Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Old Yeller: Taken Out to Pasture?

Last night I put my road bike, Old Yeller, up on the stand for post-race maintenance. Immediately after removing the water bottles, my eyes were drawn to a hairline crack where the seat tube meets the bottom bracket.

Hmmm, I don't recall seeing that one before.

Because this bicycle was powder-coated, I realized that it was unlikely a simple scratch on the surface, but more probably a fissure all the way through the aluminum (aluminiyum for you Brits) frame.

The only way to be sure was to pull the crank and bottom bracket for a gander with a mirror from the inside of the seat tube.

The frame is indeed cracked.


Here are more details of the same images: external, internal

Should I be concerned about this? Has Old Yeller's racing days ended, or is this a mark of graceful aging no different than the deepening crow's feet near my eyes?

Your comments are welcome.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Throne Room

Following this past Saturday's State Road Race, I began preparing for the Omaha Corporate Cup 10K.

Preparation entailed replacing the toilet in my house. With a hairline crack in its holding tank that was progressively leaking more water, the repair wasn't critical. Yet. But since shit happens, the commode needed to be replaced before it would happen.

So here's how it went down. After completely removing the damaged toilet, I cleaned the soiled black and tan mottled wax ring from the flange while a nauseating sewer gas permeated the bathroom. Next came the daunting task of squatting the replacement porcelain bowl into the correct position. Threading those collar bolts through the mount holes without spoiling the new wax ring wasn't easy. But after two failed attempts and a hearty bout of cussing (sorry neighbors!) , I finally got it right. All that on road-race fatigued legs. Boy, was I was relieved to finally drop that load.

The toilet, that is.

Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much on Sunday. But you know, it's often in those times when you're pleasantly surprised by the results: I ran a personal best 10K at 35:33.

For the bicycle enthusiasts following this blog, cycling conditioning gave me the confidence to attack three times in the sixth mile, dropping two runners while producing my best mile split (5:34) of the race. Last year, it was bridging; this year the attack. Thanks to all you who taught me how to suffer through that valuable lesson.

Splits: 5:38, 5:42, 5:50, 5:47, 5:48, 5:34, 1:14 (5:43 avg)
Official Results

After the battle had ended and its banners were neatly folded and stored away, I celebrated the spoils of victory quietly -- indeed peacefully -- by sitting upon my newly installed throne.

Ah, now that's Wholesome Steel-Cut Goodness!

I'm No Cavendish, and I'm Not Cadel Evans Either

This past Saturday I raced Old Yeller in the Nebraska Road Race Championship at Branched Oak state Park. The Cat 4s had to complete five 11.2 mi loops on this relatively flat course. The course's challenges include small rollers, a long graded climb (think Leavenworth St from Saddlecreek to 52nd) and a potentially difficult section into the south headwind across the dam. As there was little wind, the latter didn't play much into the race.

As my first race as a Cat 4, I decided to observe and mark the tires of some of the fasties. I was expecting savage attacks after the warm up lap and wanted to be ready. On the contrary, we actually slowed down on the next lap, becoming a fun group ride instead. People were cracking jokes while we soaked in great scenery under calm, sunny skies. Outside of a short up-tempo session to reel in a small breakaway, the only thing missing from the parade of laps three and four were the 'Shriners.

Inevitably, a race did happen. Half way through the final (bell) lap, the clowns shred their disguises and started throwing down. Attacks and surges ensued for the next 15 minutes. Going into the final sprint, Old Yeller had managed to climb up to sixth position overall. Then the sprint started for the pack of 25. I stood up and charged but found myself going backwards. Like those shriner mini-cars could have even passed me. But I clawed away to finish in the middle of the pack.

The race official scored me as eighth.

As there was no photo finish -- just officials hastily writing down bib numbers as the mass crossed the finish line -- there were bound to be mistakes. Certainly, they scored the top five correctly. But after that, who knows. And really, who cares? First, we're amateurs, and Cat 4s at that. Secondly, if the purse pays only five deep, does it really matter who was the first loser to not win their entrance fee back? Did it matter if you finished last in the pack? How about last overall?

Apparently, it mattered to some. So when I went to volunteer downgrading my finish to mid to back of the pack, another competitor was already relentlessly badgering the official about finishing seventh, not 12th. So like my Dad did when I threw a tantrum, the official mercifully pulled the racer aside to to spare him any further public embarrassment. Unfortunately, it wasn't effective. Turning away and after claiming not to care, he reiterated again that he didn't finish 12th.

I decided on the spot that I indeed finished four places ahead of him and instead offered my appreciation to the officials for staging the race.

What I learned:

  • Cat 4s are wiser than their Cat 5 brethren. While there are usually one or two Cat 5s that believe they're superhuman and foolishly attack a pack of 50 riders, Cat 4s will not make a stab at it alone. Expect a super group ride until the last 5 miles.
  • I'm no Mark Cavendish. In fact, I suck at sprinting
  • Non-podium finishes are worth protesting?
  • Officials have the patience of saints
Anyway, congratulations to Brandon Fenster for the win, to my teammate Mike Bartels for third and Pete Dureyea for a podium finish. To the rest of us losers, there's nine months to lick our wounds and train for next year.

Finally, thanks again to the officials and volunteers who put on this race. Without you, my eighth place wouldn't have been possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let's Make A Deal!

Last night I paid a visit to Munson to buy some more parts for my franken-cross bike. While there, I had Munson inspect the frame and headset. All was well until he noticed that the races (ball bearings) protrude a couple millimeters above the top tube. That's not good. Upon further examination, we discovered that there were not only small gouges along the opening, but the tube itself wasn't quite round.

Munson did his best to un-mitmon the thing. With a lot finagling of parts interspersed with sighs and other munson-esque exasperations, he finally concluded that the frame's headtube was simply messed up.

Then, like Monty Hall, Munson laid out the options for me: Keep it as-is, apply lots of force to get the headset in place and deal with potentially shoddy results. Or to take what's behind curtains 1, 2 or 3.

First, let's recap. I procured this never-been-ridden Scattante XRL cyclocross frame & carbon fork from Mike Miles for $50. As many of you know, Scattante is the in-house Performance Bike brand. The XRL is a cheap, basic frame; perfect for said Cross Noob. It lists at $499 retail, but is on-sale at $249. The frame has probably been on sale since they began stamping these things in China, but shhhh! let's keep that a secret among us. Anyway, Mike's savvy purchasing skills negotiated the price down even lower, to $100. I'm quite certain Performance didn't lose money on the sale, so they were happy. Miles was happy. I was happy. You see? Everybody's happy!

But after Munson's assessment, I was no longer happy. Then Miles was no longer happy when I called him about possibly sending it back to Performance.

Miles originally offered to give me the frame months ago. He had long since abandoned the project bike and didn't want the burden of lugging it around. Even more, giving it away relieved him of the liability that one day some cross noob would come back to him and say, "about that $50 frame you sold me..."

But I have this to say about riding on other people's stuff for free. I just can't do it. I imagine it's like wearing someone else's clothes. After months of usage, you'd return to the owner and say, 'are you gonna want this shirt back, 'cause in case you're wondering, it now has yellow pit stains that no amount of lye and a wire brush can take out.'

And so it's the same with bicycles. You can use it, abuse it, stain it, even throw it in the dumpster Fredcube-style when you've exhausted it. The point is that you don't have to question its ownership anymore.

That's why I'll either offer to pay for the bicycle/parts in cash or provide a quasi-bartering service as payment, such as pointing out that bike mechanics are like rats jumping from a sinking ship when Shim wheels his filthy bike in for maintenance. But in fairness to Shim, at least his 'ride isn't as jacked as Limpach's Madone when it's rolled in for an overhaul.

Back to last night. Appearing nonplussed, Munson stood patiently waiting for my answer. Oh yeah! Let's Make a Deal! Well, Monty, err Munson, I'll take what's behind curtain #1.

Curtain 1: reveals TrekStore Chris drinking a beer while filing down the Scattante's headtube's burrs after hours. Meanwhile, TrekStore Lucas is also drinking a beer while whacking the downtube's exterior with a mallet to get that really nice ISO-9000 compliant fit.

Curtain 2: reveals a donkey wearing a sash with the crocheted words, "IT IS WHAT IT IS"

Curtain 3: reveals an expenses NOT paid FedEx round trip to Performance Bike for more than the frame's worth in value.

While curtain #2 was tempting, I'm happy with #1.

What kind of beer would you like for your services Chris & Lucas?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cross Noob ++

I'm making progress on the cyclocross bike. Currently, I have possession of the frame, fork, headset, wheels, crank & bb, canti-brakes, seat tube, saddle and cables.

Items still needing to get my grubby hands on include: 8 or 9 spd rear shifter & derailleur, handlebars, stem, bartape, tires (Munson?), peddles, chain and a front brake lever.

I have no shame and will gladly accept donations. Otherwise, I can either pay for the items in cold hard cash, or by lampooning the cyclist (Shim wears fairy shoes) of your choice here on WSCG.

Next Step:
I've scheduled a professional bike fitting from a local bike shop. I prefer a LBS that's been trained on the Serotta Size Cycle Fit System (eg High Gear/La Vista).

Basically, the fit system is a stationery bike with swappable parts that allow the best combination of handlebars, stem, peddles, seat tube and saddle positioning for your individual body measurements.

While the Serotta fit cycle is typically used before purchasing a new bicycle, my fitting will be on the actual cyclocross frame with parts swapped out from the fit system.

Originally as a road-noobie, I wondered whether the expense of a professional bike fit was justified. I don't anymore. Not only does it make you more comfortable and efficient on the bicycle, it's an investment that will significantly reduce the risk of repetitive-use injury. A bad fit could lead to a nagging knee injury, requiring rest and a possible visit to the Physical Therapist. Obviously, opportunity costs (downtime + therapy) are a lot more than doing it right the first time.

Consider getting a professional fitting. While it won't make you a better wheel-sucker than Shim, it will make for a greater overall riding experience.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cross Noob

Thanks to an offer for a cyclocross frame, fork and headset that I couldn't refuse from Mike Miles, I'm in the planning stages of building up a new bike.

* Cantilever brakes: looking to purchase

* Gears: 1x9 single chainring or a double crank?
* Wheelset
* Tire size and brands

Race Calendar
While my calendar is sketchy for Omaha's cyclocross weekend, I'm not counting out racing in KC or Des Moines. Please share any comments, tips, and must-do races.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Buddy System

I took a couple weeks off from the bike recently. It wasn't due to injury or lack of motivation. It was simply being busy before going on a week's vacation.

By the time I got back to saddling up Old Yeller, my conditioning wasn't optimal. I decided that the Wednesday night group ride would be a good test of fitness.

The axe fell quickly. There was no mercy. After being severely dropped about five miles from Ft Calhoun, I had to solo (hobble) back to the regrouping point. Thankfully, there was my good old pal Shim, who like Charlton Heston with a touch of gray, was visibly concerned while stoically shepherding the wayward back into the fold of the group. I was saved! What relief I felt to know that would be spared the misery of slaving away solo for the next hour.

After a quick respite, three of us -- Shim, Joe Savoie and I -- were on the chase to reel in Kevin Limpach and John Wait along S HWY 75. As we took turns pulling to make up the ground, I was growing alarmed at a rising heart rate & dead-feeling legs. Then, with only 10 meters to close, Limpach and Wait launched a massive counter attack. Crap!

Shim and Joe managed to bridge up. I flamed out and was going backwards; my heart knocking on my ribs. By myself again, misery became my company.

But yet at another regrouping miles down the road, there was my good old pal waiting for me again. Shim's not bad, I thought. In fact, for the remainder of the ride back to the Trek store, he let me hang on his wheel. Moses would've been proud to see such a sight.


A few days later, having rested and licked my wounds, I joined the UP lunch riders, Wes and Ed. Shim was absent. I was about to tell the group about the Wednesday night ride when I found out that they already knew the story.

Ed: So I heard that you had a bad night on Wednesday. Shim said you really sucked, man. What happened?

Wes: He also said that he was the only one to bridge up to Limpach -- that you and everyone else were dropped.

And on and on and so forth. Sucker puncher! Even more, throughout the rest of that ride, I listened to the embellishments and self-aggrandizement Shim had concocted about himself and his impressive riding skills. Sucker punching megalomaniac!!


[ FFWD-> Boyer's Chute Pace line on this week's Trek ride ]

Brady: I heard that you were talking behind my back & telling how much I sucked last week.

Shim: I wasn't talking behind your back. You just weren't there.

[ FFWD-> one revolution through the pace later ... ]

Shim: Anyway, I didn't say you sucked. I said you blew.


Fifteen minutes later, after being dropped on the first of the two Ponca hills, I was on the chase and closing the gap on Shim, Limpach and Pete Duryea. Though aware of the similarities from the previous week, I was determined. This time, I was stronger and brimming with WSCG confidence.

With rapid staccato breathing, a forehead dripping burning sweat into my eyes and hot snot bubbling around my nose, I valiantly (rabidly?) pushed forth. 20 meters, almost there... 15 meters...

And as if on queue at 10 meters, Shim, Limpach and Pete stand and launch a counter attack.

My engine sputtered and flamed out. Again. And just before the group crested the hill to leave me for good, Shim calls back, "C'MON BRADY, YOU CAN DO IT!!"

What a buddy. What a pal.

That is Shim.