Friday, January 29, 2010

Blogger just deleted my post, and I'm too furious to rewrite it. I could totally shred this computer. So I'm going to go ride now.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

the conglomerate spreads its muddy tentacles

A few months ago I fired off a race resume and very polite letter to Industry 9, maker of fine bicycle wheels. After not hearing back from them, I sent this email:

Dear info@industynine,

I'm taking your e silence to my last email as a resounding 'no thank you. we get one metric shit ton of these whinny race sponsorship emails everyday. just let us go eat our jam and toast' 

However, I think it would be very beneficial for both (admittedly I'm thinking more of the benefit to myself) of us if you reconsidered. You seem like a cool group of guys, and I like to think (mistakenly) that I'm a cool guy, so the match between I9 and myself seems to be a match made in the bathroom stall of the county fair.

And honestly, all I need out of a sponsorship is hubs and spokes. I can furnish the rims and get them built up. I think that two hubs and 64 spokes is well worth the advertising that I9 would receive on my behalf. In addition, I would be happy to hug my computer and pretend I was hugging you gentleman if you say yes. I think that's an offer that's hard to refuse (but maybe not)

Keep on eating that toast,


I fully expected to never hear back from them, and even went to the bestest bicycle shop in the world to have Tim build me some race wheels. When I picked up my wheels from the shop three days later (that's some speedy turnaround on a custom wheelset.) I came home to find a letter from I9 saying that I was accepted. Jubilation!

I considered my options for a second, then decided that the speed benefits of PURPLE (I'm sure that if you spend any amount of time around me you wish I would shut up about the purple. But I won't.) and 120 engagement point hubs were essential to my racing. Yes, 120. I'm not going to do the math, but thats roughly a bunch more engagement points than my 48 point Hope Pro IIs. 

The wheels are going to look a little something like this: 
Industry Nine : ultralite

On this bicycle:

Good taste is so 2008.

In addition to all around help from Pro Bikes, food and shelter from MCS, and swanky clothings from Twin SixMaxxis is going to be assisting me with all my rubber needs. And thats that. (sorry for all the plugging, (not pfluging) but I feel like I should give some links where linkage is due)

I've decided that I'm not going to get organized and come up with a solid race schedule for next year. It's too much work with to little benefit. I'll just play it by ear. But I do need to go register for the Mohican 100 before the rates go up (that ones already for certain.)

And I'm pretty sure that I'm going to enter the bloggers grant contest for Brek Epic. If I do, be prepared for unabashed solicitations for your vote. Because I really, really want to go to Colorado and get me some asphyxiation.

While cresting a very steep hill with my huge backpack last night, an old woman muttered the best thing someone has ever said to me while I was on a bike: 

"Yuh got more muscles than brains. Huh."

That about sums it up.

Monday, January 25, 2010

the cross'd bite

(I basically took all of January off from the blog thing, but I'm going to start posting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday again.) 

I'm delighted that I had the opportunity to hammer through the mud on my bicycle yesterday. So if you helped set up Cross'd Bite, gracias. We should do this more often.

The lady bear and I got to the slag heaps around 11 to help string up some course tape. We parked at the end of Goodman street in front of a foreboding and rusty chain link fence, and took the well worn muddy path around the edge of the thing. I have to wonder why someone even bothered to put up the barricade.

The skies were a flat grey, and the rain was falling steadily. Pushing the fluorescent death machine of doom, the lady bear and I hiked back to the black dirty piles of slag. The heaps are dark, gritty, and covered in scrubby little grasses. Slag is like a depressed Western PA imitation of a sand dune.

Stick, Ted, Eric and Eryn were the only people on the heaps so early. Eric's cargo bike was loaded with four cases of Straub beer, and a roll of yellow tape to make the place look like a 'cross venue. After a few minutes Ted proclaimed "However you decide to set up the course, I agree. Unless it sucks." and rode off to lead a group of riders back to the hill. On the edge of the hill top, I spied the rusty shell of a burnt out station wagon and ran over to throw my backpack under the shelter of its collapsing roof. Next to the bullet holes on its tail gate was scribed "The End"

We grabbed some bricks and attempted to pound in stakes to string the tape, but there was a layer of broken asphalt three inches under the slag, so even with mighty blows from our bird-like cyclist upper bodies, the stakes wouldn't sink down. Fortunately, there was a big pile of rubble next to "The End" so we were able to pile up chunks of concrete around the sticks and get them to hold. After a few minutes, we had something that resembled a legit 'cross course:

Riders started trickling in and a tiny little dog ripped across the course at full tilt. A tattooed guy took a 2X4 out of his messenger bag and tossed it across the heaps. The dog sprinted to retrieve the piece of wood that was as big as his body. The lady bear and I went over to talk to him and watch his dog sprint up and down an impossibly steep slag hill with a stick in his mouth as we waited for the race to start.

The Hammer was a messenger from Poland. He carried his dogs, Sugar and Tank, in his messenger bag. They were brother and sister, but Sugar looked looked like a jack rustle, and Tank resembled an athletic pug. He threw the stick down the hill yet again and Tank tirelessly sprinted back up. "I did this for 2 and a half hours the other day. And he still went home and fucked shit up."

Finally we lined up for the race. I was wearing my extra visible striped un-official race shirt, and when someone said go, I went for it. Chris Beech had the hole shot for about ten seconds before I passed him and took the lead. I was running a pretty big gear on my fixed gear 29er (38X17), so I just concentrated on staying on top of it and powering through the mud. After a few minutes, I rode the run up that marked the end of the first lap, and looked behind me. There was no one in sight.
Montana cresting by ndanger.
Dave Gingrich photo

I had tons of energy I needed to burn off, so I didn't let up at all for the remaining 12 laps. I started passing people and on the 6th or 7th lap, I caught up to Chris. "Montana you motherfucker, did you just lap me?" "Aye." I said, "But it's cool man. It's cool."

"Well I'd rather it was you than somebody else." he replied. After that I stopped worrying about anybody catching me, and just focused on having fun riding my bike as fast as possible. My corduroy pants were so covered in mud that they actually started holding water in the places I had them cuffed, and the stripes on my shirt were no longer visible, but I was having such a good time that I didn't even notice. I finished up the 13th lap and stopped the clock right at one hour, which is exactly how long the race was supposed to take.

Victory! (and horsey teeth)

Afterwards we headed to the little post race potluck and loaded up on pasta salad and sloppy joes. The lady bear made a giant tray of cupcakes from scratch, which were quite delicious. We relaxed for a while until I realized that my back was still covered in slag, and decided that I needed to bathe, at which point we headed home. But I must say it was a grand day in the mud. I wish every day was like that.

Dave's pictures of the event

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Old people: The disgruntled majority

The day after christmas I was riding to work from the lady bear's house. It was a pleasant and sunny day, and I relished the taste of powdered road salt in my mouth. As I neared Greensburg the traffic thickened, and by the time I passed the mall there were hundreds of cars honking and jockeying for position. I rolled through the parking lot of Best Place to Buy Your Soon to be Obsolete Electronic Garbage (I wonder if a more truthful name would drive down sales) and came to a stop at a threating scarlet octagon.

Smiling, I let a car go by, then rolled out and started to pedal away. But before I could travel farther than a gnome could toss a muffin, I was stopped dead by the kind of horse shout that only an extremely cranky old man could muster.  

"Hey! Git the FUCK off the road!"

I got off my bike and swung around to see a portly old fellow sitting next to his smallish wife in a blue hatchback. They were about to exit the Eat'n'Park parking lot.

"Excuse me?" I shouted back

"I said git the fuck off the road! You almos pulled right in front of that car you stupid shit."

"What the hell are you talking about?" I inquired, as I had clearly been stopped at the sign.

He waved in exasperated disgust and put the pedal to the floor of his cute little vehicle to make a quick get away. Incidents like that one happen all the time when riding on the road. Hell, drivers scream like that at other drivers. It is an accepted part of using the roadway.

But lets imagine that chubby man acting the same way in Eat'n'Park, (where someone presumably had pissed in his breakfast.) We'll call him Clevis.

Clevis and his wife are sitting at a booth amid a sea of other elderly couples. It's brunch buffet day, and the tacky chain dinner is hopping (or creaking. because the majority of people inside are old. and creak when they hop) There's a fit young man with unkempt hair headed to the buffet in pursuit of some watery eggs. He stops to let a busboy with full cart of dishes pass, then continues on his way.

Clevis slowly rises from his seat, untucks the napkin from the top of his button down, and throwing it to the table, shakes his fist at the young man and roars.

"Hey! Git the FUCK outa that brunch line!"

Everyone freezes. The usual click clack of silverware on plates and the chit chat of conversation is stopped. The Eat'n'Park is silent.

"Excuse me?" says the perplexed younger man.

Clevis' embarrassed wife tugs at his sleeve imploring him to sit down. "common now clevis. no need to make a scene" she whispers. A roomful of baffled dinners stare, mouths agape. But Clevis is unshaken.

"I said git the FUCK outa that brunch line. You almos walked right in front of that cart of dishes you stupid shit."

Clevis' wife hides her face. The other man is visibly pissed off now, and starts for Clevis, ready to punch him in his fat wrinkly mouth. The manager rushes from the kitchen and asks Clevis to leave the restaurant, or he will call the police. Infuriated, Clevis empties the all the sugar packets from his pockets, and unloads the toilet paper his wife been planning on stealing, weakly throwing it to the ground. He grabs his cane and rushes shakily for the door.

Everyone remaining in the restaurant is in shock. Why would someone scream at a total stranger like that? The gossiping begins. As they approach the edge of the parking lot in their little blue hatch back, Clevis and his wife quickly realize that they will not be welcome back at the Eat'n'Park.

Obviously its not socially acceptable to scream fuck at a stranger. But for some reason, people seem to have no problem doing it when they are in a car.

So my question is, why do people think that being in a car gives them a free pass to be an asshole?

And more importantly, why did an old man have his window open at the end of December? It was damn cold outside.      

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So how bout that punk bike?

Everyday thousands of spotted bananas are tossed in the garbage, left to decompose in a fetid hell filled with empty hummus tubs and dirty tissues.

A banana's life is not easy. Before they are even old enough to yellow, herds of the fruits are chopped from their home tree by a man named Felipe. Felipe's machete is sharp, but his aim is made unsure by a steady intake of coconut liqueur. Many hundreds of bananas are cut in two by the frenzied action of his swings.

If they survive the harvest, the fruits are thrown into a box and stacked, one on top of the other, for the arduous journey stateside. The boxes are rolled off the ships and onto trucks, where they endure hundreds more miles of travel without air conditioning or windows. When they finally reach a store, they are strewn about a table of fake wood. The faux tree bark and little green frills remind them of their tropical home, and silently they shed little sugary tears.

They sit on the table for weeks in the drafty super market basking in the artificial light. Person after person passes by, until finally a small woman towing her brood of little monsters stops at the display and examine the yellow foods. She decides to make a healthy choice for her family and rips three banana's from the rest of the herd. The fruits shriek in horror after being separated from their bunch mates, but without arms, they are powerless to resist.

The three are carted home in plastic bags before being offloaded to a special hanger behind the sink. They dangle for days, knowing that they will soon be eaten, and all the time they grow softer. Eventually they brown, but still the ripping finger nails and gnashing teeth never come. "I'm hungry!" cries one monster. "Eat a banana. It's good for you." responds the woman, but the beast fires back "NOO! I want the super sugar co co snackems!" The bananas continue to dangle.

Finally the fruits are covered in brown spots. The woman sighs in disgust and plucks them from their hanger. She opens the trash and summarily disposes of the over ripened plantains. To her, it is only a few dollars wasted. But the bananas are crushed. They could have been a new tree. They could have fueled a human for an hour. Or even two. They could have been bread.

The bananas came so far, but were never allowed to fulfill their caloric potential. I decided to ride the Punk Bike Enduro dressed as a banana to raise awareness for these poor under-appreciated fruits.

First, we derbied. 150ish people on bikes began riding in a circle and ramming into each other, and those who put a foot down were forced to exit the ring. I did my best to stay out of the fray, and before long, I was one of six riders left. The people on the outside moved in and tightened the circle, and we continued to go round and round. No one was making a move, so I decided to get aggressive and rammed my shoulder into the rider next to me. He was unfazed by my attack, so in a fit of rage I lunged onto his back wheel, thus removing myself and two other riders from the competition.

(the man in red is displeased that a freak in a banana suit is laying on his wheel)

The next stage was a steep road climb up to a forlorn farming field. I went hard on the climb, but my efforts were not enough to best a member of the plaid army, who happened to be riding a cross bike. We stood around at the top for a while before heading into the woods. When we were finally given the go signal, I sprinted off into the mud behind four other riders. Rob was charging ahead, but suddenly he slipped and the rest of us motored by. Chris Beech had speakers, so for a while I contented myself with riding behind him and listening to some soothing rap musac. When we popped back out into the field, I hiked up my banana suit and sprinted to the finish. I passed Chris and gained my first victory of the day.

We did a couple more stages in the mud, some of which I won, and others that I just scored points on. There were oodles of standing around, and the beer was flowing. A few hours passed, and we hit the up down. The up was a sprint (running) to the top of a steep leafy hill, and the down was a big mess of sliding bicyclists crashing into trees. I was one of the first to gain the top, but one of the last to descend:

(In case anyone cares, that tree really did hurt my face.)

Two of the stages were spent climbing a long steep gravel road. Despite Dave's attempt to sabotage me by grabbing my brake lever, I was able to win both times, once by sprinting Stick, and the second time by barely edging out Matt Ferrari (Ha! Take that Ferrari. You may be able to beat me by 2 hours in a 100 miler, but I'll be damned if I lose to you on a half mile gravel road.)

(Witness the disgruntled Stick in the background of this photo)

We did a couple more stages, but we stood around forever. We were out for 5 hours, but I think we only rode 10 miles. All the bs-ing was cool, but damn, I like to ride my bike, I would have liked to ride my bike more. Standing out in the cold (when sober) can get really tiring.

On the final downhill, I was battling for the lead when the two of us in front suddenly got lost. A stream of riders went by, including a heavily inebriated Santa Claus. Once we got back on course, we slid down a hill, hopped a little log, and collected the final punk points of the day. Other riders were still coming in, so near 30 minutes of heckling were enjoyed at the bottom of the hill (it was all fun until a guy on a comfort bike ran into a tree and mangled his knee.)

It felt super nice to get into the warm rugby lodge at the end of the day and load up on free food (And win the 'race'! Yay!) But there were no bananas.

Always remember kids, make bread, not compost.