Monday, April 29, 2013

Boston Strong

I rarely if ever get political on this blog. This space is really a celebration of all things two wheeled and bike culture. But the events of the past weeks are still with us even if we have gone back to "normal." The Marathon bombings effected us all. We all came out of it "ok" but there were some really, really close calls. One of my best friends wive's was about 200 yards from one of the blasts and was knocked down, another good friend's friends were severely injured. The shootout and final apprehension of the bombers was about 100 yards from Seven HQ. Their parking area was used as a tactical center as the Police engaged the bomber hiding in the boat. I have been through some crazy events. Loma Prieta Earthquake, Oakland fire but this one struck so close to home. Even though I grew up here and am a card carrying Townie I still sort of identify as a West Coaster. Norcal to be specific. Always hold that place at heart as my center. But Boston and New England are funny. This place gets a hold of you and it doesn't let go. After the bombings there was no doubt in my mind. I am from Boston. I used to get a fair amount of grief from my cousins when I was a kid. They lived in Rozzie (Roslindale). Rozzie is Boston, in all its grit and toughness. I would say I was from Boston and they would laugh at me.

We all were on the edge after the bombings. We also sort of softened as we all came together. The running joke was how long do we have to wait before we can all go back to being Massholes. I think 48 hours was the actual time frame. That kid in the photo above, Mr Thom Parsons, aka Ultraenduryoguy, is 100% singlespeed badass. He is one of the handful of people who got me into singlespeeding. Ok let's rewind for a second. I did give it a go wayyy back in SF. And I hated it. I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever did. But here on the East Coast we are doing more woods biking than mountain biking. The singlespeed has changed everything. Thom actually took me into NTF and gave me some legit skills. I still think it was a public service to keep me from killing myself. SSPalooza is a totally unique mountain bike race. It is a singlespeed only mountain bike race. It is by far the coolest race I have ever done. It is held in Stewart Forest in NY. Stewart may be where the 29er ss was born. It is Valhalla to singlespeeders. Swoopy radness that just begs you to lay off the brakes and shred. This was my second time doing the race. And it was all I could think about for weeks. We had a HUGE crew heading down from Boston. Team Awesome rented a party van, HUP had two cars caravanning. Ok we started out caravanning and then Carrie smoked me. And I thought I drove fast. Thom and Will Crissman were there, the whole Zank nation. It was beyond awesome.

We all pulled into Darkhorse Cycles about the same time. That is the beauty of superphones and Garmins. Upon arriving we quickly realized we only had one functional bike in the car. Seized is not a word you want to hear muttered from the mechanic as he looks at your friends eccentric bb that said friend is supposed to race on in 17 hours. George from DH who is the promoter of the race spent about 4 hours wrestling with Todd's bb. Pretty much took years off his life. They lent Todd a Specialized SS that was the bike one of their shop guys was going to race the next day. DD (David Deitch) was muttering about a defective Schwalbe tire. It had a huge gash across its sidewall exposing the casing. It was brand new. Never ridden. He pretty much is cursed. His track record with Schwable tires is horrible. So we tried to deal with that disaster as best we could. Or Todd and David did while I hung out with Ray and checked out his sick Schwinn. He basically had a version of the bikes Joe Breeze and Otis Guy raced at Repack. Ray has a whole lot of style that is all I am going to say. After checking that bike out for a while I notice Andy's Seven. Beautiful Seven 29er with lazer etched logos. We all finally got kitted up and rolled out from the shop. Did I mention the shop is 10 minutes from the best trails for riding singlespeeds on the planet? Yeah how many bike shops are that close to trails? Pretty sweet. DD starts saying he hopes his chain stays on the cog. I pretty much ignore all this talk as I am so stoked to finally be on a bike and ready to shred.

We start rolling up the first fireroad and Dave's chain drops. This cycle continues for the next 11 miles. It gets interesting at some points as at about the 500th time the chain falls off DD starts a pretty epic bike throw contest. The trails are too nice to get distracted by a bike being tossed into the woods. Until it dawns on me that we actually need that bike to get back to the shop. So I suggest we cut this short and head back to a fireroad and cut our losses. Then we bump into Team Awesome. Have I mentioned how AWESOME Team Awesome are? Pretty much the raddest team on the planet. We didn't bump into the whole team just Ray and Phil. That is weird I thought. Then it got weirder. Apparently they lost one of the women they were riding with. I have seen this on The Walking Dead. It doesn't usually end well. We all regroup and head back. When we get to the Dark Horse she is sitting in a lounge chair drinking a cold beer and talking to "Donny" Donny is a very charming man from PA. His wingman, who I have forgotten his name, is a rather dashing Southern Gentleman and is showing off a pair or red leather chaps. Thankfully he left his Levi's on. They all seem very excited about the chaps. While nice we have more pressing things to deal with. George emerges from the shop with Todd's bike. He has somehow saved it. DD puts a new tire and new cog on his bike and tightens it all up. Our race has been saved. Thank you George and DH Cycles! 

That night we do what all self respecting people do at SSPalooza. We go to the Cauldron for dinner! They have an oxygen bar and the walls are painted blood red. Its like something out of Blue Velvet. We spend about 3 hours there. Todd inhales a meatball faster than I think humanly possible. This meatball will cause Todd problems. Obviously. Many things happen that must never be mentioned again. Other than as cautionary tales. We get up early and all hit the diner and load up on eggs and bacon. Everyone knows singlespeeding requires lots and lots of bacon! At the venue we are taking what I call a "casual" approach to lining up. A whole swarm of racers are lined up. I am still talking to Ray and Bob. Someone yells or sets off a canon and we roll out. Now unlike other racing where you "hammer" from the start and things go from bad to worse real fast we all only have one gear. If you picked a big gear you can maybe go sort of fast. Riding a singlespeed two miles up a gravel fire road is hilarious. You can only go 160 rpm for so long. I just tried to stay with Ryan and avoid running over Bob again. A story for another post perhaps. Its a very civilized roll out. I might even call it a parade lap. Then we hit the singletrack. Hahaha it goes insane. But you are in a conga line and its SSPalooza and mountain biking and the first and only rule is to not be a douche. No chopping wheels, none of that Cat 3 closing the door or yelling at each other. But we are going full out now. We quickly start catching the Open women. I feel sort of bad but I need to keep moving up. I am afraid Todd and his meatball watts are coming for me.

I still see Ryan, then he does what Ryan does and just hits the warp factor 9 and is gone in a blink of an eye. The course is perfect for me. Literally perfect. Let me pause for a second and go back to the title of the post. The post title came to me while I was racing. It really became a mantra. Not in the sense of all the loss and pain we suffered and how we were strong in dealing with it but how Boston makes you strong. This Town hardens you. Not in a bad way. To outsiders we seem uncouth and rough. We swear a lot, we have weird accents, we dress terribly. But we are strong. And as a biker all the crazy riding we do makes us stronger. Stewarts trails are buffed. Literally. None of the nasty leaves and sticks we ride over every time we go mountain biking. We ride on horrible trails. Horrible. But they make you strong. So as I am flying over this stuff and doing things that I never thought possible I just thought about how lucky we are to be this strong. And not just as individuals but as a pack. We had so many riders down for SSPalooza. Its an unsanctioned race so they have their own categories. Open men/women, NY (north of NY), NJ (south of NJ) and fat bike. At the end when I was passing a guy he asked me if I was from NY or NJ. I said neither. I am from Boston. It was pretty funny. I rode everything. Thom taught me well. And I have stalked him ever since and listen to what he says about riding a singlespeed. You can't ride it like a geared bike. It makes you better because you attack things. To be good on technical terrain you have to attack it. Use momentum to get over everything. I had a couple of close calls. An Open women hooked a tree right as we dropped off a shale ledge. Thank god her bike swung out and open or I would have wrecked hard.

I started catching riders who started ahead of us or got ahead of me. Ryan was having a brutal day. I think he had two front flats. Abel was on the side of the trail. Deitch's bike was holding up but his stomach was not happy with him. I somehow felt great. When people heckle mountain bikers and say "People race mountain bikes?" They really are missing the point. I guess racing office park crits has more glory than I know about. Road racing is all about watts and fitness. I get it I really do. A mountain bike race is like a MMA match. It is all about attrition. You get kicked in the head. Repeatedly. Fast guys who should win hit trees, or they flat out, or their body cracks. You never know what is going to happen. That is why I love it. And you have to be smart. There is an aggression you need to have but if you are stupid or lose your concentration you end up in the trees or worse. I know I will sound like a dirty hippy but this Zen state is what I love about it. I really do.

At the beer/water stop I saw Jon Nabel cracked to pieces drinking a beer. He had tried to latch onto the Myette, Rosey, Aumiller Team TT and had paid the price. Those three were flying. Rumors of Matt and Rosey calling Zank mid-race to sort out the finish order may be untrue but I like to envision them ala Mapei heading into the velodrome at Roubaix. It was a beautiful thing to see Myette back to his old self and shredding after his horrible crash at Sterling last cross season. He won the Sport NY and brought home a gorgeous Trophy. Everyone had such a great time. Carrie who got a brand new Honey 650b the day before we left kicked ass. She came in top 10 in Sport Women! On a bike she had ridden twice. I don't think she had ever even ridden a singlespeed before. Much respect! And Leah..what can I say about Kittenbat. OMG. She esplodes her jersey moments before we leave the hotel but doesn't freak out. She shreds! Does this years race an HOUR faster than last year!!! Amazing.

What a way to kick off the 2013 #GETINTHEVAN World Tour. Not sure what our next stop is. HUP camp is next weekend so there is that. Then I will be counting the days til The Stewart 6-Pack. When I die I hope Valkyries come down swoop me up and take me to Stewart. Its better than any Mead Hall in Valhalla of this I am sure.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ronde Slayer

I like to name my bikes. Usually the bike names itself. Not all bikes get a name. Its not some ritualistic thing. Not all bikes are name worthy. Some are just tools which is ok. The HUP Honey isn't just any bike. It is a very special machine. Honey is the vision of Rob Vandermark, Founder and CEO of Seven Cycles. Honey was born from the idea to make pure and simple steel bikes. Bikes that are meant to be ridden. I have known Rob and the Seven team for a long time. I am always staggered by how much talent and creativity they have stored in that shop in Watertown, Mass. Rob's ability to take a rider's numbers (sizing and fit numbers) and concept of what they envision using the bike for and turn it into a dream bike is incredible. The Ronde Slayer is my second HUP Honey. A couple of years ago Rob came to us and asked if we would be interested in a run of HUP Honey CX bikes. Very limited edition, each bike was named after a Sven Nys victory. They were gorgeous. And rode as nice or nicer than their Blanco paint jobs. 

I have been home for 8 years. I was an ex-pat living in San Francisco prior to that. Cyclocross in Northern California is very different than cylocross in New England. Not saying one is better than the other just point out my experience. The last 8 years have reawakened my passion for cyclocross. Its hard to be in New England surrounded by the #NECX and not become totally addicted to cross. Its certainly changed me and my views on the sport. In Norcal, I pursued it much more as an offseason, fun activity. But here in New England it is a year round obsession. We all think about CX 24/7. We plot and scheme, we ride our cx bikes year round. I would say the two biggest shifts for me have been riding a cx bike all year round and more importantly riding a cx bike everywhere, and on any terrain. This last statement gets some of my more "extreme" aka skilled mountain biker friends in an uproar. When I call a cx bike a do everything bike I truly believe it. But I am no more going to ride my bike off or over some axe head rock garden, like I attempt to do with my 29er, and expect a good outcome. But you can ride a cx bike anywhere if you use your head! Important distinction I believe.

This concept of riding your cross bike everywhere and all year is what gave birth to the Ronde de Rosey. Linking up trails and parks and all manner of woods is a blast on a cx bike. But to do so you need a cross bike that is purpose built for it. I am not talking major changes to a race bike. I used to always believe cross bikes should be racing only. No water bottle cage braze ons, no fender mounts, aggressive geometry. I still believe the geometry of a racing bike should stay the same. When Rob and I talked about this new HUP Honey CX I asked for the same thing I always ask for with a cross bike. Fast, Stiff, Light, able to carve turns and still be stable and rock solid on crazy dropoffs and off camber sections. You can make all the materials work well for a cx bike. But for me steel is the nicest. It doesn't have to be heavy. It really doesn't. Modern steel is a beautiful thing. The bike as ridden at the Ronde de Rosey was 17.5 pounds for a 52 cm. That is pretty nice. What is even nicer is reaching down to grab a right sized diameter top tube. This may sound silly. But so much of cx is about the transitions. Barriers, runnups all the fun stuff. Or all of that jazz as I like to say. I forget when exactly I had to grab the tt during the Ronde, it was probably about an hour in. But we came up to a stone wall that was too high to hop. So I swung my leg over and put my hand on the tt. Oh that is nice I instantly thought. I have small hands. Being able to grab the tt with a full grip is nice. And it makes for an easy portaging of the bike.

Other than asking Rob for a "dream bike" I had a couple of very specific requests that departed from my old way of thinking. One, I wanted braze ons for water bottle cages. Yes, its nice to have the downtube and seatube clean and sans braze ons. But not at the price of going without the ability to put two water bottles on the bike. We have been having so much fun exploring on our bikes. 2-4 hour rides in the woods and roads. I am not stylistically against a camelback but its not as comfortable. And all our rides tend to pop back out into nice towns where you can refill water bottles. I like this. I like feeling unencumbered and filling my jersey pockets with the important things like rice cakes and pastries. It makes for a very relaxed ride. The other detail was downtube cable routing. In the old days we liked the cables along the tt. Theory being it would keep them out of the mud and the shifting would be better. This never bore out and in fact downtube routing shifts way better and lasts longer.

The paint is inspired by the Belgian flag obviously. The amount of detail Staci put into it is mind boggling. I won't lie. When you are totally suffering and you look down at the bike it is impossible to not get a smile on your face. I can't even wait to race it next Fall. For now I will have to be happy riding in the woods and taking it on nice dirt roads. We have been talking about D2R2 like we always do, but this bike may be what finally gets me there.

This bike happened in large part to so many of my friends pitching in to make it happen. Rob pushed the design and came out with the great formula for the bike. Mike S built it, Matt O'Keefe prepped the parts, Staci painted it, Rob built it up at the Ride Studio the day before the Ronde! And Roger picked it up that night and delivered it to me the next morning. In any other situation I would have been freaking out. But I trust my friends. They are so PRO its not even funny. I left it all to them. That am as we pulled up to the Washington Square Tavern all geeked out on coffee and the excitement of riding all day on our cx bikes all I could think about was that bike. I pulled it out of the van hopped on and voila. Perfect. I took two laps up and down Washington Street just to see how it felt. Felt like a bike I have been riding for years! Felt like home. The bike had soul. Why mince words. That is very important to me. And filled me with total confidence. The Ronde chews up bikes, parts and riders. We passed so many riders that day with sheared off deraillers, broken chains, broken bodies from crashes.

It didn't even occur to me to hesitate or not ride the way I usually ride. On the first trail sector I could tell what a special bike this is. Steel to me just rides so nicely. It can be stiff and smooth at the same time. That is its true magic. We had to climb some nasty fireroad strewn with big rocks and gravel and the bike just powered up the climb. When we got to the top there was a ripper of a descent on the back side of the hill. Tight and twisty with roots and water bars scattered about. I was able to bomb down it in total control. Hopping the water bars and shredding the corners. To be honest at that point I just let the bike do its job. I never once had to stop on the ride to adjust a thing. One of my friends texted me after the ride. His text read "You are sneaky fast in the woods." Yep. And I have the HUP Honey to thank for that. Riding a CX bike in the woods is more flow and technique than smashing through stuff like on a mountain bike. Very bad things can happen if you try and ride your cx bike like your mtn bike in the woods. The Honey was smooth enough to flow over the rough terrain but still stiff enough to be nimble to accelerate out of corners and to hop over logs and rocks that came up too fast to avoid.

So to recap. I never crashed once, never had a mechanical, never had to stop to adjust anything. The only time we had to stop was towards the end. I was leading through Ridge Hill with Roger and a Broadway guy right on my wheel. The trail is pretty fast but its tight. Has one decent drop off and has lots of rocks that want to smash you. You really have to pick a good line through it. This was at about hour 6 on the day. One of steels greatest qualities is it does not beat you up. Even after 6 hours I felt great. No back pain, no neck pain. Still fresh. So we are flying through this sector with about 20 guys tagging along. We get to the end and pop out and look around. Its like the other 17 guys had been abducted by aliens. Gone. We waited. And waited. Nothing. So we rolled on. Looks like as they were chasing one of them hit a rock and took the whole conga line out. My poor teammate got the worst of it. By the time I saw DD in NTF he looked like he had been mauled by a bear.  These are the traits you dream of in a cx bike. But how did it do on the road sections? A trail carving, bump absorbing cross machine should be whippy and too flexible on the road right? Not this bike. It has massive chainstays. There is black magic in them. I am sure of it. On the road the bike responded like my Scandium road bike. Fast and quick and climbed fantastically. Even up one of the most brutal climbs on the route. I ended up climbing Prospect Hill with the Vagiants. Vagiant=Vampyre+Giant. Or a Giant Vampyre. Pretty scary. And they ride like Giants to say the least. Dana Prey, Sara Bresnick, Mo Bruno Roy, and their ringer Andrea Smith. That is a whole lot of World Cup CX and Mtn Biking experience right there. Two National Champions. Fast and strong ladies to say the least.

The bike climbed admirably. No deflection, no brake flex. Just floated up that nasty hill and let me enjoy talking with them and catching up. They are some of my favorite people in the world so it was nice to be able to ride with them even if it was only for a short while. The HUP Honey did slay the Ronde. Kept me safe, made the ride so much fun. It is the nicest cx bike I have ever owned. Still need to soak it all in and take it on more long rides. I am going to say it right here so I can't back out! Rob, Roger and I will be doing this year's D2R2. It will be a blast. Might follow that up with a little IronCross. As much as this bike was built to contest cyclocross races in one of the toughest regions in the Nation it seems like such a shame to only ride it for 45 minutes!

Monday, April 15, 2013

All Along The Watchtowers

The title of this easily could have been With a Little Help From my Friends. But that is a bit long and I actually had a LOT of help from my friends with this years Ronde. The Ronde de Rosey is in its 4th year. It is one of those events in the #NECX that take on a life of its own. The concept was always to put together an adventure ride on cross bikes that hit all the crazy trails that surround our City. We ride our cx bikes everywhere. Rosey takes that to a whole other level. His average commute to work is half dirt half urban roads. He always put together an amazing route and put on a great party. Gerry from the Tavern deserves so much credit and love for being 100% supportive of the ride. Every year we have started and stopped at the Washington Square Tavern in Brookline. This years ride promised to be a doozy. Scott kept it to himself this year. I stalked his strava and his instagram to get clues. I had a general idea of what he was doing I just didn't know what he'd found. Wow. This was the best Ronde route ever. So much trail riding! So much gnar. I thought he was joking when he said the best bike for this one would be a geared 29er. He was spot on.

But back to my friends. My friends rule. I am not shy about this. But its on a whole other level right now. I have some really great friends at Seven. Seven is where HUP was born. A ton of HUP still work at Seven. When Rob asked me about doing a batch of HUP Honey bikes I jumped at the idea. I obviously wanted one instantly. And put in my order at the party when we launched the bikes. But I figured I would get it around cx season. He called me about a week before the Ronde and asked me some questions about my fit and what I wanted. I basically said a cross racing killing machine. Stiff, light, solid, but still able to be smooth and handle like a dream. Yeah dream bike status. Its been a while since I have been on a steel bike. I miss it frankly. Nothing against the other materials but if you ride your cross bike like we do you need something to take the edge off the woods. We basically ride our cx bikes everywhere. That was the concept behind the Ronde. Cross bikes make excellent do everything bikes.

Rob told me he was about 90% sure my Honey cx bike would be ready for the Ronde. Now typically this would be a crazy idea. The Ronde is brutal. You are smashing through roots and rocks, dropping down the back side of sketchy Water Tower fires roads or riding on trails that are basically no better than a goat path. You don't want to do this on a bike you have never ridden before. The Ronde destroys equipment and bodies. Its a fact. Its sort of the Evil love child of Three Peaks and IronCross. Not for the weak of heart. But this is why I say my friends rule. Rob is a master. What he has done with Seven is incredible. What he is doing with Honey will blow people's minds. He took my numbers, and my old bike and all my feedback and voila the Ronde Slayer was born. Well that isn't its official name. I suspect it will get a nicer name than that it just hasn't come to me yet. My great friend Mike Salvatore built the bike in about a day. Staci worked round the clock to paint it. Matt O'Keefe prep'd the parts and Rob personally built the bike up for me at the Ride Studio Cafe while putting on a Brevet event. You see why I say my friends rock. I owe them all big time. Its an honor to be able to call them my friends.

I was obviously really equal parts nervous and excited to see the bike and have its first ride be the Ronde. When I picked up Roger I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was. The paint is amazing. But to be honest the bike rides better than it looks and that is saying something. So Roger and I drive over to Washington Square Tavern all stoked to see everyone and have an amazing day on the cx bikes. I love getting over to the Tavern early right as all the riders roll up for the Ronde. Its so cool. Its so quite at first. Then the teams start rolling in. Some ride to the ride. Others drive. The Ronde has always been a team event. The spirit of the Ronde is not unlike a Gentleman's race. You start with 5 you finish with 5. Work together, take care of each other, share the resources etc. This years team was almost coined Team Honey p/b Jameson's Whiskey. But I think we were secretly named the 5 Horsemen of the Hupocalypse. Our team was made up of Roger, Joel, David, and Abel. Rosey capped this year's Ronde at 120 riders. Pretty smart considering how much can go wrong on a ride like this. 

The Ronde has always been a benefit for Bikes Not Bombs. All the proceeds from the entry fees to the raffle ticket sales goes right to BnB. This year, Rosey had an even better idea, to have each team bring some nice parts to donate. Collecting bikes and bike parts donations is a big part of Bikes Not Bombs mission and it was a great way to help out. The parts pile by the end of the day was very impressive to say the least! The Ronde goes off in waves. Slowest teams go first, fastest teams go last. First team back "wins". It never was intended to be a race but you get a bunch of highly competitive bike racers together and yeah you know how that is going to go. Our team had a mid-pack staging. At 8:45 we rolled out. Team ENGVT rolled out with us looking PRO. ENGVT is my friend Jerry Chabots team. ENGVT is his engineering business in VT. He has always been a big supporter of cx and bike racing but this last year he has taken it to a whole other level. It was so awesome to see their new kit. I can't think of a better team launch event for a team in the #NECX than the Ronde.

We didn't see them for long as they were all on carbon cx bikes, with deep section rims and grifo XS tires. And Nick and Curtis are animals. So it was pretty much "Hi, bye, see you at the Tavern in 5 hours (little did I know it would be 7?!) The roll out from the Tavern was uneventful until we were about a mile out. The Tavern is in Brookline which is an urban environment. Riding cx bikes in a group through the City is no big deal but requires attention etc. At about a mile we got to our first rotary. As we are exiting it I see a big group of HUP on the side of the road. Not sure what is going on at first but someone relay's word to us that Mike Golay has crashed. Ooof. Apparently wheels touched and boom. His Ronde ended way too soon. Shredded front wheel and body smashed. Luckily nothing was broken or damaged too bad but that is a tough crash. I felt horrible for him and his team. He got back to the Tavern and everyone continued on. We regrouped and pacelined through the City. Along the way GPM merged with our team. This is one of my favorite parts of the Ronde. You end up riding, battling, helping, heckling, communing with so many different teams during the ride. More on that later

Some of the notes on the cue sheet were hilarious. "Go through the Shaw's parking lot and find the trail" This reminded me so much of the Diverged Ride. Doing them back to back weekends really was awesome. As we come through the parking lot there is a huge group of riders. So we hit the first trail sector with about 20-30 riders. Now this obviously makes for some hijinks. Kurt is yelling something in my ear but my heart is about to explode out of my chest so I can't really hear him. Ryan White is cackling like a madman about something or another. And Jeff Zeigler is off in the woods shredding gnar while the rest of us slug it out on some rock strewn fire road. Jeff is obviously smarter than us.

We all get to the top and then drop down into Rocky Meadow. 90% of the riders go one way and we go another way. We meet at the exact same trail. Classic. This will be a recurring theme. Our GPS was fantastic. Roger was our navigator and kept us on track at all times. We did the entire route plus some. Again I can't say enough about the route. Rosey found some trails I have never seen in my life. We were able to ride pretty much all on trails from Belmont to Prospect hill. We would ride with ECV, Team Awesome, Team Awesomer, Broadway etc. The Ride Studio Endurance team came FLYING by right before the climb up Prospect Hill. Patrick from ECV tried to hop on that train and Chris had to disabuse him of that insanity. Speaking of insanity. The Ronde is brutal. I think we did it in under 7 hours. Ride time was about 5:45 give or take. Everyone won. Just doing any of it was winning. But Chris from ECV did with only one foot clipped into a pedal. He brought shoes without cleats. Someone had one cleat. He put that on one shoe. So he basically did a 60 mile, 7 hour one legged pedal drill. He may need a chiropractor. And is now a legend in my mind.

We never got "lost" but we did have some interesting moments. Bombs were going off all around us but somehow all our bikes were surviving. Did I mention I was riding a bike that had been painted less than 24 hours before the ride? And I had never ridden it before? The Honey was incredible. So smooth. Everything I could have asked for and more. I was on an aluminum frame before, and while I loved it, on a ride like this it tends to beat you up. The Honey was not only super smooth and stable it was a great climber. It felt at home. Perfect baptism by fire. Broadway's bikes were exploding all around us. We stopped to give Gregor a masterlink as his chain snapped. Why help another team? Cause that is what the Ronde is all about. Sure at times it felt like the first lap at Gloucester in the Killer Bs (Cat 3) dudes would seemingly lose their minds and ride totally insane lines or just race pace. But looking back that is probably exactly what was happening. You tend to unravel fast on this type of ride. Its so brutal that at some point your brain shuts down and you revert to one or two survival behaviors. The normal survival instinct is to slow down and soft pedal. But most bike racers are not normal. I tend to go full metal jacket. My teammates were using another word but I can't share that word with you here. This is a family friendly blog. I think I got it from Rosey. I tend to just put my brain aside and ride harder. So we would sort of shatter groups in the woods and then regroup. We spent a lot of time battling with Ryan's Team Awesome and Charlie's Broadway team. I hate to use that word but its true. It was like being punched in the face for 6 hours.

I did manage two spectacular crashes. The first one was really funny and slightly embarrassing. Like I alluded to before Broadway and HUP were fighting it out a bit. We came to a mudbog with a funky raised bridge. I thought oh look how cool I am, I have skills! I hop up on the bridge and what a shocker when mud covered tire meets wet wood it gets slippery! My rear wheel totally skids I go flying off the bridge but somehow land on my feet. I have no idea how I was able to clip out and hop off my bike mid-air. The second crash was perhaps less funny. But upon reflection sort of funny. We were railing through Cutler chasing Ryan and Scott from Team Awesome. I passed one of their riders and was about to lock onto their wheels when they STOPPED. We had just come around a berm where the trail opens up and I assumed it was going to be full paceline. They just pulled left and got off their bikes. My brain was TOAST at this point. My brain tried to tell my now frozen claws of hands to grab the brakes but the signal didn't even stand a chance. I avoid Scott, thank god cause he's GeWilli size and I would have been in a body cast, and rear end that little Leprechaun. My leg smashes into his saddle or rear triangle. Basically like hitting your quad with a baseball bat. I thought I was going to literally die. 

We got detangled and kept rolling. The pull of the Tavern was way too strong to let pain get in the way. We bee-lined it home. With the siren song of cold beer and a burger driving us faster than we had ridden all day. The boys rode like ten men. So proud of them. When we got back to the Tavern we did a body check. Deitch looked like he had been mauled by a bear. His whole front of his jersey was ripped open from some argy bargy coming through Wellesley. But he is one tough hombre. 

What an amazing day. I am missing so much from the day. I am sure more will come later. For now HUGE thanks to Rosey, Gerry, Rob, Mike S, Matt O'Keefe, Staci, Roger, David, Joel, Abel and everyone who came out and rode and supported Bikes Not Bombs!!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More Smiles Per Mile

Roger's Winterando Honey in OG color scheme

Bikes are meant to be ridden everywhere. On anything. The concept that a road bike can't be ridden offroad is silly. Most of the road rides we do include dirt, trail or path. Its pretty much rule number 1.07 of road riding in the #NECX. Rob Vandermark came up with the idea of putting together one of his go to mixed terrain loops to show off just how much fun lies all around the Ride Studio and its bordering towns. We are really lucky in this area. We have so many great paths and trails hiding right in our backyards. Some are a bit rougher than others but some are buttery smooth and covered in loam and just a dream to ride on any bike. What happens when you invite your friends to go on an organized loop comprised of a million twists and turns filled with adventure? More smiles per mile. That is the whole premise of Honey bikes. Get out and have an adventure on a really nice and smartly built bike. Rob worked so hard to get the route just right. We joked that he must have been riding at night to get the Garmin file ready for all of us to use so we wouldn't get lost. 

Pamela's All Roads Honey by Rob

The ride was titled The Diverged Ride. Invites were sent out. We weren't sure what people would think. Would they be as excited as we were to spend the day with friends on bikes playing in the woods and finding new places to ride? As the rsvps started coming in we had our answer. The day of the ride between 80-100 riders packed themselves into the Ride Studio Cafe to enjoy Honey-centric treats made by Patria and served by Anna, Sal, Patria and the Ride Studio. Patria's homemade biscuits were a huge hit with the riders. Offerings also included Honey sandwiches, Honey Oatmeal and Honey Greek yogurt. Suffice it to say we were well fueled for our adventure. The route was about 41.6 miles. When Rob told me it might take a bit over 4 hours I was a bit surprised. Once we got out on the ride it made perfect sense! Part of it was the exploration aspect. We weren't in any rush. This wasn't a race or a hammerfest group ride. Frankly that is the opposite of what the Diverged Ride was all about. The whole point of the Diverged Ride was to take the less traveled path. I have ridden in this area for a long time. We live to ride our cross bikes on the trails. I hadn't ridden the majority of the trails we rode on Saturday. That is saying something. 

Honey Biscuits handmade by Patria by Rob

A special ride deserves a couple of special bikes! Two special Honey bikes were built for the ride. Roger Cadman chose the Winterando and Pamela Blalock went with an All Roads Honey. Both are closely related and will be ridden on many similar rides. But both were purpose built to suit each riders individual needs and riding styles. Roger is a cross racer who also loves doing Brevets and is always up for some insane adventure on two wheels. Pamela is an endurance rider on a level that I really haven't seen before. She won the Pennsylvania Rapha Gentleman's Ride on a tandem with her husband John. And rides more in a week than I do most months. She had the All Roads built to tackle D2R2. Roger will also be riding D2R2 later in the summer but on the Winterando. Pamela's bike differs from the Winterando in some subtle ways and some not so subtle ways. It is a disc brake machine. And can handle both 650b and 700 c wheels. The Winterando is 700c with long reach calipers. Both bikes were built for the Diverged Ride. When I got to the Studio they were still assembling Pamela's bike for the ride. Roger picked his bike up Friday night before the ride. This is such a HUGE testament to Rob's ability to dial in the fit and ride to the rider. It still blows my mind that he can take all the numbers and hand a rider a bike and it is perfect for them. Both Roger and Pamela had a great day on the bikes. Zero issues just all smiles. I don't think either of them needed to stop once to adjust a thing. Remarkable.

Honey + Hup = Good times. by Russ Campbell

Seeing the Ride Studio packed with riders gets me so stoked its not even funny. I used to get all excited about my own experience on the bike. I would be nervous before rides anticipating how I would ride and who I would ride with. But things have changed in a short couple of years. And the big reason for this paradigm shift is these types of rides. When you put together rides for others you start to slow down a bit and really enjoy things differently. I get more enjoyment out of seeing another rider stoked at riding a new trail than I ever did from my own riding. It really is a nice change. I was super excited to be one of the ride leaders. Granted I really didn't know what to expect. Rob had 5 ride leaders. The sign in sheets were very playful and funny. I was leading a medium paced group and in the description of the ride it said "Ride with Chip if you want to get lost..." hilarious and so true. I may have gotten us lost about 5 million times on the ride! But we always got back on track. And a few of the times were for safety reasons. That is my story anyway and I am sticking to it! Have I ever mentioned the time I led my team up a highway on ramp at the PA Rapha Gentlemen's Ride? Yeah let's never speak of that again...

David Wilcox and good group of riders fueling up by Rob

My group was a really fun mix of riders. I had a few friends, a couple of people I know through other rides etc and a bunch of riders I had never met before. All in we had 16 riders in our group. I would say it was split 50/50 between people on cross bikes with file treads and riders on big tired road bikes with fat road tires and fenders. There were some special bikes in our group as well: A couple of belt drive internal hub machines, 2 matching Commonwealth cross bikes in hi-viz green!, and a bunch of Sevens. Speaking of Sevens. There was a Seven rider in our group who I had never met before. He was super chill. Just sat back in the group and really didn't jump out at first. Then we got up on the Western Greenway Trail. He got to the front and I hopped on his wheel. The Western Greenway is probably one of my favorite trails in this area. It is like the scene in Star Wars where they are flying through the trees on jet sleds. You can just rail the flowy trail and you are covered in a tunnel of small trees that gives it a real rollercoaster ride feel. The Seven rider who I would find out later was named Dan just shredded. It was a clinic in how to descend on a cross bike in the woods. He would set up the turns do a little rear wheel flip and just flow. Zero smashing. It opened my eyes to say the least.

David Deitch and Matt Pierson

What was so impressive to me was how much fun everyone had. We use that word a lot. Fun, what does it really mean in the context of cycling. On a day like Saturday it literally means having fun. Seeing smiles on everyone's face, hearing everyone laughing and joking with each other. We would get lost and no one seemed to mind. We had a few crashes and a couple of flats but for such a mixed terrain route I was super impressed by everyone's ability to enjoy the day with an adventurous spirit. I can't say enough about how impressed I was and am by the riders who did The Diverged Ride on fat tire "road" bikes. It speaks volumes for what we can do on these bikes. We were riding some legit "mountain" bike trails. And no one complained or even had an issue. Maybe a few had to get off a couple of times to get over a rock wall but that was about the limiter on the route. But they stayed in contact with very experienced cross racers on cross bikes riding through the woods. I tip my hat to them.

Dana Prey and Patrick

We didn't go out with any intention of riding fast but on road sections we would get going at a pretty good pace. We came up on another group at one point and a few riders from that group hopped on with us. It was pretty funny actually. They were at a stop sign sort of working some things out. They were a pretty big group. We said hi and kept rolling. We were a big group already and becoming a group of 40 rolling down roads and paths wouldn't have made other users or ourselves very happy. So we kept moving. Shortly after that meeting as we were pacelining on the road I look over and my Hupmate Ed is right next to me. ED!!! I yell. When did you get here? So funny. The good thing with 5 groups out on the route at one time was that if a rider had an issue they could drop off and wait for the next group. Or if a rider wanted to go faster they could move up to another group. It really worked out great.

Starr and Pamela by Rob

I had a bunch of epiphanies on this ride. I tend to think a lot on rides. In a group it can often be challenging because you are talking and looking out for things so you need to be attentive. But one thing really struck me on this ride. Cycling sometimes, well all the time, gets very cliquey. Its odd how elitist it can get. Even within one group there are subsets of that group who look down on another segment of that group. I remember a mountain bike ride I was on before winter when I met some friends. The friends I met were on full suspension bikes and were wearing light body armor and baggy shorts and casual clothing. One of them might have had a bmx full face helmet on. The level of freak out from them and the riders I brought with me was hilarious. It was like East Side Story or something. I have no problem moving in and out of groups like that but for some it is really hard. I had to say my goodbyes about ten minutes into the ride because the singlespeeders I was with were freaking out. We hadn't even ridden anything that difficult. I guess it was the implied hucking that the fullsuspension crew brought that was making my other friends fear for their own safety. In some sense I get it. But if you only stick to your own little circle of cycling how will you ever have fun? You have to mix it up. And meeting new people and seeing them enjoying themselves is like falling in love with cycling for the first time.

5 go in and 5 come out by Russ Campbell

I have to say a huge thanks to Rob, Patria, Honey bikes, The Ride Studio Cafe, Seven, Skratch Labs, all the riders who showed up, HUP for always being so rad and great ambassadors, and my good friend DD aka David Deitch for making the most amazing Skratch labs rice cakes I have ever tasted. He handed me one when we were up on Whipple Hill and it was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted on a ride. Real food is nice on a ride. I get so lazy and just pack gels or some bar in my pocket. But actual food is so much tastier and is better for you let's face it. I am getting to old for all these sugar spikes. We all made it back to the Ride Studio after a great day on the bike. Good coffee was had, all manner of stories from the ride were shared. As each group came back into the Studio after they finished up the energy levels just built and built. It was so much fun. We need more rides like this. Thank you Rob for showing us all that taking the path less traveled is so worth it! And that bikes can tackle anything, all you need is the right attitude and maybe some fat tires!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Diverged Ride

The Honey Diverged Ride is this Saturday. We will be meeting at the Ride Studio Cafe to undertake a fun adventure winding through trails and lanes surrounding the studio. The ride is a fun way to explore and push what you can do on a bike. All in Honey fashion. For the ride we are asking riders to come with a sense of adventure and either a cross bike or a road bike that can accept big tires. Rob rode a road bike with 28s. He rode everything. He is a very talented rider and has ridden these trails countless times. I rode my cross bike and crashed fairly spectacularly on a few occasions. And had to dismount for a few bridges. Rob rode them. I missed the first part of the ride but Roger told me both Rob and Matt O'Keefe were jumping and hopping at will. The spirit of the ride is fun. And a great way to get out and see what Honey is all about.

We will have two new Honeys to show off. Both perfectly suited to this type of ride. One is the Winterando and the other is a secret project purpose built for D2R2. It will be a treat to see these two bikes in person and in action on Saturday! We will be serving some Honeycentric treats before the ride. If you would like to partake please show up at the RSC early to ensure you have time to eat and get ready to roll out at 10 am. We will be leaving the Studio in waves. Ride leaders will be on hand and it is a no drop ride. If Saturday is anything like today I suspect we will stop at some of the beautiful parks and meadows along the way and have a nice snack break. Or two. This won't be a hammerfest. That is not what this ride is about at all. Its all about seeing what amazing trails and adventure lie literally in your back yard.

Skratch Labs and Chris Plummer were so generous in providing hydration mix for the ride! We have enough mix to fill bottles before the ride and individual samples so you can put a few in your pockets to mix on the route. No one goes thirsty on this ride! Thank you Skratch Labs and Chris!

It was a great day out riding with Rob and the crew. Some feedback from today. I would go with a cross bike. I rode on Mud 2s which are a knobby style tire. And it was great. I will likely switch to file treads for the ride. All the trails are in great shape but there are rocks, roots, bridges etc. SPD style pedals and shoes would be best as we will be hiking over some stuff every once and a while. You won't need fenders but if you like them they can be nice. I would bring plenty of snacks and tubes. We will support each other on the ride but its nice to be self supported as well and is in the spirit of the ride. Again its a zero drop ride. When you are in a group lets all stick together and watch out for each other. There are a lot of turns in the woods so we will need to use a buddy system. Make sure all the riders are together and get through each section before speeding off to the next turn! Lexington and its surrounding towns have some beautiful trails and lanes. I can't wait to ride them on Saturday!