Friday, July 29, 2011

The Art of the !Pro (commoner's) Build

As somebody mentioned before, the devil is in the details. And though I've marveled at the art of the pro build, I've never worked at a bike shop to hone my bike building skills. Come to think of it, I don't believe that I've ever honed anything. Regardless, if MOD is the Michelangelo of Pro bike builds, then I'm that PBS guy with curly hair who water colors a grove of trees next to a lake.

Anyway, whether or not I've honed anything isn't the point. What I'm trying to say is that you can ride a decent looking cyclocross (CX) bike -- and on the cheap -- if you put a little effort into it. Here's how I did it.

A couple years ago, my friend Mike Miles overheard me pining about getting into cyclocross. Now Miles is a purveyor of bicycle goods. He's not quite on the level of your local bike shop, but chances are, he's got what you're looking for.

The CX Frame
Miles produced a Scattante CX frame and fork that was collecting cobwebs in his garage. A Scattante frame wouldn't have been my first choice, but like they say, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Or in my case, don't look a gift CX frame in the headset, because when I did, I discovered that the integrated headset's bearing was missing. That's bad. But a quick call to Performancebike produced a headset in the mail a few days later, free of charge. I was impressed. That's better service than I would have expected from an online retailer.

Anyway, I decided to customize the frame. Choosing the color was easy for me because I have a fetish for yellow bicycles. I stripped it myself ($8) and then had it powdercoated signal-yellow for $40. I like the powercoat look. Its elegance is its simplicity. And powdercoating is bombproof. There's no need for frame protectors bespoken from branded bar tape provided by sponsors.

The rest of the CX stuff
I asked around some more. With Jim Maaske I bartered a set of well used Rolf wheels, handlebars and avid shorty brakes in exchange for regular barbs towards Shim on this blog. Which reminds me, what four letter word begins with a J and ends in E-R-K? Answer: SHIM. Ka-ching! There's another payment in the books.

From Munson, I acquired a front brake lever, a used nine speed Tiagra brifter, an Ultegra triple chainring with razor sharp teeth and a very worn in set of Vittoria cross tires.

What I contributed: the rear derailleur, pedals and chain, all castaways from Old Yeller.

Now here's the important part. I didn't have the tools or the whereabouts to get all of these parts assembled onto the bike. So what I did was to have the Omaha Trek Store do that for me.

Since I did the project on a small budget, I was able to add a Salsa Ring Dinger bash guard and an N-gear Jump Stop to keep the chain in place on race day. I estimate that I spent $500 on the project, and about a quarter of that was for labor at the shop. And of the amount that I spent on labor, about 15% of that was spent on beer to keep the mechanics happy. That's smart money, right there.

My CX bike may not look like much, but it's been great fun to have. I've raced it, banged out some long winter gravel rides on it, and have used it as a dirty commuter.

There you go, the art of the !Pro (commoner's) build. If I can do this, you can too.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How I Could Talk Then

Sunday's road race was long and hot. Like I said earlier in the week, I was surprised when the high tempo and attacks came early in what was going to be a test of endurance in the upper 90F heat and high humidity. Despite sitting at the back for the first half of the race, I still felt like poo. I'd describe it as a feeling of riding a bicycle while running a fever of about 102F.

I was able to regroup after the break got away and the peloton settled down. We were riding at a much more comfortable pace. I had also unzipped my jersey for extra ventilation. But the biggest factor was the ice-cold water bottle hand-ups from MWCC volunteers Mike Munson and Kevin Gilinsky. That was huge.

Photo by Dan Farnam

Post-race, Eric O'Brien and I talked about our race strategy. Eric confided that the hill taxed him mentally. I agreed that it was tough, but continued to say that I focused on the cold water bottle at the top instead of the battle in the heat of the climb. In the end, my success was largely due to the cold water bottles.

I offer the following as testimony. At the base of the final climb, after nearly three hours of suffering in sultry heat, the pack was beyond beaten down. It was eerily quiet. There was no chatter. None were motivated to launch a preemptive strike. We were all simply toiling away towards the finish line.

But just as the road pitched up for the final time, I was suddenly overcome with a rush of adrenalin and found myself announcing to the pack, "Hey everyone, Spence just told me that he has volunteered to lead a bonus lap after we all make it to the top."

I'm not kidding, I really said that.

Chris Spence was wasn't in the mood. He bared his teeth and bellowed back, "How in the hell can you even talk right now, man?" He might have said a few other words with it, but that's the gist of it. Anyway, after saying that, his body seemed to deflate over his bike. He was a broken man, riding backwards as the pack surged ahead.

My hamstrings seized when I stood a moment later. I too was riding backwards. But at that point, it no longer mattered. For I knew that just a little further up the hill -- beyond the finish line -- a cold water bottle was waiting for me.

And that's how I could talk right then, Chris.

Happy Friday, Spence. Happy Friday, everyone

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If the Skinsuit Fits, Wear It

This past weekend’s TT was the first time I had a complete aero getup. Most of it wasn’t mine. In fact, the only things that were mine was my 2007 Cervelo p2sL frame, a Giro TT helmet and my race shoes. Let’s talk about how I came about the rest. There’s some good stuff there.

Having just acquired a time trial skinsuit (we'll get to that later), I needed a set of aero shoe covers. The local bike store didn't have any so I went to the twitterverse for a pair:

BradyMurphy Brady Murphy
No TT shoe covers for tomorrow. That's ok, Munson says he create duct-tape shoe covers *and* a duct-disc wheel out of my Easton trainers

ericeobrien Eric O'Brien
@BradyMurphy I have 3 extra pairs, but you can't borrow them. You're already too damn fast.

BradyMurphy Brady Murphy
I'll only wear 1 pair of shoe covers. Promise! RT: @ericeobrien:I have 3 extra pairs, but you can't borrow them.You're already too damn fast

By the way, if anyone could make a duct-tape disc wheel, it's Munson. In fact, my money says he already has.

Eric relented on the shoe covers. When I dropped by to pick them up, he also lent me his Flashpoint 80mm aero rear wheel. He was going to be using a full disc and could loan the Flashpoint to me. Thanks, Eric.

Then the next morning, Mike Miles lent me an extra Zipp 303 front wheel that was apparently collecting cobwebs in his garage. Thanks, Mike.

Now for the skinsuit. It's a throwback HighGear/Lincoln Bicycle Company suit. As Bryan pointed out to me, both of those entities are now defunct. Lincoln Bicycle company disappeared over three years ago. High Gear was renamed the Trek Store Papillion when it moved last year from LaVista. Even more, High Gear was also the original name of the Midwest Cycling Community race team. That team name goes back at least five years. Yes, this was a vintage skinsuit. It has been around the blocks a few times before I ever laid eyes on it.

Ok, I’ll just throw it out there: it belonged to Munson.

Yes, my boys were down there in Munson’s old skin suit. I know. I know. Ick, right? But detergents like OxyClean have progressed so much over the years. And it was clean when I picked it up, but just to be sure, I soaked and washed it again.

Nonetheless, the attacks came, and they were brutal.

Bryan: Take that thing off. I’m not standing on that podium next to you, while you’re wearing Munson’s defunct skin suit. Anyway, that’s just gross.

Brady: But it was clean. And to be sure, I washed it with Oxy-

Marc W: --moron. You washed it in oxy-moron.

Brady: No, I pre-soaked it before - -

Bryan: - -boiling it. Please tell me you boiled that thing - -

Marc W: - - on the stove, in a big vat of Miller High Life, before putting it on ...

And so forth.

Yes, I was desperate for a skinsuit. But I gotta say, this skinsuit had no funk other than my own when I was done with it. It looks pretty darn good if you ask me. And apparently, Munson left a few good time trials in it before handing it over. Thanks, Mike.

Hey, if the skinsuit fits, wear it.

Photo by Dan Farnam

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2 Timothy 4:7

Photo by Dan Farnam

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." NASB (©1995)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Omaha Weekend Race Report

The Cornhusker State games time trial was the first of three races I competed in at this year's Omaha cycling weekend. The out and back 13.6 mile TT course was redesigned this year, and it's a good one. It features long sections of relatively flat roads on a new asphalt surface, a steep descent with a sweeping turn, and a helluva steep climb about three miles from the finish. I had a good race. I lit the jets from the start, stayed aero through the descent & turn, held steady on the flats, powered up the steep ascent and punched it for the last 2K home. I covered the 13.6 miles in 30 minutes and 13 seconds, which I'm proud to say is the first TT in which I broke through the 27 MPH avg ceiling. Results

Photo by Dan Farnham

Later that day, I raced the cat 3 Papillion Twilight crit. The course is in downtown Papillion, featuring a long false flat through the first four corners, a short descent followed by a small but steep climb in corners 5-6, a long descent and a wide sweeping turn on corner 7 before a sharp turn and 150m to the start/finish. Saturday was miserably hot. Like 95F with a heat index of 110. Our race started fast. The break occurred about ten minutes into the race. In it was Lee Bumgarner (Flatwater), Kyle McClellan (KAOS), Darren Richter (unattached), Ryan Feagan (MWCC) and I. While we still had 40 minutes of racing, this group had a decent chance at staying away because the big teams were represented in the break. We held a good pace to distance ourselves from the peloton. With teammate Feagan in the break, I attacked twice. After the second attack, Bumgarner countered, forcing me to dig deep to latch back on. Our attacks ended up shedding Richter and Feagan. That didn't work as planned. Sorry, Ryan. Then, Bumgarner kept the heat on for the next three laps, burying me, too. I gave in, sat up and waited until teammates Feagan and Jonathan Wait (MWCC) bridged up . From there, the three of us held tempo for the last seven laps. Ryan unselfishly led us out for the finish. Wait took third, I was fourth, Feagan fifth. Congrats to Bumgarner and McClellan for first and second respectively. Results

Finally, the Dave Babcook Memorial road race on Sunday was a war of attrition. The cat 1-2-3s started together for a 72 mile race on a seven mile circuit course, covering much of the same ground as the TT the day before. On a scorching day of 97F and 115 heat index with a steady 15-20 MPH southerly wind, a four hour road race with 10 trips up a steep hill wasn't going to be pretty. Given all this, I was surprised that the attacks came often and early. We weren't even five miles into the race before somebody up front gutter-balled the pace-line on a crosswind before the first hill climb. It didn't stop there. A short while after climbing the hill, the next furious attack and more gutter-balling came on an even nastier crosswind section. It was like this for the first three laps, or until Lou Waugaman (Velosport Iowa) and Marc Walter (KAOS) got away. But with 50 miles to go, they sat up after a couple laps and were brought back in. The group chilled out through the next lap. At least most of us did. That's when many of us in the peloton found out that we were actually chasing Justin Maresh (KAOS) and Lee Bumgarner (Flatwater), who were apparently 1:25 up the road. We let them go and over three laps put 4 minutes on the peloton. With three laps to go, some of the 1-2 guys got motivated to shake their numbers down. The attacks started again. Redemske & I marked cat 3 Mark Merritt (Joy Ride) when he went with the chase group. I managed to hold on while Bryan fell off. When it came to the final hill climb, my quads seized. Merritt rode away to take second, I took third. Congratulations to Maresh and Bumgarner for their impressive victories. Results

A big thanks goes out to race directors Craig Tuttle and Mark Stursma for coordinating these events. The races were very well organized and had terrific payouts. And many thanks goes out to the scores of volunteers, especially those handing out water at the feed zone, Sunday. There could have been a thousand other things that you could have been doing with your time than standing alongside a country highway-- in that heat and humidity-- handing up cold water bottles to us racers. I can't tell you enough how much we appreciated it. Indeed, well done all.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vampire Threat Level: DANGER

Once again, we're on the verge of another TT, the Cornhusker State Games TT, which of course brings out the best among us. And by best, I mean super-human, non-dead, flesh-eating-gory-best. And as sure as I am to being dropped on the sprint to Ft Calhoun, my arch enemies in Lincoln, the KAOS Vampire coven, have been fasting and sharpening their vampire fangs, or whatever their pre-slaughter ritual is, for this event.

So will the MWCC Lycans/werewolves (dogs) answer the call and show up to the race? Well, with the moon at full phase on Saturday July 16th, I'd say the chances are good for a show down.

But, who knows? MWCC's Kevin Burke is going to be out of town. And while it's true that Paul Webb's broken elbows are mending well, they still might be a little tender for the aero position. And that dog Shim will probably be saving his legs for two crits. That, and marking every tree along the Papillion course as his 'territory'. Kent's probably recovering somewhere along the Italian riviera from his most recent eurotrash gran fondo. And there's a good chance that MOD will be sitting in his underwear, roto-tweeting how his man-crush Philip Gilbert is faring on the Col de Latrape.

Sorry, KAOS. I think you guys will be on your own again.

Regardless, it's gonna be a hot & sunny one out there on Saturday. And that got me wondering, how is it that vampires can now brave the flesh-burning sunlight?

Well, one theory being tossed around is that a former teammate of yours is openly dispensing KAOS team secrets on gamjams-midwest. Yes, Bryan Redemske is a recovering vampire and a current pet-project of the MWCC lycans.

Photo credit: David Allen Seevers

By the way, Bryan's rehabilitation is coming along nicely. We're on to the final step of recovery, which according to the 12 Step Vampire Recovery Program, consists of daily feedings of Heinz 57 splattered on the neck of a used department store mannequin.

Anyway, here's how a recovering vampire copes with the sunlight.

It doesn't take long in the summer to burn your dome if its left unprotected. In my experience, Ozone Sport pretty much takes care of that. It's SPF 60 — pretty heavy-duty stuff... only one application for a five-hour ride.

Great. Thanks a lot, Ozone Sport. We're spared skin cancer in exchange for Count Dracula on a TT bike. So with five hours of protection and no MWCC dogs to boot, I'd say the KAOS coven is going to destroy whatever's in their path.

To this bit of ominous news, I heed the warning provided by my friend James Peters, who wrote me this recently:

My wife and I were up in the pacific northwest last year. Apparently we drove into Forks, WA and didn't realize that's where the Twilight series was filmed. Based on the recent entries, I think you may want to include this in your next vampire entry.

Vampire Threat Level: DANGER, indeed.

See you at the races. Happy Friday everyone

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mr Kitty, the Garage Door and the Pet Cemetery

Steve Tilford's blog has had a thing or two about rescuing cats lately. It got me thinking about my childhood cat, Mr Kitty.

Originally, the family cat's name was Jade. Dad got him and his litter mate, Misty, on a business trip while selling banking equipment to a rural bank. Apparently, the transaction wasn't going too well until Dad agreed to take home a couple kittens that the branch manager wanted to unload. So Dad closed the deal and brought home the two cats in a cardboard box. Win-win. My sister named them Jade and Misty for their solid grey coats with greenish blue eyes. Misty's name stuck. But not Jade's. He went through a bunch of names before we finally settled on 'Mr. Kitty.'

The name of Mr Kitty was given to him by our piano tuner, Mr Brooks. Mr Brooks was a black man from the deep south. He liked to talk to our cat with a raspy southern twang while tuning our piano. Why, hello dere Misser Kitty! Well take a look at you, struttin' yer stuff.... Aint ya proud, Misser Kitty!.... and so forth. Anyway, the Mr Brooks' nickname stuck and from then on the cat was known as Mr Kitty.

Years later, my parents went out for a date one evening, leaving us kids behind. Dad backed out the 1976 Pontiac Grand Safari 'catholic-cruiser' station wagon from the garage while Mom stood by the garage door's button. Mom was at the garage door button because there was something wrong with the door's remote controller. Or more likely, there wasn't a remote controller because back then, the 400 MHz rolling code transmitter/receiver unit hadn't been invented yet. Regardless, after the car cleared the garage, she punched the button and scurried beneath the closing door and into the car waiting in the driveway.

Dad was about to continue reversing when he noticed that Mr. Kitty was also scurrying to avoid the closing garage door. But while Mom ran across the garage floor, Mr Kitty was running upward along the outside slope of the closing door's panels. Yes, like he was on a huge treadmill. But unfortunately for Mr Kitty, the treadmill was coming to an end, and it wasn't going end pretty. Mr Kitty would either fall to the ground or get wedged between the door and the top of the garage.

How Mr Kitty got up there will always be a mystery. We figured that he jumped up on top of the door while it was open and the car was parked beneath it. I suppose to a cat, a warm high perch away from the hustle of a bunch of kids made a lot of sense. Apparently, his exit strategy was to jump down on the car beneath. Unfortunately, he lacked the foresight of knowing that the car might not always be there.

I doubt that was going through Mr. Kitty's mind at that moment. That goes for my parents, too, as they watched in horror as Mr Kitty kept running upward while the door continued closing.

Mom bolted out of the car before the final panel sealed the door and Mr Kitty to the top of the garage. But she didn't run toward the garage; she ran towards the front door. Remember: Mom was effectively the garage door's remote control, and now she had to go through the house to get to the button.

We kids were watching TV. Vanna White turning letters on Wheel of Fortune or something of the like while our cat was wedged into the top of the garage. Who knows, somebody might have been buying a vowel while poor Mr Kitty's head was about to pop off. All of a sudden, the doorbell was ringing like crazy. So fast, you could only hear the ring of the first chime among the flurry of electro-static buzzing that came from an over-loaded switch.

We all ran to the front door. From Mom's nearly unintelligible words, I managed to hear that Mr Kitty was stuck on top of the garage door. Mr. Kitty, stuck and garage door all seemed to work neatly together, but on top? Now, that didn't make sense at all. But there was no time to question it. We raced back through the dining room, kitchen and family room. I was the first to the garage, but I had run so fast through the garage access door that I shot past the garage door button and stumbled down the steps. Two of my brothers also tumbled behind me, Keystone Cops style. Finally somebody managed to push the button. The door opened and released our poor cat from the top of the door to the concrete below.

Dad said later that when the garage opened, Mr Kitty hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. Mr. Kitty laid there motionless. He appeared to be dead.

But after a few moments, Mr Kitty stirred, got up and stumbled away from the garage. Pilled-up furballs fell from his body. He wasn't happy and his meows sounded like a warped vinyl record, but he was alive. Dad scooped him up and loaded him into the Grand Safari, and with all of us kids, drove to the vet to have him checked out. In the end, other than some very heavy bruising, he was fine.

There. That's it folks. No Vampires, no lycans; no shark jumpings and no reanimated cats from pet cemeteries in today's post. Just a simple house cat that got pinched at the top of a garage door that lived another day. In fact he did more than just that: Mr Kitty thrived another 15 years before dying at the ripe old age of 22. He was an awesome cat.

Happy Friday, and RIP Mr Kitty

Friday, July 1, 2011

Stuntman Sam

Among the many things that come to mind when I think of the Fourth of July is Evel Knievel. That starry red white and blue jumpsuit probably has something to do with it. He also did a lot of jumps in the summer, many of them televised around the holiday weekend. I loved the thrill of watching his jumps. I even had one of those action figure and motorcycle get-ups that I'd launch down a flight of stairs.

I've always been somewhat a sucker for cheap thrills. Here's one such incident that also came to mind when I thought of Evel Knievel.

Back in second grade there was a rumor going around that a fourth grader named Sam Gibson was going to attempt to jump his bicycle over a local golf course pond. It was being billed as something like Knievel jumping the shark tank, only this was a 4th grader on a bmx bike jumping over lake carp. Anyway, I was intrigued. I pushed my way up through the cafeteria line to hear the ring leader, Mickey 'Jonesy' Jones, telling a bunch of us wide-eyed kids what 'Stuntman Sam' Gibson was going to do later that day. Jonesy worked up the hype until he had us all feeding out of his hand. Then he hit us with the unexpected: Gibson was going to charge 50 cents admission to watch it.

In cafeteria terms, 50 cents was a lot when you could buy a box of lemon-drink for a dime, a bag of BBQ potato chips for 15 cents, and a rectangular slice of soggy pizza or a soybean hamburger for 40 cents. Shoot, that was good money.

But Jonesy was selling it like a carnival freak. He had me dialed in on the pitch: Today only, a caped Stuntman Sam Gibson, flying over Greenbriar Hills #7's pond on a jet-black wonder bike. My stomach growled. I was hungry. But no soybean burger was going to satisfy the hunger I had that day. My appetite was whet for thrills. So I stepped boldly forward, plopped down two quarters and told him I'd be there.

The afternoon's phonics lessons were a total loss. All I could think about was Gibson's dare-devil feat. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the dismissal bell rang. I made like the wind for the golf course to get a front row seat.

Greenbriar Hills hole #7 is a 97 yard par three over a small pond. The tee box is elevated 30 feet above the pond. I arrived to find two people standing next to a 2 x 10 plank ramp propped up with a cinder block at the foot of the pond. One person was another classmate, David Carey, the other was the event promoter, Jonesy. I was dismayed by the low attendance and reasoned that perhaps 50 cents was too steep a price for admission. But more importantly was the noticeable absence of Gibson. I held out hope that he hadn't gone yellow on us.

Brady: Hey Jonesy, where's Gibson?

Jonesy: Relax kid. He's getting ready.

Getting ready? Where? While there was a half-way house nearby, it was closed during the 0ff-season and it's bathrooms locked up. Other than that, there was only open space surrounded by a thick line of trees marking the out of bounds territory.

Jonesy then clears his throat, takes a step forward, opens his arms and calls out:

Jonesy: Ladies and Gentlemen may I have your attention...

I looked at the other person standing there. Carey rolled his eyes while Jonsey bantered on...

Jonesy: ...Today only, for the amazingly low admission price of 50 cents, you will get to witness "Stuntman Sam" Gibson attempt to do what no other fourth grader, or possibly anyone ever, has ever tried: to clear Greenbriar Hills country club's #7 pond on a bicycle. Many have likely considered it, but none have been so daring as Stuntman Sam! Let's give him a big round of applause.

Jonesy looks at me and makes me feel uncomfortable. He's actually expecting us to clap. He nods his head in encouragement and apparently won't continue until we comply. We being to clap feebly. Jonesy turns to face the #7 tee box and continues

Jonesy: ... Stuntman Sam, are you ready?

From the thicket behind the tee box, the pre-pubescent voice of Gibson squeaks out "READY!" My heart rate kicks up a notch. I wasn't going to be disappointed.

Jonesey: Drum roll, please!

Another a glance toward us, the two spectators, to animate a drumming sound. We eagerly join in this time.

Jonesy: OK Stuntman Sam, this is it. On your marks, get set, Go!!!

Gibson comes charging out of the thicket on his black bmx wonder bike. He's also dressed in all black, but best of all was a flowing black cape.

I should also point out that he wasn't wearing a helmet. But back then, nobody wore helmets.

A transformation had taken place in my eyes. No longer was Sam Gibson a simple fourth grader. No, he had become a dare devil stuntman that was spinning like a monkey toward that plank. At that moment, I believed he had a legitimate chance to clear the lake.

Reaching terminal velocity, Gibson's front wheel enters the ramp. A moment later, he's airborne, flying over the lake --

^^ CHOMP ^^

What the -- ??

I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my neck, and through my peripheral vision, I see Jonesy's vampire fangs...



Gotcha again.

Happy Friday everyone