Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Waffle Cross

The Original Waffle Cross was created by Andy Huff and hosted by Wheelworks. 2009/2010 was a pretty special time in the #NECX. There were a lot of rad people pushing the envelope of what you could do on a CX bike. We all rode our CX bikes in the woods. But the whole idea of doing organized mixed terrain rides in New England really began that year with the inception of the Ronde de Rosey and Waffle Cross. There were a lot of reasons these rides became popular and a lot of inspirations. Three Peaks, Grasshopper Adventure Series...yes the Rapha G Rides. They all inspired a bunch of cross fanatics to make some real magic happen. Andy is one of the coolest people I know. Always smiling and always in a good mood. It is infectious to say the least. At some point Waffle Cross became an annual Thanksgiving Day ride. Mike Wissell took the flame and made it into a nice tradition. Now my idea of nice and yours may vary. I missed the freezing rain year so all my Waffle Cross memories are quite fond.

Having family in Maine I typically am out of town for Turkey Day. But this year the Heavy Metal Gods of CX smiled upon me and I was home. The odds became even more in my favor as the weather forecast was PERFECT! Sunny and cold. Just what you want in New England for football, turkey and yes riding the bikes! I turned the #hype meter to eleven and started plotting and scheming with Mike. I did a nice recon to make sure the route was on brand. Had Michele give it her trail wizard seal of approval and voila. Waffle Cross was in full effect. I honestly didn't know who would show up. I figured maybe 6 of us. But I would have been stoked with a small group of friends riding in the woods together. My phone rang at 7:15 am that morning. It was my good friend Chris. He was already in the parking lot. I kicked it into gear and jammed it to the rendezvous point. As I turn into the lot I see a whole crew milling about and drinking coffee and eating donuts. OK full disclosure. There were NO waffles on this Waffle Cross. But donuts are just as good right?

We do what bikers do and ride circles around each other in the parking lot until we are sure everyone who is making it is present and accounted for. We have about 17 riders. Mr Waffle Cross himself is here! My friend agent Utah rolls in. So many rad people. We head out into Cutler. And I won't lie I was a tad nervous. It had rained the entire day before. Cutler is a swamp. Why mince words. It is a nice swamp. But a swamp. But maybe because the ground was a bit frozen there weren't a lot of mud puddles and really zero flooding.

We work our way through Cutler with very little incident. We almost lose a few riders off a wood bridge but no one sustains any hit points of damage. We get out to the pump track and the shenanigans begin. Pocket beers emerge. Jumps are taken. Somehow no one crashes or destroys their bikes. There are so many fanny packs on the ride we should call it a fanny pack ride. Fanny packs are cool in case you didn't know. I have fanny pack envy.

We pop out onto our first road section and start talking about Ronde's past. One of the craziest crashes I have ever witnessed was on one of those early Rondes. Mike Wissell's team was flying down south street that year. One of his teammates hit a chunky section and they rubbed wheels and Mike was down. I saw him cartwheel and then hit a telephone pole and then go through a small sign post. I honestly thought well that is the end of this year's Ronde. The force of his impact knocked a street sign off the post. It is very possible Mike is built from Adamantium. It really is the only explanation. So Mike was bloody and bleeding. But got right back on his bike and took off to rejoin his team. He rode another 60 miles in that condition. Have I mentioned mixed terrain riding is fun?

I guess our idea of "fun" may seem warped at times but it is always worth it. I take them through a fun roller in NTF. Then we pop out onto the new bike path. This ride is kind of a "best of" of my daily rides. I don't ride Cutler much anymore because of the non-stop highway project that is going on down on 95. I am sure it will be "worth" it eventually. But right now it is an absolute cluster fuck. I show the crew my secret CX training grounds. Assuming I ever were to train for CX....in reality it is a super nice little open space hidden away from the hustle and bustle of South Street.

The rest of the ride is just a hilarious march of mostly mountain bike trails. If we had more time I can tell people would want to session some of the sectors we rode through. CXenduro is the future people. Trust me. Fanny packs + Flannel + Enduro sectors = Winning. I find myself at the front of a pace line going much faster than I would normally ride. I tend to find that sweet spot of 10 mph. 20 mph into a headwind is not really my safe space. But the conversations and new faces are helping me forget just what horrible shape I am in. It is like riding a bike right? You always remember and can fake it at least for a short period of time. We all get back to our cars and finish off the last of the donuts and coffee. High fives and hugs are exchanged. Waffle Cross is such a great tradition. And reminds me what I love most about the NECX and bikes. Thanks Mike and Andy for making such a rad ride possible.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Moving in Stereo

The photo above is the greatest team photo of ALL time. Don't even attempt a better team photo than this. You can add in Dolphin plushies. Pillows. Pools. You won't even come close to this. HUP has been around for more than a decade. Our founder Zac Daab was on to something when he created the first "anti-team" He had a vision. The vision was a team based on who you would want to hang out with for a weekend in Vermont. Who you would get up at 4 am on a freezing November to pile in a van and head north for a rad adventure ride. Zero drama. The ability to smile while suffering. And to never take this whole bike game too seriously. 

I joined HUP about 8 years ago. Post two or three concussions things get foggy. But basically Zac and Yash brought me in. I met Yash at a few races after moving to Boston from SF. I was still racing for a rad Norcal Team called Sycip. I wore that Sycip kit with pride for two years after moving "home" I guess I made an impression. Maybe it was the Norcal kit or the steel Sycip. Who knows. But as they say "One HUP finds another." Yash, Zac and HUP opened up my whole world from Norcal bike racer to Boston cyclist. I was worried about moving back home. Boston is a weird place. I left for a reason. But sometimes you have to leave a place to fall in love with it all over again. Those early years were awesome. Yash was the DS of the team. He was a one man house of style. Taught me so much about CX and the east coast. Then around 2009 the torch was passed from Yash to myself. Yash was moving away from Boston. He moved to DC and then later to China. HUP needed a new DS. I became that DS. To say I was honored was an understatement. 

HUP became my battle flag. I loved the team and loved what it stood for. We had some really special people on the team. HUP is simple really. We ride bikes. We build the community. We support those who need it. Michele Smith came on to HUP shortly after I did and we became Co-DS. And the team has flourished. Each year Yash has come back from his travels Michele has organized a Yash Ride. HUP honors its members. Once you are HUP you are always HUP. And we definitely honor those who built this team. I said it earlier. I love Yash. And owe him so much. He made me feel welcome in a pretty tight insular bike scene. Showed me the ropes. Introduced me to people I count as the best friends I have had in my life. Some are as close or closer to me than family. They really are like my family. 

So when Michele sent an email that a Yash Ride was on I got very stoked. When HUP gets together magic happens. I have never been able to make it to one of these elusive Yash rides. In an odd twist of fate this Yash Ride was taking place the day before Lowell. Lowell is where the torch was passed so many years ago. Lowell was where the Forest of Lowellenberg was created. So much tradition. Rosey stayed over at my house the night before the ride. We rolled out at a gentlemen's hour. We considered stopping at Dunkins for an XL and a box of munchkins but were a bit pressed for time. We didn't want to miss the HUP train leaving the station. As tradition would have it DJ Robert brought fresh oysters from Duxbury. How many rides do you know of that start with pre-gaming oysters. So Robert, Nable and the whole crew are shucking oysters and slamming them down in the parking lot. A nice lady rides over and asks me and Rosey what this is all about. She says " are you guys on a cyclocross team?" I sort of chuckle. Um yes ma'am. We are. Why do you ask. She replies "My friends were wondering why you were having so much fun before a ride." Boom. Fun. It is what it is all about.

I see Yash and give him a big hug. It has been waaayyy too long. Then we do what bikers do. We size up each others bikes. Yash does not play. He is well known as a collector of fine bikes. His newest is a custom 333FAB. Max was arguably one of the best welders at Seven back in the day. And an OG on HUP. The 333FAB bikes are gorgeous. Yash had a sick new CX/All Roads resplendent with all the cool bits. We collected the team for our first of many photos that day. Then rolled out. Another tradition is DJ Robert brings a boom box. His playlists are next level. As the title infers we rolled out to the Cars Moving in Stereo. Being from Boston and of a certain age this song just brings back so many memories. And frames who I am in so many ways. Of course the second we get onto the Minuteman Bike Path a car drives ONTO the path and turns in front of our group. Yeah cyclists are the problem.

Remember earlier when I said HUP is a special team? This is a classic example. No one crashes. No one pounds on the SUV in rage. We just move around said offender and are on our merry way. Lexington isn't my favorite place I won't lie. White entitlement + congestion + faux liberalism always rub me the wrong way. But as Dwayne the Rock Johnson would say I just push those feelings down into my little fanny pack and move on. I would say we have a group of about 15-18 riders. All HUP. Some new to HUP some OG. But all on the same page. I catch up with Yash and Robert. I tuck in under Robert's shoulder and roll down the path just so happy. I flow back and connect with Nable. We stop at Shenanigans Station Number One. Bikes make us all kids again. It is what keeps us in the bike game even when we are old enough to know better. When the crew sees a playground with some crazy ass swings shit is gonna go off the rails. We avoid the ER somehow.

Michele has put together such an amazing route. Minimal road. Trails that feel familiar but in a direction I have never ridden them. Yash keeps commenting on how smooth we are on the trails and wondering how we do this all the time without crashing. It honestly is so funny to me. I guess I take this whole way of riding for granted. I certainly wasn't always this comfortable riding CX bikes on the trails but after so many years it is the style of riding we have evolved to. Adventure riding. Gravel. CXenduro. I am not in marketing and have nothing to sell you so I don't put labels on this type of riding. It is just a ride.

We hit Ponyhenge. Much hilarity ensues. The best team photo of all time is taken. The only thing missing maybe is some dolphin plushie toys. We somehow have gone without a crash, a mechanical or incident to this point. Shocking. The Heavy Metal God of Thunder is clearly watching over us this day. At some point I realize where we are and start laughing out loud. Michele and I and a few others revere creating these adventure routes. So when I am able to see the master at work and enjoy her handiwork it just fills me with joy. As much as a lot of The North (In Boston we are separated by a river and a turnpike) bugs me just as I am sure where I live bugs them there are elements of Lexington and its environs that resonate with me. The history certainly. Rolling by Walden where Thoreau wrote some of the most seminal words about being an outdoors person always pulls at me. Seeing British flags along the Minuteman Path where soldiers died forming this country is always poignant. Especially during these turbulent political times when who we are as a country is being challenged daily.

The best parts of these rides other than the riding is the ability to talk to so many friends and teammates. You really have some of the best conversations while on a bike. As the ride begins to wind down the talk turns to post-ride food and hangouts. We end up in a nice pizza place right in Lexington. We all share a huge pizza and talk about the ride. It is hilarious how each rider looks at the ride and their own set up for the ride. I tend towards CXenduro. I will give up a light weight machine for one that will handle what ever the trail throws at me. A lot of the crew prefers a bike that is better suited for going fast and are ok with some mayhem along the trail. We plot and scheme our next HUP ride and adventure. And after some fond goodbyes we all pedal off in our own directions. Yash you will be missed my friend. Can't wait til the next time we get to ride together