Sunday, October 26, 2008


Took time this weekend to attend and race both days of Spooky Cross. This is a local event put on by local guys JJ Bailey and Tony Nichols. The second installment of this race took place in the fields and hills of Living History Farms in Urbandale, IA. This was my first 'cross weekend and served as a break in for both me and my new Specialized SingleCross. In preparation for the weekend's activities, I geared the bike down as much as I could (to a 39 x 18) and hoped for the best. On Saturday, I raced in the "first time" category. This was a 30 minute plus 2 lap race. The course had a fairly soft section along the edge of a soybean field, and one long climb, but was otherwise flat with a couple of barrier sections. By the start of the race, temps had warmed to the mid to upper 50s, so I was able to ride without anything on my arms. I went out hard on the first lap, and came across in either first or second place. As I started my second lap and climbed out of the first section of barriers, it was apparent that I had started too hard. After two laps, I was definitely cooked and had all I could do maintain a solid pace for the remainder of the race. With a few laps left. I took a beer hand up courtesy of Kyle Sedore, not knowing that I needed to drink it all, or else I was going to wear the rest of it the next lap. Kyle was apologetic about covering me with beer, as I rode up the gravel road the next lap. I could, however, feel his smirk burning itself into my back as he metted out some 'cross justice on the new guy. All in all, a good time on Saturday, with a few lessons learned and no damage to either me or the bike.

Sunday gave us a different course, and much different weather. Winds were howling out of the WNW as early as 7 AM, and really picked up starting at 10 AM. The Cat 3/4 race started at 11:45 or so. By this time the airport was showing winds in the low high 30 to low 40 MPH range, with gusts of over 55 MPH. I went out easier at the start of this race and felt better all of the way through. The wind was only a factor as we exited the woods and came through the start finish area towards the first set of barriers. The flat open hayfield gave us no cover, so all we could do was keep pedaling until we turned north. Scot Sumpter and I were trading spots back and forth from about the second or third lap on. Scott was catching me on the couple of uphill segments that I needed to run due to my gearing. On the next to last lap, I caught a spot of bad luck and ended up dumping myself and the bike ass over tea kettle into a mud puddle at the corner of the bean field. Covered with mud from the shoulder blades on down, I hopped back on the bike, and kept plugging away, despite feeling a large lump on both my right shin and right calf. Sumpter followed behind me on a section of gravel road, questioning me about the difference in my kit colors between this lap, and the prior one. Having just gotten passed by the leaders before exiting the woods, Scott and I were both pulled at the end of the penultimate lap. Our race weekend was over.

With the race site being only a few miles from home, this was the perfect way to get introduced to cross racing. A little bit of road biking and a little bit of mountain biking all rolled into one. However, the races are not cancelled due to wet conditions, snow or ice. You "run what you brung" and deal with the conditions the nature deals you. The temporary nature of most of the courses makes this possible. After the winter snows have fallen, and given way to the green of spring, you won't be able to tell we were there. I can see why people like this disicpline, and I can also understand why people like to watch as well. Hopefully there will be some additional races in my future, if not this year, then next year for sure.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cross Eyed

Hit the Witmer Park Renegade Cross on Tuesday night. Not having actually tried cross racing before, it seemed like a good way to figure things out without the pressure of a race. About 25 people eventually made their way to the start line of our impromptu race course. Oakley Rob Versteegh did a good job of laying out the course. Hills, some sand, tight turns, an optional ramp, and plenty of acorns making a good substitute for cobblestones. Pete Basso arrived a few minutes early to give me some quick how to advice on dismounting and remounting and I was off. I had a good time over the 45 minutes of the race, even if my legs were burning. Mounts and dismounts are going to take a lot more practice, but it's a skill that's easily practiced anywhere there's a log or something else in the way. The shop ordered squeezed a smaller chainring onto one of their orders today, so I'll have an easier time riding the hills during Spooky Cross on Saturday (and Sunday). Should be a fun time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cross biking

Left work early to meet Lou, Basso and Pig for some cross practice. Evidently I didn't leave early enough as I got a call on the way that they were done and heading home. Must be nice to be able to leave work at 3 on a nice day to go ride. Some day I might be able to do that. I almost turned around, but decided to head down for at least a lap of Denman's since the weather was nice and rain is in the forecast for later in the week. Hopped on the SingleCross and bumped into Rick Blackford just inside of the entrance. We made forward loop through Denman's, across Dirty Express, two laps of Hillside and a run through Rollercoaster before Rick had to head for home. On the way through we saw Nathan, Emily and Cam all out for some late fall single track action, and Maria finishing up a late afternoon ride on her road bike. A lot of other people were out, either running or riding, with quite a few kids out for rides with their parents. Good to see that people are enjoying the trails.

After parting ways with Rick, I headed back along Dirty Express and took a backwards lap through Denman's before it got too dark to see. I ran this lap on the drops instead of the hoods, and it felt a thousand times better better. Brake modulation was much better and the bike just handled like it was on rails. I'm starting to see the light on this drop bar for off-roading stuff that Guitar Ted has been proselytizing about for the past few days. Not sure how I'd make drops work on the geared KM without using bar ends, and I'm not sure that bar ends would be XC race friendly for the amount of gear changing that I do. Drop bar 29er single speed MTB in my future maybe? Regrding gearing on the Singlecross, the 42x18 was OK for Denman's and too steep for Hillside (I'm not manly like that Kent Carlson guy yet). I think a 39 front ring would have made Hillside easier to climb, and allowed me to be quicker out of the corners in Denman's. That 2:1 ratio seems to be what most of the single speeders run around here. I have a feeling that I'm going to have a collection of rings and chains for the Singlecross soon. A 46x18 would be nice for fall road rides as well as commuting. I run a 46x17 on my road only single speed now.

Tomorrow is Renegade Cross practice at Witmer Park. This will be the first one of them I have hit this year. I thought it might be a good idea before entering SpookyCross this weekend.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday trail work

Building stringers

Footers on, and footings dug

Decking on. Ready for approach armoring.

If you see someone you know in these photos, and you ride, hike or walk the Center Trails at all, stop and thank them. A number of people donated a full day of their time to help rebuild and improve Rollercoaster on Saturday. A lot of work was accomplished, including repair or replacement of four bridges, armoring of bridge approaches, improving trail drainage, filling in washouts, and building an entirely new section of trail.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Missed Connection

You: Distinguished looking professional man in your early 50s

Me: Guy on a bike riding to work

When: Friday morning, 10/10/2008

You F***ING asshat. Thank you for passing me in the no passing zone approaching a stop sign. Thank you for forcing oncoming traffic to slow down so that YOU wouldn't hit them. I hope your secretary clocks you upside the head with your cup of of morning coffee and shoves your copy of the Wall Street Journal down your self righteous throat. Glad you made it through the intersection 5 seconds before I did. I know that extra time you saved was put to good use waiting at the NEXT stop sign at the corner of 102nd and Meredith.

You know where and when to find me if you want to discuss this further.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall is here

This time of year is always interesting. 39 or 40 degrees during the morning commute and 70 degrees on the way home. Tail winds both ways one day, headwinds both days later in the week. I love fall commuting. Tomorrow will make 3 solid weeks of bike commuting. 100th being open definitely makes the commute easier due to lower levels of traffic, and reasonable pavement quality. I've also been making a point to commute in something that doesn't look like cycling clothes at first glance. Flat soled shoes on the LHT, SPD sandals on my other bikes. Jeans with an ankle strap, or shorts. A wool shirt and maybe a wind breaker. It saves me a bit of time at the office in the morning, and I hope it encourages other people to ride their bikes to work (or anywhere) more. If people don't think that they need to wear special clothes to run an errand on a bike, they might pull that old bike out of the attic and give it a try.

Over the past few weeks, one thing that I have noticed is that many people, even other cyclists, are surprised to find out that I have biked TO a bike ride. Last night I rode with a coworker and some of her friends. All but one were what I would call "dedicated recreational cyclists". They ride a lot, but they ride mainly for recreation. Each of them were surprised that I rode from the my office to the start of the ride, a distance of around 8 miles. I had made a decision a while back that driving to a bike ride that started in town really didn't make a lot of sense to me. Most of the rides that I go to regularly start within a 30-45 minute ride from my house or office. Yes it makes the ride take a bit more time, but I also get more miles in that way, I don't use as much gas, and I don't have to deal with parking. I do it so often, that it's become somewhat second nature. This must mean that the "utility" cyclist in me is getting built up a little more each day. I'm definitely not car-free yet by any stretch of the imagination, but I would say that I'm becoming less car dependent. If time allows, I don't mind riding my bike somewhere to do something, whether it's visit a friend, go to the store, or go for a ride. On the flip side, I don't mind driving if I'm time constrained, or the weather is bad, or I don't feel like riding (yes, it happens). I guess I figure that with all of the extra cycling that I do, that I help offset what some people would consider "frivolous" driving. In the end, you do what you are comfortable doing, and lead by example.

This weekend consists of trail work with CITA on Saturday, and another gravel century on Sunday. Saturday's work is the perfect opportunity to give back a little for all of the time that you've ridden the trails this year. We want to have everything looking nice and screaming fast for the Dirty Du on November 2. Hope to see a lot of you out there even if it's only for a couple of hours.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Good Luck

I got a phone call from Mr. Bike Iowa and an email from Marc Hollander last night telling me that I had won a(nother) new bike. I will soon be the proud owner of a Specialized Tricross Singlecross.

I bought a raffle ticket as part of the Cross Out Crohn's fundraiser. This is a local cyclocross race that is used to raise money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. I have a good friend of mine that has been dealing with Crohn's for the last 3 years. He recently had to endure addtional surgery to alleviate it's symptoms, so a donation to help find a cure seemed like the least I could do.

A big thank you to Rasmussen's for donating this bike and the Specialized Tricross Sport Triple that was won by Lane Anderson. Now to get to the shop, get my bike sized and get it ordered.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October Dirty Hundy

Great ride today. 101 miles towards my October Hundy, and another 17 to get home from Adel for a total of 118 miles with slightly over 7800 feet of climb. Lots of hills, lots of combines, and lots of loose gravel at points. I took the LHT shod with the stock 37mm Continental Contact tires. There's an art to riding skinny tires on gravel, and I obviously have some learning to do. Flats were no problem, but sand and loose gravel on the many steep downhills was cause for a number of "pucker" moments. It's hard to be "loose" when it feels like the front end may wash out at any minute. I didn't want to end up like this guy did late last month. Other than that issue, the LHT performed well. I felt pretty good for the first 75 miles or so. However, the wind didn't switch over to the SW like I expected, so I rode back from Stuart with a 15 MPH S crosswind that kept slowly sucking my energy levels down. Even the large cherry shake in Adel didn't do much for me until a lot later in the ride. The trees are getting ready to turn. If the weather holds and the wind is from the same direction in another week or two, this will be a very pretty route to ride.

As normal, I took some photos.

Planning another one of these next Sunday. If anyone is interested, lemme know.

Public Service Message

I should not be posting this right now. I should be in the hospital, fighting for my life.

Between the skill of an unknown driver, my ears, and a now very large loan from the karma pool, I avoided turning left in front of the pickup truck that was passing me. I didn't hear him coming behind me due to the wind, and I didn't see him coming behind me because *I* didn't take the time to look over my shoulder before I turned left. I'm not sure why I didn't look. Laziness? Too used to hear vehicles coming behind me on gravel? I'll can honestly say that I don't know. I do know I was more concerned about making sure the car on the gravel road to the left saw me than I was someone passing me. I do know that I froze for a second and then swerved away from the turning once I saw the truck. I do know that the truck missed me by less than a foot. I do know that if I wasn't able to type this right now, it would be entirely my fault.

Wear a mirror, put a mirror on your bike, look over your shoulder, or don't. If nothing else, look behind you before you turn, even if you are in the middle of no where.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hundy Route

Here's the route for October's first dirty century.

Leaving my house and heading south to Booneville between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. Call me on my cell if you want to join up along the way. Rolling the Long Haul Gravel Trucker on normal tires.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Weekly wrap up

Tomorrow will be 5 for 5 on work commutes for the second week in a row. Woot! Another spread of bikes this week. LHT for a couple of days, Karate Monkey for a couple of days, Dahon folder for the first time. Sturmey Archer 3 speed and little wheels made for an interesting commute. Riding the Dahon definitely felt like more work than the single speed or any other bike in my current stable. The Dahon garnered a few good natured snickers and "clown bike" comments from some of my coworkers. Price of being different. :) Karate Monkey with the Bob and a cooler will be the ride for tomorrow. First night time Quarter Rage tomorrow night. Gonna head down early, fill the cooler with beer and have a few with Squirrel before (and after, and during(?)) the race. Need to make sure the bike and helmet lights are set to go. Taco ride last night was a good time. We had a lot of people show up, the weather was perfect, and the company was good. Denman's was in better shape than I expected it to be. A few soft spots, but nothing that was terribly sloppy. We didn't get to hillside again. I may just go ahead and ride it myself next week even if no one else wants to.

Gravel hundy ride on Sunday. If you're interested, leave a comment. Not sure of the route yet. Will likely be one that we've ridden before, unless I get a sudden burst of energy.