Monday, May 28, 2012

Cycling in May

May is National Bike to Work Month with May 14-18 being Bike to Work Week and May 18 being the official Bike to Work Day.  Whew.  In these Northern states May doesn't work too well for bike to work anything.  Don't get me wrong, I've ridden to work every day possible this month, but take yesterday for example, raining cats and dogs outside.  If it were just me going to work, I'd probably just roll in the rain, but delivering a soggy 10 year old to a school probably isn't the best idea I've had, so we had to drive.

Our "bike to work" day.
Dangling legs and the ubiquitous bike shot 1000'
above the valley floor.
And, to boot, on May 18th, I couldn't ride to work as I was decidedly NOT working that day.  Instead, I was in Moab, UT with 13 other crazy bastards that I ride with and we were out riding Gemini Bridges to Magnificent 7 (or at least 4 of them) to Gold Bar Rim to the infamous Portal Trail.  Yes, the Portal Trail of lore.  The one that has claimed lives of people trying to act like heroes or fools, which I suppose the difference between a hero and a fool is the outcome of the action.  But I guess I was riding that day, a big, epic, death march of a ride, full of exposed trails, chances to fall to your death, and full of stark, rugged beauty that is the red rock world of Moab.
The 8 pm neutral roll out...

The only direction my derailleur was
OK was going down.
We left town on Tuesday, May 15th at 8pm and drove all night long to arrive in Grand Junction, CO to ride Holy Cross at 8 am (or there abouts).  From there we popped over to Fruita to ride Horsethief before crossing through the Zion Curtain into the red rock playground of Moab to check into our condos and fall asleep by about 9pm.  The next day saw us hit the world renowned Slickrock trail, where my bike decided to bend it's derailleur hanger and shift like shit the rest of the ride.  The evening had us ride to the top of the world on Amasa Back, throw our legs over the edge and take in the amazing views.  You know about Friday's ride and Saturday's ride was AMAZING.

Saturday morning saw us get up early to have a shuttle pick us up for the hour drive into the La Sal mountains.  Sixty minutes in a van with 13 other guys, hot, in the back, on a twisty road and voila! I was car sick.  Not hurling sick, mind you (I've got a 15 year no-puke streak going on) but enough to feel like shit for the first hour of the ride or so.  When unloading the bikes, I discovered my bike had a flat front tire, which should have been a sign for the day when our group ended up with a total of 15 flats!  But, besides the flats, it was a spectacular day, starting out at close to 10,000' descending from the cool, wooded aspens to scrub pinon covered high desert to the stark red rock beauty to the Colorado River.  A super way to end an awesome trip.

One could describe our trip as a drinking trip where we do some biking in between, but things felt a little more subdued this year than in years past.  I think it had to mostly do with the fact we stayed in two condos instead of camping so we couldn't get our in touch with our primal selves acting out a bit of the Lord of the Flies but maybe it was the fact our group was split up into two units, or the fact that two of the normal instigators, Bob or Greg, weren't there, or the fact that we had a pool across the street so the group split up and people did their own thing apries ride as opposed to sitting around a campfire, drinking and telling stories.
A motley crew.

But, don't get me wrong, the trip was a lot of fun and when we were driving the LONG, monotonous drive back home (why is it the trip to your destination seems a lot shorter than the trip home?) I was thinking that it was a good group of riders and friends to ride with.  And the fact that I came home without even ONE hangover story, well, that can't be a bad thing, can it?  Well, maybe I bring some Dramamine next year for some car sickness, you know, just in case.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A New Cycling Savior?

If you've been following American cycling for the last 30 years or so you'd know that the storyline arc of the sport read something like a Rocky movie.

It started out as with a rag-tag bunch of cyclists, Team 7-11, going to
A picture of Team 7-11, featuring Davis Phinney and
some guy named Bob Roll...
Europe with no real business being there, to do battle with the giants of the sport of the time. Like Rocky knocking Apollo Creed to the mat, Davis Phinney wins a stage of the Tour de France. Then, like Rocky winning the belt, a break through came with Greg LeMond winning 3 Tours de France (and possibly more had his dumb-ass brother-in-law not shot him while turkey hunting). After LeMond's retirement, it was like Rocky going into seclusion in the wintery woods to train to fight Ivan Drago. Basically, US cycling fell away for 5 or 6 years. Don't get me wrong, there were guys out there doing battle, but no big results to speak of.  In '98 there was a glimmer of hope with Bobby Julich standing on the podium.  Like Rocky coming out and beating Ivan Drago for 8 straight years, we had 7 years of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour and then Floyd Landis winning the next year (only later to be stripped of his title for doping).

Now, not unlike Rocky 6: Hang It the Fuck Up, and Sylvester Stallone getting popped in Australia for having HGH, American cycling has had a lot of doping scandals and has fallen on hard times once again. Oh sure, there are guys like Big George Hincapie, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer riding in lead roles and many others in domestique roles, but I don't think there is anyone to excite the fan base like LeMond or Armstrong did. Well, not until now.

Taylor on the ITT at the Giro (Image stolen from
Unlike Hollywood's inability to reboot the Rocky franchise, US cycling has a reboot underway. I've been anxiously following Taylor Phinney (yes, the son of Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, US cycling royalty) ever since he's come onto the scene. He's highly decorated in the Junior and the U-23 categories, having World Championship wins on the track and also the Paris-Roubaix. Now, at the ripe old age of 21, he's out there swinging with the big boys and yesterday, he won the opening stage of the Giro di Italia. As Big Jonny says, he's a straight up baller. Taylor has a lot riding on his shoulders. He has a lot of expectations because of his parents. He has a lot of expectations because he's the white knight that will save the reputation of US cycling in the American media. He's in the snake's den with all the temptation of the dark side, and so far so good. And, since I'm SURE Taylor reads this blog on a weekly basis I know he'll take this message to heart. Don't fuck this up. Keep fighting the good fight, hang onto that maglia rosa as long as possible and just know that the future of US cycling is in your slipstream. No pressure, no pressure at all.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday.

My dad got one of the very first mountain bikes in Spearfish, SD.  Heck, it was one of the first mountain bikes in the Black Hills...maybe even South Dakota.  It was a 1983 Cannondale, with a 26" front and a 24" rear wheel, Shimano XT "Deer Head" components and Mafac brake levers that could have easily worked on a motorcycle.  That frame, oh that frame, made of aluminum (back when a good chromoly frame was the only choice) and it had a downtube about the size of a beer can.  Painted in a dark charcoal grey with chrome bullmoose handlebars, that was one cool looking bike. 

I suppose that is what sent me on my path of mountain biking, even though my dad didn't ride his off-road a ton, mostly on gravel roads and such.  Back then, Cannondale had a really cool upgrade program that allowed the original owner to send their old frame in, regardless of condition, for a new model for only like $50 bucks.  So, somewhere around 1992 or so, we did trade up for a new, shiny red C'dale frame.  With a Rock Shox Quadra fork on it, it was about as technologically advanced as my pops would ever need for a new bike. 

I think that this is the exact look and gesture he gave me after the
Now with his new bike, after much cajoling from my brother and I, we persuaded him to ride up Lookout Mountain with us.  He made it to the top and actually did pretty well considering he was, well, old.  Nah, actually looking back on it, he was not any older at the time than I am now, but when you're only 20 or so, 40+ years old seems old.  After taking in the views we descended the mountain, with my brother and I pulling way ahead of him.  Unbeknownst to us, he had crashed somewhere along the line, getting himself tangled up in his bike while we blasted on down the trail, back to my waiting vehicle and off we went, thinking the old man had stopped off to take a leak, smell the flowers or was just taking his sweet time.

Needless to say, that was probably the last true off-road ride with him, for multiple reasons.  One, he didn't trust me anymore to take him on a trail, even though I promised him I'd always wait for him.  Two, just a short while later he would be diagnosed with Hepatitis C and since he was on some sort of chemotherapy for the next 10+ years in a futile attempt to control his unusually aggressive form of Hep C, it left him too sick to do much physical outdoor activity.

The "frankenbike" SS.
Somewhere around 2005, I finally bugged him enough to get his C'dale from him, as he knew he'd probably never ride it again and if he was ever able to get back to riding a bike, a nice cruiser/comfort bike would be the most he'd need.  So, I took the bike, stripped the cherry red paint, had it painted flat black, and turned it into a singlespeed.  In a stroke of genius which turned out to be paying homage to that original C'dale of his, I had a custom 29'er fork made for it, with as low axle to crown measurement as I could make to keep the handling somewhat normal.   So, now it is flat black (looking somewhat like the original bike's charcoal grey), with a 26" rear wheel and a 29" front, giving a similar profile to the original 24"/26" configuration.

The 29th would have been my dad's 63rd birthday, so happy birthday Pops.  I hope on that day, wherever you are,  you got that replacement cruiser and went for a spin.  Or better yet, I hope you got a cherry red Cannondale and went on an off-road ride.  I just hope if you crash, whoever you're riding with waits for you this time.