Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Le' Tour De Torture

After sucking wind at the Olympic training center I decided I needed some real elevation training to get me humbled and back on track with my motivation. So I loaded up the truck with a quiver of bikes and set out to climb the major passes of the Sierra Nevada's of California. I wasnt quite sure what I was getting into at this point but I knew I wanted to cripple my lungs and destroy my legs for a chance to be able to suck up the rockies during RAAM.

On the way to elevation I smashed out two metric century's on the american river bike path in Sacramento. this is actually on of my favorite riding spots since it is an all paved two lane path that winds along side the river, under bridges and through all kinds of scenery. it goes from the tourist attraction at old Sacramento all the way to Folsom lake.

I then hit Tahoe with a vigor, I smashed out the lake loop which made another century in three days and decided to hit something a bit more complicated,    The death ride.

For those of you unaware of the death ride it is a 130 mile-ish ride that hammers out 15,000 feet on three different summits getting up to 9,000 feet in elevation.

A small lake nearing the Summitt of Ebbetts pass

On the descent of Ebbetts pass looking onto the valley below

I finished my death ride day with a soak in the markleeville hotsprings.

In all the death ride was a total of 123 miles with 15,890 feet of climbing on the three major summit passes

Monitor Pass (8,314')
Ebbetts Pass (8,730')
Carson Pass (8,573')

Amazingly enough the fastest time I have seen for someone finishing this ride was less than 7 hours. My mind can not fathom the dude that can rip that out considering the 24% grades on Ebbetts. I however was no where near that time.

I took a rest day and vegged out in south lake and watched the eclipse on the beach and then set out for some more insanity for stage 6 of the tour de torture

Next stop was over the hill to attack Tioga pass. This monster comes in at just a hair under 10,000 feet and has no reprieve on the grade whatsoever.

The views were nice and the climb enabled me to inspect my lungs (that were on the ground) even at the mid point of the climb. I ended up riding the whole way up from 395 and over to olmstead just enough to be able to see half dome. Even though I had to climb back over the other side it was well worht the ride down in to Yosemite.

The descent coming off of Tioga was probably the most rewarding and entertaining downhill run I have ever made in my life. There was hardly an traffic, the asphalt was new, clean  and unadulterated and there wasn't a turn that required a single ounce of brakes the whole way down. No wind, no cars. it was bliss at 68 MPH. yeah you read that right.

I ended up doing a handful of other minor passes and mountain bike rides through the week including some mammoth mountain single track and some death valley jaunts but in all it was an amazing trip to get out and clear the lungs and get elevation under my belt.

I even got pulled over for good measure! Got away with a warning and a handshake. In all over the last 3 weeks I rode 931 miles and Climbed 36,000 vertical feet all above 6,000 feet in elevation, burnt 19k calories, drove 2100 miles, consumed one gallon tub of perpetuem, 29 ounces of hammer gel, one gallon tub of recoverite, one case of muscle milk, two cases of clif bars, two boxes of shot blocks, three tubes, one tire one chain and a intercooler boot.

I can wait for the RAAM madness to begin!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Real deal training

I recently had the opportunity to go to the Olympic training center in Colorado springs, Colorado for a week long training clinic on race development. Being a grunge like mountain rider I had no clue what to expect from the week of training being new to road racing but I was very surprised at what transpired over the week.recently.

I arrived in the Colorado springs airport to find a reprieve from the so cal hustle and bustle of airport madness, luckily my bikes made it without incident and I was able to get things together and roll out to the ride to the training center.

It just so happened by complete randomness that two other racers on my team (Mason Poe and Freddie De los santos) were also attending the week of training, so it was a pretty welcome sight and good experience for the three of us to be able to mend before race week. once we left the airport the military branch bashing and general good humored banter commenced with full vigor.

 While we arrived at the athletes center, no longer than we had off loaded our gear and went inside our bikes and gear were whisked away off to our quarters by mechanics and coaches while we got our credentials and heading to lunch.

As you walk into the facility it is nothing short of an epic place to be standing. every wall you see are adorned with athlete accolades from every sport and year imaginable. there are numerous motivating quotes from superhero status athletes everywhere you look. Just the dining facility itself is more motivating than tony robbins riding  unicorn with a light saber.

One of the most impressive things about the whole week was the food. I am no stranger to institutional style food after being in the military and fighting forest fires for many years, but I have to say the cuisine was overwhelming every meal. The food prepared was unbelievable in taste and loaded with nutrition in mind. there were many choices each meal and it never failed to hit the spot. It was truly food I would have paid for at any high end place in town.

It was a marvel in itself just to be able to cruise the campus and see the determination amongst the other athletes prepping for the upcoming games. There was a dedication on the air that was thick as steel and it truly ruminated deep within myself during the week. Being able to Eat, train and mingle with some of the other athletes was really a gut check of dedication. I am not sure there is nothing more motivating sitting around a group of athletes that are the best in the world at what they do.

As the week started there was a definite force to be reckoned with, the elevation. The OTC sits around 6,000 feet of elevation and coming from sea level you definitely notice the difference as soon as you hit your first mile on the bike. This was a good lesson for me since I have almost always lived above the 5-6k mark and haven't really experienced the elevation deprivation. Since being in So Cal since December I been acclimated to the sea level life of training and didn't even consider the elevation, but I will talk about that in my next blog post.

Our first day in the training was basic bike handling at speed. I know what your thinking, now what could I possibly learn that I don't know all ready about cornering and braking? Well, quite a bit when you are on a tight course and there are 4 of the bet coaches around watching your every move and barking out your faults every time you come around the corner. Needless to say it was a bit of a wake up.

We got quite a bit of instruction on the velodrome as well. this is something I have never done before and frankly was never really interested in it. But when one of the coaches (also a mountain biker) said the resemblance was like a giant downhill berm, I was hooked. since we didn't have track bikes on hand we were only to run the track in one gear in order to keep everyone on the same playing field. I caught onto it pretty quick and was at the top of the turns in no time.

All the blocks of instruction were very eye opening to the finesse of road bike racing and the amount of factors that play into a good finish. We had blocks of instruction on climbing, descending, handling, gear selections, race strategies, nutrition, workouts, mental prep, and even paceline work and close quarters rubbing.

I would have to say my favorite day of the week was when we hit the grass. yep, that's right. the coaches took us out on the grass and we had to do a handful of very entertaining road bike drills such as cone weaving, rubbing other riders, slow races, and picking up water bottles while riding. Being a mountain biker I have gone down alot of times, but I truly have never been down so many times on a road bike as I did that day. I think it was one of the most confidence inspiring days I have ever had on a road bike. the drills were designed to be in a group of three or four riders and get the handle bars locked together, or rub wheels to the point where you end up going down in the grass. we were shoving elbows, pushing others off, getting so comfortable on the bike with others around it seemed natural. Working on the flexibility on the bike to be able to pick a water bottle laying flat while is definitely something to try if you have never done it.

We did several group rides in the surrounding mountains and areas through the week working on the skills we had learned during the week of instruction.  I was especially impressed with our ride the the garden of the gods. it was simply amazing to have this so close to ride everyday. It is truly spoiling.

Overall the week was a great benefit for me and the others who were lucky enough to be chosen.

Now for some elevation training!

Special thanks to the worlds best coaches on hand,

Jim Cunningham
Hector Torres
Glen winkle
Dan Shelby
and mechanic Mark Legg

Sunday, April 8, 2012

White bar tape is faster!

They say white bar tape is so pro it will actually make you faster. It has the ability to make you pedal harder, breath deeper and smash out the power to the pedals like no other. Some have even said it has the power to prevent flat tires and cure cancer. If the pro's use it must make me faster right?

They say white bar tape will scare your opponents and cause women to stampede to your finish line celebration. It has also been rumored that you can use it to heal massive wounds when used as a dressing and terrorists self detonate at the pure sight of it.

Since using white bar tape my bike has lost 9 pounds and my Garmin shuts off in disgust and disbelief. My water bottles evaporate in minutes due to evaporation if the caps are left open and my sweat forms a contrail  of cloud like formations behind me.

I have witnessed the pure power of white bar tape on today's ride. Check out my max speed!

I am pretty positive it has nothing to do with my descending ability, nor the massive tail wind and lack of traffic on the road.

I attribute my personal (and probably lifetime) achieved maximum speed to white bar tape.

I am still trying to figure out how to harness the almighty white bar tapes power for climbing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The pressure is on

Things are getting down to the wire, I will be at the team training camp in a few weeks and have a crit to race the same weekend then will be looking at the Nevada and Oregon RAAM challenges for april and may. Been hitting the manufacturers pretty hard for a wheel sponsorship that is within my price range and have been getting the bikes dialed in for the endurance factor. I have been accepted to the wounded warrior projects national campaign team and am also going to be in the after action review magazine. The media machines are starting to roll and it seems I am not escaping any of it.

The Garmin 800 is probably the best training tool I have in my arsenal and am very glad I picked one up. It has been my sole mode of motivation and self regulation at this point since I have no other riders/team members out here on the west to ride or train with. My climbing pace has doubled since the start of training (still not happy with it) and my distances have more than doubled. My descents have reached speeds up to 56 mph and my cornering has resemblance of a train on rails.

My gym workouts are starting to feel simple and my nutrition has found a happy place in taste and seems like a shopping spree every week with the amount of food I am eating.
Just one problem

I can’t seem to build a long enough playlist for my rides.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Travis Pastrana is racing RAAM?

I think this may be my only chance to be able to beat him at something!, lol

Probably not, the guy is an animal. For those who don't know who Travis Pastrana is just go on to youtube and do a search with his name. His accolades are more than human.

According to his Facebook on Feb 2nd he posted this.

"We signed up for the RAAM (a bicycle race from CA to MD) this year in the 8 man pro division, so today I went on a 50 mile ride with teammates, CowboyKenny690 and Todd Jacobs. To win, we will have to average 23 mph for 5 straight days. Today we averaged 19mph for just under 3 hours... It's going to be a grueling couple of months!"

I am super stoked to see a person of this caliber jump into something like an event the size of RAAM. I am actually very excited to see how he does even though the brute force will be carried as a team overall. it will still be interesting to be able to watch it all unfold behind me.....Far behind.......mua ah ha ha

I doubt he will be smiling and doing double backflips but I can bet the bus antics will be something to be filmed on nitro circus.

although I haven't seen his name on the official race roster, it will be a definite media frenzy if he actually registers and follows through with the claim.

And hey Travis! if by chance you or one of yours read this, hit me up on twitter @gonefirefightin

otherwise I will see you at the start line!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stairway to heaven

Since I have the hills nearby and the need to stay on the bike for several hours a day in training for the race I decided to put my new Garmin 800 to use and joined the Classic climbing challenge. This will be climbing 105,312 vertical feet on the bike from March 15 to April 30. Considering I am doing close to 5,000 feet a day I don’t think it will be much of a problem.

There is no real reason in itself for joining the challenge but simply gives me a benchmark and some much needed motivation to gauge my fitness amongst others in the same challenge. I am not sure of the total amount of riders across the world that will be doing the challenge starting this Thursday but it will be interesting to see how I will rank amongst the pros and full timers of the sport. But I am mostly excited about getting to break in my new Garmin.

The spot I am riding is a huge chunk of hill that tops a tad over 5,000 feet in less than 15 miles. The ascents are constant with no flats for rest and the descents are very fast and riddled with tons of 15 mph hairpin turns. I am planning on mounting a couple go pro cams to the bike in order to capture the madness and give you a taste of some of the speeds and cornering. I am looking forward to this little mental carrot of motivation and being able to check myself in this dry time of training.

My legs are already screaming! I like it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why I ride

Today was a interesting day on my morning ride that has left me in a bit of quandary for most of the morning as I thought about what happened. I was on a typical training ride, today was a part of the course that had some 5000 feet of climbing in less than 30 miles. There were some mild hills along the route but were fairly steep. I was in my typical teeth gnashing head down type of mode of climbing till I arrived at the crest of a hill then would bang out the gears and try and eek out the fastest possible speed on the descent in order to get up as high as possible for the next climb. The weather was very cool and overcast for a socal day and the roads had a bit of moisture on them from the scattered sprinkles of rain throughout the morning.
I was riding through a fairly built residential area along the route and bombing down a descent when I came onto a cyclist sitting in the bushes at the bottom of a hill on a tight turn in the road. I laid on the brakes to investigate and found a bike down the hill and the cyclist sitting with head in hands. I got off the bike and walked down the hill while catching a glimpse of the riders mishap. I could see that the rider had locked up the brakes on the slick road and had went straight off the side of the road into the little brush covered draw. It had appeared from the marks in the leaves and dirt that the rider went over the bars and probably took a pretty good header (something I do on a regular basis on the mountain bike) I called out to the cyclist as I was navigating down the little drainage and asked “are you ok?”

In retrospect I should have rephrased my question to “are you hurt?” but apparently if you throw out the term “are you ok?” you will be downloaded with every major problem that anyone is going through at that moment in their life.

The rider in question was a 22 year old girl that was currently enrolled into the local college and was on her first ride with her newly purchased road bike and was (up to this point) very excited about joining the schools cycling team. As she was telling me her life problems and how stupid she felt I was looking over her bumps and scrapes and could see she was fine and the only thing she injured was her pride. In the next 30 minutes I listening to how many problems she had, how difficult things were and why is was such a battle for her to even get all this off her chest. In typical male fashion I was doing the head nod and the proverbial assortment of replies such as “uh huh, yep, I hear ya,”

I was starting to cool off from my training ride and wanting to get back on the bike before it rained and kinda switched into military mode and told her “let’s talk on the bikes” and proceeded to walk back up the hill. In my mind I was trying to put myself in her shoes when I first started cycling and the trials and tribulations I went through in order to help her identify that she wasn’t alone. I was contemplating what to say that would motivate this gal to get her ass back on the bike and just drive through whatever she was dealing with and realize it’s not that big of a deal, people crash, it happens. But apparently I didn’t need to prep myself for a pep talk.  As I turned around she had read the back of my jersey following me back to the road. I happened to be wearing one of my wounded warrior project jerseys that I got from a soldier ride several years ago. I got on my bike and was waiting for her to get clipped in and rolling and then she started chuckling and apologizing to me. She pulled out her cell phone and made a call saying that she didn’t need a ride after and the bike was fine and she was going to finish off the ride.

Once we were riding again and everything seemed to be back in order she had asked me if I had a blog and was training for the RAAM. I said yeah why? Apparently she has been following the blog after a Google search using the terms “race training” and had read the whole thing and was riding on the particular course after seeing my links from the RAAM site. She told me that she felt so stupid after telling me all her problems and thinking it was so bad not to continue riding after her little mishap.

She asked about my story and we basically chatted about specific challenges and peoples resolve to complete goals and I was giving out some braking tips so she wouldn’t face plant again.

As we parted ways I was thinking about the challenges that young divorced single mom/ working college student had and it isn’t any different than mine but it is a challenge of epic proportion to her. Instead I was inspired by her story. I have never thought of myself as an inspiration to others, nor do I feel comfortable thinking of myself as a role model. I ride for myself, I don’t ride for fitness and I don’t ride for the finish line. I ride for the journey; I ride because I was told I couldn’t. I am training for this race because there are none like it and I was told by many I couldn’t. I get more satisfaction in doing things I was told I couldn’t accomplish or wouldn’t be able to physically complete. I don’t ride for the inspiration or the publicity, I blog only to keep a journal for myself not to encourage others or be an example of triumph. Apparently it is after this morning’s ride but that was not my intention. There are a lot more astonishing stories than mine and I am very blessed to be in the place in life that I am in.

I simply ride because it is something I enjoy to after being told I couldn’t.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunscreen maybe?

I haven’t been riding in the So cal sun for a couple hours but I have already gotten a sun burn and gotten lost a couple times, but no complaints. Been able to get out and do a bit of recon on the route near my area and it isn’t that bike friendly during rush hours so I will have to plan my rides around the peak traffic times. The roads are like glass compared to what I have been riding on lately and the food in San Diego is going to be my worst enemy. What I really find a musing is the locals walking around in hoodies, beanies, and jackets as if there was snow falling.

More to come.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Playing possum

I am not sure why I am getting so many flats lately, It must be the sea of automotive glass that shimmers in the sun. Or possibly the attack of my competitiors hiding in the bushes throwing caltrops on the fog line as I pass. Regardless it has brought up a couple interesting scenarios in the last couple weeks.

Two weeks ago I was out riding on the TT bike and keeping up a pretty good average but the asphalt was akin to a gravel road it was so old. I came around the corner and saw another rider ahead of me a couple miles up and it seemed a natural response to pursue and pass as if I was a cheetah on the savanna bolting after a midday prey. Besides, it’s a workout right?

I grab a couple gear and start pouring on the pain pudding, I am not even looking at the rider in front of me since I am now breathing so hard I am sucking gravel up off the road. As I get up to the rider it is a bit of a disappointment. The guy I was hoping to be a challenge to catch and possibly pass was a mere Sunday marsupial cyclist. I use the term marsupial for the excessive amount of gadgets, widgets, and clutter a cyclist will pack in their jersey, seat pouch and this guy had a small bag on the handle bars.

As I passed him I was in awe at all the stuff he was packing, it would have seemed he was on a coast to coast touring trek. I thought nothing of it and continued on towards my turn around. On the way back I found the hoarding cyclist trying to change a tube. I could tell he was way out of his element so I decided to stop and give a hand.

Long story short the guy had enough rain gear, Gu packs, power bars, water bottles, maps, and survival gear to outlast a zombie land scenario, but had no pump, tools or levers. I showed him how to change out the tube and used my Co2 to inflate his tire and remounted the wheel and he was on his way to complete his weekly 5 mile ride from the house. As I got back on my bike and proceeded to my finish line with the uncanny speed of a sidewinder missile I had a blow out. Not slow leak but a full on gunshot heard around the world blowout. I immediately thought of the irony that I just used my only Co2 cartridge and all I had left in my jersey was my small pump. As I sat there in the shade for a good 20 minutes trying to pump my tire up to a reasonable air pressure I was thinking of the stuffed pouch rider that was no doubt home by now. How is it you can pack so much gear and still not be able to complete the priority tasks? Fast forward a week and I was riding north bound as a small group was riding southbound and the busted a tube right in front of me. I pulled around to see if they needed a hand and to my surprise none of the 5 riders even had a tube nor any tools, just cell phones and credit cards to bail them out of these scenarios, but at least they had a ton of food, electronics and rain gear to last a week in the Alaskan bush.

When did people stop packing the essentials? Its seems the “boutique” shop they all claimed allegiance to has a phone number to call and will dispatch a vehicle to come fix their problems where ever they may roam. WOW! That would be a great deal if you turned a wheel into a taco or busted a crank arm, but they were ready to call for a flat!

My kits change with the bikes I ride but primarily I will always pack the basics. This doesn’t matter if I am making a jaunt to the store or if I am doing an all day super century.

It consists of one tube with a patch kit in the box, one Co2 inflator, one sub 40 gram pressure pump and a mutli tool of some sort. Depending on the difficulty level of wheel and tires I may pack a set of tire levers. I might also add I usually have a wrap or two of duct tape around a water bottle in case I need to line a nasty slice in a tire. That’s it! It all small enough it fills one pocket in my jersey and no need for nifty bags or pouches. If you can’t fix it or at least limp home with this kit then you can call for backup. I guess being a boy scout and my fire and military careers have given me the itch to always be prepared but I am a minimalist and don’t see the need for packing the kitchen sink for a 5 mile ride.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Riding in the rain

Not sure what the deal is with riding in the rain. I have been doing it a very long time on mountain bikes and enjoy the heavy coating of dirt and mud at the end of a slip and slide ride through the trees over the slick roots and mossy rocks at a break neck speed.

I step out the other morning and looked at the sky and it was overcast and no real standing water on the asphalt and thought what the hell, I am going for a road ride. I have a rain bike that has some pretty nifty fenders that combats that gnarly wet stream from your butt to the top of your neck. The bar tape is cork and the tires have some pretty good grip. But not enough I guess. The skies let loose!

I was coming down a bridge transition around a corner doing a mild 35ish mph and a 3 foot long snake was coming out of the grassy shoulder across the road with a purpose.

I couldn’t avoid it since there was no shoulder to begin with and the traffic was fairly moderate so cringed as the reptile speed bump approached. Just in case any of you are contemplating running over a snake on your road bike in the rain I would highly advise against it.

As soon as I hit that thing it split like a banana and sent me down into a low side get off as if I was sliding into third base. I had snake guts, blood, sand and who knows what else all over my left side. Now I have a road rash that looks like the portrait of Bart Simpson and a colorful set of bruises that would make the northern lights jealous of its awe inspiring color spectrum.

So what did we learn today?
1. don’t ride your race bike in the rain (use your training bike)
2. don’t run over snakes (bunny hop them)
3. don’t wear your favorite kit in the rain (it is ruined)
4. tumble, don’t slide (cheese grater 101)
5. make sure you crash close to home so you don’t have to ride half naked for too long
6. clean off your bike before snake parts dry (nasty-ness)
7. road rash sticks to the sheets
8. if you don’t want to get sick, ride on rollers

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The bored bike mechanic

While I was in the garage tonight building my road bike up I was reminiscing back on the days when I was wrenching on bikes full time in shops and the fun I had traveling around the country as a race mechanic.
There is never a shortage of laughter in the back of a bike shop since the customers keep the scenarios coming through the door. There are several reasons most bike shop employees are smiling when they greet a customer because there was probably a huge helping of shenanigans served just before the customer walked in.

These shop stunts can range from the simple yet effective to the elaborate and dangerous. Some of the simpler pranks are usually used a couple times a year and are ineffective on seasoned mechanics such as inflating a bike tube to the point of explosion or the hiding of tools. These are the starter pranks deployed on the new guy to gauge his ability to handle the future onslaught of jovial hijinks.

During the slow times in a bike shop there is a myriad of engineering feats conducted that would rival post grads at MIT. If you give a couple of bike mechanics an hour alone in a bike shop you will have a compressed air spoke gun that through trial and error that will have the range of a sniper rifle and possibly penetrate a solid block wall. There will also be several other attachments developed to fire other random parts in the shop or out the back door at small woodland creatures such as valve stem caps, spoke nipples, chain pins, cable caps, ball bearings and a ton more.

Some of the other pranks include but are not limited to covertly greasing common handles in the unsuspecting mechanics work area, gluing tools down to work surfaces,

These are what I would call the “bike shop basics”, These are the average and plain pranks that are currently being deployed in every bike shop. But the true artisans of bike shop pranks are far and few in between. These are usually the guys that are quiet and methodical and take weeks to plan and prep for the final tactics to execute on the unexpecting recipient. Most time these fine purveyors of pranks are the shop managers or owners. There were only a select few that I would consider greats in this category and I feel I have truly learned from the best across the country. Since most bike shop employees have bikes or commute on bikes there is always a prime employee target bike leaned up against a wall in the shop or hanging in the back that may be unattended for hours or possibly days.

These can range from the simple “time bomb” anchovy down the seat tube to the multiday operation of adding weight to ones commuter bike. The bet part of these advanced time release pranks is silently and un suspectingly watching the recipients realize something is wrong and start to diagnose the problem. One of my favorites is buying several of those small (half inch or smaller) bells, the kind that are usually on cat toys or Christmas decorations and placing these in very hard to find places on ones bike. The rider will usually notice noise right off the bat and start to find out where it is coming from. But if you put several of them on in the bike at one treatment they will find one and think the problem has been solved and continue riding only to find the noise is still prominent. I will usually drop one down the seat tube, one down the headtube (captured inbetween starnuts) one in the handle bars, one in the bottom bracket, one in the stem, one in the down tube (if possible) and even to the extent of inserting one in each tube and patching said tube and installing back on the bike. This prank is very time and labor intensive but very worth it.

Another prank of the same magnitude is slowly adding weight to ones bike. Starting with lead shot in the handle bars and other areas and eventually filling the tubes with water and re inflating. If the additions are made gradually the rider won’t suspect a thing over time and will eventually be riding a 60 pound commuter bike. I usually will also get everyone to throw in certain comments that will dwell on the physiological aspect of the rider such as, “are you losing weight?” “You look like your getting sick” or possibly “you seem to be getting weaker on your rides”. These comments with the additional weight on the bike will wage war in the head.

Some of the other simpler tricks are swapping the shifter cables or the brake lines/cables or even both at the same time, incrementally changing the bikes geometry like lowering the seat a little each day or possibly staggering gears on the cassette, I have seen guys during group rides re align brake pads so it would eventually rub through the tire to cause a blowout and even change a crank arm 90 degrees or even swapping a crank arm out for one that is 5mm shorter. Changing out the 39t inner ring of a road crank for a 42t can be humiliating on a group ride. also replacing 4 gears with several 16 tooth gears in the rear cassette makes for some funny reactions when they keep shifting and shifting with nothing happening then they will go from a 16t to a 12t or 13t

I would go on with this list but I have to save the best for myself because I truly love a good prank war and I have a lot of great secrets.

Monday, January 9, 2012

why cyclists shave their legs

This topic really cracks me up; it generates some of the lamest slurs and comments from the non cycling community and creates a lot of eyebrow raising to new cyclists. Especially to the Chewbacca newbie’s to the sport.

The funny thing is most people don’t even realize cyclists have shaved legs until the topic comes up. It has been on TV, print, and magazines so much that nothing seems out of picture when you see it at first glance. Think about it, have you ever seen a gorilla like hairy mongrel on a bike? You know the guy I am talking about. The one who gets in the shower and water never touches is body because it runs off his coat like water on a ducks back?

After getting some lame heckling comments from a friend the other day I was thinking about all the reasons cyclists shave while I was riding for two hours while he was in his recliner swilling beers wearing his wife beater while watching springer.

After the ride I spent quite a bit of time researching the topic and found there are a lot of simple explanations but I set out to create the most comprehensive fact sheet on the subject.

Believe it or not cyclists have been shaving their legs for well over 140 years! The Road bike racing scene began as an organized sport clear back in 1868. The first world championship was in 1893 and cycling has been part of the Olympic games since the modern sequence started in Athens in 1896. I did a little of research into the topic to see when women started shaving and found these little nuggets. According to an article published by Christine Hope in 1982 called “Caucasian FemaleBody Hair and American Culture”  Women started shaving around 1915 when sleeveless dresses became into fashion and started shaving their armpits, although it took a few more years before leg shaving caught on, Women's razors and other methods of hair removal didn't show up in the Sears Roebuck catalog until 1922. In other words men have been shaving their legs long before women ever started.

“A 1987 study conducted by Chester Kyle for Bicycling magazine concluded that the aerodynamic improvement is roughly 0.6 percent, which could result in a savings of around 5 seconds in a 40km time trial ridden at 37kph” For the metric challenged that’s 24.8 miles at 22.9 mph. For the average Joe just slumming it on the bike this isn’t a concern at all, but to the woolly mammoth, Sasquatch like Italian pro who lost a TT stage in the tour de France by a couple seconds it means buying a set of clippers and letting the fur fly!

Hair will actually pull more skin off, create a larger wound, will be harder to clean and more susceptible to infection in the event of a road rash incident so if you are a testosterone-laden goat boy it’s going to be a nasty gangrenes zombie scrape. It’s the same principal as when you get shaved before a surgery or getting a tattoo. And when you do go down like a ton of bricks and slide to a stop on the never ending cheese grater it will be a lot easier to scrub clean and treat without having to weave your way through the follicle forest.

Ingrown hairs
Cycling clothing has developed a great deal over the years into the current form of lycra giving away to spandex. But one drawback is the constant agitation of the material over the skin during the constant pedaling action. This isn’t a problem for everyone but for me it is no longer an issue. But if you are one of those who like to pick at scabs and squeeze imperfections knock yourself out!

Who likes massages?! Well who doesn’t, except that really furry guy getting his hairs pulled by the masseuse who isn’t particularly impressed at the same time? There is nothing better than a good post ride massage. These days there are more and more massage tables at every event from small club rides to pro events. It has become a documented benefit for cyclists helping with muscle recovery and prevents cramping, just to name a few benefits. It makes the massage ten times better.

Sign of weakness/inexperience
Nobody wants to ride near or around you if you have the Cro-Magnon man, furry leg warmers on. The reason is this. In a pace line or peloton you are inches away from other wheels and cranks moving at exceptional speeds and using cat like corning prowess in a group mentality. But when cyclists see a set of shaggy hobbit legs in the group the general mentality is that “that guy is dangerous”. I mean the perception that they don’t have the experience to ride safely in a group. That they may be a newbie rider that will make irregular swerves or brake abruptly causing crashes or accidents. Nobody wants to be around “that guy”

Mud/Road grime
A while back I was bombing down a 30 mile long grade in the mountains on the roadbike. I was on the drop bars and tucked into a kamikaze death ride to drop everyone on my tail and get every little bit of speed on my cycling computer. I sprang to the descent in such a haste it was not relayed to me that there were road crews below filling road cracks with hot tar. It made for some interesting cornering but I learned something that day. Blistering hot road tar will peel right off if your legs are glistening shorn. Same goes with the mud on the mountain bike trails. Nothing bugged me more than mud dingle berries ripping my leg hairs out. Plus it makes sunscreen easier to apply which also acts as a nice barrier to grime and the occasional high speed road kill splatter.

Athletic tape
Ever ripped tape of your shaggy legs?  Enough said.

This benefit is more when I am on the mountain bike since I am usually free riding or dowhilling with knee or skin guards on. I am often blasting off the trail like an out of control missile picking up those pesky suckers like a magnet. Once I get back to the truck it makes inspection and removal a charm.

Who in their right mind would spend thousands of dollars and hours of pain on intricate ink and have it covered with teen wolf hair? A lot of others like myself nowadays have a lot of ink and are proud to show it, but it doesn’t make sense if you don’t showcase it. In fact this makes me think of a great tattoo for the back of the calf for the guy behind you to read “if you can read this you are slow”

The Psychological effects
This one goes both ways. The effects of seeing the clean intense rippled muscle definition of the hulk like sinew calves of the guy in front of you on a pace line makes you wonder what more that guy has in store towards the end of a vomit inducing race. And then you personally have the feeling of being aero and fast as you pedal faster and gain satisfaction that the air glides seamlessly without disruption around you.

But in the long haul there are a lot more than just cyclists that dwell in the shaving conundrums. You have Tri athletes, swimmers, runners, bodybuilders, even divers whom are constantly donning wetsuits.
I am not sure what the ladies think about this topic but then again, I never did care what other think of me.

It fits like OJ's glove!

If there has ever been a topic that has purely been beaten to death and caused more arguments between bike shop employees (other than shop music), it is bike fit. In the last generation this niche has even evolved into a complete boutique business in itself. I can remember when I was on my first road bike in the 80’s, the local cycling club (a handful of old hippies) helped me out to get it in a somewhat comfortable position in order for me to endure the massive initiation rides ahead. Even though I got dropped a lot, I was always able to tell which way they turned by following the smell of pot and patchouli oil. My bike was a very large steel framed Schwinn hand me down with a standover height that was way taller than my inseam. They hacked off enough of the seat post in order to slam the seat clear to the frame and replaced the old school integrated (quill) neck and stem with a stubby and I was off! That was it. I rode that bike that same way for many non ergo miles behind those stinky hippies. Why I didn’t quit then I have no idea.

Over the years and many bikes later I learned the hard away about fit. Knee pains, back pains, wrist pains and something every male cyclist has experienced, the dreaded numb genitals. But today it has been taken to a new level with technology and “industry standards” but this isn’t the best for everyone. There are a myriad of clinics and courses that shop owners and employees will spend weeks in classroom settings in order to better understand fit and the various methods and high dollar 3D system equipment used to imply industry standard angles and postures on you and your bike. Is this a bad thing? No, I have taken these courses myself and consider myself fairly well educated on the principal. There are a lot of items on the bike that may need to be addressed or replaced in order to get the correct fit. Everything from saddles, seat posts, stems, bars even different crank arm lengths…..But!   Here is the caveat

Bike fit is purely specific to an individual because there are no two people the same and the intended purpose for fit is different to every rider and application. The industry geometry will get you in the ball park but it is up to the rider to make the right changes for his or her outcome. Of course the keen eye of an experienced fitter/cyclist and customer feedback is paramount, however some people will have to rely on a shop fit since they don’t have the miles under their belt to know what they need or want. Others who have gone through many miles and have a history of riding will have a much better grasp on the comfort VS. Performance fit battle and will be able to relay specifics during the fit process.

Since getting new bikes for this year’s race I have been able to Geek out and go through this process with a fine tooth comb since I am training at least twice a day and doing some distance at the same time. I can tell when I have some discomfort or tension in certain areas. I can feel when my geometry isn’t right and I can briefly maneuver on the bike to see what specific item needs to be addressed. It isn’t rocket science to know if you’re getting pain that something needs to change. Every ride I go out on I take a couple hex wrenches with me to be able to make small tweaks here and there in order to mitigate geometry problems. I use small pieces of athletic tape to mark the changes and then a sharpie once I am happy. The biggest part of making these small adjustments is doing one specific adjustment at a time, keeping the adjustments small in nature and riding a fair deal in-between. It does me no good to ride a short distance in between adjustments since I would not be able to tell if the adjustment is working or not. In the case of getting fit in a shop you would do this on a trainer and only for a couple of hours at most. They will use levels to find angles, use protractors to get skeletal points and will change out stems, seats, and spacers in order to get you into “guideline angles”. Shops that have true 3D fit technology will use video cameras and protractor software to be able to tune and pinpoint your skeletal angles to a more precise fit. Even so, the rider will still change something on their own within a couple days of riding.

The biggest fit battle these days are with the Time trail/triathlon bikes. Aerodynamics verses comfort in long rides and peak performance output according to geometry of the body. It can get so silly with technology that it boggles the new rider to the point of drooling and eye twitching and astonishes the high dollar bike buyers who just like the amount of detail and whimsical gadgetry they get when buying a “boutique fit” on their 8 thousand dollar bike that will hardly see anything but fair weather club rides on the occasional weekend. Then it goes to the extreme of Pro tour athletes who sit on a jig and are positioned to their most natural forms and have custom frames engineered and tailored just for the specific performance output in a wind tunnel while being filmed at 300 frames per second with cool smoke streams gliding over their back. And I guarantee they will still make a lot of changes and adjustments here and there on the road.

My bottom line to my personal fit is this. If you’re not comfortable you won’t have a performance kind of day. The industry fit angles are just ball park fits. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The eye in the sky

Since my Roadside bomb encounter in Iraq in 2005, I have had a hard time with memory and recall. Usually when I tell people the extent of my Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the specific things I have a hard time with, all most all of them have the same reply, “Hell!, I have that same problem and I never went to Iraq!” So I guess this blog post will benefit everyone.

There are certain tools and compensation techniques I use to overcome this problem. Since I am not much of a multi-tasker I rely on GPS units whenever I am traveling. It was actually the VA’s doing on getting us in the traumatic brain injury ward up on the technology. I don’t have to read a map and drive at the same time, I don’t have to take my eyes far from the road, I always know when my turn is coming before hand and it is less likely to spur some PTSD road rage incident. This is why I am opting for the Garmin Edge 800 cycling computer. Not because it is the neatest little gadget for the nerdy cyclist but simply because it will prevent a lot of problems for me. But there is one more step to my madness.

Google earth has probably been the most adaptive tool I have ever been blessed with since my injury. I have always had a knack for the “lay of the land” after 17 years of fighting forest fires all over the country using nothing but a map and compass and combined with my military training I have a well built skill set for navigation. (which any of my comrades can relate) But when I use Google earth I can honestly say I have enough information to say I have been there. Call it experience, call it calibration, call it what you may but when I can download a route in Google earth and follow it to the road level it is seared into the back of my head. It has become my greatest tool in my arsenal and I use it all the time as if I was a CIA/spec ops operator.

I use it to plan my training rides, I use it pre scout leisure destinations I have never been, but most importantly I am using it to nitpick The RAAM route. At road level I can determine the problem spots along the way and make the mistakes on the computer rather than on the bike at 3 in the morning. It enables me to make a direct correlation between the images I studied on the laptop to the actual route data that will show on the Garmin screen on my handle bars. Landmarks, surface conditions, inclines, choke points, wind breaks, and hazards are now perceived before hand and take’s the worry out of the “unknown factor” of what may lie ahead. But it can’t foresee everything…..what fun would that be?

Besides, what else am I going to do in between rides?

Herculean headwinds

So set out on a ride this morning on the TT bike and knew it was going to be a little windy but not as windy as I thought. This wind was the kind of wind that makes cows airborne, the kind of wind that impales fence posts with pieces of straw. Today’s wind speeds were those that make new reporters tumble off camera like a beach ball. The kind of wind that sand blasts your face with road debris and likes to shove you into traffic.
I have ridden in a lot of winds over the years but today was definitely one of the best days for wind.
I know what you’re thinking, “Best days for wind?” now that can’t be right, most would say worst by far. Nope….it was one of the best days for several reasons.

After I completed my ride I got online and the local airport was reading gusts at 42 mph. That is one heck of a headwind but it is also a very valuable (and free) training tool that would rival any fluid trainer or stationary cycling gadget on the market. There is no better resistance training than a headwind. It can’t be duplicated anywhere but on the road and the muscular reactions are twice (if not more) than a standard fair weather ride. My average MPH today was cut more than half, but my cadence was almost 30% more and my ride time was more than twice as long. Sounds like a workout to me!

But why would anyone in their right mind take a TT bike out in the hurricane force winds that are tumbling cars? Well here is my take on that. The majorities of road cyclists do not have a TT bike and most that do; don’t ride them that much with the exception of full time racers and multi-sport athletes. The TT bike is the knife edge weapon to better equip you in the wind. It provides a more aero posture on the bike and flat lines to be more streamlined, unless you go out with a baggy wind breaker and are up on the bars with a white knuckle death grip letting your torso act like a Drone parachute like riding on a road bike.

But the main thing is to be fluid, don’t fight the bike and just ride it. If you’re fighting the wind too much with the bars you are risking the chance of going off the road. Keep your cadence in the wind and it will keep you balanced on the bike. Just as the same in descending, a coasting bike is a wary bike. Keep your chin down and tuck as much as possible, grab some gear to counter the gusts and keep a training attitude. The attitude is the biggie, without it you will be miserable, but instead think of the best training accomplishment you done and be proud of the elements you have conquered.

Hopefully this wind keeps up around here, Besides if you ride into the wind long enough it becomes a tailwind!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Victoria's secret cant even offer this much support!

My usual morning routine has been shaping into a timed ritual of coffee, push up's, sit up's, a snappy sprint ride if the weather inst too cold first thing in the morning, and then followed by a Fat mondo breakfast and check my emails. I usually leave my phone in silent mode during the night so I can get my beauty sleep, but last night I forgot to turn the ringer off.

over the course of the night my phone chimed about every 30 minutes or so signifying an email, text, or notification tied to my Facebook or blog. When I checked my phone this morning I had 87 notifications!

this cant be right? 87? I thought maybe there was a family emergency, but then I remembered I was raised by a pack of wolves. Turns out it was all notes of support and congratulations for making the team and comments from people I have never met dropping lines of encouragement from the blog and other sources. WOW! I was truly taken back at the amount of people starting to follow this escapade. I have to say I am very thankful to be surrounded by so many that are rooting for me and the team. Some of the emails I received were barely legible in English from a cycling club in Russia and they were expressing how amazed they were to see the team and myself going for the RAAM after the combat history we had gone through.

it started to get me interested in where the blog was going, so I checked the stats. It has a ton of hits in Russia alone? There must be a huge endurance cycling presence there. Pretty amazing.

The Team 4mil site threw out a press release this morning on there site and have to say I am always encouraged when I see the diversity in the team. we have almost every branch covered and and fine spectrum of athletes that would rival even the most hardened full time athletes.

RAAM’s 2011 Armed Forces Challenge Cup winners, Team 4Mil, will defend their title by returning to the world’s most challenging endurance event again in 2012.  Inspired by the team’s motto, “Keeping The Warrior Spirit Alive”, several new team members have rallied to join the team, including a separate cycling team comprised of wounded veterans being hosted by The Wounded Warrior Project™ and mentored by Team 4Mil.  Both US Military Teams have been challenged by two similar team entries registered by military representatives from the United Kingdom.

The US Military Wounded Warrior Team is led by LtCol Mike Matney, USA.  His teammates include Mason Poe, Nieves Rodriguez, Brett Miller, John Fairbanks, Tom Murphy, Tim Conner, and Jeff Palenske.  Crew Chief Richard Wolak, USMA ‘66, has organized an effective race plan to compete successfully and safely neutralize the forces of nature that are encountered during each RAAM event.

Team 4Mil has announced CPO Wayne Dowd, USN (ret) as its 2012 Ride Captain.  His teammates include RAAM veteran’s Jim Weinstein, Kyle Pitman, and Jimmy Colgary, and new members Jason Peterson, Chad Connor, Alan Fischer, and Shawn Olin.

With a proud heritage of military service, these service members have experienced more than 40 deployments, hundreds of military missions, and led countless hours of mission planning.  Combined with their years of cycling experience and a tenacious interest in racing, they are prepared for the many unpredictable challenges that RAAM 2012 will present.

Team 4Mil is an IRS registered 501C3 organization.  As an all-volunteer team, our participation in veteran rehabilitation programs, National Soldier Ride support, and participation in RAAM are subject to voluntary charitable contributions.  To  make a tax-deducible donation via PayPal, please visit our website, or contact for more info.

But there is one major thing that sets us apart from all other teams competing this year. It is not the support, nor the sponsors. It isn't the media coverage or the remarkable individual back stories. It isn't even the fact that a handful of disabled veteran athletes are going to race across the country.

The one thing that sets this team apart from any other is Esprit de core. I am not talking some corporate team building "trust fall" exercise. I am talking the Forged in combat, Blood brother trust. The military personnel itself has a razor sharp feeling of camaraderie, But when you put those same people in a combat environment it grows even stronger. Now take that same level of trust and drive and throw it in a hospital bed for several years and you now have a staggering amount of dedication and drive on top of a mutual understanding of fearlessness and unity.

They say RAAM is a race that takes everything from you and crushes even the best athletes. I say to RAAM, Prepare to be broken and crushed!

"see the battlefield and execute with violence!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A special thanks to Tim Moore!

I first met Tim Moore years ago during a wounded warrior project solider ride. He came along with his cycling expertise as a shop owner and helped provide the participants with adaptive fitting, maintenance and a generous supply of candid humor. I have had the opportunity to ride, wrench and even crash with Tim on several occasions over the years and have always had a great time doing so.

Since getting on the RAAM team, I was needing a new bike since the last bike Tim and his Team labored to build was unrecoverable due to me getting hit with a truck mirror on the side of the road in march of 2011. I fared well to the incident but the bike however did not.

come to think of it, the first bike Tim and his team built for me was due to a crash as well, but this was in a pace line with Frankie Andreu somewhere in the Carolina's I think?,  But that is another story in itself!

After a laughter filled reminiscent phone conversation with Tim,  I have been blessed with his more than generous outreach to get me on a 2011 Specialized Tarmac for the 2012 RAAM season.

Tim is a very proud supporter of Veterans in general as well as the wounded warrior project and soldier ride, and has done way more than his share to help out with the organizations over the years and I am very proud to call him my friend. Please feel free to call his shop (270) 885-0613 to share a comment or get some great service no matter where you are in the country!

Now I am waiting at the window for the brown truck to show up like a kid waiting for santa!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No more fudge to be had.

The holiday gluttony has been drafting my rear tire like a anchor and it seems the roads are a bit rougher after a small break in the training timeline, but none the less it is back to the grindstone of dropping the leftover fudge and picking up the gu packs.

Its a funny thing about the holidays and how much you can justify eating and being lazy. although you always seem to be a product of laziness it is still fun to sit on the couch for a few days and watch others on TV sweat it out for a bit. but it gets old fast.

The other reason I had to hang up the bike for a spell was my daughter was my center of attention for the holidays. when she asked me how long the race was she was thinking it would be just another one of my usual downhill races or possible a mountain bike cross country race and be over in a few hours. I think she was taken back a bit when I told her it was coast to coast.

she is now trying to grasp the scale of miles and mountains buy following the route on Google earth and trying to calculate the distance as if it was a road trip in a car. She is now following my blog and the RAAM website like as if it is a Justin Bieber fan club site. I think she may be my biggest fan!

So now the team is officially on the RAAM website and the waivers have been signed and the bio's have been submitted. feel free to check out the other racers while I take time to link them on here as well,  and there seems to be only one thing left in my mind.........the finish line.

why not training you ask?

because I think the training is almost meditation of the sadist kind. I like the burn and the crunching hill climbs, I look forward to the irregular tan lines and flat tires. the thought of 50 mile per hour descents make me giggle like a pre teen girl. Just the thought of getting up off the saddle and cranking out a hill climb sprint is a sense of normalcy for me.

But the finish line? now that is something that every one enjoys and should be the only thing on the mind!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Scratching and pawing

I think these terms are reserved for the cat condos and single speed mountain bikes. When the fad started I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. No suspension? No gears? .... Well that doesn't sound fun at all.
Well it is.
The first time I rode one was about a year ago and have a little sweet spot reserved for them since. I primarily use it as a training tool. I can get great Cadence training while working on single track handling and speed that rivals that of a imperial storm trooper in a ti fighter. With a single gear I can work my way through the numbers of teeth like a notch on my rifle and have a collection of gears that would resemble a ninjas arsenal of throwing stars.
It runs silent as the red October and rolls over terrain like grave Digger on cars. No chain noise, no fork nose. Just your own grunts and the scratching and pawing of small block eights up a hill.
But what it actually feels like is childhood. The bike you got under the tree and would pedal as fast as it would go. It is the closest thing to a grown ups bmx bike you can find.