Twenty Dollars

Posted in cycling, racing by antisociology on August 31, 2009


I spent twenty dollars this morning… before 6AM. Those of you who know me, know that it’s a miracle to get me up before 8AM. So what motivated me to get up at 4AM to spend money at 6AM? Suffering, that’s what. To be honest, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I wanted my first bike race to go smoothly. I did an easy 45 min spin around the park to warm up and rolled up to the registration table at 5:20 or thereabouts. Once the confusion over my club membership status and one-day license was resolved, I sat around waiting to line up.

Taking the lessons I learned from the race clinic two weeks ago, I resolved to stay in the pack most of the race. Actually, I didn’t even think about trying to contest the race. I just wanted to finish without crashing, causing a crash, or doing anything particularly horrible. Mostly, I just wanted to finish with the lead pack.

Lap 1: Cruising… but why is the field descending so slowly? Every time we go downhill, I’m on the brakes trying not to cut my front wheel up on the spinning cogs of the guy in front of me. There’s a crash on the east side as the pack fans out and someone zigs to avoid to some horse poop, sending riders next to him toward the rec lane which causes them to run into an orange traffic cone..

Lap 2: The field is strung out single or double file. I’m starting to get the hang of things and getting better at closing gaps and finding wheels to hang onto. I’m in the top 15 and holding position fairly well. Going down the hill around Harlem Meer, I have a close call that causes me to be less than smooth. I feel like such a newbie. Again, why is everyone going so slow downhills?

Lap 3: The pace lifts and gaps start to form on the uphill sections of course. The pack is three or four wide at the front with a long single file tail (from what I can tell when I peek back). For some reason, my rear derailleur isn’t shifting well. The chain takes a moment to go to the next cog after I shift. Annoying. At one point, I look down and my arms are covered in grime (a mixture of dirt and horse poop, I’m sure).

This is what happens when it rains before a road race

This is what happens when it rains before a road race

Lap 4: At Harlem Hill, two guys attack and go off the front (the eventual winners). Back in the main field, the pace ratchets up even higher and I scramble to stay on going up. At the top of the hill, a gap has formed and I’m the last guy with the group. The race has now splintered into at least three groups, a two man breakaway, nine or 10 of us, and then the rest.

Lap 5: It’s the last lap. The proverbial hammer is down and the group I’m in is pretty much single file again. On the rises I shift desperately trying to find a gear that will let me spin but still give me enough acceleration and speed to keep up. It’s taking noticeable effort to close gaps now. Where I could close a gap with a few strong pedal strokes in earlier laps, it’s taking some real riding to catch up now. At the small hill just north of the playhouse on the west side, a two or three bike length gap opens up and I spend that entire straightaway deep in the drops trying to catch up. I latch on at Tavern on the Green and settle in for a long drag to the bottom of Cat Hill where the finishing sprint starts (yes, it’s an uphill finish). I try and sprint, but the antics that transpired on the west side didn’t leave any gas in the legs and I just end up bogging down in too high a gear.

My efforts were good for 11th place in a field that I’d guess is 30-40 in size; not a bad outcome for not working to hard to contest and honestly, not having trained at all. There are two more races this season, and I am basically using them to learn how to move around comfortably in a pack of cyclists hurtling around the park at 25 MPH with mere inches separating them. Next year, I’ll buy a real USCF racing license and can start working on upgrading to Category 4.

Honestly, there's a rear derailleur in there somewhere!

Honestly, there's a rear derailleur in there somewhere!


Rookiest Rook

Posted in cycling, racing by antisociology on August 15, 2009

I just got back from the CRCA men’s race clinic. This was effectively my first mass start bicycle race. The good news is that I had a lot of fun and am now more interested than ever in starting to race the bike. Still, I’m a bit disappointed in myself for making the classic rookie mistake of staying in the wind too much.

On the second lap (it was a three lap race), the field got strung out in a line and I got caught out on the side. I eventually got back in behind someone right before the dip leading up to Harlem Hill. Apparently, I didn’t learn my lesson, though. At the start of the third lap, two or three guys went off the front up Cat Hill. I was able to go after them and bridge up to some Litespeed-guy (never caught his name). I pulled through and kept looking under my arm to see if he was there and willing to work with me. For a while, he was there…I kept waiting for him to come forward…and then he wasn’t there anymore. Interestingly, I got to experience firsthand how hard it is to actually shift properly when you’re giving it some real gas. My fingers kept fumbling and shifting an extra gear up or down.

So, at this point, it’s better to get back with the field and recover. I sat up and waited for the field to catch me, hoping to hop in near the front and recover. That never happened. I was never able to find a good slot and got stuck in the wind again. At the foot of Harlem Hill, the inevitable attack started and I just couldn’t make my bike go uphill after the last mile of shenanigans. Bam. I went right off the back like a prom dress.

The funny thing is, I always thought I was a pretty patient runner. The half-marathon and 10k events I was so fond of demanded patience. Perhaps it’s just a matter of getting back into racing. Well, that’s what your first season is for. Learning to move around the pack and figuring out what you need to work on. Nobody starts anything knowing everything.

So there we have it. There are three more CRCA club races this year and I’m tempted to sign up now so that I can do them.


Posted in comedy, cycling, video by antisociology on August 12, 2009

This is too funny not to post. The girls with pumps are priceless.

From Sow’s Ear to Silk Purse

Posted in commuting, cycling, gear by antisociology on August 9, 2009

Okay, maybe the change I’m about to describe is not so dramatic. Yesterday, after a fantastic 50mi ride up to Nyack which included a detour and some climbs I’d never taken before, I came home to a sweet care-package from Velo-Orange. I got a kickstand, some new pedals, and a front rack. Some of this stuff is a little bit of a luxury, but I’m fairly convinced that I’m going to stick with utility cycling so it’ll all get used bunches. Here’s Rollie the Raleigh all kitted out with his new duds:

Rollie the Raleigh with new duds.

The front rack is a Nitto M-12. I got it to carry small things, as well as the very stylish Nigel Smythe Li’l Loafer that Rivendell Bicycle Works carries. In a few weeks, I’ll be going on a day trip to Montauk with a friend, and it’ll be nice to have my wallet, phone, and camera up front within easy reach. The rack took a little wrestling to install, and the center tang doesn’t fully engage the rear bolt. I’m hoping that this is not too much of a problem, but I’ll probably have to check it regularly. I’m not going to be carrying heavy loads on it (that’s what the rear rack is for), so I don’t forsee any major problems. Why yes, that is me knocking on wood.

Personally, I still can’t get over how pretty and well-made Nitto product is. I have a Nitto stem and handlebars on the go-faster bike, and couldn’t be happier. It is super tempting to get a matching Nitto Big Back Rack to replace the very agricultural (but highly functional) Pletscher rear rack I have now. At $160, however, I just can’t justify replacing an already perfectly adequate rack. Perhaps next year.

Some people might find kickstands dorky, but I’ve had enough of struggling to try and load heavy bags of groceries onto the back of an unsupported bike. Plus, this two legged Pletscher stand is not only sturdy and stable, but also has a clever folding action. I think it looks like tail pipes when it’s folded up.

Pletscher 2-legged kickstandThe new pedals are Velo-Orange brand touring pedals. I’ve added MKS leathered toe clips (so they don’t take hunks of leather out of my shoes), and MKS thingies that make it easier to flip the pedal over with your foot. The driveside pedal was a tad hard to install. I suspect the machining of the pedal threads on that arm are not so great. I actually stripped the flats of the old pedal when I was trying to get it out. The local bike shop helped me out of that jam with their Big-Ass Pedal Wrench ™.

VO Touring PedalThe pedal is really well finished and quite light for a touring pedal. It’s has a satin silver finish with the VO logo in the center and traction pins on the ends. I’m hoping the larger surface area will help with some foot soreness/hot spot problems, and that the traction pins will keep my feet from sliding about so much. Here’s a comparison with the old track style pedals that came with the bike:

Track vs. TouringThe additional surface area should help spread weight more evenly across my foot. In addition, the VO pedals site slightly farther out from the crank, which should also help some.

Thoughts on Her Bike

Posted in cycling, environment by antisociology on August 8, 2009