Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cyclocross on the Cheap

Bike racing can be expensive - stupid expensive - if you want it to be.  It doesn't have to be that way - with a little knowledge and elbow grease - racing on the cheap is totally possible. Building up bikes or searching for used stuff can also be a gas, if you're so inclined.

I've kept my son, Racer Boy Ian, rolling with decent race ready bikes on the cheap for a few years now.  Used bikes, Part-O-Swaps between frames, and new bike deals in the mix to keep things rolling.  The price of being a one paycheck Family-O-Four.  Expensive bikes on hold for a few years.

While eating dinner tonight, pulled a back issue of Cyclocross Magazine out of the Pile-O-Mags, as I can't seem to eat with reading something. I'm sick that way.  This issue containing an interesting story of putting together a new 'cross bike for low dough, that I re-read and getting a kick out of for a second time.  Bike pictured above, borrowed from the online version of the article.  Total cost for the race ready rig, via various sources, came to $643.  Entire bike for less then the cost of a high end wheelset.  Very cool.

Sure, a new Ibis or Steelman would be sweet.  If you can't swing the cost of something along those lines, don't let it deter you from racing or riding.  There are other avenues of getting out there.

Also a nod to Cyclocross Magazine, now one of my favorite mags.  Grassroots and run by people in the know.  If you haven't done so already, very worth checking out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Secret Race - Book Review

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last few weeks, hard to ignore the news that Lance Armstrong has been busted for doping and stripped of his seven Tour De France titles. Another massive blow to the credibility of pro cycling.  This doping nonsense never seems to end and makes you doubt the results of any pro level race, especially any of the grand tours.

I was a Lance fan, even though I had my doubts, put them off until something was proven. Well, with the USADA report and testimony of previous teammates, there is no more doubt. To me, if George Hincapie says Lance doped - Lance doped.  Then add in the other pros who've said the same thing - Hamilton, Landis, Andreu, Leipheimer - the list goes on. Incriminating themselves and taking Lance with them.

I enjoyed the hell out of watching those seven Lance tours, waking up bleary eyed for work after too many nights of late coverage.  Then bike commuting to work, 34 mile round trip, inspired by what I witnessed.  If pros can conquer mountain passes while battling each other at insane speeds, I can get my sorry ass to work via bike.  Now, according to the UCI, those Tours never existed - or whatever crazy version of history they'll rewrite.  It all leaves a lame, sour taste in your mouth.

Pro sports is basically the entertainment industry, so who cares - right?  Cycling is different however, many pro cycling fans are cyclists themselves - especially in the U.S.  So, we feel more of a connection to the sport itself, even if we don't race or do so at a grass roots level. How many football fans actually play football?  I think you get my drift.  That's why this kind of news stings us a little.  Because we're cyclists and cycling fans, so it digs deeper.

With that background, I read Tyler Hamilton's tell all book a few days ago.  Start to finish in one sitting, fascinated and sickened at the same time.  Many of the incidents and stories I've heard before, but now laid out in chronological order with full details.  I've always wondered how the mechanics of doping work, now I know.  And it's less complex then I imagined.  From shooting EPO to the creepy practice of transfusing your own blood, usually hiding in a nondescript hotel somewhere.  Blood bags carried via cooler and taped to hotel wall.  Somehow that scene never comes up during interviews or Tour coverage on cable.  Also apparently easy to avoid getting caught, though eventually the averages put you at risk.

As a fan I always enjoyed watching and reading about Hamilton.  Super tough guy from Massachusetts; from riding the Giro with a shoulder injury, to suffering to a 4th place finish in the Tour with a broken collarbone.  All with a humble, low key style.  Then after being busted for doping a few years ago - complete with "unborn twin" crazy excuse, the Believe Tyler crowd, endless denials - made you wonder, yet another weird chapter in pro cycling.

After reading the book, you realize to an extent, why Hamilton acted this way.  From the don't tell pro culture, to realizing without doping, winning at that level would be next to impossible, at least during that era.  It was all part of being a professional.  It's easy to call these guys cheats and liars, 'cause in fact they all did just that.  Still, if you were in their shoes at that time, you'd say no and head home?  Or just become pack fill at a lower salary?  That grays up the area a bit.  I'm not condoning what they did, but it certainly puts more light on why they did.

Through Hamilton's experiences, you also get the impression that Armstrong is quite the ego manic, and the conniving all powerful jerk.  You're either in with him or on his enemy list - complete with high priced lawyers, connections to the UCI, bike industry, and media - to insure you're dismissed as a disgruntled employee, nut case, or ironically enough - a doper.  Huge piles of fame and dough at his disposal.

If you're anything of a pro cycling fan, this book will open the doors a bit - a peak behind the curtains - and it ain't that pretty.  Names are named, pro culture split open to revel the bloody truth, dates and scenarios explained, no holds barred.  Well worth the read and the eye opener.

Through it all, the silver lining, Hamilton comes across as the honest nice guy. The guy you originally thought him to be.  With his book, USADA testimony, and other actions of finally telling the truth - maybe, just maybe - will start the path of a dope free pro scene.  His response, along with other pros doing the same, deserve kudos and even forgiveness if you will.  These folks are human, made mistakes - of their perceived own doing or not - and are now trying to make things right.  Many fans will remain fans of pros doing just that, I know I will.

For all the pros, officials, team directors, and others to continue to play the denial game - Lance included - time to fess up.  Cover has been blown, the jig is up, time to honestly move the sport in the correct direction, no matter how painful that may be.  Do it now, we're all behind you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

MFG Cyclocross Series # 4 - Mangnuson Park

Cyclocross season keeps on rolling, along with my never ending supply of pics and rambling words.  Photography is like racing - some days you have it, some days you don't.  I'm just a hack, but must be doing something right, since I usually arrive home with a decent Pile-O-Pics after most races.  In any case, I'm having fun and that's what it's all about.

This week's Pics 'N' Words from MFG series # 4, that took place last weekend.  Venue was Mangnuson Park in Seattle, nice spot for a 'cross race.  Very flat and fast course, some pavement included.  Barriers and one run up section.  Usual cool 'cross scene that we're lucky to experience in the Seattle area.

See for yourself...

Teammate Lars trades dirt for concrete.  Super nice dude, along with his teenage racer son, Anders.  Anders assisted my own teenage racer son Ian, warm up for this race.  Anders appears to have the series already won for his Grade 10 - 12 junior class.  Cool.

Kari Studley, woman's single speed 'cross national champion, can also go pretty damn fast with multiple speeds.

Concrete underpass allows for some fun camera angles and blur shots.

Dreaming of life beyond training wheels.

Past the secret door.

Monster Cross bike flattens everything in path.

Birds eye view of the action.

Girls racers rock.


Racer Boy Ian chases teammate Matt into the concrete abyss.

Scenic cruise on the shores of Lake Washington.  Ian demonstrates.

Run Ian run.  Check out the new white Northwave shoes.  Pro, eh?  Considering this was a flat, fast, and not very technical course - not really his style - did pretty well.  Scored 9th out of 18 kids in the Junior Boys Grades 6 - 7 class.  His currently sitting in 7th place overall for the series.  Great job!

Follow the leader.

High speed leaf crunching.

Insanely nice fall day.

Various barrier action.

Back of the course featured a run up, courtesy of wooden stairs.

"Do my cleats look worn?"...

Grimace into the corner.

Go JL Velo.

Old school cool.

Lined up for torture.

It's late and my mental caption machine is operating in sleep mode.  Time to wrap this up and hit the sack.  A few races left in the season, more to follow.  Adios...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Jiggernaut Frame Building Jig

While cruising though Kickstarter - cool site where people donate to fund various projects - came across this project, already fully funded and I'd assume in production.

Affordable jig to try your hand at building a bike frame.  Fantastic idea and well executed.  And affordable - at least during their pledge drive - $299 for the jig.  $499 for jig and tube set to construct a road frame.

Dust off the old brazing skills from high school metal shop class, and you have yourself a fun winter project.  As per their official site, not sure if available yet.  I gotta find out - I want one.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Seattle Cyclocross Series # 3 - Silver Lake, Washington

Yes kids, time for another round of 'cross Pics 'N' Words, courtesy of me at no additional charge.  Call now, operators are standing by.  As seen on TV.  Money back guarantee.

This alleged report emanating from the shores of Silver Lake, Washington.  That be in Everett for all non Pacific Northwest types.  Stop number three for the Seattle Cyclocross series, held last weekend.  The Seattle and MFG series are well attended, now pulling in around 1000 racers per event.  Crazy town, huh?

This race also signaled the end of our Warm 'N' Sunny weather.  Overcast, cloudy and cool.  Rain the night before, wetting things down a bit. Leaves changing color and cooler temps make it feel like fall.  

And fall means cyclocross...

Juniors hit the sand, teammate Henry staring down his line.  My number # 1 son, Racer Boy Ian, seen on the right.  Go JL Velo, go.  Start area pavement dumping quickly into fairly deep sand.

Cheering makes you go faster.  Scientific fact.

Running through deep sand adds to the festivities.  Sam demonstrates.

Ian lines up for the barriers.

Looking good.

Go Ian go!  He was looking forward to this event, this venue more to his mountain bike style - tight turns and short punchy hills - almost singletrack like.  He was riding well and looking good, then it all sorta went pear shaped...

Barriers, sand, then short run up.  Nobody said 'cross was easy.  Sam stares me down in agreement.

Junior teammate Henry blurs the course with speed.

Scott and Jarrett - two very fast 13 year olds - in battle.

Kids racers rock.  They really do.  Pretty cool junior scene we have in the Seattle area.

Run Ian run!  Flat tire causing him to run almost the entire last lap.  Ouch.  After crossing the line, plopped on the ground to recover - soaked with sweat - slightly light headed.  Suburb effort, though he was seriously bummed.  First flat or mechanical issue in a few years of mountain and 'cross racing.  Bound to happen eventually.

We have no spare wheels or bike in the pit area, would have come in handy today.  Ian did run into the pit, directed by spectators - but after some confusion over his 9 speed cassette - he just ran out of the pit to finish.  I'm not even sure if this series offers neutral support.  I need to check on that.

In any case, I'm very proud of him.  Would have been easy to quit, instead toughed it out and ran to the finish, placing 14th out of 18 kids in the Junior Boys 13 - 14 class.  Excellent job.

Fallen pine needles, overcast sky, arm and knee warmers.  Smells like 'cross season.

It's the final countdown.  Fast women get ready to roll.

Joey spreads the love.  Joey is a bit famous from this little spectacle last year.

Round 'N' Round we go.

Carve an arc.  Monster Cross bike leading the way.

Single speed Action-O-Plenty.

Barriers 'R' Fun.

Full speed dive into the sand.

Dude, we told you that number was bad luck.

Man, these helium filled bikes kick ass.  Theo charges the barriers.

Evan tilts the horizon on his way to a very respectable finish in his first CAT3 race.  Pretty cool for a high school kid, no?

Harrison deep in thought - or maybe pain.  Another fast high school kid.

Doc who fixed my daughter's broken arm last year.  Any doc who races 'cross is okay in my book.

And there you have it - another post to help fill up the Internet.  More 'cross reports and other nonsense to follow.  Thanks for reading and checking out the pics.  Until next time...