On the cutting Edge and Wardrobe Malfuntion

Team America gets suited up.

Team America gets suited up.

I roll with some guys who live on the edge.  I mean we’re talking about movers and shakers here, trend sitters.  They’re on the bubble.  The current thing is big tires, but we’re talking about useable big tires, not 5 inch “Moonlanders.”  I got my first look at Mark’s “Jeff Jones Spaceframe”  with it’s elaborate truss fork and monstrous front tire, and I got in a second ride with Eli’s 29+ 3 inch front tire on his Spot.  Oh did I mention there were two Rholoffs on this ride.  That’s just how we roll.

The Jeff Jone's Spaceframe

The Jeff Jone’s Spaceframe

Mark has completely bought into the wider is better philosophy.  He’s built up wide rims so even his relatively normal 2.4 rear tire looks really fat.  The wide rims allow the tires to work better and be wider.  The Jeff Jones geometry places the rider farther back over the rear wheel and the truss fork is all about keeping the front end as rigid as possible.  The H-bar is wide and has massive sweep so that arms are much closer to the body, he claims it’s really comfortable on his back.  I rode the bike for a short time, it’s super plush.

Eli's Knard.

Eli’s Knard.

Onboard the Spaceframe

Onboard the Spaceframe

The H bar looks weird but seems to be working well for Mark.

The H bar looks weird but seems to be working well for Mark.

We left from Gossage and road towards Bethesda Church then took a secret piece of singletrack known as the green carpet.  We set a record slow pace up the 2 mile climb which was wet and nasty, because we stopped and played on a steep rocky section to see if we could climb it.  Mark got it on the the first try with the Jones, it took me 3 tries.    The warm weather has brought out the traffic to the forest, saw a big group of ATVers and a few horseback riders out enjoying the super nice day.

Bluebells are out.

Bluebells are out.

This climb may not look tough in this picture, but it comes after 1.5 miles of sold uphill, and it's a rocky mess.

This climb may not look tough in this picture, but it comes after 1.5 miles of sold uphill, and it’s a rocky mess.

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I'm really focusing on this.

I’m really focusing on this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the road and as we continued on the long fast downhill.  I heard some strange sounds coming from my front tire then tire sealant was fired at my face from the tire.  My glasses became covered in spots, the tire continued to spray out gobs of sealant for several more rotations, which was freaking me out, but it eventually sealed up.

It was a wildcat attack, I barely survived.

It was a wildcat attack, I barely survived.

As I continued I couldn’t help but feel horrible.  My rear end was killing me.  At the bottom of the first downhill section I got off the bike and checked out the saddle, it was fine, so I reached back and checked my shorts and found that they had pretty much disintegrated back there.  Not a good situation.  I rode back to the truck carefully, my day was over.

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Mountain BIking, Rides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Harrisburg Cycling Drum-Up

Riders on single speeds earn bonus points.

Riders on single speeds earn bonus points.

Ladies are of course welcome

Ladies are of course welcome

Muppets-Group-Bicycle-RideBack in Scotland cycling clubs would hold drum-ups, essentially a try out for the club.  The club had a well known spot where everyone met up for a group ride and anyone was welcome to join in.  The ride would start nice and slow everyone getting warmed up and plenty of talk.  At some point on the ride the pace would pick up and it was every man for themselves.  Only the strong could hold the lead, but new riders were never left behind, someone would always fall back and guide them back.

We would call these simply, group rides.  I may have mentioned in the past that Harrisburg had such a ride when I was younger and I really enjoyed it and learned alot about riding.  I’d like to have something like that again, the simplicity of an automatic meeting place and a weekly ride.  So everyone is invited to come out this Thursday for the Drum-Up.

We’ll be meeting at 5PM near at Paker Plaza near the Dollar General Store.  The route will most likely go South out of town on backroads.  The goal is to ride for around 2 hours which should make it around a 30 mile ride, there will be some rolling hills.  The goal will be to get a good workout but not to kill each other.   Riders are welcome to meet up with us and ride a shorter version if the idea of 30 miles seems a bit much.

We’ve got 3 confirmed riders at this point, but I’m hoping for more.  Hope you can make it out.

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Beautiful Southern Ride

leaving out on the BSR

leaving out on the BSR

Lets compare a couple of area bike rides.  There’s the Beautiful Southern Ride (BSR), which I did yesterday and the Tour de Corn (TdC), which is held in June every year.  The Beautiful Southern Ride has been run for around the same amount of years, but they are both pretty much the same thing.  Family fun charity rides with 30/60/100 mile routes.  The big difference between the two rides is that the Tour de Corn has become one of the most popular rides in the Midwest drawing crowds of riders and over a thousand official sign ups, while the Beautiful Southern Ride barely has around a hundred rides and you’re likely to see 5 of them on the ride.

Terrain

Our group for the 100K.

Our group for the 100K.

So lets start with the terrain.  The BSR is held in Carbondale IL and quickly heads north in the Shawnee National Forest and begins following the wine trail as it snakes around scenic backroads.  It goes through some small towns, forests, orchards, vineyards, and eventually makes its way to Makanda and Giant City State Park which are really beautiful areas and some of my favorite riding anywhere.  There was around 5000 feet of climbing on the ride, and almost zero straight or flat roads.  It’s rolling hills, broken up by the occasional 300 feet climb.  A very fun and awesome course.

Now Tour de Corn couldn’t more opposite.  It starts in East Prairie Missouri, which is akin to the middle of nowhere and it rides through a bunch of corn fields for 60 miles.  There is not a hill in sight, there’s really nothing in sight other than cornfields.  You go through one nice small town and then BOOM, more cornfields.  The only hill is the interstate overpass.  You can ride for long stretches at a time without even looking at the road.  It’s not a real exciting course unless you like cornfields.

Weather

At the Von Jakob sag stop.
At the Von Jakob sag stop.

The BSR takes place in early April, its often, some combination of cold, wet and windy.  This year the weather was nice,  cool, but not cold, light wind, and dry.

The TdC takes place in June, the weather is almost always perfect, though the flat terrain can lead to some killer headwinds.

 

 

Start

Next lets talk about the start.  The Beautiful Southern Ride doesn’t have a mass start, you can begin anytime between 7 and 9 AM, they only ask you to plan to be finish by 4PM.  You could very easily do this ride and never see another rider, with a two hour window, and 100 riders on the course, you might as well just go ride by yourself.

Thirteen years ago a friend named Mike who used to come over from East Prairie MO. and ride with Snake and me in the Shawnee Hills decided to put together a charity ride for his tiny town.  He asked Snake, who was really into doing these Charity tours, “what makes a good charity tour,” and Snake replied, “A mass start, like a parade for the first mile, make it seem like a big deal.”  And so Mike did just that.  The Tour de Corn starts with a mass start on the street, the national anthem, local guest stars, and then a grand marshall who leads out the ride for the first half mile.  It makes it seem like a real big deal.

Sag Stops

At the Giant CIty Stop

At the Giant CIty Stop

The BSR had two sag stops and they were pretty weak stops, The first year that I had done the ride there was practically nothing at the stops, this year they had some bags of snack mix, granola bars, bananas and water, so a big improvement.  But at one stop 4 of us arrived to see one single banana on a table, it was a tense situation!  Seriously you could buy like 200 bananas for the price of a single entry.  A lady did some excellent cookies and some bananas were brought in right about when we left so you can’t say there weren’t trying.  And they were very friendly.

The Tour de Corn, has legendary sag stops, and far more then most rides have.  They have all kinds of snacks, food, and so much you don’t have to worry about taking food from another riders mouth.  They have music at some of the stops, and of course the legendary corn on the cob.

Cost

After ride pose.

After ride pose.

The BSR only charges 15 dollars per entry, that’s pretty much the lowest price for a bike tour you’re going to find anywhere.

Tour de Corn charges 20 dollars for an early entry and 25 on the day of the ride.  That’s a great deal for all they offer.

Swag

The BSR offers absolutely nothing other then a course map.  No T-shirt, no stickers, no nothing.  Not really a big deal to me since I don’t need anymore ride shirts.

The TdC offers a swag bag with all manner of little gifts.  Stickers, booklets, maybe even a letter opener.  They have both a jersey and T-shirt you can buy.  The T-shirt features the work of a local artist and is always very nice looking.

Conclusions

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The start of the 2011 Tour De Corn.

So what kind of conclusions can we draw from this.  There are many reasons why Tour de Corn has grown ten times larger and the Beautiful Southern has not grown at all.  When people go to rides they want to feel as if they are really doing something.  The first TdC had about a 100 riders, the next year it was closer to 200.  It just keeps getting bigger.  Lets face it, many of the people that do these rides don’t want to go out and struggle up hills all day, they prefer the flat and deserted cornfields of the Missouri Bootheel, but there are people out there who are looking for a challenge.

There were a group of three guys who had drove all day Friday from Northern Indiana because they wanted to ride in challenging hills.  There are people who want a challenge.  My advice for the Beautiful Southern Ride is to change the format to something like a Grand Fondo.  Have an official start time and have all riders record their finishing time then publish the results.  Quit skimping on the food, buy some more cookies, sit the stuff out.  if you buy to much take it home.  Make up some stupid names for some of the hills and talk all year about them.  Who can handle the Hickory Ridge Hammering, the Makanda Meltdown!  Hell, change the name to the Hickory Ridge Massacre.

Hmm… Maybe that’s not the vibe they are going for, either way the mass start and the stops would go a long way to improving the ride.

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Reviews, Rides | 8 Comments

Slomo Documentary

I pulled my skating stuff out of the plastic tub I’d stored it in over winter and got in a 5 mile skate yesterday.  I wore my slow skates with the soft 80mm wheels so I could work on my form and fall down more slowly.  Fortunately I didn’t fall down, I had a pretty uneventful skate session, and I found I didn’t loose much  skill over the winter.  My feet were a bit sore and I could tell my ankles were getting a bit more workout then they are used too, but it was easy to remember why I enjoy it so much.

I ran across this 16 minute documentary today and really connected with it.  Slomo is a local celebrity in the Pacific Beach area of that strange land known as California.  From here in Southern Illinois Oz seems closer then this bizarre SoCal world.  Slomo is a doctor who retired and now spends his days skating in slow motion while listening to classical music.  His skating technique emphasizes a maximum of economy.  He uses a fluid and smooth push then will glide for as long as possible on a single skate, he can often glide for minutes at a time on one skate.

He’s skating on K2 Radicals which have 100 or 110 mm wheels.  I was a bit confused about this because the big wheels are meant to go fast, but as a person who has now skated on a few different setups, including a 4×110 I can tell you that they really, really, resist slowing down.  Once you get these things rolling its a challenge to get them stopped.  They are an obvious choice for someone wanting to glide.

While Slomo does this he has a huge, almost frightening grin on his face, like he’s in the middle of some kind of drug high.  Slomo goes on to explain in the documentary that when he exited the rat race and begin “doing what he wanted” he found so much pleasure in skating in very slow motion that he was sure he was losing his mind, but he seems to think that society may actually be the crazy one and he’s just gone sane.  He also claims to regress his mind to that of an 11 year old while skating, which might explain the crazy grins.  It’s fine for a kid to walk around and be happy all the time, but an adult, especially an old man, isn’t suppose to be happy, unless he just told a dirty joke.

In the video you can tell that in many cases the sidewalks are so crowded that he has little choice but to skate slow, yet he still gracefully glides through traffic.  In many respects Slowmo is the exact opposite skater from me.  I lack any kind of form or grace, I just thrash about with my legs pushing, pushing, pushing.  I rarely ever glide, and if I tried to glide on one foot I’d most certainly fall down.  When I skate I’m not smiling but grimacing in concentration, trying to stay focused on the surface and traffic.

Skating has left me with blisters so painful I can barely walk, and worse road rash from falls then I ever got cycling, yet I kept doing it.  Skating combines the speed and grace of cycling with the direct feel of running, and it is a very fun activity.  I can’t understand why no one does it anymore.  When I was a kid I really liked going to the skating rink, just going around and around and around with no real purpose other then to flow.

I suppose I’m far from the level of zen that Slowmo has achieved.  I can’t simply enjoy the sensation of gliding slowly on skates.  I want to improve my speed and figure out how to go faster.  Ironically I’d probably become much faster if I worked on the skills that he so effortlessly displays.

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Eagle Watching and Road Riding

eagle1 eagle2 eagle3 eagle4It was a beautiful day, the kind that makes you think that maybe Spring has finally come.  Shauna and I went to a spot that Eli had told me I’d find an eagle nest.  His directions were rather simple, turn on this road and you’ll see it he said.  He was right, you couldn’t miss this nest, it’s huge.  We walked all around and took some pictures of the bald eagle in the nest then were greeted by her mate who flew in to challenge us with an assortment of angry calls and territorial behavior.  When we retreated back he flew off.

I never realized how big these birds are and how big their nests could be.

This afternoon Tom and I got in a 40 mile road ride including Williams Hill, it was a lung busting effort as we gave it 100%   I was toast at the top.  Looks like a week of fantastic weather coming up and lots of opportunities to ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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March Rides Madness

I got some great rides in this March lets take a look.

The Gatekeeper of the Shawnee, the one and only Eli.

The Gatekeeper of the Shawnee, the one and only Eli.

A couple of weeks Eli, Joe and I went to Southern Missouri to ride on the Middle Fork of the Ozark trail.  The trail has a fantastic surface which is a sandy rocky mixture.  It was nearly bone dry despite a wet and snowy late winter.  Riding on our home trails would have been another mudbog but we got some stellar riding in over there.

 

 

Joe checking things out on the Middle Fork.

After 17 miles of unending flowy singletrack Joe finaly asked, “Are we ever going to turn around?”  We went a couple more miles and then bailed out and rode gravels for awhile before finishing the last couple of miles on the trail.  I went “all in” on these last few miles and rode very quickly, for me, almost all the way back to the truck, but began to run out of steam about half mile from the parking lot.  I started getting tunnel vision and decided to slow’r down.

 

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Shon posing by the famous Julio monument.

Shon posing by the famous Julio monument.

Next weekend Joe, Eli and I took my pal Shon on his first mountain bike ride.  Shon’s a great road rider and is currently training for a marathon.  Now mountain bike trails are kind of different everywhere you go, some are super smooth dirt expressways, others are crazy rough amd technical rock farms.  Most of ours are more on the technical side, and require a considerable amount of skill that can be only learned through practice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShon did extremely well for a first time mountain biker.  He had no problems with the pace and climbed very well, but he did have a couple of spills that would have probably been avoided if he’d been running flat pedals.  And since he was running one of my bikes and I hadn’t put flat pedals on for him I felt kind of bad about it.  Fortunately he was uninjured from the ride and seemed to have a great time.

The next day was the Dirty South 100K Carbondale Ride.  This was the final of our 3 Dirty South rides this year, and as fate would have it the weather turned from a nice warm  60ish degrees Saturday, to a gusty 30 degrees on Sunday.  It was brutal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my haste to prepare for the ride I forgot my camera but it wouldn’t have made much difference it was too cold to mess with taking pictures.  The route was a killer hard 61 miles and had many many tough climbs, Jersuelum hill, Pine Hills, Silica Hill, and the infamous Ski Hill.  My Garmin’s battery died as I was about halfway up the famous final Ski Hill climb but it wouldn’t have mattered my battery was beyond dead and I was just creeping along on reserve power.

Dirty South 100k LogoEvery one of the Dirty South rides was difficult this year, and not just because they are all tough courses, they were all cold and windy.  The whole idea of Dirty South was getting out and getting miles in places and in days where most people wouldn’t bother to ride, so I guess “Mission Accomplished.”

Finally to wrap up this March Madness post it snowed here yesterday morning, not much but still, it’s rare for us to get any snow in March.  The daffodils are just coming into bloom, nearly a month later then they did last year.  It’s been a long hard winter for sure, but weather reports show lots of highs in the 60s coming up next week and hopefully no snow.

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Hunger: The Sean Kelly Autobiography Review

HungerSeanKelly_mediumIf you want to get fired up for a season of riding then a great way is to read a good bike book.  “Hunger” was released in June 2013 so it’s one of the newest options you have, and as the title suggests it was actually written by Sean Kelly himself.

Being a fan of cycling for many years I knew that Sean Kelly was a good professional cyclist, I knew that he was from Ireland, and I knew he raced in the 80s, but that was it.  What I didn’t know was that he was the number one rider in the world for 6 years straight.   Now that I often watch races from Eurosport I hear Sean Kelly’s voice offering color commentary, I quickly grew to like his sparse style of commentary and his accent.

Sean_Kelly,_Tour_de_France_2009Like his commentary I quickly began to appreciate Kelly’s writing style.  His book is straightforward, honest, and full of insight that only someone in his shoes could provide.  Kelly’s career spanned 3 decades, from 1977 to 1994. He saw the great Eddy Merckx in his final years and he was there when Armstrong entered the professional ranks.  In 1984 a computer program was created by the FICP (Federation of International Cycling Proffesionals, forerunner of UCI) that would examine all riders results in the previous season and rank the riders.  Kelly held the number one spot on this list for 6 years in a row.

sean-kellyKelly was a great all round cyclist and found success in all manner of racing.  He could sprint, he could time trial, he could climb, he was one of the greatest ever downhill bike handlers, and he could ride on the cobbles.  He won 9 of the monuments, the most sought after single day races, he won the GC at the Vuelta and the Green jersey at the Tour 4 times, his one weakness was the super long Alpine climbs of the Tour and that kept him from winning it.

So Kelly had a remarkable career at a time when cycling was transitioning from European sport to world wide sport, a transition that is still going on today.  His book describes the racing, the tactics, the backroom dealings, in a frank and honest manner, but don’t expect any bombshell revelations, this isn’t the “Secret Race.’

Fellow Irish cyclist Paul Kimmage is mentioned several times.  Kimmage wrote a book called rough ride, which I’ve read, that details the level of doping that was going on not only in the pro peleton but even as an amateur.  All this before the widespread use of EPO and blood doping.  Kimmage was perhaps the first whistleblower and as you can expect it didn’t it didn’t go down well.

kelly_roubaix_89_670Kelly devotes a chapter of his book to doping and mentions that Kimmage had left the pros in disillusionment and wrote his book, he goes on to say, “A lot of it was true.”  The chapter goes on to describe the 1991 Intralipid affair at the Tour de France when every member of his PDM team all fell ill and had to abandon the race after taking a nutritional intravenous nutritional supplement that had spoiled.  His team were currently holding the top 3 spots on the GC.  He mentions this because even if shady, Intralipid wasn’t banned, they weren’t really breaking any rules.  What he doesn’t tell you is that the PDM was on the cutting edge of doping and may have been one of the first teams using  EPO in the pro peleton.

Later PDM team became Festina which as I’m sure you know caused a near collapse of the Tour in 1998 when team soigneur (helper) Willy Voets was caught crossing the border with a trunk load of dope.  Kelly doesn’t mention  the Voets was his his soigneur.

Does any of this really matter?  Too me, not really, I enjoyed the book immensely and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the sport of bicycle racing.

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