Monday, April 29, 2013

2013 SSPalooza

Before you get to read my long story of this past weekend's 5th annual Singlespeed-A-Palooza you should all take a few minutes and thank everyone who put in their time to make this event what it is today. Without Darkhorse George, Mike Rave and all the volunteers this event would not have grown to what is has become in the past five short years. It is here to serve all of us bicyclists and racers. The catch is we do it on singlespeed bicycles. So, yes, if you find yourself in the Newburgh NY area stop by Darkhorse Cycles and say hi and thank them!

Not many events get me excited now-a-days. Partially because my time is limited and partially because I have lost interest in racing. That leaves what races I do attend being events that are special in some form or another. The Ronde is just plain fun no matter how you look at it. A bunch of goofy singlespeeders terrorizing 'cross riders? Yes please. Singlespeed-A-Palooza and the [former] Darkhorse 40? Those are also fun yet extremely challenging events. The fun overcomes the pain you feel whilst out on course. Why? They know how to put on a fun event. The Wilderness 101? That was my first 100miler I ever did and, well it seems that this year our Ronde 'band' is getting back together and we're all going to the 101. Might as well throw my hat back in the ring to ride ALL DAY LONG (as Ramponi would say).


So, yes, here we go. This year's SSPalooza through my eyes. Earlier this year my intentions were to ride out to Stewart NY like I did last year. While I know that this year is my 'transition year' due to injuries and all, my mind still feels like I can do things like I did last year. I took a stab at riding to the Ronde. That was a challenge yet worked better than anticipated. Shortly after that I had a heart attack (it was actually a pulled muscle in my chest). That all drove me to deciding to catch a car ride to NY this year.

Recovering from the pulled muscle in my chest I also revisited my full suspension singlespeed project. This was a project I started before I injuried myself yet have not really spoken about.
Just last week I figured out how to stop the chain from popping and have acquired a set of TeamDicky pink I9 wheels. Looks like SSPalooza will be done on a full suspension singlespeed this year. To add more to the fun factor.

Maggs picked me up Saturday morning and we high-tailed it to NY. The plan was to do a full lap of the course and then hang out and drink beer. 'Wildman Willy' was a few hours behind us. So was Mandy. George was in spirit. Maggs's friend Donny from PA joined us and we got down to business and went for a ride. With my chest feeling better I felt comfortable enough to ride hard on Sunday. My legs told me otherwise as I began turning that 36x17 up Ridge Road. Throughout the ride I also found a slice in the sidwall of my tire so I either had to buy a new tire or repair this one before the race.
Guess that's one good reason to pre-ride the course. The other is I wanted to get some time on the bike. I have found in recent years that my body does better if I get some time on the bike before an event.

While out there Darkhorse George asked me to take a look at his course markings and let him know areas that need improvement.
Supposedly this turn needed work.
So did my chain tensioning device.
Oh, wait. Horses!
Yeah. Watch out for horses when riding. They like it if you get off the bike and don't spook them.
Donny is working on some Horse's Ass joke.

After the ride I upgraded to a 36x18 and also threw some more Stan's in my rear tire. I then volunteered to go back out and help add more markings to the course. Armed with a local that knew the trails inside and out as well as a huge roll of blue Shimano course tape, we were off to go fix three locations I spotted. Mainly fireroad spinning with some short trail sections to ride over to the areas that needed work. The new gear felt much better. Somehow the tire was holding air so I figured we're all good. Somewhere around 35 miles ridden for the day.

All that blue tape you saw out there,
(photo: Darkhorse George)
that Darkhorse George had to remove the day after the race? You can blame me. The good news is you could not make a wrong turn.

By this time I got an email from 'Wildman Willy' stating he's bringing T-Hom ParSSons with him. Mandy also emailed me saying she was able to grab some Heady Topper from the cannery in Waterbury VT before leaving town. Oh boy, now we are going to have a party!

We surprised Darkhorse George with his own 4-pack of Heady Topper in hopes to make his day. Ginger also arrived (and brought a tire for me but I declined to swap tires for some stupid reason). We also then went to get kicked out of Applebees. We pretty much did for as we were paying for our food the fire alarm went off.

Comfort Inn for sleeping. Yeah, no hammock in 32F weather this year.

The next morning was race day. Trying to get moving.

I heard a quote today that seems very fitting to my experience at SSPalooza.

"You will know within the first five minutes how things will pan out."

or something along those lines. The start was fast and the road was very dusty. I got out up with the front guys sitting right on 'Wildman Willy's rear wheel. The first pitch on Ridge Road I immediately knew what kind of day I was having....

I started moving backwards and my legs had no gas. I settled into whatever pace I could sustain on this incline. As soon as things leveled out I was able to crank the pedals up to a high cadence and start picking people off again. Next incline? Slid back to some slow pace. Decline to the intersection of Weed Road. Right turn down Weed Road and then a quick right onto Major Mike. Passed more people.

Major Mike? The first trail segment maybe 5 miles into the 24 mile race. First turn the bike felt very wishy washy. Rear tire was low on air.
Popped 1/2 a CO2 into the wheel and it was pissing air out the slice in the sidewall that was giving me troubles on the pre-ride. Lesson learned here is never do a race on used tires again. Always use new tires. It'll make the race cost more but I will have that piece and mind knowing my tires are not suspect unless I ride over a rock stupidly.

I pulled over again and watched the entire Open Pro field (mens & womens) and most of the Sport field pass me as I took my time putting a tube into the rear wheel. Now the plan was slow down and have fun and enjoy the full suspension singlespeed. My intentions all along but my start was quicker than I wanted and I fell into the trap of riding faster than I wanted.

Sometime later I was back on the bike and now sitting on people's wheels with my brakes locked up because I wanted to ride the trails faster than the people I was surrounded with. For the next few miles I could do nothing but ride my brakes, rub tires and not pass anyone as the trail was so narrow. I did manage to find one or two locations to pass people. Mainly down trees that the trail went around and I went straight and bunny hopped the trees. That only gained me one or two places.

Now things were not fun for me. I was being forced to ride slower than I wanted as I was the caboose of a 20+ people conga line through the woods. Not even worth it to try and pass anyone and piss anyone off so I just had to grit my teeth and wait until we got back out onto Weed Road.  Pass 20-30 more people on Weed Road and then get stuck behind the next conga line on this sweet tight trail segment that brought us back to Weed Road.

Back onto Weed Road and up the climb to the top of the Orchard / bottom of Major Mike. Passed a few more people and now I was in a place where I had some distance so I wasn't riding on someone's wheel and could enjoy the trail. Now things got fun again.

I found myself able to spin a high cadence with little difficulty on the flats but the steep climbs in the beginning I had nothing on. Guess this is a by-product of my recovery and winter training. I spent the winter doing some strength and agility work for my ankle and then did 250m sprints on rollers as my LBS. I still need to work on high intensity stuff like accelerations and what-not. In time.

After coming around the beaver pond I stopped for some beer and water. Realized I was 2 gels in and half a bottle of water. It was an interesting observation but nothing I took action on.
Photo by GTLuke. Go check out his photos and purchase them. He does great work at these races and we should be stoked to see him out there.
'Wildman Willy', winner of last year's DH40 SS class, on his way to a 5th place finish.

I was feeling good. Riding hard (as I was on the chase the entire race) but at a point where I was able to sustain a constant pace and still have some fun rallying the trails. I got to the point on singletrack where I gave up passing people and just rode. This bothered some as I was sitting on their wheel but I didn't care. I was enjoying the ride.
Photo also by GTLuke.
T-Hom ParSSons coming out of 'retirement' and riding his way to a top 10 finish. That's how they do things in Wreck-Tham MA.
Photo also by GTLuke.
Maggs - loving that Maxxis Minion DH tire he put on the front of his 29er Commonwealth.

My plan was to give it everything once I turned onto Scofield Ln and marched towards the finish. I knew the full suspension would soak up all of those bumps and I'd just float down the hill to the finish line. It worked. I had a few people in the Open Pro class catch up to me on the false flat climb to the peak of Scofield Ln but I then put over half a minute on them coming down the short descent thanks to the big wheels and the big bike.
Photo also by GTLuke. 
Myself - more focused on keeping the tires on the ground and pedaling HAADAH.

Finished in about 2 hours flat. Good enough for 70th place in the Open Pro class out of over 100 people. Far from last year's top 10 finish but I had fun, tried some new things and felt good despite the recovery winter thanks to last fall's injuries.

results are here

Eyes were crusted over with dirt thanks to such a dry dusty day. Times were so much faster than last year thanks to the dryness we are calling Spring 2013. Winning XC time was 1hr 37mins. Top 10 rounded out at 1hr 44mins. Whatever, I had fun and that is all that matters.
Those used to be pink wheels. Think its time to retire these WTB Bronsons. Two years of periodic use. Its a shame to retire tires when the tread is perfectly fine but the sidewall is all torn up. Such is live riding New England rocks...

Wow, such an awesome weekend riding bikes with friends and seeing such awesome people I don't get so see too often. Especially with some of them moving from CT and VT out to CO. I wish them save moves and the best in the next chapter of their lives.

Supposedly we get to do this again next year. You can count me back. All five SSPalooza's have been so much fun and get more enjoyable by the year.

As soon as we got home this old man got out of the car and laid down on our front yard to take a nap. I followed suit but only was asleep for a minute or two. Great times!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

too HAAHD too soon?

The Ronde was a lot on my body. My legs hurt all last week and I think I did my body some damage on my Wednesday night ride two days after my Ronde weekend.

I somehow pulled a muscle in my chest surrounding one of my lungs. For the past week I have been struggling to breathe and any elevated heart rate really hurts. All my ribs are in tact so I am quite confident its a pulled muscle.

This destroys my chances for riding the 100miles out to Darkhorse Cycles SSAP. It definitely kills my plans of riding hard in SSAP. Hopefully I can heal up some more this week and will be so-so to ride in the race on Sunday.

Beyond that my ankle seems to be feeling okay. I did have some aches during the Ronde trip but no pain. Aches come and go. Kind of expect that with where I am at in my recovery.

Ginger pointed this out to me the other week. Pua Mata from Sho-Air Cannondale is going through the same thing I have been going through. Broken leg in and around the ankle. Here is a story she wrote.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Ronde de Rosey '13

This year Thom put together a killer group of singlespeed mountain bikers to take part in Rosey's Ronde ride around the Boston area.
We had:
Thom (who's been riding a ton this spring)
Will (last year's DH40 winner)
Ramponi (the voice of new england mountain biking)
JFW (fresh out of retirement)
Sanidas (crushing it as always)
Maggs (all around strong rider)
and myself

Such a strong and fun team to ride around with.
In-between beers Saturday evening we were figuring out how to use every single bicycle part in Thom's basement on our singlespeeds for Sunday's ride/race.
Word on the street was this year's route had a lot more dirt. Perfect for our mountain bikes.

The original plan was to ride from Wrentham to the start in Brookline with the help of mass transit but the weekend schedules do not allow us to take mass transit that early in the morning. Boo. Piled into the Miniature Boogie Van we did.

After getting our act together we were one of the later teams to start. Maggs was our navigator as he had his GPS with the route. Not long down the road (a mile or two?) we were into our first dirt section and didn't really see a whole lot of road after that.

The 16T cog was big in the woods but we eventually got used to it. My legs were very heavy but somehow they kept on turning the pedals over all day.

At one point we stopped for some food and water and I looked down on my computer and saw we only went 28 miles. 28 miles out of 60 and we were flying. I was holding on for dear life while Will and Andy kept on crushing it way off the front. I let everyone know we are only about halfway into the ride and almost simultaneously everyone gave the look of horror on their face. Guess we all were not conserving energy and riding as if we'll be out for 5-6 hours. I thought this would help slow us down but that was wishfull thinking. We kept on trucking at some high rate of speeds.

Around mile 45-50 Will suggested we take a detour and add on some sweet singletrack for another 5 or so miles. Since we weren't 'racing' for first place we figured what the hell. Lets have some fun.
Got some sweet views but Will's loop was mostly climbing. Something my body was not liking seeing as my legs felt like cinderblocks and my body was cold all day. We thought the sun would come out behind the clouds but that never happened. Instead we were left riding in cloud cover and 45F weather. No matter how hard I worked my body was still cold. This scared me all day for I thought my body was shutting down. Somehow I just kept on pedaling since I was still able to turn the pedals over.
photo: Andy

Somewhere in the woods goofing off. This photo pretty much sums up the entire ride. No matter how much pain each of us was in and how fatigued we were we continued to have a smile on our face and make the best of what we had.

Rarely do I get to ride in a group this strong with such a positive outlook on the ride. This is why I choose to do this ride/race. This is why I chose to do the events I do. People like our team. We do this stuff because it is fun and this group makes it fun. Guess there is something about mashing such large gears in the woods while everyone is goofing off.

At one point we were riding with Matt Roy and The Wilcox. Turns out they went on to win the race. Guess we were in first place at some point. Yeah, the seven crazy singlespeed mountain bikers that couldn't group up and ride a paceline on the road sections if we wanted to (there was always one of us popping onto the sidewalk and ripping through someone's front yard).

After the ride we were starving so we spent the better part of the rest of the day at the bar where the start/finish was.
Big plates of food and many glasses of beer.
Supposedly the Strava people also stopped by. I should have told them I stopped using that website last year and have no desire to continue with it.
Reminiscing about the ride and talking about our plans for this year's Wilderness 101. Yup. With the exception of JFW, we'll all be converging in PA later this summer to crash the W101. My first 100miler mountain bike race since 2008.

Despite having almost zero snap in my legs to accelerate, but the end of the day (64miles and 5.5hrs of moving time (6-7hrs ellapsed time)) my right ankle was quite achy. I was kind of expecting that since this was the largest block of effort (and hardest effort) I've done since before my accident in October. My body was also ready to shut down. Later that Sunday evening I made the commanding decision to not ride back home and catch a car ride. Maggs was kind enough to give me a lift (and my house was completely out of his way). This allowed me to sleep in a couple of hours on Monday and take my time going about my Monday.

By the time Maggs and I got back into Hartford it was mid afternoon and the sun was shining (for once). It was too nice not to ride and I figured I'd give Maggs a taste of my local trails.

A slight re-gearing (he favored his 19T cog while I threw an 18T on) and we were off to do a casual and relaxed loop around the West Hartford Reservoir.
Monday's post Ronde ride was much needed. Even though I was achy and sore my legs needed the exercise. Active rest they call it.
And just like that the weekend was over. Almost 172 miles in three days.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ronde pt1

This past Saturday I hopped on the bike to make my way across Connecticut and over to Wrentham MA. The plan was to log some 93miles to Thom's house and then do the 60ish mile Ronde 'race' on Sunday and ride home. I did this last year and wanted to do it again.

Given I have not logged too many miles this year and have been recovering from a broken leg in October I felt this was going to be a significant challenge but a challenge worth accepting.

View hartford - wrentham 2013 in a larger map

This year I tried a different route. I was excited to ride something different.
30 miles into the ride I realized this new route went right through the hills of eastern CT. While this route was 8 to 10 miles shorter than last year's route it wasn't as flat.

I opted to keep on going no matter how much it would kill me. Some of the steeper climbs on back roads I actually got off the bike and walked some to reduce energy consumption.
Despite the hilly terrain the views and ride were beautiful. I also got to first hand experience a part of CT we are looking to move to next year.
While in NE CT I found some dirt roads that I rode a few years ago. It was a great change of scenery.
Nope. CT still.

Given the rural area I was riding through I did have a long way to go without refilling my water bottles and stopping for lunch. In fact, I finally got to refill my two bottles about 60 miles into the ride when I got into MA.

This took quite a bit of the wind out of my sails but once I had a foot long tuna sub in me I kept on going.

Not too long later I rolled into Thom's driveway. 93miles for the day and I was a bit tired but nothing some rest wouldn't cure.

Got cleaned up, Put some more food in me and relaxed a bit before Maggs and Whittingham arrived.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

next stop: Wreck-Tham

Hopping on my bicycle in a few minutes. This is a difficult feat as my body is worn out from another week's worth of stressful meetings. Add in how the rainstorm we just had has been wreaking havoc on my right ankle and left knee thanks to the low pressure. Its also sub 40F right now.

I keep telling myself, once I get 10 or 20 miles in I'll warm up and so will the air. The sun should also come out. Tomorrow is also going to be a ton of fun.

View hartford - wrentham 2013 in a larger map

Trying a slightly different route from last year. Brendan gave it to me. Shaved off 5 to 8 miles from last year's route. Think I added climbs but my bike is lighter since I mailed all my gear out to T-hom.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

the perfect chainline

Always searching for that perfect chainline on your singlespeed, huh?

Most people just eye-ball it.

I was doing that for years and then one evening last year I decided to put some science to it and take advantage of the laws of physics.

Been meaning to take photos and write about this for quite a while. While setting up the Superfly last night for this weekend's Ronde, I finally broke out the camera [phone] and snapped some photos.

The theory behind this is my taking advantage of gravity. You'll need a bike stand, as shown above, a level and some patience.

Step 1) Get the bicycle oriented in the bicycle stand so that the rear wheel (properly seated in the drop-outs) looks somewhat plumb.

Step 2) Take your mason's (or carpenter's) level and rest it against the rear wheel. Rear wheel can be without a tire as shown in the photos or with a tire. I've found accuracy to be similar in both cases given the high volume tires I tend to ride.

Adjust the bicycle so that the level shows the wheel is perfectly plumb.

Once the wheel is perfectly plumb then your bicycle's chainring and wheel are aligned to a common reference. The common reference we are using in this case is the vertical plane and will be taking advantage of gravity in relation to said plane.

Step 3) Place your chain over the chainring and let it hang down over the rear freehub body. Since the wheel and bicycle are now perfectly plumb then gravity will place the chain where it wants to be on the freehub body. This location is your 'perfect chainline'.

Note the location on the freehub body. Remove the rear wheel from the frame and space out your cog to get the cog as close as possible to the chain position. Tighten down the cog and spacer kit on the freehub body and re-install the wheel in the drop-out.

Step 4) Double check that the rear wheel is plumb and reinstall chain so it is hanging over the cog on the freehub body of the rear wheel. If done carefully the bicycle will not move in the stand and you will not have to double check if the rear wheel is plumb.

Step 5) Place your mason's (or carpenter's) level on the side of the chain spanning the chainring and the cog on the rear wheel. If the cog is placed in the proper location than the level will show that it is plumb.

In the example image above, I was off slightly on my first try. I therefore repositioned the cog and tried again.


The second time I got the chainline perfect.

Step 6) With the cog spaced out the proper distance on the rear wheel freehub body the bicycle can now be brought to the upright position and chain tension set via whatever means you are using to maintain chain tension. My Superfly uses sliding rear drop-outs so I moved them to get the proper chain tension.

And there you have it, perfect chainline with some science behind it.

Tomorrow I will talk about my first mountain bike ride this year on a 61.6inch gear and revisiting an old [not so quite] friend.

Monday, April 08, 2013

decisions. decisions.

Busy weekend.

Started off with putting my foot back in the 100miler mountain bike race ring Friday night.
Good old fashioned Snail-Mail. After all, the last time I did one of these things we didn't have anything like the internet. Oh wait, it was only 2008.

I have no idea what I am thinking but why not ride your bike in the woods for 100miles with a bunch of friends?

Saturday. Labored over a friend's Audi changing the timing belt and a few other maintenance items.

Sunday. Hop Brook Dam mtb race. Last year I rode out there testing the trailer set-up. I wanted to ride out there on my singlespeed CX bike but never made it. Our day started off with Taxes. ugh. I hate doing taxes. Then the sun finally came out and took some edge off to the crazy wind that was blowing. I swapped the summer tires onto all of our cars and then went for a mtb ride. 2 hours at Case on the full suspension singlespeed. Added some more air in the shocks and now am no longer bottoming them out but still getting 99% of the travel out of them. Sweet.

Also started thinking about what tires to run for the Ronde next weekend.
Kenda Kozmik Lite II
WTB Nano
Bontrager 29-0
Geax Barro Race

I ran the Bontragers last year. Flatted on them (they are a super light tire). I used the Nano's to ride out to Stewart for the SSAP last year. Thinking about the Nanos or Barros.

Also debating on a 65.7inch gear instead of the 61.6inch gear I used last year. (That's 34x15 instead of 34x16.) Already coming into this with a handicap of not riding or doing anything this winter. Why not make things more difficult with a bigger gear?

So, gotta figure out those two problems out this week as well as mail T-Hom a USPS Priority box of gear so I can go even lighter than last year (basically just carry food and a jacket instead of all the gear I need for the weekend).

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Exactly 6 months ago on a weekly Wednesday night mountain bike ride I broke my leg in a freak crash. Today I met back up with the Wed crew and revisited the forest I last pedaled with one leg out of in that cold rainy Oct evening. We did not venture down that fateful trail (now dubbed "Two Plates") but did ride the rest of the forest. There was an eerie feeling in the air coupled with such a bountiful feeling of excitement for being back on the bike and back in the Meshomasic State Forest.

My theme for the 2hour ride was to keep the tires on the ground and not do anything stupid. I was successful in that achievement and finished the ride with the bike upright at all times.

Small Victories!

Tonight marks my 5th ride outside in 2013. 3rd ride offroad. Each ride I am getting stronger and stronger and can ride longer without my thighs wanting to cramp. This past Sunday morning I went back up to the WH Reservoir to do a lap.

My goal was to get under 2 hours but that disappeared once I ran into Dave Cormier. Dave and I have not seen each other since before my accident so we joined forces and rode together. I totally lost focus on what my legs are telling me and wound up doing two laps around the reservoir and was out there for over 3 hours. By the time I got home I was fatigued just right. Just on that edge of cramping my legs and passing out but not quite doing that.


This tells me my endurance is slowly coming back (as expected). We are excited about that.

Speaking of endurance.

Next Saturday I am hopping on the loaded 29er singlespeed and pedaling 100+ miles east to Wrek-Tham Massachussetts to meet up with T-Hom and our crew. Sunday we are riding in the Ronde V4. I had so much fun last year that I'm doing it again. We also have a much larger 29er singlespeed crew to scare all the cyclocross folks. I have been afraid of the ride out to Mass as it is the longest ride I have done in over 8 months but after tonight's ride and this past Sunday's ride my fears are behind me. Now I am super excited and stoked to see everyone in Boston again.