Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!!

August 1st is right around the corner. And with it your CX wake up call. It is time to get the bikes ready, mess around with gearing and tires. Decide whether you are zip tieing or going dedicated. Get your hand up game strong. You do not want to go into your first race and botch that dollar bill hand up in front of a legion of SSCX super fans!

The 2015 Zank SSCX series is going to be off the charts. We have a couple of new additions as well as the great mix of grassroots races and festivals that we have grown to love. The Zank SSCX series is a true DIY crowd sourced race series. Zank and I are its ringleaders if you will but it takes all of you and the entire #NECX to make all of this happen. Thank you in advance for all your excitement and support.

Just typing this is getting me so stoked. The biggest news we have to announce this year is that our good friend and ex-pat #NECXer Pete Smith of Mad Alchemy with be presenting sponsor of the series.
Pete Smith if you don't know him and his family are 100% New Englanders. They launched Mad Alchemy from their kitchen. Pete and his wife Janet were such a huge part in creating what we know call the #NECX. In Pete's words, "The #NECX is where we cut our teeth, racing week in and week out and slinging product out of the trunk of the car. We owe a great deal of our business success to the amazing scene and the people involved in it. New England is home to us, regardless of our physical address and we're excited to support the New England cyclocross scene and growing SSCX scene there."

Pete and Janet moved to Colorado a few years ago but are still such a big part of our culture. I am personally so stoked to have Mad Alchemy on board. MA has always supported us with the raffles and mentored us when we needed help.

We have some pretty cool things in the works. Look for the Mad Alchemy tent at the races. It will be race HQ for the series. We are working on some collaborative projects. Can you say Mad Alchemy signature Zank SSCX embrocation blend? I like the sounds of that! Hopefully we will have some really cool things to unveil in the coming weeks and months. I can't wait to see all of you and raising the bar for how much fun we can have with the series!

As always this series is about FUN! And growing SSCX. We welcome ALL under our tent and to get in the pit with us. Zip ties are always welcome. Its a big part of how we have grown this series. Not everyone can afford or bring two bikes to the races. Zip tieing your bike can allow someone who might not be able to race SSCX to race with us. Please make everyone feel welcome at all times. Dedicated bikes are great too. As are franken bikes of all kinds. The only caveat is you race with one gear. How you get to that point is up to you!

So without further ado here is the schedule for the 2015 Zanconato SSCX series presented by Mad Alchemy

2015 Zank SSCX Series Presented by Mad Alchemy

Sept 13-Quad CX, MA

Sept 13-Hartford CX, CT - Home of the 2017 CX National Championships!

Sept 19-White Park CX, Concord, NH

Sept 20-Sucker Brook CX, NH

Sept 23-Midnight Ride of CX, MA

Oct 2-Providence Cross Festival, RI

Oct 10-Mansfield Hollow, CT

Oct 11-MRC CX, MA

Oct 17-Hanover CX, NH

Oct 25-Orchard CX, NH

Oct 31-Paradise @ Harpoon Brewery, VT

Nov 1-PUTNEY aka West Hill, VT

Nov 21-Cheshire CX, CT

Dec 12-Ice Weasels, MA

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


This post was and is intended as a tribute to my good friend and HUP teammate Abel. Abel as some of you may or may not know moved back home to Seattle. To say I am bummed to see him and his family go is an understatement. He has been my partner in so many shenanigans this past couple of years. He was always up for any raddness we cooked up. So many highlights over the last couple of years. I am super stoked for him though. I totally get the need to move home when you have a family. I left what I thought was paradise on earth (San Francisco and the Bay Area) to move back to this Hell Hole called Boston. Hahah, I joke, I joke. I am as they say a kidder. Boston is a lovely town. And its environs have proven to be a Mecca for my cycling addiction. Contrary to what you see on the intertubes all of Boston (and Dover) are not trying to murder cyclists on a daily basis. Bostonians hate everyone and everything. Till they get to know you. Then you are family.

But I digress. The move to Boston and home worked out for me way beyond my expectations. I actually love it here now. Abel and his family are going to love moving home to Seattle. He in a way is moving "home" to the home of HUP United as well. While HUP started in Boston a decade ago. Zac Daab our founder and Godfather moved to Seattle about 5 years ago. A couple of the OG HUP moved back to the PacNW as well. I know Zac will be stoked to have Abel racing CX and bringing it locally. Abel is one of a kind. Such a great person and bike rider. Pure class all the way.

So as much as this post is a tribute to Abel and dedicated to him and the times we have spent together on the dirt and off its also a tribute to HUP United and what it is all about. Abel embodies ALL that is HUP. Pure class on the bike, Panache, stand up dude, tough as nails and always smiling. Abel would do anything for you. And always made everyone around him better. HUP if you aren't familiar with the Squadra is basically an "anti-team" HUP was founded about a decade ago by Zac Daab and a bunch of like minded CX racers. Their original idea was simple: no sponsors, roll with a good crew, pure class, style and grit. HUP was and is a CX racing team. We have always lived for the bad weather and tough CX courses. Over the years people have come and gone but the principles have always remained. One of our core ideas "One HUP Finds Another" is really the key to how we have lasted a decade and remained good friends and have grown to be a large part of the community.

By eliminating sponsors (and don't get me wrong I LOVE sponsors) you eliminate the black hole that is most bike racing teams. We are our sponsor. We sponsor each other if you will. Racers who want free stuff or a deal often times bring baggage and expectations. This creates tension on a team. HUP has and always will be more a family or Wolf Pack than a "team". We welcome everyone under the HUP tent. Literally. The HUP Death Star has become a fixture at races as a place for everyone to hang out. We share our beer, water, etc with anyone. As long as they are cool we are cool with them. It doesn't mean everyone can be on HUP. Its really not for everyone. And that is ok. We are a pretty tight bunch and we have a certain code of how we expect each other to act. So your average Type A bike racer probably isn't a good fit. We like a good bike toss as much as the next team but it really isn't our style. And we like our bikes too much to toss them.

Over the years HUP has grown. Its amazing really. I have been on a lot of teams. But nothing like this. And as much as you think "yeah, HUP is perfect" Along comes someone like Abel and it just goes up to 11. Again, this isn't just about Abel. I could name every single rider on HUP and say the same thing. I try as much as I can to thank every single rider and supporter of HUP United as much as I can. I feel so lucky to be a part of this crew. They have made me who I am. A bunch of HUP have moved on this year. Joel moved back to Berkeley. Nate moved to NY. MVL moved to VT. Jay also moved. They are all still HUP. Anyone who has ever worn the HUP Bleu is always HUP in my mind. I know we will ride with all of those dudes again. I am already plotting and scheming a trip to Seattle. Last time I was in Seattle was for Nationals when it was at SeaTac. Crazy.

The power of the Mustache will live on here in Boston for sure. We will miss Abel and all that style he brought to every CX season. Our battles last year in SSCX and that last Pats Peak together are going to be forever locked in my memory bank. Abel taught me so much about how to be a cyclist. I will never be as good of a SSCX racer as he was but he taught me some stuff. And he brought us Kevin. Just like Deitch brought us Abel and Joel. That is what the whole concept of One Hup Finds Another is all about. If solid members of a team bring in people who they would rode trip with. Who they would feel comfortable doing some insane Ronde with 100% confidence that that rider would have their back and wouldn't break down and go all negative mid-ride. That is the recipe for building a team like HUP so it is so positive. PMA 24/7. No whining. No backstabbing or infighting. Always having each others backs.

The other thing that drew me to HUP and what HUP has become here in New England is community. HUP is a huge part of the #NECX. We grew up with the #NECX. The Ronde de Rosey has been so instrumental in pushing the whole concept of riding everywhere on CX bikes. Sure people have always done it. But the Ronde helped blow it up and helped pave the way for trail ninjas all throughout the Boston area. Its mind boggling how many trails there are in and around Boston. HUP has always given back. Its part of why we don't have sponsors. With sponsors a team tends to take. The "give me X mentality" On HUP you look to what you can give. Volunteer at races, donate parts to community groups. Donate time.

It makes me proud to be a part of HUP. I can't wait to see what this CX season holds. I know I am going to race this season with the Power of the Mustache. Well, no one wants to see me in a mustache. That much I know. But I will have that power with me for sure. Abel, my friend, we are gonna miss you! Godspeed out there in Seattle. Don't be surprised if I show up at your doorstep with Kevin this Fall. Hup! Hup!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Don't give me the Runaround

Something wicked this way comes. Its like people just give zero fucks about the woods. Walk your dog and just leave your poop bag in the middle of the trail. Sure why not. Why not? First rule of the woods. Pack it out. That includes your dog's poop. We could also put that under Leave no Trace. Which brings me to something that fills me with more rage than those cute little doggie bags filled with ecoli and god knows what else. The Runaround. Stop it. Right now. What is a runaround? It is NOT a B-line. B-lines are legitimate trail features that allow for a less skilled rider to avoid a technical feature. In a lot of instances the B-line was or is the actual trail and the A-line is either a built up feature or a rock face or something environmental that riders are using as something to roll down or huck off.

The picture above is a classic Runaround. This is a gorgeous little singletrack. Seeing riders blatantly avoiding a few tiny rocks and creating a runaround fills me with rage. Why? Why should I let my otherwise peaceful experience in the woods be interrupted by such negative thoughts? Because I actually care about the trails. We are lucky to have them. And runarounds create damage. You see those roots that riders are avoiding in the last photo? By ripping a runaround on the other side of the tree they are creating erosion. And the erosion will just create more roots. And the trail will start to break down.

So why are people doing this and why is it proliferating on such a scale? Lots of my friends think its Strava. It could be. Certainly in a few of the photos here the runaround creates a "faster" more direct line. Some erroneously call a runaround a "B-line" Nothing pictured here is difficult. My kid could ride most of it. In fact she has. Depending on what direction you were riding it maybe you might have to think about the line or ratchet a bit or maybe carry a little extra momentum into it. Ok you might have to get off and walk. All of the above are actual parts of mountain biking. I walk lots of stuff. Whether its safety or effort or a myriad of reasons. By walking a section or figuring it out you become a better mountain biker. One of the things I LOVE about mountain biking is it actually takes skill. You need to learn how to tackle lots of challenges. So if sin #1 is Strava, sin #2 clearly is laziness.

I am a pretty mellow person. I give people the benefit of the doubt. So ok maybe sin #3 is ignorance. Maybe new trail riders just don't know. Saying people give zero fucks is hostile. I know that. So ok let's assume people do give some fucks about the environment and want to protect aka keep our trails open to riding. What do we all do about it? Here is what I propose. And I give most of the credit to this idea to Thom P, Peter Verdone, Johhny Utah and DD.

• Shut it Down. First and best thing to do is literally shut down the runaround. Every time you see one developing drag some logs and brush across it and leave a not too subtle message that runarounds are not cool

• Runaround Shaming. Let's take this viral. Post photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook of blatant runarounds and shame people into not doing it. Ok educate may be a little less hostile a term. But as I sort of inferred earlier runarounds are equally as bad as the dog walkers leaving all those poop bags on our trails. We are supposed to be better than everyone else. As a cyclist we have to. The rules are different. They always have been. And always will be.

• Don't ride them. This is actually a really important part of fixing this problem. Cheater lines are for cheaters. If you or I ride them they just get worn in more. Yes they are sometimes easier. Give me the hard. My life is easy enough. I do not need the easy way out on a trail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Don't Call it a Comeback

The title refers to a lot of things going on here today on this here blog. The photo below pictures Dr Sharon Sloan on the line fist bumping her friend and fellow racer. Sharon if you don't know was almost killed by an inattentive driver. I guess technically she was killed or died twice. Thanks to modern medicine she survived. But man she has had a long road back. She is a good friend and one of my heroes. She is so positive and 100% stoked all the time to ride and race bikes. Boloco is lucky to have her flying their kit at races and in general. Can't think of a better teammate, ambassador or friend to be honest. I won't lie she inspires me to race. And just to be a more positive person in general. 

The photo above is of Mark Budreski and Brian McInnis. You can tell from that photo that it was hot. And Mark was thinking when he brought that ice bucket. The HUP Death Star was strategically placed right next to the feed zone. Mark came through after two laps looking blown out. I asked how he was doing. He could barely get the words water to form. I filled that bucket with all the ice water in our coolers and put a fresh bottle in his stand for the next lap. Racing in 90 degree heat on mountain bikes is no joke. After last weeks #watergate at Gnar Weasels every one got the message and came prepared. 

Mountain bike racing on the east coast is seeing a bit of a resurgence. A comeback is the wrong word. The diehards never stopped racing mountain bikes. I am sure there are lots of reasons mountain biking is seeing more and more racers this summer. I can list a bunch off the top of my head. But two of the people responsible are Pete MacLeod and Marty Allen. They made Boston Rebellion happen. It honestly felt like a mountain bike version of Gloucester. Two days of legit racing. Great competition. Great venue. Sierra Nevada beer garden, taco trucks, Bubba Burgers grilling, Polar Springs, hard fencing, inflatables, Red Bull. Even Richard Fries was there! Hahaha. As we were staging I see Richard working the start grid. I say "Richard, what are you doing here?" He tells me he has a booth for Providence. Then he says, " I hear its really fast could you race it on a cross bike?" I literally laugh out loud. Umm dude its a mountain bike race. Its fast on a mountain bike. Mountain biking is not cross. Its a close cousin I guess. But two different beasts as I have found out to my utter enjoyment this summer.

Let's take a second to talk about that. I am on a cyclocross racing team with a mountain bike problem as my co-DS Michele Smith tweeted out after Sunday's historic day. Yes we can call what happened this weekend historic. Pete and Marty pulled off something that deserves all our recognition. They held a two day UCI/USAC race 30 minutes from Boston. This event has the potential to grow into something HUGE. Even if it stayed exactly as it is it would be a triumph. They brought big crowds, had top name racers, built an amazing venue out of nothing. Before Pete started putting on races at Adams Farm no one really rode mountain bikes there. Now it is a gem of a place for all of us in the Boston area to ride. But back to my original point. Mountain biking is not cyclocross. It is its own thing. And this is wonderful. Cross racers are certainly racing mountain bikes but they are on mountain bikes. And if there is one thing I am learning this summer is the fast races beat you up way more than the gnarly races. I was fine on my hardtail 29er at Gnar Weasels. I suffered like a bastard on it at Barn Burner. All the turns and roots just beat your back to bits. Not making excuses. Its just faster and saves your body a beating to race on a FS bike. Plenty of fast people race on hardtails. But thinking you can race a fast mountain bike course on a CX bike is crazy talk.

I owe so many of my rad friends for getting me into mountain bike racing. I have dabbled a bit since being home on the east coast. But it is a very different style of riding. Its finally clicking. I still freak out at gnar and rock gardens. I was freaking out all week about a dry stream bed. Then saw a video of Colt riding it and was like "THAT'S HOW YOU DO IT!" During the race I rode it every time with zero issue. That section was the least of my problems. Speed (and lack of speed) was my problem. I had a great start as they say. Locked in around 10th wheel. Pacelining through rock gardens is umm interesting. We made it through the tight wood bridge and first rock garden. Then we went full throttle up the fireroad and into a downhill rock garden. I have ridden this like a bazzillion times. Maybe more. Never had an issue. I of course have never done this on ten guys wheels at race pace. It was going great. Until it wasn't. Someone dabbed or slowed and next thing I know I am supermanning through the air. Thankfully I flew so far that I landed outside the rock garden! Now that is PRO. I had to run back into the rock garden and fray to pull my bike out. Then had to go back in to get my water bottle.

At this point 20 very angry 50 year old men were staring at me and telling me to get my shit together. Well I am using poetic license actually. Shockingly no one yelled, punched or screamed at me. Try that in a cyclocross race! Hopped back on my rotated saddle and got back in the game. Yes my saddle was now at say 3 o'clock. No way I was stopping to fix it. So I rode a lap with a saddle doing horrible things to my backside. I get back to the pit and straighten it out and grab a bottle and head back out for lap 2! At this point I feel pretty good. Bike is shockingly not destroyed. Other than some dirt on my kit I am fine. So I start trying to go full throttle to impress all of my super fans. I am going to say something crazy. I think I like mountain bike racing more than CX. I know, I know. Typical full auto velocb falling in love with the newest shiny object. But it is hard. CX is hard sure but mountain biking requires so much to be good as a racer. I suck. There I said it. I basically killed myself for DFL. But it was a blast. And each lap you just look for something to figure out. I got caught by 4 of the top Sport Women. One of them rode the entire last lap with me. Or we rode it together. Frankly if she hadn't been there I would have either ridden into a tree or died of heat exhaustion. I was falling apart. And having someone pushing the pace helped me stay on my bike.

HUP once again had a fantastic turnout. Michele is right. We are a cyclocross team with a mountain bike problem. Michele smashed the sport race to pieces. It was so good seeing teammates, friends and competitors having such a rad time. The suffer meter was on high for sure but the course was so fun it made it worth it. I feel a series of My Drunk Bike Reviews coming up. Please send size 15.5 FS XC race bikes to the HUP SSC. I swear I have sick reach, or pull or clout. I have at least 4 loyal readers of this blog! Your bike will be ridden hard and probably destroyed but think of the possibilities! HUGE thanks to Pete, Marty, all the staff and volunteers. The town of Walpole for being so open to mountain bike racing! Can't wait to do this again!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pre-ride or Die

This Gnar Weasels post is going to be likely a hot mess of Full Auto Velocb ADD. I settled on the title Pre-ride or Die as I wanted the post to be PRO. Other working titles were Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and With a Little Help From my Friends. Gnar Caddie also had a good ring to it. At no point was it going to be called "Dino vs Tick" Gnar Christmas had huge potential as well. But onto the work at hand. Gnar Weasels unless you are hiding under a rock is the summer time jam of Weasels Inc. Weasels LLC or Incorporated is the most amazing group of promoters I have ever met in my life. Thom and Colin get the most face time if you will but their better halves Christin and as Thom calls her H-Ball bring so much to the event organization and general radness. Weasels Inc really is in true #NECX fashion a collective. Lots of moving parts and people helping out on so many levels. I guess if I was going to compliment Thom and Colin on one thing it would be that they set the stage for the party and then they let the people bring the funk. Gnar Weasels like the name implies is Gnarly. It is not a dirt crit. Thom and Colin are legit mountain bikers. And they both are wizards at creating an amazing course.

I had heard about Diamond Hill from some of my more rad friends. The way they talked about it put fear in my heart I am not going to lie. So pre-riding became mission #1. Its funny that we obsess about pre-riding a CX course to dial in the "lines" The worst that is going to happen to you on a CX course is you may have to brake in a corner. On a mountain bike course running at warp speed blind could kill you. Ok that is dramatic. Even for my usual hyperbole ridden writing style. Not kill you perhaps but destroy your bike or face. I met my good friends Sharon and Cindy the Thursday before the race and we had a great recon session. Again how this is where Colin and Thom are on top of their game. They had the course marked the week before the race. They welcomed people to go ride it. If you didn't take them up on that invite and the work they did you only have yourself to blame. Having a sick mountain bike course 45 minutes from Boston is amazing. Diamond Hill may be my favorite place to ride mountain bikes.

Diamond Hill is just this amazing mix of flowy loam and gnar. Legit gnar that could easily smash your bike and body but its curated if you will. All the tech has been built up and has good sight lines. It is well ridden and isn't some claptrap riding area where you are going to drop off some rock and die on downed trees etc. During the pre-ride I rode about 80% of it. Again it was huge. I felt so much more comfortable with the course after. The bonus ice cream at Ice Cream Machine didn't hurt either. I am assuming most of my 4 readers and loyal fans know who Thom and Colin are. Thom is the mult-media madman/genius behind Dirtwire TV. His love of producing rad video is unparalleled. During the week before the race he would post segments showing his better half H-Ball riding certain enduro bits. It really helped me during the race. For real. She is so smooth on the bike and watching her lines became this zen practice the day or two before the race. I would just picture the tech and go full Lizard Brain. It sounds weird but it helped.

Fast forward to the race itself. It was so awesome having a race on July 4th weekend. This may seem counterintuitive but as much as I love the 4th it is a shit show. Almost as amateur hourish as St Paddy's Day and Cinco de Mayo. Almost. Its nice to have a fun athletic event close to home to wash off two days of 'Murica. I got to the venue and see so many of my friends. My CX alarm clock has been ringing and frankly after this weekend I am hitting the snooze button. Mtn biking in New England is how I remember it when I first started racing back in the NORBA days. It really is as fun as CX. How can you not like a race 45 minutes from home, that has an Ice Cream shop at the staging area, a taco truck, a secret MOATS Mountain beer/heckle/enduro zone and a totally rad course? Gnar Weasels is the kick off of what they are calling "MTB Holy Week" It is a huge testament to the hard work of so many people that mountain biking in New England is seeing this type of resurgence.

We do our usual rituals. Stan's in the parking lot. Grabbing mechanics out of cars to check our bikes. Hugs. Number plates. All that jazz. Have I said lately how incredibly awesome all my friends are? For real. We line up and are ready to go straight up a nasty gravel climb. The 40-49 Sport men go off with my partner in crime and co-DS on HUP NECX Michele Smith in with 25 jacked up dudes. My plan was to catch up and shred together. With the 40-49 bumping elbows up the climb us wicked old semi-fast dudes lined up. No shocker there aren't a whole ton of 50+ dudes racing mtn bikes. We had 6 pre-registered and 10 on the line that morning. So I got on the front row. Having pre-ridden and hearing a weeks worth of freaking out about the gnar I knew the real brutal part was going to be the climbing. And especially the start climb. There really was only one line. The rest was just nasty loose gravel.

So when Colin hit his megaphone siren I took off. Holeshots are not my thing. Nor is climbing. But I went as hahd as I could. Perhaps Pats Peak had a residual effect as I took off up the climb and held it all the way to the hole shot. I started catching the 40-49 at the top of the climb. I am sure that field got pretty argy bargy and people had to get off and run. The first lap felt great. I just kept moving up and trying my best to not do anything stupid. I caught up to Michele at some point mid-way through the lap. 

I was able to ride 100% of the gnar. Most all of the A lines. I skipped two as I hadn't pre-ridden them and wasn't comfortable risking a crash. As I came through the start/finish I see Shoogs. He starts running with me up the climb. I literally love that man. He pulls out a flask and offers it to me. I shake my head no as I am already smashed to pieces from the heat and know anything but Skratch labs will kill me. He says in his nicest Shoogs voice "its only whiskey"

I slog back up that climb and hit the flow. Another good lap I start seeing some familiar faces. Then as we come into the big drop I see the MOATS heckle pit in full effect and get beyond stoked. Shoogs is again there tempting me with a beer hand up. Its lap 2 and on the top of a gnarly drop in chute so I miss that one two. Who am I not taking these hand ups?

Lap three Michele reels me in. She is in full on race mode. I am soooo stoked to see her. We get to ride almost a half lap together. She slingshots me through some dark moments. Lap three things started to unravel a bit. My race plate kept falling off my bike. Life lesson. Never use twist ties on a gnarly course when there are zip ties. She gets a bit of a gap on me right before the drop off into the MOATS heckle pit. I drop in and hear screams and cheers and see Michele and another woman hung up on a big rock. I  yell "track, track" I barely clear it and then Shoogs traps me at the log hop over. I finally take his beer handup. God it tastes so good. I just want to hang out. Michele is on me in a flash. She yells "BAKER GET YOURSHIT TOGETHER" Hahaha I snap out of party mode and kick it back into gear. We come through the nasty muddy rock garden together and I get a slight gap over the wood bridge. 

Gnar Weasels unlocked. 3 laps. Almost two hours of pure radness. Michele and I grab a quick Ice Cream at the Ice Cream Machine with Russ and Uri. It was a good day indeed. So many rad friends. HUGE thanks to Colin, Thom, Christin, H-Ball and everyone who made it happen. 

And also thank you to JD, Russ and Meg for the photos in this post!