08.30.2006 | 5:06 pm

When I got back from NY last week, here’s what I had waiting for me:

Oh, that’s a terrible picture, isn’t it? I really need to get a real camera, or at least a phone with a good camera. OK, let’s go to a product shot from the site, then:

Yes, that’s right. I am currently reviewing an Ibis Silk Carbon SL for CyclingNews. After this review, I plan to keep this bike. Here’s why:

  • It’s beautiful. Dark, stealthy, serious-looking carbon everywhere. With a shiny, shiny laminate. And the build spec on the SL is not exactly slouchy: Easton Ascent II Wheelset & EC90 SL Fork, Shimano Dura-Ace 10 Drivetrain, Easton components. Sassy.
  • Cool Ibis headbadge:

  • Descends beautifully.  So stable. So fast. I hit 56mph coming into work today.
  • Climbs insanely well. But you’d expect that from a bike that weighs 15.47 pounds, wouldn’t you?
  • I’m the first kid on the block to own one.

I’ll be writing the review after riding this bike at Lotoja, and will be including an interview with Scot Nichol, founder of Ibis. Scot’s an incredibly funny guy who just happens to have a deep knowledge of all things bike-related; the interview should be interesting reading.


Learning to Ride, Again

08.29.2006 | 3:51 pm

I have three theories for why I am timid and incompetent when mountain biking on technical terrain.

  • Theory 1: About twelve years ago, I started mountain biking. My friends, however, started mountain biking three years earlier than that. By the time I bought a bike and started riding in earnest, they had learned the basics and got their legs, so that I rarely–if ever–actually saw them during the ride. They’d drop me at the beginning of the climb. We’d regroup at the top and begin the descent, at which point they would immediately drop me again. As a result, I am pretty much a self-taught rider.
  • Theory 2: I never approach people with technical skills and asked them to teach me.
  • Theory 3: I am a clumsy oaf with no natural grace, coupled with a very vivid imagination; I am very good at picturing how I could be injured by the impending obstacle.

Needless to say (and yet, I am saying it), these theories are not mutually exclusive.

There’s not much I can do about my biking history, and there’s not much I can do about my lack of natural grace, but–as of yesterday afternoon–I am getting some instruction on basic technical skills.

My mentor? One of the frequent commenters on this blog. Yes, I am taking mountain bike lessons from a guy who calls himself "BotchedExperiment."

If that’s not confidence-inspiring, well, I don’t know what is.

Here’s what I learned yesterday.

Lesson 1: My Saddle is Too High
Ever since I started riding, I’ve kept my saddle height adjusted according to a formula that works really well for road riding. I get good power with this height, and can ride all day without my knees getting sore.

So the first thing Botched did was drop the saddle about four inches. Now when I’m riding I feel like singing "Lowrider." I assume this tendency will fade over time.

The point, says Mr. Experiment, is to make it easier for me to get way back off the saddle, to hang my butt over the rear wheel and rest my chest on the saddle. When I am in that position, says Botched, it is virtually impossible to endo.

He then had me practice riding around this way, getting comfortable with speed, with turning, with wheelie-ing, with riding down short flights of stairs. 

Lesson 2: Tripod
Next, Botched had me learn to stop. Skid the rear tire out, turn pivoting around your strong foot. Put the foot down, and now you’re a tripod. Most kids learn to do this in first grade. I just learned how last night.

Oh, and it turns out I’m goofy-footed.

Lesson 3: Wheelie and Lunge
Botched can do massive wheelie-to-bunnyhops that allow him to clear practically any obstacle. Last night, he had me work on the wheelie first (imagine, he says, you’re hoisting a bucket of water onto a high shelf), and then the accompany lunge upward and forward.

This is where my natural awkwardness really became manifest.

I can do a simple wheelie. I can even do a simple lunge. But chaining them together into a bunnyhop was…erm…problematic.

You know what, though? At least now I know what the motions are. I figure if I do them often enough, they’ll eventually seep into my subconscious and–eventually–it’ll become a natural motion.

Next Up: Shin, Knee, Elbow and Arm Guards
At one point yesterday–as I was practicing wheelie-lunging onto a flagpole platform at an elementary school–I turfed pretty well. Today I’m sore in a number of places, and my left wrist is all swollen.

Botched says I need to buy some courage, in the form of body armor.

Do I think I’ll ever be a technical wizard on the mountain bike? No. Will I be as good as my riding friends? No. But do I expect, eventually, to appear less the buffoon on mountain bike moves and technical descents?

Why, yes. Yes I do.

I’m Surprised My Week in New York Adversely Affected My Weight and Fitness

08.28.2006 | 9:58 pm

I just got back from a week in New York City, which–strangely–is located in New York State. During the week I spent in this unimaginatively-named city, I did not ride a bike at all.

I also did not exercise, except for walking around the city.

I did, however, eat an enormous quantity of food, at a variety of restaurants, bakeries, and streetside vendors.

See, what a lot of people don’t understand is, it’s impolite to turn down food when offered it by coworkers, business associates or airline stewards/esses. So when my coworker and I sailed through the surprisingly short security line at the beginning of the trip and found ourselves with an hour and a half to kill and he suggested we go get ourselves a "real breakfast," what was I to do?

Have a breakfast burrito, that’s what. But I only ate half of the piece of ham that came with it, because it wasn’t really all that good anyway.

And you know how you always get hungry while riding on a plane? Well, I do, anyway. So when the airline stewardess offered me a complimentary snackbox, of course I took it. Oh, and the Sunchips, too. I also took those.

And when my Brooklyn-based sister recommended we go to a famous bakery to get the best cupcakes in the world (they actually were), what was I to do? I mean, she’s skinnier than I am by a mile, and she was eating the cupcakes, so they can’t be that fattening, right?


And then there’s this Greek food street vendor by my hotel; it always had a line a half block long. I asked someone in the line why they were all lined up when there was another identical vendor just around the corner and she said that this vendor was known for making the best giros in the whole world. Everyone around her nodded, yes, this is true. Best in the world. So of course I got in line. How often do you get a chance to have the best of anything in the world?

Yes, it was the best giro in the world.

I could go on. And in fact, I did go on. I repeatedly demonstrated one of my three disturbing talents–the ability to eat much more than you’d think I could–the whole trip. For your information, my other two disturbing talents are:

  • I can make my face turn bright purple at will, although this gives me a headache.
  • I can pull out ten eyelashes at once.

And now, for some reason, I weigh six pounds more today than I did last Monday. I’m sure that’s all water weight from the salty food, right? Because I can’t have possibly gained six pounds in a week, right?


And That’s Not the Only Strange Thing
So last Friday, Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) invited me to join him and a few friends for a Saturday AM ride. Since I’ve been able to beat Rick every time we’ve ridden together this year, of course I agreed.

Rick, along with most of the other guys who came on the ride, rode away from me as soon as the ride turned upward. He clobbered me by several minutes.

I don’t know if he was even really trying. I hope he was.

All because I was off the bike for one measly week?


PS: Please take a moment to give Dug words of encouragement and advice. Dug crashed today. He was sprinting against Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) when his chain snapped. Dug fell forward into his handlebars, which turned, so his bike bodyslammed him right into the pavement, hard enough to break Dug’s helmet and a couple ribs, as well as turn his right knee and elbow into hamburger.

Please take a few moments to leave a comment telling Dug how he could have avoided this accident by maintaining his bike better, how he could have prevented injury by remembering to tuck and roll, or any other valuable advice you may care to leave.

If you must, you may also leave words of sympathy. I think this sort of kindness will be wasted on Dug, however.

That Loving Feeling

08.23.2006 | 10:51 pm

Elden hasn’t made much of the fact that we are riding Lotoja in about three weeks, because I spose he’s been all preoccupied with his fancy Leadville 10,000 mile belt buckle and his ever-elusive sub nine hour finish (smirk).

Well, Elden, Rick Sunderlage, and I are riding Lotoja in three weeks. And I’m afraid in a very particular way.

Lotoja is a road race, 206 miles, from Logan, UT, to Jackson Hole, WY, over several mountain passes. Rick S. raced last year, and nearly froze to death in a freak snowstorm. But he survived, and even finished. AND, he’s back for more. But I don’t know if he’s afraid of what I’m afraid of.

I’m preparing for Lotoja by following my usual very meticulous strategy of riding as much and as often as I can (which can be pretty random). Brad, who may or may not actually ride Lotoja with us, and I have been taking the following measures to prepare for the big day:

Monday or Tuesday: Emigration to East Canyon, 3 climbs, 2900 feet of vertical, 30 miles, bout two hours.

Wednesday or Thursday: Either Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta ski resort (16 miles roundtrip, 3,000 feet of vertical, bout an hour and a half), OR Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton ski resort (28 miles roundtrip, 3400 feet of vertical, bout two hours. More on this in a second.

Saturday: My house at Suncrest to Top of American Fork Canyon and back (with optional backside descent/ascent to Sundance to add an hour and change), 40-60 miles roundtrip, 2-3 climbs, 4500-5500 feet of vertical, and 3-4 hours.

And sprinkled in there somewhere, a short mountain bike ride on the north side of Hog Hollow. On which I have never actually seen or smelled any hogs.

Today, we went up Big Cottonwood Canyon, but turned left at Brighton, and climbed to Guardsman Pass (which tops out at about 9,500 feet), adding another 25 minutes and 1100 feet of vertical and another 3 miles of climbing. The temperature was 95 degrees (in American degrees).

You would think that would do it. And yet, I fear Lotoja. Fear it like I never feared Leadville, fear it like I never feared 24 Hours of Moab. Those are mountain bike races, involving getting off the bike every once in a while.

My big, overriding, debilitating fear, is that my taint will lose feeling for so long, that I will never get it back. I fear that I will have lost that loving feeling. Forever.

Can that really happen? They would tell me, right?


Sophie’s Choice

08.21.2006 | 5:27 pm

I am suffering from what I hesitate to call, yet can’t resist calling, because I love to use the phrase, and I think you love it too, Sophie’s Choice. And no, I don’t think it’s right to use the holocaust for my own personal amusement, and yet, what, what are you gonna do? It’s out there now, I called it Sophie’s Choice. History will be my judge. Or rather, Elden will be my judge. Hey, he’s the one who left me with the keys to the site while he left for New York City for the week to see the Empire State Building and Spamalot. I’m the one doing him the favor right? And who’s watching out for you, dear reader? Nobody, that’s who.

Anyway. Here’s my dilemma: Fall Moab 2006 is fast approaching (well, it’s in November, but still, seems like it’s right around the corner, a speeding freight train coming right at me). And while I have ridden my Surly Karate Monkey singlespeed almost exclusively for the last two years, and while I have openly declared my intention of riding Leadville next year on a rigid singlespeed (because it’s there), my Cannondale Gemini, with its 6 inches of fork travel and 7 inches of rear travel, sits in my garage and plaintively calls to me.

The siren call is not so much about gonzo downhilling (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I feel like I can downhill just fine with a short travel fork, or even rigid fork, Fatty’s travails notwithstanding), but about technical riding. At Fall Moab 05, I sat and watched while others tried and scored on the zig zag move on Slickrock, while others made the cave hill move, while others made the triple stair on Gold Bar Rim. And by others, of course, I mean Rocky. And I had to sit there and watch, and mumble “I made that last year.”

Now, I will be the first to admit, if you pull my fingernails from my fingers, that Rocky is the superior technical rider. There, I said it. And yet, to sit on my single, and watch him make move after move, well, I’m not getting weepy or anything, but geez. It sucks.

On the other hand. Riding Moab on the single was a rush. Slickrock is made for singlespeeds. As long as you stick to the little white lines. Which we haven’t done in, oh, ten years.

But when you leave the trail, look for ledges, especially multiple ledges with twists and turns, well, that requires a bit of finesse. That may be fine for the likes of Kenny, or Brad, but I’m not that talented, I need mechanical advantage.

Alright, I’ve decided, thanks for listening. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to get the Gemini into the shop (that’s the next dilemma, which shop? I’m kind of between shops right now.), get her cleaned up and non-squeakified, and ride her the rest of this season, up to Fall Moab 06, to get back into the groove. Then I’ll sell her, transform the Karate Monkey into a rigid speed demon, and ride that all of 07 getting ready for Leadville.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Thanks for working me through that. The check’s in the mail.


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