Monday, December 28, 2009

oh no! fixed gear bad now

Last week Aaron forwarded me an article about the detriments of fixed gear cycling. Using purely anecdotal evidence, the piece proves that I've been riding the wrong bike for the last three years. Oh crap salad.

The author claims that "on a fixie, the pedals are always spinning in perfect circles at very high speeds no matter how sloppy or inefficient your stroke is."  After a curcuriory glance of my bicycle, I was able to discern that my pedals are connected to the end of a solid stick of aluminum. This aluminum arm rotates around a fixed point, and much like a compass, draws a circle in the air. So unless the crank arms changed their length while pedaling, (which seems highly unlikely for a big chunk of metal,) I would agree that my pedals always spin in a perfect circle. But since fixed gears are apparently the only type of bicycle that forces a rider to pedal in this 'perfect circle,' I can only assume that the latest road bikes are outfitted with rubber cranks that allow the rider to vary the distance of the pedal from the bb, thus rewarding the sloppy pedaler with an 'oval,' or the much maligned 'squares' in his pedal stroke. I wonder if my pedal stroke would improve if I bought some of these magic cranks for my fixed gear. Hmmm...

The writer's next point really shocked me "(on a road bike) At the very least, you’ll have the experience of pushing down and, to some extent, controlling the movement throughout the pedal circle. On a fixed gear, the bike is literally doing all the work for you."

Alack! I've wasted three years riding a bike that does all the work for me! I might as well have been on a motorcycle. All this time, I thought that I was getting faster, or at least getting a workout. But apparently all my sore muscles were an illusion, because while I ride my legs have not been "required to act, they are really only required to react." 

(Notice the relaxed look on my face as my bicycle does all the work for me on the climb up Canton Ave. My calf muscle puts on a fine show of pretending to strain itself as it 'reacts.' Now I feel bad for all those poor schmucks on road bikes that had to do all the pedaling themselves.)

If in fact fixed gears "do all the work" for the rider, (in the absence of leg power, I'm guessing that they are powered by pixie dust and devil's farts,) the world's transportation issues have been solved.

As I looked back through the article, I realized that the magic cranks I imagined were not a myth. They do exist, and their name is Power Cranks! We must ignore the fact that at $899 for the base level crank, one could buy a complete fixed gear bicycle, because the cranks seem to be the best training tool ever invented. I suppose I could sell my fixed gear and tape some power cranks to my feet while I do the cabbage patch all around the house.

I do agree with the author's conclusion:
"Just like with anything in cycling, skills are extremely specific. If you plan on racing on a fixed gear then it makes sense to train on one. If you plan on racing on the road, train on your road bike or, even better, do you winter base on PowerCranks, teaching your muscles to fire in absolute perfection and coordination, and then switch to your ride bike just a few weeks before race season."
People should train on the equipment they race on. That's why if a road cyclist races with normal cranks, they should train with some super specialized power cranks. In short, don't ride a fixed gear because you are not going to race it, but definitely ride power cranks (but don't worry that you are not going to race them.) It really makes perfect sense.

Finally, the piece cations the "serious cyclist" to "Save the fixie for the high school kids riding in tight jeans." 
I'm not in high school and I ride in tight corduroy. Damn. I really need to get rid of that fixed gear if I want to be serious about my cycling.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

out of gas

I put in 3.5 hours on the fixed gear yesterday. That is good. But I completely ran out of energy at 2.75 hours. That is not so good.

I left my house early in the late morning and rode the 9 miles out to Latrobe to hit some roads with Gregg. We headed out of town and onto some twisty and slushy back roads. The ride was nice, but I was dragging the whole time. My legs felt a little better after some cliff bar consumption, but I was still tired.

After Gregg and I parted ways, I headed back to Greensburg. Before long I totally lost it. I was so tired that I was stopping in the middle of the road and track standing before continuing to slowly pedal onward. After I finally made it home, I ate two bowls of cereal and promptly fell asleep on the couch. I guess I need to eat more when I ride in below freezing temps. Whoops.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

is it spring yet?

Day 2 of riding in the white fluffy stuff. Yesterday Eric and I went down to Apollo and rode/hiked around in the stuff for a few hours. I have a great video of him pushing his bike up a hill (it was crazy exciting!), but my phone won't give it to my computer. What a scrooge.

Time to get out on a road ride. Derry area here I come.

Monday, December 21, 2009

frozen precip on the specip

On Saturday I planned to attempt the last dry ride of the season on Laurel Mountain. There were a few people lined up to come with, (I woln't mention any names Don and Aaron,) but on Friday night the weatherman issued an urgent warning that "A paralyzing winter storm is rolling in to paralyze the Northeast. With snow." Alack! Snow! With the mere mention of the word, the 'others' were out. But I totally understand. Snow can be absolutely terrifying:

Scared yet?

Gregg and I decided that we would still go, and since PennDot was on a donut break until noon, the drive to the mountain took twice as long as normal. We parked near the base and started the ride up.

I was on a rigid SS 29er, and Gregg was on a full suspension 26 with a tripple. Both were equally useless in the snow. We pushed up to the top of the mountain, thinking that maybe it would be more ridable on top where the ground was flat. Unfortunately, as we ascended the mountain, the snow became deeper. Judging by the accumulation on the brim of my hat, snow was still falling at about a half inch an hour, and there was close to ten inches on the summit. After an hour and a half of hiking, and faced with the prospect of walking for the rest of the day, we decided to turn back.

The ride down was super fun and crash filled. I declared "Last one to the bottom buys Montana a strudel!" and the race was on. For most of the slippery bomb down the mountain I led, but when we hit the road at the bottom Gregg sprinted away and beat me to the Grumbler. Dejected, I tried to come to terms with buying myself a strudel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

the conglomerate's triumphant return

Finals week has finally come to a close, and I once again have enough time to blow my nose and cook an omelet. It's extremely comforting that I will not have to use my brain for the next month, and I'll be back in the blog world on a regular basis. Let the mindless mountain cycling commence!

For the past few days, I've been ripping around on the Flouresent Fixed Death Machine of Doom, trying not to break myself:

Riding fixed off road is tricky. It's a big mish mash of spinning, skidding and slamming pedals into rocks. (It's put the final nail in my ailing Candies.)

Unfortunately, my front chain ring is so worn that I drop my chain almost every time I ride down a hill. With a fixed gear only running a front brake, that gets old fast. So until I can get a new chain ring, the Florescent Death Machine of Doom (catchy name haint it?) is going to have to be coastable.

I'm going to save the Punk Bike write up for a rainy day, because at this point its already old news, and letting it age a little more will make it taste so much better.

Time to trundle away to the outsides! Hurrah!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Punk Bike was a blast yesterday. My banana suit led me to a decisive victory in the 'race', and good times were had by all .

More words after I unearth myself from a mountain of semester ending work.

For now, a video will have to do:

Monday, November 30, 2009

first fixed dirty dozen

"a) you're retarded

b) you're crazy
c) you're insane
dd on fixed has never been done.
you'd need at least a 39x27, or maybe a 34x20 could do it."

"Your knees will explode and shower surrounding riders with fiery bone fragments"

"It could be done on a single speed with some fairly low gearing (low enough to get up canton). Staying with the group in between hills would be somewhat hard. 
Fixed is out. No way would that work!"

(two direct quotes and one paraphrase. I will not reveal which is which)

The Dirty Dozen has been held for 25 years without anyone completing it on a single speed or fixed gear. And with good reason. But I'm young and stupid, and someone was going to be the first to do it eventually, so I decided to take a stab at it.  

I hatched the plan to ride the Dirty Dozen on a fixed gear about a month ago. I figured (correctly) that if I picked the right gear (39X20), the hills would suck, and the flats and downhills would suck even more.

I knew riding 60ish miles in such a small gear was going to be hard, and when Don, Aaron, and I rode over to the Washington Blvd. Oval, my suspicions were confirmed. They were easily rolling away from me while I was spinning my brains out.  

We arrived at the oval and registered, then proceeded to stand around in the cold for almost two hours 180 as riders trickled in and got suited up. The whole time I was worried more about being dropped between the hills than I was about actually getting up them. 
(photo cred Fred Jordan)
(The day before the race I decided to throw a yellow wheel on my bike to keep it nice and low-key)

Eventually everyone registered, and we grouped up and prepared to head out. 
(Rob Lochner)

To my delight, the pace to the first hill was completely relaxed. I chatted with a few people on the way over, and was asked for the first of 180 times that day "What gear are ya runnin?" Eventually we hit the base Center Ave., and I took it easy on the way up. It didn't feel to hard, and before I knew it, the first climb was over. Only 12 more to go.

I have never felt comfortable taking my feet off the pedals and fixed gear coasting down big hills. So when we hit the first big descent of the day, I decided to pedal it. That was the dumbest decision I've ever made. I was spinning so fast my back wheel was skipping on the pavement. My legs felt like noodles as riders streamed past me. Finally it ended, and everybody bunched back up.

So one yelped in place of Chew's whistle to signify the start of the race up Ravine St. I swung wide into some gravel, and started pounding up the hill. I had managed to start fairly near the front, so before long I saw Tim off in the distance. I sprinted up to and passed him, and he countered and passed me back. Before the finish of the hill I put in another sprint, and beat him to the top. That was my little victory for the day (I think I was in the top ten.) 

We rolled across some flat, and I let my feet dangle while Gunnar gave me a little push. Another big downhill was coming up, and there was no way in hells I was going to try to spin again, so I tucked my feet onto my seat stays and held on. 

The downhill led immediately into the climb up Berryhill. For the 179 riders that could coast, the goal was to carry as much speed as possible into the hill. For me, the goal was to stay upright. I couldn't get clipped back in at any speed above 8mph, so I had to keep my feet out for the first part of the climb, then quickly pull them back in when the grade had slowed me down enough.

I got about 1/5th of the way up the hill before I captured both pedals, and was able to start mashing up. It got really steep at one point, and I passed a group of walking riders who had apparently hit the climb in too hard of a gear and been unable to shift down. The irony was killing me. 

The next few hill didn't stick out in my mind, but at the top, we stopped for food. I grabbed a couple oatmeal cookies and filled my non-coffee bottle with iced tea before heading out. 

When we hit Logan, I almost cried as I looked up it and saw how steep and long it was, but I got myself together. Two years ago when I rode my fixed gear (in a 39X15) up Laural ridge from Greensburg, PA to Johnstown, I realized that every time I turned the cranks over, I was a meter closer to the top. That little realization has been super helpful on spirit crushing hills, because when I break it down to one revolution of the cranks at a time, the climb does not seem so bad. I topped out on Logan with a nice view of the city, and the group headed over to Rialto.

The points leaders headed down the hill first to race up, followed by the womens field, and then the rest of us poor schmucks. Rialto was another steep one, but it was short. Oddly, I thought it looked steeper in the down hill direction than it did riding up. After everyone had attempted the hill, we started the longish roll over to Suffolk.

Suffolk was hard. It started out steep, became steeper, then shot skyward one more time on  rough cobbles.
(los fotos por Roberto Lochner)

On the top we stopped again to fill our bellies (some more than others) with crap from the expired food store.

We were half way done with the ride, and my legs were still feeling pretty fresh. I stuffed a couple hoho's and a banana in my pockets, put my feet up, and rolled down into the city. We crossed the Roberto Clemete bridge, and as soon as we were on the other side, someone was almost creamed by a ducky tour full of screaming children. Very nice.
(The group stops at a red light while I explaining what gear I'm running for the 93rd time that day)

The next climb up the top of Mount Washington was similar to Suffolk. Steep, Steeper, Cobblestones. The group stopped for a photo, then headed to the infamous Canton Ave.

By that point in the day, people were really starting to slow down. On the hill that led to Canton, the group was going so slow it was becoming a challenge for me to stay upright. In a granny ring, or a 39X27, it probably felt great to slowly spin up the hill. But in my much bigger gear, to go the same speed as the rest of the group I had to practically trackstand between each pedal stroke. To make matters worse, the roads started to narrow, leaving no room to pass.

Finnnaly we hit Canton Ave., which is billed as the steepest legal road in the world. The first few feet of the climb are on cement, but it quickly turns to rough cobbles. Most people get moving fast on the cement, then hit the cobbles and let their back tire fly up into the air. They are immediately robbed of all their momentum, and they topple over and slid down the hill. The carnage is mildly entertaining. I charged at the hill as soon as it was in sight, but was pushed to the left by another rider and had to dismount.

I walked down to the bottom and waited for the stream of sprinting, falling, and sliding riders to thin. I dropped a few psi from my back tire, then mounted up for another attempt. This time I stayed to the right and stuck out my tongue in an effort to produce more power. Slowly, one painful turn of the pedals at a time, I neared the top. Everyone at the top of the hill was going nuts. Then at last I made it and rolled across the top.
I shuffled back over to the crowd to join in cheering for the rest of the people who were attempting to make the hill.

On the way to the next hill, someone asked me if I had cleared Canton. "Sure did" I replied. "Ok," he said "Then I can tell you this. When I saw you at the start I thought there was no way in hell you would make these hills." I grinned. Then he asked what gear I was running.

We hit the next hill and people almost came to a complete stop.  The road was covered in little sections of pea gravel and cobblestone, so the traction was still tricky, and people were just crawling up the thing. I rode next to Don most of the way up the hill, and when we were almost at the top, someone suddenly swerved in front of us and fell off their bike. I darted to the left and made it around the traffic, but Don went right and was forced to dismount. I was extremely thankful that I did not have to get off my bike and fail the hill.

I put my feet up again and coasted down hill, and we soon hit the the sprint through Liberty tubes. I spun as fast as I could, but absolutely everyone passed me in those tunnels. It felt like it took me days to pop out on the other side. When I finnanly exited the tunnels I was next to a guy in a blue wind breaker. He asked how the hills were. "Eh, not too bad" I replied. He smacked his back side and a mechanical voice announced "that was easy" "huh?" I said. And he smacked his backside again "that was easy" "What?" I was so tired and confused. "I have an easy button in my pocket!" he exclaimed. I smiled and laughed.

We were almost to Welsh Way when my hub started to make a horrible popping grinding noise. I was a little worried, but there was nothing to be done about it, so I rode on.

Welsh was steep, but not difficult compared to the other hills. We topped out in a little muddy parking lot, and I yelled "Dirt!" gleefully when I rolled in. Is it mountain bike season yet?

Elenore was the last hard hill of the day. Traffic was heavy on the hill, and the whole time I was fervently hoping that no one would fall in front of me. Fortunately, there were no accidents and I was able to finish the hill.

The final miles of the day were a road race across flat ground to the final hill. Rob offered to push me for a while across the flat, and I was more than happy to accept.

In the last minutes of sunlight, we hit the 13th hill of the day.
The last kicker to the finish was steep, but it did not matter. I topped out, and was done. (Well almost done. We still had a six mile ride in the dark back to Aaron's.)

And with that, I was the first person in 25 years to finish the Dirty Dozen on a fixed gear. By all accounts, it was:
a) retarded
b) crazy
c) and insane

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

preparing the thunder

Three days until dirty dozen time. I can not freaking wait.

With the big day in the paved hills so close at hand, yesterday I rode down to Probikes to put the finishing touches on the Poo Poo Thunder II.

I have the road tires mounted up, but sadly I could only use one of my checkered wheels. The front wheel had no braking surface, and while that never bothered me during cross races, I'm thinking that the ability to stop will be nice in the city. I might still throw a V brake on the front, but otherwise, the Thunder is ready for fixed gear domination:

From Drop Box
Wide bars, Ergons, huge bar ends, and half a roll of hokey tape. Whats not to love? I'm hoping that the massive amounts of leverage I get from this set up will delay the inevitable fatigue of my upper body.

From Drop Box
The brand new 20t cog is screwed on and the 39X20 feels easy spinning around my house. I doubt it will feel easy after a couple soul crushing hills.

But immeasurably more important than the gear ratio is the new chain:

From Drop Box
Tim has one of these beasts on his commuter, and he assured me that it was "SUPER freakin BOMBER!" I needed an 1/8" chain anyway, and with an endorsement like that, how could I resist? So even though it weighs over a pound, I exclaimed "Well what the hells I say!" and installed the 1/2" Extreme Duty BMX chain. If the Dirty Dozen isn't extreme duty, I'm not sure what is.

For comparisons sake, my dainty 8 speed chain next to the new hunk of linked steel:

From Drop Box
I'll admit that I've only broken one SS chain in my riding life, but pedaling a motorcycle chain should trick my scrawny legs into thinking they are more powerful than they actually are.

I know I should probably just sleep for the next few days, but I think I'm going to go run a Turkey day 5k tomorrow. After 6 run-free months I'm curious to see if my legs are still capable of doing something other than pedaling circles.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bruceton Mills CX 2009

The Bruceton Mills Cross' was in the middle of no where, but it was more somewhere than where I originally went. I crossed the top of some lonely mountain, drove past Quebec run, and entered WV. There was a house with arrows on it and I did stopped to check out the mail box, but I did not see any signs proclaiming "Race Here!," so I continued to Grumble on. I drove down a rocky dirt road, over to a church, a couple miles to the right of the church, then a couple miles to the left. When I reentered PA, I knew I had gone to far, so I backtracked up the rocky road of ice cream.

Before long, I saw the Shogren bus rolling down the hill in the opposite direction, so I swung the Grumbler around and followed them. They went to the house where I had originally stopped to look for a sign denoting a bicycle race. There was in fact a sign, but it was not visible from the direction I drove in. Oi.

The race started at the bottom of a steep gravel hill, but the rest of the course was smooth and short grass. The traction was awesome, so I could really rail the tight turns without worrying about slipping (but I did have to worry about clipping a pedal.)

15 minutes later than scheduled, I lined up next to Stephen Rowand, who had beaten me last race at Marilla. We were given a quick 'go', and I and stuttered trying to get my big gear turning through the rocks. I was one of the last ones to get to the top of the hill, but after a few minutes, Steve and I got off the front and started to build up a little lead. For the better part of two laps we traded places, I would pass him on the open flat sections, and he would come back when we hit the tight spots.

From Drop Box
On the third lap I decided to make a run for it. I got on the gas on one of the flat sections, and did not let up for the remaining five laps. I just kept my head down and focused on turning the cranks.

From Drop Box
Before long, I had a decent gap on Steve, but I really, really wanted to win a race, so I kept hammering. When I crossed the finish line, I was about 50 feet away from lapping the 3rd and 4th place single speeders. I'm quite pleased with that.

After crossing the line I waited for Justin, who had just completed and enjoyed his first bicycle race. I stumbled over to the garage and loaded up on cornbread, chili, and hot chocolate in an attempt to recover before the A race. We stood around ringing cow bells and watching Stick win the B race in cuffed jeans before heading back to the grumbler for warm clothes.

Soon enough, it was time to race again. After I making some coffee, I felt fresh, so I rolled happily down to the start line. The A field was small, but with Gunnar, Gerry Pflug, and others, it was going to be a plenty fast race.

Again I had trouble getting my 39x17 started on the hill, and I immediately found myself in dead last with Stick. I hung near the back for the first lap, but on the second I decided to go for it.

From Drop Box
I sprinted across the flat section at the bottom of the course, and caught and passed the large group that Gunnar was leading. Gerry was still up front, but to my surprise, I was closing the gap on him when we hit the hill on the back side of the course.

(photo cred be bestowed upon the rob lochner)

A few seconds later, we hit the twisty section again, and Gunnar decided to crush my dreams. He went flying by, and hooked up with Gerry, and they immediately started pulling away from me. At that point, riding two races fixed was starting to catch up with my legs, but I held onto third for a while longer.

On the next lap, I hit an off camber turn heard a "fwoosh!" and my back tire went soft. Knowing I had burped it, I silently swore, but decided to keep riding until the tire pulled off the rim or went completely flat. Every time I hit a bump, or did a hard turn, a little more air leaked out. I rode it for three more laps and stayed in 3rd, but at the 40 minute mark, I had to either stop or risk a spectacular crash. Betsy offered to let me use her bike, but the pedals were wrong, so she ran off and grabbed Justin's cross check for me. I jumped back on the course, but I was almost in last by that point. I decided just to concentrate on finishing the race.

I don't know if I could have held onto third for the remainder of the race, but if I wouldn't have flatted I would have tried like hell to. The Bruceton Mills race made me realize that I have the speed to hang with the fast guys, but I don't yet have the endurance to go all out for two races (racing the fixed gear probably didn't help.) Next year I'm going to run a free wheel and try to be competitive.

Gerry did end up beating Gunnar, and was rewarded with an absurdly large trophy. I ended up as the 3rd SS for the series, and was given a slightly smaller trophy for my SS win earlier in the day. I'm pretty sure that will be the last cross race for me this year, but with five days to go, the Dirty Dozen is looming.

Cross' next year looks like its going to be pretty outstanding with JR's 8 race Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association series.  


Thursday, November 19, 2009

the misty mountain of despair

Four days of near perfect weather, and when I finnally have time to do a long ride, I'm greeted with this:

(If you're from W. PA, you may have mistaken this for a picture of the sky, but its actually the first result for 'grey' in google images. If you hail from some sunnier part of the world, this is what Western PA generally looks like from October to August)

I checked the weather, and rain was predicted all day. After considering my situation while I drank some cereal and ate my coffee, I decided to ride anyway.

It was about 45 degrees and grey when I left Greensburg, so as expected, the mountain top was grayer, five degrees colder, and shrouded in fog. I pulled on all the wool I had at my disposal, and headed off into the mist.

I took to loop trail, and tried to take it easy through the giant puddles in an effort to stay semi dry. My tactic work for seven minutes, at which point it started to drizzle. Abruptly, the drizzle turned into a down pour, and I was thoroughly soaked. I no longer bothered to avoid the puddles.

I rode the length of the mountain across Black Bear Tr. and down Hobble Bush. After climbing up Fish Run, I rolled onto the fire road and headed for the turn pike. The rain had slowed, and at that point I thought I had a chance of making it to Hidden Valley.

From Drop Box
I made it to the turnpike cut, and rolled down to the bridge that crosses the road. It was noticeably colder on top of that ridge.

On the other side of the bridge, I remounted my cycle and started climbing up the treeless snowmobile trail. I thought to myself, "Well at least it isn't raining while I'm out in the open." Literally 30 seconds later, it started to pour again. The wind picked up, and it felt like the temperature dropped ten degrees. The Laural Mountain side of the turnpike was cold, but the Hidden Valley side was absolutely brutal. I plugged along for fifteen more minutes, but when the rain showed no sign of stopping, and my drenched feet ceased to have much feeling, I decided to turn back.

I really just couldn't stomach riding another 25 miles of this:

From Drop Box
(Those are not my footprints. Apparently there was some other idiot trudging about in the wilderness.)

I recrossed the turnpike, and realized that I had at least another hour of riding before I could sit inside the nice warm Grumbler.

From Drop Box
Why must it keep raining?! Bwaaa

I pedaled back to the single track just as fast as I could, thinking that somehow a small trail would be warmer than a wide road. In retrospect, I have no idea what made me think that. When I finally got back onto Fish Run I hastily changed into some dry socks and pulled on some warm gloves. In about five minutes my dry socks were as wet as my wet socks.

I decided to ride back to the car on single track, thinking that pounding over a few miles of rock gardens would revive the feeling in my feet. Again, I have no idea where that logic came from. I rode part of Black Bear again, but when I realized that the pools of water on the trail were cooling my feet exponentially more than the rocks were warming them, I rolled back onto the fire road.

I turned off onto Summit Trail, and took it back to the parking lot, where I was greeted by three chickens:

From Drop Box

Overall, it was a freezing, wet, and miserable 3 hour ride. But that doesn't mean that I didn't love every second of it.

Of course, when I returned to Greensburg, it was sunny:

From Drop Box
Screw you November.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Its been 50 degrees and sunny for the past four days, and I have not been able to do anything more than ride around town. But some stuff came up that was much more important than riding bicycle, so I got a few days off.

Assuming that its still nice tomorrow, I'm going to get an early start and head up to the mountain for a nice long ride. I'll start at Laurel Mountain Ski Resort, pound my way through 10ish miles of rock gardens, then roll on some fire roads to take me over to Hidden Valley. Once I hit Hidden Valley I'll either ride down 31 and take the trails back up, or just ride some of the single track around the resort. I have not ridden those trails since I lived up there over the summer. I do miss them so.  

Last time I did the ride (before the Stoopid 50 in June.) I stayed on the fire roads and it took me about 4 hours. The route I have laid out in me little head should be about half rocky single track and half fire road. I'm guessing it will be about a 6 hour trip if I ride down 31, 5 hours if I don't. Unfortunately, my watch, though a very snazzy color, does not count hours in stopwatch mode. I'd love to take my electric fly swatter and repeatedly slap the person that thought that was a good idea. A stopwatch that only counts to 60 minutes is figgin retarded. So I might not know how many hours it takes me, because a few watch programmers were complete morons.

After I return from the mountain I'm heading out to Boyce Park to take the lady bear on her third mountain cycle ride (and now she can't back out because its posted on the interwebs for all to see.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

to the mountain

I rode home from class at 9:30 on Wednesday night and packed up the Grumbler for a trip to the mountain. I figured that if I slept on the mountain, I would be able to wake up early enough to squeeze a ride in before work at 10:00 in the AM.

At 11:00 I arrived on the mountain top and pulled the Grumbler into an out of the way parking lot, then crawled in the back and went to bed. I soon discovered that the grumbler was about 8 inches to short for me to stretch out in, and spent the remainder of the night vainly trying to extend the length of the vehicle by pushing on the hatch. Strangely, jets flying overhead were the only noises I heard all night.

When my alarm beeped at 6:00, I expected to emerge from my sleeping bag into a smiling sunny world that was ready for riding.

It was still dark. Apparently it doesn't get light until 7. Who knew.

I started boiling some water to make coffee and ran around the parking lot to try to get warm.

From Drop Box water

The sun finally rose, and I prepared myself to ride. It's no Westfalia, but the grumbler doesn't make a bad bed:
From Drop Box

I rode over to the interminably rocky Wolf Rocks trail to do a quick loop. The temperatures were in the mid 30's, but the sun was out so it was actually comfortable when moving. I headed onto Hobblebush and followed the winding path down the mountain through a damp pine grove.

When I turned onto Fish Run, I was hit with a debilitating coffee-induced call of nature. Wiping with dry leaves makes a man realize how much he actually needs in the world. I reworked this little boulder field about four times before I could make it look like I knew what I was doing:

Oh I do love me rocks.

I got about 90 minutes of lovely riding in before I had to head out, so sleeping on the mountain was definitely worth it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

rampage season

I must breath a sigh of relief, for it is finally Rampage season. Rampage season is the time of the year when I get sick of flatting a race tire every single damned ride, and install a large and thickly cased Rampage on the back of my bicycle. And what does a Montana do during Rampage season? I'll show you what he does: (watch the whole thing. I swear its worth it.)

Ha! I just stole 66 seconds of your life.

Unless of course you skipped the video, and in that case the jokes on me. Anyway, the above video faithfully shows what it feels like to almost clear an obsticle on a SS, only to realize at the last second that the gear is too high, and the speed too slow. And leaves are slippery. Before anyone asks, yes, I do do think that orange and purple match.

Self shot videos are a new addition to the knobby conglomerate, and they may become more prevalent on the blog because they require very little effort and are much more practical than self shot riding photos. (Anybody wana hook a brotha up with a helmet cam?)

Its furry animal killing season in PA, and on my way to the trailhead in Apollo a sign reminded me that I was about to enter the dangerzone.

"Hunters Welcome!"

The sign itself was not that unusual, but its placement was. It was hung on the wall of the local six pack shop. Guns, cheap beer, and an itchy trigger finger. What a combination.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Yesterday I rode a carbon fiber bike with gears, drop bars, and skinny tires. And I liked it.

I met up with Aaron, Rob, and Ted in the morning for a ride around Pittsburgh and over to some of the Dirty Dozen hills. Aaron insisted that I ride his cross bike and leave the poo poo thunder in the bowels of the grumbler. And I did not argue.

We rode out of where ever Aaron lives, made a right to go along the river trail so that Rob and Ted could mow down an unsuspecting Steeler fan, then walked up some stairs and turned around. After that, I ceased to have any idea where we were. So I won't even bother trying to describe it.

After about 20 miles, we headed back into the city and hit Canton Ave. It's kinda steep:

Rob and Aaron made it up on the first try, but had to give it 3 attempts before I made it. Climbing on the hoods the first two times, I pulled the front wheel off the cobbles and lost traction. The third time I stayed in the drops and was able to keep the wheels planted and clear the hill.

Since I plan on doing the dirty dozen on my fixed gear, I wanted to climb the hill in the highest gear I could. The first time I made it in a 48x24, then I went back to the bottom and climbed it again in a 48x23. It was tricky, but definitely not impossible.

After stopping at a gas station for iced tea and candy, we rode over to Elanor st/ave./blvd/paved thoroughfare. Elanor was a lot longer and Canton, and close to as steep. It was much harder. My legs hurt and I was out of breath at the top of that one. I still was able to climb most of the hill in a 48x23, but I shifted down to the 48x26 a few times to rest.

We were going to ride one more hill, but when we sprinted across the hot metal bridge Aaron let out a wail that sounded like a car horn. BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Text does that sound no justice.

He cramped (if the noise was any indication of the severity of the cramp, he cramped real bad), and we all agreed that we had ridden enough any way. We parted ways and headed for home.

With flat bars and bar ends on the thunder, I should not have a problem keeping the front rubber planted on the road. I think my initial instinct to use a 39x20 gear was pretty close, and I might be ok with a 39x19. I'll have to think on it. But in any case, a fixed Dirty Dozen is a go.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Marilla cross 09 report

I fired up the grumbler and ripped out to the lady bears house about 45 minutes later than I had originally intended. My late wake up left me 90 minutes to travel from Latrobe, PA to Marilla Park before the SS race started. I was checking my watch every few minutes as we rolled down the hi-way.

We finally arrived in the park at 9:20, with the race start scheduled for 9:30. I pulled my bike out of the grumbler's belly, bolted on the wheel and sprinted over to the registration. After sloppily filling out the paper work and paying my fee, I sprinted back and pulled my chamois and other clothes on (that's a poorly worded phrase. I had clothes on in the first place. I did not register naked.) With three minutes left to race time, I realized I had forgotten pins to attach my number to my jersey, so I went back to the reg pavilion and asked one of the ladies to stick two pins on. I love being late to shit.

(Rob Lochner faceboobs photo)
I lined up next to Don on his brand spankin' new (not really) SS el mariachi, and before I knew it, we were off. I immeadiatly dropped to the mid/ back of the pack as I was hit with how rough the course was. Roots and bumps were everywhere. Fortunately, I had been able to set up some Maxxis Raze's tubless on my deep v's a few days before, so I didn't have to worry about flatting, but the fact remained that I was the one of the only single speeders on a cross bike. At this point in the day the course was dry, and I definitely feel like a fat tires had an advantage.

Around the second lap, I started to get into the grove, and moved up to second. I was clearing the big steep climb (see later pictures) and the sand pit without having to get off my bike. Steve Rowand had a nice gap on me, but I was working to close it for a few laps. Before long my I stopped chasing Steve, and started running from Don. He had moved into third, and every time we hit a section that really slowed me down in the 39X17, he was closing in on his mountain bike. I would open the gap back up on the flat section, and I did manage to hold him off for the rest of the race.

After our race, the rain started to come down. At the start of race #2 it looked like the course was just damp, but before long, it turned into a slippery mess. Tess, Don, and I stood at the top of the big slippery climb and heckled riders that had crashed:

(all pictures from here on stolen from JR. Go here and see more)

I was genuinely excited to go race in the mud, and by the time the A race started, it was getting cold and miserable outside. Magnifico.

I lined up in the cozy middle of the pack, and off we went again. This time I was more focused on the amount of mud that was being sprayed into my eyes than I was on the roots. We hit the spiral of death (I can't find pictures of it. Use your imagination.) and a ton of guys got off to run through the mud. I stayed on my bike, and actually leaned against someone who was running for the duration of the spiral.

We wound around the off camber twists and turns of the course and hit the big slippery downhill before the big slippery climb. I locked my back wheel and started skidding down. Suddenly Rob Loehr blew by dressed in a cowboy outfit, and we collided in the slippery mess. Somehow, our shoes managed to get tangled up, and the top strap of my shoe sheared off. Awesome frigging design Northwave.

I ran up the hill, but I was forced to ride the remaining 55 minutes of the race with a left shoe that wanted to fall off my foot. Trying to ride a fixed gear through sloppy mud without a functional brake makes a man understand the importance of functional footwear.

(If you squint real hard you can see the missing shoe strap)

I feel like at some point in the race, the course reached terminal muddiness, the point when the soil had no more mud to give. At that time I believe that the traction actually became better, but I may have just been delusional.

When the Pflug and Mike Mihalik lapped me, I was actually a little happy. It meant one less lap in the mud. Hurray! Kind of. Pushing a big gear through that mud gets tiring, but to be honest, I was just pissed about my shoe. I mean how does one break a damn shoe?

I let Rob Lochner go by me in the last quarter mile of the race, but with a few hundred feet left, I decided I couldn't let him beat me. I put in a quick sprint and solidified a 13th out of 24. Only one off the middle. Nice.

I'm going to call the day a rip roaring success for the conglomerate. I took a second place in the SS, did not crash in the muddy A race, rode my fixed gear both times, ate garlic butter wings between races, and had oodles of fun cheering and ringing some cowbells. Marilla Cross' gets four skogkatts, out of four.

(yes. that was unnesisary. but I really wanted to use the skogkatts. click make big)

JR has a nice report on iplayoutside in which he manages to remember everything that happened in every race (I referred to his report when writing mine. He knows what happened in my race better than I do. Crazy.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marilla cross pre-report

Marilla Cross' was wet, sloppy, and technical (for a cross race) and I broke my shoe. I was 2nd in the SS, mid/back of the the A class, and won the bad ass (their words, not mine) award for riding fixed in two races. The spectators were fugging awesome and there were copious amounts cowbell ringing and heckling. I'm not going to have time to write up a report today, so while you wait for the gold that flows from my keyboard, check out JR's excellent photos.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the conglomerate is born

My previous title thinggy was a from the first race of this season at Big Bear, and a wee bit dated. I've since retired the rigid fork, triathlon shorts with a token chamois, and my slightly to large green helmet (and a little saddle bag I sewed that proceeded to explode on me mid-race.)

The blog has been retitled the 'knobby meats racing conglomerate' because 'racing conglomerate' sounds roughly 237% more awesome than 'knobby meats' by itself. The meats may not actually be a conglomerate, and I may have had to google a conglomerate to find out exactly what it is, but since this is the interwebs, I can call it what ever the hell I want. As an added bonus, the blog now has a tough sounding acronym thats only one letter off the name of the maker of obnoxiously colored bicycle chains. Nice.

The forecast looks like rain on Friday and Saturday. I'm really hoping that it's lots and lots of rain. I need a soggy course for Marilla 'cross Saturday morning, because that's the only time that a may have an advantage on my fixed gear (my back brake never stops working and shifting never gets gunked up.)

Hopefully I'll be able to get down to the purtiest shop in the world later today and pick up some new tires.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

pounds of cake

"Hi. I'll have a vente non fat latte with whipped cream, and is that yogurt parfait non fat?"

"No its just regular yogurt."

"Ehhhh....Do you have any non fat yogurt?"

"No, I'm sorry we just have regular."

"No non fat...ok, well I'll take a pound cake instead!"


On what planet is a pound cake a reasonable substitution for non fat yogurt? Those little slices of doom pack upwards of 400 calories. Furthermore, why would someone get whipped cream on a non fat drink? I don't understand people. I really don't.

Anyway, its a good thing I won new tires last Saturday. When I exited class the other day, I looked at my wheel and was greeted with a two or three inch long side wall rip. The little tube was poking through and waving at me.

From Drop Box
I hate it when that happens.

Three days until Marilla 'Cross. Woot. I love racing my bike. I feel like I haven't mentioned that recently, but I do. Time to go ride to school in the rain.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Murrysville 'Cross 2009

I planned on riding out to the Murrysville Cross race last Saturday, but I decided against it. It was raining and I did not want to be wet and freezing until I actually started racing.

By the time I did actually get there, it was 9:40, and the U19/Cat 4 race started in 20 minutes. I went over to the registration and tried to understand how much it was going to cost me to register for two races, but I was thoroughly confused. It was $5 more for each race than it was on line, $10 for a one day licence, $5 less if I did two, and something else. Too many numbers for my little brain. I was waffling between signing up for both races and skipping the U19 since it started in 15 minutes. Finally I signed up for the U19 with the stipulation that I would come back over later and register for the 3/4.

I rushed back to the Grumbler, threw my clothes on, and bolted on the Thunder's front wheel. There was just enough time to spin up and down the road before we lined up.

The race started with a sprint up the road before turning off to the left. I got up to the front of the pack early on and stayed there. Midway into the race I was in 2nd, with no one close behind, and the leader pretty far ahead. I tried to bridge the gap between me and the leader, but I was not making up any meaningful ground. At that point it occurred to me that I would probably be crushed in the 3/4 race. I rode the rest of the laps without much incidence and finished 2nd overall and 1st in the U19.

For my efforts I got a cowbell medal and a place on the podium, two tires (both for the 2nd in Cat 4), and a super swanky helmet (for the U19 win.) I felt a little bad when I saw that the other U19's looked like they were U16, but whatevs. I might as well use the youngness while I have it.
After that race I was a little tired, and seriously considering skipping the 3/4, but once I grabbed some free coffee (at least I hope it was free. Otherwise I stole some coffee) I was right as rain again. I stood around for an hour before the next race and watched in dismay as the mud covering my legs turned crusty.

At last it was time to line up for the next race. I was mingling in the field when Gregg said "Has anybody ever given you shit about not having a back brake?" "No, nobodys said anything" "Do you even use the front?" "No, I can't really get to it." I replied. The field gave a collective chuckle. I think I was the only SS in that race, and certainly the only fixed gear.

The starting line girl gave us a barely audible 'go' and we took off up the road. I found my self in the middle of the pack, and started to try and work my way up. The course twisted around and rolled back onto the road before going back into the grass. Up ahead, I saw a gnarly crass and several riders pile up around it. Someone yelled "Jay Downnnns!" (which is funny, because he was down, and his name is downs. heh heh.)

Fortunately, I was able to stay on the bike and go wide around the cf. I sprinted up to the first run up, jumped off, and tried to stay on my feet.

(picture stolen from Aaron Bennett's facebook)

I kept my head down and ground up the next section of power sucking grass. For the rest of the lap I continued picking people off, and somewhere around the middle of the second lap, I moved into 2nd place. I was genuinely surprised. I held onto 2nd for a lap or two before Jake Grantham went by me in a slippery turn. Another lap latter someone else passed in almost the same spot.

(photo pirated from Vaughn Wallace's facebook)

Churning the 39x17 through the mud was starting to wear me down, but every time I hit the road section I still had enough energy to get out of the saddle and sprint up. When we started the last lap I had a ProGraphics guy sitting right behind me. I tried to lose him for the remainder of the race, but I just couldn't get a gap on him.

We hit the road for the last time and I gave it everything I had, but he clicked into a faster gear and got me by half a wheel length for 4th.

With four 'cross races on the fixed poo poo thunder, I can honestly say that what I read here when I was looking for info on racing cross fixed is not accurate:

"If you want to race fixed gear cross, make sure you are comfortable with all sorts of flying dismounts and lots of off camber skidding stuff. Prepare to be utterly uncompetitive, but a crowd favorite."

Now that I'm starting to really get the technique of racing the fixed gear down, I don't think that I would be that much faster on a coasting bike, especially in the mud.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette was there taking pictures of the race, and for some reason, they chose to publish my ugly mug bounding over a barrier:

I'm guessing they used my picture because my neon fixed gear with checkered deep V's and flipped cruiser bars is representative of most bikes at a cyclocross race.

(I can't find the actual damn paper, but I guess the color version is prettier anyway.)
Montana Miller of Greensburg jumps over an obstacle in the second Murrysville Cyclocross race held in Murrysville Community Park. Racers sometimes have to get off their bikes and carry them. Mr. Miller came 2nd in the Mens Category 4 & Under 19 race. Photo by: Tony Tye / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/25/2009)

As far as I can tell, the above blurb, which is entirely about me, was the only coverage of the race in that paper. I'm hittin the big time now. Nice.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Month of Mud Moraine 2009 Repor

Another excellent weekend of racing is in the bag. On Saturday I raced the fixed gear twice at the Murrysville 'Cross and ended up with a win in the Under 19, a 2nd in Cat 4, and a 5th in Cat 3/4.

Yesterday was the final Month of Mud race in Moraine State Park, and I retained my status of perpetual second place single speeder (except when the pflug races gearless and I'm bumped into third.)

Race reports will appear on the blog in reverse chronological order, just because thats how I feel like doing it. And that makes Moraine first. Salty.

When we lined up and were given a go signal, the field blasted out of the parking lot and onto the first section of double track. I put my hands on the skinniest part of my bars to get into my stunningly lame single speed aero tuck and started spinning my brains out. To my anaerobic elation, I actually passed a few geared guys. The track made a sharp left and started up a gradual climb. I kept my head down and ground up it on the way to the first section of single track. A little bit ahead I saw JPok shoot up the hill and into the woods.

The opening single track is a section of climbing switchbacks, on one of the first turns, I passed Steve Bedillion as he was stopped on the side of the trail. I went by, and knew that I had probably just moved into the 2nd place SS spot.

After cresting the hill, the trail turned down and in my typical early race jumpiness, I skidded off slippery rooted turn and into some trees. I stood to the side and let Aaron Shelmire go by before hopping back on my cycle and continuing down the hill.

We hit the first big rock garden, and Aaron made pass on a guy who was moving a little slow through the chunks. I was trying to get by him, and when he picked up his bike and started to run, I yelled to him that I was going to try to go around. He told me to go for it, but he was carrying his bike across the flat of his back, so his wheels stretched from one side of the trail to the other. Finally I yelled "Dude your bikes in the way!" and he quickly pointed it forward. I went around and chased down Aaron.

At some point I passed him, and put a little gap on him, but at the bottom of a big descent I lost the trail. For the entire race, everything was covered in wet leaves, so not only was it difficult to ride, it was really hard to discern which way the course went. By the time I figured it out, he had closed down the gap.

I turned on the gas and tried to get away from the man. When we hit the spectator filled boulder field, we were moving:

When we ran out onto the double track again, I saw Jake Grantham up ahead in the distance. I made it my goal to chase him down. By the time I hit the single track again, I had almost cut the gap between him and me in half. I kept chasing him, and Aaron kept chasing me, and at times I really thought we were going to be able to catch him.

Then we hit the big rock garden again. I completely blew up. It was as if I'd never ridden a bike over a rock before. I was tripping and slipping all over the place like a duck with greased feet. Aaron shot by in a blazing quest for glory, and I continued to wallow in among the stones. I finally got my shit together when I glimpsed another rider behind me. After convincing myself that he was another SS, I hammered down the hill and through the boulder field.
I was able to hold him off for the rest of the lap, and I rolled across the finish in 6th (I think) overall, and 2nd in the SS (and the guy behind me was not in fact another SS.)

Results will be here when they're there.

I finished 4th in the series with my one missed race. Ryan Gotch took 3rd, Steve Bedillion came in 2nd, and JPok took the win while earning a spot in the MOM hall of fame. Nice job gents.

I know its hard for anybody to care about the experts when the Single Speeders are so damn good looking, but Tim Carson won the overall. He really can get that little belly moving. Kudos dude.

After the race, everybody went to the Brewery, and I joined a couple of girls and Don Powers in not having a beer. Good times.

Speaking of Don, the Padre was quick enough to capture him running his geared hardtail over some rocks while Darin Shriver crushes it on a fully rigid single speed:

And in fact, here's Dave Krack riding the same section on a single wheeled fixed gear:

(I love the person behind him dragging the bike. Good stuff)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

grug and a quarter

I have a problem committing to races. I just can't bring myself to pre-register for something until the last possible minute. And now I'm out $10.

Yesterday I mentioned that I was about to get a screaming deal by registering for two races and getting a $10 refund on top of a $5 discount. That's more dollars than I have fingers. But now, my dollars will be five less than my fingers. And that I do not like. It's quite tragic really.

I still plan to do the U19 race and the 3/4 at Murrysville Cross tomorrow. And because the race(s) is/are only 15ish miles from my house, I might even get to ride there.

But before I do any of that, I need to go get a new tube for the the back of the Thunder. I ran into a curb the other day, and was rewarded with a furious hissing and a near instant flat.

Fortunately, I was only 200 feet away from home. Unfortunately, normal length valve stems do not work with super deep Deep Vs (my wheels look damn good but I'm starting to question their practicality. hmm.)

(I take that back. the checkers are far more important than any practical considerations)

So I had to use two patches to half assedly repair the tube. But still it leaks. I may just dump some Stan's in the tube and see if that fixes it. After that, I need to replace brake pads on the mountain cycle so that I can arrest my bikes forward motion on Sunday at Moraine. (I know, I know, replacing pads once a year is just dreadful.)

Honestly, I don't know how guys that race geared bikes do it. I get annoyed when I have to do routine maintenance on a fixed gear and a single speed (which basically consists of fixing the occasional flat and lubing a chain.) I've never raced a geared bike in the mud, (or at all) but I would imagine that all those shifty bits get screwed up. Real bad. Coming home after a race and fixing all that stuff just seems like a headache and a half.

And I enjoy working on bikes. I really do. But only when its someone else's bike.