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.


  1. At least now you can glue up some real tires!

  2. Love that race and the changes this year. The run up vs ride up was great. Running was definitely the faster line as long as you got going smoothly at the top or blocked well. And the heckle hill is definitely not a jeep trail, haha!