Monday, August 14, 2017

For A Statue

When the City finally tears these monuments out of the ground - and now, because of 8-12, they will have no choice - they will melt them down right there on site, re-use the bronze to build new statues, to pay tribute to people like Heather Heyer who tried to fight off an invasion with open arms.

Because that's honestly what it felt like: An Invasion.  I really didn't care about our statues before 8-12.  I could see both sides - both the need for social progress and also the need to maintain an honest assessment of our past.  But I'm unclear on how one's right to march down the street with AR-15's, body armor, and gas masks in an act of intimidation is protected by the Bill of Rights as a means of peaceful protest.  Apparently, the legal line between open carry and brandishing has now settled right at the act of pulling the trigger.  These are strange times.  Somewhere, MLK must have rolled over in his grave, turned on the news, given it the middle finger, and then rolled back over and went to sleep.

I just don't think you can invade our town, kill the locals, and expect us to protect your statues anymore.

Like it or not, where once stood a monument in remembrance of The Lost Cause, the complexity and meaning of which we struggle to understand, we will have, instead, an equally-sized statue of Heather's Chihuahua, Violet, smiling in that way that Chihuahuas do.

Because Karma might be slow, but eventually it works.

A statue of Berke Bates and that birthday cake he never got a chance to enjoy.

A statue of Jay Cullen ripping it down Tilman West.  We could put that one over in Stokesville.  There are no words to adequately thank you for your service and sacrifice, Jay.  You were literally protecting my town in our darkest hour, and you paid for that with your life.

Revisionist History notwithstanding, I'm just sad at this point, and I'm sick of it.  Where before I think you could have split rooms in Charlottesville on the subject of Confederate Statues, I think 8-12 stacks the deck almost completely against them.

What exactly was the point, then?  

"What is this statue trying to tell him? 
Think of me when you put on a wig?  
Think of my wooden teeth and remember to floss?
Think of me before catching pneumonia?
Think of me when you lose to the North?
Think of me when you cross your next river?
Think of the memory of me outlasting my lifetime while you're going to die unmissed, unremembered, and unloved you stupid schmuck."

-Marianne Wiggins, Almost Heaven

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Look people.
If you want to live to see the nuclear apocalypse, you gotta survive a few more weeks.  And, assuming you ride bikes, which I assume you do a lot of if you're reading way down here at the bottom of the bike internet, then the PSA from Marky Mark below should be something you read, process, and act upon.

I'll trail off here, as I tend to do with most things before I'm actually finished, and just let MM do the talking:

From: Marky Mark
To:  Everyone

Hey everyone,

i know this subject has been beat to death on forums, facebooks, etc. But I really want to hammer this point home. 
We live in rural VA and commute 25+mi  to/from the city on rural roads for over a decade.  I ride my bike to/from the city and see on a daily basis the struggle between motorists and cyclists to get from point A to point B safely. Of a particular concern for me as a motorist and cyclist is the lack of daytime lights among cyclists. There is a false impression that hi-vis clothing makes you visible to motorists. In many conditions that is true. However during high contrast situations (sunny days along rural roads with intermittent tree cover) hi vis clothing is worthless.  
I have lost count the number of times I have had "oh shit moments" when I have suddenly encountered cyclists during high contrast days on rural roads. I have attached a photo to illustrate what I encounter as a motorist commuting home a sunny day. 3 cyclists riding single file. One in a hi-vis kit. They are doing everything right but they are not visible to motorists without a blinky. 
Y'all are my friends and I really want to see my friends arrive home safely. We as cyclists have the same rights to the road at motorists, but we are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to a 2 ton vehicle driven by distracted people. We need every advantage we can get. If you doubt that, you can ping Carla. She is an a jewitt brace for 6 weeks with two L4 fractures because she lost the bike/car battle on a rural road. 
Thanks and /PSA

I think it's 100% true - especially as we get down to the point when the end of days becomes really obvious, and the driving will become a little...tense, shall we say - that having a blinky on your butt could save your life.  For a little while.  

Commute away, by all means.  We all will have very little to lose anyway as that point as genuine panic and anarchy set in, and you know how some commuters ride pretty much nuke or shine (Noah.)

But please, blinky up.  
Every damn time. 

And up and up and up.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Beaver Results

Contributors are now sending me Beaver Pictures from other countries.  
The Beaver came and the Beaver went.  Results, if you're into that sort of thing, can be found here.  Other results...the ones that matter like good times, free beer, and Shawn being concerned enough for Will Leet's safety that he considered calling a cab to drive his wobbly ass home, were all unrecorded, but we'll cherish them anyway.

By the time the Paranormal rolls around, I reckon there will be 1 more mile of single track with a semi-decisive climb, which would make a lap about 8 miles with 1000 feet of up per.  Should be about right.

Until such time, keep the rubber side down and the beaver behind you at all costs.
He lurks.

UP.  UP. UP.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

El Beaver Diablo

The Beaver lurks:

She's 7 miles long, with 850 feet of climbing.  A moody beast - she is choppy at times, but silky smooth too.  Hopefully this big bucket of rain we're going to get on Friday quenches her thirst instead of pissing her off.

You diggin' The Beav?

Sign up, up, up.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Beaver Blitz

For this year, at the very least, The Chimney Chase will be departing county land, leaving her home at Walnut Creek, and moving North to private land.  And if the forces that shape our world have their way, it'll be renamed The Beaver Blitz, since there are no Chimneys to be chased, but there is a carnivorous, potentially rabid, cannibal attack Beaver to flee.

As can be expected with any change in venue, we have a flood of questions pouring into the mailbag about course layout, description, length, elevation change, smell, etc.  All worthy questions, especially the smell ones.  The truth is, since there was a wee logging project that recently wrapped up here at the Rancho Relaxo, the course it still, as I write this, undergoing some changes, a nip and a tuck here and there, and being taped for first tracks.  Some of it is virgin, never been raced dirt.  Clumsy, but enthusiastic, and with enormous potential.

I should have a GPX file up here in the next day or so, showing a conclusive distance, elevation gain, and clearly marked danger areas where the Beav might actually try to attack you.  But in a general sense, I can already tell you it's a little smoother than Walnut Crick, a little less climbing that Walnut Crick, and with many, many more bermed turns where you can just neglect your brakes and stomp all over your 10 Tooth cog.

It'll be a lot like this, but not exactly like this:

Think 9 miles with 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.  So a touch smaller that what you see above.  And without costume requirements.  But again, thanks for signing up and immediately questioning your own judgement.  You'll do fine.

You can drop me a line here if you have any questions.   And again, I'll get you a proper map soon enough.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Banana Milkshake to go.

This afternoon, in a unique failure of multi-tasking, I dumped an entire homemade banana milkshake into my helmet.

I tell you this for 2 reasons:

1)  I feel good about -  vindicated, even - by the fact that I don't fool myself by calling it a "smoothie."  Putting a banana in a glass of chocolate ice cream does not a smoothie make, no matter what Dunkin' Donuts tells you.

2)  I feel that the act of dumping a milkshake into my helmet is the righteous embodiment of how busy this summer has become for me.  For a long time, this blog has sort of revolved around the buzz of two events - Il Pantani and The Paranormal, Spring and Fall, with a meager smattering of brain juice in large spaces between.  But this year, there's a 3rd event happening here on the home front, and that is the Chimney Chase.  Given the tenuous arrangement between mountain bikers and the County right now, the powers that be decided it would be best to move the Chimney Chase to private land until this whole Ragged Mountain mess, and whatever else,  blows over.  So here it will be, July 30th.  There's a whole lotta trail work to be done between now and then - which I relish, as you know.  So I've been banging away at the ground like an insane person, trying to dial some new stuff in before the gun goes off, which it will, at 10 AM rain or shine.  And while we might not have Chimneys to chase per se, we do have a Beaver, and the chances of it not being 90+ degrees is relatively low.  So it'll still hurt plenty.  Sign yourself up and partake in the magic.

Did I mention that I signed up to race SM100 on the singlespeed this year?
That's been a long time coming, actually.  I'll be 40 next year, and these knees aren't getting any younger it turns out.  As one of those bucket list races that I realize I just have to get out of my system, SS-M100, as I have dubbed it, is something I can't keep putting off if I actually want to finish it.  The trouble with that, of course, is that singlespeeding is hard.  There's just no getting around that.  I came into the summer in pretty good form riding geared bikes, but upon hopping aboard the 1-speed  and promptly falling apart in under 1 hour, multiple days in a row, I realized I had some work to do.  So I've been chipping away at that, like the trail itself, and progress is being made.  Enough to survive on Labor day?  I honestly don't know, and I think that's part of the appeal.

One interesting nuance of single speeding, especially for long rides, is that there's simply no place to hide.  You can either turn the pedals over or you can't.  On a geared bike, you can always put it in granny, spin it out, and you can pedal to the top of just about anything, eventually, albeit slowly.  But on a SS, you just can't do that.  Nor can you walk the entire last 30 miles of the hundo, unless you want to finish on Tuesday.  So I'm trying to figure some of that out.

And dumping a banana milkshake directly into my helmet is the result, thus far.  So bare with me if the content is a little slow.  This is the speed I've got:

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll, and sometimes you have to clean up first.  And up, and up, and up.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Paranormal Costume Idea #109,045: Alice Cooper

The Paranormal.  4 months, 1 week from tomorrow.  And speaking of which, The Paranormal course, post-logging-apocolypse, is coming along well.  So it would seem we'll have something around 9 miles of single to enjoy, race, and make dangerous passes in all the corners.
I think a really thoroughly put together Duo Team of Alice Cooper/Ozzy Osbourne might win the costume prize.  Young Ozzy or old Ozzy? Either way.  Tasteful, yet still terrifying.

Telephone is ringin.

Because if you want to get down, you gotta dress up.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


If you happen to be out in Snowshoe this weekend, sending it off every wooden structure you can find - bridges, teeters, random fences, houses, what have you - you'd be well-served (perhaps even over-served) to stop by the Wanderlust festival and give The Ballroom Thieves a listen.

Then get back to the sending it before the Yoga overtakes you.

Speaking of thieves, at this juncture, I don't believe Zach Stone's semi-famous, one of a kind cross rip has been recovered.  Which means that we have been heretofore unable to get out a pair of needle nose pliers and a blowtorch, get medieval, etc etc.  So the onus is still upon all of us to be vigilant, shoot first, and ask questions later.

And also on a previously documented but unfinished subject, it looks like Qwadsworth got himself onto the extended podium at Dirty Kanza over the weekend and from the scorecard, it appears he may have bullied a guy named Tubbs in a 2-up sprint for 5th. Even better, you can rest easy, world: Imposter Wadsworth, despite his big talk and showboating (which he didn't actually do, unfortunately) came in 45 minutes in arrears.

Proving, once and for all, that it's not how fast you ride.  It's how far you ride fast.

Maybe we'll have a proper race report from Qwadsworth in the coming days that documents the harrowing, 200-mile death march (the kind where you might actually die) that is Dirty Kanza.  If we don't, I'll just make it up.

I'm not fake news, you're fake news.

Up, up, up.

Friday, June 2, 2017



"It'd been worth him doing it, just so I could've caught him." - Vincent Vega.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I've always said that.

The power of the bike to bring people together is, perhaps, equal in strength only to its power to divide and subdivide us into smaller and smaller sub-groups.  It's an attempt to define ourselves as individuals, I get it.  But I fear it will affect the whole.

That's the danger of exclusion, I fear.  Your self-righteousness smells worse than your unreachable saddle.  Tall bikes, you ain't saving shit.

Especially when one of you decides to do some additional welding and installs a 4000 mm dropper post, and the whole cult comes unhinged over whether or not that's a part of your original principles.  Then you'll have two crews - tall bikers purists (crusty) and tall biker revolutionaries (sellouts).  No middle ground.  No dialogue.  Just a lot of jostling and fuck you's and terrifying long falls back to the Earth.

See also, The United States of America.

Up, up, up.  Like, really, terribly far up, which it turns out is not up at all.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"What is journalism coming to?"

I sure am glad Tom Skujins is OK.  After crashing in the ToC last night, he staggered around in the road for a while, in traffic, looking sort of like a baby horse trying to find his legs.  Not good:

But if Frank Drebin can pull through such an on-camera daze, I'm sure Skujins will be just fine too.

Heal up, up, up, Kid.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Paranormal Costume Idea # 763,398

Paranormal Costume Idea # 763,398: Five Man Acoustical Jam.

Better get on that early, though.  It'll take some serious attention to detail - that purple shirt alone seems to defy physics by even holding on to Jeff Keith's wiry, chain-smoking torso.  Imagine him with a helmet on and tell me you don't see Richard Serton.  It would take some work, of course.  But for even one spectator to be like, "wait a minute, dudes, are you guys dressed as Tesla?" - it would all be worth it.

For authenticity, you'd have to smoke, which might inhibit your anaerobic capacity later in the evening.  But legends are legends, and you'd be playing your part in history, just another thing that rocked before Qwadsworth was even born.

And speaking of Qwadsworth, who is basically too famous to even check in most of the time these days, I've been getting shady text messages from him about his intent to race Il Giro D'Ville this year, a mere 4-day stage race to tune up his "i don't sit to pedal" ass before heading out to Dirty, Filthy Kansas to race 200 miles of sharp gravel on his cross bike.

Dirty Filthy Kansas, if you might recall, is where none other than Imposter Wadsworth lives , which I have to assume is the real reason our Wadsworth is going out there in the first place, to finally have the Highlander-themed showdown that has been brewing since I pointed out they share the same last name back in 2015 and Gordon proceeded to call Nathan all kinds of terrible names that I can't repeat here.

Again, as a devoted member of the cycling press corps, I'm committed to keeping you, the public, informed about how this all shakes out.  And though it might sound a little tired, haggard, pre-recorded even, I still think that Love Will Find A Way.

Which was my original point anyway.  TESLA.  Coming to JPJ tomorrow night, I'm told, opening for Def Leppard, just as they did in 1987.

Proving, once again, that the clock only runs one way, and that's up, up, up.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


So rarely am I out in front of a band that is on the rise.  Usually, I find out about great music shortly after the band breaks up, or someone vital to the sound dies, or goes to prison, or abandons the deal for a solo gig.  It's almost always over before I find out it even happened.

This time, though, I'm out in front of the fame, or some of the fame anyway, but just barely.  In about a year, when we're all rocking out to The Will Overman Band on our way back from the mountains on a Sunday afternoon, all sunshine and dirt and post ride buzz, I'll look over at you from shotgun (you'll be driving because i'm extremely drunk after consuming two entire bud lite limes) and swear I knew all about these guys and blah blah blah before they were big.

For a pittance, FOR FREE technically, on this Saturday eve, you too can be privy to the foresight and catch these guys in Afton at 530 PM.  Or make a difference for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.  Or just go and drink something slightly more socially acceptable than BLL.

As one youtube commenter so aptly put it - "This man has Jesus in his Vocal Chords."


Last but not least - and all the bike content I can muster today - THIS JUST IN:

West Virginia kicks ass.
Like, literally.  It will literally kick your ass.

For sale: pelican cooler.  Slightly used.  Seller recommends you wash it before using it, but hey, you do you.

Freedom, dirt, beer, and blood.  You know what to do with it.
Up, up, up.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Legal Fiction

These cautionary tales we seem trapped in  - the ones about the limits of the voice of the electorate after the votes are cast and the powers that be start doing whatever it is they do, however they do it - the ones we call "Ragged Mountain" or "The United States of America" which are actually serving to dissolve the already tenuous belief of a semi-voting population that what they think matters, are making us all crazy.

It's like it says in the bible: "You can't trust freedom when it's not in your hands."  (Axl, 3:16.)
It's enough to make you lose track of reality.

But if I might dust off a little chestnut from our local elected official/fringe scientist, Rick Randolph, "Go ride your bike."

He's right about that.

The rest, I reckon, will be decided in court.

Someday, I aspire to be the sort of individual who can use phrases like "legal fiction" with a straight face, to actually believe that I know so much about the system that you, on your side, whatever it is, your thoughts and beliefs are literally made-up shit that should reside in the fiction section of the library, right alongside Judy Blume.  

Until such time, I'll just do whatever Rick says, and then vote my conscience at every available opportunity, which - as always - is the only voice anyone who believes in Legal Fiction actually has.

The voting booth: the one place where Fiction can become a reality.

See also, the United States of America.

Up, up, up.

Monday, April 10, 2017

No Bird

WaffleHouse, 5:00 AM on Saturday.  I'm on my way to do trailwork in the mountains for the morning - cutting the deadfall off of Fore Mountain Trail down near Douthat State Park, so I'm up early and I need breakfast.  And it happens to be the morning after prom.  I didn't realize that until I walked in, but here we are.  The place looks like a mushroom and feta omelette blew up somewhere around the middle of the room, and as the night has worn on and people have come and gone, they've halfheartedly dropped napkins at the mess without bending over.  The girls are long gone, apparently, but three 18ish year-old boys are in a corner booth, the broken down aftereffects of a long and mischievous prom night playing out it's final hour, and one of them keeps shuffling from his booth back to the jukebox and putting on King Missile's "Detachable Penis" from the early 90's, long before he was born.  
Detachable Penis is apparently hilarious if you're an 18 year-old boy on the tail end of prom night, which is at it should be, I guess.  Over and over again, Detachable Penis.  One of them knows all the words and can run through the whole bizarre monologue, and he doesn't hesitate to do so while another one, though clearly a little drunk, is trying to talk the girl behind the counter into giving him a job.  My "salesperson" Kelli as her name tag reads - and I use the term "SalesPerson" very loosely, because at this hour of the night at Waffle House the menu pretty much sells itself - has a tattoo on the inside of her forearm: it's a bird cage, with the door open.  The door is open, but there's no bird anywhere to be found, and I wonder what that means.  

This is the length of the economic divide our country finds itself in - just how wide it yawns these days - and we're playing it out in a little vignette in real time.  If the kids will just pay their bill, I assume Kelli can finish up and go home for the night, which technically will be the day.  But she has to wait for these kids to wear themselves out first, to pay her, which is taking longer than she might have suspected.  I'm at the very edge of this scene, pushing 40 years old - decades older, and certainly an entire sleep cycle ahead of these people - on my way to recreation the likes of which I don't suppose they care about.  

For hours, I will climb up Fore Mountain with a chainsaw, brusher, rogue hoe, and spend an enormous amount of time, energy, money, effort, and consideration on what to cut and what not to cut - and what I'm doing is not even recreation - not yet.  I am preparing to recreate.  A month from now, 50 of my buddies and I want to race down this descent on $5,000 mountain bikes as fast as we can, and cleaning it up now is a way we've found to enhance the experience.  So I'm doing all of this now, 100 miles from home, to have more fun on a vacation that I will take with my white, middle-upper class friends later.  White Privilege, one might surmise, is spending an entire day preparing to vacation.  

The Birdcage tattoo haunts me though.  If the door is open, did the bird already fly the cage and is so far away as to not even be visible at this time?  Is it, for example, on her back somewhere?  Or was it never even there?  Has the bird just not arrived yet?  Is she two paychecks from finally being able to add the bird to the tattoo which, if you're reading the story at its most literal, represents getting away from whatever nightshift waitress paycheck situation she's in to begin with?  She stands there, watching these three teenagers, not that much younger than her but also WAY younger than her, and she's basically a statue but not quite.  I can't help but think she represents something.  She fidgets, naturally.  It's 5 AM, and she's out of cigarettes, so she bums a smoke from the guy on the grill, who is frying me a skillet of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and cheese that probably carries in the neighborhood of 3,000 heart-stopping or mountain-climbing calories, you choose, and she steps out back for a bit, and I never see her again.  

"Prom night," the grill man shoots me a wink and sets the huge plate of shit down in front of me, and suddenly I'm in on this, if only for a few minutes at 5 AM when pretty much everyone who is awake off of exit 94, regardless of your pursuit, converges at The Waffle House.  To love the mountain, I have found at times, is also to love its people.  

"Pay your bills" the grill man tells the kids.  
Kid #1 feeds the jukebox and selects Detachable Penis for what has to be the 10th time in the last hour.  
"Pay your bills," he tells the kids again.  
Kid #2 says hire him and he'll liven the place up.  I'm sure he's right about that.  
"Pay your bills, Please." the grill man tries this time.  
When I leave, the full moon is setting in the West and there's just a hint of pink in the sky behind me, and those kids are still sitting in the corner booth.  

Monday, March 27, 2017


MOONSHINE.  It's been a long, long time since I was so obsessed with a single trail.  But wow.

Make it a point to get out there while it's still dirty, fresh, and amazing.

The rest of this blog entry is postponed for moonshining.
I'll be back when the stoke level levels out a little.

Down down down down down down down...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Measured by Men

5-8 inches of snow.
2.4 inch tire.
6 inches of travel.
19 inch seat tube.
A fast 30 mile loop.
A quick nap.
A bite to eat.
A 12 percentage point lead in the polls.
A 10 minute climb.
All downhill from here.

One could write a book filled with lists of all the things that men can't accurately measure.  And of all the things that we, as a gender, can't quite add, I would estimate that snowfall is perhaps our most inaccurate.

But, of course, that's my estimation, which I am gender-prone to missing by an enormous margin, so pay no mind to it.

It's a good thing truth doesn't matter anymore, given our propensity to stretch it.  Otherwise, we might do something wild and crazy, like elect a woman.  

If you go deep into our current and massive discord as a culture, you'll find exactly this: two people who see the same thing two different ways.  It's easy to look at the world how you look at it, see it the way you see it, and call the other side wrong.

I don't think we'll get any better at measuring until we, on this side, look at that quarter-inch of snow and at least wonder a little if it's actually maybe 6 inches and we're the ones who can't see it accurately.  At least be open to it.

Maybe bikes DON'T belong there.
Maybe the EPA does need scrapped.
Maybe we are the ones who can't measure.
Not that any of those things needs to be true.  I'm talking about a mindset that yields the possibility that you might be wrong.  You're not wrong.  But you MIGHT be.

In my memory, I did the SM100 in 8:40 back in 2010, the year before my kids were born.
I dug through the bowels of the internet and pulled up the actual result just the other day, and in fact, I did the SM100 in 8:47.  But it was only 92 miles back then.  And that was in 2009, not 2010, and I raced for Bike Factory.

The transportation of the mind from belief to reality - that millisecond where the truth sets in - like politics, feels terrible.  We don't quite understand, and we never have.  It turns out WE are the asshole.

There's snow in the forecast for Saturday.  6 inches?  The truth is that no one actually knows.
We can only keep trying if, first, we listen.

Up, up, up.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

“Any one-a-you lily-livered, bow-legged varmints care to slap leather with me?”

The new face of Advocacy.  

Fear not, Foof.  We are in good hands.  

Up, up, up.

Note To Self; Life Goals

Do this:

Before you do this:

Certainly do both.  But, in all likelihood, the order of those two hundred miles is vital to the end result.  One before the other.

The clock is only running one way, and that's up, up, up.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting.

Is the environmental jewel, the fragile ecosystem of Ragged Mountain about to be politically pilfered, STOLEN, I daresay, from the birdwatchers, the dog haters, the barefoot hikers, and the natural elite who have done such a super job taking care of it for the past 30 years...

Or, are we witnessing a changing of the guard?

Can we accept the rapidly changing and bizarre world for what it is, and operate within the framework allowed in our modern, fluid, massively imperfect society, where we stop obsessing and defending how we think things SHOULD be and start dealing with exactly and precisely how they really ARE?

More succinctly, are overprivileged white people genuinely capable of sharing?

It all remains to be seen, I reckon.

But know this, the hard lesson about holding on too tight:

That which you sacrifice to keep you eventually lose anyway.

Up, up, up.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Also, not all is lost in the world.

 Woodberry Forest Pump Track.

 Yesterday my kids didn't even know what a pump track was until about 3:00. Now it's ALL they know.

 Coming soon to a Preddy Creek near you? We shall see...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Not all is lost in the world.

The Pantani ride happened, but that's so 2005 it's barely worth mentioning.

What matters: The Future.

It will be cool to tell people, some day, that you knew them back when they were groms, before they made it big, when they were stuck holding down the fort while their parents celebrated a dead roadie who did EPO.

Brian Lewis might have sent the whole Pantani route in 2:39, with a flat tire, on a road bike, into a headwind, shattering the record by 18 minutes or so.  That's cool and all.  But these kids rip.

The whole thing reminds me that I should be building much bigger berms.

Thanks to all who came out, shredded, drank all the beer, and made it home safely.  Prepare to be a part of how things used to be.

Into the future, and up, up, up.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

You've got questions, I've got questionable answers.

The mailbag is full, overflowing, with good people who should know better than to associate with such a tawdry, ragtag, non operation as Il Pantani.  But they simply can't look away.  Il Pantani is like the Crystal Meth of gravel non-races.  No really, there's a lot of Meth out there, so be careful.

Let's go straight into the mailbag, and I'll see if I can settle some of these queries once and for all.

1)  Is it really going to be 69 degrees for Pantani on Sunday?

Naturally, given the fact that it's February and you used the number "69", I assumed this was a prank email.  But no.  Indeed, it appears we're on a warm streak here the likes of which has not been seen since China came up with this whole global warming hoax.  And the forecast for Charlottesville does currently say it'll be exactly 69 degrees on Sunday afternoon.  So yeah, I guess it'll be a warm one.  But no way will it hit above 60 degrees out there atop the pop.  In fact, I bet you'll want a jacket for the decent down into the arctic tundra that is Bacon Hollow, where snow is forecast to actually fall and stick tomorrow morning, despite the fact it's currently 72 degrees.  Make of that what you will.  Dress warm, dress light, dress however you want - but dress awesome.

2)  Should I ride my 1X10 MTB or my cross bike?
 A 1X10 mtb, even if you are running a 34T front ring, will probably leave you spun out and dropped in the first 2 miles.  That start down Markwood is like a road race.  But then, on brokenback, a 34X36 is not nearly sufficient to climb brokenback after what you've done to yourself for the previous 2.5 hours or so.  So a 1X10 mtb is a rough choice on all surfaces.  Then again, a cross bike that has similar gearing deficiencies is probably worse.  But at least it'll roll nice until it doesn't.  Was that helpful?  No.  OK then.

3)  Can I get a coach and a training plan that'll help me get fit by Sunday?
You know what, YES.  There are lots of options on this front these days, but B-slow, local pro, Past Pantani-Runner up, Tour De Burg champ, Battenkill champ, and just all around good guy is now an in-town resource for screaming at you to get you in shape.  Coaches, of course, are not for everyone.  But if there's one dude who could take you, in whatever state of disrepair you are in, and actually improve your performance between now and Sunday, given his history as an underground and gravel racing boss, I think B-slow could at least help.  I'm not sure how he'd do it, though.  Just look at yourself.  Jesus.  How did this happen?  Anyway, give him a call.

Though around here, I imagine the biz dev conversation for the new coach in town going something like this:

I got a coach.
You got a WHAT?  How long have you had that problem?

4)  Has VDOT dumped gravel back there on the mountain yet?
As of today, Wednesday, no.  It's smooth as silk back there.  Which makes me believe they are waiting until Friday or Saturday, or maybe even Sunday morning, to get to work.  Pinch flats for one and all.  See also, Huck Norris.

5)  Will you cancel Pantani if it's over 80 degrees?  
I will not because I cannot.  You see, I'm not in charge - in fact, no one is.  This is a mob, not a monarchy.  Going with the flow is not just a good option, it's the only option.

6)  Can you recommend an appropriate Singlespeed gear for this route?
 Every year someone comes to me with this question, and I hastily link them to Kev-29ers gear doc.
Then I mumble a few obscure comments about gear inches and metric vs American standards, and I try to blend the conversation back into something else that I don't know anything about before I'm exposed as the single speeder-fraud that I actually am.  To that point, take note, I don't know.  Kev29er might chime in here with real wisdom, though it's worth noting he'll be only slightly under-gearing on Sunday with a 1-10 mtb.  SOFT.

7) Who is your pick to win?  
Ricky StillGetsCardedInBars Everington.  3 hours flat.  Long live the 26er!

But you read all that, and it didn't actually help, right?  I know.  Reading, and factual information in general, are both a thing of the past.  BUT, Marky Mark did chime in that he has procured a keg of minuteman IPA.  So you've got that going for you, if nothing else.  (You have nothing else going for you but that.)  So take advantage.

Sunday, 10 AM.

Up, up, up.

Monday, February 6, 2017


The truth is that Marco Pantani was too small to play sports.  Always undersized, he got bullied.  He loved football, but it was too easy to push him around.  He was a thumbsucker until he was 8 years old, tiny but with huge ears, and he was injury prone - always trying a little too hard, and falling down.  He got hurt a lot, and he worried his mother sick.  He was simply too small to ever be the hero of his whole country.  So his mother bought him a bike and hoped it would calm him down.

The effect of that bike, of course, was not what she anticipated.  Undersized, but with a passion and wrecklessness that belied his tiny frame, Marco Pantani climbed.  Up, up, up, into a sport where, in fact, being small happened to be a gift, and right into history.  Because fuck all those people who say you can't.

If he were still alive today, Marco Pantani would have been 46 years old.  Of course, that was never going to happen.  He was hit by cars 3 times before he was even 15.  He started taking PED's in his early 20s.  His cocaine addiction, by most accounts, was legendary.  The kind of fire he had just burns too hot to last.  As Matt Rendell, his biographer, wrote about him, "Marco had no future tense."  He climbed like that.

Don't get me wrong: he was also a cheating monster with a bad attitude.  But to take on Lance Armstrong, I guess you had to be.

So this week - skinny grimpeurs, unite.  It's your sport, after all.

Sunday, 10 AM, Up, up, up.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Vacuum

I simply don't understand how this has happened.  At a time in our lives when we need profound, firm, and heroic leadership, when it feels like we're on the cusp of disaster or greatness at the same time, when it seems like, at any moment, the explosions might start and never stop, when the dream we've been chasing for so long is almost within reach and we just need a little clarity, a little guidance to get ourselves to the next step, we've got...a ruthless void of leadership.

I'm talking, of course, about The Pantani Ride.

Il Pantani is February 12th, which somehow has become only 9 days from right now.
Holy shitting big rings.  I think I just cramped.

How does this always happen?  Every year, it's like January is too early to just start wailing on yourself on the steepest gravel climbs in The GC (Greene County, of course) but then, suddenly, it's a week until Pantani day, when you'll be doing just that, and you've done none of that, and it's not good.  Emphasis on wailing.  The kind, though, where you've been throttled, not vice versa.

And yet, out there where you'd imagine there'd be hope, re-assurance, updates on course conditions, positive affirmations about the existence of the event itself, etc....nothing.  I did, however, nominate Marky Mark for Secretary and Dark Overlord of the Posterior, but his confirmation hearings have been delayed for a thorough character assessment.

So in all the places and ways that your lost, weak soul needs soothed, there's a vacuum.

sssshhhhhhhhhh.  You can almost hear it.  Being and Nothingness.

But enough of that.  Let's get into the heart of this before the heart goes tock.

1)  The Pantani Ride is Sunday, February 12th, at 10 AM.  It's really happening.  If you happen to see Justin Beck, who notoriously was left behind one year for arriving at 10:01 AM, please remind him that the ride goes live at 10AM right on the frostbitten nose.  And ask him to pack me some extra tubes.

2)  The Pantani Ride is not an official event with things like a sign up link, insurance policy, registration, support, supportive people, supportive anything of any kind.  It's a group ride, if you can call getting dropped and left on the side of some godforsaken gravel road in the GC being a part of a group.  But it's not organized or official or sponsored by or anything of that nature which might imply an officiating body and person really in charge.  No indeed.  There might be a waiver this year, but that's about it.  Let me be perfectly clear about this: if you fuck up, you'll be left for dead and eaten by  cannibal hill people and their feral pets.  So do your best not to fuck up.

Pretty good chance we'll have a heckler with booze to hand out somewhere they should probably not be doing that, and we'll almost certainly have the dedicated Pantani restroom available:
3)  It's 48 miles or so, the first half of which is lovely, rolling gravel, but done at a hail mary pace the likes of which you've never imagined.  So it sucks.  The 2nd half,  on the other hand, was drawn up by some complete, nihilistic asshole with very strong calves, but it'll be taken at approximately the speed of smell, maybe slower.  Really, you can smell the guy behind you.  That's how slow you're going.  So it sucks too.

4)  The right bike is a subject of hot debate in the shady netherworlds of the dark net where such things get sorted out (Facebook.)  General consensus is that any bike you might choose will be inadequate for at least a lot of the ride.  The good news, is the route has been done freakishly fast on all manner of bike - mountain bike, road bike, cross bike, dedicated gravel bike, etc.  The overall winner, for as long as I can remember, has done so on a hardtail mtb.

5) Weather.  We delayed Il Pantani once upon a time because the weather was cold enough to be scary.  But last year, we rolled in 20 degree frigidity, and it was fine.  So it's on, rain or shine, especially since the current, 9 day, 100% reliable forecast from at this time says 55 and perhaps a shower.  In the universe of Pantani Ride Virginia February weather, that's like a birdie.

6)  Current Conditions - right now, 2/3/17, the whole thing is smoother than a sweaty, steel top tube.  If ever there were a year to try it on a proper road bike, it'd be this year if those conditions hold up.  But it's important to understand that they probably won't hold up.  Around this time, every February, the county gets to work out there grading, digging, dumping gravel, and generally turning a glossy semi-paved road into a monster truck pit, rendering your 23c road tires flacid and worthless.  So make your decision on that stuff about a week from now, not right now.

There are route maps up on ridewithgps, strava, mapmyride, google, etc.  But here's a pretty good one with a queue sheet to print, wrap in aluminum foil, take with you, and hang onto until it's dark, late and you realize you're going to have to eat it for dinner because it's all you have left.

And here's a map that's not so good, but remarkably, it tastes exactly the same.
When you get right down to it, it's like any other ride, where your best chance for survival is to just find some friends, all of you get behind Will Leet or Thomas Bouber or one of those proportionately gifted individuals, draft at all costs, and wait for the fireworks.  

Because the Fireworks are comin'  


A week from Sunday.  

Up, up, up.  

Friday, January 27, 2017


Philly.  GONE.

Less than a year after the Philadelphia Cycling Classic made it into the UCI Women's World Tour, when badass, hard working American Megan Guarnier won a wild finish in front of the hometown crowd up the Manayunk wall, when it seemed like - though grossly underpaid and lacking equality - women's cycling was finally getting to take a step forward, boom.  The thing blows up.  Two steps back.  Not enough money to pay for it.


This is barely news.  This is a relatively simple math equation about the value of corporate sponsorship - and the obvious risks of sponsoring a dirty sport - playing itself out in a most obvious and basic way.  This is basic supply and demand when there is no buyer because the product looks like/might actually be on PCP:

The hard truth here is that the blame for that lack of money rests with a few pro men who doped, continue to dope, and somehow are still in the headlines - and of course the people who pay for them to continue to race.  I'm looking at you too, Trek Bikes.  The list of ex-dopers that you gladly employ/employed, despite the dirty truth about where they got their talent - continues to grow: Contador.  Hesjedal.  The Schlecks.  You are building a team brand that is so toxic, the races that you you send those bums to win can't even find a sponsor to pay for the piss-testing that they so obviously need more of.  So they die.  See also: USA Pro Challenge, Tour de San Luis, Tour Of Qatar, etc.

There's a long list of villains in our sport that we continue to tolerate, and a long list of non-funded, defunct races and teams to show for it.

And the women's races die too.  Guilt by association.  Like most of the ways that women's professional cycling has been trampled by men's professional cycling, it's not fair, of course, but it's true.  The glass ceiling only exists in one direction.  

Onward?  Is there anywhere to actually go?  For example, if I were a corporate sponsor - which I am not, you may be surprised to learn - but if I were, would it be possible for me to fund a women's only race/cycling association of some kind that is in no way tied to the dirty, non-viable, financially and morally bankrupt men's version?  Or is it only a matter of time before there aren't any races left?

What good will equality be for women racers if their male counterparts have destroyed the sport before they can even achieve it?  See also, The United States of America.

Up, up...up?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


I've been watching a lot of hoops while riding the trainer lately.  I just can't seem to watch UVA play without jumping off the couch to try to get a rebound.  What can I say, they're my team.

Anyway, I've been trying to figure out who Jack Salt reminds me of.  7'0, 260lbs.  That Jack Salt.  
Then, while riding the trainer of course, it hit me:

Don't see it?  Try this one.  

Look, I'm not saying they're the same guy or anything.  But you never see them in the same place at the same time, do you?  

OK, maybe I am saying that.  Jack Salt could actually be Ben King on stilts, plus 130 lbs or so.  
I'm not crazy.  You're crazy.  

Up, up, up.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Not Going Postal

Let's get Postal:

A bunch of the people I know and ride bikes with have sent me that link in the last week or so.  As you can read (if you can read) Lance and a small assembly of fellow former dopers, now well past their primes, will be toeing the line at The Old Pueblo 24 hour race next month.  I'm not sure what it says about me, or you, that so many of you sent me that link.  But you did.

My first reaction was, like most people, "They still have 24 hour races?"  Talk about a dying corner of our sport.  I honestly didn't suspect there were any of those still going on that were nearly big enough to stroke the collective, enormous ego of Lance, Hincapie, etc.  That's a lot of stroking for one race.  But come to find out The 24OP is alive and well.

My second thought was, again like most people, "Who the fuck is Dylan Casey?"  Indeed, on a short list of former dopers that reads a little like a who's who of has-been old guys who cheated to win around the turn of the century, Dylan Casey stands out in that he doesn't.   Given the company he is keeping, I can only assume he's an aging, mostly-reformed ex-doper pal of Lance's.  I gave his Wikipedia entry a quick glance, and though there's no specific mention of doping there, I think most people would infer by the timing of his career and the company he is keeping that he was juiced like any good teammate was around that time.  Also, he appears to have been some kind of exec at Yahoo, which is the free email equivalent of v-brakes, so you know he's...he's...

At this point I stopped.  I just stopped.  Why on earth am I reading and thinking about this?  I'm literally getting worked up and grasping at insults to sling at a guy I know nothing about.

I think people sent me this link because they know i get worked up about this sort of thing, and they were sort of trying to decide if they should too.  If Hesjedal was on the team, fine, I'd flip out, because I'm weird about that.  But he's not.  It's easy to jump to all the normal angry conclusions - that Lance should not be allowed to race bikes, even at unsanctioned events.  That they'll steal part of the magic of the race.  That they don't deserve to pin on a number at all.  That the promoters should ban them from participating.  Etc. etc.  This is what the news does to you now.

Most of these are the kind of thoughts that I have on days when I don't ride my bike.
So I did the right thing, which is ride, and I came back, and honestly, suddenly, I didn't care.

And therein lies the secret recipe, and the reason why Lance and his gang should be allowed to race, and things will be just fine in The Old P next month - people who are riding their bikes don't care.  Lance won't care.  Vandevelde won't care.  The guys in the campsite next to theirs won't care.   The guys that beat them won't care.  The guys that get beaten won't feel like victims.  And you and I here at home reading about this and wondering if we should be bothered by it - we'll ride here, and we won't care either.  That's what happens when you stop reading the news, stop looking for something to be pissed off about, and just ride:

The little shit that does not matter won't.

There's an obvious link here, and a conclusion to be drawn about the nature of how we react to both VeloNews and regular news and the near constant supply of digital headaches to be read and loathe.  You'll have to arrive at your own conclusions, but I'll stand by this one:

I think it's time we leave Lance alone.  For our own sake, not for his.

We've got better things to be worried about. 

Up, up, up.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Rock Game

My dog, Bender, who will be 10 years-old this year, has been training me for his whole life how to play The Rock Game.  On the surface, The Rock Game looks like a game of fetch, only there's a labrador-maw-sized rock to be tossed around instead of a ball.  But The Rock Game is not what you think.

So far, in my 10 years of training, I've determined that the flow of the rock game is basically this:

Step 1)  Trailwork, ideally benching trail.  I'm working my ass off with a rogue hoe, and Bender vanishes only to...
Step 2) Bender arrives back with a rock.  Any kind of rock will do, quartz, granite, sandstone, whatever - so long as he can barely manage to pick it up.  There's a fine balance here between a rock that is big enough to play the game and one that is too big for him to lug up the hill from the creek to where I'm working.
Step 3)  This is where it gets tricky.  For years I assumed the object of the game was "fetch" where I'd pick it up, throw it, and he'd chase it down and return it.  But he's given me enough hard looks now after watching me chuck it into the woods again, for me to have learned that's not it.  And he's shown me...many times, and I've finally realized that the goal of the rock game is to kick it around, toss it some (but not too far), stress out about the fact that he's about to lose it, and to eventually lose it in the berm I'm building.  Where fetch is a game with a treasured object - a ball, a stick, a toy - where you always manage to retrieve said object, the rock game is just that, a rock, and the eventual, unavoidable conclusion of the game is to lose it.

This is hard for me to understand.

On Monday, I had to sell my Subaru, the history of which I've written about several times in these here pages.    In a physical sense, the Subaru was a complete piece of shit.  It leaked oil.  Needed new tires.  Didn't run very well.  Sometimes didn't run at all.  It was well past time for it to go, and I knew that, and when I saw that the KBB value for the car, even if it were in good condition (which it was not) was $650, I realized it was now or never.  This is how people end up with piece of shit cars parked in their yard that won't start.   But in her prime, she was a hell of a car - a road-tripping, bike-hauling, cross-country party on wheels.  She'd seen both the pacific and the atlantic, had parked at trailheads from Arizona to New Hampshire and back again.  That car was the last real physical thing I had left from my seven years in Colorado as a 20-something bike bum, where the sum of my responsibility on any given day was to simply go to work and ride my bike.  To me, she was a symbol of a life I used to have, and despite her physical state of disrepair (and my own, for that matter) that car was like a part of me.

Full disclosure: I cried like a fucking baby.  I got $1,000 for it, which is murder if you ask me, maybe for both of us.  As a bizarre frame of reference about the nature of monetary value, it would have taken greater than FOUR of such Subarus, which could still travel at 85 miles/hour if you needed it to, to equal ONE of my race bikes.  Chew on that rock, whydon'tcha.

There are so many things in your life, as you start to push 40 years, that are on their way out.  Those pets you got right after college, the ones that taught you that you could actually love something more than yourself.  The car you brought your kids home in.  The existence of a thing we used to call "front derailleur."  Democracy.  If the things you love are not already gone, most of them have at least packed a bag, gotten their affairs in order.

Bender naps in the yard, the sunshine feels pretty good on his old bones, I can tell, but otherwise he seems unaware of the passage of time.  Around lunchtime, he'll sit right outside of my window here where he can keep an eye on me to see if I'm going to take a break, pick up a hoe, and head for the trail to try to beat whatever this is out of me.  We play The Rock Game pretty much every time now,  his best and only way to help me understand, but still I don't get it.  We keep losing the rocks.  They're in the trails around here.  The loss of each one is enormously stressful for him, as evidenced by the grey hairs along his chin and around his eyes.  He has to nap for 3 hours when we get back.  And still, he keeps wrestling them out of the creek, dumping them in the dirt, and looking up at me with his tail wagging like a puppy, "see.  See!  SEE!"

I still don't really see, but he hasn't stopped trying and so neither have I, as evidenced by all of these trails around here with stray rocks packed into the berms at weird angles that don't make any sense.  Not everything makes sense.

My hope is that their strength will help them hold together, that what doesn't trip us or kill us now will one day help to hold us up, up, up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

At least I'll have warm feet

First and foremost, Mike Doughty will be at the Southern, tomorrow, Jan 12th.
With him this time through town, Wheatus, of "teenage dirtbag" fame.

I don't get too hyped up for concerts in this day and age, but given our current political conundrum and the very fragile state of the world, this one would hit the spot, whatever that spot is.
Also, it's a full moon.
Also, also, it'll be 66 degrees tomorrow.
And with King Trump on the doorstep of the White House, along with his legion of goons, and presumably half the Kremlin, I say tomorrow night is a good night to do something awesome, whatever that may be, wherever you can find it, while you still can.  I'll be night riding for 3+ hours in an attempt to quell the inner demons and so forth, but you do you.

But really, REALLY do you.  It's important right now.  There's a moderately good chance we'll be at war with Russia, China, North Korea, Ourselves, ISIS,  Iran, Mexico, or perhaps even all of those at the same time within the next year or so, so you might as well fit in the good stuff that you really want to do now, while you still can.

Nuclear Winter, right around the corner?  No one knows. (Except the Russians.  They know.)  But I picked up some of those $300 Bontrager winter boots, because at this point, why the hell not?  If it all goes black, at least my feet will be warm.

Supplement those boots with my new, legit hot fudge sundae pop tart branded socks, and 8+ hours at 800 lumens or greater, and I feel better about things already.

Into the darkness, good friends and otherwise.

As a fallback, there's always one way to get warm, and it's up, up, up.