Friday, October 30, 2009

Second Annual Halloween Fixed Gear Frolic Report

I've had a rather busy week. Right after returning home from the Frolic last Sunday, I got in a cab and headed to the airport for a flight to Halifax. I was off to a conference for 'young professionals' in the public service called "Winds of Change." As I'd be away, I'd hoped someone else would post up a report of the Frolic, but alas, that did not materialize. Better late than never.

In case you are wondering, Halifax was great. I quite like the city, and look forward to my next visit, whenever that may be. They are slowly getting cyclocross going there, with a series of three races starting up this weekend. They are able to run categories for the first time this year. We are fortunate to have such a large field here. I visited Cyclesmith, owned by a longtime friend of Greg's, and Ideal Bikes. The latter is operated by a friendly guy with a penchant for vintage. I checked out a very intriguing road frame that runs 24" wheels that was debadged. Neither of us had a clue what it is, but he's going to send me photos so I can try to help him identify it. I'll post them here and send them around to a few of the collectors in town I know. Its really interesting, and quite well made.

Ok, on to the Frolic 'report.'

We assembled pretty much on time, and rolled out with about 25 riders.

I was pleased to see a group of OBC riders out to join us for the ride. However, they parted ways while we were still on the bike path heading West. I don't think they were on the same page with regard to the Frolic-ness.

Yep, we love our fenders. This was an odd day for fenders though. After this picture was taken we spent some time on wet dirt road sections with high clay contents. A few of the guys had to remove their wheels to scrape the accumulated mud out of the fenders. This was the first time any of us had experienced that problem. If it had been raining there would not have been an issue. It was just dry enough to solidify the spray. What a drag.

It was indeed a beautiful day.

It felt good to get out onto the open road. It was rather windy though, which numerous riders struggled with. Its a typical problem: less experienced riders are less comfortable riding close to others, so they take more wind, get more fatigued. Its a vicious cycle. When its windy you have to be really conscientious about staying close. Otherwise, the group ends up getting strung out. This happened numerous times. Fixed gears can exacerbate the problem, because you can't gear up to chase. You can only spin faster.

The good times did roll, despite the wind. Hey, it wasn't raining; I didn't hear any real complaining.

There was a pretty wide variety of attire out on the ride. I was pretty bundled, but others, like Pascal and Jamie, were just sporting jerseys and base layers. Somehow we were comfortabel just the same.
Except maybe while stopped in Dunrobin for snacks. Lily looks kinda cold here. I was glad to have my jacket on here.

Rob and Jamie taking some wind. Rob hats 'cross, but he was happy to come out for the Frolic. He was a quick study on the fixed gear, this being his second ride on one. No sweat. He loves the format for hill climbing. Its great for strength and doesn't let you ease up. When it comes to long rides, it also makes for a sore underside, which is pretty great.

What is that, a scarf? Nope, its a merino neck-tube from Icebreaker. Lovely.

Ahhh, Mr. Cramerotti. I failed to introduce myself to this gentleman when I spoke with him. He was very pleasant, and has many years on the saddle. His Cramerotti is exquisite. Unfortunately, it is shod with 18c tubulars, so some of the route's dirt sections were a little hairy for him. Nevertheless, I think he had a nice time. He rides this bike on the Parkway, massive gear and all. Very impressive.

Thomas. Have bike, will ride. Thomas recently built up his first road bike. This was his longest ride ever by far, and he did not seem to suffer a bit. Rather, he rode at the front the whole time, with apparent ease. Many of us were very happy to see how well he got on. We can't wait to see how he does on the road bike, clipless pedals and all.

Thom's fender flap fell off 30k in. Loctite or beeswax wold be a good idea there. Jamie is rolling on his brand new Steelwool Limited here. He loves it.

Due to time constraints, some peeled off early, while the rest completed the loop back to the Shoppers in Kanata. From there a small group of us motored back to town while the others picked up snacks. Its nice to keep everyone together the whole way, but sometimes you have to break off. Better than not riding at all. All in all, I think I hit about 110k door to door, so my original estimate of 100k held. Thom's route was better than the route we used lase year, in my opinion anyhow. I quite enjoyed the dirt roads we travelled, especially the unmaintained one that featured massive puddles and rocky climbs. It was outstanding. We'll have to do some more exploring around there. Stu has a few more pics and a short report here.

Dom F. sent this, thanks Dom.

In case you happen to be reading this on Halloween morning, Tall Tree is having a sale. Some major deals are to be had from what I hear. Check it out.

Out to Kanata on Sunday to race. It looks like we'll have a good team out, and the sun will likely shine too. We still have a month the experience a mud-fest, but as it gets colder that prospect becomes less and less likely. In time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fixed Frolic Route

Quick update:

Thom has created a map for Sunday's ride. Here are his notes:

"Ignore the distance, it will be a bit longer as I ended it where the routes come back to together."

It looks like sun and +10 so far...I hope the forecast holds.

There will be three stops over the course of the 80-85k. Thom modified the route a bit, so the second stop will be in Dunrobin instead of Carp.

Lets all be ready to roll at 10...please.

Questions? Ask here or email

Monday, October 19, 2009

Almonte 'Cross, Extended Play and More!

We real cool.

Another Monday, another day of recovery from Sunday's 'cross race. Almonte was good, as usual. As mentioned last week, the course is usually long and technical. The first race only did four laps. That's long. For our race two barriers were added, one of which was 2/3 of the way up a traverse climb. I was personally not strong enough to hit it with speed, but I did my best. It was a real mixed bag of results for the Tall Tree team this week, with some lows and highs for certain.

"Nothing says trust like [one man pinning another man's number plate to his butt]"

We had a great showing. I'd been talking up the venue, and the stars were aligned for a near complete Tall Tree crew. Rob Parniak was out with a case of 'I hate 'cross,' Dave Stachon was out with a leg injury, Martin was away on a MTB trek, Brad was AWOL, and Steve is in Europe. Hanging, not racing. Thom and Will showed for their first crack at a normal race, having only done the Madison the last two years. Neil and Anna were in effect, as was Rodd, Jamie, Mike and myself. In addition, our bro, Kent of Phat Moose cycles, was out to throw down his first full race too. We were all racing the second race, for better or worse.

Neil up near the front.

Teamwork! Note to self: don't let Rodd get away!

Jamie worked himself this time out.

Thom getting nice amplitude.

Anna on the power.

Kent. Tenacious.

Thom, looking fresh. Looks can be deceiving.

See more photos at Rodd's flickr site at the top of the links list.

Some great photos by PMcK:

Originally uploaded by PMcK

Originally uploaded by PMcK

Originally uploaded by PMcK
Originally uploaded by PMcK

Originally uploaded by PMcK

Originally uploaded by PMcK

As I said above, there was some better and worse. Rodd pulled off our top finish, coming 12th overall. He was placed in Masters B on the results, but I suspect it should be A. He's old enough for B, but my understanding was that Bs cold race A. Perhaps I am wrong. Anyhow, Rodd had a very good race. As usual, I took a better start, but crashed the first time through the gravel turns. I lost about 5 spots, but was fine. Before too long Rodd came up and I decided to take his wheel. That went really well for a while, then I pulled ahead at the top of the run up. I don't know how, but Rodd passed back and I lost him. He pulled away and I could not close. Later on, a Cyclery rider caught me, then eventually dropped me. I eventually got my breathing together and got on the gas, which saw me catch him quickly. I pulled in front after the run up, and was pulling away, on my last lap, #6, when my rear tire blew out. I must have rolled it on one of the off cambers. That's the second time that has happened to me at Almonte, both times late in the race while I was doing well/ok. Bummer. On the positive side, I did do a few things better than last week, so its still a good outcome. In addition, Kent hooked me up with the makings of a sweet tubular wheel, which I built up after my Monday night spin (tonight). I'll be running tubular in the rear for the first time in Kanata, and expect it to make all the difference in the world. I'm thinking it'll be good for at least two spots improvement. A front would make two more spots, so that'd put me up there in the top ten range overall. Math doesn't lie, right?

Neil suffered a mechanical, and had to bail, having been riding really well despite mild illness. Anna finished two of two, solid. Thom, Will and Kent all worked themselves over pretty good, as most of us did our first time racing cross....still do. Despite the suffering they endured, they will be back for more, and I suspect they will see significant improvements every race for a while. There is so much to learn. They could all use some encouragement, so if you want to give them a holla, this is the place to do it.

Jamie and Mike had solid races. I'm not sure, but Jamie might not have been smiling as much this time. That's a good sign...kinda.

After recovering and sorting ourselves out, we headed out for out extended play on the Roubaix route. Pascal and Rob P came out for the ride, and Ryan, Imad, and Norm joined Thom, Rodd, Mike and myself for the ride. Before long, Thom disappeared, suffering from dead legs. We had GPS issues, unlike last year, and consequently floundered a bit. We did not end up riding the whole route, but what we did ride was great. Good rollers to remind us we'd raced, lots of scenery, and good company. We'll do it again next year; its worth it. We also had camera issues, but if I get photos form Rodd I'll add them.

More: I found a link to this film on HIll Junkie's blog tonight, and had to share it. Its inspiring; it makes me think I should race the Leadville 100, the terrain is just so spectacular. Amazing. I hope the film comes to town, preferably at IMAX!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Fixed Frolic II

Some details:
  • distance will wind up about 85k, same as last year's Frolic
  • there will be three scheduled stops: 1) Shoppers Drugmart in Kanata; 2) Carp store; 3) Shoppers in Kanata again on the return. Food and drinks can be acquired at each stop.
  • if the weather is gross, we may improvise the route to work in some more covered roads with a little climbing to stay warm. This would be a game-time decision that would depend on who shows up
  • 42x16 or 44x16 are good gears to run
  • fenders will be a major asset if its wet. You won't regret taking the time. Flaps allow others to draft you, which is nice or them. And you when you want to draft.
Sorry for the weird underlining. Blogger is odd at times.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brockville 'Cross Report, Almonte Extended Play, Halloween Fixed Frolic

Jamie looking good on his feet after the mud pits (photo: Martin)

Jamie, Martin, Mike and I were in attendance on Sunday morning in Brockville for our weekly dose of 'cross action. It was a medium strength Mad Alchemy day; I slathered up the Secret Coffee concoction and added knee warmers. Lets call that 'Canadian knee warmer' style. Embro+kneewarmers. Unfortunately, I failed to treat my feat similarly, which was a little problematic splashing through two mud pits every lap for ten laps. Yeah, ten laps...I got lapped by the top 3...doh. Should have worn my gore-tex socks to keep the feet warm, but it wasn't too bad. This was my first 'cross race with any significant mud action, and its my third season! Granted, the first two were a little spotty, but still.

Not so good. Not strong enough to pedal the second half of the hill here (photo: Martin)

Better. The hill is supposed to be pedaled. Mike gets it right.

I think none of of Tall Tree crew were really on it on Sunday. Jamie was out of if from the start, Martin hurt his back, and I just felt kinda out of the mix for a bit. Sure, I finished 5th in my category (Masters A), but I felt like I underperformed. I think I backed off a bit too much when I experienced the ol' white tunnel vision. Slipping back a bit I lost motivation and thought to myself: "Why do you like this, you suck at it?" Once getting over this mental weakness to some degree, things looked up, and I improved a bit. There was a demoralizing hill though, that I was forced to run a few times, as I did not have enough power to drive my 42/27 climbing gear. Jamie was similarly demoralized with his 42. I don't recall Mike complaining about anything in particular, so I suspect things went ok for him. I can say I liked what they did with the flat terrain; the gyros were pretty cool. Martin took some great photos; more to come. The photos from cross_photo can be found here. Lots more great shots to be found there.

Agree, these are in nearly random order; that's what happens when I modify posts...chaos...chreods? Here I am, looking like I know what I'm doing, pre-white tunnel (photo credit: cross_photo).

A couple wicked (cold) splashes! This hole was deep enough to take you out over the bars. I nearly launched one time through (photo credit: cross_photo).

Mike churns is out (photo credit: cross_photo).

Jamie between pit and barrier (photo credit: cross_photo).

Mike post barrier post pit (photo credit: cross_photo).

Jamie...more pittage. Should pittage be one of the criteria used to evaluate the quality of''cross courses? I think so. A good 'cross course should have a high pittage factor. I'd assign Brockville a 7 on 10 for pittage. BTW, its pronounced the french way: pittajj (photo credit: cross_photo).

This was quite necessary, and felt good. I spent a little time in the recovery position, a la Kent, but Martin missed it, perhaps to spare me embarrassment (photo: Martin).

Almonte 'Cross Extended Play - this Sunday!

On Sunday we'll be racing in Almonte, my personal favourite venue. Its a technical course that suits me better than the others. If should be a good one for all us mtb riders. Unless its raining and miserable out, we'll follow through with the plan to ride the Roubaix route after the races. A good number have confirmed; the pace will not be 'race,' but a moderate cruise. Jamie and I did the route last year on our race bikes. It should be a beautiful ride. If you wold like to join us, bring extra clothes, bottles, food, tubes etc so you are good to go. It will likely be a DZ-Nuts kind of day; in my preliminary tests, I've found the stuff a little more long lasting than the Mad Alchemy Pro Chamois creme. However, the latter does not cause a cool tingle, likely a boon on cold days! It'll be fun. We'll be easy to find.

Halloween Fixed Frolic

On the 25th we'll roll out for the annual fall fixed frolic. The poster is up, and its fantastic. Greg has once again produced a terrific product. It sure is nice being surrounded by talented people! Stay tuned for more info. The ride starts at 10am, and will be about 100k, pretty much flat.

Oh, and one more thing, a great Andy Hampsten video.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brake Chatter/Judder: A Formidable Foe

Sometimes riding bikes with less than cutting edge technology provides opportunities to chuckle about the problems others face with their fancy schmancy equipment. I'm using an early 1990s Pinarello for my 'cross riding and racing, and its a pretty darn good steed. Sure, its not built for me, or anybody else with size 46 feet. Yes, toe overlap sucks. But its the bike I have, it has a lot of character, and its orange. It also does not suffer from brake chatter.

I only started hearing about brake chatter a few years ago. It seemed like the combination of cantilever brakes and 'cross forks was all of the sudden creating havoc. People would pull their brakes and the front wheel would lurch back and forth, skipping off the ground. It was nuts. As a mechanic, I looked to the typical potential causes: rim irregularities, loose headsets, brake pad adjustment, brake pad compounds and cable geometry. No one change seemed to sufficiently solve the problem. Carbon forks were usually the spec, though I have seen it on a few good quality steel forks. I started to do some online research last year.

Since my own personal bike does not suffer from chatter, nor does my Cross Check beater, and I'm not working in the shop these days, I had no opportunity to try the theory I settled on. The theory is that the chatter is caused by irregular tension on the brake cable between cable hanger and straddle as the fork flexes back and forth. The proposed solution: mount a cable hanger to the fork. Kinesis has just come out with a carbon 'cross fork that includes such a hanger for this purpose. Today I cam across a blog post that further details this problem and proposed solution, and it appears it works well. Check it out. If anyone knows of such hangers that don't look like cheap crap, let me know. Brake chatter be gone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Great video from Levi's Gran Fondo

My team and I encountered Don Peterkin from Golden BC while riding the Quintuple a little while ago. He wasn't participating in the 'formal' event, but rode along with us and other teams for a while. He was riding a great vintage Roubaix bike.

Don sent an email today with a link to a great video from Levi's Gran Fondo. He posted it in Podium Cafe (
It is indeed a great video. Specifically, the young boy riding, Liam, is incredible. He looks very confident and graceful on the bike, and rides quite fast. He also is evidently having a great time. Awesome. I bet if he had a bike with a low q-factor/tread, he'd be even better on the bike. Poor kids and their feet so far apart...

Here it is:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mix Mash: Brittania Madison, Sneak Peak and more

Sunday marked my first race in the Eastern Ontario series this year. It was certainly one not to be missed; the Madison format is quite exciting. While Will, Thom and Brad were all out of town for Will's wedding, and others from the team indisposed for various reasons, Tall Tree representation came down to Jamie, Pascal, Martin, Mike and myself.

Last year Jamie and I tackled the race together and came out well, 16th place. It was his first 'cross race. This time round Jamie had some practice under his belt and was flying. I managed to get us into a pretty good position by the end of the first lap, around 6th or 7th, and Jamie held it through his lap. After that, a few of the other teams clawed their way forward and we dropped back a bit. Nonetheless, we wound up in 10th, which we are both really happy with. Our improvement came down to Jamie's increased speed for sure, as I'm pretty sure I was slower than last year, in the late stages of a strong cold.

Pascal teamed up with Martin (aka, Wolverine), for his first ever cross race. That's the beauty of the Madison format, it really pulls people in. On Steve's lent Cross Check (thanks Steve!), Pascal underwent a quick primer on dismounting technique and then he was off. He took to the discipline really well, evidence of the kinesthetic intelligence he has developed over his years on mtb and road bikes. He remarked on really getting in to a groove on the run-ups, which are probably one of the most challenging obstacles for most. I find them pretty hard to do well. So Pascal ended up having an awesome time, and is keen to take a crack at another race in the series. Sweet, another buddy to share the cross experience with; the more the merrier.

Speaking of this sentiment, I just read an interview with Jacquie Phelan in the latest Bicycle Quarterly, where she mentions she found roadies in her racing experience tended to prefer smaller fields - the fewer the riders, the better the opportunity to podium. In contrast, she found mtb events she did were the opposite; people were always happy to have more involved - the more the merrier. Our crew tends to be of the latter mindset, the more the merrier. Is this an mtb thing or a love to ride bikes with other people thing?

Also in this issue of BQ is some excellent analysis of tire and fork suspension on road bikes. This deserves more 'ink' here, I'll post again soon on this. Also, Jan Heine interviews both Phelan and Charlie Cunningham. Both interviews are illuminating. Cunningham's ruminations on the planned obsolescence of bicycle technology is well timed. Again, this is a topic to elaborate in another post, and since I am a nerd for philosophy of technology type stuff, I'll revisit this. Let me just echo Todd Fairhead, proud owner of a Kirk custom steel road bike and wearer of Tall Tree colours, 'steel keeps me from lusting after then newest greatest carbon stuff.' That is, if you get yourself set up on a classic steel bike, all the 'progress' in materials becomes irrelevant. That's kind of liberating. This is the thesis anyhow. I can't say I am all the way onboard in this regard.

On the topic of classic steel bikes, here is a sneak peak of mine. Well, nothing really sneaky about it, its a peak. The setup in this photo is not all the way realized as planned. For example, the green housing will become white (magically). I also have hammered Honjos on is now. This is close. I'll post on its details soon. I'd like to have opportunity to take it for a proper ride before really speaking about its ride quality. A loop of the parkway would be a good start, then a full 150kplus day on the backroads. It'll happen before winter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Halloween Fixed Frolic II


Lube up the chain on your fixed gear and join the Tall Tree team and friends for a ramble through backroads west of Ottawa at a conversational pace. This is a no-drop ride, but riders are expected to be prepared to deal with their own mechanical issues, bring water and food. Dress for the weather. Costumes optional. Last year we stopped for lunch. This time we won't; we'll just get coffee and whatever after and hang out. Check back for more detail. Poster coming soon.

Time: 10:00
Tall Tree Cycles - 255 Richmond Rd.
Distance: Approx 100k
Cost: FREE

Please email if you have any questions.