Ah yes, this sums it up. Tired, defeated, still pushing and having a good time.
What a mess.
We started off, things were okay, but then people started riding away from me. The bumps just killed me today, in more ways than one.
It took me a while to realize my front brake was rubbing my rim. Well, I knew something was wrong, but when I actually tried to spin the wheel with my hand and it would not budge, I knew I had a little problem. Turns out I hit a bump and it knocked my left hood down the bars a bit, which tightened the brake to the rim and also screwed up my front derailleur. I just didn't think it was rubbing that hard. I hate it when that happens. Took me a couple laps to realize this.
My rear wheel also managed to come loose, so I had to stop and tighten that up. And I lost a chain at the top of a run-up. Lots of stopping today, but that wasn't my biggest problem.
Biggest problem: I'm slow, kids. Slow. But it's okay, I'll keep plugging away and we'll see how things go.
I had fun, so that's what I'm going with for my Barlow race report: Slow, but fun.
Photo courtesy Dave Roth.
While it's looking like disc brakes are going to take over in a few years, we're still using Cantilever brakes these days.
Cantilever brakes work okay, but they aren't great. You've got your low-profile brakes such as the Avid Shorty, which are easy to set up but can squeal like a pig. You've got your wide-profile brakes such as the TRP EuroX, which have awesome rim/pad clearance but are a bit underpowered. There's also the problem of fork chatter, where applying the front brake makes the whole bike shake and shudder...not fun.
Enter the v-brake. For mountain bikes, this was the go-to brake type before disc brakes took over. They work great and are very efficient at transferring force into stopping power. However, the road levers we use in cyclocross don't pull enough cable for these brakes to work. Think of it as a leverage thing. A longer lever requires you to move the lever a greater distance. So if you want to use normal v-brakes with road levers, forget about it. Not going to work. But there are workarounds.
You can get a cable adapter (e.g. Travel Agents) to effectively change how much cable your road levers pull, making v-brakes usable. I did this on my single speed. Works great:
If you shorten the arm length of a v-brake, you shorten the lever and therefore don't need to pull as much cable. That's why mini-v brakes can work with road levers.
Mini-V brakes seem to have arm lengths between 8 and 9 centimeters. The shorter the arm, the less power, but the more pad travel. I think pad travel is the most important factor here, because even the above pictured mini-v brake with a travel agent adapter works fine.
TRP makes a sweet mini-v brake targeted for cyclocross usage:
These have 9 centimeter arms, which some SRAM and (I believe) Campy users had trouble with because those road levers don't quite pull enough cable for even minimal pad clearance. So TRP came up with the 8.4, which obviously has 8.4cm arms. That will give more pad/rim clearance, which as I said is most important factor. I don't know why anyone would buy the cx9 (9cm) model when you can get more pad travel from the 8.4s. So if you're going to buy these, get the 8.4s.
Tektro also makes some viable alternatives. They made some TRP knock-offs in the RX6 (9cm arms, do not want), and the RX5 (8.5cm arms, better). Not as cool as the TRPs, but they probably work fine.
What you may not know, however, is that BMX kiddies have been using mini-v brakes for years, and there are some good, cheap brake sets available. After doing a lot of poking around, I found the Tektro 926 has 8cm arms (more pad/rim clearance!). These things were cheap...I think I got the pair for under 30 bucks. I also added a Jagwire adjustable noodle, which is quite handy. The reason I chose these is I wasn't sure if the rim/pad clearance was going to work for me, so this was a cheap gamble. Also, the 8cm arms would give me the most pad clearance I could get with a mini-v brake.
How do they work?
I got a test ride in today with the 926 brakes in Forest Park. Included in the ride was a trip down Fire Lane 5, which is quite demanding of brakes.
The brakes performed well. I could slow down with less hand force than my wide-profile cantis. The pad/rim clearance is okay, at least for dry conditions. I've been able to set the pads up loose, such that I have a little wiggle room should one of my wheels get knocked a little out of true...that stuff happens all the time in cyclocross, so it's stupid to not plan for it.
These brakes exceeded my expectations. I'm pretty pumped. And it's worth noting that I'm using the stock brake pads. I'm sure they're nothing special, so I'm anxious to see how they perform with some Kool Stop Salmon pads. It can only get better.
Minimize Cable Play
If you're going to give these a try, I think the name of the game is minimizing cable play. When you just barely squeeze the levers, you want the pads to barely move. If you have any kinks in your brake cables, replace them. If your cable housing is dirty, replace it. Otherwise, when you squeeze the brake lever, the cable first needs to get tight, then it will start braking. You really don't have any cable pull to spare! These brakes are only going to work well if the system is clean and there is little to no play in the cables.
They work! But that rim/pad clearance could be a deal breaker if your wheels get wobbly or in the mud.
Well, I've almost got both bikes put together. I've been experimenting with the B bike, which built up pretty nicely.
I put a few green parts on, and when mixed with the red decals looks like Christmas. It's festive but stupid looking, and I don't care!
I got some cheap mini V brakes set up and they work good, exceeding my expectations. I'll do a separate write-up on this later.
I really like Fizik's bar tape. It's super durable and has a nice feel to it. I'm done with cork tape.
I'm experimenting with a new saddle, too. Specialized makes their BG saddles in three widths. I chose the middle one to see how it felt compared to my normal saddle (Selle Italia SLR). It's pretty comfortable.
I'm grinding away on the single speed, but sooner or later, the geared bikes have to be put together. Preferably before the weekend of my first race! I'm excited to have a matching pair of Bailey Miniluv carbon frames to work with. Now I just need to get them rolling. I'm working on it:
I've tossed the idea around. I've tried it on my single speed with a travel adaptor, but I've been wondering if it's possible to run mini v brakes with road levers and have an acceptable amount of pad clearance. I'm not looking for the same kind of travel I get of ouf my cantis, but I want to know if I can make it through a season without any troubles. Can I get by with a little wobble in my wheel? What happens when the cables get a bit dirty? I'm going to find out. I've done a bit of research, and decided to experiment with the B bike (which I also use as my winter trainer). More on this soon!
It's not easy being green.
I decided to maybe throw a little green in the mix. Why not? I hope it isn't too dorky.
The bikes should be together soon. More coming!
The end of summer is near. We've had some overcast days and even a little taste of rain. 'Cross is coming. Some people are already at it. Of course, I'm totally unprepared.
I think if I had a theme to my summer of racing, it'd be...distracted. Non-existent. I didn't race all summer. My summer schedule really didn't allow for it. I'm fine with that.
I have been riding, kind of, and I'm maybe kinda fit...but certainly nowhere near ready for what cyclocross demands of me. But that's okay, I'm not too worried. I'm calm. I enjoy this, and that's what it's all about for me right now. I'm coaching soccer four days a week, plus games on the weekend. That stuff is certainly worth while, but it sure eats in to your training time.
My bikes are in pieces, but I luckily have a single speed to mash around on. My body is not ready, either. But I really don't care. I think this is going to be one of those seasons where I race myself into shape, old school style.
So go ahead, race on. I'll catch up with you in October, at Alpenrose. I'll be the guy in the back, but not for long.
I rode for about an hour, getting a nice coating of mud and grime. As I arrived at Saltzman, the final climb out of the woods, my front tire went flat.
Flat tires on a cross ride...I hate them! But I was prepared...or so I thought:
I ride with sealant in my tubes. So if I get a puncture, the sealant should fix that. But there was my front tire, flopping around at zero PSI. I removed a tire bead and found it full of Stan's goo. The hole was too big to seal, I guess. On to plan B:
Of course I ride with a spare tube. Brand new, still in the box. I popped it out and...uh oh, the valve was awfully short. Too short, in fact for my deep-ish section rim. I couldn't inflate it with my pump. Ahh, but I'm prepared for that, too:
I pulled the valve extender out of my tool bag. They are small and easily fit in your patch kit. Everyone should have one. Anyway, I screwed mine on, but it didn't work. I couldn't get ANY air into the tube. Dang. Time for plan C:
Patch the Old Tube:
Okay, no problem, I've got a few patches on board. I cleaned the old tube off best I could, found the hole and...the glue was dried up. Totally gone. Not a drop left. Crap. What's plan D?
Yeah, I guess plan D is normally to shoulder the bike and go for a jog. I hate running.
I stand there, pondering. The sun has come out. My mud coating has crusted over and is starting to itch. Flies are buzzing around me. It's time to move. Is there a plan E?
Ride it Flat:
Yeah! I'm riding off road anyway, so could I ride it flat? I tried it, and yup, I could. I rode up Saltzman, staying in the mushy stuff as much as I could. Not being able to stand up made riding the SS up that hill more challenging. Plus I had a flat tire, riding in the loose stuff. I went from feeling bummed to screaming "this is awesome!"
And it really was. Out of the forest I flew with a stupid grin on my face. Rad.
I thought I could be a fitness guy. I decided I'd give it a try for one year. I got started in the Spring with some great motivation and got in pretty good shape. I'm not elite racer by any means, but as far as I go, I was riding pretty fast in the early summer.
Then I got busy. Work, house projects, family stuff, personal issues...all things that need to be balanced with my riding.
By late summer I was pretty off target in terms of preparation for cyclocross. And as the season came closer, I was veering further off target. At the first race of the year, Alpenrose, I got my butt kicked pretty good. I knew it would happen but I was hoping I would magically be wrong and do well out there. I decided I'd just buckle down and try to improve.
I did improve, but it was too late. I wanted a top 10 finish in my Masters 'A' category, and never got there. I got close with a 14th, and was on track to place even better the next week before a flat tire dropped me to 17th. And then the local scene was over. The USGP cyclocross series came to town, and I did okay, but nothing to brag about. Then came nationals.
This is what it was all about. My slow start didn't matter because nats is at the end of the year and I could continue to improve into that race. I tried my best, but it was clear my fitness was worse in Bend than in Barton. The race was an awesome experience. I loved the course and it was super fun. But I was pack fodder. 65th out of 150.
So here we are, last day of 2010, and it's pretty clear to me as I look to 2011 that I'm a FUN guy, not a fitness guy. I had the tools to succeed at racing, but in the end I just didn't do what was required of me. There is no substitute for hard work, no shortcuts to success on the race course. The better you work, the better you do. I learned a lot this year, and maybe I'll be slightly less "fun" leading up to the 2011 season, but I'm not going to worry too much about it. There are plenty of sources of stress in our lives, and for me, cycling is not going to become one of them.
For 2011, I still want a top 10 finish in my Masters 'A' group in cyclocross. Ideally, it'd come earlier in the season so I still have room to improve. I don't know that I'll get there, but I'll give it a shot. I think it's totally doable without letting training take over your life, but you need to be smart, disciplined and organized...not three words I'd use to describe myself ;)
2010 was cool. I learned a lot. I actually rode my bike and considered it a workout instead of a ride, and that was a first for me. I learned how to push harder. I learned weird things about myself like when I make a certain noise at LT, it's my mind trying to get me to stop when I absolutely don't need to. Adnan was awesome teaching and encouraging me and I am really thankful for that.
Now it's time for a new year, and time to reset the 'cross countdown! Looks like we've got 274 days before Alpenrose. Here we go again, but different this time...just like always. Good luck!
My race report is long overdue. Bend was awesome this year. Nats was awesome, too. Here's a quick recap.
I left for Bend Thursday night after tucking in the kids. My buddy Richard drove, and we stayed at his house in Bend, so my lodging was totally taken care of. After nearly running out of gas, we rolled in to Bend at about 1am. We got a good night's sleep and then prepared for the festivities the next morning.
I raced in my age group category, along with over 150 other guys. To determine who should line up on the start line ahead of the other, the race organizers decided to run a time trial to seed us. Pretty good idea. The time trial was Friday, at a course separate from the actual race course. I'm really glad they held the time trial, because all my nerves and brain farts seemed to come out there instead of the main event. My start was ridiculous. It took me at least a couple minutes to settle in to the TT, and that's not good when your race only lasts six minutes. But damn, it was fun, and I was racing. My time was not good (wasn't a surprise), so I was set to start in 76th place...right in the middle of the pack. I could be worse!
Friday turned out to be a pretty nice day. It was cold, but not too cold and not too rainy. Richard and I rode from the TT to the actual race course and got in a few laps. It was great fun. The course was heavy, slippery, and challenging. Even better than last year, hands down. Longer, too...I think.
We did a final impromptu hot lap (well, I'd say "hot-ish") and then rode home, giddy from the fun we'd just had. The course was fantastic, and we talked about the various spots we'd enjoyed or had troubles. It was fun. I must have been on the bike for at least a few hours that day, and I felt great. I had a lot of cobwebs to get out, and all that riding flushed my system and got me back to feeling like a bike racer. Just in time.
Saturday came around. Race day. My race was 9:30am. I haven't raced that early in a very long time. I got up early to see heavy snow outside. My plan was to ride to the race course, and then maybe sneak in a lap to test the course in the morning. I'd gotten plenty warm the previous day by doing this, so I figured it was perfect preparation for my race.
I left the house wearing all the layers I had. It was pretty chilly out there, much colder than the day before. And the heavy snow turned to heavy rain, with fluffy snow flakes mixed in for effect. It was cold. By the time I got to the race course, I was soaking wet and quite chilled. I didn't have a trainer to ride, and there was still an hour to go before my race.
I really tried to get warm but nothing worked, short of going into the registration building and running hot water over my hands for five minutes. With 20 minutes to go I got back outside and did some starts to try and get my body ready for the effort. Thankfully, Richard drove to the race course with my other bike. He took my B bike to the pit and even was my pit guy for the race! Never had that before, and it was pretty cool.
As we lined up to race, Richard took all my soaking wet clothes for me. My gloves were saturated and I considered racing without them, but their bright red color told me that was probably a bad idea. Wet gloves are better than no gloves when it's freezing outside...right? How would I know? I live in Portland for crying out loud.
Anyway, gloves are on, we are lined up, focused. I look down the course and plan to take an outside line to avoid the carnage of the first turn. Gun goes off, and we all charge down the starting straight, now covered in a good inch of fresh slush, getting tossed up and dousing my body, ensuring every square inch of me was soaked to the bone.
The first crash was predictably on the inside line. I got around it before it spread to the outside and kept going with a lot of shoulder bumping. Another crash right in front of me, so I moved over left, accelerating. Then there's a bike flying through the air and I cut back right to get around the guys on the ground. What a mess! But after that, it was game on. I survived the start!
I was not happy on my first lap. Getting cut off and screwing up my lines from nerves, I was getting frustrated. My hands were notably frozen half way in to the first lap. I remember thinking this was going to suck after the race and just tried to ignore it. By lap two, I found rhythm and was starting to do okay. The mud was thick and I was totally loving it. I was pushing as hard as I could through a heavy rutted section along the left side when I just got tossed into a course stake. I knocked one of them over, and stopped instantly on the second one. Took a bit to get the bike untangled and the chain back on, but I got going. From there on out, it was smooth sailing.
I always moved up. It was the good kind of moving up, too, where you set your sites on a group, catch them, move to the front of the group, and then leave them behind. I just kept doing that, and even though I was nowhere near the front, It was fun as hell. I couldn't shift my bike without contorting my frozen hands, but I was still having the time of my life.
We soldiered on in the cold rain. The weather was just terrible. Cold is one thing. Rain is another. Put them together and you are not going to be very comfortable. It was difficult, which made it even more awesome for me.
The race was over in 45 minutes. I would have rather had another 15 minutes like I normally do, but this time I was kind of glad to be done. Things started hurting. Bad.
I crossed the line and let my bike fall on the ground. My hands started screaming at me. Well, I think they had been screaming the entire race, but I was quite distracted with other things. Now, my hands were not going to take it anymore. They were pissed, and they sure let me know it. The pain was crazy. I tried to find a warm spot on my body to put them, but everything was cold. Richard caught up to me and started saying a few things, but I really don't remember what he said, or if I even heard him in the first place. My hands were screaming louder than the PA system.
I did hear Richard suggest I go find a fire to warm my hands up, which I agreed was a great idea. They had fire pits scattered around the infield, but of course none of them would light because the wood was drenched. I somehow stumbled over to a Hammer tent and the guys there let me warm my hands with their propane heater. I was desperate, and they helped me out. After a good five minutes, my hands were feeling okay. And then I started to realize the rest of my body was pretty damn cold, too. Richard again caught up to me and bought me a big coffee. My hands were shaking so bad, I couldn't hold on to the cup or drink. It was weird. Richard then got me to his car, where I got on some dry clothes, and got home for a warm shower. He totally saved me a trip to the ER for hypothermia. Thanks, Richard.
So Bend was pretty awesome. I'm gonna say it was even epic, which I don't use lightly. Any time you say to yourself "Damn, this is going to be awesome if I survive" is epic in my book.