Friday, April 26, 2013

Season of Schwinn

The unseasonably cold weather has finally broken. The warmer weather that typically accompanies this season is here. And by season, I don't mean Spring. Nope. It's Schwinn season.

The season of Schwinn can mean different things for  people. For some, it means longer daylight hours to ride. For others, it means pulling an oxidized Schwinn out of the car trunk trunk for a 3/4 mile spin from just outside the perimeter of city parking meters to the over-crowded bike racks at work.

Ah, the dynamics of the bike rack in the season of Schwinn. In the winter months, there's plenty of space for angry roadies and the die-hard commuters to peacefully coexist there. Come season of Schwinn?

Yeah, pretty good.

It's what happens over the lunch hour that really gets stuck in my craw. At lunch, the Schwinners jockey their their rusty heaps a few blocks up the city's sidewalks to chow down at the all-you-can-eat Bangkok Thai buffet. I've witnessed it. Have you seen people break into a sweat while gorging themselves on egg rolls? I have. It's gross.

Anyway, when done at the Thai trough, the Schwinners coast their bikes back to work. They arrive at the rack and discover that the end spots have been vacated by the roadies, who are getting a workout in over the lunch hour. You'd think the free parking and easy access to the buffet would be enough indulging. They have no mercy.

Nuh uh. From now on, I'm reserving my spot.

I'll let you know how this works out.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why People Take BM on Bike Rides, part 2 of 2

Thursday's Taco Ride was not cancelled, for your information. Yes, there was snow in the forecast. But I didn't care. I even told Mother Nature so.

Snow shmo. Really, are we going to let Mother Nature bully us? Somebody's got to stand up to this nonsense.

Snow or not, Thursday's taco ride was happening. Besides, it was a standing tradition that we do this on Thursdays. Every Thursday. Surely my buddies would display the same moxie towards a little Spring snowfall. Right?

Yellowbike lonely at the rack today
Here's what the bike rack looked like at work yesterday. Surely, I missed the memo. But when I got to my desk, there was no email explaining a sudden root canal or appendectomy or other calamity.

"I didn't bring my bike," said Leah. "Is yours outside?"

Uh, yeah? It's Thursday, isn't it?

Wes wasn't at his desk. Neither was Brant.

Shim said, "It's in my car, where it will remain."


Look people, we have a deal here. A standing order. Tacos are consumed at the end of Taco rides ON THURSDAYS. No, that doesn't mean going to Zumba class today for Tacos on Friday. That goes the same for Stretching and Core work. And don't even get me started about Jazzercise.

The ride still happened. Yes siree. Mother Nature threw all she could muster at me for late April. There was snow. It was wet. And winds were gusting over 30 mph. But so what? We've had it far worse. This was easy street.

I brought back a taco for each of my fair weather buddies. Just one taco each. One to whet their appetites as a reminder of what Thursdays are supposed to be about.


Then I went back to my desk to enjoy three of the most succulent tacos the world has ever known.

While scarfing down, Fred sent me an SMS message, to which I replied:

Fred fired back:

Thank you Fred. That does explain why all the people take BM on their rides.

I'm doing my best to keep it that way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sardine Hand Up

No thanks.

That was my initial reaction when Jay Chesterman (SC Velo) told me that the race promoter was offering a chance for cat 3 riders to jump in with the cat 1-2 at this year's Twin Bing Classic road race. No thanks, because I was hoping to win some upgrade points in the cat 3 race.

But I hemmed and hawed over it. I scanned the cat 3 field. It was big and I had no teammates in the race.

Then I looked at the 1-2 field and saw MWCC's Lucas Marshall, Mark Savery, Greg Shimonek and Paul Webb. All are more than capable riders. But they had their work cut out for them against the six team Kaos riders. Four against their six.

I fretted some more until my gaze was caught by Lee Bumgarner (Kaos). He was looking right at me, nodding his head while pointing at the cat 1-2 field. He was calling me out.

I couldn't ignore that invitation.

Were my chances good at a cat 1-2 podium? Unlikely. In my two prior attempts at Twin Bing, I blew up well before the finish line. Spectacularly, too. One of them I even finished DFL. Even if I joined in, our team was still out numbered. And there was 69 miles of hills and winds ahead. There was a small chance of success. What was I waiting for?

The whistle blew. I sat in for the first lap. Shim got into a break that rolled off the front with Chris Spence (Kaos), Clark Priebe (unattached) and Michael Sencenbaugh (unattached). I was happy for Shim. He had as good a chance as any in that group. I was also relieved because with the two strong teams represented in the break, it meant that it'd be relatively easy street for the peloton.

But in the second lap, with about 35 miles left in the race, a report came through the peloton that Shim had flatted. Not just once. Not even twice. But apparently three times, and he was left fending for himself in no man's land.

Savery quickly organized the team to bring the break back. In a short while, we picked up Shim, who got some rest before jumping in for a few rotations. We also got some contributions from Jerome Rewerts (Zealous) and Cody McCollough (SC Velo). But it's fair to say that the lion's share of the work was done by Savery, Webb and I.

By the time we got to Climbing Hill to start the third lap, my legs were wobbly. Going up the hill, we heard that Priebe had dropped out of the break. With only two guys a minute up the road, a wave of excitement surged through the peloton. The pack accelerated. Unfortunately, I didn't. My legs were toast and I got popped off the back. Now there's a familiar Twin Bing feeling.

The break was pulled back a short time later by those remaining in the hunt. Hysterics and unbelievable feats of strength ensued until finally, in the end, it was all over: Bumgarner (Kaos), Marshall (MWCC), Ross (Kaos). Kaos actually picked up five of the top ten spots; Shim (MWCC) was tenth.

Considering we were outnumbered to begin with, and then were dealt a bad hand with Shim's three flats, it was still a moral victory that we were able to pull back the break to give Lucas a viable podium chance. I'd like to think that Kaos would grant us this concession. I mean, they were able to sit in for an entire lap while we worked our asses off to bring back the break. I suppose in a sense, we contributed to their success.

Maybe that's how I ended up on their team's social media page:

What team am I riding for?  (photo: Michael Dixon)

At least they offered me a sardine hand up. True story.

John Rokke offering Brady Murphy the sardine hand up  (photo: Michael Dixon)

Could somebody please explain to me why there was a tin of sardines in John Rokke's hand?

Anyway, despite my not so stellar results -- unless you're a fan of the Lantern Rouge and sardine hand ups -- the Twin Bing Classic remains my favorite road race. Why? Because everything about it is difficult. It's hills are punishing and its winds are unforgiving. Its remote location isn't easy to get to, and its facilities -- an old public school building --  are spartan. Put it this way, the toilet stalls have no doors and the bathroom's only sink has no hot water. Judging by the rust, the hot water's knob was broken off many many years ago.

The race itself goes off without a hitch. Yes it's tough. But it's a good one. Thanks to SC Velo for putting on this classic each spring. Don't change a thing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Who's taken BM on a Bike Ride? Part 1 of 2

There comes a time when one must ask, who's taken the BM on a bike ride? And not any short one. I'm talking a long one, out in the fresh air of the countryside. One that once you got going you sorta wish never ended.

Of course Shim has. Many times. He and I were just talking about it last week while riding through the Council Bluffs ball fields. Go ahead, ask him. He'll admit it's one of his favorite places to take a BM during a bike ride.

Others have too. Recently, the list includes Fred Hinsley, Wesley "Crusher" Johnson, and yes, even Leah Kleager has taken BM on a bike ride.

Shoot, last weekend lots of folks took BM in the woods during the Psycowpath race series.

There's nothing to be ashamed of here. Don't be bashful. Just admit it: it's nice to take BM on a bike ride.

Looky, here's BM in the woods right now.

Happy Friday Everyone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Brung What Ya Rung

"Why did you ride a cyclocross bike anyway?" Frank Sledder asked.

"Because I don't have a mountain bike" I replied.

It's true, I don't have a mountain bike. Not yet at least. But that didn't stop me from jumping on my cx bike  with the cat 2 (40-49 age group) for my first foray into mountain bike racing. I raced the Psycowpath Jewell time trial on Saturday and then again at Swanson for the short track race in the afternoon. On Sunday, I returned for the Swanson cross country race.

I had a blast. Pure emotional excitement.

Glutton for punishment? Hardly. More like feast of adrenalin. What a rush.

I mean, have you seen the cyclocross bike I ride? Total frankenbike. It's was faith that rolled an old Scattante frame mated to well-used Racelite/Tiagra wheels with bald mud tires through twisting single track. It was courage and a 1x9 drive train that powered its giddy'up. It was stubborn persistence that found the right gears on a beat up Tiagra shifter mated to a 105 rear deraileur that has lived many years beyond its manufacturer's life expectancy. Somehow, that bucket of bolts carried me to the finish line.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite roller coasters at Six Flags Mid America (St Louis) was the Mine Train. The Mine Train wasn't the tallest, fastest or loopiest. It didn't even have loop-de-loops. What it had -- and had in abundance -- was chaos. Its designer was either a genius or insane or both. The Mine Train herked and jerked and dropped and rose suddenly with frenetic energy that was untamed.

That, my friends, was what racing a frankencross bike at the Psychowpath races was like this past weekend. Especially in the roller coaster back section of the Jewell TT.

Don't get me wrong. I look forward to racing a real mountain bike one day. But until then, it's frankencross Mtn bike 24x7x365.  Yeah boy, unh.

Fellow non-mountain bike cx'ers, come out and join me. You can do this. The mountain bike crowd is tons of fun. RF, Roxy and company do a great job putting on the Psychowpath series.

And lastly, we don't want to let the fat bikes steal the freak show now, do we?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Taco Soigneur

A soigneur is a French word for one who cares for the needs of others. In cycling, this means taking care of everything, from transportation, baggage, accommodations, and other personal assistant needs, etc...

I'm a soigneur of sorts. To be accurate, I am a taco soigneur. I'll gladly port tacos for anyone doing the UP taco ride lunch ride to the Dos de Oro taco trucks on S 24th St.

I don't mind being a taco soigneur. I use a Timbuktu messenger bag that Shim gave me last year to haul the goods in. He had previously purchased the bag about 15 years ago from the Bike Way shop, when they were located in Benson. Shim used the bag for a while before he gave up being a hipster/commuter. That was also around the same time he quit smoking and wearing turtlenecks*. After that, the bag sat in his garage  collecting cobwebs and hornets nests.

When he heard that I was looking to get a new one, he chimed up, "I've got a messenger bag you can have."

And wallah. The next day, there it was.

It's a very nice bag. It's roomy with a main compartment, a laptop sleeve and another divider. It has two visible pockets and a secret pocket, too. To secure the contents inside the bag, it has two straps that buckle down the fold over flap. The shoulder strap is thickly padded, and best of all, it has a cross over strap that cinches the bag to rider snugly.

After a good cleaning, including removing the hornet's nest, that old Timbuktu bag looked practically brand new. It's been my daily companion on my commutes and taco rides for over a year now.

What I didn't know when I received the bag was that I was being passively foo'd into being the taco soigneur  too. The truth is that Shim has never asked me to carry his tacos. He's not like that.

The real reason why I ended up being the taco soigneur is because of what happened the last time he carried the tacos for the group. He used a paper sack. Just a paper sack. Now a paper sack's all fine and dandy when your carnitas and chorizo burritos are to be immediately consumed in the parking lot where your car sits. But carrying them in a paper sack while riding a bicycle over five miles of rough roads is asking for trouble. On that particular day -- bless his dear heart -- Shim made it all the way to 16th and Harney, where upon rounding the corner, the drippings of carnitas had long since marinated the paper sack enough to spray its contents all over Harney Street.

That gave a new meaning to the term street tacos.

Since then, I've gladly accepted the role as taco soigneur, using Shim's old Timbuktu messenger bag to haul the goods. Everyone's all smiley and stuff because they know that not only will the tacos arrive safely, but they will be handled well in transit. With contents snug down and cinched firmly, there is no tearing of the moist corn tortillas, no co-mingling of meats and sauces. Just everything as it should be, warm, delicious tacos that some claim to be the best ever.

¡Gracias, y de nada!

* He still wears turtlenecks