Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weird SS Fascination

This might be the one.

I might be slightly autistic, or something. Every once in awhile I get fixated on something. Lately, I've been fixated on single speed cross bikes. This isn't the first episode. I had an episode a couple years ago, which led me to getting a Surly cross bike (the cheap route). I had a couple episodes last year, which resulted in a really heavy 29'er steel single speed (again, the cheap route). These episodes phase in and out as evidenced by the fact that the Surly was geared for a year or so. Now it's SS. The 29'er is in several different pieces in various places and has been pirated for parts needed elsewhere. I'm feeling the urge to get it back together again.

Part of the reason the SS Fascination phases out is because I go out and ride, and feel limited -- too big of a gear, spinning out too fast, etc. What did I expect, right? Maybe it's because I took the cheap route, but probably not.

The thing is, the thing that makes this odd fascination recur, is that every once in a while I'm reminded that there are guys that can ride a single speed really fast. And for whatever reason, I think that's cool, and elegant, and, well, downright tough. So I won't do much to curb the fascination for now. Maybe one of these times I'll get the combination right, meaning, I'll be able to go single AND go fast.

Any CX single'ers out there?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Keeping it Zen

Some Zen thoughts from a mediocre, but content, racer:

Rico, who finished 6th at this week's Weber CX race complains of being a mediocre bike racer. The Samurai heard this complaint while floating happily on his post-race high, relishing in the fact that not only had he finished a race, but finished in the top 10(barely). Upon hearing it, he almost fell off. The Samurai began to think something like: hmmm, if Rico's mediocre, then what am I? . . . does my apparent satisfaction wtih mediocrity make me a Fred? I quickly jerked the Samurai back onto the post-race cloud and rebuked him starting down the non-Zen path. I am happy to report that the Samurai is back on the Zen path and is, once again, well-centered (while acknowledging that the Emperor likewise considered himself well-centered in his "new clothes").

Hoping not to appear so presumptuous as to think that the Samurai can guide racers, to the Zen path or that racers ought to find the Zen path, the Samurai nevertheless offers the following tips, most of which were learned and/or employed in his ever-continuing quest for well-centeredness (the definition of which is not completely known, includes "keeping it real" (whatever that means), but does not include getting down on oneself for being "mediocre"), and many of which are cliche.

Tip 1: Visualize. Visualization is a powerful tool, but only if used correctly. I suppose there is some debate as to how to correctly visualize, but let me share a couple things that work for me. On Saturday, when I lined up, I was slighty psyched out. I was surrounded by lots of fast skinny guys with pro licenses. So I did the following: I pretended I was a VW Bug (a Ford Pinto would also have been acceptable), surrounded by a Ferrari here, an Aston Martin there, a Lambo over there. I won't say who was the Ferrari, etc. because I don't want them to get a big head, or to make them feel bad by getting beat by a VW Bug . . . not that that happened. So as not to not inflate Rico's head and to pay a compliment at the same time, I imagined him as a muscle-y Mustang. Remember, I was a Bug. By visualizing in this manner, I automatically set myself up for success. On paper, as a Bug, I should have been destroyed. Had I been destroyed, it would have been ok -- I'm just a Bug. But, as it turned out, I didn't get destroyed and rode relatively ok. And for a Bug, my performance could have been construed as pretty good, even though I didn't even come close to winning. It was a total win-win situation.

One might ask, Isn't it better to visualize oneself as an Aston Martin? To that, my response is threefold. First, neither I nor you are an Aston Martin. Second, if one thinks as oneself as an Aston Martin, he/she is cocky and deserves to get beaten by a Bug. Third, even if you are Sven, you can't always perform like an Aston Martin should; therefore you set yourself up for disappointment, i.e. non-well-centeredness. As they say, better safe than sorry.

Tip 2: Set Realistic Goals. If you want to be well-centered, the operative word here is "realistic." I've told one of my training buddies that one of my goals this season is to not get lapped by him. In fact, although it goes against principles of well-centeredness, if it ever appears that I'm going to get lapped by him, I will pull out of the race, crash myself, fake a mechanical, or yell "damn you" before getting passed. As you can see, this goal motivates me. That is key. Your goals must not only be realistic, they must stretch you. Ideally, as you hit each of your goals, they should grow loftier. One day, you might find it both natural and realistic to actually set a goal to win. Until then, there's nothing you can do but try and have fun.

Tip 3: Be the Race. Allow me to wax philosophical. The Race is a living, moving, breathing thing. There are the off-cambered turns, the barriers, the wind, the crowds, the cowbells, Gardie and Bruce, the racers (some of whom are Pintos and others of whom are not), the gaps, the chases. As zen masters say, it's best not to work against it, but to work with it. Submit to it and become one with it. As the race evolves, you must adapt. To think a race is simply to be won or lost is dualistic, over-simplistic, and not zen. So long as you have "become" the race, there won't be anything to mope about. Starting to get weird, so enough about that . . .

Tip 4: Pack Your Suitcase of Knowledge. I find that if I am getting schooled, I'm more well-centered if I focus on what I can learn, rather than on what I don't know. If you allow yourself to be awed, no matter what happens, you'll come out ahead because you will have a new tool in your suitcase of knowledge, or, at least, something new to aspire too. In thinking about the race, I was awed at least three times. The first time was during warmup when Bart opened up a fat gap by jumping the horse jump -- a high log stack meant to be jumped during a horse race, not a bike race. The second time was when Mitchell hopped back into the race after a mechanical and promptly threw down, making me and Alex look like we were going backwards. His attack was so cool (and effective) -- right through the spectator section -- that I tried to mimic that same attack on the last few laps. I'll file that one away in the "All Out Attack" file. The third time was when me and Bryce Young, a single-speeder, got locked up in a back and forth battle. I attacked him -- Mitchell-style -- no less than five times in my 44x12, and I couldn't drop him in his 39x17. He was spinning more than 140 rpm. I guess spinning can be effective.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Here's to Winter '08-'09

(Thanks to Todd (I knew him before he was skinny) for my new banner photo.)

In light of the white stuff we received today, I thought it appropriate for a recap:

Before the skiing though, I have to do a few more cross races. Strike that, I have to finish at least one race. I got caught up in the course marking tape mid-way through Heber's race, got thrown on the ground, smacked my head on the ground, and re-opened my Harvest Moon road rash. I admit that even though it hurt, I was a bit relieved to have a good excuse to quit since I was having a tough time hanging. I kept getting gapped in the corners and punished in the wind. At least it was good training!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Holy Grail CX Wheel/Tire Setup?

(Note that I am following the Rev's suit and playing off a religious theme.)

Over the course of my short CX career I've battled with wheel and tire choice. In 2006, when I first started racing CX, I showed up at the RMR with some Ritchey cross tires inflated to 75 PSI. The roadie mentality is fill 'em up, and I did, all the way. While warming up, I blew one of the tires right of the rim, breaking the kevlar bead at the same time. Not knowing that lower pressure is better, I promptly put on my spare wheel with a Kenda tire, also inflated to 70ish PSI. That race was a bit of a blur, but I do remember slip sliding all over getting jarred by the hard ride, and crashing several times -- not that the tires had anything to do with it.

Over the course of the 2006 season, I also experimented running Stans system with Ksyriums, standard box rims, and a variety of tires. I eventually gave it up, but not after I had tried packing tape, Stan's strips, split BMX tires, voo doo, and after I had blown a couple Kenda tires off the rim, ripped out the kevlar beads, and burped some Muds (while winning a race -- twice). Oh yeah, since Bart seemed to have luck with his Stan's setup I asked him to lick my wheels; unfortunately it didn't help.

Not completely learining my lesson in 2006, I made a run at using Stan's in 2007. The benefit of Stan's (in theory) is that you can run low pressure without pinch flatting and have protection against goatheads, of which there are many on all Utah courses. Needless to say, my attempts at using Stan's failed, and I raced on Muds, tubes, and Ksyriums.

Not completely learning my lesson in 2006 and 2007, I made yet another run at using Stan's. And guess what? It worked . . . or seems to be working.

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Reynolds DV UL with Challenge Grifos on the left (4.4 lbs), Reynolds Mid-V Clincher with Hutchinson Bulldogs on the right (5.3 lbs) -- (and a trick Edge KOM on the far right, but that's another story)

Two key factors have changed. I'm not using Ksyriums and I'm not using Michelin, Kenda, Ritchey, or Maxxis tires. Instead I'm using some Reynolds mid-V clinchers and Hutchinson Bulldog CX tubeless tires. Using the Reynolds over the Ksyriums means that I have a tight tire fit. Tires are really hard -- bloody knuckle hard -- to get on the Reynolds rims. They are so tight that I was able to air up the tires without an air compressor. Because there is a tight tire fit on the rim, it's hard(er) to burp the sealant and air out. Using the Hutchinsons over other tires means that I have a better, beefier, and more flexible bead, which also prevents against burping and ensures a good seal. My hope is that the bead is also stronger and will not spontaneously self destruct.

So, today, running below 30 PSI (I could push the tire to the rim quite easily), as I was rallying (to the extent I can do so) through soft dirt, bark, and off cambered grass WITHOUT BURPING or air loss, I wondered whether I had discovered the holy grail wheel setup -- especially after I picked out several goatheads from my front tire and the holes immediately sealed up. Those thorns can make tubulars really frustrating and expensive (Grifos have latex tubes in them that don't work well with sealant).

But, having given it further thought, there are two things that stop me from actually declaring that this setup is the holy grail wheel setup: weight and suppleness. Compared to a DV UL with Challenge Grifo setup (without sealant), the Reynolds Clincher Hutchinson setup (with sealant) weighs nearly a full pound more. That's a lot of rotating mass. While it probably wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to a fast guy, it might (at least in my mind) mean the difference between a mid pack to a back-of-the-pack finish. Like that should matter anyway. Though somewhat of a secondary point, the tires are less supple than tubies. The sidewalls fold at low pressure and hard cornering is a bit squirrly. That's at really low pressure -- I shouldn't complain because it's amazing that the tires can be run at tubular pressures.

The huge advantage of the clincher setup is that they self-seal, you can get 6 clinchers for the price of 2 tubies, they are easy to mount, and they won't roll off the rim. And like tubies, you can run them at low pressure without pinch flats.

Holy grail? Close, but as is the case with most things in life, there are trade-offs. I'm just happy that after 3 years, the Stans isn't blowing out all over the place.