Friday, October 2, 2009

IMBA's Take a Kid Mountain Biking - Sat. October 3, 2009

Just a head's up for everyone. Saturday, October 3, 2009 is IMBA's International Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day. ( There are events all over the country. You can find the closest event to you here, For those of you in the DC area, there are three events, one each at Ft. Dupont, Rosaryville, and the Anderson Family rise along the Capital Crescent trail (Silver Spring). I hope to coonvince my 11 year-old to get out and ride. How about you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cranky Monkey MTB Series Race#1 - Wakefield

I wrote this the day after the race but forgot to post it.

The Cranky Monkey is a three race series of MTB in the Washington, DC area (USA Cycling D20) promoted by EX2 Adventures. The first race of the series was this past Sunday, July 26, 2009, at Wakefield Park in No. Va. Wakefield Park has some very non-technical single-track trails including some paved road sections as well as some gravel road. There is very little climbing to speak of so I would say it is somewhat rolling with no major climbs. I am signed up for the Sport 45+ series so my race started at ~9:49 a.m.

Given that it is 2009, it wouldn’t be a MTB race if there wasn’t rain the day/night before the race or during the race. This race was no exception. There was even an e-mail by the promoter advising racers to check the race website in the morning to see if the race was cancelled. In the morning the race website said that the trails were a little wet but that the race was on. Cool!!! The race start is on a gravel road that climbs up a short steep hill to the paved park road which takes you to the “bowl.” The bowl is a 2-2.5 mile single track section of the park with quite a few log obstacles but nothing too difficult. However, it was still rather wet with a slick .25” layer of mud on top in some places. Of course about a quarter-mile into this section I leaned into a turn and my front wheel slipped out and down I went. It seemed like 10 – 12 guys went by me while I picked myself up and got back onto the trail. I decided right then I would take it easy in this section. The “power-line” area and “berms” area of the trail seem to have more sandy soil and were hard and fast so you were able to ride normal there. Anyway, the rest of the race was fun. I looked forward to the climbs especially the powerline climb and the switchback climb up the berms. I ended up 18 out of 24 in the Sport 45+ group. On to Fountainhead!

Cranky Monkey MTB Series Race#3 - Quantico

Race #3 of the three race Cranky Monkey MTB series was held on the trails at Quantico Marine Corps Base on August 23, 2009 in the Washington, DC area (USA Cycling D20) promoted by EX2 Adventures. Given my first top-ten performance as a sport class rider at Fountainhead, I was hoping to achieve another in this last race of the series. The Quantico trails offer a lot of steep, punchy climbs which I like.

Unfortunately, the Mother Nature decided to dump over 2” of rain in the area the day before the race so I was expecting the race to be postponed. I woke up early to find that the promoter said the trails were good and the race was on. The temperature was forecast to be mid-eighties and not too humid which is all you can hope for in the middle of August in No. VA. This year the race start was at the bottom of a fire road that we bombed down on last year’s course. This suited me fine because it was a white-knuckle descent last year and it seemed in worse shape this year. The trails were actually in perfect shape for the race. Unbelievably, there were no puddles or mud anywhere on the course so my concern about trail conditions was misdirected. Last year I seemed to be having a good race until I broke my rear derailleur cable and ended up DNF. The race started very well for me. I was not really concerned with where I was at the start so I cannot say what place I entered the trails after the fire road start. Right away I noticed that I was engaged in a battle with three other guys that I would pass on the climbs and they would return the favor on the descents. There were quite a few climbs so I think I had the advantage and was able to pull away by the end of the first lap. I had no crashes to speak of except for one close call. There was a descent down a creek bed that was muddy in the middle but dry on the sides. The notable feature was a big tree trunk laying in the middle of the creek bed the entire length (~80’). I was going pretty fast down this area when I recognized the danger. Gravity was pulling you toward the middle of the creek bed and the sides were steep enough to make it difficult to stay there, but you didn’t want to get near the tree trunk because of the negative ramifications of crashing on it. I was fighting this situation the whole way down when I realized I was going to not be able to miss the tree trunk. I ended up clenching my teeth and closing my eyes as the crash loomed. A quarter-second later I realized that I was still upright and not going to crash. I had somehow skipped over the tree trunk to the other side of the creek bed. I felt very fortunate and made a note to avoid this mistake on the second lap. The second lap was good except that I started cramping towards the end of the raced. I backed off a bit to recover and ended up getting passed by one of the guys I had been swapping places with on the first lap. I kept him in sight knowing that we had one last climb before the final descent to the finish. I caught him and passed him on the climb, he was very gracious about giving me space to get by, and gassed it down the hill and over the line. I ended up finishing eighth out of nineteen for the race and ninth in the series for Sport Men 45+.

I want to give a couple of shout outs here. First to all, to those who have given me encouragement during the races I thank you very much. It always provides a mental boost to hear someone call out your name and it is most appreciated. To Greg Massey and all the other Sport class racers who shared the trails so sportsmanlike, it was a pleasure to race with you this year. And finally, Mark Thompson, thank you for sharing your experience from the beginner race earlier in the morning. Your information was pertinent and really helpful. Good luck to all. See you next year!

Cranky Monkey MTB Series Race#2 - Fountainhead

Race #2 of the three race Cranky Monkey MTB series was held at Fountainhead Park on August 9, 2009 in the Washington, DC area (USA Cycling D20) promoted by EX2 Adventures. Given my ho-hum performance at the first race of the series at Wakefield Park, I was hoping that the added technical features of Fountainhead along with the steep, punchy climbs may help to improve my performance as it relates to my finishing place amongst my worthy fellow competitors. Bottom line is that I was looking for a top ten finish.

The weather leading up to race day was relatively dry for 2009, and compared to last year the course was in pristine shape. The temperature was forecast to be hot and humid (mid-nineties) but what do you expect for the middle of August in No. VA? This race start is a one-mile loop around the park on the park road before diving into the rooty trails. The roots and undulations of the trails at Fountainhead always seem to surprise me. The trail seems more technical than those I usually ride (Rosaryville) so I always seem to take some time to adjust my riding style. Regardless, I felt good entering the trails after the road loop probably about mid-pack. One other thing I like about Fountainhead is that they name their climbs/descents, so you see signs with names like Holy Grail Hill, Lung Buster Hill and Shock-a-Billy Hill to name a few. Anyway, the first lap went really well for me with no crashes or falls and I had passed a number of folks in my race, so I had to make up for it on the second lap. I had my first crash of the day on a sweeping descent where I was paying more attention to the rider I felt behind me rather than the trail. My front wheel rolled over a branch or root mid-trail and slid out on me. I went down on my right side skidding into some leaves with some minor scrapes. My last crash of the day occurred just before the finish line. I had just descended Shock-a-Billy for the second time and had just a quarter mile to go. I knew from the previous year’s race that it was all uphill to the finish line. A guy had just passed me on the approach to Shock-a-Billy and I saw him not too far in front of me catching/passing another racer. The gap to these guys was shrinking fast and I was thinking that maybe I could catch one or both before the line. As I approached this little stream crossing (bridge), I was looking up the trail still gauging my chances when my front tire hit the bridge and slid out. I went down quickly and shot across the surface of the bridge on my back. I must have been spinning slowly because my left side left the bridge surface all at once and I dropped a foot or foot-and-a-half into the creek bed which was dry. Unfortunately, there was one big rock there in the creek bed that I took right in the small of my back. Ouch! I jumped up, thinking how that crash had cartoon implications, and remounted my bike only to discover my chain had dropped. Seeing that I had only about 50 yards to go I decided to run rather than futzing around with my chain. So I ran as fast as I could up the hill to the finish. I ended up ninth out of twenty-four Sport 45+ competitors. Needless to say, I was happy with my race and looking forward to race #3 at Quantico.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Barking Mad

I know it has been really hot and humid out there lately. But can all this heat and humidity cause craziness? You be the judge. I was out doing a lunch time ride yesterday. Just getting in about 45 minutes of moderate spinning. As I was riding along a route that I frequently ride I heard barking. I did not recall ever hearing a dog in that area so I took a glance over hoping that there was a fence. There was no fence but there was a lot of bushes and shrubs so I thought I was safe but I prepared myself mentally for a sprint just in case. Suddenly, it seemed the barking was getting louder and much closer. I thought, no way this must be one big, fast dog to be closing on me this quickly. I decided I'd better take a look back to better judge if I was going to need to sprint. So I look back and what do I see? A guy running after me barking like a dog. He was just giving up. I couldn't believe it. He had a great dog bark. It was very realistic. He fooled me. I just wish I had a photo I could show. Anyone else ever get chased by a human barking like a dog?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Socks - DeFeet, Smartwool, Starter

Socks, to me, are one of the least important items in my cycling clothing collection. I am not partial to any one brand in particular. As long as they are functional and low cost I will wear them. Since I mostly race MTB, I base my sock selection on weather more than brand. If it is wet or muddy I try to choose a dark colored sock. In dry conditions color is less important but dry trails still tend to provide a nice layer of dirt/dust to the lower leg area. So my stable of cycling socks consists of several (~4) pairs of dark gray Defeet socks with a Powerbar logo on one side of the ankle and the Tour de France logo on the other. These socks are highly functional and were provided to me gratis with some orders from Performance Bike (2004-ish) as I am a Team Performance member. I have one pair of light gray Smartwool socks that were provided gratis at 2004 Richmond Adventure Race in which I participated. These socks are thick, warm, and provide much cushioning. I usually wear them while running. I recently purchased a two pack of Starter compression socks (from Walmart). They are black ankle highs and I am liking how they feel. Since my other socks are older and wearing out I may have to purchase some more of these. Lastly, I have one pair of Team 53x11 socks which are also Defeet. They are 60% Nylon, 39% CoolMax + Fresh FX, 1% Lycra. They fit very closely (foot is held firmly in every direction), no extra cushion required, are super light weight with low bulk. They provide enhanced airflow, the most direct power transfer to shoe, are fast drying, and won't get weighed down with water during extremely wet events, river crossings, etc. The last thing about this pair of socks is that I hardly ever wear them because they are mostly white!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Recovery Drinks - PR2 Systems

PR2 Systems, my sponsor, has a suite of recovery beverages that are age and gender based. For those of you who are somewhat generationally challenged (like me) they have the PR2 Amino (Branched Chain Amino Acid) product. (There's also the College Protein formula, Women's formula, and Low Carb/Less Sugar formula plus capsules for those who do not like drinks) From the website (

PR2 Amino Acid is the newest generation of targeted amino acid technology. PR2 Amino Acid is a safe post-exercise dietary supplement containing a rich concentration of glutamine and the branched chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine in combination with a high glycemic carbohydrate system to promote rapid muscle recovery from intense training and or competition. PR2 Amino Acid contains glucosamine, a key nutrient for the enhancement of connective tissue and joint health, and MSM, a preferred source of bioavailable sulfur which contributes to the connective bonds in articular and connective tissue and in amino acid synthesis. Plus a comprehensive water soluble vitamin complex consisting of B vitamins and Vitamin C.

Since signing my agreement with PR2 Systems I have used their PR2 Amino Acid drink for post race/workout recovery and also pre-race hydration. I can honestly say that I have not had any cramping in a race while using their products. I have also noticed that I am not as sore all the time, so I am recovering much better after exertions. The products are easy to use and taste is not an issue for me. With the sponsored athlete discount the products are very competitive price-wise. If you would like to try PR2 Systems I can pass on my discount to you. BTW, I get nothing in return for referral so this is not a marketing ploy on my part. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Raccoon Rally RR & MTB

The Raccoon Rally is a cycling festival in Alleghany State Park just outside of Salamanca, New York in the southwestern part of the state. It is held annually in the last weekend of June and is promoted by In addition to the road race and cross country race on Saturday and Sunday respectively, there is also a downhill MTB race,

a short track XC race, a trials competition

a kids race,

and a bike toss (among other events).

I signed up to compete in the masters 40+ race on the road and the Sport class MTB race. I had competed in the same events at this race two years ago and have been looking forward to this year's races.

Road Race - I arrived at the park early on Saturday since the masters race was scheduled to start at 9:40. I had plenty of time to get ready and get a decent warm-up. The course is a 24.7 loop around the Alleghany State Park perimeter road which contains two steady 5-6 miles 3-5% climbs and two similar descents. For the masters race we do two laps. In 2007 I was dropped about 1/3-1/2 of the way up the first climb. My goal this year was to hang with the group as long as possible. Before I talk about the race I want to mention all the 53x11 riders I saw at the race. From the web site I thought there were only two riders in NY but apparently there are many more than that. There were at least 6 53x11 riders in the road race that I could see. Here is a photo of some of them. This was the cat 5/citizens race.

Anyway, the race started calm enough as we approached the base of the first climb. Right when we hit the climb there were a couple of surges but I was able to stay with the group. I was pleased with myself as I was comfortably sitting in spinning my compact crank chatting with a guy from Hamilton, Ontario. About 2/3 -3/4 of the way up the climb there was a crash right in the middle of the group. Three guys went down and blocked the center of the road. I had about ten feet to maneuver so I was OK but the guy from Hamilton I had been chatting with was just ahead of me and to the left. When the crash occurred he swerved right across my path so I had to come to a complete stop. I didn't go down but I lost contact with the group who seemed to accelerate when they heard the crash. I watched the guy from Hamilton continue off the road and crash in the woods. He wasn't hurt so it was fairly comical. There were several of us who were detached at that point so I was looking to hook up and work with some others but I couldn't make contact. So I latched onto the cat 5 group when they went by. They were really flying along at 35-40 mph on the downhill and false flat just past the descent. When we got to the base of the second climb we turned the corner and a lot of damage began. People were getting dropped all around. I decided to shift to my small ring and spin again as I had done on the first climb, but when I shifted I dropped the chain. I had to stop to put it back on so I got dropped from that group. I finished the first lap and started the second and saw a few folks in front of me that I thought I could catch. One guy stopped for a nature break and I passed him. I saw another guy, Ron Rosenburg and decided to try to catch him. I kept slowly closing the gap and caught him just past where the crash occurred on the first lap. We chatted a little while and then got to work sharing pulls down the descent. As we approached the base of the second climb we saw three guys just making the turn ahead of us so they gave us some motivation. We caught them fairly quickly on the climb and Ron chose to accelerate after the last guy. I chose to spin and we both caught him about halfway up although Ron pulled away from me. I ended up 20th out of 23 which was not bad for a days work, plus I was saving myself for the XC race the next day.

XC Race - Much to my dismay, I was having some issues with my MTB such that I could not use the middle chain ring or the fifth cog of the cassette or the chain would jump. I knew this before the race so I was able to make the best of it. The rain that fell all day I had no control over but was not counting on. Plus, I had a 6+ hour drive home after the race and I had promised my wife and children I would be home in time for dinner. For these reasons and the fact that the Beg race started first and was only 13 miles while the Sport race started last (10:32) and was 20 miles I decided to do the Beg race instead of Sport. Two years ago on a dry day I finished fourth in the beg 40+ class in a time of ~1:06:30. I was hoping to better that time but the elements and my bike did not help. I started out well and within the first mile I was probably in the top twenty overall. I did have to stop due to a shifting problem but over came that quickly. The first four miles are all steady uphill and I caught a good dozen more riders before the top. I was enjoying the double track trails and rolling hills throughout the course. There is a short single track section followed by the Bova cross country ski hill that descends down a gutter of switchbacks about 400'. With the rain it was very treacherous. Here's a photo of someone losing it on Bova.
I did not want to do that so at one point, maybe just above where the guy in the photo bought it, I bailed over the bars, landed on my feet and ran down the rest of the way. I ended up passing maybe three or four folks while being passed by two who rode. I ended up finishing third in the Beg 40+ in a time of 1:09:39 and ninth overall. It was fun and I made it home to MD by 6:00 pm.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Belated Urban Assault Report

The Urban Assault MTB race was held in downtown Richmond, VA on May 16, 2009. It was part of the first annual Dominion Riverrock Festival and was promoted by the Sportsbackers organization. The race course looped through the James River Park (Butternut and North trails) as well as Forest Hill Park which is adjacent to Belle Island and Brown's Island in downtown Richmond. I held out registering for this race because the weather was sketchy heading into the weekend but ended up being fairly good given what could have occurred. I did this race last year when it was part of the Xterra championships weekend which was in the middle of June and very hot, if I recall. Of course, I did the beginner race last year which was only ~8 miles and I was racing the Sport Master 40+ this year which was ~16 miles.

Given the urban area in which this race is held one would think that it may be a less technical course but if one were to think that they would be incorrect. Other than the roads and fire roads, the course is fairly technical with a lot of narrow steep trails, lots of switchbacks and some rocks and roots (not to mention the 22nd street stairs we descended twice and the 42nd street stairs we ascended twice).

My race had 18 folks entered. We were almost the last group to start in the 12:30 wave. The start was on a grassy area off of fifth street on the Tredegar Iron Works property. For those of you interested, Tredegar Iron Works was the source of all the Confederate Army's Artillery and cannons during the American Civil War and there is a Civil War Museum on the premises that I would like to visit someday. Anyway, the course ran along a trail under the R. E. Lee bridge and then up a gravel road to the bridge which we used to cross the river. I was toward the back of the field initially but started moving up on the gravel road and passed a few folks on the bridge. After crossing the river we exited onto a local street and headed to the 22nd street stairs where you had to dismount and run/walk down to the James River Park fire road. We took the fire road to the 42nd street stairs where we climbed up and over the railroad tracks to get on the Butternut Trail, through a tunnel into the Forest Hill Park trail system. It was in Forest Hill Park that I was riding along and heard some folks behind me that I thought might be about to overtake me. So I looked back to see where they were as we rounded a rooty curve and the course seemed like it was heading up a relatively steep shortish ascent. The folks I heard weren't close enough to overtake me so I got out of the saddle and attacked the climb. When I got to the top I realized there were no course arrows in sight. I had seen a racer coming down and turning left in front of me as I was climbing and looked back and saw a course arrow. At that point I decided to take a u-turn and follow that arrow. I immediately realized that I had been through this part of the course before. So, as I came around to the point where I looked behind me before I made sure to pay attention for course markings. Sure enough, behind a branch on the left there was an arrow that I missed causing me to do an extra minute or two loop. Not to worry, but I felt bad and apologized to the guys that followed me. Anyway, we finished the Forest Hill Park trail, went through the tunnel and back to the Butternut Trail east to the 22nd street stairs where we descended again, rode the fire road back to the 42nd street stairs, ascended and then went west on the Butternut trail the the Boulevard Bridge onto the North trail and back to the finish. A guy passed me really close to the end and I stayed on his wheel and was planning on sprinting past him at the finish. I clearly need to work on this because I waited too late to start my sprint. Even though I was overtaking the guy I didn't have enough time to do it before the finish line. The other thing that was holding me back was my recollection from last year when I observed two guys sprinting for the line crash right after because of congestion in the grassy area before fifth street. At this race there's not a lot of room and finished riders tend to congregate past the line reducing the amount of space available. Needless to say, I did not want to be sprinting for tenth place and crashing. As it was, both of us had to lock our brakes to stop in time to avoid the crowd. I congratulated the guy who pipped me and headed to my car.

I was very happy with the way the race turned out. I ended up in ninth in my class. My first top ten in the sport class (not counting my third place out of four at Camp Hilbert). My time was 1:33:17 and I had no crashes. I only had a couple of scrapes on my calf/shin from my pedals from some unsuccessful attempts at some technical obstacles. I feel my technical skills are improving and look forward to the Iron Hill Challenge at the end of the month. I also want to give a shout out to Mark Junkerman (and his crew at Run, Ride, Race) who promotes the Camp Hilbert series, the Twisted Tire races, and a number of running events as well as providing race timing/results for a bunch of events including the Urban Assault. Great job Mark!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Pedals - Take a guess

You'll never guess the brand(s) of pedals I use on my bikes. (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink) Ok, maybe you can but I'll tell you anyway. Here's what I use and reasons why.

Road Bike and TT Bike - For these bikes I use the Forte CR150's which are a Look knock-off from Performance. These are just like the Looks in every way except the price. I believe I paid ~$40 per pair whereas the Looks start at $100. I can comfortably compare their performance against the Looks because I have an authentic 'vintage' pair of Looks from back in the 1980's that I use on my trainer bike. It is also very convenient to have the same style of pedals on all your bikes so any shoe you happen to have with you will work, i.e. it minimizes the number of pairs of shoes you need to own. A photo of my road pedals is shown below.
MTB - For my MTB, I use the Ascent ATB clipless pedals. I shouldn't have to tell you why but I got these for $15 a pair from Performance Bike. They use the Shimano SPD cleats so there is no issue with cleat availability. Before these I used the Forte knock-off of this pedal that lasted about a year or so. The failure point was the front part of the pedal where the SPD cleat was anchored snapped off after catching on a log/rock/other obstacle. I have not had this problem with the Ascents. These pedals do not perform real well in the mud. Let me restate, I have trouble clipping in when there is a lot of mud on the bottom of the shoe. For the price, these pedals work fine.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Greenbrier AMBC XC Challenge

Greenbrier 2007 was my very first MTB race. I remember it well. I entered the beginner men's 40-49 race. It was cool and damp. I remember doing a lot of walking because there was one fairly steep climb with logs to go up and over and another really rocky climb. I also remember riding the campground descent with a white knuckle grip and being thankful I only had to do one lap. I recall I finished seventh out of 19 and was happy.

Greenbrier 2008 was one of many MTB races in which I would participate in that year. I remember it well. I entered the beginner men's 40-49 race. It was stormy the morning of the race but the storms had passed by race time. The first races of the day were very wet. I remember walking more than I thought I should because of the one fairly steep climb with logs to go up and over and the other really rocky climb. I also remember that the campground descent wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was the year before and I recall being thankful that I only had to to one lap. I also remember I was about 3 1/2 minutes faster than my time from 2007 and that I finished seventh again.

Enter Greenbrier 2009, my fifth MTB race this year. I entered the men's cat. 2 45-49 race along with ~25 other racers. The weather was uncharacteristically hot, humid, and sunny with not a lot of rain in the days leading up to the race making for a fast course. I predicted the race would start fast and it was as I entered the woods in last place. I believe I was in last place right up to the point after the stream crossing where you hit the first climb. That is where I started overtaking some folks. Then we hit the steep climb and there were a lot of folks walking, which was expected, because it is steep with logs to go up and over. So I walked up to the middle point where I got back on a rode to the top. I then proceeded to get to and ride up the rocky climb I had never successfully ridden up before. Then I hit the campground descent and did not have any issues so I finished the first lap in ~35, about three minutes faster than last year's one lap, except I had two more to do. This is not as onerous as it seems because I was feeling very good. I skipped the feed zone and entered the woods for my second lap. Near the end of the descent with the logs a man was giving warning of a crashed rider ahead and to keep left. As I rode by slowly, there was a guy that had crashed and was being attended to by a volunteer. I sure hope he was OK and my thoughts go out to him because it looked like he could have been seriously injured. Anyway, I got across the stream and up to the steep climb where I rode almost all the way to the top except for the very last log where I spun out on a rock. Of course I thought I would ride all the way up it on my last lap. I did make it up the rocky climb a second time, however, riding down the campground descent I got a rear tire flat about 2/3's of the way down and since I wasn't carrying a spare, my race was over. I was walking with the bike rolling and the tire and tube popped off and was binding on the frame so I had to carry the bike. I was disappointed with another DNF although there were a large number of other racers who had flats out there. I had a nice conversation with a lady spectator who was walking with me to the finish area, so it was not all bad. I had one little fall that was inconsequential and my shoulder held up excellently so I am not disappointed. Maybe next year!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Floor Pumps

The floor pump I use is a Lemond brand floor pump. It has a digital display and a dual valve head for both presta or schrader. I remember seeing it at Tar-Jay in 2003 or so. It was $49.99 and my wife picked it up for me as a b-day gift and I remember being apprehensive about her buying it because I thought it cost too much. It has held up well for six years or more. I don't think it is available on the market today. I should take a picture of it to show you all what it looks like but that won't happen before the publishing deadline so you'll have to take my word for it. It is a good quality pump!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bike Line Fair Hill XC Race Report

The Bike Line Fair Hill Spring XC Mid-Atlantic Super Series Opening XC Race was held in Elkton, MD this past Sunday, April 19, 2009. It was a great weather day, thus a great day for racing. Over 400 folks had pre-registered for the races so there were going to be some crowded trails. The course description stated that the course was mostly non-technical with very few climbs and not many roots. The description was accurate. It was a fast course! There was a fire road climb to start followed by a long FR descent to a wide stream crossing and a short climb where the single track began. The single track was very fast flowing with just a few roots here and there and some field and stream crossings.

There were 23 pre-registered for the Sport Male Masters I race for men 45-49. We were about the sixth or seventh group to take off in two-minute intervals starting at 10:30. I was hoping to finish in the top of half of my race given that there are so many fast guys in this area and age group. One thing that was interesting is there were no body markings. The organizers wrote your category on your number on the lower right side which was good to see where to stand at the start but not so good for seeing if you were racing against someone on the course. The race timing was done by Prolog Timing Systems so we wore chips on our ankles. Anyway, after the start I was working hard and felt that I was in the middle of the pack. I was passing some folks on the uphill parts and they would pass me back on the down hills and field crossings. At the end of the first lap I was feeling good and felt that I could maintain the pace I had been riding.

On the second lap I was passing a few folks and had a conversation with a guy who was trying to talk me into getting a 29er. So things were going well and I caught and passed a guy I saw at the start just before a field crossing. So when I get to the field I decide to have a drink so I reach down for my waterbottle with my left hand leaving my right hand on the handlebars. This is important because this is the side with my injured shoulder. So I take a drink and I'm leaning forward to place my waterbottle back into the cage when I veered off the trail about six inches and hit a little rut. Since my body weight was shifted forward I started to pitch in that direction. Since I knew I didn't want to endo I threw my weight back hoping that my backside would hit the seat. It did but on the very back end so instead of catching myself I slipped off the back of the seat and laid out completely. At least my pedals unclipped and I landed on my left buttock so no harm was done. I looked around quickly to see if anyone had seen me crash on a totally flat field crossing piece of trail but there was no one in sight. I got going fairly quickly only to find that I had no front brakes (the cable clip had popped off in my crash) so I had to stop again to re-attach the cable. I got hung up in one rooty section near the end of the race but it was just a foot touch down. The rest of the race after that was fairly unremarkable.

I saw in the results today that I was 14th out of 33. I was happy with the result and happy that my shoulder seems to be getting better every day even after hiking out and hitting the deck.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Camp Hilbert #1 Race Report

While all you roadies were out there in Walkersville dancing in the wind, we MTB'ers were enjoying a beautiful day down in Maidens, VA at Camp Hilbert. After all the rain on Friday, one would think that any trail would be too muddy to ride on but this was just not the case at Camp Hilbert. The trails were perfect except for one 30-40' section about halfway through the course. There was a large amount of water and mud there but you could not ask for a trail in better shape than the rest of the course. That being said, I was racing in the Sport Master 45+ race which was starting at 12:10. I was the only geezer signed up for this race on Bikereg for the longest time but at the very end I believe there were seven of us pre-registered. When I checked in today it looked like there were about 10 folks on the list including race day registrations. I was liking my chances for the win when I was the only one signed up but as folks joined in my chances were getting pretty slim. Especially when one of the guys raced with me at Blue Ridge School who was ~4 minutes ahead of me after the first lap. I am sure he would have finished farther ahead of me if I hadn't DNF'd with my shoulder injury. Speaking of my injury, I was feeling quite uneasy about the shoulder for a couple of reasons. Obviously I didn't want to crash and further injure it and I was worried about being able to lift the front wheel in the few technical parts of Camp Hilbert.

Anyway, at the start, the Sport Masters 45+ men were the second to the last group scheduled to start. While we were lining up there were only four of us and two Clydesdale ready to start behind us. Mark, the promoter, asked the Clydesdales if they wanted to start with us and they said yes so there were six of us on the line. Of course, I'm thinking I like my chances of being on the podium because all I have to do is finish ahead of one of these other three guys. I didn't think I had a chance against the guy who was thrashing me at BRS but I knew nothing about the other two so I thought maybe. My chances dropped pretty quickly after the start when all three of the other guys in my race and the two Clydesdales took off leaving me in sixth place. Now I'm not the fastest starter needless to say. My strength is my stamina. I know I can throw out three pretty much equal laps and I won't fade much at the end. The trick is to stay close enough to pass someone before the end. BTW, I tested the shoulder in my pre-ride popping some wheels and it was good so the shoulder was not the problem. So the guy in fifth place is the guy that was thrashing me two weeks at BRS so I thinking top three is probably not going to happen this week, but maybe fourth? So I decided I would try to keep him in my sight and see if he could hold his pace. The first lap I did fairly well in this regard. He was about fifty feet ahead of me the entire lap. I was getting closer to him on the climbs but he would power away from me on the descents. Camp Hilbert doesn't have anything really steep or long in the way of climbs and descents. It is mostly fast, a true power course. Early in the first lap, I came up on a female enduro rider and asked her very politely if I could pass. I think I said "I would like to pass, please, if you don't mind" or something like She said sure and then proceeded to stay right in the middle of the trail. I stayed patient and surveyed the trail ahead and then said "How about just after that big tree on the left?" She went off on me yelling something about that she knows I want to pass, etc. Right after the tree I accelerated and went by her on the left as she did not slow down at all or move over at all. As I went by her I said "You don't have to get upset, I was only trying to tell you when and where." To which she replied, "I've been out here since 9:30." I was thinking that if racing your bike for two and a half hours is going to turn you into the wicked witch of the west maybe you should consider the XC race instead, but of course I didn't say anything.

Right at the end of the first lap I clipped out on a rooted climb and lost sight of the guy I was hoping to keep in sight. That was when I thought, I guess its fourth but I was hoping to press harder and get him in sight again. I was encountering and passing a lot of the Sport 35-45 folks who started two minutes ahead of us so that was making it harder to catch up. I kept looking ahead but didn't see the guy I was looking for. In the last quarter of the lap I saw him in the distance. He was in an area that I had gotten real close to him on the first lap so that gave me the incentive to push harder. I was hoping to get close and take my chances on the last lap. He was riding up the same rooted climb that I had unclipped on in the first lap as I reached the bottom. I saw him clip out just as I got to his wheel. He said, "I'm sorry" as I hopped off my bike and starting running up the hill past him. I told him "it's OK" but I could tell he was in a world of hurt. So I hopped back on my bike and tried to create as big a gap as possible. As I crossed the finish line I looked back and he was about one hundred fifty feet behind me. I was thinking that the only way I wouldn't finish third is if I crashed or had a mechanical. But I rode a clean third lap and was cautious where I needed to be. So I finished in third place. Not long after I crossed the line the awards were being handed out. I won a $15 gift certificate to 3Sports.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Bike Racks

There are a few different types of bike racks that I own. I have two Xport roof-type fork mounts that I can attach to any roof rack. I use these occasionally, especially when we take a family vacation/trip and the luggage goes in the back of the car. I like these because they are quick and convenient and I haven't had any problems or issues using them.

I also have a hitch-type Xport Slipstream 3-bike dual-receiver rack that I also use on occasion. The occasions are the same as the one above and I tend to use this one when I need to carry more than two bikes. I like this rack also, it is heavy-duty and works well.

I have a couple other racks that I don't use anymore either because they are old and broken or I much less convenient than the two I currently use. The most common bike transport I use is to simply remove the front wheel and stick the bike in the back of my car. This is the most convenient method I have found but is only usable when you don't have luggage. More than one bike can be carried in this manner by simply folding down one of the back seats. That is all!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Injury Update

I went to see the Doctor last Monday, the day after the race/injury. I got an appointment to see Dr. Owens at 4:15 p.m. She examined the shoulder had me move it and/or moved it all around and was impressed with the range of motion. She didn't think it was anything too serious but sent me to get a x-ray just to be sure. She also gave me a prescription for 800 mg of ibuprofen for good measure.

So Tuesday I got the x-ray. They actually took four because the tech cut off the top of my clavicle on the first two. She didn't see anything out of the ordinary so she let me go. I spent the rest of the week in pain barely able to move my right arm without greater pain.

Saturday morning I got a call from my doctor at around 8:30 a.m. She told me she was looking at the x-ray's and wanted to know if I knew I had a broken arm. Having woken up not too long ago I wasn't sure I heard her right so I asked her which bone was broken. She said it was the humerus up near the shoulder. My brain finally kicked in and I said that I knew I had broken my arm there about 33 years ago. She said it was good because the x-ray tech hadn't written anything about on the films. She then told me to give it another week and if it was still bothering me she would refer me to an ortho.

So today it is one week since the injury and I can say that it is improving. I still feel pain when I move the arm, mostly around the outer part of my upper arm. I do not feel pain constantly though. That stopped yesterday. I rode my MT bike on Thursday and the arm did not bother me at all, although I rode on the road. I could not stand and pedal, it was too painful. I rode the trainer last night and that was mostly pain free. There might have been a circulatory issue because my arm started getting numb toward the end of the hour. I tried to ride outside on my road bike today but my saddle bolt stripped out and my saddle dropped about eight minutes into the ride. Fun! Actually, I was lucky it happened early in the ride. I'll try again tomorrow and hopefully will not have to write about this again.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Race Tires

For those of you who read my wheel review, you will not be surprised by my tire review.

Road Bike

Basically, I do not want to be changing tires the night before a race and I don't have a spare racing wheelset so I ride in races what I ride to train. I haven't raced my road bike yet this year but if I were to race, it would be on my Panaracer Stradius Pro tires. Why do I train and/or race these? I am not sponsored by a tire manufacturer so these go on my bike at my cost. They are available for $19.99 each at Performance. End of story.

TT Bike

Above applies here, I do not want to be changing tires the night before a race and I don't have a spare racing wheelset so I ride in races what I ride to train. I haven't raced my TT bike yet this year but if I were to race, it would be on the tires that are on it. Honestly, I don't know what they are. They are the ones that were on it when I bought it. Maybe I will look at them sometime to learn what they are. Probably when I need to replace.


OK, ahem, I do have a set of "racing wheels" for this bike. Not really, I have set set of training wheels with somewhat slick tires that I ride during the week. I also have set of wheels with real MTB tires that I use for races. Right now they the tires on these wheels are the front and rear specific tires from Panaracer the front-specific classic Dart and the rear-specific classic Smoke. Last year at Twisted Tire Spring Cup I had a spoke issue and was seeking assistance from one of the shop vehicles before the race. The Bike Factory of Charlottesville folks were able to fix the problem. The reason I bring this up is one of the "kids" saw the tires I was using, the Dart and Smoke, and quoted the Performance Bike buzz words in the catalogue description about how more races have been won on this set of tires than any other. I looked at him with a quizzical look at first and then told him that those words hadn't influenced me. It was the price.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Ride The Ridge" MTB race - Blue Ridge School, VA

After last week's debacle at the O'Hill Muddown, I was hoping for warmer temps, drier conditions, and a good race. Can you believe all three requests were answered . . . . up to a point. Oh yes, the weather was warmer, mid-60's by mid-race. Very nice!! The course was mostly dry with just a few wet/muddy spots. Not much more you could ask for there! Good race? Well . . . . it started out good!

Start time was 11:00 a.m. for the Pro/Expert cat. and they went right on time. We folk in the Sport category went at 11:02 with the beginners following us. The course was all you could expect it to be. The race director, Nolan Lavoie, sent out a course profile on Friday and if I wasn't mistaken I thought it could have been a "sawtooth" waveform. Yes, it was up or down the whole eight mile without a meter of flat. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but not much. There were also a good number of rock gardens and other obstacles that would prove rather difficult given the terrain. For the beginner's sake, they cut about a mile out of the first lap which was good for them, but not for me as I will explain later. There was also one really muddy spot next to a pond that was about ten feet long. Someone had the sense of humor to throw a railroad tie down along one edge of this "bog". I considered attempting to ride across it but then decided I better not even try so I used it to walk across the mud. The first lap was quite frustrating at first because they sent all the sport category riders out at once, and there were twenty-six pre-registered, so it was quite crowded. Given all the steep climbs and obstacles you had to stop and walk quite a bit because you were always coming up on someone walking. It got less frustrating and more challenging after everyone spread out a bit. Toward the end of the first lap I came up on a guy on a rocky descent who was having a tougher time than me, and I'm terrible on the downhills. He (Kevin) said, "go ahead, I think you are better at the downhills than me" to which I replied, "that doesn't say much about your descending skills then." We both chuckled and rode on. At the very end there was a fire road climb followed by a fire road descent to a road descent then a short dirt climb back up to the football field and the start/finish. Kevin passed me on the road and then quickly lost it on the dirt climb and started walking. I passed him back then and crossed the start/finish somewhere in the middle of the field of sport vet men 35+.

So after the first lap I would say that I was having a pretty good ride. On the second lap, things went much smoother in the beginning because there were a lot fewer riders to get stuck behind. I rode almost all of the places I had to walk on the first lap and was opening a pretty good gap to the folks I had passed just after the lap started. I duly noted the spot where we turned off on the first lap and headed up the 300 foot climb over a half mile plus the corresponding descent. I was going up a particularly nasty spot where the trail was narrow rocky and steep. There was a ~120 degree turn to the right between a big tree on the right and a couple of little trees on the left. Oh, and it was a steep little four foot rise on loose soil to get between the trees. I swung up and around to left side of the trail because I wasn't sure how close I should get to the big tree when either my bar hit one of the little trees, I lost traction or something else but I started to fall to my right toward the big tree down the slope. I was just far enough to the left to fall and crack my head on the big tree. Of course I was falling down the slope so even though I got my right leg out it touched only air. So I threw out my right arm to keep my head from smashing into the tree only to have my forearm hit the tree causing my body to pivot as I spun twisting and falling down the slope. My head missed the tree mostly but my arm got abraded by the bark and as i fell/twisted I heard and felt a loud pop and searing pain in my right shoulder. I thought, Aw man, I was having a good race too. I went to move my bike out of the trail but it hurt so much when I tried to lift it I just sat down on the slope. Kevin stopped because he saw me wincing in pain and my bike was laying across the trail. Another rider rode back down to inform the race folks of my injury. Just about everyone stopped to ask if I was OK. I tried to tell Kevin I could push my bike back down the hill myself but he would have none of it. He insisted, so we walked down to the place where the trail split and we ran into the guy who went for help. I told Tony I could handle it from there because I could see some Blue Ridge School buildings just below from where I stood. I headed toward them and ran into Tony the race promoter. He took my bike and walked me down to meet Judy from the infirmary. Judy met us by the Church and gave me a field examination. I was able to shrug my shoulders and lift my arm and some other things pain free, all be it slowly. So off to the infirmary to get some ice and saran wrap. Don't ask. While Judy was wrapping me a boy (Brandon)~fourteen or so who had also hurt his shoulder came in and started talking to me. I think he was pretty impressed with my 53x11 kit. He was nice and had lived in Crofton, MD. Judy gave me four ibuprofen's and then drove me down to my car where my bike was sitting. I have to give a big shout out to everyone who helped me or tried to help or even gave a nice word. Thanks everyone!

So I had my first DNF due to injury. The jury is still out on what is wrong with my shoulder. I don't think anything is broken. At first I thought collar bone or something but I don't think so after my self-examination. Probably a strain or tear up there near the shoulder joint. I guess I'll have to visit the Doc tomorrow. Bummer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Cleaners & Degreasers

OK. I have some cleaners and degreasers in my basement but I don't know what brand they are and I do not use them. In fact, I am not really sure how or when I acquired them. For cleaning I use H20. I use the same natural ingredient for degreasing. Why? I don't know. Maybe I don't trust products of this nature. Maybe I feel a little "elbow grease" is all you need. Perhaps someone will enlighten me with their product review. Anyone in the market for a unused bottle of degreaser?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

O'Hill Meltdown

Today was the Observatory Hill Meltdown XC race down in Charlottesville, Va. This was to be race #2 of the 2009 VORS but turned out to be race #1 because Camp Hilbert was postponed last weekend until April 4th. Of course last weekend's weather happened to be seventy degrees and sunny both days but the trails would have been quite muddy due to the snow melt. Warm but muddy, I think I could handle that. Enter this weekend, with rain Friday night and then again Saturday (up to 1") forecast to continue into Sunday morning with temps in the Charlottesville area in the upper thirties. Now the O'Hill trail is on the campus of UVA. After the promoter stated that marginal weather would shift the race to the Tevendale Farm, Saturday night the announcement was made that the race was on. OK, but someone needs to define the term "marginal weather" for me.

Anyway, I drove almost three hours to get to the race but arrived on time and about an hour before the start. Another 63 racers pre-registered so there was going to be a pretty good showing. So the weather forecast holds true and it rains the entire race and the temps stay in the upper thirties. The trails were wet, muddy, slippery, etc. I think the conditions were as bad as Spring 2008 Twisted Tire with the exception that there were no trails turned into waterfalls. The laps were supposed to be about six miles long and the promoter told us at the start that they took out one flat section that was about a half-mile long because it was too muddy so the rest was either up or down. I did the sport race and it started on the road by the Slaughter Rec Center. We went up the hill towards the observatory and then cut off the road onto the trail just before the top. The trails were as advertised. It was very hilly. I think I would have liked it if it were dry. OK, my bike and I are not mudders. Our mother's weren't mudders. Our father's weren't mudders. We don't like the slop. Unfortunately for me, on one of the many leaf covered, rock strewn, muddy, white-knuckled descents on my first lap I had something happen to me that has never happened before. Oh, I've crashed many times, but not in this particular way. Like I said, I was picking my way down this descent when I saw a line where there were no leaves so I shifted my weight in that direction and then looked further ahead for the next line I wanted to hit when all of a sudden I realize that my hands are where the handlebars should be, my feet are where the pedals should be, my eyes are still looking down the hill for where I want to go next but my bike has decided to stop. So I hovered about six feet down the hill before my left foot, then knee finally hit ground causing me to tumble onto my left shoulder. Other than a small scrape on my knee I had no damage but the front wheel on my bike unfortunately get wedged or jammed into a hole or rock or limb and got bent. Every rotation of the wheel resulted in a loud clacking noise as the brake calipers slammed into the left fork. Of course, I continued the race and finished even though I took another header on a subsequent similar descent. The second lap was better in that I didn't crash at all and was able to ride some of the hills that I had walked on the first lap even though I was getting dizzy watching the front brakes go back and forth, back and forth. There was one place on the trail where there was about a four foot climb up what seemed to be a rock face with a tree on the left until you got close and saw it was a bunch of big rocks with spaces in between just about a bike tire width. On the first lap some guys in front of me had stopped and walked it so I just joined the parade. On the second lap I was by myself, or so I thought. As I approached this spot I was trying to decide the best way to ride up it when I heard a shout behind me. I bailed left and stopped by the tree and watched Jeremiah Bishop bunny hop up and over. I guess if I were a pro I could do that too.

I don't know where I finished in my race. I do know that I let a whole bunch of guys by me after my wheel was bent. It definitely slowed me down. Hopefully next week at Blue Ridge School won't be as bad weather-wise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

GamJams Reviews: The Wheels I Want - Mavic Kysriums et al

You may look at the title of this post and ask, "FD, didn't you tell us last week that you have Mavic Kysriums as your race wheels for your road bike." Can it be true? Could the wheels that I have be the wheels that I want? To avoid the long-winded answer I respond, yes. The wheels I have on my road bike are the wheels I want. That last sentence just sent me down memory lane by having a DEVO song ("Girl U Want" with Wheels substituted for Girl) running through, but alas, I am back to reality. I am totally happy with my Kysriums and I'm not spending four digits to remove one of my better excuses for why I get dropped in road races. Think about it. If I am in a race and I get dropped (which happens all the time) I can say, look what I'm riding. I'm racing on a Performance Forte with Mavic Kysriums. Wait a minute. I may have stumbled onto something here. Perhaps the former combined with any racing wheel would be an acceptable excuse. Whew!!! Caught myself straying from the company line there for a moment but I am back on track.

Now, on my TT bike I already have Zipp 303's (650's) and I am, honestly, quite happy with them. They are more wheel than I ever expected to have so there is no wheel bling envy with this bike at all. I even have a Synergy wheel as a backup rear wheel for this bike so I am set wheel-wise for this bike. Not even looking at anything else.

Ok, I have a confession. I have a documented case of wheel bling envy concerning my mountain bike. Twice I have had the Mavic Crossland MTB wheel set in my cart on Performance Bike only to remove it at checkout when I see how much they charge you for shipping. Yes, I know they are not that "bling-y" but I have a rule that I try to live by. It goes something like this. No component can cost more than you initially paid for the entire bike. So if I want to get some really nice wheels I must go out and buy a more expensive bike. ;-)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

GamJams Reviews: The Race Wheels I Have - Mavic Kysriums

I believe I have communicated to everyone that my bikes are almost completely blingless. Having said this, my road bike wheels are your standard Mavic Kysriums. I got them from Bill Browne within the last two years (they say the memory is the first thing to go) when he removed them from his new bike (I think he had some Zipp 404's- now those are bling!). The nice thing about my Kysriums is they are rock solid. They are heavier than any "bling" laden (read $$$) wheel so I feel comfortable riding them all the time. They have remained true for the entire time I have ridden them and I haven't had any issues at all.

My MTB has the wheels they sell at Performance for $19.99. I have been in the market for some nice wheels for racing for about a year but just can't get myself to make a decision or drop the coin. I believe for the $19.99 I spent the hubs are plastic, there are no bearings, the spokes are linguini and the rim recycled egg shells. Alright, I think they have the base Shimano hub, regular spokes, aluminum rims, and some kind of system that adds five pounds but they roll quite well for the cost . I really do want to upgrade and will at some point, hopefully soon. Yes, I will cringe as I ride over logs and other obstacles that could turn your wheel instantly into a taco but those are the risks one takes in MTB racing. I have my eyes on some Mavic wheels and since I have had such a good experience with their road wheels I will probably stick with them for my MTB race wheels.

My TT bike has Zipp 303's (650 mm). They came with the bike when I bought it used from an ex-teammate. They have too much bling for me. I can honestly say that riding on them is totally unfamiliar territory for me. I would be much more comfortable riding on wheels that you would see on the Flintstones. You know, the ones with a wooden axle and carved out of solid stone. I'll stick with the Zipp's for now. I will stick with them at least until I find some of those Flintstone wheels or some low cost wheels from Performance Bike. Although, some may consider the former and latter identical.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Saddles & Seat Posts

Before I start my review I have a couple of observations. Since they are mounted on a "seat post" shouldn't they simply be called bicycle seats. Or, perhaps since we call them "saddles" we should call the things they are mounted on saddle posts. Sorry, I digress. Maybe its because I have "bling" envy after seeing all the high dollar/high tech saddles and seat posts on everyone else's bikes. That's right! When it comes to bike components, I have very little bling. Alright, alright, I have no bling at all. That is why I had no review for handlebars a couple of weeks ago because I have the handlebars that came with my bike and I don't even know their brand. This applies to all my bikes. Yes, the road/racing bike, the TT bike, the MTB, and the beater/bike on the trainer. So, blingless as I am, I will share with you my saddle/seat post experiences.

Road Bike: My road bike is a Performance Forte. OK, go ahead and snicker. I will ignore you. I believe it has the standard Forte seat post that came with it. The saddle I rock is a Forte Pro. It is not the saddle that came with the bike (that saddle is on the beater/bike on the trainer bike). I actually liked the saddle that came with the bike but it got worn out so I replaced it with the Forte Pro which is tolerable. Let me put it this way, I've ridden on much worse saddles and my junk only falls asleep after a few hours.

TT Bike: My TT bike is a Kestrel 500SCI. I got it used from an ex-teammate. It is very nice! It came with a Bontrager 2014 seat post and a Fizik saddle but I am not sure of the model. It is two tone back/grey. I could not get comfortable on it on this bike in the aero position so I replaced it with the same saddle that Karen's Got Wheels uses on her tt bike, the Performance Forte T1 Tri Saddle. This one works great and is comfortable, especially down in the aero. I just hope I don't get Swanned on it.

MTB: My MTB is a GT Avalanche 3.0. This bike was voted the best entry-level mountain bike a couple years ago. Until last year it had mostly stock components. The only things original right now are the frame, stem, brakes, shifters and handlebars. The stock seat post failed about mid-2008. At least it failed slowly, not catastrophically. I noticed during a ride that the seat was too low and seemed too far back. So I adjusted it back to where it should be. During my next ride I noticed the same thing. So I got off and inspected the seat post and it was arched like the letter "C" toward the back wheel. I guess the metal reached it failure point and gave way and started bending back. I could feel it bend farther with every bump/log. So, I went to an LBS and picked up their standard seat post which happened to be a Bontrager. So far so good. The saddle that came with my MTB was a stock GT saddle. It was too wide, so wide, in fact, that my skinny ar.. sit bones would never adapt. Now don't laugh. I mean it. While at a K-Mart, (OK, OK, laugh all you want) I saw a Scwhinn MTB saddle that looked halfway decent and was inexpensive enough that I thought it was worth a try. Guess what. It worked. It was comfy and light and I rode/raced on it for a year before it broke. So I said, OK, I'll just go back to the Big K and get another. Sure enough they had them. I picked one out of the litter, put it on the bike, went for a ride and it broke. Lesson learned. So now I rock the Fizik unknown model saddle that came with my TT bike. It works but it probably is not the best saddle for the job. In fact, I might switch the Fizik saddle with the Forte Pro from my road bike and see if that works any better. Yes, I think this might be a win-win situation for both bikes. But for now I can only say that while saddles are not my forte, Forte's are my saddle of choice;-)

Beater/bike on the trainer: My beater bike is a Univega Sportour-S from 1985. It has its stock seat post and it looks rather neanderthal but it is functional. The saddle I already told you is the one that originally came with my road bike. Since this bike stays on the trainer (because it has no brakes which is perfect for the trainer but not so perfect for the road) I decided that it needed some extra padding. Back in the 80's when this bike had brakes and I rode it outside the saddle that came with it was so uncomfortable it had to be called the "cruel saddle." To make it more bearable I went out and bought a gel saddle pad. I still have the pad and use it to cover up the worn and torn parts of the saddle on this bike and provide that extra padding it, or shall I say my sit bones, need(s). Problem is that it is over twenty years old and the fabric covering the gel is beginning to bunch up and cause me problems from all my winter training. So now I've had to resort to using Balmex on my bottom like a baby. I'm walking around smelling like a freshly changed babies diaper, but I don't care as long as I get relief from my saddle sores. Thanks again Flamenco Chuckwagon! Or did he recommend A+D? Enjoy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Chamois Cream - Body Glide

Let me first say that Body Glide is not exactly chamois cream. It is, exactly an anti-blister & anti-chafing stick. That's right, its the Mennon Speed Stick for your nether region. You apply it just like deodorant to your saddle's points of contact in your perineal area. This is a plus if you do not like dealing with messy creams and what not. One draw back though, if you are hirsute in the nether area, your stick can get a little fuzzy if you know what I mean. The stick does not care but you might. I have been using this product for several years now and had minimal problems related to saddle sores. When I have had a minor "issue", one or two applications of Body Glide clear them right up. In fact, I used Body Glide the day I spent ten and a half hours in the saddle riding stage 10 of the 2004 Tour de France from Limoges to St. Flour (L'Etape du Tour) and had no "issues" at all. Body Glide, it works for me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I found some photos of me in the Snotcycle race from this past weekend. It is clear that the photog's believe that my backside is my better side since two of the three are of it. In fact, with this first one if you zoom in on the schnoz in the upper right you may see the source of the race name.

Did anyone mention that it was cold?

Perhaps the camera lens was damaged after the front on shot?

At least the kit looks good!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Race Report - Snotcycle 1/31/09 Leesburg, VA

The folks at Plum Grove Cyclery decided to hold a MTB race at one of their courses in late January. Here's the race description from

Come on out to Leesburg, VA for the first annual SNOTCYCLE Mountain Bike Race on January 31. This is a "weather be damned" rain, sleet, the nastier the better, race.

We will be using the same champion chip style timing as the Bakers Dozen, having a little schwag, and a good old fashioned "Fear this", "Piss on Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler", Screw the economy, rebel yell hella good time. I dont want to hear any of the following crap:
- My drivetrain will get damaged
- My spandex will get dirty
- I will slip in the mud
- My toes will get cold
- The bourbon in my water bottle tastes funny with cow crap in it

This will be your first opportunity to ride the 2009 Bakers Dozen Race Course, which is run in reverse from last year, with a few small reroutes thrown in.
Each lap is approximately 7.6 miles of rolling single track.

All races should be between last between 1:40 - 2:20. Pets are welcome, but will be required to be on leash.

Check in and packet pickup will be onsite from 6:00 - 8:00 on Friday, January 30 and 7:30am to 9:00am on Saturday, January 31. All racers MUST be checked in by 9:00am Saturday!!! Please have a valid picture ID ready when you check in. You do NOT need a NORBA/USA Cycling license or permit.

Guess what? They got what they wished for! After last week's snow and rain/ice and temp's below freezing most of the week the course was mostly ice with a little bit of frozen slush on top. There were a couple muddy sections that were frozen at first but slowly softened up over the course of the race. At most the top 0.33" melted and the rest remained frozen. Since this is a working cattle farm (at least they had cows), there was one short section where the cows must stand around in the shade near the watering trough or something because it was super rough and pitted and tough to ride over with any speed or control since it was also frozen.

Other than all the ice, there were very little technical parts to this trail. Right at the start of my race the men's Sport 40+ (or as the sign at registration read: Sport Geezers) I took the honor of being the first to fall after the race started. Another guy fell before the race started so his didn't count. There was a two by three foot strip of ice on the left side of the start line and even though I thought I was above it, my rear wheel slipped out and I stepped off before falling. I thought that put me in about last but there were more than thirty of us registered so I could have been in front of a few guys.

The first lap was the most difficult for me. I tried to ride hard to catch back up to the guys in front was having trouble staying upright. If you went off the center of the trail you really paid for it because even though the trail was icy, it was firm and you could roll on it fairly well. Off the center of the trail it was more crunchy and soft and it slowed you way down and ate a lot of your power. The problem starts when you hit a turn hard and fast and the ice makes you start to slide. If you try to brake to slow down you slide faster or smash down side/face first. So after about three wipe outs I realized if you use the front brake on the ice you are more likely to wipe than if you just use the rear brake. Of course the rear brake causes you to slide all over but at least you have a chance if you are somewhat upright. After a couple more wipe outs I decided I needed to back it off so that I might stop crashing. This was effective. I think I only crashed once on the last two laps. Verdict on ice racing - Ice bad!

I was looking forward to seeing my lap splits from the champion chip timing system (btw I think all races should use this or a similar system) but as I was finishing the first lap I realized I had forgotten to put on my transponder. Doh! Oh well, I did hit the start button on my bike computer so I would have elapsed time at the end. Anyway, after I backed off a bit I noticed the guys I had passed were starting to catch up to me. I guess that no pets thing without a leash was not enforced. I saw a cat riding a bike in my race and he didn't have a leash. Well, maybe he did have on a leash under the four or five layers of clothing. OK, the guy's name was Tom Waters and he is or rides for "El Gato Rojo". He was one of the guys I had passed who passed me near the end of the first lap. He stopped for a drink after completing the lap so I passed him there. BTW, a camelback was a good idea for this race. It was very difficult to get a drink using a water bottle while riding one handed on the ice. There wasn't anywhere on the course where you could ride one handed without the fear of crashing. Of course, I left my camelback in the car with my transponder so my choices were to stop to drink, risk crashing and drink while riding one handed, or don't drink at all. I chose the latter, initially. Back to the red cat, he passed me again late in the second lap and I again passed him just after the finish line while he was stopped drinking. So that gave me some incentive to push it a little in the first half of the third lap to make sure "El Gato Rojo" didn't catch me before the finish line. He didn't, so I had that going for me, which was nice (sorry, Caddyshack moment).

Actually, I felt really good the whole race other than when I was meeting the ice face first. I noticed my HR during the first lap was in the lower 150's. Then it was in the mid 140's during the second lap. Near the end of third lap my HR was in the upper 130's, my fitness level seems to be good.

At the end of the second lap I decided that I made a bad decision about the water and decided to take the risk to get a drink. I was on the fire road just after turning left after the finish line and I reached down, got my bottle, and stuck it in my mouth to pull the cap open. Got a little sip and then started going sideways left and right sliding all over the place on some ice. I heard a voice behind me sounding both familiar and somewhat disappointed. The experts had started about twenty minutes after we geezers and quite a few of them had already passed me. I knew that, my friend, Doug Pepelko had signed up to race so I was keeping a look out for him. Well, it was Doug who was berating me for sliding all over the entire fire road while trying to get a little drink. I said "Hi Doug" but he was probably more concerned with whether or not I was going to take him out and thinking "what an idiot" so I don't think he heard me. That or he didn't want to acknowledge that he knew me because there were a couple of guys on his wheel.

The bottom line for this report is no injuries or hard crashes. I finished it looks like 22 out of 34. I don't think I want to race on ice again but Mother Nature definitely controls that one. I didn't get any frost bite (a plus). I was happy with my fitness. I didn't have any issues with my back. Oh yeah, I had fun (most important). Check out the schwag from the race in the picture below. I think I may have to re-gift this one! Sue?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Winter Gloves - Performance Neoprene

The winter gloves that I prefer to wear are these:

They are Performance Neoprene gloves. They are less than 1/4" thick so they are nice and supple. They have leather on the palm so you get a nice grip (important for MTB). They are very warm, so warm that you will sweat when you wear them, but like a wetsuit, your hands still stay warm. I plan to put them to good use this weekend at SnotCycle. I checked the Performance website and it looks like they don't carry them anymore.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Handlebar Tape

Its funny what some folks will stick on their handlebars. I, myself, am guilty of using a little electrical tape or duct tape here and there to keep the original handlebar tape attached to the handlebars temporarily (read up to 5 years) when a tear, rip, or other failure occurs. The nicest handlebar tape I ever had was an ex-girlfriend who worked in a bike shop put on my first bike. I bought the bike, a Univega Sportour-S, from her bike shop, The Peddler in Long Branch, NJ, in 1985. She put a nice two-tone blue and white tape that lasted until a couple of years ago. I replaced it in 2004/5 with the blue Forte' Classic Cork Tape from Performance. At the same time I replaced the handlebar tape on my road bike with the black Forte' Classic Cork Tape from Performance. I must admit that I like the feel of the cork tape. It is soft and supple while also quite resistant to ripping and tearing. I like black because it shows the least amount of stains (read sweat) as compared to white, blue, green, red, etc. Plus, if your bars happen to be black or carbon, a little gap or tear will only be known by you. Also, the most readily available color of electrical tape is black. ;-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

GamJams Review: Hydration - Nuun Tabs

These active hydration tablets are worth a try if you are not sold on Accelerade, Gatorade or any of the other powders. I like the fact that you can't make a mess with the tablet. Just fill the bottle with H20, drop the tablet in and you're in business. I tried the cola flavor and it tasted great. It didn't take like Coke or Pepsi, rather more like a store brand cola. Not too sweet or sugary but with adequate electrolytes and just enough flavor to make me want to drink more. Plus, when the bottle's empty there is no residue like there is with some other products.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Best cycling gift - TYP

For those of you who do not know what that acronym TYP means, in this context it stands for "take your pick."

I received several cycling related gifts this holiday season. Most were replacements for items I had worn out and needed desperately. After smashing my helmet on the rocks at Twisted Tire Fall cup I desperately needed a new one. Santa delivered a Louis Garneau "Fast" MTB helmet which is very nice.


  • In-Mold construction with Ringlock technology combines tough-as-nails performance with impact resistance - perfect for when you’re cruisin’ at high speeds
  • 14 vents keep your head cool
  • Airdry Fusion pads wick away moisture for breathable comfort
  • Vx10 visor shields your eyes from the sun and trail debris
  • SpiderLock Elite retention system adds stability and adjusts on-the-fly with a single hand
  • V-Lock straps and Ergobuckle fastener for a custom fit

I also needed a new pair of MTB shoes since mine were causing me problems towards the end of the year. Santa delivered a new pair of Cannondale Carve MTB shoes which are nice too.


  • Carbon-black reinforced rubber outsole with improved stiffness provides durability and unbeatable traction on wet or dry surfaces
  • Deeply angled outsole lugs easily shed mud
  • Synthetic leather and mesh upper give you breathable protection for all your trail exploits
  • Tacked down tongue stays in place and won’t slip from side to side
  • Three Velcro straps provide a secure fit and accommodate a variety of foot widths

Thank you Santa!!!