Why I like Bike Racing – 2016 Cyclocross World Championships

elite-men-wout-pvh_woutvanaert_elitemen_21.jpg-copy-2016-cyclocross-worlds-cxmagazine-cxmagazine_1-360x360The reason why I like bike racing is probably the same reason most people like their favorite sport, unpredictability, but wait, there is so much more.  Cycling is so raw, once the lights turn green there are no time outs, no caution laps, and almost no rules.  You’re not supposed to headbutt other rides,  but that doesn’t stop it from happening.

Of all the different categories of bike racing none is more raw than cyclocross. To win at ‘cross you have to be fast, powerful, be able to jump off your bike and run, and have world class handling skills.  In a typical road race, riders form a group or peloton to protect each other from wind resistance.  In cross generally having riders around you is a liability, the riders around you will mess up your line, slow you down or worse crash in front of you.  Since ‘cross is raced in dirt, sand, grass, and mud there are many opportunities for mishaps that keep the racing more unpredictable and exciting.

Cross mostly takes place in Belgium and the Netherlands where it extremely popular, but it’s gaining popularity in the USA and we had a world cup race this year in Las Vegas.  This year’s cross season has been significant for a few reasons Sven Nys, who is the Michael Jordan of ‘cross is retiring this year.  Last year he struggled, this, his final year, he has been back on form, he even won a world cup race.  Oh did I mention he is almost twice as old as some of the other riders.  Last year’s World Champion Van Der Poel missed the first half of the season while recovering from knee surgery leaving his main rival Wout Van Aert to dominate.

World Championships 2016 - Elite MenWhen Van Der Poel returned with his knee fixed he came back with a vengeance.  He was winning everything and made it look easy.  This was the situation leading up to the World Championships, the most important day of the year for ‘cross.  I said earlier I like racing because of it’s unpredictability, but some of the last races of the season were feeling more like processions where the riders sorted themselves out and everyone rode the course perfectly to their pre-determined placings.  Fortunately for us the World Championships delivered.

The best riders were stuck in a loose group and no one seemed to be able to get away, Sven Nys managed to pull his 39 year old body to the front and Belgiums were going nuts.   Van Der  Poel was there with Van Aert right behind him then something wild happened.  Van Der Poel spun out on a and off cambered climbing turn,  he jumped off to run and put his foot right through Van Aert’s wheel.  They stood there locked together while rider after rider blew by.  Eventually they got untangled and began the chase.  Van Der Poel seemed rattled, he was going crazy fast and nearly crashed into a wall.  He seemed to have a problem with his bike and went into the pits for a new one.  He was unable to match Van Aert who was settled into a fast pace and returning to the front.

The two favorites mishap sent another Van, Van Der Haar into a mad dash for the win.  Van Der Haar is a little Dutch guy who is insanely good, he’s ranked 4th in the world, but he doesn’t manage to win many races.  His attack in the final two laps of the race was legendary, none of the other leaders could stay with him and it appeared he had the Worlds in the bag.  But wait, here comes Wout Van Aert; like Peppy LePue he’s gradually catching and his Belgium fans are driving him on.  He catches Van Der Haar on the last lap and despite some insane downhill riding by Van Der Haar, he beats him.

World Championships 2016 - Elite Men

It was the best race I’ve watched all year.

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Don’t Underestimate the Jackwagon

The Jackwagon

The Jackwagon

You could eat healthy all the time, but then you could never enjoy a Jackwagon.  What’s a Jackwagon you ask?  Good question.  A few days ago Shauna her Mom and Dad, and I went to The Mills Cafe for lunch.  This is one of those local, “greasy spoon” type restaurants that I’ve heard everyone say good things about.  The menu offered lots of choices, but I was mainly focused on the 10 or so varieties of hamburgers they had to offer.  The Jackwagon is a hamburger on texas toast with pepperjack cheese, bacon and magical delicious sauce.  It was so, so, good.

The next day I went on a mountain bike with Drew, it was muddy, but benchcut trails were rideable but it took way more effort then usual.  Right from the beginning I felt a bit off.  The Jackwagon had been so filling that I had ate a small supper the night before and a small breakfast that morning.  My stomach had been unhappy  After the nearly 3 mile climb at the coon I was feeling weak.  On the way back I got lightheaded, hungry, thirsty, and dizzy.  The food and water I consumed felt like it wanted to come back up and I was was struggling to keep the bike moving and on the trail.  I was very happy to see the truck.

I bonked hard.  My body ran out of muscle and liver glycogen, and the food I ate didn’t feel like it was helping much.  With no fuel to burn my body decided I should take it easy.  I’ve experienced acid reflux on and off most of my life.  It tends to be triggered by large “bad for you” meals like a deep dish pizza, or a Jackwagon.  Drew suggested Omeprazole and now after 3 days of taking it regularly I’m feeling much better.

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Walmart PITCREW 500 CABLESET Review

Wal-Mart cable set

Wal-Mart cable set

My local Wal-Mart’s bicycle accessory selection has grown in the last few years and occasionlly I see something there and think, hey that may actually work.  I’m usually wrong.  Take the cheap Zefal  floor pump that worked great for a few months until the shaft folded over mid-pump.  Wal-Mart bikes and accessories have a bad reputation for a reason.  They suck.

I was surprised when I saw a complete cableset at Wal-Mart.  I was even more surprised by the $6.96 price.  At a bike shop 4 inner wires and cable housing would cost around 40 bucks and I know these aren’t going to be bike shop quality but I figured for the price I’d give them a shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the set you get 2 derailleur cables and 2 brake along with some ferrules and end crimps.  The set has  both long and short cables for front and back.  The cables are universal, meaning they have the appropriate end for both mountain and road.  The cables also have ferrules crimped onto both ends.

My enthusiasm for the cable housing was dampened when I cut one and saw their inner construction.  The derailleur cable housings are actually brake housings, they are constructed of coiled metal surrounded by plastic.  There is no inner sheath for the cables to slide against.  The brake and derailleur housings in this set are identically made.  Without something slick to slide in the cables are sliding against the metal coils inside the cable housings, which as you can imagine creates alot of friction.

I cut three pieces of cable and installed them on a mountain bike with very old and contaminated cables.  I knew immediately I had wasted my time because there was more friction with the new cables then there was with the old.  New quality cables make the shifting on a bike feel brand new, smooth, crisp and effortless.  This felt, rough, soft, and difficult.  Tuning the shifting was almost impossible, there was so much friction in the cable that the derailleur spring had a hard time shifting down the cassette.  I removed the inner wire and dripped oil into the cable housing, which may have helped a bit, but they still sucked.

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A close inspection of metal inner wire reveals that it is a little thicker and definitely rougher than a bike shop quality wire.  They are definitely not stainless, but probably galvanized so they might not rust but I don’t think they would be smooth even with quality housing.

I have yet to install the brake cables, and I probably won’t.  Brakes are much less finicky to cable friction and usually have less bending so they might work better, but the friction will still be felt in the system.

So the final verdict.  If you need new cables go to a bike shop, or order a quality Shimano set which is going to cost about 4 times as much but will actually work.

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Called This Snow Ride?

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We went out for a snow ride today.  None of us were on fat bikes which are suppose to be good for snow.  Luke, who has owned a fat bike, said that it wouldn’t matter, unless someone has flattened the snow out they don’t really do much better then a regular bike.  When we arrived at the trail head, which is about halfway between High Knob and Pounds Hollow, we saw that no one had been on the trails, no hikers, bikers, equestrians, though some deer had used the trails a bit.

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I’ve heard Eskimos have like 20 words for snow, and I can totally understand that because even though snow all looks the same, it can feel and act very different.  I’ve given up riding in less snow then this when I just couldn’t make the bike pedal through it, but this snow, though deep, was very dry and rideable.  Riding through it at about 4 mph took almost 100% effort.  It took full concentration on the trail, and most of my riding skills to keep the bike upright, it was really hard and slow.

Pounds Hollow looked frozen but I wouldn't ice fish on it.

Pounds Hollow looked frozen but I wouldn’t ice fish on it.

So we rode up over Pounds Hollow and checked out an incredible view of the icy lake and the other guys had to wait for me to crawl uphill alot.  It was drudgery, but also beautiful and gratifying to know that no one else is doing what you’re doing, though when you consider they are at home watching TV with dry feet it’s hard to feel to gratified.  We encountered a couple out hiking and looking to do some rock climbing around Pounds Hollow.  They were camping in the area, which really blows my mind.  I can’t imagine camping in the snow.

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There was one really sad part to the ride.  I heard Luke scream for me to turn around.  When I got back to him he was standing over what looked like a baby groundhog in my tire track, it was dying having just been run over by my tires.  I never even saw it.  I gave it a burial in the snow and said a few words.

Poor Guy

Poor Guy

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Frozen on Bikes

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Hanging with Pedro

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Baby, it’s cold outside.

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The ice man

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Rock solid frozen feet

Sunday Drew, Eli and I got out for a trail ride in some pretty cold conditions.  I think the high for the day was in the upper 20s but there was wind and I’m sure it felt colder.  Drew and Eli were both on their single speeds since all they ride are single speeds.  I, on the other hand, chose to take the vintage, Beast of the East which proved to be a bad decision.

So it was cold and mercifully the trail was partially frozen making for less mud, unfortunately there were lots of mud holes and water crossings that weren’t frozen.  Had I been on a single speed bike with disc brakes this wouldn’t have been a problem, but the Beast has gears and cantilever rim brakes.  30 minutes into the ride my brakes were marginal, an hour into the ride they weren’t working at all.  Having almost no brakes caused me to take some emergency measures to stop.  I had to run the bike off into the woods and try to grab trees, I had make cyclocross dismounts at a full run, and a couple times I just aimed for the highest slope I could.

Shortly after the brakes went the gears started to freeze up.  I was able to keep the bike shifting in the first couple of cogs which was fine because once the speed got over 7-8 mph wind chill became pretty uncomfortable.  I wore a short sleeve shirt, a thermal jersey and a heavy riding jacket and on bottom just shorts and tights.  I needed one more layer on my legs and on my chest, I only felt warm on the climbs.

One part of me that wasn’t uncomfortably cold were my feet, thanks to the Lake winter boots that my pal Mark Salus gave me a couple years ago.  They are really worn out, the waterproof liner is gone, and the insulation is no where near as effective as when they were new, but they are still warm.  I oiled them up the night before giving them some water shedding capabilities and that allowed me to blast through cold creeks without soaked toes.

The ride was great, even with the technical problems and I was having a good time right up to the final climb.  The straw that broke the camels back was my right SPD pedal jamming with ice.  Eli’s flat pedals had iced over as well, only Drew’s egg beaters were still working well.  The final climb put a hurt’n on me since I was relying mostly on my left leg and my right foot was sliding all over the place.  I was the last person up the climb and super happy to see the truck all ready running and warming up.

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Eli invoked “back in the day” explaining how they carried bottles of deicer to keep their rim brakes and gears working before the invention of single speeds and disc brakes.  Eli also won the tough guy award for wearing summer running shoes and socks.  His feet shoes were blocks of ice by the end of the ride, but he never complained about cold feet.  He claims to do “cold feet ice training” throughout the year by soaking his feet in ice water.  It seems to work.

Oh and believe it or not we didn’t see another sole enjoying this lovely day in the forest.

 

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Rides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Does Another Death Star Make Economic Sense Your Highness?

news-star-wars-force-awakens-theatrical-posterSo I finally got around to watching the new Star Wars movie.  I suffered a short term case of multiple personality syndrome while I watched it.  My psyche split off into two separate consciousnesses.  One was a childlike being filled with wonder and awe, he was excited by all the bright and shiny things and seeing old familiar faces and ships.  This wild eyed boy was nearly hopping out of his seat at the prospect of flying an X-wing down a a trench to blow up another big bad thing.  The other consciousness was that of a middle aged technocrat with a dual degree in accounting and political science.  This being was flabbergasted at just how little sense the spectacle he was watching made and repeatedly wanted to tell his wife so.

So SPOILER ALERT, the Empire lost I guess, I mean they were suppose to have lost, though they look to be in better shape then they were before they lost.  They regroup at the fringes of the Galaxy and I guess elect a new supreme ultimate evil leader?  Oh and they change their name to the “FIRST ORDER.”  They begin to build an even more audacious SUPER WEAPON, instead of a lowly Death Star they build a STAR KILLER BASE, a planet capable of shooting planet destroying rays through hyperspace, all the way across the galaxy.

Meanwhile our heroes are off trying to rebuild the New Republic I guess and they have a kid who turns out to be really evil, uncle Luke must of really screwed up?  Luke apparently spends all his time out searching for ancient Jedi crap, and Han and Leia both regress.  Han becomes a smuggler again and Leia decides to lead another resistance.  Meanwhile everyone in the New Republic just kind of hangs out and ignores all the rampant slavery and economic disparity in the galaxy.  They also ignore that the remnants of their old enemy are busy building a STAR KILLER BASE on the edge of Galaxy, leaving Leia and her handful of hotshot pilots to deal with it.

So that’s the setup?  It left me with alot of unanswered questions.  Sure I could see the NEW SUPREME LEADER saying, “Guys what we really need is an even bigger Death Star,” but surely some mid level manager would sheepishly raise his hand and say, “Umm Does Another Death Star Make Economic Sense Your Highness? The last two have been destroyed by a rather insignificant military force, perhaps we should focus on rebuilding our economy and…” I guess at the point the NEW SUPREME LEADER crushed his windpipe.  But seriously they’ve been defeated twice, and are now on the edge of the galaxy, surely there would be logistic issues in building another Death Star, like where are they are going to find enough certified space welders, and how about the supply chain for all the high tech parts they’re going to need.  Where can one find “hypermater flux conductors” on the Galactic Rim.

But they build the damn thing and apparently they used it to destroy the “NEW REPUBLIC HOMEWORLD” I guess.  I mean it wasn’t exactly clear, some red beams shot across the sky from somewhere and blew up a planet and then some fancy looking people died.  So the bad guys blow up a planet and then are about to blow up another planet as soon as they can suck the entire contents of a sun into their “STAR KILLER BASE” to recharge it.  Umm, doesn’t a star contain like a zillion times more mass then a planet?  Well anyway, the New Republic just totally poops it’s pants, I mean it can’t even dispatch a single capital ship or wing of fighters out to where ever this “STAR KILLER BASE” is located.  No, the only ones who stand a chance of beating the planet are Leia’s resistance who send a handful of X-wings out to fight a planet.  And of course they win thanks to our new brave heroes.

So the grown up me thought the movie was dumb, the child me had a blast.  The grown up me appreciates how difficult a line JJ Abrams had to walk in writing this.  His mission was to remake Star Wars, without making it exactly like the original but making it more or less the original.  He doesn’t really have time for much dialouge to explain things because there must be an action beat every 10 minutes or the kids raised on Spongebob will get bored and wander out of the theater into traffic.  I’m sure there could have been a movie that made both the child Matt and Adult Matt happy but this wasn’t it.

Maybe Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back part 2 will make us both happy.

Posted in lifestyle, Rants, Stories, technology (geek) | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Frank Assesment of My Chances to Go Pro Next Season

It’s not looking good.

I’ve been riding my trainer and zwift alot lately which provides a virtual power number.  I think this number is accurate because it’s pretty close to the virtual power that Strava calculates on real rides.  According to Zwift my ftp is 272 and at my current weight of 235 my watts per KG is 2.55 w/KG

If you have no idea what I’m talking about I’ll try to over simplify it a bit.  FTP stands for functional threshold power which is the average power I can put out in an hour of riding.  Putting out power is great but you’ve got to carry your weight especially when the road goes up, so FTP is divided by your weight in Kilograms to come up with a ratio that represents how fast a cyclist you are.

Check out Chris Hoy legs. He’s like the top fuel dragster of the cycling world.

powerprofilingThere is a handy chart on the internet that compares the w/KG of cyclists so you can see where you fit in.    World class riders have a power to weight ratio around 6, a domestic pro will be in the mid 5s.  My 2.55 puts me right at the bottom of the CAT 5 area or top of the non-racing cyclist area. So just playing around and crunching some numbers I came up with this.

3.42 w/KG at 200 pounds

I believe that is my realistic maximum.  That number represents a 10% increase in FTP and a  15% loss of body weight.  I think those are both doable over the winter and spring.  3.44 would put me right in the middle of the CAT 4 area meaning I could sign up for beginner events and  do well, #sandbagger

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Read the messages on the right, funny stuff.

In an effort to begin the journey that would lead me to that magical sandbaggers 3.44 I rode a metric century on the trainer this morning.  3 hours and ten minutes on Zwift for a 19.7 average.  Could I really ride 62 miles in 3 hours, at first I thought this was a big overestimate, but alot of it was drafting other riders and some of it was in a fast group, considering there is no traffic, stop signs, or wind in zwift I think it’s probably pretty close. Oh it doesn’t hurt that I was on a simulated aero bike with simulated Zipp 808s. I’ve never ridden past 2 hours on a trainer and that was only once.  The last 30 minutes I was feeling pretty weak, but I wasn’t in nearly as rough shape if it’d been a real ride.

The Zwift riding center.

The Zwift riding center.

There were 1100 riders on Zwift today around noon, a huge number of UK and European riders.  I knew that if they built software that worked people would flock to it.  Mark my words, virtual riding is a thing, and it’s going to be a big thing soon.

By farthest I've ridden to go nowhere.

By far the farthest I’ve ridden to go nowhere.

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Racing, Rides, technology (geek), training, Weight Loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments