Friday, December 31, 2010

La Revolucion: Unleash the Fury

John Large in charge on the mic
Chris Mullington, in full effect!
Pascal warms up for his semi heat. Mike, Rodd and Matt didn't manage to qualify, though Rodd was close.
100 meters to go!
Stick a fork in me, I'm cooked!
David Bilenky made the podium on the free rollers with his smooth pedaling.
Chris Mullington's storied Carleton track bike was a sight to behold. Stout, built with 531 tubing, Chris had a derailleur hanger added in the 80s so he could race crits on it. He claims it cornered like crazy; I bet it did! This rare gem is for sale.
Check out a couple videos here and here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Roller Revolucion: December 30th

I hate to post over Rob's great book review, but I promised I'd post this this week to help get the word out. I love the poster! Last year was my first attempt at roller racing, and I got schooled. I'll give it another shot, its quite a gas! C'mon out and be part of the fun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

With winter's official arrival I've been reading more about bicycles than actually riding them. Most recently "Major" by Tod Balf (2008) -- the true story of the American cyclist Marshall "Major" Taylor -- more or less the original PRO.

Major Taylor ruled the velodromes at the start of the 20th Century, which was the dawn of a short-lived golden age where cyclists were the most admired athletes in the world and there were seemingly tracks in every town. Major Taylor's era, from about 1895 to 1905 was a truly remarkable time for bicycle racing and the book paints a vivid picture: the League of American Wheelmen numbered 75,000 with member names like Rockefeller and Carnegie; velodrome battles were attended by 20,000 spectators in places like Coney Island and Madison Square Garden and Americans spent nearly $500 million dollars on bicycles, accessories and repairs in 1896 alone. There were essentially no automobiles and the bicycle, as piloted by the men of the velodromes, represented the pinnacle of human progress. Seriously. The world was transfixed.

Major Taylor reigned over this world with class, dignity and other-worldly talent. Winning championships from Montreal to Australia -- but refusing to race on Sunday -- Taylor and his support staff were inventing the sport with every race. When he was too fast to be paced by a four-person bicycle his team set out to invent an early version of the motorcycle. When the motorcycle tires began to slip at high speeds on the track -- 75kph -- Taylor's manager developed a pneumatic tire. When six-day racing in Madison Square Garden got simply too dangerous the state Governor Theodore Roosevelt -- later to become the 26th President of the United States -- signed into law the current rule requiring two person teams. Teddy "walk softly and carry a big stick" Roosevelt helped define modern track racing!

Taylor was quite literally the fastest thing on the planet. Trains, automobiles, motorcycles? Nope. If a person wanted to see what was possible he or she looked to the velodromes and a 20 year old kid named Major on a steel bike with a shaft drive and wooden rims. In fact his times in some events are still impressive over 100 years later. His fastest 200 metre effort, for example is apparently only one half second slower than today's world record. For his efforts he was paid handsomely: while Cy Young -- one of the greatest baseball players ever -- earned $2,500 in 1901 Major brought in well over $20,000.

So the world, America particularly, was bicycle crazy for a few years. And it was good. But that's not the whole story: Major Taylor was a black man. Given the extreme prejudice of the day -- there were 400 lynchings in the U.S. South in 1899 alone -- it's a wonder Taylor ever made it to a start line anywhere. But there was just no keeping this man down and despite strict colour lines limiting his access to tracks, a racist media and collusion among mean-spirited rivals he took on all comers and came out on top. Before Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Jack Johnson there was Major Taylor -- Champion of the World.

"Major" is a history lesson about bicycle racing, certainly, but also about turn of the century America in general. The bicycle's role in such rapid societal changes, as laid out in the book, is fascinating and the examples seem to come on every page. The larger picture of a black man ruling an otherwise oh-so-white-sport at a time when that could be life threatening is where the true meaning in the story comes from and why its retelling is vital. Read this book. Give it to someone for Christmas.

He was even sponsored by CCM for a while.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tall Tree Cycles/Steelwool Bicycle Co. Calendars Are In!

Fresh off the press and just in time for Christmas and New Years, our oh-so-colourful calendar is now in stock at the shop, priced at $10, with all proceeds going to support the 2011 Steelwool/TTC cyclocross team. Photos have been selected from two years worth of rides and races, snapped by Tall Tree riders and friends, design by Greg Cosgrove. We're (near) certain it'll make you want to get out for a ride. Git on into the shop and check it out!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Madness Sale Sunday Dec 19th

Four hours of craziness at the shop 12-4. Almost everything in the store will be have their prices slashed for these few hours on Sunday.

If you are looking for a present for your cyclist or perhaps you want to treat yourself, then this is the time to do it. The sale is only on in-stock items and will be so amazing we can only offer it this one day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2010 Ruminations

le team

Sunday's cyclocross awards ceremony in Almonte marked the official end to the cycling season for 2010. Very much a family affair, the ceremony brought finality to the year, and afforded us an opportunity to honour the generous organizers, and recognize the accomplishments of the riders who managed to race all ten of the series' events, those who raced six or more, and category top threes. I was particularly happy to see many kids in attendance, more than last year. I have a feeling their ranks are slowly growing, and this makes me hopeful. Hopeful that cyclocross will continue to grow, to afford cycling families opportunity to get out and have fun together in a safe environment. I can't think of a more accessible cycling discipline in the competitive sphere.


Tall Tree Cycles riders had a very successful cyclocross campaign, which capped an incredible season that began way back in April. While some had already raced the whole OBC series in the past, others, myself included, had dabbled, cherrypicking venues and mixing the odd Sunday all road adventure into the mix over October and November. This year was the year to throw everything into cross and see how it all shook out. As it turns out, we shook out pretty well. Rodd and I scooped up cowbells for out third and second place overall finishes behind Duncan Beard. With plans to mix in as much or more out of town races next year, it'll be mighty hard to take on Duncan, Shawn Marshall, John Fee and Simon Smith for the overall next year, but we'll sure try! Every race will count, no doubt about that. Hot on Rodd's heels in the points was Rob Parniak, fellow Tall Tree rider, who just might have discovered that he kinda likes cross in a perverse way. Jamie and David rounded out 9th and 10th spots overall. Meanwhile, Mike stacked up 6th in Master B.

Here come the heavy weapons...


Without a doubt, Jamie was Tall Tree's most improved rider in 2010. His dedication putting in the miles in the early spring set him up for his best cycling season ever. On the other hand, Todd was easily Tall Tree's standout as 'most incredible rider of the year.' With minimal time in on the bike, Todd maximized the time he has to train and came out swinging at Battenkill, riding with the lead group for most of the race. And this was with thousands fewer kilometers in his legs than Rob and me. Todd didn't fail to impress throughout the season, riding a very strong Almonte Roubaix, a terrific Preston St. Criterium, and a handfull of awesome cross races, totally new to the discipline. If I keep on listing off accomplishments of our riders this year, this post will truly be Rapha merino wool epic.

at the corner of New Common and Kelly?


I think many of us had our best cycling seasons ever in 2010 - I know I did - and I think a big part of that success was the support we found amongst each other. We encouraged each other to get out to ride in crap weather, we pushed each other on Parkway loops and XC races, we worked together on long rides in the wind, looked out for each other in the races, and sometimes, battled each other too. Nobody succeeds in anything alone. Every success was a success for the team. The moment that catalyzed this insight for me occurred during the Hastings Hilly Hundred. Rob, Jamie, Dave, Todd and I were rolling well in the lead group about halfway into the route. On a turn onto a stretch of highway, Todd dropped his chain and disappeared. When we realized he was far behind, Rob and I paused. We'd been working together to stay with the lead group as a unit. Rob and I looked at each other and made the decision: we'd wait for Todd and work together to catch back on if we could. It would be hard, really hard, but we would not leave him. This was a defining moment. I have no doubt that Todd felt bad about us waiting, knowing we were intent on sticking with the lead group, we had a goal. But we are a team, that is primary. This means sometimes we need to sacrifice our personal aspirations for the good of our comrades. So we did. David kept an eye and trailed back. Jamie hung onto the pack for dear life, torn between the prospect of getting dropped into no mans land and possibly going too deep as part of our chase group. Once we'd formed a 4-man unit, we pulled hard. I felt ok, but discovered I put in too much during my pulls when I completely cracked. Cracked. A hollow husk. I was beside myself, unable to understand what had happened, and expecting to deteriorate further. This was the lowest moment of my season, I could no longer work for and with my team. I couldn't even hang on. They waited, and David, fully aware of the suffering I was experiencing, delivered the most poignent statement of 2010: "You will recover, trust me." He knew. I didn't. All I could do was what he asked; I trusted him. As the kilometers passed I came around, I was recovering; David was right. Suffering, we were making up ground. Jamie was now with us, and we could see the lead group ahead. At the last checkpoint they briefly paused and rolled away before we were fueled up. It was over, we'd done it yet we hadn't. It didn't matter, we'd looked after each other. All we had to do now was ride.

Meanwhile, Chris bailed hard, and Pascal and Rodd took care of him.

No wind!

Matt looks at Rodd and Mike thrusts his pelvis at le Dep

Matt and the gang during setup

tandem with a piccolo with a chariot trailer attached

Of the many lessons I learned in 2010, David's was right up there at the top in terms of importance: Trust  yourself, and trust your teammates. David doesn't talk as much as some of us; he chooses his moments. Choose your moments, speak what needs to be spoken. Words matter.