Friday, May 31, 2013

BM on the BK When Necessary

Last Saturday I joined a group of friends for a 50 mile group ride through the hills of Council Bluffs. It had all the promises of a grand time in the making. The early morning clouds had parted, leaving only a few puffy white clouds and plenty of sunshine. Memorial Day weekend festivities were in the making as the stage was being setup for the Beach Boys in the newly dedicated Tom Hanafan park. The sun, the pending concert, the beginning of summer and a three day weekend were too much to contain as I found myself whistling "California Girls" through the gap created by my broken tooth. YPG.

I had ridden with everyone in the group several times previously. The route was also quite familiar. The pace was mostly easy on account that MOD was tapering his thoroughbred, Rafal Doloto, for this weekend's Dirty Kanza 200. Still, with the steep hills in the bluffs of Council 'Tuckey, there were a few rough spots. As a result, the group split up a few times. This was no problem because this was a no drop ride.

It was on one of these regroupings that the first incident happened. The group had fractured while climbing a steep gravel hill. After that, four of us were up the road soft pedaling to allow the group to catch on. While we were doing this, another rider suddenly came around me announced and overtook my space. If I didn't hit my brakes we would have crashed. Sketchy, but I held my tongue this time.

The other incident happened as we crossed the Bob Kerry bridge near the end of our ride. Rafal and I were riding side by side, talking about the Beach Boys when I felt the presence of a third rider sidling up between us. It was the same offender as before, and this time he managed to occupy nearly all of the space that existed between us. Before I could say anything, we collided. At 6 mph. Thankfully, neither of us went down. But the whole thing was reckless and could have been avoided. Anger flashed inside of me.

That was when I dropped a big BM on the BK.

"HOLD YOUR LINE AND STOP RIDING LIKE AN IDIOT," I shouted. There may have been a few other adjectives in there too, you get the point.

It got quiet for a moment, there on the award-winning BK bridge, as we picked our path through the concert going foot traffic.

Rafal broke the silence. "So much for the good vibrations," he said between clenched teeth.

I didn't say anything more until long after the ride. I followed up with a note of explanation to the rider as to why I was became so angry at his lack of group riding etiquette.In short, it went like this:

1. Always hold your line.
2. Follow the person in front of you.
3. Cross-wheeling is unacceptable.

We should all be familiar with these group riding rules. There are others, but these are among the most basic.

Admonishing others isn't enjoyable. It's easier to blow your stack and be done with it. But by taking the effort to explain why will hopefully correct it for next time.

To his credit, the rider accepted my counsel, apologized and said he'd work on improving his group riding skills.

There I feel better after getting that BM off my chest. Wait, uh, never mind.

Happy Friday and Safe Riding, everyone.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Boots and Cats

I was listening to the radio in my basement the other night while replacing Munson's old Tiagra 1x9 shifter on Old Yeller CX.

The shifter gave out while riding along the Hipster Highway a few weeks back. It simply stopped clicking on the fourth cog. And that was it. No cleaning, lubing, or coaxing could get it to function anymore. It's hard to believe that its demise came there along the Hipster Highway. I mean, it's been through four years of Omaha winters, cyclocross and mountain bike races. And it gives way on a nice Spring day near Olympia Cycle?

I'm not complaining. Just wondering. I got every penny out of that component. Thank you, Shimano.

Anyway, while I was replacing the shifter on Old Yeller CX, I was listening to the radio. Normally, it's sports radio, but NBA playoffs? No thanks. So it went from AM to FM's NPR, where they were talking about singing a capella. I suck at singing. But apparently, anyone can be trained to sing in this style simply by starting with basic rhythm. In fact, all one needs to do is repeat the phrase, "boots and cats and."

Go ahead, give it a try:
boots and cats and
boots and cats and
boots and cats and
boots and cats and

If you can't do this right now because you're too embarrassed to beat box while sitting in your cubicle at work, I understand. Truly, it's okay. Do it later.

Fast forward to Monday, where I was riding my cross bike at Tranquility with Fred and a guy named Jim. I had forgotten all about boots and cats. Instead, I was busy focusing on not riding my bike into trees and stuff. I was riding horridly. But this is usually the case at first until I find a rhythm. On one particular rough stretch, my front wheel hit an exposed root pretty hard, hard enough to make a loud thud. The bike shuddered and caused the chain to slap the stay a few times. This tire-thud, chain-slap combo sounded something like this: boots and cats-cats n cats.

Wait wait, what was that? Boots and cats and..? I knew this ditty! My memory was jogged back to NPR segment. I'm sorry, but what happened next is probably against every rule about keeping the peace while mountain biking, but I couldn't resist. I began beat boxing while I rode. I did, ever so softly, so Jim and Fred couldn't hear it. I hope.

The amazing thing was that as soon as I laid down the beat, my riding improved. Immediately. It somehow helped me settle into a relaxed rhythm, allowing me to pick better lines.

More than any other cycling disciplines, I've discovered that mountain biking requires rhythm. For example, you don't need rhythm when time trialing. You just mash the big ring while the demons in your head scream how much you suck at time trialing. You also don't need any rhythm while road racing. Not a lick. Road races amount to sitting in the field until Lee Bumgarner picks his spot, then you mash the big ring until you're dropped 30 seconds later, queue league of internal demons screaming you how much you suck, etc...

Mountain biking is something more than mashing. You still need power. But to be decent in this discipline also requires dialing in. Kind of like snow-skiing moguls. Until you see your path and incorporate some rhythm, you'll flounder. Once your established, it will go much more smoothly.

OK that's all I got to say about that.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

boots and cats and boots and cats and..

Friday, May 17, 2013


Last Saturday I entered the Platte River Battle Royale Mountain bike race at Platte River State Park in Louisville, NE.

Still without a mountain bike, I rode it on my cyclocross bike. Most of the folks refrained from commenting about it, my cyclocross bike. But for those who did, it was mostly about how I was a nut-job for riding a paperboy bike at Platte. Paperboy and clunkers were the nicknames given to the bikes ridden during mountain bike's infancy in the late 1970s. Basically, those bikes were coaster brake beach cruisers that true nut-jobs bombed hiking trails on when they weren't delivering newspapers.

As for me on my cyclocross bike? Nah, it wasn't that bad. You be the judge, here's a picture of the paperboy and his bike now:

Whoops, sorry about that -- that's not me on my clunker. That's Gary Fisher, the creator of the mountain bike. I mean, if Gary Fisher rode a paperboy bike why couldn't I ride Gary Fisher's Cronus CX at Platte?

To be fair, not all were naysayers. For example, Troy Krause sidled up to offer his version of the BCM Pep Talk during warmup. Troy said that he had ridden a cross bike at Platte twice before. And in both attempts, he only went over the handlebars once each ride.

Not that bad, see?

As for my race, I managed to ride an entire lap without killing myself before pinch-flatting in the rocky creek gully. I tried to prevent pinch flatting from happening by installing a set of Bontrager LT3 700x38c tires before the race. Apparently that still wasn't enough. And although Shim had given me a tube and a can of air before the race, I decided to pull the plug and step off the course.

Riding a cyclocross bike on single track is a blast, but it's probably best done on training rides. You can't argue that drop bars, CX tires and no suspension doesn't have its moments out there.

Then again, I suppose that's the mountain biking experience regardless of the bike one rides.

In any case, I'm not done with the dirt.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hulk Jr

On the way back from this past Sunday's group ride to Missouri Valley, the tempo picked up on Old Lincoln Highway. A pace line formed, two abreast, and long pulls ensued. Even with a tail wind, it wasn't a moderate effort. There was no soft pedaling up front for sure.

Inevitably on such rides, it's only a matter of time before someone announces to the group that they're going to go solo up the road and put in some "serious" effort.

Lucas was the first to do so. He told us of his intentions, and we let him go. Considering that we were going about 30 mph at the time, Lucas had to put down some serious wattage to get away from us. And once away, he had to sustain a strong effort from being swallowed back up by the group. We let him hang out there for about 15 minutes before reeling him back in.

Mod was the next to go up the road. But Mod's way of announcing his intention was unlike Lucas' way. Mod simply launched a silent attack off the front when nobody expected it. It's okay. World Champions are granted some leeway in this matter.

When Mod jumped, Lucas picked up the pace. I followed, along with Shim and Noah. We gave Mod a short leash of about 15 yards. At a small hill just south of Crescent, MOD got out of his saddle. Lucas remained seated. The gap between us began to increase. Shim came around me, I grabbed his wheel and Lucas took mine. By the time we crested the hill, the group was back together once more.

And just as the pace let up, I announced my intentions to solo up the road for a serious effort with my own silent counter-attack. It was clearly a breach of protocol among us non-world champion plebeians to act so rashly. Please forgive me.

My initial effort felt like five minutes, but it was probably closer to three before Lucas came around me. I rode his wheel for a few minutes before going up for another strenuous effort. A few minutes pass before, I hear another rider coming around me. This time, it's Shim, and he's riding with his inside shoe unclipped from its pedal as he attempted to pass. Jackass!

Shim's mockery flashed a memory in my mind of being harassed by my older brother Matt when I was a kid. Separated by a year and half, Matt and I competed in everything. Everything he did, I wanted to do better. Of course he was better, but it didn't prevent me from trying. He was also bigger in size. A lot bigger.

Competition led to friction and friction to fighting. When we'd fight, it was serious business. All-out fist fights were uncommon, but not unheard of. Usually, he'd allow me rope-a-dope him until I was thoroughly exhausted, and then he'd bull-rush me to the ground. Once on the ground, he'd sit on top of me and taunt me. Wet willies. Pick my nose, slap my face, thump my chest, etc. Ultimately, he'd get bored with all that and then go to the horrid goober dangling over my face. Lots of laughter on his part ensued during this whole ordeal.

This was all calculated on Matt's part. He was like an evil scientist conducting an experiment and I was his skinny lab rat. He'd pester me just to see how long it'd take before I cracked and unleashed a monster within. He'd call me the Hulk Jr when it happened.

When I blew up, I demonstrated unbelievable amounts of strength for a 60 pound kid. He probably weighed 120 lbs, but with proper motivation, I could go from being pinned on my back to standing up, all the while being bear-hugged by him.

I can still hearing him laughing hysterically during those moments.

Sometimes I'd show great restraint and withstand 20 or 30 minutes of this sadistic game. Other times, it only took him being a jackass for a few seconds before Hulk Jr broke loose.

So it was with Shim this past Sunday when he attempted to pass me while pedaling with one leg. Something inside of me snapped. Uncapped reserves of raw, possibly gamma radiation-induced, energy had been released into my bloodstream. My eyes dilated as my head turned away from that grinning fool. The road opened up before me, a straight run into Council Bluffs.

The monster within took over. It hunched over the yellow road bike's drops and began mashing mercilessly  on the pedals.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I heard my brother laugh. Or was that Shim's cackle?

Friday, May 3, 2013

V is not for Hoo-ha

The letter "V" isn't for hoo-ha. Fred Hinsley will tell you otherwise, but don't listen to him. Anyway, he's unable to comment on the matter any further due to pending litigation against the Green Street Velo Group's usage of his coined acronym "GSV". YPG, until that's resolved, mum's the word buddy.

So if V isn't for hoo-ha, then what is it for? Victory? Nah. How about vendetta?

Many months ago, Jordan Ross (Team Kaos) told Shim that the theme of the year was going to be "Operation Domination."

Shim cackled.

You see, Jordan made that statement shortly after completing a multi-month kitchen remod project. During that time, Jordan hadn't ridden a bike once. By the time he finished the kitchen project, he was soft. It wasn't that he was a tub of goo or anything, but he also wasn't in much of a position to be making such a brash statement.

Furthermore, this "Operation Domination" statement just didn't seem to fit Jordan's personality. Normally, he's more of humble and reserved kind of guy than to make such a claim. Heck, around these parts he's known more for shoveling his neighbor's driveways and sidewalks than one to claim dominance over the local road scene.

Jordan Ross shoveled everyone's driveways and sidewalks but Leah's
And to make it more preposterous, Jordan had just upgraded to cat 2 at the end of last season. Now when most folks upgrade, they take it in stride, suck wheels and settle for mid-to-bottom pack finishes for awhile before coming out and proclaiming they're going to dominate the scene. Apparently not Jordan; he was going to go after it right out of the gates.

Then came the new bike photos posted on Facebook...

... and all the accompanying harassment about the awesome platform pedals.

Somewhere around that point in time, Jordan went off the grid. Poof. He was gone. He had a mission to accomplish: average Joe nice guy with a score to settle. An operation of domination against all the nay-sayers. A vendetta.

Jordan disappeared and began racking up huge hours on the trainer in a dark, dank basement. He didn't take much time to enjoy his new kitchen with all that time on the trainer. And when it snowed, he didn't give a crap anymore about his neighbors' driveways nor their damn sidewalks. Meredith shoveled instead. Leah had to shovel either way.

Anyway, by the time road season was cranking up, the local cycling scene had mostly forgotten about operation domination.

The first stop of Operation Domination was the Tour de Husker, held on a cold, gloomy and windy day around Branched Oak reservoir. Team Kaos put the hurt on the small cat 1-2-3 field. Lee Bumgarner (Kaos) won, Lucas Marshall (MWCC) was second. But wait wait, what's this -- the former carpenter/snow shoveller Jordan Ross (Kaos) was a very close third.

Lucas Marshall (left), Jordan Ross (right). photo: Michael Dixon

Now some may have considered this result an early season fluke. But there he was, standing on the podium the very next day at Pioneer's Park, right behind Lee and Lucas again.

Then came the Twin Bing classic at Climbing Hill, IA. Again, another podium finish.

A couple weeks later, he traveled to Velotek GP and posted a top ten in a strong field.

And just the past weekend was the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup/Old Capitol Criterium in Iowa, the first stage of the Inaugural Flyover Series. This was a relatively large stage race that attracted the best riders of the region. While helping his teammate Bumgarner to overall victory, Jordan placed seventh in the Omnium results. That's impressive. But what I found even more interesting was his strong time trial finish.

Nice work there, kid. I don't recall TT being your strength in the past. Apparently, it has become one now.

Around here, Team Kaos has been destroying the competition this season. Bumgarner is almost untouchable. But they also have a lot of other weapons. Jordan is certainly one of them.

That settles it for me. The letter V is not for hoo-ha, it's for Vendetta.