Monday, May 31, 2010
After a good early start to the season remplete with a good result at the Clarence-Rockland Classic and an equally good performance (until the untimely flat) at Almonte-Roubaix I was excited to delve back into my profound relationship with endurance mtn bike racing. I clearly had no idea what to expect in terms of competition or even the course and terrain, as it had been 4-5 years since I ever raced at Mansfield, but I seemed to recall it was similar to Albion, which suits my riding style well....fast and flowy !
As usual I arrived late on a crisp chilly night at about 11:30, had a bite to eat, set up tent, read a bit and went to bed. The mtn bikes had been relatively untested as of yet this year....better not to worry about it now...just go with whatever cards come my way. The next morning brought me to the solo pit....I could not believe how many people where there, I was expecting maybe 50. Ran into TTTeammateTanya and she said “um ya Mike this race is really popular and competitive..”. OK - no big expectations or pressure - just get in there and have a good race. Met up, and set up with common friends of mine and Tanya’s, Matt and Rick. Rick is a hilarious big tank of a guy from the AR world and Matt is his bikin’ bro-in-law. Matt is also an endurance guy and has really focussed his training the past couple of years and has finally put some race-day nutrition demons behind him....he is going for overall podium.
Solos were supposed to start 5 minutes after everyone else, then at the last minute this was changed....leaving me trying to clamour into the start gate with the 90 or so other solos and all the team riders....a less than desirable position to start ! The start was a hammer up the gravel road /double track, dust was a flyin’ as wheels were a spinin’ ! Made up a bunch of places early - going anaerobic of course with my 5 minute pre-race warm-up, then held a solid steady pace for the first lap. The course here is SUPER FUN, just the right mix of twisty single-track interspersed with some shorter and longer double track to either pass or stretch out. There is climbing, and while I would certainly not call this a hilly course, Matt seemed to think it was a lot of climbing....I guess it is deceiving, a few longer gradual climbs that you barely notice and some short steep pumpers - which I typically like to stand and mash up, even in a longer race....at least for a while.
At each lap I was asking friends - “how far up is Matt?”, and each time the response was 30-40 seconds. I was going 2 hr race pace trying to catch him at about 31-32 minutes per 10.7 km lap....how come I could not close the gap? After four laps of this my head finally told my body to settle into a reasonable pace. Not having any feeders or support I was taking advantage of the neutral feed halfway though the lap, this was a god-send as a couple of times my bottle was running on elvis. After about 5 laps I stopped to grab a few bites of my favourite short endurance race foods, chocolate raisins, gummies, Doritos sweet chilli heat chips, and of course...pepperoni, ya I think there was some healthy bagel with PBJ and another with turkey in addition to the junk calories. Matt’s mom told me “you are looking good, in first place over 40"....I was kind of stunned, had no idea, so that got my competitive juices going and I hit the dusty (literally) trail on a mission for podium bling! Having not done a race longer than 2.5-3 hrs this year I had no idea how long I was going to last or at what pace I could push, but I know that mentally I have the tenacity to push though a fair bit of pain when motivated. The laps were counting down and while some of the team racers seemed to be getting faster (relatively speaking) I did find some good folks to ride with at times, made some smart tactical moves, and generally enjoyed playing in the single-track, hammering the double-track, attacking the hills and working on skillz. I passed Tanya at one point around lap 4 or 5 but that was the only time. She was cheerful and enjoying the ride as always and must have held a good consistent pace throughout the race. I felt myself slowing towards the 10-12th laps, and was feeling some real back and wrist pain down a horribly rutted 70 meter downhill section, as the fork seemed to be packing in a bit and had me wondering if I was riding a rigid. Even started to count down the number of climbs as it became more apparent that 13 laps would be the magic number. There is a steep little single-track climb I think after “Pete’s Playhouse” that I managed to middle ring til about the 9th lap, and another tight technical rooty climb that I finally introduced to granny maybe one lap later, this one was actually better to power than to grind. O2 debt is a steep pitch at the end of a long gradual climb....needless to say there was a lot of grunting and groaning on this but I was certainly happy to still be riding and even passing people here so late in the game.
Halfway through the 12th lap, I saw a solo come up to me going real fast and appearing to be an old dude like me. I asked him his age ...and shyte...he just snatched the lead from me ! Had been riding with this really great female tag-team rider, and she ordered me to push and not loose him. I have no idea how this guy got so much speed after 12 laps, seemed to be going the same speed I was in the 4th or 5th. After hanging with him for most of the rest of that lap he eventually disappeared....I resigned myself to second place. Coming in to finish the 13th lap at about 5:55 I was quite happy to be done, saw Tanya had just completed her last lap a few minutes prioor and, unbeknownst to me at the time, the guy that had passed me on lap 12 went through about 20 seconds after me and out for another lap ! Crazy...cut off time was 6:30, no way he was going to do a 14th lap in less than 34 minutes ! Anyway I never even knew I had the win til they called second place to the podium...shoot they must have made a mistake - I was supposed to be second. When I enquired Chico says...”um you won Mike”....mass confusion on my part for a while as I had no idea how the other dude got behind me, but hey I’ll take it !
All in all a great race day with some good results from myself and friends, Tanya taking a solid 2nd female solo, (For the Vegan Vagabond’s report on her awesome race and podium pics click here), Matt taking second overall solo (and a blistering 15+ minutes ahead of me), and Ben Dawson taking 3rd in tag team.
Coming up: 8 more hours of pain at Hardwood Hills July 24, followed by a hundred miler in PA the following weekend....not exactly ideal timing for recovery, but whatever doesn’t kill ya !!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
There are hundreds of kilometres of illegal mountain bike trails in Gatineau Park, and the National Capital Commission wants to do something about it.
Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean a crackdown on outlaw mountain bikers, but rather a meeting with the cycling community to try to find a middle ground on the issue....Read the rest here
The meeting is Monday, May 31st, 6:30 p.m. at Relais Plein Air on Cite des Jeunes Blvd.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The event is right by the Lansdowne Farmer's Market making this a great finish to a Sunday out on the town with the kids.
Bring the kids and spend an afternoon with author Laura Robinson and discover the joy of cycling.
We're launching Laura's new book Cyclist Bikelist and you're invited!
Drawing on her love of cycling and her experiences as a lifelong cyclist, a former member of the Canadian National Cycling Team, and the coach of the Anishinaabe Racers, Cyclist Bikelist is a great resource for both kids and adults interested in cycling and making it a part of their lives.
Laura Robinson combines fascinating history (the first bike was propelled by the rider’s feet pushing against the ground) with useful and fun information, including tips for the way to dress for safe and efficient biking; what to eat for maximum body efficiency; and how to select and maintain a bike.
Join us for an exciting afternoon that will be sure to get you and your kids ready and able to head out exploring on two wheels. In addition to the launch there will be tons of bike themed activities for kids of all ages.
Sunday June 6th
2 pm - 5 pm
Glebe Parent's Daycare (in the yard 'around back')
10 Fifth Ave.
*Note: The venue does not have washrooms on site. There are public washrooms located next door at Lansdowne Park.
This is an outdoor event and will run rain or shine.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The main reason was that a year prior, I had done a road race called “K2” (in New Zealand as well) with my buddy Brett where he was nearly killed after being forced out the side of the peloton into an oncoming milk tanker truck. The Huka would be his return to racing and I felt I needed to be there for “closure” (contrived but true). Although I was not at all injured in the crash, I’ve carried demons that I’m still trying to exorcise.
The Huka is an awesome course; 60km of diverse single track and finishing up with 30km of gravel bike path along the Waikato River. I was not in top form with the recent birth of my second daughter (i.e. lack of sleep and no time to train) and was still recovering from an injury following an Ironman six months prior (ironically, in Taupo as well).
I came to the last single track section of the day (nearly four hours in) which was quite gnarly and felt like I was about to lose my mind (an MTBr symptom I’ve termed “CNS depletion”). Throughout most of the ride I’d been playing leap frog with an elite female rider who was riding very smooth. In the last 5km of the single track she came by me and I knew I’d be wise to ride her wheel so she could pace me and show me the lines. She did just that and I was so thankful.
Gravel bike paths are my “specialty” so I didn’t see her for the rest of the day and there were several thousand people at the finish line so I didn’t get a chance to thank her for getting me through that rough patch in my day.
So here’s the reason I’m posting this now…
Last night, I did Race #1 in the local MTB series at Camp Fortune. After the race there was a BBQ and I was able to pick out someone speaking with a Kiwi accent. In the interest of international relations I decided to go introduce myself. She was admiring a scavenging raccoon. She was pleased I recognized her accent, most importantly not mistaking it for an Australian accent in the same way people mistake the distinguished Canadian accent versus the drawl of an American accent, and she found it amusing that I said I was a “JAFA” last year (Just Another Friggin’ Aucklander). We talked MTB’ing and racing for a bit, and realized we had both done the Huka in November …then, she asked if I was a Tall Tree rider, I replied, "yes"...
...she then told the story of a Tall Tree rider that had been glued to her wheel in the final single track of Huka. I exclaimed,
“THAT WAS ME!!”
It’s been six months coming, and you had to travel 15,000km, but thanks Lisa! …and welcome to Ottawa.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Embrace it we did; the turnout for tonight's season opener of the Sunset Series, Ottawa/Gatineau's local bi-weekly mtb race event, was pretty sizeable. Tall Tree fielded 7 riders: Neil, Anna, Rob, David, Mike, Tanya, and moi. The Green Wave was indeed in full effect, only rivalled by the Euro-Sports contingent, which was probably even bigger. Good stuff.
Contrary the forecast's promise of sweltering heat, the wind picked up before the race began at about 6:45, and the climate was completely pleasant. Furious racing ensued.
In short, Tall Tree wound up with 3 riders in the top 4 overall: Neil, Rob, then me, Neil taking second Elite spot, Rob and myself 1st and 2nd Masters 30-39, followed by David a few minutes back (placing TBC). Meanwhile, Mike took 2nd in the Masters 40+ race.
Overall, the Series saw a great kickoff, and I think many out tonight are pumped to improve each week. If you are considering coming out to take a crack at this whole XC racing thing, shod your bike with good grippy and sturdy tires, and come on out. Yes, the trails are technical, but getting off is always an option, and there is no shame in it! If you can ride Fortune well, you can ride anywhere. Proven fact.
Check out Tanya's (funnier) post here.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Fast forward to last Wednesday night, when the bulk of us opted to put our phat tires to dirt rather than skinnies to tarmac. We met up at Camp Fortune after Rodd and I rolled up from town, and proceeded to pound rocks and roots for a couple hours. Long story short, I tore the sidewall of my rear tire 5 minutes into the group ride, crashed and lost a bottle later on, and took a couple brutal insect bites I'm still working on healing. The outing was my first mtb ride in the Park, and second on trails for the year, just in time for Tremblant, I figured. Scramble, sort out the tires, and off we go Saturday morning: David "The Joker" Stachon, my lovely wife and daughter, and myself, comfortably sat in Dave's FIT. Or is it F-it? Your pick.
Despite my poor navigation, we arrived in time to pick up our plates, get changed, find Anna, who was playing a support role for the day, and do a bit of warmup before the start. Oh yeah, thanks to John Barnes, we also picked up our timing chips...kinda important those.
For those considering trying an xc race at Tremblant in the future, I'd echo the advice I received: be sure to run meaty tires, come prepared to climb wide open loose stuff and decent technical steeps, and be sure to run a granny. Full suspension for 26" wheels is a must in my opinion, and in a 29er, I'd have to say steel is ideal for a hardtail, and full suspension would certainly not be wasted. I've ridden enough on aluminum hardtails to know how good I had it on the ol' 853. It certainly took the edge off.
Up next, the Sunset Series kicks off at Camp fortune on Wednesday, and the green wave will be in full effect. Its sure to be hot as hell, so if you're coming out, don't forget to eat your pickles!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The legislation would amend the Highway Traffic Act and require vehicles to keep at least three feet away when overtaking cyclists at speeds of less than 50 kilometres-and-hour. The minimum distance increases to four feet when the vehicle is travelling at 50 to 80 kilometres-an-hour. It increases to five feet when vehicles are going faster than 80 kilometres-an-hour. About 15 States and several American cities require drivers to keep at least three feet away from cyclists. France, Spain and Germany also have similar laws in place.
Specific details of the bill can be found here:
All of us who are cyclists and cycle commuters are aware of the increasingly hazardous conditions of riding in Otario mororized traffic.... why the hazards are increasing is anyone's guess.....driver inattentian to the task at hand, indifference to the fact that other road users exist, distraction by myriad technological gadgets, outright contempt for non-motorized road traffic....???
Some additional information can be found here:
To find out who your MPP is look here:
In contacting your MPP please also copy them at firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can keep track of the support.
Peace out and ride safe !
This season, as usual, started with a race at the Mansfield Outdoors Centre. I had a bit of a chaotic couple of weeks leading up to the event and didn't get a lot of time in on my mountain bike before the race. I ended up 4th in the Masters race but was only 45 seconds off the winner's pace. I was happy enough with that.
Round two, as usual, took place at Albion Hills two weeks later. I call this series my "yardstick" but what I really mean is Jon Barnes is my "yardstick." He wins our race practically every time. He's fast. Occasionally, like when he has pneumonia, I can get the better of him but usually he wins and I measure my fitness by how badly he beat me -- success or failure is measured by Minutes Behind Barnes. At Mansfield it was less than a minute. Success. I was hopeful for Albion but when he did not appear on the start line my hope turned to serious enthusiasm, "I can win this thing!" It's nothing personal Jon if you're reading -- I like having you there -- seriously! Then again, Barnes didn't win Round One of the battle royale anyway. He was bested by a most kindly transplanted Quebecois named Eric Jobin and he was standing to my right... No matter, "I can DO this!"
And as it turned out, I did do it. Eric wasn't quite himself and I took advantage of the situation. What's the saying? Preparation meets opportunity? Something like that. I found myself racing in a front group of three very evenly matched riders for 3.5 laps until I finally stuck an attack in the last 2km. Victory!
It's odd to lead a mountain bike race -- you get to determine the pace -- as oppossed to the usual time trial mode you can ease up, attack etc. You are in control. Cool.
Sausage suit forever!
Monday, May 17, 2010
- 1 Sugoi knee warmer, black, found (by my, in Thom's Saab)
- 1 pair sunglasses, found
- 1 missing set of Ibex arm warmers
Sunday, May 16, 2010
A huge thank you to all who came out and made the Ride of the Damned a smashing success today! I'm talking about all the riders, spouses, kids, and friends. I'd like to extend an extra special thank you to the Polds (Jamies parent's), our checkpoint hosts, who pulled off what I'd describe as the best checkpoint spread I've encountered. Absolutely smashing! I think the checkpoint fare, which included pineapple, bananas, PBJ sandwiches, burritos, trail mix, and water was a big hit for all involved.
Thanks also go out to Brad for pulling all the threads together for the BBQ. While we couldn't pull off the kids race and crafts we'd planned, I think the kids had a good time, as did adults, not least Andrew Hayter, winner of the Steelwool Limited frameset, thanks to....Steelwool Bicycle Co! Thanks to everyone who contributed food and drinks! If I didn't know the strawberry-rhubarb pie from Pipolinka was surely butter filled, I'd have been all over that!
So we rolled out at 8:20, covered 143k total, climbed a bit over 1600 m (by Rodd's altimeter), took in plenty of sun, and generally has a great day on bikes. The weather was incredible, unbeatable in fact, and the roads were in excellent shape, with the exception of a washboard section that was a couple kilometers long. The high hit about 22 degrees, humidity was low, but I've discovered the UV was pretty high, evidenced by burns on a few riders I won't name here. I think it takes a little practice to figure out which sunscreen lasts 8 hrs on the bike. I hope they don't peel.
Navigation seemed to go well overall, though I was informed that the map used for GPS files had a superfluous one or two kilometer section on it, and the cues were missing the turn onto Notch Road. Thankfully, neither were big issues, and I think everyone handled them well. I'd love to hear how riders found the cues, and any suggestions for improvement. Did you like them? Next time they will be available for printing well in advance (we'll reuse them with fixes), so you'll be able to devise your own arrangement for mounting to your bike if desired. This is helpful and fun to figure out. For the map, I'll simply make sure its not screwed up. Feedback about the route, checkpoint, and BBQ would also be most appreciated. We aim to improve wherever we can.
There was at least one crash, suffered by Rob McLure of the Big Ringers, which landed him on his head and put him out for the day. I saw him afterwards and he seemed perfectly fine; I hope that is the case. Noah Spector of the Tall Tree Westboro Rollers suffered a fatal mechanical that saw him hitch hike back to civilization. Bummer. The Wheelers also lost Harry Musson to a biological. Total number of starters was 58 (10 teams), total finishers, 55.
Here are the finishing times; ranked to reflect complete teams at the finish:
- Tall Tree Gravel Grinders--------14:25
- Tall Tree Hung Squad------------15: 07
- Tall Tree Hunk Squad------------15:23
- Aging Chelsea Athletic Club------15:30
- The Misfits-----------------------15:38
- Euro-Sports Behind Bars---------16:18
- Big Ringers-----------------------14:58
- Tall Tree Westboro Rollers-------16:33
Stay tuned for an extra special fundraiser for Martin's Ride to Conquer Cancer the first Wednesday night of June, the 2nd: the Hell-Climb for Cancer!
We'll stage at the gate, ride to the base of Fortune, and send people up to the T one at a time. We'll run Clydesdale, fixed gear, vintage, contemporary steel, and racer-geek classes. Its going to be a hoot, and for a good cause. Wanna see me trash myself on a fixed Steelwool Limited with a 44x16, or maybe a 46? Come on out! More info to come, start spreading the word.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Last section of route (see below for all)
Sign in at finish
Its a bit challenging trying to get all this information across in this format; a site dedicated to this event alone would certainly be easier to manage. No matter, we'll get it done.
I've consolidated the vital information for Sunday's Ride of the Damned here for ease of access. If you still don't know what the heck the RotD is all about, check out the previous posts, here and here to get up to speed. I've provided a lot of background on the format to help everyone get onto the same page; this is not as simple as a typical century ride or race, formats that are well trodden and familiar. I'll update this post between now and Saturday night as pieces come together, so please check back in to stay apprised.
So far we've got 11 teams in the mix. Outstanding! Very exciting.
Who: Audacious dirt loving bicycle riders
What: 5 person Raudax
When: Sunday May 16th, 2010, Registration @ 07:00-07:50, Departure @ 08:00
Where: Lac Leamy start and finish
Why: Adventure, camaraderie, life experience, tan lines
How much: $10 CAN
Distance: 148k total
Route navigation: Via cue sheets (provided) - unmarked route, open roads
Elevation gain: Approximately 1500 meters
Stuff required: Properly functioning bike, 28-30c tires recommended, spare tubes, patches, pump, multi-tool
Food required: Enough food and water for 72k before first stop. Next stop 26k later (Wakefield), then 50k to finish.
Food en-route: Snacks and water provided at 72k (Low) checkpoint, for purchase in Wakefield.
Food Apres: BBQ from 2pm with allotted portions provided for riders of food and drink, additionals for sale to riders and non-riders. Feel free to contribute food items, including desserts!
Fun Apres: Invite your spouses and kids for the BBQ and kids bicycle parade (bike decorating) and fun race!
Proceeds: Any and all proceeds will go to Tall Tree rider, Martin Kellen's, fundraising efforts for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. We'll be collecting donations at the BBQ.
Prizes: Tall Tree Cycles and Steelwool Bicycle Co. will give away a Limited frame, fork and headset in a draw, along with goodies from Norco!!!
Here are the maps. The cue sheets are prepared, but I don't have them in electronic format with the tulips, so you'll have to wait until Sunday for those. But if you want to see what they look like without the tulip diagrams, go here. We'll have two sets of cue sheets per team (in the name of saving paper and time). GPS units will likely make navigation easier still but it is good to learn how the cues work for those times without GPS, or GPS failures. Printing out maps to distribute is pointless; they would be too hard to read. If you have a decent map, bring it along.
11k Neutral start, 137k Official Route.
Approximately 1465m climbing.
Neutral Start - for GPX, go here and click 'share'
Official Route - for GPX go here and click 'share'
The final stretch back to Lac Leamy will follow the bike/rec path from Mine road. I've done my best with the cues for this section, as I was not able to ride it last week; the distances will not be exact. Be vigilant, as there are not necessarily any signs to go by. Once crossed under HWY 5, we'll be retracing our route on the path from the neutral rollout back to the beech.
All riders will be required to sign in at the finish. Times will be recorded for complete teams.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Some will be quite familiar with the Damned format, but I thought it would be nice to provide some background to help us all get onto the same page. Read on.
Perhaps we are in still in the phase akin to the early weeks of a new job: everything odd, tired, inefficient, and dogmatic leaps out. We just don't seem content slotting ourselves into the events that are on offer in the road world. Others have, and do, put on different kinds of events to great success: challenge events. The RotD is part Randonnee, part Audax (latin for the audacious). Randonnees are typically ridden solo or in small groups. Audax events are ridden in large groups with a capitaine de route controlling the pace. Our first RotD was like that. With the team format we can incorporate the "allure libre" (free speed) format, thus mixing Audax and Randonnee genres. I'm going to call this format Raudax (Road-axe). Teams are free to ride whatever speed they like. Best of both worlds. If you cross racing with this format, you get "gentleman's racing," an underground, honour system format. While we are not calling the RotD a race, competition between teams is encouraged, within reason of course. We do the same on our Wednesday loops; we wouldn't call those races either.
This year, we'll use the route from the 2009 Quintuple Pave Classic for the RotD. We will begin and end at Lac Leamy (not the gate of the parkway, as the poster states). Total distance will be about 150k, including the neutral start of about 10k. The roads vary from smooth pavement to gravel. Total elevation gain will be about 1500 meters. The route incorporates much of the best scenery and features the area has to offer. Teams are encouraged to stop in Wakefield for water and food.
Neutral Start Route: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/2010-Ride-of-the-Damned-Neutral-Start-Route417427
Official Route: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/2010-Tall-Tree-Cycles-Ride-of-the-Damned
More to come.
Like the Qiuntuple, we'll utilize the 5-person team format. Raudax riders are responsible for their own navigation, and times are recorded. By keeping the route consistent from year to year, times will be comparable through time. We've learned that the team format is best for an event that pulls in a broad range of abilities. Last year's RotD was in effect a large group ride (Audax) with pace setters (us) acting as capitaines de route. Problem was, it was difficult to strike a pace that was good for all, and mechanicals/biologicals required the whole group stopping. This simply does not work. The team format aims to bring riders of similar ability together to form a unit that will move efficiently and be self sufficient. Mechanicals will be addressed as a team, as will any other problems. This is a safety net. The group will start together, but teams will pull away as their ability allows. Flats will occur, and leapfrogging will ensue. Teams can make pacts to stay together no matter what, but these agreements need to be explicit in order to work. Otherwise, teams get broken up, and problems follow. Last year, it was exciting when we flatted and had other teams pass us. It was more fun this way than having them stop. We were happy to work together to chase. It was a unique experience, and many riders considered it their best ride of the year.
Sticking with the team format is important. For those who cannot find enough riders to team up with, I'll endeavor to match you up with others of similar ability and perspective. This is easy for people I know, less so for people I don't. Email me at email@example.com asap. Growing groups from 5 is ok, but the number the team starts with has to be maintained. This is the spirit, no dropping riders. A teams time will not be count if fewer riders finish than began, and the last rider's time is the team's time.
The BBQLast year's Quintuple's BBQ went over well. However, the location, while convenient for some, did not work well for others. For the RotD, we'll start and end the ride at Lac Leamy. This will be much more convenient for those who have to drive to the event. Also, just as important, we'll be able to make the BBQ more family friendly. Spouses and children are encouraged to come. Kids activities will include bike decorating and a kids race. Beyond that, the kids will be plenty entertained being kids. We'll provide one brewsky per rider, and take contributions for additionals. Drinks will need to be consumed from water bottles.
I have yet to receive any emails with team rosters. Please send them my way, the sooner the better. I'd like to have them all in by Thursday the 13th, so we wan acquire the appropriate amount of food and drinks. If you'll captain a team, but the roster is uncertain, tell me what you can. Solo riders, please get in touch asap so I can hook you up with others. Provide me information about your ability level and expectations for pace (this applies to riders I don't know).
Invite yer friends, and have your friends invite their friends. This is going to be a big ride to remember!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I really love the way my CrossCheck looks so I'm not gonna talk about the rust spots, chipped paint or my many many front derailleur woes. The lack of beauty I'm going to talk about instead is an inner lack of beauty. Where Matt and Pascal's bikes exude balance, culture, beauty, performance ,and the lines and details of a finely crafted machine, my CrossCheck is heavy, stiff, and almost completely lacking finesse. It certainly does not 'plane' and the handling is fairly uninspiring. It is very good at going in a straight line, which can be a blessing in disguise at the end of a long ride, or by minimizing the effects of my occasional spaz outs while learning to ride in a pack (those are behind me I promise). I won't dissect the geometry because I lack the knowledge and do not have enough experience to confidently point to one measurement over another to identify a weakness in the design. That being said, the BB drop is probably the one aspect of the geometry which I can say with confidence negatively affects the ride of the bike. More would be better.
When compared to other bikes that I own, the CrossCheck has a pretty high bar underwhich to pass. My other road machine is a 2008 Serotta Fierte Steel. Comparing mass marketed generic Taiwanese butted steel and Campy Veloce to Serotta's wealth of design knowledge and their own blend of tubing with a carbon fork and curved carbon seat stays mixed up with full Ultegra is more than a little unfair, it's an apples to World Champion apples comparison. However, there are some really good reasons I'm writing about the CrossCheck and not the Serotta and one of the big ones is that last year I probably put three times as many miles on my CrossCheck as I did on my Serotta. But why?!
I'm relatively new to the sport of cycling, so for me the CrossCheck has been a great way to dive headlong into lots and lots of riding. Built up originally with the help of Kent at Phat Moose, it was my first road bike with lots of fully working gears, brifters (I'm taking the word back), Campy components, and all the nicest bits I could afford. I spent weeks agonizing over this bike. It was the bike that helped me make the leap from commuter/mild enthusiast to cyclist.
Since I got it in 2007, I've built the CrossCheck up as my road bike, touring bike, winter fixed gear commuter, and cross bike. It's also the only bike I have that takes Gran Bois 700x30 tires, definitely a big deal. On it I've achieve pretty much every goal I've set out for myself as a new cyclist, 100 km, 150 km, 250 km, and my first race are just some of this goals I've achieved perched atop my CrossCheck. It's for all these reasons that I can forgive it's lack of performance and why I would leave my race bike at home on race day. I know that if I've got something to achieve, I won't be let down by my CrossCheck.
Oh and if I crash and burn on the way to my achievement? I can always blame the bike.
Now that I've survived my first racing experiences, and I've got some new (loftier) goals ahead, I'm getting giddy at the prospect of my new Steelwool all road bike which should be arriving sometime this summer. Cause after all... isn't inner beauty what really counts?