Monday, March 29, 2010

The KSF'ed Up weekend

The little trophy Brad gave me says I'm Champion of the Universe. And I won't argue with that, because that practically makes me He-Man's brother.

The family resemblance is striking:

After a four hour drive to Charleston on Friday night, we watched the end of the original Clash of the Titans (it's an amazing movie,) got a few hours of sleep, then woke up at the butt crack of dawn to the smell of burning bacon and scrambled eggs. We spent a little while shaking off the groggies, then headed out to start the ride in the Kanawanana Rock Forest of Despair.

Rob had a gps and a camera, so he documented the day (even though a professional documenter of bicycle events was present.)

The first climb was a steep and loose kick in the nuts, but I was feeling light so I floated up to the top. Last year in the Black Bear race, I had to get off and run most of that hill with a 32X18, but this time I was able to clear the whole thing in a 38X20.

At the top of the hill, everybody's hands were burning from the cold. We took a couple minutes to catch our breath, then headed out.

The next trail we rode was smooth, flowing, and super fast:

It was so much fun, we did it twice (actually we had to double back and look for Jason's lost camera. But it was a ton o' fun)

Excluding Brad, none of us had ridden any significant downhills since the fall. The descents at Kananwana are quite a refresher. I kind of remembered them from the race, but they were a little different this time:

The black bear downhill is scary when it's dry, but with a river running down the middle of the trail, it's sketchy as hells.

At the bottom, Brad tallied up everbody's score in a little notebook. "You put a foot down but made it to the bottom first, so -2 points, I made it 2nd without a dab, so -2, Rob was 3rd -1..." and so on. I didn't quite get how he was assigning the points, but I did understand Jason's hike down the hill wasn't worth any points.

We went up and down the 500 foot ridge a few more times (it's a lot harder than it sounds) then headed back to the cars for some pizza that Kristin so graciously delivered to the forest.

After the za, we met up with a few grumpy old native Charlestinians who had been riding in the forest since the dawn of time. They all rode big full suspensions with downhill rotors, and fenders in the front and rear. We  climbed up a steep fire road, then headed off onto some trails that I wouldn't have even recognized as a trail without following the guys in front.

We turned down a stream or something that didn't look like trail, and while I was pounding down it, I must have touched my front brake and hit a root, because I was suddenly jettisoned over the bars. My hip took the brunt of the crash, and I landed right in the middle of the stream. I groaned, tried to get up, and promptly slid back into the stream. I laid there in the running water for a few minutes while Don laughed his ass off. "Ugh. Well I'm glad I'm entertaining" I grunted.

A little blunt impact is really effective at sucking the power out of the legs, and I was a little slower for the rest of the day. But we pressed on.

The old guys were awesome at climbing steep crap in the granny ring.

We were starting to get tired by that point in the day, so all the climbs slowly morphed into hike a bikes.

I tried to ride this one, and failed miserably. If you look at the back of the picture you can see me smashing my nuts into my stem.

We hit another back woods trail with Don and Jason in the back, and when we stopped to wait for them, both trudged into sight carrying their bikes. The trail had snapped both their derailleur hangers. The West Virginians (who carried bike shops in their backpacks) set to work repairing the bikes while we watched.

Jason had a spare hanger, so he was forced to continue the ride with a fully operable bike, but after setting Don's bike up as a SS failed, he got to bail and go sleep in the car.

We hiked up some more absurdly steep ridges, then bombed back down to the bottom on a rutted out, butt puckering descent.

Down at the bottom we started the climb up what was supposed to be a hard packed and steep, but very ridable road.

But some mining operations decided to ruin it. And it blew.

After that goopy mud, I think I'll pass on La Ruta if I ever have the chance to go.

We climbed and climbed and climbed to the top of the ridge, then headed to the last downhill of the day (after some more climbing.) I was toast by that point.

And I won the "race" thing that we were kind of doing at the beginning of the day.

Hooray! It was a great day, and there were times I wanted to slap Brad, so that means he did a fine job coming up with an endurance course.

Rob's little GPS had the profile for the whole thing:
Part I
Part Duex 

When we got back to Brad's house, Don slipped and rolled down the stairs. That's what he gets for laughing at me when I crashed. Karma's a bitch.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Celtic Cross

(photos stolen from Spencer)

My big plan was to ride my bike really fast, and before we finished the prologue lap, I sprinted up to the front and started spinning away.

The day was totally opposite of Cross'd Bite in January. It was hot and cloudless, and the slate had dried into a hard dune. Traction on the slag was trickier in the dry than it was saturated.

I worked my way around the slag, then into the woods. There was a great little single track downhill that spilled into a stinky mud pit. Splashed through the pit, turned up a little hill, and splashed through the next pit.

The whole way through the big twisty field (which smelled like high school cross country) and over the barriers, my tires flung goopy mud onto my skin, where the sun dried it into a hard crust.

A scramble up full of sharp pieces of conglomerate and asphalt marked the end of the grass section. I did my best to hike up it, then finished off the slag portion and repeated the course.

On the 2nd lap, I started to catch the back of the field of racers, and tried to tell everybody good jerb so I didn't seem like a big meat head.

On the third or fourth time through the start area, I noticed my lovely girlfriend had fallen asleep in the slag with my t shirt over her face. "Well that's a hell of a thing" I thought "I'm winning this race and shes taking a damn nap."

I was hurting every time I hit the big field. The sun was beating down, and the grass was sucking all the power out of my pedaling. I kept wondering if I was going to be able to keep my pace. At the top of the scramble up, I looked behind me and saw Stik a few 30 seconds back. "Dammit" I grumbled, and started working harder to stay away from him.

Before long he was out of sight (I think he crashed somewhere) and I was able to keep tabs on his position by his booming shrill "WA KA KA KA!" every time he shot down the single track section.

On my 11th lap, I caught Chris Beech, and put in a quick sprint to get ahead of him before a skinny section of slag. "Oh you bastard" he yelled. I laughed villainously in reply and dinged my little bell. Right before the finish he attacked and we shot across the line and into a big group of people. We decided to call it a tie for lapping.

My title of King o' Thar Slag defended, I need to get used to riding races that last longer than an hour, because the Michaux Mash is back on, and the real season is about to begin.

Results and more pictures

Monday, March 22, 2010

celtic 'cross and purple wheels

Celtic 'Cross was outstanding yesterday. Chris, Stick, and all the other people that helped did a great job of setting up the course, which split the difference between 'cross, and short track mountain biking.

My purple wheels arrived three days ago, and the Celtic was their first race.

So far they're undefeated. Hells yes.

I'll write s'more when I have time (and I find pictures of the race.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

a screwy twist

On Monday we had the first meeting of the Junior Development Program  at the Penn Hills YMCA. We got off to a slow start, as would be expected for a cycling program in Western PA, but I still think there's a ton of potential for kids to get into the sport. Spinning practice (until it's nice enough to hit the outdoors) are at the Penn Hills Y on Monday and Wednesday from 4 to 5. If you want to help, or know some chilluns who want to get into cycling, come and be merry! More info here:  

Peddling home yesterday I hit a massive six inch curb jump, and when I tried to get on the gas after the landing, my legs spun away without any affect on the bike. Dropped chain. Lame.

I pulled over onto the halfassed side walk, flipped my bike over, and dug my multi tool out of my back pack. I tried to loosen the set screw for the ebb so that I could tighten up the chain, but it wasn't budging. "I'll just hit it with some PB Blaster when I get home." I thought, and replace the loose chain on the rings.

When I got home, I started soaking the screw in penetrating oil, but when I tried to break it free again, it still felt like it was welded.

How stuck was it? Ask the 4mil on my multi tool:

Notice the helical twist. It h'aint supposed to have that. I didn't know an allen wrench would twist so much.

I tried heating the screw, pounding it with a hammer, and drenching it in more PB Blaster. After twisting another hex key and not getting the screw to move, I remembered the elderly hexes I had grabbed from my grandmother's house. I put it in, and although the screw was still solid, the allen refused to bend. Good old 60's steel.

I slotted my mighty lacrosse stick of leverage over the tiny but stout hex, gave it a big push, and with a crack, the screw broke free.

There's nothing four feet of leverage can't cure.

(bad screws disgust me)

Once I had the thing out, it wasn't apparent why it was so stuck. I'm guessing road salt was to blame, but in any case, when I put it back in, I slathered it with tons of heavy grease. Hopefully, I won't have to deal with that again.

The people who say single speeds are maintenance free don't ride them enough.

Monday, March 15, 2010

don't spit the pits

So many weekends of canceled riding, and now two little competitive rides/ lackadaisical races are pitted against each other.

Celtic 'Cross on Sunday,
Celtic Cross flyer

and the Tour of Irwin, also on Sunday.

If I do the Celtic 'Cross, I'll get to ride my bike really fast through the mud for a little less than an hour. I'll be covered in slag again, my bike will need a thorough washing, and the Grumbler will need to be fed petroleum to get me there. But there will be five or more half drunk screaming spectators, and if'n I do good, I might win a few trinkets.

In contrast, I'll get to ride for more hours of riding by doing the Tour of Irwin, but it will all be on the road. There will be steep hills sprint up, but again, all pavement (meaning my clothings and bicycle will stay clean. which is both good and bad.) 

A nice day will make it easier to do Irwin and get some miles in, but if it's raining, it's going to be hard to stop myself from going to Celtic 'Cross and playing in the mud (i do love some mud. especially when it's nice and gritty.)

Either way, it's a damn fine weekend when I have to decide between casually racing my bike and racing my bike casually.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm like a criminal only more dangerouser

Well hell. It's been so nice out the last two weeks, I haven't even thought about writing this thing.

The constant sunshine has thawed me out, and all the snow is almost gone. Unfortunately, it still didn't melt enough to hold the Michaux Mash out in Carlisle this Sunday.

With only five spots remaining in the open field, my debit card was unsheathed, and I was ready to transfer 45 bones to that race. Fortunately, before I hit the final button, I got an email from Don proclaiming the cancellation of the event. Oh well. Winter's final blow (everybody who read that knock on wood. really hard)

I borrowed Aaron's cross bike for a little group road riding last Sunday. 82-ish wonderfully sunny miles. But I still can't get used to the road bike thing. Every time we hit a hill Aaron had to issue little reminders "Little ring. Shift. Don't cross the chain. Get out of the big ring." It's too much to think about, then when the gears starting skipping at the end of the ride, it further annoyed my brain. With the exception of group road rides, I'll stick to single speeds. I'd prefer to just pedal.

Yesterday I headed out for a slow 35 miles with a friend. I rode the Flourecent Death Machine of Doom (I still can't spell flourecent well enough for the spell checker to recognize it. so I give up. It's my bikes name, and I'll spell it however I damn want to.) We had a great easy ride in the Sun on the back roads around Greensburg.

When we got back into town, we were stopped at a traffic light, and after seeing that the coast was clear, I rolled through. Then I heard sirens. "Oh wonderful. Here we go again." I thought.

The local mustache and glasses exited his flashing maroon undercover car "What now, the law doesn't apply to bikes?"

"I thought it was green" I lied

"Oh yeah? That's funny cause it wasn't." He pulled out a notebook and pen from his breast pocket "What's your name?"

"Montana Miller"

"Yeah? Date of birth?"


"Ok. Lemme see your ID"

"I don't have it."

"Do you have a drivers license?"


"Well why aren't you carrying it?"

"I'm riding a bike. I didn't think I would need it."

"Yeah? So if I call into the station and run this name and date of birth, it's gonna come up?"


"Ok. If it does, I'll let you go." He unclipped the radio snake from his collar. "Hey station this is unit 234, we got two bicylists over here, run this name." (I wonder what he would have done if my name wouldn't have come up. Visions of being sentenced to wear a striped suit and work on a light-hearted musical chain gang ran through my mind.)

The radio gurbled back. "Yeah. Ok. 10-4 buddy." he re-clipped the mouth piece.
"Ok then. I'm gonna let you go. Don't do that again."

"I won't" I lied. We went to Wendy's and got chicken nuggets.

That was the second time I've been pulled over by flashing lights and sirens in town. But it's cool, because a cop car running a red light to chase down an offending cyclist never gets old.

Monday, March 1, 2010

cereal bowls and iron forks

I thought that a few feet was a lot of snow. But that was until I went up the mountain to the lady bear's townhouse.
This buried faux-Inuit's head is level with the second story window of the house.

The back porch had a little accumulation.

I strapped on my snow shoes, cut some steps into the snow pack, and climbed up to start digging it out. After almost an hour of digging, I had managed to clear away all the fluffy powder and start on the solid base. 

The lady bear came out to help, but after struggling with a few 40 pound shovel loads, she decided that I was doing fine by myself, and she scurried back inside. 

In need of a shoveling break, I hopped off the porch into the soft snow, and sunk up to the middle of my chest. I started the exhausting wade around the row of townhouses. When the cleat of my snowshoe grated against something hard, I dug down to see what it was, and uncovered a large transparent plastic ball. 

"What the hell is this?" I mumbled. I studied it for a few more seconds, then it hit me. It was the top of a street light. I sat down on top of it.

Sadly, the snow has forced the postponement of Celtic 'Cross. That's massively lame, but I'll deal. After all, I may not get many more opportunities to sit on a lamp post.