It’s A Podcast! Ep5: Guitar Ted Talk

A lot of times I fail at things, we all do, but this time I really ate it.  I’ve never mentioned on the BLOG that this is also a PODCAST.  That’s right, you can tune your eyes to a totally different whatever and listen to all the nonsense you would normally be reading, albeit without the editing and restraint. It gets a little NSFW here and there.

This past week I participated in the 24 Hours Of Cumming race starting at the Cumming Tap (birthplace of Tacopocalypse) in beautiful Cumming, Iowa and invading the surrounding counties.  It was a dusty day of Two-Person 400k Relay, of which I will recount in a written race report, and the night before my illustrious 24HOC team mate, Guitar Ted of RidingGravel.com and Trans Iowa, sat down in the studio to talk a bit about what we were about to do, the future of gravel, and some deep thoughts on Trans Iowa.  You can hear all of this and the rest of our discussion here at the Cyclist Not Biker Podcast site, along with the first four episodes.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the CNB Podcast, it’s to be a supplement to the writings here.  I’ve been a bit busy actually riding bikes this year and haven’t taken the time out to really click away at posts.  Problems you want to have, I suppose…

CNB

 

Dirticorn!

Long time no whatever!  I hope that everyone is kicking a bunch of butts-on-bikes out there in the finally-not-winter weather.  Central Iowa has been a veritable wonderland of snowless cycling enjoyment. I’ve personally been able to get into the 200+ miles-per-week range finally, it’s been super rad to get some real miles in!

Quite a few new developments have uh…developed since my last post. I’ve started a new Cyclist Not Biker podcast (episode 1 is up on Anchor.fm now, with other services to follow shortly), in which I plan on talking with some of my favorite cyclists about things like gravel, dirt bagging, ultra events, bike tech stuff, etc. (if you’d like to be on the show, email me).  Episode 1 is a 26 minute solo brain dump from me, mainly focusing on the Unicorn of Dirt Drop Bars, the Ragley Luxy.

IMG_6967.JPG

Luxy #3 found a new home already

I recently acquired this Dirt-Icorn,  one of the rarest and best dirt drops out there, and pontificated for half a podcast about where they might end up.  The post person showed up about 30 minutes later with said handle bars, and they immediately ended up on my refurbished 90’s GT Tachyon. I’ve done two rides on this setup in the last 24 hours, and they are definitely where they belong.  Now it’s time for some bar tape and probably some sort of write up glorifying said bike hahaha.

Some of you may be asking yourself “what in the hell is a Ragley Luxy bar?” Here is an article from good friend and gravel fiend Guitar Ted which explains its origin and extremely short history.  Read it, learn it, live it.  There are nearly impossible to get, requiring years and months of internet scouring to find one available, and when found the price is usually out of control.  I have seen a pair of Luxy’s go for over $200 on eBay. Yeah, oof.

ANYWAY, it’s time to get back out on the bike so let’s wrap this up.  LISTEN TO MY PODCAST. It will be available on Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, and more in the next few days and I will post updated links for you.  Until then you can listen on Anchor. fm

RIDE YOUR BIKE

CNB

Oh Hey.

What’s up everyone?  Hopefully you are all getting your miles in and having a great time, regardless of our never ending winter of doom.  I know I speak for most of the midwestern cyclists (and most other people here also) when I say Mother Nature needs to show a little more kindness to us outdoors type folks.  I had a great time riding in all kinds of crap weather this winter, but GODDAMNIT THERE IS A LIMIT TO MY FAKE ENJOYMENT OF WINTER CYCLING AND WE PASSED THAT POINT ABOUT APRIL 5TH.

Anyway, wanted to check in with a few things.  A few events have passed and I haven’t produced any ride reports or product opinions,  nor any bike trend predictions.  It’s probably been pretty dull for the three of you who read this here bike blog type thing, so here’s an abridged version of the last two months.

CIRREM 10: Didn’t do it BUT I GOT MY SHIRT! (This is my official race report)

Revelate Mag Tank Bag: Tops the list of “don’t leave home without it” gear

IMG_5736

Gent’s Race 7 Careless Whispers

Gent’s Race 8: The Careless Whispers once again proved why we are the longest lasting continuous team by all showing up on time and ready to rock.  I love these guys, and we had a great year again.  Actual ride report to follow.

Project Pink: Has become my main bike for the time being, and it’s proving to be a real beast of an All-Road setup. It’s done the “every type of road” days like a champ, and the “all-road aka roads only” days have been great.

Porcelain Rocket “Nigel” bag: Was very skeptical about this handle bar bag at first, but goddamn if it isn’t some killer kit.  More on that later.

Sinewave Beacon: It’s bulletproof and pricey, one of my favorite combos.  More on that later.

tumblr_namg5c6rap1t8enq1o1_400#RoadIsTheNewGravel: You read it correctly. Gravel is out, road is back in. HTFU, butterstuff, your comfy #supplelife is a lie and gravel is no longer lit.

The Stoker is still stoking away, but now has her own single bike, a Surly Straggler 650b and I’m a little jealous of it. That sea foam green looks great next to Pink. 650b Crew 4 Life. hahaha.

IMG_6513

Good Intentions Tour 2017 lasted a record low of 26 miles. 

I’m planning out this year’s “Good Intentions Tour” and it looks like a toss up between dirt bagging and my normal Bag Bike thing.  I feel like this year should be a ride to another state border and back, seems poignant in today’s political climate. Or maybe it will be blazing hot out and I just stay home and do some grilling.  Who knows?

According to Strava I have ridden 889 miles this year as of 4/17/18.  My low end goal is 5k miles for 2018, so I’m a little behind goal pace.  Those miles will all get made up soon.

That’s it for checking in. Winter, kick rocks. Ride Bikes.

CNB

Writing Gravel

The good folks over at RidingGravel.Com have a site full of useful information for those of us who prefer rocks to road.  It’s a solid resource for thorough new gear reviews, very important as gravel supplies are not cheap, bike news, events, and a very active and what is probably my favorite forum.  RGDC is home to a few of my my favorite people, Guitar Ted and MG, and a few other folk I hope to get to meet in person at some point.  What I’m saying here is that you should go visit this site if you are of Gravel Mind and Body, they have the goods.

All of the contributors at RGDC are Dirt Accomplished in their own right, so it is an honor to have been tapped by GT to make some contributions to their site.  I sincerely hope that every post that I submit to RGDC lives up to their standards, and helps guide Grinders in their Grinding Life.

My first article is up this week, it’s about a subject near and dear to my heart, Dyno Hub Lighting.  You can read it here.

I encourage you to visit the site, do some exploring, and maybe make some connections with like minded folk on the forum.  What’s the worst that could happen, you have even more fun in the dirt?

Sam CNB

 

MO CIRREM, MO PROBLEMS

Yes, I realize that we are only two hours into the actual race, and that even though the conditions are pretty decent (aside from some serious wind), nobody is finishing in two hours.  I mean, some people may be finished at this point, but the finish line is still devoid of whatever you call those people who cross the blah blah blah blah.  Yeah, whatever that whole things was.

Last year I announced to the world that my little know DFL Gravel Racing Career was over, done, finished.  It was time to move on and do fun things, WHICH I HAVE BEEN DOING, but damnit if old habits are hard to break.  I think we can all agree on that point. Unfortunately my drive for bike racing mediocrity overturned my sense of fun and I entered CIRREM.

CIRREM is absolutely the worst, yet achievable, event for me.  It’s “only” 65 miles of gravel, albeit with some nasty climbs here and there, and the weather is definitely a factor in some past failures.  Iowa in February is a weather crapshoot, more crap than shoot.  Last year I had let my health slip and was a total fat ass, out of shape dude that couldn’t even muster a DFL on what would possibly be the nicest day of CIRREM weather ever.  It hurt. I made some changes, lost a grip of weight, decided that I would just take it easy and skip the attempt at heroics, but GODDAMNIT I HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE!

shocker-electrocution

ACTUAL PICTURE OF WHAT IS HAPPENING INSIDE MY ANKLE

Did my weight loss help my ability to finish?  Did my massive improvement in internal health mean I would be able to finish this thing I started trying back in CIRREM 3 or so? Questions needed to be answered.  It was decided to start really getting some miles in, the end of last year was so busy that I had very little time to bike, and log every single mile.  I rode over 300 in during the last three weeks of January, which isn’t bad in these parts and during our absolute shit winter weather.  Thanks, fat bike. Then I moved to a new house that is rotten with stairs.  Due to my own terrible organizational skills, most of the move was done solo, and during one of those days I reawakened an ankle injury that happened in July of 2016, and took about a year to clear up.  This past Thursday night I rode out to the Cumming Tap to drop off my donation for the race, and on the way back decided to horse it and see how fast I could get to town.  There was a lot of standing up and cranking away, then more beers, then Friday I could barely walk on the ankle at all.  The severe pain has continued today, and I had to make a decision whether to push through it and do all the climbing or rest and hope that this doesn’t screw up my entire year of cycling.  I have some big plans.

So I pulled the plug on my CIRREM around 7am this morning.  I’m really not happy with it, I was as prepared as ever.  The course looks pretty dope, glad they postponed for a week due to very unsafe conditions.  I will be back next year for #11. I will be more prepared, the good lard willing, and smash my own course record of DNF.

Thanks for reading along, and godspeed to all those out there cranking away through the hills, rocks, and wind.

CNB

Tips From The Back Of The Pack

wpid-FxCam_1272290632827.jpgSome race for the glory of the podium.  Some race for the thrill and challenge.  A lot of us are just racing the cutoff times and for the satisfaction of a strong DFL* finish.  I am a one of those types who tends to live in that neighborhood of riders that cause checkpoints to be staffed until the very last minute, a place called The Back Of The Pack.

The Back Of The Pack isn’t a glorious place, but it doesn’t have to be without its good times and fun.  I’ve put together a few tips and tricks here to help those of us BOTP’ers be more successful at last place.

  • Ride your bike: You don’t have to have a personal coach or even a HRM (although monitoring heart rate/power is pretty helpful for distributing physical resources during long distance riding), you really need to simply ride your bike. Ride as much as you can, take a rest day or two here and there.  If you are planning to do a 200 mile event, work your endurance up by riding longer hours in the saddle. Once you can put in a couple 80 mile or more days in a row, you can probably finish that DK200.  The main point is that if you don’t ride your bike, you aren’t going to be any good at riding your bike.
  • Navigation Is Salvation: If you are off the back and relying on cue cards for direction, PAY ATTENTION to what is going on around you.  Riding solo, or even in a group of folks who are having their own struggles, can end poorly if you aren’t practicing the three R’s for yourself: Reading the Cue Card, Remembering The next turn or sequence of turns, Reacting to the landmarks.  It’s easy to sit on someone’s wheel and hope they are navigating properly, but face it: self supported means you are on your own. Too many times racers have taken wrong turns and added to their race mileage because of trusting the person up front, not having a proper light to see road signs, or simply spacing off.  Remember that these events are difficult enough without adding to the challenge with your own personal bonus mileage.  Pay attention to navigation at all times.  Getting lost sucks.

READ, REMEMBER, REACT. Learn it, Live it.

  • Conserve Energy:  It’s REALLY tempting to go hard off the line.  This is probably one of the biggest fails.  You’ve prepared for your event, your legs are feeling fresh, and there is a veritable Excitement Buffet buzz buzzing around the start line feeding your confidence level. The signal happens. It’s go time. Do you:
    • A) Take off like a jackrabbit with the lead pack and blow up shortly after starting?
    • B) Stick with the middle of the pack until you can’t maintain pass and drop off the back or
    • C) Ride your own pace?

It’s always best to ride at your own pace, especially if keeping up with whatever group you’ve opted to ride with is draining your physical resources. Ride smart and if you are feeling fresh at the half way or past, kick it up and burn it on in!

  • Know What To Wear: Some of these events span the course of 24 or 36 hours, and you will see temperature drops and possibly erratic weather changes.  This kind of goes back to riding your bike. When you are doing said riding, do some in shit conditions. Make note of what clothing/shoes/gloves/eyewear works for what temperature/conditions.  I have a mental log of temp ranges and which base layers/outer layers/socks, etc work within those ranges.  I also do a stupid thing I call Training Cold, which involves long rides in cold weather being purposely under-dressed for the conditions (I pack extra layers in a seat pack for safety sake – in case my mom is reading this). This prepares me for sudden unexpected weather changes out on the road when maybe extra warm gear didn’t get packed, or I just don’t feel like stopping to layer up.  My point is DON’T OVERDRESS, if you are super warm and toasty on a 30 degree 4am starting line, you will sweat out in 5 miles. I see folks out on 50 degree days on the bike trails with full on winter gear, helmet covers, lobster claw gloves, and it’s kind of ridiculous. These fine folk are probably not going on a century ride like that, but still.   DON’T OVERDRESS. Sweating out/overheating is a sure fire fast track to failure.
  • Don’t Over Pack: The more weight you are carrying on your bike, the more you are pushing up hills. If you are riding gravel, you are most likely pushing up a LOT of hills, and if you are just fit enough to pull a DFL or back of the pack, an extra pound or five can be enough to wear you down more quickly.  If you are riding a 5-6 hour gravel event do you really need to pack a spare tire?  If you have a drop bag option at the mid point, do you need 6 water bottles on your bike?  Take a good look at what you are using during training. What do you use on the regular? How far are you riding? How far is the event? What are the conditions of the gravel?  Are your tires up to the task? How much food do you really need to carry?  So many questions that can be answered by a pretty simple formula: If you didn’t need it for 100’s of miles of training/preparation, you probably won’t need it for a 100k event.  This subject deserves a post of its own.
  • IMG_5743

    Bring some comfort er…food

    Bring a few comforts: Yes, don’t over pack, but bring something that motivates you or can comfort you if you pull out. I bring a flask of Wild Turkey 101 on almost every long ride, and on TIV8 I packed that and some Marlboro Reds (yes, I once in a while have a smoke with my whiskey. It’s a terrible habit and I know it).  When my ride went south right out the gate (cold, rainy 4am start, mechanicals from mile 10 on, etc) I reached a point where it was do or die, try to squeak through CP1 or hang a right on the highway and tailwind back to town. I had some whiskey and a smoke, weighed options, and made the hard call to drop out.  You don’t have to drink or smoke, I might be a little extreme, but bring one of your favorite candies or a picture of your family, or an iPod with your favorite playlist, or whatever will comfort you when the chips are fucked.

  • IMG_6658

    Nope.

    Pick The Right Bike: Obviously, if you have one bike for everything, take that bike. Beats walking 100k.  If you have some options, pick the one that is most comfortable, is geared properly for the amount of climbing, and has the proper tire for the terrain.  You don’t need to try being a hero and ride your loaded fat bike through 100k of climbing, I’ve seen it happen and it wasn’t pretty. I’ve also made the mistake of trying too much climbing on a bike geared for flatter riding (or better climbers), and that kicked my ass entirely too fast.  Come to think of it, I didn’t do great on that bike riding a flat course either.  It was a rough year… Ride what you are comfortable with, could be a Cross Check, a Fargo, a Routt 45, a vintage steel Bianchi, a Beargrease, whatever it is run what gets you to the finish without fighting you the whole way there.

  • PICK THE RIGHT TIRE: OOOOOOWEEEEEE this is a doozy.  We have a 100k gravel race here in Central Iowa called CIRREM.  It’s held around the end of February and it has seen weather from 15 degrees and somehow raining (that year was really weird), to 60 and sunny with a mild breeze.  It’s generally known to be a shit show. On some of the more nasty years, the week leading up to the race has social media buzzing with the query “what tire should I ride?”  If it’s 25 out and the roads are a fresh sheet of ice, don’t try riding slick 28’s. (or old chewed up Michelin Mud 35’s, I did that year and ended up with a cracked rib from wrecking on the ice about a dozen times)  If there is a ton of fresh rock on the road, also don’t ride 28’s. In fact, just don’t ride 28’s on gravel unless your power/weight ratio is in the Pro Peloton range. A file tread 40mm 700c tire is pretty solid choice for any condition, as you can work the tire pressure to adapt to conditions.  Similarly, 650bx47 handles most any gravel condition. Two true “do it all” tire sizes for everything but gnarly single track or ice riding.  If it’s sheets of ice, and you are super cereal, pick up some lightly studded cross tires or bring out the MTB for something more substantial and grippy.  Also, take into consideration that more voluminous tires will provide a little extra cushion, which your arms and back will thank you for on ultra distance stuff.
  • Know when to say when: The best tip I can give is to know your limits.  Riding past your limit is part of endurance racing, indeed, but there is a vast plain of physical and mental badlands that lie somewhere after that 4th or 5th wind.  Know your own personal signs. Dropping out isn’t a crime, but injuring yourself is criminal if you knowingly take things farther than acceptable “too far.” Have an extraction plan (or know the shortcut back to the civilization), means of communication, also see “Bring A Few Comforts” above. I’ve definitely taken things too far and spent weeks recovering from making that mistake, don’t be that person.  Live to ride another day.
tumblr_namg5c6rap1t8enq1o1_400

Know when your ride is over, even if it’s not the end of the race. 

This is in no way a comprehensive lesson on “gravel racing,” but if you follow these words, it might help you achieve that DFL finish you’ve always wanted!

Until next time, ride your bike!

CNB

*DFL: Dead Fricken Last. If you aren’t familiar with this term, good for you pal.