Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Win a Hydrapak for Your Next Adventure

See The Cool Packs at
Congrats to Nate!  He chose the Hydrapak Soquel!  Thanks for reading.

Last week I wrote about my trip to Park City Utah where I goosed a moose on the Mid Mountain Trail, ran into pro rider and PC resident Evan Hyde, and at the end of a four hour ride, stuffed an entire six pack of Full Sail Ale in my Hydrapak Morro at the state liquor store and rode back to our condo.  Hydrapak liked it so much, they picked up the story on their blog AND offered up a chance for you to win a Hydrapak for your next adventure.  Sa-weet corn!

To win: Click, Choose and Comment

2) CHOOSE a model you’d like to take on your next adventure

3) COMMENT!  Come back to this post and leave a comment explaining the Hydrapak model you chose and why.  Of course, creativity is always encouraged.  However, we’ll draw a random winner from all the comment entries to win a Hydrapak. 

Fine Print: Deadline for entries is Midnight October 12th, 2011.  Anonymous comments will not be considered.  It's not a rule, but to help us get in touch with you if you were to win, please try to link an email address to the profile you choose to enter with.  Winner will be drawn and contacted October 13th, 2011.  Winner will be announced October 14th, 2011 both here and on our Facebook page.  Click here to like us, especially if you don't link an email to your comment profile.  Good luck and thanks for reading The Best Bike Blog EVER!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hydrapak Morro: One World - One Pack

Paper or plastic?  “I’m good.  I think I can get it all in my pack,” I answered at the checkout at the state liquor store in Park City Utah after our four hour ride.  As she swiped my credit card, I pulled the micro brew bottles out of the six pack holder and stuffed them into my new Hydrapak Morro.  While the people behind me in line waited patiently for me to bag my “groceries,” I wrapped one beer in my vest, two in each of my arm warmers, set all six above the first aid kit, slid my map and the cardboard six-pack holster along side of the pump, tucked in my full-fingered gloves, zipped and cinched it up and swung it on my shoulders.  They were astonished.  I rode off.

2012 Morro
It was probably a four mile ride back to our condo at the Canyons Resort.  Sure it felt a little heavy, because now I had a six pack and a good 30ml of water in that thing with tools and Band-Aids and clothes and a puppy and my wallet and phone and energy bars and a 29er tube and a bottle of ibuprofen, but everything balanced out.  It wasn’t a chore to ride.  Did I say puppy?  For the record, I did not stuff a puppy in my backpack, but if I had to, there was room to lash one to the outside if need be, probably two.

Mid Mountain Trail Above Park City
I’m the last guy on Planet Mountain Bike to actually like a big pack.  A Hydration backpack to me was the equivalent of straight jacket made from hot wet monkeys.  The crazy thing is I have one of the smallest possible, an older Camelback Rocket with a 50oz reservoir.  I can’t tell you how many times I’d swear, “I’m never riding with this thing again!”  And, I didn’t.  I used to pride myself on minimalism, even on epic rides in Pisgah and Tsali.  I’d take bottles, use a seat pack and my jersey pockets, tape a 2nd tube to my stem, and tuck food under my short and sleeve hems.  If necessary, I’d reduce first aid and tools to the most extreme basics: a chain pin, a tri-allen wrench, a tiny chain tool CO2, 3 big band aids and a 3oz tube of Neosporin…anything to avoid the hot wet monkey straight jacket.

I used to think Camelback was the only option with their specialized bite valve and oversized filling hole.  The Hydrapak is just as innovative, albeit different.  For one, the Hydrapak reservoir is a zip-lock bag of sorts.  On our Utah trip my wife used her Camelback.  I think my Morro was easier to fill.  She had to sort of let the camel drink, while I poured 2 32oz Gatorades down the Hydrapak’s neck with a quick ker-sploosh, added a tray of ice cubes and zipped it closed.  With Camelback’s we’ve always had to awkwardly hang them upside down on a hanger with a paper towel stuffed inside so air could circulate and dry out the reservoir.  To clean and dry, the Hydrapak reservoir folds inside-out and the plug and play drinking tube simply unclicks from the bag.  On the bike, the neat-o magnet on the drinking tube allows the tube to magically return itself to its stored position after you drink.  No more getting slapped in the knee or baffed in the chin with an unwieldy tube. 
Hydrapak Avila

If you haven’t had a new pack in a while, The HydrapakMorro is nothing like the bulky pack you had even 5 or 6 years ago.  While a larger pack, at a stout 1lb 13oz, the Morro is extremely versatile.  (Wienies may want to check out the Avila pictured left weighing a scant 7 ounces while still having a pocket and a 70oz bladder) The man-sized Morro even makes a nice gear bag.  Pre or post ride, it’ll easily fit your kit, shoes, tools, tube and helmet.  Whether packed light or full, the Morro feels surprisingly light thanks to the vented back padding and secure cinching straps.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if there were a rather unsupported 5+ hour ultra endurance event, I’d be tempted to race with it.  Maybe.

Morro's Magnet in use at Stewart Falls - Sundance, Utah
Packed full, on a 5 ½ hour navigation of Park City’s famous Mid-Mountain trail I never felt bothered by having a ton of stuff on my back.  I even scored extra hubby points by carrying my wife’s tools and tube.  I still climbed awkward switchbacks and zipped through rock gardens as easily as if I wasn't wearing a pack.  Off the bike, I used it on a quick day hike to Stewart Falls in Sundance with nothing more than a first aid kit, a long sleeve shirt, an energy bar and 50oz of water inside.  With a smaller payload, you simply cinch up the Hydrapak Morro and it feels like a smaller lighter pack.  So, if you come across an orphaned puppy on the trail, no problem, he can ride shotgun. 

Check out the video below for more on the Morro.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fishstix, Cross Balls and 5th Grade Math

My Best CX Season Ever p/by Pearl Izumi
On 60 Minutes yesterday I heard a quote, “The only difference between men and boys is the price of the toys.”  Lie.  There’s no difference at all.  Yesterday in the first ever combined Cat 1/2-Elite Masters OVCX race all 50 men and boys on the starting grid were no stranger to the podium.  In the past few years of stricter upgrade practices, everyone in the combined field got there by landing podiums.  Everyone knows how to hit a hole shot, thread a bike through a 14 inch gap, and isn’t afraid to make a gutsy pass.  Hands down, I haven’t been in a race this fast and competitive since a Detroit UCI event in like 2005.  Being the runt of the litter, a Cat 2 45+ Master racing with the best in the Ohio Valley, I learned quickly that tiny mistakes can turn into big gaps in the clang of a cowbell.  Here’s two things I’m taking away from the first OVCX race at Fisherman’s Park to raise my game.

More Balls Than Most: Elite Masters Women Podium
Growing A Big Pair of Dangly CX Balls
Through all my training so far, I haven’t sharpened my cross fearlessness.  It’s  the drive to keep driving forward in the mayhem, the trust in your skills and fitness to thread the needle, the mantra of forward momentum, the heightened alertness to be calm and calculating grabbing every opportunity to climb the ladder toward the front in the first half lap.  In July I got back into Yoga, core work, running, intervals and skill work.  Now after 9 weeks of dedicated CX training, I felt as if I came into my first race more fit than I have been in years.  At the same time, with a combined Elite/Masters field, the competition was stronger than it’s ever been in years.  Every guy on the starting grid knows how to win a cross race.  Everyone is fit.  Everyone is strong.  Mistakes and missteps cost double.  A wince, missing a pedal, a botched shift or a touch of the brakes is an instant gap.  They add up quick.

A log killed Corey Green's wheel 
Sunday I bobbled my front row start, usually a strong suit, missed my clip-in and was immediately swarmed on both sides by the first two rows of riders.  I didn’t panic, but I kept sprinting to the holeshot, eventually getting the click.  Into the banked first corner, two riders, one on each shoulder took the high and low lines simultaneously.  The exit had one good line and all three of us wanted it.  Sandwiched, with handlebars lined up as even as school desks, I chickened out.  I touched the brakes and escaped being a pinched loaf, giving up position.  The second the course opened up to a flowing straightaway, with the accuracy of magicians throwing swords, dudes were driving bikes through holes so tight, I swear I brushed knuckles once.  I should’ve been taking instead of surviving.  It’s time to add a little risk taking to practice.  Maybe mass start drills combined with a holeshot, a short straightaway and a 2nd corner to give it that real cross race flavor. 

Young Spencer Petrov out of Juniors on top of the 4's
5th Grade Math
It’s easy to get discouraged if you had a bad race, 50 meters may as well be a mile.  But I like to break things down.  Your commute to work isn’t a 20 minute drive.  Its backing out of the driveway, 5 stop signs, an on ramp, three lane changes and hunting for a parking spot.  Look at the finishing splits from Sunday.  Pick out a person or two that you think you can contend with.  If you finished top ten, look at top 5 or the bottom rung of the podium.  If you finished 40th, look at the top 25 or 30.  You may not have seen them most of the race.  They likely finished 3 minutes in front of you.  However, when you twist and crunch the numbers, you’ll realize it’s not much more than finding a route with less stop signs.

A Deer in the Headlights
3 minutes per hour, is one minute every 20 minutes, is thirty seconds every 10 minutes, is 15 seconds every five minutes, is 3 seconds every minute is 1.5 seconds every half minute.  That’s miniscule.  I don’t have a power meter, but in the course of an hour, something tells me that might be a handful of watts, a kg or two of body weight and/or simply having the balls not to touch the brakes as often.  At 6 feet tall and 158ish pounds, it’s crazy, but I’m one of the chunkier monkeys on the start line.  I don’t need a power meter to tell me that my avg watts/kg (fancy talk for strength to weight ratio) could be better.  I saw more boney ribs Sunday than a Hollywood BBQ.  Some guys didn’t even have pecs, making me feel like man boobs.  I can tell right now that I’d be better served by crunching the numbers on the side of the cereal box and bathroom scale than those of a $1000 power meter.   People like to make racing out to be science, but according to the quarter inch deep hole I call a belly button, it’s really 5th grade math at best.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CX Bike Fit: Don’t Make Me Get All Norm Abram on You

My New Leaf Spring
A cross bike saddle is like a bean bag chair without the X-box.  No.  It’s more like a crossbow with the rails as the bow and the sit surface as the string.  Hmm.  Not quite.  A CX bike saddle is identical to a leaf spring on a 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser in Nairobi.  Yeah, and your remounting tookus is the rusty two ton truck pounding on it through a Serengeti Safari.  Think about that mid-race and all the pain will go away for at least a lap.

I skipped the first cross races, not intentionally.  I was on vacation in Park City, Utah.  While I was looking at the Uinta Mountains beyond Round Valley between my toes from our Canyon condo’s hot tub recovering from a 5 hour epic on the Mid Mountain Trail, I picked up my waterproof pen and paper and scribbled a short list of things I needed to do to my CX bike before the OVCX racing series kicks off this weekend in Kentucky.  Okay, so the Sharpie and paper weren’t so waterproof.  I might’ve missed something.

The Old White Saddle In Question
Oh yeah.  Mitch, my teammate and owner of BioWheels Bike Shop pointed out that my saddle looked too low at the cyclocross time trial the other day.  Like any crosser confronted by someone questioning my bike fit, I told him to f-off.  I’ve been doing this for 10 years.  A CX fit savant, I keep a tape measure and level in my middle jersey pocket every September.  The height from pedal centerline to the top of my saddle was perfect because I measured it 32 times…definitely 32 times.  Don’t make me break out the aged cryptic postie note with my measurements on it and get all Norm Abram on your ass.  For those that eschew PBS, Norm Abram is host of The New Yankee Workshop and can build an exquisite armoire quicker than you can make oatmeal.

Still Mitch is no dufus.  The fit question niggled at me.  How could my saddle be set up perfect yet appear too low?  Great googlie mooglie!  I got it!  Even though identical to the saddles on my road and mountain bikes, the white Fizik Aliante on my CX bike was purchased used about 4 years ago.  I suspected it had lost its loft.  Sure enough, if you look closely at the pictures, the old white saddle appears to have a little more curve through the top when compared to the new blue one.  While still measuring 92.7 cm from my pedal axle, the top of the saddle would sink down an extra centimeter when I sat on it.  Ah ha!  I emailed Mitch and took back every curse word.

Two Screws Were 3mm from Piercing My Taint
For the ultimate proof, you can see how the saddle has lost its leaf-spring capability by looking at the underside.  Those two holes were caused by the saddle coming in contact with the ends of the seatpost bolts.  Not the way you want to get a prostate exam.  The moral of the story is three fold: never buy a used saddle, measure your fit 32 times...definitely, and no matter how much it hurts your ego, always trust the advice of the bike-fit pro at your local shop.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Park City Vacation: Ride a Bike, Win $100

One Rich Kid
I was hoodwinked, shammed, boonschlazzled.  The sign at the Park Silly Sunday Market read “Ride a Bike, Win $100.”  I’m pretty sure I could ride a unicycle with a square wheel through a pit of Crisco for $100, so I dug a five spot out of my wallet and expected to be $95 dollars richer in the next 60 seconds.  That could've bought a whole lot of genuine Utah turquoise jewelry on my Park City vacation last week.  It didn’t go exactly as planned.

The bike appeared to be your typical BMX bike you’d see at the jump park in Park City, Utah: platform pedals, single speed, low saddle, scary paint scheme, and with a finish only achieved by crashing it a few times or towing it on the ground behind an SUV from Salt Lake City.  This is a no brainer.  Brimming with confidence, I handed the teenager at the tent my five bucks, threw a leg over and pushed myself back behind the cones.  Uh oh.

Note the gear on top of headset-diabolical genius!
Left is right and right is left.  I got this, I thought.  The bike had been slightly modified probably in the tool shed above the Crescent Mine Grade lift.  It sported an extra head tube welded in front of the original.  A gear bridged the gap between the two headtubes.  It was genius.  Even though the appearance was medieval, the craftsmanship was top notch.  There was not a bit of slack and it steered beautifully, only the bike steered left when you turned the bars right.  Just hold bars straight and pedal ten feet and this skinny punk kid will be handing The Best Bike Blog EVER a fresh Benji.

Just hold the bars straight.  Now pedal. Dammit!  As I started with my left foot, I leaned left, counter-steered right and kept going left.  Dab number one.  My wife gave me encouragement for my second try, “just do the opposite.”  Easier said than done when you’re a supposed “expert” level bike rider with 15 years of racing muscle memory.  It’s not a no brainer.  Riding a bike is a no brainer.  This is all brain.  Imagine heading off a cliff to your right side and the only thing that would save you is steering right.

I tried again this time starting with my right foot.  I leaned right, counter-steered left and bam, I dabbed.  “One try left,” the teenager with the money apron smiled.  I concentrated.  I only had to travel ten feet. Three pedal strokes I calculated.  Hold the bars straight.  This time I started from the right side of the course and with my left foot first hoping that if I got into trouble I could keep the bike upright for 10 feet if I were to drift left.  Nope.

I was done.  I never got more than a quarter turn of the pedals and I dabbed.  This scheme was like Bernie Madoff brilliant.  I had fun.  It was worth $5 to try.  I thanked the kid and told him, “I hope you make a ton of money today.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vintage Joe Biker: Ault Park Mary

Ault Park
(Joe Biker Note:  I'm taking a hiatus this week.  It's my opportunity do whatever I want: like sniff tubular glue.  It's your opportunity to read something from this blog that's been around since July 2006.  This originally posted November 14th, 2007.  Thanks for reading and enjoy.)

When you spend your free time on the couch, you relate with other people who spend thier free time on the couch.  That’s my life observation for today.  Concurrently, when you get out and enjoy the world around you, you run into others who enjoy that too, people, of all ages, with outgoing outlooks on life, people with a little extra spark in their eye, positive people that don't let themselves get in a rut, people like Ault Park Mary.  This is how I met her.

I woke up and got on my bike for a pre-dawn cyclocross ride this morning in Ault Park.  I was supposed to meet a teammate or two.  They didn’t show.    Regardless, their initial commitment motivated me to get my carcass rolling up the long climb to Ault Park while the streets were still wet and the cars had their headlights on.  It was in the mid 50’s and just wet enough to remind you it was early morning during cross season.  When I got to the park, there were a handful of people walking, running or walking dogs, andof course, one beat up old car passed with a creepy looking person inside.  The park was just past the peak of fall colors but still pretty eye popping. 

Banking on my teammates affection for electronics, I didn’t bring a watch or cell phone, but managed to figure out about a five minute loop that had a bit of everything, some high speed corners, a steady climb, a patch of gravel road, an steep gut busting off camber climb, stairs to run, a grassy off camber traverse, and a nice no-brake descent back to my starting point.  I had ridden about 5 laps when I figured I should probably ask someone for the time to gauge my ride.

As I twisted through the trees and back to the sidewalk, I rolled up on a woman in her 50’s.  I based that on her salt and pepper hair and choice of fashion.  She was relatively thin, in good shape, and was getting her day started with a walk in through the stunning colors of Ault Park at sunrise.  My cantilever brakes sweaked me to a stop.  I said, “excuse me, do you have the time.”  She looked at me funny and asked, “did you say, how you doing Mary.”  “No,” I chucked and paused, “do you have the time?”  I quickly added, “and, how you doing Mary?”  She laughed and said “it’s 7:35; you got all the time in the world, enjoy it.”  I thanked her again and as I clipped in, she surprisingly repeated, “you got all the time in the world, enjoy it, you’re young.”  Maybe I am.  I turned 40 a week ago.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vintage Joe Biker: An Open Letter To The Little Girls I Almost Puked In Front Of

(Joe Biker Note: Twice a year or so, I like to take a break from the blog to decompress, touch my monkey and that sort of thing.  If you're a newer reader, it's a chance to read something from the archives.  This originally posted October 2007.  Enjoy.)

...actually, here's the full title:

An Open Letter To:  The eight year old girls who came to watch youth soccer on Sunday at Loveland’s Miami View Park and ended up watching a grown man nearly blow chunks.

Dear ladies, I’m sorry you had to witness me crying for mama between bouts of the pukes.  It happened on the 2nd lap of the Masters 35+ cyclocross race.  You were innocently standing and cheering near the course, about 100 yards after the double barriers. I was desperately trying to ride my bike as fast as possible to stay in contact with the tail end of the race.  To put it in your terms, I was totally sucking and didn’t want to be a total loser.  You probably didn’t even notice me as you texted your friends.  Or, maybe you were using your cell phone camera to film your latest You Tube epic, “Barf On Bike."
To refresh your memory I was riding a pretty green, blue and white bike with a matching outfit.  I was in dead freaking last place, right behind the guy on the mountain bike.  For future reference, if you every get into bike racing and are riding a custom made lightweight cyclocross bike in a cyclocross bike race, you should always be in front of people on heavy mountain bikes.  Put it this way, if Barbie is driving down the freeway in her Jaguar, she should always be in front of her friend in the pick-up truck.
You see girls; I ate an egg burrito about two hours before the race.  I thought the hour and fifteen minute bike path ride to the park would’ve speeded digestion.  But, apparently there was a little eggy left in my belly that didn’t want to go down.  You know how your mommy tells you to wait a little bit after eating before you go swimming?  Yeah?  Well, it’s the same with bike racing.  Listen to your mom, or you’ll totally barf in front of strangers and embarrass yourself.
So, I hope I didn’t gross you out to the max by hacking, snarfing, wheezing, drooling and spitting in front of you.  Since we’ve spent the last six weeks buying a new house and moving, I am a little out of cyclocross shape, mistimed that burrito and probably shouldn’t have rode my bike 20 miles to the race.  Not to mention, riding in dead freaking last place doesn’t quite sit that well with me after staying in contact with those fast Kentucky guys the last two years.
So, little ladies, please know that I am grateful that you came over to cheer for the bike riders.  Your shouts of “go go go” were encouraging.  Thanks to you, I nearly caught that guy on the mountain bike on the last lap and kept some the 45+ guys behind me too. 
Most of all I’m soo glad that you found cyclocross racing more interesting than watching your sister’s soccer game.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Vintage Joe Biker: Cycling Sucks...I Mean Socks

Image from AOL Pictures
The Contents of My Sock Safe
(Joe Biker Note: About twice a year, I like to take a break from the blog.  It's my chance to decompress and your chance to read some vintage Joe Biker.  This originally posted September 2007.  Enjoy.)

Remember the movie “Office Space,” where Jennifer Aniston had to wear flair for her waitress job.  I think cycling socks are like flair.  Don't "tisk" at me.  You know you love your cycling socks almost as much as your bike(s).  Face it, you and I are the weirdos who like a little flair, down there. 
Count ‘em up.  There are 24 pairs of cycling socks in the above photo.  2 dozen pairs of socks.  Some are brand new.  Some I won in race raffles.  Some I won as race prizes, after paying a $25 entry.  You have to love those cheapo promoters.
We’re moving.  I own a total of 27 pairs of cycling socks.  The other three, my faves, are in my kit-bag.  I actually did throw one pair away.  I lent ‘em to a friend, and they had such big ankles that they stretched the neck of the sock like George Costanza and the sweater on Seinfeld.
As I gathered up my socks to place in a high security sock safe for transport to our new home, I started laughing.  My God!  I have 27 pairs of cycling socks.  I literally could wear a different pair everyday for a month, if, I rode everyday.  More than likely, I could wear a different pair every time I ride for two months!
What got me giggling is that I had bizarre little reasons for keeping every single pair.  I’m no packrat.  I took a 4-Runner full of stuff to goodwill which had it’s share of old cycling stuff.  I gave away 4 sets of good mountain bike tires and a dozen and a half water bottles to friends.  Somehow, I can not part with cycling socks.
First off, they’re all in good shape.  They should be, when realistically, one pair only gets worn 6-10 times a year.  For goodness sake, they could be in good shape till 2025! 
Some were brand new socks, still attached by the plastic umbilical cord.  Can’t part with those.  I almost tossed a pair of red and black ones, and then realized I have an old Jamis Team kit, that they’d look spiffy with.  On and on it went.  Ooh, those are funny.  Those match this year’s team kit.  Those match last year’s.  Can’t part with those, they’re from Revolution Fitness, my wife’s team sponsor.  Then there's two pair of Independent Fabrications socks, and I love my IF Planet X.  Of course, I need one pair of black ones and one pair of the classic IF green.  Oh brother.
I have two pair with robotic little yellow and blue monsters on them.  They match my team kit, and are probably the socks that get the most “what the hell is on your socks” comments in the peloton.
So what is it about cycling socks?  It’s about flair.