Monday, May 2, 2016

Better Call Saul

I saw 2 triathletes on Brokenback on Saturday morning.  It was drizzling, foggy, awesome spring weather, and Brokenback in the Spring is one of my favorite routes.  To be clear, Brokenback is mandatory mountain bike territory.  There are a few hard people - Fred Wittwer for example - who choose to ride it on a Cross Bike, but for the most part it's all granny gears and 2.3's.  Certainly not carbon Tri bike terrain, but sure enough these two are riding carbon Cervelos.  Aero bars.  Deep dish carbon wheels.  Staring at their GPS.  Completely bewildered at what the fuck was happening to them.

Guy and a girl.  The girl, who is clearly the navigator for the day, keeps insisting they are supposed to be on a road and not a trail.  They're from Richmond, up for the day to ride some hills, obviously preparing for a race of some kind that has more climbing than what they can get out East, so here they are.  

One of the strangest things about the encounter was just how nice their gear was.  I'm guessing they had about $500 in high vis rain gear on, sweet bikes, a GPS unit that looked like it could launch the space shuttle, lots of very nice shit.  They were clearly prepared - they'd researched a route, knew they were in store for a few thousand feet of climbing and some steep terrain; they just hadn't planned on what qualifies as a "road" in that part of Greene County.   And now that little detail was coming back to bite them right in the $280 chamois.  

I've never actually hired a guide.  These days, who needs a guide when you've got the entire internet to consult and a $900 GPS?  It would seem, with basically limitless ride data, race reports, GPS info, Maps, and entire guidebooks being posted online, why pay for local knowledge?

I directed these two back to pavement, wished them well, and hoped for the best, and we went our separate ways.  And it occurred to me as I rode away and pondered the abundance of internet ride data, that the opposite is actually true.  It is NOW more than ever, that hiring a guide is important.  

For some people, there is nothing more dangerous than a map.

And there are PLENTY of maps out there to be found.  Having a guide who can actually help you parse through all of the data available, interpret it, and provide the kind of information only a local has just might make or break your day.

Case in point: local CRC fast guy, Julian Bowling, recently tried to ride the entire Jeep Road from the parkway to Coal road on his road bike.
As he surmised later, "not a good route."

I also considered this: there's a difference between being Unguided and being Misguided.
Two different things.

Being Unguided was how it used to be done.  No real info, minimal maps, just a bike and a bunch of roads/trails you didn't know, but off you went.  And you sort of figured it out.  Sometimes it worked out, other times you got lost and had to find your way back to the car, but you at least weren't doing so under false assumptions.

Being Misguided is way, way more dangerous.  Using data, much of it gathered online on an 18 inch computer screen, to navigate real world bike rides can leave you in dire situations.

An unguided person might see the jeep trail that Julian took, ride the first 100 meters on his road bike, and then he probably makes the quick and correct decision to turn back and go another way.

A misguided person, on the other hand - one who knows that the jeep road will eventually punch through to the coal rd - pushes on, then has to walk, then proceeds barefoot for 2 hours because the terrain is unmanageable in road shoes. 

An unguided person senses danger.  They have to. It's like they have a built in governor, that being the simple fact that they don't know where they are going.

A misguided person - equipped with certainty, but wrong - does crazy things like ford rivers, try to ride out a double flat, gets shot at while trespassing on a game preserve, and eventually drowns in a beaver pond.
See the difference?  

I've been on a handful of death marches - the kind where you might actually die - bike rides so far in my life.  All of them have been, at least in part, caused by misguided people.  People who can look at a map, 18" wide on their computer screen, and confidently spout, "we can do that in a day." 
These are the people who'd Better call Saul.

Don't get me wrong, I love and respect your sense of adventure.  I applaud your preparedness.  But I wonder what would have happened to those two triathletes had they managed to summit Brokenback...what next?  They have to come down now.  Not Good.

Next time, take the extra step.

There's a right way down and a right way up, up, up.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Dark

There are two kinds of people in this world:

Reality vs The Dream, one might say. Others might call it simply those who say yes, and those who do not say yes.   Night riders, or people that don't.  I'm not trying to glorify what I do, because it's not for everyone - I get that.  But into the storm we went.

Tuesday Night.  Post TNW Road Ride.  The storms blowing in across the mountains look purple on the radar, but I lie to Fort and tell him it's looking clear because I really do think we've got time to make it happen.  As so often happens, I was wrong.

Conditions were sketchy, right from the start, and Fort might need stitches when he wakes up and gets the rocks out of his knee this morning.  There was thunder and lightning pretty much straight overhead, a little mud and a lot of wet roots, and a certain level of nature-induced panic that even the deer seemed to feel as the storm really set in and got worse.  Having been struck by lightning once already in this life, and sensing the treachery, I was a little scared - but mostly just exhilarated.  But that's almost never the point.  I don't actually know what the point is, but it's not that.

I've given up on trying to find the point in night riding anyway, and I've given up on trying to explain it to people.  Covered in dirt and soaking wet, we bribed the bartender at Pro De Nata into serving us after he'd already counted the drawer, and the old guy on the stool next to me in the Mossy Oak hat was asking us, "Wait, you were just out there doing what?"

I try to spell it out to him in the most basic terms, but paradoxically those are the most difficult to understand:
at night
in a thunderstorm
on bikes

"wait, you were riding bikes on Miller School Road?"

No, on the trail.

He doesn't get it.  I have to keep in mind, in situations such as this, that I'm the weird one, and he doesn't get it because it defies explanation, and even I don't really understand why I do this, and even if I did, I couldn't put it into words that someone who doesn't love night riding would understand, and like all things in life that only have individual meaning, most other people don't care.

Like all of those owls out there on the back perimeter trail last night - the loudest family of birds I've ever heard.  They were raucous, but still somehow in harmony, scream-singing at us in a language we couldn't understand.

Turns out Fort doesn't need stitches, but he's gotta take a few days off and let it heal.  Like Bukowski said:

How are you going to tell the dreamer there's a 15% take on the dream?
He'll just laugh and say,
Is that all?

Straight out into the dark, and up, up, up.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Welcome to town, Coach.

You will fit in great around here.

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n roll, and something tells me you do.
One way to get there, and that's up, up, up.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Circus Bear

A boy and his dad go to the circus, and while they're there they see a bear riding a bicycle.  
Fascinated, the boy asks his dad, "Dad, how do they teach that bear to ride a bike?"  

The dad replies confidently, "Well, that's easy son.  
They just nail his feet to the pedals and beat the shit out of him."

Keep training.  

Up, up, up.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Keep Firing, Assholes.

Matt Hayman won Paris Roubaix yesterday, and hours later, Danny Willet won The Masters.

Who made that man a gunner?  I said ACROSS her nose, not UP it.

I guess it's possible you might know the name Matt Hayman if you follow cycling closely enough,  A veteran, almost 38 years old, who's ridden and finished 15 Paris Roubaixes.  A big fella, lots of power, a cobble basher and journeyman, and capable of delivering a top 10 - but usually just a domestique for some of Orica GreenEdge's other, more talented riders.  Certainly not the type of guy you'd think would outsprint Tom Boonen for the W after 260K of badassery.

Gunner's Mate, First Class, Phillip Asshole.

And Willet?  Even if you're a golfer, which you're probably not considering you're reading this blog, but if you are, you also probably haven't heard of him.  He's 28, only playing in his 2nd Masters Tourney, a largely unknown British kid who'd just had his first child and barely even showed up to The Masters.  He was literally the last guy to show up on Monday before the tournament began.  Capable of beating Jordan Spieth from 5 shots back on the back 9 on Sunday and wearing the green jacket?  Oh hell no.

But - much to our collective bewilderment - that's exactly what happened.

In both cases, the underdog went unwatched, and suddenly became the top dog when the best of the best failed to deliver for one reason or another.  Boonen admitted to underestimating Hayman.  Cancellera crashed badly enough to be lucky to say he even finished.  Sagan got caught out in the chaos and the mud, despite hucking his meat right over Fabian's bike and further into history as arguably the best bike handler to ever race in the Professional Peloton.  Spieth, like Rory McElroy the day before, just plain fell apart in the same way so many of us do when we play golf and the goddamn ball just won't do what you tell it to for a few minutes.  In the unlikeliest of scenarios, Sunday unravelled for the big names, and the smart money lost.

And really, I think that's why so many of us watch these sports.  Not for all the times that Spieth wins (which he certainly will) or the 110 or so Victories that Boonen has chalked up in his career - but for the days like Sunday, where against all odds, the guy who is most like us wins.

Because in the absence of actual, winning level talent - which so very few of us have - sometimes sheer volume is enough.

Keep Firing, Assholes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Miller School - Conquer the Hill

The Miller School trail system: Amazing.  Young.  Great moves.  Picturesque.  Smooth as silk.

If Justin Timberlake were a privately-maintained, machine-built, flow trail system and you could ride him, he'd be Miller School.  That place is insanely well built, immaculately maintained, and it's only getting better.

Kev29er has been bugging me to get out there and ride for about 18 months, and I just kept failing to actually get there.  Finally, last night I made it there after TNW and got in a night ride.  Wowsa.  The things you can do with a ditch witch, some dirt-savvy, and an army of hoe-equipped, forced child labor.  Some of the berms, upon first look, don't even make any sense - but then you ride them and you realize that, actually, you CAN make a berm that steep on that angle and absolutely rip it.  Was I inverted back there?  Jesus.

And those stunts.  Gigantic wooden wall rides.  Totters.  Not to sound like a grumpy old man here, but back in my day, the only use we had for that kind of wood on the trails was to build a fire to keep our cantilever-brake-pumped hands warm and to thaw out our numb, thudbuster-beaten crotches into some semblance of forward progress.  And now?  Just look at this place.  6-inch travel 25 lb bikes with disc brakes that pedal like a hardtail, but you've built the berms so high that you don't actually have to touch the brakes anyway.  I could go on and on...Basically, you kids have no idea how good you have it, and that's a good thing.

Conquer the Hill, the upcoming race and a fundraiser to keep the good stuff growing, is April 16th.  A 4 hour enduro-ance contest to see who can pull the most g's for the longest and not get the bends.  Do It.

Register here:

Ride this stuff:

Praise Justin Timerblake.

Up, up, up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Zwift Doping

Deep thoughts on the subject of doping, strava, social media, and the bizarre commercialization of weekend warriors and their Instagram feeds.

It's a fascinating read that I highly recommend:

Because until there's a good hack for Zwift that will give me an extra 200 watts (up, up, down down, left right left right b a start) there's still old fashioned doping, which luckily works in all manner of imaginary racing - Strava, Zwift, Instagram, your local Tuesday night fast ride, and now it's more convenient and affordable than ever.  At least for a little while longer...

If you bought drugs through the mail in the last 10 years or so, my advice is to just fade into the background, deadbolt your front door, and arm yourself to the very fucking teeth.  The feds are coming.

No way out but up, up, up.