Monday, May 31, 2010

8 hours of Pain and Pleasure - (not R rated)

May 15, 2010 marked the day I would jump back into the realm of 8 hour mtn bike racing after a few years off. This is a funny distance, as while 4 times the length of a standard Cup series race, the pace is really only slightly slower, unlike 24 hour races in which the pace is markedly slower.

After a good early start to the season remplete with a good result at the Clarence-Rockland Classic and an equally good performance (until the untimely flat) at Almonte-Roubaix I was excited to delve back into my profound relationship with endurance mtn bike racing. I clearly had no idea what to expect in terms of competition or even the course and terrain, as it had been 4-5 years since I ever raced at Mansfield, but I seemed to recall it was similar to Albion, which suits my riding style and flowy !

As usual I arrived late on a crisp chilly night at about 11:30, had a bite to eat, set up tent, read a bit and went to bed. The mtn bikes had been relatively untested as of yet this year....better not to worry about it now...just go with whatever cards come my way. The next morning brought me to the solo pit....I could not believe how many people where there, I was expecting maybe 50. Ran into TTTeammateTanya and she said “um ya Mike this race is really popular and competitive..”. OK - no big expectations or pressure - just get in there and have a good race. Met up, and set up with common friends of mine and Tanya’s, Matt and Rick. Rick is a hilarious big tank of a guy from the AR world and Matt is his bikin’ bro-in-law. Matt is also an endurance guy and has really focussed his training the past couple of years and has finally put some race-day nutrition demons behind him....he is going for overall podium.

Solos were supposed to start 5 minutes after everyone else, then at the last minute this was changed....leaving me trying to clamour into the start gate with the 90 or so other solos and all the team riders....a less than desirable position to start ! The start was a hammer up the gravel road /double track, dust was a flyin’ as wheels were a spinin’ ! Made up a bunch of places early - going anaerobic of course with my 5 minute pre-race warm-up, then held a solid steady pace for the first lap. The course here is SUPER FUN, just the right mix of twisty single-track interspersed with some shorter and longer double track to either pass or stretch out. There is climbing, and while I would certainly not call this a hilly course, Matt seemed to think it was a lot of climbing....I guess it is deceiving, a few longer gradual climbs that you barely notice and some short steep pumpers - which I typically like to stand and mash up, even in a longer least for a while.

At each lap I was asking friends - “how far up is Matt?”, and each time the response was 30-40 seconds. I was going 2 hr race pace trying to catch him at about 31-32 minutes per 10.7 km come I could not close the gap? After four laps of this my head finally told my body to settle into a reasonable pace. Not having any feeders or support I was taking advantage of the neutral feed halfway though the lap, this was a god-send as a couple of times my bottle was running on elvis. After about 5 laps I stopped to grab a few bites of my favourite short endurance race foods, chocolate raisins, gummies, Doritos sweet chilli heat chips, and of course...pepperoni, ya I think there was some healthy bagel with PBJ and another with turkey in addition to the junk calories. Matt’s mom told me “you are looking good, in first place over 40"....I was kind of stunned, had no idea, so that got my competitive juices going and I hit the dusty (literally) trail on a mission for podium bling! Having not done a race longer than 2.5-3 hrs this year I had no idea how long I was going to last or at what pace I could push, but I know that mentally I have the tenacity to push though a fair bit of pain when motivated. The laps were counting down and while some of the team racers seemed to be getting faster (relatively speaking) I did find some good folks to ride with at times, made some smart tactical moves, and generally enjoyed playing in the single-track, hammering the double-track, attacking the hills and working on skillz. I passed Tanya at one point around lap 4 or 5 but that was the only time. She was cheerful and enjoying the ride as always and must have held a good consistent pace throughout the race. I felt myself slowing towards the 10-12th laps, and was feeling some real back and wrist pain down a horribly rutted 70 meter downhill section, as the fork seemed to be packing in a bit and had me wondering if I was riding a rigid. Even started to count down the number of climbs as it became more apparent that 13 laps would be the magic number. There is a steep little single-track climb I think after “Pete’s Playhouse” that I managed to middle ring til about the 9th lap, and another tight technical rooty climb that I finally introduced to granny maybe one lap later, this one was actually better to power than to grind. O2 debt is a steep pitch at the end of a long gradual climb....needless to say there was a lot of grunting and groaning on this but I was certainly happy to still be riding and even passing people here so late in the game.

Halfway through the 12th lap, I saw a solo come up to me going real fast and appearing to be an old dude like me. I asked him his age ...and shyte...he just snatched the lead from me ! Had been riding with this really great female tag-team rider, and she ordered me to push and not loose him. I have no idea how this guy got so much speed after 12 laps, seemed to be going the same speed I was in the 4th or 5th. After hanging with him for most of the rest of that lap he eventually disappeared....I resigned myself to second place. Coming in to finish the 13th lap at about 5:55 I was quite happy to be done, saw Tanya had just completed her last lap a few minutes prioor and, unbeknownst to me at the time, the guy that had passed me on lap 12 went through about 20 seconds after me and out for another lap ! Crazy...cut off time was 6:30, no way he was going to do a 14th lap in less than 34 minutes ! Anyway I never even knew I had the win til they called second place to the podium...shoot they must have made a mistake - I was supposed to be second. When I enquired Chico says...”um you won Mike”....mass confusion on my part for a while as I had no idea how the other dude got behind me, but hey I’ll take it !

All in all a great race day with some good results from myself and friends, Tanya taking a solid 2nd female solo, (For the Vegan Vagabond’s report on her awesome race and podium pics click here), Matt taking second overall solo (and a blistering 15+ minutes ahead of me), and Ben Dawson taking 3rd in tag team.

Coming up: 8 more hours of pain at Hardwood Hills July 24, followed by a hundred miler in PA the following weekend....not exactly ideal timing for recovery, but whatever doesn’t kill ya !!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

NCC to meet outlaw mountain bikers Monday May 31st.

In his new blog for the Ottawa Sun, The Spokesman, Kris Westwood reports on important developments regarding mountain biking in Gatineau Park:

There are hundreds of kilometres of illegal mountain bike trails in Gatineau Park, and the National Capital Commission wants to do something about it.

Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean a crackdown on outlaw mountain bikers, but rather a meeting with the cycling community to try to find a middle ground on the issue....Read the rest here

The meeting is Monday, May 31st, 6:30 p.m. at Relais Plein Air on Cite des Jeunes Blvd.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cyclist BikeList Book Launch

While not a ride, this event will be a great way to introduce kids to cycling and a chance for all the non-cyclists in your life to get a taste of what makes us tick.

The event is right by the Lansdowne Farmer's Market making this a great finish to a Sunday out on the town with the kids.


Bring the kids and spend an afternoon with author Laura Robinson and discover the joy of cycling.
We're launching Laura's new book Cyclist Bikelist and you're invited!

Drawing on her love of cycling and her experiences as a lifelong cyclist, a former member of the Canadian National Cycling Team, and the coach of the Anishinaabe Racers, Cyclist Bikelist is a great resource for both kids and adults interested in cycling and making it a part of their lives.

Laura Robinson combines fascinating history (the first bike was propelled by the rider’s feet pushing against the ground) with useful and fun information, including tips for the way to dress for safe and efficient biking; what to eat for maximum body efficiency; and how to select and maintain a bike.

Join us for an exciting afternoon that will be sure to get you and your kids ready and able to head out exploring on two wheels. In addition to the launch there will be tons of bike themed activities for kids of all ages.


Sunday June 6th
2 pm - 5 pm


Glebe Parent's Daycare (in the yard 'around back')
10 Fifth Ave.

*Note: The venue does not have washrooms on site. There are public washrooms located next door at Lansdowne Park.

This is an outdoor event and will run rain or shine.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fortune and the Kiwi Connection

In November I did a quick trip back to New Zealand to participate in an enduro mountain bike event called “Huka” in Taupo. The obvious question, “why the heck would a mid-pack weekend warrior, with a three month year old baby, travel sixty hours round trip to do a mountain bike race on the other side of the world?”

The main reason was that a year prior, I had done a road race called “K2” (in New Zealand as well) with my buddy Brett where he was nearly killed after being forced out the side of the peloton into an oncoming milk tanker truck. The Huka would be his return to racing and I felt I needed to be there for “closure” (contrived but true). Although I was not at all injured in the crash, I’ve carried demons that I’m still trying to exorcise.

The Huka is an awesome course; 60km of diverse single track and finishing up with 30km of gravel bike path along the Waikato River. I was not in top form with the recent birth of my second daughter (i.e. lack of sleep and no time to train) and was still recovering from an injury following an Ironman six months prior (ironically, in Taupo as well).

I came to the last single track section of the day (nearly four hours in) which was quite gnarly and felt like I was about to lose my mind (an MTBr symptom I’ve termed “CNS depletion”). Throughout most of the ride I’d been playing leap frog with an elite female rider who was riding very smooth. In the last 5km of the single track she came by me and I knew I’d be wise to ride her wheel so she could pace me and show me the lines. She did just that and I was so thankful.

Gravel bike paths are my “specialty” so I didn’t see her for the rest of the day and there were several thousand people at the finish line so I didn’t get a chance to thank her for getting me through that rough patch in my day.

So here’s the reason I’m posting this now…

Last night, I did Race #1 in the local MTB series at Camp Fortune. After the race there was a BBQ and I was able to pick out someone speaking with a Kiwi accent. In the interest of international relations I decided to go introduce myself. She was admiring a scavenging raccoon. She was pleased I recognized her accent, most importantly not mistaking it for an Australian accent in the same way people mistake the distinguished Canadian accent versus the drawl of an American accent, and she found it amusing that I said I was a “JAFA” last year (Just Another Friggin’ Aucklander). We talked MTB’ing and racing for a bit, and realized we had both done the Huka in November …then, she asked if I was a Tall Tree rider, I replied, "yes"...

...she then told the story of a Tall Tree rider that had been glued to her wheel in the final single track of Huka. I exclaimed,


It’s been six months coming, and you had to travel 15,000km, but thanks Lisa! …and welcome to Ottawa.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Camp Fortune Sunset Series #1: Is it summer already?

Yes, at least this week. Colleagues were shocked I was riding home this afternoon. Then I told them I was racing later on. Ooooh, that'll be rough. Nah, embrace it.

Embrace it we did; the turnout for tonight's season opener of the Sunset Series, Ottawa/Gatineau's local bi-weekly mtb race event, was pretty sizeable. Tall Tree fielded 7 riders: Neil, Anna, Rob, David, Mike, Tanya, and moi. The Green Wave was indeed in full effect, only rivalled by the Euro-Sports contingent, which was probably even bigger. Good stuff.

Contrary the forecast's promise of sweltering heat, the wind picked up before the race began at about 6:45, and the climate was completely pleasant. Furious racing ensued.

In short, Tall Tree wound up with 3 riders in the top 4 overall: Neil, Rob, then me, Neil taking second Elite spot, Rob and myself 1st and 2nd Masters 30-39, followed by David a few minutes back (placing TBC). Meanwhile, Mike took 2nd in the Masters 40+ race.

Neil, looking pro post race...prost race? Photo stolen from Tanya.

Matt, looking decidedly not-pro post race. I should probably be embarrassed by this photo, but I really don't mind looking as bad as I feel during/after races. Photo also ripped form Tanya.

Rob and David looking like they are ready for more. Rob was sporting some sweet dirt lip liner, very goth. David cut wind resistance at least 6% with his skin-suit, which brought him up to 100% awesome. Photo: Tanya.

Our ladies had a less pleasant race, as Anna took a hard face-to-rock crash that drew a good deal of blood above her eye and rung her bell a bit. Tanya and numerous other ladies showed true sportswomanship in stopping to take care of Anna. Tanya shepherded her in, and by the time we caught up with them Anna was looking good, albeit sporting a bandage above her eye. She took the crash in stride like a true champ, and I'm sure she'll be attacking again this weekend at the Hardwood Hills Canada Cup. You go girl!

Photo ripped from Tanya, thanks V2. Anna can take a hit.

Overall, the Series saw a great kickoff, and I think many out tonight are pumped to improve each week. If you are considering coming out to take a crack at this whole XC racing thing, shod your bike with good grippy and sturdy tires, and come on out. Yes, the trails are technical, but getting off is always an option, and there is no shame in it! If you can ride Fortune well, you can ride anywhere. Proven fact.

Check out Tanya's (funnier) post here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canada Cup #2 Mont Tremblant: Preparation Meets Opportunity

Tall Tree Cycles/Steelwool Bicycles Results:
Senior Elite
- Neil Schiemann - 33rd 
Masters 30-39 Expert
- Matt Surch - 2nd
- Rob Parniak - 7th
- David Stachon - DNF (damaged tire due to being t-boned!)

Back in the winter I penciled in the Mont Tremblant stop of the Canada Cup circuit of mtb racing. Tremblant is closeby, the whole mtb race crew would be there, and I expected to be in good enough shape to enjoy the racing, at least to some degree. I figured I might as well try a hard race and see how the road riding and racing would prepare me. This was all part of my MASTER PLAN to put in a really good ride with my 4-man team at June's Albion Hills 24hr race. 

Fast forward to last Wednesday night, when the bulk of us opted to put our phat tires to dirt rather than skinnies to tarmac. We met up at Camp Fortune after Rodd and I rolled up from town, and proceeded to pound rocks and roots for a couple hours. Long story short, I tore the sidewall of my rear tire 5 minutes into the group ride, crashed and lost a bottle later on, and took a couple brutal insect bites I'm still working on healing. The outing was my first mtb ride in the Park, and second on trails for the year, just in time for Tremblant, I figured. Scramble, sort out the tires, and off we go Saturday morning: David "The Joker" Stachon, my lovely wife and daughter, and myself, comfortably sat in Dave's FIT. Or is it F-it? Your pick.

Despite my poor navigation, we arrived in time to pick up our plates, get changed, find Anna, who was playing a support role for the day, and do a bit of warmup before the start. Oh yeah, thanks to John Barnes, we also picked up our timing chips...kinda important those.

Neil through the lower part of the big descent.
David, Neil and Rob all offered up as much wisdom on the course in advance as they could muster. Number one priority was proper tires. The course tends to be pretty hairy, featuring some solid open fireroad climbs, rolling technical singletrack, and technical downhill in the woods. On their advice, I opted to run a 2.2 Kenda Nevegal on the front, and a 2.2 WTB Exiwolf in the rear. These are both fairly durable tires, and I was confident they would provide both traction and puncture resistance. If I punctured, it was game over, so it seemed worthwhile to play it safe. And crashing would also be sub-optimal. Beyond that, the question of gearing came up: would I need bigger than a 34x11? David thought not. Cool. Then there was frame choice: carbon wonder bike or 853 steel Niner? Kidding, I don't own a carbon mtb. Steel was the pick, and I didn't have any qualms about it.

Neil blazing.

So, equipped with some 411 on the course, I was comfortable with not having pre-ridden as I stood in the pack waiting to start. Rob was close by at this point (though David and I were worried about him as we staged, not having seen him the whole time), as was David. The sh#t was about to fly.  Indeed, the start was pretty quick, but also uphill and loose, so we didn't really get going very fast. I had about 10 or so in front of me, kept the pressure on, and found myself slide up and up to the front as we approached the first singletrack section. I knew I wanted to be in a good position going in, and thankfully, the road miles were serving me least in the leg department. Lungs, on the other hand, were not so happy. I burt them by the time we hit the woods, but not severely. I figured I could recover reasonably well. A better warm-up would have avoided this. Preparation meets....lack of preparation.
So I entered the woods in third, baggy jerseyed rider in front, followed by a fast looking QC rider I recognized from somwhere on an Orbea. Orbea dude blew up shortly after getting into the woods, so I moved into second spot. Then the inevitable, Jon Barnes pulled up. Rob had informed me that Barnes is the guy to beat in Ontario, and he'd be one to follow in Tremblant. Sure enough, I was following once he was able to pass me on a climb. I was ok with that, and planned to keep in touch with him and see what happened. We were already passing the back of the Sr. Expert field at this point, so I know there would be traffic behind us, and didn't really feel like there would be a tonne of pressure from behind. John and I carried good speed through the lap, and I hung tight into the feed zone for the first time. He stopped. Opportunity. I kept the pressure on and tried to open as big a gap as I could. I still couldn't see anyone closing.

Baggy jersey, Nicolas Dignard, in first, was still in sight at times, so I kept the power down and suffered plenty. Then Barnes caught me. "Wow, impressive!" I thought to myself. "If he's fast enough to close a gap like that, he should be in front of me." So I followed again. Barnes was fast everywhere, including the downhills. He was riding really smoothly and steadily, impressive. I wasn't as comfortable on the steeper descents as I'd like to have been, getting banged up by a too wide new saddle, and my bars felt a bit too high to really get the weight down in the corners. I felt pretty spazzy on the berms. What's good for trail riding isn't necessarily great for racing. A little short on preparation there, to be honest.

Barnes flats. Opportunity. I kept it steady and rolled on, covering the next lap, the third, all alone. It was clear nobody was closing, so I let up a bit, smiled as much as I could, thanked the encouraging spectators , and asked Anna for the gap to first as I rolled through the feed zone. "2 minutes," she replied, as I missed the handoff, and almost had to stop to get the bottle. I figured 2 minutes was closeable if I had luck, so I increased the tempo a bit.

Passing the ladies now, I was about halfway through the last (4th) lap when I spied what I was sure was a closing fellow Master 30 rider. I didn't react until I confirmed when I could see his plate. By this time he was right on me, and encouraging me on. It was Mathieu, friend of Neil and Anna, still recovering from a terrible crash in Moab (I learned this later). We hit the last climbing steps together, and I upped my tempo, hoping to shake him through the technical woods that followed. I'd have to get in first to do that! Sure enough, I knew I was clear soon, as I no longer heard his bike behind me. From the bottom of the descent into the village and up to the finish, I knew I had it cinched, and enjoyed the opportunity to smile and enjoy it. I knew I was most likely second, as I was confident the #1 rider had made it in, but nevertheless, I threw both arms up to celebrate across the line. I scored a 2nd as a Senior Expert in a Canada Cup DH years ago, but this 2nd placing was far more satisfying. I could identify a few areas where I could have prepared better: better warmup, narrower saddle, lower bars, but with regard to training preparation, I came into the race fitter than I've ever been, and was fortunate enough for that preparation to meet opportunity, producing success.
Rob finishing strong.

Mathieu rolled in 30 seconds later, and Rob crossed the line soon after in 7th. He'd had a terrible start, sliding off the trail in the loose gravel, and was forced to chase far more than he'd have liked. Nevertheless, he was positive. David, whom I'd passed on the side of the trail early on, had pretty awful luck. He'd been tailgated and t-boned by a rider, which rolled hit rear tire off his rim. upon trying to reinflate it he discovered the bead was damaged, so no go. Game over. Bummer. David took this ill fortune in stride, and was all smiles afterwards. Neil was also smiling, having placed 33rd in a field of 90 elites, a position he was proud of. He fought hard and diced it out with many a honch. Sweet. Anna played the part of feed-master for all of us, which was invaluable and much appreciated!

David "The Joker" Stachon

For those considering trying an xc race at Tremblant in the future, I'd echo the advice I received: be sure to run meaty tires, come prepared to climb wide open loose stuff and decent technical steeps, and be sure to run a granny. Full suspension for 26" wheels is a must in my opinion, and in a 29er, I'd have to say steel is ideal for a hardtail, and full suspension would certainly not be wasted. I've ridden enough on aluminum hardtails to know how good I had it on the ol' 853. It certainly took the edge off.

Up next, the Sunset Series kicks off at Camp fortune on Wednesday, and the green wave will be in full effect. Its sure to be hot as hell, so if you're coming out, don't forget to eat your pickles!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Support new safe cyling legislation

Fellow cyclists, I hope you will join me in writing to your local MPP to support private members Bill 74 (sponsored by MPP Cheri Dinovo) which has been tabled for first reading in the Ontario Legislature.

The legislation would amend the Highway Traffic Act and require vehicles to keep at least three feet away when overtaking cyclists at speeds of less than 50 kilometres-and-hour. The minimum distance increases to four feet when the vehicle is travelling at 50 to 80 kilometres-an-hour. It increases to five feet when vehicles are going faster than 80 kilometres-an-hour. About 15 States and several American cities require drivers to keep at least three feet away from cyclists. France, Spain and Germany also have similar laws in place.

Specific details of the bill can be found here:

All of us who are cyclists and cycle commuters are aware of the increasingly hazardous conditions of riding in Otario mororized traffic.... why the hazards are increasing is anyone's guess.....driver inattentian to the task at hand, indifference to the fact that other road users exist, distraction by myriad technological gadgets, outright contempt for non-motorized road traffic....???

Some additional information can be found here:

To find out who your MPP is look here:

In contacting your MPP please also copy them at so that they can keep track of the support.

Peace out and ride safe !

Velo Tout Terrain!

With the start of every new cycling season I say to myself, "I'm going to do some different races this year... maybe ease up on the old favourites for a while... it's always the same old same old." And then I find myself driving the 401 to the GTA going to the same old races. But I've realized "same old" doesn't mean bad or boring. Sure I've been to Albion Hills about a million times and lined up against the same gang each Spring, but that's the GOOD part. This is my peer group. My yardstick to measure my level in the obsessive weekend warrior social club. Each time I think, "next time..." and that's what keeps me coming back. Sure I've branched out a little with things like Crank the Shield and Battenkill but the tried and true Ontario Cup mountain bike series still gets me excited to train in minus 20 temperatures. This is where the fastest guys and girls are and it's good to see where you stack up if racing's your thing.

This season, as usual, started with a race at the Mansfield Outdoors Centre. I had a bit of a chaotic couple of weeks leading up to the event and didn't get a lot of time in on my mountain bike before the race. I ended up 4th in the Masters race but was only 45 seconds off the winner's pace. I was happy enough with that.

Round two, as usual, took place at Albion Hills two weeks later. I call this series my "yardstick" but what I really mean is Jon Barnes is my "yardstick." He wins our race practically every time. He's fast. Occasionally, like when he has pneumonia, I can get the better of him but usually he wins and I measure my fitness by how badly he beat me -- success or failure is measured by Minutes Behind Barnes. At Mansfield it was less than a minute. Success. I was hopeful for Albion but when he did not appear on the start line my hope turned to serious enthusiasm, "I can win this thing!" It's nothing personal Jon if you're reading -- I like having you there -- seriously! Then again, Barnes didn't win Round One of the battle royale anyway. He was bested by a most kindly transplanted Quebecois named Eric Jobin and he was standing to my right... No matter, "I can DO this!"

And as it turned out, I did do it. Eric wasn't quite himself and I took advantage of the situation. What's the saying? Preparation meets opportunity? Something like that. I found myself racing in a front group of three very evenly matched riders for 3.5 laps until I finally stuck an attack in the last 2km. Victory!

It's odd to lead a mountain bike race -- you get to determine the pace -- as oppossed to the usual time trial mode you can ease up, attack etc. You are in control. Cool.

I was a little concerned about my new 2x9 gearing on the steep Green Bastard climb but it proved to be unfounded. More on the new bike to come.

Sausage suit forever!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Green Bastards, from Parts Unknown

Before getting to some photos from the 2010 Ride of the Damned, there are a few lost and found items to mention:

  • 1 Sugoi knee warmer, black, found (by my, in Thom's Saab)
  • 1 pair sunglasses, found
  • 1 missing set of Ibex arm warmers
Let me know if you've lost or founds these.

Ok, now for some pics. Yes, there is a Green Bastard bias here. Until more photos come in, you'll have to live with that.

Check this out: a cheering section! Who'd've thunkit? Not me. These rascals came out in the early morning with their folks to see the group off. Incredible. Can you see the horn? It was blaring! So cool.

The group just about to head up the first double digit climb of the day. John Large told me they used to race crits in this neighborhood...OMG (Oh My God). That could be mental.

Classic shot of the pastoral landscape, and some Green Bastards.

Super Snot Rocket! This has to be one of my favourite shots we've got. I think it really speaks to the spirit of the ride: crazy. But in a good way.

Another new favourite. Rob Parniak and David Stachon: dirt masters, Green Bastards.

Looking out over the Dam/n. You'd think the climb up should be brutal, given the spectacularity of the landscape here. In fact, its pretty reasonable. Great view here, a unique place for certain. There seem to be freeriding possiblities down there...(that's mtb lingo).

The Low checkpoint, 'manned' by the Pold's in style. "Ok, they're here, lets bolt while they are chewing! Heheheeeee. Green Bastards.

Large in charge. I guess riding the route in the snow a week ago bought us this weather. You're welcome everybody. Send thank-you cards to Steve and Ariel, they took it for the team on that pre-ride too.

The obligatory covered bridge shot on Cross loop. Its simply too gorgeous not to shoot here. We rode through here in February and skiers were skating all over the wind-packed snow covered fields. Magical.

Cooking with gas,
cooking with gas, 
everything's better,
 when you're cooking with gas!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hot Damn! Ride of the Damned 2010: The Aftermath

updated pics here

A huge thank you to all who came out and made the Ride of the Damned a smashing success today! I'm talking about all the riders, spouses, kids, and friends. I'd like to extend an extra special thank you to the Polds (Jamies parent's), our checkpoint hosts, who pulled off what I'd describe as the best checkpoint spread I've encountered. Absolutely smashing! I think the checkpoint fare, which included pineapple, bananas, PBJ sandwiches, burritos, trail mix, and water was a big hit for all involved.

Thanks also go out to Brad for pulling all the threads together for the BBQ. While we couldn't pull off the kids race and crafts we'd planned, I think the kids had a good time, as did adults, not least Andrew Hayter, winner of the Steelwool Limited frameset, thanks to....Steelwool Bicycle Co! Thanks to everyone who contributed food and drinks! If I didn't know the strawberry-rhubarb pie from Pipolinka was surely butter filled, I'd have been all over that!

The During-math

So we rolled out at 8:20, covered 143k total, climbed a bit over 1600 m (by Rodd's altimeter), took in plenty of sun, and generally has a great day on bikes. The weather was incredible, unbeatable in fact, and the roads were in excellent shape, with the exception of a washboard section that was a couple kilometers long. The high hit about 22 degrees, humidity was low, but I've discovered the UV was pretty high, evidenced by burns on a few riders I won't name here. I think it takes a little practice to figure out which sunscreen lasts 8 hrs on the bike. I hope they don't peel.

Navigation seemed to go well overall, though I was informed that the map used for GPS files had a superfluous one or two kilometer section on it, and the cues were missing the turn onto Notch Road. Thankfully, neither were big issues, and I think everyone handled them well. I'd love to hear how riders found the cues, and any suggestions for improvement. Did you like them? Next time they will be available for printing well in advance (we'll reuse them with fixes), so you'll be able to devise your own arrangement for mounting to your bike if desired. This is helpful and fun to figure out. For the map, I'll simply make sure its not screwed up. Feedback about the route, checkpoint, and BBQ would also be most appreciated. We aim to improve wherever we can.

There was at least one crash, suffered by Rob McLure of the Big Ringers, which landed him on his head and put him out for the day. I saw him afterwards and he seemed perfectly fine; I hope that is the case. Noah Spector of the Tall Tree Westboro Rollers suffered a fatal mechanical that saw him hitch hike back to civilization. Bummer. The Wheelers also lost Harry Musson to a biological. Total number of starters was 58 (10 teams), total finishers, 55.

Here are the finishing times; ranked to reflect complete teams at the finish:

  • Tall Tree Gravel Grinders--------14:25
  • Euro-Trashed--------------------14:43
  • Tall Tree Hung Squad------------15: 07
  • Tall Tree Hunk Squad------------15:23
  • Aging Chelsea Athletic Club------15:30
  • The Misfits-----------------------15:38
  • Euro-Sports Behind Bars---------16:18
  • Wheelers-------------------------14:35
  • Big Ringers-----------------------14:58
  • Tall Tree Westboro Rollers-------16:33
We promised times would not count if teams did not arrive as they departed, so in fairness, I've adjusted accordingly. Beyond 5, the benefit of a larger group starts to diminish, while the likelihood of a mechanical, biological, or crash increases. The smallest team today was of 3, the largest 8, and there were two of those. It will be interesting to see how groups approach team sizes as we do more events with this format.

We'll tally up the total amount we raised for Martin's Ride to Conquer Cancer as soon as we finish the accounting. Thank you for your generosity everyone!

You'll find a link to our photos up top. Photo credits for many of these go to Nathan Underwood. He makes a perfect shooter, as he's strong enough to sprint ahead, take a break, set up a shot, take it, then chase back on. Nice. Please feel free to submit yours/links and we'll get them up. 

Great ride everyone!

Stay tuned for an extra special fundraiser for Martin's Ride to Conquer Cancer the first Wednesday night of June, the 2nd: the Hell-Climb for Cancer!

We'll stage at the gate, ride to the base of Fortune, and send people up to the T one at a time. We'll run Clydesdale, fixed gear, vintage, contemporary steel, and racer-geek classes. Its going to be a hoot, and for  a good cause. Wanna see me trash myself on a fixed Steelwool Limited with a 44x16, or maybe a 46? Come on out! More info to come, start spreading the word.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ride of the Damned: The Vitals

Updated Friday night: 
BBQ time
Cue sheets
Last section of route (see below for all)
Sign in at finish

Its a bit challenging trying to get all this information across in this format; a site dedicated to this event alone would certainly be easier to manage. No matter, we'll get it done.
I've consolidated the vital information for Sunday's Ride of the Damned here for ease of access. If you still don't know what the heck the RotD is all about, check out the previous posts, here and here to get up to speed. I've provided a lot of background on the format to help everyone get onto the same page; this is not as simple as a typical century ride or race,  formats that are well trodden and familiar. I'll update this post between now and Saturday night as pieces come together, so please check back in to stay apprised.

So far we've got 11 teams in the mix. Outstanding! Very exciting.

Who: Audacious dirt loving bicycle riders
What: 5 person Raudax 
When: Sunday May 16th, 2010, Registration @ 07:00-07:50, Departure @ 08:00
Where: Lac Leamy start and finish
Why: Adventure, camaraderie, life experience, tan lines
How much: $10 CAN
Distance: 148k total
Route navigation: Via cue sheets (provided) - unmarked route, open roads
Elevation gain: Approximately 1500 meters
Stuff required: Properly functioning bike, 28-30c tires recommended, spare tubes, patches, pump, multi-tool
Food required: Enough food and water for 72k before first stop. Next stop 26k later (Wakefield), then 50k to finish.
Food en-route: Snacks and water provided at 72k (Low) checkpoint, for purchase in Wakefield.
Food Apres: BBQ from 2pm with allotted portions provided for riders of food and drink, additionals for sale to riders and non-riders. Feel free to contribute food items, including desserts!
Fun Apres: Invite your spouses and kids for the BBQ and kids bicycle parade (bike decorating) and fun race!
Proceeds: Any and all proceeds will go to Tall Tree rider, Martin Kellen's, fundraising efforts for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. We'll be collecting donations at the BBQ.
Prizes: Tall Tree Cycles and Steelwool Bicycle Co. will give away a Limited frame, fork and headset in a draw, along with goodies from Norco!!!

Here are the maps. The cue sheets are prepared, but I don't have them in electronic format with the tulips, so you'll have to wait until Sunday for those. But if you want to see what they look like without the tulip diagrams, go here. We'll have two sets of cue sheets per team (in the name of saving paper and time). GPS units will likely make navigation easier still but it is good to learn how the cues work for those times without GPS, or GPS failures. Printing out maps to distribute is pointless; they would be too hard to read. If you have a decent map, bring it along.

11k Neutral start, 137k Official Route.
Approximately 1465m climbing.

Neutral Start - for GPX, go here and click 'share'

Official Route - for GPX go here and click 'share'


#1 - We will be providing water and bananas at the Gazebo in Low 61k (72 total) into the route. Many will want to take 3 bottles to cover this distance (budget for 1 bottle per hour, do the math). The Gazebo is checkpoint #1; everybody must sign in so all are accounted for. There is also a depanneur here, but there is no guarantee it will be open.

Water stop #2 is at the spring in Wakefield, or wherever you choose to stop. Wakefield is as 98k (109 total). Excellent food can be acquired from Pipolinka.

The final stretch back to Lac Leamy will follow the bike/rec path from Mine road. I've done my best with the cues for this section, as I was not able to ride it last week; the distances will not be exact. Be vigilant, as there are not necessarily any signs to go by. Once crossed under HWY 5, we'll be retracing our route on the path from the neutral rollout back to the beech.

All riders will be required to sign in at the finish. Times will be recorded for complete teams.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ride of the Damned News - Updated

The Ride of the Damned fast approaches, and we are in the final stretch of preparations. The pre-ride on Sunday went well, though cold, and we'll post the cues and GPS file as soon as they are ready (likely the latter first). Links to the maps are below. Please note: registration (07:00-07:50) and the start of the ride will be at Lac Leamy, by the beech). Ignore the start location on the poster.

Big news regarding prizes. One lucky rider will walk away with a brand new Steelwool Limited frame, fork and headset on Sunday! All registered riders present at the BBQ at Lac Leamy will be eligible for the prize (with the exception of the organizers). Norco has stepped in as a sponsor and will provide additional draw prizes. Thanks Norco! We'll start the BBQ at 2pm, which should be just about when the first teams arrive in. Please see below for more on the BBQ, especially regarding our warm invitation to family members to attend and participate in special kids activities and general merry-making. Riders will have some BBQ and drinks covered by their registration fee ($10), and we'll charge reasonable rates  beyond that and for non-riders. Tall Tree team/club members will be bringing homemade food items as well to broaden the offerings, so if you've got a knack in the kitchen and feel like pitching in, please do!

Some will be quite familiar with the Damned format, but I thought it would be nice to provide some background to help us all get onto the same page. Read on.

The Concept
Perhaps we are in still in the phase akin to the early weeks of a new job: everything odd, tired, inefficient, and dogmatic leaps out. We just don't seem content slotting ourselves into the events that are on offer in the road world. Others have, and do, put on different kinds of events to great success: challenge events. The RotD is part Randonnee, part Audax (latin for the audacious). Randonnees are typically ridden solo or in small groups. Audax events are ridden in large groups with a capitaine de route controlling the pace. Our first RotD was like that. With the team format we can incorporate the "allure libre" (free speed) format, thus mixing Audax and Randonnee genres. I'm going to call this format Raudax (Road-axe). Teams are free to ride whatever speed they like. Best of both worlds. If you cross racing with this format, you get "gentleman's racing," an underground, honour system format. While we are not calling the RotD a race, competition between teams is encouraged, within reason of course. We do the same on our Wednesday loops; we wouldn't call those races either.

The Route
This year, we'll use the route from the 2009 Quintuple Pave Classic for the RotD. We will begin and end at Lac Leamy (not the gate of the parkway, as the poster states). Total distance will be about 150k, including the neutral start of about 10k. The roads vary from smooth pavement to gravel. Total elevation gain will be about 1500 meters. The route incorporates much of the best scenery and features the area has to offer. Teams are encouraged to stop in Wakefield for water and food.

Neutral Start Route:

Official Route:

More to come.

Like the Qiuntuple, we'll utilize the 5-person team format. Raudax riders are responsible for their own navigation, and times are recorded. By keeping the route consistent from year to year, times will be comparable through time. We've learned that the team format is best for an event that pulls in a broad range of abilities. Last year's RotD was in effect a large group ride (Audax) with pace setters (us) acting as capitaines de route. Problem was, it was difficult to strike a pace that was good for all, and mechanicals/biologicals required the whole group stopping. This simply does not work. The team format aims to bring riders of similar ability together to form a unit that will move efficiently and be self sufficient. Mechanicals will be addressed as a team, as will any other problems. This is a safety net. The group will start together, but teams will pull away as their ability allows. Flats will occur, and leapfrogging will ensue. Teams can make pacts to stay together no matter what, but these agreements need to be explicit in order to work. Otherwise, teams get broken up, and problems follow. Last year, it was exciting when we flatted and had other teams pass us. It was more fun this way than having them stop. We were happy to work together to chase. It was a unique experience, and many riders considered it their best ride of the year.
Sticking with the team format is important. For those who cannot find enough riders to team up with, I'll endeavor to match you up with others of similar ability and perspective. This is easy for people I know, less so for people I don't. Email me at asap. Growing groups from 5 is ok, but the number the team starts with has to be maintained. This is the spirit, no dropping riders. A teams time will not be count if fewer riders finish than began, and the last rider's time is the team's time.

The BBQLast year's Quintuple's BBQ went over well. However, the location, while convenient for some, did not work well for others. For the RotD, we'll start and end the ride at Lac Leamy. This will be much more convenient for those who have to drive to the event. Also, just as important, we'll be able to make the BBQ more family friendly. Spouses and children are encouraged to come. Kids activities will include bike decorating and a kids race. Beyond that, the kids will be plenty entertained being kids. We'll provide one brewsky per rider, and take contributions for additionals. Drinks will need to be consumed from water bottles.
I have yet to receive any emails with team rosters. Please send them my way, the sooner the better. I'd like to have them all in by Thursday the 13th, so we wan acquire the appropriate amount of food and drinks. If you'll captain a team, but the roster is uncertain, tell me what you can. Solo riders, please get in touch asap so I can hook you up with others. Provide me information about your ability level and expectations for pace (this applies to riders I don't know).
Invite yer friends, and have your friends invite their friends. This is going to be a big ride to remember!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Steeds of the Roubaix: The Ugly

Calling my CrossCheck flat out UGLY might be a little harsh. I've decided instead to understand the term relatively and revel in all I've managed to achieve with such an 'ugly' bike. That's right, it's an 'it's not about the bike' post... completely about the bike.

I really love the way my CrossCheck looks so I'm not gonna talk about the rust spots, chipped paint or my many many front derailleur woes. The lack of beauty I'm going to talk about instead is an inner lack of beauty. Where Matt and Pascal's bikes exude balance, culture, beauty, performance ,and the lines and details of a finely crafted machine, my CrossCheck is heavy, stiff, and almost completely lacking finesse. It certainly does not 'plane' and the handling is fairly uninspiring. It is very good at going in a straight line, which can be a blessing in disguise at the end of a long ride, or by minimizing the effects of my occasional spaz outs while learning to ride in a pack (those are behind me I promise). I won't dissect the geometry because I lack the knowledge and do not have enough experience to confidently point to one measurement over another to identify a weakness in the design. That being said, the BB drop is probably the one aspect of the geometry which I can say with confidence negatively affects the ride of the bike. More would be better.

When compared to other bikes that I own, the CrossCheck has a pretty high bar underwhich to pass. My other road machine is a 2008 Serotta Fierte Steel. Comparing mass marketed generic Taiwanese butted steel and Campy Veloce to Serotta's wealth of design knowledge and their own blend of tubing with a carbon fork and curved carbon seat stays mixed up with full Ultegra is more than a little unfair, it's an apples to World Champion apples comparison. However, there are some really good reasons I'm writing about the CrossCheck and not the Serotta and one of the big ones is that last year I probably put three times as many miles on my CrossCheck as I did on my Serotta. But why?!

SkyMounti Analog Incliometer
"What's our average speed?" "Oh about 7%"

I'm relatively new to the sport of cycling, so for me the CrossCheck has been a great way to dive headlong into lots and lots of riding. Built up originally with the help of Kent at Phat Moose, it was my first road bike with lots of fully working gears, brifters (I'm taking the word back), Campy components, and all the nicest bits I could afford. I spent weeks agonizing over this bike. It was the bike that helped me make the leap from commuter/mild enthusiast to cyclist.

Since I got it in 2007, I've built the CrossCheck up as my road bike, touring bike, winter fixed gear commuter, and cross bike. It's also the only bike I have that takes Gran Bois 700x30 tires, definitely a big deal. On it I've achieve pretty much every goal I've set out for myself as a new cyclist, 100 km, 150 km, 250 km, and my first race are just some of this goals I've achieved perched atop my CrossCheck. It's for all these reasons that I can forgive it's lack of performance and why I would leave my race bike at home on race day. I know that if I've got something to achieve, I won't be let down by my CrossCheck.

Oh and if I crash and burn on the way to my achievement? I can always blame the bike.

Now that I've survived my first racing experiences, and I've got some new (loftier) goals ahead, I'm getting giddy at the prospect of my new Steelwool all road bike which should be arriving sometime this summer. Cause after all... isn't inner beauty what really counts?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2010 Mufferaw Joe Lucky 7 Ride Report

Well, the photos are in, so I can commence reporting on the Mufferaw Joe, a relief I'm sure for all those waiting with baited breath. Or some kind of breath anyhow. Tanya is a far more adept blogger, evidenced by her post Sunday night. Check it out here.

The Wheelers' Mufferaw Joe is a pretty low key event that draws a huge gaggle of Wheelers riders, and sizeable groups from Eurosports and, this year, Tall Tree. This was the first time out for us, so we were keen to get a taste of the roads the Wheelers call their own. The ride was to be about 140k, forecast over with possibility of cats and dogs, and good food and beer back at Gavan's Hotel upon our return. Warm weather embrocation applied, obligatory team photo (probably the biggest one to date) taken, and we were rolling. 15 minutes after the slower group that it. We probably should have gone then to ease pressure on those in our group lacking road prowess, but we managed quite well anyway.

Rolling out of Quyon. Or was it Gavan? I was already confused at this early juncture.

Wheelers Chris and Mike (correct?) leading us out of town. Chris's rendition of Mufferaw Joe epitomized the spirit of the Wheeler crew: good times, no pretension. Lovely.

Apres a great rail trail sector, indeed, very Tall Tree, we stopped for a flat repair sustained by Wheeling Larry. I'd attacked a dirt descent, hoping to initiate a green tidal wave, then get lost, but alas, Larry tried to match my effort and punctured. Or he just flatted while 'riding along'. This photo of Jamie is terrific, according to me.

Still waiting for the flat repair, but amused by this hobbling dog who could chase a stick like nobody's business. What does that even mean? I don't know, but he was quick. I think we definitely made his day. Unless he killed a squirrel, that'd probably make him even happier than chasing twigs thrown by skinny dudes in tight clothes.

Our first dep stop. I figured we should get a head start on the others to compensate for our slower riders. Here I discuss the route with Norman (correct?), who is wearing socks that definitely would have looked better with my outfit. I asked him if he wanted to trade, but he declined, as his booties were very tight. As you can infer, I was in charge or navigating for our group. Great idea, I'm infamous as a pathetic navigator. Put me on trails in the area and I'm good. Pretty much anywhere else in the world, I'm crap.

Now we're cookin' with Vaseline! I'm glad Rodd stopped to capture the entrance to the ride's best sector, this old road along a lake. It was nice and loose at one point, featuring a sort steep turning climb. The green team attacked here and sprayed roost like nobody's business. Yeah baby! Fun.

We stopped at a dep somewhere on the back half of the ride. Rodd and Pascal scored p'tit Cokes, crowd pleasers. Rob acquired a bag of candies sporting 400 calories. Wow, 400! That's like way more than 300! Too bad they were hard, and therefore unpalatable. Rob tried to pawn them off on David and me later on; no chance sucker, you're carrying those all the way!

I agree, Jamie should consider taking up modeling. This whistful look is his signature. What should we call it?

This is what teamwork looks like. The back of our group got broken off the peloton late in the ride, so we regrouped and kept it tight. We managed to bridge back, not least because the Wheelers waited up and ensured we made a crucial turn. It wasn't until later that we missed some other turns, added 10k on, including a long gravel section that left Rob, David and me cross eyed from our team time trial. Out of water with only lame hard candy taunting us, we rolled into town to be greeted by the Wheelers and a tonne of chili, Large bread, and beer. A great day in the saddle was capped by a great sit down with fellow riders for food and drinks, prize winning and not-winning, and merry making. Looking forward to the Tour Dupont already.