Thursday, January 2, 2014

Bandit4Life


I am not shy about my love for bandit racing. Or my love of my friends. When the big man emailed me and said he was thinking of doing a New Year's Day Bandit CX race at the RISD Farm he pretty much had me at hello. And RISD. I was a bit of a reluctant art student. It wasn't as cool to be an artist when I went. I had a gift and surfed it to one of the best Art schools in the country. If I had to do it all over again I would probably change about everything I did there. But it is impossible to go to that school and not come out of it a changed person. I learned a lot in the 4 years I lived in Providence. I find it cute that the Brown and RISD kids get along now. That never happened when I was there. Some pretty funny memories of having to jump out frat windows and flee from Christmas Balls that we crashed. I blame it all on my roommate Ratdog. In some ways he reminds me of the Big Wookie. Big dude. Loooong flowy blond hair. Big personality. Smart. Talented. Huge heart. Wonder what that kid is up to? But I digress. GeWilli and I go way back.  He was one of the first racers I sort of cared about racing against. Which is funny because we are totally different types of racers. But he always raced with heart and class. And is one of the most passionate people about CX that I know. He's been a great friend and a really good mentor. He has been integral in shaping how I look at the Zank SSCX series.


I really didn't know what to expect going into this Bandit race. I beat the drum as is my nature. Some texts start coming in. A few emails. Then people started getting more and more stoked. My good friend Derek agreed to pick me up which was huge. I can't tell you how much I appreciate when someone else drives. I tend to do a lot of the driving. Its the curse of owning a minivan. Don't get me wrong I like to road trip. And don't mind driving. But its nice to be able to not worry about it and have someone else take the wheel. We got down to Rhody in no time. Even though I had spent 4 years at RISD I had never spent any time at RISD Beach. I think Rat Dog and I were way too busy crashing Brown Frat parties and figuring out where our next meal was coming from to worry about going to the beach. We didn't have a car and my bike was stolen freshman year. So we basically just stuck to a 5 mile radius in Providence.


RISD Beach is gorgeous. I could tell you where it is but then I would have to kill you. This venue is going to remain as secret as is possible.  Its too nice to risk getting kicked out of it. Or to create any tension with other users. It is a pretty heavily used dog walking spot. Pretty much off leash. No one seemed miffed to see us spandex clad Visigoths carving lines like Christo all over the property. As an Alumni that was going to be my story and I was sticking to it. "Yes, officer this is part one of a series of art installations focusing on movement as art..." "ummm yeah the skin tight colorful clothing represents migratory birds and the epic struggle the plover endures to remain...." That would be about the time the tazer would come out I suspect. With any Bandit race there are two rules. Ok maybe three. In the Immortal words of Dave Pryor "Don't be a dick." Two: leave no trace Three: Cheat. If you aren't cheating it is not a Bandit race. Seriously. GeWilli broke it into 2 20 minute races. The first race was the serious one. And holy shit not riding your bike and trying to chase Matt Myette hurts. A lot. Matt and I were the only two on SSCX bikes. 36 x 16 was actually perfect. Might have been a bit nice to have one lighter gear and one stiffer gear in spots but in all seriousness I was able to stay with the geared riders just fine. G set a really great course. A nice mix of turns, climbs, logs to hop, legit double barriers and THE BEACH!!!! I hate running. Obviously. But riding down the Breach to the Beach was so fun. Shockingly no one was Treeboned. Well mainly because we all stuck to Rule #1 of Bandit racing (and life)


I would be remiss if I didn't give a HUGE shout out to ENGVT. They sometimes might be super serious and someone may have tagged them NOFUNVT but trust me these dudes are fun. And they came to party on this fine day in Rhody. Nicky showed off the sickest log hop on a CX bike I have ever seen. Not even kidding. Full speed, just elevated and cleared it like it was no biggie. Everyone else did the brake check hop over stomp on the pedals. Or yardsailed it and face planted in a heap on the frozen grass. Before the serious race GeWilli recited Henry V Act III, Scene I. The famous Once more unto the breach, dear friends speech. Fantastic. Because that is what this day was all about. Getting together to throw down. Some needed a little primer before Nationals. Others just wanted to shred around and bump shoulders a bit. Nick soundly won the first race. Ok he might have cut the course a bit. But he was pretty much still drunk from the night before and reeking of booze and stale farts so we let him have it. I had brought a box of swag left over from the last season. Nick picked out a limited edition RdR tshirt. I looked at him and said "Dude that is an XS." Nicky cackled and said oh really you are challenging me to a skinny off? Ok watch this! He pulls off his jersey and throws it on. And it fit. Holy shit that man needs a hamburger. 


Thank god G showed mercy on me and let it be known that the next race would be "not serious" in fact cheating would be both encouraged and rewarded. Lesli had brought an impressive selection of beer to use as prizes which then became conscripted into service to act as hand up beer. The cheating started really from the word "GO!" I was laughing so hard at something Myette said to me that I didn't notice we were going warp speed and about to take a sharp left turn. It felt like a Cat 3 scrum for the holeshot. And then bodies started bumping off me. And then I realized to my horror that I almost chopped Lesli into a bush. Oopsies. No blood no foul right? Luckily I was so loose from the 2 Dale's I shotgunned while G told us the rules for the next race that I didn't do my usual hip check signature Little Ball of Hate closing of the door. God Philly changed me. All I have is love for my fellow bike racer now. I really am a kinder and gentler masters bike racer. Its time. The world has enough Masters Behaving Badly. So we somehow all survive the start. And now the cheating goes to defcon 11. The course is no more a course but more a suggestion. I am cutting the barriers like a BOSS at this point. And looking for more logs to hop.


Again I am blown away at just how good 36 x 16 feels. Sure it could be the Dale's. And part of it is once you commit to riding SSCX you start to learn a few things. Like NOT braking. Ever. Its a really bad idea. Momentum is your friend. I go from full cheater mode to in race heckler and in race photographer. The photos don't do justice to just how beautiful a day it was or just how nice the beach was as a backdrop for CX. Ok maybe I just had had enough running on that soft sand. Either way I got some really nice photos. At some point we got the one to go cow bell. And we rang in 2014 in full Bandit Style. Beers were cracked. Stories were told. Then it was clean up and head back into the wind. The dogs got their park back. We had some rad times. Made some new friends. Connected and hugged old ones. 2014 started off right. This year is going to be something special. We ride for one reason and one reason only this year. Fun. Shenanigans. Friends. Happy New Year to all you bike FANatics. I love you all.



Monday, December 16, 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire



I am in a somewhat abusive relationship with The Ice Weasels Cometh. One of my greatest days on a bike was on those frozen grounds a couple of years ago. That was the last time I raced IWC on actual ice. The previous few renditions of IWC could have been renamed The Mud Weasels slideth. Or Tough Mudder Weasel p/b ENGVT. Total mud pits and slog fests. And a blast. I don't do well on ice. True story. One I don't learn from my mistakes. Ie like this years rendition held on the North Shore in Rawley near Ipswich on something that looked like the set from Psycho. We got to the "race" and I took one look at it and said 'WTF, this looks like a Verge race!?" Now one should not be surprised when they show up at a "race" and see racelike features. But for the last 4 (?) years Ice Weasels has been held on a small family farm and resembled Woodstock. Including the Hippies. I almost got back in the van and drove home. Then I saw the heated beer tent, and CX Giraffe, and HUP and then Kevin. And my world was restored to order. Kevin asked if I had brought the kegs. Of course I did. We rolled one into the heated beer tent. I mentioned the heated beer tent right? And the fire pits? Ok I was getting excited to race the bikes. Or shred as it were as half of my friends "racing" were doing so on SS Mtn bikes instead of CX bikes.



We had seen the sneak peek of the course that a certain Canadian 'Fro rider had posted on Thom Parson's Dirtwire.tv webpage. I really don't know what Thom sees in that Canuck. He is kind of a dick with his "awwp zee laugs" bs. I mean WTF. We all can't hop the logs kid. Its science. Just cause I don't smoke medicinal marijuana to get my day started and ride an enduro bike don't make me feel bad about myself. Sheesh. But other than that the guy or Guy is ok...how the hell do you speak Canadian? Seriously. He laid down a sick GoPro video that showed that perhaps a CX bike was going to be a bad idea. Like maybe the worst idea. So #NEMTB represented hahhd as they say in New England. And most of us did it sponsor correct. I had to pull some strings to get my Zank SS Mtn bike back even if for a day. But it was so worth it. That bike is like frickin Excalibur. I am not joking. Its just magic.


I bump into Agent Utah and we kit up and go for a course recon. Aka we look for places to get rad. Lots of opportunity for that. Riding the course I thought to my self, "self people are gonna get jacked up on this course if they aren't on top of their shit." But I was very relaxed. I brought a few tricks with me back from Philly. Like the power of flannel...and mountain bikes. Have I mentioned my total and utter hatred of Specialized tires? Umm maybe not. Anyhoo we are riding along and having a blast. Offcambers are rad. On a SS Mtn bike they are easy peasy. Pretty much picking lines is irrelevant. We get to the "runup" and my crew are looking for the t-bar. I mean calling this thing a runup is an insult to running. It is a scar on the hillside. Running or even walking it with neoprene booties is next to impossible. But what ever its Ice Weasels. So we get to the top and then it levels out. There are some chicanes. Oh yeah tape to tape suckahs...and then KABOOM. Oh I guess that stuff that looked like ice really was ice! Hahaha that is so funny. Half of my motivation for racing the mtn bike was for the flat bars. My right wrist was still jacked up from Philly (hahaha, yes the jokes tell themselves!) and I knew there was no way I could ride a drop bar bike. So instead of riding my skinny tired/CXbike/Gravelbike/Roadbike I was on my ultra enduro fat tired bike. And my wrists thanked me for it.


So where was I? Oh yes my ADD and short memory in regards to things that help the bike racing and keep me out of trouble. Keeping me out of trouble on two-wheels is pretty much a full time job. So we get to the top of the runnup and haup back on zee bikes. Turn, turn, Kasplat. I hit the deck hard. Oh good now my other hand and ass are killing me. But nothing is broken. We get back to the start/finish just as the CX Giraffe is backing into the front row. Oh god. Please don't anyone kill the Giraffe. Colin smartly tells the Giraffe to get a headstart. Then 75 dirty SSCXers are unleashed on hell for some Giraffe hunting! Somehow we get through the scrum without anyone killing themselves or all those around them. Ahhh SSCX you are soooo much better than Cat 3 psychopaths. Had a good start. Sort of chop Abel at the off camber. Sorry Abel. Then smash my self on the second log hop but nothing too bad. Did I mention I was racing in a flannel jacket in honor of my new BFF Kelpius Cycling? It was actually perfect. So you probably get the idea that it was cold. If you weren't there you have no idea. It was about 20 degrees. Without the wind. I think it was 17 degrees when we arrived. And it started snowing right as we staged for the SSCX. I had flannel power not going to lie. I am feeling great. Which is weird cause I don't really actually ride bikes much right now. Puppies. Kids. Blah, blah, blah.


Amazing what confidence a SS 29er can give you on a gnarly CX course. Maybe too much confidence. So we get to the top of the runnup from HELL. I am somehow in front of Abel which is weird. But I know he is right behind me so I figure maybe we can have a HUP party in the SSCX scrub zone. Then I get to the same EXACT spot I crashed at in warmups and ride like a jackass and crash again. EVEN HARDER. This time I stay down for a bit. I am sure I have assploded some body part. Then Abel goes by like some kind of lifeline. I reach out to grab it and it just goes by. In #ICEWORLD no one can hear you scream. Or gives Zero Fucks that you messed up. So I pull my big boy panties back on and start pedaling. I am in a shit load of pain. Mostly my other wrist. Oh great. Matching messed up hands. Who needs hands to bike race?


I come through the beer tent/part zone and I see Frances waving what looks like a sausage at my face. She is SCREAMING "Chip, I am counting on YOU!!!!!" Ok Frances. I love you too. And that sausage looks delicious. I hope its spicy. I know a spicy sausage will help me forget this pain. Now imagine the whole world goes to slow mo. And the anti-hero gets that O look on his face and is saying NOOOOOOOOO. That sausage is not a sausage at all. In fact, its a big purple dildo. I think I bit it or kissed it. I don't know. I feel like I let Frances down. But it was so confusing. Did she want me to take her #dildohandup or just stop and applaud her for making #dildohandups a thing? It was probably the highlight or lowlight of my CX season. Now to be upfront. Unlike some other Masters racers out there. I am not uptight. #dildosarenotacrime in my book. So yeah the party zone was off the hook.



I start to come around after Frances' shock and awe treatment. Get my head back in the game. I take a handup at the bottom of the runnup from Nable. Get to the top. Cut the shit out of the course. Fuck Colin and his tape over some Ice Field filled with landmines. I see Ian do some kind of back flip. Holy crap. Then I see HUPcakes. HUPcakes were almost the death of HUP United. True story. I am not missing my chance. I stop and Joel tells me its the last one. Thank god. Then Kurt hands me a beer. Damn you #NECX you just keep pulling me in like the mafia. I think I am out. I am too old for this shit and then you lay this down. Ok so we are at about 2 to go. Who the hell knows. Anyone who is "racing" IWC is doing it wrong. I see NATE. I FREAK OUT!!! Nate I scream. We hit the runnup. And a girl (yes, she is under 18 so is a GIRL) flies past us in a pink tutu!!! I SCREAM ELLEN!!! The future of US CX just raced SSCX in a pink tutu. And is smashing the field without even trying. She gets to the top of the runnup while Nate and I are bitching and moaning and saying we are going to nutpunch Colin when we find him.


I get to the top ahead of Nate. I think he stopped and grabbed a beer or bacon or some shit. I remount and see bodies all over #ICEWORLD and one is wearing a pink tutu. Fuck. If we have broken Ellen I will commit Seppuku in the beer tent. I ask in my best most calmest voice. Are you Ok? She says yes and picks herself up off the deck. ALL the other dudes look at me and say 'I'm not ok" Yeah whatevah dude are you the FUCKING FUTURE? No? I didn't think so. Get over yourself you little special snowflake (I wish I knew the trademark symbol. Special Snowflake is an ENGVT production) I sense some people hunting me. Nate goes by. I try and stay on his wheel. Hahaha that is funny. Nate has so many WATTS its silly. I try to somewhat redeem myself from losing so many places crashing my face off yet racing at IWC is so silly. BUTIREFUSETOGETOWNEDATTHELINE. So I spin that 32 x 19 as hard as I can and heed Adam Craig's sage drunken advice at Philly and stay in the saddle and don't look back. I cross the line and say hi to Christin. Christin rocks. But you all knew that. And that as they say was that for my 2013 SSCX campaign. And then the CX Giraffe wanted to go into the beer tent. And we guided that Giraffe in. This guy is 100% my hero. Frankly, at this point, ALL my heroes wear costumes. But NEVER wear capes. This year was marked by two costumed crusaders of CX: CX Giraffe and Ice Angel. Words can't even begin to convey the respect I have for those two. Most people put a costume on as some kind of outlet or gag. A way to blow off steam. Yeah right. Try wearing (and RIDING) in a 9 foot tall Giraffe outfit. Good luck with that. Or try dressing in an Ice Angel costume. When its 18 degrees out. And smiling. And getting rad the whole entire time. And Vickie podium'd the next day at Beaver CX in the elite race. Mind boggling. #NECX I frickin' love ALL of you. Thank you. Seriously. IWC showed me we know how to have fun. We don't have to be soooo serious and live up to the stereotype that we are all a bunch of jerks. We actually get it. And take care of each other. Okay 'nuff of that emo shit. I am starting to cry. I am lying I only cry at weddings. True story.




Ok let's do this: IWC was the best Weasel Evah. Why?

• Van parties. Wut? Yeah so Uri was FREEZING after his race. So I dragged him to the van put him in the drivers seat turned the car on and blasted the heat. When I came back 10 minutes later there were at least 6 people in the van. I didn't know half of them. This is why CX fucking rules. Total strangers warming up in a strange van. And its not strange. At. All

• Ellen Noble. Hmm where to even start. She is the future. When she was getting SSCX gearing advice from Katie FUCKING Compton the night before IWC I nearly had a heart attack. The future is bright kids.

• CX Giraffe. Love Dave. Seriously. I don't even know how to process what he just pulled off.

• That weird Canadian dude. As much as I want to HATE that freak. He gets me going

• Ice Angel. Proof once again that mountain bikers get it. The fact that in back to back weekends in the snow two mountain bikers got rad, had fun, and just plain got it should be a wake up call to all y'all who take yourselves so DAMN seriously. Life is short people. Have some fun. Lighten up. Its ok. No one will judge you for being rad. I promise.

• Ipswich. Or the North Shore or where ever the hell we were. I have a bit of a Game of Thrones problem. I can trace it back to Band Camp and Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah I am a geek whatever. The North Shore to me are like the Northern tribes. And they really are. They are their own unique deal. They can seem like Barbarians from the outside. But man they are the best. Love each and every one of them

• Thom, Colin, Kevin, Christin and the whole IWC crew. Respect and hugs. And Gerry, thank you for the two kegs of beer for the SSCX race.

• Shit I almost forgot. So yeah the last time I did an Icy IWC I blew out my MCL and STILL BEAT BERT!!!! Suck it Bert! This year at the coldest IWC ever I pretty much destroyed my OTHER knee. Perfect. Nothing broken. Just a big ass needle and drained fluids and some cortisone. I am ready for some serious Winter shenanigans. Who is with me?

• Video number one from Dirtwire.tv is here

• Video number two from Nicky is here 

• Tandems, I almost forgot tandems. Seeing Ed and Michele on a tandem in the SSCX race with ironically placed zip ties was amazing. Love those two

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pizza Strength


Philly SSCXWC was three days of mayhem and madness fueled by Yuengling and PBR. Friday was a registration party/art show. Saturday you had two options. Bilenky Junkyard CX or Feats of Strength. As much as I have always wanted to do Bilenkly the thought of a Tour de back alleys of Philly was much too hard to resist. Riding bikes all over a City with a local Wolf Pack is the best way to see a new City. Feats of Strength and Bilenky were also being used as qualifiers to SSCXWC. Please don't get the wrong impression. Saying you have to qualify for SSCXWC is like saying you have to qualify for band camp. Showing up is 90% of the battle. Speaking of not showing up. So the way this hotmess was supposed to go down was the "delegates" from each city that wanted to host SSCXWC 2014 were supposed to ride together and battle each other for poker chips. That would then be used on the final nights Who's Got Next poker tournament. Cleveland and KY didn't show up. Cleveland was still hammered #dronk from the night before and KY opted for Bilenky. I get it. Sort of. But anyhoo. That left Boston (me), Belgium (Belgium?), Vancouver (Hodala), and Dirt Rag. Although I think Dirt Rag was more of a military observer, sort of like in the early days of the Vietnam conflict. 


Our guides (and my new Wolf Pack) were three guys from Lone Wolf Cycling. My host (and new BFF) Ryan slapped a LWC sticker on my chest tagging me as a protected rider. It would in fact act as some type of protective bubble for the next 8 hours. How I survived this day is still a mystery to me. We check in, wait for KY (every time I type that it seems dirty...) and Cleveland. No show so we roll. We get about two blocks and the Hodala guy says "Beer Stop!!!!" Have I mentioned its 9 am? Have I mentioned how much I love the Hodala crew? We get to Hodala HQ for the weekend and roll into the batcave. It is wall to wall Raleigh SSCX bikes and a keg. We have a pint to start the ride on the right note and head back out. I feel pretty drunk which is weird. My blood is pretty much beer at this point so one pint even at 9 am really shouldn't affect me like this. I take a sip of my "water" bottle and see the problem. Looks like while we were checking in at registration someone filled my "water" bottle with whiskey. How helpful! I am sure it was just some concerned SSCXer who didn't want my water bottle to freeze in the 20 degree weather. So I toss that out. And ponder just how hard I will be heckled if I ask these kids to stop for coffee. Luckily the coffee Ryan has been making all weekend is jet fuel and has canceled out the affects of the whiskey.


Feat of Strength Numero Uno is a skate park. Oh shit. Our guides tell us who ever gets the most rad gets chips. We go through a series of challenges. Nothing too horrible. Shenanigans. I do ok. Avoid killing myself. Yarnell, the "Belgian" Delegate, begins to show his colors. He has decided to dress as the Lizard King meets Lion of Flanders. He has faux lizard pants, a leopard print shirt and the topper a Lion of Flanders cape. The cape is attached to his neck with zip ties. Umm zip ties make great hand cuffs for crowd control but not so much for attaching things to one's neck. More on that later. Yarnell crashes his face off a few times. We suggest perhaps putting the Lion in a backpack so he doesn't die when it gets sucked into his wheel. Crickets. So we roll out to Feat of Strength #2. Philly is incredibly bike friendly. Great paths, nice bike lanes, drivers who don't seem hell bent to kill you. I don't think I heard one person honk. At anyone. Weird. Drivers that actually can drive around cyclists in a city without getting pissed. 


We are riding 2 across and 6 deep on a nice multi use path along the river. It is gorgeous. Everyone is talking and having a good time. I am right behind Yarnell in the paceline. As we head under a bridge his Lion of Flanders cape gets sucked into his rear wheel and pulls him back and nearly decapitates him. His hands are ripped off his bars and he is falling backwards off the bike. I mentioned we were in a paceline and going about 18 mph right? Yeah so I am screwed. My only option is to go full on Terry Tate bike path linebacker. I basically hurl myself at him and tackle him. Somehow I unclipped and was able to self arrest, tackle him and save us both from death. His helmet hits me square in the jaw and I see stars. The LWC fighter escort deems this a party foul and I am awarded a 3 chip crash penalty. Excellent. I am totally winning this or dying trying.


We head over to the Rocky monument and take some photos and then run to the top of the museum steps. Somehow a man in lizard pants SMOKES me on the run up. I mean I am not a runner but damn. That stings. I think its the whisky. Maybe if I kept drinking it I could have taken him. Running up concrete stairs in CX cleats is not optimal. We see Adam Craig ride up the stairs. Sick. While a super touristy spot it is really cool. People are totally into it. Much heckling goes on between us and tourists/runners. Yarnell challenges a woman to a push up contest. We leave before she calls the cops and we all get tazed. We roll off the back side of the museum and down some offcamber grass hill. The LWC yell WALL and we just avoid catching some sick air off of a stone wall. That would have been epic!


We finally get to some dirt trails. It is so nice. Reminds me so much of the Ronde or Diverged ride that we do in Boston. Its so cool being able to ride park to park and just play on bikes and do stupid shit. We blast down some sweet dirt/gravel trails towards our next challenge. Along the way we have a Sly Fox beer stop at some burned out building. One of the LWC guides tells us about a school bus that was lit on fire in this area. Things can get a bit Zombie Apocalypse fast apparently. We stay on our toes but over the entire length of this ride I never felt in danger. Well except when I was near Yarnell. Then my spidey sense was off the charts. We head to Port Royal for a hill climb challenge. Calling this a challenge is an understatement. I like cobble hillclimbs. They are fun. I have mentioned we are all on singlespeeds right? I have a decent climbing gear with 36 x 17. Theoretically I should be fine. But I am not a climber. Obviously. The boys ride to the top. This one has a massive payout. 50 chips for the winner, 30 for 2nd, 20 for 3rd 1 for 4th. Mike Cushionbury from Dirt Rag joined us to increase the radness. Super cool guy and so stoked I finally got to meet him.


Nick is halfway up and sort of tells it like it is. In his words. "Its steep at the bottom, turns right and punches up and gets loose and nasty. And look out for cars" Holy shit. Ok so 3,2,1 blast off. I get a good start and then we hit the wet cobbles on the right turn and Cush goes FLYING past me in overalls and boots. The impact of this on my feeble mental state is crushing. I fall over. Yarnell passes me. Fuck. I try and run. The cobbles are so bad from the rain etc you can't even walk them let alone run. Yarnell puts a foot down. SHIT. I hop on and pedal like a stomp on the pedals. ITSOCLOSE. If I had 50 more yards I would have had him. Shit. LoF=2 #CBL=0. This is not going well. As we are prone on the ground puking. The Canadian saunters by us and keeps riding up the hill. In my hypoxic state I wonder where he is going. And then I see the chips stacked up on the ground. Hodala casually reaches down and steals Yarnells chips!!! Hahaha yeah buddy that is what I am talking about. We had been taking this way too seriously up until this point. He takes off up the hill. Classic SSCX move. I love that guy to say the least.


We get out act together and roll up the hill. Yarnell is shattered. And we have another real paved climb kicking us in the nuts. No one seems to care that Yarnell is off the back. I usually have sympathy for my frenemies but in this instance I defer to the locals. Its all I can do to keep the pedals going anyway. We regroup at the dirt crit portion of this Feats of Strength. Ok finally maybe a contest I can "compete" at. The venue for the dirt crit is a burnt out old reservoir that has been reclaimed by the dog walkers and environmentalists. It reminds me of something you would see in Watertown or Belmont. Its about a 1/4 lap. 100% flat. Half dirt and some cobble/pavement. One puddle and one somewhat greasy corner. We use a park bench as start finish. We line up 3 across. I think Cushionbury sat this one out to drink the nice homebrew that the LWC guys brought along. We were waiting for another group to come along to join us but they were lagging and we were freezing so we went for it. Yarnell and I were 1, 2 for half a lap then he popped big time. I thought I had it then sensed another rider on my wheel. I snuck a look under my armpit and saw Hodala right on me. Shit. I knew I was screwed. He had a way bigger gear than I did. But this was all for fun so I just got in the drops and went for it. We were flying. Predictably as we were in sight of the picnic bench he came around for the win! It was awesome.



After that we hung out and drank home brew and watch wave after wave of riders race in heats. It was pretty hilarious. Some really good battles to say the least. It got cold so we moved on to the next stage with a much bigger group of riders. We picked up or absorbed by about 20-30 riders. Having been a bunch of these rides I know how it can go and asked the LWC crew if we should move up. They were unfazed. We popped into some singletrack and then a school. And then we rode the most glorious roller coaster I have been on in a while. I think it was called the Meadow and led to Wissahickon park. I was right behind the LWC guys and watching them shred the trail was insane. I just locked in and followed their line. People were smashed off the trail freaking out and we just would come bombing through. They warned us at the end there was a big chute into a drop in with a metal pipe high. The line was diving underneath it at speed and carving down. The looks on riders faces as we came in hot and went low as they all were walking down was priceless. We regrouped at the bottom laughing and smiling at how rad that just was.


We rode back on Forbidden trail and saw some of the mines/caves where my good friend Ryan's Kelpius team name comes from. We did a bit of climbing and then rolled down some city streets to a bar. I forget the name of it but it was a fantastic beer bar right on the bike path. All Cities should have beer bars on their bike paths. Seriously. People would ride bikes more often. I guarantee it. We pile up our bikes and head in. I have the best burger I have had in a long time. The beer list is a bit new to me. That is another thing I love about traveling to a new City. Its so rad meeting the bikers and totally embedding in their culture checking out new trails, beer, coffee, hangout, builders. So much cool stuff in Philly. I honestly can't think of a cooler place to be a biker. The LWC and all of Philly took such great care of us. Brothers and sisters from another mother. They have an open door to the #NECX I will say that. And I will be looking for any excuse to head back down to PA for more antics on bikes.


As the day was winding down and we were at hour 7 Adam Craig and his crew come into the bar. We had already been there for a while and Yarnell and Hodala were like two brothers going at it with each other. The stolen poker chips were adding some fire to their back and forth. I think Yarnell bit Hodala and Hodala stuck a finger in Yarnell's butt to get him to release it or something. Who knows it was pretty much white noise to me at this point. It was all in good fun and I was way to busy eating to notice. But apparently the whole "Belgian" thing had finally gotten to Adam Craig. Or just Yarnell was bugging him. AC goes over and grabs the Lion of Flanders flag and says "THERE!, no more flag for you. Its mine now. Fuck Belgium!" It was possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life. Yarnell had a look of a dog who just had his chew toy stolen from him. The LWC posse wisely deems it time to go. As we head out I bump into Craig. I am in my older HUP Vermarc winter jacket with the Belgian stripes. He looks at me. Shakes his head and again says "Fuck Belgium" Hahaha I laugh my ass and agree with him and say yeah "Belgium sucks" He laughs and states the obvious "Why the hell do you have those stripes on your jacket" 

This probably would have been a bad time to ask him to help bring SSCXWC to Boston so I just sort of pretended I was with Yarnell. The ride back to Philly had more sketch, flats, hijinks etc. My only goal at this point was to not die. And to try and keep anyone else from dying. We almost lost Yarnell to an old lady in a minivan and a parked Suburban. Army Jack missed a high five and hit a sign post. We double flatted at a skate park. We somehow ended up at the Liberty Bell as it got dark. Then my phone died. The crew clearly were not done but I knew I had to get back to the shop were the rest of my crew was waiting to get home in the van. Thank god Philly is on a grid. I had no phone, no lights and no hope. I figured I was done. I was Phillies now. But I found 4th street and no one killed me riding ninja style down the cobbles. And of course just as I walked into the shop Lolli and Ryan and Jen walked in. Perfect. Philly I love you. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia



Where to start with this Philly Worlds post? Most epics go from past to present in a linear fashion. For Philly though the most epic part of this Odyssey was the last day. So that is the place we will begin. This will be part one of a three part Philly Worlds recap. Sort of a Manga version on Lord of the Rings meets Hunger Games meets Beowulf. Not sure who plays the part of Grendel in this. Might be the Lizard King aka Yarnell who was almost the death of me on more than one occasion over this past weekend. For now grab your beverage of choice, wrap yourself in a warm bear skin rug and cozy up to a roaring fire and come with me on a journey into ICEWORLD. Apparently it is not Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Leading into this weekend I was FREAKING out. Not about the usual stuff one freaks out about leading up to a bike "race" more real shit. Like what clothes to bring so I don't die. Get snow tires on the manvan so I don't die. Pack lights and reflective gear so I don't die. You get the idea. Most of my freak out was actual responsible shit about trying to stay alive. The 70-car pile up triggered by black ice on the fine highways of Massachusetts a week before this trip was a wake up call. I got brand new snow tires and weaponized the van for all Winter could throw at it. Sometimes being the sour monkey pays off. Big time. 


First let's get to the important stuff. Huge thanks to my fine hosts and new BFFs Ryan and Jen. Nicest people on the planet. HUGE hugs to both of them for putting up a bunch of dirt bag singlespeeders from the #NECX and treating us like VIPs. HUGE thanks to Lone Wolf Cycling. I have a new wolf pack. True story. I still can't get over how friendly and welcoming riders in Philly are. I kept trying to picture how New Englanders would have handled this weekend. People would be left for dead. In snow banks. But 'nuff of that. My guides on Saturday's Pizza Strength Tour de Philly were incredible. Such talented riders. Strong as hell and skills on top of skills. Pryor and his crew that put on the event deserve high fives all around. Bilenky, Philly all the SSCX freaks who traveled far and wide. I LOVE U ALL! Philly SSCX Worlds were held at Belmont. An urban mtn bike park. We rolled up and it was COLD. Snow was on the forecast but it was supposed to come in around 3 pm after the race was over. We got out of the car and went to registration. Bumped into so many cool cats. Got our race "numbers" We were all pinning up race plate number 1. Well all of us that were in the "B" race anyway. I have no idea how many people were in the B race. Let's call it a swarm. We lined up ala Braveheart and were told to ride down the hill and take a left onto the course. Dave only gave really one instruction. Don't be a dick. I am going to see if all race promoters can adopt this policy. Be better for all parties involved I think. So I got the "holeshot."

Which was more driven by pure survival to get to the bottom of the hill without a horde of Visigoths running over my back. Unfortunately for me I might have been distracted when Dave gave out the instructions about where we would "enter" the course. I had about 50 people to my left. And two trees and a park bench. I cleared all of that only to see that the course tape blocked off my entry to the actual course. So I skidded my rear tire out and slid under. And watched 50 dudes in costumes go by me. Hahaha. Did I mention I was wearing an artisanal burlap bag of dicks as a costume? Luckily my gracious hosts lent me a costume for the event as I had forgotten this crucial piece of equipment for Worlds.


So I get my ass moving again and start passing people. Now I know who reads this "blog" aka diary of a madman. You are all serious cross racers. But believe when I tell you this. The SSCX Worlds course was one of the hardest races I have ever done. Imagine if Larz Worlds, Putney and Lowell had a love child. Yeah. Then ride it in a burlap bag with frozen hands and a bunch of dronk fans crowding the ENTIRE course. It was the greatest day of bike racing/participation of my life. I have never been around a crowd like this. Ever. Ok one time. And it was when I first fell in love with cross. Last time I have seen a crowd this stoked was Seatac Nationals in Seattle in like the year 1860. See I have been around CX longer than Adam Myerson. True story. Somehow I get back to like 5th wheel. Part of it is the grass climb up to the start/finish is horrible. Steep tall grass. Just kicked you in the nuts (or ovaries) each and every lap. At the top of the hill there were two options. Singletrack or a cut through spiral of death on the cross course. Which option do you think I took each time? So we hit the singletrack and predictably people start crashing into logs and trees as its pretty greasy from all the rain Philly had been hit with the last couple of days. I get through all the madness unscathed. Then hit Parachute hill. Brutal. Steepest longest "runup" I have ever seen in a cross race. More a mtn bike hike a bike. And of course the Lone Wolf Cycling party zone. Someone hands me a red solo cup. I think thank god. I am sobering up and its 9 am. It is chili. I respectfully decline. I get to the top and see Rocky. And Greg Whitney. Greg hands me a beer and gives me a proper welcome to Philly hug. We hang out. He steals my bike and hides it. I go find it and head back into the gauntlet. The descent on the other side is sick. In the drops just flying down a CX roller coaster.



Back into some fun singletrack with Liberty Bells hanging down on the course. I try to hit them all with my helmet. Back into a bunch of cx taped turns on a grassy knoll. I see my host (and BFF) Ryan half naked and putting on his AnonCX costume. #IAMEXCITE to say the least. He hands me a beer. We hang out. I see Lolli. His knee is all kinds of f'd up. I head back out on lap two. So much madness. At one point I come through the start/finish and I hear the announcer. He says "here comes rider...oh I can't say that on the pa this is a family event" I scream at the top of my lungs " A BIG BAG OF DICKS!!! The guy literally starts laughing his ass off on the pa and repeats "Yes here comes a big bag of dicks!" Not often you can make the announcer laugh at a CX race. Did I mention that the Mayor was at the race? And that he kicked off the event? And that the City Gov't was totally behind Worlds? Yeah not sure when that has happened at a "real" CX race. Oh yes I do. Never. The rest of the race is a blur of shredding fun CX, taking handups, laughing my ass off, wanting to die because it hurt so bad and having the best time of my life. Came down to Philly a shell of a man. Serious. I have been so burnt out this season. But SSCX has saved me. I left filled with soooo much ammunition. A new man if you will.


So my "race" and weekend was a HUGE success. If that was it, it would have been AAA plus. One of those things in life that get you through the darkness. Then the Big Show happened. And it started snowing. During my race it started snowing but really didn't accumulate. It was coming down hard enough that your eyeballs felt like they were being stung by #dronk hornets. But as we sat by a food truck eating brisket it turned into BlizzardCX. Last time I have seen this much snow was Gloucester 2005. It just started dumping. The mens race looked fun. Lots of naked dudes. And Adam Craig destroying everyone. A local put up a good fight but it was never in doubt who would win. Craig was highly motivated to get that skull tattoo. Kidding aside if Adam Craig was my hero before he is in an entire other Pantheon of CX gods now. He was beyond cool the entire weekend. Smile on his face every time you saw him. Had fun. Also heckled the shit out of Yarnell and stole that damn Lion of Flanders cape that was almost the death of me. But that is for another days post. So as we are eating our brisket and coaxing one of the woman to go race it goes full white out. We head up to Parachute Hill. And the party is off the hook. A drunk dude says "this is like the Tour de France" Seems stupid but again I have NEVER seen this many fans for a cross race. They lined the entire hill. And when the lead woman aka Batgirl came flying up that steep face a sea of fans parted and she had to elbow her way through. It was mind blowing.



I looked over and there is Adam Craig. Cheering on all the ladies. Handing up rum. Giving a few slaps on the ass with a riding crop he stole from someone. It wasn't just the ladies who were getting slaps on the asses don't worry. It got more rad or devolved quickly depending on your view. People would give women piggy back rides up the hill. Anne Rock was dressed up as a nun and her son was the Devil. I saw Beetlejuice and was sure I was in Hell. And was happy to be there. It was madness. And I was sooo stoked. In about 2 hours it snowed 4 inches. We were all covered in snow. But no one was cold. It was amazing. Vicki Barclay ie Batgirl is my hero. Seriously. She is soooo strong. And had such a rad attitude about the race. The poor woman who we saw at the food truck didn't even make it through one lap. She got halfway up Parachute Hill and I saw her on the side of the  climb holding her hands. It was really cold. I couldn't feel my hands for two laps when I was racing. We ran down and gave her some hot packs. It was all good. She ended up cheering for the other ladies with all the other SSCX FANatics!


So many highlights of my trip and this day. Again its given me soooo much fuel for the Phase 2 of SSCX World Domination in the #NECX. But one of the biggest highlights was meeting AnonCX. I am a HUGE Wolverine fan. Always have been. I have faded X-Men comics from when I was a kid. I joke that they are my kids 529 College fund. Doubt it but it makes for a good story. Seeing that Wolvie suit in action kicked ass. And no I am not outing AnonCX. He is retired. I think this was the last blast. And frankly I can't think of a better way to go out. So rad. The race reminded me so much of SSPalooza. Only on CX bikes and in the snow. The bike culture of Philly is off the charts. I don't think I have ever seen anything like this. Wide open. So friendly to strangers. So stoked on riding. Love the same stuff we do. Brothers (and sisters) from another mother. Open invitation. Anyone from Philly need a place to crash in New England we got you covered. The cultural exchange is Program Go! for 2014. Tighten up your chin straps kids. Its going to be a fun year!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Gateway Drug


There has been a lot of talk lately about "growth" in cyclocross. And a few dust ups over what that growth should look like. We had one fairly "epic" twitter fight that somehow awakened the Kraken of a parody account with Adam Myerson right in its cross hairs. Still not sure what that was all about but that is the double edged sword of the Internet. Yeah for open forums! As the dust settled I began to have some thoughts on the state of  the sport of cyclocross in the US. Smartly, and out of self preservation, I kept these to myself and let those with a dog in the fight to scrap it out over the next couple of days. The "Nationals in January" fight escalated quickly and seemed to be one that just would not die. But if I learned anything from that last twitter fight sometimes raising a ruckus in the water can attract sharks. And I just can't take another twitter fight. So I have just sort of kept my thoughts to myself. Then a friend posed the question if I thought CX was helping Mtn biking grow. My answer to whether I thought mtn biking and mtn bike racing specifically was growing because of CX was a resounding "YES"

In my opinion CX is having a positive influence on the increase in people racing mtn bikes and buying mtn bikes. But why is this happening. Should I start from the beginning for those who weren't around mtn biking in the mid-90s when mtn bikers were rock stars? Or do you want me to start with the present? For this fireside chat on the cusp of the Thanksgiving let's start with the present. Suffice it to say for our purposes those reading this are dedicated cross racers. Is that fairly accurate? Ok so let's take a team like my team. HUP United in New England. We are by definition a CX racing team. That is our purpose. And our obsession. But what drew us to CX in the first place has made our eyes wander a bit. We all love riding in the woods and playing in the dirt. With the advent of 29ers a "mtn bike" ends up being very similar to our cross bike. Only with bigger tires and disc brakes. Oh wait CX bikes have disc brakes don't they? See the more we try to differentiate between the two the sillier it sounds. When Mike Zanconato built me my first 29er he basically told me it would ride like my CX bike. But with big tires, flat bars and suspension. I love that bike. It is fast and can blast over just about anything. It is fun. And a lot like my cross bike. Only as, Colin, once said riding a 29er in the woods is like having an eraser, while a cx bike is a pencil. I have learned that lesson the hard way. Many times.


Ok this isn't really explaining the why or what of my argument is it? Let's look at some of the facts. Mtn bikers started CX in the US. Bold statement. But if you want to point to the first influx of europeans and european cross racers coming to the US it is true. Tom Ritchey brought the euros to the US and was the first one to start this cross pollination. Thomas Frischknecht is one of the greatest bike racers of our time. He was a world class CX racer who Ritchey converted to a world class mtn bike racer. He pretty much was the poster boy of the european invasion of mtn biking in the '90s. He and a whole legion of euros took the sport over. And what started as an American sport is now owned by the euros in large part to Frishi. So initially you have a heavy mtn bike influence on US CX. At that time mtn biking was the dominant sport. CX was tiny, unorganized, and really just an offseason affair that was done for fun. But this european influence brought over by mtn bikers began to take hold. When I moved west I didn't ride a bike.

I started mtn biking to rehab a broken leg. I got hooked. Mtn biking in the Bay Area is incredible. Long story short I spent some time with the Ritchey crew. I was lucky to be able to call a bunch of them my friends. I travelled to Seattle with the team the year Shari Kain won Cx Nationals. And on those sand dunes I fell in love with CX. Mtn biking brought me to CX and I loved it. CX was still a fun offseason deal. I met probably the first dedicated crosser I had met up to this point. His name was Pineapple Bob. He is a legend. He was so passionate about CX and worked for what I deemed the coolest bike company at that time, Bridgestone. So many of the things he said to me then still influences how I think about cycling. He lived and breathed cycling. One of my favorite P-BOB lines was love it and leave it alone. At the time mtn biking was heavily influencing cross racing. Bob wanted the races to be more euro. Traditional style courses. Love Cross, and Leave it Alone.


So early on mtn biking brought me to cx. But mtn biking was so much fun. Its hard to compare 45 minutes of hell with 3 hours on a mountain in the Sierras. I am sorry you just can't. Even here in New England mtn biking beats CX hands down. You just can't compare the two. Now this is going to get some people's skinsuits in a bunch. But hold on just a minute. I am not done. So you have mtn biking influencing CX at an early stage. Then mtn biking as we know it goes the way of the dinosaurs. I still blame USAC for its early demise. The Mammoth Mountain World Cup was like nothing you have ever seen. 10 times bigger than any CX race you have ever attended. Sea Otter Classic was the same way. And then BOOM. Done. Its how things go. Its one of my fears with CX. If you try to always build something up and put on a big show it can put a HUGE burden on all involved. Industry, race teams, promoters. So that was then and this is now. If you are fairly new to CX you probably either came over from the road side which has had a huge influence on CX over the last decade or started racing CX as your primary discipline. Coming from the road or being new to CX the appeal is easy to understand. 

• Cross is only 30-45 minutes long. 

• The bike is pretty simple and affordable. The bike can also serve as your winter bike, commuter and race bike. A do everything bike if you will

• The environment around a cross race is fun. Cross racing done correctly is never fun. Ok the competition may be but to do well you have to suffer. A lot. 

• Cross is fun. I said this before but its worth repeating. Before USAC got all up in our grill about handing up cupcakes you would go to a race and people would be freaking out and cheering for all the riders and some nutjob in a gorilla suit would hand you a mini-cupcake. How can you not laugh at that? Look at the photos that popularize magazines and blogs. It depicts cross as fun. Spectators and fans going nuts. You don't get that in mtn bike or road racing. After the race is over most races have food trucks or team tents. You can hang out and have a beer and watch the rest of the days racing. Or just hang out with your friends and talk story. Again try that with road racing. I actually dare you

• Women and men are pretty much equal in CX. Ok not totally but promoters, racers and participants almost all agree in parity. All the races I am involved with pay out equal money to men and women. My team's primary goal was and is to welcome women and foster growth. Cross racers are a funny crew. You don't get that type A testosterone crazed lunatic that you see (fairly or unfairly) depicted in road racing. Most women I know feel comfortable at a cross race. And around cross as a sport on the whole. 

• Cross is a sport of the people. Its all of our sport not just some elite 1%. Cross always has had a sort of offbeat flavor and I think it has been cultivated over the years. Even at the biggest races of the year you still bump into all your weird (cool) friends

• So many options. Cross has a ton of options. You can race your age, category or now more and more singlespeed. It is a very welcoming sport. You can do a highly competitive race with 140 racers in your field one day and a small grassroots race with 30 racers in your field that same weekend

Ok so that maybe outlines in broad strokes of why cross has become so popular. But what does this have to do with mtn biking? A fair amount of cross racers are mtn bike racers and riders. They are promoters as well. In New England the most popular promoter in this area is a rabid mtn biker. His influence has filtered over to a lot of people. It didn't hurt mtn biking's growth that one of the most popular CX race promoters then put on a mtn bike race. Sure that race may have been a kick in the teeth to lots of racers but you know what? When a cross racer races a mountain bike race they actually do it in a safe and fun manner. Cross racers are used to getting off their bikes. When they see something they "can't" ride up they get off and run. They aren't afraid to get off and run down something either. This is a pretty good survival skill racing mtn bikes in New England. Sure you might get heckled a bit but as Tom Ritchey once told me the ONLY thing that matters racing mtn bikes (or cross bikes) is who is fastest from point A to B. And that is the truth.



Blue Hills Cycling Club put on one of the most fun mtn bike races of the summer. And they are putting on a summer training series this summer. A road team (basically) getting more into mtn biking. How does that happen? Cross. Road racers try cross, cross is fun. Road racing is not. They try and make road racing like cross but you can't. Road racers are not going to hang around after a race and drink beer. Do they even drink beer? How can you stay that skinny drinking beer? You can't actually. 

Which brings up another great point. Mtn bikers don't care if you are skinny. Or fit. Or shaved. Or hairy. They are just happy to see you. Seriously. When you go to a mtn bike race the first thing you notice is how nice everyone is. NOONEISFREAKINGOUT. That is sort of refreshing. 

So once a cross racers tries mtn biking they get hooked. Basically you are doing a 1.5-2 hour cross race, in the woods with really cool people. Its wayyy less dangerous than a road race. Or even road riding for that matter. I would say in the last year or two half of my team has taken up mtn bike racing. For the women its almost 100%. There are a few hold outs but most all of them have bought new bikes and have been racing. What is funny is that while mtn bike racing can be frustrating and painful its rewards can be off the charts. 

Back to the beginning and I will wrap up this ramble. What is interesting to me and what triggered this whole "growth" argument/discussion is that some mtn bikers were complaining about racing deep into Winter. They need a break. No doubt. And mtn bikers by nature just aren't that serious. US CX has a million problems. Racing on an international level isn't one of them. Perhaps its the "mission statement of USAC" Great. How did that work with Lance and road racing? The drive to compete on an international playing field resulted in one of the darkest periods in US Cycling's history. Just about killed the sport. Whether CX Nationals in January is irrelevant to me. That cycling is healthy, that people ride and race bikes is important to me. It will be interesting to see how both mtn biking and CX grow in the next decade. I think they are much natural partners than road and CX ever were but that is just my opinion. And you know what I am all about. I am basically just a dirty singlespeeder...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"A rhino is merely a unicorn in disguise."


That may be one of my favorite quotes of all time. And Cheshire CX is now firmly planted into the top tier of cross racers in New England in my mind. I have to say grassroots races across New England are upping their game big time. We started the Zank SSCX series three years ago for some very simple reasons. Our first goal was to grow SSCX and show people just how much fun SSCX racing can be. Almost more importantly in my mind was to help support all the really cool grassroots races in this region. I won't lie, I worry that the UCI races will destroy some of the smaller grassroots races that we love. It doesn't seem to be happening thankfully. But its still a concern. What has happened in my mind is we have been able to show off some really fun races to people who might not otherwise travel to some of these great venues. I have heard lots of great things about Cheshire but have never been able to make it. We rolled down with a great crew. A ton of HUP and a bunch of SSCXers. I was super stoked to be able to meet up with some of my favorite CT friends. Matt Lolli and Doug Jenne are badasses. But also two of the nicest guys you will ever meet. And live and breathe SSCX. They are true soul riders in my mind. They both get it.


Going into Cheshire we had a bit of a psy ops mission we wanted to accomplish. We are trying to rally the entire #NECX to go down to Philly and occupy SSCX Worlds. It will be the first time SSCX Worlds will be on the east coast. Philly is going to be a blast. Yeah we want to go to Philly and get rad and see all our Philly friends, but we also want to bring SSCX Worlds back to Boston for 2014. We are going to need everyone to make this happen. Dave Pryor, the promoter of Philly Worlds, gave me some swag to hand out at our next SSCX race. I thought why not kick it up a notch. I took one of the coozies and tagged it with Velocb. At the start of the race Hunter announced one lucky racer would be handed up a Golden Ticket to Philly. Matt's friend Anthony sat on the steepest runnup on the course looking for the perfect victim. And when I found out who won I was blown away. Anthony picked the perfect person to handup that lucky coozie to. I mean look at the photo above? Damn. The CX Rhino may be our "delegate" in Philly. It is between him and Cross Jesus. This was CX Rhino's first SSCX race. I think he even said it was his first CX race. And he liked it so much he did the 1/2/3 race later that day.


Ok so why did I love Cheshire so much? I love "Jungle CX" I HATE grass crits. Hate them. With a passion. Cheshire had it all. Some really smartly designed grass off cambers and turns, a nice sandpit, some sick gravel fire roads and then LEGIT singletrack. Like singletrack that has alarms going off in your head saying to eject before you hit a tree at 25 mph. It reminded me of a lot of the stuff in Cutler that we all love. But buffed. Hunter and his crew clearly went up and raked the swoopy downhills of leaves and debris. The upper euro chute section was a blast. To get to it you had to run a pretty steep and loose runup similar to the one at Noho. Then on the other side of the ridge you had one the longest runups I have ever seen in a cross race. Abel and a couple of riders were able to ride up it. I am just not strong enough on a SSCX bike to ride things like that. It was basically like a hike a bike in a mtn bike race for me. Calling what I did on that section each lap as running would be an insult to runners throughout the world.


I somehow felt pretty ok considering how little riding I have been able to do lately. Its probably the power of the new Camelstache kit. I put that on and it gives me super powers. It was great racing with so many friends and dicing it up on such a crazy course. The Cheshire crew were so cool. There was a great heckling/cheering section on the super long run up. In my hypoxic state I think I saw a Spartan with some type of drum or pot and pan making sooo much noise. I would never say I "like" a runup but there was something about how they were laid out that made them really perfect. You would run up that nastiness and be gassed. Then remount and be rewarded by a roller coaster ride down the side of the ridge. Then hit the grass and get some great turns in. Awesome. Awesome course. And even the registration ladies were excited to see all the SSCXers. I don't think I have ever heard a heckle at the reg tent but it was pure gold.


Huge props to Hunter and his crew. Its a great part of the Zank SSCX series. Two more races in the series. New England Regionals in Fitchburg, and Ice Weasels. Thank you to everyone who has come out and supported the series. Its been a blast to see so many people getting rad on singlespeeeds and having such a good time. Hopefully see a ton of you down in Philly.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Love


There is one reason and one reason only why we do what we do. Love. Love of the actual bike. Love of riding the bike. Love of building the bike. Love of building the community of bikes. Without love its meaningless. Its beer league softball or lawn darts. Or sportsball. The bike community is unlike any other community. Maybe surfing or fishing. There are some real similarities between cycling and surfing and fishing. We will get back to that later. For now we are going to talk about bike love and how its been rekindled in my blackened heart. My love of bikes goes way back. To my childhood. Most people can (hopefully) trace their love of the bike to when they were a kid. But then predictably at about 13 it becomes "uncool" most teenagers focus turns to team sports of the ball variety. Then cars come into the picture and bikes become even less cool. Little did I know moving 3,000 miles away from where I fell in love with the bike would result in a love affair that would span the last two decades. That love affair became my career, it formed the basis for all my friendships, it broke my body but fed my soul, it kept me young, it drove my creativity and drove my significant other crazy. Moving back to where it all started also started a new chapter in my love for the bike. It really became less about the bike sometimes and using the bike to bring people together and build something. 


We (the industry and racers) tend to focus on the "sport" of cycling. I guess the theory is it makes cycling a more valid pursuit. Racing is serious business. Riding a bike for fun/health or transport is somehow far less sexy than winning bike races. And maybe racing helps "sell" bikes. Certainly one could argue racing helps to sell high end bikes. I race. Have for a long time but recently my interest in "racing" has waned. Why is that? To me its about what you value. What is important. I personally would rather see someone ride there bike to school or to work than win a bike race. Racers are a selfish bunch. On any level. They have to be to be successful. Some certainly give back more than others. Or use their "fame" to do more than secure their next sponsorship. Racing to me also brings out some negative behavior in those who I would call "good" people. I am not talking about doping I am talking more about the heckling and negative speak that goes on incessantly among bike racers. I guess I hold cyclists to a higher standard. Not knocking racing or racers. To me its about a shift. A friend recently challenged us to ask ourselves what we are for. I interpreted that as what do we love about cycling. The last couple of years I have fallen in love with riding again. Just riding. Get on the bike and see where it takes you.


The types of rides and riding we have been doing has been more of what I would call soul riding. Surfers talk about this all the time. I have found it this past year or two. And I owe my friends for showing me a better path. Honey Bikes was formed along these ideals. Build simple bikes. Build a community. Ride. Smile. Rinse and repeat often. When we heard about the Philly Bike Expo we got really excited. The Bilenky's have built a really nice expo in Philly. We didn't really know what to expect. I personally have never been to Philly. Boston, shocking but true, can be kind of insular. I have been really enjoying seeing and learning about different bike cultures. Its really refreshing to see how different regions build their community and identify themselves as cyclist. Nick and I drove down Friday night and set up our booth in the PA Convention Center. It became really apparent that we weren't in Kansas anymore as Dorothy would say. People were nice. Like really nice. This often times makes people from Boston nervous. You start doubting yourself and asking yourself what is this feeling I am feeling when people smile at me and are nice to me? Is it happiness? Weird.


It became the theme for the whole weekend. All the people who would come to talk with us in our booth were just so nice and so into bikes. And it began to have a real effect on me. And I started to see things from their perspective. The biggest takeaway from the Expo was that all our efforts shouldn't go into bike racers. I think I talked to maybe 2 people I would consider "bike racers" Everyone else was an enthusiast. Still lovers of bikes. Bike racers to be honest don't love bikes. A bike to a bike racer is a tool. A bike to a 60 year old man from Upstate NY is much, much more than a tool. People would see our bikes and just gush. They loved our bikes and the hard work we put into them. But a lot of what we talked about was rides they had been on. Or rides they wanted to go on. It was really one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. It was a true expo in that it wasn't just bike builders it was advocacy groups, artisans of all types, clubs and retailers. We will definitely be back to the Expo next year. I won't lie I ended up really loving Philly. Philly the City and the whole Philly bike community. The two seem so tied together. It is a really walkable (and bikeable) city. Certainly compared to Boston or SF. The restaurants and public art were off the charts. I wish I had time to actually get on a bike and do some of the rides that had been organized. But I was able to see all the bike fanatics out there loving their bikes and the rides they were heading on. It was a great mash up of riders. I saw a group of what looked like Hells Angels but on wild lowrider bicycles. Tons of bike commuters and advocacy types. Philly clearly has a cool mtn bike scene as I talked with a bunch of riders about nearby trails. And they certainly get how to make racing fun. Even racing can be fun if you have the right mindset. Certainly down in Philly it seems to be.


We got a good feel for what SSCX Worlds in Philly are going to be all about. Its going to be rad why mince words. They have some really cool things planned. Is Boston ready for SSCX Worlds '14? At least we know where to put the apostrophe I will say that. I'm not sure though. I had some high level psy ops discussions over scrapple and Philly Cheesesteaks discussing if Boston (and by extension the #NECX) can loosen up enough to actually have fun. SSCX Worlds is all about fun. If you take it seriously you really are missing the whole point. I may have been texting a certain someone who will not be named to see if he might want to go down this rabbit hole with me. To do it we will need all of the #NECX to get on this crazy train. Its the only way it will work. 3 days of SSCX mayhem in Boston? I think it would be amazing. This years qualifier is pretty simple. Its basically a popularity contest. Each person who puts in a bid will need to stump for "chips" Poker chips if you will. Racers and others will give that person the poker chips over the course of the 3-days that Philly SSCX Worlds will take place. I think I got this. If I have to buy the chips with beer, donuts, dollar bills, or by other nefarious means I am up for it. If we do bring it to Boston it has to be rad. Thank god its not some maple syrup chugging contest. No way I could handle that.



Purple is the new black. True story. We brought 3 Honeys down to the Expo. An All Roads that we built specifically for D2R2 and that is hands down our most popular bike. More than one person came up to me and said the All Roads was the type of bike they have been looking for for years. We also brought our Cross Race bike. People were super stoked on that bike. We answered so many questions about cross and the bike. Its probably my favorite topic so it was fun seeing so many people respond so well to the bike we have been racing on for the past two seasons. The bike that really blew me away was the 29er mtn bike we painted special for the show. We are very lucky. Our painters are some of the most creative people I have ever met. I really didn't know what the new paint scheme would be like. When I saw it in person it blew me away. Purple, with black and silver panels. It has a gold metallic clear coat. Its straight up gorgeous. I didn't know what people would think. They loved it.


We also got to meet a lot of other industry friends and plot and scheme for 2014. If half of the cool projects and rides happen 2014 is going to be a pretty amazing year I will say that. Not that '13 hasn't been one the best. We have had so much fun this year. Thank you so much to the Philly Bike Expo for doing such a great job. We had a blast and came away from it with so many great ideas. We will be back in Philly in a few short weeks. To say I am #EXCITE is an understatement. Philly I love you. We will be bringing a bunch of #NECX love down to Philly SSCX Worlds. Not sure if people in Philly hug. But I am going to give Dave Pryor a huge hug next time I see him for all he has done to make SSCX Worlds happen on the East Coast. Huge thanks have to go to my wingman pictured below. Without Nick this trip never would have happened. He is one of the most solid guys I know. Cracked the whip. Kept me on task. And even when Siri had us doing circles on the drive home he kept it together. Sure Newark was almost the death of us. But all real adventures have to have some threat of death to be a true adventure right? In all seriousness thank you to all who made the Philly Bike Expo possible. We will be back next year.