Monday, July 23, 2012

The Biker Life

It has been pretty well documented where my priorities lie: Family, Friends, CX, Bikes, Bikes and the rest of my life trying to be a good or bad influence on others...depending on your perspective. But my wife hit me with a Zen Koan on our Sunday ride. My amazing wife: " Why do you ride?" Me: Um I don't know. MAF: "No I mean why do you ride all the time. Every day (sort of 4-5 days a week), all year long, in the snow, when its cold and rainy" Why do you do it? Damn that is a whole lotta question for a nice bike ride. I was stumped. Straight up. But it has stuck with me. My whole family is riding right now. And that means so much. Biking to me is a gift. Its been my profession. All my friends are bikers. Frankly staring down the barrel of 50 and having friends half your age is nuts. But its normal in our wolf pack. Yeah I am as old as fuck. And should know better than to try and take up single speeding and learn to ride rocks at my advanced age but the bike it keeps you young. Its sort of a fountain of youth.

But back to the family and friends. Why bike? Why bike your whole life? And why at almost 50 am I more in love with it than I ever have been. Those dudes. And ladies. Frankly the whole NECX. I had a whole other biker life out west. It was a "career" til it wasn't. But I was raised by people who loved the sport and weren't ones to mess about. Frankly we need more Santa Cruz and DFL influence on the bike industry. It would be a check and balance to a lot of the excess that goes on today. But don't get me wrong there has NEVER been a better time to be a biker. I am sort of a retro-grouch. Sort of. I love steel. Revere frame builders. You remember them right? The people who actually make shit. And I worship my friends. They push me. They pick me up when I am broken. Ok some of them break me but whatever. Who in New England doesn't love those who make them stronger?

But back to my earlier point why do you ride? Racing meh. What ever. Look at the shitty choices people make for the almighty glory of racing. Do I like to race. Yeah sure. Am I gonna fuck up my relationships or think its the defining part of me. No fucking way. It is a nice octagon for sure. You get a lot out of pinning a number on. You make some great friends. And frenemies...but it can not be the defining part of your biker life or it will ruin you. I still don't know the answer to that simple question. Often I joke with my wife that she is a Zen master. There is so much about her that is that. And she HAS NOT studied Zen at all which is sort of frustrating as I have. For a long time. So there is that. But these rides with my wife have been amazing. The rides with my kids have been amazing. And the rides with my friends, new and old have been ...well you get it. I guess thank you to all you bikers. It has been an amazing ride. Literally. Still can't believe how old I am or how long I have been doing this. I suck at it so there is that. But I don't think you are supposed to be good at it to be honest. That would cheapen it. Its a lifestyle. Period. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ride On

"The drums will shake the castle wall, the Ringwraiths ride in black, Ride On..." any time you wake up to Robert Plant singing the Battle of Everymore in your head you know its going to be a good day! At 5 am Saturday I popped out of bed without even remotely considering hitting the snooze button. No way was I missing the Fundo. The JAM Fundo is a sick dirt road ride in western mass put on by Jeremy Powers, Al Donahue and Mukunda as a fundraiser for their JAM foundation which supports local riders. It has turned into a veritable cx season kick off party. Its like one giant High School reunion for the NECX. This is my third year doing it and even if I just went for the bbq and party it would be one of the best days you could ever spend. But the ride. Wow. I live in a pretty flat and somewhat boring road riding region. Not boring in that it isn't nice but that's it, its just ok. Its great for cross but not so good for training for anything with hills. And I have sort of been single speeding all summer. Which is both good and bad. The course is about 50% dirt and 50% road on some of the nicest roads in western mass. And the JAM family comes out big time to support the event. There were three water stops and the now infamous ice cream truck stop! Huge thanks to all of the JAM folks and their families for making this such a great event!

So back to my early rising to Robert Plants screaming in my head...I picked up Nick and Tammy and rolled up. We got there pretty early. Early enough to witness Mike Golay turn into Cornholio via some turkish coffee they were handing out. He was CRUNKED on caffeine! He is a high energy guy anyway and seeing him all jacked up got me so stoked. Anthony came by with fresh fried dough aka donuts and I had to have a few...its the Fundo after all. We rolled out in a mass start from Eds farm and got our Fundo on. I think there was about 300-400 riders. It was a pretty impressive sight when it would stretch out. My plan was ride with Nick. Nick is a really good friend and someone who I could literally hang out with all day so it was a good strategy. It also was pretty strategic in that Nick is on form right now! He crushed the hills. It took me a solid 20 miles to kick start my engine. Weird. Its funny how beer drinking and single speeding just doesn't give you good road fitness...who knew? But it does give you bike skillz which would come in real handy later in the day. More on that later!

So the fast people went off fast. And the rest of us just rode our pace. Nick and I started picking up some people. We sort of grouped up into a wolf pack with some like minded folks. Nick protected me early on and kept me mashing gears. I went up Kings highway faster than the last two years but damn if I didn't almost puke midway up it. We ended up in a group that could have been its own rolling NAHBS: Rock Lobster, Zank, Zank. Commonwealth...that is some serious bike bling right there! At the first water stop Jeremy Powers comes looking for me. JPOW "Chip, dude do you have those pills?" VCB "ummm endurloytes?" JPOW "Yeah dude you have the Hammer pills right?" Oh dear god. Does my reputation really precede me like this? I guess if you are on a belgie-phile cx team you will be a defacto pusher won't you? That or maybe its the masters doper thing? I pushed those dark thoughts aside and went looking for Nick cause I popped my two and gave the other two to Bramhall. I asked Nick if he'd opened his packet of Hammer salt pills. He says yes. I was like um do you have two left by any chance? He tells me no he took all 4 at the start? Ummm holy shit. No wonder he was flying up those hills. So I failed my reputation as a masters doper and let JPOW down. I felt bad. Then I ate some peanut butter and fluff sandwiches and felt good. But note to self. Self you have a reputation. Don't let people down ; ) Next time I put the whole bottle in a ziplock baggie like any good doper...

After the first rest stop we group up with a bunch of people who got lost in the shuffle. The start can be a bit chaotic so its nice to be able to regroup. We got back into a nice group and then things started getting weird. We were pace lining. I am thinking in my head "single speeders do not pace line" We are going pretty fast and coming through people again. We start climbing another sweet dirt road and I start chatting up some guy. I say how great these roads are. He gets all serious and is like oh you won't like the downhill on the other side of this. I was like dude I love this shit. Then he gives me grief saying wait til you see it you will hate it. Whatevahs its the Fundo. You can't hate any of it. We crest and Bramhall and Jabs get to the front and we do down it no brakes. Frickin flying. Gravity is my friend. I never say no to the free ride. We make the turn onto pavement and I tell those boys how much I love them and their badass descending skills. 

At that pavement section we are so close to the ice cream truck you can almost hear that siren song calling you to those frozen delights...again with the pace lining. I am finally coming around thanks to Nick, Jabs and Bramhall and the fluffernutter sandwiches. I am actually bummed we are stopping again as my legs are finally working but who would roll through an ice cream stop? Not someone who wants to have fun that is who. And I am all about the fun on the FUNdo. I go with a bomb pop as I do not want to risk a dairy disaster at this point. Its about 80 degrees and the air quality is horrible. I filled water bottles and we headed back out. We regrouped this time into a nice mix of HUP and the ladies of the NECX. Carrie, Kate, Lauren and a couple of other ladies who I haven't met before. They were so great. It made the group so much more fun. The pace lining thankfully stopped and we kicked into a more social pace. At one point I was having a great conversation with the Duchess of Dirt as we railed down some dirt road. But what made it so great was that here we are flying over rocks and dirt and just talking. And neither one of us is freaking out about the dirt or rocks cause we ride mtn bikes. Sure mtn biking may not give you the best legs early on on for one of these rides but it pays HUGE fun dividends when the real riding starts. It was so great to catch up with Lauren and hear about all her adventures this summer. She is one of the coolest ladies in the whole NECX. So proud of how well her women's road team has gone this summer. She is such a great mentor and ambassador for cycling

The rest of the ride was a blast. We had one little crash and a couple of the boys ended up in a sort of dark place on the last run in but we all survived and had smiles on our faces when we got back to Ed's farm. And being able to grab an ice cold Beer of the Gods and hop into an ice cold shower with your friends was priceless. Best day of the summer on a bike. HUGE thanks to JPOW, Mukunda, Al, Molly, Anthony, France, Ed, Will, Kenny, all the families who came out to support it, the riders, the ice cream truck ladies, Lynne everyone! You all rock. Amazing job. This year was so great. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Addicted to Cross

My name is Velocb and I am a cross addict. Had a really funny conversation at the Fundo with a couple of the ladies of the NECX about our "commitment" to cx. Its a conversation lots of us are having right now. Some are chomping at the bit. Others don't want summer and the fun riding to end too soon. I jokingly made the comment "but has it affected your lifestyle?" It got hilarious after that.

And then I woke up to an article about gambling addiction in the Globe. So here you go. As a warm up for this cx season take this test to see if you are truly a Cross addict or just a poser...and the only cure my friend is more cowbell....sorry but its true

Seek Help When:

• You always think about Cross

• You spend money on Cross that you need for other things

• You keep doing Cross even though you may feel bad afterward

• You get nervous when you try to quit Cross

• You need to race Cross more often to get the same buzz

• You lose Cross races, but you return to chase the losses by racing even more

• You spend work, school or family time racing Cross

• You tell lies to hide your Cross addiction

• You lose a job, educational opportunity or a relationship because of Cross

• You find that no matter how hard you try, you can't stop

Can't Stop, Won't Stop....sorry my friends we are all screwed! See you at Larz in the am real soon!

Hup! Hup!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hup! Hup!

So much cx stoke on Hup right now! The ladies just got some sweet new custom women's specific kit...they may be nicknamed shark stylish and look like superhero suits. The women are so psyched for cx. Its almost infectious when someone else is that excited about cx. I tend to be fairly excitable as is but when other people get just as geeked out as I am it kicks my own natural cx stoke to 11...We got in some good laps out at Cutler Thursday night. Its time to get out as a team and get those cx skills back. Thursdays are starting to be my favorite night of the week....Hup! Hup!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confessions of a Hamfist

My name is Velocb and I am a Hamfist...there I said it. My friends have threatened to take my tools away. And that is no joke as I own a BALLER Pedros Master Tool kit. So I have the tools to be a good mechanic but I don't have the tools to be a good mechanic if you know what I mean. Its weird. The more experienced I have become the more a danger I become to myself and fine bike parts. Last night I almost turned a $120 Campy front derailer into a paper weight. I somewhat blame Campy. I mean I am a hamfist but please. Why would you put a spacer on a bolt that doesn't match up to your own frickin band clamp? And then why would said spacer not be easily removable? So that is on Campy. The rest isn't. So it didn't match up. Instead of backing away, like a Silverback Gorilla named Mongo I started smashing things. Mongo smash. Tighten bolt til threads are splinter all over the place.

FML. It happened again. So The Hamfist once again reared its ugly head. I panicked. Then texted The Wilcox. Then called The Wilcox. He sounded tired. Granted it was 10:30 and he'd been at work all day. But he loves me so....Shit I felt bad. He talked me off the ledge. I found a water bottle cage bolt and used that. And guess what? It worked.

Pam rolled into the man cave (aka Garage bay) just as this was all blowing up. No wife should have to see their manny throwing bike tools around a garage when they are supposed to be watching children. Well the children were asleep but you know what I am saying. As always she made the mood light. She rolled down her window and asked for a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake...god I love that woman.

So once again I have been saved by my friends and the love of my life. Today we got to get a great road ride. That fubar'd front derailed held up. Shifted great. I called my other mechanic friend---dear god how many mechanic friends do I have? I may be a mechanic stalker. I mean I know housewives who are dr stalkers. Makes sense. And for me it makes a LOT of sense to have a bunch of PRO level wrenches on speed dial. Nigel would have drug dealers I have mechanics. Perfect. So apparently some drilling out of the derailer is necessary. In his words if it blows up I won't die. But do I want to be half way through the Fundo and have to ride in on a 34? No I don't think so. To all my mechanic friends...thank you from the bottom of my grimy Hamfist heart...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ghost Riding NTF

A tree took my Mala...A worthy sacrifice to the tree gods in NTF. So many thoughts flowing this summer. Zero time to put them down. So yeah I love my Zank 29er. And I love that its a single speed. Why do I love singlespeeding? Not because its cool. You have met me do I look like I give a rats ass about being cool?

So what is so great about it. Its an amazing teacher. You learn about momentum. You learn to ratchet. What is ratcheting? More people should learn to do it less derailers would get snapped off. You learn to track stand. Ok I can't track stand but I can sit still on a rock and balance for a second without freaking out and then make a move. You learn to ride up shit by going fast and attacking.

Basically singlespeeding in NTF becomes these 40 second to 1 minute bursts of full on power to get over all the rocks and step ups. I think that might be a pretty good weapon come cx season.

Still have fear in my heart. Won't lie about that. But its coming around. Learning to trust the bike more and more. Mikey built a gem when he put torch to this steel and made it one of the finest bikes I have ever ridden.

And for the record I am not a zealot. I see a lot of advantage to one gear. It really makes you focus. Strips it all down. But I am ready for some gears. I am thinking a nice 1 x 10 set up. Its what Adam Craig would do....I refuse to wear baggies though. Never. Ever.

Friday, July 6, 2012


Needham Town Forest. Where axe head rocks are born. My own personal windmill and shame for the last seven years. It is literally a mile from my house. It puts fear in my heart. But its also a mountain bike playground. All the gnar you can find and more. Plus some pretty nice trails too. Went in with 3 of my friends Thursday night as an extension of the Cutler Enduro ride. I somehow was the only one who came out of there unbloodied. I thank my Zank 29er. And The Wilcox and Jon Nable for showing me how it is done. Mountain biking should be done with friends. It just lends itself to way too much hilarity to be done alone. Alone everything seems like its trying to kill you. With your friends you ride more of the techy stuff.

Sure I did almost kill two of my friends. Well one really. Jon hit the tree on his own. Although my chattering in his ear as he dropped off a 20 foot boulder/slash dirt chute may have distracted him from the task at hand. He hit the tree half way down, unclipped (thank god) jumped off the bike and landed like a cat on a rock outcropping gripping a sapling to avoid falling twenty feet onto a pile of rocks.

With the Wilcox it would have been more directly my doing as I suggested we try this "fun" trail. We were pretty punch drunk at this point. Not dronk, punch drunk. All the punchy up and down and technical stuff wears you down. And it was hot. We had been riding for while. And I remembered this fun boulder descent out of NTF back towards High Rock. I stopped halfway and got out of David's way. He passed me and took the wrong line. Like really wrong line. Towards a cliff! He stopped at the edge in a nose wheelie. He somehow got the rear end back down. Then just stood in a track stand for what seems like forever. You could tell he was plotting his next move. Sort of like in the movies when the car goes over the edge of the cliff and hangs there. He unclipped stepped on the boulder and almost slipped off and died. The rock was that slippery. He walked back towards us laughing his ass off.

Ian took a few knocks as well. One off a 2 x 4 and once endoing over a log and hitting a tree. NTF does not mess about. As dangerous as it seemed or was the scariest part was of course back on the road dealing with SUVs and runners etc. But what an amazing time. I need more of that. Mountain biking is incredible. My whole outlook has changed. And I really owe it all to the Zank, my friends and NTF. Oh and Shimano Xt brakes? I love you. I am building a little shrine to all things Shimano in the man cave. I will light votive candles and thank them for saving the Wilcox.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer break

Summer break was awesome. This year I brought 3 bikes. The Zank, my Seven and the Rock Lobster. Our trip to Brewster typically signals the start of cx season. Or the time to start thinking about cx season. But I am hooked on the Zank. Its really the only bike I want to ride right now. The fact that Myette had just been down and was texting me pictures of black mambas warming on logs and going on about the sick single track didn't help me start thinking about cx. At. All. And I brought my running shoes. The only bike I rode until the day we left was the Zank 29er ss. I never found that black mamba but I found some insane loamy single track. It was like riding in Gnarnia. Fun logs to hop, great twisty trails, perfect for a single speed 29er.

Then I would come home and ride with Zoe. The Seven Sola has become her bike. She has had her usual summer growth spurt and is now taller than me. She is 11 by the way. And the Seven is actually a touch too small for her. But she loves it. We rode 10 miles each day. Those rides were the best rides I have ever been on. She loves riding. And seeing her so confident and stoked rocks.

But the party as they say is over. My cx alarm clock went off with a vengeance on July 1st. Everyone's did. Matt sent out the first shot heard round the world and it set everyone to levels of cross insanity that is unprecedented for July. July 2nd I went running. Mark your calendars. I am in good hands. My running coach is a badass. To say I am lucky to have her mentoring me and my attempts at not sucking at running in cx is an understatement. For the record when ever a cyclist hears the word running they freak out. Ok I sort of get it but we are talking about cross running. Not jogging. My plan is to build a base. Well to get fit as I never run and the one mile on the track felt like death. Once I am fit I am going fast. I want to be a sprinter not a 5k runner. I want to fly over the barriers this year. And for once turn the screws on the roadies when we hit the runups. There is no greater feeling than that. Well maybe taking a bacon cupcake on the top of the runup but that is a whole other blog post.

So you have been served notice! This is your cross wake up call. My plan is to do something for cross every day in July. Get the bike ready. Contact sponsors about the Zanconato sscx series and Night Weasels. Find and get rid of the damn creak that is plaguing the Rock Lobster. Obsess on gearing. All that jazz...Cx season is 6 weeks away. What have you done for cross today?