Thursday, October 28, 2010

Those Crazy Austrailians

Rene Haselbacher was a bit stunned after his kangaroo encounter mid-race

I've always heard that those Australians were crazy. But after reading about and looking at photographs from the Crocodile Trophy I'm convinced of it.

Doing a 10 stage mountain bike race in Northeastern Australia is crazy. A bagillion (that's a lot in case you were wondering) miles away from everything. Where you are in the lap of luxury after every stage. A beautiful pup tent, a mat, a sleeping bag, and a free kangaroo to keep you warm (sign me up!) every night.

But that isn't really the greatest part of it all. The best part is being involved in all the new genres of the sport.

Take these for example:
The peloton is passed during stage 6.

You get to play chicken (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome style) with on coming traffic (Who runs Barter town!?).*

The riders had to go under an fence

Since this is cyclocross season and Australia is on the underside of the world. I guess it only makes sense that they would go under the barriers instead of over them. I think we should all try this style! I can see all the skills clinics out there teaching dismount and mounting techniques along with limbo lessons. It's perfect!

A line of racers through Granite Gorge

Now this is the type of racing I could get into. It's like walking your dog, only it's your bike. I like it! In fact this may be the best type of racing for me. I've got mad skillz with a shopping cart at the store (just ask my wonderful wife). And really how much different could it be!? I mean besides the climbing and nature and all. It's practically identical!

So who's with me!? Let's take our ques from our good mates down under and give these things a try! *

*Please don't actually go out and play chicken with traffic. I tried it once and it ended very badly. Not recommended. Also, if you are still going to go out and play Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome remember grab as many of the weapons off the dome as possible. It's the only way...

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Blog Post From Tom Zirbel I Think You Should Read

I thought this was a really interesting blog post from Tom Zirbel that brings some very valid points about the way doping cases are handled by the UCI and different national governing bodies.

Many of these cases seem black and white when you are just given a small amount of information. But when the whole picture is revealed it shows the infinite shades of gray in between.

To have a set of rules that are so absolutely cut and dry. It creates a far greater chance of innocent people falling through the cracks. Than if we go on a case by case basis and allow the experts on both sides to hash it out and come up with a rational decision. That's how I see it anyway.

Please give it a read:

Rubber side down,

Big E

Cross Crusade PIR 2010 Race Report

 I don't know about the rest of you. But race prep for me usually starts the day before. Figuring out what gear I'm going to need to take, what the weather report is, driving directions, doing final check on the bike, pinning my race number, making sure I have cash, gas, cowbell and all the other stuff that makes the day of a race go alot smoother. I love lists. As you can tell from a few of my previous posts here, here, and here. I guess I'm anal retentive. Pff, whatever. 

But as prepared as you can be sometimes the biggest battle you do all day long is the one to get out of bed. That's kinda how my day started. The alarm went off at 6 am and all I could hear was the rain falling and the wind blowing. And just for a couple of seconds (OK, minutes) I played the little game. Do I really want to do this? I'm in a nice warm bed and a beautiful woman next to me. It's just one race. There will be more... But that only lasts for a second.

 Soon I remembered that that glory out on the race course isn't just going to grab itself. So I'm up and getting dressed and eating my pre-race meal and puttering around (Am I the only one who does this besides really old people?). I hop into the car. Go get some coffee (Mmmm. Coffee.) and I'm off to the races.

On the drive up I'm noticing a couple of things. First, I was getting great gas mileage. Probably from the 20-30 mph tailwind I had the whole way up there. Second, that every once in a while there would be a deluge of such mammoth proportions that I almost felt the need to pull the car over and wait it out (this was a theme that seemed to follow through pretty much the whole day).

Once I got to PIR and parked (The lot is a long way away from the actual course.) I paid my money and started to recon the course. It was very similar to last years course which made me feel a little better. Fat guys don't like a lot of hills...

I came across the Capitol Velo, Buy Local and The Bike Peddler tent complex (special velvet roped VIP area included) . So I stopped by to say hello to the boys and girls and hangout for a while.

That is one of my favorite things about cyclocross. It's the hanging out between races. Talking, cheering on the other racers and just the general party atmosphere of it all. Even when its pissing rain and you have to hold the tent down to keep it from blowing away (yes that part happened). Good times!

So I was at the Capitol Velo tent until right before my race just trying to stay warm. I made my way through the cattle call that is Cross Crusade races (100+ starters in my race, almost 200 in the Master 35+ race!). Unfortunately I've never placed high enough to get a real call up so I have to wait it out with everyone else for my number (They use the last digit in your race number to call you up. It's suppose to be random and fair but I always seem to end up somewhere in the back.) to be called. I ended up in the middle back. Meh, what can you do?

Once the race was under way I started to pass quite a few people. Which always feels good. I mean, at least I whooped up on somebody! But the course was already pretty chewed up from the Beginners. And then after about 2 laps from our field it was really sloppy. The wind howled almost the entire time. I was always really grateful for the tailwind and cursing the headwind. So I guess it evened out in the end.

The course is flat which always helps me (please refer to fat guy rule). The technical sections were a definite learning process. It took almost the entire race to figure out the proper lines to take. But it was very gratifying to at lease get them down eventually. I guess practice does make perfect.

But on the second lap the coolest thing happened... I won a GoPro camera!

There is a contest within the race. If you catch the Black Knight (a guy on a bike with flags in his back pocket) and grab one of his flags you win a camera. But the thing is he cheats. He can pop in and off the course anytime he wants to. And I just happened to be lucky enough to have him appear right after the bleachers about 20 yards in front of me and I sprinted up to him and grabbed a flag. To surreal....

To be sure there will be some video posted up here using it in the near future! I'm a bit technically retarded (You should have seen me trying to set this blog up. Sheesh.) But I'm going to try and get a little footage from the Halloween Cross Crusade race next weekend.

Back to the race...

So I had a great time. Got pretty muddy and wet (although nothing like the later racers ended up). Ended up a little forward of a mid pack finish. Didn't break me or my bike and got to hang out and enjoy the spectacle. Good times! Thanks for reading.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Picture From Cross Crusades PIR

Please pay no attention to the gut...

There were some serious puddles out there. You rode through the middle at your own peril.

I caught the Black Knight! If you catch him and steel one of the flags from his back pocket you win a prize. This time it is a GoPro digital video camera. Oh yeah, there will be some video hanky panky with that thing at the next cross race!

Dave trying to keep the tents from flying away in the terrible winds.

Here is the rest of the guys trying to do the same.

Mr. T doing it the right way.

There will be a report on the whole thing tomorrow.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Friday, October 22, 2010

Katie Compton's Cross Bike

The other day I was looking through and came a cross an article about Katie Compton's new Stevens cyclocross bike. While the article was mostly about the bike's new design and features something in the photos really caught my eye. The details.

Zipp's latest 303 has proven to be a potent 'cross wheel.

Now a lot of those details are cool little things that her sponsors do for her special. Things like the custom paint job (she's the US champion) on her Stevens frame. The red, white and blue decals on her Zipp wheels as well as on the anodized hubs. The really neat KfC (her nickname) printing on her Dugast tubulars (drooling here), her wheels and her shifter levers. The custom Wick Werks 44 tooth chain ring to fit the Zipp VumaQuad crank she runs.

But then there are the personal touches. The custom gripped (with sand and supper glue) egg beater pedals. The beautiful cabling job on the bike. Stuff like having all the lettering facing out but also the really slick job with the shrink wrap on the cable ends as well as were they enter the cable housing. The silver and red chain.

Only out of love and respect for her and the machine would all that be done. And I don't think it's by chance that her husband is also her mechanic. Care and attention like that really make me step back and pause. I'm sure there are a lot of mechanics out there (pro and otherwise) that do just as much for their people's bikes but you don't see it to often. And it was really nice to see.

I've got another cross race this weekend. Its the PIR Cross Crusades. So I'll have a full report on that as well as (hopefully) some pictures on Monday. Until then....

Rubber side down,

Big E

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some Great Cycling Books

I have this little guilty habit of buying really cheap books on Amazon. I can't help it! When I see a cycling book that peeks my interest and its only a dollar. They just magically seem to appear at my door step in a couple of days. Its weird!

So seeing as how the dark and cold winter nights are fast approaching. And with a friend bringing up warm fires and fuzzy slippers to me (Hi Cynde!) with yesterday's post here. I thought it might be kinda fun to talk about some of my favorite cycling related books to read while you are laying down next to that fire. Hopefully you have an adult libation as well as a significant other (or at least a dog) to lay with while you read.

Lance Armstrong's War

This is written by Dan Coyle. An interesting view into the mindset and what it takes be a champion. It doesn't always paint Lance as a nice guy. But I think it is probably the most accurate depiction of the man as a whole (or at least I get the feeling).  Also a really, and maybe even a little scary look at a budding Floyd Landis. Well written and intriguing to boot. I would recommend this one to anybody.

A Dog in a Hat

Written by Joe Parkin (now the Editor of Bike magazine). This a really good book about what the work-a-day European pro cyclist had to go through in the eighties. He gets into the unglamourous side of cycling and what it takes to survive. Let alone thrive. Awesome stuff.

The Quotable Cyclist

By Bill Strickland. The best bathroom book EVER! Full of inspiration and witty anecdotes. Just a lot of fun. Any cyclist of any level should own this book.

Its Not About the Bike. My Journey Back to Life

By Lance Armstrong and Sally Jenkins.  It is a pretty compelling story. Regardless of which side you fall on the Lance fence. While it can be a little sappy at times and it gleans over some of the more bike-centric parts of racing for the sake of a bigger audience. Its still a good read.

From Lance to Landis

Written by David Walsh. This covers the dark and murky areas of American cycling. Since this was written before Landis's confession it adds a whole new resonance to what happened before and after. I read it with a grain of salt. But it is sure to conger up an opinion one way or the other. Tread carefully...

A Significant Other

Written by Matt Rendell (Also from The Real Peloton)

Its a story of Victor Hugo Pena a man who held the leaders jersey in the Tour de France while in the service of Lance Armstrong's bid for the 2003 victory. Again this book also has some real interesting views of what it was like being part of the Blue Train. But also a lovely story about a guy breaking out and away form very humble beginnings.

Bobke II

Written by Bob Roll (aka Bobke. The nickname is explained in the book). This is a well written book that's all over the place. But entertainingly done the whole time. Bob Roll is a maverick in every sense of the word and this book chronicles some of those exploits. But really how could you ever actually contain all that is Bobke into a book!? It just can't be done.

So that's only a few. I'll maybe pick this subject up another day. I hope you all get a chance to read at least a couple of these and enjoy them. I know I did.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What to Wear at What Temperature

I've often thought about how clothes relate to cycling. They can be functional and stylish. Or they can be the exact opposite of that. Miserable, uncomfortable, and horrific looking. And while I'm not going to touch the stylish side of all this (I feel another post coming). I did want to talk about temperature ranges and what I think is a good match. I'll try to show changes I'd make with rain put into the mix too (seeing as how it IS Oregon and all).

Temperature Range: 65 degrees and up (dry)

-Light undershirt (Optional (Some people love them others not so much.))
-Bib Shorts (If you haven't made the switch to bib shorts run, don't walk and get a pair. I'll wait... Your welcome.)
-Short sleeve jersey
-Light socks (cycling specific please. No cotton athletic socks)
-Fingerless gloves (Optional (This is mostly if you are worried about crashing or work with your hands.))
-Glasses (With appropriate lens for the conditions)

The only changes I would make for the rain is a cycling cap and a light rain jacket. Or maybe just a vest if its just going to be showers.

Temp. Range: 65 - 58 Degrees

-Same As Above (SAA) with the addition of...

-Long finger gloves (Non insulated)
-Arm warmers
-Knee warmers
-Cycling cap (This is helpful if your bald like me.)

For precipitation here I would put on a rain jacket, leg warmers instead of knee warmers, and light booties.

Temp. Range: 57 - 50 Degrees

-Wind front vest
-Change knee warmers to leg warmers
-Slip Streams or light booty

Or go with.

-SAA Except...
-Long sleeve jersey (instead of wind vest and regular jersey)

Here again a rain jacket is a must other than that I would probably change to a lightly insulated long finger glove.

Temp. Range: 49 - 42 Degrees

This is were things start to change up quite a bit.

-Insulated cap
-Long sleeve base layer
-Long sleeve insulated jersey
-Wind vest
-Insulated long finger gloves
-Leg warmers
-Wool cycling sock
-Heavy neoprene booty over shoes

Or forgo the jersey/vest combo with leg warmers and go with

-Wind fronted insulated jersey
-Light insulated bib tight
-Embrocation (Optional (But I do like to put a little on areas that get cold easily. Like my lower back, knees or the sides of my hips))

For rain in this temperature range I would stick with the regular insulated jersey and put a rain jacket over that. Long finger gloves with wind block. And then I would definitely go with a bib tight on the bottom. Maybe even something with wind blocking. Depending how long and hard (huhuhuhu. I said long and hard.) your going.

Temp. Range: 41 - 35 Degrees

-SAA. Except.
-Heavy wind block jersey
-Bib tights with wind block fronts
-Light booties under the heavy booties
-Liner gloves under wind block insulated gloves

This is kind of the rainy wheel house of winter riding in Oregon. Everything mentioned above should be worn plus a rain jacket.

Temp. Range: 35 Degrees and Below

-SAA  With the addition of.
-Light long sleeve jersey under the heavy wind block jersey or a heavy long sleeve base layer
-Liner gloves under lobster type wind block gloves
-Neck warmer that can also be pulled up over your mouth and nose.
-Heavier wool sock

If you are out in the rain when the temperature is getting this close to freezing. Please use extreme caution out there. And more than likely you should just slump your shoulders and head for the trainer or rollers at this point. I know, I know. It sucks. But better to slog on the trainer for an hour (the absolute longest any human could ever stand to be on the trainer. (recorded fact)) than risk life and limb.

I'm sure there are people out there that will look at this list and tell me I'm on absolute crack (JP and Martin. I can hear you guys saying WTF!?) with these clothing choices and temps. But that's the basic list I've developed in my time out on the roads. And it works for me.

Hope that helps some of you.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Update From the Weekend: WET

DAY 1- Saturday's Breast Cancer ride was wet. I mean really wet.  I don't think it eased up the whole time we were out there. The turn out was pretty darn good considering the weather.

Everyone staid together out of town and as the country roads opened up so did the gaps in the group. Which I really think was to be expected. I hung in the back just to make sure no one got dropped. (I was threatened with a caning by Christy the organizer if we lost anyone. JK)

I have to admit it was a tough one for me. I can't remember the last time I went that slow for just 25 miles. And couple that with the rain it felt like a tougher day than it actually was. But there was nice conversation. And Oregon always looks nice no matter what the weather.

At the end there was lovely food and chair massages for anyone that wanted them. And lots of volunteers that were very cheery and full of encouragement. So despite the weather it was still worth it.

DAY 2-I think maybe ouch would be the best word to describe the Sunday Cross Crusade race at Rainer.  On many many levels.

First is the wake up call. 4 o'clock in the morning is not right. I don't care what you say. It just isn't. No no. Don't try and change my mind on that. Because I'm not going to budge.

Then there is the rain. Not just the pitter patter of rain drops pleasantly playing on the roof. We are talking torrential down pour. Like any moment your expecting an arc to float by with Noah giving you a, "Poor sap." kinda look. Meeting up with Jason and Mel to head to Rainier and having small rivers flowing down I-5 made the drive up anything but relaxing (Thanks J for driving. I wouldn't have wanted to do it.)

We also had a small crisis of not being able to find coffee. NO COFFEE BEFORE A RACE!? Sacrilege! But as they say, the show must go on.

As we pulled into the parking lot I'd love to say that the sky's cleared and the birds chirped and all that wonderful crap. But that would be a lie. It continued to piss rain until about 1 lap into my race.

Pour J had to do all his warm up and his race in the rain. It was warm at least but still pretty miserable.

With that first race done it was time for mine to start and as I was close to the back of the pack it was going to be an up hill battle (a lot of the time literally) for most of the race. That course has one brutal hill on it.  With each lap, it sucked out a little more of my will to live. But I did manage to make up some time on the down hill (fat guys go down hill well...) sections.

However, the longer the race went on the more slimy the course became. On the down hill sections just staying up right became a real challenge. A challenge that I failed at on the second to last lap.

A guy went down right in front of me and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Lucky neither the bike nor myself were hurt and I was back up on on my way quickly. But even some of the slightest up hill parts. Things that a small child would have a hard time riding up under normal circumstances. I couldn't ride to save my sole. It was like greased Teflon out there. As hard as I tried to keep the rear wheel from slipping it still did it. I guess I need to work on my mediocre technical skills. Meh.

So I finished. Not well. But I finished. Got cleaned up and got out of there. The irony was about the time I finished cleaning up it was starting to get pretty nice out there. Oh well what can you do. Next weekend I'm not racing.

It's my wonderful wife's Birthday and we are headed out of town. So I guess the next race is PIR. Here's hoping everyone!

Rubber side down,

Big E

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Whole Lot of Riding This Weekend!

This weekend is chocked full of some fun times!

First there is the Breast Cancer ride on Saturday morning leaving from Scott's Cycle & Fitness at 10 o'clock in the morning. There are two rides available. The first is a nice leisurely 10 mile ride over into West Salem through the park along the river. The second is a 25 mile ride up north through Kiezer out into the beautiful farm land towards the Weatland Ferry. Both rides start and finish as Scott's. And both are no drop rides with plenty off regrouping points. The cost is $25 donation. For any other questions please contact the Scott's Cycle (503-363-4516). Hope to see you there!

The second ride is on Sunday and that's the Cross Crusades race #2 all the way over in Rainer, Or. I'm really looking forward to this course as it seems a little more suited to a ahem guy of my stature. I'm headed over there with with J and Melinda. And we're having to leave at a ridiculous time of morning in order to get there with enough time for check in and proper warm up. Oh the sacrifices we make in the name of fun!  I'll give you a full report on this and the Breast Cancer ride come Monday.

There is also the Heiser Farms cross race going on Saturday and a high and loud woot! to all the people going up there to volunteer and race. Hope you guys have fun!

One last thing that is related to yesterdays post. There was a really interesting interview on today with Floyd Landis. It's a good read if you feel so inclined

Keep the rubber side down,

Big E

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Latest Rounds of Doping

Doping in cycling....

I'm just tired of it all. Between a large handful of Spaniards popping (including 5 time grand tour winner Alberto Contador) within the last few weeks. The Spanish government deciding to permanently close the Operation Puerto affair. Joe Papp and his magic list of clients. Kirk O'bee with his life time ban and what looks to be Australian rider Nathan O'Neill to be following closely behind. It's just about enough to make you throw all your cycling magazines, DVDs and computer in the trash and say to hell with it all.

I mean what is it going to take to clean the sport up?! Or can it ever be cleaned up. Bernhard Kohl says its not possible to win the tour without doping. And I would say judging by history he's correct.

We expect these guys to do super human efforts one day and then wake up the next and do it again. But its more than that. There are so many type A personalities out there that want to win more than anything. I was listening to a podcast the other day ( HIGHLY recommend these guys. Audio isn't great, but its the best Quality cycling podcast out there). And they were talking about the USADA doing surprise doping controls at a masters race in the north east. A Masters race... Seriously?! That's just pathetic.

I once read a really interesting study (I'm sorry I can't recall the specific information on it so bare with me) that showed the difference mentally between an elite level athlete and a Joe fresh of the couch. The question basically stated; If you could take a pill that was completely undetectable by any testing and you would never ever be caught for taking it and this pill would guarantee you a gold medal in the next Olympic games, but you would die 5 years later. Would you take it? 98% of the average sedentary Joe's out there said they would absolutely not take the pill. But when the athletes were posed the same question over half, over HALF said they would do it!  That right there should tell us something about the drive of some people.

When you add on top of that people like Bernhard Kohl, Floyd Landis, and Riccardo Ricco say they were tested hundreds of times. Sometimes just the day before or after.  And then only popped the one time. That starts to make it sound like its really not that risky.

With the rewards being so great. Why wouldn't they do it? (playing devil's advocate here) If there is such a small margin between being the winner of a grand tour and the lantern rouge why not take it? If you can afford it anyway.

I'm not sure where any of this is going. And quite frankly it doesn't change my love of the sport any more than before. I just find it morbidly fascinating and kind of sad all at the same time (like watching a soap opera). Like; Man I wish they could get their shit together! But, wow did you hear what just happened!?

Keep the rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tubular Wheels: A Dangerous Obsession?

So my beautiful wife turns to me in the car and says, "When are you going to finally give up on those damn tubular wheels!?" To which are reply, with defiance I might add, "NEVER!!!"

This is of course after telling her that I have been down at the shop (Scott's Cycle and Fitness (the greatest shop in the world, no, seriously, look it up.)) re-gluing tubular cross tires back on to my old mavic wheels. And discovering that I have a damaged front wheel that's not fixable.

So what if this would be the second hoop that I'll have to replace in a year? Or that after about half the cross races that I did last year they needed at least a little tickle on the truing stand? And sure the tubular tires cost more than two standard clinchers. But so what!?

It's the way they feel. Soooo nice. Not enough "O's" in smooth. They grip like like a pissed off badger trying to defend his home... I don't actually know what that means so don't ask. But you get the point. They are really, really nice to ride on. Besides that, I also like the processes that you have to go through to put them on. It appeals to my inner bike geek. Also, can you ever really have to many pairs of wheels? I think not.

However, I'm at a precipice. The proverbial edge of the cliff looking over. An edge that I fear I may not be able to get back up once I go down....

I'm thinking about using my carbon road tubulars for cross. There, I said it.... 

But with that thought comes all kinds of self doubt. As I said earlier. I had to mess with my sturdy 32 hole triple cross work horses after almost every race. So what the hell will happen if I try to ride my bad ass carbon Bontrager deep dish wheels in the mud and the gunk!? Will they implode while jumping over the first set of barriers? Or will they just flop on their sides and pee on themselves like a little puppy at the mear sight of some of the cross courses? I just don't know....

On top of all that I don't know if I'm ballsy (is that how you would spell that?) enough to do it. Part of me wants to hoard my carbon wheels in the garage and only take them out on special road race days. Maybe rub them down with a cloth diaper every once in a while. You know, just for fun. The other part of me says that I have them and they should be used. A wheel hanging in the garage is useless and what's the point of even having them if all you are going to do is look at them.

So I guess I have some decisions to make. But if you see some guy at the next cross race standing over his crumpled front carbon wheel, crying. You will know what direction I took.

Keep the rubber side in the dirt,

Big E

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cross Crusade Race #1 Alpenrose

Well I did the first cyclocross race of the year yesterday. The Cross Crusade race #1 Alpenrose. I should also throw in there that this was my first race in the Men's C class. I did all last year in the Beginner Men category mostly because I'd never done it before and once I get a couple races under my belt I still wasn't blasting past everyone so I decided to stay put. But now that I'm a year older and wiser I figured why the hell not. And threw myself in with 120 of my new closest friends (no, really, we'll hang out all the time, promise...)

J and I showed up at Alpenrose at o'dark thirty. Which was kind of nice because there is always good parking at o'dark thirty (everyone knows that). But that whole getting up really early for premium parking and sign up still hurts.

After we signed in and got our numbers and all that good stuff. We decided to walk the course just to get a feel for the lay of the land. But with the course being 1.7 miles long the stuff that looked smooth, back tracked on itself, or not dangerous we just sort of passed by.

After the walk through I dropped off my extra bike (thanks Adam!) to the pits I rode around the course a couple of times to get a feel for what I was going to need to do. All the time checking my watch to make sure I wasn't going to miss the start of J's race. Poor J got a really unlucky start position (CC do a start position protocol with you race number that is completely random). But with a blow of the whistle they were off.

 I went to find a good vantage spot. That, incidentally is one of the best things about cross and one of the big reasons its so spectator friendly is that if you do it right you can actually see about three different areas of the course from one spot. J had a good race and managed to pass through a lot of the scrum to finish in a very respectable mid-pack position.

I headed for the starting area with about 10 minutes until the start of my race. I stripped my leg warmers and thermal jacket and headed to my number area. I was very lucky in the fact that I got a very good start position (second row) right next to Dave and behind Mr. T.  The official blew the whistle and we were off!

For the next 45 minutes all I could see was a tunnel about 20 feet in front of me. My hole shot was not very good because I chose the wrong gear to start in. I did make up a little time in the paved sections (this seemed to happen every lap BTW). The cow pasture right after the paved area was bumpy as hell!  Practically shook my fillings out every lap. And when I turned to go up and out of the it I would get passed (this seemed to happen every lap too). Ugh.

It was kind of interesting how things sort of pan out. The areas I have always considered myself pretty strong at were exactly the parts I'd get my butt hand to me. But other areas (like technical sections) I seemed to have little to no trouble in. Meh, weird.

Anyway, around and around I went until the feeling I was going to puke became quite ordinary to me. Oh, by the way. It's really mean of officals to have the 3 laps to go banner up. But still have 4 laps to go. I think I saw several grown men weeping in the bushes right after you got out of the velodrome. Tisk, tisk guys....

So I finished up. Continued to suppress the feeling of puking for several minutes afterward. And went to spin around a little to cool down.

All in all it was a fantastic experience as most cross races are. Anyone who has thought about doing one but hasn't pulled the trigger I highly recommend it. And if you love beer, waffles, friets (fries or freedom fries if you're 'merican) and watching grown men and women fight for the ultimate prize. I highly recommend coming out just to spectate. Truly a festive time for everyone!

Keep the rubber on the dirt,

Big E      

Friday, October 1, 2010

Top Ten Rules for Riding in a Group

Hey Everyone! I'm Earl (aka Big E) and I'm a loud mouthed and opinionated cyclist and thought I'd share (force) myself with the rest of the cycling public just for fun. Aren't you all lucky! Enjoy.

I ride with a local club a few times a week and for the most part have a great time. But lately we've had several crashes due to poor group riding skills. So, for your reading enjoyment. The TOP TEN things to do/ not do on a group ride:

1. RIDE IN A PREDICTABLE MANNER. Don't be that person who weaves in and out of the group. Flicks corners like they're in some sort of motorcycle race. Or Grabs two fists full of brake because they weren't paying attention to what's happening in front of them. Be as smooth as possible with all motions on the bike. Speeding up, slowing down, and moving side to side.

2. IF YOU ARE LEADING THE GROUP YOU HAVE CERTAIN RESPONSIBILITIES. The first of which is knowing what the hell the route is! I'm amazed by how many people ride up to the front to strut their stuff and then miss a turn because they have know idea where they are going. Drives me crazy! The second thing you are responsible for is pointing hazards out. The guy who is 6 inches off your back wheel can't see the big branch coming up. And when you swerve to miss it (see rule #1) and don't point it out they are going to end up on their ear.

3. DON'T YELL AND SHOUT UNLESS ITS AN EMERGENCY.  This kind of ties into part of rule #2. A simple hand gesture for debris on the road or to indicate that you are slowing or making a turn is so much more civilized than yelling, "Car up! Car Back! Slowing! Stopping!" My belief is that if you aren't paying enough attention to whats going on around you that you need to have people yell crap out than you have no business riding in a group anyway.

4. IF YOU HAVE AREO BARS, DO NOT RIDE IN THEM UNLESS YOU ARE AT THE FRONT OF THE GROUP. This one is mostly for our socially awkward brethren the tri-people. I can't believe this needs to even be pointed out. But practically every event ride I do I see someone in their tt bars behind someone like they're in the team time trial at the tour or something. It's so dangerous because you have no brakes out there. So you have to move your hands from the bars to the brake hoods. And by the time you've done that in an emergency situation you and anyone behind you is on the pavement wondering what the hell just happened.

5. KNOW HOW TO CHANGE A FLAT TIRE AND HAVE THE PROPER TOOLS WITH YOU. We used to have a guy(s) that would do the group rides and not carry anything. Expecting someone else to supply them with all the things they need. I call bull#$%^! Carry your own stuff and know how to use it. Enough said.

6. DON'T HALF WHEEL! Now please don't get this confused with over lapping wheels. Which in and of itself can be dangerous but a lot of times can't be helped (things like echelons come to mind). No, I'm talking about when you are riding side by side (2x2) with someone and you are continually half a bike length in front of them. And whenever the other person tries to come even with you. You accelerate some more in order to stay ahead. It's rude, juvenile, stupid and your not in a race. So get over it and behave yourself.

7. IF YOUR ARE GOING TO TAKE A PULL AT THE FRONT BE SMOOTH (ARE YOU NOTICING A PATTERN?). I can't tell you how many times I've been in the group gotten finished with my pull up front just to have the next guy in line take off like a shot and create a huge gap which when closed up usually strings the entire group out and then once they are caught makes the group squish all up again (also called the accordion effect). Be smooth (rule #1). If you don't know what the speed was when you were still drafting then ask the person at the front how fast they are going when you pass them. And keep it at that speed. If you want to go a little faster then slowly ramp the speed up. Just don't do it all at once. Smoooooth.

8. DON'T WEAR EARPHONES WHILE RIDING IN THE GROUP. Regardless of your feelings about weather or not you should wear ear buds while riding a bike. Don't do it in a group ride. Group rides are suppose to be social. But how can anyone have a conversation with someone who can't hear a damn thing?! I personally think its pretty rude, dangerous and stupid. Just leave them at home. And if you really want to listen to music then go do a solo ride.

9. IF THE GROUP YOUR WITH HAS REGROUP POINTS THEN KNOW WHERE THEY ARE AND ACTUALLY REGROUP AT THEM.  Check the policy of the group your with and honor that code. Again, these rides are meant to be fun. But it's no fun if you get dropped out in the middle of no where because you had no idea it was going to be a hammerfest.

10. HAVE FUN! Everyone has different reasons for riding with a group. Respect that. And hopefully they respect your reasons too. But have fun. We are all on bikes. And what better way to see the world and be with other like minded people than on a group ride? Enjoy it!

I'm sure a lot of you have your own ideas about more rules. Please feel free to post them and if I get enough good ones I'll add then to the list.  Rubber side down,

Big E