First time doing an 8-hour race. Full report to come…
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Race Radio – When a bug flies into your ear.
Me: “Ow, I just got race radio!”
(Slightly better than the “protein shot,” which is when the bug flies into your mouth and involuntary ingestion occurs)
So, I’ve got a road bike. I’ve got a mountain bike. I’ve got a cyclocross bike. They all do their jobs well. But I’d love to have something that, at the very least, could accomplish at some of these goals:
1) Mount racks and fenders without hacks
2) Be used for light and/or loaded touring, locally (and abroad?)
3) Be good on-road, but worry-free for offroad use
The good thing is, even though I’m looking for an “all-rounder,” it doesn’t need to be made to do everything. I already have a bike to race ‘cross on, and a hardtail mountain bike. I actually DON’T need a super monster-29er machine, even though I might use such capabilities.
The good thing is, there’s something of an embarassment of riches in terms of production bikes today that would fit the bill… Here’s a list of some of them! This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’ll probably come back and update this post in the future… But for now, maybe you’ll find it interesting, or have suggestions for me!
I never wanted a Country Road Bob, but the Whisky Tango Foxtrot (WTF) is awesome. It can be built up in almost every conceivable way, as long as it’s green. Firsthand info on this bike is really rare on the Internet… I found approximately one person on a forum who had built one up, but haven’t seen any around besides that. People seem to like them, though…
Van Dessel WTF
PROS: Truly able to do it all. Obnoxious.
CONS: Heavy*. No firsthand reports of how it rides. Guilt over it not being a Retrotec.
*Edit! Straight from Van Dessel, the official frame/fork weight for the WTF: 2700gr frame, 1250gr fork uncut. WTF will make you strong.
Like many people, I regret not buying a La Cruz back when it was still shipping. Talk about a cult bike… Now, the Vaya may have actually been less of a La Cruz replacement than fans wanted, but I have a hard time arguing that it isn’t even better for what I’d use it for (i.e. not a mountain bike). The original brown color was also a big turn-off, but Salsa has seen the error of their ways and returned it to “La Cruz Orange” for this year. 2011 also brings a new build utilizing SRAM Apex, for about $1500.
PROS: Available complete. Disc Brakes. Orange again.
CONS: Not many, but it’s not very pretty.
This one flew onto the radar out of nowhere, but it’s definitely a contender. The versatility of a Rawland is back in “road” form… And thankfully it’s lost the dreadful-looking headtube extension above the toptube. The features and geometry look pretty much spot-on, and it’s the nicest looking Rawland yet, to boot.
PROS: All-rounder geometry, monster tire clearance, very thoughtful details, pretty for a stock frame.
CONS: Not yet shipping. Neither is its upcoming cousin, the equally-tempting 700C Nordavinden.
This one’s been on my radar for a very long time. I seldom hear an unkind word about it. And it’s going to be white, soon… It’s a traditional steel CX frame with rack and fender mounts and a carbon fork. The neat trick is that it breaks in half (safely) and fits in an included case for travel.
Ritchey Breakaway Cross
PROS: Can race ‘cross on it. In another country. I actually plan on doing that this year, so it’s not a joke!
CONS: Dorky fork. Need to wait a while longer for the sexy white one. Included case is not very protective.
Or another custom frame. But I think Paul would probably get my business in this case. I would probably go with a steel frame and fork, long-reach calipers or Paul Racers (or discs). Road-ish geometry with clearance for bigger tires and braze-ons for all the touring stuff. S&S couplers would be a strong possibility. Frameset cost would be $1500+
PROS: Custom geometry, and “exactly what I want” (which may not be a good thing). Can be coupled.
CONS: More expensive. Wait-time. Though Rock Lobster seems quite reasonable on both counts, compared to other custom bikes.
Morgan came right out at my list of bikes and suggested a Bruce Gordon. Also available in more-affordable TIGwanese form as the BLT.
Bruce Gordon Rock N’ Road.
PROS: Explicitly designed as a dirt-worthy tourer.
CONS: All-the-way-touring-bike. I wasn’t smart enough to have it on my list the first time.
- Ebisu All-Rounder – Undeniably classy, but fell off of my shortlist somehow. See also: Any basic steel road or CX frame with a few braze-ons would accomplish a large part of what I’m looking for in a bike. This one just does it while being beautiful at the same time.
- Surly Long-Haul Trucker – It’s like $1100 for a complete, touring-ready rig. This kind of makes sense if all I want to do is load it down and go touring, and a true touring frame is going to give the best results for that. But as you can see, I’m trying to compromise with some bikes that will be more fun when I’m not touring…
- Others (Cross Check, DoubleCross, Traitor Ruben, A Bike Off Craigslist)
- A Bike I Already Own: If I buy anything new, I’m going to sell my Bianchi Axis and my Bridgestone RB-1. But theoretically, I could just keep my Axis, slap racks on it, and turn it into whatever I need. That’s “free.” Or, I could have rack/fender mounts brazed onto my RB-1… But it’s a little large for me, and I should probably leave that poor bike alone.
PROS: Highest load-carrying capacity of any bike here.
CONS: Okay, I’m not really cross-shopping this bike with anything, but today I just remembered drooling over it at Interbike. I would have to go into business as a food vendor or something to justify this one – Which would be awesome.
50 miles on a CX bike. What’s the worst that could happen?
Last year, in search of a “favorite race of the year,” or even a “best day on the bike, ever,” I set off on the legendary Old Cazadero edition of the Grasshopper Adventure Series (the most prestigious Not-A-Race series in the world). Things didn’t go well. John crashed on the descent from Duncans Mills, in what became known as the Ditch of Doom, and we ended up limping back to the start along the most direct (paved) route. I made some new friends that day (sup Dans!) but I didn’t get what I expected out of the ride. As if it was possible, this year’s edition would have to live up to even higher standards–Firstly, it would have to satisfy the image I had built up, but perhaps more importantly, I would actually have to finish this year.
And so, the story continues… Starting at 5:45 in the morning, again. Even though the ‘hoppers have a very civilized start time of 10am, they are also very far away from the South Bay. The team bus was set to leave San Francisco at 8 o’clock sharp, so I made the plan to be at John’s house by 7 to pick him up. Everything went to plan, and I was on the team bus with no problems.
“I don’t know if you’ve done this ride before…” Brue said, pausing to take a bite out of a delicious-looking egg and avacado bagel sandwich. “But it’s pretty relentless. Bonking here, you don’t want it to happen to you.” Turns out the secret to success is two dinners AND two breakfasts. I bought a bagel at the gas station, and bummed some pumpkin bread off of John.
We made it to Occidental on time, thanks to Murph’s touge-bus-driving skills. We unloaded the bus, suited up, and I rolled to the back of the pack for the start.
Wait a second, why’s Levi Leipheimer here at the back of the pack?Photo: Kim Dow. Normal-sized human pictured for comparison.
Oh right, they changed the route this year – The start went in the opposite direction. That’s the front. After I shuffled my way to the middle of the back to join my teammates, it wasn’t long until we were rolling. One stop sign and right turn later, and the pack (280 strong, from what I heard) hit the climb up Coleman Valley Road. I don’t know how steep it is in reality, but on cold legs it was a hell of a wakeup call. I was running uncomfortably close to redline and trying to maintain a sedate pace up the climb, there was enough riding ahead that I really wanted to pace myself. But the climb was a good idea – It thinned out the pack considerably at the start, which was much safer than having 300 cyclists descending in a pack right at the start (see: last year).
At the top of Coleman Valley, things got dirty and downhill, really fast. At this point, John, Ted, and I were riding together. I had formed a plan with Derrick to ride with him and Ted for the duration of the ride, as we’re fairly closely matched. But I had made a pact with John to stay with him the whole day no matter what else happened. Finishing this shit was important, to both of us! In fact, the ride had taken its first casualty of the day at a ditch on top of Willow Creek – I saw a crashed rider sitting on the side of the trail. He was already being attended to by other riders, so I only slowed down a bit. Later, I heard that he had snapped his frame (and a bone). Damn.
It wasn’t long till Derrick passed me, while Ted was already bombing the hill up ahead on his monstercross rig from the start. I told Derrick I was going to wait up for John on the descent as I continued to pick my way down the sweeping dirt corners of Willow Creek. At what seemed like the bottom, I pulled off the road to wait for John, and came across none other than Dan, the missing (participating) member of our impromptu team from last year. After some catching up, (“What? You haven’t ridden your mountain bike yet this year?” – Dan) John rolled by, and the two of us were off again towards PCH.
The last, flat part of Willow Creek was the wettest part of the ride – Lots of gravelly puddles. I called it the Strada Bianca part of the ride, accurately or not. PCH took us to River Road, which we would then take East to the foot of Duncan Road. River Road was the longest nicely-paved section of the course, so it’s very advantageous to get some help from your friends there. As we started a mild climb, we caught up to the pink tires of none other than (The Original F-ing) Sam Bell. We had a pretty good team going on the road at this point, or so I thought, until a freaking freight train rolled by – Two tandem teams towing a mess of other riders. “Should we get on?” Asked John. You bet your ass we did. Latching onto the tandems was the best thing we did – It made the stretch of pavement leading to Duncan Road pass by effortlessly, and would provide valuable help on the next few turns, because these tandem drivers knew where the hell they were going…
At the bottom of Duncan, John and I launched off the back of the tandem team and began the climb. It was as steep as last year, and my gearing was higher this year, but I was stronger too, so I soldiered on. But what was really surprising was that with John’s single-ring (with a 32t cassette) setup, he was riding away from me up the hills. It turns out that a 240-mile training camp the previous week (or any training, for that matter) does have an affect. We passed the summit of Duncan Road and started the descent. Now, this was a critical spot last year. I let John take the lead, as we both cautiously rode the non-dramatic part of the descent, around some sweeping dirty corners. Then, John let me pass right before oh shit it’s the ditch.
A year later, and it’s still sketchy, I tell you. Last year I rode it without issue because I didn’t know it was coming and let instinct take over. This year I knew it was coming, went slow, and actually had a hilarious slo-mo crash in the exact same spot that John did last year. He came around the corner just in time to see me ass over teakettle with an upside-down bike. It was magnificent. I was up just in time to catch the Tandem Train as it pulled into ditch station, and departed for Old Cazadero Road through a series of turns that I would have definitely missed otherwise.
Whew, I sure sat on the draft of this post for a while… Like, more than a month! Let’s finish this up all quick-like by compressing the remaining majority of the ride into one paragraph, then pressing “Publish!”
The rest of the ride went fine, except that somehow Sam lost an entire front brake pad, post and all, and had to abort via the safest route back. John and I soldiered on and re-attached to an ever-growing group leading up to the last stretch of River Road back to Willow Creek. It was then that riding the CX bike paid dividends… MEGA paceline up River Road, culminating in a monster pull wherein I tried to regain some self-respect for the day. At the bottom of Willow Creek, I thought I still had some gas in the tank, and was already looking forward to how I might ride faster in future installments of the ride. What I didn’t realize was that Willow Creek will remove any gas left in that tank in short order. When I hobbled to the top a half hour later, I had nothing left. THE END!
Here’s the Strava.
Here’s me at the finish, with a bike that had become so creaky that I haven’t ridden it since this post/ride was started, six weeks ago:
Alternate title: We can’t stop here, this is cat country.
In case you don’t have time, I’d like to open with what you almost certainly came for: A totally badass picture of me positively flying up the runup at Hart Park, during the inagural Norcal vs. Socal Cyclocross State Championship Race.
Oh, and here’s the course, brought to you by the magic of GPS. If you click on it, you can see my turn-by-turn annotations on flickr!
And here’s my teammate May Woo’s awesome video. Watch it! You’ll get a good feel for the course, and you’ll also see me going really fast (because I’m going downhill).
You should also read Cyclocross Magazine’s coverage of the event. First of all, I co-wrote it. Plus, it’s shorter, and doesn’t waste time talking about feral cats, mexican food, lukewarm tubs, giant novelty checks, or California Vehicle Code Section 23229(a).
For any of that, you’ll have to read on… Continue reading
I’m a little out of the loop here. Thanks to a tantalizing photoset from a Flickr friend, it only took ten minutes, to go from not even knowing about the Yamaguchi framebuilding class, to checking the available dates for 2011. After this, I got around to the realization that Yamaguchi is not, in fact, located in Japan. He’s been in the USA since 1989.¹ That would explain why he’s built frames for the US Olympic team, among other things. Like I said, I’m slow!
But now that I’m all caught up… I think my next vacation just planned itself²: Rifle Colorado, 2011! Who’s with me? We’ll build frames, then ride them! In Colorado! We’ll eat roadkill burgers. It’ll be sweet!
Okay, time to level with you. Everything written above, while true, is just here to so I would have an excuse to post the first three photos I found of Yamaguchi’s happy graduates. You know what they say about dogs resembling their owners? Well, have a look at these three students and the frames they made…
Do I even need captions? Do I even know what a rhetorical question is?
¹ This fact alone just saved potentially thousands of dollars off the expected cost of such an escapade.
² Actually, this is not completely true – My next vacation is, obviously, the CFC Team Training Camp in Bend, OR. Look for the press release soon!
Look, I’m not exactly an old hand at this business, and there’s a lot of information out there available to new cyclists, but I’m gonna lay it down straight and give you the things that nobody told me. In no particular order…
Have any of your own? Leave ‘em as a comment.
Well it’s been cold, intermittently rainy, and I’ve got what I now recognize as the taste of copper in my mouth that accompanies the first ride of the year. Seriously, I remember talking about it last year as I took the ride depicted in my About Me photo. At least that time, it was after three weeks off the bike and across the world. This time? I’ve got less of an excuse.
I’m throwin’ in the cut, because this post isn’t looking to be all that exciting…
It turns out that race reports aren’t just for the entertainment of others – You can read your own writing later and be reminded of things that aren’t immediately obvious. I’ve been absolutely terrible in terms of writing this (cyclocross) season, and indeed if I am to write a recap it’s going to have to go all the way back to the University (Road) Race. Yeah, in August. Short version there is: I died a thousand deaths and cramped up enough to force a dismount. Popped off the back in the 4/5 race, which was won by a guy who climbs OLH in the 16′s. But we’ll get to that in another post. For now, I’m going to write a few notes to my future self, so that I can read this later, and benefit from the knowledge.
Maybe I’ll come up with more of these later! I’ll probably come back and edit the post. Anybody else have any tips that they tend to forget in the off-season?