Cross Crusade #1 - Alpenrose

Alpenrose1Today, 1,399 of my fellow cyclocross nuts and I reined down on Alpenrose dairy.  It was a zoo.  Actually, I've been to the zoo, and it was much more crowded at Alpenrose.  The sport is beyond huge here in PDX. 

I arrived at the venue less than an hour before the start of my race.  Normally, that means no pre ride.  But AHA!  I was there Yesterday and I DID get to pre-ride.  In your face, Alpenrose!

So naturally, since I had all the twists and off-camber turns dialed in, I crushed it today.  Right?

Ummmm, no.  

Short  story:  I didn't fare as well as last year, and I didn't do so hot last year.  Long story:

I got passed by so many people, I lost count.  It was very hot and dusty out there, and I hate hot and dusty.  The course was awesome and well designed for a fit bike racer.  For me, it was torture.

I felt like a shriveled up raisin 1/2 way through, but I crawled on.  I ran out of gas 3/4 of the way through.  Seeing stars and dizzy, I just wanted something to eat.  Maybe a popsicle.  But I slothed onward.  Finally, I heard the announcer declare LAST LAP.  In truth, I thought the last three laps were last laps.  I didn't know what was going on.

Anyway, I did hear the last lap bell, and I felt a faint glimmer of hope.  One more lap:  All I had to do is ride one more time around before I could go score that popsicle.  Do it for the popsicle.

I didn't make it.  I crashed, not far from the finish line.  I was trying to catch the two guys in front of me, slid out in some thick dust and flatted my front tire.  I considered jogging to the finish, but I was too wobbly to do that.  I just walked to the tent to find some shade, pack up my stuff, and get going.

I seldom DNF, but I did today.  Looking forward to some eventual improvement in the fitness department, and some cooler weather.  

I never did get that popsicle.

Photo courtesy Dave Bussey

Alpenrose Blind Date #3

My assault of the cyclocross season is off to a slow crawl.  But I'm going to do these Alpenrose Wednesday nighters because:

  • They are awesome
  • It forces me to work out hard
  • I love riding at night

I missed the first race (out of town). 

I unknowingly started in the wrong group for the second race, one minute back.  Probably didn't make a difference in my result.   Perhaps that's enough said right there.

Third race was last night.  I knew timing would be terribly tight, and it was.  I arrived 10 minutes before the start, which would give me just enough time to change, register and get on the line.

I got out my kit and started changing in the parking lot.  Mid change,  I realized I had forgotten my helmet.  I had not allocated the five minutes required to find a loaner, so I was pretty much sunk.  I found myself extremely agitated, pacing around and swearing under my breath, temporarily unaware of the fact I was not wearing any clothes.

I snapped out if it,  quickly got dressed and walked away.  I lost my underwear in the dark. 

So ends Alpenrose Blind Date #3.  Looking forward to episode 4.  I'm leaving myself lots of room for improvement.

Tubeless Cyclocross

October is here, and so is the rush to dial in some new wheels before the season is in full swing.

Tubeless seems to be gaining some traction, both with new wheel offerings that are tubeless specific, as well as more people out there willing to give it a try.

If you give this a try, you should consider reliability as the #1 goal.  Weight, looks, materials, etc.  are all less important.  If you're going to experiment, do that with a set of wheels you train on.  Keep the race stuff reliable, because you bash stuff a lot harder in races than you do in training.  

Reliability Factor #1: Wheel Choice:

You can get a huge head start in reliability by using the right kind of rim.  A rim is either designed for tubeless use, or it's not.  If it's not, it's not a deal breaker, but it means YOU have to figure out how to convert it into a tubeless friendly setup.  And I hate to say it, but it's never going to work as good as a tubeless specific rim.   Your mileage may vary, but I am pretty sure this generally holds true.

Let's take a look at the two types of rims, side by side:

Regular clincher rim cross section (Velocity Deep V):

Tubless specific design (Stans Arch 29er):

You can see the bead hook design is different.  There's a lot of room in the clincher rim for the tire bead to move around.  In the tubeless rim, the tire bead doesn't really have any room to wiggle around.  Room to wiggle is generally bad, because when that happens, your tire will most likely loose it's seal and "burp" some air.

The rim on the left (clincher rim) can work, but it's not going to be super reliable unless you alter it.  In this case, you could add an additional layer of rim tape (or two).   Every rim design will require a little different tweak formula to be more reliable with a tubeless setup.  Some rims might not work at all. 

You see how this is kind of a gamble?  It is.  Your best bet is to go with a tubeless specific rim.  You can build them yourself, have them built up, or buy a pre-done wheelset from an ever growing list of vendors.  I think the list now includes Stans Notubes, Giant, American Classic, Alex and Industry Nine.  I'm sure there are others.

Reliability Factor #2: Tire Choice

The strength of the tire bead is pretty important.  If the tire bead is weak, or tends to break, your tire could blow off the rim.  I've had it happen before.  Not fun.  Some tires work better than others.  A lot of tires out there that are not marketed as tubeless ready are very good.  I've experimented and found numerous tires that work well:


Tire: Rating (1-5) Comments
Michelin Jet 4 Sidewalls seem a bit less durable
Michelin Mud2 5 Works awesome.  Sidewalls a little weak when the tire gets aged
Kenda Kommando 4.5 Solid tire, perhaps a bit less supple than the others
Schwalbe Racing Ralph 5 Temperamental mounting.  Do it right or you will have problems
Maxxis Raze 3 Trouble sealing/burping, but I'd like to have another try with this brand. 
Continental Twister Pro 1 Not a good tire.  Even worse for tubeless use.

Tires I'd like to try:

  • Specialized Captain
  • Continental Race and Speed
  • Everything Kenda
  • Clement PDX
  • Hutchinson tubeless tires

I'd like to try all of these tires, but my experimental trials are bound by personal budget and time available to tinker.  So when it comes time to buy another pair of tires, I'll get something from this list. 

Reliability Factor #3: Mounting

You really need to mount the tires the right way.  If you don't, you're just setting yourself up for trouble.  Having a tire hold air in your garage is NOT an indication of reliability.  If you skip either of these two steps, you're probably going to be disappointed.   So if you want to give it a legitimate try, do this:

  • Soap suds:  Brush soap suds on both sides of your tire.  This will help the tire bead pop into the right place, all away around, and seal up well.
  • Shake and Bake:  Once you add sealant, you need to shake the tires and lay them on their side for 5 minutes (each side 1-2 times).  

I would show you the videos I tried to make for this post, but they really suck.  Better to just go to notubes and check it out:

Road Tubeless Kit from Stan's NOTUBES on Vimeo.

Still Here...

Hi there.   It's been a while since I've checked in.  I'm still around, still enjoying the bike when I can, still the same guy. 

I'm gathering up some creative energy.  Regrouping, rethinking.  I'll be back soon.

De Ronde 2012

It's coming...

Ronde PDX - de ronde van west portlandia

2011 Blind Date #5

blind date 4_1I somehow managed to make it to all five Wednesday night races this year.  It was really fun. 

Tonight's race was okay, I guess.  I got the hole shot again, which makes three times out of five.  They award a bag of Stumptown "Hairbender" coffee beans for that, so I've won three bags and be well caffeinated this Fall.

I led the race for a little while, but three guys were soon on me like glue.  Eventually, they came around and rode off; I couldn't follow them.  But it was a good time, for sure.  They added some great chicanes to the course, and it was dry and fast.  I didn't even need to clean my bike after the race.

If you're in Portland, consider giving one of these races a try next year!

photo courtesy dmroth

2011 Cross Crusade #4: Hillsboro

hillsboro2Washington Country Fairgrounds is flat.  That's nice.  The mud there is pretty awesome, so I've been looking forward to this one.  Race day arrived and guess what?  No mud.  No rain.  The course was fast, dry, hard and even a little dusty in a couple places if you can believe it.   It was fun, featuring some tight chicanes, a sand flyover and lots of wide open grass fields to tear down. 

My race number callup put me almost in the very back of 80 guys.  And then there was a crash right in front of me where I had to either stop or run over a couple people (Yeah, I stopped).   There were a couple of bottlenecks on the first lap that ensured the front guys got things stretched out while we sat with a foot down waiting to get through.

The course was really bumpy, and it kinda beat me up.  I started to get a groove on the last couple laps but it was too little, too late.  I'm a bit disappointed in my performance, but there is certainly a few things I could have done differently to help change that.

My next race will probably be at my favorite venue, Barton Park.  It might even be my last of the season.  With today's results, it's not looking very good that I'll get anywhere near a top 10 at one of these Cross Crusade races, but I am certainly going to try like hell at Barton.  It's still taking me a good 30 minutes to start going fast(er).  I'll try to get a better warmup next time.  I hope that in two weeks, we'll have some good rain to muddy up the place.  I don't want another dry course; bring on the mud! 

Photo: dmroth

2011 Blind Date #4

I really like these Wednesday night races.  They're pretty low key, and you can still get a race in without dedicating the better part of a day to it.  I left my house for the race 45 minutes before start time!

The course was fun, as always.  I lined up on the inside, but since I arrived to the 90 degree right-hander first, I got through it in front, accelerated, and "won" the hole shot Stumptown coffee bean prime.  There was a power climb on the back side that just kicked my butt, especially in the first few laps.  A group of guys formed in the front, and I was not on that train.  Once I got warmed up, I worked my way up and held the gap to under a minute, but I could not catch them.

I might be improving.  I felt better and I was able to go harder, but still not as hard as I would like.  I think a proper warmup and a good start this weekend will give me a better idea.  I also think my seat slipped down and I've been slowly inching it up every time I ride.  Time to get out the tape measurer and check for sure.

2011 Cross Crusade #3: PIR

pir3thumbPIR is always fun.  It's usually rainy for this venue, and the mud here is the good stuff:  Grade A cyclocross mud.   This year, however, we had dry ground and sunshine.  I guess that's okay. I'll admit is was nice not having to clean the bike after the race.

I started slow and kept riding pretty slowly until about 20 minutes to go.  Someone passed me and I finally switched on.  I rode fairly good after that, and started to feel like a bike racer again.  If I could do that from the start, I'd be elated.  I'm not there yet, but I felt something kinda good.  Good thing the race lasts a whole hour!

If I can make it to the race next weekend, it will be a fun one.  I like the course at Washington County Fairgrounds.  It's pretty flat and has some really fun twists and turns.  It's kind of like a cyclocross crit. 

I don't know how much longer my season will go.  It's possible I'll close it out with my favorite venue, Barton Park.  Maybe hit the USGP in Bend, but I'm just not sure I can do that.  I'm just going to enjoy what comes my way, and hopefully keep improving as I go.  This cyclocross stuff is pretty fun.

Photo: Dave Roth

2011 Cross Crusade #2: Ranier

After the barriersThe Ranier High School course is pretty fun.  Lots of long sweeping turns and some fast downhill sections.  It's also got this GIGANTIC hill that just goes up and UP and UP.   I don't like that part very much.

I was hoping to have a better race than last weekend at Alpenrose, along with no mechanical problems.  I might have done a little better, but I'm still very sluggish.   I'll keep plugging away, hope to keep improving slowly but surely.

As far as my race, I think I started near the middle of the group.  I felt pretty good in the start, getting clipped in okay and then really putting the pressure on the pedals.  That's when my chain skipped with a load CLUNK.  My foot came out of the pedal and I was in the middle of a charging pack straddling my top tube.  That sucked.  I have a new chain, new cassette and I just aligned the derailleur hanger the other day.  Everything was perfect in warm up, so maybe I got something stuck in there just before the start.  I don't know why it happened, but I'm glad I didn't crash and get ran over by 30 guys.  Sh*t happens.

Anyway, I got going again and saw a huge heard of racers in front of me.  I did okay for a while but then started to fade after a few trips up that damn hill. 

Where is that brake lever?I had a little crash about half way thorugh the race, and I broke my shifter's brake lever off.  Turns out I could still shift okay, but I had no rear brake for the rest of the race.  You can see it missing in the photo to the right.  Something new to fix!

So I finished the race, and I'm glad I did.  That hill didn't get any easier, but there was lots of fun corners and short hills that I needed practice on.

Next week is PIR.  It's a little more flat than these first two races, so we'll see what happens.

Photo courtesy  Shift Focus

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