Monday, July 18, 2016

When the Pavement Ends the Fun Begins

This post was almost titled "R&R" Rest & Relaxtion, Rinse & Repeat, Rock n' Roll. You get the idea. Why would R&R be required for someone living the #CBL? I don't go full auto velocb just for fun. My ADD combined with so much life makes it near impossible to just be at peace. Or at rest. My wife and I take one real vacation a year together. Just the two of us. No kids. No pets. No work. That is pretty rare these days. Don't get me wrong I love the kids. Love them. They are really my whole world. But you need to step back and just have moments where you can soak in silence. Leave the list behind and just have no agenda. VT is one of those places that just work for me. I love it up there. Its the combo of the mountains, dirt roads, rivers, hippies. What is not to like?

We have been going to the same place for about 11 years. We have had a few gaps in our annual trip but we have tried to keep it consistent. We have always brought bikes. Our first time up there with the bikes we had the weirdest ride I can really remember. Other than the time we got lost in Santa Cruz on her bday (New Year's Eve) and were rapidly losing daylight. That ride was one of those tests of wills. Are we going to have to camp out over night in the woods? Can we make it to the Highway without falling off a cliff? Can we make it back to the B&B riding full ninja on Hwy 1 without being killed? You know the type of rides that make you feel alive!

My wife and I have a long history on bikes together. She is a natural. I always say if she biked as much as I do she would be way stronger than I am. She is a beast on the bike. And has zero fear. This has ended poorly on a few occasions of course but she keeps riding. And is always up for anything. I love dirt or gravel or what ever you want to call it. The term gravel is obviously more elegant than dirt and people instantly know what you are talking about. But it isn't really an accurate term. Riding gravel sucks. Have you ever ridden on gravel on train tracks? Yeah it sucks. Ever ride over big chunks of gravel on a power line trail? Yeah its terrifying. In VT dirt roads are everywhere. And they are used by everyone. So they are nice and packed down and in great shape. The loop we go on each year includes a bit of dirt and a bit of pavement. Its about a 20 mile loop. We ride at an easy pace. Unless my wife sees another woman on a bike. Then she goes into full hammer mode and we have to chase the woman down. Is this normal? See what I mean. If Pam wasn't a baller businesswoman she would be a competitive cyclist. I know she would. She just has that fire.

This year we got up to VT early on Friday. We wanted to get a hike on Equinox mountain in before it got dark. It was so nice just hiking and being alone. I don't get to hike much. But when I do it is almost as good as mountain biking. Sure its slower. But its nice. I love being able to just get enveloped by the woods and pick my way through a trail system. We both probably didn't have the best footwear for the hike but YOLO. I was wearing hemp boat shoes which did get interesting on a few slippery rocks but hey when in Rome wear hemp right? The next day we got up and had a good breakfast. I had been checking out some local cycling routes and hatched a plan in my head. For the record I did not download a file onto a Garmin. Why would you do that when you have a gps in your brain? Honestly, I can look at some maps and just remember the route I want to take. It doesn't always go 100% according to plan but that is what a nice local mini-mart is good for.

We rolled down River road at warp speed. The descent from Manchester to Arlington via River road is so nice. You just fly down these beautiful flowing roads then pop out into cow country. Oddly VT cows don't smell as bad as other cows. I don't know how this is possible. We came to our first dirt sector and my wife says under her breathe "scary, Chipper." It takes my wife about 45 minutes to warm up on a bike. At first her shoulders are up by her ears, she is very tentative and can barely reach the hoods. All understandable for someone who doesn't bike regularly. But then something magical happens. She just melts into her bike and becomes a beast. We got to Arlington and pulled over in front a sign that said New York 7 miles. I asked if she wanted to ride to NY? She laughed. But then said let's do it. I had seen on a map that there was a nice dirt road that runs parallel to 313 on the other side of the Battenkill River.

A decade ago we had ridden this same dirt road and had such a weird experience. It was like something you would see in some 80s horror movie. Full Hills Have Eyes type of experience. The funniest part of that ride was when we came across a lady in the middle of nowhere selling Barbie heads on a card table. Suffice it say we beat it out of there fast. This time was different. When we pulled off 313 there was a ton of people standing around in bathing suits and with inner tubes in their hands. We rode to the sign that said Pavement Ends. Now you are talking. I got a bit confused as the road looked like it was someone's driveway. Pam asked why we were stopping. I said I wasn't sure where the road went. She said follow me and dove down the dirt road. A budding trail wizard has clearly been born.

The dirt road was probably one of the nicest I have ever ridden. We rode along the Battenkill under a canopy of trees for the 7 miles. There were tons of people tubing and kayaking on the river. I joked that we should go skinny dipping. I wasn't really joking. We popped back out on 313 and took a left and voila there was the New York State sign. We took a ton of photos. Then did the same with the Welcome to VT sign. As we were heading back up the road on 313 I just couldn't believe what a perfect day we were having. The road ticked up a bit and I could hear the sound of a truck shifting down. I hear Pam getting nervous and shout "We have to get off the road" I sort of laughed but saw a wood bridge on the right and dove into it. Any opportunity to ride a wood bridge works for me. Now for those not savvy with wood bridge riding. You go from the light of day to darkness. Especially if you are wearing dark sunglasses. Typically wood bridges have wooden slats across them. They usually run length wise. Some have bigger gaps than others. This can cause some spectacular crashes.

Pam went in fully blind and rode through like a boss. To say I was impressed was an understatement. Like I said she gets stronger and more confident as the ride goes on. We got back onto that dirt road and headed back to Arlington. What was clear to me is the tubing/kayack people had displaced the sketchy hill people. Everywhere we turned there were happy tubers and kayakers. Tubing the Battenkill with my wife and kids is now on my bucket list for this summer. We had one more exciting moment on the ride. And one more moment that Pam impressed the hell out of me. Like I said these dirt roads were amazing. As smooth as VT cheese....hahaha couldn't resist a bad pun. Worn down. Not loose at all. But I of course found the only potholes on the whole road. It happened when we were riding side by side and chatting. I hit the first one and it deflected me towards Pam. I used all the body english I could to get the bike back under control and to not body check Pam. But it was tight. Like lock your bars together tight and die. She screams in my ear. "HEY"""" But she literally didn't even blink. Totally held her line like a boss.

Afterwards she said " I thought you were going to grab onto me like a drowning victim" "That's what I would have done..." hahaha darling I would literally crash my face off before I would take you down with me intentionally. We laughed and laughed. We started playing a game called New York or Jersey. Its kind of like Matt Roy's game Nanny or MILF but involves tubers in American Flag shorts and poor life choices. Oddly most times it came up PA. But wow this place has been overrun in the short ten years we have been coming here. This is why I love riding on vacation. You see parts of a new place on a bike that you just wouldn't see otherwise. You talk to so many weird locals. And interact with so many weird visitors like yourselves.

We stopped in Arlington to refuel and grab something to eat. I introduced my wife to the joys of mini-mart food. And then we found a "deli" and had sandwiches. I tried to steer her away from the diet coke and the veggie wrap (rap?) with banana peppers. But a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I had a half turkey on wheat and water. Arlington is the weirdest little town. I really love it. A Church that has been converted to some kind of shrine to bad Rooster art, Satanic cats, bikers, gun shows. It has it all. And it has a tank. We found the tank a few years ago. Pam always climbs on the tank for a photo op.

This year's tank photo op was a bit sketchy. It was a very hot day so climbing on the tank was no easy feat. But once on the tank we got a classic Tank Girl photo. I am not sure what the appeal of the tank is but it is always a highlight of our ride. It was getting a bit late and I knew Tank Girl was getting bonky so I opted to avoid the two punchy climbs on our usual route and take us back by the river and up River road. It worked out great as we dove back into the shade of the canopied dirt roads and avoided the searing heat of mid-day. As we climbed out of the dirt a sport rider went flying by us descending Sunderland road. I could care less about chasing down any riders. But as it was another lady I had a funny feeling Pam was going to go into hammer mode and try and chase the rabbit. Low and behold I hear her chain slam onto the big ring and Pam swings by me and goes into full TT mode.

I sort of laugh and just hop on her wheel and think about how long it will take to reel in the rider up the road. The women has a pretty good lead. Maybe 1/4 mile. But the road is very flat. And Pam is a hammer. Low RPM grinder. We catch the women in 5 minutes. I say high as we go by. Nice lady. Pam asks if we have dropped her nemesis. Ah yeah I say. She says "thank god cause I think I puked up a banana pepper.." Hahah OMG. This women needs to race cyclocross. Seriously. The climb out seems easier than past years. Not sure why. Maybe cause we are having so much fun on the bikes. Or maybe the veggie wrap was laced with EPO. What a fantastic weekend. Literally just what we needed. Thank you VT for being so damn weird. Never change.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Train Kept A-Rollin'

Good morning dear readers. Fellow 'muricans I hope you enjoyed the birth of this here fair nation. I hope you have all your digits, and are in one piece both spiritually and figuratively. I personally am a shell of a man. I honestly didn't even know what day it was until my dog walker showed up. I of course was still in my PJs. My dog walker is luckily a very understanding person. So how did I get to this state of not knowing what actual day it was? Well sometimes mes amis we take on a bit too much over the course of a three day weekend. I had high hopes to host a HUP BBQ and ride on Saturday the 2nd. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Michele did her ride with GPS black arts and we had a route to follow. 38 miles of mixed terrain bad assery on CX bikes. 

Well like lots of great ideas and good intentions sometimes they get dashed on the rocks of family obligation. Not complaining but fairly last minute my sister-in-law asked if she, her daughter and a good friend from the Ukraine and his daughter could come spend the weekend at our house and do the full July 4th celebration. My town does not play when it comes to the 4th. The fireworks are next level. 40, 000 + people descend upon Memorial Field at the High School for an epic fireworks display. The next day our Parade is off the charts. So I had to pull the plug on the BBQ and ride. HUP approaches these rides sort of like how a Faceless Man approaches an assassination. Once the die has been cast there is no going back. We ended up with two rides. The early train: Me, DJ Robert and Andrew rolled out at 7 am. The late train: Michele, Ed, Chris, Meg, Jacob and Todd rolled out at 9:30. Now as anyone who knows me I tend to "pick my own adventure" in life and while riding. I don't use a Garmin. Ever. In this case I of course knew all these trails like the back of my hand. I decided to ride the route in reverse and to of course put my own spin on it. The intention or hope was that at some point the two HUP squadras would meet along the trail.

It was so good to ride with Robert. I have known Robert probably the longest of anyone on HUP. He is one of the original of the next generation of HUP NECX who helped build what we have right now. Guy is crazy fast. But lives life to the fullest. He is renowned for bringing a boom box on the Ronde and all our other party rides. He's a great rider and a great friend. Life, kids etc has conspired the last few years to make it difficult to ride together as often as we would like. Today was a gift to be able to ride with a friend with zero stress of racing etc. Along with Robert was new HUP Andrew. Super great guy. Strong as a bull on the bike. And has great taste in beer! My type of teammate!

Our ride was super chill. That is the advantage of rolling out at 7 am. I have to say I really liked this early roll out the door. So little traffic. No one was on the trails and it was nice and cool. We got back at home by 10 am long before the mid-day sun starting cracking us. One other thing Robert and I have in common are bikes. We both have Sky blue Zank CX bikes! As you can see from the photo below he is much taller than me! Well most everyone is much taller than me but I digress. It was pretty cool taking a side by side photo of the two bikes.

I warned Robert and Andrew that I was wicked slow and they were so great about not crushing me on the road sectors. We did a good amount of exploring. I took them out to see the Needham rail trail and the "controversial" burnt out train trestle that goes into Dover. It had rained non-stop the night before but the route we chose was oddly dry. A few wet roots and rocks but no standing water. Even Strawberry Hill which is basically a stream bed was dry. We had two crashes and zero mechanicals which is amazing for the trails we were riding. I would say over half the trails we rode were of the MTB variety. Nothing too gnarly but certainly at the edge of what is reasonable on a CX bike. I oddly love going into the drops on my Zank and just dropping into some nasty little drop full of rocks and roots. The bike just tracks so well. It really pushes the boundaries of what you can and can't ride.

We had gotten about 3/4 of the way through the route. I kept asking Robert what time it was. I had thought we would have found the Late Train by now. I was starting to get bummed out that we wouldn't see them. As we rode through the last woods sector and really the last chance to see our HUPmates I heard the tell tale sounds of disc brake squeal. I hollered in joy. I saw Chris coming up a trail down below us and yelled out to him. Michele popped out of the woods next. It was an awesome mid-ride reunion. Chris had a pretty good gash on his shin and Michele was talking about a beaver damn they had to cross and mentioned seeing fish swim by as she was hike a biking through the wash out. God I love this team.

We all exchanged high fives. Gave a trail recon report. I warned them that the gun club at Adams Farm was very "active" What a fantastic day and a nice CX wake up call. Its July 5th. DONOTHITTHESNOOZEBUTTONONYOURCXALARMCLOCK!!!

Get those bikes ready. Decide whether you are going tubular or tubeless. Order those tires. Glue them up or get that tubeless set up dialed. Do not be that person who rolls a tubie or burps a tubeless tire at the first race.


Oh all the good photos above were taken by Michele ; )

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lost Boys

My love of riding new mountain bike trails with a good friend as a guide is unparalleled. It really is one of the joys of mountain biking. Reminds me so much of going to a new surf spot for the first time with a local. Our little band of misfits takes great pride in showing off their secret stash. Luckily mtn biking isn't as territorial surfing. Surfers would just assume kill you than show a new surf spot to the world at large. I get it. Surf spots get overcrowded in the blink of an eye. Even with the uptick in mountain biking popularity it is rare to see another rider in the woods. Especially on a week day. My good friend Agent Utah got a hall pass and asked if I wanted to go on a sick ride. I of course jumped at the chance. Chris happened to have a window to ride as well so the three of us jumped in the van and headed over to Sharon. Matt was really excited to show off Borderland. Or Boulderland as he likes to call it.

The plan was to do a soul ride on our fat bikes. No suspension. No rules. Just a fun park to park ride through some of the nicest trails I have ridden in a long time. Chris was on his 29er FS. We parked at Moosehill in Sharon. Ok things may be a bit nicer in Sharon than my side of 128....The visitor center was gorgeous. One of the cleanest and nicest spots I have been to. The plan was to check out the Bay Circuit Trail and ride it over to Borderland. Borderland is another park in Easton, MA. The mileage between the two was only about 12 miles. Twelve miles on rocky technical terrain is of course worth about 3 road miles but still, no biggie. Looked like it would be about a four hour ride out and back.

For some reason the idea of the Lost Boys popped into my head the second we rolled out of the parking lot. We really are a lot like the Lost Boys. No not the Keifer Sutherland Lost Boys but from J.M. Barrie's play Peter Pan. It is shocking when you type in Lost Boys into Google and it isn't even on the first page of listings. People do realize where the term originated from right? Probably not. Its shocking how much we have lost culturally in the last decade. It popped into my head for obvious reasons. Here we have three grown adult men. All responsible, contributing members of society. But being drawn into the primordial woods to play. Not too many grown men play these days. Maybe we do suffer from a Peter Pan complex. Who knows. I for one never question this lifestyle. I feel beyond lucky to have friends like I do. Fifty year old men do not make new friends in the general population. In or Wolf Pack it is the norm. So we chase Utah through this magical loamy paradise. Just shredding. And laughing. It is a perfect day. About 60 degrees. Zero bugs. Amazing.

Moosehill is a cool mix of loamy singletrack and some swampy wetlands. Chris is laughing so much. I love riding with these two dudes. The fat bikes are probably a really stupid choice. But it was part of the whole idea for the ride. Just a chill ride on the chillest of bikes. We come upon some really sketchy wood bridges and walk all of them. This is a chill ride and the idea is to go the long haul. When you are trying to do a long day getting hurt 3 miles in is not a great life choice. Then we come upon Neverland. You think I am kidding. In the middle of nowhere we find this crazy tree fort. The actual tree house is probably 30 feet up in a tree. All the wood is from the Sharon DPW. We just start cracking up. There is a really sketchy rope ladder. We of course climb and swing around on it. We do not climb all the way up to the tree fort and to our certain deaths.

Who ever built this definitely new what they were doing. We laugh and think who possibly had the motivation to do this. Do kids even build tree forts anymore? Clearly some kids spend time in the woods when they aren't playing Call of Duty. Who ever built this gives me hope for this next generation. Thankfully and by some miracle the rope ladder doesn't snap and kill one of us. We roll out and I now think in my head this truly is a Lost Boys ride.

We pop out of the woods and ride through a gorgeous neighborhood. How is this 30 minutes from Boston? It looked like we were down the Cape. We were riding by a beautiful pond with docks and beaches. It was a crime no one was out enjoying this day on the water. Two fat bikes rolling on the pavement was pretty funny. We stopped to ask some nice person doing yard work for directions to Borderland. Lost Boys do not rely on Garmins to find their way. It wouldn't be in the spirit of the ride. Pixie dust maybe. Gamins? No. We find Borderland and I see why Matt calls it Boulderland. I am used to rocks. But the rocks near me are angry, hate-filled rocks that want to kill you. These rocks were smooth boulder type of rocks. Very little sharp edges. Smoothed from eons of glacial work to make a playground for mountain bikes.

So for full disclosure I am ok on rocks but not great. I get a bit nervous. It is 90% mental. And realistically being a good mountain biker is mostly from the neck up. You have to be confident and pretty zen. Riding with fear will make your worst fears come true. You have to be loose and think about where you want to go not where you don't. I am not that great at that part. Fat bikes are weird. They will roll over everything. But have their own ideas about where they want to go. And they rebound like nothing I have ever ridden before. This is all fine and good during the Winter and on snow. But when you are riding boulders and are up high and need to pick a line its a bit like being the captain of a large boat. Straight ahead is fine but adjusting your trajectory takes some time. Sometimes in mountain biking you have to be able to flick your bike and change your line in a second. Good luck with that on a fat bike.  I learn this lesson in spades. I am leading though a fairly tricky section. But we have ridden some way sketchier stuff. I must have not seen a squared off rock or something. I hit it at full speed and the bike rebounds up and dick punches me. Literally. I let go of the bars instinctively. And the bike throws me like a Bull. I luckily land in some bushes and miss both trees and rocks. I lie in the fetal position for a minute and do a body check.

I have to sit down for a while and take a time out. Matt and Chris are both laughing there asses off. I need a bit more time so lie on a rock while they session these boulders. After about fifteen minutes I pull it together and we go and session a ton of really cool stuff. We find a section of the NEMBA trail that Matt called his "Nemesis" It is basically a rock wall along a boulder. You ride the rockwall that is about 4 feet off the ground. I took a pass as I was still not right after my trashing a mile or two back the trail. Matt and Chris give it a go. On Chris's second run he gets hooked up and pitches over the side. Luckily he lands on his feet and runs it out. More laughter ensues. We finish the NEMBA trail and are really close to the Borderland visitor center and the turn around spot. Matt sees a trail called French Trail and says let's go check it out. It is rocky but way easier than anything we have ridden. I am third wheel. I see Utah just go flying over his bars and land really bad down a rock garden. The problem was he caught his wheel at the top and body slammed about 6 feet down the trail. No one was laughing. You can always tell when a crash is bad. This one looked bad. And Matt was in obvious pain.

Chris and I got to him and did a quick check. His hand was bleeding through his glove. We didn't want to take the glove off. He said he felt a pop in his leg. I was hoping for the best and that it was just a bone bruise. But when I pulled his sock down to look at it and he winced at my barely touching his leg I got pretty worried. We got him up and started to walk him out. He really was having a hard time. There were a ton of roots and rocks and Chris held him as he hobbled along. I grabbed his bike and ran ahead of them looking for the visitor center. We got to a fire road and Matt got back on his bike and we rode out. We sent Chris on his 29er back to get the car. On the road the van was only 6 miles away. Chris deserves a medal for TT'ng back to the van. I get Aumiller comfortable at the visitor center and grab a first aid kit. Man we were lucky. We could have been so far out from the trail head. The hand is nasty. We bandage it up and wait for Chris. Chris arrives and we roll out and drop Matt off at the ER. I get home unload the van and then head back to see how he is doing. Just as I get into the ER and see Matt the Dr shows up and hands him his X-Ray. Broken leg. Poor bastard. He has such a great attitude about it. He is already taking about wanting to go back and ride Borderland. It was such a great day. So amazing to be able to have that time. Matt will be back strong as ever in no time. It is part of this crazy life we all live. Be safe, take care of each other and carpe diem.

Monday, June 6, 2016

All Aboard the HUP Pain Train

My good friend and co-DS of HUP Michele Smith along with her husband Ed host one of the most awesome rides/BBQs in the NECX. It is an annual HUP team ride. It is called the Lion of Burlington. Typically happens the first weekend in June. It is a CX wake up call if there ever was one. The ride starts and finishes at their house and goes park to park on some pretty amazing trails. In the spirit of the ride most ride CX bikes. But a mountain bike certainly is nice on some of these trails. I certainly was very happy to have disc brakes and tubeless tires on my CX bike. My CX bike is pretty much a woods killing machine so it is very capable on most "mtn bike" trails. HUP is amazing. Such a great crew. And it continues to grow into something even  more awesome each year. This year's ride was a good chance to meet a lot of new team riders and reconnect with friends and teammates we hadn't seen in a while. 

I would guess and say we had about thirty riders. Mostly HUP but a bunch of like minded friends as well. Basically if you love CX and getting lost in the woods you are a friend of HUP. Sure doesn't hurt if you bring nice beer to the BBQ as well. Baked goods work wonders also. It was so awesome seeing so many rad people. We did all our hellos and got kitted up. Roger had a mechanical on the way over so I saw he and Ed frantically trying to change out a derailler pulley wheel before we rolled out. We snapped a great team photo and off we rolled. Now rolling out with 30 riders and picking your way through the woods can be pretty hilarious. You always try and give each other space and be respectful but of course shenanigans are bound to happen. Once you get into the woods and you see downed trees that need to be hopped it becomes full #DBL in a blink of an eye. I may have put Roger into a tree hoping a log. But it was all in good fun and once again I was blown away at how comfortable HUP riders are in their natural element on CX bikes. This is how you get ready for CX season. Riding a CX bike in the woods is perfect for getting those bike handling skills back in top form. 

We bombed through some super fun dusty trails and popped out by the reservoir and regrouped. It is always very hard keeping 30+ riders together in the woods. Michele and Ed do a great job of herding all the cats but it is tough. We rode in a fun group with Ed for a bit. Some serious smackdowns were happening anytime we popped out onto pavement was a bit challenging for my out of shape ass but I was faking it and laughing my ass off at all the jokes and snark flying around the group. I love these people and there is no better way to spend a day in my mind than with this crew on CX bikes getting lost in the woods. Speaking of which. There was a bit of confusion when we were working our way through the second section of woods. Roger, Chris and I decided to pick our own adventure and split off. We were having way too much fun to stand around in the woods. It had been so long since I had ridden with Roger and Chris. We were definitely feeding off each other and Roger was definitely in full Shark mode. Everyone had a garmin file loaded up (well I didn't but I have an internal GPS that aways keeps me semi-lost, semi-found)

We were expecting Ed's group to catch up at any moment anyway really. We certainly didn't attack in a racing sense. We just were having so much fun shredding all the trails that we sort of lost track of how far ahead we had gotten. Roger rides this area constantly. And has been riding a shit ton this Spring/Summer. He is in the best shape I think I have ever seen him. Chris and I have been sitting on our asses eating pies for the last three months. You think I am joking. I am not. Any time we got on a road or straight path Roger would drop us so bad. I would laugh out loud as he was pointing out hazards in the road when he was at least 500 feet up the road. I just hung on for dear life and kept eating food and drinking water. Then we would get to a woods section and he would wave me through and let me shred. I will say Roger's woods riding game is on another level as well. He definitely was riding the roots and tricky sections way better than I have seen him on other adventure rides. We somehow had zero mechanicals. Zero crashes. It is almost like we had some dark angel on our shoulder driving us like the three riders of the HUPocalypse.

Its not like we were killing ourselves or anything. We stopped to take some cool photos and get food and water along the way. This ride is one of the more special ones I do each year. I really like to soak it all in. One of the cooler aspects is riding on Battle Road in Concord. I am a bit of a history buff. And seeing all of that history is just incredible. Roger found a couple of great new sections in that area. Battle Road is great but as it is a pretty significant national park it can be very crowded going full pathlete is never a good idea. It is a great road. Nice packed dirt with some really nice trees keeping you out of the sun. I swear this year we barely even had to look at our gamins. Between the three of us we knew this route really well. I started to get a bit bonky right before we got to one of my favorite sections. Chris and Roger were definitely riding very spirited on the roads. They would attack each other for townline sprints and climbs. I would just hang back and save my matches.

At the top of Grove street we dove into Landlocked Forest. LLF is a great open space in Lexington that is mostly owned by Burlington. It is called Landlocked Forest because Burlington residents are cut off from their forest by a highway. The land has been in jeopardy of being developed over the years and a section we road off of Grove Street looks like it is in real trouble. Please take the time to go sign the petition to save this section of LLF. These rides only happen if we have open space to ride on. As bikers we are always ever vigilant to make sure other riders don't damage the trails when wet, we work hard to keep the trails in good shape and work with communities to ensure our natural resources are preserved and can be enjoyed by everyone.

As before Roger waved we through. Just as I went into the drops I must have hit autoplay on my phone. The Black Eyed Peas start booming out of my jersey pocket. It was so awesome. The new RoboZank was built just for this type of riding. Last year I did the LoB on a mtb. It was fun. But to be honest I was able to ride everything I rode on my mtb on my RoboZank. There was one weird rock garden mid-way through that I wasn't 100% sure about but the bike just floated through it. 

We popped out on the highway underpass and I remembered I almost died at this spot last year. Amazing what a difference 44 cm bars are to 170 wide bars. Last year I clipped my riser bars on a retaining wall and almost went down a culvert. Drop bars are so nice in tight spots. We were in the home stretch at this point. Again we were sort of bummed no other groups caught up to us but we were having such a great time riding with just the three of us that it was ok. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better day on the bike.

We got back changed into our kit and got ready for a serious BBQ! We had so much food and so much great beer. It was so awesome being able to just hang out and hear everyone's story from the day. The CX gods were with us for sure. Our good friend Jenn sadly broke her frame. But luckily didn't do any damage to herself. There are so many weird little wood bridges. Jenn got caught up on one and went over the side. Unfortunately it was about 5 feet down into a swamp. Still can't believe she wasn't hurt. She must be superhuman! HUGE thanks to Ed and Michele and everyone who came out. HUP is looking STRONG right now. I love where this team is at right now. #CXISCOMING and I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I Faticus

First I have to apologize to my good friend and fellow blogger Fatmarc for stealing one of his handles. But I Faticus embodies everything that will be captured in this here post. And I named the above fat bike Faticus. I don't always name my bikes. But this name just came to me this week while ready the fatty. I have been called Fat Bike Jesus. It is obviously half taunt half jest. I like fat bikes. I like fun. Fat bikes are fun. I don't know about where you live but around here in the Northeast Fat Bikes were ALL the rage last winter. Or was it the winter before. I mean they were selling like hot cakes! Then everyone sold off their bikes in the Spring when they realized unlike myself, aka Fat Bike Jesus, fat bikes themselves can't walk on water. Or ride through deep snow for that matter. They are a ton of fun in Winter but you have to be realistic. And it is gonna be rough going at times. Its basically snowshoeing with touch of pedaling, but you can rail down some fun powder trails and launch yourself into a snowbank at random intervals. If this sounds like fun to you then fat biking is for you!

But fat biking isn't only for winter. I am pretty sure I invented the idea of racing fat bikes at CX races. Well, if I didn't invent it I certainly encouraged and supported it. Now if racing a SSCX on a CX course is stupid. Racing a fat bike on a CX course is stupider. Is stupider a word? Who knows. But again, its FUN. Actually, if you took the barriers down most CX courses would be a blast on a fat bike. But fat bikes are super heavy. And wicked slow. Or are they wicked slow? In a sense they are. But I had a fat bike epiphany at Singlespeed-A-Palooza. Fat bikes have raced at SSAP for as long as I have gone to the event. SSAP is my favorite bike race on the planet. This year I got a lesson in just how fast a fat bike can be. Let's think of what fat bikes are good at. They roll over everything. Once up to speed do not lose speed. They are basically like an out of control dump truck. And for their weight and size they are very nimble. Shit it sounds like I am describing myself.

Anyway back to SSAP. So as I am deep in the pain cave questioning why I would go couch to SSAP with really only two rides on my SS and feeling sort of sorry for myself I hear the tell tale sound of a fat bike about to overtake me. It is a very distinct sound. Like an A-10 Warthog coming in slow and low and about to light up everything in its gun sights. I hear a loud WOOHOOT CHIP BAKER!!! And get a well needed ass slap and in a blink of an eye my friend Fabian is gone! He is flying. So I try my damn best to catch up and latch onto the fat bike pain train. No chance. Fabian beats me by 15 minutes. That is insane! And sort of got me thinking. One my friend is a bad ass. And he is fast obviously. But two maybe fat bikes are fast.

So I put that in the memory bank and don't really think about it. Then for reasons outside of my control one of my only functioning bikes this past week is my fat bike. What is a boy to do? Obviously just shred the fat bike. There certainly are worse fates. I ride my fat bike all year. It is a ton of fun in the woods. Not so much riding to the woods as it is like driving a John Deere riding mower through town but you are going so slow people actually smile and wave at you. A fat bike is probably the only bike on the planet that actually makes non-bike people smile and say nice things to you. Its like having a lab puppy in the park. Everyone is happy to see you. So my first ride back on the fat bike is at Needham Town Forest. I am not shy about being open about my fear of NTF. Place scares the crap out of me. It is a legit black diamond riding area. I have gotten better in there but its always rough on mind and body. I go in with the mindset of just have fun and play around. I thank Thom for this. He has been posting some rad videos lately from sessioning NTF and it takes some of the fear out of the place.

Its apparent almost immediately how much at ease the fat bike is on these rocky technical trails. There are lots of reasons. One is position I think. I am short. Like hobbit sized. A 29er is a big bike for me. But I love my 29er. It rolls over a lot of stuff and is fast. But a fat bike with 26" wheels allows me to use a riser bar and gives me tons of clearance. The fat tires smooth out almost more trail than a suspension fork. I have a tubeless set up so am able to run around 8 PSI. So within the first two or three technical sections I have already ridden better and cleared stuff than I usually do. It isn't perfect. Definitely more pedal strikes. And I smacked the shit out of the bb more times than I could count. But on a few sections that I have trouble with I was fast. Way faster than on the 29er. So the fat bike earned a nickname. Fatmarc I hope its cool. I promise Faticus will honor your namesake.

Friday, May 27, 2016

I am a Dirt Bag

I am a Dirt Bag. It has been a life goal. Or a mantra. Not sure at this point. You probably wouldn't think I was a Dirt Bag if you met me. You would think I look pretty "normal" Rugged good looking perhaps but not a Dirt Bag. Kidding about the good looking part obviously. I shudder when I see photos of myself. But I digress. Why do I consider myself a Dirt Bag? My parents were reluctant hippies. My dad was about as WASPY as they come. Grew up in Chestnut Hill. My Grandfather was an Army surgeon. Harvard educated. I went to the Chestnut Hill Country Club in a little man suit every Sunday. So how in the hell could I turn into a Dirt Bag and not a Lawyer or some other suitable gentlemanly pursuit?

The 60s happened. My parents like I said were wannabe hippies. They could never be true hippies as like I said dad was deeply trust funded and that would never go down. My mom was from a broken Irish home and worked her ass off to get through Nursing school to make a better life for herself and her family. But the ideals of hippies mattered to them. The music which I hated. The views which I took on by osmosis. We did lots of hippie type stuff. I grew up fairly non-traditional in a traditional setting which has it upsides and downsides. Around high school things sort of headed off track and fully to the Dirt Bag lifestyle. I quit hockey for karate. I went deep into the rabbit hole of eastern thought. I went to Art School. I windsurfed and dreamed of actually surfing. 

I took my High School graduation money and booked a trip to Maui from the back of a windsurf magazine. It was like I woke up from a bad dream when I landed in Maui and found my true self. But I hadn't accepted the Dirt Bag lifestyle yet. I didn't get it. I didn't get that you could just drop the fuck out and surf. My ties to my family and obligations to them would never allow that anyway but a boy can dream. The ocean and dojo became my salvation. When I returned from Hawaii things would never be the same. I probably should have dropped out of Art School and figured shit out. But as a true Dirt Bag I went all in and while registered as an "Illustration Major" I basically was a painter. I studied painting and figure drawing non-stop. But I was a crappy art student. My heart and soul was on the ocean. Every chance I could get I would take off and go windsurfing. Its not a cheap sport. I drove a beatdown Subaru that was barely worth what one sail would cost. I don't really remember eating or partying. Those things really weren't important. When I wasn't windsurfing I was hightailing it up to Boston to study Kung Fu now in South Station. I am not sure what my parents were thinking. But the roots of my life as a Dirt Bag were forming.

I somehow graduated. No idea how. I waited for my girlfriend to graduate UMASS while working in a Hospital. I would go to work with two black eyes, cracked ribs, split lips. No one asked too many questions about it. It was Boston after all. Once Pam graduated we packed my jeep with our possessions and headed West to SF. We had debated between Laguna Beach and SF for a while. Pam has two brothers. One lived in Laguna and one in SF. It was sort of like how Charlie Sheen's character was pulled in two directions in Apocalypse Now. We settled on SF because Laguna just felt too nice. And too focused on money. SF had soul. But Laguna is damn pretty. We made the right choice. Thank god we moved to SF.

The reality of moving to SF with a Jeep, 2k in cash and a microwave and zero prospects for work was some lifestyle shifts had to occur. The windsurfer was sold. Kind of crushing but rent had to be paid. Martial Arts was too expensive so that went out the window. I worked three or four jobs. Bartender at night, brunch place in the am, intern at a magazine in the design department when I could get the hours. Luckily, I had some actual design experience from when I was in High School. Art School gave me zero skills for the actual work force. What a shocker. The magazine I worked for was called California Bicyclist. It was a free regional rag that's strength was events. This was pre-internet. Finding races and events wasn't easy. We had a pretty huge circulation for a regional magazine.

My Dirt Bag lifestyle was about to go on steroids. The sport of mountain biking was created by Dirt Bags. Literally. They lived like surf bums or ski bums but on bikes. They lived hard. Meeting and riding with the founders of mountain biking was an eye opener. I was hooked. It was the closest thing to surfing I had a ever done. My first bike was a Bridgestone Mb-3. I coveted the Mb-0 but didn't have the funds to pull that off.

So what is all the point of this? The point is the outdoors sports media seems to be romanticising and monetizing the Dirt Bag lifestyle. I went on a bit of an internet tirade about a certain video that was posted that literally made my head want to explode. I am not trying to be one of those old dudes who are like you have no idea how it was in the day! My point is the Dirt Bag lifestyle exists right now. But it does not require one to be an Instagram celebrity. The Dirt Bag lifestyle can be freeing. Being shackled to a super phone and curating an instagram feed is not freedom. Nor is it aspirational or inspirational. It is a mockery of why Dirt Bags "invented" mountain biking. A legion of surf bums, ski bums, climbers, fly fisherman have led this lifestyle for decades. It is not without its dark side. But if you choose the Dirt Bag lifestyle the rewards are endless. The greatest one to me is just freedom. End of rant

Monday, May 23, 2016

SSCX is Coming

In the good old days when CX was a niche sport we didn't even think about CX until say around Sept 1st. Maybe August 1st if you were "serious" Newsflash. No one was serious. It was sort of an oddball offseason thing to do. My first exposure to early season training races was the DFL Cross Dressing Series. It was as the name would imply the opposite of serious. But CX is serious business now. The Zank SSCX series was created as a safe haven/counter point to all the crazy stressed out races a CX racer does in a CX season in the NECX. 

This season will be our sixth season running the series. That is an incredible feat. The fact this started out as a drunken idea at Thom Parson's family farm and morphed into what it is today is an exclamation point that people still do in fact like fun!

Fatmarc gave me my CX wake up call. Virtually of course. He posted a 2016 CX schedule. It is a bit early for me. I almost hit the snooze button. But when Fatmarc speaks I listen. So without further ado here is the 2016 Zank SSCX series presented by Mad Alchemy! It is preliminary. Meaning things could change. I found most of my info on the NEBRA webpage. We have 11 races this year. Some notable changes. We may want to add one or two more. If you are a promoter and are curious email me. If you are a racer and have feedback leave it in the comments section or email me. Thanks

The 2016 Zank SSCX series p/b Mad Alchemy:

9/11-Quad CX
9/17-CX at White Park
9/18-Sucker Brook
9/28-Midnight Ride of CX
10/9-MRC CX
10/22-Hanover CX
11/5-Paradise CX
11/6-West Hill CX
12/10-Ice Weasels-The Macdaddy of all SSCX series finale

As in year's past all are welcome on a singlespeed bicycle. How you make that pedal bike single speed or one gear is your business. We defer to each promoter on all rules, staging and time slotting of each respective event. We usually bring our little bag of tricks and offer our own podium prizes. We encourage equal "payouts/prize money" to both men and women. We encourage beginners and those new to SSCX. We welcome all racers to try SSCX. The series points are tallied in the old Verge series point system. At the season finale we have a HUGE raffle. The grand prize each year is a custom built Zanconato steel or alloy frame. Racers accrue raffle tickets for each race they attend. 

We look forward to another rad season of SSCX! Get those bikes ready people. I know its full on MTB and gravel season but start looking through the parts bin. At least wash the mud off the SSCX bike from last year's Ice Weasels! We will have more announcements soon. We have lots of rad ideas cooking right now!