Friday, October 31, 2008

Mini Van Driver Man’s Lament

You wanted the big, black SUV with the tinted windows so that teenage girls couldn’t see the baby seats in the back. You want to be perceived as a still sexually viable male not as a middle-aged Dad. But your wife, who you oft times refer to as “The Warden” made you get the Mini-Van.

You pleaded with her to get the Magnum Wagon “It’s a STATION WAGON honey” you cried. You knew it wasn’t really at all utilitarian, not like your parent’s Country Squire, but it just looks so cool, you would feel like such a bad-ass driving that thing. But she said no, it was a stupid gas guzzler, a blatant over-compensator, then she made you get the Mini-Van. No hall pass for you to go to the Dodge dealer.

Now you drive a Mini-Van, yet you still try to appear cool, to drive like a bad-ass, like Kowalski in Vanishing Point, but you are driving a Mini-Van. If Kowalski were commissioned to drive a Mini-Van to San Francisco he would have driven it into a bulldozer in the first thirty seconds of the film sparing himself two hours of on-screen emasculation.

You drive aggressively in traffic. When men see you tearing around, screeching the tires on your Mini-Van they want to be you, they want to get a car just like yours. When women hear you revving the engine, blaring Creed, they want to be with you, they want to ride in your…baby seats…which are still in the back of the van (which is mini).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Photo: Philip Keyes

NEMBA Wicked Ride of the East
Harold Parker State Forest, Andover, MA

I can't remember the last time I've had this much fun, and I've had a lot of fun recently. The folks from NEMBA went out and marked a 25 mile loop around Harold Parker. This is what you might call real mountain biking. An amalgam of flowy, high speed, singletrack and super techy rocky, rooty weirdness. All that in a beautiful pine forest, the ground blanketed with pine needles, multi-colored leaves floating on every pond and stream.

I've been up to HP just a few times although it is just twenty minutes from my house in Somerville. If you're strapped for time it's tough to hit up a new spot, the potential of being late for work or caught out in the dark is a strong deterrent. The rides I had done there were pretty excellent though, so I knew if a real insider set up a loop it would likely be a hoot. It's nice when I'm actually right about something.

Miriam, Jane, and I set out on the full 25 mile Expert loop, they were on their single speeds, I was, as per unusual on my Remedy 8. Six inches of travel makes the roots a non-factor and HP boasts plenty of rocks and ledges to hurl yourself off, it was a good ride to have. I had the fully rigid SS Ferrous 29er AKA "The Dunderchee" on the car but decided to stick with "The Thunder-Catcher" for the day.

I've gotten a lot more comfortable with new bike. It really feels fast and efficient, yet at the same time it talks to me "Hey, go ride off that thing". "Uh, what's on the other side?". "I dunno, jus' ride off it whuss-bag". "Ok...AAH!". We have that conversation a lot. I'm really enjoying trying to crack the code on technical ascents again. That's one thing I have missed over the past three years of dedicated single speeding, you are limited as to what you can climb.

While we were out there we ran into Cary Fridrich, Super-fast Cambridge Bike/Embrocation 'Cross guy. "What're all these arrows for?" he asked. He had no idea it was a big NEMBA event, he thought this was a normal Sunday at Harold Parker. After a bit Miriam and Jane struck off on their own and let me chase Cary down. Once I found him we rode together for the rest of the day. He would use his 'Cross skills to get through some of the tricky stuff but his mountain bike skills are coming around. One of the last moves of the day was a sketchy, slippery rock face into a sharp, precipitous corner deal. There was a gaggle of big bike havin', shin guard wearin' blokes at the top sizing it up. I rode by them and dropped it, my smashing-bashing machine making it a cake walk. Cary followed right behind making it look a little more frightening but gettin 'er done. "You are a mountain biker!" I yelled back. Hopefully we'll see the guy out at some more MTB races this summer.

Unfortunately I forgot the camera at home, though it may not have been so unfortunate. If I had brought it I would have been stopping every three minutes to take shot of the ridiculous scenery, instead of having a rip-roaring, non-stop ride. I'm thinking I may head up this Thursday and try my best to recreate the loop. I'll be armed with my NEMBA HP Loop map and a Camelbak full of Halloween candy. Seriously, if you're reading this, you have Thursday off (or you want to blow it off), and you want to hit Harold Parker drop me a line at the shop any day but Thursday or Sunday. This is not an empty gesture, if you have a mountain bike, you're reading this blog, and you have the slightest inclination to call in sick to work to ride, you are my kind of people.

I've also started posting over Here. Some of my posts will be shared between this site and that one, some, like my Halloween Ride post will only be posted on the IBC blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vietnam - Rip it up Stir it Up

Spent another afternoon in Vietnam down in Milford, MA trying to figure out how to hurl my body and my bike off of high up objects. I tell myself that the fact that no one else is around is the reason why I can't huck my bike incredibly well, that if I wreck myself no one will be there to call the medics. The truth is I have the testicles of a Thai BumbleBee Bat. The things I do scare me, and for now that's good enough.

Got a terribly late start to the day. Saw Billy Bragg at The Somerville Theater last night. He talked more than he sang and did what he could to persuade a bunch of thirty plus, educated people who were already going to vote for Obama for Obama. He was incredibly funny while he was doing it though and the songs he did sing were great. He also talked about what an amazing band the clash was...a lot. He did persuade me to load my ipod with nothing but The Clash for the drive down to Milford. Hence the title of this post.

With all the ledges, man made stunts, and crazy curvy singletrack sometimes it's hard to notice how beautiful a place this is. When you get a flat, take a look around. I converted my non-UST Nevegals to tubeless using the Bontrager rim strips and valves. The conversion took well but I managed to puncture my rear catastrophically, the Stan's sealant fought valiantly to close it up but I ultimately had to stop and throw a tube in.

Just as I left the woods, it was getting cold and dark, and I was hungry as hell, the rear went flat again. Ghandi would have had a screaming hissy fit.

I've started playing with the travel adjust. It helps to dial it down for steep, technical uphills. It actually lowers the front end and shifts your center of gravity, keeping the front wheel on the ground. The suspension is getting more dialed and the bike flows like water.

Why Camelbag do you use these silly things to hold the sternum strap on? They kinda blow. They fall off and they can be hard to get back on. There has to be an alternative that doesn't suck so much.

So it turns out that the 32 Special from e.13 was not the ideal chain guide/bash guard combo for my bike, but it is the ideal device for my needs. I want to run a small, single chain ring with a serious bash guard. They recommend the LG 1 or the SRS. The LG 1 has a small, partial bash guard and the SRS has a bash guard for a 40t chainring. Those wouldn't work for me. I told the 32 Special to "Shut up and do what I tell you to do!". Thanks again Jens Voigt. You provide me with indispensable guidance and advice.

It actually works great, no chain drop issues whatsoever.

I heeded NEMBA's request to park down the road and enter via the railroad bed. Back before this place got so popular we would always enter at the power lines and park either on the side of the road or the small office park near the entrance. Too bad NEMBA had to buy the place and make all the trails so freakin' sweet.

Sometimes I adjust my photos in Photoshop, this is not one of them. This is what I saw with my naked eye.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Remedy Mods - Last of The North East Kingdom Photos

I am loving the new bike but...on the first ride I dropped the chain twice to painful effect and by the second ride I had bashed the crap out of my big ring. The e.13 32 Special seemed to be just the thermoplastic Bandaid the Remedy needed.

A friend pushed me in the direction of the Lg-1 , although that thing might work for straight up downhilling I felt I required something that would deal with rocky, tight east coast style riding. I hit my chainring on stuff wicked hard, I use it to get up stuff. I didn't think the Lg-1 would last long.

The set up wasn't exactly straightforward. A whole bunch of fidgeting was required and it's still not 100% perfect. The upper guide still drags on the chain while in the 32 and 34 cogs. The ISCG adapter can't be pivoted any more and neither can the guide plate. I could do some filing or let the chain do it for me. Thermoplastic is deceptively tough, but I believe steel is still tougher.

This whole set up makes a ton of noise which, I suppose is par for the course with these beasts. I'm so used to a Ninja-silent single speed, all this clacking and klunking is anathema to me.

After the mods: shifter, derailleur, big ring, little ring...all off, tires converted to Stan's tubeless with non-UST Nevegals the bike dropped a half pound. It now weighs in at a respectable 31 Lbs.

Can't wait to get my shin-guards, full face helmet, and gi-normous Camel-Bag which I can fill with straight Red Bull. Yeah guy!
I'll see how the changes work out at Vietnam Thursday. We'll also see if a grow a pair and use them.

These are the last few NEK photos. Most people would only dream of doing this type of thing on their sixtieth birthday. My Mom has done so much to change my perception of age. When I was six I thought sixty year olds were only capable of lounging in recliners sipping Tom Collinseses, while watching The Price is Right.

I would say a solid 90% of the people out riding on Columbus day weekend were from Quebec. Hence the francophone-friendly signage. It seems that directional arrows point the opposite way in French. Several times over the weekend I ran into oncoming traffic (I mean fifty people at a time) while following directional arrows correctly.

Luckily for us the Canadians don't have a national holiday in honor of a murderous Italian Slave-trader (They are so lame) so monday we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Miriam took my Mom's dually out for a test ride monday afternoon.

Here she cleans a bridge that eluded her sunday.


You got a Benz, all I got is a Busket.

Those last two were really just for Todd. Now go update your BLWAG crackhead!

Full Suspension bikes really shine in the high speed rooty, rocky stuff. Particularly when it's dry. The speeds go down and things become more equal. At least in the XC world. Hucking off big rocks, that's another matter entirely.

Check back friday to see photos of me lying in a bloody heap under a big rock. In the Meantime check out this sick vid of some INSANE rigid, single speed, XC hucking in the Kingdom.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Canton Cross - Borderland Rock N' Roll

Woke up damn early this AM and drove down to Canton, MA for the NAV/IBC Cyclocross Race to work registration for a couple hours.

I might have been volunteering but I was paid kindly in donuts and coffee. Past time to get fat.
Lots of catching up and flabbing out to do.

Halloween isn't for a couple weeks but Johnny Vu decided to dress up as a bike racer for the day. He looked pretty convincing.

After a couple hours of working the table I met up with Todd Downs and Jason Girouard from IBC for a ride at Borderland. Todd had found himself some snazzy-ass new shoes. By the end of the ride he did manage to scuff them.

Borderland is all about the rocks. I like the rocks. I hope they like me too.
Jason drops in on his EX 9.

Todd charges up a ledge all single speed rigid.

The requisite getting lost segment.

Just as we were discussing who was getting eaten first a plane passing overhead spotted Todd's shoes and radioed for help. We were saved. Within twenty minutes I was wolfing Subway behind the wheel and slugging back a Dunkin' Donuts coffee. And I was so ready to eat Girouard's face too.

After the ride I jetted back up to the Cross race to see the finish of the Elite Women's race and watch the Elite Men. Pete Bradshaw is waiting on a new Cross bike. In the meantime he is riding a true Hybrid bicycle, it was a thing to behold.

Here I was telling Colin that all the fast dudes were at the UCI race in PA (That's Jesse Anthony just behind him) and that he had this one in the bag.

Although Bradshaw's sweet, custom Hybrid machine gave him the advantage in the early part of the race, Colin and his Carbon Fiber Ridley were able to wear him down. Bradshaw's kickstand did go into his spokes and his adjustable stem slipped, but hey, that's Hybrid bike racing.

A totally sick action sequence of Colin using good technique on the run up while chasing Brian Hughes.

It was tough being in close proximity to a really good Cross race and seeing all the dudes I love competing against out there having "fun", but I was able to abstain from jumping in. Baby stepping my way to a Fall full of epic group rides on my squishy bike.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Check it out. Halloween Ride, October 25th at 4PM out of IBC Boston. Click on the image for more info.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A New Kind of Big Bike - NEMBA Vietnam

I wanted something that was an entirely different animal than my rigid, 29", Single Speed. That's what I got. It's an '08 Trek Remedy 8 with 6" of travel front and rear. Super slack up front, super squishy all over, and fun as all hell.

Haven't made it down to Vietnam in years. It is one of the few places where I never had much fun on my whoosy-ass XC single speed set up. I like relentless technical but the moves out here are so relentlessly big that it becomes more about survival than fun. Not anymore.

You know you're in good hands when you encounter signs like this.

I took the little line to the left. This bike has opened up new doors of possibility but I'll have to grow a pair before I attempt the right line. Having someone else around to call the ambulance when I mash my face in wouldn't hurt either.

Didn't even know what to do with this nightmare. Adapting to an entirely new riding style was tough. I crashed more going uphill at first than anything. Spinning little gears and climbing seated is so foreign to me at this point. My first reaction was "My god, what have I done?". A little while later I said to myself (possibly aloud, but no one was listening) "This is my bike!". And I was glad.

Did the left line a couple times on this one. The bike told me I could do it. For some reason in the photo the right line looks less scary. It was definitely daunting as a step up. I came at it at a few times and decided to bag it. Can't wait to go back next thursday and have another go. Hey, if anyone's reading this and they happen to know Vietnam and have the day off thursday let me know. I spent half my ride lost before I honed in on the good stuff and started rocking.

Another View. This stuff is so well conceived and built.

With six inches of travel you can take photos while riding one-handed over relatively bumpy terrain. Don't try that on a rigid.

The Fall.

One thing I don't miss about geared bikes. Mis-firing gears causing your knees to slam into your bars and stem. Given I was so amped up to ride that I took the bike out of the box and basically went riding. At the beginiing of the ride I rode through a series of deep puddles. Mid-way through the ride my chain was squeakin' dry. I lost the chain a couple times powering up some rock ledges. It came off like it broke. Owoweeow. I scrambled back to the car for some lube and I was good to go.

I'll have the chain tensioner/bash guard on for the next ride. I'll be able to pedal into nasty uphill technical stuff like I'm on the single speed. I also slammed my big ring half a dozen times during the ride. No use for that thing, going one by nine.

More NEK photos tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NEK Part Three & IBC Night Ride

The key to getting a couple usable photos out of your crappy digital camera which is looking about as banged up as Amy Winehouse is taking a whole lot of photos. This means that your photo library will become gargantuan and opening it will cause your computer to labor horribly and smell of burning plastic army men under a child's magnifying glass.

My mom, shredding the NEK on her dually. The weather was unseasonably warm and pleasant.

The rigid Ferrous Single Speed was a great tool for The North East Kingdom. The trails aren't super-techy but having no give in the front end makes stuff just that little bit more exciting. I ran a 33 X 18 with a good sized rear tire. It was perfect for riding with the family and ripping on my own. Riding at a slower pace forces you to ride strong, like doing leg lifts for hours.

No wonder I was craving protein like never before. So much so that I scarfed down a double Whopper at Burger King on the way home monday. Back up...that was the first time I'd eaten one of those in over TWENTY YEARS. In fact the first time I'd eaten meat since I was fourteen years old was just two weeks ago. I'm not sure what brought this on and I'm not sure if it's just a phase I'm going through.

Here's a tip: get the BK Veggie. It tastes exactly the same as the whopper only the patty is less greasy and soggy and it won't back up on you for three hours after you eat it. It's nearly as high in protein and much lower in saturated fat, calories, and all sorts of other weirdness you wouldn't even want to imagine. I'm all set with Whoppers for another twenty years.

Aw dude, you don't know what you're missing.

I wouldn't say I've been missing it Bob.

Sidewinder is a dream trail. I had to go back for seconds. It's a human powered roller coaster. We all hooted and hollered down the thing, our faces like a little kid's on Xmas as they set eyes on the pile of presents under the tree for the first time.

Miriam ripping Sidewinder on her single speed. Sometimes she lets out noises while she's riding that sound like she is being stabbed. This makes me nervous.

None of the climbs are too hard. Most of the elevation gain is on swtichbacking trails so it doesn't hurt so bad. M was pushing a 32 X 19, it seemed to work for her.

Ann thought the trails were CRAP and rode around with a dour look on her face all weekend.

About as techy as it gets...roots. They add up, especially at speed. I wouldn't bring the big bike though. This stuff is strictly XC.

More NEK later, now for tonight's night ride.

Acrossthe bridge under a beautiful orange moon. The air over the marsh was dank and smelled like earth and old things and a mist hung just a few feet above our heads.

The tunnel under the train tracks.

Looking off toward Millenium Park.

An awful photo of Bryan getting awesome.

We'll be doing this thing for the foreseeable future. 6:30 Wednesday Nights out of IBC Newton.
It's a good time, so come on out next week, all are welcome.