Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays from Places Afar

Blog sensation, friend of the program, and member-at-large, The Summer of Toph has checked in from Colorado this holiday season, where it appears to still be summer.
I might be wrong about it being summer, but at the very least something WEIRD is afoot. And very aerodynamic.

Moreover, he appears to have happened upon a pivot mach 4 just propped up outside of Jax Fish House, unlocked. Presumably, its owner is inside having some oysters for lunch. Responsible bike snob that he is, Toph may be taking it into his possession to ensure its saftey and eventual return.
Please, if you are missing this bike, call the proper authorities and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT approach the wiry, aerodynamic good citizen who is groping it.

Let's bring this all back East and inside for a moment. Just yesterday, the weatherfella' was screaming and jabbering about snowpocalypse 2010, running for cover, hide in the holes kids, blah, blah, blah. Today, well, it is a little cold. And I'm even in New Hampshire, having sought out what was supposed to be the worst of the worst in the name of family dinners and perhaps a shred or two down Mt Snow. But outside of a little snow-lightning and freakish hurricane force winds, the storm has underperformed. 8 inches of snow here, and less than 2 in Earallysville I've been told. 50 degree temps on Friday and through the weekend. In summary, let's rally.

A tentative plan, made 500 miles from headquarters.
1. A little New Years Eve rally. Nothing too long, but filthy and sticky both sound like adjectives I'd like to be involved with. Then onto the meat of the matter, New Years Eve. To follow...
2. Sleep it off, try not to cramp up while sitting at the breakfast table, crank up the recovery tunes and haul those New Years Resolutions up something dirty, steep, and tall on NYD? I don't know, Shawn is the man with the plan, I'm just looking for a van. So hopefully he'll chime in here with the proper authority.

From the mailbag, I've got accusations galore. Let's dig in here slowly so I can make one moderately weak justification at a time.

Accusation number 1) "Dude, decent blog, but you could stand to fix the typo at the top of the page. You have have some truly awesome people? What does that even mean?"
-A fair question, but misdirected. What do I look like, an admin of some sort? I'm the content guy. You're reading this, presumably, because you like the words, thoughts, and pictures of Kev29er about to puke from his bike. Or maybe you're just extremely bored. Either way is fine, but I just work here.

Accusation number 2) "You didn't actually hit 500 hours and I've got photographic evidence to prove it. Also, it appears you might owe C-ham $5 for the cheap feel."
First and foremost, C-ham gives out cheap feels for free. He loves it. Just because I'm the one that got caught on film doesn't mean I owe him cash. The embarrassingly low price (again, free) for which he allows another man to latch onto his rear end is his issue, not mine. But your main point is sort of valid. I did get a pull up the entire length of Markwood after my rear cable snapped and the best gear I could offer was big-big. It was 10 minutes at most, and it meant nothing. I don't even love him. To compensate, I am now attempting to eat an entire apple pie. And I'll rally New Years Eve to set the record straight. So I should be all square by NYD.

Accusation number 3) "Jogging with your wife (who is taking it easy on you) won't get you around Shenandoah in under 8 hours. Put the puddin' pop down." *note that this message came in the form of a calendar reminder set with hourly recurrence, every hour on the hour, from now until September 4th. *
Shoooot. You've got me on all points here. I do enjoy puddin' pops, and I do savor a jog every now and then with my loving wife who refrains from shamelessly dropping me on the steep parts. Normally, I pride myself on being able to take constructive criticism, but this is one I need to allow some time to sink in. Please check back later. Like, maybe around 2 PM on September 4th when I am coming round the mtn and you're stuck back on Mount Hank with a tummy ache.
That being said, your reminder is accepted and on my calendar from now until then.
Thanks for the tip.

Happy Holidays, sports fans. If you got something shifty and springy from Santa, don't forget to get it dirty. The elves are always making more.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow in your nose blows.

The rally-o-meter has hit an all-time high for December. It's been chilly enough to freeze the mud into a nice solid turf, but clear enough to warrant a rally just about every day. So that's been the status quo.

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.

From: Niner
To: Crew
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
To: Me
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.

Video previews:

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

Humpday photo

Photo credit to Jude Monaco Ortiz. One hell of a ride down from there.

Commando Run, Vail, CO. 2010. Just over the top, on the way to the good stuff. Happy Humpday.

Fresh tracks tomorrow anyone?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kentankistan on 12/18 and the Scrubby Gloves Dichotomy

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:
From: Niner
To: Ralliers
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

Frozen leaves

For a few years now, it has surprised me a little how psyched I get about mountain biking in the winter. As thin-skinned humans with limited body hair to keep us warm, we typically think of cycling as a summer pursuit; but since moving back to Virginia, I've come to be way more excited about winter rallies. So I came up with a top 10.

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.

Font size SnotCycle Check Spelling
Darden Towe Cross

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.

Like dreidels, we keep spinning. Happy Hanukkah, folks.