Old School in the New School

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently took my Cannondale M800 Beast of the East out for a ride with some guys at Glendale.  The Beast is a early 90s 26 inch rigid mountain bike with cantilever brakes.  The guys I was riding with were on modern 29er full suspension bikes, good full suspension bikes.  Gear in mountain biking can be cost prohibitive, mountain bikes are so expensive and so easy to break that the sport can feel like a money pit.  Even when it was new the entire Beast cost less then many of the forks that people ride these days.    Can a person ride a old, cheap, lowtech bike and still have an enjoyable time?

First picture that comes up when searching for mountain biking. Looks pretty fun!

It’s always interesting to ride with different people and see other styles, especially in mountain biking.  The general population views mountain biking from an X-games perspective, they see us bombing down hills, shredding dirt, going airborne at every opportunity and just generally “tricking” our way down the trails.  It’s the way we’ve always been shown on TV.  There are people who only ride mountain bikes for that kind of adrenaline rush even here in Southern Illinois, but I’ve never ridden with them, not my thing.

My usual riding group has a certain style, you’re not likely to see the back wheel ever come off the ground, and the front only when required.  Downhills are ridden very cautiously and uphills are powered up since almost everyone is on single speed and has no other option.  Screwed up, gnarled up, trail sections are attempted since we encounter them so often.  Usually everyone is on rigid bikes, it’s no frills XC at its finest.

The group at Glendale had a similar, though different style.  Their was some occasional bunny hopping going on, downhills were bombed, uphills were ridden briskly but spun up with low gears.  The ride was quick and the trails were mostly fast.  It’s a much more all mountain or enduro style of riding.

I was able to stay with the ride and have an enjoyable time on the ancient Beast, but I couldn’t stay with them in the downhills.  The 29er full suspension bikes are so much faster downhill that I slipped back on all the downhills, especially the technical ones.  The super narrow, 90s style flat bar is less than confidence inspiring.  Some of this could also be blamed on rider skill, these guys were just good at bombing downhills.

Climbing was a different story.  I had just thrown on a new set of wheels, which I stuck a road bike cassette on, still the 3 ringer crank gives me a low enough gear for most climbing.  I found out on the first climb that the lower gears on the cassette weren’t working, either because of chain/cassette wear mismatch, or some tuning that needs to be performed.  My climbing was compromised from chain jumping, but I was still able to hang with the guys on the climbs.  The rigid frame, and narrow bars with bar ends really shine when climbing, especially out of the saddle.

There is no doubt that in a capable pilots hand the Beast could have been just as fast downhill as the full suspension 29ers, but the amount of skill and lack of self preservation required to do that is far beyond me.  Fortunately for me the downhills at Glendale are short, had we been riding on trails with long downhill sections, which you’re not really going to find around here, those guys would have left me far behind.

I’ll just conclude by saying that you don’t need a high dollar wonder bike to have a good time.  You’ll probably have a better time on one, sure, but ride what you’ve got.

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, Mountain BIking, technology (geek) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Velo Magazine, Do I Still Want You?

June1983cover-243x320I have been a subscriber to “VeloNews” and now the re branded “Velo” magazine on and off for a long time.  I was initially interested in when it was formated as a tabloid.  Reading Velonews magazine took hours, the other bicycling magazines were complete fluff compared to Velonews.  My first subscription was in the mid 2000s. The magazine had lots of coverage of racing, racers, races, and a little bit of tech, some training, and some fluff here and there.

In 2011 it was determined that people get their news online, Velonews became Velo and the editorial staff was axed.  Velonews had always been very timely covering news of the cycling world right after it happened.  Now Velo seems to be about 2 months back.  The April issue I got last week has coverage of the world cyclocross championships that happened February 1st.  Actually saying they have coverage of the event is a stretch.  A picture of the mens podium and a picture of the female champ are shown in the small “Winning/Losing” infographic.  That’s it.

FC_VNMay-US_R1When Velonews became Velo they clearly stated they were not covering races anymore in the magazine.  Race coverage was moving online.  I can understand that, who wants to read 2 month old race coverage.  The magazine was going to focus on personalities and stories within cycling, with some tech and training thrown in.  Essentially Velo has become the “People” of the cycling world.  It feels like nearly every other issue is a “special personalities issue” where a group of racers or insiders are profiled.  It can make for interesting reading, but I consider it side reading and not really what I buy Velo for.

FC_VeloFeb-US-372x440The last several issues have been increasingly smaller. 60ish pages with lots of big full page ads.  The tech and reviews section are occasionally really good.  Velo goes to great lengths to provide scientific testing to their bike reviews.  They built rollers to actually test a bikes vertical compliance, a stroke of genius.  The training section is a joke, a couple of pages which usually are nothing more then an ad for someone’s book or coaching service.

Perhaps the straw that broke the camels back was the hour record.  I’ll admit I don’t read cycling news online all that much.  I’ll check it every now and again, but I did read the Velo cover to cover each month.  I had no idea of the changes to the hour record and that it was being contested.  It didn’t really come up until last months issue where it garnered a small section in an article about how cycling is becoming more “vintage.”  It was several months after Jen’s record breaking ride.

velonewscoveroctober2008Come on Velonews, how can you drop the ball like that, howabout a multi page article on the biggest record in cycling, I’d love to read a recap of the changes, the technology bans, and what has changed that has riders going for it again.  Instead I got a blurb in an article of blurbs.

Essentially that is what Velo has become, a thin magazine of blurbs.  This latest April 2015 issue is a big improvement over the last several issues.  It’s may be enough to get my subscription renewed.  There is a multi page indepth section on cyclings grey areas, covering Unwritten rules, virtual doping, and the bio passport.  This was just the kind of stuff I like to read in Velo.   There is a very interesting article about Chinese counterfeit frames, Dan Wouri covers the hour record in is column, and the resurgence of German racers is covered.  Even the training article is not as bad as usual.  It’s an actual good issue, but still only 64 pages.  It was my final issue.

When I first subscribed to Velonews I remember getting magazines twice a month in peak cycling season that covered the major races just days after they had happened.  I imagine that kind of coverage is prohibitively expensive in today’s publishing world.  It seems like I paid around 50 dollars for 20 something issues back then.  Now it’s 30 dollars for 14 issues, the price isn’t bad, and really it’s worth 2 dollars an issue.  But I’d rather pay 50 dollars for a 100 page magazine that had actual coverage and pictures from races, and one that wasn’t hopelessly behind, and one that didn’t completely ignore major events in cycling.  Maybe I need to remember to check velonews.com everyday?

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Rants, Reviews | 3 Comments

Dirty South East Side 2015

10563146_870687916310196_6019196756456598129_n 11061186_870697832975871_247895432286126202_n 11070097_870688572976797_2065669352547421104_nI woke up Sunday morning with a sense of dread.  I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, I certainly didn’t want to go ride 60 miles of tough hills and gravel.  I had spent the week working and getting over a cold, but I still didn’t feel good.  I hadn’t ridden or even got my heart rate up all week and while I felt much better then last week, I just didn’t have the drive.

Fortunately I didn’t have a choice, this was my ride, as the leader of a ride I have responsibility.  I dragged my ass out of bed and made ready.  The Monte Carlo is back at 100% after Dad and I put on a catalytic converter, it purrs and now gets about 50% better gas mileage, so my car problems were no longer an excuse. I gathered up my supplies and headed out to cache them at Iron Furnace which would be our SAG stop.

I rolled into the parking area to see a healthy crowd getting ready for the ride.  It’s a big ask for people to drive for a ride two weekends in a row and many of those finishing up last weekend weren’t planning on making this event.  I was happy to see around 14 people for the ride.

The original route I had planned covered large sections of the River to River trail which are mostly gravel single track.  After two snows I changed the route, sections of the trail were far too wet to ride cross bikes on, in fact that they were very difficult to just walk on.  One of the biggest changes since we started these rides are the number of folks bringing gps devices with the map loaded.  Which is great, except when the organizer releases 4 different maps.

After several years of making gains in my riding this year I’ve actually been back sliding a bit.  The only significant riding I’ve got in so far this year have been the last two weekends, sure I’ve put in several hundred miles of spinning on the trainer, but as far as real multi hour base building rides I’m lacking.

10349022_870687972976857_3095846772731045969_nThe lack of preparation really showed about 40 miles into ride.  Every hard effort on the pedals would result in a near cramp, my arms, back and shoulders ached.  I was drinking my fluids up way too fast and I was losing my will to go on.

I decided to try my 28mm road tires, which didn’t offer quite as much grip, but the speed on smooth roads more then made up for it.  Then again, maybe 28s aren’t quite tough enough,  I pinch flatted twice and found myself without a tube.  I tried my best to give up, but my friend Tom wouldn’t let me.  Moe came back and hooked me up with a new tube and I carried on.

10470919_870696992975955_8634972364256201129_nThe ride had broken into two groups and eventually into 3 groups.  The guy who finished first is named Justin and he’s a hardcore rider.  Like 400 miles a week and eats gravel for breakfast kind of guy.  He’s already ridden more miles in 3 months then many riders will do all year.  I borrowed the pictures for this post from Justin’s facebook.

Those of us at the back were happy just to finish.  At least I was, I tried to convince my fellow riders to take short cuts, and avoid the final climb up the dreaded BRUCE JOHNSON road.  They would have none of it, they were in for the long haul.  A fellow by the name of Shawn did the entire ride on a full suspension mountain bike, it took far more energy to drive those big tires through the ride, but when I cramped up so bad that I nearly fell off my bike within sight of the finish line he gave me a push to the end.  I hate to say it but I really needed that push.

I’ve also got to give a big shout out to Hailey, the shop manager of Wood and Wave Cycles over in Grand Rivers Kentucky.  She is the first woman to ride all 3 dirty south rides in the same year.  Lets not forget, Tom, Moe, Tony, Caleb and JW who also completed the series this year.

10931377_870687942976860_8638843435477008271_nThis concludes the Dirty South Gravel series for the 2015 season.  There is talk of trying to turn this thing into a more legit event next year, an actual race with support and whatnot.  It’s a tough choice, we love the event and its underground nature, but we also want to see it grow and become more.  I wouldn’t be surprised if in the last few years over 200 riders have showed up for these completely unsanctioned rides that take place in the middle of nowhere just because an internet post says there will be a ride taking place.

Thanks to everyone who came out, we’re really happy you came!

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Cyclocross, Rides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dirty South West Side 2015


This year’s Dirty South 100K West Side was an awesome ride, there was a big diverse turnout, a with a number of younger riders and women.  The route was more then challenging, and the weather was perfect.  That all being said I wish I’d stayed home. There are days when you are better off staying in bed, the signals are often clear.  Last Sunday was such a day, but I ignored the evidence and went on a bike ride instead.

It rained Friday, 2 days before the event, an all-day soaking rain, but I felt like crap anyway, so I didn’t leave the house.  I got on my trainer and ground out 12 miles that felt like 50.  I had a sore throat, slightly fuzzy head, and that crappy swollen gland feeling in my head and neck that accompanies the onset of a cold.  I haven’t had a serious cold in a couple of years, I really think when I was working as a janitor the daily exposure to cleaning products kept me from getting sick.  I decided to fight the cold, but eventually it won and I crawled off my trainer feeling worse.

Saturday I delivered mail, my mail delivery car was just as sick as I was.  It was seriously lacking power.  I came home and more or less laid around the rest of the night thinking about the Dirty South Gravel ride the next day.  I didn’t want to miss it, but should I ride it if I wasn’t feeling well.

Sleep was elusive Saturday night, but I loaded up on coffee and Sudafed Sunday morning, I was rearing at the bit.  A couple guys were driving with me, we loaded up our bikes on my car and took off, but didn’t get far.  With the added air resistance of 3 bikes on the roof rack the car couldn’t even make highway speeds, now I knew there was something seriously wrong with it.  The fact that I even considered driving across the state in a car that wasn’t working right is a testament to how bad my decision making skills were functioning.   We returned home and swapped out and just barely made it in time.

The early part of the ride was OK, I had a pretty bad sore throat and my chest wasn’t feeling great either but I seemed to be making it.  There were 29 people at the ride, which is an excellent turnout, and lots of faces I hadn’t seen before.  I tried pushing a little harder in the Pine Hills section and seemed OK.  There was a big regrouping and we rode a fast highway section in a great paceline.  I was breathing hard but having such a good time that I didn’t realize it hurt.

Eventually he hit a muddy unimproved gravel road that sucked the energy right out of the group.  I slipped through the group and fell out the back, just spinning easy, the hard breathing was making my chest hurt.  The cold was way down in my bronchial tubes.  I’ve always heard if you have a cold above the neck it’s safe to ride, below the neck don’t ride.  I decided a little too late that I shouldn’t be riding.

My mouth was bone dry and no amount of fluid would change that, though I wasn’t really tired from riding and my legs felt fine I had very little energy and a general sense of dread.  I wanted really badly to just be of the ride and in bed.  To make matters even worse the saddle and shorts combination I was wearing was causing a great deal of pain.  It was turning into a miserable grind.

I skipped most of the rest of the gravel and climbing sections and rode back in, my buddies had packed it in earlier so I hitched a ride home with Luke who had done the entire ride from the front group.  I was passed by them twice in the last 10 miles as they crossed the highway on gravels.  Luke was as hammered as I was after riding 65 miles and 4400 feet of climbing.  My ride was significantly easier.  The drive home was a fight to stay awake.

My cold was horrible for the next few days and only let up yesterday.

Moral of the story.  If you’re sick, don’t go ride a killer hard ride.

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Spring Time in the Hinterlands

Well it’s Spring, the snow has melted and the temperature have skyrocketed to the mid 60s.  I’m feeling a frenzy rising deep from my bones, a drive to go ride my bike up gargantuan mountains and frolic through the forest.

I actually spent some time outside in my yard today picking up a winters worth of trash and junk.  As the daylight was fading away I had just finished cleaning my gravel road bike and car, I did the bike first since I wanted the water to actually be clean when I washed it.  I was riding my clean bike up and down the street while some local kids were fooling around near the huge abandoned school next to my house. (thanks city of Harrisburg) One of the kids who was nicknamed monkey climbed a tree near the school and was running around on the 3 story roof.

His buddies were encouraging him to come down as I watched his hijinks.  He decided the best way to get down would be to leep from the 50 foot roof onto a nearby cedar tree that was about 5 feet from the roof.  I started to shout encouragement for the jump then stopped since I thought that could make me accessory to murder.  When “monkey” saw that I was watching him he counted to three and made the leap.  This is the kind of crazy stuff that I think about when I’m on a bluff in the forest, “If I had to jump in the tree could I do it.”  Well monkey proved that if faced with a pack of hungry wolves, or whatever, he could safely leap off a building into a tree and climb down.  Wish I’d had a camera because it was worth taking a video of.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn less exciting news Shauna and I had a nice trip to the Smoky mountains.  We hiked and played skee ball, it was pretty much your typical Gatlinburg weekend.  We went up to Obergatlinburg ski resort and I ice skated.  I kind of wanted to try sking, but chickened out.  I went skiing when I was younger and it was horrible.  Maybe one day I’ll try it again.


I was looking through older vacation photos and made a starling discovery.  I look really different.

Here I am in 2006

Here I am in 2006

Here I am in 2015

Here I am in 2015

Posted in Barn Door Cycling, lifestyle, skating, Stories, Weight Loss | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

North American Handmade Bicycle Show

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show is taking place in Louisville Kentucky this year.  Eli pointed out that it was less then 3 hours away and we decided to go with Luke.  Here’s a blurb about the NAHBS from the website.

Showcase the talents and share ideas among the best builders of handmade bicycle frames in the world. The show was all about handmade bicycles and the people who make them. The industry contains a wide variety of builders from all walks of life, but they all have one thing in common: they all make bicycle frames by hand.

IMG_3383We made the trip on Friday, but the event is all weekend.  A round of snow had recently fallen a couple days before the event which may have cut down attendance, we had no trouble with the drive, but I heard several people talking about low attendance.  I’ve been to enough bike events to get the overall vibe of what I was seeing.  Industry professionals set up booths ranging from elaborate stage productions to a folding table and tell how cool their products are.  Almost nothing was actually for sale at this event though, the point is promoting your brand and hoping to get some exposure.

Walking around and eavesdropping revealed the true nature of the event.  Magazine journalists and prominent bloggers were being described, hunted even by nervous start-up guys hoping to drag them over and check out their latest hand made innovation.  Hair color, beard styles, number of ear holes, and sometimes nametag information was traded by the exhibitors.  “There’s Zapp, you got to get him over here,” “That chick with the platinum hair is here, she works for some mag, go up and say hello.”  Think about it, these guys mentioning your product in their article might make you a star next year.

Admiring a Moots, as if they've never seen one before.

Admiring a Moots, as if they’ve never seen one before.

Eli gets the lowdown.

Eli gets the lowdown.

Walking around and looking at the event took a few hours, but actually participating in the event, gleening knowledge from the gurus in attendance, that could take all weekend.  There were so many talented frame builders, master welders, master machinists, and just general awesome people that a person could lose themselves in a world of mitered tubes, custom drawn tubes, and tig welded titanium.

awesome finish!

awesome finish!

Don’t get me wrong, I love bikes, but I was hopefully out of place here.  I operate on the principal of “BANG FOR THE BUCK.”  I’m like, I want the cheapest bike that is good enough for me to do the kind of riding I want to do.  Beyond price and performance everything else is secondary.  I really don’t care who welded my frame, I don’t care if there are a million more like mine and I don’t really care how it looks, I bought it to ride.

This bike looks like it could break the sound barrier.

This bike looks like it could break the sound barrier.

The handmade bike scene is exactly the opposite.  Everything is custom, you develop a “personal relationship” with your frame builder since you call them once a month to see if they’ve started your bike.  You may have the only specimen of a particular bike brand in your state, hell even the country.  You have something very cool, and very expensive.  This is one of the few places on Earth where a 400 dollar hand pump that works a bit better then 29 dollar one can be celebrated as a monumental achievement.  It’s one damn fine pump!

The 400 dollar pump.

The 400 dollar pump.

IMG_3429I was really smitten with Calfee’s Manta, a road bike with maybe an inch of suspension.  I talked to a guy who had helped design the system, spec’d the spring used to make it work.  He was super cool.  The frame cost like 5000 bucks.  It was the maybe the best looking bike there, or one of the best, but 5 grand?

The show wasn’t just about bikes, there were several component manufacturers present, Mavic, Campagnolo, Shimano just to name some big ones.  Tires were well represented with Continental, Schwalbe, and Challenge.

If you are a bike nerd then you will undoubtedly find something at the North American Handmade Bike Show to get excited about.  Next year if the show is in your neck of the woods than I would recommend checking it out.

THe most unique bike at the show.  Probably would suck to ride, but you'd turn some heads.

THe most unique bike at the show. Probably would suck to ride, but you’d turn some heads.



Posted in Barn Door Cycling, Bikes and components, lifestyle, Reviews, technology (geek) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Tour is Won on the Alpe Review

51VWp-csqvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The first named climb from bicycle racing I ever learned was Alpe D’Huez.  It’s the most famous bicycle climb in the world.  The Tour is Won on the Alpe is a book by some foreign guy about the climb and it’s place in the Tour de France.  ( Ed. Note:  While the “foreign guy is in fact foreign to the United States where this review is being written, he’s actually French which means he’s not foreign to the location where the book takes place.)  The book is 175 pages along with a generous amount of color photographs and a plethora of data in an appendix.  It’s important to note in the interest of impropriety that I did not receive a free review copy from the publishers but instead purchased this at Goodwill for a dollar.

The Alpe d’ Huez is a huge climb, 8.6 miles at 8.1 percent grade.  It’s featured very frequently in the Tour de France and when it is it’s usually the most important stage in the race.  This is one of those climbs where half a million people gather to form a human tunnel and go literally insane as the riders climb up the 21 switchbacks.  It’s easily the most exciting part of the Tour de France.  In fact if they one day just came up with a format where the riders climbed up human tunnels for 21 days in a row the Tour would get better ratings.

So the foreign guy’s book is structured very logically, the first chapter details how the ski-resort village of L’Alpe d”Huez finagled the Tour de France into coming up the mountain and taking a rest day in his resort.  After that it’s a chapter for every year that the Tour came through, starting in 1952 and ending in 2006.  Each chapter is a 5-7 pages long and covers the primary movers and shakers of that year’s tour with a specific coverage of the climb to L’Alpe D’Huez.

The book is awesome bathroom reading.  The short chapters are almost the perfect length for a visit to the restroom.  The book reads like a rapid fire history of the Tour de France.  While I enjoyed reading it I don’t feel like I got much out of it, especially the sections from the 70s and 80s where the names like Beat Breu, Hennie Kuiper and Joaquim Agostinho didn’t mean a thing too me. I’ve got some more background knowledge on the Tour’s of this era now thanks to the book, but I don’t think it made a lasting impression on me.

thelook-med2The author includes coverage of doping, which there is a lot of.   The book ends in 2006 with the winning and subsequent striping of the tour title by Floyd Landis.  Lance is on the cover and his exploits,  like in 2001 giving Ullrich “the look” are probably the reason this book was written or at least sold in America.  The author doesn’t dust Armstrong’s accusers under the rug, but gives ample coverage to his detractors.   I was surprised by doping violations early in the book (70s-80s) that would result in a rider being penalized by 10 minutes and fined 50 francs or something.  It’s not surprising to see how cycling developed into the freak show that it became.  The organizers wanted more spectacle and exciting racing, if that came from doping then so be it.

The book is well written but feels a bit, “flowery.” The foreign guy I’ve mentioned, the one who wrote this book, he’s French, and he’s a cycling journalist, and it’s a safe bet that he’s fanatical about the Tour.  He describes events with colorful metaphors and slightly melodramatic language.  Personally I liked it, but maybe someone else might find it too much.

This book is available in paperback for 17 dollars from amazon.com new, but can be purchased used for a few bucks.  It’s well worth the used price for the cycling history but I prefer a more in depth look a smaller era or even a single rider.  I read this over the course of a couple weeks usually reading a chapter every morning and every night.  It’s not the best cycling book I’ve read, but a great overview of modern tour history and well worth hunting down on ebay, you know for bathroom breaks.

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