Monday, December 27, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, I hit Billysburg for a nice long one with the mighty Ken Tank and crew. We had the trails to ourselves, a ribbon of luscious black pine soil through a sea of snow. Most excellent. So excellent in fact, that I didn't take a single picture in 5 hours of rallying, stop-sign sprinting, toe-freezing, icy bridge crashing, and other shenanigans. You can't have everything, I've been told.
But sometimes you can have a nice chunk of hydro-formed aluminum, with some machined bits attached.
Sometimes I'm amazed how a chunk of inanimate metal can be stuck to some other chunks of metal, placed haphazardly on some springs, strapped with rubber, and suddenly become a fun making MACHINE. The sum is so much greater than the parts, one can hardly conceive it's possible.
post fun. some black and white, and a little red. and a big pink tongue.
More details on that later. But speaking of fun, let's go to the mail bag.
RE: Snot cycle
40 days till the first race of 2011. Who is in?
First and foremost, sweet Jesus. Best case scenario, it's a snow race. Worst case, a mud fest and we lose a few good men in the holes. How does a person commit to something like that?
Answer: A steady training regimen of snow rides and muddin' it up whenever possible. Drivetrains be damned, count me in.
Let's move on.
From: Multiple parties
Subject: hey, let's race that tough mudder thing.
hey, you seem like the kind of person who would enjoy racing through open flames, mudpits, and live electrical wires. Let's do this.
First and foremost, I'm not sure what it says about me that I've gotten no less than 4 invitations in the past 6 months to race one of these. This is likely a comment on my questionable judgement when it comes to exercise choices. The jury is still out here, but for the most part I prefer my poor exercise choices to be made in an enviroment where my skillset (lacking), fitness (also lacking) or positive attitude (likely not enough in this case) could bail me out. More than any other thing, Tough Mudder appears to require sheer toughness. Is that fun? Will test more.
Finally, back to the mailbag. Those of you who have dutifully followed the progression of my soap-opera with the good folks at Sherrill Tree (makers of the silky big boy 2000 folding saw, the most dangerous hand tool known to man) are likely giddy with anticipation to see what will unfold (worst pun ever) in our episode this week.
Those of you not in the know, let me quickly bring you up to speed:
Folding saw meets boy
Folding saw falls in love with boy
Boy sorta digs folding saw and thinks she's pretty hot.
Boy mistreats folding saw and breaks her heart on a nasty forked cedar.
Boy realizes what he's lost, begs forgiveness, promises he won't party like that anymore, and folding saw takes him back.
Boy breaks saw again, same way.
Boy begs forgiveness again...
If this sounds like dating in college to anyone else but me, thank you. I know where you get your disdain from now. For all others, you'll be ashamed to see what the mailbag reveals...
From: Sherrill Tree
To: Me, breaker of folding saw hearts
Subject: Your third broken sawblade in three months
If you're still in, I'm still in.
Silky Big Boy
Insert woebegone Tori Amos quotation here as autosignature.
It's almost sad, really. The new saw blade is to be delivered, naked, free of charge, this week. Odds of it surviving until January 1st, now taking bets at 148 to 1. They did, however, throw in a disclaimer that, if I break silky big boy again, I'm on my own. Hands down, the finest customer service I've ever abused. Thank you, Sherrill Tree. I promise to try to be a better man. STELLA!!!!
Last but not least, Thursday night is open house night at Blue Ridge Cyclery. Arrive after work. Those without dates will be assigned a partner for square dancing upon arrival, so don't let that hold you back. Leave before midnight, taking a cab as necessary. There's a facebook invitation, details on twitter, and now a blog post about it too.
Act like you know what's good for you.
But ride like you're completely misinformed.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
This post is really about Kev29er, but to set the stage I need to talk about me first. So settle in; I'll get around to 9er.
Currently (as of 7:33 PM on December 13th) I have ridden 477 hours in 2010. How do I know this, you might ask? Well, I don't mean to brag, but to start the year I went out and bought myself the finest timing and data tracking devices money can buy.
not a garmin. but you probably wouldn't SUPERGLUE a garmin to your stem either.
free calendar. hours tracked by day, rounded to the nearest half hour (which is to say, UP to the nearest half hour.)
Further evidence? Not needed. But if it were, I ran a query though my always-expanding, yet always-sucking hotmail storage, and of 10,313 emails the word "rally" comes up 2404 times. It's what I DO.
At the start of the year, I wanted to track hours mostly just as a form of motivation. It's good to have goals, I'm told. I didn't actually set a goal, mind you, just wanted to see how many hours I could ride. But in early November when I broke out the abacus and summed it all up to that point, 500 hours became to me an obvious goal. Almost a gimme.
Trouble is, nothing is a gimme in December. Coming down the stretch here, it's been cold, dark, and at times painful to get on a bike and stay there for too long. The calendar doesn't lie (much) - you can see lots of rides lately, but mostly 1 hour jaunts after work, really just passing the time. Anyone who thinks of this behavior as "training" might instead observe the true lethargy that I'm rolling around the woods with, the number of those "1 hour" rides that are scarcely over 40 minutes, the amount of time I've spent peeing trailside or just staring off into the peripherique, and they would quickly reconsider.
So in an effort to log some hours, hit my goal, and see some homies, I talked Ken Tank into guiding a rally through his local haunts in KenTankistan this Saturday, a 5 to 6 hour epic of singletrack and road riding that might very well see some sunshine down that way. And I invited the gang. So let's get to Kev29er.
No post with any reference to 9er can really happen without this picture. It's a reference to his history, but it's also testimony to the toughness of his inner-being. Without getting too existential about the subject, I'll just say this: the man can hammer and the man can suffer.
On the other hand, he uses scrubby gloves in the shower.
like a loofah, but without all the tedious holding.
It is this dichotomy that makes him dangerous. Let me explain.
Pretty much every winter for as long as I've known him, 9er gets himself an injury. Wonky knee. Tight hammies. Hurty toes. The list of ailments that have sent this hard-as-nails strongman to the couch, physical therapist, rehab corner of the gym, and back to the couch every winter is too long to really address in this context. But pretty much every winter he claims some kind of infirmity and counts himself out for the following season.
Then March happens, he emerges from his winter slumber like a lean, hairy bear; punches up the bigger cog, and gives bitches some stitches.
"On your left. Or over you. Your choice."
This winter? No different than any others. Last week, the call to arms went out about our Saturday ride down in KenTankistan, and 9er answered the call like the beast he is. All in.
But this week, straight from the mailbag:
Subject: 12/18, KenTankistan
"The entire concept seems like a pipe dream as I lay on the cough with what may be the flu. Certainly the worst headache of my life and a few other symptoms to boot. With any luck, I'll be much improved by tomorrow and can start thinking about this. At any rate, this will be my first ride of significant length in months, so expect bonking of epic proportions. "
There you have it. Untrained, sick, and gloomy like a Tuesday morning traffic jam. He seems down for the count, right?
Be forewarned: this is complete ballyhoo. The beast is in there, lurking, lulling you into a sense of mildness. He does this every year. Softpedal for a moment and then spend the next hour trying to get back on.
The dichotomy goes even deeper.
9er is a singlespeeder of course, enamored with the simplicity and low-maintenance afforded by not needing gears. But he's also gear infatuated, as his google documents collection of gear-inch combinations reveals.
He's got a guard dog that you might mistake for taxidermy for all the lethargy. But he's also got two cats that will likely someday kill and devour a small child.
He cuts and splits his own firewood. But he wears scrubby gloves.
You get the idea.
The latest dichotomous development; he's got a new bike. His Orbea Alma 29er represents a doomed contradiction of purpose reminiscent of the Maginot Lines, or maybe the Labradoodle.
The Alma, per Orbea's website, is built with one thing in mind - speed. Aluminum, it's a touch lighter than a dry pair of scrubby gloves, and a quick squeeze of the top tube between your thumb and forefinger reveals where the mass isn't. We're talking PBR-can wall-thickness for the top tube, and the downtube doesn't feel much thicker. Keeping with the theme, the seatstays would afford your 35c cross tire some room in case your rear wheel gets a little wonky through some dirty grass, but a 2.0 mtb tire in such a pickle would come up stuck. Not to worry, 110 pound Spaniards from the Basque country bend rims about like they take their own drug tests - very rarely. This frame is built to climb. You can almost feel the Pyrenees in the bike.
But what's this? Look closer. Who put a monstrous steel surly fork on this piece de resistance? And why did they anoint that dainty little cockpit with a bulbous pair of late 90's gripshifters? And why pair a 2.35 front tire with a 1.9 rear semi-slick? The frame itself is crying out for less. It longs for carbon bits, a white saddle, a cappuccino, and a domestique to carry bottles and free it from that tacky cage. "Deore cranks?" you can hear it start to wonder to the team manager, gravely confused "But I was told I would have team car support and my own masseuse."
It's a grim future for this orphan. Muddy climbs up Simmons gap. Long pulls at the front going down Wesley Chapel with gravel chipping his svelte downtube. An untimely demise during a detour, at night, down the cabin lake trail at BRS. The press won't mourn the loss of such potential, shamefully put at the wrong end of the peloton, because they won't even know his name. Sad.
But I guarantee you on Saturday it'll be going about 50 miles per hour, at the front, sprinting for every stop sign.
And maybe it will make a fashion statement in February too.
Viva la revolution. And stay tuned.
Monday, December 6, 2010
1) We never get enough snow to really prevent a rally. Except when we get 2 feet of snow in one storm. Twice in one year. Completely shutting the city down and bringing life as we know it to a grinding halt.
and even then, there is someone loony enough to line it up and race.
don't kid yourself, this is fun.
There's a lot of bad noise this year about a recurrence of the dreaded Winter of Ought-9. Apparently, the farmers almanac has made some pretty grave predictions about another heavy snow year, cold temps, the end of mankind, etc.
Hogwash, I say. I happen to subscribe to a different almanac - the law of averages. And the law of averages says that we can't possibly have a repeat of last winter. That would be like lightning striking twice in the same place, which never happens. Except when it happens.
2) Temperatures below 100 F, guaranteed. I drank 3 bottles on a 1 hour ride in July this year and still ended up dehydrated. Conversely, I don't even carry a bottle for a 1 hour winter rally. (Notably, this also frees up significant bottle cage space for a whiskey-laden flask of some sort, but that's neither here nor there.)
3) Frozen singletrack. I've been saying for years that paved singletrack is the future. Until that time, there is sub 30 degree dirt. Try it out, lean into a typically loose corner, and stick to it like glue. You'll never be the same.
4) No bugs. Those of you who have seen my bug-bite riddled legs around August know what I mean.
5) Night rides - with no better options and no excuses, riding at night is a freeing experience. You now have 24 hours of the day to choose from to get your rally on. The rat race not only seems far away at 3 AM at the top of Simmons gap, it IS far away. Take a jacket though.
6) New Gear. Santa seems to make most of his deliveries in the darkest, coldest hour of our year. This is no coincidence, and neither is his triple chin or his jolly, fat ass. When a fat, old guy falls from the sky and brings you a frame/fork/chain/silver thomson seatpost/whatever, it's not just because the elves made it and he had to get rid of it. He is trying to tell you something. If you ignore that until Spring, you are missing the point.
7)Baddass: Winter races.
Marco Pantani International Cycling Classico.
8) trail building. soft dirt, plenty of water to work with.
9) Destination riding. Take a plane, pack your shit, go to some place warm.
10) Alright, I'll say it. Cross training. But I'll also give you some wisdom inparted to me by a wise, old man: "Show me someone who is injured, and I'll show you someone who runs."
Running. Awful stuff. At your own risk.
I'm surprised by how easy it was for me to dig up pictures of snowy, wintertime rallies. In case the pictures don't properly convey the emotion, people are having a lot of fun therein. There is something to that: something about how mountain biking, the act of riding in the dirt, is in itself a sort of sloppy, disorderly, imperfect pursuit, and getting your ride on in the winter is an appropriate representation of why we do it in the first place.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Trip highlights? An awesome feast and leftovers for miles. Great times with family and friends. New dirt! - Slim Shady, Highline, Pigtail, and Hangover. Someone is a builder out there in a big way, and Sedona just keeps getting better.
Bonus highlight? Guitar Hero. Rental houses have interesting perks sometimes.
Yellow, yellow, Green, red. WHAMMY BAR!
Probably the worst part of the trip - how fast it flew by. The way that vacation time has begun to accelerate for me is a little alarming. 11 days away is just not enough somehow. I am spoiled rotten.
On a related, more somber note - it's three years ago this week that Evel Knievel died at his home in Florida, suffering and finally wrecked by diabetes and the lung disease, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. He was 69 when he died, and he left behind forty busted bones as the pioneer of motorcycle daredevil entertainment along with record books full of dangerous hucks that he barely survived.
Evel, he was a wild one.
Interestingly enough, Mike Janelle died that same week in 2007. You might not know Mike's name - he was a fit, 40 year-old bike racer, and he passed away while sleeping after Thanksgiving dinner at his home in Vail. Mike was a health nut, an amazing racer, and a role model. Evel outlived him by 29 years.
Looking back on it now, their passing in the same week under such radically different circumstances gave the world a collective pause, the sort of stutter I made all week in Arizona when I was explaining something to Danny O and I would suddenly realize that I didn't know what I was talking about. That seems to happen a lot now.
Moreover, being in Arizona last week I came to realize something about the life-philosophy that you can't help but inherit a little when you're there: you always think you have time. It’s just how the West makes you feel. Maybe it’s the open spaces, the sense of infinity you get when you look from here to the mountains to the sky and back. Maybe it’s the endorphins, just drugs in your veins.
Another slightly low point of the trip - someone once thought that two lanes of traffic through Oak Creek Village between I-15 and Sedona would be enough, probably the same way that Evel Knievel calculated the width of the Snake River from an airplane, or how we, as humans, think we understand the breadth of being alive. Traffic crawls there now, every day, 365 days per year. They've put in about 100 roundabouts, though, to speed things up. Interesting.
So yeah, Mike Janelle. He was amazing. You can dig more about him here:
For me, I met Mike Janelle exactly once, after a race in Winter Park where he’d passed me on a long, steep climb going up beside Tipperary Creek. I was 23, new to racing, and he streaked by me on an inside turn with a big smile and a “good work, man.” He appeared to be going about 100 miles per hour. I crossed the line about an hour behind him and sought him out - “how do you go that fast?” I wanted to know. He laughed and talked with me for an hour about riding, racing, Colorado, swimming holes, nachos, anything.
He didn’t give two shits about how fast he was. He was, in a word, exuberant. Someday, I told myself on my drive home, I’d like to be able to ride a bike like that. So in 2002, I set about learning to do it the way Mike recommended – “just ride as much as you can.” I rode to work, rode home, rode singletrack loops through the mountains from my house in Boulder. In Mike, I had something I wanted to emulate, a kind of reckless speed that had always seemed to work for him that didn’t always work for me. I crashed a lot. I built scars and calluses to document the effort. But I got faster.
The day I found out Evel Knievel died, I was driving a slow interstate mile down I-25 in Denver in recalcitrant traffic, humming something from the Rolling Stones, and thinking about Mike Janelle. The radio reported that Evel had passed away, and I realized that he'd outlived Mike by 29 years and 3 days. I was physically jarred by that. The sun set, horns sounded, and traffic crawled. It occurred to me that life, like forward motion, is not a measurement, not the flow of traffic, or the span of a great chasm. It’s an estimate, and sometimes it’s wrong.In June 1966, Evel came up short on a big jump, hung his rear wheel on the top of a cargo van parked at the end of 12 cars in Missoula, and he wound up broken in a hospital for days. He recovered, and on New Years Eve 1967, he shorted his carefully planned fountain jump in front of Caesar’s in Vegas, put himself in a Coma for nearly a month.
But he awoke, and at the pinnacle moment of his career, September 1974 over the Snake River, Evel’s rocket-powered motorcycle prematurely deployed an emergency parachute and drifted dangerously back across the river. He crashed hard, just feet from the water on the same side of the canyon where he started, but he was unharmed.
I wonder about it now - what did Evel Knievel think that day when he took off to jump the Snake River? Not the first thing, not that easy affirmation we all make, “Yeah, I can stick that.” I mean after that. What did Evel say to himself just as he took to flight, in the act of trying to huck an entire canyon, hanging between life and death?
Speed up, he probably wished. If anyone in the history of the human species has ever had a good feel for the benefits of inertia, it was Evel.
But having worked for years to get a little speed myself, I now see the effort that it took. Mike Janelle worked his ass off to get that fast. So what did he say to his wife and son before he went to sleep on Thanksgiving night in 2007 and never woke up?
Slow down, I imagine him saying, these days are going by much too fast. But really that’s just me. The distance from the top to the bottom is deadly, but much shorter than we sometimes think.
Long way around to my point; Arizona kicked ass, but get out and rally this week anyway, boys and girls. And SAVOR it. You never really know. It's almost December, getting Arctic cold around here. Maybe there too, wherever there is, where Evel and Mike get to ride around waiting for us.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Is Ken Tank really 55? How did the ride turn out?
Good question. He's actually 287. He just looks 55. But he rides like a 19 year old.
Seriously, he was big-ring sticking it to us all the livelong day.
Did anyone vomit on Sunday?
Another good question, especially if you're familiar with previous Ken Tank epics. Technically, we had a vomit-free day, but there was attrition from start to finish. Dudes peeling off the back, trying to miss a turn, generally dropping like one of those Lance Armstrong charity rides where Lance goes out and beats everybody senseless and finishes by himself. Speaking of the finish, the final climb up Reas Ford when the man of honor could smell the finish line was like a drag race, with me just hanging on by a toenail. In other words, good times. The only real disappointments were that we didn't get shot at or mauled by half-wild dogs. And I didn't manage to snap any pictures to document just how amazing the day was, but we were moving too damn fast for any of that.
Let' s move on. Who's riding?
1) Night ride tonight. Private land. Earallysville and points northward. Be forewarned, we got over an inch of rain, so it's sloppy and choppy. But by 9 PM that should be working itself out.
2) Turkey Day ride - That's November 25th. 10 AM here at the farm. CAMBC and CRC have the knowledge on that. I just work here.
Last, but certainly not least, my bride killed it at the Richmond Marathon on Saturday. I won't give you the blow-by-blow race report with all the details, but I will give you this picture of her leaving some dudes in the dust around mile 21. Big finish on that course; if you're into downhill sprints with about 10,000 people yelling your name. Two thumbs up.
To show my proper amazement, I forgot her $80 Patagonia gloves on the side of the road around mile 7. There's a bum somewhere with some seriously fast, warm hands right now.
That's what it is and what I've got for now. Probably will skip next week's post due to the insane amount of action to be had in Arizona, Jackson, but day 1 of December we'll get back to it with some gory road rash photos, tall tales of clogged toilets, etc. So you've got that to look forward to.
Stay tucked. Keep drafting.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
GIGANTIC photo, circa 2008, back when Ken Tank was a young man
To celebrate Ken turning 55, we're riding on Sunday. Here's the skinny
1) Start in Earallysville, 11 AM. The man of the hour himself could be a little late, in which case we'll watch Danny Flow ride wheelies around until he falls and breaks his arm. So hopefully he's not too late.
2) Hit up the not-so-famous Danny O singletrack, a short ride down the road.
3) back onto pavement, some gravel, evading fast-moving feral pets, and end up at BlueRidgeSchool.
4) Cunningham to lead us fearlessly up the steepest trail ever to grace private land. And back.
5) grab some food and water, then head east.
an open ford to crossing
private land with questionable access and some fence jumping
super sweet local goods
More fence jumping
A rally down the not-so-famous bleak house action, jackson
A slightly grueling climb back up Reas Ford Rd to Earallysvillistan.
Total time? 5 hours. Perhaps less. pack a lunch.
Ken Tank - you are an amazing teammate. I give you the gift of cramps. Congratulations on becoming a senior citizen.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I don't remember another fall with better riding weather. Great temps, good dirt, and the season itself has stretched out since back in late August when the leaves started changing from the drought. Given that Fall is, hands down, the best season, I think every Fall should last about 5 months - and this one in particular is welcome to hang out until about Easter.
On that note, Riding. It's hard to say no right now. That sense of "drop everything and get on the dirt because you'll miss this in January" is pervasive, sort of like how kayakers get in the Spring when their passion - the fulcrum that their whole year hinges on - is HERE NOW and it only lasts for a few weeks. I'm told kiteboarders, surfers, and the like get the same sensation when the wind and the waves are up.
So, to the point then, how 'bout Sunday? I've got a route in mind that requires a sense of adventure, a little tolerance for maladjusted feral pets, and maybe some blaze orange. And the payoff? Aside from awesome weather, changing fall colors, and joyful banter, I'll throw in a big pot of venison chili at the finish.
5+ hours, sometime before noonish, Rallysville. Pack a lunch.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Some revisions to the world as I know it:
1) The governing body of the Blue Ridge Cyclocross Cup decided that the series is completed, wrapped up, game over, at the precise moment that Queen City took second and the Foof was relegated to the back of the bus. Finals, cancelled, due to a lack of fitness. I'd move to file a complaint, but let's be honest, facing Queen City and Rocktown on their turf, down 30 points, and more than likely too lazy to race on a Sunday in November anyway, we are dead to rights. So in case you were planning on it (you weren't), don't show up on Sunday for finals. Let's move on.
2) Fall is sorta sliding away now, and the population of Rallysville must ease back into base training, muddy gravel road rides, and the kind of weather that makes you want to put your head down and climb something tall a few times. Oh hell yes, it's early for that, but it's coming. Find yourself a hardtail.
3) Rumors, and other unsubstantiated unsubstantialness abound. They're all true. And wouldn't you know it, the world keeps on spinning anyway.
These and other news stories, at 11. Keep it in the red, and stay tuned.