Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm Stoked for SSWC09 Durango...

but I was prepared to go to New Zealand. It would be expensive but with a year's notice I'd have enough time to have a baby...then sell it on the Black Market to pay for the trip.

I'm not actually going to write about any of my upcoming Races, I'm just going to keep yammering on about SSWC08 for all eternity, or until SSWC09 Durango.

Hey I linked to the wrong thing in my last post, the registration story is HERE.
What I linked to was my first wave of smack talking regarding the Conspiracy of Douche Bags.
How fitting. Oops.

Dicky reminded me that there was more to the story of the Tree House Dance Party, no paddy wagon for M and me though. This is what I know. We left before the party was over, walking down the gravel road to the campground. We ran into a guy from Virginia I think, he had some wicked conspiracy theories...I don' recall what they were. Then, as we stood talking, the night Manager of the campground came rolling up on his Golf Cart Unimog deal. He asked what was "going on up there" and told us he'd had multiple noise complaints. This was probably a little made up, because the music was faint from where we were standing and the campground was still mainly occupied by Single-Speeders (although conceivably there could have been some residual Douches in the bunch).
I tried to be as diplomatic as possible, telling him that the party was winding down, that it was good, clean innocent fun, and there was nothing to worry about. Of course I was probably slurring and swaying from side to side while I did it, so that probably didn't help. Cliff said "Well I gotta go check it out". That's right, Cliff, at some point we learned his name. Cliff buzzed over to the trailhead in his SMV (Some Terrain Vehicle) and assessed the situation from afar, very afar. Then he sped away, I thought I'd talked some sense into the old coot. No sir, he returned a few minutes later with two of Napa Black and Whites and they all proceeded up the path. You have got to be kidding me Cliff.
We heard the music shut down and then nothing, we waited, nothing, we never saw anyone come out. Cliff did speed by in his Green Machine but that was it. Eventually we lost patience and went over to babble at Doug and his buddy for a while. In the morning Miriam ran into one of The Tree House Party people and Beth from NC. The guy said that by the time the cops came they were clearing out and nothing happened. Beth said "Cops, what cops?". Too bad she hurt her knee and couldn't race, she is serious Rock Star material.
I didn't hear anything about Paddy Wagons, but maybe I don't know the whole story.

The video below - the fact that Barry and Mark rode that thing is not human. I can't frickin' imagine. If you wait a couple minutes you'll see me run by, but I feel good about the fact that I'm at least running and shouldering my bike, it's not like riding up the bastard. Of course I look like Gumby, I am a God Damn Noodle-legged freak.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dude...What's Your Ratio?

That was one of the most prevalent questions of SSWC weekend. With 5,000 feet of climbing in a very short amount of miles looming on the horizon this was serious business. If you don't talk about gear ratios you are:

a.) Oblivious as to the the workings of your bike
b.) Someone who rides "two to one" on everything, regardless
c.) Too cool for school and "So over" talking about gear inches
d.) A geared rider

I talk about gear ratios, I love talking about gear ratios, I bust out my cell phone at any time to do some quick calculations, I have scraps of paper littering my home and workplace with all different combinations scrawled on them. I have piles of cogs and chain-rings, powerlinks and extra chain links to install if need be. I study Garmin data (other people's not my own) whenever possible to try to predetermine what ratio to run at a particular race. In fact, I have the Vermont 50 profile on my desktop screensaver right now. I am a bloody mess.

Mega Bottle Ride has been doing a great job scouring the web for SSWC08 Photos. Here's another one of me Wheel (More like Dust) Sucking. They call this "Picking Daisies" or "Paper-Boying", the extreme rocking side to side motion SSers use while climbing steep stuff.
Photo: J. Suzuki

These photos, like my thoughts are totally out of order. I think I'll have to be inserting SSWC stories into random race reports over the next month or so to get everything in my fried brain out.
I call this "SSWC Eve Sunset". I like unicorns too.

Matt O'Keefe and I took a pre-ride saturday afternoon while all the smart people were taking siestas or already drunk. We'd stop periodically to go "Wow, that was awesome!" then "Crap, I'm standing in Poison Oak!".

Dust to Glory. Three hours after the race I removed enormous, crusty shnoogs from my nose while black tears hung from the inside of my eyes.

Matt and I picked up a rider from Santa Cruz. He was ripping in a 32 X 18 on 29" with a rigid fork.

Matt was one of the first guys I knew to ride a Single Speed. I have seen him do things on a bike so Jedi, so Ninja, so CGI, I will never come close to doing them myself.

Does he look like an East Coast guy riding a switchback? Hell no, he's ripping. I was coming to a track stand and Trials hopping through these things. You West Coasters wouldn't understand how alien these things are to us.

We ate dinner here, I think it was called "Downtown Joe's Super Busy Bar With Only a Single-Shooter Men's Bathroom Good Luck Not Pissing Your Pants Pub". They call it "Downtown Joe's " for short. We were sitting and eating as the majority of the SSWC crew rolled up. The reaction of the regular clientele was priceless. People moving as far away from the throngs of weird bearded raucous dudes as possible.

I was sitting in a perfectly civilized fashion drinking Sparks, while being thoroughly entertained by Nat from Seattle, when the Durango crew rolled by on their bikes blaring Oingo Boingo and declaring that they were having a dance party in the tree house up the race course a ways. Safety ropes were very necessary. Beth from NC was buck wild on the dance floor, a fool could have gotten knocked on their head at any moment.

The guy in the upper right hand corner should be at every dance party. A song would come on that people weren't into and he'd be all "No! This is the SWEETEST song you've ever heard! C'mon! This is it GO!". Then he'd climb way the hell up the tree, it's OK he was sober, just like the rest of us. I'm in the lower left hand corner either leaping for my life before the whole deal comes crashing to the earth or about to bust a windmill to back-spin and subsequently send everyone on the dance floor flying to their deaths. I have a feeling that SSWC09 Durango is going to be fucking nuts. Oh, and don't worry Douche Bags, there's no cap on registration (so I hear) so you and all your Douche Bag buddies can come, you can even bring your Douche Bag Lawyer too, he can give you consult when someone moves your bike before the Lemans start and you want to sue them or someone (Like Buck Kiech) keeps you up all night because he's yelling "Topher! Topher! Topher!" before dragging Topher out of his tent in a fashion which fills Topher's drawers with Napa soil.

Apparently one of you Douches made it to Napa because some card carrying Douche Bag slashed this guy B's new Subaru tire either because he was annoyed with on course heckling or shenanigans involving a Potato Gun the night before the race. Both things only a true Douche Bag would get annoyed about. It's alright because as aforementioned DB sped away in his Douche-Mobile my girlfriend got his plate number, oops. From the sounds of it this Mr. Massengill will be lucky if the guys involved keep it strictly legal.

Soscol Cafe was the place to go after a weekend of hammering our livers and legs. A perfect combination of grease and protein. Here we ran into to the man himself and got to thank him for pulling this thing off in such a truly awesome fashion. He said he had meant to give Miriam and me a prize for our registration story, but, how can I put this without bringing forth images of puppies and a horribly sardonic "Aww" sound...our prize was just getting to do this thing which wasn't just a one day race, it was a week long celebration. God damn, that sounded lame, but I mean it. So suck it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Five Thousand (Not So) Easy Pieces

It will all come back to me eventually. That's made up, there's no reason why it should, but these visual aids might help. I sure had a lot to say when I got to work today, all in my just-got-off-the -redeye- sleep-derprived state. I was special. I'll keep thinking and editing photos over the next couple days, posting random thoughts about my senseless acts. The above photo is stolen though. There's another one somewhere below. In the one above I'm about hop that rock, I might have forgotten that moment if not for the photo-person, I liked that moment, so thank you , whoever you are.

This is Mark Weir's Santa Cruz Nomad. He converted it to a single speed with some cassette spacers and a very stretched out XTR derailleur. The six inches of travel apparently gave him a huge advantage on the downhills where he'd pull away from Marko, Wicks, and Decker, but the thing had to weigh near thirty pounds. Had to hurt dragging that beast up the hills. Word was he got taken out by a lapped rider who then wanted to fight him. Weir is about the last bike racer besides Svein Tuft you would ever want to brawl with. He don't look like no bike racer, he looks like a UFC fighter.

Having legs the size of baby hippos probably helps muscling a Free Ride bike up the hills.

We stopped at 7-Eleven on the way back to the campground the night after the race. We hadn't started drinking Sparks yet, but I may have been hallucinating anyway.

Have you ever taken photographs of your hallucinations?

Morning of the race. Bru hops the barbed wire fence to get to Denny's for a fine breakfast. The Soscol cafe was really a better bet.

Buck gots his-self saved. Then he cleansed himself in the hoppy, brown water.

It's easy to find your bottle feeder when he's wearing a five gallon hat. Thanks John.

On the chase, I yo-yoed off this guy for two laps . I wouldn't catch him until the bottom of the downhill. He actually cheered me on as I hammered up the final little rise before the finish. I think he was from the U.K., or maybe New Zealand, because he wasn't even being sarcastic. That's genuine class.

I never did see what function this contraption served.

My tire is bigger than your tire - So sing it

Bedtime...was hours ago.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SSWC08 Part Five

Napa, CA

This One Goes to Eleven

Saturday AM we headed on back up to Napa to check in and pre-ride the course in it’s entirety. What we found was a totally transformed campground, it was completely overrun by Single-Speeders. We set up camp, then Matt O’Keefe, Miriam, and I went out on the course to get a better idea of what we were up against now that it was all marked. There was a good deal of confusion about the laps. The first was different from the other two. The first lap would be extra hard, the remaining two just hard. I would stay confused until I was actually out there doing it.
When Miriam and I rode Wednesday we didn’t see any of the really nasty climbing or the massive run up, hike-a-bike thing. And I was going to gear up, bad idea. The course, like SSWC Scotland is tied for best course ever, but in a completely different way. Just fast, dusty, rocky, nutty CA trail riding. It was, as they say out here…”Hella sweet”.
That night, Miriam, Matt, and I rode to downtown Napa, stopping at the bowling alley where the selection event was being held for SSWC09. Keeping with tradition, we missed it, getting there just in time to hear the outcome - Durango. It’s gonna be sick, those kids know how to party. There might be some good trails there too. I was rooting for New Zealand, but I’m not sad about going to Colorado, I’ve always wanted to ride that stuff.

Buck and a guy we just called "Jesus". I have no idea why.

The beer started flowing at the brew pub and picked up velocity, luckily Miriam was there to check myself before I wrecked myself. Got to bed at a reasonable hour, only semi-sotted, and awoke not-still-drunk in time to eat more than a Clif Bar before the start. The costumes were amazing, I should have had my camera at the start line. Search Flickr for “SSWC Napa” or “SSWC08” if you want to see some real crazy shit. Two of the fastest guys there had the best costumes, Wicks and Decker. Ridiculous. Other fast dudes in attendance included Travis Brown, Marko Lalonde, Mark Weir, Fuzzy John Mylne, Dejay Birtch, Buck Keich, and local Favorite Cameron Falconer.
Before the start they had us pile our bikes across a field and come back to the Start/Finish where a running race was held to give folks who weren’t registered a chance to get a spot. Allegedly only the top twenty were in, but at the end of the race they were told that everyone did such a good job that they were all in. So in your face you whiny douche bags who talked smack about Curtis Inglis on your douche bag forums, threatening to boycott his company Retrotec or sue him because your douche bag buddy got in and you didn’t. Seriously, if you gave a crap about this event you would just shut up and show up. I’m sure you wouldn’t have any trouble registering for D.B.W.C. (Douche Bag World Championships). The upside is they have accurate scoring and timing so you can see how you stack up against all the other douche bags, being a dick to lapped riders is encouraged (because it really matters if you get any place but first at one of these things, you douche bag),and The Douche Bag World Championship will never be decided by a Go Kart race, although the selection for next year’s venue might be decided by who has the coolest vanity plate on their BMW.
The start was Lemans style, something I always find terrifying. I ran next to Barry Wicks for a bit until I stepped in a hole and my right knee kind of got tweaked. Then I went “oh ya, if I roll my ankle before the start of the race I will be severely bummed out”. I still got a good start, even trying to hop on Decker’s wheel as he blew past. Of course he was pushing like a 56” gear (34 X 16 on 26”) and so he was going deceptively fast despite his reasonable cadence. I didn’t last very long, but was close enough to the big kids to see Wicks and Marko head up the crazy, long-ass, loose run-up. First lap we criss crossed a section of the course and went down a loose, rocky descent, the dust was flying, a “what you can’t see can’t hurt you” policy was in full effect. Somehow local CA riders weren’t blowing by me like I thought they would, this not being my kind of descending. I’m more into slow speed, wet, rooty technical stuff. This stuff was so damn fast, I felt like I was having an out of body experience, like I was on an amusement park ride, only I was missing the germ-ridden safety bar. During the pre-ride I had encountered a virtually unrideable (unless you go all No Way Hans Rey on it) switchback. There were just oddly placed rocks all through the middle of it. As I anticipated a whole bunch of dudes bottlenecked there, but apparently a few riders before me had encountered the same thing and had decided to cut the inside of the switchback through the poison oak, showing me the line. Not ideal, but better than waiting for the switchback to clear, hopefully the poison oak will clear sometime soon too.
As things cleared out and climbing conga lines formed I could see DFL Cameron up ahead with about five riders between us, I’d heard he was a wicked fast guy so I thought this was good. The first section of singletrack climbing had some nasty, steep pitches which forced us to hop off and run. It was the classic Single-Speeder “Rider up…riding!”. Then the guy would hop off right after he passed you, then you’d hop on and do the same thing back to him ten seconds later as the hill kicked again. It made us all really mad, because we are very serious racers.
Most of the real climbing was over after the first part of the lap, we got that over with and started the snaking singletrack traverse, a couple punchy little bastard climbs popping up here and there. I’d opted to run a 32 X 19, feeling that a 32 X 20 was a little low through most of the course. It felt good on the traverse anyway and I was only suffering kind of horribly, dreadfully on the climbs.
When you’re racing against 400+ people and it is statistically 100% impossible that you are going to win, all you can do is ride as fast as you can and have fun, it’s quite liberating really. Ya, I’m competitive and yes I am trying to beat the guys around me no matter what the scenario, but I felt a sense of camaraderie with these dudes kicking my ass, like we were on a brutal group ride not so much racing. When you line up next to Decker, Wicks, Weir, or any guy named Lalonde, you can’t take things too seriously. Especially when two of them are basically wearing nothing but thongs and capes.
The course was all Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. All the mean stuff was in the first section the pay off was in the second section…after the gnarly moonscape, totally exposed to the sun run-up above Lake Marie. It wasn’t all down hill from there, but it sure felt like it, comparatively. The most nerve-wracking bit for me was the traverse above the lake. It was a narrow goat path, with a cliff wall to the right and a precipitous drop to the left. On the second lap it got interesting as you came up on lapped traffic. Like I said, no reason to be a jerk, especially when there was physically no way to get around people on this section. Although coming close to a track stand next to an abyss is not, not terrifying either.
The real descending and tight, steep, east-coast-kid-baffling switchbacks were all in this part of the course. My favorite spot turned out to be the section from the pre-ride video Miriam took with the bouncing down the rocks action. The stuff above that was great too, a rocky climb around a tight corner, down a trials-ish, rocky, switchback, then down the aforementioned bouncy, bouncy bit. There was a fast as hell, rutted out downhill after that with some crazy high speed drops and all sorts of other goodness. Pete’s fork tuning paid off big time, it was a huge advantage.
This was far and away the best event fan-wise I have ever been to, including the NMBS in New York and Nationals. Given my races are usually first thing in the morning and no one is up yet, but whatever, this was insane. The costumes, the beer hand ups, the super soakering, freakin’ brilliant. Coming into technical sections people would call out lines…this did not always mean it was the good line, sometimes it was the craziest line and you would wind up flying through the air screaming.
For the most part I was with a group of about five guys, we were too busy choking on dust to introduce ourselves, and I didn’t run into any of them after the race, so if any of you remembers the dork in the mostly white kit with the pink helmet and the dirty face – hi my name’s Thom, it was good riding with you. Thanks for wailing on me for two and a half hours. I think because I was riding in a group I wound up dirtier than most other riders, I don’t think I crashed at any point except for when I was trying to ride up one of the uphill switchbacks with a telephone pole in the middle on the later part of the course. That’s my trademark – the uphill stack, get’s me every time.

That about says it all.

Alright, I’m actually going to cut my loquacious ass off here because I’ve found that after a week of sleep deprivation and inebriation my mental faculties are at a severe deficit. I maybe slept seven hours last night and all day long things have been coming back to me, really obvious things that I’d been trying to think of for days now…like how many fingers I have. I’m like an amnesiac. I’m sure many other things will be remembered over the next couple days and I will add an addendum to this post, hopefully with more photos.
The short of it is this: I came across the line top 11, happy that six of those guys who beat me were seriously bad dudes who I can’t beat on my best day, and that only four of the four hundred other folks kicked my ass. Curtis, Jeff, and all the other guys involved in this thing did a spectacular job, the course was just about the best thing ever, and I have enough happiness and good times in the bank to last me through another New England winter and a good result that might help me with my mission.
Thanks to the guys at Mojo for helping me out, The Sycip guys for the Annadel ride, Billy Spaceman and The American Cyclery folks for the city ride, I’m sure I’ll think of other awesome people to thank pretty soon as well. Actually Blogger is buggin' out right now and not letting me post my photos, so I'll be adding some to this one later, that’s it for now, check back soon.

The aftermath.

Oh my dog.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

SSWC08 Part Four Kirby Cove “Barbecue”
San Francisco, CA

I have been up since 3AM, I have no idea why. I went to sleep pretty late full of beer and completely spent, this is not right. I know by now that my designs of getting in an afternoon nap are merely a crack pipe dream.

The rollout from Java Hut

Miriam and I spent the night in Fairfax at Pete’s again. We wandered down to the Java Hut (big time meeting spot for Tam rides) in the AM to see off the folks who were tough enough to come out after the mini-epic of the previous day. We had no intention of riding. Of course, this, like all things related to single-speeders went off about an hour late. The plan was originally to do the Pine Mountain loop plus some other stuff including Tamarancho. This was all going to take over four hours. In the end the group just did Tamarancho , they might not have made the Kirby Cove ride being put on by The American Cyclery if they’d done the whole deal.

Carl Decker is a major threat in this race, even if he is going all retro-repack with his Carbon XTC Giant with a Coaster brake (no front brake either) bad ass.

We spent most of the day eating burritos and drinking coffee at Mojo, then went over to American Cyclery to meet up with the peoples. Here we ran into folks from all over, a bunch who I hadn’t seen since Scotland last year. There were the Dirt Church guys, Dave and Rich, Aussie Dave from Cog Cycles, long lost Eric Roman, and all sorts of other folks. Much like the morning ride things didn’t get rolling anywhere near on time, I am going to sue somebody over it, I swear to god. There was a massive concert going on in the park featuring Radiohead so much of the trails were closed off. We made do, ripping around the streets and parts of the park as groups splintered off and reconnected.

"Your one puny little gear is no match for my 21 speed Marin , um...bitch".


We all made it to the other side of the bridge (as far as I know) and bombed down the fire road to Kirby Cove. The alleged barbecue was as Billy reminded us, “49er Style”, i.e.; cold veggie dogs and Kettle Chips. Luckily we were full of burritos and surrounded by people who were prescient enough to have brought beer and magnanimous enough to share it with us.
However this wouldn’t hold us for long, we were driven by hunger back over to bridge for more burritos and beer back at Mojo again.

Dave from The Black Owls, bringing the trouble.

Trouble finds a home.

Wow, three hours of sleep causes words to come out of my brain as easily as a seatpost comes of a Schwinn Voyager which has spent it’s life on Martha’s Vineyard.
I might be able to mange photo captions, yes, “mange” them, that’s what I meant. Aw crap, I am screwed.

There was no food, but the view was wicked.

100 souls realize that they have just descended several hundred vertical feet in a matter of seconds. The only way out is up.

Mojo woikin'

Dave and Billy and a cold veggie dog.

Ricky from Ontario stays hydrated.

John McDonald is a strange dark country singing Mariachi. He also delivers a hell of a Boston cover.

Ex-military housing comes with warning labels.Ya kid, just like back at J.J. Foley's.

The 28er goes no way Hans Rey.

Bombing commences in five seconds.

Sam from England is the only guy I know rocking Campy road cranks on his single speed mountain bike.

This is why. a The aftermarket EBB adapter from there guys.
Requires a very low profile crank.



Billy gives away a bike to the person with the most clapped out hoop D.

Andy in an Edward Munch painting entitled "Summer in San Francisco".

The Bridge is over.

This always happens when Dave has a bright idea. This time it was to call in Burritos to Papa Lote on the way to the bar.

John McDonald sings "Fixed Gear Johnny". Check it out: