appears to be older than me.  He can still wipe the floor with me.

I brought the big camera, for fun.

Giving the thumbs-up, resplendent in North Central Cyclery kit.

Nah, just kidding.

A little pre-race pep talk from his coach.

Out in the pack, early in the race.

Gettin’ fast.

Going for the break.

Time to sprint.

The long and winding road.

All smiles, after the race.

Lenny’s a monster, so it was fun watching him on the course.  Everyone on the Wednesday night rides has a lot to learn from him–about training, tactics, and courteous riding.  Seeing him out there kindled a little competitive spirit in me.  Racing next year?  This fall?

Professional grade?

A great read.

Cycling in the South Bay

Part of the bike racing culture is greed. It’s caused by several things, but these are the main ones.

First, the travel cost to weekly races is high, the cost of equipment is high, and the constant manufacture of improved products means that the expense is never-ending. Racers are either perpetually broke or perpetually fighting with their wives/husbands about bike-related expenses.

Second, bike racers spend a lot of time on the bike “suffering,” which means “self-induced discomfort.” This suffering — not to be confused with actual suffering, which is the condition of excruciating misery that cannot be alleviated of your own accord — makes racers feel superior to mere mortals, and therefore entitled to get everything free or for a ridiculous discount.

Third, athletes of all types are narcissists.

How bad is it in cycling compared to other sports?

I don’t know. But friends who’ve been heavily involved in sports…

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ZOMG Specialized Fatbikez.

I had 4 emails yesterday from people wondering why I wasn’t furiously blogging about the new Specialized fatbikes revealed yesterday.

Here it is, on bike rumor:

I saw the releases coming out (and I saw a lot of shops twitter-rhea of pics from the Specialized dealer camp), but didn’t post it up.  Why?  There’s a panoply of reasons.’

I was busy.  True.  Yesterday, I was swamped.  But I could have made time for a quick post and link, so that’s not the real reason.

I’m not impressed.  Also true.  One of the biggest manufacturers in bikes gets into the fatbike scene, and there’s no innovation?  Aluminum frame + carbon fork.  That’s it.  No nifty drivetrain, no new ideas.  On top of that, it uses 190mm rear spacing.  190mm.  Go look at a 12×142 mountain bike.  Now add nearly 2 inches in width.  In my mind, that’s ridiculous.  (And Speshy isn’t even the first to go to 190).  I think riders will be spending a lot of time clapping their heels against the chainstays…and I’m curious to see what the Q-factor will be.  Will there be innovation in the future?  Maybe.  But for their ‘first out of the gate’ effort, I’d expect more.  I’d expect something more thoughtful and more innovative.  Specialized, who has made a practice out of suing others who do something even remotely like what Specialized does, has come out of the gates swinging with…a fatbike that just copies what everyone else does.  If you slapped a Salsa sticker on it, I don’t think anyone would look twice.  (Hey, it even has matte olive drab powdercoat).  I didn’t feel compelled to go write about it, because I don’t see any there there.  I don’t view this as a company coming to market to bring new and exciting technologies.  I view this as a Speshy wanting to glom onto a niche that they’re not in, so they copy existing technology and start mass-producing unremarkable fatbikes.  I view it as one step up over a Walmart fatbike.

I’m not sure where the blog is going.  I’ve grown tired of posting news snippets here with links to bikerumorradarmtbr.  That’s taken on the feel of those bozos on the interwebz who line up to comment “first” on a story or post.  I started writing the blog as a catharsis…and because I enjoyed documenting what I was doing.  Now, I try to avoid situations where the blog gets in the way of the ride.  Saturday, I had what was probably the best gravel ride of my life.  53 miles, average speed over 18mph, and I rode amazingly well.  I didn’t bring a camera.  Why?  Because I wanted to enjoy the ride…not worry about composing pictures.  I’m still going to write about things that I enjoy, and I’m still going to document some rides…but I won’t fell compelled to write 5 posts a week.  I’m not going to worry about how quickly I’ll hit 500,000 views, or why I didn’t have 1,000 hits on a given day.  I am going to ride my bike more (SAW), and I am going to work on Axletree more.

I don’t know what’s good for fatbiking.  More fatbikes probably means that parts are more available, and prices come down.  But I don’t know what else it means.  I get away with a lot of trail ‘poaching’ in the winter, riding in forest preserves and other areas where it is technically legal, but not often practiced.  I don’t know what happens if 20 other fatbikers start riding in these areas.  I’m not saying that I don’t want others to find out about and enjoy fatbiking, but I am saying that as a trail advocate, I have to wonder what happens next.

So that’s it.  Not a carbon-fiber fatbike…more like a carbon-copy fatbike.


SAW. (Six a Week?)

I had written, way long ago, about my commitment to riding hard three times a week, or TAW.  Times change.  Riding changes.

I spent the winter and spring readying myself for Almanzo and the Gravel Metric.  Mission accomplished.  I’m comfortable riding at 85% for very long periods of time.  However, I’m not comfortable riding at 110% for short periods of time…so on this summer’s road rides, I’m getting hammered.  Hence, a change in tactics.  TAW with long rides have been supplanted by SAW.

Monday:  Hard ride with 2 x 20 minute best effort intervals, trying to keep a neutral or negative split.

Tuesday:  Recovery ride, with 3-4 short (30 second) sprints.

Wednesday:  Group hammer ride.

Thursday:  Recovery Ride.

Friday:  Hard ride with 2 x 20 minute best effort intervals, trying to keep a neutral or negative split.

Saturday or Sunday:  Group ride or longer ride.

I’ve been at this for all of a little over a week now, so it’s too early to tell if it will impact my cycling.  My legs feel pretty worked today, so tomorrow’s 50+ mile gravel ride will be interesting.

However, Wednesday night, I had the best group ride I’ve had all year.  I rode hard, rode well, and felt like I was able to push myself harder than normal.  Normally, if (when) I fall off the front group, it feels like a muscular strength issue–it feels like I cannot push the pedals any harder.  Wednesday, I hung on longer, rode faster, and tangibly produced more wattage.  The one time that I appreciably fell off the lead group was because I puked.

No, really.  I rode until I puked.  And then I smiled about it, because it was the hardest I had ridden in a long time.  I felt like I had unlocked some hidden ability in my legs.  It was great.  (Yes.  I acknowledge that it is weird to celebrate riding until you puke.)

The other thing I’m emphasizing is riding in the drops.  Formerly, I would spend 95% or more of my time on the hoods and flats, and go into the drops only for special occasions.  I’ve realized that I ride a super-aero road bike, with super-aero wheels, and have a super-aero build (read: thin), and I’m riding with the profile of a brick wall.  Part of that is a flexibility issue, and part of it is a comfort issue: I’m used to riding the hoods.  But now, I’m focusing on riding the drops as much as possible, even on recovery rides, to get used to it, and to shave a considerable amount of drag at higher speeds.

I haven’t been blogging much because my free time has been more devoted to riding.  I also need to work on offsetting some of this extra riding with extra calories.  Things are busy these days.

Six a week.  Thanks, Lenny.

Best Ride Ever.

And we’re back, after a bit of scheduled downtime.  Over the Fourth, I had a weekend wedding in Wisconsin, so the family and I headed up north to the Spring Green area.  Ye Olde Trusty Moots came along with for the ride.  I’m going to talk about part of one day’s ride in this post.

On Saturday morning, we headed up to Cave of the Mounds to do the tourist thing.  Thereafter, we had to get back to the hotel to eat lunch and prepare for the wedding.  I did a presto-changeo in the back of my car, and emerged as Moots Man.

I biked back from Cave of the Mounds to the hotel.  Being somewhat short on time, I decided to time trial this ride.  I decided to push as hard as I could push, for as long as I could push, and see how fast I could get the ride done.  I knew my route was 22 miles, and I knew there would be some climbing, but I wasn’t sure how much.  Seeing Sweeney Road on the way, I knew there would be some uphill stints, for sure.

The weather was perfect, the roads were clear, and the ride was glorious.

And the Moots?  It was Moot-tastic.

I ended up having 878 feet of climbing and just over 22 miles in 59 minutes.  I rode harder than I’ve ever ridden on a solo ride, and frankly, for me, I rode magnificently.  It was fantastic.  Perfect weather, perfect roads, perfect bike.

It was the best ride ever.