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

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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.

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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

 

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.
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    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.

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    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.
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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.

I’m OVER IT.

Warning: I’m pissed.

Last night I took my first ride in a few weeks to check out the newly reopened Grand Ave Bridge.  The bridge, a main thoroughfare between the East Village and the Court Ave district, has been closed for over a year, and those of us with businesses or residences downtown have been patiently awaiting this opening day.  I mounted up on Pink and hopped a block south to the new Protected Bike Lanes that run down Grand Ave from Pennsylvania Ave to the bridge.  Beard pointed west, I was bridgeward bound.

It’s taken a while to get used to having the Protected Bike Lanes in my neighborhood.  Even though I’m (obviously) a cyclist, the adjustment to this new feature has been a little slow.  I spent the last three-plus months driving a giant box van through this, makes the car lanes seem a little anemic (they aren’t), and dealing with having total protection from cars feels weird.  I guess I’m so used to dodging giant metal weapons that to not have that worry is worrisome in its own right.  Kind of a sick way to think of it, and not in a DO THE DEW KORN SNOWBOARD PUKA SHELL kind of sick.  Like Stockholm Syndrome sick.  Now that I’ve had time to adjust, though, I’m in love with the PBL’s.  I’ve stopped jig jagging around on side streets to get to and from home, I can just ride up and down Grand, just like I would drive.  It’s nice.  Thank you to all who have made that happen.

The Bridge is only partially open, as the crews are still finishing up some curbs and edges, and they are putting in PBL’s in that run all the way to 2nd Ave.  This is really amazing.  I’m hoping that in the future the city decides to make these protected lanes run Grand Ave all the way west to 63rd in West Des Moines. That would be super cool. Wink. Hint. I crossed the bridge, then across 2nd Ave, on to the weird side switch the bike lane makes at 3rd (please fix this nonsense sometime), then down to 7th to swing around to Locust Ave and come back east towards the Grand Bridge again.

Cars were breathing down my neck on Locust, cyclists and motorists forced to coexist in the same space by “Sharrows,” and today to ill effect.  I rode the last block towards 2nd ave in the left turn lane, made the turn onto 2nd floating over to the far right so that I may make a right turn back onto Grand Ave, a car pulled up near me and yelled “GET THE FUCK OFF MY STREET MOTHERFUCKER!” then sped north on 2nd, the driver flipping me off, then the passenger joined in as I flipped the bird back and shouted a hearty and customary “FUCK YOU” to the two.  Judging by their intolerant nature and the vehicle graffiti’d up with 90’s Nu-Metal Band decals and Hot Topic/Spencer’s stickers my two verbal assailants and hobbyist bird keepers were probably in a hurry to get to their meth dealer or their job begrudgingly making pizzas at a convenience store , and could not be bothered to stop to SAY THAT SHIT TO MY FUCKING FACE.  Well played, gentlemen. Well played indeed.

Now, I would like to chalk this incident up as isolated and due to the current sociopolitical climate in which those with intolerant ideals feel emboldened by those in power to speak their mind, no matter how small that mind may be.  BUT, sadly, this is how it has always been for those of us who choose to travel by two wheels rather than four.  I have been called every derogatory name in the book, I have had people get out of their cars and attack me with weapons, I have been hit by cars, I have had death threats shouted at me from cars, I have had many friends struck by cars and A FEW OF THEM WERE KILLED.  Why?  Because people see “bike culture” as some sort of threat.  Cyclists “don’t follow the laws, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t buy gas, they aren’t American, THEY TOOK OUR LANES.”

I’M THROUGH WITH THE DEBATES AND THE IGNORANCE AND THE BACKWARD FUCKWADS WHO THINK THAT ATTACKING ME, OR ANYONE ELSE, ON A BIKE IS A GOOD IDEA.  If you don’t like bikes on the roads, FUCK YOU.  STAY HOME. If you don’t like to share the road, FUCK YOU. Take another road, asshole. IF YOU THINK THAT INTIMIDATING ME OR ANYONE ON A BIKE WITH YOUR 3 THOUSAND POUND WEAPON OF AN AUTOMOBILE IS A GOOD IDEA, be prepared for some fucking backlash. I’M OVER IT. If you can’t accept that there are laws in place, oh hell if you can’t have the COMMON DECENCY to treat others with respect or at least respect their right to breath air and exist, then FUCK YOU. YOU ARE FUCKING TRASH.

I know, it sounds a little harsh and we should probably all work together to make things work for everyone and all that sharing is caring shit, but I don’t fucking care about it anymore.  I care about people staying alive. I care about people being safe I care about you.  Unless you are some douche that is against me riding a bike. Then I would still like you to be safe, but seriously FUCK YOU.

Gloves are OFF, and discussion is OVER.  You come at me with your cowardly drive by expletives, better hope I don’t catch up to you.  You want to threaten my life with your car, be prepared to either take me the fuck out or face some fierce backlash. It’s not going to end well for either of us. I promise.

Stay safe out there, and Happy Holidays

CNB

Hashtag Cult Membership Time

I did something very uncharacteristic of me today.  I obtained a motorized vehicle.  It’s very foreign to think of doing things that don’t require turning pedals, but after ridding myself of the “Deal Mobile” last week, and seeing as the venerable Gold Jetta Wagon (the Swagon) is all but sold, I thought that maybe I should start a new thing.  This thing I did gave me entry into a new-to-me hashtag subculture.  I already belong to a few of these groups (#vegancylist #cheflife #veganhashtagabuser #rifftober #rigsofdoom, the also-new-to-me #gravelfamily that I learned is now a thing as of this weekend, and many others), but this is one that I had never aspired to. I purchased a 2006 Dodge Sprinter today…

Enter the #VanLife

IMG_6029#VanLife is this thing where you live your life in, by, and for the Van. You buy a Van, you convert the van to a suitable mobile living quarters, then you go do shit in it.  You go camp, you drive to other places and meet new people, bike unfamiliar areas, explore.  You can save a ton on hotel rooms if you have either good enough facilities or can just make do with what you have brought with you.  As a bit of a cycling vagabond/traveller (and a person who has spent a little too much on air fare and hotel rooms the last few years) this has appealed to me since the day my friends Fresh Tank decided to ditch their living situation and travel the country living the #vanlife. It looks like they have been having fun.

 I had been dead set on a high top Sprinter, but the previous owners, Alex and Hanna, IMG_6028had done a lot of the conversion work like insulate and run power to the back area already, which made this a great base for what I was planning. Alex included a few cabinets he had made for their buildout, along with some helpful tips on the idiosyncrasies of this ole gal. She has some patina, and some quirks, but The Stoker and I are pretty stoked to have something that can accommodate bikes up to and including the Java Tandem, with some basic amenities for the trip to wherever that tandem is getting pedaled from.

Her name is Kira, after current day explorer Kira Salak, who has travelled solo to almost every continent.  My Kira will probably not leave this continent while under I captain her, but I do have some pretty major plans for her. I mean, one does not simply enter the realm of #vanlife without an adventure in their hearts and minds.  What’s my plan? Aside from making grocery runs for the restaurants and maybe doing some catering, you’re going to have to stay tuned to see what my #vanlife has in store.  I promise you it will be a journey into some unknown territory…

Sam

CNB

Loss Of A Legend: Mike Hall

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Mike Hall tucked in on the IPWR. Photo Credit: Facebook

Mike Hall is a legend in cycling. In his relatively short time at the forefront of ultra-endurance racing he has racked up wins/records in 24-hour mountain bike races, the Trans-Am Bike Race, World Cycle Race , Tour Divide, and founded the Trans-Continental Race in Europe. In addition to his racing, Mike participated in fundraising efforts for charity Newborns Vietnam. Mike was on his way to a second place finish behind three time Trans-Con Winner Kristof Allegaert in the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race crossing Southern Australia when he was tragically killed by a motorist on March 31st, 2017. The collision occurred on the Monaro Highway on the outskirts of Canberra at approximately 6:20am.

This is a great loss of a true Ultra Champion. Rest in peace, Mr. Hall.

Sam, CNB

 

Less Breathless

As the tens of you who have been reading along here know, I have recently hit a brick wall with my health.  I had been eating like a huge asshole, and I do mean huge, to the point where not even riding was helping out. I was the heaviest that I’ve even been in my life, a full 70 lbs more than when I was in “racing shape,” and I felt it.  My joints ached, my hips were really unhappy on long rides, I would get out of breath putting on my cycling shoes, and I realized I had been lying to myself about what was going on with my health.  It was time for a change.

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I’ve gone from milkshakes to smoothies.

This week I have hit another milestone. I put my Sidis on without having to gasp for air. This may not seem like something to brag about, but in my 18″ of space it is a reason to celebrate.  When I weighed in yesterday, I had gone from 302.8 to 288.2 lbs in one week. There was a full week prior to my initial weigh in that was undocumented, I would say that based on losing 14+ in the past week, my actual weight at the start was closer to 310-315 lbs. (my poor wheels). I’ve dropped about my first 20, and I am already feeling great. My shirts are fitting better, my mood is better, and I don’t feel as sluggish on the bike. I’m excited, as the weight loss has been from simply changing my diet and getting adjusted to eating Vegan again. I haven’t joined a gym, I have actually been riding less due to being fairly busy, I simply cut out meat, dairy, cheese, etc. This wasn’t an abrupt change, I had been planning this and purging my pantry and fridge for two months, and I have spent a few years eating Vegan in the past, so the groundwork was laid.  I just needed motivation like failing at a bike race that by all means I should have been able to finish.

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Tofu Scramble, Spinach, Tater Crowns, Home Made Vegan Biscuits w/Fig Preserves. Breakfast of Champions.

The Stoker is pleased that I’ve decided to actually look out for my health instead of plowing through life expecting things to just be ok, even though things were most decidedly NOT ok. We are looking forward to a summer of cycling, I’ve decided to cut back my “race” schedule a bit and focus on using 2017 as a recovery year from the past few years of just letting myself go.  It’s time to rebuild, have fun, and get things going the right direction again.

Sam, CNB