Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Practice? We Talking about Practice?

Yes, AI we are going to talk about practice today. For those unfamiliar with AI or his rant about practice, first shame on you, second here is the link in all its greatness. Unlike AI, us mere mortals do indeed need to practice. And cyclocross is probably one of the few cycle sports were practice is almost more important than training. I hate the word training FYI. But practice? I love practice. The skills and weird bizarre nature of cross is what made me fall in love with this sport at the get go. Cyclocross requires of its participants a crazy combination of fitness and technique that is hard to even put into words. The start has to be full gas. Surviving that initial chaos is really the key to any success in cross. There may be a few people who have bad starts and come from behind to do well but it is rare these days. There are way too many people who focus solely on cross these days for that to happen. So practice those starts. Over, and over, and over.Wait for the whistle. Be ready. Right foot up. Blast off. Clip in. Don't get crashed into the tape. 

Once you have done ten or so starts it is time to practice turns. A good cross course has lots of turns. The trickier the better. I hate seeing cross courses with too much straight away. One it is boring, two why? You want the roadies to win don't you? Yeah you do. If you don't put in some turns the roadies will just leave us in their dust. Off cambers are my true favorite. I love the velcro sound a tire makes as it is right on the edge of breaking away in a grass turn. I love that sound. Let's me know I am carving instead of over braking and accelerating back to speed at every turn. Speaking of accelerating. CX is a thousand tiny deaths at the hands of 10 to 20 second sprints. Every time you come out of that corner and maybe lose speed you need to get it back. So get it back. Sprint out of every corner. After every run up. Those seconds add up.

Run. Ok I am a horrible runner. I vow to run every year. Never do. I have at least three sets of brand new running shoes that are still brand new. But you have to run in CX so during practice run. This is better anyway. Make it a transition. Whether in a set CX practice or your own course find two to three spots. Make a transition from bike to run so you can practice getting off and picking the bike up and running with it. There are so many techniques for running with the bike. Some instances are dependent on what you are running up or across. A stair runnup is totally different than a dirt pitch which is totally different than a sand pit or beach. So play around. And practice is the best time to do it. Mid-race is not a good idea to try something new. Trust me. It rarely works.

Barriers. It is one of the defining features of cross. I hate a course without at least one set. It just doesn't feel right. Now if the course has natural barriers-a telephone pole or downed tree, unrideable woods section or a beach....ok that works. It doesn't have to be a traditional double barrier setup. But I like that. Again, I am not particularly good at barriers I just like them because they make me work and think. And that is really one of the things I love about CX. Even if your fitness is horrible or you crashed at the start and are DFL you still have the course. The course is always going to be a challenge. Why not look at it that way. Even if you are last if you are riding super smooth and killing the technical sections you are winning in my mind.

So back to practice. I have been at this a long time. I honestly have let my practice slide. Some of it is my weird schedule but honestly a lot of it is apathy. I had the chance to go to Saturday Morning Prestige this past Saturday in Southie. Kevin posted up the photo above on his Instagram. I saw that tape and stakes and was like "hell yes!" I was so happy I went. An organized practice like Wednesday Superprestige or Larz is a gift. There are lots of organized and bandit practices. Most happen on a Weds. It is mid-week and you are pretty much recovered from any racing the weekend before. You should be pretty fresh. What is great about an organized practice is there are people there to help you figure things out. People are so happy to answer any questions etc. And you get to sort of mini-race with friends etc. Oddly this season has been like starting all over with CX. Not sure what it is about. I think it is my SSCX family. They just bring so much PMA to cross and bikes and life in general that even some old retired dude like me feels like a kid again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Welcome to the Gun Club

Quad Cross has been the unofficial/official opener of Cross season in the #NECX for 12 years. At first it seemed "too early" Sucker Brook the 2nd or 3rd weekend in Sept was always the opener. And then this other cool race happened. It was first held at Middlesex College. The close proximity and the Quad crew's effort made it a special race pretty much right out of the gate. I have so many crazy memories of those races at Middlesex. Mud bogs, bee stings, botching a remount and doing the unspeakable to the point I curled up in the fetal position next to the tape and thought I might die. But those races were amazing. Quad has always been known for its rad course design and super chill atmosphere. When it moved to the Gun Club in Maynard it just went to 11. I mean it is at a Gun Club! The early days at the Gun Club people swore bullets fell on the course (they didn't) and again some epic memories happened. The time Eli hit a tree. That was bananas. The time Lolli rode THROUGH a tree. Timber!!! Grillo's Pickles got its first introduction to the NECX via the Newbury Comics team. Unless my memory is off I believe they had pickled jalape├▒os one year. So yeah the race is a classic. 

It is one of those races you just do not want to miss. For an early season/low key Jungle Cross race it gets one of the highest turnouts of any race of the season.  It has been a part of the Zank SSCX series from the beginning of the series. I have been trying so hard to introduce SSCX Biathlon as an Olympic sport. I mean it has HUGE potential. Set up a table with BB Guns and beers. Each racer has to shotgun a beer and hit a can. It will change everything my friends. The weather for this year's race was surprisingly cool. Most years (Thanks Global Warming) it is so hot. It is always dusty. But that is one of the things I love about the race. So many races are just boring grass crits. Quad takes Jungle Cross and weaponizes it. All the woods sections are best navigated in the drops. And you had better have double checked those fancy tubular glue jobs I will say that.

This year's course design was probably my favorite of all time. It had all the usual elements-Woods section, euro chutes, gravel road climb, twists and turns through the sand pits, fast opening start, super tricky gazebo sector. And some great double barriers and a telephone pole!!! I love it. I won't lie that going from couch to SSCX Beyond the Thunderdome is maybe not super smart but yolo. Even at 53 you really only live once. And as long as you can go you best go. Cause at my advanced age you don't know how many times you are going to get on this rodeo. Ok it wasn't FULL couch to SSCX. I mean I did hot yoga that morning. That has to be a good warmup for going redline on a SSCX for 40 minutes right?

Regardless I was pumped. I get to the venue and it is like a SSCX reunion. So many people. So many high fives and hugs. I love this Island of Misfit toys we have created. The SSCX crew really is special. Reminds me of how CX was back when it was a niche sport. I got to see the Vest after Kerry bedazzled it! I knew when Kerry Litka won the vest the previous weekend we were in for something special. She is very creative and has a flair for design. What she created was so rad. It is pictured above. Honestly this is what I love about the Vest. The wearer puts their stamp on it. It becomes a living testament to SSCX and the rider. It also is sort of like the one ring that binds them all. Once you get it you do not want to let it go. It was so awesome talking with Kerry about it. She gets it. 100%.

I did a quick pre-ride which really only included the sand pit turns and then lined up with 60 of my favorite people. I won't lie I was kind of nervous. Which is weird for having done this so long. But new season. I really have only been riding gravel soul rides in the woods mostly by myself and at 10 mph. That really doesn't translate to full gas SSCX. The whistle goes off and the time for nerves is over. I stay locked in as best I can but the start at Quad is nuts. Full gas on grass sharp turn at a tree. Major pinching and brake squealing. The good thing about SSCX is you avoid all of that Cat 3/Masters argy bargy. Not that crashes don't happen. It is CX after all and people are going full out. But maybe it is the limiter of one gear or something but you just don't get all the dive bombing and chopping you get in those other races. A voice is going off in my head that I should get off and run around the conga line ahead of me but that just seems in bad form for SSCX. So I keep flowing as best I can. Then I make what I can only describe as a bad lifestyle choice. Or as I called it later my attempt to Bunnyhop Mediocrity.

So my good friend Derek had given me a verbal course preview. He had mentioned a telephone log hop. I had locked onto that and thought "Oh I am hopping that" It is gonna be EPIC! I will show these racers what riding in the woods all summer has taught me! So I come through a sketchy gravel chicane and see my WHITE WHALE!!! Have I mentioned it is the first lap? And I am surrounded by other racers in traffic. Uhhh yeah. So I don't really know what happened next. But I went for it. I hopped. And paid the price. I almost made it. I got the front wheel up and on the log. Tried for the Tap hop move and damn if my bb didn't get hooked up on the log and yeah I was that guy. Thank god people had a sense of humor. A guy after the race came up to me in the van and fist bumped me and said "That was rad!" God I love singlespeeders. An "elite" Masters racer would want to fight me in the parking lot for "ruining" his race like that.

Post epic log hop fail I just sort of pulled my shit back together. I was truly partying at the back now. But it was such a great crew. I had a really fun mini-battle with a couple of friends. We were working really nicely moving up a bit from our DFL back of the pack section. Each lap there was a really great group in the woods heckling and doing handups. What is weird in a race like this is it is pretty hard to hear or see anything but the course. I mentioned how hard the course was right? Each year at least one person crashes heavily on the euro chutes and gets pretty dinged up. So you have to be on your game. I take those drops seriously because it is my brand. I may be slow and old but you give me some crazy ass drop and I am in the drops and riding that like a boss. So I didn't even realize it was my friends in the woods. Until I got knocked off on the 3rd lap and had to run the hill. Then I hear Baumann yelling "YOUR NAME IS CHIP YOU HAVE TO TAKE A CHIP!!!" That is a reasonable statement. So I run over to the side where they are and get a very spirited spank in the ass and grab a mouth full of dill pickle chips. Amazing. Those salty snacks gave me wings!

Great race. Best course ever. And HUGE kudos and thanks to Quad and all who work on this race. It is so hard putting on a race like this. The front of the SSCX was super exciting! Rhys won the women's! She really smashed it. It was so awesome seeing her rocking a gold ball mask attached to her helmet and just flying. It is so rad having her joining us this season. Kerry held onto the vest by 5 points! Wild. The men's points ended in a tie! And Connor Walsh held it for one more week. Next stop on the Zank Wirld Tour is at Cape Cross. Now if you are from New England you know about The Cape. I assume you do. It is going to be amazing. And we are all going for fried clams and cold beers after. Count on it. See you in two weeks my friends! Oh and HUGE thanks to Andy for this amazing video!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Nailed to the Cross

Cross is coming whether you are ready or not. I know I am not ready. But missing out on a CX season is a mortal sin to those who worship upon Cross's altar. It is not unlike how Catholics feel about Mass. Cycling itself is an oddball cult/religion in and of itself. Cross gets into the realm of the illuminati in a blink of an eye. Each September we as the faithful servants of CX have a reunion. It doesn't happen in a Church but on the fields of farms, ski hills, and parks. To the uninitiated it appears equal parts LARPing, equal parts Chaos. It is such an oddball sport and I think that is why people fall in love with it. It requires so many weird subtle skills and a fitness level that certainly favors those with power but a good runner or cagey bike handler can out fox a pure power rider on any given Sunday.

This post is equal parts homage to my one true love in the bike game. I came to CX in an odd way. Moved to Norcal in the late '80s. Got a job at a regional cycling rag. Worked my way up to editor. Made some great friends. And those friends gave me a quick introduction to cycling. Road cycling led me to MTB, MTB led me to CX. And once I tried CX I got hooked. My first real CX bike was a too big for me Rock Lobster. But it was a BALLER frame. School bus yellow. One of a kind. I rode that thing everywhere. Til it got stolen. I have ridden steel and alloy CX bikes ever since. I have never owned a carbon bike. Until this season. Call it a mid-life crisis. Call it always wanting a Santa Cruz. You can take the boy out of Norcal but you cannot take Norcal out of the boy. Honestly, for better or worse those 13 years in the SF Bay Area made me who I am today. This bike is sort of a way to tap back into that energy. Rekindle my love for CX. Oddly it is also the best Gravel Bike I have ever owned. I am not a very good bike "reviewer." I like what I like. You may not like what I like. I never could lie about bike stuff.

So what we have here is a Santa Cruz Stigmata. With NEXT carbon RULE wheels. With GOLD nipples. I moved most of my tried and true parts over from my Zank. I have settled on a Shimano/TRP Hylex Di2 set up. I have gone through so many group sets. I was a HUGE Campy fan. Then had a brief SRAM dalliance. That didn't last long. Shimano to me is it. Bomb proof. Reliable. They never rush out new tech just to appease the masses. And I love the zip zip of Di2. Electronic shifting is awesome. I am sorry if that sounds elitist. But the biggest issue with cable shifting is friction. And contamination. Di2 is effortless. With the TRP Hylex levers you can put a shimano climbing lever into a port on the inside of the level. Hylex levers are technically SS levers. Which is on brand and is on my SS. I prefer the feel of the hoods and the action of the braking. And yes, the climbing button tucked on the inside of the lever feels like the old Campy thumb shifter. I swear I still have a callous on my palm from those Campy shifters.

I go 1x not because it is cool or anything but because it is simple. I like simple. It is what I like most about SSCX. I have eyeballed the new Shimano levers and do like the look of them. I could go 2x at some point. God knows the new Ultegra clutch mech is CXy as hell. It may be in my future. So it is a simple midlife crisis bike. I know that sounds weird. Ok so how does it ride. First MAJOR kudos to my mechanic and good friend Scott Novick at Landry's in Natick. He and I have been good friends for a decade. We have done so many rad adventure rides. And he is as PRO as they come. I at times can be a pain I am sure but he never gets too mad at me about my crazy ass bike projects. He has built up and serviced my bikes for as long as I have been on the east coast. So suffice it to say my bikes are dialed. He built this up and on my first ride I literally changed nothing. I mean I don't know about you but I am a CX diva. I fidget and mess around with my bike constantly. 1 mm adjustments here and there constantly. And I swear I can feel the difference. Tire pressure is a constant fixation. I swear I can feel a 2-5 psi change in pressure. So the fact that I didn't have to adjust a thing speaks volumes to what Scott does as a craft and profession.

So on to the good stuff. How does it ride? Amazing. I see why people love carbon now. And as much as I am super nervous about it. I am babying this bike like no other bike I have ever owned FYI. The bike is just rock solid. The first thing I noticed is it is just plain fast. Climbs effortlessly. And I am a horrible climber. And is smooth in a subtle way. But let's not get too ahead of ourselves the bike is also very spirited. I wouldn't call it twitchy. But it is not as stable as my steel and alloy bikes. Maybe that is the weight or something else. It has taken me a few rides to get used to it. But you can throw the bike around very easily. But I haven't crashed. Which is amazing. I hit something. Maybe a root or a rock. The rear end deflected up and out. It felt like the rear end was parallel to the ground. But somehow I was able to get it back under me and not crash. That is huge. A good CX bike (or gravel bike) has to have that ability. Quick and nimble, but when it gets bounced out can recover.

I have taken it on my usual crazy loops. And have taken it far afield. I WISH I had taken it to VT Overland. But it was not meant to be. I may just do a bike-cation to VT this Fall. Or maybe Western Mass. This bike needs to be ridden all day. Again I feel like this is a great CX race bike but also a workhorse gravel bike. I know some people want their gravel bikes to be super stable. And I get it kind of. I have ridden long gravel bikes and they are nice on straight bombed out fire roads. But I need a bike that talks to me. Gives me feedback. And if the shit hits the fan it will get me out of trouble. A stable bike will not do that. You have to be able to flick the bike across a trail with your thighs. Or hop some bombed out crater or rut that comes up on you super fast. A low BB long Gravel bike can't do that. Give me a CX bike. That is where I feel at home.

What else can I say? I love it. The more I ride it the more I love it. I do want to race it this year. I know I race SSCX mainly but it is fun to race a sweet geared bike in a CX race. Don't be shocked if I line up in the geared race with this mid-life crisis bike. In other news the Zank SSCX series kicks off next weekend at Kalon Cross. My good friends have been hard at work dialing it in. It will be amazing. And the Zank crew has some surprises for you. This season is going be so rad! 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Worcester Mixte

Photo by Lesli

So sometimes you have to turn lemons into lemonade. And while the #CBL through the intertubes seems all adventure rides and cold beers by a secret swimming hole it is in reality trying to find the time to ride with good friends. And sometimes when one opportunity gets scuttled due to SAT subject tests you make the best out of it. I am a good husband and dad. I would do anything for my family. Doesn't mean my knee jerk reaction isn't  "wait you scheduled SATs in Worcester the day before I was going to go to Vermont for an adventure ride?" Papa Smurf while in general a happy go lucky Smurf he sometimes had an edge. As I have aged I have mellowed. I only have so much energy. So fighting over something that is a fait complete is a waste of everyone's time. So I caved quickly and had a brilliant idea. I would use the trip to Worcester as a way to ride with my great friends out there. It literally had been about a year since I had ridden with them. Sure we race CX together. And I saw them at the Ronde. But that is a blur. The thing I love the most right now is just riding with good friends on their trails. At a chill conversational space discovering stuff and catching up. 

Ok so a plan came together. The 3Cross/Fritz crew were so great. They Agreed to meet me at a cool coffee shop called Acoustic Java at 8 am on a Saturday. That means a lot to me. Friends who will drop everything and meet you for a ride are literally the best. So I won't lie I was pretty nervous. I am as most of you know a solo dad. I am not on my own. I am not Danny on Full House. My wife is incredible. But she is the provider for this household. I am the stay at home parent. So things like this fall in my bucket on the org chart. I do stuff like this all the time. But I don't leave my kids alone. Zoe was doing 3 subject tests for the SAT. That is about 3-4 hours of testing. I dropped her at the High School and made the sign of the cross and went to meet up with the 3 Cross crew. Worcester reminds me of Providence when I went to art school in the late '80s. It is part Industrial, part college students and part a really diverse mix of ethnicities. It is authentic and has a real soul. I won't lie. I love it.

Brian hopping a log. Photo by Lesli

I found the coffee shop and was about 20 minutes early. I had jitters but did some meditation in the car and relaxed. You think I am kidding. You would think after 18 years at this job I would relax. But I can't. New parents I hate to say this but everyone who tells you it gets easier is a fucking liar. It gets way harder. I know when your three year old is having a meltdown it feels like the end of the world. And it is for the two of you at the time. But the teen years it gets real. Stress levels go through the roof. So I got my shit together. Josh was the first one to show up. I know all of these riders but we are all still pretty new to each other. I love making new riding friends. To me it is so simple. Do you have a sense of humor, do you ride well (and by well I do not mean fast. I hate riding with fast people) and are you cool. Josh is all of the above in spades. So rad. The rest of the crew show up and we get coffee and snacks. We share stories. I catch up with Dave and Jess about D2R2. They have some epic tales indeed. Sorry I missed that one.

Big stretch Photo by Lesli

Lesli plies me with Swedish Fish. I hit my inner timer and hope I don't die on this ride so Zoe isn't stranded in Worcester for the rest of her days. Again, for those unfamiliar with Worcester. It is the classic New England Industrial City. So many factories and warehouses. It is vibrant. A great energy. And no lie great for cycling. Honest to god we rolled out from an area that in Boston would have you on high alert on a bike. People were so chill. We took the lane. No one honked. We basically shut down traffic to take a left. No one tried to run us over. I have never felt so safe in an urban environment in my life on a bike. I don't know if people just aren't in a rush or are used to bikes but man it is nice. We quickly made our way to the first pave sector. Worcester has great riding. Especially for a city. We hit so many rad trails. I would say the ride was 60/40 dirt trail to pavement. And a lot of the pavement was literally dirt road or pave. How much dirt road still exists in Boston? 

Lesli, Jess, Dave, Josh and CB Photo by Lesli 

So many highlights from the ride. Seeing an Ice Cream Truck graveyard was tops, FLYING down a paved descent following Josh and knowing we missed the turn into a trail but not caring as the descent was so rad. Josh was so funny about that. I knew we overcooked the route. At the bottom of this huge hill (did I mention how hilly Worcester is?) Josh says "I hate what I am about to do to you?" I laugh and say umm we have to climb back up that hill right? He just starts laughing. Such a great guy. I love this crew and love riding in Worcester. I promise it won't be a year between rides my friends. If you get a chance make the trip. You will be happy you did. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Nice Gloves

I know what you are thinking. How did this happen. Well it is a long story. It all starts with the man pictured below. Photo by Ryley Newton fyi. Any photographer willing to camp out in 95 degree heat in New England in August and endure EEE ridden mosquitos and ticks is a champion in my mind. And as his photo would prove he captured just what that man cooked up for this past MTB season. My friends have the best worst ideas. Some I have to sort of just ignore. As they are maybe a tad to get us all in jaily. I mean I am a derelict I like me some quasi illegal behavior. But Barn Burner is the premier MTB event in New England. What Pete and Marty have built is impressive. I would never ruin anyone's race. No matter what some may say. 

So let's hit the rewind button. Kevin O and Mike Wissell have been asking me to roll the Zank SSCX Party Train into the MTB season the last couple of years. They know my affinity for all things single speed. But SSCX and SS MTB are different beasts. While they share a lot of crossover, no pun intended, there are some hurdles with SS MTB. One in the Northeast we have a high bar. SSAP which recently retired was and is the pinnacle of SS MTB racing. I am not trying to one up any region. Nothing seems to polarize people like regionalism or single speeds in cycling. What the Dark Horse guys did with SS-A-Palooza literally inspired a Legion of us from New England. We would plan our whole year around that event. So I finally cracked. I missed SS MTB. SSCX is great. But it is different. Anyone can do SSCX. Honestly. That has been our mission from day one. All are welcome and all can do it. It in many ways is so much easier than geared CX. I have never had to fight anyone in a SSCX race. Hahah. Ok I have only had to fight in a CX race once. Lots of threats. But only once did I fight. But so much of the argy bargy that is CX never ever goes down in SSCX. So how would SS MTB go? Well very well my friends. 

In large part to this man. Kevin is one of a kind. So strong on a bike. But almost a Hunter S Thompson-esque character. So when he asked if I wanted to do a Tiki Bar at Barn Burner I was like yes. Of course. Then we started plotting and scheming. The word Tiki Bar to me is more a concept than an actual Tiki Bar. Barn Burner in Walpole is or should be the poster child of what a positive effect a bike race can have on an open space. I swear by force of will Pete and Marty rehabbed an overgrown rarely used open space into a destination for MTB riders, dog walkers and hikers. It is an ideal space. People really get along. The Town of Walpole embraces it. So when friends build something you respect it. Walpole has a pretty firm no alcohol policy. I respect that. So our Tiki Bar really was a PMA "heckle pit" No booze laden heckles. Just PMA the whole time. Kevin texted me at 6:30 am. He was the first one on site. I was there shortly after. We set up our redneck feed zone. Can it be rednecky if we are wearing Hawaiian shirts and serving Hawaiian Punch? Well spotify picked some awkward songs early on in the Beginner/Sport races. I think that was the first time I ever heard Panzer Kampf. #winning

Right. So the early races are going. We are cheering on friends. Handing up Twizzlers and Hawaiian Fruit Punch. Not a lot of takers. But a lot of smiles. Our Heckle Pit has pretty much become the feed zone and hang out for the race. Have I mentioned how hot it was at Barn Burner? Yeah well it is not the heat but the humidity that will kill you. No lie. No shocker I am built for Winter. I am basically a mountain dwarf. Thick with two Cs. Short. Give me a double bladed battle axe and I am a happy man. But I can survive summer. I feel like death. But have learned over the years to deal. I thank hot yoga and my better half. It sounds weird but it is true. If you train in heat you acclimate. Sitting in an environmentally controlled office is not a good success story for racing in the heat. You need to feel heat to be ok in the heat. As one of my favorite yoga teacher's says over and over in every class "Don't freak out" Breathe. Chill.

We did our thing for the early races. Then went and got our race plates. Have I mentioned how much I love EFTA? EFTA reminds me of NORBA in the old days. They just get it. None of this USAC nonsense. I play nice with USAC as I am an adult but player please. This is not complicated. Put on a race where everyone has a rad time. Make it for the people and by the people. Again, HUGE tip of my cap to Marty and Pete. So Kevin and I head down to staging. I crack and swap out my Hawaiian shirt I borrowed from Kevin for the Tiki Bar for Blanco. I won't say I am scared but Rayon doesn't really breathe. Our plan was to do a lap pull out and go nuts supporting the Elite race. SS MTBers had to do 3 laps. Ouch. I got through one ok. Maybe I could have done two. Three? Hmmm maybe. I would have needed IVs and a blood infusion after. So Kevin and I punch out after one lap. Have I mentioned the #ZankBelt ? Yeah we came up with the idea to do Champ Belts for the inaugural SS MTB series.

And it was amazing. Jon Nable came up with the design. Champ Belts were born. Best. Worst. Idea. Ever. Maybe better than the vest. But I digress. Life as it were sometimes throws lemons at you. So you make lemonade. The women's leader couldn't make it to the finals. My good friend Thea was always planning on racing. But now it was basically a winner take all scenario. Our Tiki Bar went from feed zone to full race support to get Thea the belt. She did the laps. And she is a legit baller. One of the raddest women I know. It took me back to some 24 hour races I have done support on. Thea came through after the first lap looking pretty good. Second lap was on target. But man it was hot. I was actually getting a tad worried. Then she popped through the woods! Kevin and I grabbed our bikes and rode in with her to the finish. Best day ever. So stoked to see Thea raise that belt up and pop the champagne. The men's champ was equally as rad. A true SS MTB podium. We are going to take this to 11 next season kids. This year was an experiment. Next year we are ramping it up big time.

Come join us this Fall for the Zank SSCX season. And let's plot and scheme for next SS MTB season. I have ideas. And we are gonna throw some funny curve balls at you this SSCX season. Lining up with so many of my friends before the SS MTB race reminded me why I love this sport. Seriously. So many people on the line looked over and said "we have missed you Chipper" Hell yes. Music to my ears. I am recharged and ready to go. See you all at Kalon CX! Thanks Marty and Pete. Thanks TO ALL who came out and raced this past SS MTB season. Thanks EFTA. Thanks Ride Maple for sponsoring the Zank SS MTB Podium! Thanks Zank for making SS MTB great again.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


This post is long overdue and could be named lots of other titles. "With a Little Help From My Friends" would be appropriate. "Don't Freak Out" would have fit. But Staycation really captures the essence. This post as stated earlier is loooong overdue. Contrary to perception the #CBL is more Daddy Day Care than Point Break. I know I channel Bodhi as much as I can. But I am a 53 year old man taking care of two teenage daughters. Now everything I learned from Road House, Ghost, Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar have prepared me to be a stay at home dad. Without all of those movies and those characters I would just be some sad sack of an old guy trying to figure this whole thing out. But I am pretty good at my job. Being good at my job means sometimes things I would have liked to do can't happen. Racing seems impossible these days. And as much as I love gravel adventure rides I am sort of like a short range fighter escort these days. I am not fast, or have endurance but can chug along prettily happily for 2-4 hours in the woods. 

So I apologize to those who I may frustrate with my schedule. Trust me. I WISH I could go to KT or camp out at D2R2. But I can't be that far from home. I just can't. And being solo dad means you have to sort of rethink a lot of things. I have a ZERO tolerance policy for ending up in the ER. In the old days I took pride in how many trips to the ER I would take. I mean I had a legit frequent flyer card. But at some point and at some age you have to say "hey people count on me. I can't take a sick day.."

But the revelation I had was to ride with the people who I really enjoy riding with. And this past month I have traveled more on a bike than I could without these friends. I have said it a million times. I am so lucky to have my friends. They are truly special. And I have so many of them. And they all are so rad. This past month the bike took me to places I have never been. And helped me spend time with friends I have really missed. We did a great ride from Great Brook to Billerica. I am not going to go into details because once a rad MTB area gets popular it gets ruined fast. If you know you know. If you don't know and you are motivated I guess do the work and find it. You won't be disappointed. That MTB ride was one for the books. Rides like that at the time go from being wow this is soooo rad to WTF is going on here? But part of being a biker is Not. Freaking. Out. I learned this lesson from Surfing and Yoga. Yeah I know I am a dirty hippie. But it has served me so well as I have aged and gotten out of shape. Things happen on a ride. You feel like crap. You are scared. You are lost. You are out of water. Don't Freak Out. Breathe. It will all be ok

After the Billerica ride I met up with my great friend Gewilli to do a redo of the RI Red Rooster Ronde. G is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Love that man. He is a beast of a man but is also the kindest person I know. Very thoughtful. We had such a rad ride. That route he has is legit. You think you want gravel? Uh huh. Go check the RRRR route. It is bonkers. It throws everything at you. Sand dunes, real gravel, sick fresh cut single track. Met at a cafe and ended at a cafe. Perfect.

I finally went out and rocked my new RISD kit on home trails and found that certain kit afford you a certain level of respect from cars. It was bizarre. I can't even explain what happened that day. I rode through Dover in a pouring rain and cars gave me a legit 3 feet. And were patient. And no one got frustrated. Had to be the kit. It has magical powers. I may have totally failed as an art student but that kit did not fail me that day.

The piece de resistance was Thea's bday ride. I don't even know how to capture this one in words. Thea and Kevin are two really great friends and teammates of mine. Again, I can't put into words what those two mean to me, my team and the community. They are simply two of the most positive people I have ever met. Together they are like a force of nature. When I got the invite to join Thea for a bday ride I was so stoked. I had never ridden on the North Shore. Sure I have raced Gloucester a million times. And that is rad. And I have raced Willowdale. But really I have never ridden there. We met in Beverly and rolled out. It was one of those rides were you were instantly blown away. You would hit a sector and be like OMG this is the nicest section I have ever ridden. And then you would get to the next sector. Rinse and repeat the whole ride. It was like being in VT without the 4 hour drive and elevation.

I think the funniest part of this ride was how we had to just live of the land. To me that is what makes a ride great. It is cool to have everything go your way on a ride. Plenty of water, no mechanicals, blah blah blah. But that is boring don't you think? I like when the shit hits the fan. That is when you see a persons true colors. Do they panic? Do they get mad? Do they toss their bike into the woods when it breaks? My friends do not do any of those things. What was so cool about this ride was just how it was so in synch. I mean I was suffering. It was hot. And really humid. And I am old. I forget sometimes. My friends are in general half my age. That is no excuse. Again I am happy with where I am. I love that I get to raise two strong daughters and support my BALLER executive wife. It truly is an honor to do so. I don't know why the heat and humidity have been affecting me so much this summer. But my teammates took such great care of me on this ride. When a much stronger rider hangs back and just shadows you, you notice it. A bunch of my friends on this ride did that. And it meant the world.

The water stops we found on the way were really one of the funny highlights. Like I said the riding we did was probably the best riding I have ever done in the greater Boston area. Hands down. Nothing even comes close. Beautiful canal trails, buffed single track, legit mtb stuff, nature areas and gorgeous roads. Maybe in VT I have ridden stuff like this. But not 45 minutes from my house. Our first stop was a nice CNG. Great stop. Second stop was a gas station. Why do gas station attendants hate cyclists? I mean they were not happy. But screw it. The cold cokes were amazing. Then we basically occupied some Christian Schools student center. That Holy Water brought me back to full strength. We had some pretty epic mechanicals but again no one lost their head and we made it home all together and basically all in one piece. Here is to rides like this. You do not have to spend $200 and drive 4 hours to find adventure. It is right out your front door if you are willing to look for it.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Zank Belt

My friends always have the best worst ideas. The past few years they have been bugging me to keep the Zank SSCX party going all summer. I had resisted. Tried to say no. But it is very hard for me to say no to Kevin O. Very few people can get me as #hyped as he can. So finally I was like sure. Let's unleash all our creative energy on SS MTB and see what can happen. 

I have a long history with SS MTBs. Inglorious for sure. My first SS MTB was a chopped Bridgestone MB-2 that Jeremy Sycip welded track dropouts onto. It was not pretty to say the least. I still remember taking Maurice Tierney riding in the Marin Headlands and him telling me SS Mtn biking was stupid. Well it was and still is. But it is fun. From those humble beginnings the sky was the limit. The pinnacle to me will always be Singlespeed-A-Palooza held down at Stewart State Forest in NY. #RIPSSAP. Since that last SSAP a lot of us have been trying to figure out how to keep that vibe going. If you ever experienced it you know what I am talking about. 

This first year of the Zank SSMTB series is phase one. What is phase two? Who knows we are just hoping to survive phase one! So far the series has been a HUGE success. The races have seen great turnouts and great racing. We have a very close race in the men's for the overall. Have we mentioned the Championship belts? Yes we have TWO insanely cool Champ Belts to award at the end of the series at Barn Burner. We will award Champ belts to the overall female and male racer at Barn Burner. How many race series offer up legit Champ Belts? Huge thanks to Jon Nable for the design work and Nick Maggiore for the inspiration. 

There are two races left. Next up on the Zank SS MTB series is Gnar Weasels. And then the finals at Barn Burner. We hope you can join us and see what the fun is all about. Here are the overall points standings: Zank SS MTB Series Points