Monday, September 21, 2009

Wednesday to Sunday in One Breath

I'm going to take the way back machine for a ride and start this post on Wednesday the 16th.

Wednesday afternoon

Fresh out the box

Anyone with experience building a high po race bike from the frame up understands the intricacies of getting it to all come together smoothly. Alex had the chore of doing it for two racers in about two days, while he ran his shop. On top of it all, the bikes are set up very differently from one another, from brakes and cockpits, to the differences of Campy vs SRAM. To further the pressure these bikes where going to be put under Kevin Klug and Mike Hemme, guys that make crazy power. And of course the final straw, bikes where going to be raced a couple days after they where picked up and wouldn't have any time to be broken in and tweaked. Somehow Alex pulled it off and on Friday afternoon both guys got their race bikes.

Friday evening

Hemme's busted bike

Mike tells me he'll be a good tester because he breaks a lot of stuff... Well, his bike wasn't an hour old before he sent the pic above.

Friday late night

Alex working on his bike deep into the PM

Friday night I hung out at RVB until about midnight working on my race bike while Alex finally had a chance to assemble his... His dedication got COURAGE on the race course this Sunday.

Sunday afternoon


Holly got COURAGE off to a great start taking second in the womens 1/2/3. She has set the bar high for the rest of us. Kevin had a tough start and a couple bike swaps but did what he does best and ruthlessly put the power down for 60 minutes and pick off as many guys as he could for a 10th place finish. You can read about his race on his blog. Thanks to Gavin Gould for the great pics of the Klugs.


Hemme rolled into town a little too late from a wedding the night before in DC. Yes, Mike thought it was no big deal to party all night half way across the country then get on a plane at the crack of dawn, and go straight to the race. He didn't make the start but he strutted around Jackson Park in full kit on his new bike and had a chance to get in a few laps between races.

My race was a big question mark for me. I didn't prepare quite as well this year and I moved up to the 4As, but I have a lot of experience from last year and I put it to use on the start. I grabbed the holeshot and made it out of the dust pit first and was able to put some distance on guys who were a bit faster than me. I did my best to hold them off but in the last two laps I had to race at my tempo and slowly slipped to 15th by the end.

First one out of...

...the dust bowl.

I was happy with my race. I was targeting a top ten and wasn't too far off. I only lost two positions to mistakes. Once flying at the railroad ties behind someone who couldn't get over them very fast. I had to slam the breaks and got passed on the out side. And another time I was starting to loose focus and took a sloppy line around the 180 degree barrier and got passed on the inside.

I love the scene at the races. Props to xXx, Chi Cross Cup and the volunteers for putting on a great season opener. I leave you with this classic moment brought to you by Ben Popper and Half Acre.

Dude, there's a dollar... Ben's crotch!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Classic Portland Dust Bowl?

Check out COURAGE's Matt Wills working overtime in an uncharacteristically dusty cross race outside of Portland. Pain on the Peak seemed to have delivered, but Matt survived to finish sixth (Ryan Trebon claimed the top step on the podium).

Expect to see more of Matt on the blog as the race season gets rolling. Image from Oregon Cycling Action.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Head to Toe

I spent a couple enjoyable hours in the front yard with Ruby today. My race bike has been begging for a good scrub down, and after this mornings muddy practice it was time. In the past three weeks Ruby added hacksaw, chain breaker and chain whip to her tool arsenal.

I put my bottle of El Duke degreaser to use for the first time. It effortlessly removed a ground in layer of gunk from my chain ring and cassette, and left them with that awesome fresh from the factory, lightly oiled sheen. The product's value is made greater becuase I was comfortable letting my daughter do the dirty work without any concern it was made from nuclear waste and synthetic hormones.

This morning a few of us were booted from the Lane Tech yard for riding our bikes in the grass... Kind of lame. It had been a few years since I've been on the other end of someone else's rule book. We set up a new course in Clark Park and experienced the muddy result of morning dew and dusty soccer fields. It was good to practice with mud caked tires, but I'm bummed we won't be able to practice at Lane tech anymore. We had dialed in a fun, punchy little course.

Getting everyone's race bike together has proven to be more complicated that negotiations with North Korea. We've got frames and and most of the parts sitting at Roscoe Village Bikes, but a few key parts are 'in the mail.' Thank God we've got Alex, it just makes me feel better knowing he's building all the bikes.

I can't believe Jackson park is next week!? I'm looking forward to seeing everyone out at the races.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moth Balls and Prep Work

I think my road bike has been parked for the remainder of the year. I've spent the last two weeks on my cross bike and have enjoyed it more than a three year old with a gallon of Rocky Road ice cream. I didn't intend to hang up my road bike, but with cross on my mind I can't fathom what would get me back on the road.

I'm wrapping up my second serious weekend of cross practice and have begun to hone some of the skills required. I'm feeling good on my dismounts and through the corners, but I just can't get the stutter step out of my remount. I swear we all could have been prodigal junior cross racer had we know such a thing existed in our youth - at the age of 10 what kid couldn't jump on and off their bike at speed with total confidence?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

If Your Not having Fun, What Are You Having?

I was walking up to Roscoe Village Bikes to pick up an extra pair of team socks and stumbled into an impromptu three ring bike culture circus. Out front of RVB where three friends who represent wide range of Chicago's bike scene. Isaac from WIG, Nick from El Duke and Charlie, the Director of Mayor Daley's Bicycle Ambassadors.

These guys are like bike culture dealers. They hanging out on corners giving out a little taste of the good stuff, hoping you want in and come back for more. All three of them depend on the bike industry for their livelihood, but our conversation wasn't about their product. We talked about how to fit a family on a bike, shops in Chicago, sewing machines, and wicked fork details.

I did score a sample of El Duke Degreaser from Nick and plan to put it to work on my cross bike. I'll report back on how I like it sooner than later. However, without even using it I trust that it is truly environmentally sound, just check out this vid.

More than any single element or discipline of cycling I love the culture - the immeasurable, enlightening fun of sharing your passion for bikes with other bikers. After my last post I realized I was getting a little whinny about having to dig deep to keep getting up and on the bike. In retrospect, I don't have to dig deep to get on the bike, just to out of bed.

In the end if you're not having fun, what are you having?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dedication, Aches and Moving Pictures

Getting on the bike at 5:15am isn't as much fun as it used to be.


A few weeks ago

Same spot, same time, different feeling. I'm beginning to tap into my reserve stash of dedication to keep getting up so early in the morning. My reality is hard - a 60 hour a week job, family, COURAGE and a host of other responsibilities. The ass crack of dawn is my only personal time.

The reward of these early morning shenanigans is a newly welcomed ache deep in my legs. The strangely refreshing sensation that I'm worked and tired and love it.


For all you mountain bikers check out a slick little vid of the Palos Meltdown staring the Klugs and Mike Hemme... ...and some other people...