Monday, May 23, 2016

SSCX is Coming

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

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

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

The 2016 Zank SSCX series p/b Mad Alchemy:

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I like singlespeeds. Not as a political statement or as some kind of secret handshake but just because I like them. I have been racing single speed mountain bikes for as long as I can remember. I have a love/hate relationship with it. But Singlespeed-A-Palooza is ALL love. 100%. Singlespeed mountain bike racing is brutal. Going from couch to SSAP is probably not a smart life choice. But sometimes you are dealt the hand you are dealt and you make the best of it. SSAP was the 5th ride on my recently converted SS Zank 29er. The beauty of my Zank is it is super easy to go back and forth between SS and geared. But you of course have to actually swap it over and not be a lazy couch surfing slacker like I have been all winter. SSAP is one of those events you plan for and get stoked for months in advance. The race itself sells out in hours once reg goes live on Super Bowl Sunday. Most people are excited to see Tom Brady chest bump Gronk. I am posed over my computer with an itchy trigger finger waiting to get into my favorite race of all time. I am excitable. Lots of things are my "favorite of all time" But when I say SSAP is my favorite race of all time it is. No other race even comes close. 

Photo by Rosey

What makes it so rad? First and foremost the people. The Mayor and Dark Horse cycles put the race on. The staff and volunteers are amazing. Honestly the best mtn bike race in the known Universe. How did the results go at your last race? Race results are instantaneous. And for a party race never are screwed up. Podiums happen within minutes after the DFL rider finishes. And that rider is celebrated. Actually every rider is. I have never seen so many supportive volunteers and staff in my life. So much cheering and cowbell. Upon finishing the race there is a BBQ and tapped kegs right next to the finish. And ice cream. ICE CREAM? Do you know how many ice creams 20 Pound Skull had last year? Like 5. I wasn't there last year to see it but its impressive. Nice payouts. Sick trophies. Primes to all fields. Everyone races the same course and distance. EVERYONE is on singlespeeds. There is nothing worse than racing on a SS and having to carve through geared riders. You really can not spin on a SS. So when the whole field is cracked people still have to use torque and momentum. Or walk. You have three speeds on a SS. Sitting. Standing. And Walking. 

The other single most awesome thing about SSAP is the people. Hands down. Its like a reunion for me. Some people I see all year round and it is a great excuse for a Zankcation. But its all the other people you only see once a year or at these types of events. And Shoogs in top of that list. I LOVE Shoogs. Randy is one of those friends who just brings everyone together and is always so positive it is infectious. He and about seven other riders rode from Hartford, CT to the race. Sure a nice 100 mile road ride on SS Mtb is the best openers possible for a 28 mile mountain bike race! But the whole point of SSAP and the #singlespeedlifestyle is to live LARGE. To grab life and not let go and live it to the fullest. Anyone worrying about openers or being too tired to race probably is at the wrong race. Guess how many trainers I saw in the parking lot? ZERO. Next year at the Zank SSCX series I am handing out code of conduct fines for people warming up on trainers at a single speed race. 

Photo by 20 Pound Skull

So back to Shoogs and his posse! Shoogs indeed has a posse and his friends made some amazing stickers to commemorate the ride and celebrate Shoogs in general. I got so many hugs and so many stickers it was beyond belief. It became a pretty fun tagging game all weekend. I tagged the airport dinner bathroom. I laughed when I saw Todd's montage above with my handiwork. Each year we have done SSAP we have rolled with a great crew of HUP/Zank and other folks from New England. And as my good friend Liz pointed out NY is NOT the NECX. I sometimes forget that. And its funny how so many of my good friends are from NY and I just assume they are part of the NECX. They are in my mind but I get it. I have always been pretty drifty with my attention to detail and silly things like geography! 

There was much back and forth about who was going, where they were staying etc. We settled into a nice Zank crew. Rosey, Todd P, Myette and me. We packed four Zank 29er SS into the van and headed south. Newburgh, NY is how do you say this nicely? Ummm sort of sketchy I guess. Sort of a mix of Kentucky and just biker gang chic with a touch of urban decay for good measure. It is always fine. The actual race venue is fantastic. And the area around Stewart Forest is nice and safe. But the hotels we have stayed in the past are way too murdery for me at my age. I like being this age so I can say " I am too old for this shit" So we flexed some Gold Member Marriot Elite points and got a baller suite. It was by far the nicest place I have stayed down there. We always joke about the strip club called Paradise Island that is right across from the Airport Dinner where we always eat before the race. No sane person would step foot into that strip club is all I am saying. 

We got down to Stewart Forest in time for a pre-ride. Dark clouds were on the horizon. Literally. We had been stalking our weather apps the whole drive down and it was going to be tight. The ride window looked good. But the possibility of flying monkeys coming out of the sky were high. We met Will Crissman and Liz Lukowski in the parking lot and the six of us rolled out. Most times when you pre-ride a race course you scout for the hole shot or maybe the finish. You do stuff to ensure your success. SSAP is a race make no mistake. But the course is meant to be enjoyed. The trails are perfect on a SS. They are a great mix of roller coaster tech and flowy single track. So we got a bit excited and just shredded. We definitely rode for too long and went way too hard. Chasing Will Crissman is never a good idea. But it is a ton of fun. So YOLO why not. The course was so tacky from the recent rain. There were definitely some deep mud puddles and some standing water. Some cheater lines were going to be necessary to survive. We found out back in the parking lot that Liz's fork had blown the damper. She basically was running a '90s era Mag 21 with about 20 mm of non-functional travel. 

That night we went to the Newburgh Brewery which was a HUGE upgrade over the old restaurant we used to go to called the Cauldron. The Cauldron was like something out of Blue Velvet and it always felt like we were seconds away from getting into a bar fight or shot. The Newburgh Brewery was fantastic. Such a great space. Beer was fantastic. Food was great. And again the company was top notch. So many hugs from Shoogs and his posse. So many people bought or gave me beers I stopped counting. But as I was driving I would hand them to Todd and Liz. I swear it wasn't part of my race strategy. Ok maybe a little. Todd P or 20 Pound Skull is one of my long time friends here in the NECX. I have known him, ridden with him, raced with him and gone on so many adventures with him. We have a bit of a "rivalry" going. Not really as we are so closely matched but maybe that is what makes it fun. It is almost scary how closely matched we are. There have been a few times, namely in cross, when he has gotten way faster than me. But for the most part we stay pretty even. I love riding and racing with him.

At the brewery the Farm to SSAP crew rolled in. They had been riding for 12 hours. Twelve. Through a pouring rain. But they were all smiles. These people get it. More beers. More hugs. Cross Jesus was so jacked. His plan on Sunday was to not race but to ride around and cheer people on and be a great cheerleader. It is a tough race. He is a CHAMPION for doing that. Its one of those races were people actually cheer each other on during the race. Its too hard to just go into race mode and get your game face on. So we all line up on Sunday. I am sort of nervous but not really as Shoogs is trying to get me to drink whiskey out of a flask. Have I mentioned its 9 am? I am slightly hungover but not too bad. My legs are feeling like concrete blocks. And 3 miles of gravel road at 140 rpm are not really making them loosen up. Each bump up in the road gives sweet relief from the hamster wheel. I settle into a group as as we hit the first single track. SSAP is a great mix of awesome single track and gravel road. The gravel roads are actually nice as a way to eat and drink and get a quick recovery.

I am doing my usual SSAP jam. Shred the single track. Keep repeating the "No Brakes" mantra. On a SS, well any mtb really, you have to use momentum. Momentum is your friend. Its why I like SS. You learn so many great habits. And unlearn some really bad ones. Gears make you lazy. You can settle into stuff with gears. Not with one gear. So I am feeling pretty good. In a good group. Then I get to one of my favorite trails in Stewart called White Cloud. Its a nice single track that pops up for a bit then roller coasters down. It is "technical" in a sense but not really. It was blazed with three down arrows which to me means look out there is a cliff ahead. I guess I am conditioned to some of the stuff around my house that literally feels like it is trying to kill you. Just as I am heading in I hear Aumiller. He yells out "CHIP WAIT DUDE I AM COMING LETS SHREDDED!!!!" Then I hear his bike bell. And his saying "excuse me" "pardon me" "Coming through" and "I am not racing I just want to shred with my friend"

I can only imagine what the train of dudes thought as he went through them like butter. I was laughing so hard I literally almost fell off my bike. He gets up to me right as we get over the top of the climb. He is not even remotely breathing hard. He is like "dude, you are riding so much better than those dudes." "your skills are way better than those guys" I was so stoked to see Utah. We FLY down White Cloud. At total warp speed. His hoots and hollers just kept me pushing the limits. I almost got a bit too rad a few times but the bike stayed upright. We caught up to Thea and formed a little group of radness. We chit chatted for a bit and then popped into another awesome trail. I saw a rock wall up ahead and decided to air it out. I am not really a rad rider. My skills are better but I usually stay with both wheels on the ground at all times. So I hit the rock wall and try and do my best Thom Parsons rad skills session. Well I clearly must have hit the wrong rock or maybe pulled to much on the left grip because I am now pretty high in the air but my bike has done a tail whip and the entire bicycle is now sideways. Before I realize my error I hit the ground like I am sliding into first base head first. Luckily I somehow eject off the bike use it as a steel shield and roll into the grass without a mark on my body.

We all laugh our asses off. And continue to shred the great trails. Utah peels off to go find more friends and hand out beers he has packed into his bag. I pin it and try and catch up to 20 Pound skull. At the midway point beer stop I see Todd! Finally! He looks at me like he as seen a ghost! And takes off. Oh buddy, I thought we were going to hang out? I think he had been there for a while. I grab a beer. Say hi to some people. High five people coming through. Then get back on it. Things are starting to come a part. Couch to SSAP coupled with yesterdays hammer fest and some poor planning is starting to take its toll. Ok maybe my tail whip to body slam is affecting me. My legs are starting to complain. Basically saying "fuck you Chip and your bad life choices!!!" And I forgot my endurolytes. That was a huge mistake. I take on gu shots and try and hydrate but its becoming apparent my legs are not happy. So I go into CX survival mode. I get off and run/walk stuff that maybe I could have torqued up. But I start getting some leg cramps that are just a hair below rigamortis. I have had bad leg cramps before but these are weird. Its like an electric charge is going through my it bands. I am like well if I die at least I die at SSAP.

Then a Dark Angel/Valkryie appears in the form of none other than Anne Rock! Anne Rock is a LEGEND. And one of the most awesome people on the planet. We ride the last five miles together. I almost ride over her at one point because I am so out of my mind and took a high side over a rock wall and dropped in almost on her head. Thank god for XT brakes. Is it possible you can bend time when you are bonking on a SS mtb? I think you can. I felt a bit like I was riding a 29er in the Matrix. People kept telling me "you are almost there!" "Great job!!" Yeah this isn't my first rodeo people. No one was giving me any actual numerics. No one said distance or time. Or what was up ahead. As you can tell I obsessed over the course and had it loaded in my garmin...hahhaha that is funny. 

So when I pop out onto a gravel road and realize it is the finishing straight I get a second wind and kick it into the finish. 2:40:34. The EXACT same time as Todd. How is that even possible? Some kind of SSAP time warp I think.

What an amazing weekend. High fives to everyone. Next year we are bringing an even bigger posse. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

This and That

I am usually pretty good about keeping this blog up to date. But I have been pretty bad lately about posting. So today's post is going to be a "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks approach" Last time I posted was around Good Friday. Did Jesus punish me for my sacrilege? Probably. The whole Jesus just loves us and is the Happy Jesus is probably inaccurate I mean just look at the world right? Shit Joan of Arc heard God's call and saved France. How did that work out for her? This totally random analogy will make sense later. I promise. So let's get this party started. I am damn lucky. I have said that on many an occasion. I have some of the best friends a person could have. The Zank crew are special. Never really had a crew like this before. Which is saying something considering all the cool friends I have had in my rich life. We don't get to see each other enough. #dadlife, work, etc gets in the way. But Zank had a get out of jail free card and we weren't going to waste it!

We assembled the Justice League and headed to Sutton. The trails out there are some of my favorites. Technical but with a great flow to it. Makes you a better rider. Michele (adopted Zank team rider for the day), Utah, MRR (celebrity guest), Rosey, Myette and Zank met up at a secret Zank location and headed into the woods. Sadly Suzie could not join us. Its not easy being a trail dog. Sometimes you end up on the IR. The assembled Zank mtn bikes would have made a damn fine handbuilt show I will say that. Two SS, one 27.5 and one 29er.

Myette led the way and set a sick route. It was probably the hardest 15 mile ride of my life. But so perfect. Afterwards we sat down and ate pancakes. Exchanged hugs and said our goodbyes. Friends like this are what make life amazing. I honestly don't know any other "hobby" that brings people together like this. We are damn lucky to live the biker life.

On to our next hashtag.  #dadcation was just a concept at first. Myette asked me if I wanted to take a road trip on the kids school vacation. Like all things #CBL I was all "hell yeah" But like most things in the #CBL unless fire alarms are going off or kids are puking it is sometimes hard to pin me down to commit to something. We exchanged a bunch of emails and texts. DC. Portland, ME. All kinds of ideas. After about the 10th email Myette took the bull by the horns and found a sick Air BNB in Quebec. When he sent me the link I was like no way is this place for real. I have seen a lot of Chevy Chase movies. I have seen both European Vacation and EuroTrip. I did not want to end up in the Vandersexxx Erotic Club with the wrong safe word.

But reading the AIR BNB page it looked legit. Yes, alarm bells were going off in my head but how bad could it be. The beauty of a #dadcation is you have two dads. Shit goes bad dads can figure it out. Oh, what is a #dadcation? It is possible a few of my readers are unfamiliar with this term. Its when two dads ( I guess there could be more than two) take their kids on vacation without the wives. This is probably terrifying to most dads. Dads nowadays are way more involved with the kids and day to day kid care. A generation ago kids would die, go missing, dads would be arrested or all of the above if two dads attempted to take their kids on vacation without the wives. How would the kids eat? Who would clean? How would I get "me time?"

All these options were still on the table of course. But I have known Myette for a long time. His kids are awesome. My two kids have spent a fair amount of time with them. But they haven't spent 4 days in another country together. Or 14 hours in a van together. I honestly wasn't worried. Which probably is just my nature. We packed the #manvan up to the gils and headed to Quebec. Have I mentioned I have never been to Canada? Luckily Myette and Zoe both speak good French. I was an exchange student in Paris when I was 16 so I was pretty confident I could dust off the old Francais and be able to communicate.

The first thing I asked Myette as we left. Ok second. First was do you (and I) have the passports. Second was do we need notes from our wives to take our kids out of the country? I was actually not kidding. I think he thought I was joking. We basically stopped at every Dunkins on the drive through NH. I think the kids were worried about withdrawal. We stopped in Newport, VT for our last breathe of American air before leaping into the Abyss. Could two dads handle 4 kids in another country for 4 days without losing the kids? The checkpoint was super easy. The second I hit the boarder I started channeling Super Endurance Guy. Super. Became get the idea. Having never been in Canada and being an ugly American I assumed that once we popped into Canada it would just be an extension of VT. Mountains, green etc. No. Not all all you ugly american pig dog. Imagine the Badlands. Or Watsonville, CA. Throw in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. It was hilarious. The first truck stop we stopped at was bizarre. It looked like a 7-11 was taken over by some type of Texas Chainsaw Massacre family. Full on taxidermy everywhere. Wolf pelts. Bears. The kids went crazy. And bought so many Kinder Surprise eggs I was sure they would be puking within 5 miles from the station.

What is a Kinder Surprise egg? You can't handle Kinder Surprise eggs! Ok imagine a cadbury creme egg without the creme. In the hollow creme area is a plastic container that houses a toy. Yes, I get it. Oh my god the children. They will all swallow the toy and DIE!!! No one. And I mean no one could swallow this yellow toy holder. America is stupid. We deserve Kinder Surprise eggs. Actually never mind. In light of the current political climate it is a good thing Kinder Surprise eggs aren't in American cause so many kids would die.

But I digress. Quebec was incredible. My new favorite city in the world. I want to move there and open a Cat Cafe. The beer is amazing. The history and euro flavor are incredible. It is WALKABLE! We parked the car for four days and never used it. We walked 10-14 miles a day. Ok the first climb up the murder stairs almost killed Syd. Pretty ironic considering she is the "athlete" in the family. The kids loved it. Such good food. They got to shoot guns. Ok AirSoft guns but guns. It was probably the most surreal moment of the trip. Four kids ages 15, 14 and two 11 year olds who have never touched a gun in their life. The each get a gun. Air propelled plastic bb but legit replicas. None of them need any instruction. Safeties off, full auto shooters stance. Pop, pop, pop. America is safe from the Zombie Apocalypse my friends. Thank you first person shooter games.

Ok on to the next topic. #RailTrail or save the trails or what have you. Trails, woods, Rail Trails are all dear to my grinchy heart. I haven't been on an actual road ride in about 4 years. Other than the annual VT trip with Pam to the Equinox in which we ride road bikes I always take the CX bike and do park to park rides. I am lucky in that there are so many good parks, woods and paths near my house. I can do a 40 mile loop on a CX bike that is about 80% trail. Needham just began a rail trail project that will open things up even more for me. A small section is done and it is fantastic. Cuts out two busy roads for me. Since it has been finished there are so many people on it. Not swarms but way more people are on bikes and in the woods than before. The concept was to take the trail from Newton Lower Falls to Medfield. It would be incredible. Dover is sandwiched in between Needham and Midfield and have always been against this idea. But I started seeing Rail Trail signs pop all over Dover. And at first the signs were only Vote Yes! I was blown away. 

I paid close attention to it. The Vote No signs started popping up. But were definitely in the minority. On May 2 the town voted and it passed! So psyched. Dover deserves a high five! Please, please thank the Town of Dover and its residents for approving this. Be nice. Be good ambassadors. This is one step in what will be a really great thing for the area. It will get so many people out on bikes and outside. 

 On the topic of trails. Cutler as you know is being impacted by a major highway project. Basically the highway is being widened and a highway exchange is being added to Kendrick Street in Needham. I am all for progress. And it helps Needham to have corporations moving to town. But It has worried me. It makes me nervous as far as how cyclists egress and ingress to Needham and Dover on the road will be impacted and it makes me nervous how the trails will be impacted. Some of the trails have already been graded over. It is a bummer. But there are some really great people working to ensure Cutler is preserved and improved. I spoke with the Chairman of the Needham Town Council last week. He had some really great news and is pro-Cutler. It was so great to hear his thoughts and bounce ideas off of him. In the coming months and year we will be working with DCR, Needham, NEMBA and local people and organizations to make Cutler even better than before.

We took a quick recon ride last Saturday and talked about ways we could improve it and make it better. If you have any ideas or want to help please reach out.

Singlespeed-a-Palooza is coming fast. Fairly frightened. I am in about the worst shape of my life right now. Bizarre winter and bronchitis have just set me back. I am just accepting it and trying to ride and at least be healthy and fresh for it. The Zank is back in SS stealth mode. My first ride on it after about a year on a SS Mtb was with Thom P. It was hilarious. Much hijinx. It is a blast. But DAMN ITS HARD! SSCX is one thing. But a Mtb? On technical east coast trails? Holy shit I forgot how hard it is. Sooooo much torque! Second ride was with Utah who was on his new 27.5+ bike packing rig. We were a motley crew I will say that. I could tell he wished he was on his Zank....Ok we are pretty much caught up. A ton cooking. I will try and be better about posting. Keep the plastic side up and the rubber side down til next time...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

12 Stations of Cross

In Nomine Patris

This past Friday on Good Friday. Four of us got together for a little improv theater/art camp on two wheels. It is weird how sometimes art and theater just happen almost by accident. New England is weird. We get lots of weird holidays off. No disrespect but it is what it is. So when I saw the kids had Good Friday off from school and I knew a few of my friends likely had work off I sent out an email inviting people on an Unholy CX ride. That was it really. Certainly what unfolded was never discussed. I still don't know how it happened to be honest. What did happen was pure genius. I like to think it was inspired by Thom in a way. He and I have been talking a bit about social media and cycling and how its really a performance. Again, its hard to find the proper term for it. Performing art is really the best descriptive. What we do on twitter and instagram is for entertainment. A type of art. Johnny Utah has been the embodiment of this for as long as I have known him. Its why he is so fun to be around. It takes this whole "cycling is deadly serious" idea and smashes it to pieces. And that attitude in cycling deserves to be smashed to pieces over and over again until all that is left is radness. And fun.

He shoulders His Burden
Good Friday turned out to be an aptly nasty day. 40 degrees and raining. At times pouring rain. The weather gods lied about it warming up as the day went on. A few of us paid dearly for it. The crew ended up being Michele, Ed, Utah and myself. A great crew by any measure. While we were getting the bikes ready to roll the concept of doing the 12 Stations of Cross came up. Michele took the idea and ran with it. She took over my social media for the day and became equal parts art director/photographer for the ride/performance. Ed and Utah were 100% all in. Ed came up with some awesome photo staging. And Utah played the role of Cross Jesus. A roll he has played before. He bounces between Johnny Utah and Cross Jesus pretty fluidly during CX season. It become a running dialogue on our rides and at CX races. It was a big part of what inspired this performance.

He falls for the first time
The ride itself was hilarious. Again pouring rain, cold. Nasty wet roots and rocks. All of us laughing our asses off. No one complaining. Even poor Ed who was underdressed and frankly looked like he was getting hypothermia at times was pure Ed. Strong as hell. Funny. Up for anything. He is one the greatest guys to ride with I know. Or hang out with for that matter. Michele was definitely the genius behind this. She is a great photographer. Each photo was perfect.

He meets His Mother
The ride part was one I have been wanting to share with them for a while. Doing it within the context of the 12 Stations of the Cross made it that much more fun. We would talk about the next Station and I would be like "oh yeah, the cemetery stairs would be perfect!" and we would ride to the spot and set up and shoot and move on. For a ride that involved more photos than miles we moved pretty quickly. We only had one flat. One. Zero crashes. Zero mechanicals. Zero breakdowns. Everyone was in such good moods. I like friends who smile in the face of adversity. It is the only way.

Simon shoulders His Burden
The most challenging photo was probably "He meets the Women of Jerusalem" I knew the perfect spot. The Starbucks in Midfield of course. But Midfield is sort of a nice town. Not like douchey Wellesley or Dover. The people are actually really nice who live there. But its a nice suburb. So when four strangers roll in soaked to the bone with maniacal grins on their faces people sort of move away. We got the shot. And hung out for hot coffee and snacks. We stole some newspapers and stuffed them up our shirts to stave off the hypothermia.

Veronica wipes His Face
Rolling back we were already thinking of the last couple of Stations. He is stripped of his garments was pretty hilarious. Utah was 100% game. It was actually a challenge getting him to keep his clothes ON. Thankfully Michele kept it pro and just shot from the chest up. It is one of the more beautiful photos of the whole set.

He fall for the second time

He falls for the second time was like a flash back to the time Aumiller crashed off a wood bridge in Cutler and called me from the marsh. How I ever found him is beyond me. So glad I took that call. The trolls certainly would have feasted on his bones if we didn't find him and drag him to safety.

He meets the women of Jerusalem 
The whole ride became a meditative one in which we spent the day as friends in the woods and just having a blast. When we finally got home we pretty much ate all the food in the house. My wife and kids were troopers about the whole thing. This isn't their first rodeo as they say. They are used to dirty, bleeding bikers showing up at the house and eating everything in sight like a wolf pack.

He falls for the third time
I feel lucky my kids are exposed to adults like my friends who never stop being rad. They see that life isn't just about the system. Its about living it to the fullest. Art matters. The outdoors matter. Being rad matters.

He is stripped of His Garments

One of the more entertaining aspects of the whole day was all the funny texts and messages we all received during the ride. Most were of the "you are all going to burn in Hell" variety. Most were like "this is the best thing ever!" It fueled us on I won't lie. For me social media is just a conversation. A way to engage your friends in ways you just can't do when everyone is living their lives and busy.

He is nailed to the Cross
HUGE thanks to Michele, Ed and Utah! What a fantastic day. To say we are ready for the Ronde is an understatement. Being out all day in nasty weather and moving like sharks builds character. And is what is required of any rider who loves these types of rides. Live rad my friends.

He dies

Monday, March 14, 2016


Ok life isn't just about bikes. Life is bigger that that. This here blog and all my social media is basically a diary. A hot wide open mess of my life. Syd the kid is a HUGE part of my life. I will spare you the details but let's say there is no doubt we wanted a second child. It was not easy. Lots of heartbreak. But we got our Syd the kid. A miniature version of my wife Pam. We moved to Boston when Pam was six months pregnant with Syd. Our Dr out west thought we were insane. We were like dude? Chill. Boston. I hear they have really good Drs. It worked out. Syd came into our lives and changed everything. Syd the kid fell in love with ice hockey watching the Sochi Olympics. She had watched the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. I am a big hockey and Bruins fan. I grew up with Hockey. I have a HUGE hockey family. Not your Ivy league hockey family. A blue collar grinding hockey family. But when I moved to Norcal that part of me was put in a box. Sure I followed it. Took on the Sharks as my team away from my hometown team.  But it wasn't a big part of our lives. Until the Sochi games.

That changed everything. Syd was 10. She told me she wanted to play hockey. Your kids ask for lots of things. It is like white noise. You tune it out. Then the low hum becomes a loud siren and you pay attention. Syd's friend Mina was a goalie. I emailed Mina's mom. She sent me a great email. Again, I played hockey. I know what is required. I hate to use the words "its too late" with anything in life as you only have one life. And you are talking about a 10 year old. But. Hockey in the Northeast and in a town like Needham is no joke. I went through that meat grinder. I broke bones. I got hurt. A lot. Was a tiny defenseman. But played with a dude who was a brute. He ended up being drafted by the Hartford Whalers. Went to the Olympics. Left high school his junior year. Yeah hockey is no joke. So when she said "I want to play hockey" It was equal parts pride and equal parts PTSD nightmare. But if there is one thing living through that gives you is perspective. Lots has changed. We live in a much more nurturing world. That world does not exist at the rink perse but the tools we have learned outside can be applied.

So I got busy. I found beginning hockey camps. I found skating lessons. I found a great league. The one I played in. Walking into St Sebs after being so far removed was surreal. But I played the game. Syd is a beast. She is tougher than any other human being I know. Our (and I know some parents cringe at that but it is what hockey is about) journey hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows. The hockey itself was fine. She struggled but she kept grinding. Not starting to skate let alone play hockey until age 10 when most kids start skating at 3 or 4 and playing hockey at 6 is a HUGE disadvantage. But she battled. But we had a pretty huge set back the first summer. She was at Babson doing her beginner to hockey program when she looked funny. Her instructor started skating her off the ice. I knew something was wrong. A parent knows. I ran to the boards and to the door. She collapsed at the blue line. I ran out onto the ice. She looked at me and said she couldn't feel her legs. I picked her up and carried her off the ice. For bonus points my mom was there. Yeah. Awesome. I got her a gatorade. Then got her to the ER. She was fine. Just dehydration. But it set in motion a crazy year. Sending her back on the ice after that I felt equal parts horror and pride. Keep grinding. It is what hockey is about. You think those PROs are tough just because they are paid well? No. It starts early. Hockey players do not quit. Ever.

So we somehow survive that. She does great in a developmental team full of boys. She has one other girl on her team. Its half ice. No one keeps score. Other than the kids. She loves it. We get to the tryouts for the U12 girls team. The week before during practice she trips on a puck and crumbles on the ice. I am 100% sure she just broke her collar bone. Back to the ER. No break "just" a separation. We are talking about a 10 year old girl. Again. Kid doesn't blink. Talking to the ER Dr about books. IVs in. Doesn't flinch. We get home. Tryout is in a week. Her coach tells me she doesn't stand a chance of making the team. The girls director welcomes me with open arms. Don't worry she will do great. Instantly I see the difference between a girls team and a coed team. The girls are all business. They support each other in the line. If someone doesn't get the drill they explain it to the next girl. No punching. No tripping. Syd's first drill is against an older girl. Coach dumps the puck in a corner. Go get it. Syd goes in fast. Goes for the other girls body. Other girl is way faster and slides out. Syd goes full speed into the boards with her separated shoulder. Doesn't flinch. Survives the tryout. Makes the team.

Have I mentioned she is 5'6" and 120 and is 11? And is slower than all the other girls? But she is smart. Has so little hockey knowledge. But gets it. And has so little skating experience. We luck into a skating coach who meets us at Babson before school once a week. He is incredible. Works so patiently with her. Hockey is all about skill, experience and heart. Its so different than all other sports. Not just in my opinion but as a statement of fact.  It is the ultimate team game. Lots of sports can be influenced by one great player. Basketball can be dictated by one great player. Look at Jordan. Look what Stephen Curry did for the Warriors. Hockey is all about team work. The individual (unless you are a goalie) is only as good as the team. And even a great goalie can be neutralized by a better team. Its what makes hockey great. Hockey is also very unique in the fact it is a family sport. You have to drive your kid to the rink at 5 or 6 am. You sit in the rink or car and wait. You travel to tournaments. You bond as a family. Hockey itself can become one large family. Its why you don't see NHL players showing up in the police blotter like NFL and NBA players.

But this is about Syd. So you get the idea. It has been an intense journey with lots of hard work. But the reward is immeasurable. Syd looked at me the other day and said "Dad, I get the idea you are training me to be a Samurai not a hockey player." This is in fact a true statement. In Japan there were many paths to enlightenment—Flower arrangement, Brush painting, Archery and Sword fighting. Which way you chose was meaningless. It was the practice that mattered. Hockey has been a life saver for Syd. She has struggled with depression and anxiety. There have been some dark days. But hockey and her teammates have helped her so much. She is literally a different person since she started playing hockey. I am not a sports dad. I am not living out some unfulfilled Glory Days. What I am doing is fighting for my kids soul. She asked me as we were driving home from a tournament if she didn't make a college hockey team would she still go to college. I told her of course. We have a college fund. Who knows what will happen. Hockey and college aren't linked like that. We worry about the present not the future.   You can be what ever you want to be. Right now she wants to be a lawyer. And maybe a novelist. Ideally she is the next James Dashner only a woman obviously.

When I watch Syd play hockey it feels like CX used to feel. It is the same heart pounding rush I used to get while sitting at the line waiting for the whistle to blow. Some of her best games have been the games she has lost. I tell her that every time. She loves hockey. She loves her teammates. I am not saying it will protect her from mean girls or bad things that may happen. But when you roll with a  crew of badass girl hockey players you have a family that has your back. These girls battle for each other. They are friends on and off the ice. The parents are tight. I have zero non-cycling adult friends. This is all new to me too. And I like it. Sitting in a room of coaches and adults drinking bad beer and listening to 80s music I think to myself this is pretty ok. I couldn't be more proud of Syd and what she has accomplished. I wish Hockey season never had to end.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mud Season

Mud season sounds like the most wonderful time of year! Who doesn't LOVE mud???!!! We can get all shred nasty and commit to the rut while channeling our inner Belgian. No actually. Mud season is terrible. Or at least in my opinion it is. Riding on soft, muddy trails when they are in a thaw/freeze mode damages the trails. As does walking, riding a horse or letting packs of dogs run on them but I digress. Regulations vary in the Greater Boston area. NEMBA has done a great job working with the DCR on targeting the most sensitive time to ban usage in certain trail systems. The DCR used to have a ban from January to April 15. NEMBA negotiated a much more reasonable ban that is from March 1st - March 31st. Other areas can be a bit lengthier. The photo above is from Caryl Park. You can see it is March 1-April 30. March is a time of year when ALL trail users should avoid muddy trails. As a cyclist in this area we have to understand we have a responsibility to trail stewardship. We are very lucky to have so much access. And as much as it gets me going when authority figures dictate what I can or can't do they have been meeting us in the middle with this. March means no riding in the Fells or Blue Hills. Be smart and don't ride on soft trails. Ride on gravel or when the ground is frozen. Or ride the road! March is a great time to hit the road after a winter couped up inside.

Ok PSA over. Back to the #CBL! The other title for this post was going to be March: In like a lamb, out like a lion. It is my new mantra. Or hope. Or intention. I am beyond like a lamb right now. I am more like a Panda. Or the Panda of the NECX. I honestly don't remember being this out of shape before. It happens. Life. Getting old. Kids. Blah, blah blah. No excuses. So now its time to dig out. And what better way than a magic unicorn of a bike called RoboZank! This bike is a couple of years in the making. It has evolved from team SSCX bikes. Influences have come from many different people and things. The biggest influencer as always is the actual riding. If you tune into this here bloggity blog you know what I like. Well other than beer and cats. I like riding CXenduro style adventures with friends. Gravel is such an inelegant word for we do. And I think gravel to most means 80% pavement with some lame ass fire road thrown in. We ride our CX bikes on mtn bike trails. Why? Because it is fun. Fun? How is taking away two decades of advancements and risking life and limb on skinny tires fun? We are sick bastards what can I tell you.

So you get it. We wanted to develop a CX bike that could handle technical mountain bike trails. Now before you get all hot and bothered I am not saying we are hucking this thing off rock drop offs in NTF. Or even riding NTF. Ok we ride through NTF to the rail trail. And sometimes bounce around on some of the more fun less murdery trails. A CX bike if it is smartly equipped can handle anything. You just have to be smart or as Colin (or was it Adam) would say you now have a pencil instead of an eraser. So yes you have to revert to that old school style of rigid, v-brake, paying attention, picking your lines and being smooth style of riding. It allows you to put 40, 50 or 60 mile rides together very easily. We have so many cool little parks and trails that weave in and out of different towns. There really is a paradigm shift happening. Sure there are some holdouts…cough Dover cough sucks cough. But most towns are embracing building rail trails, establishing trail easements and creating little footpaths. It has changed how I view riding. When I step out for a "road" ride I am constantly peeking into the woods looking for the next secret stash.

Ok so about the bike. It is a Zanconato. Built by my good friend Mike. Mike is on a whole other level with his building right now. He transitioned from lugged steel (which he still does and quite well!) to TIG Aluminum and steel. I love aluminum. I was a firm believer in steel. Until I rode a Rock Lobster Team TIG. Then everything changed. Aluminum is fantastic. Great ride quality. Durable and light. Mike in a very short time has taken the bikes to that magic level. This sky blue bike is a second generation of the team bike. It is the exact same as the first one. And yet somehow rides like a magic unicorn. Mike says its the same but it is better than the old one. I could tell immediately. I was able to whip it around in a way that I just haven't before. As stated earlier, I am in horrible shape. My first ride I smashed a little KOM in my backyard. It won't stand. But like I said you stomp on the pedals and the bike takes off. I noticed that today on a longer ride. I got tired but the bike didn't. I would accelerate and the bike would just go! I think this is what I like about aluminum bikes done well. They are all business.

Ok I know I am going a bit over the top. This happens when I get one of Mikey's bikes. But let's talk details. Frame as previously mentioned is aluminum. Deda. Fork is ENVE. But the magic is in the details. We went with a bit of a Franken-drivetrain. In our team prototypes we played with different hydro brakes. The shimano are hands down the best. No debate there. Di2 is so nice. It made converting the SSCX into a nice 1x very simple. We spent some time on the 1x and quickly became enamored by it. I prefer it. But there are some limiters. Di2 Ultegra is limited to 11-32. That is a fine range with a double. 50/34 with 11-32 can handle anything. But we wanted a 1x for simplicity. Ben Berden has been using 1x for cross for a while. I saw his hack of the new TRP Hylex and thought how cool that would be. For CX racing a 11-32 is plenty of range. But if you want to do D2R2 or VT Overland you are going to want a 1:1. 40 x 32 would be brutal. At least for me. Sean Rudzinsky and I talked a ton about this whole idea. He always said going with an XTR rear would be the sick set up. And he is right. By using an XTR Di2 rear mech you can go 11-40. With a 40 front ring you have that 1:1 that is needed for long days and lots of elevation.

Yes, the XTR rear mech is crazy expensive. And its in a vulnerable area. But people drop money on carbon wheels like it is no problem. $2,000 on a set of wheels seems crazy to me. I am sure lots of people think a $500 rear derailler is nuts. An XT version is coming. That should make it a bit more reasonable. And the TRPs are much cheaper than the Ultegra Di2 hydros. So do the TRPs work as nice as the Shimano? No. Shimano's are 10. TRP are 8.5. Shimano's are one finger on off braking. They go full stop with one finger. That is impressive. They don't fade and they rarely squeal. TRPs have more lever feel. Sort of like cantis in a way. I like that about them. But once you get past the initial drag its full stop. They squeal a bit when dirty. But do not fade. I really like them. They sort of fit my riding style. And I really prefer the ergonomics of the hoods. The Shimanos would cause me some pain on long rides. I have some wrist issues. The TRP have a nice long hood that allows me to open up my wrist and get into a natural position.

The hack, which I bow down to TRP for, involves a Shimano climbing button. Usually it goes on the tops of the bars to shift will climbing. It is more a switch than a button like on the lever of a Di2. TRP designed a little port into the inside of the brake lever. You cut out the grip and zip tie it in and voila you basically have a Campy style Di2 shifter. I grew up on Campy and love shifting with my thumb. It was probably the single biggest adjustment when I went form Campy to SRAM and then to Shimano. So how does it work. Flawlessly. The XTR Di2 changes across the range with zero effort. Just zip zap and pew pew. I would say the other huge advantage to a CXenduro bike is tubeless tires. Again I was a late adopter to this. Just like the disc brakes. I wanted to see how it would shake out. My friend David Deitch's follies with tubeless were like watching a train wreck. Over and over again. But the technology caught up. There are enough quality tubeless ready tires that you can pick what you want for your riding. There are lots of great tubeless ready wheels and rims. It seems like we have a new tubeless wheel company pop up onto our radar each day! The wheels I have been using are made by November and are basically Stan's Grails with November hubs. It has changed everything.

Being able to run 35 psi on a rocky trail is a game changer. And being able to race and ride the same set of wheels is fantastic. I have been known in the past to ride tubulars in the woods because I was too lazy to change wheels. Now I don't need to worry about it. I am pretty sure I will race tubeless next year in the actual cross season. I don't see what I would go back to tubulars after my experience with these wheels and tires. Speaking of tires. I won't lie I can be a CX Diva. I am very picky. And I tend to notice tiny little things. And sometimes those things get in my head. I have been riding really fat tires all winter. On the fat bike. And on my mtn bike. Transitioning back to skinny tires has been an adjustment! I love the Specialized Terra. Its a 33. Which is a good size. But I miss my 40 Nanos. I am too lazy to swap them out. And I like the faster 33s. But if you have never tried a 40 you really should. So fun in the woods. You still have to pay attention but it really smooths things out. Especially tubeless.

I have had two rides on the bike and it already feels like a bike I have been on for years. Well, in fairness it is. It just happens to be new! Lots of exploring to do. The bike is going to get a lot of action this Spring/Summer. So excited to hit Vermont and get some nice dirt riding in. We will dial in our Southern X route. The BCT has been a huge boon for linking up some rad trails. HUGE thanks to Mike Z for always putting up with full auto ADD and making the magic happen.