Author Archives: Kenneth McPherson

Kenneth McPherson

About Kenneth McPherson

Writer. Bike Rider. Wearer of Lycra.

Mountain Biking, Morris Lewis Style

Riding off-road is still my preferred way of almost dying. Getting run over by cars is so 90’s, though in order to have the endurance to stay on trail and not in tree requires that I reside in both worlds, dirt and street.

This morning I went out on a jaunt through the woods. Jump off was 10:00. The late start was in order to let the air warm up to a balmy 30. I get to the parking lot ready to soak in the rays. My temperature gauge read, 34 degrees. I heard someone previously make the statement that “Cold is cold. What’s a couple of degrees?” A couple of degrees is the difference between the blood in my veins attempting to freeze and the ground that I prefer with a little give being solid. Anyone that lives outdoors will tell you that a few degrees can mean everything.

Safety First. I forgot my helmet and glasses at home. I did however remember to charge my Garmin and chill a couple of beers. I’ve only ridden on the trails twice without a helmet. I’m no fan, but I figured that today’s pace would be pedestrian enough where pushing pace and taking risks wasn’t of the order. Its hard to suppress the natural aggression that comes along with fighting the forces that beg you to challenge them. Easy day in the saddle or not, once the tires get their first bite, its a date. The “rush” is the best drug I’ve ever been privy to. There’s probably better, but for where I am in my life, “tripping balls” isn’t really necessary.

The trails during this time of the year are covered in leaves. If finding a decent line wasn’t hard enough when the obstacles were present, now you have to account for what could lie underneath. The only way to ride safely and efficiently is to ride hard. The conflict for me was doing that and riding without head gear. The trees looked that much more formidable. Helmet or not, running into stuff hurts. Doubt gets you hurt. Your machine is everything. You don’t have to believe in Jesus, Santa or The Great Pumpkin, but you do have to believe in the ability of what’s between your legs. Trust makes the union of man and bike possible. I’ve had my hardtail for several seasons and no when to “throw it” into turns and when to lay off and ease around it. Variables always change, but knowing the likelihood of surviving a section instills confidence. I felt the wheels slip out on occasion, but compensated and had a fun and chilly romp. Until the next freeze…

Tickling the Fancy

I went out for a ride this morning with my pal Sharon Gill. Nothing too intense, just enough to tickle the fancy. I climb up to our starting point at Eagle Rock. Not amused. My season’s done. The only climbing I’m good for now is out of bed and maybe onto a bar stool. Other than that, I’m licking wounds from a subpar season and planning to do it better, next. Sharon and I put in a good 30 at a talking pace. I don’t like riding my race bike all the time, because it wasn’t designed to go slowly. Sure, I get to places faster and my calves totally pop, but the destination is never as interesting as the journey. It sorta sucks to crank hard for several hours past the beauty this state has to offer, rest and recover at a Wawa, then do it again to get home.

After the ride was done, we go have pricey java at some pricey java joint in Montclair. My presence brought the class in the neighborhood down for that brief moment. Definitely not the canned beer crowd. Prescription drugs? Probably. Mumford and Son’s mixed in with a little Phish? Definitely. Sharon and I part ways. She has houses to sell and I have an apron to don. The house has to be in order before I bring in a 12 pack of Schaefers. My old lady don’t play that shit.

I decide to do a couple of laps in the park before turning my wheels homeward. Before I complete a lap, I’m climbing up a incline and a kid runs out in the street. Lucky for him, I was too fat to really have gotten up to a speed where I could do him damage. I haven’t nailed a kid in ages. I spun my wheel before asking about his well-being, because bandages don’t cost shit compared to a new wheel. He scurried back to his folks and I rode on. I was more pissed with his parents. If I injured that wheel, I would’ve been distraught. I understand how unleashed kids are prone to do anything, but don’t scream on junior because you took your eye off the ball. The moral of this story is to always have a replacement set of wheels and a Schaefers.

pedalmagic.com

Paying someone to teach you how to ride a bike, is almost like paying someone to teach you how to wipe your own ass. Granted if there’s a site teaching that and their hiring, sign me up. Office work only, nothing in the field.

Teaching people how to ride is a great service in that they are trying to make more able bodied riders. Teaching people how to wipe their asses, just as important but really a moment that should be between a man and his ass.

Pedal Magic? There’s really no magic involved. Last time I mounted, I didn’t pull a rabbit out of my helmet. I have pulled some complicated rides out of my ass, but there was no magic involved, just bourbon.

Riding a bike is all physics baby! An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless said object gets doored resulting in immediate stoppage of object. Getting “doored” is when a cyclist is riding with the flow of traffic and a mindless parked driver throws his door open causing cyclist to lose latte. No loss of latte, no foul.

I guess Pedal Magic is a sound service, but if it took my parents paying someone to teach me to ride, I still wouldn’t know how. My dad took me to the top of a hill on our block and sent me down it. Not advised mind you, but that lesson was free, showed my dad’s questionable parenting skills and never forgotten.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

The road bike season is wrapping up, just as the weather is getting ideal to be out lubed up and Lycra’d out. Summer riding for all intensive purposes; sucks. Too hot and too humid for my blood. I don’t like sweating before a crank is turned and come the end of the block is drenched in sweat and now a magnet for every little yucky morsel that happened to have been floating through the air.

I went out for about 47 miles today. No event on the horizon, no better reason to be riding than just for the sake of it and of course padding my Strava stats. Maintaining fitness is now part of my lifestyle now. I’m not a prude about it as I can still hike up my skirt and let a little debauchery enter my life. I am only happy in balance.

There’s a little more joy in each revolution come this period in the season. You either made your benchmarks and are gleaming with pride or did not and hang your head in shame. Mortality like “sucking” are hard pills to swallow. If you’re, me you pop open a can of Schafers take that pill and sit up. Your competitive cycling season is done. No podium girls for you, no lousy assed participation beer glasses, no funky water bottles or any of that other shit organizers kick-out.

As I was turning the cranks today, I began to wonder why I was even bothering. This point in the season is sort of a no-man’s land. Unless your riding cyclocross in the off-season or polar bear wrestling there’s not a lot to prepare for out there. I kept pedaling as I had to get home and felt that this ride held no obligation. I got out of the drops, rested my hands on the top bar and spun home, just as I had before fancy frame metals, V02 max data and shaven legs became a staple in my life. No aggression, no problem.

Nothing Like Riding a Bike to Cleanse The Mind

There are days when that’s true and then days when that’s complete bullshit. Today was one of those days when all the variables lines up to have a perfect ride save for the fact that you’re way under-trained.

The kids are back in school and I have no 9-5. The weather is beautiful. No humidity, incinerating heat and not a cloud in the sky. Today could’ve been epic. I ride up to The Bikery in Montclair to join a group ride. The race season is at a close and come this time in the year most road racers have shot their respective loads and peaked. You won’t hear Ligget or Sherwin use that last diddy. A few Cat “this'” and Cat “thats'” show up. I look around the field and instantly know that my ass is going to be handed to me; repeatedly. My road fitness has taken a turn for the worse. My trail fitness on the other hand is pretty darned good having had an off year. The problem was that we weren’t riding off road today. I was already adequately lubed up, so I decided to give it a shot.

Before we even got to the open roads the pace was high. These guys had shot their loads, but still had some spirit left. Our heading was northwest. I hate that direction leaving the Montclair vicinity. It means roads that go up. I wasn’t in the mood for such chicanery, but like I always say, “Leave it alone if it ain’t Patron and also if you want to ride, you have to be prepared for whatever and then gut-out whatever else is up the road”.

We zipped out of Fairfield and eventually made our way up to Denville. We humped two walls to get there. One of which, I had to stop, which really upset me. I’ve been on Waughaw Rd before and handled it fine. Not today. The spirit was willing, but this time the mind was handily dealt with by the matter.

I never truly recovered. This ride, I was that guy that everyone had to wait for. That sucked. I fought to hold wheels, but then had to set those wheels free. That also sucked. Now I’m out in the country without a wheel to pace and not truly knowing where I was. By the time I regrouped, it was time to hit it again. No rest for the weary.

We balled that jack on rt 46. The plan was to steadily hit it at 35mph. I looked around to see that I was only one who found that idea humorous. As advertised, the pace was near 35. I held a steady 27. Do the math. I saw asses in the distance as the gap grew. I spun my way back to a decent state of recovery and attempted to bridge. I knew better, but gave it a shot anyway. The locomotive on that paceline is one of our mechanics who happens to be pure horsepower. I rode in damage control until we got back to civilization. Great ride, and a reminder to me that this sport will eat you alive, if you don’t stay on your game.

Boy Meets Swamp

After doing minor repairs on my bike and watching my son fix his own flat, my boys and I were off for a non-competitive ride through a park, I had stumbled on a few days ago. Finding new trails, like finding perfectly paved tarmac is blissful.

The ride turned more into bushwhacking. The trails were mostly overgrown. The deer family we came across didn’t complain. I always think it’s the coolest thing to run into a family of deer doing deer type stuff, when I’m with my son’s doing human type stuff. I try to keep the boys on the game trails and river beds. Don’t screw with the habitat!

We found a water crossing that was only about 15ft wide and didn’t appear to be that deep. My eldest son scoped out the depth of the water. I stupidly dropped in off the ridge and started charging without having surveyed it first. Bad move. I hit a rock that was embedded in the murk going 15mph. I flipped over my handlebars and went face/chest first into the swamp. I like mud. I don’t like swamp. Swamp don’t like me. When I surface, I hear my son’s cracking up. I smell and look like shit. My other son picked a line that didn’t involve a boulder and crossed successfully. My youngest stayed wisely on the other side of the bank. I’m getting old, but not too old to to throw caution into the wind and have that wind gut punch me. Every once in awhile you get tossed. That’s life, but after you wipe off the stench and remount your trusty steed, you get back on trail and get back up to speed. These rides are darned fun, but in that fun I’m dropping little lessons that I hope will pay dividends for my son’s come the day they get tossed. Daughter doesn’t ride, so she gets the lecture series.

Life in a Bike Shop

Anybody who works in a bike store is passionate about the machines. Regardless of discipline be the rider; roadie, mountie or even junkie, we all love what happens next after that initial pedal stroke.

Bike shops like big cities are transient hubs for people to exist in. We usually have access to all the most fab gear a rider could ask for, we all look as though we can play opus’ like Slayers “Reign in Blood” on banjos and we talk almost annoyingly about components whilst sipping our microbrews (pinkies out of course).

People come and go through the ranks of the shop. Working at a bike shop is a great place for a kid on summer break. Beats busting tables in a slop house or mopping up booths in peep show venues. Both of those jobs are just as important as a bike tech, but not nearly as sexy; in a clean and respectable fashion anyway.

We at The Bikery in Montclair, NJ (home of Specialized, Trek, Felt and Pinnarello) are losing a cast of students that are on to bigger and better things. What could be bigger and better? Making enough money to actually afford the stuff we peddle, throw in a SRAM RED package to boot and still have enough money to buy decent beer. That my friends is the American Dream I seek.

Peace outs to Jon, Max, Elina. You kids rock! Kick ass in school and don’t blow your parents money on needless stuff. Renting Van Halen is not needless by the way, so long as their fronted by Diamond Dave. Your parents may argue this, but deep down inside, they know it’s true.

Team Wire

I informed my son’s that there was a mountain bike race happening in the area that I thought they may be interested in. Understatement. For the last two weeks, I’ve been running a training camp for a brutal 2.4 mile rocky romp.

We’ve pre-ridden the course more than I ever do, when I race. I think my results reflect this. The last time we were on the course, my youngest child still with the Tour de France on the brain, asked me where the best areas to attack would be. I did my best Bjarne Riis and told him to drop the hammer on the climb and not to pick it up until he was back on the single track. Short of injecting them with PEDs, I felt as if my advice was pro. My eldest son picks lines almost as good as me. I don’t fear that he will “French” a tree anymore.

Today we took out the newest member of Team WIRE. They wanted more trail action, but today was a all about conditioning. This whole training bag is hard work. I see why so many directors turn a blind eye to drugs in the sport. That said, my team will be hopped up on Captain Crunch for Saturday’s race. CC is almost undetectable in the bloodstream.
The boys put in 13 miles of road riding today. I cracked the whip and liked it. The legs are willing even when the lungs aren’t; find the balance. That was today’s lesson. Before the federation caught wind of my regime, I got them a couple slices of pizza. They loved me right until we hit another hill.

I love that my kids share my passion. It may not always be this way, but until my quarter runs out, I’m going to enjoy the experience.

GO TEAM WIRE!!!

Major Taylor New Hope Classic

Contrary to rumor, this ride has no affiliation to Lucas Films. Riding in a Wookie costume would have been a new twist (unless you live in Portland), but who am I to talk, I’m wearing Lycra?

The 120 mile New Hope Ride from Newark Penn Station, NJ to New Hope, PA and back, is one of our premier events. A classics event as I heard it described. Very few cobblestone roads in Newark and some of the surrounding towns, but we do improvise with potted roads and other little touches like grates and dead stuff. It’s the little things that truly make a classic a classic.

I don’t know exactly how long the members of Major Taylor have been doing this ride, but from a picture I saw, the ride has been around for 30+ years. More than likely only a scant few steel framed riders made the maiden voyage and in time grew the ride to what it is today. I’m really proud to be a part of the tradition.

Mileage aside, it’s always special to be around those that kinda look like you doing a sport that for me, has no equal. It is just as special to be around those that don’t look like you, yet through a shared passion a kinship is born. I cannot tell a lie, and say that there is no comparable feeling to going through minority neighborhoods 100 deep and showing the people that this sport doesn’t belong to one race alone. This world is filled with a plethora of beautiful feelings from the birth of a child to Oktoberfest. America’s got cycling talent. If a child sees us motoring away and is thus inspired, you never know.

I arrived at 7:30. I figured with all the pageantry of the event, I could slowly roll from my house and meet the group closer to departure time. Conserve energy for later and I overslept. Seeing masses of blacks in Newark is old news. Seeing masses of blacks in Lycra is a current. It’s hot, it’s now! Iron Riders, MTCCNJ and a few that look for any occasion to wear Lycra we’re present. We are an open group.

I don’t subscribe to any religion. That sentence really says a lot about me, but I did appreciate Pastor Steve blessing the event. We all want to have a fun and safe time. I’d also like to send thanks to our very own Princess Grace Spencer. With her a police escort, without her a critical mass of cyclists left to their own devices concerning road safety. Doesn’t always pan out well. I can’t forget my main man Randy Jackson who when not playing shepherd for us, turns a mean wheel himself. For us to have SAG he sand-bagged his own ride.

For the first 30 miles we were escorted by the police. The speeds were pedestrian. After the police bid us farewell, out went the pleasantries of cruising at 15mph. Race bikes tend to want to race, regardless of whose captaining them. This is their nature. Those that enjoy (and can) roll the wheels at 27+mph did so. I didn’t see that group until New Hope. Those that prefer a less aggressive (i.e., can’t hang) pace turned their wheels at around 22+. No matter the speed, if you were dressed in Lycra you put in the work needed to achieve your goal. That said, there was a mythical creature among us. I don’t know her name, but she rocked a pair of heels, rode a single speed and had a milk crate on the back of her bike. If she’s single? She shouldn’t be.

Heels and a yellow milk crate enjoying the draft in the peloton near Newark, NJ.

…a few hours later: spotted in New Hope, PA?!

Once you get into central Jersey the scenery is beautiful the roads are smooth and the lights are few and far between. It’s a cyclists, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. Great song. Google it. We made great time pulling into New Hope,PA. After over-running the town like, “The Wild Ones” (Google it), we replenished our bodies, shared road stories and mounted up for the return trip. We had a nice young man in a police cruiser escort us back to Jersey. As soon as the bridge was crossed, we began climbing out. The grade was slight which gave us time to digest before the shootouts started up again. Surprisingly, the pace stayed fairly modest until that nasty old hill was dispersed with and then it was back to the business of turning pedals and breaking wind.

The chase begins…

Besides the unavoidable mechanicals such as flats we stayed incident free until we didn’t. I do not know the riders name, but he was in a real bad spot concerning his health. I hope that, that gentleman is well obviously. Randy our SAG came up to assist as did some concerned drivers and his brothers and sisters on the road.

Groups were up the road, down the road, off the road, but still progressing back to Newark. The weather was near perfect. I prefer the cold, but to each his own.

I arrived in a fairly large group at Penn Station. Day done. I had the opportunity to see people, I only see once a year and ride with people I’d never met. The miles are the backdrop, the camaraderie between the two clubs is what I believe is more important. Excellent edition of the New Hope Ride!

Next week:

Montauk

Life in a Bike Shop

The season has slowed down greatly. I guess Jersey didn’t get the memo about cycling having a renaissance. Lance kinda got the ball rollling and the oil companies with there outrageous gas prices helped to further fuel the cycling craze. I think messengers also played a part in bringing cycling to the masses. We were chic before we knew we were chic and from our loins came hipsters. Bad parenting on our parts, I guess. Word travels slow in Jersey; the land where Springsteen is slightly less popular than Jesus and to not admit that, “Slippery When Wet” should be played in its entirety upon first contact with an alien race, is considered blasphemous. By the time cyclings run its course, Jersey will invest in the infrastructure for biking and of course pocket the money. Bike Lanes To Nowhere.

Droves

Today however the droves came back. We like droves of newly minted cyclists. They look a little awkward at first, but once the baby fat that they’ve been carrying for the last 30+ years melts away they start to actually compliment the Lycra they wear as opposed to testing its limits.

The Hat

Today I met a guy. He wore an interesting hat. I remarked. For the next 20 minutes we were inseparable. The hat wasn’t that interesting.

The Test Ride

I love taking test rides with our customers. Its a lot easier to go through the functions of whatever bike their fancying on the fly versus when they’ve returned already feeling incompetent. No customer is truly incompetent. Partially, but not truly. I’m not in the market for a hybrid as I still have balls, but I do need to know how they feel for the sake of explaining the bike to customers. Usually, I’ll straddle one on a test ride. All hybrids are not alike. Their actually kind of fun to tool around on. Decent pick up, so far as a ball-less bike goes.

Components

The customers that don’t know jack shit about SRAM, Shimano or Campy are the easiest to work with. It’s really easy to explain the whole components thing. Campy is sexy, old school and elitist. SRAM is the new kid on the components block. The shifts are supposed to be smoother so long as your last name isn’t Schleck. Shimano is the industry standard. As much as everybody bitches about shit not made in the USA, I think most cyclists are ok with the craftsmanship that goes into an Ultegra Grupo. Shimano also makes a kick-ass rod and reel, if bagging trouts more your thing.

BMX

Out of my expertise. The last time I really cared about them, a slice of pizza was still 50 cents, porn was still best seen in print and “Send Me An Angel” from the movie “RAD” was raking it in, in suburbs all around the country just like mine.

A father with deep pockets or little time for the razzle-dazzle of a sales pitch picked one up for his son. I let the child try it out just to make sure he could ride it. I’m watching him wobble about in the parking lot and then gets a little momentum going and power slides right in front of me. It was pretty gnarly actually. As he continued to get the hang of his new machine he began using me as a pylon to whiz around. All for the sale, all for the sale…

Compliments are Nice

I was talking to a gal whose boyfriend was out on a test ride. Work all the angles. Spouses and or significant others are also part of the sale. We get to rapping. I tell her I’m trying to get my 17 year old daughter on a bike. She looks at me in amazement that I could have a child that old. I tell her it’s from 20 years of cycling and knowing when it was time to say when to cheap beer. Probably more the cycling but if I was still drinking St Ides I have a feeling, I’d be physically in a much worse spot; though a cold 40 ounce of Ides rarely missed the spot.