Alprenrose is tomorrow

The big season opener is tomorrow.  It's gonna be nuts. 

Still haven't gotten word from the doc about my rib/s.  It's probably fine.  Still hurting, but I went for a good ride on Friday and everything  but standing was quite bearable.   No problem.

See you at Alpenrose, 1500 crazy cyclocross racers.  My goal is to not get last place.  Totally doable. 

2011 Blind Date #1

blind date 1_1I made it to the first Blind Date cyclocross race Wednesday night.  Since it wasn't until 8:00, and I was able to go straight after soccer practice.  It worked out pretty well.

I felt better in this race.  A lot better than Sunday.  I was sitting in 2nd place for the first lap and a half before I went down hard after lapping wheels in a corner.  It hurt like crazy.  It took me a while to get up, and then get the bike operable, but I kept going and was still in an okay position I think.  A few laps later, my left crank fell off.  That wasn't very awesome.  I went and got a wrench, tightened back on and kept riding for another 5 or 6 laps.  I lost probably almost 10 minutes doing that, so I'm sure I got last place, but at least I was the fastest DFL'er of the day.

I had a lot of mechanical mishaps today.  Crank fell off, and then the stem came loose from the steerer in my crash and kept slowly turning more and more sideways as I rode.  I finally had to stop and straighten it out after it got beyond 30 degrees out of alignment.  Kind of trippy to look down and see your bars so sideways!  My seat slipped down, too.  But that's fine.  I should have everything dialed in on both bikes by Sunday.

I'm hurting pretty bad today.  I am hoping I didn't crack a rib, but I have a feeling that's what happened.  My daughters were enjoying seeing daddy writhing in pain when they made him laugh.  I'm waiting on x-rays to see, but all that will really give me is a time frame for how long until I'm feeling better. 

The good part is I felt good out there.  I am not going fast, but I was faster.  I was quite comfortable on the bike, especially in the corners.  It was my first ride on tubeless tires this year.  My oh my, I've missed them so.  I'm trying a new tire out for this dryer weather.   I only had it on the front but it will be on both wheels this Sunday.

So I'll fix things up and hopefully make it to Alpenrose for the Cross Crusade kickoff!  You can't stop me.  You can't!  Ow.

Photo courtesy Dave Roth,

Tired guy in the woods

Oops, I don't think I was supposed to put this photo can click here to look at it.

Ah yes, this sums it up.  Tired, defeated, still pushing and having a good time.

Bad luck, bad legs, bad race

barlow1Alright, so I decided to go hit Barlow High School for a little race before the big opener at Alpenrose.

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.

Mini V-Brakes for Cyclocross

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.

Cable Adapters:
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:



Mini-V Brakes:
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.


  • Good stopping power
  • No fork chatter
  • Clean looking lines with no canti cable hangers


  • Minimal pad/rim clearance (could be a dealbreaker in the mud)
  • Less forgiving setup
  • Harder (and slower) to change wheels out

Broken Egg Beater

So...I guess this is why you buy the higher-end Egg Beater pedals:


One of the wings broke off today while riding around.  The other sides work fine, so maybe I'll keep it on the trainer bike. 

I still think these pedals are the best thing for cyclocross.  Just go with the stainless steel models.

B Bike is together

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.


Putting the bikes together

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:

Mini V?

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!

Cyclocross is 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.

Lemonade on Wheels

2011-06-01_18-19-54_96 The other day, I ducked into forest park on the single speed for a little cross ride.  If it's going to be raining in June, I might as well really enjoy it...right?

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:

Spare Tube:
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:

Valve Extender:
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?

2011-06-01_18-29-21_494 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.

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