Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home for the Holidaze

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down in front of a typewriter and bleed." Yeah that pretty much is how blogging feels right about now. Hemingway said that. Different kind of bleeding obviously. I am a hack and blogging is the antithesis of actual writing its more like journaling or the ramblings of madman I suppose...but the sentiment is the same.

Blogging/writing has been tough over this holiday break. Writing is a solitary occupation that really doesn't flow so well with two kids constantly vying for your attention and a wife who views blogging as something akin to an internet porn or online gambling addiction. Suffice it to say she's not a fan.

But a lot has happened over this break. My knee has been totally jacked up and it has taught me a few things about myself. Pain has always been one of my better teachers. I've never had a knee injury and they are weird. I can see why athletes get addicted to pain killers. I was popping motrin like candy. If I'd had some vitamin V at my disposal who knows it may not have ended well in my fragile state. But the "fever" has broken if you will. I finally HTFU and got on the trainer and spun out the nasty that was in my knee. It feels sooo much better. So end of bitching about my knee...back to our regularly scheduled programing.

One of my more interesting Christmas presents this year was David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries. I've been leafing through it and its pretty good. I am pretty excited to spend some time with it. Its interesting and a good book as a counterpoint to all this racing bikes bullshit. I love cross and that's all about racing. But man enough with the racing. I fell in love with the bike mostly because it let me escape the mundane and enter a world I'd never seen before. It still does. The bike is so much more than sport. The chapter about SF is fascinating. Having lived there for the better part of 13 years it brings back so many memories. My whole life in SF was shaped by the bike.

I also received a wonderful email from an old friend out in Berkeley that was an exclamation point to what the love of a bike should be all about. I met Bob probably 16 years ago. He is a Bohemian. He's an artist, a lover of life and just has an infectious spirit. He helped Grant Peterson with the Bridgestone catalogs. He is close friend with Sky Yeager former product manager at Bianchi and now of Swobo. He is good friends with Pineapple Bob. In fact he introduced me to Pineapple Bob another lifetime ago which was the beginning of my cross addiction. So really I owe both Bob's everything when it comes to cross. In the photo below you see Bob just digging life on the bike. He's riding in Healdsburg CA with his lovely wife. Yes those are toe clips, no the are not wearing helmets. Sometimes they do most times they don't.

Getting the picture of them in my email box made my week. Here I am feeling like a miserable bastard cause its cold and I can't ride and I see these guys just having so much fun. I imagine they are probably turning into the winery you can see over the top of those vineyards and will be sampling some of Norcal's finest merlots or cabs in a moment. And yes they'll be drinking and then getting back on their bikes without those helmets and riding. And you know what its ok. They are professionals helmet or no helmet.

I have so many good memories of Bob. One time we went up to Chico, CA home of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Retro Tech, Paul's, and Mountain Goat. We went on a mtn bike ride with some locals on a trail called "bloody pin" trail. Why was it called "Bloody Pin"? It got its name from the technical chute that is littered with baby head lava rocks. Apparently a rider crashed hard, hit the rocks and a surgical pin popped out of their ankle hence the bloody pin. Well we are all on modern for the time mtn bikes. I got to borrow a badass Mountain Goat from the factory. Bob insisted on rocking his early '80s vintage Mountain Goat Whiskey Town racer. Full custom, drop bars, rigid fork, toe clips. Gorgeous but kind of like bringing a wooden spoon to a gunfight.

So we climb and climb up these incredible fire roads. We get to the top of the ridge right above the chute and get a bit of a local rundown of what to expect and then we just dive in. We all make it clean and ride the rollercoaster descent to the bottom of the canyon. We stop to talk story and wait for Bob. And we wait. And wait. And wait. Finally I decide to go find him. I see him riding towards me all covered in dirt but still smiling.

Dude is messed up. He hit a low branch on the drop in. Endoed hard and got a flat. While fixing the flat he got stung by a wasp about 5 times. He was smiling ear to ear. We got back to the hotel and used every towel to clean the nasty road rash off his back. Picked the dirt out of it and then cleaned ourselves up and headed over to the Sierra Nevada Brewery. I would have been a whiny bitch with road rash like that but Bob was his usual charming, hilarious self ordering round after round. I don't even know how many beers we had that night. Good times as always. I have a lifetime of good memories from our nefarious adventures.

The point is Bob loves the bike more than I can even imagine. The good times we had all revolved around the bike but weren't result driven or ego driven or image driven. 2010 I am going to get back to what got me into this bike game long ago. Love. That's it...Passion and Love. Am I going to be serious about racing? No doubt. But its not going to be so one dimensional.

One other nice surprise this holiday break was an opportunity to go have a coffee with my good friend Richard Fries. I haven't seen him in forever! I returned the PA he let us borrow for the Lowell race. Sorry Richard it took me so long to get it back to you! That is a friend right there. He lent me that PA system no questions asked. We got it out of the Hup sprinter put it back in its rightful place. I couldn't resist snapping some pictures of his bike. He commutes non-stop to his work in downtown Boston on that machine. He lives what he preaches about using the bike as a viable option for commuting, errands, life. He's off to Tabor in a few weeks to announce at World's! I can't even believe it what an incredible opportunity. He's going to call a great race. Not to push my luck but I am going to need to give him an envelope filled with money to buy me the world's biggest cowbell. And maybe just maybe Stybar's autograph...maybe on my Ice Weasels t-shirt? Oh dear god that would be incredible.
That's all I've got for right now. 2010 is going to be incredible. I can just feel it. Happy New Year to all my biker brother's and sister's. Hup Hup!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Year of the Pig

Of course it is technically the Year of the Ox but that is semantics. For me this was the Year of the Pig. I was poised to do some big wrap up post but frankly I can't even process just what went down over the course of the last four months and my brain is so scattered from trying to cram an entire Christmas worth of shopping in two days its amazing I can even form a complete sentence at this point. Basically I am coming to the realization that I am Dexter and cross is my dark passenger. But I am a professional and brain dead or not let's give it a go before its 2010... here are some of the highlights for me this cross season:

1.) My coach and the punk rock King of American Cyclo-cross. There I said it I have a coach. I haven't been hiding it perse. But I haven't been widely broadcasting it. I signed on with Cycle-Smart right after C-S cross camp and I haven't looked back. Al Donahue and Adam Myerson who ran the camp are fantastic coaches and know so much about cross. My good friend persuaded me to go to the C-S camp and I am so glad he did. I learned sooo much that day and what it really did was open my eyes to how much better a crosser I could become under the tutelage of Adam & Al.

Ed Hamel's farm where the camp was held is like a cross wonderland. He has acres of land set up with different course features. You want runnups? He has them in spades. You want double barriers? No crappy pvc to be found here just a four pack of doubles so you can go round and round and be flying over the barriers in no time. I love to train specifically and have a bunch of places I go to get my cross on but could you imagine having a cross course in your backyard? Cross camp just kicked my whole season up another notch. I will be back next year no doubt about it.

Coaching for me has been huge. Not just the training, although Al wrote up some great plans, but the whole immersion into the cross game from a C-S philosophy. C-S is kind of like Northern Long fist Kung is not like any other coaching game around. Might not be right for you but for me there can only be one style of fighting for me from now on.

Having Adam and Al giving me advice was like having an Ace up my sleeve every weekend...Al's plan was very flexible and responsive as things changed over the course of the, my 3 weeks of the flu! How he got me through 3 weeks of a nasty flu and to the other side where I was flying at NBX still blows me away and is the best endorsement I could ever give him. He also has great local knowledge of courses and how to tackle them, in a word: He rocks.

I call it the Year of the Pig in reference to the pig trophy he is holding with my name on it above....if that wasn't a sign that he'd be my coach this year I don't know any other explanation for it. I didn't even know who Al Donahue was at the time that photo was taken. And I certainly had no idea he was a coach or even envisioned he would become my coach. He is my coach now and I look at it as Kismet.

2.) Weds Am Worlds @ Lars Anderson: My friend Rosey gets a Golden Hupcake Award a little late for his Weds Am Worlds at Lars Anderson Park in JP...I knew I was going to miss a few things when I did my awards show and this was one of them. Big slip up on my part sorry Rosey it was totally lame of me to leave Weds Worlds out.

Every cross racer worth a damn has a couple of secret training spots. I have about three. But its mostly stealth training and if I am lucky I get maybe one other person to ride with me. Usually its me and the dog walkers and creepy dudes. 90% of the time I am all alone chasing my shadow in circles. I suspect that is the case for most riders. Around August Rosey established a totally badass crack o dawn cross World's practice/trainig race. I think the first couple of sessions there were about 5 of us by the end I think Rosey had like 20 riders. I only made it a handful of times, next year it will be mandatory.

Lars Worlds benefitted from one of the 2009 season's greatest revelation's "Cross in a Bag." Cross in a Bag is sort of like Dr Seus's Fun-In-a-Box. Although instead of Thing 1 and Thing 2 coming out you get two sets of collapsable pvc barriers and a ton of orange soccer cones. You can create a cross course in minutes and then it can disappear in a blink of an eye. Perfect for bandit cross and for dodging cops when they decide to break up your impromptu Fight Club.

Rosey handled the pressures of the local groundskeepers concerns over his fiefdom (ie baseball fields grass!) with a calmness and diplomacy unusual for a biker. Instead of us all getting banned (or arrested or tazed!) a compromise was made after a few fits and starts with Boston's finest and the head groundskeeper, and Weds am Worlds lived on even with an ever growing start list of Bostons best cross racers. Chapeau to Rosey not just for being a kick ass organizer, course designer and drill sergeant he fought for our place at the park when it seemed like we were history.

What Weds World's did for me was allow me to get a good race simulation in mid-week. It also taught me my most valuable lesson this year about getting faster. You want to get fast hang out with fast people. Rosey is fast. 90% of the riders who showed up at World's were wayyy faster than me. This sucked at times but paid huge dividends in December. Running past DJ Robert and heckling him for doing weeks of stairs at Harvard stadium and yet getting owned by an admitted slow runner up a stone staircase was priceless! I paid later for this momentary Hubris when he ripped my legs and lungs off at the next grassy hillclimb section. But that is what Am Worlds was all about rip each other apart so we can slay when the real bullets started flying.

So thanks Rosey and sorry for the late award. I'll make your Golden Hupcake a double...1 for Weds Worlds and 1 for being a badass!
3.) Blanco: Blanco oh my god. There was no denying the power of blanco this year. I was a little shy about it at first. I mean I am old and sort of Zaftig do people really want to see me in a white skinsuit? Probably not. Yash yeah he looks PRO. But once I embraced Blanco there was no denying it made me faster. I remember the first race I lined up in Blanco right next to Tom Stevens. He took one look at it gave it his thumbs up and that was all the endorsement I needed. It is not an every race is totally SSC for special races...but when you put it on you just feel like you are racing with jets on!

4.) Hup's got Talent: Hup has some real talent on and off the race course. We got to witness first hand the creative talent of one Tom Needham. Not only is he a powerhouse on the course he penned 2 of the most hilarious cross inspired social networking pieces I've ever seen. First at the beginning of the season he hit us with a long form rap on Twitter. I humbly submit to you Tom's pre-season cross rap "Embro on the Knuckles"

embro on the knuckles. metacarpals feelin' supple.

clickity click for the Gloustah Worlds /

even in pre-reg i hope not to get girl'd!

Cantis dialed in / Paul Neo Retro /

who needs to stop? / MiniVees for Zanconato?

Run ups at Putney / embro my legs with a mango chutney /

aqualseal the Dugasts before it gets muddy

Dismount for barriers, no studder step remount /

smoove like Wellens, kickin' these jams out

In mud i got Rhynos. Dirt I roll the Grifos /

and if it fast like Gloustahh I'll drop you w/ Pipastrellos!

Cyclocross, it's the name of the game / 26 PSI and I corner like Page

That's part haiku part hard core cross rap...He followed that up right before The Ice Weasels Cometh with what has to be the best Xtranormal video to date which can be found here Well played sir. Missed racing with him this year. I think we were on the same course twice this year.

Ok that's all I got...I cannot muster the mental fortitude to do a traditional recap of what worked and didn't don't need to hear about why 18 psi was too low at Ice Weasels do you? No of course not...What a great year. Who knows what 2010 will hold...lots of skate skiing talk, lots of mtn bike talk! woohooo can't wait to race mtn bikes proper next year.

Santa I don't know if I have been naughty or nice...tough call...ask the Decadent Dog Walker and he'd probably say naughty. But here's what I want...34 Dugast Rhynos, Mad Alchemy Coffee embrocation, a giant Cowbell, and some Noir B sample!!!!

Happy Holidaze !!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Golden Hupcake Awards

Espn has the ESPY's, MTV has the moon man, Velocb has the Golden Hupcake. The 2009 cross season was magic no other way to describe it. We may never be able to recreate what just went down. Or maybe we are just hitting our stride and next year will be completely mind blowing...what could possible make next year better?

Perhaps a HUP sprinter van, a 3 story UCI C1 flyover at Ice Weasels, michelin mud 2s on FMB casings, Masters Worlds on the eastern seaboard. That short list would be a start but who knows even those dream scenarios couldn't upstage what was from start to finish the Best. Cross. Season. Evah!

And what made it so goddamn special were all the cross freaks just getting their cross on. It seemed that the rivalries were hotter, the attacks fiercer, the courses more epic...To mark this season Velocb busted out all the stops, scoured over iphoto, blogs, race results, race reports and just thought back to the general mayhem that was the 2009 cross season and came up with awards to honor those people, places and moments that just stood out and demanded another look as a recognition of their greatness. It is part recap, part awards show. Obviously these are the opinions of velocb and no one else...with no further ado I present the Golden Hupcakes for 2009

(photo by Rob Bauer of doublehop)
1.) Photographer : Natasha McKittrick. Rosey dubbed her "The official photographic master of 2009 cx." This was right after Noho and I totally agree with that statement. What is amazing about the photo of her above is that she is being photographed by Rob Bauer (who is a great photographer himself and has captured some incredible images this year) and Ryan Kelly, who is no slouch as a photog, is pictured behind Nat taking a beer feed. There are so many great photographers shooting cross right now both amateur, professional and semi-professional. The list is long and I don't want to leave anyone off but suffice it to say the level of photography right now is at such a high level it isn't easy to pick just one.

What separates Natasha from the rest is that above all she is an artist. She has an incredible portfolio of art. Her Beer. Cupcake. Mustache photo journal set the bar for cross photography high. She has proven her ability to get photos from perspectives that you don't often see with cycling photography. This is probably in large part due to her being a fierce competitive cyclist as well as a photographer. Meeting her you'd be like "fierce?" Trust me she is fierce. She's also started to break in to the mainstream press which is incredible. Her race reports at CXmagazine bring a freshness and edginess you don't often see in cycling reportage.

So kudos to Nat she kicks ass no other way to describe it and as well as being tough as nails as described above she is totally fearless. During the Shedd Park race I almost ran over her in the Forest of Lowellenberg. It was real close. I was going warp speed, lost it in that nasty gravel went totally out of control towards her and thankfully was able to crash myself out before impact so I didn't run over her. After the race when I went to apologize to her and say sorry for almost killing her and making her dive behind some debris, she said she was only trying to protect her camera.

Once her gallery of the race went up at pedalpower photography I saw just how many riders almost ran over her. She captures all those crashes like a veteran WWII war correspondent as the kamikazes are crashing into the carrier deck. Fearless and willing to sacrifice it all for the photo that my friends is PRO.

2.) Course Feature of the Year: Kevin Sweeney's Euro Chute @ IWC. This was a tough call. It was a toss up between Kevin Sweeney's Euro Chute at Ice Weasels and Matt Spait's Spiral of Death at Shedd Park in Lowell. If I hadn't read Kevin's blog post I wouldn't have even fathomed just how much work and passion went into making the Euro Chute. Frankly, I was so snow blind at Ice Weasels if I hadn't read about it I would have assumed it was just a natural feature of the course. Silly me that chute was like an amusement park roller coaster fun ride! You'd drop into this prefect berm come out of it at warp speed and carry all of that speed into the nasty ass runnup. It was my favorite part of the course. Brilliant work Mr. Sweeney.

And chapeau to Mr Spaits for bringing a Spiral of Death to the NE. It really was awesome. People had such a hard time with it and frankly it worked in my advantage on so many levels. There are two things I love in a cross course feature, either one they are fun or two they slow down the really fast guys so I can either get away from them or catch up to them when they are challenged by some technical feature. The Spiral of Death delivered both of these criteria in Spades!

Next season who will be brave enough (or stupid enough) to bring a 3-story UCI C1 flyover to the NE? Hup might, we are that gungho enough for cross to build it and see if they will come...or maybe a good compromise is one of those wooden staircases like they rolled up at Bend...We have 9 months to work out the logistics

3.) Hardman of the Year: Pete Smith There was a lot of attrition during this years cross season. Soups broke his leg at PVD, my friend and mentor Derek Griggs was out all season with a blown up knee, this was a season with a lot of hard knocks. Lots of people (both male and female) rode through illness and injury. That is what cross is about and why it is a hardman and hardwomans sport. You don't stay in cross very long if you aren't tough. But Pete....dude takes it to a whole 'nother level.

That x-ray right there is basically a broken ankle. He has been racing on it ALL season. That is like 20 races on an F'd up ankle. He races at an elite level in the 1/2 race for the Embrocation Cycling team. If my ankles get cranky I am out. I am too old to risk it. What makes Pete even more of a hardman in a Jens Voight way is that you never would have even had any idea he was hurt. He was his usual pleasant charming self all season long. If I get slightly dinged up I am a whiny bitch. Trust me its not pretty. And I can't fathom a worse injury for a cross racer. Even with this injury he was able to perform at an extremely high level...check his it is impressive. Pete is also the man behind one of my favorite products- Mad Alchemy. Tough, resilient and just a super nice guy, you know what that does sound an awful lot like Jens Voight now doesn't it. Easy pick for Hardman of the year!

4.) Sponsor of the Year: Planet Bike Sponsors in cross are an enigma. It is hard to get cross sponsorship. From an athlete level and an event level it is tight...and not the good tight like dialed in...sponsorship for cycling is a scramble and cross, well, I have been a fly on the wall in a lot of these discussions and trust me it rarely works out in crosses favor. It usually starts and ends with "what is cross again exactly?"

But Planet Bike has supported cross on a level you just don't see. Katie Fn Compton, Jon Page, our own local grassroots band of brothers, the best first year race in the NE and a sure to be classic Waterville CX...if you really want to give back to cross pick up some Planet Bike lights, fenders etc. Show them the love they have shown us...seriously every bit adds up.

5.) Best internet Celebrity Death Match: RMM vs The Tour of Battenkill This was another really close one. What better use of the interwebs than a good old fashion dust up right? And why not use a public forum to leave a permanent record of your least in a bar fight you can go with the old he started it or he said "x." On the internet, shocker, once you have pushed send you can't get it back or deny you said some inflammatory remark. You my friend have left a permanent record of your transgression.

RMM is known for stirring up the pot. He is a tough competitor, pretty funny in his own way and has done a ton for cross and cycling in Boston. You only need look at the Cambridge Bicycle team and his superprestige weds night cx worlds to see his commitment and contribution to the sport. But like all shock jocks he lives and dies by his readership or viewership in the age of blogger. Controversy brings viewers. I don't think he even meant to stir the pot as much as he did in this instance. He purely wrote an essay about escalating entry fees in a fairly non-bombastic manner. Well Dieter Drake, the promoter of BK, just couldn't help himself and took it upon himself to have at it with RMM, AM and any and all comers in Mike's comment section. The final tally=87 comments. That has to be some kind of world record for blogger comments. Seriously. Mike should be leveraging that for some kind of subscription fee to his blog or at least ad income. You can't buy that kind of readership..

A close second to RMM's dust up was the Richard Sachs/Dombroski break up. On so many levels that blew RMM v Dieter away. Airing your dirty laundry on the interwebs is bad, bad, bad...the old any press is good press is about a decade old. In this case any press especially emails sent between two parties only makes you and your company seem punitive and bitter. Both have extracted themselves from potentially damaging themselves. Dombroski is a woman on fire and is looking to be the next Katie Fn Compton for years to come. And Richard is just an icon and someone I have much love and utmost respect for. They didn't miss a beat either. So I guess the point is while they seemed to come out of the dust up ok I don't know if Dieter and BK will be able to say the same. So match point to RMM.

That my friends is that. Happy Monday! A Hup NE rap up is in the works. So much to look back on and relive, put in the archive to see if we can make the soup as good next year. I've had a look at a few projects that are in the vault and have to say look out...big things coming together for 2010. Hup Hup

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rookie of the Year

That Bleu flash on the left is none other than the Rookie of Year Jesse Smith (photo by Lo)

In the NFL, The Rookie of the Year award is usually announced right before the Super Bowl. For our purposes we waited until after our super bowl ie., The Ice Weasels Cometh to make the call. Never easy to make the call as there are sooo many talented racers jumping into the cross frying pan right now. But this decision was easy. Purely based upon progression, enthusiasm/passion and shear crossisimo this man won the award by a mile....

Like with all new additions to the Hup squadra "One Hup Finds Another." In this case the Hup who brought our Rookie of the year into the fold didn't have to look far. As well as it being about sport, it was also a family matter. Sometimes there is more pressure when its your own family that brings you into your new family (HUP). There are expectations that maybe you should be like your family member and you feel the pressure to live up to some unattainable ideal.

In this case I have never seen two Brother-in-Laws be so tight in my life. They are more like actual brothers or friends who grew up together than two guys who are bound by their Family ties...Those that are part of our Hup New England family have probably already guessed who I am picking for Rookie of the Year here on velocb...yes it can be no one other than Jesse "The Outlaw" Smith

We were first introduced to Jesse at the 6-hours of Pats Peak inter-squad throw down that Yash and Graham dominated so impressively. It was clear from that weekend what a cool guy Jesse was and that he was a good athlete. He also was almost a dead ringer for the main character in PVB's favorite youtube video "We Go Shopping." Was this his first mtn bike race? It might have been. Bert and Jesse teamed up and did well on a horrible race course. I say horrible in a good way, but admit I am sick like that. But the course and the race were brutal and he proved his metal that day for sure...

We didn't hear much more from Jesse until we were all heading up to Waterville CX for the Planet Bike cx race. Its been well documented the extent of our Deluxe Swiss style chalet we had for that weekend. Again it afforded us another chance to chill and get to know Jesse and it was just seamless..but cross as we have talked about forever is HARD. Really hard. He had some difficulties at first but man he smiled through it all. There was a lot for him to absorb.
"What the hell is embrocation and how do you put it on"

We all pitched in to get Jesse up to speed. At Waterville he drank the cross koolaid and was hooked. We started exchanging emails about getting him a new bike. We decided on a Spooky and that was his baptism by fire into a whole other world of this cross universe. Even the hiccups with getting the bike all dialed never got him down. He may be one of the most positive people I have ever met.

So long story short he went from stacking it into the barriers at WVCX, to ordering a brand new pimped out Spooky to dare I say crushing it at The Ice Weasels Cometh in 4 short and super intense months! Yes I dare say CRUSH with a capital C. Brother just brought it! There were 87 starters in the 4s. I have no idea where he lined up...maybe 3rd row? 4th?

He couldn't have had very good crossresults points I would assume. Either way he was flying over a really technical course and brought home a 2nd place to an obviously really talented mtn bike racer who brought a Pugsley. Kind of like bringing an AK-47 to a knife fight if you ask me but I guess all is fair in love and cross warfare...still showing up on a mtn bike at a cross race is... well this is a family website so I won't use any derogatory language.

So Chapeau my brother! Great season and you my friend get the first Golden HUPcake of the year for Rookie of the Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Hupcakes Cometh

What better way to deal with CSWS (cross season withdrawal syndrome...its kind of like the dts...but maybe worse) this week than a gallery of Hup cakes (and Geekcakes!) from last weekends Ice Weasels Cometh! Most of these shots were taken by Lodrina.

I tried to find a photo of Kerry's Zanconato mini-cupcakes..they were really the hit of the day with the Hupcake handups..trying to shove a full size Hupcake with m&ms all over it while running a double set of barriers could frankly kill a man...the Z mini cupcakes were perfect for the pro-style cupcake handup, grab, pop in mouth and eat in one bite, remount and then attack!

The Hupcake bakers were off the hook this year. Thank you to everyone who got into it and made it so much fun!
Those are as gorgeous as their bikes! My God how did they get those colors dialed? They are professionals that is how...
Big Tomeke gets it, atma, and yes these Hupcakes were Epic and For The Win!

I am not sure wether it was Bevin or Gretchen who unleashed this deluxe version of the Hupcake on us but once I saw HUPcake Deluxe at Shedd Park there was no going back. I spent 4 hours baking these bad boys the night before Ice Weasels...

Lo could be a professional food god that icing is just begging me to lick it off before taking a huge bite of that chocolatey goodness...

Sunday, December 13, 2009


photo by Rob Bauer @ doublehop
Yes that is resultsboy grabbing dollar bill primes off the barriers! And it is alot harder than it looks. He makes this look too easy. There were loads of crashes as riders who should know better became hypnotized by dollar bills and Hupcakes.

And damn for a skinny guy he clearly has strong deltoids cause look at the one hand with the bike. My shoulder would pop out of the socket. Then again its possible his bike weighs 5 lbs...
A little improvised Ice Weasels graffiti poster!

The inventor of the Hupcake! Kerry C in the orange jumpsuit bringing it on the race course and to the tailgate! Kerry pretty much taught me everything I know about getting a Hup tailgater going way back at 24hrs of Great Glen when the Hupcake express took flight! Thanks Kerry for showing us how its done! The limited edition Zanconato Hupcakes were perfect for handups! Bite sized and delicious!
Who's bike you calling sketchy?

Hupcakes in z Haus!!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lucky 13

Hup came to the Ice Weasels all guns a good way. We came to party and to race our hearts out....Big Tomeke lit up the interwebs with hands down one of the funniest xtranormal animes evah! No one was spared! And it was brilliant. Between that little ditty and Toms early season long form rap on twitter I'd say we have an inhouse multi-media super talent in the making...The picture above is not a Hupper doing suburban fratboy gang signs...that would be Mike's disclocated digit...Hup (and others) took some hard knocks at the Ice Weasels cometh! Ice, snow and a metric ton of amped up racers has a way of punishing even the strong. Mike was flying before he had to jet over to the er for a quick splint job. But he was back in short order to heckle and eat Hupcakes...I think they released him...he may have just made a break for it so he didn't miss out on the antics.
I was under the totally false impression that Ice Weasels was supposed to be a don't get me wrong it was a party. The 2 kegs of Harpoon were bone dry by 1 o'clock in the afternoon...they weren't tapped until do the math....Hup was prepared for this and came with our own beer stash that we gladly shared...But back to the racing business...holy crap it was a throw down! 90 4s! A super competitive combined 3 field which I loved. In the 3s we all lined up together u35 and 35+ and it made for some very spirited racing. Tom and I were able to get the old Shake and Bake back in action! And it was in full effect! 
Being highly superstitious by nature I was having nightmares of race # 13...I put it out of my brain and just did what I do mon-fri on a race week, go through the motions and push that nagging feeling of my impending doom aside. Pre-rides were awesome. Lined up next to Brian which was totally hilarious. We totally jinxed ourselves though. We were laughing about our ridiculously low tire pressures...hahahaha its so low...hahahah isn't that what you are supposed to do in the snow...hahahah I really shouldn't bunny hop the barries...Oh did we pay for our Hubris. Brian destroyed the field for two laps....he was way off the front and then he started having fun waving to his adoring fans and even taking requests for some barrier hoping. 

Now Brian is a mtn biking/bmx god so some 8" barrier is a joke to him. Unfortunately he was running about 18 psi in his front tubie...kablammm. Totally rolls that friggin tubie...Doohhh! Still on a jacked front tyre he rolls in 5th! I was having a great race. Great race. Loved the course-those boys put some serious thought into it and it showed. But like Brian I had about 18 psi in my tires. It was fine for 2 laps and then poofff goes the front tubie. Totally flat. I ride it for a lap until I realize its toast. I go by the Hup tent stop, look for my teammates who now want to hand me beer and Hupcakes...god I love my teammates! I say while that is all great could I please have a front wheel delivered to the pit? 

Well they whip into action and by the time I get around to the pit Markie Mark and Jesse are there wheel in hand. They change me out, slap me in the ass...which kind of stung in a good way if you know what I mean and I am friggin flying now that I actually have a front wheel with some air in it. I start catching guys as I can actually turn without crashing and am hopeful that with 2 to go I can actually do some damage. I come to one of the small barriers get over it fast remount and then disaster. I hit glare ice as I hop on and the bike just gets yanked out from under me. I hit hard on my knee still clipped in and feel my knee get jacked up. Shit is popping and tearing inside it. I roll on the ground in pain all tangled in my bike. Jesse is right there asking me if I am ok. I pull my shit together, suck it up and say to myself..self even if your knee is totally blown out this is the last race of the season get on it.

I hop on grit my teeth and just start pedaling..I somehow catch a guy and get around him. I keep moving forward. Pedaling is ok but the barriers and sketchy run up are torture. I see the finish and am soooo stoked its over. I roll in Jesse meets me at the line gets me back to the tent, checks me out and gets my head straight. Damn I love that guy...
The rest of the day is just hanging out, eating Buffalo Burgers ( Thanks Meg!) watching the team just have the best time ever, and loving life! Pain is fleeting but cross and teammates are like a drug that can cure anything that ails you....frankly I didn't even notice how bad my knee hurt until I got home and started icing it...Thanks Colin, Thom and Kevin for putting on the most kick ass cross race in the NE! Ice Weasels is now and forever going to be where cross legends are much happened. So many riders just rode out of their minds, got hurt, crashed a million times, took beer handups, jumped barriers, and just had more fun than should be humanly possible! And thanks to my good friend James for the incredible action pictures check the full set on flikr!

What an incredible way to finish up the 2009 cross season! Have a safe and Happy Holiday! Hup Hup Hup!!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Where's GeWilli?

Big Tomeke found this photo taken by Janet Hill up on the interwebs...CXmagazine is doing a great job posting up photos and results of all the shenanigans going on out at Bend. Good to see GeWilli made it safe and sound to the Left Coast. We've had numerous tweets from his partner in crime but no actual photographic evidence of Mr Chabot's presence in could just be a smoke screen and he could be tweeting from the Admiral's club at SFO and drinking Manhattan's....but that is just a vicious rumor...

From the looks of these pictures I will not complain about how cold and icey it will likely be at Ice least with a race called Ice Weasels its not like its false advertising the name is almost asking for snow and ice right?

Along those lines, do you think Thom and Colin would be too put off if I stopped on rt 1 at petco on my way to the race and picked up a pair of Ferrets as prizes for the winners of the ss race? A ferret is not a weasel perse but probably a nice distant cousin without that nasty murderous streak...see you in the am...If it wasn't obvious by my manic postings this weak I am pretty much freaking out that the season is almost over....2 more races to go!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Single Speeds are Stupid

There I said it......Now before you get your tight pants and Doc Marten's in an uproar I am talking about using a single speed 'cross bike for racing 'cross against riders on geared bikes. That is undeniably stupid. Even the King of all single speeders Thom Parsons has unequivocally stated that trying to race a single speed against geared riders on a fast 'cross course is stupid. Although I believe the term he used was you'd have to be a certified moron to do so. And this is from a guy who lives and breathes single speeds and races them on an elite level for the Gary Fisher 29er Crew. And also happens to be one of the promoters of the Ice Weasels Cometh which is going to be home to the New England single speed World Championships! or something like that....
Now with all that said, racing a single speed 'cross bike against other racers on dedicated single speeds is actually really, really wicked pissah and kinda cool in a One-Design sailboard competition kind of way. You've never heard of One-Design sailboarding? Did you ever notice when sailboarding got into the olympics and they all had to go around on these identical boards with the same size sail...basically the idea with One-Design is that if all the racers are on the exact same vehicle the best tactician/sailor will rise to the top. With a single speed 'cross bike the same can be said, although in this case I think the best runner will likely be the winner or Thom Parsons as he is an animal. But I am putting my $$$$ on David Wilcox and his shark suit!

Its hard to tell if the single speed category at Ice Weasels will be a party or a race. It could be THE RACE of the day (dare I say the season?) or it could be a parade lap of epic proportions that quickly deteriorates into a you guys derby on the east coast? Probably not...basically its like roller ball but on bikes. Very popular with the single-speed set out on the west coast around the SF Bay Area. But they aren't riding $2,000 dollar custom single speeds with road race wheels modified to take one cog so maybe just forget I ever mentioned that whole derby thing and let's keep it as a race so I don't look even stupider than I am for building up a pimp-tastic single speed for one race to just get it destroyed the first lap.
Speaking of $2,000 custom single speed projects...ok so I may be the king of the stupids here as instead of just cobbing some beater 'cross bike together I had to go and bling the crap out of it. If I had my way and some certain someone didn't mess up the ordering process this here Sycip cross whip would have a blingtastic Gold ano King Headset on it instead of the peasant-like black one that adorns it currently...but I digress its never nice to point fingers at others failures. Am I perfect? Hell no, I am a train wreck of epic proportions. 

Gold would have been a little too flashy for what's going to go down on saturday anyway...but back to this "Project," the good news about my basement full of parts is I can whip together a bike pretty fast. Granted the road bike was heavily cannibalized for its record shifters and dura ace cranks but does it look like road riding season right now? Not so much...

But anyway take one gorgeous 853 steel handbuilt Sycip 'cross bike, add a custom Igleheart segmented cross fork, take some Mavic Ksyrium Sl premiums, add a dash of Paul's goodness, a hint of soulcraft spice and you have the manifestation of a kind of Norcal/New England fusion cuisine! Kind of like its rider...
Ok the race is in two days. I have come out of my NBX induced coma and feel like riding a bike again. I got two rides in on the single speed today. One was a 30 minute shake out to see how it all fit and worked. The second was a proper 1.5 hr ride. Ok the obvious. Holy crap my body feels like its been beaten with baseball bats. That shit is hard. Cross is hard enough, is making it harder a good idea? If you want to get harder it probably is a good idea. I now see why my friends Ronnie Steers and David Wilcox are such powerful riders!

The first thing that impressed me more than anything on my maiden voyage? That sexy Igleheart fork. Good god that man is Hephaestus incarnate...I know steel is heavy. A steel cross fork is probably a pound heavier than a carbon one. When I picked up Will Dugan's pit bike at Sterling I was shocked...24 lbs? It was HEAVY. Racing and heavy do not mix well. 

But there is no denying how much nicer a steel fork built by a master rides than a carbon one. It turned so much more predictably. It just turned better period. And the thing is I rode in some nasty conditions and never really felt in a spot of bother. Snow with ice and slush everywhere. The bike just felt bomber in the turns and dropping into offcambers and such. So chapeau Mr. Igleheart! It was well worth the wait as I have been itching to use that fork for a year.
The second thing that was impressed upon me is how hard it is. I finally found the right gear (I think) thanks to Thom's blog post...39X17 feels good. And Michelin Mud 2s are really nice in the snow and slush. Other than an annoying habit of ghost shifting...muscle memory is such a weird thing, I think I like this single speed thing. I can definitely see using this bike as offseason training and to just have a ton of fun on all year. And when New England single speed world's roll around next year who knows maybe I'll be sporting some Cosmics and fmb/michelin mud 2 franken tyres!

See you all at Ice Weasels! If you haven't registered (its closed!) get your butt down to Wrenthen early and do day of and be nice to Zanc!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Sweet Spot

12, 24, 5, 3, 2, 1.... 

Its all about the numbers on this monday with one week left in this cross season! But lest we get to far ahead of ourselves do not I repeat do not miss the Ice Weasels Cometh next saturday! It is going to be the perfect end to an incredible season of cross! On to the numerology!

12-is the number of cross races I've done this season. Pretty light by some peoples estimation but really my sweet spot. Next week will bump it to 14 assuming I can do (literally) back to back races at Ice Weasels. I am kind of going with the mullet of doubling up. Business in the front (master 35+) and party in the back (singlespeed!) We'll see how it goes...
24-Pretty much my SPOT in the 45+ Verge races. Excepting for two races this season where I uncorked a real gem I would slot into 24th no matter how deep I dug. I could be racing out of my mind and bam 24. Its a good spot and no complaints as I thought I was going to get destroyed when they eliminated the 3/4 category this year. But you know what? 45+ straight up has been great this year. I seriously do not miss that 3/4 category at all...

5-Years racing cross...ok its really 10 but that just makes me sound like a loser. How the hell could I be racing cross for 10 yrs and still suck this bad? 'Cause cross is really friggin hard that is why. And you need to actually learn HOW to do it. Not just train to be fast. Training is for losers. Learning to actually race cross and be fast is the sweet spot. Ok so I call it 5 because that is how many years I have been racing cross on the East coast. That 5 years racing in Norcal was basically a beer fueled excuse to party on 2 wheels...

3-That is the days of the week I get to train. Eyebob thinks all I do is drink capucinno's with Adam Myerson and ride all day. Christ nothing could be further from the truth. I am on dad duty 24/7. I train 1 -2 hr tues, weds, and thurs...real specific like a cross killah...but that is all I get in. So I guess it could be 6 as well...

2-Hopefully that is the amount of days on the weekend I race. In reality I only got 2 doubles in and they were sweet. Sterling and NBX...

1-One good bike. I am a 45+ masters racer I do not need two bikes. Ctodd and Mike Z taught me that last year and I took it to heart. My one bike is probably better than your 2 bikes. Sorry but its true. And I have more wheels than an 18 -wheeler...well not quite but close and they are pimptastic in their FMB goodness...
Yes I realize there are two almost identical cross bikes hanging from those hooks but the Rock Lobster is THE race bike. The Sycip rose from the ashes to be a worthy whip for the single speed race at Ice Weasels cause I am a baller...

Thank you to everyone for making this season incredible! I have made so many friends new and old. So many incredible experiences. I learned more this year than the last five and really just had more fun than should be legal in a state with as many blue laws as Massachusetts!

Hup Hup see you at Ice Weasels and yes there probably most likely will be a ton of Hupcakes....come and get a few!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pre-gaming for Natz

This is literally my favorite picture from the entire 2009 cross season! Seriously look at those boys! My god they rock. Gewilli is just hands down one of the coolest cats I have had the pleasure of knowing. I took this today right after they finished up their elite masters race. G is cooling down on the trainer with a Dog fish Ale! You think these boys are going to have fun out at Natz?Hells yeah they are. 

I keep checking myself each time I talk about one of my friends/teammates this season as I seem to throw the term the "coolest cat on the xxx" around so freely. But its just how I feel. I don't know if its we are just having the best season on record and everyone is in a good mood or we are all just kinda getting to know each other more so we can all let our hair down but damn the Planet Bike guys just kill me. They are so friggin funny and easy to hang out with but man they also bring it you know...on the race course they are intense but off of it they are the life of the party. 

Just wanted to fire this post up as a shout out for the big Viking. He's worked his ass off this year. He's worked through some tough shit as well. And how many dudes can rock the Vanderkitten Orange Jumpsuit? I mean really? He can rock it cause he has cross cred. As his friend I say chapeau brother you have earned this peak. Wether he is peaking for the party or the race itself its irrelevant. The Planet Bike boys and Gewilli are going to bring some of what makes the east coast cross scene so unique out west. And they are going to have some damn good stories to tell us when they get back...I for one can't wait to hear them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Slam That Stem!

Its not a new hit by the I ripped it off of Ryan Kelly...not sure of its nexus...its part of our vernacular at this point and its been tossed around by so many of my friends when referring to PRO bike fit that its almost a cliche. I finally got myself checked out on the cross bike by Adam Myerson. I went to his camp wayyy back in the beginning of the season and was hooked! I have been itching to see just what changes he'd make to my bike if any. My position felt pretty good this year. A touch upright. Couldn't get in the drops like evah...but I am not really a drops guy. No pain. Pretty fast with zero hammy problems. A huge improvement over past years. But still I wondered what someone with 20 decades of cross knowledge would think of my DIY position. Granted I did use his blog article on the fit so I was hoping I was close. My two goals or hopes were to see if I could get in a better position to drive the corners better and to slay dragons...well maybe Unicorns in the hunt for more speed....
We met up at International Bicycle in Newton and set up in the back on a pretty cool fit stand. It had a front fork mount so you could clamp the front fork right on to the trainer. But instead of the usual drum trainer set up it had mini rollers. Very cool and it really did feel super smooth once you were up on it and spinning. Adam did a bunch of measurements asked me a ton of questions and then took a few steps back and just looked at me pensively. He watched me for a long time in thought. He kind of reminded me of a cross between Jackson Pollock staring at a canvas or one of my old martial arts teachers. I had an old school Chinese Sifu who would watch me do punch after punch after punch without saying a word.

Then he would just light up and become animated and adjust my arms trajectory a mm or so, show me how to flick my wrist over just so as the knuckles would be striking it was total Zen in motion. That was pretty much Adam. After much thought he basically said "you know you could leave it...or we could try this"...and he slammed my stem! Slammed is so relative with cross as there is the cable hanger to consider but we dropped that stem as low as it would go, and he moved me forward a scouch and voila! Cross Nirvana! 
After the fit we kitted up and rolled out on the cross bikes with road wheels. The bike felt much faster. Really like a different bike all together. Crazy how such a subtle adjustment could reap such dividends. When I jokingly said he slammed my stem the reality was it only changed my drop 1 cm. I went from having 2 to 3. My reach pretty much stayed the same. My setback changed a touch. So in reality it was a tiny shift forward and kind of a rotation. But man the power and control on the bike was just what I was hoping for! We had a great ride through Dover doing the CRW 19 mile ride. There were some hmmm adventures on the road but aren't there always.
The best part of the ride other than just getting the opportunity to ride with Adam and to get to chat with him was the reward at the end of our ride. Adam read about a new coffee shop that opened on Walnut St in Newton Center called Taste Coffee House. We rolled up and walked in. It was a very unassuming hole in the wall but with a lot of charm. Especially in this cookie cutter coffee universe of Starbucks and even gasp...Peets. The dbl cap I had was not only gorgeous to look at but was hands down the best cap I've had since I moved back to Boston 5 years ago. What a great day...thanks to Adam for taking the time out of his crazy schedule to help out a slow masters racer eack some speed out of his old bones. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kicking the Can with Matty B

Below is an interview my good friend Matt Simpson did with Matt Bracken. A little bit of a departure here for velocb but no one loves a guest DJ more than I do! Enjoy it it's chock full of really good stuff!

Kicking the Can with Matty B by Matt Simpson

* Image on loan


Sitting in small coffee shop in North East Massachusetts, I am to meet my potential boss, possible colleague for my final interview. The company, a bicycle industry 20 year old brand. The people, both 20+ years in the industry. Brand time with Merlin, Mavic, Specialized, Saris, Independent Fabrication, these guys have for sure animated haunting stories. I am going to walk a fine line in my questioning, I am but a rivet in their hub.

Here go's.

We greet. I know the chief character, call him Mr.Z. This interview is his counter part, Matt "Matty B" Bracken. Simply put, MB is as fresh as EZ-E speaks. He is the equivalent of a modern day blacksmith. He dabbles, he tinkers, he is sophisticated, he leads, he follows, his respect in the industry is second to none. I noticed his handshake was humble. His hands have crafted countless thousands of custom weld joints, customer fittings. His hands I am sure, but will not ask, how many beers he has tipped with industry hipsters. I look at his face, wonder what if he would have been a hipster had he not attended a 'preppy' college. His choice of car is of interest to me, but with a dog like his, Charleston deserves a lap of luxury.

On a tangent, we are often treated to irrational BRACK ATTACKS, with his own town line sprints; often the marker is a tree, or a leaf on the road,...either way he keeps our lunch time rides full of laughter. He brings charm with his vintage classics bikes, his Fred like kits, his abundance of IF classics,....he makes our group rides. And don't be fooled, this boy has fitness that has been lying like a smoldering fire, just add air....the rest will take care of itself.

Here is what took place between that day and today - now, Matt is a good friend, we have a trust like an iron horse, we are now the Matt 1 and Matt 2 in the industry for our small, tidy bike care company. We have found ourselves in deep deep deep discussions. I know Matt's plan in 5 years, I know his strengths. I know what many should fear, he is smart as hell, a leader, an innovator, he has vision, he is humble,..the first week of his life, he was not supposed to live. Fear Matty B. He is is a full circle, karma comes around.

Matt (1) – Me

Matty B, it has a nice ring to it,....strange to be surrounded by so many Matt’s in your life, let’s keep it real, and keep it rolling huh? We should start a Matt club. Has a nice ring to it......but seriously, who is this Matty B guy? Why at '09 Interbike was I in the presence of an industry icon and rock star? Seriously (he laughs) - you toured me around, SRAM, CHROME, SPECIALIZED, were the man in demand! (he's still laughing), who are you anyway?

Matty B

My parents were sent home, I was not supposed to make it. Fuck it, I made it.

I grew up and played sports, soccer was my game my friends would occasionally call me Matty instead of Matt or Matthew. When I entered the bicycle industry in 1990 fresh out of college and worked for Mavic I was lucky enough to work with another Long Islander who is now the head of OE sales for Shimano, USA, Adam Micklin. Adam and I hit it off out of the gate and loved all things cycling. When we would visit shops or do seminars with distributors at the time he would introduce me as Matty b. or as he would say it, “Matty bbbbbbbbbbbbbb”
Leaving Mavic in 1993 I was hired away to Merlin Metalworks in Cambridge, Ma. There I worked with a great group of people, many who work at or own Seven Cycles now in Watertown, Ma . One was Matt O’Keefe. People at Merlin were funny and would say stuff like Matt squared or Matt 1 and Matt 2. To simplify things Jennifer Miller, head of Seven Marketing efforts, formerly of Merlin for purchasing would call me Matty, along with our President at the time Ashley Korenblat.

What I am saying is the name stuck a long time ago. People who know me well call me Matty b. People who usually don’t like me or others usually refer to you with your last name, like Bracken, that Bracken, or what did Bracken do again. I can honestly say not many people say Bracken, usually Matty b.

Matt (1) – Me

20 years in the industry huh?, you are one jaded mother fucker! You have seen the industry transform in so many ways. Let’s kick the tires of technology for a moment, you have welded with the most basic of materials to day age/space age materials. What structurally has been the biggest shift in technology? What keeps Matty B up at night with these new designs?

Matty B

The convergence theory!

We are now living at a time when the build it and they will come attitude no longer works. Today if a bicycle can’t boast excellent materials, excellent construction, and killer graphics and finish work you are no longer in the game.

The larger companies like Trek, Cannondale, Schwinn, Giant and Specialized have all been applauded for being complete bicycle companies and offering great products at a fair price, but in the last ten years all of these sleeping giants have woken up.
The internal resources in their companies for Sales, Marketing, Procurement, Planning, Engineering are world class and if they aren’t constantly exploring the order boundaries of what is possible moving forward not one of these companies can truly hang their hat on being best.

That said we are see the convergence of most companies large and small of Engineering, Industrial Design, and Graphics.

How many ugly bikes have we seen lately?

What is driving people to brands these days besides all the givens of what is listed above is finding a place they are comfortable. Earlier this week I attended a money raising event for a local steel builder Geekhouse. The event was packed and the crowd that attended looked to be having a good time. I felt a little out of my element being one of the oldest in the room at 41 and finally when a friend showed up we laughed at feeling like outsiders. But, more importantly than how I felt about being alone I could feel the positive energy around me for Marty Walsh and his bikes and all the things assocciated with it.

Besides the 3 points of convergence above, Marty is building a brand and a social network where people can be who they want to be. It was no different than my many years at Merlin in Cambridge, Ma or the 8.5 years of working at Independent Fabrication. These people were where they wanted to be.
Good stuff

Final note, You can be the most talented designer, engineer, or painter in the world, but if your attitude is bad it won’t matter, people won’t buy your stuff because sooner of later they will figure out you are non genuine to their ideals and why they were attracted to you and your brand in the first place. Do it because you love bikes and be grateful to those who are paying you to do it. Once you drink you own Kool Aid you are done.

Matt (1) - Me

Wow, deep. It’s true what they say about Matty are tight.
So – seriously, you are saying, the biggest shift in the industry in the past 20 years is vanity? And by the way I have seen a shit ton of uguly bikes, have you seen the Geek House Bikes? (with all due respect, I have some friends on the team, and have heard stellar things about Marty – so of course said tongue & cheek – hell I am of brit heritage).

The local Boston scene seems to have a huge offering for custom, what with Seven Cycles, Zanconato Custom Cycles, Geekhouse, the re-birth of Spooky, Independent Fabrication, just to name a few of many more; why the cluster of custom rigs in Boston? It can’t be the shot gun pellets from Fat Cycles, can it?

Matty B

Your question is too big for me to answer is less than 3 paragraphs, but that said if we can trace the roots of Heavy Metal to Led Zeppelin I definitely agree most of the modern Boston Bicycle seen was connected at one time to Fat City. Fat City’s legacy as a bicycle company was it was cool to ride bikes and have fun. Unfortunately the business of running a bicycle company caught up to them in the end as they were not taking a long term strategic view of what Fat City might be one day when it grew up.

Hell, I owned three. A team Fat, 2 years before the Yo Eddy came up, a 1oth anniversary and finally a Slim Chance. All great bikes built by a company I was proud to support making shit in America and the Boston made in New England Yankee workshop attitude..

If you didn’t work for Fat City you worked at Rhygin or Dogma or created Igleheart or Spooky or Seven Cycles, or fell into Indy Fab. Incest, not what you want at home, bad for the gene pool, but a good thing for bike culture in and around Boston.
I sure based on where you live in the country, Madison, WI, SF, CA or Portland, Or this situation is similar.

Vanity, fuck yeah. Look at the Young Republican Club who all shave their legs and race road! Vanity is a duel edge sword, it can give you a nice clean shave or it can cut your aorta.

Matt (1)- Me

Shaved leg’s = vanity, yeah....totally get that dude, totally.

So; the industry was abuzz a year ago when you left IF after 8 years. There are always two sides to any incident, some would gather your role in securing equity is yet another way you put your beliefs in front of your wants. But; really; what happened? And why is it you still believe in; and support the IF brand? Most would say fuck it; and spread the poor gospel, you have done the opposite, why? (Matty B was the President of the employee owned IF of Somervile, MA for, working 8. years at IF)

Matty B

Independent Fabrication will always be a place that I treasure for many reasons, but the chief among them was taking care of our customers and the dealers who supported the brand. When I left I.F. I never sent out a letter or explained what happened and none of that is important. Why support a brand that in many people’s eyes or opinions has let me down? Why would I ever tear down a company that I built up? 

There may be some people out there who may say I said something or did something to deserve being let go, but the truth is I did my job and looking back I must have done something right if you look at the success of the brand. I helped build a brand and it was a great thing. This brand paid a lot of paychecks and gave many of us a reason to get up in the morning. It is much easier to create and nurture than to destroy. I do find a lot of humor how history has been rewritten at I.F. And that my 8.5 years have been erased. 

Funny, google me up and there are many links between my work and IF, yet according to the latest IF website I never existed. I can’t figure that out but so well. One chapter of your life ends and one begins. The irony of being told to leave by the new owner of IF is that very same day I found out my lovely wife was pregnant with our daughter Madelyn was overshadowed by her coming... Funnier was having my image and likeness on the IF website for over 8 months after I left. 

Many a IF dealer and customer emailed with a chuckle over that since most had already read about my move to Pedro’s that August to work in Product Management. Was it a amicable break up? No. But the truth and history in a quick synopsis is below. Believe me, there is enough to write an extremely entertaining short story, but that is it, story, not a drama.

Independent Fabrication was founded over 14 years ago by a group of men and women who used to work for Chris Chance at Fat City Cycles in Somerville and once it was sold to Serotta Cycles at the time instead of laying down they banded together and founded Independent Fabrication. They were Steve Elmes, Mike Flanagan, Jane Hayes, Jeff Bucholz, and Lloyd Graves. 

Others were part of this new venture, but I never worked with them when I joined I.F. In December 1999 after leaving Merlin Metalworks in Cambridge, Ma after 7 years working there. I could smell the potential that this small brand had and on many fronts it was ahead of the curve. Steve Elmes was the forerunner of being a huge believer in American Cyclocross racing (he chose Jonathan Paige and Tim Johnson to race for IF), single speed off-road racing (remember Christina Begy?), and the belief that if IF was ever to get ahead it needed to be a multi faceted brand in multi materials and custom to boot! Steve is one of those unsung heroes of IF and I wish him all he best in Colorado. 

The day he decided to leave was a big blow to me personally as I was going to miss his big heart and huge laugh.

The company was founded on the premise of employee ownership and being a place people could work and over time build a brand and company through sweat equity and heart. I was approached by Steve Elmes and the recently deceased President of IF at the time John Barmack in the summer of 1999 and asked to come in to whip the dealers and sales programs into shape. At this time IF was only selling steel and only 6 models, the Deluxe, the Special, Club Racer, Independence, Crown Jewel, and Planet Cross. All of which were made in steel only, 4 decal choices, and non custom, unless you wanted to pay a small fortune. 

I told John for 5 months I had no interest in coming to Somerville and working with a group of people in the industry who only believed that steel is real. John told me that it wasn’t money that would persuade me, but making a difference and making change. In the end, he was right. John was a great man and if not for his perseverance and power to broker deals IF would have fallen into oblivion many times. John passed away only a few weeks ago and it was an amazing memorial service that looked back over his life and all those he touched. The synagogue was packed with people of all ages, color, religion, politics. Who didn’t John know or get to know I wondered? 

I realized the greatest thing he ever told me was how important it was to treat people with dignity and respect even if it came at the price sometimes of your own happiness. Real character was shown when people didn’t look the other way and stood up for what was right. John never let the “turkeys” get him down and was thoughtful to concentrate on the problems on hand and not to make it personal. John was the person responsible for IF’s first business plan and convincing Catholic Charities to loan IF money to start. John never left the brand or company, it left him!

My immediate job back in December 1999 was to find the right dealers, get our prices up to pay the bills and to bring IF into the world of custom. It took two years and it finally worked. As the immediate interface with customers and the shop I was constantly asked why IF wasn’t building in titanium and painting ti because some of them new about my many years of work at Merlin and the fact that some of our best shop folks could easily build a titanium frame. 

The first ti frame we ever built in the summer of 2001 was a single speed Ti Planet Cross for no one else but Steve Elmes, our head of Marketing. It met great reviews and totally annoyed some of the other local Boston builders who claimed to be the best custom ti builder in the world. In the Fall of 2001 we showcased the first Ti Crown Jewel custom and the rest of the models followed over time. The revenue created by the sale of titanium IFs and the deposits taken by the dealers helped IF grow over the next several years as we increased quality, options, developed a well followed website, improved the paint department with the addition of several new painters and attitudes within the shop.

Once we hired Chris Rowe and changed the paint department to accept custom paint it seems as is things took off. Chris was smart to hire Jill Rogers, who no longer is with IF and works down in Somerville at the Diesel Café in Davis Square. When Chris decided to leave Jill took the reigns and once again the process improved and the paint got better. The customers always loved the fit and feel of an IF, but wished for more paint. They always want more don’t they? The real question would be if we could deliver and at what price? Well we did and again the brand moved forward. What good is a great bike if it doesn’t speak to you? Vanity? Hell yes. 

IF is still one of the best paint shops in the country and I have enjoyed over the past year watching what has come from the shop. It looks great, especially the Svelte Cycles stuff, it is tight and well thought out. I like that, clean. Shit, I’ll say it, they look pretty. I think Clint and whomever else is working with him are doing nice work and it shows.

My favorite bicycle ever is an IF. My gold Xs. It was built back in December 2006, this was the second year in a row that IF won the “Dream Bike Award” presented by Bicycling Magazine. It was gold because once the ti lugs were fabricated there were hand polished and send off to be Titanium Nitride coated. 

This is the same coating used on high speed drill bits to keep them sharp longer. Along with the mirror finish gold finish of the ti lugs the ht badge was cast from a solid ounce of 18k gold from our casters in Maine. To add more bling the carbon tubes, seat stays and fork were all tinted with a Harlequin gold to pink finish. The new Record 10 spd Ultra Torque cranks, Deda bar, stem, and post rounded it out with Campagnolo.

By Spring of 2007 I came to the realization that I was a bit burned out from travelling for the brand and spending too much time speaking about bikes and not enough time enjoying them. That is when I came with the idea of quietly approaching a person or person who might be interested in investing $ in the brand. I knew if this happened I would lose most of the percentage of ownership I enjoyed at the time, but taken from your initial question I put the need of the brand before my own. It was important if I were to leave IF one day that it would stand the test of time and do better. IF always suffered from lack of cash flow and as demands on cash increased with customer demand it was pretty clear that we find money or close the doors.

I approached a person who I felt was the right individual with the right resources who could help move the company forward again. 

By the Fall of 2007 this individual was prepared and ready to invest. It was February 2008, after the 4th annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show that this person took 66.6% of the shares of IF in exchange for the majority control in our brand. When the inked had dried and the celebration was over I realized in order to help fulfill the destiny that IF deserved I was selling my own out. I didn’t want or need a boss, all I need was this investors money. All my former co-workers wanted was a boss and a job.

Friday the 13th, 2008

My day started out as usual, coming to work with Charleston my yellow lab, checking emails, making revisions to designs to be signed off on, etc. By 10;30 I was packing my desk. I remember crying a lot that morning in front of Joe Ingram, the bookeeper at IF and Joe was nice enough to remind me that it was all for the better and that better days lay ahead. He was right...

Remember, this was the same day I found out in less than 8 months I was going to be a dad. I was the youngest of ten children and the one thing my old man taguht me was no matter what you did in life you couldn’t take it with you. All you had was your name. People won’t remember you for your money or possessions, those things are often a cover for lack of security by some. 

But, being 20 years in this industry I was offered 5 interviews and 3 excellent offers upon my departure of IF.

Pedro’s is a lot like the original IF I joined back in 1999. The people are kind and considerate, the work is challenging and the brand is continuing to reshape itself. I am proud to be a part of the efforts moving forward and look forward to many years of helping to be part of the culture and process of improvement. The major difference in my new job and this is true for anyone who dreams of success is that I have the authority, accountability, and responsibility to do my job with the support of my co workers. 

This was not true at IF my last few years. There were definitely days people all wanted to be the boss or days when convenient they wanted to be just an employee with the right to express their unhappiness about everything. As a former IF employee said, “It was like herding cats”.

I wish the best to the new IF and I am glad I am no longer part of it’s history as expressed on it’s current website.

Special Thanks:

John Barmack- For his convictions to stand up for the oppressed and forgotten.
Steve Elmes- For his big heart and willingness to work till he could no more
Jane Hayes- juggling the books and making me laugh when things looked bleek
Jeff Bucholz- for being one hell of the reason why IF bikes are so well made and straight. If not for Jeff’s love of precision and quality they would not be what they are today.
Jason Williams-for being a great listener and friend to Charleston
Keith Rouse-For hanging on at such a crazy place as long as you did and never getting the credit you deserved for your work or support of your family
Shawn Estes-For his love of Rush, being one hell of a dad, and being the clown who introduced me to my lovely wife Alyson. You are responsible for my little lady Madelyn Mackenzie!
Shanna White-Big Bellie laugh and willingness to learn
Chris Rowe-For making our paint dept better
Jill Rogers-hard work and excellent perspective on what really matters
Brian Kelly-Precision and skill, a great travel partner and excellent mountain biker
Mike Flanagan-Founder and now owner of ANT bikes in Holliston, Ma- A big thanks to my Irish Texan for keeping it real and following your dreams
Lloyd Graves-We may not have always seen eye to eye, but I am proud of Lloyd for hanging in there as long as he has, he is he last founder standing and now a proud father with a little boy named Lloyd junior
Tyler-Mad skills as an artist and welder. Good job on the new blog
Tom Burnett- for getting out when you did
Joe Ingram-keeping the books


We finish the interview, Bracken is passionate He is passionate toward the industry. He is extremely humble. He can still throw it down on the lunch time rides, he can build bikes in minutes, he can build wheels like no one. He was fun to sit down with.

We end our interview - he offers a fresh espresso. I take him up on it. The conversation changes to his family. He starts to share his baby stories. If you wonder, yeah, he is well, really well, and will again be a force to be reckoned with. Tick Tock.

Thanks for reading.