Friday, September 23, 2011

Rambling Man

My struggles with goathead thorns have been well chronicled. I have tried thicker tubes, tire liners and tubes filled with sealant. Nothing worked very well. Last year I simply quit riding around my local area in the late summer because I became so tired of fixing flats. This year I decided to do some research and see if I could find another alternative instead of driving somewhere to ride.

I stumbled upon the Continental tire site and looked around. I didn't see anything that looked promising in the road, cyclocross or touring tires. It wasn't until I explored "trekking tires" that I found this one:

It's described as a tire for "bramble rambling." Not knowing exactly what that meant, I read further. Taken directly from the site:

"The Country Plus is just the thing for blackberry-picking ramblers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Thorns lose their sting - at least as far as the tyres are concerned. And the tread is ideally patterned for field and forest excursions. The tough Plus Breaker effectively fends off thorns and stones."

Sweet. Sounded like just the ticket. I mean, how could they not work? There's yellow stuff inside. Yellow stuff! I don't know what it is, but it must work, right? It's yellow.

Unfortunately the yellow stuff comes with a hefty weight penalty—920 grams for the 700x42 size that I ordered. Yes, over two pounds each, which is heavier than many 29er tires.

I ordered a pair for $72 from Amazon. They showed up in two huge boxes. I thought perhaps they accidentally sent a complete bike, but no. Amazon apparently only knows how to ship books.

The tires were intended for my cyclocross bike that has sat partially built (due to laziness) for almost a year. Time went by. Bike sat unfinished. More time went by. As the thorns matured on the vine I decided I could wait no longer, so I opted to see if I could cram them onto my road bike. They fit fine even at the 42mm width.

I rode them for six weeks without a single flat. I still rode cautiously and avoided the really bad areas, but I have to say the tires were awesome. Until today.

The chewy nougat center did little to fend off the utility knife blade that I ran over today. I find myself saying "In all my years of riding, I've never" a lot lately. I've never cut a tire to this extent. I could probably ride over that paper-thin little blade another 500 times and not repeat this feat. How the damn thing flipped up on end and entered the tire at a 90 degree angle I'll never know.

I guess I'll order another tire because the last six weeks of flat-free riding have been great.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Joey's (Not So) OK

This video takes place at this past weekend's StarCrossed race in Washington. Joey goes into the single barrier a little hot and clips it. This is quite possibly one of the greatest cyclocross crashes ever.

I like how the chick in the background says "I think Joey's OK" while he's writhing around on the ground in pain. Nice diagnosis, doc.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Open Season

I was supposed to go out of town this weekend with friends, but I woke up sick on Friday. I should have seen this coming. Even though I was purposely going to miss the first cyclocross race of the year, my body still knows that I am supposed to get sick for races. Well done, lousy immune system!

Even though I didn't feel great, I thought I would go catch a couple races just to get psyched up for the first Sacramento Series race next weekend.

The course around the Folsom Rodeo grounds was pretty cool, and I was definitely wishing I could be out there. There was enough dirt and elevation change to give me half a chance.

I took the camera and played pro photographer for a few minutes. I got a few good shots. The first two are from the 35+ B and 45+ B race.  The third is from the Women's A race.

It was kind of weird going out to watch others race, but in a way it was also fun. I watched guys dismount and remount over and over again and watched for anything I could incorporate into my own technique. Mostly I saw things I don't want to do, like the guy who drilled a barrier with his shin. Ugh. Gotta get those knees up higher . . .

Hopefully things go smoothly this week and I'll be racing instead of spectating next weekend.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Waiting For Superman

Cyclocross season starts in two weeks, and once again I am not ready. The summer always seems to slip away so quickly. Lately I am riding more often, riding longer distances and putting in harder efforts here and there, but to call it training would be a stretch.

Every summer since the birth of my son in late 2003 begins with the best intentions, but the motivation often fades by fall. In 2004 I raced only twice, finishing mid-pack and frustrating me enough to quit racing. In 2007 I came back and raced once, placing fourth out of seven in the single speed class. Last year I raced once and was soundly crushed by younger and faster riders.

This year I will be racing as a 44-year-old. In cyclocross this is undoubtedly the cruelest year because the 35-44 age group is so varied. A male cyclist is at his fastest between 28 and 32 years of age, so at 35 you can still be pretty damn fast. At 44 you have slid really far down the backside of the mountain. That nine-year age difference is huge.

In the last seven years I have had very consistent but mediocre fitness. I still have my good days, the rides when I feel super, but for every one of those days there are three or four when I am merely mortal. It is completely normal to have good days and bad days on the bike regardless of fitness level. However, as fitness increases the ratio of good to bad days also increases. Being very fit makes it much more likely to have good legs come race day.

In 2003, at age 36, I was at my personal peak condition and a threat to win every 35+ B race. Although I never achieved that elusive win I piled up enough good finishes, including a second and third place, to lead the Sacramento Series for much of the year. I felt fast, confident, bulletproof—like Superman. My Kryptonite came in the form of a fat guy who stalled going up a steep hill. He fell on me as I attempted to pass, snapping some ribs with his elbow and ending my run at the title.

I go into this year knowing I will take my lumps, and my goals need to be more realistic than they have been in the past. I will not win a race. I will not even be near the podium. I think a top ten finish would be a tough but achievable goal if the planets align and I have a super day.

I am treating this season as preparation for next year, the lead-up to the season of hope. Until then I can only be a mere mortal battling young superheroes, waiting for next year, waiting for a 45-year-old to save me, waiting for the return of Superman.