Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bikes! Bikes! Bikes!

This Broadway Bicycle School t-shirt makes people LOVE bikes. Seriously. It is now my new favorite t-shirt and is a bit of a litmus test about bikes in my mind. A 70 year old receptionist at my vet started chatting me up about it. Random Barista's, housewives, pizza men, everyone I bumped into had only good things to say about the t-shirt and about bikes. What does that say? It tells me two things. One: Its a rad design. Two: People respond to the Hippier side of bikes than the racier side of bikes. The women at the vet was proud to say the bike was invented in Springflield, Mass. And while I am not sure if that is true or not its amazing that she shared that info with me and had a positive conversation with me about bikes. The times they are a changing.
I have been doing some recon with a good friend lately for a super fun ride that is coming up in August. Put a big red star on August 20th....Cross bikes, dirt, trails, all the sick secret paths, Ronde 2.5 is going to be amazing. 65 miles give or take most of it on dirt. And not just fireroad some real gems. The trails have already been Christened with our flesh. Dorothy followed the Yellow Brick road you are going to want to follow the cockroach...stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Boston has such a long history of bike fabrication. I had to move 3,000 miles away from this mecca of bike culture to find out just how rich New England is in bike builders. Bike building contrary to some people's mindsets is not a business. To be frank business has no place in bike building. To some extent obviously one has to be smart about these things. You can't not think about the bottom line entirely and you have to stay in business to continue to live the lifestyle and to pursue your craft. But building bikes should be more modern art meets the dark art of forging samurai swords for Ronin than a numbers crunching exercise in profitability. I have known a lot of framebuilders in my time. To me the great ones are a sort of modern day Hephaestus, the Greek god of smiths and fire. Its not a coincidence that many of them hail from Art Schools around the country. Some its a smooth transition from sculpture to bike building. For others they have a more design background. Either way having a passion and foundation for art makes for a solid base with which to hone ones craft in bike building. Again not to beat a dead horse but the kinds of welds that stop people in their tracks are made by artists. Just the same way we look at a brush stroke from a master in the halls of the best museums in the world.
Firefly like many new bike companies in Boston was born from the ashes of another company. It is almost a rite of passage in New England. Someday someone needs to create a family tree of bike builders in the Boston area. It will blow minds. Most times the next generation moved on to pursue perhaps another material or perhaps they just wanted to spread their own wings. In other instances something new was born out of the destruction of something old and revered. When Firefly was created I have to say I was so stoked. Two of my really good friends Leah and Clint are really close with them. I have known Tyler and Jamie in a six degrees of separation type of way but never really spent a whole lot of time with them. The first time I met Kevin was right as we were about to embark on a 5 day exodus to Washington, D.C on bikes to help promote Bikes Belong. He was on Firefly #001. That is some kind of field test! And speaks volumes about what great builders Tyler and Jamie are. That was a great way to get to know someone I will say that. We left Boston on a day when it was 17 degrees out! He navigated our small band of riders to Hartford, CT without getting rattled at all. That was no small task trust me. For a young guy he has such a great perspective. You could call it an old soul. He is probably the most mature young person I know. But he still has that excitement that only someone in their 20s can have. I'll leave it at he is just a really solid guy and a ton of fun to hang out and ride bikes with.

The creation of Firefly kept that Boston bike building tradition alive. Tyler, Jamie and Kevin made a HUGE leap of faith. But they did it together and they did it with the backing of the whole cycling culture here in Boston. After meeting Kevin I made it my personal mission to learn more about the bikes and Tyler and Jamie. They get it. They really do. They have been so open about what they are doing. And so excited to share what projects they are working on. They bring a playful energy to the bike game that maybe has been missing a bit lately. It is so nice to see artists pushing the edges of what they can do.
As I said before Firefly were big backers of Tim Johnson's Ride On Washington. They donated a frame to be raffled off with all the proceeds going to the fundraising. That is a lot to ask of an established bike company let alone 3 guys who just risked their life savings starting a bike company in a down economy. But it was just the type of commitment that you can tell these guys are all about. They believe in bikes and believe in being a part of the community. They have used social media to show off their work in a way that is both artful and very savvy in today's fast moving marketplace. But in the end it all comes down to the bike. I stumbled back into the shop as I was "training" for the Rapha East Coast Gentleman's Ride. I have the training in quotes as my training consisted of riding up the access road at Blue Hills twice. But I stopped in and once again they were so welcoming and glad to see me. It was really nice to be able to see the new bikes they had going. They have such a passion for each one and they love to tell you the story behind each bike and what the customer was looking for. I spent more time oogling the ti bikes and chatting up the boys than doing hill repeats. It was worth it.
Not to get too off track but people who scoff at bike culture clearly have never been a part of it. It is a real and organic thing. I can't even really put it into words. It is not unlike a wolfpack. And not in a Hangover 2 Wolfpack but a real wolfpack. If you let it it can transform you. I had one of these moments not to long ago. A old friend of mine from another lifetime ago (Norcal) popped back into my life. It was like we never missed a beat. She was one of my oldest and first teamates. We raced mtn bikes all over Northern California. We still talk about the Bontragers we rode with reverence. This was pre-Trek Bontrager. Made in Santa Cruz. What was even more awesome about this trip back in the hot tub time machine was that other than reconnecting as friends etc the topic quickly turned to cross. It always comes back to cross....Lucia wanted to know if I knew much about cross. Nice. Yeah I like the cross game..So we talked a lot about bikes and the races etc. It was a great exchange. She then asked what bike to get. I asked how much was her budget. She said $7,000. I sort of thought she was kidding but played along. I said if I had that kind of money I would buy a ti Firefly. She emailed me the next day and said she bought one. Fantastico! I was so jealous yet pumped for both her and Firefly. Such a great match. Here is this amazing artist (Lucia) who is possibly more passionate about bikes than I am hooking up with some of the coolest bike builders on the planet. It was surreal!
So the next plan was to get Lucia to meet Tyler, Jamie and Kevin and have a tour of Firefly. She came up for the weekend and we met up on a Friday night. It was sooo much fun. The Firefly crew set up a nice mtn bike ride for us on Blue Hill. We rolled out with one of the wildest dudes I have ever met in my life! He was on a 29er single speed and just was non-stop. He showed us such an amazing loop that I seriously have to get back there at least once a week. Long story short we rolled from Firefly on z bikes, made our way over to the access road and then were in a wonderland of rolling fun trails with some crazy mixed in for good measure. Tyler saved Lucia from certain death at one point as her pedals got stuck and she rolled back down a steep up. The only thing keeping her spine and head from the roots and rocks was Tyler's front wheel. Ok maybe it wasn't an intentional save but hey it counts. What blew me away was that Lucia hadn't been on a mtn bike in 16 years! She was on a loaner with pedals that either wouldn't hold the cleats or kept her clipped in like a death trap. She rode just like I remembered from way back. Hard charging, no fear, take no prisoners. I rode pretty well for me. I suck as has been well documented. But what I am noticing is if I ride with a good crew and I follow their lines I can ride way better than by myself. So I was flowing pretty good.
That is until we hit this crazy drop in berm. Now it was dirt and Kevin rode it. Damn I should have rode it. But anyway two of us were sort of eyeballing it. Do we go, do we not go. And while we are having this internal debate Lucia crashes through the trees with that look in her eyes and is like " What the hell are you guys doing?" And rails past us laughing her ass off as she drops into mister toads wild ride. Classic Lucia. She is such a badass and such a good friend. I am so stoked she is back in my life after all these years. That is the sign of a true friend. You can pick up right were you left off.

The rest of the ride was straight up hilarious. The ride leader got funnier and funnier as we uncovered more and more singletrack. We got back to Firefly so stoked on life and bikes. I can't even wait to see the cross bike they cook up for Lucia it is going to be insane. It is also going to make me so jealous it is gonna be crazy!

Firefly is going to do amazing things. Frankly they already are. But just like those companies before them they will bring Boston's bike culture to a whole other level. I am counting the days til I can put my deposit down on a sick gravel eating, townline sprint winning rocket ship of a road bike. In ti of course.

*all the photos are from Firefly's Tumblr except the one of Tyler, Jamie, Lucia and Kevin

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

The Big Ring Rumpus in Auburn NH, is like an early wake up call for NECX cross racers to shake off the rust and get ready for Fall. It is a "mtn bike race" that has a cx category. The quotation marks aren't ironic. It is a flat fireroad dirt crit. Mtn Bikers loss is crossers gain in this case. This a beautiful area. With really nice trails and a fun atmosphere. It felt like a family reunion of sorts rolling up and seeing almost the entire NECX for the first time since Ice Weasels. There were a few peeps absent but there was a solid crew from Cambridge and Threshold and all our other favorite teams. I got to get a nice ride in before the race with lily, Billy and Andy. We half-jokingly said we should just bag the race and go for a 2 hr Ronde style ride. The trails are that sweet. Need to make a trip back to check this area out more. There were some funny cultural quirks. Lots of grumbling about having to zip tie the numbers to the front of the bars etc. I do get it. Nothing looks less PRO than a number plate on the front of drop bars..But you deal. I will say this though Mtb promoters and racers are chill. When Nick pulled the 420 raceplate we all cracked up big time.

The cross field was the biggest category of the day with 50 riders. To deal with the surge of cross racers they split the field. Thankfully I was able to stay next to Billy Campbell, Nick, Andy, Mike Golay and the Threshold boys. We also had some serious Old man power on the front line courtesy of Mr Eric Carlson. He is basically the Clark Kent of bike racers. He seems so unassuming off the bike. On it? Holy shit. That man is gonna do some damage this cross season. We got the 30 seconds to go and the "GO!" off we went like a thundering herd down the jetway towards takeoff errr the holeshot. Have I mentioned all I have been doing riding-wise is endurance for the last 6 weeks?
My first mistake of the day was trying to stay on Billy's wheel. The speed was high but not totally unmanageable. We were all locked in in a 10 person paceline. Nick was right beside me, surfing up and down the group. At some point Eric, Billy and a few other riders put the hammer down and rode us off their wheels. We were now a chase group of about 8. Mark Suprenant who started a minute back joined us mid-way through the second lap. At this point I was starting to feel it. Legs were getting loaded up. I started to ride "smart." Usually I just get on the front nose in the wind and damn the torpedos. But I figured hey let's let some of these guys do the work. That is what Resultsboy would do. What could go wrong when you have 8 dudes on cx bikes flying down a fireroad with small rocks sticking up all over the place at 25-28 mph like it was tuesday night worlds? Apparently a lot. As the paceline worked through its rotation my spidey sense went from "attentive" to "eject" I just knew the rider at the front looked sketchy as hell. Not 5 seconds later it was like someone threw a hand grenade into our groupetto. KaBOOM!
Dude hits a TINY rock and goes down HARD. Taking all of us out. Bodies and bikes are going everywhere. I see a Threshold rider do a total endo/flip. I hit the deck hard and slide over bikes and bodies. Its like something you see in Paris-Roubaix. We all get up except for one poor Paradise rider. He is in the fetal position groaning. I ask him if he's ok. Everyone gets on their bikes and takes off. I look at him again he kind of waves me off and I hop on my bike. The bike won't move. Shit. Ok I take the wheel off and check the dropouts. Wheel is totally fubared. So taco'd I can't even turn the wheel. I start running. Everyone goes by me. I get some oh shits. And are you ok. And damn Chip. Lots of good vibes. At some point it hits me. WWMWD. Ie., What Would Mike Wissell Do? He would smash it that is what he would do. So I take the wheel out of the dropouts and smash it back into some type of trueness. I unhook the rear brake and get on it. I am now STOKED to be pedaling. I ride back to the start/finish and get a new wheel and head back out.

I am now in full on hunter killer mode. How many can I catch? Can I catch anyone? Not really. I did all 5 laps. Flying and was pretty much a solid DFL. But I learnt a lot. You do not surrender. Never. Never quit. There was a lot of collateral damage to say the least. But we all had one Hell of a time I will say that.

It was so great seeing everybody. I even saw my fave CCB rider. So good to see Chandler. And Pete. And Mike Zocchi. And Dog...awesome. I am counting down the days til Sept. I may even have to break my no racing cx in August. I will talk with Coach Al about that. He knows these things. Damn I don't even know how to sit in on a paceline...