Tag Archives: cycling

The Hawk

On The Commute: Evening Edition
Bike: Gary Fischer X-Caliber 29

My mistake this evening began this morning. The weather was 53 degree’s. I was happy. I practically went out of the house in a thong. The temperature wasn’t supposed to dip until nightfall. I figured that by some superhuman act, I could beat the hawk swooping in, in the pm. Gotta to work without a drip of sweat. Nice.

Fast forward 8.5 hours. The sun and it’s live giving heat is somewhere over Missouri. The temperature had dropped 20 degree’s. With wind chill, I would be riding in 20 degree weather with again only a thong to keep me warm. I stepped out of the office and was instantly greeted by my old friend, “The Hawk”. My best bet to warm up was to alter my course by riding in the opposite direction of my house. The further north you go in the state the higher the elevation, so I began climbing for a few blocks. Essentially the equivalent of pumping the gas pedal on a Cutlass, just to get it going.

I began to steer south and got to the lip of Jefferson hill, which I had gotten pretty familiar with climbing up. I dropped in; literally. 3 short blocks, 30+ mph. I was too scared to pedal. I know I could’ve easily caught 20 feet of air. The problem with catching air is landing air. The problem with landing air in an urban area, is that when your wheels touch down you literally have a second upon reentry to come to a complete stop before you hit an intersection accelerating somewhere between 35-40mph. Getting hit by a Tahoe with twenties, not big on my list of things to do before 50.

Now my heart is racing. Almost shitting yourself is good for heat generation. With my version of the X-Games behind me the next 40 minutes were cold; frigid actually. My hands were useless. I found a gear to spin in, and rested my palms on my rizer bars. At this point my legs were beginning to cramp, from the cold. I decided to forgo soldiering on and to stop into McDonald’s for a small coffee and more importantly 10 minutes to raise my body temperature again. The clerk that gave me my coffee called me, “Mista”. A real throwback. A regular Debbie Reynolds. I’ll go back just to be addressed like that again.

I’m out the door and on the bike with about 15 minutes to go, before my extremities are in bad shape again. Commuter hours are pretty helpful with buses coming back from New York fairly often. I pass by a Decamp bus on Broad St. The speed limit is 40mph. I figure with stops that the driver won’t go above 35. If he’s hungry, tired, or in need of the restroom he may push it. I start instantly increasing my speed. If I draft off of that bus I can essentially be sucked down the road for nearly a mile. No pedaling to really concern myself with and the bus will also eliminate the chilly temps.

Big wave surfers on a budget have to paddle into the monsters they ride. Sponsored surfers and those whose meth sales can afford them jet ski’s are towed into the beasts. I fashioned myself to the budget minded surfer as I have no money and no jet ski was in the vicinity to lend a “brah” a tow. After getting my 29er up to a good 20mph I launched behind the bus as it passed by instantly getting sucked down the road. To draft it effectively, I had to ride within 10 feet of the bumper. Close enough to benefit off the draft and far enough to see it’s brake lights. A fine line indeed, but it saved me a mile of frigid air and gave my legs a break as well.

Once I was back in a congested area, drafting ceased. No more suckage for me. The hill, Debbie Reynolds and surfing the pipeline turned a mundane ride home into one that almost made freezing worth it; almost…

Through the Rough

Some rides are sensational and some rides are sentences. This morning the latter. Before I left my house, I made sure to pack my Gerber multi-tool. Didn’t know why, but I figured I’d rather have it and not need it.

The weather was warmer as opposed to yesterday, starting my ride in freezing rain. Not really refreshing. I’d still rather wake up with a bar of Coast, then getting pelted with icy little needles. On crappy weather days, I like to begin them with a shot of something nice and warm. Sadly I was fresh out and no bars by me are open that early, nor would I want to visit them if they were. Morning drunks are a breed all to themselves.

My bike looks like I’d been racing in the cyclocross worlds the day before. I figure, that as long as its sound, so what to a little grime?

I stop off to get my usual coffee. A medium cup with half and half gets me about 5 miles before having to empty the tank. This coincides perfectly with my favorite winter spot to pee. A nicely manicured park next to a brook and a manmade pond. As far as peeing outdoors goes, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I wrap up business and then mount and begin to ride off when I hear metal grinding and popping. In slow motion I see my chain very elegantly cascading down the pulley’s and falling to the street. I was perfectly too far into my ride to go back home. A co-worker offered to give me a lift, but I wasn’t bleeding, I’m handy when it comes to this kind of thing and I’m very prideful about finishing rides.

I instantly go into my bag for the chain breaker. My least favorite tool to use; especially in the cold. I figured, I had about 10 minutes before my hands would start to numb. Without a master link, I had to cobble the broken chain back together. Took about 20 minutes, by which time I had to pee again. I find my tree again and carefully with grimy hands expose myself and trying my best to keep my loins grime-free. The last time I had a chain go, the weather was 50 degrees warmer. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but my hands weren’t in pain either. I remember smelling lilacs.

I mounted my bike and began soft pedaling in my highest gears. Heavy on the cadence and light on the torque, expecting the chain to snap at the worst time; like in heavy traffic. Didn’t happen. Limped into work.

Another beautiful morning in the saddle.

Can’t Cheat Strava

Decided that if I were to die tomorrow that I would try to advance some places on key segments in Strava today. My strategy worked for the most part. I bested some of my racing peers on certain segments and rode fairly well on others. I rode off my desired course to see if favorable winds were howling around an area that played to my strengths. I started out a segment in the park in a tailwind and had visions of KOM’s dancing in my head along with podium girls and sponsorship’s. I hear Trek, Giro, FRS, Honey Stinger, 24 Hour Fitness, Anheuser-Busch and Radio Shack are looking for a new face. I hit the bend in the road where I would really have to open unload my chambers and then I hit a headwind. My head dropped in defeat. Can’t cheat Strava.

Ghetto Hill

There are few things more I appreciate more during my commute than not getting hit, rained on or referred to as any thing else other than “Mr. Dick”. It’s always a special treat when I see other bikers on the road.

I was on Broad St. in Clifton rambling along when at 11:00 o’clock I spotted two people riding single file. They were too far away to make them as day laborers or kitted out cyclists. As we closed in on one another, I noticed panniers and safety vests. Day laborers don’t use panniers. Maybe in Portland, but not in Jersey. This is Huffy Country. I hailed the riders and called out to see where they were touring to. They didn’t hear me, so I doubled back to catch them. Turns out they were on their way to the Bike Expo in Philly. They started their journey in Glen Rock, NJ. Roundtrip that would make their trip around 250 miles. Not a bad take. I wished them well and they continued on their tour while I continued on my death march.

Paterson for all it’s “decrepitness” has really great steep climbs. More and more I’ve been seeking these monsters out. I rode one yesterday and logged it with Strava. Turns out, another guy had already ridden the beast and named it “Ghetto Hill”. I took offense as I just don’t like that word. It was however aptly named as it is in the ghetto and is a hill, but I still don’t like the moniker. I made a point of at least taking the KOM from the guy that discovered the road. I’ll know if I got it when I get home this evening. I almost the crested the 17%er when I “Schlecked It”. My chain went flying off the ring causing me to stall. Some guy yelled out that I’ll get it some day. I yelled back that I’m about to get it now! I rode back down to do an impromptu repeat gassed from my first effort. I downshifted to my 39×28 and started the ascent. I practically pee’d on myself trying to take the title. It would have been worth it. What’s a wet chamois compared to besting an ignorant fuck? With my best shot out, I continued into work.

Wearing Lycra as a Second Skin

Everyday someone new dons Lycra for the first time. Anytime you hear a church bell toll, this is why. Those first few steps out into public can be harrowing. You’re coming out. Not exactly of a closet, but you’re ensuring the world, that you do indeed have a penis and all the lying in the world about it’s size cannot be hidden anymore.

Lycra stretches but it don’t lie.

I didn’t have a large group of similarly poorly dressed males to usher me into the brotherhood. My birth into the fold occurred in Washington DC 1992. I became a messenger. At which point I decided to encase my genitals in the Dupont created fabric. I imagined them like like Han Solo when he was frozen in carbonite.

Since my indoctrination occurred during the winter time, there was considerable shrinkage. Probably for the best. It took me a couple of months to comfortably traipse into an office, approach a receptionist and tell her with a wink and nod that I had a package for her. It wasn’t really a line, but if it worked all the better. However it did not.
DC did turn out to be Lycra friendly. Black men by the thousands in tight fitting fabric. It was liberating yet strange. I tried to avert my eyes from others guys packages as a courtesy, but some guys just had genitals that just begged to admired. Not gay, just saying.
Now wearing Lycra feels like second nature. I wore it almost everyday for years on end, to the point where I lost any sense of fashion that didn’t involve a chamois or a rear multi-pocketed shirt. Today they feel like an old pair of slippers when I put them on. Now that I’m a civilian, I don’t live in them anymore, don’t go out drinking in them, rarely dine in them and never attend political functions in them. Apparently it’s in poor taste in some circles. No circle I want to be in.
My love affair with Lycra has spanned decades. When it’s all said and done, they will outlive me and find their way into a landfill taking all the adventures we had together with them. My Lycra knows me best. I guess this is a nod to them.

Portland is Nice in NJ This Time of Year

Apparently I took a shortcut through Portland this evening. I started out in Paterson, NJ and wound up pedaling through Oregon.

I was on my alternate route home that involves a climb I don’t always appreciate after a days work. I had heard stories about a course that some cyclocross riders had carved out of a park behind a school in Clifton. I looked over and about 200 yards off the road I saw kids at soccer practice and more surprisingly, 20 guys on the course doing race training. As soon as I rode close enough, the guys and gals welcomed me to their playground and told me to get on course and get some. I couldn’t turn down the offer and like a school child, I tossed my backpack off to the side and started riding the course with little regards for my packs contents.

I just don’t expect this kind of homegrown activity in Jersey. After practicing dismounting, jumping obstacles and portaging my bike for a few laps it was time to get back on track. I said my goodbyes and set my destination for a mini-jump park. I almost ate a tree and then hit the road again for home. Portland’s nice this time of year.

Leaving the Carbon on the Shelf

Rode home in the pouring rain. Pretty happy that I decided to leave the carbon on the shelf. Shitty weather is usually reserved for steel. It’s heavy, sticks to the ground and if I do wreck, I can bang out the dent with Park Tools item #1; “a rock” (not to be confused with Pedro’s item #2 “a rock”) just like an early hominid. I always figured that days like these in accord with training, eating smart and injecting EPO make for stellar seasons.

Sadly I forgot to add the fender this evening and wound up riding on what essentially was a water jet toilet. Wasn’t the best feeling at first, though I did feel fresher upon reaching my destination. Only if my chamois were scented. I had my first Summer Eve experience; alone.

The Only Way Out is Up

The down hills on Hillier weren’t for the faint of heart or those with shitty medical plans. I ran off the road going 20mph. I pushed it and paid the price. Didn’t stop me from pushing it again because I’m too dumb to know any better. The weather also played a big role. It was dismal all day. Hillier is demoralizing. Nobody cheering you along. A couple of folks manning the rest stops, dead animals and those eating the dead was it. You were left alone to suffer, peak a ridge and then suffer again…

The Cast:
Tom C (Longest Day)
Aaron D (Longest Day)
Insuk D (Central Jersey Clan)
Jeff C
Kenny M.

Hillier Than Thou is like no bike race I’ve ever competed in. It’s 100 miles of attrition. I can’t compare it to going to war because I wasn’t being pursued by an enemy yearning for my life, though the climbs weren’t going to just hand me their crests without an all-out fight. There were atrocities. My bodies still shot out today and I don’t plan on being back to 100% before Christmas 2015.

The good people from Cyclecraft special ordered the weather for us. There’s no suffering on a clear day in the mid 70’s. At 7:30am the weather was dismal and approaching in a leisurely fashion 50˚. The sun decided to hang out with the kids in Salisbury. I saw pictures of club members smiling at the Seagull Century. There was no smiling at Hillier. I saw grimacing, looks of people turning themselves inside out and going into those dark spots in their psyches reserved for self preservation and fundraising periods with NPR. You think about think about smiling during this event and you get your teeth handed back to you pulverized into fine powder.

Gearing is everything. Randy Jackson lent me his touring bike to help me realize the nightmare. 32 toothed cassette saved my ass. Jeff had a similar set-up. Insuk powered away on a more traditional road set-up. She’s nails. Tom and Aaron ran standard set-ups to and finished well ahead of Jeff, Insuk and I. I left my Madone at home crying in the stable in order not to cry myself which I still did when the road hit 20+.˚I had been dancing around doing this race for 3 years. This year I decided to fight! 9 hours later, I was beaten handily.

The only of the ride I truly enjoyed was the ride out of the parking lot at Long Valley School. 3 blocks afterwards we were ascending Schooley Mt Road cold and tight for over a mile with a 16% grade. We would loosen up gradually, but the cold part was constant. The Schlecks, Contadors and Wiggins of the peleton attacked from the start. Jeff, Insuk and I used the period to prepare for the onslaught that lay ahead.

The course was designed to test not only your ability to climb but your capacity to struggle, get beaten and somehow keep the cranks advancing forward. Always turning, always moving forward. I only pedal this much mountain biking. On the road I always know there are spots where I can recover. Recovery wasn’t built into this race. I honestly could have thrown away the big chain ring because it really only got used to keep the chain from hopping off the smaller ring and scurrying into the woods.

After the first ascent of the day of the day came the first flat spot, that quickly led to the second ascent. These climbs were serious in nature and not even marquee ones. Descending is where I do damage control. The roads were wet, graveled in some spots and manicured with foliage placed precisely at the entry and exit points of blind turns. I’ll push my 210lbs harder because I’m extremely confident in my skills. And then I ran off the road going 20mph into the woods. My very first Lance Armstrong moment. I’ll never sleep with an Olsen, Oprah or whomever else he did, but flying out of control and living to tell the tale is one that we share. I veered back onto the road gave the thumbs up. Bike was intact as was I. After a few feet the shrubbery and God knows what else came flying off my leg and we were back to it.

We picked up two additional riders Adam from Queens who had wrecked on the same descent and Lenny The Coffee Guy who also pushed the envelope into the bushes and snapped his front derailleur cable. I believe Adam signed up with little knowledge of what he was going to command his extremities to do. Jeff, Insuk and I had heard the stories from the Taylor Elders about what was waiting ahead. 30 miles in Adam had mentally cracked but the heart hadn’t. He weathered the onslaught as well.

The course was well marked with “H’s” signifying direction. The bonus markings had sickles next to them. That of course meant that something wicked lay up the road and to start chugging gels. The sadistic bastards that concocted this course made sure to give you very little in the way of recovery time. Screaming downhill at 40mph on serpentine turns isn’t necessarily relaxing. I’d guess that 15 miles were flat and the rest were extreme in nature. I think there were 20+ categorized climbs. Categorized climbs are measured using this formula: (duration of the climb x pitch upwards) x how many times you curse your worst girl/boyfriend= cat1-4. Cat 1’s being the worst. I don’t think we have any 1’s or 2’s in Jersey but we are a state rich in 3’s and 4’s. I was shell-shocked early with the sickle markings on the road. Those markings did however give you ample time to find somewhere nice to empty your bladder. Modesty loses purpose when marching into the woods for privacy just means blowing watts. Every watt counts.

Jeff and I gladly popped drugs to quell pain. Insuk welcomed it. That’s why dudes don’t birth children. I’m ok with that. I think Jeff is to. The two marquee climbs of the day lived up to the billing. Fiddlers Elbow and Iron Bridge were both brutally hard. I had to max out my efforts on Fiddlers. The pitch in the road was so steep that I had to pop into my ugly room for a spell. My dark room got plenty of use during this race. On Fiddlers Elbow I had to open the door, lock it behind and swallow the key. No way out, but up. I had the displeasure of seeing Insuk get right to the ridge of Fiddlers to fall short of taking it all the way up. She stayed saddled all the way. Raw Power!! Jeff powered up only standing when the degree pitched 24+˚. Fiddlers is sinister. It wraps around the hill never truly revealing what lay next. If you maximize your efforts too soon; your popped. I powered up literally trying to rip the bars off the stem and the cleats from my shoes in the attempt to crest without unclipping. Mission Accomplished! 70 miles to go, so not really… At his point I through away the concept of riding and adopted the mantra of surviving.

The celebration didn’t last too long. We kept it going. Not time to break out the bubbly just yet. The transition to Iron Bridge involved recouping up the Church St climb. I didn’t like this one because I could see all of it and knew that I was going to be nearing my capacity to get up it. Any climb where your craning your neck to see the peak ain’t good. We all crested that climb and began descending into the valley just to climb it again. Iron Bridge introduced itself to us before punching us in the face. At this point we had been getting pummeled all day anyway so like The Italian Stallion we kept coming forward. Insuk took point on this one as she had on most of the climbs. If Central Jersey has a tougher rider, I haven’t seen em’. Show yourself! Didn’t think so…

My technique on Iron Bridge involved staying saddled more than not. The slick tar on the road caused me to slip several times. I kept the wheels going forward at 3mph per hour before cresting. The rest stop was at the top of the climb. We loaded up on synthetic crap and emptied are bellies like we had sense.

The worst of it was past; sorta. We were still 30-40 miles before the end with several thousand more feet to climb. The climbs from there on in were gut punchers, but not on the level of Fiddlers or Iron. Insuk broke away leaving Jeff and I talking. Adam stayed with her and then was popped. We didn’t chase. Maybe we couldn’t? Who knows. The story will change over time.

The weather never broke. Didn’t matter. The cranks were going to turn regardless. Insuk dropped us so bad that I feared for her safety. Coming off the Sanatorium Climb was a pretty treacherous descent that involved sharp turns, one lane bridges and I swear moguls. She nailed every turn handily. At the next rest stop the guys manning it informed us that she was 4 minutes up the road. We took about 7 minutes preparing for the next 30 miles and started off. As soon as we started we were climbing again. Seriously? Back to the dark room. I wanted to chase Insuk, but the legs had just about had enough of my demands, so we sat back tapping out a cadence fast enough to get back to the car. As I was climbing out AGAIN I thought about the wild horses at Salisbury. I looked around to see dead animals in my path and the animals that like dead animals. I was in my element. Internal struggles, external victories. With 10 miles to go we still had 1,500ft of climbing to go take or take. The last climb, before the last climb, before the last climb was one that I was familiar with. I had ridden it 3 weeks ago at the Gran Fondo. It was the hardest timed climb in the Fondo which paled by far in comparison to every other climb we had done. After humping that and then another I saw a tent up the road. I was so shot that I hadn’t noticed that it was the end until I heard a guy yelling out my number. From there it was all downhill, though I didn’t completely trust that the day was over.

Insuk stayed away beating us by 5 minutes. She claimed the bronze. Jeff, Adam and I claimed pride. Tom finished and hour ahead of us and Aaron 2 hours ahead. I went over my decision to forgo the Seagull in order to be beaten repeatedly all day and 10 out of 10 times chose to be beaten. Something sounds very disturbing in that, but it is what it is.

Hillier took a lot out of me but in return gave me something that can never be taken away. A water bottle that no child in the house dare use, a long sleeved death metal looking tee shirt and a medal signifying the fact that I have little sense but a lot of heart.

Too tired to proofread. You get the gist…