Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Donutology: The Cycling Weather Forecast

There’s a 50 percent chance of chocolate donuts in the conference room today.  Before you start thinking of whether or not they’ll be glazed or iced, I’m quite certain you’re not getting a donut.  Don’t despair.  You never had a chance.  This percentage is as flawed as the 50% chance of showers predicted for today on the Channel 9 News at 11.

It’s Wednesday ride night.  I put my bike in the back of my truck last night and stuffed a backpack with my kit this morning.  Seeing the forecast, my wife packed her cute yoga pants for the gym.  You may think I’m an optimist and she’s a pessimist.  While that may hold some truth, it had nothing to do with our decisions.  She equates getting rained on with torture.  50% rings the “you may end up with runny make-up and snarled hair” alarm in her head.  Besides the fact that my hair looks the same wet or dry and I can live with a wet butt crack for 2 hours, there are too many variables in that 50% chance of rain to mean a whole lot.  Remember the forecast didn’t say a 50% chance of showers between 6pm and 7:45pm for the cities of Madeira and Batavia and all points in between.  The Channel 9 viewing area covers 15-20 counties in the Cincinnati area.

Mmmm Donuts.
Like chocolate donuts in the conference room, a 50% chance of showers pertains to millions of people and an entire 24 hour day, not you and Wednesday Night Worlds.  How many donuts will be in the conference room?  Is it a dozen, or a Homer Simpson fantasy overturned truckload?  Will they be delivered all at once in an atomic donut drop or in smaller bite-sized shipments?  Are they actual donuts or lame-o donut holes from the land of misfit donuts?  If the yummy goodness arrives at 9a, noon or 3pm when hungry coworkers always seem to check the kitchen for free food, your chances of getting a donut decreases.  Since my office is one of the farthest from the kitchen, I have to travel a longer distance when the subject line “Fresh Donuts in the Kitchen” appears in my email. I'm screwed.

See.  Suddenly, I appear to be the pessimist when in reality I’m a realist.  I’m really not planning on getting a donut.  However, if a donut appears in the company kitchen between now and midnight, the Channel 9 Donutologist can say, "I told you there was a chance of donuts."  With a 50% chance of showers, chances are it’s really not going to rain during the shop ride tonight.  However, I did pack Pearl Izumi shoe covers.  While it may not come from the sky, I think the chance of getting my feet splashed on the ride tonight is 50/50.  I hate wet feet.  It's like torture to me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Douchey By Association

You’re only as cool as the biggest douche on your team.  I ride for a shop team, BioWheels-Reece/Campbell Racing.  If one of my teammates were to run a stoplight, I run a stoplight.  If one the riders on the team litters a GU wrapper, it may as well have been me.  However, perception is reality.  Truth is you’re not only a douche to the rest of us who are in the know about bike racing teams and group rides.  Outside our little two-wheeled Kumbayah singing Cincinnati circle you’re not on a team or the weekly group ride, you’re a part of a larger group known as those bike riders.

This past week a local team got thrown under the virtual Facebook bus.  I’d name them, but at this point it’d be rubbing salt in the already oozing road rash.  A veteran rider pointed out he saw the team run a red light in busy traffic.  A day or two earlier, a team member was seen littering a wrapper.  Ba bam!  They were called out on Facebook by their team name, the equivalent of an atomic public chamois wedgie.  Right now they are wishing they had eaten Spanish steaks via a syringe. 

Needless to say, they won’t be making “the list” anytime soon.  It’s too bad.  There are a lot of great people on that team, friends of mine, well educated people, true advocates of the sport and the city.  However, it wasn’t so-and-so who littered or ran the red light.  To those that witnessed the events, it was the team.

Then again, as the veteran rider pointed out, it wasn’t only the team.  Motorists and city residents don’t associate certain color combinations of spandex as team uniforms.  That’s inside information.  Yesterday I was talking to a neighbor of a friend while in my kit that says BioWheels in 19 different places.  We were chatting about local bike shops.  They didn’t even realize that I was wearing a BioWheels team uniform and my friend was wearing Smitty’s kit, two area shops only miles away.  Regular people only see people on bikes.  When they see someone litter or run a red light, they see you, a bike rider.

Friday, March 23, 2012

#GU Brew Tongue Test: Science Dammit

It's Like A Giant Smarties Candy...but not really.
Before MythBusters, you used to wonder what would happen if you stuck a Mentos candy into a bottle of Diet Coke.  The myth is true.  It causes you to repeat 7th grade.  Now you’re all growed up, passed Organic Chemistry 202, enjoying a nice career, spending discretionary income on your cycling obsession and while getting ready for a ride, you check the expiration date on your health insurance card and wonder.  What would happen if I stuck a GU Brew tablet on my tongue? 

Leave it to our highly educated readers to find out.  Reader Jeni is a bright young woman.  She’s got a big watermarked fancy degree on her wall, a solid career job and a cute romance going.  She’s healthy, wise and working on the wealthy part.  This week she stuck a GU Brew tablet on her tongue.

GU Brew are electrolyte tablets.  They replace the good stuff you loose through sweat while working out.  Surprisingly to my aversion to puckering, the Tri-Berry and Pink Grapefruit are my favorites.  Not too tart, not too sweet.  You just ker-plunk a tablet into your water bottle and let it fizz.  Make sure to leave the sippy top of your bottle open…or you may have to repeat 7th grade.

Contrary to urban legend you do not start foaming at the mouth, develop a forked tongue, gain the ability to put ornamental wooden discs in your lip, or lisp like a contest on Project Runway if you were to regress to your 7th grade Pop Rock days and lay a GU Brew tab on your tongue.  According to Jeni and some others who have tried it, it’s sort of a little tingly, a little sandy, a bit meh and rather disappointing.   Best to use them as intended, in your water.

Jeni is racing Barry-Roubaix this weekend.  Say hi and wish her the best of luck.  For her bravery and daring we have arranged a GU Energy care package for Jeni...use as directed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seen On Ride, Not Seen Tomorrow

Seen on Ride: Door County, WI
We call it the World’s Largest Swing Set.  Appearing as a Barnum & Bailey Circus cast off, the blue monstrosity towers in a yard on the summer time trial course in Cleves, OH.  Please tell me it’s for adults, because there’s no way someone would put their kid on that thing.  On the other side of the Ohio River, there’s “The Cult,” as some call it, the historic homestead at the western terminus of Route 8 in rural Boone County, most recently home to a church group.  A little creepy and always intriguing, this past week I noticed a for sale sign on the property.  It could be as eye catching as a catfish sculpture in Door County, WI or as mundane as a rusting front end of a 50’s era car just off the trail 5 miles deep in the woods at Caesars Creek State Park, but you notice when the sculpture is turned a few degrees or the day the bumper falls away from quarter panel.  As cyclists, those ride markers hold the same sway for us on our daily rides as the picture over the mantle.  In the past few weeks in Cincinnati, we learned we’ll keep one, and sadly, lose another.

Storm Damaged Wesley Chapel in NKY
If you’ve ever raced Shababerle near Flag Spring, KY or took part in the summertime time trials on KY 10 in Northern Kentucky, you may not have noticed the intricate details of Wesley Chapel.  Standing at the top of a hill at the intersection of KY 10 and 1121, for 156 years Wesley Chapel Church has withstood war and weddings with its wrought iron arch and two entry doors (one for women, one for men).   Like the Civil War soldiers who staged there years ago, I’ve stopped to swap water bottles and tuck a vest in my rear pocket while allowing stragglers up Shababerle Hill to catch up.  Now, with it’s piano lying under a debris pile, without a roof and windows, the Chapel appears shoulderless after being damaged in the high winds and tornados that swept through the area on March 2ndAccording to a member of the Wesley Chapel Cemetery Board which owns and maintains the building and grounds, it may be too expensive to save it.   While we may never again be greeted by music through the windows on the next stop at the top of Shababerle, the 400 souls buried there always will. 

The Gapped Planks of Stonelick Covered Bridge
Where’d you ride?  Oh, we went out Roundbottom to the covered bridge route.  To Cincinnati area cyclists that route is as commonplace as a trip to see the Reds at Great American Ballpark.  Damaged a while back by what was initially thought to be  my teammate's face plant, but turned out to be an overweight truck, the 140 foot long Stonelick Covered Bridge has been closed.  For months cyclists and walkers have been ducking under the barricades on either side to get across Stonelick Creek while officials and residents struggled to find an agreeable solution between preserving the historic integrity yet allowing the 134 year old structure to handle 2012 traffic.  According to this March 18th article, the bridge will be reinforced but maintain its historic look.  While I always enjoyed walking across to spend more time on the bridge and save a trip to the dentist, as a positive note for cyclists, the wheel-eating gapped flooring will replaced as part of the project. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Goodbye Town Line Sprint, Hello #Strava

I taste what you call “Strava Glory.”  It’s sort of a sweet & salty mix of GU Energy gels and sweat combined with the odor of burning 350 dollar bills.  The Best Bike Blog EVER is now on Strava, sits on top of a Leaderboard and has a crown to prove it.  Better check your segments to see if you got knocked down a rung.  Ba bam!  Judo chop!

The problem is, I’m sort of having trouble squeezing my big head into my tiny .jpeg crown.  Still, I make no apologies for spending the equivalent of a week’s worth of family groceries on a GPS enabled cycling computer.  My Polar passed away and I enjoy a team discount.  So while you were out racing for real on Sunday, we went segment hunting in Northern Kentucky with my new Garmin Edge 500.

After the ride, unlike most people I know on, I was able to toss my kit in the wash, take a shower, make a recovery shake and eat lunch before downloading my first ride file.  I know better.  While standing naked with their I-phone between their legs, sadly those who are addicted will find out there is not an App to cure jock itch and saddle sores.

Prior to our Sunday morning adventure, I virtually scouted segments of our planned ride.  In a way Strava turns the sport of cycling into a video game.  That sort of bothers me.  It brings cycling one step closer to Farmville.  You scoff at the ridiculousness of people paying real money for virtual world real estate, but yesterday I wondered what it would’ve taken for my teammate to sit up 10 meters from the top and let me have the segment?  Damn.  I drilled it with all I had.

There are no rules on Strava.  Segments aren’t asterisked with “drafted behind bus” or motor-paced by Vespa.  Sunday we returned favors, a lead-out for a lead-out.  That’s fair game I think.  Lead-outs are part of cycling.  But the next time we crest Amsterdam Road, I wonder how I’ll play it.  And it irks me that I’m even thinking of this.  Will I defend it?  Or, will I offer up some Strava currency to save my crown, an inner tube or air cartridge, a Coca-Cola or Snickers at the convenience store, a buck slid in the right hand jersey pocket.

The great thing about winning good ol' wooden town line sprints is enjoying the moment of glory among your peers.  As I log in and check the leaderboard on this 80 degree March day, I’m worried Strava is stretching the moment too far.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bet On This: The 1st Cat 5 Race

The Cat 5 and 4/5 races are selling out in the Ohio Spring Road Series Races (OSRS).  According to snobish uppity bookmakers at the new Cincinnati casino, here are the odds of seeing the following in upcoming races:

Seat Bag 5/125

Seat Bag That Sounds like It’s Full of Spare Bolts and Broken Glass 2/125

Unshaven Legs that look like the Lower Branches and Peeling Bark on a Pine Tree 10/125

Unshaven Pine Tree Legs with Chain Ring Tattoo 5/125

Threadbare Shorts 4/125

Threadbare Shorts with a Cork-Screw Butt Hair 4/125

Threadbare Shorts with a Cork-Screw Butt Hair and Half Moon of Salty Butt Crust 2/125

Hydration Pack 1/125

150oz Hydration Pack 1/125

Sweet Castelli Bib Shorts 5/125

Sweet Castelli Bib Shorts with Shoulder Straps Worn Over Old T-Shirt 1/125

Tail Light 4/125

Tail Light Blinking in a Seizure Inducing Pattern 1/125

Discovery Team Jersey 1/125

Time Trial Bike 1/125

Discovery Team Jersey on a Time Trial Bike 1/125

I Phone mounted on handlebars 3/125

I Phone mounted on handlebars with riser stem 2/125

I Phone mounted on handlebars with riser stem and 1 inch of spacers 1/125

I Phone mounted on handle bars with riser stem, 1 inch of spacers, on an otherwise rad custom Serotta 1/125

Monday, March 12, 2012

#Sub9DeathMarch BioTrain™ Derailment

Special Thanks to Hydrapak
You can’t cheat death, unless you ride with a friend who knows the Heimlich maneuver or carry a backpack defibrillator.  Judging from the size of some hydration packs Saturday, maybe some were prepared for anything.  Consequently, as team Grand Poobah of the BioWheels/Reece-Campbell Racing Death Squad, I’m beginning to rethink the BioTrain™ approach to the Sub-9 Deathmarch race in Hoosier Nat’l Forest.  Last year the BioTrain™ stoked fear in the leaders as we passed like an 8 man bobsled.  This year the BioTrain™ was as imposing as the matinee performance of “Thomas the Train” at US Bank Arena.  Three flats, a broken spoke, two wipe-outs, and a missed turn dashed our 2012 Deathmarch dreams.  For full 2012 Sub-9 Death March results click here.

Last year the BioTrain™ proved somewhat successful on both fronts.  Our 8 man gravel-singletrack-pavement eating paceline placed in the top 12 or so and gelled our team around a common goal.  This year we had fun, but only the duo of James Biliter and Nate Mirus who were driving the train at the time of the 2nd derailment, had any success.  Being strung out and regrouping after my flat on lower Combs road, a mile later the BioTrain™ came off the rails at the gate.  Dan flatted, our 2nd of the day less than four miles from the start.  Being driven by ADD, testosterone and adrenalin, Nate and Jimmy never heard the 2nd call of a flat.  The train of eight was now 2 and 6.  Despite soft pedaling on the front and hair raising riding from the rear it would never be recoupled.

A few loose rules guide the BioTrain™.  1) The train stays together until the last cemetery, Fleetwood, about eight-tenths of a mile from camp where the all-out death sprint between BioWheels/Reece-Campbell racing teams commences.  2) If one gets a flat or mechanical, we all stop.  The thinking is, the bunch will ride faster than a duo and it’s more fun to ride in a bunch.  3) The BioTrain™ is not perfect.  Rule #2 is subject to cases of the very contagious ailments of Multipleflattus, Gappingthegroupus and various hearing impairments.

Who's Got New Pearl Izumi Shoes?  This guy!
On the fun front however, the BioTrain™ is a Billboard Top 100 hit with a bullet.  Had we rode the race in pairs, the guys would’ve missed my teammate Dan Pike’s mesmerizing 40rpm cadence in a gear that would make Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellera curl up in fetal positions rocking in the corner sucking each other's thumbs in fear.  Dan may appear to be 5’ 1” and 160lbs, but it’s all quads and hammies, baby got back.

Like a NASCAR Replay, right now all the guys are remembering the BioTrainWreck™.   Driving the train on the Nebo Trail between Elkinsville and Berry Road, still in attempt to close the gap to our two teammates a few minutes up the trail, Brian Colliers clipped a buried log right in front of me, sending him over the bars.  He didn’t stop tumbling through the briars till everyone and the caboose passed him.
Slim Jim Hand-Ups In Effect
If it weren’t for Jason Mott’s suggestion that we ask for a tin snips the next time we see the Sub-9 Scooby Doo van, I may have suffered a bit more than a severely out of true wheel and an inoperable rear brake for the last 30 miles of the race.  I broke a spoke after Robinson and had open wheel surgery just 2.5 miles later at the fire tower.  As he snipped the dangling rattling spoke, my vegan self discovered the next best thing to GU energy gels, Slim Jim’s.  Survival mode.

Had Dan and I been solo, I would’ve missed Steven Gers bedrock cracking wreck in my rearview.  On trail 14, enroute to Calahan Cemetery, like a 145 pound sandbag dropped from hot-air balloon, he hit a buried log and augured himself into the ground with a singular whomp, followed by a silence so profound you could hear the frogs croaking five miles away at Coronette Cemetery.

If you think you're fast changing a flat, imagine three guys changing a flat.  Like the “athletes” in a NASCAR pit crew, with brain surgeon precision, they danced around my bike.  While I, the flatter, dug out my spare tube, the wheel guy pulled out the old tube while the air-guy dug out a cartridge.  I handed the new tube to the air guy, who aired it up a bit and passed it to the wheel-guy.  As I stuffed the spent tube into a pocket, the wheel-guy held the tire while the air-guy finished it off.  It came together and we were riding again in three minutes.  Sometimes three heads are better than two.

If it wasn’t for Kris “Karwash’s” flat on Polk Patch which was perfectly timed with our entire bunch bombing downhill and overshooting Trail 14, we wouldn’t have had the 10 minutes for a few of us to turn around, take a natural break and..."Oh, look there it is!"...stumble upon the trail.

You know what?  On second thought, after looking at the pictures of two grown men who look like kids playing in the woods, maybe we did win.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

.01% of Bike Squeaks Are Caused By This

EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  “What the?!”  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  It sounded like little people bumping uglies on an old twin bed.  It was as high pitched and annoying as Stewie from “Family Guy” getting under Lois’ skin.  I was on Cincinnati’s Billy Goat Ride, a Tuesday night tour of our riverfront hill tops.  Every hill, every descent, every flat, it squeaked.  

According to Two Johns Podcast, 97% of all bike squeaks come from the front wheel skewer or a dry seatpost.  I must be a proud member of the 3%, because I was riding my CX bike and I recently overhauled it after Worlds.  The cassette and pedals were reinstalled.  Skewers and seatpost were re-lubed.  The bike was showroom perfect.

Visit Two Johns Podcast
I stood up and it was still there.  Bottom bracket?  Crank arms?  I unclipped and coasted.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  Dammit.  It sounded as it was coming from all directions.  I couldn’t isolate it.  No wait.  It’s definitely coming from the front.  Cracked handle bar?  Stem clamp?  I rode no handed.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!

I worked at BioWheels bike shop six bikes ago.  I race.  I wrench.  I’ve built up every bike I own.  I’m qualified to know why your chain skips when every rider in town says its operator error.  This squeak was confounding.  It felt like it was in my head.  I stopped twice on the ride re-checking skewers, bottom bracket, pedals, headset, stem, brakes.  I even got off the bike and jumped up and down.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  It still squeaked.

What?  It still squeaked?!  It’s not my bike.  It’s me.  I’m squeaking.  Boing, boing, boing, I jumped again.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  It squeaked again.  In preparation for Saturday’s Sub9 Deathmarch in Indiana, I was testing a new Hydrapak Avila, a great ultra-light 70oz hydration pack with just enough room for race essentials.  I tugged the drinking tube.  Silent.  Maybe it was the tube, cartridges and mini-pump tucked in the pocket.  I swung the pack off and gave it a shake.  Nope.  Silent.  I jumped again.  EEE-ER.  I’m still squeaking. 

With riders departing the top of Kroger hill in Mt. Lookout, I remounted.  EEE-ER- EEE-ER- EEE-ER!  Something else on my person was squeaking.  Maybe it was my cellphone against my Zip-lock wallet.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I was near home and bailed on the ride at the bottom of the hill.

Warning: cable-helmet contact may be annoying
On my front porch with the motion detector light going on and off, to the amusement of my neighbors, I methodologically disrobed while jumping.  Hydrapak off.  EEE-ER!  Pockets emptied.  EEE-ER!  Shoes off.  EEE-ER!  Helmet off.  Silent.  Helmet on.  EEE-ER!  I took my light off my helmet and put it back on.  I jumped.  Silence.  I tightened the Velcro strap on the light and right there, with my helmet in my hands… EEE-ER.  It was the wire from the light, threaded through the rear Styrofoam vent at the base of my head that was squeaking.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#DeathMarch Planning Questions

Last Year Was A Blast-Story Here
For those that think they have a good route planned out for the Sub 9 Death March and are seemingly prepared, here are a few questions you should absolutely have an answer to before you clip in.

At the holeshot, are you turning left or right?

What about your teammate?

Are you sure that road marked on your map is an actual physical honest to goodness road?

Is that bridge physically crossable or a relic of an aged NASA Satellite photo?

What’s the elevation change between Camp and Hanner Cemetary?

How many valleys will you cross on your way to Lutes?

Are toe spikes a good idea or too much weight?

How are you going to wear toe spikes and shoe covers at the same time silly?

Have you every tried to read a map while riding a gravel road at 25 mph?

Shirley, you can't be serious?

Are you comfortable riding your bike under water?

Is there a compartment for a snorkel in your Hydrapak?

True or False:  Some of the gravel roads would be more stable under your wheels if they were paved 6 inches deep with marbles set in butter.

And, which roads are those?

Are you going up or down them?

If last year’s winning team from DRT spent 4 ½ Hours on their bikes and this year the promoters added a cemetery which is pretty dang far to the east which will no doubt extend saddle time, where and when do you plan on refilling your water?

What time does the sun set?

Is your cell phone’s camera memory close to being full?

Do you know what happens to a paper map in your jersey pocket 5 hours into a ride?

Do you know what happens to the same map after riding through countless creeks?

Are the Garmin and Google maps of Hoosier National Forest as up to date as their map of 
New York City, or are they as old as the farm roads that once criss-crossed the area?

Have you seen the Sprint cell phone coverage map of the area?

So, you're certain your phone's mapping app will be functional?

By the way, have you ever climbed a cell phone tower?

You may not be afraid of heights, but are you may afraid of climbing a Fire Tower which feels like it has the same pieces and stability of a 6 year old’s erector set project?

True or False: Trailheads in Hoosier National Forest are marked with a nice big well painted signs and arrows like the tourist trail to Mt. Rushmore?

If you let the weeds in your driveway grow for 60 years, could you still call it a driveway?

Have you planned your route to Callahan cemetery on the map?

So, when you looked at the Google map you saw Callahan’s tombstones and an adjacent trail together?

You really don’t know where Callahan is, do you?

Multiple Choice: In the pouring rain, what is faster in and out of Callahan?  A horse trail  B) A fresh gravel road  C) A Hard Packed Gravel Road  D) Pavement E) We should really have a Plan B.