Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Real writers write about cycling

The NY Times Online's "Other Sports" section is a wealth of information about fringe sport enthusiasts just like us. Just like us, but with more talent and more heart-warming backstories.

Yes, they've chronicled the awesomeness of cyclocross.

And despite the fact that they cut two track cycling events to add BMX, who doesn't love a love story about Mormon BMX Olympic hopefuls. BMX looks fun, but just as non-cyclists think that any adult who rides a bike is wasting their time on a kid's toy, within the cycling world, roadies and mtbers will probably always hold that same level of contempt against adult BMXers. Kudos for the Times for giving them their time in the spotlight.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, Asian people can take testosterone and not get caught. For a sub-set of the population who also has a genetic propensity to have trouble processing alcohol, this is a fairly lousy tradeoff--at least based on my own pro-anti-doping/anti-prohibition platform. Do these new findings have any implications for half-Asian folks? I'm sure science is working on it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

to tube or not to tube

After witnessing John's partial innertube blowout, we started talking about making the conversion to tubeless. Reliable sources on cycling technology, such as The Internet, have been singing the praises of tubeless systems for some time now; however, I've been reluctant to switch over because (1) I am cheap and don't want to buy special wheels or some $50 vat of goo when I still have perfectly good tubes, (2) I am lazy, (3) I am not convinced that they will work that well. When tubed tires are working, they work. When they flat, they don't work, but fixing them is a simple operation. My concern about tubeless systems is those stories I've heard about the tires coming unsealed and then you gotta mess around with a burpy tire until you finally give up and install a regular tube. At the end of the day, my take on the situation is, like other finicky tires (see "tubular tires") , if they're installed correctly, they probably work well.

But how does one set up tubeless tires correctly? For starters, what vat of goo does one purchase? The answer, according to John, according to The Internet, is: (e) none of the above. Instead, somewhere there exists a magical elixir, a special blend that is supposedly superior to any name-brand tire sealant. But what, then is the correct recipe? For example, there's this, suggesting that the best blend is:
1/5 stuff designed for tubeless tires
1/5 stuff designed for for making rubber masks
1/5 stuff designed to go in your car (but not a wheel-related part of your car)
2/5 stuff designed to go in your body
plus stuff designed to go on your 2nd grade craft project
and a dash of pepper. Heaven forbid this stuff escapes from your tires when out on the trail. You'll be flooding the trail with:
1/5 stuff that is poisonous
2/5 stuff that is probably poisonous
2/5 stuff that will evaporate
plus glitter. The glitter is arguably the best thing to dump into the forest because it is (probably) non-toxic and may be used for scientific studies.

Instead, over the summer mountain bike race season, I will be testing out the following homebrew tubeless sealants:

1) 3M Fast Tack: it works to glue fabric tubular tires to metal rims. Who's to say it won't work for tubeless?

2) Elmer's Glue: This was John's idea, but it makes sense: the logo is a cow and we are the Bull City. It's like a match made in heaven. Plus, I think that it's made of some part of a bovine.

3) My magic Big Gulp mixture:
3/8 Coke Classic
1/5 Mountain Dew
1/25 Dr. Pepper
9/22 Sprite
3/100 Blue Slurpee
1/10 Caffeine-free Diet Coke
2/8 Jolt Cola
1/2 Old Crow

4) Stan's No-Tubes with Mariah's Glitter (2001)

5) Foam. Seriously, why won't this work?

6) Marshmallow Peeps. Hear me out on this one: they'd work just like Tire Balls but they're cheaper and come in more colors. Plus, they're not called Tire Balls. Plus, they are delicious and could be eaten in case you run out of gel.

I welcome other suggestions.

Getting the first event out of the way...

Well, I can happily say that I got my first road event of my cycling career out of the way. I have to admit I was a bit nervous before I arrived at the time trial yesterday and was a little intimidated to find out that I was just about the only person that didn't have a totally tricked out time trial bike. Man there were some beautiful machines there...I have never seen so many hed tri spoke wheels, skin suits and full disc wheels in all my life.

Nevertheless, I headed out for a 45 minute warm-up and decided to just enjoy the beautiful countryside and hope for a good effort. The legs felt pretty good and I had a couple of friends out there to cheer me on so life was good.

I rolled up to the start line just in time and took off as fast as my legs would go.

I ended up passing two people along the way but got passed once myself by the guy who took second overall, he was a hammerhead.

I think I took 6th in my age group, mid pack overall and averaged 22.5 mph for the event. I am pretty pleased with the effort and definitely learned a bunch. Now that the first one is out of the way, I am ready to go at the mtb events this summer, blood, sweat and gears, bridge to bridge and triple hump.

And if you have not been to The Iron Gate Winery you should check it out. The wine is pretty good, not that I would know the difference, and the vibe is super cool.

That's it for now. Hope you guys had a great weekend and some good rides.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Smart Bikes=Smart Idea

Today's New York Times has a report on the bike-sharing program that will be introduced in Washington, D.C., later this year. Based on the run-away success of the Velolib program in Paris, this initiative is guaranteed similar popularity. Bravo, Washington!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

'Doin' it and doin' it and doin' it well'

Disappointed by our lack of dirt in the past week, and with an eye to the sky for fear of storms, Ali, Chris, and I headed down to the Raleigh/Morrisville trail complex this morning to get our roll on. Happily fueled by way too much coffee, we started with a spin around Umstead and some nearby trails. The pace was conversational and the mood was light, though Chris and Ali were both quick to point out that I was going soft: of the three of us, I was the only one with a suspension fork. Suitably unmanned, I mumbled something about their moms, and hoped that they wouldn't continue to call out my miserable bike handling skills.

The ride was uneventful -- if fun -- until we hit the Crabtree trails for some quality pump-trackin'. I felt a little bit better on the tight confines this time than on my last effort, but I'd be lying if I said that I had this skill figured out. Chris picked it up in no time, and was soon flying 'round the track with the greatest of ease. But the big revelation came when Chris and I jumped on Ali's bike for a couple of laps: not only is he on a 26"er, but it's also a small (15"?) frame with a short, tight wheelbase, not to mention a rigid fork, and we were able to whip it around the curves a lot better than our long tall steeds. (Of course it helps that his bike is wicked-light, too.)

*In an attempt to try a different format and save a little bandwidth, I'm just going to post the link to the pics on my Flickr account. The photos are in order though, so if you scroll through them you'll get the chronological pictorial chronicle of the day.

Ali was in fine photojournalist mode: be sure to check out his close ups of Chris as he leans into the last curve. It didn't take us too long to wear ourselves out and exhaust our (admittedly modest) skill set, so we headed over to conquer the assorted "skinnies" and the teeter-totter.

This is only worth mentioning in order to contextualize some of the pictures, as I was determined to get as much height as possible off of the (again, rather insubstantial) teeter, and Ali was poised to catch me in flight, however brief. I hit the thing repeatedly in an attempt to launch my rather earth-bound hide into some modest orbit, and with some tricks of his lens and an eye for timing Ali was able to make me appear much more aggressive than I actually am. In truth, I rather hew to the "Go medium or go home" motto, but one of the pics makes me look like I'm really jumping. (I'm sending that one to Mom.) Sweet.

Bizarrely, when we rode away I had my tubes explode python-like out of my tire. They didn't pop, mind you, they just got tired of being held down by the man (in this case, the man is the tire, I think), and left the casing to twist bizarrely around the frame and spokes. Chris thinks this means that I was running my tire pressure too high; I think it was probably too low. Whatever, something was definitely wrong, as first the front then the rear went squiggling free.

Tubes reinserted and wheels planted firmly on the ground, we headed back to the car and back to Durham for refreshing beverages and (in my case) the hard-fought war against the seduction of an afternoon nap.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rolling the ATT

Unable to leave campus in time for a road ride, on Thursday I mounted up my NiteRider and hit the American Tobacco Trail. This is the perfect time of the year for an ATT ride, and it was an ideal time to roll: I headed out under a setting sun and warm weather, hit the turnaround as darkness descended, then fired up the light and followed the beam back to Durham down an empty trail. It's not a hard ride -- there aren't any real hills, though there are a series of false flats -- but it does provide some decent miles, as well as being a fun tour of southern D-town.

Of course, no ride is complete without a visit to Major, and this one didn't disappoint.

On my way to pick up a burrito I ran into these fools at the Fed. (Note that the blurriness replicates only the camera's settings, not the mental states of either the subjects or the photographer.)

I was only there for a minute, and didn't have anything to eat (or drink!), but in that small amount of time I managed to spill a beer on Geoff's crotch. Sorry, yo!

He doesn't look very happy about it, but then again you can't blame him: nothing's fun with a soggy grundel.

Not exactly a hardcore ride, but fun nonetheless. However, what I'd really like to be doing is ripping it up GL-style. Maybe soon...

Enough Said...........

Coming to a T-Shirt near you..............

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Old Skool Bull City

Phillip Barron has a great video up over at his site today. He compiled a number of clips from old 1930s footage of Durham, then spliced it together for a look at biking the the Bull City during the Great Depression. It's definitely worth a watch, and be sure you catch the guy around a minute in pulling the rad wheelie.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Smart Commute Challenge

Might as well make yourself eligible for something you're probably doing anyway, right? Register here for a chance to win a free $2500 vacation, or other prizes (one of which is donated by our new bronze level sponsor).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ride of the year (so far)

Since not everyone can be Cohutta-cool, complete with brushes with greatness and all, Daniel, Chris, Ali, and I headed out to New Light on Sunday to get in a quick lap before the rains descended on the Triangle. While there was a chance of thunderstorms in the area, the radar looked good when we left the house, so we figured we'd get in a couple of miles before the skies opened up.

We were about fifteen (very fast) minutes into the ride when we hit a portion of the forest that had been burned in the previous day or two. The scene was amazing: blackened ground, smoking clumps of vegetation, a few still-burning tree stumps, all with a pristine strip of brown trail running through the middle. I'd been lucky enough to ride after a controlled burn last year and the experience was amazing. I knew that we were in for a treat.

Indeed, the juxtaposition of the budding canopy, the smoldering understory, the charred ground all lit by the foreboding pre-thunderstorm sky made for the kind of ride where you're glad you brought along a camera. I'm not sure that the pics capture just how remarkable the scenery was, but hopefully they'll give an approximation.

Not that he's ever not smiling, but Daniel had more than enough to pull the corners of his mouth up on this ride.

Chris workin' it on a new section of the ever-evolving New Light trail.

Daniel chasing Ali down the brown ribbon and into the trees.

Three in motion...

... and at rest.

Ali's covershot.

Playing around on the hefty new bridge, with Chris posing as our friendly neighborhood troll.

We were having so much fun on the trail that we didn't notice just how quickly the storm was rolling in. When we wound our way down along the lake we could feel the wind picking up, though, and decided that maybe it was time to make some fast tracks back to the parking lot. The drops were few and infrequent at first, and for a minute I thought the storm was going to blow itself on over our ride. Then, almost as if as an afterthought, the clouds opened up and we found ourselves in a classic spring thunderstorm, complete with lightning, thunder, and some decent-sized hail.

The above pics were taken just as the clouds settled in, and as the few rain drops collected themselves for a full-fledged assault on our lycra-clad selves. We didn't bother taking any pics in the rain, as we were more intent on getting back to the trucks. Oh, and I hear that water and electronics don't mix.

We were muddy at the end, something I rarely find myself after mountain biking (surprising though that may be). We certainly don't have the epic stories -- or the podium finishes -- of the Cohutta gladiators, but it was still a ride worth remembering.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Here's my account of the race: Dave and I rolled up a few minutes before the start of the 65mile race and wedged into the pack fairly close to the front. It seemed like the rain had finally stopped and it felt pretty warm so I was happy about that. Off we went up the road for the first 2- 3 mile climb and I settled into a comfortable cadence for my 32X20 gear ratio. That meant I was passing a bunch of people on geared bikes and I finally caught up to a singlespeeder that I estimated was currently the front runner. He was a good rider and actually left me behind on the first bit of singletrack because I was being careful not to wash out in the slick spots. I slowly closed the gap on him and the rest of the pack without spending too much energy. After awhile I was pushing kind of fast to hold on to the group and pass the few riders that were slowing up in front of me but I felt good about my position. My hopes of having a good jump on the SS's behind me were dashed as I heard the two riders behind me discussing what gear ratio they chose for the race. D'oh. Both of them passed me eventually while we were still on singletrack. I wasn't going to risk a crash on some of those muddy, rutted downhills to hold position so early in the race. I thought I would be able to catch back up on the fireroads later but it wasn't to be. I got slowed up quite a bit by 100mile racers that were lagging behind on the singletrack and battled with geared riders on the fireroads afterwards. Passing on the climbs and getting dropped on the downhills and flats was par for me on this course. The second half of the 65mile route had some long, steep climbs that really wore me down. I felt cramps coming on a couple of times so I walked a few steep portions of the climbs to recover. That worked pretty well and I felt good going into the last bit of singletrack which I had heard was mostly downhill. Man I'm naive. There was hard climbing left to do and I did a good bit on foot which got me passed by a few geared riders that I had yo-yo'ed with all day. Didn't see any more SS'ers so I kept that fourth position locked up.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

There's never a bad day on the bike

While the hardcore among us (or the rather insane, as the case may be) headed to Tennessee for the Cohutta race, Ali and I loaded up the truck this morning for a spin around Lake Crabtree and some other nearby trails. It was truly a beautiful day to be on the bike: clear skies, temps in the 70s, and the trees in the first leaves of spring. We weren't out to put up any big miles or record-breaking speeds, but instead contented ourselves with a nice spin in the woods.

That's not to say that there weren't obstacles, some inanimate...

Others a little more, well, ill-tempered:

Over on the Crabtree side we were able to spend a little time on the newly-built pump track. I'm still not entirely sure that I understand the point of this particular exercise, but it's definitely well-built, and was fun to do a few laps on while others coached from the side.

As Ali was in prime photog mode, here's a series of yours truly getting medieval on the pump. Like I said, I'm not at all sure that I've got this down, but here you'll see me rocking from side to side...

Then entering the turn...

Whipping it around...

And then popping out...

Hell if I know if I was doing it right. After a half-dozen laps or so I was definitely a little winded, which is odd since you're not supposed to pedal while you're on the track. (And yes, I think I am turning over a pedal in the last picture, but we'll ignore that for the time being.)

The day was not without it's casualties, though, as I was able to send an unaware Ali into a teeter-totter that I'd tripped, leading to the day's only injury. Not bad, though: his prognosis for recovery is good.

Here's hoping Brian, Dave, and JD are rocking it out in the volunteer state.

Edit, 3:17 pm: I just got word that JD has finished the 65 mile version of Cohutta. He had no info on the whereabouts of either Dave or Brian, but it's a little early to get worried. Rescue personnel will be dispatched at the appropriate hour.
Edit, 7:12 pm: All Cohutta warriors are now accounted for. Alive, at the very least.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Triangle Trips for Kids Fundraiser

Triangle Trips for Kids is holding a fundraising raffle for a brand new BMC TrailFox 2. Each ticket costs $20 and only 500 will be sold. You can order tickets online (there is a one dollar processing fee), or from our very own Dave Bryan, who has a handful of tickets with him.

Here's a pic of the TrailFox:

The specs on the bike look really nice: it's an XT-level component spec with 120mm of rear travel, a RockShox fork, and a DTSwiss shock and rims. Not bad for $20. (OK, so it really retails for something like $2300, but you get the point.)

Chris (aka Professor Smooth) bought the first ticket, but Dave assures me that gives him no statistical advantage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fliers on Mountain Bike Racing

In preparation for the clinic last weekend I put together a couple of fliers for people interested in getting started in mountain bike racing. In the interest of public service (and not wanting to see my work go to waste) I'm posting them here for general consumption.

The first one gives some tips about how to prepare for your first -- or really any -- cross country mountain bike race.

The second page of that flier might be more useful, as along with a few double-super-secret racing tips it compiles a list of local XC races. Of particular interest are the new Triangle Mountain Bike Race Series events, which are bolded.

The other flier is an overview of longer endurance-type mountain bike races. It's pretty general, but might still be helpful to some.

Again, on the flip side there is a list of regional endurance events. This is actually pretty useful: when I was compiling these I was surprised at how many I came up with, particularly how many 12/24 hour races there are.

Page two also has a list of some of the local XC races, of which there are surprisingly a great number. I hope this helps out someone.

Oh, mad props and good luck to our three Cohutta warriors this weekend: go Brian, JD, and Dave!

Addendum: Before any newbie stumbles across the fliers above and gets overwhelmed by sheer number of bullet points I assembled, I wanted to give one caveat: I've never followed all of my own advice, and it's hard for me to imagine a world in which I would be able to carefully and calmly go through each step in preparation for a race. Please take this as perfect-world advice, and not any sort of prescription of must-do before your first race. Just use this advice as a friendly guide and I'm sure you'll be fine. Except the demand to have fun, which you absolutely must do.