Friday, November 28, 2014


It's black Friday morning and I am thankful for NOT being in retail

... or that I even live within three miles of a Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc...

... or that I have a spouse who wants to go out today

... or that I have to sit in traffic,  or wait in lines, or sleep outside for door busters.

... (sigh)

I could go on and on about what I'm thankful for not having to deal with this Thanksgiving holiday, but who really cares?

If you care, I am thankful that I can sit in my underwear and mop-head hair while blogging with a cup of hot coffee at my side.

I am thankful for my spouse, my family and friends. And pets. Let's not forget them. For a good job, a nice house, and plenty of food.

And cyclocross. That's important too. Speaking of which, I have the Frosty Cross races to get ready for.

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Mud Tires Work Best When Mounted

This past weekend's Jinglecross Sunday race featured a muddy course from the 2-4 inches of fresh snow that fell Saturday evening.

When I drew the curtain back on Sunday morning, I smiled over the winter landscape and smugly thought, 'Fear not, I am prepared, for I have a brand-new Clement PDX mud tire waiting just for this occasion.' And then a moment later, I remembered that the tire was sitting on my work bench back home, some 200 miles away. Crap!

Apparently, mud tires work best when they're mounted on the wheels of the bike you intend to ride in the mud.

Executing the plan is one of the intricacies of cyclocross. Often, the difference between a good result and a mediocre one is in the fine details of preparation. Like, remembering to bring mud tires for a wet sloppy mess.

For those who've raced cyclocross for a few seasons (like me), dialling in the equipment to the condition is a trial by error method. It typically takes me a handful of times before I get it right, if ever.

Behold, Barry's proven five-step method to dialling-in cyclocross equipment:
1) FAILURE from first time experience without upgraded equipment
2) FAILURE from stubbornly refusing to purchasing upgrade
3) FAILURE from purchasing the upgrade, but forgetting to bring it
4) FAILURE from racing the upgrade improperly (lack of experience)

Success may eventually come, but don't count on it. Suck it up and deal with it. It's called cyclocross.

I'm serious. I've been going through these five steps with mud-spikes for my shoes. The same can be said about having the proper gloves for the occasion. Or how about eye-protection: like having a set of clear lens for dusty night racing? Or heck, how many times have I missed a call-up due to failing to pre-register, or missing the pre-registration deadline by two minutes, or missing the call-ups because the starting chute was not where I thought it was? Oh, and let's not forget this dandy: dropping a swim cap in the transition zone of a triath -- vrrrrrrrp -- wait, what? My apologies, we will not have any triathlon discussions here.

Anyway, experience is everything, and failure is the best teacher.

This weekend's thaw and potential rain/snow mix could make for muddy courses at the Nebraska State cyclocross championships. Hopefully, I can be a step 4 failure this time around.

One day, I just might get it right. Then again, I probably won't. Man, I love this sport.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.

Muddy Conditions at day three Jinglecross 2014, photo credits:McColgan Photography

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Little Savery

Oh golly. I'm nuts. Absolutely nuts. I cannot recall the last time that I have been so singularly focused on one race, that being this weekend's set of three races at Jinglecross in Iowa City.

When I say nuts, I'm afraid I mean it. It's on my mind a lot. Like incessantly. Good grief. I can't stop thinking of it.

The thing is, I love racing my bicycle. Especially off road, in the dirt and grime; in the elements of cold and wet and sloppy. And I'll have more than my fare share of that this weekend, especially the cold.

A few months ago, I posted something about being cyclocross 1.5x4x120. This was somewhat of a tongue in cheek deference to our local world champion Mark Savery, who claims that he is cyclocross twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Pshaw. Nobody -- well uh, maybe Mark -- can be that into this sport. That's why I made a more realistic claim that I would be spending 1.5 hours on my cx bike for four days a week for the next 120 days. Seemed reasonable at the time.

Now that I'm in the thick of the season -- with my "A" race upon me -- my mind is whirling with cx this, cx that. For this week, 1.5x4x120 is an understatement. It's more like 12x7x7: 12 hours a day, 7 days this week I've been at least thinking -- if not actively preparing -- for jingle cross.

As you can see, I've gone bonkers. I'm all in. Oh geez, I just realized that I am becoming a little Savery. Ha! What's equally alarming as it is funny is that I don't care.

But you may (care). I'll tell you what. Let's make a pact. If I don't snap out of this soon, then be my accountability partner and drag me out of these (still?) shallow waters before I get too deep. Otherwise, I may have to resort to stealing my dog's prozac supply.

Deal? Deal.

Now, as for the cold weather this weekend? I say bring it. Unh. Yeah baby. DO YOUR WORST MOTHER NATURE. Oh yeah, uhn, I'm ready!

Seriously, please wish me well. And by well, I mean my mental state :)

And as always, thanks for reading.

Happy Friday.

Friday, November 7, 2014

I Use My Shins for Brakes

At the end of a recent cyclocross race, somebody asked me, "what happened to your shin?"  

Standing there in my race kit, with my cross bike straddled between my legs, I looked down at the crimson and dirt-encrusted road rash that overtook a large part of my left shin. I was as surprised to see it as she was. But then I recalled choosing a bad line through a tricky, off-camber turn, and eating shit in a cloud of dust about a half an hour earlier. 

"I used it as a brake," I finally said.

Of course, my bike's cantilever brakes were a better option, it just that they weren't available at the moment. As I was crashing, that was.

Traditional cantilever brakes have been around for ages. They have wonderful stopping action and excellent mud-clearance, which are both especially important in cyclocross. The biggest criticism they draw is in setting them up. They're finicky. Get it off a hair and the brake chatter can sound like Godzilla when he's pissed. However, having upgraded to Avid Ultimate Shorty brakes this season, most of that maintenance headache is a thing of the past due to their elegant design.

Even better than cantilever brakes (or shins for that matter) are disk brakes. They have improved stopping action, and with the disk mount near the hub, aren't affected by mud. The problem is cash. Like lots of it. It's not that the initial setup costs any more than a traditional bike, it's that you have to replace all of your existing rim-brake wheelsets because they're not compatible with disks. The thought of purchasing a new bike(s) and multiple wheelsets makes me want to take a nap.

But they say that disks is where the industry is heading. It just may take a while.

At anyrate, it doesn't matter much to me. My cantilever brakes work just fine. And when they're momentarily unavailable, my shins do quite a job at stopping me, too.

Disk brakes aren't going to change that anytime soon.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday.