Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks here on the trax. From DC to TN; a thorough Christmas Eve cross examination, mostly unscathed parental visit, rabid Tennessee squirrel after the pooch, a couple of clutch finds in the Knoxville area, dinner and drinks with a high school friend of Aimee's who also dates my good friend in DC, a tempered drive home, and a full on excorcism after a half day back at work. Yeah, there's probably a good story behind each of those but right now I just don't think I have it in me to go any further into much of it.

I will say that on Monday I got the double whammy (both end) stomach virus that is apparently going around these parts. Heaved so hard I caused internal bleeding, though luckily no neighbors were around to hear me through the walls or else they'd have called the police or something. Tuesday felt like one of the worst hang overs I've ever had and today I'm back at work feeling almost normal again. Christ that was a doozey.

One other notable, my most prized gift for Christmas! Aimee bought me a painting by my friend (and amazing) artist Dave of the Eastern Market Metro station. I'd seen this a while back and had nearly bought it but I've never been able to convince myself to buy much in the way of art, hence my empty walls. The painting is so great and vibrant and I'm SO happy to have it! A big thanks to Aimme and Dave for working that out and if you're in the market for some affordable artwork with some local flavor I HIGHLY recommend my friend Dave's work.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The holiday survival update

The crazy weather of DC followed Aimee and I South into the Smokey Mountains. Here in Knoxville, TN we hit somewhere below 10 degrees our first full day here and now two days later we're in the sixties. Fun stuff.

I've managed to survive so far through multiple assassination attempts from all over beginning day one by Casie. Just after arriving Sunday we began making Yule Logs at the tail end of the families party and Cass decided it was a good time to fertilize the foliage in the garage. Not too big a deal and amazingly easy to clean up in the end though somewhat of an embarrassment for me. Later in the evening Aimee's father took her out on a lead and ended up slicing open his hand (needing but not getting) stitches because she took off to greet another neighborhood dog. He walked in with blood dripping ll over the place. Nice. 

Everyone was very easy going about everything so in reality I never felt really uncomfortable but it sure will make for a good story someday. It starts with Aimee's ex-FBI father who does polygraph testing as a profession and hobby etc... Think Meet the Parents. I ALWAYS hated that movie.

So, since then I've held my own through countless hours of girl time and full on interrogations possibly even emerging unscathed. Cass survived an attack in a local park by a kamikaze squirrel and I successfully produced another slam dunk serving of Puffed Pancake (also known as a German pancake, dutch pancake, German baby or dutch baby). 

In other news I will always be willing to return here after discovering the local outdoor sporting goods store demo's out Gary Fishers for $30 a day including a 19 inch Gary Fisher Paragon. I ALMOST bought some new cycling gear so I could get out on one this week but held back on that. Next time, without a doubt.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No matter how you felt about it

I'll be wearing my Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Fleece with no worries. I did the race this morning on the usual chilly cloudy day up in Druid Hill Park and surprisingly felt great. I've been slacking quite a bit on the running front since the 1/2 IM so I didn't really know what to expect. During the race though I felt great.

Shirt designs and Snowflakes by reknowned Celtic artist Cari Buziak Image from Baltimore Running

Darren convinced me to go and after a bit of a locale mix up I drove up and got my bib and chip just in time to get in line and start the race. Up the hill I felt strong and was darting in and out of people after starting a bit further back then I likely should have. Actually the entire first mile I was doing a lot of waiting and working to get around folks so I'm thinking I could have cut at least 30 to 60 seconds off my time with a good starting position.

In the race though I found I was really enjoying myself on the hills (surprisingly since my usual lunch runs are perfectly flat) and working to pass people was a great motivation. Around the lake I found myself getting bored as I settled into a spot between other runners right around my same pace and running the perfectly flat and boring surface. I never realized before that I was motivated by changing terrain though it makes complete sense.

The pre-race Celtic Scottishman (???) and bag pipes part the crowd. Photo by Crista Gilbert taken from Baltimore Running

Down the final hill I picked up the cadence, did my usual "rolling" run down and then strode easily across the finish. On one hand I knew I didn't really give it everything I had considering how great I felt at the end, but on the other hand I felt I did a lot better then I expected before the race. No clue what my time it was but my comfort level during it was high.

In the end, it looks like I came it at 35:22, a 7:04 minute mile. In the peak of my tri season I was hitting around 6:40 minute miles for the 5 k's so I don't feel too bad about that at all. Also, at mile one I heard the gun time called out as 8:47 for the first mile so assuming I didn't start close to a 1:45 behind the gun I obviously picked up the pace through the remainder of the race from the first crowded mile.

Age Group

The Race Site: I HIGHLY recommend this race if you're never done it. Not just for great schwag but for a great atmosphere and a great event.

Ok, time to pack for the early morning departure tomorrow. Oh and wrap those presents too!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The pre-obligatory winter riding post

Everyone seems to be hitting the stride of the winter months and doling out their expert (and I use this term in all seriousness since any cyclist who hits the road or trail in the winter months and has found something that works is truly an expert on the matter) opinions on winter cycling gear. For some, its just something good to write a post about while for others they really believe they have something to share that someone reading might not know. I feel like I fall into both those categories with this one, but again personal preference in the end trumps any expert advice. I still want to try out some new gear before I get my post up so you can eagerly await that one sometime around the new year.

For now a round up of some good winter cycling posts I've noticed around lately:

The Unholy Rouleur and the trusty winter rig. I call mine my p.o.s. cross bike; Jim has a shot of a Cervelo "rig" complete with fenders on his blog...

Dirt Rag Blog has a great winter clothing series starting with the feet and moving up, highly recommended. Be sure to read all four of those, plus the latest on studded tires, a bit out of my league there but still interesting. has a new post up about some new gear he just picked up at REI. I might be taking his words with a grain of salt though since he's talking about not wanting to ride North of Atlanta, GA because it's too cold. - Same as above but worse. Instead of telling people what to wear, they just tell us all to come visit them in SoCal and ride in shorts and light sleeves. Why did my parents move away from there when I was 2???

GuitarTed just talks about his general lust for a fat tire bike. A few posts in there about it though I also recommend reading some of his other posts as well while you're there. GuitarTed is the author of a few blogs I've found lately and I highly recommend all of them.

GuitarTed is also a Blue Collar Mountain Biker and recommends riding in your, gasp... regular street clothes! Read the other posts here too for more on fat tire snow tracks, crusted bike maintenance and our all time favorite winter treat, death cookies.

I believe the general advice coming out of Wrench in the Gears, while not stated directly would be to just drink some good beer to stay warm. Mmmmmm beeeeeer...

Bicycles and icicles would likely agree though he may add to throw in a trash barrel of fire to keep the beer warm enough to drink... Ouch. On the other hand Tim seems to have some other odd ideas about riding lately as well so I'm not sure where to put this one. Tim is one of those hardcore riders I wish I could be.

Oh and one more thing worth checking out: Indy's up in Canada making me jealous of his ice beard.

I think that'll cover it for now. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A question of ethics

A question for the athletics version of "politically correct-ness", we'll call it "athletically correct".

I signed up to run the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore a few months ago with the intention of running it with a group of friends that have been running it for the past 3 or 4 years. Turns out none of them can make it due to holiday scheduling conflicts so essentially I'm on my own. Not a big deal, though the MORE holiday ride is the same day at Rosaryville. Hmmm dilemma, if they were still running with me it'd be a no brainer but now I'm leaning towards the ride.

Basically, I can run as much as I want in TN during the holiday "vacay" but the bike will not be coming with so that is not an option. Alright, so I'm mostly decided; there's just one little thing nagging at me, so here's my question:

If I skip the race to go for a ride (and then run whenever I can in TN, okay I know this doesn't have any true bearing on this question) can I still wear the awesome race shwag?

I could really use a nice fitted fleece jacket pull over since the only fleece I have is left over from when I was in middle school, (one very bright orange vest, think back street boys, and one nice green pullover, both very, very large. No layering here). On the other hand the race is awesome and I really enjoyed running it two years ago ( signed up last year too but ended up unable to run though that time I never got the jacket). I'm down with supporting Baltimore running and Falls Road Running Store.

So, can I still wear it if I don't run it? Do I have to only use it as an under layer? Can I just support the race even if I didn't run it this year?

Fairland "very close to my house" Park

I HATE that the weather is warm right now. Well, really I don't mind the warm, I just don't like the big shifts from cold to warm in a matter of a couple of days and back again. You say, yeah well that's mid-atlantic weather for ya, get used to it. I say I want to move west.

Loving this look, I gave him a hard time for it and had to get a picture of course. Yeah Brian! or should I say Lance!

I really had a great day today actually. I ran some errands this morning including picking up a new freewheel from another MORE member, getting some more Christmas presents at REI (and scoring a pair of Pearl Izumi Lobster Mitts which I've heard may actually keep my icy hands warm in winter riding), and picking up the race prime for next Saturday's Celtic Solstice 5 Miler.

Grabbing some air with a 40lb bike and the "stock" metal flats.

Afterwards Brian and I met up at Fairland Recreational Center for our first ever ride there with high hopes since it's only about 15 minutes from our respective homes. Brian's rode his 20 year old Raleigh that we "fixed up" yesterday and I rode my cross rig that I "fixed up" last week. Turns out Fairland is pretty sweet! A lot more trails then I expected with some pretty fun sections and some great little rolling areas. We managed to get a little bit lost even and ended up riding a paved trail for a little bit to get back to the cars.

The steed. Need I say more? Well, yes I do. This doesn't capture the true glory of the bike that is the rusted Alivio components, the 40lbs of bulk or the swaying of the tires "trued" by yours truly.

I was surprised by how many other bikers we saw out there including one of the single speed outlaw riders. We talked to another pair of riders from the area, one of which seemed to have a pretty varied interest including trials riding, mountain biking and road biking. While I don't think I'd want to compete in trials it seems like the skills it'd teach would be incredibly helpful for technical trail riding.

Just look at that smile! Somebody is hooked, and this wasn't even the fun part.

Anyway, both bikes held up fine, though I essentially rode single speed since the shifters just won't engage most of the time, plus I seem to have forgotten that shifting is an option. Brian was happy with his as well, though I think he's decided against keeping it sense it is, in reality a size too small and is somewhat uncomfortable for him. I think after two trail rides he's enjoyed himself enough to justify the investment in a better bike. Anyone know selling, or know someone who is selling a 17.5/Medium hardtail, maybe 29'er, or not, for in the $500-$800 range?

Couldn't let him have all the fun... though on an aluminum frame with an aluminum fork and and 28's probably running around 35 to 40 psi, abuse may be the better term for this one. I'll feel it tomorrow.

Karma building

Yesterday was the final Rosaryville State Park trail work event for the season. I managed to drag bro-in-law Brian out to help even though he's only been mountain biking once during the demo day at Rosaryville. A bit of pay it forward action never hurt anyone and you can always use good karma!

It's amazing how easy and simple little things can be that help the trails immensely. Paul, Eric, Tommy and the rest of the folks who've been busting their tails out at Rosaryville have done an amazing job on those trails. So much so that they were actually ride-able despite the loads of rain the previous two days. Well drained trails mean much faster drying and more riding time. Very cool.

Afterwards Brian and I came back to my place to put a new chain on his old Raleigh "mountain bike". I was amazed at how well the rusty grip shifters and derailleurs still worked with the new chain. The seat post was a bit seized but we let some lubricant seep in, took a few smacks with a hammer and got it moving again. Had to do some sanding and some serious greasing before putting it back in but everything seemed pretty good after that. Even managed to true the wheels to where they weren't rubbing 90% of the time on the brakes!

All great, except now Bri just wants to keep the raleigh instead of selling it for whatever he can get and using the $700 he saved up along with that for a newer, nicer (lighter) bike. A well I guess I can't live my "dreams" of newer and better through him all the time.

I've got to get better at remembering to pull out the camera so I can show off some pics. Maybe today I'll grab some shots of whatever it is I end up doing. For now I hope you enjoy Homer's (or homeslice as he is commonly reffered to as) morning face.

Friday, December 12, 2008

FYI: New GamJams Reviews today: Trainers & Rollers

Just a note that today's GamJams Review is up for Trainers and Rollers. I've never been able to convince myself to drop that much cash on a personal torture machine (especially when there is so much other, better bike stuff I "need") so I'm unable to offer an opinion. It appears to me that aside from the folks that return more to my feelings on trainers the general idea is Cyclops' trainers are pretty great.

Lots of good reviews this week so go check them out at

Let the music play

Tis the season and year for deals, frugality is maybe the word of the year?

In the spirit of saving money, I KNOW we all like no matter what the economy looks like (I don't think anyone who might read my blog would go for some shenanigan like this) I present to you my new favorite LEGAL music source!


Over the last three years probably 90% of my new music has come from itunes. It's easy, they have a great interface for finding new music and hearing it before you buy and, well I have an ipod so I naturally started using it. That said, 99% of my music is over 3 years old. I have such a hard time bringing myself to click buy and toss out another $10 here and $10 there for an album so I tend to not really update my music collection very often. Pandora, aside from being blocked at the office, became my new best friend.

A strong dollar makes for a pretty sweet deal on music. Last night I went on a spending spree and picked up about 7 or 8 new albums all for the cost of less then 2 at itunes. Greatest site ever. Individual songs run at about $0.15 per song. Enjoy!

Cross rig maintenance

Last night I got a bug to finally pull out the cross bike (a little late for the season I know) from my shed where it's sat for the last 10 months collecting spider webs. I built the bike last year, my first and essentially still my only build and due to some pretty old and poorly operating shifters and some crappy brakes I never really got it working as well as I would have liked. Since then I got a bit of a tutorial on derailleur adjustment from Scott and figured out a bit more about bike maintenance. Last night I think I managed to get the shifting set up about as well as the still rough shifters will allow.

I also managed to adjust the brakes a bit so they fit a bit more snug and don't stick on the rear brake, though it appears any serious stopping power will not come until I replace the cantis. Anyone have any experience with the Avid Shortey 6 canti brakes? I'm eyeing up a set of them or a set of Cane Creek SCX-5's on ebay, both for about $60.

I gave the bike a good wipe down, switched out the crappy fuji saddle that came off the Fuji Track, for the slightly better WTB saddle that came off the Jamis, peeled most of the stickers from the frame aside from the Redline downtube decals and lubed and tuned the remaineer of the bike. Looks pretty decent not and appeared to be working well on the stand. I may bring it out this weekend to Rosaryville for some pre-trail work riding if it gets cold enough and see how well things are really working on it.

In the longer term I'll probably move the singleator over to it, pick up some cheap brake hoods or something and get it set up as a bit of a minimalist single speed cross bike. Is there a slow guy, single speed catagory at cross races?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another part bites the dust

I don't know whether to laugh, cry or scream today. For the past month a lot of things just haven't been going my way it seems; from work, to home to cycling, little (and some fairly big) things just keep happening and adding up from minor annoyances to to long lasting headaches and worse.

Last night I rode the Rosaryville night ride with probably the largest group of riders I've ever done a trail ride with (aside from races). We broke into two groups quickly as the lead set a fairly blistering, but managable pace on the front. I hung on about 4th wheel until my singleator lossened and had to be retightened and tensioned. No big deal; I apologized but no one seemed to mind the quick break while I reset it. We quickly got going again, this time with a slightly higher pace as a new leader had taken over.

We rolled quickly along and at some point a new "leader" took over and then took off. Out of sight entirely with no desire to let up. I only wish I could ride that fast. I'm definitely finding myself limited here by my own abilities but unfortunately (or fortunately) it's not my fitness but my technical skill, or lack there of. I also REALLY need to get a better light as I'm still taping the light to my helmet and last night it shifted and was basically aimed straight down right in front of my wheel. I pushed the helmet back on my head (certainly not proper helmet usage) and threw my head back as far as I could when I need it but most of the time I tried to key off the guy in front of me and the light coming from behind.

So, as we're cruising through the final section of the trail; probably got about 500 yeards to go to the trail head and slip, I'm spinning out and going no where. Apparently I stripped the free wheel and I'm walking/coasting/flinstoning my way back to the parking lot with a broken bike... again.

The list goes on, dada dum da dum dumb.

I wish I'd held out and then picked up a GF Paragon this fall. My Trek 6500 ran perfectly for around 10 years, and it had Shimano Alivio or something like that and basic mid-entry level bontragor parts.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Happy birthday to Cass

I'm kicking myself a bit today for Cass. When I came home from work and let her out of her crate (yes as evidenced from the pic below, she still needs the crate though she has shown no aversion to it still) she was limping a bit on her front right paw. I'm assuming it is related to our ride on Sunday, though why it wasn't bothering her so much before last night is unclear.

After the ride Sunday she moved out of my truck and into the house slowly but I figured she was just tired. I didn't notice anything that night and she ran around fine the next morning as well. After a full night of laying in bed sleeping I'd think it would have had enough time to tighten up but she didn't react to it until Monday night. That leads me to think that maybe she did something to it during the day in the crate but I can't be sure. She does tend to throw herself around a bit when bored so it's certainly possible she naged it off something.

Today she is limping heavily and is obviously in a bit of pain. The lower joint looks a bit swollen so I'm thinking it's probably sprained somehow though I'm really hoping it's not broken. Now to figure out what to do for an injured pup's leg. Poor girl will probably go crazy if she can't play for any extended period of time.

To make it worse (maybe just for me, but still), today is her unofficial "official" birthday. ! year old and a messed up leg.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Cold, without any of the fun...

A quick glance at the weather this morning had me feeling good about the chances for tomorrow's ride. It's still 27 here in downtown DC and a high of only 34. Prime conditions for the trails to remain solidly frozen. A slightly more in depth glance and I'm feeling like the stars are aligned against the Tuesday ride for the time being.

Not only tomorrow but next Tuesday as well. Damn.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Follow up on the Jamis Dragon frame

This post still should be taken with a grain of salt since I've only been on the bike twice now since getting the replacement frame. I think I can say at least something about my initial impressions of the bike though. I'm trying to figure out frame geometry a bit and get an idea for what kind of set up in the end is going to be best for me so you'll have to bear with me through all that. Now, for my future reference for anyone else who cares.

One of the most notable things about the new set up is that the front end doesn't feel great. I told someone today I thought it felt twitchy but I'm not so sure that's what I actually meant. I'm not really sure I've ever really ridden a mountain bike that felt twitchy so I'll need to try that one of these days. The fork leaves a short wheelbase and so technically twitch-i-ness should be fairly minimal from what I've heard.

One thing I know leads me to my assessment of the front end is that my weight sits too much on the front wheel when I tend to prefer sitting back on the rear wheel and keeping the front light. As you can see in the banner picture the seat has some room to move back so before my next ride I'll be sure to do that. I actively tried to weight the rear end today though and still felt a bit uneasy with the front of the bike. In the long run when I get a suspension fork on the bike I'll likely look to get an offset fork similar to the Reba Race that came with the stock Dragon 29'er.

Hmm, I also told the guy today I thought the Dragon 29'er came with a Dart fork so I'm basically 0 for 2. Ah well.

You can't see it that well in the previous pictures but I finally went ahead and swapped out the stock WTB saddle and put on the one I bought nearly a year ago with the intention of using it on the mountain bike. The Specialized Avatar Gel saddle rode like a champ on it's inaugural trail ride. I was afraid the gel saddle might freeze up a bit and become very uncomfortable but it rode just as comfortably as the first time I ever rode on it. Nice.

That's all for now though I'm sure I'll at least comment after the adjustments to the saddle. Hopefully this week the Tuesday Rosaryville night ride will be a go.

Sunday morning frost edition

I may have found a new favorite riding condition. Got out to Rosaryville early today for a spin before the thaw set in and after getting used to the trails had a pretty fun ride. Actually, it was fun trail wise though fitness wise I was dying the entire way. Even the small climbs were killing me today.

Cass poses with the new Dragon 29'er Frame. Nice looking frame!

I thought I'd learned this lesson pretty convincingly before but apparently I needed a refresher on the basics! After going all day Saturday eating only a smallish hamburger (from this great little burger joint on PA Ave, SE) some fries and a beer for dinner and then skipping breakfast since there was nothing in the house to eat aside from the coffee I drank before leaving...

I'm not sure why, or even how I do it but some days I just don't feel the urge or need to eat. I generally make up for it the rest of the time; this afternoon it was a couple of burritos with a mixture I threw together and I'm not talking small burritos either. Yum!
Cass visits me on the top tube during a short break. All smiles all the time.

Anyway, the ride was nice anyway though I left out the inner loop. I still haven't ridden it in daytime but I figured today with all the ice and snow was not the time to try riding the logs for the first time. I also had Cass with me the entire loop which was fantastic. She did a great job and hung in tight until she started to get a bit tired in the last little bit. Even then she was still doing great, just not trying to run me down all the time.

A well deserved water break with some evidence of actual snow!

She likes to take off at first and lead for a bit until we get into a groove. Makes me a little nervous in case we come up on someone but after a couple of minutes she settles in on my rear wheel and just runs with me. The best part is how well she follows when we come on other trail users. For other bikers I generally make sure to stop and get her over on the woods side of my bike while I let others ride by. Today we caught a couple of trail runners who stepped over to let us pass, she ran up a bit but didn't bother them at all and just kept going before settling back in on my wheel. Also a couple of times when a guy pulled off coming towards us before I saw him we rode by with a thanks and she just stayed right on my wheel and didn't even flinch. Awesome.

Cass gets greedy with the water...

She was made to be a trail dog. And a happy trail dog at that!

Friday, December 05, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Winter Training Tires - Specialized Armadillo Tires is taking up a new product review feature involving the ambassadors program. Mike announced it a bit back to the ambassadors and today is the first installment. I’ll take part in as many of these as I can, starting with today’s “winter training tire” review. If you like this feature, please make sure to drop Mike at GJ a note to let him know so he can decide whether it is worthwhile and so he can pitch it out to prospective GJ sponsors as he builds the network. Also, make sure you drop by the rest of the participating ambassador sites to see what they may have to say.

Specialized Armadillos

First off I’ve got to admit, I do not have these tires on my Cannondale; actually I’ve still got the Michelin Race Pro 3’s from the season on there. I have however been running the All Condition Armadillos on my Fixed Gear for the past two plus years. In that time I’ve had 1 flat, after about 2 years on the tires, which was actually due to an unavoidable puncture at the hands of some of the neighborhood trouble makers. The rear wheel, which is covered with skid marks (fixed gear) is worn through to the inner red surface and should have blown a solid year ago, but it still rolls along no problem. To me that’s a sign of a truly tough tire (and a truly cheap rider).

While they may not be the lightest or cheapest tire out on the market, I’ll swear by the armadillos for general riding/training miles for their durability, smoothness and traction. Like I said before the armadillos are tough, lasting two + years on my fixed gear through all riding conditions, a few car on bike incidents and more then their fair share of skid stops. The durability alone proves these tires capabilities to me as high mileage training tires beyond any doubt.

As for the issue of comfort, I’d once again rate the armadillos as champs. Riding the fixed gear can be a bit hard on the body, obviously since coasting is not an option. While on a freewheel you can stand and coast over tough and bumpy road conditions on a fixed gear you still have to pedal. While standing is an option it’s not always as physically easy (especially at higher speeds/cadences) or easy to remember throughout a ride. The armadillos don’t punish you over rough terrain and in my experience the tougher tires leave open the option of relatively lower tire pressure for added comfort. On the other hand, when run at high pressure you can really get these tires moving quickly and comfortably in group, or traffic settings.

My fixed gear is essentially my beater bike so when the weather turns bad the fixed gear gets the call to duty. With armadillos on it I’ve never felt sketched out by wet and oily road conditions. It sticks to the roads in tight corners and I’ve never felt like I was going to wash out on them. I think traction like this in a sketchy crit race corner like the Reston Town Center Crit would be very, very comforting.

While I’ve never tried the Elite or All Condition Elite tires, I’ve got a strong feeling they’d be just as solid. And, while the price tag on these seems fairly high, I think the 2+ year use you can expect should alleviate some of the sticker shock associated with them. As specific winter training tires I think you could really stretch your dollar on these for a few years (assuming you don’t “NEED” new gear every year). They won’t leave you stranded with a flat 40 miles from civilization on your long winter training rides and you can feel good rounding sharp bends on them in your Saturday morning “training”/ass handing rides with local hammers. If I manage to get my hands on the Elite tires, I’ll let you know for sure if I think they’d make good race tires though, for now I’d go ahead and bet that unless you’re racing for Michelin or Continental, they’d do the trick just fine.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dogs will be dogs

Quick rant for the day.

I'm sick of hearing about people sounding off on dogs and dog owners! The greenbelt listserv is in the midst of a bitch session against people who let their dogs off leash while a few blogs I've read lately have had a few blasting words for people doing stupid things with their dogs, then to top it all off MORE has a new favorite thread for the day about dog shit on the W&OD trail.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning people behave this way, I'm just tired of hearing people bitch about it at the moment. Particularly on the listserv, there is a one sided "argument" going on of folks spouting off about dogs off leash; but no one is on there disagreeing with them. So essentially, they're just bitching to bitch; the old talking because you like the sound of your own voice bit. Annoying as sh*t if you ask me.

As an aside, I do let my dog off leash quite frequently in the "field" behind my house to play ball. If anyone comes around I either keep her focused on the ball (which is quite easy actually) or keep a hold on her until they pass. No harm (or bother) no foul.

On the other hand I've had a number of encounters with people who have very unfriendly and downright vicious dogs lately in Greenbelt. Running along the trail with Cass (attached to me on a 4 foot leash mind you) to the lake I was actually yelled at to stop by a guy who couldn't control his dog from attempting to attack us/her/whatever. Like father like dog...

I'm going to stop here because my main source of annoyance is the listserv, and I feel I've let enough of that steam out.

If you want some positive pup time check out what Jason Berry has coming up in the pipeline. They did a feature on Vick's dogs a while back when they first went to the Best Friends animal sanctuary. Very good stuff.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Drink up folks

I thought this was a gimmick. but apparently it's not. I'm now really questioning my ideas of attending these festivities.

In other news, I rode in (from Hains Point) with no gloves or hat this morning. Oh GOD I'm never doing that again. I spent the majority of the time with my hands in my jacket pockets and my chin stuffed in my down jacket as much as possible. For the price of this cold, we better be getting some snow this year.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Apparently LA is all over twitter these days. I don't have an account and to be honest I don't think I want one, though in reality this makes me want to get one just to follow what the guy says in getting ready.

This is a pretty cool thing to see no matter what, an entire team, one LA is riding on no less spending a day goofing around instead of hard training.

And one more oggling over Lance, I like the sound of this: Domestique

That would be very cool to see and would certainly explain Contador sticking around.

Post turkey mumble and jumble

Thanksgiving is always good. Missed out on the good old Pre-Thanksgiving Day high school reunion this year with the trip to the poconos but I'd say thats no skin off my nose. (sorry). A few bottles of wine, some ever energetic dogs, (aside from the illness cause from too much turkey consumption for one) some excellent fare and a whole lot of relaxation and I came back almost feeling a little refreshed! Granted that all changed this morning when the alarm went off but it was good while it lasted.

I did a lot of web surfing while there (wifi and lap tops are the best things ever) and spent some quality time on my new favorite website, Excellent reviews on all things 29'er including some very educational posts. I reviewed an entire series on 29'er frame geometry and while everything is not crystal clear to me now I definitely have a better understanding of the topic. I've also got a better basis to begin my upcoming research into a front shock for the geared build when I get around to it.

Based on some conversation on the MORE forums and some reviews on, I'm thinking I'll probably go with a set of Velocity Blunt wheels for now. Sound like a very solid set of wheels, especially for someone on a budget like me.

Unfortunately the rain kept me from riding once back yesterday but I'm pretty hopefull we'll be on for tomorrow night at Rosaryville. Hopefully the weather holds out for the weekend and I can manage to get out for a good longer ride on Saturday or Sunday with Aimee out of town.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm about to head off for the north(ish) country of Northeast PA for the Thanksgiving with the family. Doing a last load of laundry before I leave in a couple of hours and brave the drive up 95.

Unfortunately despite the fact that I just got the mountain bike back I won't be taking it up with me. I just can't justify ditching the family (and Aimee) the one full day I spend there to go ride solo. Not to mention while I guarantee there are some great riding spots very near the folks house, I don't know any of them yet. Once Brian gets a mountain bike I'm sure we'll bring them up on occasion and find some great riding but for now I'm stuck with whatever running and hiking we may do.

Hopefully Sunday the weather will have been decent and I can get out for a quick ride before the week starts. God, I'm already talking about the end of the "vacation", I need another vacation!

To all those traveling for the holiday here's to your safe arrival and return, and to everyone I hope you have a nice, relaxing and comfortable Thanksgiving holiday.

Back in the Saddle

Sweet! Got the Jamis from the shop last night on the way home from work and then swung down 495 to catch the Rosaryville night ride at 7. Traafic was super light going south but I could see the hell brewing over on the outter loop. The guys got the Dragon 29'er set up with a singleater and it was set to roll. Unfortunately an inner bolt on the singleater taps a couple of my spokes but I['ll take that over not riding any day.

My initial feelings on the new frame were that it definitely had me on a shorter wheel base. I never paid too much attention to overall geometry and the bike's measurements since I really don't know much about that but I could automatically feel the difference. Not a bad thing, just a bit twitchier then the Exile had been. I think the headtube angle on the Exile sloped out more so the front end felt a little funny at first, also adding to the twithy feeling.

Out on the trails the group of 6 moved with a purpose and I quickly got the hang of the bike. On the inner loop I had some issues; whether they were more just me riding poorly or the bike behaving differently then I expected I won't say but I'd like to think it was a combination of the two... With a little extra suctitude on my part. I hit the handle bar at one point on a tiny handlebar hieght cut off sapling trunk and it flipped me over the bars. Totally unexpected and definitely my first relatively hard crash since Big Bear. Had some other minor issues clearing a few logs but otherwise everything was smooth.

At this point I'm feeling like I'll definitely need to be upgrading the frame to gears, I'll probably start by moving it over to a 9 speed set up. While it is great in that it's got me back out on the bike, the singleater slipped a good bit and isn't the ideal riding set up for me. The good news though is I really do like the frame and will definitely be able to build it up into a nice geared hardtail as time and money permits.

One other note about last night's ride; for the first time I used only the head mounted (performance brand 10 Watt) light as opposed to combining that with the bar mounted NiteRider set up. It turns out I think the two lower end lights combined were causing me more issues then I realized. I'd try to rely too much on the bar mounted light and would just throw myself off with the headlamp, not to mention the bar light turns with the handle bars, not my head. So the solo headlamp actually provided a far superior riding experience for me. That's good news since my bother in law is borrowing the NiteRider these days. Now to pick up a decent helmet mount light with an actual helmet mount. (Last night my black electrical tape was missing so I used white athletic tape. Talk about ghetto; my helmet looked like a head cast.

Forgot to mention the excellent first tasting of some home brew in the parking lot after the ride made by Eric and Paul. Best ride leaders ever! And an excellent scotch something ale Eric said came from a book of clone brews by a guy with a difficult name... I think I got it.

I know what the brother in law will be getting for Christmas on top of those bib shorts I already gave him... :) (I sense a very selfish agenda on my part, riding gear so he'll ride with me more and home brew recipes so I can get more home brew beer...)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chainlove is a splitten?

From the Chainlove Forums from today:

by Grant Baron (82)

Those bikes I told you about should be rolling sometime in December. Maybe as late as January when the site splits into Road/Mountain so you might want to hold off until then. Unless you're getting super antsy to get a bike. It could very well be worth the wait.

Oooooo, I barely contain my excitement! And read up from that, bikes galore!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Changing things up a bit here. Not actually doing any work on things (google loaded templates only) but a change of pace is always nice.

Also working on updating the blogroll. I like the google provided action available now through the gadgets. Real-time blog roll for the win.

I'm swapping over from Bloglines to Google reader so it may take some time to move everyone in there. In the mean time, Google Reader has a neat feature for finding other blogs that match your interests. I found this one which may be my new favorite gear review/droll over blog. If you like 29'ers you'll probably like that site.

The Exile

For those who may have wanted to see it, the busted Exile:

Thanks to Eric for sending me the pic since I forgot to take any and the frame has already been trashed or whatever fromt he bike shop. If you look closely you can see the crack in the head tube and the Decal lifted off a bit from the frame, b ut still just barely holding things together there. Yeah I was riding on that for a short couple of minutes...

I stopped by Proteus yesterday to take a look at the new Dragon frame replacement from Jamis. I've gotta say, it looks preety slick. I'm thinking I'm going to be pretty happy with it, both in the short term and down the road when I convert it over to the geared hardtail it was meant to be.

I took a picture of it but never uploaded it so I'll have to wait again to post that one. For now enjoy the relative carnage.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My 2009 Wish List

Last year when he first started the Ambassadors program, Mike asked us all to put together a list of products we might be interested in using through some type of sponsorship/demo deals. I missed the deadline for the post but then took the idea and went ahead and wrote my own post as a general CY2008 wish list of biking related gear; things I hoped to get my hands on during/for the 2008 season. I stumbled across that post today and decided it was time for me to post my CY2009 bicycling wish list and maybe comment on the results of my 08 version.

So, without further ado and since I know you’re all so curious as to what I’m wishing for this year – My CY2009 Bike Stuff Wish List!

The small stuff:

This goes right along with last year’s post; I can always use new socks, caps and gloves as well as tubes and tires. Of the two cycling caps I own, one is just getting ratty and gross and the other is somewhat too big for my head. More of them would be good. I need to invest in some more DeFeet wool socks for riding in the cold and some more cycling socks in general since most of mine are starting to wear out pretty badly. My fixed gear needs a new rear tire, my C’dale road bike needs new front and rear tires and I have no other mt tires other then what came with the Exile. I need to invest in some rubber.

Gu’s and sport drinks have become more ingrained in my training and racing routine and really add up as the season goes on.

The Medium stuff (aka stuff I may actually get):

Bump those tires down here actually. The armadillos on the fixed gear (and probably on the roadie for the winter season) run about $50/tire. The racing slicks for the racing season I like are Michelin Pro’s, $40+ for the Pro2’s, and I think $60+ for the Pro3’s. Ouch. 29’er mountain tires? Haven’t really even looked yet but I KNOW it’s gonna hurt.

Upgrades for the mountain rig – I really need to get some new grips on the Jamis. I’ve heard great things about those Ergon grips and the way my hands have been feeling lately on mtb rides I can definitely see the benefits. I’d also like to upgrade the handle bar, stem and seat post while I’m at it. More for this category in a bit too.

Riding gear: can never have enough riding gear, especially for the cold weather. I need to look into some nice wool jerseys as well as a good warm and wind blocking cycling cap. A balaclava has been on the wanted list for a bit as well.

Riding light – At some point I’m going to need to invest in a decent lighting system for night riding. The two I have (a performance brand 10 Watt light and the Niterider Road Rat) are ok but they aren’t as bright as I’d like. Also I jerry-rig the head light set up and the niterider is heavy as sin, plus it’s on loan to the bro in law for commuting for now. I’d like to try and get my hands on the Niterider MiNewt for a good helmet light and higher end light for the handle bar mount. We’ll see.

Road cycling shoes – Didn’t get these last year and I could still use a new pair. I’ve been watching Chainlove and they always have some amazing shoes for amazing (relative) deals but for now my money is tied up in, well vapor… and xmas presents. Oh and the ones on chainlove half the time are national championship version or gold or team liquigas replica type deals that I’d feel like I tool riding in. My flashy red and black Northwave Chameleon mtb shoes are flashy enough for me. I’m also kind of caught up on whether I should be investing in some decent tri shoes here also. During the season I got to where I’d take the shoes off while on the bike and I can see where the tri specific shoes would be very beneficial there.

Helmet – I still just have the one. Rudy project was offering some great deals through DCTri I believe so maybe I can get in on that one of these days.

Pedals – It’s time to upgrade the mtb from the basic SPD pedals. I’m eyeing up some crank brothers candy sl pedals. Could be nice

The big stuff (aka not gonna happen in this economy):

Well last year I wanted a new hardtail but got a new rigid, single speed. I was happy with that. As fate has directed it seems I’ve now ended up with a frame which would make a great hardtail. I’m thinking that’s the eventual direction I’ll be taking it. As I was saying before with the upgrades, new geared set up. I’m thinking X.9 components, fox fork, some higher end brakes, some nicer, lighter 29’er wheels… Then maybe a used single speed 29’er frame and I’ll be pretty set up there. So, what I’m saying is, I think I should be thinking about a full squishy. Yeah, I know I’ve always said I think it’d be unnecessary and there is nothing here to use it on, but I now believe I’m wrong. Nothing in mind specifically at the moment but it’s there in the back of my mind. Brooding.

Next, and even less likely – A Tri-Bike.

Aero wheels

Aero helmet

Blah blah blah.

This is getting to be too much. I should have just posted a link to a high end bike shop’s web site and saved myself (and anyone reading this) the time.

Biker Love - To: Jamis - From: Kmax

I've been waiting to write about this until I really knew what was going on. After some initial signs that things were going to be very smooth, a longer then expected delay settled in followed by some seemingly disappointing news. At that point I was fairly certain nothing good was going to come of my situation. Things have since been sorted out and in the end, while it may not be the ideal outcome I am feeling satisfied with the outcome. On top of that I truly feel I can say that excellent service was provided in dealing with my issue; thank you Craig Hoyt and Jamis in your willingness to work with this.

So, here's the story:

I waited for 2 weeks with no word from anyone after dropping off the bike at Proteus. After the latest ride report over on the MORE forums put me over the edge I put in a call to Proteus to see about what kind of progress had been made. The general idea of Jamis' stance was pretty unclear but I left the conversation with the understanding that there were no Exile frames to be had and that I could receive a credit on a new bike. Not looking to buy myself a (replacement) Christmas present at this point. Obviously not a great outcome for me.

The shop said they'd look into it some more and I went ahead and contacted Craig to see if he knew anything more about it. He said he knew they were out of single speed frames but he'd get in touch with the distributer and see what he could find out. A few days later I get a call from the shop and they say they offered a Dragon 29'er frame and that beginning in '09 Jamis was going to have the Dragon 29'er Single Speed (it appears in replacement of the Exile). Ok, I can live with that; it's a downgrade in the frame (Reynolds 631 to the Dragon with Reynolds 520, an entry level steel frame) so it's not perfect but at least it's a new frame to ride for now. At this point I'm still a bit disappointed but it is what it is.

The next day I get a call from the shop saying they sent the geared Jamis Dragon 29'er frame. Huh? I wanted a single speed, I don't want to rebuild to a new bike, there are no vertical dropouts on the geared frame. Ok, I've got to think about this. Turns out the frame is Reynolds 853, an upgrade; it's not bad looking (though damn I really like the looks of the 2009 Dragon 29'er frame, with that saddle??? HOT!!!) and if it turns out I want to build up a hardtail geared rig up I've got a great frame to do it with. Ok, I'm sold; turns out Jamis even hooked me up with a singleator so I'm basically all set for now.

So, while I really just expected and was hoping for a new 2008 Exile Single Speed 29'er with the reinforced frame, Jamis did what they could and gave me a higher grade frame (with some solid reviews) and the setup I need to run it single for now. I appreciate not only the willingness of Jamis to work with me & Proteus to come up with a reasonable solution but even more so the quick action once things were settled and even the small details of setting me up with the singleator to get me back in the saddle quickly.

I can't WAIT to get back out on the bike! I'll post some pictures when I get it. As for the old frame, if it's hanging around the shop I'll try and snag some shots of it before they get rid of it since I forgot to before dropping it off. Otherwise, just imagine - busted.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day one marathon training

Finally hit the pavement again yesterday after about a month of not running. I'd like to say my foot was hurting and needed a break but really I was just not feeling like running... or swimming... or working out at all, unless of course it was on a mountain bike (news on that too come). So, finally yesterday on my late lunch I got in a nice 4 miler on the Mall.

Aside from cramping up a little during the third mile I felt pretty good. A bit heavy and tight in general but nothing too bad. Tonight I'm going to get the pup out for another 4 or 5 miler; the training program calls for 4 hill repeats but it also called for a 10 miler on last Saturday so I'm going to spend a week or two just putting my base back together before I really hit the program hard.

If I stick to my program fairly well I should be looking at around 600 miles logged by the end of March with close to 250 miles by the end of the year. That's a lot of miles, though I'll likely see the mid-training blues kicking in sometime there and likely a bit more cross training mixed in there then the program calls for.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to the grind stone

Last night I talked to a buddy I hadn't heard from in a couple of months; I told him all I felt like doing these days is sleeping and eating. Aside from the once or twice weekly commute from Greenbelt and some mountain biking (until 2 weeks ago) I've pretty much been completely slacking since Jerseyman... Ouch. I'm officially feeling like a out of shape slob. I've run 1 time since, haven't touched a pool or weights and have barely spun the pedals. Mix that with the amount of food and candy I've been shoveling in my face lately I think the description really works.

Ok, so my goal is to run the National Marathon at the end of March. Looks like it's time to start my training! A couple years ago I used the training program supplied by the folks with the Shamrock Faestival Marathon down in VA Beach which worked well so I'll be keying off it again. This time though I'm using the 20 week advanced program which coincidentally started last week. Looks like I'm supposed to be doing 10 miles this weekend... I think I'll ease in to this one a little bit.

Took the day off Tuesday (best day for a day off ever, except maybe a Wednesday) to hike Sugarloaf Mountain with Brain and the dogs. Did a nice 6.5 miles over steady up and down terrain with some fairly intense little sections along the Orange trail from the East side lot. I highly suggest the Northern Peaks Trail for a solid hiking effort and if you don't mind a little scrambling take the Orange Trail from the East view parking lot to the meet up with the red then blue. Very fun and some nice views included.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Welcoming a new era

I don't really need to say anything for any readers to know how I feel right now; for the time being I can just point to the big smile on my face. In relation to biking; it looks like there is a pretty solid chance for cyclists to gain some ground over the next few years...

Secretary of Transportation: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.)

Two of our favorite Senators listed (solely) as the possible candidates for DoT Secretary... A far cry from the last 8 years.

On another note I think we can all take part in the pride surrounding our country's growth. To many this was a deciding factor (maybe even both ways), but I think to a lot of people it is simply a tremendous bonus to come along with this election (win or lose). It says something about our country that makes me proud to say I'm a part of it that we, as a whole, can finally get past our prejudices, if not fully at least enough to make it obvious that in the grand scheme of things race doesn't matter!

For that, I think we can ALL be thankful.

Congratulations President Obama and family and congratulations America, the true melting pot of the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Unexpected time frames

Have you voted today?

I figured I'd "beat the crowds" this morning by walking the 2 blocks down the street the Greenbelt Elementary School a bit before the doors opened at 7am. The line wrapped over and out of the parking lot by the time I got there at about 10 till. Oops. About an hour and a half later I was on my way to work. I'll be looking for my free Starbucks Coffee later on today and maybe even my free Ben and Jerry's later on.

Yesterday Brian and I commuted in to work. We took the usual route in, meeting around 7:15 at the usual spot. I decided it'd be cool to try out a different route going home and since I failed to get a ride in this weekend figured I could go for a few more anyway. We cut out West through Geaorgetown and up the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda. From Bethesda we cut East until we hit Beach and then headed North.

By this time it was getting pretty substaintially dark and Brian didn't have lights (aside from the urban commuter light I provided) so I had to stick behind him which was a bit tough going up Jones Mill by the Mormon Cathedral since he was in the easiest gear trying to spin slowly up the hill. In the end we got him home safely at around 20 miles and sometime near 6pm. I took off through Sligo Creek with a headlight and blinky on my way back Southeast towards the NW branch trail and back to my usual NE branch trail towards home.

In total my trip was 37 miles going home, probably at least half in complete darkness and about 53 for the day. A bit more then I'd planned for though it was good riding a bit more. Really my only issue was I just wasn't mentally prepared for the darkness so early. Despite knowing it's coming it always takes me by surprise the first commute home after daylight savings kicks in. Using that day to test out a new route was probably not the smartest thing to do this year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Caring for the little guys

There is so much to be said for individual customer service. At the shop level, individual customer service can make or break a shop. Don't give good service and you won't be able to build a customer base and you'll quickly fold. Provide excellent service along with a solid product and you should easily be able to retain a good customer base and through word of mouth continue to grow that base. Everyone has a story about bad service at a shop, especially as a newbie to the world of bikes. Shop level customer service is simple and extremely important to the operation of a business.

On the level of manufacturer customer service can be a little harder to come by. Unless you have to deal with a warranty issue or something along those lines you typically will never see what type of service a bike maker may provide. The stories I've heard from folks tend to fall into two categories when a manufacturers' customer service comes into play; they're basically terrible or excellent.

Those who receive terrible customer service generally vow to never bring their business back to that manufacturer and will likely be very vocal about their feelings regarding them. The lost business of a few sold bikes due to one poor interaction to me seems like a bit of a disproportionate loss. On the other hand the people that receive excellent customer service tend to spread there good feelings around as well. Whether through blogging, forums like Bike forums or the MORE forums or worse, which I always review before I purchase, word is spread of the encounter is spread. In the days of the interwebs and googles, much farther then a local group of fellow riders.

So, when a company actually takes the time to provide the service and personal interaction on the micro level, I for one am always super impressed and somewhat flattered. After the Big Bear debacle this summer a guy from Ellsworth took the time to look into things and found and commented on my blog. Made a big impression on me and I know I've passed word on about it since then. I've got a lot of love for Ellsworth bikes and if my price range fit better into their products', I'd very likely be thinking Ellsworth as my next mountain rig.

Yesterday I posted about my latest bike malfunction and low and behold Jamis' product manager finds the post and comments, letting me know what I need to do to go about getting the frame replaced. My post may have sounded a bit rough on the bike though that was not intentional. I have the most recent review on it in the forum and while I plan to edit it, I also plan to include my experiences with dealing with their customer service. I've heard the new frames have corrected for the cracking issue and assuming all goes well I'll very likely provide a very favorable review, possibly even more so then before.

The fact that the mountain bike product manager from Jamis actually took the time to search blogs, found mine and commented on it says a lot to me about the company. Either they're just really slow and bored right now (kidding of course :) ) or they really care about their product and keeping their current customers happy and prospective customers interested. Mike May over at is really on to something with the whole micro level web and weblog centered philosophy.

Helmet tip to Jamis for taking the time for an simple individual customer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A season (and bike) of firsts

I've gotten a lot of firsts with my Jamis Exile 29'er. You know, my first single speed mountain bike and first 29 inch mountain bike. My first serious rigid mountain bike (unless you count the old Diamondback (Outlook?) I first started a little mountain biking on). Did my first 13 hour race on it and my first 24 hour race as well. First night rides, first Rosaryville rides... I think you get the picture.

All of those "firsts" can easily be rounded into the "good" category (unless you want to talk about the quality of my performance at the two races of course). A whole other set of first have also been achieved on the Exile that I wouldn't quite illuminate under such a kind light.

My first ride, both on the bike and at Rosaryville SP was interrupted midway by my first ever broken chain. The near 2 hour trek back to my car, exacerbated by the fact i knew nothing about the park definitely sucked, though luckily no serious damage was done to my body as a result of the break.

Then, my first ever broken spoke at the Leesburg Bakers' Dozen race. Not terrible and after I finished the lap the awesome guys from Plum Grove hooked me up with a loaner wheel. Again, little harm, little foul.

Next the brake line blew (first time ever for me again) out mid-lap at Big Bear during my night lap. More harmful as I was forced to rely on the front brake through all the worst downhill areas of the already difficult course. Endo city, though no broken bones so still not the worst thing ever.

Following that race, for the first time ever I had a destroyed bottom bracket. I've yet to replace that actually after an order for a replacement BB was never entered at the shop so the pedals spin almost as if I'm walking a fixed gear when it rolls.

Now, last night for the first time ever I can say that I've busted a bike frame. A steel bike frame no less...

I'll post pictures when I get a chance but essentially the down tube broke clean away from the headset and the headset also cracked in half, held together simply by the Jamis head badge decal. A couple minutes more of riding and I was set for a face plant and a frame in two pieces.

Before the ride last night at Rosaryville in meeting the legendary Ricky D of the Single Speed Outlaws, I got my first warning of the likely hood of the frame crack. 45 minutes later with the front end of the bike was shaking and wobbling all over the place I had my very own proof. Damn, such a good ride too last night to be ended mid-way through, half way through the inner loop.

Here's hoping Proteus and Jamis back up their product. Will share the pics when I get them and keep this updated on here. The worst part about the whole thing is That is my only mountain bike so I'll be off the dirt for as long as this takes. Just as I was really getting into the trail grove.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The ultimate in local Cyclo-ism

The weekend was a bit of a wash for me, but Sunday by far made up for any short comings on the rest of my time. The second annual DCCX Cyclo-cross race was held on Sunday morning, once again the only cross race to be held within the DC city limits. DCMtb again put on a phenomenal event this year and I got a first hand view of just how great they really were. Every person at the race was taken care of like a rock star. From the little Belgians and their official race medals to the big Belgians and their first class course to the spectators and even volunteers. DCCX is quite possibly the most hospitable event in the local racing catalogue; both for participants and spectators alike.

I had the opportunity to help out at the fry booth for a couple of hours while being fed (free) beers by Brian (the bro-in-law) who I dragged out for the race. Catching up with people I haven't seen in a while and people I never expected to see was very fun, plus just having even a tiny hand in helping for such an awesome event was pretty good stuff. The remainder of the day we spent watching the top notch competition out on the course, all the while flip flopping between really wishing I was racing, and being entirely thankful I wasn't out there trying to kill myself.

Brian was pretty hooked on the race and is even more eager to at least get his ass on a mountain bike; I've been working on that since he first got on a road bike back in the beginning of the summer. Hopefully he keeps the bug and this time next year sees both of us racing around the dirt for DCCX.

Anyway, big hat tip, or more appropriately bottle clink to DCMtb for another first class event!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ridin Rosey

I'm lovin it! Last night I finally made it out to the Rosaryville night ride with MORE. Couldn't have been a better night for it. My lighting situation* (which I also raced Leesburg Bakers' Dozen and 24 Hours of Big Bear with) is in need of some serious improvement but otherwise the ride was amazing. It was a little chilly hanging out in the parking lot and I was almost contemplating wearing my heavier cycling jacket for the ride but thankfully remembered how quickly I tend to warm up and start sweating, not to mention how nice a dry jacket was going to be post ride.

The group mostly showed up pretty early, assuring traffic wouldn't cause a missed ride, and by 7 we had 7 guys ready to roll. We rolled in clockwise (in my experience the best way) and immediately the pace was a quick and even tempo. I rode in at 5th wheel and stuck close to Eric also on an SS rig as I quickly realized my helmet light was terribly angled and my handlebar mount lost a spacer and was constantly slipping. With Eric's lead and light I was able to keep up with the steady and quick pace though I noticably fell back when I dropped off his wheel.

We rode quickly through the park regrouping now and then as the front 3 were tearing through the trails a bit faster then we were keeping up at times. The dry earth was producing a ton of dust which at times was a pretty tough hinderence but overall I think we avoided any major issues aside from a lost contact by the third single speeder (Greg?). We took the inner loop and At this point riding a wheel wasn't a wise idea so my pace slowed fairly dramatically as I kept running myself off the trail, unable to spot in the somewhat heavier cover of leaves where to go but I avoided any serious mistakes and was assured by those behind me I wasn't causing any issues there.

Once back on the main outer loop the trails were more visible and with less logs to go over wheel sucking was once again not a terrible thing to do and we sped through the rest of the trail. Definitely an awesome way to spend a Wednesday evening. I will definitely be making this a regular part of my routine.

*My lighting set up consists of a handlebar mounted nite rider road rat (big, bulky and not that bright, plus now missing a spacer) and the old performance bike light helmet mounted using electricle tape since the helmet mount didn't actually come with it and they are no longer available anywhere that I can find. Lots of tape...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Been a while since I've posted a car bike rant

This morning as I rode in to work a BMW came around me, entirely in the opposing lane of traffic over on D St, NE. Generally no big deal and maybe it'd even kind of the guy (albeit stupid) for the guy to give me so much space. Not this time. I was riding with traffic, cruising at speed behind a large pick up truck as a car would do (in reality probably even tailgating a little, also similar to how cars drive). The BMW had no where to go and I threw my arms up and let him know.

So, he drove along next to me for the rest of the block. The truck turned and the lane ahead was open so the guy took off... to the next light. Apparently though he didn't really notice it very quickly since he had to slam on the brakes and scared the shit out of a half a dozen pedestrians in the crosswalk.

I congratulated him on his ability to scare anyone and everyone; figured it was an early Halloween prank.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rosaryville Autumn Fest aka Bike Doctor Waldorf Demo Day! :)

The event I was looking forward to!

I've rarely been to any kind of bike demo days, really I've only stumbled on one at Patapsco while riding with some friends before this weekend. I test rode the Cannondale Caffeine 29'er that day having just recently heard about the whole 29'er idea. I didn't like it very much though the bike was fairly poorly spec'd, I'd never ridden a lefty and more importantly I'd never ridden a 29'er and had just spent the last couple of hours riding my 26 inch Trek. I liked how well it rode over things but handling just felt terrible.

At Big Bear I got to test ride the Ellsworth for my last lap, but other then that I've pretty much spent all of my mountain biking time riding my own bike. Demo days are the greatest thing since Al Gore invented the internets!

I managed to drag Aimee and Brian out somehow and figured the 3 of us would tool around a bit on the bikes they had there before heading out to lunch or something. Aimee still being hungover ended up hanging out with the dogs and reading and enjoying the amazing day while Brian and I got to ride a lap on our borrowed bikes thanks to Bike Doctor Waldorf.

I'd expected to try out the Trek Fuel EX 9.9, mostly since it was the highest end bike I saw on the list posted on the forum. Turns out they'd left it at the shop so I had to choose a different one. My eyes almost imediately were drawn to a sleak white Gary Fisher on the end of the rack and my mind was made up on what I wanted to try out. The 2009 Gary Fisher Paragon; 29 inch wheels, X-9 componentry with Avid Juicy Five disc brakes, a Fox fork and Bontrager wheels all set up on the lightweight and super sharp looking aluminum hardtail frame. They initially tried to set Brian up on it but since it was a large it was a bit too big for him, perfect for me. He ended up on the full squishy Gary Fisher Carbon Hi Fi running about $4400... A nice bike for a beginner.

Turns out it was a mixed blessing that the Trek wasn't there. First I really don't have any desire to get a full suspension bike; I just don't feel like it is necessary on the majority of what I ride. So, riding the EX 9.9 would have been relatively pointless aside from just riding a really nice bike. On the flip side, riding the Paragon just poured fuel on the fire. With my history of bike buying putting myself on something I might want is never a good idea. Consider the Paragon wanted.

I loved the ride of the aluminum frame and having gears was definitely nice; my general riding speed aside from waiting for Brian here and there was definitely higher then while on my ss. The bike was tremendously lightweight compared to my steel frame Jamis with lower level components, and on that note the sram X.9 drivetrain was so sweet and smooth. I am set on at least the style of my next bike if not the bike itself.

Reading some online reviews over at I think my only worry would be the likelyhood of the aluminum frame to fail. While it would appear a majority of the complaints are from the older model and that the 2008 model design was overhauled to correct the issue it is still something to think about. Otherwise the componentry complaints are all non-issues to me. I'm not a weight wheenie and at 26 lbs I wouldn't be one to complain about heavy wheels. I love the X.9 and the Avid Juicy five brakes and bontrager components would be easy swaps if I decided I didn't like them. As for the frame, the life time warranty would tend to allay any fears of failure to a back of the mind issue. Plus for the $2000 price tag it comes across to me as a relative bargain for those components.

All that said, I'm in no rush to buy and I will definitely be trying out as many bikes as I possibly can before I really start to get into it. If you on the other hand prefer hardtail, want light and fast with a solid drive train and sleek and simple look, go check out the 2009 Paragon. It's a super nice ride.

Fort Dupont hike-a-bike

A couple of things went down last week that I wanted to post about but never got around to. This weekend, the same.

Most notably, on Thursday I made it out to Fort Dupont to check out the trails. I really wanted to make it out to the Fort Dupont ride on Wednesday but that just wasn't happening for me. So instead I cut out of work on Thursday and headed over to check them out myself. I didn't have the write up on the trails since my printer connection isn't set up correctly so I had some issues figuring out where to go and once I did I never quite found the right flow of the park.

There were some cross country kids practicing out there that I kept riding up on and I never found any of the trails that led out and across roads so I probably missed the good parts but for what I rode iit just felt like the single speen wasn't the right bike. Some too steep inclines and too quick openings had me hiking and over spinning for what felt like most of the ride. One little section provided some nice smooth flow though I was moving around blind corners fast enough that I was nervous the whole time I'd be crushing one of the runners around the next bend.

I probably put in about 45 minutes jsut spinning around, back and forth on the trails, never quite getting much good riding in before packing it in and heading back to Aimee's. This week I'm going to try and join up the final official MORE Fort Dupont ride and see if the guided tour helps with the flow of the trails at all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dreaming of greener "cube walls"

Over the past few months I've been questioning my current career path and looking into possible alternatives. Sometimes being a cubicle monkey feels like just the most depressing way to spend my career and I can't imagine doing it for the rest of my life. Others, especially when things are fairly busy around the office I feel like I could be totally content to continue a career here as a government employee.

One of the most appealing alternative careers I've been considering is a move to the National Park Service or something in the Bureau of Land Management as a Ranger. I always promised myself when I was younger I'd never work in a cubicle and that desire still glows deep in my heart. Everything about sitting couped up in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day goes against my grain and I don't believe there are many office jobs out there that would really leave me excited eager to go to work on a regular basis. A Ranger position on the otherhand has along with it's certain and serious downsides, all of the up sides I could ever want.

While I'll be the first to admit this is a total pipe dream, especially at this point in my life, with no relevant experience, a house I owe more on then is worth, next to zero in savings and no real easy way to go about getting certification for the type of work involved, it is still there. MY American dream if you will. (No, I know, it seems wrong that my american dream has nothing to do with making millions of dollars... crazy right?)

I've looked fairly extensively into what it would take to make this change and at this point it looks like sacrifice is the big winner. One thing I can and really ought to be doing anyway over the next few years is volunteering in the local parks. Whether it be clean up days, trail maintenance or some sort of awareness program this type of experience is a must is probably some of the easiest resume building I can do right now.

Maybe it's an omen or something; this morning I stumbled across a post on the site for Park Police Volunteers for the Montgomery County Park service. I know Maryland has a similar volunteer ranger program but it's apparently a fairly extensive process that is fairly hard to get in to. This opportunity on the other hand includes about 18 hours of classroom training, and a required 15 hours of field experience to become a certified Park Police Volunteer. After that there is a 15 hour quarterly time requirement including 8 hours of detail work which I take it is specified time for park events. The remainder is simply spent patrolling the park and trails, on bike while radioing issues and working as essentially an "informational" officer.

Sounds ideal to me; assuming I can pass their background check faster then the 3+ years I've been waiting on the one here from GSA. To be fair, OHR here at Labor lost my original paper work and only informed me a year + later when I called to find out about the progress...

Who knows, once I have a few years under my belt of this type of volunteer work I could actually get my butt in gear and head down to Southwestern Community College in North Carolina for a month and get my seasonal park ranger certification. It may be a pipe dream, but maybe it's a bit less potent then I thought...