Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is bicycle culture accessible?

First of all, what the hell is "bicycle culture"?
As someone who might be in a skinsuit on the velodrome on a friday night or dressed like a hobo pulling kids or groceries in a trailer on wednesday morning or riding to work any old day in a plain old wool jersey- I struggle with the question.  I get opinions on what bike you should be riding, what clothes you should be wearing, and what kind of riding you should be doing all the time.  Most of the time it is contradictory.  For as much time as I spend riding or repairing or geeking out on bikes, I don't feel all that wired into a bicycle community.  So when the racers are talking down their noses at hipsters, and the tweed set are doing the same towards the idiotic Lance Armstrong wannabes- who is right?
Everyone has preferences for certain equipment or styles of riding.  Mine has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and probably will continue to change.
The secret, I think, is this:  if you are riding a bicycle and you are having fun- you are doing it right and you are a part of it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

De-squealing brakes

Its the season for howling brakes.  I thought I would share my understanding of the problem and see if anyone has thoughts to share.  A little squeal is okay, but if you see pedestrians cringing when you stop at an intersection or you find yourself avoiding the front brake to save your eardrums- time to solve the problem.  Although it can be nice to announce hard braking required when a car pulls in front of you...
A shudder or squeal occurs when the brake momentarily locks up and then releases the rim.  If this happens at a low frequency, shudder occurs.  At a higher frequency it is a squeal.  I think of it as being similar to a shimmy:  it is a resonant frequency that can be caused by many small things.  So there is not one universal fix. The main contributor is a bow string effect of the brake cable.  The longer the bowstring, the worse the shudder and squeal.  When the brake is applied, the fork deflects backwards.  This draws the cable tighter, like a bow string.  Which causes the brake to momentarily but suddenly lock the rim.  It does not happen as much on the rear brake because the frame doesn't move in response to braking as the fork does.  Also doesn't happen as much with sidepull  or V brakes because there is no bowstring- the cable attaches directly to the brake.
If you look closely at my commuter here (with the squeal issues) the cable stop is at the usual place on the headset.  That leaves about 12 inches of bowstring.  I solved the problem of brake shudder on my cyclocross bike with a fork crown mounted cable stop.  That leaves about 1.5 inches of bowstring, and totally eliminated brake shudder.  I've had the same results on other bikes.  The fork crown on this bike, which I had R&E cycles make after the demise of the stock fork, doesn't have a hole in the fork crown so its not an option.  I didn't think to specify that when I had the fork built because I assumed that any steel fork aside from maybe a track fork would have a hole.  I was wrong.  Its otherwise a great fork.

Frictional qualities between the rim and brake pad can also cause squeal and shudder.  A new rim can be quite grabby at first, until the surface gets worn in a little.  Tubular glue on the rim surface can cause squealing.  The brake pad material can make a big difference.  In my experience, salmon brake pads squeal less, brake much better in wet conditions, and don't wear the rims out quite as fast as black compounds.  Sometimes taking a brillo pad or sandpaper to the rim and brake pad can eliminate squealing.  In this case the brake pads were getting thin so I replaced them (Yokozuna salmon pads) and the problem is solved.

Finally, its possible that laxity where the brake pivots on the cantilever post or in the parallelogram linkage on V brakes may facilitate squealing.

The amount of fore/aft movement of the fork under braking influences shudder and squeal, as described above.  A properly designed fork can help eliminate the shudder.  Modern cyclocross carbon forks have gone to truly massive fork crowns and oversize lower headset bearings to minimize flex between the cantilever posts and cable stop.  It seems to me that a fork crown mounted cable stop is an easier, lighter, and more elegant solution.  For a steel fork- the fork blades should be oval in cross section at the crown and taper down below the cantilever posts to a nice small radius bend near the dropouts.  This makes it so that fore/aft flexion occurs mostly below the cantilever posts where it won't create the bow string effect.  This also makes it so that more up/down flexing occurs over bumpy terrain, improving ride quality.  The current trend of making straight-bladed steel forks bugs me!  Its done either to mimic carbon forks or save labor, but there is no functional reason for it that I am aware of.

A word on discs, because I know what you're all thinking...  I know, hydraulic discs are awesome.  I have used them.  They belong on suspension bikes because they have unsurpassed power and modulation.  I don't have my own yet but someday I will.  Hydraulic discs are overkill on a road racing bike or cyclocross racing bike.  But on a cargo, commuter, or mountain bike its probably worth the added weight and complexity for the truly awesome braking power.  Going down a steep hill in a rainstorm with a trailer?  I've done that many times, and you have to be really careful!

I'm not sold on cable actuated disc brakes. They have the same drawbacks as hydraulic discs in terms of weight and complexity but aren't as powerful because of cable flex. The pads have to sit really close to the rotor so they are more prone to brake rub if the rotors are warped. Cantilevers are maligned as much as they are because of tricky setup.  A properly set up cantilever is just as powerful, or nearly so, compared to a cable disc.  A poorly set up cantilever is admittedly awful.  No power, poor modulation, and noisy.  The most common pitfalls are a straddle cable that is too high, resulting in no power, or crappy pads.  I don't even bother with the stock black pads anymore.  They are immediately replaced with salmon pads.

So before you toss your cantilevers in the garbage, tinker with them a little.  Lower the straddle cable and change the pads.  You might be surprised.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Tyler Farrar races cyclocross

Its not every day a punter like me gets to line up next to Tyler Farrar. Before the gun went off I told him I remembered when he showed up at South Seatac back when he rode for Cofidis.  Now he is a grand tour stage winner and he still shows up to the local cyclocross race!  I think that demonstrates a real love for the sport.  He kept telling people taking his picture before the race that he isn't good at this.  Yeah well with legs like that you can't go too wrong.  I've seen legs like that before- on a quarter horse.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

what is your bike made out of?

This one is made of steel.  On my home home from work I made a bonehead move- a left hand turn into an oncoming car.  No idea why I didn't see it.  I've been riding to and from work most days for 10 years.  I hit the front of the car at an angle, went over the bars, bounced off the windshield and landed on my feet.  I completely caved  in the windshield and don't even have a bruise myself. Really stupid and really lucky.  The visibly shaken but nice woman in the car that I hit and I had a short but pleasant conversation and exchanged information.  I put the wheel back in the skewed fork and rode home, slowly.
 Try that with a carbon fork.  I'm afraid the fork is beyond help this time but I had the people at Elliott Bay straighten it from a crash several years ago. Right now there is a trend for even steel frames to use a carbon fork.  I would rather ride a carbon frame with a steel fork.  A frame is a nice strong triangle and less likely to fail, and even if it does you can probably land safely.  If, on the other hand, a steerer tube or fork leg snaps while you are riding- and we all know that it happens- you are going to hit the ground hard.
Other benefits of a properly designed steel fork, aside from reliability, in my opinion, are better ride quality and better clearance for mud/fenders/bigger tires.  Its probably true that carbon transmits less road vibration and has a nice damp feel to it.  The straight legs on carbon forks are really stiff vertically.  A steel fork with the offset in a nice round bend near the dropouts, like this Colorado II fork, is much more comfortable.  If anyone has an orphaned Serotta Colorado fork with 9 inches of steerer let me know!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


After riding towards the front of the Cat 3 field for the last 5 years, I finally got a win today.  Usually I'm content to just race but I really wanted a win at Steilacoom.  My first cross race was at Steilacoom in 2005, with no spandex and on my trusty Bontrager hardtail.  I had just read an article in the Seattle Times about cyclocross.  I didn't know anyone who raced cyclocross but I had to try it.  Steilacoom, even without the legendary Knapp time run up, is one of my favorite courses- along with Woodland Park and the old Fort Flagler.  Now its on to Cat 2 pack fodder.  Its been fun.

I'm normally not one to geek out on gear.  I have no idea what is taking Don Walker so long to build my new  cross bike.  I'm still racing on a generic aluminum frame with barcon shifters I built up in 2006.   But today I had on a new set of Challenge Fango clinchers.  I have used a Challenge tubular on the front before but I never got around to building up a tubular rear wheel because I rolled the front tire off once or twice.  You can't have a decent result if you roll your tire.  So I usually just use a clincher with WTB cross wolf tires.  They do corner really well.  But I've got to think that a handmade tire with a really supple casing has noticeably improved rolling resistance.  I think its true that a tubular is faster if you can get it to stay on, because you can run them at lower pressures and therefore have better traction in corners.  They are also lighter but I think the weight is a non issue.  But I suspect a handmade clincher with a cotton or cotton/poly casing has the benefit of extremely low rolling resistance, similar to a handmade tubular tire.  The Biccyle Quarterly people have done some really interesting tests on rolling resistance that seem to bear this out.  Its really kind of funny that with all the carbon wheels, electronic shifting, and other high zoot items that seem to be must-have items for a lot of people- the single best thing you can do to make yourself faster, with respect to equipment, is buy some old fashioned handmade tires.  One nice thing about that- we are talking about 80 dollars instead of 40 dollars for a tire.  Not thousands for carbon wheels or electronic drivetrains.

It must have been close to 80 degrees at Steilacoom today.  I'm hoping the odd color of my urine is from beet salad and not dehydration.  It was dry and dusty, but a lot of the corners were still tricky due to loose dirt/sand/gravel.  My plan was to not eat it too hard in any of the turns and pick people off going up the long hills and it worked.  One of the dudes in the creepy pink kit with kittens and knives on it was killing it on a singlespeed- I would have been in trouble if he had been riding a geared bike.  A Keller Rohrbach rider was close too but I think I heard him slide out at one point and he couldn't make it back.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

running stairs

Cyclocross season is almost here- I suspect most people have some sights, sounds, or habits that are the harbinger of fall.  Maybe its the chill in the air in the mornings or the leaves starting to turn color.  One thing for me is running stairs.  Usually the ones overgrown with blackberries and ivy off of 98th street, because they're close to home.  It is a sure fire way to get in a maximum intensity interval workout and wake up the running muscles that occasionally are called into use in a cyclocross race.
I started running stairs before I started racing cyclocross.  I worked for a guy in the veterinary school in Pullman in the summer, making anatomy specimens.  I had heard he was a helicopter machine gunner in the Vietnam war.  He had an odd, quiet intensity about him.  He always won his age division in running events in the area and had a tendency to quench his post race thirst with beer.  If you worked for him, there was a deal that on tuesdays you could exercise for an hour or two on the clock.  But you had to exercise- if you were eating, reading, or on the computer you had to clock out.  I'm sure it was a flagrant violation of university policy but nobody ever questioned what this guy did.  So we would run stairs at the stadium on the clock.  We usually had to climb a chain link fence to get into the stadium but nobody ever seemed to care.  When I moved back to Seattle after graduation, I was irked that it was not possible to get into the UW stadium to run stairs.  If I ever own my own business I am going to continue the tradition of physical fitness tuesdays.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tour notes

So I wasn't too far off with my prediction of Chris Horner being the best placed American.  He finished 19 minutes off of Wiggins, in 13th place.  I didn't anticipate Tejay van Garderen riding so well: 5th place and 11 minutes off of Wiggins.  He is from Tacoma!  And interestingly, van Garderen outrode his captain, Cadel Evans.  Chris Horner was the strongest climber on his team in the Pyrenees.  I have to wonder, like always, what he would be capable of as a team captain.  He is always top ten or close to top ten in the GC while riding as a domestique.
Garmin basically had a disaster tour, aside from David Millar salvaging a stage win.  Maybe only Cofidis was having a worse time?  I feel bad for Tyler Farrar.  I think a lot of people were expecting more this year.  Its hard to know what you are capable of in a sprint if you can't stay off of the pavement.  And that is the final thought- why so much crashing this year?  I don't think there was a crash-free stage this year aside from the time trials.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Obligatory Tour de France post

So the tour starts Saturday.  Can we all just agree from the beginning that Chris Horner, even though he is over forty, is the only real American podium contender.
 Incidentally, Obamacare was signed into law today.   I can't decide whether that is a good thing or not but either way, lets add to the list of reasons for the lack of success for American bike racers, that maybe nobody is racing their bike because we all know we're one broken collarbone away from filing for personal bankruptcy.  
Maybe we shouldn't write off Leipheimer just yet, if he can manage a Cadel Evans-like transformation from wheel sucking second place whiner to World Champ/Tour Champ badass.  I think I would like to see a Cadel repeat in the tour this year.  I want to see him literally or figuratively punch whoever tries to take that stuffed lion from him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Freedom of movement

As a veterinarian I am often asked to assess a patients quality of life.  I usually discuss the ability to eat, being  free from constant debilitating pain or anxiety, and the ability to have a basic amount of mobility.  It has caused me to reflect on peoples' quality of life too...
I think in our society the idea of freedom of movement or mobility is often neglected.  Automobiles have become the de facto mode of transport for most of us.  City infrastructure being biased towards autos limits movement for those without access to cars.  I can think of  a lot of places where it is dangerous or downright unpleasant to walk or ride a bike, and where buses are not a great option either due to bus schedules or proximity to bus stops.  I just read somewhere that the free bus ride zones downtown are going to be eliminated at some point.  We have to remember that this will affect a very basic human right for some of us, especially the poor and disabled- freedom of movement.  The problem with transportation infrastructure being designed with autos as the lowest common denominator is that not everyone can afford to own and maintain a car.  So the lowest common denominator has to be a person on foot- and a close second would be bicycles and public transport.
This idea of the lowest common denominator for movement has plenty of other applications.  For example:

Hiking trails-  If a trail is open to motors it is unpleasant and useless for all other users.  I have encountered plenty of these trails in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  If a trail sees heavy use, which most do in King County, the trail should be designed for a hiker because that is the least exclusive user.  All you need are shoes to walk in.  Bicycles and horses are next.  If there isn't too heavy usage, hikers/cyclists/equestrians should be able to get along with some basic courtesy. I think the system on the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River is a good compromise- bicycles are allowed on odd numbered days.  The even days are for feet only.  Motorized use should be last priority, because motorcycles and ATV's are expensive to own and maintain and are at odds with other users of a public resource.

Have you ever noticed that the most desirable areas in a city are those in which there are numerous options for movement?  For example, a walkable neighborhood versus, lets say, some sections of Lake City Way or Aurora Avenue which are unsafe and unpleasant unless you are surrounded by a steel box (car)?  

This leads to the same old mantra:  whatever you build, infrastructure-wise, will be utilized.  If a suburban neighborhood is designed almost exclusively for its residents to move around by car- that is exactly what will happen.  On the other hand, look at the new and improved Dexter Avenue.  You have auto traffic lanes, bus stops, and a separated bikeway.  All of them are being heavily used!  Isn't it better to have more than one option for getting around?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

alpenrose heartbreaker

It was a heartbreaker... As a newly minted Cat 2 I thought it was high time to gain some experience on another track; the home track being Marymoor.  Alpenrose is a different deal, a much shorter track with much steeper banking.
So this last weekend I hauled the kids down to Vancouver WA to hang out with their grandparents and give the wife some peace and quiet.  The grandparents were nice enough to come out and supervise the kids while I raced.
 I felt totally out of my element on this track- the short steep turns just about made me dizzy.  I was out of sync with the other riders.  They would jump fast and hard and almost instantly get 20 meters on me, I would claw my way back in time to have to have about 10 seconds rest, then someone else would attack again, instantly lose 20 meters again, repeat for 100 laps...  I was strictly in survival mode, clinging to the back of the pack for dear life the whole time. It didn't help that being out of sync with the race like this made it so that I wasn't even on a wheel most of the time.  Not a very efficient way of "racing".  Maybe having an off day and racing against some animals like Steven Beardsley had something to do with it too.  If nothing else it was a good learning experience.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I have a question for people in case I'm missing something...  I've been chastised much more than normal lately for passing other riders or not saying "on your left" or something like that.  I've always considered myself to be a somewhat polite and responsible rider so maybe I need to rethink some things?  Here is the situation:  I pass someone with about 3 full feet on the road, on the left, without squeezing anybody or traffic coming from behind or anything, and then I get an earful about not letting them know I'm passing and being an inconsiderate douchebag and the reason motorists hate all cyclists.  This is when I am riding by myself.  I understand that on a group ride the dynamic is a little different.  So the question is, am I out of line?  When other cyclists pass me I could care less.  I don't need an "on your left" or a bell ding or anything.  I'll just ride in a reasonably straight line and if you want to pass, go ahead.  It bugs me when cars honk their horn behind me when overtaking.  Jeez, I had no idea there were other vehicles on the road.  Thanks for letting me know.  I guess I'll just continue riding in a straight line and you can pass?
Its confusing to me when a fellow bicycle rider gets bent out of shape towards another rider on a minor point of etiquette (at least I think its minor) when at least one motorist is going to do something blatantly rude or even downright dangerous during the same ride most of the time.  Something about choosing your battles with fellow road users?  My venom is reserved for a dumb move that requires evasive action on my part to avoid a serious injury.  So far that has been a motorist, every single time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The war on cars in Seattle

We've heard a lot about this lately, and the Seattle Times as usual is doing a great job of alerting everyone to the terrible plight of  motorists in this city.  It is a god given right to drive a car, occasionally run over pedestrians and cyclists that are in your way, and have free parking on public space after all.

I wish the people that talk about the war on cars in this city would spend just one day using a bicycle or their feet for all their daily transportation needs.  Maybe have to carefully plan a route to go to work or pick up their kids from school that doesn't go on dangerous roads. Then they might realize that our transportation infrastructure really is designed for cars and other users of public roadways are often distinctly marginalized.

But given $4/gallon gas with no relief in sight, peak oil, global warming, and all the related craziness that is finally seeing some mainstream light in the last 10 years-  the age of the automobile is coming to an end and there is bound to be some pushback.  Actually I'm surprised there is not more.

On a pleasant note- May is bike month.  What can you do for bike month?  I've heard so many great ideas but  I think the big one is to just get your bike out, ride it, and have a good time.  The more cyclists out there, the more visible we are, and more people will get out and join us.  And again on a positive note, our transportation infrastructure (for bikes) is better now than it was 10 years ago.  We're making progress.

Olympic View Road Race

Here is what I'm thinking during this race (cat 4):
It really doesn't matter in a road race, but why I am perpetually at the very back of the peloton at the start?  Oh well, there's not much wind back here.  Makes for a nice warm up.

The pace really isn't all that high for a state championships road race.  Why is it that a thursday night at Seward  Park can hurt so badly, and everyone just sits in at a more prominent race?  Maybe people don't want to burn too many matches too soon, whereas at Seward you're just going to attack for the fun of it since no upgrade points are at stake?

All right, finally getting things strung out a little on these rollers.  I'm finally near the front of the peloton.  These guys look like they're trying to push the pace.  Maybe I'll roll off the front and see if I can drag some people with  me.  I like my odds in a breakaway more than in a bunch sprint.  (Look back)  Jesus why is no one coming with me.  This race isn't even half over yet.  Crap.  Oh what the hell I'm going for it.  Elbows on the bars, TT style.  Hmm, I feel okay, heart rate is 170, and I don't see the pack anymore.  Maybe there is the slightest chance I can pull this off.

This is a pretty course.  That creek is running high.  Hello again dogs.  Oh good, finally, that twisty descent.  Come on lead car, a little more space please.  Back on the flats.  Wow, I still don't see the pack.  I feel okay but I'm not sure I will after the rollers start again.

Uh-oh, I see the pack now, although still a ways back.  Last lap, come on legs.  Heart rate still 170 but the legs are starting to feel heavy.  If I can just make it to the chicane downhill by myself I can put in a little more time and hold them off to the line.  Shit they're getting close.  (A few more bends in the road) Ahhh damn its over.  Nothing like getting caught 2 or 3 k from the finish.

Here is a nice video  http://cyclocrossnews.com/?p=52969- at the end you can see the crash that I was fortunate enough to be directly behind.  I went over the bars but not too badly and I was able to finish.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Eatonville Road Race

Today I was able to drag out my road bike for the first time in a long time. Since maybe September. Has anyone else noticed that it is always either wet or dark this time of year?

I'm pretty sure I was the only person using downtube shifters or a 20+ year old bike. The bike worked wonderfully, like it always does, except for one problem: my rain bike (that I always ride this time of year) has a rapid rise derailleur and down tube shifters so I had to constantly remind myself to shift in the opposite direction. I wish there were rapid rise short cage derailleurs available.

There was a dusting of snow and black ice on some of the hills approaching Eatonville on the way to the race but thankfully the race course was in good shape- no ice. It was a good circuit, with a couple of decent hills to keep things interesting. A starbucks rider went off the front right after the first lap and stayed there for at least 1.5 laps before a 6 man chase group including myself caught him. We had to ride hard to catch him. He was willing and able to immediately start taking turns pulling after being caught. After drilling it for most of the race in our 7 man group, and riding solo for 1.5 laps, he won the sprint- this dude was really strong! I was feeling a little worse every lap and with 1k to go, when the accelerations started happening, it was everything I could do to stay on a wheel, let alone counter. I didn't contest the sprint and wound up seventh. I think my man Todd Morse Tucker was third.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just the facts

I've noticed that in the last 10 years there has been a trend for ski manufacturers to print the dimensions of skis on the ski itself. I like this. These are my backcountry skis: 184cm long, 105mm at the shovel, 71mm at the waist, 90mm at the tail. These dimensions, along with the method of construction and stiffness, give you a good idea about how the ski performs. This is a fairly narrow ski by recent standards, moderately stiff, foam core. A good lightweight ski to handle variable conditions in the backcountry.

It would be nice if bike manufacturers would do the same thing. Rather than pointless subjective descriptions like "laterally stiff, vertically compliant" we could have numbers for top tube length, head angle, fork rake, tubing diameter and wall thickness. That and the type of tires on the bike determine how it will handle. Put it in fine print on the seat tube. Just the facts.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mashel Nisqually kermesse

First road win! Granted the field had 12 riders. Due to the big turnout for ASK there was a Cat 4/5 race at 9am and everyone else at 11am. I guess nobody wanted to show up at 9am to race. It worked out well for me though- being my daughters birthday I could do a race in the morning without being gone all day and being a deadbeat dad. Maybe everyone went skiing instead, which I was tempted to do too. But then I would have been a deadbeat dad and also maybe a dead dad given all the avalanches yesterday.
Anyway, even given the small field I was proud of myself because Todd, Nolan, and I formed the initial lead group and I couldn't keep up with either of them at ASK. They may be Cat 4 on the road but both of them are badass Cat 2 cyclocrossers and this is a 1 hour race that is half dirt. Todd started riding off ahead of us after a few laps. I thought that might be good, Nolan and I could let Todd dangle off the front and wear himself out. The distance got to be a bit much though so I bridged up to Todd and Nolan didn't come with me. Todd and I rode together the rest of the time. I tried to drop him on the Mur du Mashel on the last lap and it didn't work. Coming onto the road I was in front and forced him to lead out the sprint, tucked in behind him, and came around at the last minute.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Andy Salmon kermesse

Great day for a bike race. Mt Rainier stood as a proud sentinel over the course. I wish I had pictures but its hard to do when your pulse is 180. Or more. I saw some strong cyclocrossers at the start and figured those are the guys to watch- Todd Tucker, the OTB crew, Bill Booth. And I did watch them ride away from me with a few other people. Nothing much I could do about it. I fell in to a group with Hahn Rossman, a couple of Apex guys, and a Starbucks rider. I would usually pull on the road, Hahn would take over on the dirt and downhills. It worked well because Hahn is a good descender- there was no touching of the brakes down the rocky Mur du Mashel. He and I were both riding on wider 32mm tires which probably helped. We were never able to put too much time into the Apex riders on the dirt though, and they were not too eager to help pull on the paved section. There seemed to be a lot of flats/mechanicals- not very surprising given the bumpy dirt section. It must have taken a toll on the lead group too because at the end there were only 3 guys ahead of our group. On the last paved uphill leading to the finish I was able to drop everyone except one of the Apex guys, who of course pipped me on the line.

This was my first kermesse- style race and it was a blast. I used my cyclocross bike with 32mm Panaracer Paselas and didn't change out the gearing- I've got 46-36 chainrings and a 12-27 cassette. 45 psi in the front and 55 psi in the back. I wouldn't have changed anything with the setup and the other racers I talked to seemed to feel that cyclocross gearing was plenty adequate too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rest and recovery

The experts all tell you that you have to take a bit of time off the bike at some point during the year, otherwise you will mentally or physically burn out. You would think it would be easy and welcome but I have to constantly remind myself to ride easy this time of year.

And in a setting like this I sort of find myself wishing I was at home buzzing around on studded tires or skiing. Sort of! The truth is that I get sick of the 40 degrees and raining that we have most of the year here- and some change in the weather is always welcome. Whether that is Mexico or an ice storm at home. Too bad they happened at the same time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Is USA cycling losing their relevance?

Interesting article on junior cyclocross participation over at http://www.cxmagazine.com/healthy-junior-cyclocross cyclocross magazine. No surprise that Oregon has the best participation at the junior level. The article states how it was accomplished: a dedicated junior race in a good time slot, and reduced registration fees for junior riders. Made possible by http://obra.org OBRA, an independent (non USAC) sanctioned body. Ask any junior rider or their parent what USAC has done for them lately. Todays juniors are the future of the sport.

Another recent article at cyclocross magazine describes how USAC took over Colorado's independent cycling body and is now taking aim at OBRA.

Its a shame because the two largest cyclocross series by participation in the country and probably the world are independently sanctioned: the Cross Crusade (OBRA) and the MFG series here in Washington. I doubt it is coincidence. These guys are trying their best to introduce young riders to the sport, and it seems USAC is really only trying to stifle it. Or forcibly take over once the grass roots folks have grown it to the point that USAC senses there is some money to be made.

I just saw some results for the single speed cyclocross race at Nationals in Wisconsin. I had to laugh, because USAC pretended that single speed cyclocross didn't exist until a million people started showing up for ironic "single speed world championship" races. The womens field at Nats was 15 deep. That is maybe 10 percent of the privatteer "world championship" race.

I just renewed my USAC license for 2012. The USA cycling officials really do a great job at local races around the northwest and I don't mean to disparage that. I just wish USAC would throw a little bit more of our money towards junior development.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bring on the new year!

2011... For the world at large was kind of a bummer year. A lot like 2010. There is still a global financial crisis. I'm losing more faith in the white house every day. Wait, I lost all of my faith sometime last year. At least the war in Iraq is over. Or is it? A lot of natural disasters. Sometimes it seems like the wolves are knocking at the door.

Luckily for my family, in the northwest, it was a great year. We all have jobs we like, awesome kids, good food to eat, and good health. I count those blessings every day.

The bikey highlights of 2011, from my perspective:
1. Increased number of people riding bikes out there, and increasing blowback from the media and car culture as a result. I guess that is to be expected. One fundamental problem is that the vast majority of cyclists also own cars. The reverse is not true. When I drive I have no problem whatsoever sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. For a lot of motorists it doesn't work that way. They probably have never ridden a bike for transportation in their life, and can't see it our way. The solution? Support your local bike advocacy groups, ride a lot, especially for errands/commuting, and always be courteous and wear a smile. Lucky you, you're on a bike and having fun! Invite a non cyclist to go on a casual fun ride.

I intended to spend 2011 getting acquainted with the track, but managed to get some good results and was booted up into the elite category. For better or for worse, Viking Sport split up- the triathletes and some of the cyclocrossers will stay with Corpore Sano, the track and road racers are now First Strike Racing. I felt somewhat caught in the middle as I focus on both track and cyclocross, but it was natural to go with First Strike as we picked up a lot of great riders in 2011 on the track and have even more for 2012, including a guy named Kenny Williams that some of you may know. First Strike is looking to dominate elite/masters track racing in Seattle. For my part, I'm going to have to change the way I "train" to keep up in the elite races. By train I mean busting out the heart rate monitor and doing intervals or something. Something more than the ride easy in the winter on my commute, then ride harder as the days get longer that I did last year. No power meters or fancy stuff though- just can't do it.

3. I snagged a podium finish in a Cat 3 cyclocross race this year. I wanted an upgrade to the elite category but it didn't quite happen. I had fun racing cyclocross this year- it might be better to be an instigator in the Cat 3 rather than a clinger-on-for-life in the elite race.

4. I accepted a position at a great veterinary hospital that is much closer to my house. Gone is the 2 hour daily bike commute- its now 10 minutes each way. Its already made family life so much easier. The kids respond differently to me when I am at home so much more. l aim to get in some more longer training rides in the morning; hopefully I can maintain fitness with the reduced commute time. I still don't subscribe to the "junk miles" theory of road snobs. No such thing as junk miles. Any time on the bike is worthwhile.

Happy New Year!