Thursday, October 19, 2017

Happy Trails

Got the news yesterday that Lone Wolf Cycling was closing shop. It was kind of a gut punch I won't lie. LWC to me was always like the Ex-Presidents from Point Break. For them it truly was never about the money. They stood for something. They proved every ride that the human spirit is still alive. Yes that is paraphrased from Bodhi's speech about the system. The system that kills the human spirit. Cycling at its core to me is about that. I know it certainly doesn't live up to that. But it is a nice thing to strive for. I have always been drawn to these type of people and these ideals. When I first got into cycling out in Norcal it was this type of crew I joined. The LWC crew reminded me so much of those early days in SF. Very similar to the Swobo crew. Very different approach obviously. Philly and SF (well the guys who founded it were from Marin. Hey Tupac was from Marin...) could not be more different. But the things Swobo was so good at the LWC took to 11. Build a rad community. Be about the ride more than the selling of your soul and constant riding the wave of some new "fad" Have the best worst ideas. You get the idea.

Lone Wolf brought a lot of people together. I guess they were the flame and we like moths were drawn to it. I still don't 100% know how I ended up friends with these dudes. I blame AnonCX and Jed a bit. They were the ones who introduced me to them at the Philly Bike Show years ago. I was "working" and trying to promote a new brand. The second Ryan took me over to the LWC booth it was pretty much all over. They had me at Wu Tang Clan basically. My love of Philly and LWC blew up after that trip. I grew up near Boston. If you live within an hour from Boston you always say you are from Boston. Deal with it. Boston has that type of effect on people. If you like hockey in Boston you grew up HATING Philly. Ok if you are a Boston sports fan you hate lots of places but you get my drift. I was born to not like people from Philly. But oddly, I really love Philly and people from Philly. Bizarre.

Sully by Matt Lolli 

After that fateful trip to the Philly Bike Show things starting escalating. The Philly Show is rad by the way. If you ever have a chance to go do yourself a favor and go. The City is fantastic. And the show is really one of the coolest bike shows I have ever been to. The Show is a great mix of bike industry, bike culture and art. I am not new to bike culture or singlespeeds. My past life out in Norcal was full immersion into both. But moving home to the Boston 'burbs I sort of lost touch with a lot of that. The LWC was all in with both. Again it was like getting into the Hot Tub Time Machine and going back to South Park circa 1994. The original Swobo gang was really just a couple of dudes preaching a lifestyle. And lots of people drank that koolaid. Because bikes are rad. And up until that point the main focus of bikes was racing. And road racing. Road racing culture is horrible. Sorry not sorry. Especially at that point when it was some dying fixation with all things euro and specifically Italian. No thanks. There was a reason I stopped riding as a kid and surfed, windsurfed and did things that were cool. Cycling was NOT cool. At all.

I stayed in touch with the Philly crew mainly through my friend Ryan. And like a Zombie virus that LWC crew and vibe started spreading. Philly was the hot spot. LWC was patient zero. People started popping up on my radar. Yes it had a bit of a Fight Club aspect to it. Shoogs, Quags, Utah. So many new cool friends. I am not cool. But cool people wanted to hang with me. Again bizarre. And as a marketing director of a new bike brand I saw this as a huge opportunity. So I mixed work and play in a blender and made a smoothie forged in Hell. Man we had a good run. I went all in. When I heard SSCXWC was going to be in Philly I started planning. We built special bikes. We packed a van with bikes and people and headed south. Matt Lolli and I created Sully. We had a horrible idea that we should bring SSCXWC to Boston. OMG that seems even more insane now as I type this. Thank god a blizzard stopped this best worst idea from ever happening.

We get down to Philly and scatter across the City like a SSCX strike force. I stay with my good friend Ryan. SSCXWC13 is incredible. The Feats of Strength are beyond anything I really have ever participated in. Philly is a remarkable cycling city. Lots of great paths. Drivers don't seem hell bent on murder. A great trail system about 30 minutes away. We rode all day. Got drunk. Almost got in a bar fight with Adam Craig over a Lion of Flanders flag. That was Yarnell's fault not mine. I just happened to be in faux Belgian fan boy kit. We ended up at the Liberty Bell as the sun was going down and my cell phone battery was dying. And I had no lights. And I had no idea where I was. I somehow found my way back to one of the host bike shops and miraculously bumped into my friend Ryan. The next day was Worlds.

If you weren't at Philly Worlds I don't even know what to say. As I waited at registration with Abel a large man dropped a Ronald Reagan mask at my feet. And said "Lose something Brah..." Haha god damnit I love this crew. We really are like a Wolf Pack. And I owe the LWC for showing us just how to do it right. Kevin had taken a train down from Boston to get to Worlds. He had walked from the train station in a snow storm. I asked him where he was staying. He said he'd figure it out. I told him to not wander off and that he was staying with me at Ryan's. And that kicked off one of the craziest bike race experiences in my life. We raced our hearts out as the snow kept coming down. We witnessed one of the greatest days of racing SSCX ever. Then we feared a bit for our lives. Apparently people in Philly don't know how to drive in snow storms. And Philly clearly does not know how to deal with a Blizzard. Which is really weird. Luckily I had an AWD van with Blizzak snow tires and Ryan had a Subaru. We carved through a sea of overturned SUVs to the safety of his condo.

We sat in his condo eating humus and going onto the dark web to create cyber-warfare against all the others trying to secure the rights to the next SSCXWC. We weren't at the after party to play poker for the rights to host. Which is an odd way to determine who hosts Worlds but frankly thank god we weren't there. The only place worse than Boston to host a SSCX Worlds would be...ok no where actually. No where would be worse. So the sun set on that idea. But bonds were formed that weekend that would last for a lifetime. The next 4 years we spent so much time riding, scheming, and coming up with new ways to make mayhem.

MA Field OPS may have led to me being fired from my job at said brand. Totally worth it. In spades. The crew that came up to do a double adventure ride weekend in MA was so rad. Our recon mission for the ride was probably one of the top ten days on a bike. We all became Trail Wizards that day. And I think I introduced my good friend Michele to a side of the dirt bag life that she hadn't seen before. The bond between the LWC crew and our crew wasn't always seamless. At Providence one year some of the NECX were a tad freaked out by the dude in the Pizza costume drinking on the line of the SSCX race. Frankly, the tension made me love this whole match made in Hell even more. And it pushed me to make the SSCX series we have so much better. Those trips the LWC crew made up here helped us grow our SSCX community.

I will forever be thankful to that crew for being such good friends, supporters and instigators. They really inspired a ton of people to Kill Yourself to Live. Their bumper stickers weren't just catchy marketing phrases. They were Zen Koans. Oh and they also introduced me to Dave's Killer Bread. So in closing, Happy Trails my friends. May your handups always be cold, may the high fives sting, and may you always have pizza watts. Peace out boys.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Support Person

Nothing more metal than two hospital bracelets by CB
Ok there is a bit of a backlog in the old bloggity blog world of the #CBL. We have blown right past UnHoly Week and CX Fever and we have to make some decisions. The people have spoken and today we tell the tale of the #1 Support Person in the history of the Zank SSCX. The title of this post was going to be The Heavy Metal God of SSCX. I mean look at the photos. Which by the way are all by Katie Busick and courtesy of Minuteman Road Club. How many races offer all the races PRO photos for free download after the race? Not many I think. Not to get off track but MRC puts on one hell of a bike race. Two free beer tickets with your entry, the before mentioned free photos, team tent spots, rad course, free parking...I mean what more could you ask for? So it has been unseasonably warm in New England this Fall. Thanks climate doubters and hurricane after hurricane for bringing this tropical heat wave to the bastion of Fall. Summerfall is a term I do not want to get used to. Thank you very much. 

But back to the task at hand. I know my five loyal readers are very familiar with Mike Wissell. They need no introduction to this great man and what he is all about. But for the one person who may have found this blog by googling "mud" or "CX" or "NECX" or maybe hit surprise me on google and came across this hot mess I will do my best to introduce you to my good friend. Mike is one of the toughest guys I know. Lives for brutal mountain bike stage races. Gives back to his own team, B2C2, on a level most racers can't even imagine. Supports other racers on rival teams like they are his own teammates. Has been hosting Larz World's, a weds am CX training race, for as long as I can remember. How he finds the energy to do all he does is beyond me. But as I said before he is also one of the nicest guys on the planet. Stands up for what matters, has a moral compass. All the things you want in a friend. He dabbled in SSCX before. And by dabbled I mean would show up to a few of the Zank SSCX races and destroy everyone who happened to be racing that day.

This past summer we met at a great coffee shop to to talk about SS Mtn biking. I do have a fondness for all things single speed. At the time we were talking mtb. But he said he thought he would focus entirely on SSCX for the 2017 CX season. I obviously thought that was a great idea! But didn't really focus too much on it at the time. As CX season rolled around I got some very excited and exciting emails from Mike. He was in fact racing the SSCX series! And his enthusiasm for his frankenbike project got me all fired up. It kept morphing. Dropper post/drop bar CX enduro bike. Flat bars no dropper. It was the ultimate frankedbike. And what I LOVE about Mike is he would email me and ask "is it cool if I ride this freak show of a bike?" I was like dude that bike is rad!!! Honestly what I love about CX and 29er MTBs is they are basically the same bike. Especially when you are talking CX and 29er Hardtail. The wheels are interchangeable. The bikes are basically the same. It makes for some real fun set up Rubik's cube hacks.

One of the things Mike brings to the series other than his talent and racing ability is how much he cares about the race and all the racers. We all say we care but how much do we? How much do we give back? He cares a lot. Always checking in with everyone. Says hi to all the racers. And this season he started high giving racers after he finished. He wins most races. He is that fast. Not to say there aren't a lot of really strong racers chasing him. His mere presence has upped the competition in a way that I never imagined. But his waiting at the line high fiving everyone as they come in? That is being an ambassador on a whole other level. People love Mike's finish line high fives. I mean what is cooler than after turning yourself inside out for 45 minutes you see a smiling Mike at the finish and he high fives you? Awesome

Minuteman Road Club puts on a great race. I look forward to it every year. The Zank SSCX is a points race. The leaders denim vest is a highly coveted item. Once you wear it you do not want to lose it. Mike and his wife Caitlin were expecting a baby this CX season. To say we were happy for them was an understatement. But babies have their own ideas when they want to arrive. My two daughters clearly had their own ideas. One was premature by six weeks (that was exciting!) and one refused to come out. To this day they seem to have embraced this personality trait. Mike told me the baby was a bit late in its due date. The night before a double Zank SSCX weekend I got a text from Mike. They were heading to the hospital. He arranged the vest to be delivered to MRC. The points race was close. Bradford won Mansfield and with Mike gone it made the series a tie race. I had assumed Brad would be donning the vest at MRC. Mike was happy for Brad. We all were. Brad is like Mike one of those guys who do so much for our community.

As I was waiting in the reg tent for my number I see a pale rider coming towards me in the distance. Dear god it is Mike. The baby was born the night before at 1 am. Caitlin's parents arrived at the hospital that am and told Mike to go race. That is a family who loves and supports each other. And he had arrived at his SSCX family to celebrate not just SSCX but his new baby with us. I almost cried not gonna lie. But there is no crying in SSCX. We all lined up and had one of the best races of the season. Perfect conditions. A greasy, muddy SSCX slip and slide. Mike won. Mike got on that podium and put his vest back on. One of the most amazing days in the #NECX in my opinion. Little Milo has one rad dad. And one hell of a family. That little god of thunder should be proud of his dad. I know I am.