I am not shy about my love for bandit racing. Or my love of my friends. When the big man emailed me and said he was thinking of doing a New Year's Day Bandit CX race at the RISD Farm he pretty much had me at hello. And RISD. I was a bit of a reluctant art student. It wasn't as cool to be an artist when I went. I had a gift and surfed it to one of the best Art schools in the country. If I had to do it all over again I would probably change about everything I did there. But it is impossible to go to that school and not come out of it a changed person. I learned a lot in the 4 years I lived in Providence. I find it cute that the Brown and RISD kids get along now. That never happened when I was there. Some pretty funny memories of having to jump out frat windows and flee from Christmas Balls that we crashed. I blame it all on my roommate Ratdog. In some ways he reminds me of the Big Wookie. Big dude. Loooong flowy blond hair. Big personality. Smart. Talented. Huge heart. Wonder what that kid is up to? But I digress. GeWilli and I go way back. He was one of the first racers I sort of cared about racing against. Which is funny because we are totally different types of racers. But he always raced with heart and class. And is one of the most passionate people about CX that I know. He's been a great friend and a really good mentor. He has been integral in shaping how I look at the Zank SSCX series.
I really didn't know what to expect going into this Bandit race. I beat the drum as is my nature. Some texts start coming in. A few emails. Then people started getting more and more stoked. My good friend Derek agreed to pick me up which was huge. I can't tell you how much I appreciate when someone else drives. I tend to do a lot of the driving. Its the curse of owning a minivan. Don't get me wrong I like to road trip. And don't mind driving. But its nice to be able to not worry about it and have someone else take the wheel. We got down to Rhody in no time. Even though I had spent 4 years at RISD I had never spent any time at RISD Beach. I think Rat Dog and I were way too busy crashing Brown Frat parties and figuring out where our next meal was coming from to worry about going to the beach. We didn't have a car and my bike was stolen freshman year. So we basically just stuck to a 5 mile radius in Providence.
RISD Beach is gorgeous. I could tell you where it is but then I would have to kill you. This venue is going to remain as secret as is possible. Its too nice to risk getting kicked out of it. Or to create any tension with other users. It is a pretty heavily used dog walking spot. Pretty much off leash. No one seemed miffed to see us spandex clad Visigoths carving lines like Christo all over the property. As an Alumni that was going to be my story and I was sticking to it. "Yes, officer this is part one of a series of art installations focusing on movement as art..." "ummm yeah the skin tight colorful clothing represents migratory birds and the epic struggle the plover endures to remain...." That would be about the time the tazer would come out I suspect. With any Bandit race there are two rules. Ok maybe three. In the Immortal words of Dave Pryor "Don't be a dick." Two: leave no trace Three: Cheat. If you aren't cheating it is not a Bandit race. Seriously. GeWilli broke it into 2 20 minute races. The first race was the serious one. And holy shit not riding your bike and trying to chase Matt Myette hurts. A lot. Matt and I were the only two on SSCX bikes. 36 x 16 was actually perfect. Might have been a bit nice to have one lighter gear and one stiffer gear in spots but in all seriousness I was able to stay with the geared riders just fine. G set a really great course. A nice mix of turns, climbs, logs to hop, legit double barriers and THE BEACH!!!! I hate running. Obviously. But riding down the Breach to the Beach was so fun. Shockingly no one was Treeboned. Well mainly because we all stuck to Rule #1 of Bandit racing (and life)
I would be remiss if I didn't give a HUGE shout out to ENGVT. They sometimes might be super serious and someone may have tagged them NOFUNVT but trust me these dudes are fun. And they came to party on this fine day in Rhody. Nicky showed off the sickest log hop on a CX bike I have ever seen. Not even kidding. Full speed, just elevated and cleared it like it was no biggie. Everyone else did the brake check hop over stomp on the pedals. Or yardsailed it and face planted in a heap on the frozen grass. Before the serious race GeWilli recited Henry V Act III, Scene I. The famous Once more unto the breach, dear friends speech. Fantastic. Because that is what this day was all about. Getting together to throw down. Some needed a little primer before Nationals. Others just wanted to shred around and bump shoulders a bit. Nick soundly won the first race. Ok he might have cut the course a bit. But he was pretty much still drunk from the night before and reeking of booze and stale farts so we let him have it. I had brought a box of swag left over from the last season. Nick picked out a limited edition RdR tshirt. I looked at him and said "Dude that is an XS." Nicky cackled and said oh really you are challenging me to a skinny off? Ok watch this! He pulls off his jersey and throws it on. And it fit. Holy shit that man needs a hamburger.
Thank god G showed mercy on me and let it be known that the next race would be "not serious" in fact cheating would be both encouraged and rewarded. Lesli had brought an impressive selection of beer to use as prizes which then became conscripted into service to act as hand up beer. The cheating started really from the word "GO!" I was laughing so hard at something Myette said to me that I didn't notice we were going warp speed and about to take a sharp left turn. It felt like a Cat 3 scrum for the holeshot. And then bodies started bumping off me. And then I realized to my horror that I almost chopped Lesli into a bush. Oopsies. No blood no foul right? Luckily I was so loose from the 2 Dale's I shotgunned while G told us the rules for the next race that I didn't do my usual hip check signature Little Ball of Hate closing of the door. God Philly changed me. All I have is love for my fellow bike racer now. I really am a kinder and gentler masters bike racer. Its time. The world has enough Masters Behaving Badly. So we somehow all survive the start. And now the cheating goes to defcon 11. The course is no more a course but more a suggestion. I am cutting the barriers like a BOSS at this point. And looking for more logs to hop.
Again I am blown away at just how good 36 x 16 feels. Sure it could be the Dale's. And part of it is once you commit to riding SSCX you start to learn a few things. Like NOT braking. Ever. Its a really bad idea. Momentum is your friend. I go from full cheater mode to in race heckler and in race photographer. The photos don't do justice to just how beautiful a day it was or just how nice the beach was as a backdrop for CX. Ok maybe I just had had enough running on that soft sand. Either way I got some really nice photos. At some point we got the one to go cow bell. And we rang in 2014 in full Bandit Style. Beers were cracked. Stories were told. Then it was clean up and head back into the wind. The dogs got their park back. We had some rad times. Made some new friends. Connected and hugged old ones. 2014 started off right. This year is going to be something special. We ride for one reason and one reason only this year. Fun. Shenanigans. Friends. Happy New Year to all you bike FANatics. I love you all.