Monday, December 5, 2016

Tubeless CX

A lot of people have been asking me about tubeless for CX. Tubeless in CX is sort of like how tubular tires were about 10 years ago. Seemingly some kind of dark art combining wizardry and alchemy. Back in the early days of tubulars it was very hard to come by good tubular tires. You had to know someone who knew someone. Phone calls were made. Emails were sent. Trips to France and Belgium happened. Then you had to either learn to glue the tires yourself or again know the secret handshake to get someone who knew what they were doing to glue the tires for you. This sounds expensive and like a royal pain in the ass doesn't it? It was. But it was worth it. It was worth it from a performance reason as you could now run low pressures without pinch flatting. You still could flat though as there still is a tube in a tubular. Racing on nice tubulars on a rutted rooty New England CX course against a field running predominantly CX tires with tubes is like cheating. Half the fast guys would flat out and the other fast guys would bounce off the roots and off the course. Podium presented by equipment doping. But the most important reason to go fancy French tubulars was to go full CX Diva. People would lose their minds when they saw you roll up with your green sidewall FMBs. My first experience on tubulars was via Molly Cameron. She set me up. I picked the wheels and tires up in Portland when I traveled out for the USGP at PIR. The ride was life altering. 

I was hooked. It was like CX crack cocaine. I just needed more tubulars. Little did I know like crack cocaine you basically are just lighting money on fire via your addiction. And it wasn't just tires you now needed wheels. It isn't like a normal clincher tire. You can't change tires easily with tubulars. So you need three wheel sets. If you want to be a BALLER anyway you do. And who doesn't want to be a BALLER? Flatting or puncturing a $120 FMB tubie is no joke. You are out the expensive tire. Then you need someone to glue a new tire on. So let's call it a cool $200. Timing can suck as well. It could take a week to get the flatted tire fixed and ready to go. So now you need a fourth clincher wheel set to train on while your tubulars are getting fixed. Welcome to cyclocross. And all your friends said it was for fun. Liars. 

So I played the game. I loved my FMBs. I had a few sets. Then sort of settled in with one all arounder I liked. It wasn't like I was going to podium anyway. So why am I going through the hassle and expense of multiple tires for my Beer League Softball participation. At few years ago I stopped even putting spare wheels in the pit. Frankly tubulars with a bit of Stan's in them really are about as flat proof as you can get. Rolling a tire is probably your biggest risk of ruining your mid-pack finish but with the people who I ended up gluing my tires it was virtually impossible to roll a tire. The glue jobs my mechanic laid down lasted about two years. Maybe a bit more if you wanted to push it. And who has time for constantly checking their equipment? That is silly talk. Ok so to recap. Tubulars are expensive, kind of a pain in the ass but offer unreal performance advantages for racing CX. The big upside is the ability to run low pressures without flatting. I am sure everyone who reads this knows why this is great but maybe for people newer to CX the reason you want to run low pressures in CX is that a tire at say 25-30 PSI will give you way more traction and is way more comfortable as compared to the same tire at 45+ PSI. And realistically if you are running tubes in a CX race with any roots or rocks you need to be at 45+ to avoid flatting. That is unless you are sub-150. But some of that is riding style as well. The more aggressive you ride the higher you would have to run tires with tubes. Ok so that is tubular tires for CX in a nutshell. 

At some point you begin to question this lifestyle. Maybe you just can't justify $300 for a set of FMBs. I know I can't at this point. I have Syd the kids hockey to pay for. $300 barely covers a carbon hockey stick these days. So your eye starts to wander a bit. Coming from a mountain bike background the lure to tubeless is pretty easy. Until you see your friends burping DIY tubeless set ups at CX races. Some seem to have a gift for exploding tubeless set ups. Cough * David Deitch *cough. But there sacrifices paved the way to where we are at right now. Right now the system is dialed. And by system I mean tubeless specific rim and tubeless specific tire. Add some sealant of your choice and voila you are now ready to jump into the dark side of tubeless CX. Ok if you are thinking now that you will take your old Ksyriums and get the conversation kit and use some Challenge tires you have I am going to stop you right now. DONOTDOIT. Did DD suffer over and over again so you could make the same mistakes? No. No he did not. So just step away from that old crappy stuff. Sell the wheels. You can get $500 for them right? Ok so get a nice starter set of wheels like the Stan's Grails. They are super easy to set up and are a good wheel to begin with. Buy a set of Specialized tires and really you are good to go. So let's recap. $500 for the wheels + $80 for the tires + $20 for the Stans = $600 and a good raceable set up.

Ok before we delve too much into the whole tubeless CX experience lets go over some pitfalls etc. I know I am always super positive and don't get all negative. It is easy to set up a tubeless tire on a wheel like the Stan's Grail. If I can do it you can. I am a total hack. Seriously. Here is how it works. Ideally you do this outside on your driveway. You need a bucket of soapy water and a hose. Again ideally. Get your new wheel. The wheel should be taped with Stan's yellow tape and have a tubeless valve. Make sure the nut on the valve is tight to the rim. I have found most problems setting up a tubeless tire can be traced to the tape of valve. Usually if I am having trouble with a tire that is the first thing I will do. Put fresh tape on and a new valve. It solves most problems. The next answer to a tubeless tire that is losing air is just add more Stan's and shake. Or ride. Riding actually helps the tire seal. It moves all the sealant around and sets it up nicely. Ok so you have your bucket and hose. I put the tire on the usual way. Then I mount the bead and leave a little off the rim. I put one scoop in and then turn the tire so the sealant goes around the tire. I flip the tire and pop the bead on. Then inflate with a floor pump. Inflate until you hear the bead pop. It makes a great pinging sound. Some rims like the HED don't ping. Not sure why but you can see the bead is seated by looking at the sidewall. Make sure the bead is evenly on the rim.

Thom did an awesome video about tubeless. Check it out here. Dan does it s bit differently than I do. I am lazy so that is probably why I do it the way I do it. The little bottles of Stan's are really nice for adding more sealant or even doing the set up the way Dan does it. The valve cores can be removed and you just squirt the contents of the bottle into the tire. Easy breezy. Ok so let's delve a bit deeper into the world of tubeless. So why did I decide to go all in? Zank and I were talking about the season. I had run tubeless for the entire last season. I had already ordered a set of brand new FMBs. Green sidewalls to match the new SSCX. Cause you know. Baller. As we were about to place the order for a set of tubular wheels I asked Mike if we should just go full tubeless. He agreed that there was no reason we should be running tubulars. Tubeless at 25 PSI does the same job as a Tubular. In fact it might be a tad more durable. And you have so many great tire options right now. When tubeless first came along there really weren't that many good tubeless tires for CX. Now there are so many. And not just traditional CX but Gravel or Monster CX. Nothing is better than a big fat tubeless tire for getting shreddy. 

Ok so we agree it is cool. And it is super easy to set up and fix. Honestly that may be reason one to go all in. I ended up tearing my front tire at Secret Squirrel. With Stan's you don't always know you have a puncture because it seals. As I was pumping up the tire the other day I saw air shooting out of the sidewall and then the Stan's sealed it. But the tire had a bunch of glass cuts so it was time for a new tire. I grabbed a Clement tire I had and installed it in 10 minutes. It cost me nothing. I said RIP to my old Specialized tire and went for a really nice ride. The advantage here isn't just ease of fixing a flat but that if you want to swap to a file tread of a mud tire you can do it in 10 minutes in the parking lot before your race if you really wanted to. 

Ok so this sounds amazing Chip. I am all in. I salute you. But just so I don't lie to you it can be messy. And you will shoot Stan's in your face at one point or another. Let me share a few "horror" stories. So this is my fault. Pure laziness but I got a front flat riding in Cutler the week before D2R2. I sort of laughed as Stan's shot out of the tire and then sealed. I was like man this is sooooo cool. I got home without even having to change the tire. Then like a dumb person assumed the tire was fine. D2R2 needs to be respected. I did not respect D2R2. So I left that tire on. Again it takes 10 minutes. I should have thrown the tire out and put a new one on. Anyhow. So of course the tire is flat the morning or D2R2. I won't lie I was freaking out. I pump it up and Stan's shoots out of multiple glass cuts. But seals. So we roll out and I forget about it. We get about 5 miles and I hit something and all those Stan's scabs just rip off. My bike and my face are being sprayed by Stan's at about 20 mph. Good times. I go through this cycle for about 5 more miles and then just pull off. Fixing a tire with Stan's in the field is no big deal but messy. I open the tire up and dump what ever Stan's out in the dirt. I boot the tire and put a tube in. Inflate and we are back on the road. Maybe ten minutes with the boot. So not the end of the world but messy. 

I guess if that is the horror story its not really that bad is it? So again I can't state enough to go with a a system. There are so many good rims and wheels. I love the HED rims and the NEXT wheels. Those are my faves. Stan's are ok but they aren't that durable. I dented the hell out of them. But they still held air. Just maybe not that nice of a wheel. Tires are all great right now. I would say Specialized are the most supple. But less durable than the Clements. The WTBs are awesome. I love the bigger gravel tires they offer. The good news is most of the tires are between $40-60 so you can experiment. Good luck and if you have any questions I am more than happy to help 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Watch Your Nuts

To my loyal five readers I salute you. If you haven't noticed I have taken my full auto velocb act over here. Do not despair I won't leave this here bloggity blog to collect too much dust. I will dust it off once this season is over. The Zank SSCX Series is like one of my demon spawn and has required a bit more of my attention. For the past six years we have just kind of winged it. But now as we have grown I am putting a bit more of my focus on the logistics behind the scenes. Some really cool stuff cooking for 2017. Announcements will come post-Nationals. 

Until then thank you loyal readers for always checking out my ramblings and supporting my certain style of blogging. It hasn't always been pretty but it has always been real. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Five points

The original name for this post was going to be "YO HANNEN" in honor of my friend who has lit my proverbial couch on fire. What the hell is Chip talking about? Crossresults unless you have been living under a rock or think USUCK created their own race predictor is the BIBLE of CX in the NECX. It changed everything. Literally. It moved us out of the Dark Ages of race staging scrum into the new millennial. We are now staged by wait for it our actual ability to do well in the race. The way slow as fuck people aka me stay out of the way of the really fast people. It may shatter some people's over inflated view of themselves and maybe crush expectations of a legion of special snowflakes but guess what it works. And one of the many amazeballs features of is the couch fire. Your Crossresults page is sort of your personal walk of shame of CX. No hiding out. And if you lose X amount of races to a certain foe they light a couch on fire on your page. #sorrynotsorry. We had a really rad thread about how to put out couch fires. There is only one way. Bathe in the blood mist of your frenemies. 

Colin Johannen is a good friend. A super rad dude. Rides fat bikes. Wears costumes. Races SSCX. And gears. Doubles up most races. Waaaayyyy better CX racer than I am. But a boy can dream. We have had some good "battles" but he has always bested me. A few close ones. I think in general I get close when it gets tight and twisty and maybe a tad euro. I make no bones about my focus during CX season. I am more about the fun side of things. Grow the sport through community and just getting people stoked. I love competition and racing. It can draw a lot of people to our sport. But the real lure is the family we have. It is a amazing group. I have more friends now than I ever have in my life. It is bizarre. Its not supposed to be this way. So 10% of my brain is like "Yo, bitch how about you frickin' stop messing about and do some damage." "Go point hunting. Put them couch fires out!!!" So maybe I do my usual soul rides with a few spirited efforts but I haven't trained in about a decade. Its all fine. I have bigger fish to fry. Like keep this rolling SSCX party growing in the #NECX.

But I won't lie I do want to maybe do OK. So I found myself close to Colin I thought to myself hmmmm maybe we can put that fire out today. And what more perfect place than Putney. There are a few words that shape an entire place. Teahupoo, Repack, Kamikazee. Putney is the heart and soul of New England Cyclocross. The longest continuous CX race in New England. Maybe the US. Held in VT at an awesome bike shop. Course is legit. Oddly people lose it about the upper course. Its a bmx/mtb pump track for those who have never really ridden a legit pump track. It has a drop off. Kind of. It is NBD. But for roadies it is "scary" I used to joke that the corn field that was a part of the course was where souls and dreams go to die. It was a bizarre counterpoint to the upper radness. It had this perma freeze thing that could happen turning a seemingly easy corn field into a slick covered hockey rink. I have crashed so many times on that corn field its not even funny. So when we heard the corn field was out I won't lie I breathed a sigh of relief. 

I actually kind of got excited about the new course. I love VT. Love Putney and the crew. It is literally on my always go list. I could be on death's doors step and literally put me on my bike prop me up and let me race Putney. It would be the perfect CX Viking Funeral. But we had no idea what the new course would be like. I got up there early. The Chainline Party zone was set up at the perfect spot. Next year we need to put a full tent row up top. But the Chainline crew just get it. They get CX and the NECX so much. I checked in with Kevin and Eric. Eric won the raffle last year. What raffle? The Zank SSCX series has an end of series raffle. Each year Zank donates a CX frame. Each racer gets a ticket for each race they enter. Eric won last year. It was beyond awesome. No one was more deserving than Eric. Zank surprised Eric with the raffle bike! It was bespoked with Chainline glitterbomb pink. Eric has done so much for the SSCX series. His crew are so rad, Kevin is probably one of my favorite people in the #NECX. Kevin reminds me of Roger Moore in Ffolkes. Roger Moore in Ffolkes is an SAS agent who loves cats and knitting. And is an assassin. That is Kevin. In a nutshell. And the whole Chainline crew. They will smile as they bury you. And I love all of them.

But back to the topic at hand. YO Hannen. So as previously mentioned Colin has lit my couch up. Big time. So when the first lap insanity shakes out and the dust settles I find myself very close to Colin. He is sort of talking to himself. "Colin nice body english" "Colin, why did you do that!!!" as he overcooked a turn. Frankly at this point I was focusing on Kate Northcott. She is a local West Hill rider and all around amazing person. She flew by all of us. I knew she had the course dialed so I was looking past Colin to her to see the good lines. But every dog has his day. And oddly I felt ok. Th great thing about SSCX is you sort of have a restrictor plate on the bike. Or maybe its like one design windsurfing. It keeps it tight for a bit. Tactics. Smart moves. Smoothness matters. So I went full slow is smooth and smooth is fast. I was in my usual spot in the party zone but felt ok for a fat old dude. So when I saw Colin close I was like ok. Maybe today we put the fire out.

 And then I saw Big Bikes Thom on the run up. Laughing and with a bag of beer. Sort of like Jared Leto in Suicide Squad. And like Harley Quinn I fell hook line and sinker. Sometimes well everytyime hand ups > putting out couch fires. Thom gets it. He is like the Lancelot of SSCX. He keeps us honest. He came to Putney to have fun and did. He went looking for hand up beer and all he could find was super hoppy artisanally crafted beer. You do not want overly hopped beer on a run up where you can't even see straight because you are so hypoxic. You want a light lager. Myette has shown me the way. Its a hockey thing. You can drink 24 coors lights no problem. But one Heady Topper would crater you on a first lap run up. So I took that hand up. And every other hand up Thom offered. Thom was on fire. I love that dude. We had some bobbles. Frankly at lap two Colin was complaining about the run ups. I would stop and have a beer with Thom and then chase Colin some more. It was hilarious. I would give Colin the gap. Then chase him down. Then give him the gap them chase him down. But it was literally the best race ever.

Maybe couch fires are things to be celebrated. Colin is a badass. I am a soft, aged dad. Just being able to mix it up with him was so rad. One of my favorite in race heckles was when a spectator cheered us on and I heard Colin say " OH I KNOW WHAT CHIP WANTS!!!" Hahah I did want to beat Colin. I won't lie. But sometimes honor and duty come first. No way I was leaving Thom hanging with a cold beer in his hand. No way I wasn't gonna battle in the mucky muck. But Colin is faster than me. And I respect that. Putney was amazeballs. HUGE respect to West Hill for taking the heart and soul of the NECX and kicking it up to 11. If you didn't make it put it one the calendar for next year. Seriously. 

The most rad part of Putney was Pete Smith finally taking a win in the Zank SSCX series. He has been so close. But at Putney it all came together. Huge congrats to Pete. He earned it. Two more races left in the series. Secret Squirrel and Ice Weasels. The Quest for the Vest is close. Last year it was decided by 5 points. Who is going to win? Same Bat Channel. Same Bat time. See you in a few weeks at Secret Squirrel to find out!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Race to the Race

photo by Jacob Kravitz

I pretty much retire every cross season. I have been retiring and "un-retiring" for about 10 years. The first year we moved back home from Norcal I raced. That was a pretty good season for me. But the last ten? Yeah its been a beautiful hot mess. I might have had one good year in there probably about five years ago. But there are a few races that I just refuse to miss. I am in full dad mode right now. Having two teenage daughters keeps you busy. I will never be one of those parents who goes full whacko and thinks their beer league softball is more important than the kids formative years. So sacrifices are made. But I won't lie. I like hanging out with my family. We do a lot of cool stuff. It is never boring I will say that. So barring some legit family activity like Comic-Con or a hockey game I will get to those ten or so CX races a season. And the Zank SSCX races take top billing in that department. 

photo by Jacob Kravitz

I am what you would call a SSCX specialist. It fits very well into my CXenduro lifestyle. Honestly I don't think I have raced cyclocross with more than one gear in about two years. Maybe three. It isn't like I am anti-gears or anything. I just like racing SSCX. Certainly Heckle Hill at Cheshire made me question this lifestyle choice but running up Heckle Hill gives you more chances to get hugged by a drunk snowman or grab some dollar bills. Speaking of Heckle Hill and Cheshire it is one of those races I just try my best to never miss. It is that rad. Heckle Hill is one of the best run up/ride ups in New England. The Hill People bring it. Full costumes, hand ups, noise, full party mode. But what is even more awesome than all the chaos is they do it right. As Pete said after the race it is very civilized. It is all positive. And in the perfect spirit of the #NECX.

photo by Jacob Kravitz

So when I saw the schedule it got a huge red star on the calendar. Our sports schedule this time of year is relentless. Hockey is like a full time job of shuttling kids around, watching games at rinks and then digging out after the game. Takes up the entire weekend most weekends. But the schedule seemed doable. Syd's game was in Brighton at a reasonably early time. Cheshire is really only 2 hours away. So I got Syd to the rink and was ready to do the drop and go. Then the coach wanted me to fill water bottles. Then run the line up to the other coach. Then she asked me to be on the bench. FULL STOP.....I love hockey. I love that Syd plays. I am so proud of her. It is in my opinion the toughest sport to be good at on the planet. Especially when you only started skating two years ago. So I support her anyway I can. And I won't lie being on the bench during the game was so rad. I got the defensive responsibilities. Its really only opening and closing a door and making sure the D sub out and are fresh. Maybe a bit of advice here or there and reminding them to drink water. But anyone can do it obviously. It was the highlight of my day to say the least. But put me about 2 hours behind schedule. 

photo by Jacob Kravitz

Walking out on the ice in tennis sneakers was a bit sketchier than anticipated I actually was worried I might slip and kill myself. But thankfully the hockey gods were watching out for me. So I hop in the car and then get home and throw all the things in the van. Then haul ass to CT. It was tight. I knew it would be but man I do not usually feel ok with this little window. I basically just let myself accept that if I missed the start I would just run around and cheer everyone and still have a blast. I got there at 3. Race started at 3:45. I got my number, kitted up and headed to staging. No warm up. No pre-ride. No fiddling with the bike. Oddly it made the whole thing more relaxed. I mean at this point I had so many excuses for sucking in my back pocket it really didn't matter how the race went. My only real goal was to shred the roller coaster section and have fun on Heckle Hill.

photo by Jacob Kravitz

There are a lot of reasons I love Cheshire. Number one is the course. I think it is my favorite course in New England. It really has a bit of everything. Starts and finishes on a grass field. Has some nice off camber grass bits. It has a legit sand pit. Frankly all races need sand pits. It has the roller coasters and it has Heckle Hill. Basically the idea is get rad for the 3/4 of the course then survive HH. Then recover then get rad. Rinse and repeat. The second reason I love it is I get to see all my CT friends. I have so many rad friends from CT. CT has some of the best CX races out there. Reason three is Hunter and his crew. They just make the race so much fun. You feel welcomed. The race is really well done. Ok the drunk announcer is rad. I don't know if he was actually drunk. He may just have been really naturally funny. But he was on fire. 

photo by Jacob Kravitz

My favorite in race heckle from an announcer in a long time was when I was coming through the sand pit and Colin yells to me "CHIP, I GOT THE STUFF!!" You can imagine the heckles. Its like Colin and I just did a CX parking lot drug deal. We didn't. Or did we? For all the above excuses I oddly had one of my better races on the SSCX at Cheshire. Not sure why but I felt good. All of the photos in the post are from Jacob Kravitz. He really captured the essence of the race and Heckle Hill. It was so good seeing everyone and like every SSCX race in the series we all hung out after and drank beer and talked story. The series is so awesome. We are in the final sprint to the finish to the Danger Zone at Ice Weasels. Rumors of some cool new features. The Quest for the Vest is heating up. I don't think we have had such a close race before. But Bob Stine and Pete Smith are in a battle for the overall. The two of them have been so great for the series. Competition only makes racing better. And those two race with pure heart and class. Proud to call them both friends. On the women's side Mellisa has utterly smashed it. Love how much radness and fun she brings to the races. It has been so awesome having her lead the charge and making the women's races so rad. 

We have four more races. A double VT weekend this weekend, then Secret Squirrel and then Ice Weasels. Come out and join us. Don't miss out on all the fun. HUGE thanks to Jacob for letting me use his photos! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Orange is the new Black

Hunting season in New England is open. Be safe out there. Bow is Oct 17-Nov 26. Shotgun in Nov 28-Dec 10. Check your state and local regulations. I do a ton of mixed terrain riding. Park to Park. What ever you want to call it. I can cover a good amount of terrain right out my front door. The woods are my church. A lot of these parks don't allow hunting but a lot do. Its probably not a bad idea to wear some hi viz in general this time of years as the weather gets a bit nastier and we lose daylight. I started wearing my orange moto helmet. I like it. It makes me feel a bit safer. I get that some people feel afraid at the thought of someone hunting while they are riding in the woods. I saw a bow hunter come out of the woods just as I was popping into a new section of the Charles River Trail. He certainly looked a bit like Rambo. All decked out in full camo and with his bow. Calling it "hunting" around here sort of cracks me up. Deer are pretty used to people around here. I don't think you need to do too much "hunting" to find one and drop one. Not that this will make you feel any safer but the regulations clearly state that hunters can not hunt near the trails.  

Speaking of the woods and mixed terrain. I love adventure riding. It is really what I do on a bike 99% of the time. I am not doing it to hide away from the roads and traffic. I like roads. And road riding. But the woods are just where I can find peace. When its cold this time of year it is always warmer in the woods out of the wind. And it is always changing. Trees fall down and create fun challenges to hop. The trails get covered in leaves and become almost impossible to follow. I have been mainly riding my 29er. After being off it so long and riding my CX bike almost exclusively since July the 29er feels like my fat bike. Slow and fun. The upright position is perfect for this time of year. The big tires just roll over the leaf hidden rocks and roots that might cause you and your bike some serious damage on the skinnier tires. It is slow. Sometimes its good to slow down. I have been in exploration mode and found a really nice connector to Pegan Lane. It always existed but was pretty bushwhacky. The new trail is fabulous. It puts you right up on the top of the fields with a great lookout of the farm and woods below. 

We are truly blessed to live in this region with so much open space and real seasons. It is easy to complain about the cold and the leaves and the work that comes with Fall and Winter. But I love the leaves. I love seeing them change color. And I love when they fall across the trail creating a blanket of orange and yellow. The cold is a shock to the system at first. But the best way to deal with it is to get outside and experience it. It is embro and buff weather. Time to dig out the layers. After a couple or rides in the cold you will acclimate. Again you might have to slow down a touch. Bust out the winter boots if cold feet are an issue. Find some gloves that keep your hands warm. Really feet and hands are the key. As long as those stay at least unfrozen you can handle about anything. A buff or scarf certainly makes the ride more pleasant and is stylish. Everyone looks cool in a scarf. 

With the changing of the season we are in the home stretch of the Zank SSCX series. We have some great races coming up. Cheshire, Paradise, Putney, Secret Squirrel and of course Ice Weasels. We have a bunch of the special Zank SSCX series Koozies available. Get yours before the season is ovah! We will have them with us at the races. It has already been one of the more memorable seasons on record. Really looking forward to the next 6 weeks. And counting down the days until we enter the Danger Zone at Ice Weasels! HUGE thanks to everyone who has made this SSCX season so rad!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Green means GO!

Woody Allen once said "80% of success is showing up" This applies so much to CX. And certainly was the mantra for MRC CX. There were lots of excuses I could have used to NOT go to MRC. Frankly I was so close to not going. I worked Night Weasels and had promoter legs. I had woken up at 5 am on Saturday to take Syd the kid to hockey. I was out late the night before at Roger Williams Park at the Pumpkin Festival. It was pouring rain and the bed was so cozy. On and on. Actually the rain is what got me out of bed. I would have been so mad if I missed this one. Luckily giving zero fucks about how I perform at a race makes it much easier to get out of bed and go race. I get it. If you care about your placing and feel work and life will limit your placing in the bicycle-pedal contest perhaps you will hate yourself if you don't place in the top ten. Or beat your rival and leave their cross results page one big flaming couch. But honestly I gave up worrying about beating people at races years ago. #Dadlife really is freeing. I only care about the actual racing part. How I do is meaningless.

But I definitely pushed it. I slept in. Had coffee with my wife. Left way late. Luckily the bike was already dialed and everything was in the van. Still it was probably the least prepared I was to race in a while. This happens with races that are close to home. So I went full couch to SSCX. I had switched my gearing to 42 x 19 from 42 x 18. Not a big difference but frankly I am so happy I did. Despite how I may appear I am not a masher of gears. I spin. And like to flow a bit. Having to get on top of a big gear doesn't really work for me. And the cog is green so it was a slam dunk of a decision. I was very #hyped to race in the pouring rain and mud. I didn't get to pre-ride so I had no idea just how incredible it was going to be. Frankly after a month of racing in a dust bowl these conditions were like a 50 year storm of CX. You had to be there. It is like when Mavericks goes off for surfers. CX racers love mud. And nastiness. It is why we got into this oddball sport in the first place. No sane person would choose to ride a glorified road bike on grass and run up hills with said bike on shoulder all while being elbowed, punched and chopped by 50 over hyped racers unless there was a real payoff. Playing in the mud is that payoff. 

Todd driving by Katie Busick

How often do you get to get that dirty and basically engage in an adult slip and slide on two wheels? There was a great crew of SSCX racers at MRC. Even Gewilli was there! It was so good to see him back out on the SSCX bike! Gewilli is built for these days. All power and bike handling skills. He smashed it and came in top ten. So happy for him. Lancaster is a really cool place to race bikes. It is always funny having two such different races at the same venue in the span of two weeks. Midnight and MRC couldn't be more different. Its weird. I love both. And both have a tendency to shred me to pieces. Luckily the mud and nastiness slowed things down a touch and made it a bit more manageable especially with my current state of fitness.

Pete in the pain cave by Katie Busick

I can't remember the last time I raced in actual rain. Maybe SuperCup out in PDX years ago. Maybe Downeast one year. But it was not only raining it was pouring rain. The start was the usual insanity. I didn't honestly notice any difference between the 18 and 19 tooth cog. I like how the start at MRC works. Straight away into a nice turn onto "grass" then back out on the pavement. In this case the "grass" was a mud bog. I came in way too close to the trees and actually took a branch to the head. Which is saying something as I am so short. How I didn't get knocked off the bike is beyond me. I try and chase and hold on to the fast people. We hit another heavy section with a climb and I am doing ok all things considered. Griggs comes flying by. We get to the top and start flying down a nice greasy section. 

HUP there it is by Katie Busick

We get through the first trip into the barn without incident. I come through the weird turn heading to the Go Cart track and see Eric on the side of the course. Flat. Myette was out right at the start. Such  bummer to see fast friends out of the race so early. I could tell it was going to be one of those days. Attrition is always a factor in any CX race but on days like this the toll gets high on bikes and riders. I was riding well which was weird. Maybe it was all the cider donuts I had eaten on the way up. There were some really fun features on the course. A sick horse jump was definitely one of the highlights. On the backside I came through the coral and not having ridden the course before had no idea how deep the "puddle" was. Now calling this body of water a "puddle" is an understatement. I went too far outside and found out just how deep it was. It also smelled bad. Like really bad. After that first lap I did all I could to hug the inside as much as possible.

With a couple to go my good friend 20 Pound Skull caught me. Right after the nasty puddle. As he came by he said "BATTLE OF THE GREEN BIKES" We both ride super nice green bikes. I tried my best to take a page out of Resultsboys CX race tactic book and just sit on Todd's wheel. I think for this to work you have to actually stay on the riders wheel. Todd out drove me why lie. He and I are so well matched as riders. I love racing with him. I tried to hang and came close to reconnecting a few times but it was over. At that point I did my best to just hold off anyone catching and passing me and tried to keep riding as smoothly as possible. Really though it was just one of those courses were racing was secondary and ripping around the course became what it was all about. I had some weird flashbacks to racing at the Watsonville Fairgrounds in NorCal.

Women's podium by Lesli

Watsonville was one of my favorite places to race. NorCal when I first started CX was in a rainy cycle. There were so many mud fests when I first started racing CX. Sunday was such a reminder of why I fell in love with CX. After the race finished up we all hung out and ate frites under the Landrys tent and drank 3Cross beer. This is why I love the Zank SSCX series. It was freezing. Racers were shivering and cold. But we all huddled together and shared fries and drank beer. People had huge grins on their faces. Mike Wissell our Middle Earth Spirit Animal smashed it again. Leslie Lupien came back and took the top step in the women's field. Such a great day.

Captain Morgan Podium by Lesli

Next stop on the Zank World Tour is Hanover CX. This course is a classic and not to be missed. After that we have Cheshire. Cheshire is literally one of my favorite races of the season and happens to be on Halloween weekend. You know what that means. Special secret prizes to the best costumes at Cheshire. Thanks once again to all the SSCX racers who are coming out and making this season so special. See you all at the next race!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nacht Van Weasel

Shane on the top step photo by Katie Busick

This post may be a bit of a hot mess. I apologize in advance. Basically I have "retired" from bike racing, bike race promoting and the bike industry about a million times. But its like the mafia. You can retire but they keep bringing you back. Well in the mafia there really is only one way to retire. And its permanent. I would rather be funemployed  as they say. And honestly as hard as promoting races and bike racing can be it has to be fun. I have always sort of celebrated and struggled with the idea that my only friends are bike racers. If I actually retire would I have friends. I am sure I would but I would miss so many people. Its ok to be slow and getting older. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is not seeing my friends. They are like a second family. Always have been. P-Bob once told me that. About 30 years ago. CX is a family. And it truly is.

Alex doing some course destruction by Jon Nable
 Night Weasels is on its seventh edition. I don't even know how this is possible. It has flown by. Night Weasels has endured a lot of challenges. Bog Weasels was probably the toughest one. I am shocked we kept going after that. But to my early point. Night Weasels is a family. Ski Ward, our host, is a family run business. They are amazing. They work so hard on the event and are always so stoked to see us and seem to enjoy the race almost as much as we do. Its awesome. Honestly it is what keeps me so stoked to put the race on each year. So this is a post about friends and family. I hope it isn't too over the top.

Bandit SS by Jon Nable
I will just say it. This Night Weasels was the best ever. We had one bummer over the course of the evening but it is bike racing and these things happen. Frankly, how we responded to that incident made me even more proud to be a part of this Night Weasels family than I already am. Like I said we have been putting on this crazy night CX race at Ski Ward for seven years. Colin, Sara and I are a really funny team. I maybe didn't notice it until this year but we really compliment each other so well.  So it in a way is "easy" Bike race promoting is never easy. It is way harder than racing or working to be honest. Its like hosting a huge keg party for all your best friends. You don't know who will show up and you don't know if you have enough beer or red solo cups. You stress about whether you picked the right music and hope no one gets in a fight. We have a whole legion of other supporters that maybe most people don't even "see" but who we could never do this without. Ryan Kelly is on the top of that list. Frankly I don't think we could do it without him. He is so critical. JD is another one. I don't even know how he does it. 400+ racers go by with folded numbers in a night race. How do you even score that? But he always sorts it out.

Pie Plates are for the cool kids by Doug Kwan
Michele and her "NO" t-shirt always keep things dialed at registration. The whole crew at Ski Ward is amazing. I have worked on World Cups and big events like the Sea Otter and I have to say the people at Ski Ward work harder than any other host I have ever worked with. They help us build the course, they open up the lodge and have worked with us to build a beer garden and offer food bike racers love. Its awesome. I can't think of a lot of CX races that have a heated lodge with a beer garden right on the course. It is pretty special I will just say that. And we really have gotten to know them well. Its like a family reunion in a way when we roll into Ski Ward each year. 

Joanna Wang by Chris McIntosh

Each year is different of course. I keep coming back to help with Night Weasels because I want to support my friends and help grow grassroots cyclocross. If you know me that is my white whale. I support the highest level of CX and am stoked to see Hyde and Noble et al crushing it. But I love seeing the grassroots grow and flourish. Honestly I have so many highlights from this year but I think the one that stands out the most is Joanna Wang. I walked the course with her and my good friend Guthrie. Guthrie gets me going. His pure stoke on bikes is infectious. We walked the course and talked a bit about it. I had never met Joanna. She is a friend of a friend so she is a friend. Then she crushed it. And waited sooo long for the podium. All the other ladies for the Cat 4 podium had gone home. I get it. It was cold. The temp had dropped about 20 degrees. But Joanna was a champion. She stuck around for her podium. Ryan and I were so amped. I am pretty sure I owe her a pie. We will make it happen.

Dragon Breath by Chris McIntosh
 The biggest changes this year were the death of Holy Week and a new title sponsor! We have never had a title sponsor. We have always worked with friends and relied on those we really believe in. We do this as a labor of love. We have never been in this for anything other than throwing a rad CX party for our friends. But a partnership arose and it happened to be with friends I have known and trusted for a long time. Verge is synonymous with New England Cyclocross. They have been a part of this scene forever. I reached out to them and they were so into it. They have been the best sponsor ever. The podium jerseys are off the charts. People were so stoked to win them.

Podium Pie by Chris McIntosh
 Speaking of winning jerseys. I rolled up to the race a tad early for me. The #CBL can get kinda hectic. I am basically a stay-at-home dad. Why lie. I have been a stay-at-home dad for 16 years. Its nuts. Best job I have ever had. But it is my job. And I treat it as such. But the kids have gotten older so I have some flexibility. The first thing I hear is there is a French kid here who wants to pre-ride. I mean its like 1:00 PM. Cat 5s don't even show up that early. We sort of joke at his expense. "Is he Quebecois?" Mais, NON he is zee FRENCH. God we are such ugly Americans. He gets his laps in and we build the course and get things set up. And then I forget about it.

Resultsboy by Chris Macintosh

I am way too occupied being FULL Podium Boy at this point. I sort of suffer from ADD. I probably should have gone into the trades. I need constant supervision and stimuli to stay out of trouble. Bike Race Promoting is actually very good for me. I run around setting up podiums, prize bags, etc. We decide to do some fun primes. And as I am up on the hill judging the first stair prime I get a text from Michele. It is a picture of a pie plate. Hahaha. #occupynightweasels is now in full effect. Four hearty, dedicated aka crazy single speeders have decided to #makesinglespeedgreatagain and go Full Crusty Cruiser Cup on us. I of course support this 100%. What is the Crusty Cruiser Cup? The CCC was basically the first SS race series. The Zank SSCX Series is inspired by the CCC. The CCC was a race series within a series. They didn't have a dedicated SS category in Norcal in the late '80s early '90s. People showed up on single speeds. They raced. Then they did their own little weird podiums and kept points. It was beyond awesome. It is how I got into riding mountain bikes and single speeds.

Odin's Spear about to smash by Chris McIntosh

Mike Wissell has embraced our weird band of misfits with open arms. I am not sure this is a smart life choice on his part but I never flinch in face of genius. He raced Midnight on a hybrid. Ok that is Thom talking. He is racing a BALLER 29er SS. I like to call it Odin's Spear. He won Midnight CX. He smashed the top ten of the f'n ELITE race at Night Weasels on a 36 x 15. I can't even fathom that. I love that Mike is smashing it. We had three other rad riders racing SS. Kevin Church, Tyler Knapp and Matt Myette.

French kid doesn't play by Chris McIntosh
 The evening of racing was so exciting. The women's elite race was won by Kate Lysakowski. The men's race was won by, wait for it..... the French Kid. I mean he literally destroyed all the local riders. I am not sure if Lindine were here that he would have beaten the French Kid. People better be watching this kid at Gloucester cause he looks like a kid but he is not playing. They just make them faster in Euro-land. Maybe its in the water. Who knows. But it was so cool once again having a French speaker on the podium at Night Weasels. This is a new Weasels LLC rule. There has to be a French speaker on the podium. If it is not the Luna crew or a Canadian it better be an actual French rider.

Elite women podium by Chris McIntosh
We could not do this without the HUGE support of our sponsors: Verge, Mad Alchemy, Scratch Labs, Landry's, Shimano, Mighty Leaf Tea, Jakes, Pedro's, Drink Maple and of course our host Ski Ward. The amazing volunteers, the Pedal Power Team, JD, Ryan Kelly (ISMYHERO) and all of you bike racers that come out on a Weds night and make CX amazing. Thank you all. You ALL rock! I know I can't stop talking about podium pie but seriously. Podium pie.

Podium Pie was a huge hit by Chris Macintosh