Slow day

Winter months at the bike shop can be rather slow. Considering only the serious ones stick around to ride all year long, and depending on the weather, it starts getting slow around this time of year.

Today seemed particularly slow. I guess Charlotte was tucked away watching the Panthers take another victory. All while I got to put together bikes for the holidays coming up. But I’ve got to keep some excitement in my day right? Time waisted is time well spent.

enjoy a video of I have no idea what we’re doing. #trickz #kidsbikes

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Ridin in Greensboro

Found myself visiting a friend last weekend right near Greensboro North Carolina. “Heck, I’ll bring my bike and find somewhere to ride” I figured there should be somewhere to ride up there. Google gave me some suggestions, I took guess and hoped that Owl’s Roost would be a good trail. Sounded pretty cool anyways.

riding in greensboro (1 of 3)

I was actually rather impressed with how well the trail was maintained, flowed super nice and and kept me interested with a decent amount of trail diversity. The trail was built right next to a lake that peeked through the trees here and there and gave the terrain a nice sloping hill to work with. Never steep, the climbs were small and never hard. I felt the trail was very enjoyable, not challenging, but a great place to either have a chill ride or even crush it as fast as possible when you feel like a small workout. At a low mileage of 4.5, I really felt like this would be a great place to bring a first time mountain biker or even kids getting use to trail riding. However, as I was exiting the trail I saw this sign. And I was confused.

riding in greensboro (2 of 3)

 

Ummm. I would take a 3 year old with a strider on this trail, but okay. I guess you just gotta legally cover yer assets sometimes.

After that trail you can follow a greenway for about a mile and find another trail called Turkey Hill. A bit more challenging, this was an out and back trail that added on about 9 miles to my ride. Only thing I wasn’t fond of was the fact that it’s an out and back trail. Which means you encounter quite a few riders going the opposite direction as you. #firstworldproblems I so pose it’s not a big deal, but I could see quite a few areas where some unaware dudes could pile it into each other pretty hard.

If I find myself back near Owl’s Roost Ill be sure to take my bike. And despite what the sign says, it’s  great place to take a newcomer to the sport of mountain biking.

 

 

“invisible” helmet.

I would call myself a traditionalist. I love wearing my helmet and I don’t see a reason to not wear it. It shows at the very least that I’m being a somewhat responsible rider, and it will serve a purpose if I happen to bash my dandy ol’ skull to ground.

I feel naked without it. I do admit I don’t wear it 100 percent of the time. If I were to ride across the street to pick up some chick-fil-a or kick around the neighborhood for a few minutes I don’t bother to strap on that nifty little thing that might save my life. Terrible me, but I should. But i’ll tell you one thing, if I’m too lazy to slap a foam bucket on my head before I get a chicken sandwich, I’m sure as heck too lazy to zip up a bullet proof scarf that look like it might suffocate me in the summer heat.

I introduce to you the invisible bike helmet, called Hovding. You can learn about how it works here. But in synopses, the electronical sensor predicts when you are in a crash through a very complex set of algorithms, it inflates around your head incredibly fast and protects your noggin for a few seconds after inflation.

Dude, I hope you’re not going for a bike ride in that fancy attire. Moving on, you can clearly see how it inflates on the lovely lady.

In testing the helmet has shown to be almost 3 times safer than a traditional helmet, and even helps protect riders from injuring their neck. Pretty cool. Great design deserves great appreciation.

This is for the urban rider, those who don’t want to mess up their hair, or even the fashionable cruiser. Practicable, but really only to them. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself wearing one of these for a few reasons.

First off, $535 can buy me and ten others perfectly safe helmets. Not that 535 bucks isn’t worth my life, but every time I slip up in a puddle, jump a curb or even fall safely, Hovding will be there to instantly inflate 535 dollars down the drain. Like all helmets, after direct impact you should replace your helmet. It’s done its job and should be retired. Same with the invisible one, only you may or may not even bump your head in a crash. I guess time will tell with more user testing and real world riding, but my best guess is that Hovding will be inflating more than necessary in certain situations. Better safe than sorry?

Secondly, I don’t live in Soviate Russia where a scarf is necessary to my daily attire. I would think that Hovding’s neck garment would be more discomforting than any helmet I’ve ever owned. Especially when it’s 90 degrees out.

Finally, I love my helmet, and have never had a problem with any discomfort. And thankfully I like the way it looks on me. When riders complain about the discomfort from a helmet, they most likely need to be fitted on a different one. 100 percent of the time I forget that I’m even wearing one at all.

I really respect the designers of the Hovding a lot. Their ingenuity is incredible and I hope the Hovding saves many lives. But unfortunately I think it’s going to be awhile before I dump my trusty helmet for an invisible one.

 

 

 

 

Commuting is the best

I love riding to work. Man, it saves so much gas. I don’t have to plan how to get a ride in for the day, and I’m in a much better mood throughout my shift.

I give myself plenty of time, I just don’t want to feel rushed. If it takes me one hour to ride to work, then I’ll leave an hour and a half before work starts. The world slows down, I see and think about so much more pedaling 15 mph on my bike than I ever would in my car. The exercise can clear my head, and the physical activity stimulates my mind.

In a car, I feel rushed. “I need to get there now!” says every headlight riding my bumper. An anxious driver here, an angry driver there, all expecting to arrive at their destinations precisely when they want. I see so many people who probably just can’t manage their time schedule very well. When riding into work I traverse mainly through neighborhoods. I can ride on the road no problem, but those same drivers are out there being impatient as usual.

I go from the quite suburbs of MintHill, to the somewhat ghetto hoods behind the deserted Eastland Mall. Continuing up into the lovely little streets like in Plaza Midwood, where every 8 foot patch of lawn is so perfect and manicured, right back into some sketchy neighborhoods in Noda. It’s a small adventure that I can really enjoy, even if it’s the same route each time. The different territories of Charlotte are becoming so familiar with me each time I pass through them. I feel like I understand the changing landscape of the land so much better when I have to pedal up that hill, or get to chill on the flat roads.

If I could, I would do this every day. But there are limitations in life that just suck sometimes. My days are rushed. Off to class at 7am, then to work, then home by 9pm. Those days just wouldn’t work on a bike. But that’s okay, I can accept that it won’t always be possible. But the days I do get to ride, are what probably keep me sane.

 

 

 

Enduro Waffles.

I started my morning with the hasty decision to wear my bright pink shorts. It was going to be long day of racing, and I didn’t feel like fitting into my typical racy-boy stereotype. The Backyard Experience, put on by Faster Mustache, was an all day stage race in Charlotte’s confusing and strenuous Backyard Trails. If you know anything about the races put on by Faster Mustache, then you should be prepared to have some fun.

Unlike any typical, ‘sanctioned’ race, with lots of regulations and more accurately timed results, the Backyard Experience was basically the definition of no rules, bandit style mountain biking. I had heard the day before the race, that spectators would be encouraged to throw waffles at racers who were taking it too seriously. So in the spirit of the atmosphere I decided not too look like I was taking it seriously. Hence the pink shorts. 

There was a planned 5 stages of the race. Each stage is a mini race, about 2-5 miles in the woods. They were all kept secret until the start.

Stage 1. Started at a school near the trail, it was a mass start for all the riders so we had a good amount of road to spread out in the sprint before we hit the trail head. We were all told that the trail was clearly marked for which way to go, and there were volunteers who would be standing at major intersections of the trail. Well, apparently there was a pretty heavy screw up. The volunteer didn’t make it down there until after the first group of guys, including myself, blew by the first turn. Oh well.

We got to do about an extra 3 miles on that stage… And it seemed that others got off course too. It wasn’t the best way to start off a long day of racing, and I felt bad for my friends at FM who were putting this event on. Folks started yellin and cussin and in the heat of the moment I think a few people just left. But that’s alright, the very confusing trail just naturally helped filter out those taking their placement a bit too seriously.

It was decided that stage one would be scratched. We’ll call that a warm up stage. *rolleyes

Everyone cooled down, and then came stage 2. Stage 2 had a lot less wondering mountain bikers, FM picked up their game and did a much better job with direction. *applause

About half way through, I discovered the waffle throwers.

Messy stuff. I ended up eating one on the ride.

Turns out doing awesome stuff earns you more points in the race. I got a few skills to pay the bills cards (extra points) for huckin’ some of the jumps and eating waffles n’ things.

I got second this stage, Won the next, third for the forth, and second on the last two. (we re-did stage one at the end) So I found myself up near the top in the scoring. Not sure where, but I figured I’d at least podium. That was still to be determined after all the placements were tallied up and announced at the after party.

First place trophy was sweet.

Thanks to the first place womens finisher, Bonnie, I did learn how to correctly open a champagne bottle!

Was there waffle in this picture, I don’t see any waffles.

 

Killer race, I went to bed at 7 that night. Unusually tired, maybe I took it more seriously than I looked.

For the Newbie

Lies about spandex:

People always seem against it at first, but it will soon become your very best friend as a cyclist!

It makes you look weird.

“I would feel too exposed” or “it makes me look like a queer” are common justifications I’ve heard from many guys in transition from short to spandex.  Now there’s nothing saying spandex is a “requirement”, but I would argue that the benefits of wearing a kit (shorts and jersey) are greater than anything else, and that’s why you don’t see a professional roadie outfitted in athletic shorts and a tang-top.

Most guys wearing a kit for the first time just feel out of place. You feel like everyone notices you, but in truth, you blend into the cycling community even more. Your identity will change from guy riding bike, to cyclist. In the long run, the choice to get over the funny look, and outfit yourself in spandex will become obvious. After a few rides, I promise, you won’t want to ride your bike without your new kit.

It’s all about aerodynamics.

Meh, you would think that’s solely why we wear the spandex. There’s no doubt that tighter clothing will reduce air drag, it’s science. But the minimal increase of aerodynamics isn’t really the main purpose. When I’m out mountain biking in the woods, maybe pushing an average speed of 13mph, wearing a full kit isn’t going to change my speed compared to riding in baggy shorts and a loose jersey. But I choose to wear the kit because it fits the activity better.

The best and biggest strength of a kit is the lowers. Also known as the shorts, bibs, or sometimes called diapers. These are literally the best, and heres why, besides Aerodynamics.

Reason 1: Having a tight fit will allow my legs to move around as much as I want, without fabric catching on the nose of my saddle. Legs move quick, a lot of friction is made, and this reduces chafing by about 90 percent. (That’s probably not accurate, but 60 percent of estimates are made out of thin air)

Reason 2: The Shorts are made with a soft, small amount of cushion on the butt and groin. That’s gotta be self explanatory.

Reason 3: They act as a compression sock, aiding a little bit in blood flow and muscle vibration.

Reason 4: When you get all sweaty it doesn’t bother you. It’s so tight against you already you don’t notice it and you won’t have that gross, sticky fabric flapping around.

Another Reason, They make one’s quads a little more apparent. Important for one’s ego!

Only pros wear that stuff.

Sure, Well then why not look like a pro? Dress for the job you want to have, not the one you may have now.

 

Race recap

My weekend was a blast! The first cross race of the NCCX series was held at Veterans Park Saturday and my anticipation for this race was at maximum overcharge! Since cross racing’s popularity is at a supreme high right now, there was more than a great turnout. Almost twice as many people showed up compared to last Januaries race.

I decided to get my monies worth Saturday and do two races. First was the single speeds race in the morning, and the next was my actual racing class, Cat4.

To give you a run down, cycling categories, abbreviated as “Cat”, are typically set 1-5. Cat1 is the pro level racing category and Cat5 is for beginner racers. (Note: beginner Racers, not beginner Riders) I would suggest you should be somewhat quick on your bike before you try to race at all. Beginner riders could get hurt easier, and cause issues with those just getting familiar with racing.

So I am only allowed to race Cat4, or higher. However, the single speeds race is a mixed category. Anyone can participate in the race, and lucky me, sometimes Cat1 guys like to warm up for their race in the single speeds. Yippie! (I express this to pardon my unacceptable placement). Starting off the line, I held second place for about 300 yards, and that’s about the best I did all day. I blew myself up at the start, and it was all downhill from there. Considering I’ve been off the saddle for a few weeks, allowing my hip pains to recover, I’m a little out of my typical racer boy shape. The cold morning air I was sucking down at massive heaving volumes wasn’t exactly acquainted with my summer acclimatised lungs. You could say that cold air hurts, but it really, it just feels like a giant ice-sickle penetrating your throat.

My legs felt pretty good for the first lap. The second lap was of course harder, more people were passing me now. But my third was ever so demanding, and unusually grueling.  I was a little humiliated at how bad I was doing by this point. My buds were shouting the most sharp and insulting things they could think of to get me to kick it into gear and race a little harder. But for some reason I just couldn’t get it together. This course slayed me so hard and left me dead in the water, but I knew more than anything I needed to just finish my fourth, and final lap. Coming around the straight away I prepared for the sharp incline that bolted up to the left. I had just enough momentum to place me at the top, but once there my bike completely stopped. I couldn’t push it at all. MY REAR BRAKE WAS LOCKED UP.

As it turns out, the brake levers I installed the night beforehand were not completely tightened. While riding on the very bumpy fields during race, it slowly and deceitfully worked it’s way down the bar and gradually tightened the brake cable. Enough to where eventually it just locked up my wheel. My fault. -__-

I was able to quickly solve the issue my punching the lever back into place. While I was doing so a very sweet (maybe 13 year old) girl noticed the situation and offered me her bike if I needed to finish the race. I just about fell dead from gratitude, of which I could barely express at my current frenzy and incredibly high heart rate, but I was very appreciative of the offer. But the bike wasn’t single speed and I would be disqualified.

No joke, I got back on and felt great, finished the last lap out strong and didn’t have any problems. Ended up two from last place. I’ll have to see how I do next race without the silly mistake. So I was reminded of two things. Don’t ride with loose levers, and I am apparently the same size as a 13 year old.

Lots more happened that day, but I’ll save that for later! For now, check out some photos of the other races that day.

Cyclocross season is upon us

I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it, but hope that you have. The sport of cyclocross racing came over from Europe a decade or so ago, and has just started to get very popular in the US.

Summer is officially over, the weather gets colder by the day, and muggy weather is on it’s merry way. Road bikers put up their race machines up awhile ago, and mountain bikers are now training on the road for their off season. Cyclocross purely envelops the terrible weather of fall/winter and provides a gathering for a mix of riders to continue their race bred enthusiasm in the lull of winter.

Usually the courses are set up in parks, wide open areas with a variety of landscape to utilize. Apart from any other cycling sport, cyclocross will require you to get off the bike and get over obstacles, ride through deep sand pits, and hopefully run up a flight of stairs or incredibly steep hills.

The visibility of the race course also makes it very spectator friendly. If you like to watch people fight for the win, race so hard they puke their lungs up, choke on the mud from their competitors rear wheel, and quite possibly pile it into a barrier. You would like it very much. Some people are die hard racers, who won’t let a distraction get in their way, others, like to party on the track. Often you will see racers dress in funny costumes, drinking beer, and taking handups from the crowd. All of which can get you disqualified, but doesn’t matter to your typical cross racer with a bandit attitude.

“Reason 5,252 of why cyclocross is not just a great sport competition-wise…but its also just plain fun.” – Teamstampeedcycling.tumblr

This Saturday is the first of the North Carolina Cyclocross series. I couldn’t be more stoked! I have the suspicion that there’s gonna be way more people racing than last year, and the first one is so close to home I know most my friends will be there to heckle the racers. If you have nothing better to do on Saturday, come out to the first of NCCX and watch me suck.

Event Flyer. (<- terrible design)

Friday is for huckin’

Huckin’. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s used a lot in bike-bro language to describe a jump, executed without lameness, and usually with gnarly style. This is a damn good huck (IN FLIP FLOPS)

I don’t own a huckin’ bike. My bikes are mostly for racing, road riding, endurance, ect. But Friday I got to demo one of my favorite companies mountain bikes. The Niner RIP 9 RDO, msrp $7399, full carbon race day optimized, 5 in travel, XX1 and ready to shred. To spell that out for my unfamiliar readers, it’s one expensive ass bike.

I wasn’t completely confidant in huckin’ a 7 thousand dollar pice of plastic in the woods, but my bud Jake reminded me it’s a frickin demo bike, these things get trashed by unskilled customers everyday. I couldn’t hurt it.

I got as gnarly as my non-huckin’ self could and stopped to take a pic once. Well, a vid really, but the still is better.

photo-1

Okay, so it’s a lame huck. But keep in mind I don’t huck regularly. My little racer boy self needs to get out more. I was probably a little too hyped on huckin stuff.

So that night I hucked off a roof.

As well as two of my friends. One of their hucks wasn’t exactly successful… If you squint hard enough you can see it. He didn’t pull up. He broke his hand. Huck hard or go home.

Video I couldn’t seem to embed 

Bro of the week

Meet Oliver, this dude showed up right as I was opening work last Thursday evening.  (Weird hours at the used bikeshop) Oliver had just come from the airport after a long flight from Germany to Charlotte. I was little confused at first because what he had with him was very minimal. Two Panniers, a small stuffsack, and a rear bike rack. He explained he needed a bike he could ride to New York with. He also seemed to be in a little bit of a hurry.

I was like wait a second, you flew all the way here expecting to find a bike and straight hop on and start your ride to New York?? I could tell this dude wasn’t planning on waisting anytime. I showed him our bikes, only had two road bikes his size and he was lucky the rack fit on the one he picked.

In under thirty minutes we got him all set to go. Pitched in a water bottle and extra tube for the road. Showed him a map, and the best route out into the country. He was off in no time, I still remember his parting goodbye in his heavy german accent. “ZANK YOU FERY MUCH, PAUL! BYEBYE!”

Oliver

While setting up his bags I tried to get as much out of him as possible without sounding nosey. Turns out he bought an RV in New York over the internet and decided before he drove around the US in it he could do a little touring by bike. His free spirit and completely free flowing personality was inspiring. I don’t know if I could just wake up one day and decide to do something so crazy without planning ahead.  I would want turn by turn directions and a list of places to spend the night before I would consider riding that far. But Oliver is a true badass, and his ambition to just do something that physically demanding and unfamiliar is stirring. Way to go, Oliver. I have nothing but respect for you, dig deep bro.