Photo by Liz Chabot Allen
Newsflash blogging isn't dead. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (ok maybe Tumblr in a lesser degree) have lured many to the Darkside. Those that need to blog, still blog. Mostly just to exercise our creativity in ways that the other media do not support. Lots of us have to write. Have to. Its in our DNA. I will never stop. Twitter of all the social media is near and dear to me. Its a water cooler of sorts. And at times it can create some of the most hilarious content possible. It has recently given us #notoriousjunk and #porktits. You can't make this stuff up. Its a way for us to keep this bike game light and to build and grow the community. Let's face it bike racing is hard. To be half way decent it is really hard. And to race against people who have been training and racing all summer long and on diets of hot water with lemon and kale chips with zero training and even less sleep is much harder. #notoriousjunk was a hashtag that was created after Providence. ENGVT (or NOFUNVT as those in the MACistan like to call them) have a very how you say revealing kit. Some kits are more transparent than others. White is obviously very see thru. But red and orange can both be very see thru. I still remember over hearing a phone conversation between the marketing director of Marin Mtn Bikes and Marla Streb. Basically she was telling him that she was going to have to do some serious bikini waxing to make the kit even remotely safe for podium photos.
But this is what makes cycling so absurdly beautiful. We stuff ourselves into skintight lycra ( I LIKE SPANDEX!) and hurl ourselves unto the breach on any given sunday. Some of us show too much. Whether its because we are naturally gifted, we ordered a size smaller than necessary or perhaps we had a few too many bon bons over the summer. I race on a faux Belgian team who's most epic kit is as white as fresh tracks on St Moritz. But the photo of Gewilli over the barriers at Providence with his CXboner launched a new twitter handle. Its awkward to follow a twitter handle dedicated to a friends junk. It takes a person comfortable in their own skin. And someone who has a sense of humor. As I stated earlier this is what we need to keep CX growing. And to avoid the implosion that has happened to both road and mtn biking over the last couple of decades. Cross is something special. The Zank SSCX Series (or the New England SSCX Series as Ron from Mansfield called it!) has championed this from day one. Make it for the people. Make it easy to race. Zip ties are cool. You want to do some crazy mod to make your bike a SSCX? Go for it. My CX season has been a disaster. Year's past I have at least done some CX training. Not this year. Why bother? Um because SSCX racing as I have learned is WAY harder than geared racing. Gear selection is ridiculously important. Who knew? Racing a SS Mtn Bike is easy. It is like soul surfing. Racing (and I am talking about actually racing not partying) SSCX is brutal. To stay in contact with the group you need a HUGE gear. As I learned in spades on Saturday at Mansfield.
I know its odd that a co-promoter of a SSCX series has very little actual experience racing SSCX. Its true. I have been too busy the last couple of years helping herd the cats at the races to actually race the SSCX. But this year I have been really stoked to do it. Lots of reasons. The CT CX Metal Mafia is probably the biggest influence. One of our newest HUP members Nate is another. Matt and Nate both race against geared riders on SSCX. Then race the SSCX. Insane. There will be a sledge hammer award at the end of the season for those two. To be clear, I race SS mtn bikes. Love it. But SS Mtn Bike and SSCX couldn't be more different. I have participated in the SSCX race every year at Ice Weasels. But come on, if you are racing the SSCX race at Ice Weasels you are doing it wrong. 90% of the field are #dronk. It is a keg party where a cross race breaks out. Last year Leah and I raced it on the Zank SS mtn bike. I am pretty sure we were the inspiration for the CX Madison at Providence. Of course we were. But I have never raced SSCX. This year has been my first season doing it. And its complicated. Its "fun" but you only have one gear. You have to pick the right one. Or you will be riding alone. For a long, long time. My CX racing style is sort of a hybrid NECX meets mtn biker meets Tokyo drift. I come into corners way too hot, slam the brakes on (or don't touch them) then accelerate out. I do a ton of micro shifting. Its one of the reasons I love SRAM. It lends itself to that style with double tap. And I love the big ring on paved sections.
But SSCX isn't like that. People (Not sure who exactly) have been critical of our technical director and his love of the zip tie. They say its cheating. A geared rider can pre-ride, pick a gear and then set it. Yeah what ever. That is ridiculous. To be good at SSCX you just have to pick the biggest gear you can and realize you are going to suck at lots of spots on the course but will have a big enough gear that you can dust people on the flats and power sections. I have been gearing myself to get rad. Aka a gear that allows me to shred corners and to ride the hills etc. Yeah that has not been working out so great. I even consulted Sheldon Brown's gear calculator to mirror Nate's and Lolli's gear ratio. Then Lolli tweets he is running a 15t cog. FML. So we line up. Ron gives us a pep talk. An official "checks" that we are all locked out. Then we go. And Gewilli doesn't clip in. And is in the CBLZ. Not good for the big man. And then he clips in and goes to warp factor 10. Umm yeah so 34x15 vs 46x17 isn't even a contest. I am basically DFL and spinning like a hamster by the first turn. FANtastic. But CX has turns, and barriers and stuff. So at the 3rd turn I am back at the back. And then I hear people screaming "BARRIERS" WTF? Is this a CRW Saturday am ride where everyone yells out HOLE at the slightest crack in the road? But know I have hope. Oh goodie, people who don't actually race cross. Maybe.
I am somehow in sight of Abel. And Matt and Doug. This seems odd. But then I hear ROYter scream that I am so far off the back its not even funny. I know man but I have this shitty spiny gear. Then he starts heckling me to hop the barriers. He knows I can't hop barriers. Its almost cruel at this point to go there. But I keep battling. Its horrible. People shouldn't have to race SSCX sober. I keep thinking please baby cheezits this is a grassroots jungle CX race, please let someone offer me a Handup. No handups, just hate and heckles. So I see how it is. So I keep racing. My groin is fucked. I can barely get on and off. And the heckles keep raining down. Liz shows some mercy on me and yells positive encouragement. I love you Liz! I hate you Colin!!!! So long story short after 2 laps its a Fate Complete. No way I am catching Abel. And no way anyone behind me is catching me. On a geared bike you can hammer and go harder. Not on a SSCX. Once a gap is formed it is ALL over. Yes it hurt. Yes I suck at SSCX. But now, thanks to Brian aka the devil, I want a dedicated SSCX. Zip ties are fine. But a dedicated bike is cooler. And if I pimp it out and put a massive gear on it who knows!!!! Maybe everyone will be #dronk and I will crush them at Ice Weasels!
HUGE props to my good friend Leslie for trying SSCX and being a trooper. She did awesome. And is really one of my favorite people at the CX races. Next stop on this Zank SSCX World Tour is Orchard CX. I can't even wait.