Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One last gift idea...

Got this from Ed, with his off-blog comment telling me to screw the snowbike, and consider buying him this instead:

Not sure if it has the same panache as the Pugsley, or if you'll be able to outmaneuver those mountain bikers. But, OK, Ed! Check under those evergreen branches in a few days...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Great Gifts for Cyclists

Still looking for that perfect gift for your cycling friends? Here are some suggestions:

Smartwool Socks
Keep you cool in the heat, warm in the cold, and help wick sweat and snow away from your feet. About $20/pair

Arm coolers

Remember those hot, humid summer riding days? I don't either. But I do remember that these made the sun feel less blistering, especially when soaked in cool water before wearing. About $25

Bike Bell

Necessary for weekend towpath rides. And how cool would that be in a serious club ride? Price: cheap.


Totally hip, completely unnecessary, eye-popping fun. About $60

Apres-Ride necessities:

Screen-printed beer glasses from Vital let you combine your two favorite pastimes. Prices vary

Snowbike, around $1000. For the global warming denial set.

For the cold weather challenged: a multi-session pass to Ohio Indoor Cycling
Bring your training indoors in a fun, social, and challenging setting. $150+

For the cyclist who has everything and knows it:
Shimano Di2 Electronic Shifting - You don't need it, but you know you want it. Pricey.

Singlespeed bike, just 'cause, you know...

Give a membership or trip gift certificate to Adventure Cycling

Membership to a local cycling club, such as Akron Bicycle Club or Summit Freewheelers

Great causes:
Donate on someone's behalf to People for Bikes. Save cycling in all its forms!

Best wishes for a happy holiday season!

Monday, December 5, 2011

How Many Bikes is Too Many Bikes?

It's official: we now have more bikes than we have space to keep them. To a non-cyclist, we would appear to have some strange hoarding disorder. Only the dirtiest of the bunch are banished to the garage; all the rest take up prime locations in the house, occupying the spaces where reasonable people might display art or feel the need for a bed or refrigerator

 Maybe we're just like those families that keep having children. I mean, really,  after the first 4 or so, the rest are really just replacements when one of the originals goes bad. Or the newest addition is so highly specialized that it might not see the light of day for more than a few hours a year. But we love them all, anyway.

Jamis 'cross bike and my 18-year old Rockhopper share space in the garage - at least until Jamis gets a bath.

Long Haul Trucker and Pugsley hanging out in the basement. Camera-shy Raleigh 'cross bike hides off-camera.

Bianchi waits patiently in the foyer to go for a ride on an uncharacteristically warm day in December.

Care and feeding of the herd
Neil is relegated to the trainer until spring

Honestly, how does Dave get any work done in his office?
Because I had such a good time at Iceman/Slush Cup, I figured I should quit borrowing mountain bikes and just buy one already. So, meet my new Giant Talon 29er, the most recent addition to the family.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Things I'm Thankful For...

Have a grateful and happy Thanksgiving season! This is one holiday that should last longer than the 12 hours or so we typically allot for it, before the mad rush into that other holiday begins.

SO many things to be thankful for, so little time. Here's a short list:

  • Warm weather in November? Not normal, but I'll take advantage of it to...
  • Ride to Hartzler's Dairy in Wooster for a sweet scoop of Heifer Trails ice cream
  • Black Friday shoppers, who have graciously chosen to stay off the roads today in lieu of beating each other up over shit they don't need and that nobody will want a month from now.
  • Leftover turkey
  • Pinot noir
  • Seasonal music done only the way Sting is able
  • A full stable of bikes for every occasion
  • The privilege to live along a National Park, and other protected wild areas
  • Family and friends, the spice of life
May your attitude be of gratitude! Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

AdventureCorps registration is OPEN

The Death Valley CORPS Camp begins on March 27, 2012. Registration is now open through the AdventureCorps website. The camp includes 5 days of riding in one of our nation's most stunning National Parks. The $495 fee also includes participation in the Hell's Gate Hundred century ride on March 31.

Reasons to consider signing up for this event:

  1. March is still winter in Cleveland, and you're going to be really sick of it by then.
  2. What better motivation to train hard during the off-season?
  3. The 'Harvey Girl' breakfast at the 49er Cafe, Furnace Creek Ranch
  4. You get to ride through places with cool names like Badwater, Rhyolite, the Funeral Range, and of course, Hell's Gate.
  5. Death Valley is only 100 miles from Las Vegas...

 Dave and I are already signed up. Visions of long mountain passes and sweeping valley vistas are now dancing through my head...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2011 Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh race, held in Traverse City the first Saturday in November, is sort of an anomaly of bike racing. It's a mountain bike race, but mountain bikers will tell you that it feels more like a road race. Roadies would probably disagree, because the route is over snowmobile trails, some singletrack, lots of sand and steep climbs. It can be more or less technical, depending on the weather.

One thing we all can agree on: Iceman makes for a really exciting day! Great workout, beautiful scenery, challenging terrain, bikes and riders of every size, shape, and color. Oh yeah - and lots of beer.

Brendon and Brent just after finishing the race
Dave overtaking another rider, coming into the last chute before his first Iceman finish

A preview of the Surly Moonlander, which will be out just in time for Christmas 2011

Dave and his new Cannondale Lefty, post-race and pre-beer
Draining the Bell's Amber Ale keg with Century Cycles guys Kevin and Doug
The Sno-Cone race draws the biggest crowds and the loudest cheers. This little guy is one his way to one day becoming the Mountain Bike World Champion. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Furnace Creek 508

My friend Tim Marks is once again taking on the challenge of the Furnace Creek 508, an ultra-endurance bike race which starts on Saturday, Oct. 8th.

Last year, his first 508, Tim finished in well under the 48 hour cutoff. The details of his ordeal are intriguing. This is a grueling event, only for the super tough and extremely dedicated. Being a bit crazy (as in obsessive) probably helps, too.

Tim and one of his fans at the start of the Death Valley Century ride earlier this year. This photo was taken only a few  months after Tim's inaugural 508 finish, which proves that the man is an endurance beast and no stranger to suffering. 

Here's the blurb from the event site:

Founded by John Marino in 1983 and known as "The Toughest 48 hours in Sport," Furnace Creek 508 is the world's premier ultramarathon bicycle race. This 508-mile bicycle race is revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, desolate roads, and its reputation as one of the toughest but most gratifying endurance challenges available, bar none. The course has a total elevation gain of over 35,000', crosses ten mountain passes, and stretches from Santa Clarita (just north of Los Angeles), across the Mojave Desert, through Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve, to the finish line at the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA.

According to Jill, Tim's wife and support team leader extraordinaire, Tim's goals for this year's event are as follows:

  • Finish the race
  • Beat last year's time of 44 hours 9 minutes 30 seconds
  • Finish in daylight hours (or close to it) on Sunday. Last year, Tim arrived at the finish line at 3 AM on Monday, which was really tough for both him and his support crew.
I haven't quite decided if Tim and all the other participants are truly insane, or if I'm just insanely jealous that they're capable of taking on an event like this. And living to tell about it, and then coming back next year to do it again.

Best of luck to Tim and all the racers in this year's 508! 

(You can follow the race on live webcam).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What the Thrill of Victory Must Feel Like...

Did you ever wonder what it must be like for those Tour de France guys to ride into town to the cheers of adoring fans lining the barricaded roads?

I got a taste of that yesterday.

No, I didn't win some grand cycling race. I wasn't racing at all. And, actually, the cheers weren't even for me, but for the girl running close behind me.

I escorted the female relay team leader to the finish line of the 2011 Akron Marathon.

Me, Brandon, Brad, and Kurt waiting for our runners to arrive at mile 19 so we can lead them to the finish.
Every year, the Summit Freewheelers has the honor of leading-out the elite runners in every race category of the Akron Roadrunner Marathon. It was an exciting opportunity for me to be in the thick of the race, experiencing the adrenaline rush as the leaders approached Canal Park stadium in downtown Akron. The streets were alive with racers, spectators, friends and family making all kinds of noise for the racers inside the last mile of the race.

I led Shannon (don't know her last name, but she's with Team Isis) from about mile 19 to the barricaded chute leading to the finish line, announcing to the spectators that the female leader was approaching. And what an amazing runner Shannon is, powering up the hills, smiling the entire way, showing good sportsmanship when passing other exhausted runners. She looked strong to the end.

Shannon is super strong, having a great time.

Racers on High Street in Akron
Congratulations to Shannon, Team Isis, and all the participants in the Akron Marathon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The View from the Top

The 2011 Eastern Ohio Time Trial series (5 races in 5 months) ended today. I didn't finish as strong as I had hoped, but I did win the points competition for my age group. The photo, below, was taken from the podium. Definitely a moment to remember!

This was my first year of Time Trialing, and so I figured I would end the season with what I've learned from racing this series:
  1. I like races that are short, fast, uncomplicated, close to home, and low-key. This series was perfect.
  2. My best time was an average of almost 23mph, so I learned that I can ride that fast. I also learned that I can't ride that fast every time, and so I need to train better.
  3. A new bike doesn't guarantee a better TT time. It's really all about the engine.
  4. Take the tool bag OFF the bike before the race!
  5. A TT is a great way to identify both strengths and limiters. But especially limiters!
Me and Jackie post-race, pre-pancakes
42 degrees this morning at race time - brrr!
Jackie on the podium for her age group

The Points Champions for the 2011 Season! That's George Liolios in front, next to Brian (race organizer). Chappy is behind and to my left. Congrats, all!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning Fearlessness

Cyclocross season started last Sunday at Cascade Park in Elyria. Since Snakebite sponsors this race, I signed on to volunteer, as long as I could race, too.

The course was already set up when I arrived, and although I've only raced CX once, this one looked like a good time: a long stretch of meadow, a couple of steep, short climbs up a grassy hill (and back down again), some singletrack, some mud.

Before too many racers arrived to muck up the course, I rode it once to get a feel for the terrain, and to re-introduce myself to the bike I haven't touched since last year.

I admit: My off-road bike handling skills are fairly non-existent. As a seasoned roadie, I automatically avoid things like slop, tree roots, rocks, small children, and other obstacles that are part of the 'fun' of CX.

As I carefully picked my way over the muddy singletrack, my panic started to rise. I was OK on the steep climb -- I had figured out by then how to shift gears -- but not so good on the descent, white-knuckle braking (WRONG!) all the way down. The hill bottomed out to a swampy flat that didn't seem to faze anybody else, then continued toward more mud, more slippery, more anxiety.

I knew before I finished my practice run that I wouldn't be entering this race, although I had that infernal internal back-and-forth in my head ('I can do this/I can't do this') all the way up to the point that registration closed. Without me.

I could have done this race. I could have taken my time, hopped off the bike when the going got too hairy. I could have gotten muddy and proud of it. I could have finished last and not cared one iota.

But instead, I drove home that day a defeated woman. Defeated by my own fear.

A friend at work listened to my tale of woe and convinced me that my decision to bag the race was sound, based on my riding the course and taking stock of my abilities before calling it a day. But I'm desperate to race CX, because I think that it can be a lot of fun. With the proper amount of confidence and ability, it will be fun for me, too.

So now my goal is to get out there and get dirty, ride some CX terrain in a practice environment, fall off without anyone seeing me. My goal is to race CX this year, and to love every muddy minute of it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pryde and Joy!

I am happy to announce the arrival of Neil Pryde, who came into my life last week.

Neil and I were off to a rather complicated relationship after our first ride together. I couldn't wait to get him out on the road, and when I did I was a little caught off-guard by how, well, twitchy he was.

I figured this relationship could use some professional help. We went to counseling last weekend (pro-fit at Eddy's), and things have improved tremendously.

Still, going from my Bianchi to my Neil Pryde is like getting out of the Jetta and into an Indy car. There's still a learning curve, but I can tell that the ride is going to be phenomenal. For example, I've learned not to 'steer' the bike so much with my body; Neil responds simply to my thoughts.

This Sunday, Neil will be making his racing debut at the Deerfield Time Trial (without aero bars, which haven't arrived yet). I'm looking forward to a fast, fun race - and a lot of exciting rides on my new bike!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Side Trips: Cleveland's West Side Market

The Akron Bike Club holds a group ride to the West Side Market every year, starting in Peninsula or along the Canal Towpath Trail.

Jackie and I joined up with them at the Canal Visitor's Center with our mountain bikes, outfitted with trunk bags and panniers to haul some of the Market's offerings home with us.

The West Side Market on a Saturday morning is a  feast for the senses. The outside aisles are packed with produce of every variety. And the vendors are often as colorful as their wares!

Inside, you'll find everything from fresh meat, cheese from all over the globe, ethnic specialties, bread, bakery - you won't go hungry.

Bob selecting his first entree
Gail and Steve
Me and Jackie overlooking the market floor

Yum - bread!

It's a bull market???

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Power of Yellow

No one who follows pro cycling and the Tour de France would have ever predicted Thor Hushovd holding the lead for 7 days. He's a fine sprinter and time trialist, of course, but it's not as though those 7 stages of the tour were tailor-made for Thor. He held onto the lead even when the stage route was decidedly un-Thor-like, such as when the route headed for the mountains.

It was almost as if he was endowed with some sudden superpower, at least for a while. And truly, he was: he was riding in the yellow jersey.

Something about riders wearing that thing seems to give them a surge of invincibility. There's a definite mind-over-matter effect to the bearer of the highest daily honor in the Tour de France.

The yellow jersey is the Ring of Power. It's Samson's hair, it's the Ark of the Covenant, it's Elmer Fudd's magic helmet in What's Opera, Doc.

That's a tall order for nothing more than about a yard of fabric.

I like to think that, if such a humble article of clothing could impart so much confidence and strength and courage, certainly other seemingly insignificant things can do the same.

Here's my question: Is it all in what the thing itself represents (like, does the world have to know or care that this object is to be awed and admired?), or is it only about what it means to the bearer?  Does the One Ring get its power from the mythology built around it, or from the mythology that resides in Frodo Baggins's head?

I think that both are right, but the latter is more significant. And so I decided to test my theory.

For the Tour of the Valley race, I did up my nails in Snakebite colors*, as a way of showing my team loyalty,  and to keep my race hopes and dreams right there at my fingertips, as it were.
*I don't 'do my nails', ever. I can't be bothered, and besides, I use my hands, so it's such a waste of time. 

Zoom in to check out the crazy manicure-of-power
Did this subtle but power-attracting act deliver me to the podium? No, but every time I glanced down and saw my garish black/orange/blue fingers curling around my aero bars, my TT-induced suffering seemed to diminish. Just a little.

I honestly think that there's something to all of this, and that the whole notion simply begs for experimentation. After all, it can't hurt, right?

So, I'm gonna consider bearing my own cycling talisman with me on my next ambitious ride or race. And I'm gonna bet that some of you are already carrying your own 'power sources' around with you,  either on the bike or in everyday life.

What's your yellow jersey?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Explaining my absence...

Twin Sizzler road race, 7/4/2011

This blog and I have been silent lately, and so this post is meant to explain away the past month.

If you follow this blog, you know that I joined Snakebite Racing late last year. And then you also know that team members are required to accumulate race points based on participation in order to remain in good standing.

I've been doing a lot of racing lately, and the most logical blog post would be a race report. But I just think that race reports can be rather dull. They're mundane to write, and boring to read. Besides, if you really want to know about my races, you can always check the Snakebite site.

I wasn't sure if I'd be motivated to race enough to maintain team status, but planned to give it my best shot and then decide later if I thought it was all worth it.

So far, this is what I've learned:

  • Racing makes training easier. It keeps me motivated and goal-oriented.
  • Racing also makes 'regular' riding a little more difficult, in terms of spontaneity. Now I weigh the consequences of going for a non-training ride if it may hinder my performance at a race. That's a little annoying.
  • Other than that, the sacrifice on my time and energy hasn't been all that great. 
Life is a balancing act. There are all kinds of competing interests (and disinterests) vying for time and attention, and not enough time in the day. But summertime in northeast Ohio is frustratingly short , and so I'm OK with postponing other interests in order to take advantage of warm weather and sunny days for cycling.

So, that's my excuse: So many rides, so little time. 

I'll post more after next week, when the bulk of my summer race schedule will be behind me. Until then, look for me on the roads!