Monthly Archives: February 2008

Late to the party

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No doubt I’ve earned Bike Snob NYC‘s Seal of Disapproval, but I’ve acquired a fixed-gear bike, a Specialized Langster Boston. I’ve desired a fixed-gear for some time and the deal was too good to turn down.

It’s been a long time coming. Two decades or so ago, I wandered into what was then Hampton Roads’ cycling mecca – the Colley Avenue Bike Shop – looking for a road bike. For some reason I was drawn to a celeste green creation with no brakes, no derailleur and no gears. They happily planted me atop the Bianchi track bike and I wobbled down 25th Street a block and came back up 26th. It was an awkward ride, but I was intrigued. Still there was no track anywhere near Hampton Roads, it seemed unsafe for the road and highly impractical for college in Charlottesville. So I purchased a trick little Centurion with a SunTour gruppo.

The Centurion got good use. I even raced once or twice. I worked as a bike courier in D.C. in the summer of 1986. That’s another story, but even then a handful of couriers rode fixies and swore by them. Me? I liked gears especially for the climbs up Capitol Hill, Wisconsin Avenue and out of Georgetown on the bike path along I-66 at the end of the day. Still, an appreciation for fixed-gear bikes grew. Those riders were strong. Plus there was something about the bikes’ simplicity that appealed to me.

A burglar stole the Centurion in 1992 from my apartment in Charlotte, N.C., where I worked first after grad school. I didn’t really replace it until about six years ago when I bought a close-out Schwinn Fastback and rediscovered cycling when I turned 35. I’ve since bought a mountain bike, a cyclocross bike and replaced the Schwinn after the frame cracked.

Returning to cycling, I’ve discovered there are many subcultures in the wider bike culture: road racers, tourers, tandemites, triathletes and mountain bikers, which in turn has even more subcultures – racers, gravity boys, singlespeeders … the list goes on. Then there’s the urban fixie culture with young trendoids in skinny jeans riding helmetless and brakeless through cities nationwide. I’ll never eschew a helmet and can’t imagine not having at least a front brake for those emergency situations. But it reminded me of my desire to ride fixed.

Turns out that many other racers I know ride fixed too for a variety of reasons. It smoothes out your pedal stroke, improves your cadence, makes you stronger and is just plain fun. As the late Sheldon Brown put it: “The purest, simplest kind of bicycle is the fixed-gear bicycle. Riding a fixed gear will make you a stronger, smoother cyclist… and it is a lot of fun!”

Who’s to argue with a luminary like Sheldon. So I join the fixed-gear nation, a little late to the party, but loving it so far anyway.

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I’ve only ridden my Langster twice to work. The bike is a little too fashion forward for my taste. I like the Boston-themed black paint with white scroll work styled from the USS Constitution, but everything else is white too – the saddle, bar grips, cable housing, rims, hubs and even the chain. It seems a little much. I need to adjust the gearing too. It’s 42×16, which is fine for cruising around, but won’t fly for training. I’m thinking a 14 rear cog. And if I do race it (which I plan to), I’ll need a 48 or larger ring up front or face being spun off the back.

But mostly I plan to just enjoy the ride, even if I’ve become yet another of Bike Snob NYC’s signs of the apocalypse.

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Sitting down on the job

This clip shot by Albe shows how little I had in my legs for the Snowball finish. I’m toward the front in a yellow helmet and flame jersey, but I’m sitting down in the sprint, not even standing.

Joe Younkin shot a nice video compilation of all three races. Click the link.

Snowballed

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Been trying to think of something clever to say about my first race of the season, the Snowball training crit at the Sportsplex on Sunday, but it was just a race. I rolled out with the Cat 3/4 B-field after minimal warm-up. The pace hung in the mid-20s. I tried to go with a couple of moves, but my legs felt pretty leaden. Seemed like I was pushing too big a gear the entire time. The course is nice, if kind of narrow. The field was bit sketchy, which I guess is to be expected for the season’s first race.

With a couple of laps to go, I started moving back to the front. At some point my right contact slipped out of my eye, but it was all left turns anyway. I had to make a big effort on the back stretch of the last lap to get up to about 5th or 6th wheel. As we rounded the final turn, there was a big hesitation. I guess no one wanted to lead everyone else out. I should have hit it, but I didn’t trust my legs. Then the sprint went and when I stood up I had nothing anyway. Still I held on for eighth. Not too shabby on legs blown out from running an 8K in the storm the day before.
Virginia Beach Velo and East Coast Bicycles put on a nice race. It was great to see all my friends again. Budman Shawn slipped by me in the sprint for 6th. Firemen Josh and John were also in the race. Albe was shooting pics (including the one I stole above), while Jimmy D, Danbo, Mega Meg, McMike and Silly spectated. Jerry and Zach raced the C-race with new teammate David, who took the win with a massive attack on the penultimate lap! JB raced with me. K-Dawg, J-Law, Marc and Crazy ran with the big boys in the A-race.

It’s good to be racing again and nice to see everyone. Looks like everyone stayed fast over the winter.

Dogged

Today I was dogged. Still congested, I woke to a light drizzle and drove out to the last race in Kale Running‘s Mud in Your Eye series. I was standing 3rd overall, 1:04 ahead of 4th, in the 40-44 age group and hopeful of holding onto my place and beating K-Dawg in the friendly rivalry we’ve built over three previous running races.

It was not to be. The skies opened up and it even thundered as the 8K race got underway. I was soaked and cold before the race even started. Still I ran fine through two miles, rolling along at my usual sub-7 pace, but then people started passing me. I tried to follow, but it felt like a vise was wrapped around my chest and I just couldn’t turn over my legs any faster. The puddles and mud soaked my shoes and it felt like I was running in lead boots. Kevin kept getting farther away and I ran each of the remaining three miles slower and slower.

I finally dragged my freezing, wheezing self across the line in 37:33, at a miserable (for me) 7:33 pace. That’s 40 seconds per mile slower than I’ve been running. The rain and mud slowed me down somewhat, but I blame the dang head cold for how poorly I showed. My mother-in-law, a nurse, thought me a fool for even being out in that weather. And worse than losing to Kevin, I lost my 3rd place in the age group by 13 seconds. I’d beaten the guy for the first two races, but he more than made up for it today.

I guess I got double dogged.

Ellie scores in science again

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Eleanor, despite her monumental procrastination (she gets comes by it honestly: from me), did real well in the school science fair for the second year. Her project on what’s the best method to clean up oil spills got second place from the judges. She was elated.

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Here, she accepts her ribbon from her teacher.

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The school had all kinds of fun activities set up for the kids during the science fair. This one was positively hair-raising!

What’s truly amazing is how much of the work she put off until the last weekend, yet how she managed to pull it all together so well. She reminds me a lot of me. It’s her second good year at the science fair too. Last year she got first place in her school and went on to win at the city level. Her school missed the city-wide deadline this year, so we’re done with this year’s project.

Never can have too many

I think I already bought my birthday present. Way early.

 

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The Conte’s team party for Tripower was dangerous.

Idiocy and excellence

I’m the idiot; Ellie is most excellent.

Despite feeling more than a little under the weather, I woke early Sunday morning, got all my stuff together, loaded the K2 with the new Fox fork atop the car and headed up to Freedom Park in Williamsburg where a bunch of folks were gathering to ride. I got all the way to the exit when I realized I forgot to pack my shoes. I blame it on medicine head (and my innate idiocy). At least I got a Trader Joe’s run in.

Someone in my family had a rocking weekend, however. Ellie had a swim meet in Hampton and scored two second places in the 50-meter freestyle and butterfly. She also cut about two seconds off her freestyle time, down to just over 37 seconds. Such results make me really proud of what a competitor she’s become. She’s often racing against girls who train four or more days a week, while she swims twice in a good week with her busy schedule.