Monday, December 21, 2015

Stevil Ride

The original artwork for the Zank SSCX hoodie by Stevil

In the eloquent words of Stevil Kinevil "Optimism is the new pessimism." 2015 as said early has been a rough one. Sure a few of you I am sure have had banner years, but for a whole bunch of us it has Le Sucked. I think that is how the French say I got nut punched by a giant wrecking ball called Two Thousand and F U…..But to turn this giant lemon into lemonade we are hosting a ride for Stevil. Let's just turn this shit show around and laugh in the face of death or what not. And by laughing in the face of death I of course mean let's meet at the Washington Square Tavern on Sunday, January 3rd for a ride and fundraiser to help our good friend Stevil out. Stevil would do this for anyone of us. And has done this for countless bikers who have found themselves in a jam. His blog and art are the inspiration for most of the hijinks I get myself into on a bike. 

Stevil's studio

Here are some details of what we will be throwing down.

Stevil Ride

What: A CXenduro ride. You could call it a Winter Ronde. Cx bikes, mtn bikes. I WOULD NOT RIDE A ROAD BIKE!!! Two tubes, pump, food, back up of anything you think you may destroy. The course is awesome. But has a shit ton of sticks, leaves etc hiding rocks and roots. You know the drill. Tires, tubes, deraillers. All are at risk. Be prepared. I can't believe I have to say this but its an unsupported ride. You are responsible for yourself and friends. No racing. This is for fun. Be safe. Be nice. We will be rolling on lots of mixed trails. Say hi to people. Announce yourself to dogs etc. You might even see a horse or two.

When: Sunday, January 3rd. Meet at the Washington Square Tavern. Roll out at 8 am.

Who: YOU! All are invited and welcomed. Depending on how many people show up we may put people in groups etc. Or you can do it Ronde style and form a group. I think ideal group size is 6-10. No more than 10. We will have a GPS file with two routes. Short and Long. Short will be around 25. Long around 40. We are asking all participants to donate $5 to the Stevil Fund. We will have a free keg of beer and a raffle at the end of the ride. We have some really cool stuff to raffle off. Including some original art work by Stevil!

Ok so you get the idea! On to the ride itself. It will be similar to some past Ronde's but will have a few new twists. We have some Cat 1 Trail Ninjas doing recon and fighting over what sectors to include. We will be riding in Newton, Wellesley, Needham, Dover, Brookline and the City. Think rad woods stuff meets urban shred fest. I am rolling on my Zank SSCX. Possibly in SSCX mode possibly as some robo Ben Berden 1x CX. It all depends on what shows up in my CXmas stocking. I have been loving the Specialized Terra tubeless set up in the woods right now. I would suggest 33 or bigger tires. 40 WTB Nanos are pretty sweet as well. A mtn bike would be a good option as well.

Please RSVP on the facebook page or email me at for more details or to submit a team for the ride. Again there will be no scoring and we are all winners just getting to ride our bikes in early January together in 50 degree weather. I want to give that little El Nino kid a wicked high five for making it Springter in New England.

I have my favorite sections of the route of course but I am really excited to show off the Needham Rail Trail. Its like they built it just for this ride! Last time I was through they had finalized a section and put down some crushed stone. It is super sweet. I will update the facebook page through the coming days and will get a detailed list of instructions. In the meantime, don't hang those CX bikes up just yet! Get a crew together or let me know if you need a crew to ride with. And get stoked for a really great day with the NECX!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Highway to the Danger Zone

Cross Jesus (Father Utah?) and Shoogs-photo by velocb
The week before Ice Weasels Cometh I did a soul ride with Agent Utah aka Cross Jesus aka Matt Aumiller and he told me he was going to go "Full Norcal" at the final race of the 2015 Zank SSCX series p/b Mad Alchemy. This was after a few pulls off of a bourbon filled flask so I didn't pay it much mind. Then he started texting me mid-week about Uncle Randy coming up and creating a LWC heckle pit. You mention the words Heckle and Pit in a sentence and I get excited. A bit of a backstory. I fell in love with all things pedal bikey in Norcal. SF to be specific. The Norcal crew had and has a certain panache or Je ne c'est qua…my French is terrible excuse that. They pretty much invented singlespeeding. I am not really kidding. The who or whom invented mountain biking may be up for debate. Whether those weirdos rode singlespeeds is not. My first foray into singlespeeding was in Norcal. Google Crusty Cruiser Cup and you will see what I am talking about. 

It was a great community with tons of mayhem. The NECX does a lot of things amazingly well. Mayhem? Ehh not so much. I like to think of the NECX as Boulder-lite. We aren't that serious. And we don't wear puffy jackets everywhere but its close. The NECX is serious. We started the whole SSCX series for fun. And to build community. And it is amazing. But I won't lie. I still think about my trip to Philly for SSCXWC. What Philly threw down was amazing. The heckle zone at Belmont was the craziest thing I have ever seen. Loudest crowd I have ever raced through. Most fans. Most stoke. Really the best day on a bike I have ever had. I have wanted to bring some of that to our series. But its tough. Cross Jesus did it. He wanted to go Full Norcal. He went Full Philly. Which in my opinion was even better. 

The Danger Zone photo by Meg McMahon
Ice Weasels is the end of season party throw down for the NECX. It basically is a keg party where a bike race breaks out. Well in the early days at Thom's families farm it really was. I think the ONLY people who actually raced Ice Weasels back in those days were the Cat 4s. Everyone else was so drunk they could barely drive a bike. And while those days were awesome it is like college. You grow up. At some point doing keg stands every night gets old. And the race has seemingly played venue roulette each year. Each year Weasels LLC would scramble for a venue last minute. And they would always deliver. Last year at Diamond Hill was so fun. But for lots of reasons (not getting arrested is high on that list!) we toned it down. Gone were the multiple kegs of beer flowing rivers of beer and red solo cups across an organic farm but added was some of the most fun racing I and a lot of other people had the pleasure of enjoying. So when this year's annual "oh shit we need a venue" tweet went out I had to laugh a bit to see what rabbit they pulled out of their hat this time. 

I hopped that log every time. Even under fire photo by Meg McMahon
I trust that crew 100% but I was a bit nervous. All the videos they were putting out and all the feedback I had heard from friends about the new venue sounded amazing. But I just wasn't sure if this would be as great as Weasels of past years. This year's Ice Weasel was held in Warwick at Riverpoint Park. It is a reclaimed wasteland of a track that with no exaggeration is the most legit cross course I have ever ridden. Don't you dare call it a mountain bike course. If you did please wash your mouth out with soap. You clearly don't mountain bike much if you think that was a mountain bike course. It was legit and in some ways scary but it was totally a cross course. The crew nailed it. Basically they created one huge PRO only section and let us go nuts on it. Usually in a cross race you are just killing yourself until the bell lap. You want the race OVER. Not at Riverpoint. I wanted to keep riding that course all day long. 

Matt Lolli lighting of pyrotechnics by Meg McMahon
This year felt different. We had the best season of SSCX in the short history of the Zank SSCX series. People this year were just so stoked to race SSCX. And the overall points race was only separated by two points on the mens side and too close to call on the women's side. It was down to the top four in each race to see what the overall podium would look like. This created a bit of a dilemma. The Weasel mullet has been in existence since the race's inception. Business at the front, party at the back. Everyone knows what they are in for and it works. Colin's waiver is iron clad and spells it all out very clearly. Don't be a dick. Be responsible for yourself and others, blah, blah, blah. Its like entering the Octagon. What was so amazing was that even though it was down to the last race everyone was in it for fun. No one was all uptight and freaking out. People were in full Weasel mode. So many great costumes, fat bikes, and the Danger Zone. As we all headed over to stage on the soccer field a brass band started marching with us. It felt like Mardi Gras. 

Hopping a greasy log under live fire is exhilarating by Meg McMahon
It has been well documented that I LOVE fat bikes. I really do. And I really love that they are being added to CX races. But I won't lie that I was a tad nervous about 30 fat bikers with gears starting a few minutes behind the SSCX field. SSCX and gears don't always mix so great. The course was beyond amazing but was tight. A LOT of single track. And some tight lines that if things went bad or someone got douchey it could end real bad. There was a funny twitter debate about the tight lines. I personally fought for them. And I am glad they stayed in. In the SSCX race a couple of crashes happened do to poor decision making but all in all people got it and didn't try and pass in a stupid place that would put people in danger. Colin gave his usual speech and then the siren went off and zoom, zoom about a hundred SSCX maniacs accelerated off the line. I was in a good spot tucked behind Eric of the Chainline Pain Train. The corners were getting a bit dodgey and bars were smashing into hips etc but so far so good. Then the usual explosion happened in the third turn and bodies started hitting the deck. We made it around to the low side and took off. 

Dougie Fresh taking a hand up like a boss by Meg McMahon
We got into the single track without incident and shredded through the shutes. It did remind me of a cross version of Chutes and Ladders. So many incredible blind drops ins and sandy corners. Then some great technical up hill turns. My favorite in an odd way was the school bus turn. You had to go into it full speed then ride your momentum up to the top of the loose rise and then squeeze the tape to the edge of the buses to clear the camber. Thom was right. The course was 100% rideable. I only had to dismount on the two runnups. And if I had gears I probably could have ridden both run ups. I hate run ups but there was something awesome about both of the running sections. They were loose and sandy but you had plenty of grip and could get them without going hypoxic. 

The Zip Tie Fairy taking a Danger Zone break by Meg McMahon
 I came through the first runnup with a fairly big group. We entered the Danger Zone for the first time and the sound and energy was insane. I hopped the log in chase of one of my friends on a fat bike. The Danger Zone was a No Fly Zone for me this year. #Dadlife and walking pneumonia made it imperative that I take zero booze and take zero anything lest I inadvertently take down the entire NECX with this zombie pox I have. Racing was probably slightly irresponsible as I couldn't really breath but no way I was missing this. Not with my friends possibly winning the series on the line. I had to be a part of this. So instead of my usual party at the back I was pretty much all business at the front. I still had fun. I guess this is what its like to be straight edge at a CX race. I high fived people and got tons of ass slaps. Some stung. But I sort of liked it….hahahha. I took some Mardi Gras beads but had my eyes pretty focused on just railing the course and getting every bit of radness out of it. On the last lap we came into the Danger Zone hot. Literally.

Thing One tripped at my feet on her way up to the podium by Meg McMahon
 As we came around the top of the single track before the Danger Zone log I could see fireworks shooting in the air and smoke all around the heckle pit. People were dismounting and hurdling as fireworks launched up into the air. All the fireworks were in the middle of the log so all you had to do was make sure you were on either side of the pyrotechnics. Easy. Breazy. It was the coolest thing I have seen to be honest. I come in hot, hop the log, fireworks going off all around me and then ride through a sea of smashed red solo cups. It was like I was back at Belmont at SSCXWC. Well done Cross Jesus. Well done. I took off in the hunt after my frenemy Grant from Monster Truck. He and I have had a light rivalry this season. I say light as he is probably the person I battle against the most consistently at each SSCX race. I was hoping to catch him why lie. After the red solo cup red carpet I see him just ahead. He drops into a little chute right before the river bank. I almost catch him as we hit the sand pits. He is off running and I am able to ride and am gaining on him.

Podium Selfie! Lesli Cohen, Thea Kent and Rebecca Lowe by Meg McMahon
 Just as I come out of the sandpit I catch him. And his wife. His wife Alison is awesome. Frankly the whole Monster Truck team is awesome. It looks a bit like Grant sits up a tad. Maybe he said hi to Alison who knows. My brain (unfortunately) switches off from hunter/killer mode to oh cool friends…big mistake. We take the turn and approach a berm/hop section. Grant gets right over but Alison dabs and gets off. I now have to dismount and run around on the outside. Hahah well played. That is pure Belgian race tactics right there. Respect. I remount and take off hoping to catch Grant. Beating Grant is now down to who ever gets to the top of the runup first. As stated I am a horrible runner. But I probably should have dug deeper. But I run up and hope to catch him before the barriers. He gets to the top of the run first and remounts. I remount about 4 seconds behind him. Another rider gets in between us a bit. I get to the barriers right as he is exiting them. I know its over but still drive through and finish strong. So much fun.

Zank with bandoliers of SSCX bling by Meg McMahon
 My lungs feel like I have just inhaled napalm. I go back to the tent and cough up one of said lungs. I grab a cold coke and just soak in what just went down. Best race of the season. Best party of the season. Best course of the season. Best everything. Then I snap out of it and get back into SSCX race ringleader mode and change into clothes and run off to see who won the series! I get the results from Ryan. Zank and I do some quick old school math and get the final results. It is a HUP Power Couple Podium!!!! I literally freak out. Kevin won the men's overall by two points. Thea won the women's overall by 14 points. Wow. So close. Much respect and love to George and Rebecca Lowe. George and Rebecca are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. 100% class acts. Strong as hell and so good on the bike. George and Rebeca have been huge ambassadors for the series this year. They are a big part of why this season has been so amazing. Rounding out the women's podium in second place was our one and only Zip Tie Fairy Lesli Cohen! Rebecca Lowe came in third! To say its awesome when your friends are on the podium is an understatement. The men's side had Kevin in first, George second and Eric Baumann in third.

Fat bikes rule! by Meg McMahon
We had an amazing podium presentation with champagne and the Zank medals. Everyone was so stoked. Then came time for the annual raffle. Each season we do a raffle at Ice Weasels. Racers get raffle tickets for each race they do in the series. The more races you do the more chances you have to win amazing prizes. And the Grand Prize is none other than a custom steel or aluminum Zank CX frame and Enve fork! Sick. We also had prizes from all of our great sponsors: Mad Alchemy, Harpoon, Vittoria, Feedback Sports, PRO Gold, SRAM, Castelli, Skratch Labs. As we made our way through handing out prizes it got closer to the moment of truth. Who would win the frame and fork?!!! Johnny Utah reached into the PRO Gold pit kit and pulled out a ticket. When I saw the name I about lost it. Eric Lovering was the name on the ticket! Eric is the mastermind behind the Chainline Cycles Pain Train. One of our biggest supporters of the series and one of my good friends. It was incredible. What a way to end a perfect season and a perfect day. 

And that my friends is a wrap by Meg McMahon
A HUGE thank you and hug to all who came out and raced this season. You all are what make the Zank SSCX series so rad. We are already plotting and scheming about 2016. It will be better than ever. If you have any ideas, thoughts etc you know where to find me. Don't be shy. This series has gotten so great because of all the people involved. Its a DIY/crowd sourced thing.

A HUGE thanks to Meg McMahon for these great photos and always being so fun and supportive. Meg is the best.

A HUGE thank you to all our sponsors, promoters, teammates etc that support us and do the hard work so we can all get rad.

Colin, Thom and the whole Weasels LLC Family? I love you. You all kicked this thing to Warp Factor 11…what a way to end the season. Don't be strangers. Let's get some CXenduro going on and thank that little El Nino kid for canceling Winter.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2015 Zank SSCX Series Raffle

The season finale of the 2015 Zank SSCX Series presented by Mad Alchemy is about a week away! On December 12 Ice Weasels is going down! And a horde of SSCX racers (and Fat Bikes wut???) will be vying for bragging rights and wrestling for handups. I have heard some great things about the course. Can't wait to see what Colin and Thom have in store for us! This year's race will be just that. Not saying it won't also be a rolling party but both the women's and men's overall points leaders are only separated by two points. Its going to be very interesting to see how this shakes out! But one of our long standing traditions of the series is our end of season raffle. Its not any old raffle its the King Kong of Raffles! The grand prize is a custom steel or aluminum Zank CX bike with an Enve fork!

The best thing about the raffle is its FREE!!! You earn raffle tickets for each race you do/did in the series. Each race you enter earns you a raffle ticket. The more you race the more chances to win big! Matt Roy won the bike last year and he only did ONE race! Still can't believe that happened. I think the SSCX gods smiled down on his Walter White costume (and his blue meth -it wasn't real meth - hand downs!) I think we have about a bazillion people registered for the final SSCX race of the season. I suspect mayhem will ensue. Cross Jesus has threatened to take all of our crosses on his back and release us of our burdens. Not sure what that means. I never went to CCD so its all mumbo jumbo to me. I think he means he is giving free piggy back rides up the run up. That is what I am hoping for because I hate runnups. Ok so you get the idea. After the race is over and podiums are awarded we will do our raffle. DO NOT MISS IT!!! You have to be present to win prizes. And we have LOTS of prizes!

A HUGE thanks to all our sponsors. We will have the previously mentioned Zank CX frame and Enve fork up for grabs. We will also have great prizes from: Mad Alchemy, Harpoon, Vittoria, Feeback Sports, PRO Gold, SRAM, and many, many more.

We also have a limited number of our Stevil Rat Fink hoodies and tshirts. The hoodies come in black or orange and are $40, the tshirts come in teal and orange and are $20 each. Both are available in limited size runs. Get one before they are gone!

I can't believe the series is almost over. Thank you to everyone who made this season the best ever. It was literally perfect. We are already looking toward 2016. If anyone has any feedback, ideas etc we would love to hear them. This series is by the people for the people. Its only become what it is today by everyone coming together and making it so rad!

Cheers and see you at Dah Weasel!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Green Monster

Not that Green Monster. This Green Monstah...the Green Monstah below is of course my Zank SSCX bike. It was first given the name Green Monstah by Mr. Matthew Pierce in the beginning of the season at Quad CX. The name fits. The bike is a beast. Custom built alloy SSCXy goodness by Mike Zanconato himself. It was built as a SSCX race bike. But as is my nature everything ends up turning into a woods bike. Really doesn't matter what bike we are talking about in my garage. At the end of the day they ALL need to be fun to ride in the woods.

But this specific "project" has been percolating for about five years now. Lots of people think aluminum is too stiff to ride all day in the woods. They are crazy. Or just set in some misguided mythology about bike frame manufacturing. I have ridden ti bikes that are so stiff they are unrideable. It is not the material it is the builder and the components you put on a bike that make it comfortable to ride in the woods all day. I have been drifting towards a monster cross bike for a while. Our love of adventure riding and taking CX bikes in the woods and shredding is obviously driving this. Not just me obviously but lots of people are heading in this direction. It oddly is still sort of a trigger topic for lots of people. When I say my CX bike can ride everything in the woods the diehards start getting hot under the collar. I am not saying I am going to huck my CX bike off some rock ledge in NTF and expect anything but the obvious to happen. Riding a CX bike in the woods requires a bit of finesse. That is actually why I think a lot of us like this type of riding. It makes trails that would be "boring" on a mountain bike really fun. And you can ride literally all day. And cover a ton of ground. 20-50 mile trail rides are pretty much the norm for us right now. 

But let's take a step back from this love fest of the monster cross bike for a second. I have had some of the worst crashes of my life on a CX bike in the woods. And again I am not trying to start flame wars here just stating my opinion and personal experience. Yours may vary according to luck, skill and experience. Most of my crashes have involved speed, wet roots and rocks. I blame the tires and cantilever brakes. There I did it. Cantilever brakes suck. Mini-Vs are somewhat better but suck also. The new hydro disc brakes for CX and road bikes are next level. They are safer and allow for more control. Now add big fat tubeless tires into the mix and you have a CX bike (ok maybe its a mountain bike with drop bars now...) that can handle almost anything. And it can do it without white knuckle braking and tip taping down trails. There is a HUGE difference between how a tire handles at 30 psi and 45 psi. A tubed tire in NTF at 30 psi will last all of about 1 second. Literally. At 45 psi you still might not get out of NTF without a flat. I remember one Ronde where we went over Blue Hills on our CX bikes. I am pretty sure one of my teammates (who won't be named) had no less that four flats. Four. That will ruin your day.

But back to a more positive note and to where I am right now with this bike. I (believe it or not) am a late adopter of technology. Especially with CX. Not that I am retro just that maybe I like to wait to see how the new technology sorts itself out. Tubeless is a perfect example. As is hydro disc. Both in my opinion are now 100% reliable and ready to be adopted by those who are interested in making the leap. It is weird how both of these technologies are 100% reliable and accepted on a mountain bike. There have been some hiccups along the way but take for example the Green Monster in its current set up. TRP knocked it out of the park with these SSCX brakes. The fact that they are SSCX specific is mind boggling. Lots of racers have been using them with Di2 sprint levers tucked into a little port that TRP smartly built into the brake lever. The brakes work flawlessly. Great lever feel and solid braking. A bit more "feel" if you will than the Shimano hydro. With Shimano the brakes are one finger on and then off. Legit one finger braking. The TRPs are a bit "softer" which is kind of nice actually.

But the wheels. Holy shit. The first time I heard of November bikes was through my good friend Lesli. She raved about them and how nice they were and how great their wheels were. Then I saw Mike Wissell rocking some November wheels at Quad CX. I talked to Dave over the next couple of months and we decided on a set of Grail rims to November house branded hubs. The wheels came out amazing. So CXy and a total game changer. I hate flats. But really to me what its about is being able to run low pressure in the woods for performance. As stated earlier a tire (especially a big tire like the WTB Nano 40) at 30 psi acts very different than the same tire at 45 psi. At 45 it deflects off everything and beats you up. Tires in my opinion are what really beat you up on a bike. Not frame material. Tires at low psi roll so smooth it saves your back and hands from so much jarring. The Nanos are my favorite woods tire. And they actually roll pretty fast on pavement and fireroad. Its basically a 1.5  29er tire. Which makes me happy.

The rides that have been epiphanies for me are the Ronde and the VT Overland. You don't hear too many people talking about epiphany rides here on the east coast. Maybe they worry it makes them sound like a dirty hippy. I am ok with my inner dirty hippy. And most epiphanies I have are on rides. Its where and when I figure out my life. And think about bikes and rides and how to take the whole weird ride and take it to the next level. The Ronde as most of you know is the original bandit mixed terrain ride in the NECX. It pretty much got this whole weirdo mixed terrain adventure ride thing going around here. I am forever thankful for Rosey for giving us this Spring classic. Each year its gotten harder and harder. Last year I rode it on my 29er. And frankly had a blast. Rosey rode it on the same bike pictured above only much larger as I am a Hobbit. Rosey stuffed a 29er tire on the front and a mud on the rear. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen. And made me think about the possibilities. Then at the VT Overland Todd kicked all our asses with a 29er with 40s. Another epiphany. The Green Monster is my sort of mash up of these two ideas. 2016 is going to be ALL about monster cross riding. Definitely going back to VT Overland. And this time I am not bringing a butter knife to a gun fight.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The F Word

Not that F word. I use the word Fuck conversationally and on a regular basis. It is pretty much a birthright as a card carrying Masshole. Fuck is used as a noun, adjective and verb in the wonderful State of Massachusetts. I am certainly not shy about saying the word "Fuck" It is good as a point of emphasis. "Fuck, this is a great cider donut!" It can be used to describe a particularly bad day or moment..."Fuck, fuckity fuck..." can be almost cathartic at the right time. It is rarely used in anger but does do a nice job of communicating one's dissatisfaction with say a referee making a bad call or some douche bag cutting you off on the Pike. I am speaking of a much more despicable F word. One that really should never be named. It is like saying Valdamort or Candyman. Might as well say Beetlejuice three times. Its like you want to bring down the seventh circle of hell upon your household. Yeah the word I am talking about is Flats. F to the L to the A to the T to the S...A word most bike racers never say for fear it will curse them to a deflated tire or series of deflated tires that can only be stopped by a series of bizarre rituals that we won't go into on today's Cheshire CX blog post.

So the bad thing already happened so I can speak about it. I have had some bad flat karma of late. I don't usually have a problem with flats. Tubulars with Stans are pretty much bomb proof on most CX courses. And the one's I have been running all season are pretty much unkillable. The main thing they have going for them is that they are bombproof. Its actually become fairly annoying as I have been waiting to flat or roll them so I can replace them with the BALLER green casing FMB Supermuds I got from Molly back in September. September! I know. I know. But I am a cheap bastard and just cannot tear off a perfectly functioning albeit fairly crappy riding tubular just to put on some shiny new thing. And we really haven't had any real mud to speak of so there was no real reason to pull the MXPs off.

My luck racing CX this season has been fantastic. I really have only flatted once or twice in an actual CX race to be honest. I tend to ride fairly "light" for a not so light rider. And even the two times I have flatted the people who glue my tires do such a fantastic job that the tire stays glued to the rim. This is definitely one of the advantages of tubulars over tubed or tubeless. If the tire does go flat you can ride it to the pit. A rear one is NBD other than its going to take LOTS of Watts to keep the bike going. A front flat gets "exciting" which if you are off the back in the scrub zone can add to some epic cornering.  If you like that type of excitement and know how to ride a bike it can actually be highly entertaining. Or you could die. One of the two. But at least you will go out with glory. Riding a flat into the pit or to finish a race to me is living the Death Before DNF lifestyle. I hate running. Hate it. I sure as hell am not going to run to a pit. But I will ride a flat to the pit.

 Ok so onward and upward to this post about Cheshire CX. Cheshire is the last race on the Zank SSCX series World Tour before the finals at Ice Weasels. Cheshire is also one of the coolest grassroots races in the #NECX. Hunter and Gary and the whole crew down in Cheshire are amazing. They are so much fun and just get it. They always work so hard to make sure the racers have such a great day. It is also one of the most brutal course in New England. I have to race it next year on a geared bike as well as the SSCX. Riding the runnup up is definitely on my bucket list. 'The Hill" can be ridden on a SSCX but you burn soooo many matches it isn't worth it in my opinion. The Hill is a steep fireroad climb. It would be a selection spot in a mountain bike race for sure. A great place to attack. On a SSCX bike it is a section to just survive. And to take dollar bills out of a pigs butt. Or grab a Flabongo. Or a Harpoon from a good friend. The Hill People as they are called come out in large numbers. It is LOUD. It is probably the most animated runnup I have ever seen. Ok other than SSCXWC in Philly. That was insane. But this has horns, drums, people screaming. Lots of next level LARPing. You are so in the red zone and hypoxic from the run that you end up doing so many double takes. "Did I just see a dude in a shark suit?" Yes. Why yes I think I did.

As I have stated earlier the series is coming down to the wire. This race seemed to be the one that would decide it. Both the men's and women's were separated by two points. So pretty much anyone with a fight in the race did what ever they had to to get to Cheshire. It was a cool reunion of sorts. So many rad people I only get to see at this race. And a less intense vibe so I can actually spend time with my friends at a cross race and hang out without a ton of freaking out. I received some next level life coaching/CX hacking from Resultsboy before the race. He had just finished racing the elite race and was dolling out some serious truth bullets. He was pretty much a quote/heckling machine. While drinking a recovery beer he had some nice compliments for my Zank. "Sick dedicated bike. That paint is sweet. Hey don't take this the wrong way but those tires ride like a garden hose. The only thing they have going for them is they are bombproof" Hmmm see what happened there? I didn't even know it but this little exchange sort of awakened the flat Kraken. I didn't even realize I had slipped into a conversation that may have included the "F" word. I boasted to Colin that these tires do in fact suck but they are so bomber you just can't kill them. Mistake #1. Hubris is a dangerous thing my friends.

So I am feeling all giddy after seeing Colin and having a nice chat. I head to my car and see my good friend Matt Lolli. I fiddle with my bike a bit. The good news with a SSCX bike is you really don't need to do anything to it. But bike racers are creatures of habit and messing with the race bike relaxes us. So I inflate the tires a bit and check a bolt or two. Then mistake number 2 happens. As I am inflating the front tire I get sprayed with Stan's all over my face. Nice. I wash it off and start wondering if Stan's is toxic. Hmm my lips feel a bit numb. They sort of feel like they are gluing shut. So I pour more water on my face and wipe it off. Lolli must be thinking I have lost my shit. But he is helpful. We set the valves so they stop spraying Stan's everywhere and to Colin's advice set the pressure at 30. That seems high. Because it is. But even though I am not consciously freaking out about flats there is a dull alarm going off in my head. Cheshire has a reputation as being a buzz saw. Its why we love the race. It is super challenging. Some great fast rollers in the woods. And lots of spots to destroy your bike and body. Its not rocky but there are rocks. Last year Mike Wissell, MKR and Kevin all got taken down by troll hammers. I believe Wissell had three flats in his race.

So I get my act together but there has been a lot of talk of flats. I have maybe used the F word a few times. Not good Chip. Not good at all. You know this stuff. Why would you awaken the BEAST? A whole legion of singlespeeders stage up for the start of the race. I get a pretty good start. Locked in behind Rosey for a bit. Then we turn out on the grass field heading into the finish straight and I lose a little contact. SSCX gear selection how does it work? We make the turn onto the boney gravel road and I start smashing off seemingly every rock on the course. Rim definitely pinging off the rocks. But nothing bad has happened. I am registering in my mind the fact that I am riding like a bull in a china shop and to tighten this shit up. One of my favorite parts of the course this year was the "Pick your Adventure" More CX races need this. Basically you had option 1. a super steep runnup or option 2. a nice fun bermy ride up. You all know how much I HATE running right? So yeah I took option 2 every time. It was faster as well.

I felt pretty good. Got locked in with an old CT SS friend Fabian. He was on his 29er as were a bunch of people. Definitely the smarter choice for the race although I honestly felt 100% comfortable on my SSCX. Fabian at one point goes flying off the course and somehow does not die. Mad respect to that guys skills! He missed the trees and somehow didn't kill himself. First time up The Hill I hear a nice voice halfway up. "Chipper you don't look to be suffering ironically at looks real" "Have a beer you deserve it" Best hand up and heckle of the season right there from Resultsboy.

I try and get my ass in gear. A little group of three of us have formed but we are pretty off the lead groups. Mentally I start breaking the race down into thirds. The course has such a great flow to it. Grassy off cambers and turns, woods rollers, then runnup. After the runnup I would be so blown to pieces the descent became fairly challenging to see straight. I can't tell you how many times I almost blew the little ramp transition at the bottom. A few inadvertent nose wheelies may have happened. So I think we are gathering where this is all heading right? My hypoxia driven bull in a china shop riding style is adding up to the F word. In spades. I come bombing down the boney descent, make the transition, go over the barriers, remount, hop the curb to the parking lot and pffffttttt. Front flat. I don't even say the F word. Fuck that is not Flat. I am sort of in denial. I am like ahh its fine I only have one and a half lap to go.

I get to the top of the grass climb and make the first long turn on the offcamber and almost face plant. Okay then. Yes the tire is flat as a pancake. So I start outriggering like a boss. I see a few familiar faces and tell them I have a flat. The consensus is "Suck it up buttercup" So I put the pedal to the metal and come through the finish right before the leaders sprint to the line. I earned that last lap so I am definitely going back out. But I am not stupid nor do I have a death wish. Riding a front flat on grassy chicanes is one thing. Riding one on a high speed dirt roller coaster is suicide. Or at least really unfun. So I lurk into the pit and see if I can borrow a wheel. Scott is so nice and offers me a front wheel. But it is a thru axle. No go. He offers his gorgeous bike. But its geared. Then I see Jesse. He just came in third and offers me his wheel. His front tubed wheel that earlier before the race Jesse, Colin and I joked would surely flat. So we do a definitely non-UCI legal wheel change and I jet back out and finish my lap. And my race in true Death Before DNF fashion. Jesse's wheel rides way better than my tubie and more importantly does not flat. Moral of the story a non-flat tire is always better than a flat one. And sometimes tubes beat tubie.

HUGE thanks to Jesse, Colin Scott and everyone for helping me finish this one. No way I would have been able to without them.

What a rad day. Cheshire rules. Thanks Gary, Hunter and everyone who worked so hard on the race.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Two Points

Two points are all that separate the overall leaders in the mens and womens fields in the 2015 Zank SSCX series. It is all coming down to two races. Cheshire on Saturday, November 14th and Ice Weasels on Saturday, December 12th. To say I am excited is an understatement. Three HUP are right at the top of the overall. It shows just how committed to SSCX HUP is. Really looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out over the next two races. I don't think we have ever gone into the finals without the series decided. This may make for a very different SSCX race at IW. Usually IW is just a keg party where a SSCX race breaks out. I suspect the top racers will have to forgo the Flabongo's and cupcake handups and be all business at the front. We can still party at the back of course.

SSCX is alive and well here in the #NECX. Not only do we have the Zank SSCX series but we have local promoters adding SSCX categories to their races. Respect to them for including SSCX into their races. The local grassroots race scene has been so great this season. Its always nice when new races pop up and others explode. Grassroots racing is why the SSCX series was formed. We really wanted to support and champion the grassroots races. Each series race has become a mini-handmade bike show. So many cool handbuilt SSCX bikes showing at the races. I am obviously biased but this latest bike Mike Z built for Lesli Cohen is amazing. The pictures don't do it justice. The paint is a Bass Boat green with gold metallic flake.

The parts and build selection are spot on. The gutted Campy levers have such a nice feel. Paired with Paul's cantis the stopping and modulation is phenomenal. Tubeless setup up from November and signature purple Endless cog and ring.

 As stated before Lesli has been so integral in growing the series. She races so hard but also always takes the fun factor up to 11 at each race. Hopefully see a ton of you at Cheshire. And I am personally really looking forward to Ice Weasels at Riverpoint. I do love Jungle Cross and I have heard Riverpoint is legit. Thanks again for a great season of SSCX. The raffle as always will be held at the finals at Ice Weasels. If you are new to the raffle or series each race you enter earns you a raffle ticket. We have great prizes to raffle off. The Mac Daddy of all raffle prizes is of course a custom made Zank frame!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sponsor Spotlight

I can't believe this season flew by so fast. It is how CX season is every year. We wait for it and prepare for it and then boom! Its here and its full gas for three months and then its ovah! We have a solid 5 weeks left. Two great Zank SSCX series races on the calendar. Cheshire on Nov 14 and Ice Weasels on Dec 12. Both the men's and women's overall standings are so tight its going to come down to the finals. This has been the closest the series has ever been in the overall standings in five years. Do not miss either of these races! The fun is just about to kick into Warp Factor 11. Today's post is titled Sponsor Spotlight. And for good reason. We are so lucky to receive so much love from our friends, sponsors, racers and promoters. This series literally could not happen without a collective effort. I want to personally thank everyone who has come out and raced, promoted a race, taken photos, sponsored the races, heckled, cheered, worn a costume or just in general championed this grassroots SSCX series and turned it into something really special. This season has been a HUGE success. I have never seen anything like this. Hugs and high fives to all of you!

I would like to point out a few sponsors and friends who have really done so much for us this season. First of course is Mad Alchemy. Pete and his family are from the NECX and were a big part in building this community we now have. They still are a huge part of the NECX even if they now reside in Colorado. Mad Alchemy stepped up this season and became our presenting sponsor. They have always supported all our races and rides in the NECX. But to become presenting sponsor and support us on a large scale like they did this season means everything. The limited edition NECX blend is fantastic. The aroma of maple and the warmth it gives your legs (and back!) on a cold rainy day can not be measured. Walking through the pit and smelling maple embro at Providence brought a smile to my face. Mad Alchemy not only makes great embro but chamois cream and some of the most stylish socks in the bike game. 

Harpoon. What can I even say about Harpoon. Love Beer. Love SSCX. And they do love CX. We have had podium beer as part of the series because we want to always remember we do this for fun. Harpoon is one of the most supportive sponsors I have ever worked with. They love to hear about the races and hear about what beers everyone is enjoying. Having one of the series races next to the brewery in Windsor, VT takes the whole relationship to another level. Paradise CX frenzy is one of my favorite races of the season. Harpoon not only makes great beer but they are great people. A huge thank you to them for always being so supportive.

Woodshed Roasting Company is a new sponsor. Our good friend and supporter Eric Lovering introduced us to them this season. Their Zanc Series blend is fantastic. A medium-dark roast that gives you just the right go to get out and shred on the SSCX bike.

Resultsboy may not race SSCX but he was one of the first promoters to include a SSCX race in his race. Colin, Thom and Kevin basically invented SSCX in the NECX. Ok they didn't but it was at Ice Weasels where Zank, Jerry and I cooked up this unholy idea. And we just ran with it. Colin has always been a huge help with the series. Specifically, using his results mojo to tally series points and give us weekly and timely updates on how the points race is shaking out. A huge thank you goes out to that man and his crew. Thom P and Kevin deserve high fives as well. Thom's Dirtwire coverage of the series has been critical in showing off just what we are doing. Sure my interviews always look like I am huffing too much Mastik one but my ADD is sometimes hard to corral. Especially at a cross race.

Some shout outs for some individuals is in order as well.  Like I said earlier this series cannot happen without the help of so many people. We have a long series with 12 races. Its virtually impossible for me or Zank to be at all 12. Lesli and Kevin have been dragging the HUP Death Star (and new this year Mad Alchemy tent!) to the races for a few years now. Its not easy setting up shop and being the ringleader but both of them do it so well. And they both never hesitate when I text them or email them and ask for help. They both kick ass and have done so much for the series and the team. Hug them and high five them next time you see them.

And what to say about the dude picture below? This is why I LOVE cross and will never retire. You meet people like Eric. And make friends and do crazy ass rides and become closer than you could with a person outside of cycling. I just don't think there is anything like the friends you make on the bike. Eric Lovering of Chainline Cycles has been a great friend, spokesperson and sponsor of the series. He and his crew have jumped in with both feet and have brought so much to the series and our little band of hooligans. I love racing and riding with that dude. And I think him and the whole Chainline crew for all their support this season. 

As a side note we still have a limited number of Zank SSCX series hoodies and tshirts. The hoodies are available in black with white ink or orange with black ink. Both are super comfy and cost $40. We have tshirts in orange and teal. The tshirts are available in unisex or women's sizings and cost $20. For more info or to purchase one before they are all gone email me at or look for us at Cheshire and Ice Weasels.

Again I want to thank each and every one of you for being so rad and giving SSCX a shot. It is a blast. I hope to see a ton of you at the next two races. Ice Weasels is going to be at a new venue this year. Its a tradition. Never race Ice Weasels in the same spot two years in a row! This year it will be at Riverpoint in Warwick, RI. I hear great things about the venue. Looking forward to getting my jungle cross on at the next two races! Cheers VCB