Monday, May 18, 2015

Do You Feel Lucky?

This past weekend saw the resurgence of my long retired mountain bike racing career. When did I actually retire from mountain bike racing? I believe it was in the late '90s. Right before my oldest was born. When we moved east it was all CX all the time. I dabbled in a few races. Saw the folly of west coast mountain bike design on east coast rocks and bought in hook line a sinker to the soul ride aspect of mountain biking in New England. Its shocking I don't wear baggies or a back pack on every ride. The only thing keeping me from going Full Enduro is that I am a horrible technical rider and fear oozes out of my pours. 

But CX as much of you probably know is rad. The people, the races all of it. There has been a HUGE influx of CX riders into mtn bike racing the last year or two. I have no idea why but this year I really want to "race" mountain bikes. I LOVE riding mountain bikes but racing them is a challenge that is perfect for building a little yellow brick road of success to CX season. Ok I have no idea what that means but it sounds cool. I have heard for years just how awesome Weeping Willow is. Willowdale has been on my bucket list forever but I had only ridden it once before Sunday's race. My good friend Derek gave Rusto and I a guided tour of the place about two weeks before the race. During the pre-ride I got all kinds of FULLAUTOVELOCB about racing. 

I finally did the sensible thing and put actual gears on my Zank! Putting a 1x11 on the Zank transformed how I am able to ride. I wish I was strong enough to ride a SS the way some riders can. But I am not. The Shimano XTR/XT set up rocks. 32 Wolf tooth up front, 11-40 in the back. Perfect range for spending time in the Flow Zone and climbs like a mountain goat. Only limiter is you spin out the 32 x 11 but that isn't my game anyway.

Sometime between that pre-ride and the eve of the race Russ unleashed an MTB Clash upon me. I think it was a thinly veiled intervention to ensure I made it to the race. I have a bad habit of flaking out of races. Its not that I don't want to race its just that life sometimes gets in the way. But Russ's MTB Clash got me all excited. I woke up at 4:30 the day of the race. The van was already packed. I had double checked everything. I haven't put this much thought or preparation into a CX race in 5 years. For a CX race I just throw everything in the van and hope I have enough beer and cupcakes for everyone. You can tell I take CX VERY seriously! I get to the venue at 6:45. I don't do anything at 6:45. Well anything sporting. I walk the dog. Make coffee. Read the paper. I do not pre-ride for a Masters race at 6:45. But I did. I kitted up and headed in. The course was amazing. A fog was hanging over the fields and the dirt was perfect.

I rode a few sections a couple of times to figure out the lines. I remembered Gerry Finnegan's advice to STAY LEFT. And it worked. Only thing I decided to not ride was the wall picture above. It was/is rideable just not a smart racing move for me. Faster for me to dismount and run. Its the CX racer in me I guess. I try my best to be a good mtn biker but when its faster to run I run. This is a race after all. Fastest from Point A to Point B (without cutting the course of course). I finished the 3-mile warm up lap and went back to staging. Finally people were arriving! I got a text from Russ telling me our MTB CLASH WAS OFF! Russ got taken down by some nasty bug or another. I was honestly bummed for him as he has been training his ass off for this race and would have crushed it. He certainly would have crushed me. I am a melted ice cream cone of a man right now. This Winter was not kind to me. But who isn't out of shape right now. First rule of racing is no excuse and no whining.

I saw SOOOO many of my friends. Honestly this is why I am so stoked to race mountain bikes. All the cool kids are at the mountain bike races. It is like an #NECX reunion. Not everyone is there of course but so many are. Between mountain biking and adventure riding its like the season never ends. Weeping Willow was a BIG race. I always have heard that the numbers are large. I think there were probably 250-300 racers in the Sport/Novice category. What ever the actual number the staging area was packed. Racing Masters 50+ is weird. I lined up with so many dudes from CX. The second I saw them its like my brain's inner tractor beam locked onto certain riders and jerseys. I won't lie as we moved up to the start line I got nervous. Not Gloucester nervous but like alive. I started hearing sounds and noticing things. I tried to ignore all that and focus on Gerry's advice. Stay Left.

I don't know if all mountain bike races are this way but the start definitely had the New England secret start beat. The whole field accelerate at warp speed as I was looking at my shoes. I missed clipping in and tried to get in without crashing myself or half the field out. I started accelerating as fast as I could chasing the CX racers I knew. I was pretty bottled up until we hit the first flat fireroad. For how sketchy it was I felt shockingly safe. Masters mountain bike racers may be more chill than their CX counterparts. I moved up pretty easily and then got stuck in a bit of a conga line. I still felt ok as I had a visual on the NEBC kit I was homing in on. The first half of the first lap was a blast. Again the Masters are predictable and don't do stupid things. There was a bit of a fitness versus skill gap that was getting a tad frustrating but I just relaxed and tried to stay within myself and kept reminding myself to not do something stupid.

I made a pretty dumb mistake after the first rock wall. I was getting a bit frustrated by all the soft pedaling as I wanted to move up and get contact with my friend from NEBC. I tried to make a move in a tight (too tight) spot and predictable took myself and another rider out. Shockingly he did not start screaming at me and ripping his bike off my bike. Mountain bikers are weird. Anyhoo. We detangled and began chasing again. We formed a ten person group that was about 2 minutes off the leaders. This felt awesome. We were moving really well through the climbs and again no one was doing anything totally boneheaded.

The most awesome part was that my good friend Eli was in the group. He and I haven't had much time to hang out. We were making jokes and having a rad time. Like I said I felt surprisingly good. I really liked how EFTA marks out the course with mile markers. It really does help you be a bit more focused about pacing etc. At the mile 8 marker we hit a nice single track. I was tail gunning at this point and I hear a rider come up behind us. He calls out "TRACK" I actually laughed out loud.

I sat up a bit and said "What category are you in?" He said "Novice" I almost fell off my bike laughing.  Then a switch flipped. I have this Little Ball of Hate inside me. Sometimes it comes out to play. I blame Hockey. And being a Townie. So the in-race heckling began. I started out pretty much with both guns blazing. Here is pretty much how the exchange went:

Me: "You are in Novice?"


Me: "DYUDE? WTF? You are the Novice race leader? Why the hell would I give you the track?"


Me: (this is where it gets a bit poke the bearish) "Wait a second you just rode through the whole Sport women's field and are now at the front of the Masters race? And you are a Novice?"


Me: "You are the biggest fucking sandbagger on the planet if you just caught us"

KOAS: Silence

Me: "We are actually racing and chasing. You could sit on the side of the trail and eat a sandwich and still win your race"

KOAS: Silence

At this point I can sense I have maybe poked the bear a bit too hard. KOAS is sort of vibrating behind me. We pop out and there is a log ride on the right. KOAS who now is about to become King of the Dickheads goes inside the log ride and HOPS THE LOG in front of our group. Definitely a Novice pass. Well this sort of move doesn't sit well with my other Masters brethren. And they take up my in-race heckling and take it to 11. KODH is now in with ten Masters who were just having a very Gentlemanly race. It is now like turn 1 at Noho and the gloves are off. We make the turn onto the final fireroad run into the start/finish and KODH's one moment of glory in his otherwise pathetic life. KODH now decides to unleash his man fury on us. He dive bombs the right side of the road and hooks a Blue Hills riders elbow. He goes down and takes the Blue Hills rider with him. They hit the gravel at warp speed. The Blue Hills rider pops up in full MMA mode and grabs the guy and shakes him. I hear screaming and expletives. Eli and I put our heads down and thank god we didn't get mixed up in that crash.

Fast forward to the end of the race. Great day. Great race. I came apart on the last lap but it was still soooo awesome. I put this whole incident into the "What happens in the woods stays in the woods" until there was a little chatter on the tubes about a Novice rider beating the whole Sport category. I go and look at the results and see our friend did a sub-45 minute lap. With a crash and MMA match. That is some next level bagging people.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Golden Ticket

Greetings my fellow Trail Wizards!!!! Its been a while. Sorry for my absence. I could bore you with details but suffice it to say its been a tad busy in the #CBL. This week is going to be beyond rad. Soooo much cool stuff on tap for (Un)Holy Week. But for our purposes I will try and keep my ADHD from going full throttle and stay on message.

First up. This coming Friday at the Providence CX Festival the UCI and USAC are handing over the reigns to their C1 course and letting us dirtbag SSCXers have a go at it! The course is NOT to be missed. It is one of the best course in the country. So much swoopy radness and good times. The winner of the Men's and Women's SSCX will be awarded a Golden Ticket to SSCXWC14KY. I am sure you have heard of SSCXWC14KY right? It will be off the hook. The Colonels know a thing or two about throwing a rad CX party/race weekend. They have some cool things in the works. 

So to recap. Come to Providence next Friday. Win. Get a Golden Ticket. Now not to be a all about the details but lets say you win the SSCX race but don't plan on going to SSCXWC14KY please do the right thing and hand it down to a racer who will go and represent the #NECX. I am hoping a big crew from New England heads down to KY and shows the world what we are all about. We have a lot of other cool stuff to hand out and award from the KY crew. VIP passes, stickers and Boss Hog hat will be awarded to some lucky SSCXers. Come join the fun Friday! It will be a full day and evening with SSCX, Madison and the Builders' Ball. You will not want to miss it!

Next on tap. I have made some new friends. Calling them friends is an understatement. More like brothers and sisters from another Mother. I can't even put into words how I feel about the Philly crew. I love them. There I said it. I know this is uncomfortable for people from New England to hear. We are raised to HATE Philly. But I can put aside my sports ball (and puck) rivalries that were preached to me from birth and date within the Division a bit if you will. I have never met a more rad crew. Our exploits have been well documented. Really its just the beginning. Much cultural exchange will occur in the coming years and months. For now I want to introduce you to our newest project. We are coining it the Trail Wizard. The Trail Wizard was born or possessed us all somewhere in Weston as we were suffering from heat exhaustion doing recon for the LWC FLD OPS MA. We decided to launch a Trail Wizard fund to support local trails in both New England and Philly. Phase one in the Trail Wizard fund is a limited edition All Roads Honey frameset raffle. It is painted in a special scheme that harkens to the woods and is pure Trail Wizard. Please buy a couple of raffle tickets to support the trails. The raffle can be found here at bikereg. May the odds be in your favor.

In coming months we will have more details about the Trail Wizard fund and more mashups presented by LWC and the #NECX. If I could clone myself I would be heading down to IronCross next Sunday and shred some PA gnar with the newest members of my Wolf Pack. But sadly that technology doesn't seem to be there right now. For this go around I will be there in spirit hooting and hollering with the LWC/Philly/PA crew. Cheers

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


#CXisComing. This we know. But it can wait for a while. At least six weeks. Its taken me a while but I have bought into Oleg's "No CX until September" mandate. Its important. Especially the racing of the CX. Plenty of time for that. But what is very important in the month of August and early September is RIDING your CX bike. In the woods. As much as possible. With friends and having rad times. So to help with this we have one rad weekend in the works. Its going to be a double CX ride weekend. Mark your calendars. Stash the blood bags, cold beers and pizza. Save the weekend of Saturday, Sept 13 & Sunday, Sept 14. You will thank me later. I guarantee it. Day One will be the 2nd Annual Honey 100. New route, same amazing ride support and good times. Register here at Bikereg.

Day Two is going to be amazing. After doing Saturday's Honey 100 we will embark on a Lone Wolf Cycling Field OPS ride. What will this ride be all about? Its still a secret. But imagine the #hecklepit + Ronde de Rosey + Philly + Boston and you have one full day of dirt and rad times on CX bikes. And of course we will have a party after the ride. Stay tuned for more information. Until then keep it CXy people.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kicking Cancer's Ass...

The framed print below is one of my most prized possessions. In a fire, after I know the kids are out of the house and I have the dog and cat and my wife, I am going back in for this. It was a gift from my good friend Ezra. #12 of 18 prints he made in a series about CX. Its titled "Orange Cone" Which I love! The handwritten note says " To the Cal Bike Guys, Heath and "Chocolate" Chip Baker, if the beer is cold we will race!" And that my friends has been my mantra for 2 decades. Everything and I mean everything I know about CX, single speeds, friends, community and the Biker Life I learned from Ezra and the whole Surf City/Norcal CX Mafia. 

Its been a rough year for my friends. Cars, Cancer. Fuck that. Ezra got a real rough diagnosis a while ago. But he is batting. And doing it with a smile and that style he has always had. One of the toughest and nicest dudes I have ever known. When ever I think of him I think of two things. This print and him chasing me around Watsonville Fairgrounds dressed as the Devil. Ezra needs our help. If you get a chance please check out his page. He is doing amazing. And I know he is going to kick cancer's ass and be back shredding in no time. 

Here is the link to his page Help Ezra Kick Cancer's Ass

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Fear Eraser

I like the term Gravel Bike. There I said it. It has a certain elegance to it. But like the term Mountain Bike its not very descriptive of the bikes intended purpose. Show of hands. How many of you in New England have ridden your "mountain bike" on a mountain? Ok let's narrow it down. How many of you within 30 miles of Boston have ridden your "mountain bike" on a mountain? No Blue Hill doesn't count. Its a HILL....My normal every day "mountain bike" ride if accurately portrayed would be called woods riding, or maybe trail biking. If we were to be really honest it might be called root surfing and rock smashing. Get where I am headed with this? No one and I mean no one wants to ride on actual gravel. No way. Gravel is what you find on the side of train tracks. It is horrible to ride on. We ride on dirt. Dirt roads are a blast to ride on. And you certainly don't need a specific bike to ride on dirt roads. The first bikes were ridden on crappy dirt roads. So this is not a new thing by any means. But how we ride and why we ride has changed. And its not marketing driven. Its just not. Its a natural progression for certain riders looking for adventure or another type of way to have fun. Oops there is that word. Fun. People get crazy when you say that word. 

I guess two decades of relying on racing to promote the sports growth has made people a bit  antsy when they hear cycling described as fun. I know its serious business. Its not really. It is supposed to be fun. And fun is the main reason why gravel riding, adventure riding, gravel racing have blown up. If you have been riding any bike for any period of time you have taken what ever your preferred bike is on some dirt or the less traveled path and explored around. If you are like a lot of us these little explorations began to take up more and more of your ride time. And then you were hooked. I always say cyclocross is the Gateway Drug. And I believe that. Cross is so accessible. And once you try it you are hooked. Some get hooked on the racing or camaraderie others on the costumes and beer hand ups. Either way most people end up wanting to ride a lot of dirt before and after cross season. Cross racers do a lot of woods riding as training in the late summer and fall. Cross racers tend to want to extend their season and try mountain biking. I don't think its any coincidence that both mountain biking and gravel riding are experiencing growth right now. Ok so we can all agree adventure riding or what ever we want to call it is great fun. But why? I think its so much fun because like cross ten years ago it comes in many shapes and sizes.

There are as many different types of dirt road rides as you can imagine. Some are true gravel races. I am not sure that is my cup of tea to be honest. I can barely stand sitting in the sun for very long. Grinding along for miles on a gravel road in full sun holds about as much fun to me as a Russian slap fight. But for some it can be just the challenge they are looking for. I like real mixed terrain. I like singletrack. I like some stuff that scares me a bit. And I like bomber 50 mph descents. I am even finding some joy in climbing. See its like a disease without any cure. The rides that have always inspired me have been The Grasshopper Adventure series, Three Peaks, and our very own Ronde de Rosey. I love these rides for lots of reasons. One of the things I love the most is how wide open it is. No one cares what you are wearing. Road culture is almost non-existent. All shapes and sizes are welcome. No one is going to call you fat. Or skinny. Because NO ONE cares. Everyone is so stoked to see each other and ride some crazy ass route that they have way more on their mind than if Joe from accounting is at 5% body fat and is wearing a matching kit and aero helmet. People show up with barcon shifters and racks. Gasp everyone has saddle bags and frame pumps. Steel frames are everywhere. 

Again I love that everyone brings what ever bike to the party that they want. Some may work better than others but it doesn't really matter. Steel touring bikes are just as great a choice as carbon fiber road bikes. Assuming the carbon fiber road bike can fit 25s. Which is a good segue to something that has been on my mind. I have been wanting to write a post about gravel bikes and gravel riding for a while. Its been percolating. Many twitter fights have ensued. Some of those twitter fights have inspired and shaped my thinking about how I would write the post. But at the end of the day I don't really care. I don't feel the need to convince anyone about the validity of gravel bikes or gravel rides. Its like what Pineapple Bob once said about cyclocross "Love it and leave it alone." I feel that way about gravel. Love it and join the party or go race an office park crit. I won't judge your lifestyle choice to be a crit racer don't judge my choice to want to seek out adventure with a legion of like minded souls. Gravel bikes themselves are amazing. And valid. Do you need one? No. From my perspective the ONLY bike you need is an All Roads. Again back to P-Bob. I had so many amazing conversations with him. Most around Bridgestone and how they developed bike designs. Both P-Bob and Bridgestone championed the "do everything bike" It was part CX bike, part touring bike and part dirt bombing machine. Sound familiar?

I like the term All Roads because it encompasses more what the bike is about. Granted a trail isn't really a road but to some it is. An All Road can eliminate three bikes. Easily. With 28s it is a great road bike, with 33s it is a fantastic cross bike, and with 40s it becomes a monster cross that is very close to a 29er. So when people say to me do I need a gravel bike I honestly would answer yes. If you only can afford or have one bike this would be the type of bike I would choose. But the naysayers will say you can't race on it and its not a mountain bike. No one said its a race bike. How much racing do you do? How much riding do you do? I can't think of a more valid bike out there right now. But let's compare it to the bike I love the most. The cyclocross bike. The modern cyclocross bike is a race machine. Over the past ten years the designs have morfed from touring bikes to pure bred race machines. Aggressive, stiff and twitchy for quick accelerations and turning. They make very exciting trail bikes! Having a chance to ride an All Roads the past six months the differences between the two bikes has become so clear. I call my All Roads the Fear Eraser for a reason. I always have ridden fairly well in the woods on my CX bike.

I wouldn't call myself a great bike handler by any means but I get the job done. I ride a lot in the woods on a CX bike so I can handle most that the trail throws at me. But over the past couple of years I have had some fairly epic crashes on the CX bike in the woods. Maybe its just pushing too hard or playing roulette with file treads but I have been pretty roughed up. I would never blame the bike. But the first thing I noticed as I got more and more woods time on the All Roads was the lack of crashing. And not being afraid. There are component reasons for this. Hydro disc brakes actually stop. I know that may seem surprising. Cantilevers do not stop or even control speed in a way that for me is safe in the woods or on a dirt road going 45 mph. Now some can make that work for them. I can't. And I have kids and a wife who need me with a brain that functions. Or at least functions on the level of the usual full auto ADD that is the #CBL. So the first huge advantage is disc brakes. The Shimano Hydros work as well or better than XT mountain disc brakes. True story. The next advantage is tire size. Being able to pair 40 mm high volume like the WTB Nano 40c or Clement XPLOR MSO with disc brakes opens up so many possibilities. Add disc brakes and fat tires with a stable front end, standard trail, low BB and long wheel base and you have one confidence inspiring bike that is purpose built for adventure riding.

Designing a purpose built bike makes sense. Yes you can do these rides on a road bike with widish tires or a cross bike. But neither of those is ideal. The typical scenario on these rides, especially the ones that are true adventure rides like the Rasputitsa, Ronde de Rosey, Raid Rockingham or Diverged ride is seeing road riders on the side of the road with multiple flats or broken bikes. Granted bad luck can happen to anyone. But if you hit a baby head rock at 25 mph with a 25 mm tire you are going to probably flat. Or dent a rim. Or break a spoke. I won't name names but a certain rider had at least 4 flats at the Rasputitsa on his road bike in the first 15 miles. He had so many tubes around his neck he looked like a Vintage photo from the Tour de France Smokers. Cross bike would be the next choice. Not bad. I have used a CX bike for years. The biggest draw back is brakes. At least with the road bike you have brakes designed to stop you at a high speed. Cantilever brakes are made for racing cross. News flash cross racers don't use their brakes while racing. If you want to go fast you stay off the brakes. Going to mini Vs can be ok. The braking gets better but the tire clearance sucks. You get a lot of brake rub and they are finicky. Lots of CX bikes have disc now so ok that certainly would be an upgrade. But a CX bike isn't very stable at 40 mph bombing down a dirt road with frost heaves and ruts. I had an epiphany at the Raid. Roger had stopped yelling at me before the descents. Usually he gets pissed because I bomb down some dirt track on the cusp of control laughing like a maniac. But at Raid on the All Roads I was going 10 mph faster but was in complete control. The bike was soooo stable and soaked up so much of the rough road. That was when it hit me. You don't need a gravel bike but they sure are nice.

Monday, June 9, 2014

For those about to Rock

Photo by Dan Blickensderfer

Raid Rockingham was this past Sunday. This was our second year doing the Raid. For most the term Raid implies some sort of surprise attack on enemy territory. In police jargon it is often to seize something from a criminal element. I think this event got its name from the French Raid Gauloises. Which was arguably the first adventure race. The spawn of all of this madness if you will. Either way I love the name. Raid Rockingham has a good ring to it. I tend to do most of my rides like I am riding through enemy territory so when my good friend Roger asked me to join him I didn't even blink. What is the Raid? Calling it a "gravel race" would be wrong. Sure we maybe rode on a few gravel roads. But like the Rasputitsa, Dirty 40 and a bunch of these races/rides it is so much more. I don't think this was a "race" perse. More like a group ride with 350 like minded dirt loving souls. A post about "gravel rides" is percolating in my few brain cells I have left. It is going to be epic. But for now let's just focus on RR. The Raid is staged in Newmarket, NH. Newmarket is a really cool little town right on a river. They stage and finish right in town. This is one of the aspects of these rides that really appeal to me. It really is nice rolling into these little towns and spending a day on a bike riding sweet roads and trails and then returning to the town and having a party and BBQ afterwards. Don't think these rides aren't hard though. No we aren't "racing" but it is spirited riding. Especially in the first 20 miles or so before things sort out/settle down. 

Like a group ride 15-20 riders roll out in staged starts with a certain pace pre-established. Now once you leave the parking lot some may have a very different idea what 18-20 mph means. Does it mean we go 18-20 mph the whole ride? Or does it mean we hit 18 or 20 once in a while? This isn't my first rodeo so my main objective always is to ride smart, be nice, watch out for others and keep myself safe. Safe usually means at the front. Especially when you are riding down a dirt path scattered with baby head rocks at 20 mph. We were in a great group. Roger and Dave from HUP were with me. My friend Dan who I have ridden a bunch of these types of rides with before was in our group. And there was a core group of IF riders. IF moved up to NH a few years ago. Their factory is right next to the staging for the ride and they are a big part of the marshaling and support of the ride. Plus they ride these roads and trails all the time. Pretty smart to put yourself on the front with them. Turned out Roger knew one of them from his days at Newbury Comics. Crazy what a small world it is. 

We had a nice paved road roll out to the first dirt sector. Last year this dirt sector seemed like the Forest of Arenberg. Last year when we hit it was like bombs were going off all around us. Sooo many crashes. Granted it was much wetter and there was a ton of mud. This year was very dry. But I was nervous. So I tried to stay second wheel with the lead IF rider. I think having the three IF guys calmed the group down. Last year when we hit dirt the speed went from about 18 to 25 in the blink of an eye. This year we kept it pretty steady. There was definitely some excitement about the dirt but no pointy elbows or sketchy riding. We locked into a great pace. Everyone riding well. This is part of riding that I love. When you are in a good group you calm down and just ride so much better. I think we had a more experienced group this year as well. No one seemed nervous on the dirt which is huge on these rides. Everyone says they love "gravel" until they are rolling down some goat path and hit a patch of sand at 20 mph and the bike goes all squirrelly underneath you.

There was such a cool mix of bikes. Gravel rides (oh god there is that term again....) feel like how cyclocross felt about ten years ago. Everyone brings there own interpretation to it. There are so many different bikes on these rides. Not one cookie cutter bike. Some are on carbon road bikes, some are on cross bikes, some are on touring set ups. Tire selection is ALL over the map. But it all works. And it is fun. For a bike geek like me it is like Christmas. I love to see barcons, and fenders. I also like to see some Ridley with deep section carbon wheels. What is nice, and again like CX 10 years ago, there is very little attitude. Everyone is there for fun. You can wear what ever you want. No one is going to give you grief because you wore the wrong kind of socks or your legs aren't shaved. Ok maybe some people will heckle you for hairy legs. And yes I finally cracked and shaved mine after being caveman style for the last 6 months. We get through the first dirt sector and come out on a really nice road and hop into a paceline. I literally haven't been in a paceline in about a year. Wow. I really have become a mountain man or something. It felt great though. You don't forget group riding skills once you have learned them. And there was a lot of road sections so it was nice to get in a group and take some pulls at the front and then slip back to the tail of the group and get a free ride at the back.

I made one mistake. Well I guess it was a mistake. 65 psi is not very comfortable on goat paths. But I didn't want to flat and knew we would be climbing a lot and riding pavement. It wasn't the biggest mistake but I did take a bit of a beating when it got rough. That is part of the deal though. And why I love this type of riding. You need to make decisions. Its not one type of terrain. I love how diverse it can be. We rode a ton of nice dirt road, some bumpy goat paths, double track, pavement. Just about everything except single track. One of the highlights last year was a section called Woodman. The sign that called out Road or Cross cracked me up. Like it is ever a decision for me. But hearing people argue or convince themselves why they couldn't go down the cross path was highly entertaining. QOTD from a guy in a giro aero helmet that matched his white kit. "I love CX but I don't want to flat.." oh boy. Woodman was way less muddy than last year but it was rad none the less. A bomber little jeep path with hub deep mud puddles. Roger and I flew through it and exited with a nice covering of NH grime.

It was a hot day and things started to get a bit weird out there. Not gonna lie. Roger and my #hobostyle raids on the rest stops almost bit us in the ass. There were two rest stops. Well stocked with sandwiches etc. But we were on a Raid not a gourmet century so Roger and I would roll in rifle through the boxes of gels and bars and fill our pockets with as much "food" as possible. Then go to the hose for water. At around mile 40 we heard music. And then what looked like wood sprites dancing in the distance. As we got closer we stumbled upon what I can only describe as some kind of Hula dancing hippy party. I thought I was hallucinating but Negacoach later confirmed there were in fact pregnant ladies Hula hoop dancing in the middle of a dirt road. The last water station had a blue grass band playing music for us. People were hanging out in their yards cheering us on. A couple of times I forgot the roads weren't closed and had to remind myself of potential disaster. Speed is such an addictive thing. Bombing dirt roads at 50 mph has to be one of life's guilty pleasures.

At one point Negacoach came flying up next to me. I recognized his voice immediately. Again one of the things I love about these rides is that its like a CX reunion. But you get to spend hours together in a non pressurized environment and catch up with your friends. Dave always cracks me up. He grabs my jersey and we hang out for a bit. He tells me we left Dave behind at the last rest station. Oh shit...I blame the heat. And the dirt descent bombing. And the Hula Hoop Ladies. It can be hard at times to keep the group together. Fog of War and what not. Roger's Garmin is acting all whack so we sort of know where we are but not really. The beauty of the Raid is its old school. You can easily follow the route without a Garmin GPS beeping at you at every turn. And you don't need a cue sheet. They put head high arrows at all turns and have marshals at the big intersections. They do a fantastic job. So we are unclear. We may have 10 miles to go or maybe 4. Who knows. Roger has been getting hangry for a cold coke for about an hour. He's keeping it in check but I can tell if he doesn't get that cold coke it may get ugly. We finally find some sketchy gas station that is open. And our spirits are instantly lifted. It is the BEST COLD COKE I have ever had in my life. One of those moments too. Just sitting on a dirty stoop drinking a cold coke with one of my true friends. Fantastic. Roger tells me to get off my ass and back on the bike. We roll out. And then we realize we are literally 2 blocks from the Start/Finish. We burst out laughing. 58 miles to get a cold coke. Perfect.

What a great day. Huge thanks to everyone at Raid Rockingham. The after party was even better this year. Up on a hill at some Church of Rock and Roll. Brilliant. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ride it Russ

Where to begin with this story? I guess like most stories from the beginning. The beginning for me has been well documented. Norcal. SF in the late '80s early '90s. It was a magic time for me. The foundation for who I am as a cyclist and person was all laid in stone way back then. I was taught what it meant to be a part of a community. To build a community. To take care of each other. All before the internet. How the hell did that work right? 

The internet is not a "bad" thing. After some early dust ups the #NECX has really grown because of the 'tubes. I suspect we would have grown into this big family on bikes regardless if we had a daily water cooler named Twitter to share stories, heckle, entertain, plot and scheme the next ride etc but I sure think Twitter has helped bring us together. I think back to the early days and the fundraisers, rides etc that grew out of someone throwing an idea up on to this virtual water cooler and the action that would come out of it. The #NECX has each others back. Period. Sometimes we may get into some crazy twitter fight about whether cats rule and dogs drool. Or whether society as we know it will crumble because of the introduction of aero helmets. No matter the "fight" we are always friends. Its part of being passionate about something. I have never had such friendships in all of my life. And I thank the #NECX and yes partly Twitter etc for allowing me to get to know people I never would have been so close with. 

Ok onward and upward! Fast forward to yesterday. Most of you who read this know Russ. Everyone in the #NECX sure does. For those who don't let me introduce you to my good friend. Russ makes my attempts at helping others seem like amateur hour compared to what he does. He is a race promoter, PRO photographer, maker of radness and all around great human being. He never says no to anything. He helps at every race we put on or attend. He is part of the MRC (Minuteman Road Club) which puts on countless bike races. They are one of the clubs who really dig down deep and provide high quality events for all of us to enjoy. But he doesn't just help on his races or his clubs. He is at all the races. Working. Shooting photos. Making ALL of us look fantastic. I am a troll of a man. Well, I prefer Hobbit. But still they aren't know for their looks. Russ takes photos of me that don't make me want to hide in a darkened room. Those are just the things we see. Russ is always there for people who need him. Whether its to take someone on a ride or just talk with them. The man is a Saint. He also is a 100% badass. I call him the Chuck Norris of the #NECX. Mostly because he is indestructible. And also because like Chuck he has a tendency to get his butt kicked a tad by the bad guy before getting up and finishing off his rival with a flying round house kick to the head. Russ gets bloody. A lot.

I forget who coined the term "Don't Ride That Russ" But it became a slogan/hashtag what have you. It was a gentle heckle at Russ's both fearlessness and his ability to mess himself up. The more I wreck the more fearful and tentative I get. Crashing only seems to motivate Russ to ride more sketchy stuff. Which as his friend is petrifying. So about two weeks ago I decided an intervention was required. I emailed a few friends to see what they thought. I pitched the idea of what if we made a rad tshirt and raised money for Russ to get a new bike. Everyone was beyond enthusiastic and supportive. The overwhelming response blew me away. The great thing about the Bike Industry is it doesn't take much for people with rival brands etc to come together for a common cause. I contacted all my friends. Most who rep competing brands or work for competing retail bike shops. No one blinked. At the end of the day the timing worked to go with Landry's who happens to be MRC's main sponsor. Again I was impressed that there were no hard feelings. Everyone who I asked donated. To ensure the big unveil was a secret I had to keep it a pretty small circle. I still don't know how we kept it all a secret. It came close to unraveling a few times believe me. There were some close calls.

So thanks to MRC and Landry's we were able to order the bike almost instantly. The bike gods were with us the timing couldn't have been better. Weird how that works sometimes. But we now had two weeks to keep it together. And in those two weeks we had some pretty high profile events on the horizon. The first test was Gnar Weasels. I now was in fear not only that the secret would get out but that Russ would die riding his Jankmobile in the time it took to get his new Party Bike. So I lent Russ my Honey. Which was good and bad. I always forget how short I am. Russ somehow made the bike work. And kept raving about it. It was killing people to keep their mouths shut and not leak it. Then Russ started asking people for spare parts to upgrade his 7 (editors note: Russ just told me its 17 yrs old!) year old Jankmobile. The Jankmobile is a (1)7 year old aluminum Specialized with v-brakes. Part of what makes Russ so great is he has NEVER complained about that bike or used it as an excuse for a crash or race result. People could all learn a lesson from Russ. When I finally looked closely at his bike I could only shake my head.

When I arrived at Russ's house with his brand new Trek Superfly FS 8 he was literally beating a dent out of his rear wheel with a 2 x 4 to get it rideable. So many people made this happen. David Deitch took the idea and ran with it. He designed an amazing tshirt and sticker pack. And he just kept getting me stoked. He ordered the bike and figured out sizing through some old fit data Landry's had of one of Russ's other bikes. The Jankmobile was useless as a sizing tool as it was about 2 sizes too big and had some crazy 90 degree rise stem on it. Carrie Mosher and Brandon from the Westborough Landry's were huge as well. After riding with Russ this Monday and literally almost seeing him die. I decided we had to do the unveil on Tuesday. Russ's schedule also dictated that Tuesday was the window. But it was tricky. Russ knew something was up. We ride about once a week but two days in a row? I tried to play it cool. But man I was FREAKINGOUT. I am not good at secrets. Horrible actually. So I just played it really low key. "Hey how about we ride your trails we always ride mine" He said he was busy. I said "Well anytime works for me do you have a window?" Again he was suspicious but he is so great he probably just thought I needed to hang out so he didn't even hesitate and said sure meet me at 11.

So it was on. I had some harried talks with Brandon and Carrie and David. Arrangements were made. I drove out to Westborough and picked it up and loaded it in my van. Then headed to Russ's house. The entire drive I was losing it. Wanted to cry cause I was soooo happy that we did it and it was about to actually happen. Then I got wicked nervous. I am so lame with the feelings sometimes. I didn't know what Russ's reaction would be and am not Dirtwire.TV. I know people wanted the moment captured for them. I wanted to capture the moment for the ENTIRE #NECX. I felt guilty that everyone wasn't with me to see Russ when he first saw the bike.

So I pull into his driveway and like I said he is literally beating his bike with a 2 x 4. I get out of the van and say " Russ you don't need to do that anymore" And he looks at me and tells me he has to if we want to ride. And I say, "The #NECX has sent me to do an Intervention. We feel its time to retire the Jankmobile" He looked at me funny and said "What are you talking about?" I said come here. And opened the van and unveiled the sickest Party Bike ever. He was floored. All he could do was thank everyone for doing this for him. It was amazing. And yes there was hugging. Lots of hugging. Then we took all the reflectors off and the pie plate. Put on some Ardents and video's of his first wheelie attempt and then headed out for one of the best rides I have ever gone on in my life. It was pure magic. Really what all rides should be. The bike was PERFECT. Deitch nailed the sizing. Which was causing me many sleepless nights. We stopped for a few little adjustments but man when we hit the first section of trail Russ took off! He was flying up and over everything.

He took me on some great trails. What blew me away was how free he was to just let the bike GO! We came around a corner and saw a two week old Fawn. Did you know Fawns say "Ma" when startled it was wild. Then we came across a Copperhead. I didn't believe it until I checked later. The woods Spirit Animals were with us. We took many hug breaks while riding. Now Russ is not a hugger. He isn't as bad as Jerry. But not a hugger. #NECX prepare to be hugged for the next six-months when Russ sees you. Russ and I are fairly close in ability on a mtn bike. He has zero fear and I wreak of fear constantly but its close. And our fitness ability is pretty close. On this ride it wasn't even remotely close. He dropped me so bad on a few climbs I could only laugh. And the downhills weren't even close. Luckily he waited for me at the intersections.

We had such a great ride. It was pure magic. Then we got to hang out and have a burrito and a 'Gansett and talk about life and bikes. Everyone should have a day like this. HUGE, HUGE thanks to everyone who made this happen. Someone asked a very fair question on twitter once it was unveiled. It was asked very nicely (which is unusual for Twitter with all its snark) and just out of curiosity. To paraphrase the question "Was it just because? Like a random act of kindness (or shredness)" I actually liked that. A random act of shredness. I think we just created a new thing. A random act of shredness. We need to do these things large and small more often. In fairness we really do. The #NECX is so special. Everyone does so much for each other. I feel so lucky to be a part of this and have so many amazing and talented friends.

A limited edition tshirt like the one pictured above will be available in the next two weeks. Everyone who donated will get a tshirt and a sticker pack. I apologize for having to keep the fundraising fairly stealthy but it was the only way I could ensure keeping it a secret and surprising Russ. Even with a smaller circle I can't believe the secret didn't get out. Tshirts will be for sale and available as long as they last. We will get a price together once the final art and costs are determined. If you have any questions just email me at I will post up tshirt information in the next day or two. Again HUGE HUGS to all who helped make this happen. You and the ENTIRE #NECX Rock!