Thursday, May 31, 2018

100+ Ghosts

This could have been named Enter the Ronde (36 Chambers) or #Getlost. But no one got lost this year. That I heard anyway. The Ronde de Rosey gave birth to gravel riding in the NECX. Literally. No hyperbole. The Ronde de Rosey was created in reaction to some typical NECX drama around a certain dirt road race that maybe got too big for its own good. I did say drama-filled race. I mean what road race isn't filled with drama? I was a lowly Cat 5 masters racer. Road racing meant jack shit to me. But when my new besties invited me to "race" on dirt roads in upper state NY and mentioned we had a BALLER farm house that was going to be our HQ I jumped on that. I was a young baby master and scrappy. Hell I had been home for just over a year and had a lot of Norcal swagger. Lots of mistakes were made during that race. But my love of adventure riding certainly was sparked that day. So when shit went to that dark, dark place with said race promoter and Rosey decided to offer a free alternative I was all in. We cracked a few eggs that first year. It was pretty misunderstood. And the whole concept of adventure/CX riding was really new. Rosey, Utah and I used tape, spray cans and others methods to mark a route. Still racers raced and half the riders got lost, blew up, destroyed themselves or their bikes. We quickly realized calling the RdR a race was a super bad idea. Racers have zero chill. HUP won that first edition FYI. But sure we maybe had a performance advantage. 

So now we are at RdR v 9.0. Is it the longest bandit CX ride in the NECX? Who knows. It certainly is the most legendary. Not everyone gets it. Its ok. You don't have to get it. We don't do this to be popular or for everyone. We do this for the community. We do it for people who want to push themselves to the limit. And maybe at that limit you get a choice. Do you make a personal or selfless choice and cut it short for your team? or do you push on and crack your whole squad. Like my yoga teacher tells me over and over again. I offer suggestions. What you chose to do is your choice. This year we opened it up a bit. Can you call it a bandit ride if you have insurance? Thank you EFTA. Can it be a bandit ride if it is on Bikereg? And you have a limited edition kit designed by a legend in the NECX? Hmmm maybe. I am always shocked when people reactive adversely to something that is bandit. What part of bandit confused you? Bandits will bandit after all. I personally celebrate the bandit in all of us. The wild nature. Go ahead kid, jump that no trespassing fence. Poach that No Bikes trail. But still be respectful. Be a good trail steward. Not sure why people think somehow living the bandit lifestyle doesn't mean you don't live by a moral code. Personally I don't trust rule followers. Show me a rule follower who doesn't have a dark side. I dare you.

So here we go. Year Nine. Rosey and I have always riffed this thing in a way I really haven't worked with anyone before. Sure we always pull in other key friends. Many trail wizards work on this here adventure ride. It is a collective. Honestly we do this to really show off what amazing trails are out there. And lately I have been smelling what a certain trail wizard from the southern kingdoms has been cooking. The route was one that definitely was going to push people. CXenduro for sure. But lots of road recovery. If you are from these parts you know what a shit Spring we had. One day it was 70. The next it was 40 and pissing rain. We rode the entire route the week before the ride. It was 100% good to go. Of course it rained epically the three days leading up to it. And of course rained for the morning of the ride. I worried about some of the trails. But I knew where we were riding was ok. Some trails drain. Some don't. Some recover easily. Some don't. Yes we rode some wet trails. And guess what? They were all fine a week after we rode them. Not fake news.

We rolled out from the Washington Square Tavern in a pissing rain. Having done this for 8 of 9 years I was pretty excited. And nervous. The Ronde is a Gentleman's Ride. Gentleman's Rules apply. What are Gentleman's Rules? I am glad you asked. Teams start together and finish together. You are tasked with supporting your whole squad. You are only as fast as your slowest rider. If you ride your team into the ground you lose. If you piss your teamies off you lose. Have fun. Be nice. Don't be a dick on the trails or roads. We stopped and talked to dog walkers. One of the funniest moments was when we were riding along the Charles River. It had flooded it's banks. A hiker implored us to turn back. He was actually impressed we made it this far. We rode THROUGH the Charles. To the other sandy bank. My friend who shall remain anonymouse curated an insane route. We met him at the Ride HQ. He had fresh legs. I was now afraid. Guthrie and he play off each other like Pippin and MJ. They went off at a leg shredding pace. When my new to me teamie asked me what time lunch was and another told me her feet were frozen stumps I suspected we may have a "problem" So I made an executive decision. We pulled the plug on the shorty version. Remember my earlier comment about riding your own Ronde? Yeah I mean that. Riding your own Ronde means hey if your teammates are cracking maybe get them home happy and early and eating burgers before they are in the fetal position on the side of the trail. Or maybe choosing to not ride a trail that seems too muddy. Or maybe not riding 3 across on a narrow road in Sudbury. Just a suggestion. What you do is up to you.

So as much as I hated to we left two of our teammates to smash while we beelined back to the Tavern on the road. Honestly I like shepherding groups like this. It is bonding. We had a great ride back to the bike path in Needham. As we headed to the townline I was having lots of feels. I knew my wife and kids had set up a bandit aid station on the bike path right before NTF. I mean I love my fam. They are all in with my crazy lifestyle. They get it. 175 bikers are rolling through the path at 1 pm? We are ON it! And they weren't playing. They saved so many souls. I owe them big time. But my fear was I would see them and be like yeah fuck this shit. The hot tub and a Dale's are calling me. Yeah I have a hot tub. But I guess Kharma or whatnot was in my favor and I missed them by probably ten minutes. The stories my friends told me about seeing that rest stop like it was some kind of Oasis filled me with such love. It was so rad. My wife crushed it. This isn't her first rodeo. But still. Not sure how many executive spouses would take the time out of their weekend to support 175 lost souls. She had everything. Pickles, snickers, gummy bears, GF snacks. She crushed it.

Our crew made it back to the Tavern and we met up with Ryan Kelly and Adam St. Germain and their crew. It was awesome. We flew back into Washington Square. Nothing and I mean nothing tastes better than that burger and beer at the Tavern after the Ronde. We hung out at the bar and waited for everyone to finish. Each team would come in and share so many rad stories. Hugs and high fives were exchanged. And then the raffle started and the usual mayhem ensued. HUGE props to Rosey and Gerry. They are the real drivers behind this. They always bring so much energy to this event. We raised 4K for Bikes not Bombs. And another 1k to local trails organizations in the area.

I am not sure what next year will hold. It will be the 10th edition. I suspect something very special will be on tap. Maybe a Ronde de Rosey CXenduro stage race? Feats of Strength? Choose your own adventure? Stay tuned and stay thirsty my friends. To the first real CXenduro event that spawned all of them in the NECX I salute you. SO proud to have been a small cog in this machine. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Yes, my loyal readers you read that headline correctly. I am not referring to the Greatest Yoga of All Time. I am referring to Goat Yoga. Yoga with goats. Baby goats specifically. Now if you follow this blog you know I am into bikes. Most of my posts are bike related. But goat yoga is important. What? How can yoga with goats be important? And why would anyone do yoga with goats? Well first have you ever seen a baby goat? I mean seriously. I am not afraid to alienate people but a baby goat is way cuter than a cat or dog. And has a soul. I know what you are thinking. Dude you have lost it bro. How many edibles did that nice guy at registration give you? One if edibles were offered of course I would have happily partaken. I mean this was in Noho. Or Eastho. Do they call it Eastho or did I just make it up.

Irregardless. I love Northampton. I am not of the "I would move there" mindset. Like VT it is a phenomenal place to visit but I could not live there. I go there to recharge. And to push maybe my comfort zone. My roots are in two places: Boston and SF. Those two Cities to me are my center. But let's get back on track. My wife makes me a better person. She drags my old, broken ass to yoga on a regular basis. She and her yoga journey are amazing. Most people as they age get rigid and set in their ways. My wife is more open now than she ever has been. A lot of it is thanks to yoga. She meditates. She reads yoga books to better herself. And she tries to help me along this journey as well. I love yoga. I really do. As a kid I went deep into the martial arts rabbit hole. It oddly began innocently enough. Needed to bulk up for hockey. I was a little kid. The weight lifting class at the Y was awesome. The instructor was a beast of a dude. Black belt in Kempo Karate. He invited me to a karate class. I got hooked. That started a pretty intense journey that led me to one of the most highly respect Wu Shu Sifus in Boston. I would drive into Boston 3 times a week to train my ass off. But martial arts are tough. You think you get broken down by bike racing? Try getting punched in the face again, and again and again. I would go to work the next day with black eyes, cracked ribs. It was nuts. And my co-workers were becoming concerned. 

Then we moved to SF. And Pam discovered Bikram yoga. That wasn't really my thing. But we tried Hatha yoga and I liked it. It reminded me of Kung Fu. Well, newsflash the Shaolin stole a lot of their Kung Fu from Yoga. I can't tell you how many times I am in eagle pose and I have flash backs to Yao Li's Kung Fu academy and Eagle Form. But yoga to me, maybe at my age, just peels it all back and gets to the source. Even when martial arts were martial. Aka an art you learned to kill someone else there was a spiritual component. But it is hard to accept the hurting someone else with I want to be a peaceful evolved person part of martial arts. Yoga strips that all away. The journey is more about letting go and only doing what you can do at that moment. Yoga believe it or not can get intense. People have lots of opinions and feelings about yoga. Especially hot yoga. It is what it is. I love the teachers I have had along the way. They have brought me back from lots of bike related injuries. And yes, I have hurt myself in yoga.

One of the more evolved teachers I have had once said "you choose to push yourself. I only offer suggestions" My blaming a teacher for a yoga injury would be stupid. I chose to not listen to my body and push myself past what it could handle. The same is true for cycling. 90% of our injuries in cycling are our own fault. We pushed ourself too hard. Or we decided not to listen to that voice in our head that said that drop off a rock feature was too scary. You need to listen my friends. And be like water. Water doesn't fight it flows. The whole point of goat yoga is to take yoga and life less seriously. Baby goats are a primal entity. This trip we went on as a family was a Mother's Day/College tour event. Baby goats say mom. It is the weirdest thing I have ever heard. I know everyone has heard a goat say maaaaaahhhhh. But when you hear it in the stillness of a yoga class in a room full of moms. Motherhood and what that means makes you stop in your tracks and pause. 

Goat yoga is kind of like an adult petting zoo. If you ever tried to do yoga at home with a dog or a cat you can imagine how goat yoga is going to go. The goats think its play time. Or cuddle time. Or hop over you time. And they want to eat your hair. And nibble your toes. And eventually sleep on or next to you. We are so disconnected with nature. Humans are an animal. An animal who has lost its soul and connection with mother earth but still an animal. Goat yoga is a gift. It helps us step away from the 24 hour news cycle and getting triggered by every intense thing we are exposed to. Yoga believe it or not just like cycling can be intense. It is HARD. I dare you to go to a hot yoga class with me. It is brutal. And people will scoff at it. Why add heat to something already "hard" The heat forces you to choose a path. And to listen to your body. Just like goat yoga takes you off your game a bit. Do I want to hold this pose? Or do I really just want to cuddle with this goat?

The goat yoga class we attended was held by Sage Farms in Easthampton. It was a benefit for a lot of really important local charities. And I know people don't always see it because we are riding through or vacationing but places like Easthampton, Deerfield, etc struggle. The people there don't make a lot of money. Most didn't go to Ivy League colleges. Most might not have gone to college. It is nice to give back to those communities. The goats themselves were adorable. A goat named Pie Jar aka Grace bonded with my younger daughter Syd. It helped her so much. The speech the farmer gave prior to the event hit so close to home. I hope my older daughter ends up going to Smith. One, I believe in that institution. Two, I want an excuse to get up to Noho more often. And Three, those pesky goats. They have so much to teach if you just step back and listen.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rhode Island is NOT flat

Contrary to what you may assume Rhode Island is not Flat. In fact, as I learned this past Saturday it is in fact very hilly. I heard great things about Greasy Joe's Gravel Grinder. My good friend Roger went and did it last year. I am pretty sure he used the words "easy" and "flat" when describing it. He also used the words fun and awesome. Being a mid-distance gravel specialist the first and only time I have ever ridden at Big River (which happens to be where GJGG was held) I couldn't help think how awesome it would be to ride a CX bike on these trails. It was very reminiscent of Cape Cod which I love. Flowy, sandy, pine loam trails. Relatively flat which is perfect for a flatlander like myself. So when I saw the date for GJGG I put a big red star on my calendar. I got a great crew of HUP together and it was on!

Now as this was a special ride and I wanted to be at my best I decided it was time to put new tires on. Tan walls are my jam. I was very excited to put a brand new set of WTB Riddlers on for this ride. Again I assumed the course would be a gravel grinder aka roadie-ish course. I didn't want to be held back by my 40 CX knobbies. Hahaha. Are you noticing a trend here? Lots of assumptions. When I got the pre-ride email the night before I realized this was not a roadie dirt road ride at all. And knowing the NECT crew I should have never assumed this one wasn't going to be rowdy. The week before I had set up Guthrie with a pair of these tires right before the Ronde. They set up in like 20 minutes. Now past performance does not insure the outcome of future endeavors. Both tires went on super easy. I did all the usual things I do. Soapy water, violent shaking of the wheel, ride around the neighborhood. My neighbors must think I am crazy.

Then air started shooting out of the front tire. And the rear wasn't holding. I won't lie I kind of panicked. I texted Pirro. And pleaded to the internet for tips. More sealant. More shaking. More beer. I went to bed thinking about how screwed I was going to be the next day. My confidence was about zero that these tires would hold air overnight let alone on 50 miles of rowdy trails in Big River and Arcadia. But some CX god smiled on me and the tires held fast. Thank you to what ever spirit or Fae saved me from certain doom. Guthrie and Joanna show up to HUP HQ south and we pack everything into the van. Things are going surprisingly smooth.

We get down and are a little "late." One of the things I love about how Greasy Joe's did this was it was a staggered start or choose your own start time. Kind of like D2R2 in a way. They had sent out a GPS file the prior evening so everyone had a GPS track to follow but they also were diligent about signs and arrows at all turns, obstacles and rest stops. I know there has been some discussion of late about signage and GPS files. I like both. I know its a lot of work to do signs. But it ensures riders stay on course and alerts them to hazards. These rides are not supposed to be races. Frankly a race mindset is the worst for rides like this. The whole point of gravel adventure rides is to have an adventure. Stick together. Help each other out. Navigate the course. A course like GJGG has everything. Some riders will be strong on the climbs. Some super fast on the descents and technical bits. Someone is always going to get dropped or separated from the group. The first rule is everyone waits. No one gets left behind.

The first part of the ride reminded me of the mtb ride we did down at Big River about a month prior. Super fun dirt roads, flowy. And then we hit what I can only describe as a dry creek bed. It reminded me of the chute at Lemurian. Now maybe one person will get that reference but the Lemurian was this epic mtb ride in Norcal. You climbed forever. Then took a ripping descent down the mtn. We all were on rigid bikes back then. It got rowdy to say the least. This descent pushed the bounds of what you can do on a CX bike. I loved every second of it.

We somehow got through the ride with only two flats. I did almost rip my front fork off at one point and dropped my chain on a bumpy decent. But it was the perfect day. NECT crushed it. It is probably my favorite gravel ride I have done. The course was very similar to VT Overland. Punchy steep climbs, rowdy technical sections, super fun flowy loam tracks. True confession time. One of my kids plays a ton of video games. She loves them. And she constantly talks about the storylines and how her characters are doing. We talk about the villains and the protagonist. It is great. Half way through the ride I kept asking myself "what does this remind me of?" NH? Sort of. VT? Kind of. Far Cry 5? Definitely. So much of the course was nice pine loam forest. Then you would punch out into an area that was like it was out of a dystopian novel or movie. I kept expecting Joe Seed to come out and ask me about my sins. Pretty sure Sloth would be carved on my chest....

We had a group of about 9 riders. A nice mash up of HUP, Seven and others. Got to ride with some friends who I hadn't seen in a long time. And once again HUP lives up to being the raddest crew to ride with ever. I just love the bizarre conversations we have and the crazy shit that goes down. HUGE props to the whole NECT crew! Major shout outs to Tamara Wong for the amazing rest stop. That rest stop was a life saver. And Tammy stayed out there the whole day. It was probably one of the most dialed rest stops I have seen at a ride. Definitely took notes for next year's Ronde!
Matt from NECT did a great job on the course and checking in on all the riders. The whole ride we were thinking of cold beer. I know, I know. But it was hot. And the course was super hard. We had resigned ourselves to no beer but happy we had finished together and had such a great ride. As we rolled back into the staging area we went to let Matt know we had finished so he could sign us in. AS we signed in he handed each of us an ice cold Cinco de Mayo appropriate beer. That ice cold Corona Light was better than any artisanal hand crafted beer I have ever consumed.

Long story short I will be back next year. That is now a must do on my gravel calendar. I won't lie I joke about being a "gravel specialist" but those are the rides I am interested in. Racing is kind of meh for me at this point in my riding career. I just like to ride with friends in some crazy area on CX bikes or what ever you call the bikes we are riding. I look forward to a great Spring and Summer (and gasp even Fall!) checking out all the cool gravel in New England.