Monday, August 22, 2016

The Zank Pain Train

D2R2 is one of the most beautifully brutal sufferfests on the planet. And I grossly underestimated how hard it was. I blame my current status as a gravel specialist. I feel like I am some kind of self appointed gravel expert. I mean I worked for a company that specialized in gravel bikes....what the hell is a gravel bike anyway? But I digress. I have artisinally curated adventure routes all over the Boston area. I can ride the woods like a fiend! But you know what I really suck at? Climbing. Yeah that would sense as I am a complete flatlander. Living in the metro Boston area you really need to work to find climbs. Or climbing. What I think is a climb is not a climb. Its a bump. Or maybe a hump. Sucking at something and knowing you suck at it should equate to working on said sucking until it is no longer a weakness. But come on. That is not the #CBL. That sounds way to Type A for the Dude to abide by. Training a weakness sounds like a lot of work. And not really fun. 

I am on a mission to make August the Triple Crown for Adventure Rides. The NEBRA ride a few weeks ago was phenomenal. Perfect. That ride was 46.6 miles and 2,800 feet of climbing. When I downloaded the file it probably should have occurred to me that 77 miles and 7,500 feet of climbing is a bit of a step up from the previous ride. No one has ever accused me of being the smartest tack in the yard. I honestly was not worried. I won't say I disrespected the ride but I certainly wasn't freaking out. Which is a sign for anyone who knows me that I am not taking a ride seriously. I was looking at the weekend as a nice opportunity to go Glamping. I have never gone Glamping. And was curious what it was all about. Myette offered to drive and to bring his pop up trailer tent Flipper. I was bummed that 24 hours of great glen was canceled this year and this seemed a nice opportunity to camp out and hang out with friends. Rosey was in as well. That is a pretty solid crew right there. But they are waaaayyyy faster than I am. Like not even on the same spectrum. I am old and slow. But we were all sort of on the same page about just riding and enjoying the day. We chose a pretty manageable distance in the 115k. It sounded perfect.

We got up there the night before on Friday. As we were pulling into the camping area my friend Chris from Shimano texted me to tell me where he was set up. It really reminded me of what I love about 24HOGG. A ton of rad bikers camped out in a field with a little tent city. Bonfires, beer and BBQ...wait BBQ? Yeah Chris knew a great BBQ right near by. We drove over and had a fantastic dinner. It was great hanging out and talking shop. Chris was doing the Mystery ride. It sounded pretty insane. Full on adventure ride. We got back and had a beer or two with Rosey and then crashed out. Sleeping in a pop up off the ground is the only way I am camping from here on out. I actually got a good night sleep. The weather was perfect. You could hear the coyotes off in the distance. I had a good feeling about the ride. Part of what was lulling me into a false sense of calm was that the time I did it two years ago with Roger Caddy Man it really wasn't hard. Looking back it was the pace. We rode super chill. Took our time etc. I never felt in any spot of bother that year with Roger. In sort of a moment of foreshadowing I was sort of joking about how we cut out a certain climb the previous attempt because one of our group was struggling. Oh how I would pay for that bit of hubris....

We roll out of the camper and grab some breakfast. We get back and pull the bikes off the roof rack of the Pilot. Rosey tells me my tire is flat. I oddly didn't even get too excited. I have been having some bad flat karma of late. But have been lulled into some odd state that Stan's will always save me. Even though it clearly did not in July at Adam's Farm. But that happens. I should have been a bit more concerned I guess. Rosey and I look at the tire. It seems fine. I shake it and inflate it and it seems ok. Its not like I was totally not taking this ride seriously. I knew it would be a long day. I had a couple of tubes, a tire boot, pump etc. One of the things I think I like the most about D2R2 is the staggered starts. You can really chose to go out when you want. The different ride distances have set times to depart but it is very chill. The polar opposite of some mass start rides. I personally hate mass start rides that are not a race. In a race you know what to expect. But on a ride you just don't know how the person next to you or in front of you will ride. It makes me nervous. And twitchy.

We rolled out at 8 am. We got absorbed by a fairly largish group of masters type riders. Some with sleeveless jerseys which always makes me very nervous. Some odd bike choices. And they seemed to be very hyped. I wasn't that comfortable. So when we hit the first dirt sector through a corn field I hit the gas to get away from them. In doing so I must have hit a rock or something and gashed open the small puncture that was already in my front tire. I mean Stan's starts shooting out of the tire. In alarming volume and rate of speed. Granted its probably because we are rolling at 25 mph but I am getting sprayed with Stan's. As is the bike. Then it would seal. Then it would rip open. Rinse and repeat for the next 15 miles. I was in equal parts denial and equal parts not wanting to stop. We were rolling at a good pace and feeling fresh. Stopping always messes with your flow. Especially early on. But I was starting to worry about the front tire failing on a descent. So on River Road I pulled the plug and pulled over to put a tube in. Stan's is disgusting. There I said it. Putting a tube into a tubeless tire is NBD but it is messy. I dumped what sealant I could out. Pulled the valve out. Booted the tire. Tube in and we were on our way in under 10 minutes. Rosey was a big help getting the bead on right and making sure I hadn't messed up the tire any worse than I had. 

At the next rest stop we bumped into a bunch of people from the NECX. Ian, Cindy, Charlie a great crew. I won't lie that is probably what I love the most about these rides. You just get to hang out with friends and people you haven't seen in a while. I tried to get my act together. For some reason the front flat threw me off my game a bit. But the tire was holding great. Not losing any air so I just put that thought out of my mind. I was being very diligent about taking Endurolyte caps. I had four for the ride and was trying to space it out so I didn't have any issues with cramping. I am usually ok but when it is hot like it was today I can get into trouble if I am not careful. I did not want this ride ruined by some horrible cramps. It was great riding with Rosey and Myette. They are such great riders. We were a funny crew. Myette was on his road bike with Panaracer Gravel King 26s, I was on the RoboZank with 33 file treads and Rosey was on some kind of Monster Cross set up with 40s. We of course were all on Zanks.

Things started to unravel a tad right before the lunch stop. Maybe I went out to fast or maybe it was just the heat but Rosey and Myette started dropping me like a bad habit. They were trying NOT to drop me which was sort of concerning. I could tell by their body language up the road that Myette was assessing the situation and trying to figure out how to keep me at least in contact. But it worked itself out. They would ride their pace—a greatly reduced pace from what they were capable of I will add and much appreciate. And I would ride my pace. A chill full survival mode tempo. We would regroup at the top of the climbs and then just BOMB the descents. Riding with two guys who you know really well makes for some hilarity. We didn't need to worry about someone doing something unpredictable and taking us all out. We just went full gas on every descent. Myette started outriggering some turns and that turned into just a hilarious outrigger contest. 

Right before lunch I had probably my darkest moment. It was pretty funny. I rolled up to Myette and Rosey at the top of a climb. They were checking the map and chilling. I was like "ummm yeah I am smashed." Myette was like "Nah you are good" I told him I think I am done. He went full hockey coach on me. "dude, look at the map. We are the furthest point away from Deerfield on the course. The ONLY way back is to ride. Hahah that snapped me out of it. Lunch didn't pull me back from the ledge but it helped. The pickle juice and enduralytes were keeping me moving. After lunch things got better. When we got to mile 52.5 we checked the map and it said in bold letters DECISION POINT. It wasn't a decision for me. I was still a wreck. Myette and Rosey chose to go up Pennel Hill Rd. One of the harder climbs of the ride. I chose to take 112 South and get my act together. Thank god I did. It really saved my ass. Rosey and Myette could get their yayas out while I took a tour of scenic 112. It was a bit odd at first going from survival mode into just touring mode. Rolling along the farms on a reasonably flat paved highway was a nice relief. I saw a great farm stand and stopped. And bought a cold coke. It was the best cold coke of my life. I bought some peaches. And a water. And sat down and had a nice talk with the farmer. That stop saved me. And frankly that is what D2R2 is all about. Not just picking your adventure but about the land and preserving the farms we all rely upon. 

Team Zank regrouped on the top of Patten Hill. We ate watermelon and drank more pickle juice. Rosey and Myette assured me that the rest of the ride was all downhill from here. It wasn't but that was ok. I had come back from the Darkness and was now feeling pretty good. I rode in solo with a guy who had "Kill your Couch" on his back panel of his bib shorts. I thought it said "Kill your Coach" at first. After the ride we had a cold beer and heading down to the river. It was so good soaking in the cold river after being out in the hot sun all day. What an amazing ride. I have a whole new respect for it. I will be back next year. A bit more prepared for sure. But this ride is not to be missed. All of the good photos in this post are from Rosey. I was way to smashed to take photos. Ok I did take the MA state sign photo. That was part of my pick your adventure on 112.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Power of Stan's Compels You...

This post is going to be a bit of a Mullet. Business at the front, party at the back. So on to the business of SSCX. Which as PDX is reminding us is serious business! Which is hugely ironic if you consider that New England the epicenter of serious bike racing is becoming a haven for chill, fun SSCX racing. I will avoid a rant because we have so much to cover today but I don't need a website to establish that SSCX is real racing. The Zank SSCX series was created as a legit race series. Sure we have fun and we always welcome everyone but like this post it has always been business at the front and party at the back. And honestly the only race that is a party race is Ice Weasels. The rest are USAC full tilt boogies. I love that it has become really competitive without losing its fun and sense of community. So I will leave it at that. First rule of the Zank series is everyone is welcome. Second rule is we race the SSCX bikes til we can't see straight. And then we hang out and party.

The first race of the Zank SSCX series p/b Mad Alchemy will be at Quad CX on 9/11. We have a few new twists. One is the introduction of the race leaders denim vest. Yes you heard that right. Inspired by a legion of metal fans the overall points leader of the men's and women's Zank SSCX series will be awarded the leaders denim vest after each race. Yes this will probably tax my ADHD brain to do quick points crunches after each race but it will be worth it. Maybe like the Stanley Cup we will create a group of keepers of the vest to ensure it is safe and sound. But until then some basic tenants. The leader is awarded the vest. The leader needs to add something to the vest before the next race. It can be a patch, button, safety pin, bedazzling. Anything. Just be creative. The leader must bring the vest to the next race. If the leader cannot make the next race the leader must give it to someone to bring to the next event. At the end of the season the two overall winners can keep the vests. Cool?

And on to more business. Ok this may be more a party post. Not sure. As the title implies I hold Stan's on high as some faction of the Dark Arts. I suspect Snape concocted the original formula for some muggles as a favor. Or perhaps for a fee. Anyone who mountain bikes is all in with tubeless. Maybe there are a few holdouts. But the system is so dialed and the advantages so obvious that any serious mountain biker is running tubeless. Sure things can go bad as I learned at Adam's Farm with my sidewall cut. But that was more a factor of thin sidewalls than a tubeless problem. I forget who commented at the race that Stan's "doesn't work" Hey we all have been let down by something failing. But saying Stan's doesn't work is just silly.

For example, I am almost all in on going full road/CX tubeless. This is a bit of uncharted territory and we all have heard horror stories. But the wheels and tires have come a long way. As long as you stick with tubeless rims and tubeless tires you are pretty much good to go. Its when you start going DIY that things get weird. I honestly would never use a non-tubeless tire or rim on a tubeless CX or road set up. Stan's rims just work too well to mess with it. The rims aren't perfect. God knows I have beaten my Grails to hell. They have so many dents from running 25 psi on rocky trails I have given up counting them. But the rims still hold air. So who cares.

Here is why I like tubeless. There have been more than a few times lately where I hit some glass or something and Stan's sealant is literally shooting everywhere out of the tire. And whether out of laziness, stubbornness or faith I just kept riding. One of the ways to seal a hole in a tire with Stan's is to shake the whole tire around anyway so rolling with a puncture is basically the same thing. I had this happen in Cutler this past week. By the time I got out to the road the tire had sealed.

Basically I have formed a system for dealing with punctures with tubeless. Step one: Ignore it. Step two: Stop and hit it with the pump Step three: Stop and hit it with Co2. Rinse and repeat until you get home. You don't need to even take the wheel off once you get home. Just peel off a bit of the bead from the tire and put a scoop of Stan's in and pump the tire up. I have so many Stan's scabs in my tires it is ridiculous. Sometimes they tear off and Stan's starts spurting out. I just go through the steps and end up ignoring it til the bleeding stops.

Ok the new #CXiscoming patches are sort of equal parts business and party. The whole patch idea comes from the non-stop party that is CX. And HUP's enthusiasm for CX and fun and cupcakes. Alex Carlson did the awesome art for us. We have a limited amount of patches. If you would like one paypal $5 to Or look for one at the HUP Deathstar at a race or ride near you. You know where to find me let's face it. I will be at D2R2 and will bring some with me. I love patches. One of these bad boys will be going on the ZSSCX leader's denim vests. This CX season is feeling different. Not sure why. Maybe it is that so many teams are already so hyped. We had a Night Weasels meeting in July! That is mind-boggling. And Speaking of Night Weasels we have some pretty cool news to unveil in the coming weeks. But August is pretty much adventure season. At least for me. The NEBRA Adventure ride was a great way to kick off August. D2R2 is this weekend. Then August ends with VT Overland. I have been in full #filetreadlifestyle. The Triggers have been awesome. I had one big crash doing some CX enduro but in general I am learning the boundaries of file treads. I guess maybe I have gotten a bit smarter in my old age. Doubtful but that is my hope.

Ok party people. I hope to see you out on some crazy adventure ride soon. Lots of cool stuff coming. Keep the rubber side down and the plastic side up. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Extremely Bananas

My love of both my friends and adventure riding has been well documented. I have never been shy about the fact that my friends are way radder than I am. Some of it certainly is due to the fact they are all 10-20 years younger than me. The fact that they let me take part in their Reindeer games without making me feel like too much of a geezer is a gift. I do feel #blessed to have found so many great friends at such an advanced age...I am joking of course. Sure I see how Paul Curley looks at me at the races. He has that Impish look of "are you sure you should be hanging with all these young guns?" You are too old for that Chipper. Problem is when you move back to the town you grew up in and marry your High School sweet heart you get locked in an '80s Time Warp. I swear I am a 17 year old living in a middle aged man's body. It is weird. 

The good news is for an old dude I have kinda kept myself in ok shape. Certainly not compared to the actually racers in my "age group" But in the general population way ahead of the game. My #dadbod game is strong for sure but how hard is it to fake a little adventure bike ride? My good friend and co-promoter of Das Nacht Van Weasel Colin is a jack of all trades. I mean seriously. I have known race promoters. I am currently "retired" but in my former life on the west coast I helped promote World Cups and National CX races. And a bike festival that will remain unnamed. So I know bike promoters. In general they are dicks. There I said it. But Colin and this next generation are the opposite of that. They actually care about the racers and their experience. I swear there were a few promoters out west who's sole purpose it seemed was to kill bike racers. Now that is dramatic but still. Flash forward to 2016. Everyone LOVES gravel. Road racing is dying a slow death and only grumpy old men and college kids seem to care. It seemed like only a matter of time before Colin put on a Gravel Weasels. I mean he does a Night Weasels, a Ice Weasels and a Gnar Weasels. Branding is serious business.

It doesn't hurt that Colin lives out in Western Mass where there are sooo many great dirt roads. And gravel. And gnar disguised as gravel. NEBRA of whom Colin is a board member is a New England based association who is trying to save road racing. That sounds very dramatic but it is a honorable task. Road racing has taken a dive of late in New England. Lots of reasons I am sure. I believe and support NEBRA even if I am not a road racer. I think I have done two road races in my life. A crit in Downtown SF (don't laugh I lasted two laps on my CX bike) and Battenkill. Battenkill went way better than the crit cause dirt roads yo. But road and CX have a symbiotic relationship. Sort of like a shark and a ramora. Yes more people are going straight into CX. Or filtering over from MTB. But CX's health is tied to road racing's health. If road racing dies off I doubt CX will be far behind. NEBRA and those who work for the organization also help grow and support CX. So if you like CX and Road racing you should support NEBRA. Yes, I am biased as many of my friends are on the NEBRA board or work for NEBRA. But it is still a good group. And when I heard they were putting on an Adventure Ride with curated routes p/b Resultsboy I was all in.

Colin kept doing his usual #hype train. So many cool pictures and sick details kept leaking out. HUP had a great crew. If there is anything HUP loves more than CX it is some whack adventure ride. We have been doing our own semi-bandit rides non-stop here in New England since HUP was HUP. And we have grown the whole culture around CX and Gravel riding. For a first year ride on the same date as the Pan Mass challenge and Cycle-Smart Camp the NEBRA Adventure Ride had a great turnout. I won't lie I liked that it was sort of on the smaller side. D2R2 has about 2,500 riders. That is nuts. We rode in the same general area as D2. Just on the opposite side of the river. And while the overall numbers may have been lower the quality certainly wasn't. I have done D2. I have done VT Overland. I have done Rasputitsa and Dirty 40. They are awesome rides. But no disrespect but Colin and JD do not play around. They are PROs they dial in all the little details. GPX files were spot on. There we 3 routes. 45, MAX ADVENTURE and 70. The routes were clearly marked with arrows. Rest stops were where they were supposed to be and well stocked. There was roving support. It was awesome.

But on to how this whole thing went down. Like I said there was a good crew of HUP. And I had Myette in the van. It is well documented how out of hand my ADD can get. My friends joke that is is Full Auto Velocb. But as a intuitive person I know what it is. Its ADD. I have a few friends who can reel it in. Colin is one. Sara is another. And I am finding Myette is fairly good at helping me dial it down. So having Matt in the van was super helpful. Colin and Matt's #tiresizing was a nice distraction from my usual over fixation on stupid details that don't matter. What I love about Colin and Matt (and a bunch of others) is that they give zero fucks about this whole gravel specific BS. People have been riding road bikes offroad long before there was an All Roads bike. Seriously. They are fucking touring bikes repurposed. Get over yourself. Myette had 26s on his road bike. I swear they were 23s. The range of bikes at the staging area was a thing of beauty. All over the map. As it should be. One thing I like about these rides is it is like how CX used to be. No one used to warm up on a trainer in the parking lot. You showed up and said hi to your friends and rode bikes. No drama. It was fun. And tough as hell. That was the whole point. 

Speaking of tough as hell. In retrospect the ride this reminded me the most of was VT Overland. The staging area was a great fun place to hang out. It sort of lulled you into thinking this was going to be a fun chill Sunday group ride. As we rolled out on a flat paved road it was very conversational. Then we hit the first climb. I swear to god it was like riding Juniper Swamp at Battenkill. Dirt road. Five across the whole road. Elbows out. I got dropped so fast it was ridiculous. I could see Jesse at the front destroying it. I somehow survived that assault on my body and regrouped with one of my HUP teammates Meg Cater. Meg and I dropped down a dirt descent leaving a trail of people behind us. I saw my good friend Chris on the side of the road. We yelled and he waved us off. Meg and I hit pavement and then just dug deep to try and catch the group.

About two miles later Chris catches us on a dirt road. We laugh so hard. And the three of us form an awesome HUP group. We yoyo between different groups but the three of us stay together the whole ride. As the saying goes " One Hup Finds Another" This was really the first time I had ridden with Meg for any extended period of time.  I have known Meg for a while. She is awesome. But it takes a few rides to get to know a teammates tendencies. I will say an hour in and riding with Meg was seamless. It was like we had been teammates for a long time. What I love about these rides is that you learn so much about a person. It tests your mettle. And sense of humor. Chris, Meg and I were riding so well together. The route was so awesome. A great mix of dirt and pavement. And what Colin described on the cue sheet as "extremely" Aka Extremely sandy, Extremely sketchy, Extremely bananas. You get the idea. I love that people rode this on road bikes. It was insane. The extended sand pits were probably one of my favorite sections. That is weird I know. But the sand pits were deep! And long. It was such great CX practice.

You would power through some insane technical bit like that and then pop out onto some amazing road. Beautiful just rolling terrain. So many great bridges. And paths. And then BOOM! Wendell Forest would kick you in the teeth. Again, HUGE kudos to Chris. He has pretty much locked down HUP MVP of 2016. Right before we hit dirt into Wendell Meg dropped her chain into her spokes. It must have tweaked the derailler hanger. Suffice it to say the bike was not happy. Chris was able to adjust the limit screws and save the day. I honestly thought we were toast. Wendell might have been my favorite spot. It reminded me of a climb near home off of Strawberry Hill that is a basically a dried out stream bed/rock garden. But this climb went on for 2 miles. Or maybe more. When we popped out Meg Bilodeau was waiting for us at the first aid station with fig newtons, and so many life saving snacks.

The rest of the ride was amazing. 46 miles of pure adventure bliss. New England witnessed the birth of a new dirt adventure ride. This ride will rival VT Overland and D2 in a few years. Sure I prefer this size. It felt like a great group ride with friends. I knew pretty much everyone on the ride. Everyone on the ride treated me like family. JD and Meg were amazing hosts. The after pizza party was so great. HUGE shout outs to Colin, JD, Meg, Christin, Lauren, Steve and everyone who made this happen. I want to go back and ride it again this weekend. 

Monday, August 1, 2016


This past weekend the Boston Rebellion US CUP UCI race went down in Walpole at Adams Farm. It was part of the fourth annual Barn Burner XC race. What Pete MacLeod and Marty Allen have accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Five years ago no one even had heard about Adams Farm. No one rode there. Pete and Marty have built a mecca for legit MTB racing in Boston. Having a UCI mtn bike race so close to Boston is a game changer. I don't like to use that word as it is so over used but in this instance it is spot on. New England needs this. Mountain bike racing needs this. HUGE high fives to Pete and Marty and their whole crew!

I had visions of doing both days but #Dadlife got in the way and I ended up going to Ghostbusters with the kids when I was supposed to be racing the short track Saturday night. It actually was a wicked smart move on my part as I was in an air-conditioned theater eating popcorn when I would have been dying in 95 degree heat going full redline trying to not get lapped. I am more an XC guy anyway. I had also registered for the SS MTb race on Sunday so saving my legs for some true suffering wasn't the dumbest thing I have ever done either. The pre-reg was looking like a Zank SSCX reunion. Even Jerry was threatening to race his Zank with 27.5+ wheels! Kevin took this race wicked seriously as you can see in the picture above. He went full Y-Bike. Why? Because it was rad. That bike deserves a full blog post. But I think he already did one about it. Suffice it to say it was the coolest and most PRO jank bike I have ever seen.

"Uncle" Jerry crashed on my couch the night before the XC race. Again, this was like going in the Zank SSCX hot tub time machine. Jerry is a founding member of this little Island of Misfits that got the Zank SSCX up and running. I believe he is still technical director. He is as long as he wants that title anyway. Either way he is basically my bike twin. We both have sick Zank SS that we mess around with constantly. I forget who it was I talked to in the expo but they looked at my Zank on the line and said "This thing never looks the same. Why do you mess with it so much?" Umm cause its awesome....Jerry had his bike in full NEXT 27.5+ beast mode. 2.8 IKONS. Rigid fork match painted. If 11 is the most awesome this thing is a 12.

Boston Rebellion felt like a mini-Gloucester. But for mountain bikes. The EXPO was so PRO. Sierra Nevada beer garden, full team pit row, fantastic to see. This is what mtn biking needs to keep growing. I set up close to Pedal Power and right next to Kurt and Comprehensive Racing. It was so great to see everyone. But on to the race! Jerry and I as the seasoned veterans of countless bike pedal contests were equal parts amused annoyed by all the madness surrounding us in the staging area. People were hoping fixed fencing and almost hurting themselves while doing it. Juniors were stealth staging in with the 50+. Fat bikers were pounding red bulls. And all the Singlespeeders were just like why aren't we vaping. And where is the bourbon? But this was serious bike racing and we were not going to ruin it! I warned Jerry more than once about following the fat bikers. I specifically said " Now Jerry DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT follow the fat bikers into the first, second or third rock garden" You nodded in some recognition of what I had told him.

Somehow the whole hot mess of a staging sorts itself out and the fat bikers and SS MTB go off in a wave between the 50+ and Juniors. The fat bikers have gears. But are on the Sherman Tank of pedal bikes. So of course the SSers who were staged behind them were all mixed together by the time we hit the gravel road to the hole shot. My only advantage in this bike contest was my knowledge of the course. I knew just how much mayhem was awaiting us. I LOVED the new course and direction it was run. Great flow and perfect for a SS. But when you take 50 people on fat bikes and SS MTB and funnel them into a single track things are going to get interesting.

Jerry had done some very next level CX tape surfing and got himself pretty close to the actual hole shot. I was locked in with a good group of SS and a few Fat Bikes. Everything was surprisingly civil. I love riding the dry creek crossing. I have it pretty dialed. But not on the first lap in traffic. The second I came around the turn I was off and running on the outside. I must have passed 5 people who were hung up on the rocks. I ran all the way to the top of the next section where I found Y-Bike Kevin.

I got on Kevin's wheel and had literally the best mtb race of my life. I tend to do very stupid things in mountain bike races. I go off to fast. I make super bad line choices. I crash my brains off. No matter what I tell myself it always happens. But I was oddly super calm. I think it was finally racing in "bad" conditions. It certainly wasn't bad but was overcast and "muddy" and it started raining as we hit the single track. It was perfect for me. And Kevin is super smooth. And pedals. I am not smooth and mash. Being smooth and pedaling clearly is the way to go. We were in a great spot and moving through groups. Some Juniors caught us and went flying by. But that was it. We were only moving forward. One of my favorite moments was when we crossed the power lines and were coming to another power section of a climb. We both did full on high speed CX dismounts and ran up the hill. The fat bikers freaked out. They were like "WOW, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT A CX MOVE?"

I made a vow to myself. I am pretty much only racing SS from now on. I am just better on a SS in a race. I calm down and do way less stupid things. Ok other than that time I crashed in front of Thea at Singlespeed-A-Palooza this year. She was joking with me about that at the start line earlier. Like I said it was soon great to see everyone. It was definitely a Zank SSCX reunion. We had Jerry, Kevin, Thea, Y-Bike Kevin, many people. It got me so stoked for CX. So Kevin and I are riding super smooth. We aren't going fast but it is proving the old Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast mantra is so true. I actually feel good. This is strange. But like any B-Horror movie it is always the character who is happy or finally getting their life on track who gets chainsawed in half. DO NOT GO IN THE BASEMENT CHPPER!!!! Then the bad thing happened. Rear tire goes totally flat. I hop off and calmly grab a CO2 and hit it. About 10 people go by. But I can still see Kevin. Thank god for all these turns. I hop on get through one turn and flat again. Now here is where I really screw up. I should have just been smart and pulled the wheel out and put a tube in. I had one CO2 left and a tube. A smart person would have done this. But Kevin and all his good Mojo were long gone. Left to my own I made some poor lifestyle choices.

I guess maybe it was more being stubborn or being overconfident that the CO2 would seal the tire. I hit the inflator and Stan's goes shooting everywhere. Its like a Gallagher show. Now I see the problem and realize I am screwed. Sidewall is totally shredded. Must have hit one of the axe head rocks. Which is bizarre as like I said I was riding very smooth. Well, it is what it is. That my friends is racing. I actually was ok with it. Like I said I was having probably the best mtb race of my life. I never race that well. So mission accomplished. I of course was the furthest possible distance from the expo. Can't MTB races have neutral pits on the far side of the course? That would be amazing. I think we should make this happen...So I start the nature hike portion of my bike pedal contest. I ride the flat when it is safe and I don't think I will destroy the wheel on a rock. I try and cheer people on. They are so smashed to pieces my cheers only seem to make them sad so I stop. Then I see Alex and Shane at the course crossing. My mood improves dramatically! It only gets better as Shane hands me a beer! Yes bike racing is awesome!

Alex and I walk back to the Expo. I hang out, get some tacos from the taco truck and drink a frosty cold beer. Life is pretty damn good. Y-Bike Kevin finishes up his race and we hang out. Such an awesome time. Ed and Kevin (HUP Kevin) both podium! Jenny, Thea and Michele have great races and rep HUP so well. HUGE thanks to everyone who made this happen. It was so great seeing people so stoked to race mtn bikes. Oh and yes, back to the title of this blog post. So Dirtwire TV must have that ESPN. Or have a crystal ball or some dark magic. In a pre-ride video I watched Thom mentions you definitely want sidewall protection on your tires for this course. Frankly New England is no place for tires without sidewall protection. So when I bought a new tire. A nice Ardent Race. I thought it was the EXO version. It of course was not. It was the super light race version. God damnit my ADD sucks sometimes. So lesson learned. EXO or GTFO.

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 ; )