Wednesday, November 25, 2009


ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law..

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rockburn Cross

While my second cross race wasn't as good (from a results perspective) as the first one, it was still a great day and a ton of fun.

Pre-occupied the day before with my new Spot frame, I didn't anguish over pre-race preparation.  After a morning filled with paperwork, I spent the rest of the day building up the new frame and playing with the belt drive.  The cross bike really didn't need any attention.  Hell, it's a single speed, short of some oil on the chain, she was ready to go for the race Sunday morning.  Now, if I were a more serious cross racer, I would have had my spare wheelset set up with different tires, just in case.  Well, not being "that" serious (and not owning a spare set of wheels), I thought the SB8's would be fine and I'd rail through the turns, just like I did at Roseryville.  Rockburn, however, is a slightly different animal.

A very tight, punchy course with soft off-chamber turns and a couple muddy sections to deal with.  The Small Blocks were not a good choice for this course and they hurt my ability to push through the turns and attack the hills.  I found myself taking turns wide or losing control all together.  One particular section was a sharp, muddy right turn followed by a short climb. This section killed me every lap.  I'd come around the turn wide and would spin the rear wheel as I tried to grunt my way up the short hill. By the last lap I realized it was faster to simply run up the section than waste precious energy trying to ride it.

I am, however, getting ahead of myself.  The morning started out great and the weather forecast looked incredible.  Sunny with a high temp around 60.  Barb and the kids didn't get motivated early enough and decided to meet me at the venue before my race at 10.  Jonathan was going to race the Lil Belgium's race at 1 and was really looking forward to his first bike race.  To think it was only a couple months ago when he required help riding his two wheeler. Now, he's entering his first race.  Makes a daddy proud.  So, I roll out solo, get lost when I got near the park and finally made it to the park by following a car loaded with cross bikes.  In the small lot I see Seibold, Gwads and Carlo.  Jonathan bums a tube off me and Carlo continues to have seatpost issues.  I kit up and head down to the registration tent, wherever that may be. A serious lack of signage didn't help the rookie racers like myself.  After crossing a maze of taped off lanes, Carlo and I finally make it to registration. Number in hand and waivers signed we head back up to grab the bikes for a little spin. I dumped a little tire pressure when I saw some of the muddy tires coming off the course.  I also get a chance to walk around and see a few of the sections I'll be racing on in a little while.  This course was very different from the Tacchino course.  Less open running, tighter corners, off-chamber sweeping turns and a little mud thrown in for good measure.  Boy, I wish I had those Conti Twisters hanging in my garage right about now.  As a wise man once said, "run what ya brung", so, that was the motto for the day.  I'd make the best of the situation and in the end it really doesn't matter, I was going to have a good time.

Cross is a little different from mountain bike races in that they line you up in the order you registered.  The "early bird gets the worm" as it were.  I registered late, 69th to be exact, so, that put me pretty far back at the starting line.  I was gonna have to work damn hard to move up through this field, on this course.  From the start we have a couple hundred yards of asphalt with a slight climb to weed out the field.  I punched it hard on this section and cleared through a good portion of the early registers.  The tires weren't going to do me any favors, so, I had to ride smart and not push them too hard in the turns.  A small pile-up in the sand pit, I ran around the bodies and twisted metal to get clear of some more riders. Just prior to this I caught up to the In The Crosshairs guy and followed him around this twisty section, through the sand pit and into the wooded double track. On a slight left turn I go for the inside line and he promptly shuts me down with a nice elbow/shoulder lean towards a tree. I didn't realize this was NASCAR, but hey, I'm new at this stuff. Hindsight being 20/20 it was a smart move. If I had botched the pass, I would have taken us both down.  It reminds me of my old BMX days where we'd scrap around the entire course, banging shoulders through every turn.  Something you don't see at the MTB races, at least not the long ones I enjoy.  No worries, I found a good hole a little later and continued to munch on new carrots when possible. I did make the video this week, watch for the prison stripes around the 2 minute mark and for a couple minutes after that.  Video credits go to Bill @ Check out his site, lots of great pics, videos and interviews from the local Cross scene.

As I slide around a few of the turns I'd traded positions with a few guys and kept the tempo as high as possible. The short steep climbs were doable on the bike, but, slow and energy sapping. With this in mind, I'd run-up a few of them and usually made up a place or two in the process.  Now, with one lap down I knew the course and how to ride it. Each lap was about pushing my comfort level and riding smart.  By lap 3 the muddy corners were becoming downright nasty with more guys opting to attack off the bike.  This strategy was working for me and I should have employed it in a few more places.  The off-chamber corners were also becoming rutted and slick. You couldn't attack them at the same speed without losing traction or control. It was by this lap I was cursing the tires that could do no wrong just two weeks ago.

3 down with one to go, ride smart, keep up the intensity as much as possible. A couple guys catch me early in the lap and I have a couple carrots to munch on for the next 10 minutes.  Not much action going on behind me. There is a small pack about 20 seconds back, but, I'm not letting up and pushing hard when I can.  Some mud packs up my cleats and makes getting clipped in difficult.  Frantic about losing time, I slam my feet into the pedals and get me feet set. The turns were getting lose now and the tape had been torn away in several turns.  I'm sure other guys are having similar issues with traction. Coming through the barriers one last time and the big push towards the finish.  The front wheel started to break free and I reel it in before completely washing out on a sweeping right turn.  Only a few more turns left before the final sprint and the finish line. Nearing the tennis courts, I've caught my carrots and I'm on their wheels. The next couple turns are tight with little room to pass, but, I catch one on the steep climb and another on the final stretch of asphalt. We go down to the wire and I'm not sure who placed where.  In the end it doesn't matter I guess.  The race leaders were already done for the day and we were battling for the low 20's.  I ended up with 21st out of 88. Not as good as the 18th I got a couple weeks ago, but, I learned a few more things and will employ them at my next race.

Spot v2.0

Saturday morning, sitting in the kitchen giving the Big Dog all my bank information.  We're setting up college mutual funds, life insurance policy (for me) and some other "adult" type stuff.  He brought he boys over while Michelle was off riding Schaeffer with Mrs. Outlaw and a host of ladies.  As the kids destroy the house, Darius and I attend to our serious work when the doorbell rings.  The FedEx guy has a big box, a frame sized box in hand, with a discrete Spot Brand sticker next to the shipping label.

All thoughts of serious business get pushed aside and I'm like a kid on Christmas morning.  Tearing into the corrugated box like it was the seasons "must have" toy.  Christmas came a month early to my house in the form of a shiny new frame from the boys in Golden Colorado. In all honesty, this wasn't a complete surprise. Gavin from Spot called last week to inform me the frame was done and ready for shipping.  He then asked if I ran a chain or belt drive on my old frame. An odd question seeing that they had my old frame and it clearly did not have the split dropout required to run the Gates belt drive system.  "Uh, chain" was my reply and he asked if I was interested in going to a belt. You see, Spot has changed all their dropouts to a Paragon Slider style with a split in the seat-stay.  They have done away with the simple horizontal drops in favor of the more versatile Paragon sliders.  Needless to say, I was very excited about the "upgrade".

One thing about my old Spot that always bothered me were the tabs for the disk brakes.  Seems they were a bit behind the competition when it came to the design and engineering of these tabs.  The old design was a throwback from original disk tabs where you had to remove the brake caliper in order to remove the rear wheel.  Rather shoddy design for a "premiere" builder if you ask me.  I was able to work around this design with the liberal use of washers to shim up the caliper, however, that came at the price of pad contact.  I never had 100% pad contact with the rotor, although I never had a problem with rear braking power.

The new drop-outs, however, are Spot on perfect (pardon the pun).  It's hard to beat Paragon drops for ease of adjustment and clean looks.  With a split in the seat-stay, my new bike is ready for the Gates Carbon Drive belt system.  Gavin offered me a special price for the Gates system and I jumped at the chance to try something new.  Even at the reduced price, it ain't cheap going to a belt drive and I hope this stuff holds up for a while.  I will say the machine work on the cog and chain-ring is exceptional. The same level of quality can be seen in the Spot Brand spacers and cog flange.  The Gates Carbon Drive belt, well, that remains to be seen.  If a belt is strong enough to push a Harley around, they must be robust enough for my weak-sauce self.

So, we drooled over the frame for a bit, finished up the paper work and headed over to pick up Michelle.  In the parking lot the ladies had just finished their ride and offered us cider, hot chocolate and cookies.  I'm sitting their chatting everyone up, trying to be social, while all I can think about is the Ernie orange Spot frame waiting to be built up.  After a nice lunch at Red Robin (thanks Darius), I rushed back to the house and began to strip down the Vassago.  This frame, acquired from DKEG who got it from the Outlaw, who got it from Vassago as the second replacement to a frame they sent him for review, has been a great bike while I waited to hear from Spot.  I thought its days were numbered when I slammed into a tree a month ago, but, the frame has held together and will be regulated to "spare bike" status as I get reacquainted with the new bike.

It was almost a shame to install my old weathered parts on this pristine frame. The orange powder-coat blazing like the early morning sun. I'd like to say I did my best to clean the old parts before hanging them on the new frame, but, who am I kidding?  I just wanted it in one piece so I could take her for a spin.  Without instructions, installing the belt system required a little bit of trial and error.  The usual BB spacing is different and the front chain-ring needs to be installed in the outside (big ring) position.  The rear cog also needs to be run at the outer-most position on the freehub.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue, however, my normal chain whip doesn't work with a belt drive cog and an emergency visit to Lowes for a strap wrench delayed the build by 45 minutes or so.  After all the details got hammered out I had the Carbon Drive system installed and turning.  Smooth as butter, quiet as a ninja and totally clean.  I can't wait to get this bike on the trails.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Todd on Capitol Hill

Todd on Capitol Hill
Todd on Capitol Hill,
originally uploaded by dkeg.

DKEG just posted a picture that may very well be the last ride on my Spot 29er. Taken April 23rd of this year.

Thanks David!

I'm supposed to be getting a new frame from the boys in Golden Colorado. We'll see, it's already a few weeks overdue.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tacchino Ciclocross

As if I needed another obsession........

The Tacchino Ciclocross race changed venues for 2009 and was held at Roseryville State Park.  Wanting to do a "traditional" cross race, I thought "the rose" would be a good place to start. 40 minutes of racing isn't a lot of time and I could get a nice ride in after the race.....was my thought.  So, I loaded up the car with two bikes, a cooler of beer and a shitload of clothes.  The temperature for Sunday was supposed to be nice and warm, but, I didn't know how it was going to be at 10am, the start time for the Masters 3/4 race.  Rolling up to the registration table I knew it was going to be a scorcher (for November) and I elected to go with the summer kit.  An injured Cat4 racer and subsequent medivac delayed our start and the short sleeves were welcome as we baked in the sun waiting for the start.  Jonathan and Joel both received "call ups" and I lined up somewhere in the middle.

From the gun I hit it hard and gained a couple spots on the asphalt.  On the grass I continued to push and passed people when possible and safe(ish).  A rider went down in front of me and I was able to miss the pile-up by bending the tape a little.  A few more guys out of my way and I was having a blast! Most of the first lap was devoted to getting into position and finding my place in the field. By the second lap I was in with a good group of guys that held a solid pace. We were not going to podium, but, the race within the race was forming.

With each lap I became more comfortable with the course and how to race it.  The gear I was running worked perfectly for the steep climb and didn't hinder too much when the course opened up. The organizers threw in enough tight turns to keep the speed in check and that worked in my favor.  The small blocks held the line nicely and I'm becoming more confident in their abilities.  The guys I'm racing have bigger engines, but, I can close the gap when things get tight. They are taking turns wider and slower and I was able to capitalize on this in a couple spots.  The climb was another place where I made up a few places.  While everyone else shifted down, I had to grunt my way up the climb, taking a few spots with each lap.

Going into my 5th lap my throat was dry and a quick splash of water would have been nice.  This is cross, however, and part of the race (I guess) is seeing who can last on what was in the tank from the start. That thick paste forming in my mouth wouldn't see any fluid until the end. With no one behind me and a small pack 10 seconds in front, I save myself a little for lap 6.   Up the gradual hill and past the pavilion I kick it into high for the final lap.  There is a lot of traffic on the road section and I yell up that a racer is on. They look at me with disdain and bewilderment as I fly up the road for my final lap.  Unfortunately, I had just completed the final lap.  The race directors cut our race to 35 minutes due to the time delay from the medivac.  My race was over and I shouldn't have saved anything on that last lap.  You live and you learn I guess.  18th out of 75 for my first Cross race, I'll take that.  40 minutes (well, 35) of hypoxia induced hysteria and I'm hooked.

The In The Crosshairs guy caught the first two laps of our race on video.  Now running two cameras, you can see the action from both ends of the bike. Pretty cool stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't pass him until lap 3, so, I didn't make the video...this time. ;)

Monday, November 2, 2009


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.