Friday, December 10, 2010

McCormick & Scmick's - A Tragedy in Three Parts

*Act I: The Promise*

The stage is set. A banquet room at McCormick & Scmick's for a party of 50. The light is low. The wine is plentiful. What could possibly go wrong?

Dave: Pardon me waiter, I have a severe dairy allergy and it is imperative that all of my food be prepared without the use of milk, butter or cheese. Which entree would you recommend for such an issue?

Waiter: Why sir, we here at McCormick & Schmick's are respectful of our clients' particular dietary needs and prepare all of our food to order. It would be our pleasure to accommodate your dietary restriction.

Dave: Thank you for your understanding. I'll have the salmon but will pass on the dessert as the options presented do not meet my needs.

Waiter: No client of mine will go without dessert on a such a lovely evening. Could I interest you in a bowl of fresh fruit?

Dave: How kind of you to offer. That would be delightful. Thank you again for being so mindful of my condition

Waiter: It is my honor to serve you.

*Act II: The Betrayal*

Waiter: Sir, I humbly present your dairy free entree. I took the liberty of removing the potatoes and adding some additional fresh vegetables as all of our potatoes are made with butter in advance.

Dave: Your dedication to my health and happiness is second to none. I am so overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness that I intend to write a melodic song about you. People around the world will dance to this song and sing your praises.

Waiter: You are too kind sir.

Entree: Look at me, I'm a delicious filet of salmon served on a wooden plank. You may be interested to know that we are served on planks because fish come from trees.

Dave: I do believe I will partake.

Entree: I've got a secret. An evil secret. Eat up lactard, your night has just begun.

Dave: Entree, you are so succulent. You are perhaps a bit too tasty but I know I needn't worry. I am well cared for at this dining establishment.

Entree: Wuuuaaahhhhaaaaaa

*Act III: Hiroshima*

We find that our hero has retired to his hotel for the evening. Business travel can be quite taxing you know.


The theater lights dim and the audience is left staring into the blackness. The faint sound of a grown man weeping is all that can be heard as the curtains close

The End

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Would Look Sexy With a Wooden Leg

Go ahead and put me on the injured list so I can sign a multi-million dollar deal with the Panthers. That's right, I broke my leg. By "broke my leg" I of course mean that I severely strained my calf muscle. That is pretty much the same in my book.

I had plans to ride Dupont this weekend but that came to a screeching halt when I realized I was unable to pedal with my right leg due to a sharp pain in my knee. Any sane person would recognize that this pain was caused by the tension lower in my leg. My first thought was that I must have knee cancer. Since there is no such thing I had to defer to the opinion of an expert to obtain a remedy. I was going to call my doctor but the only doctor I know is an immunologist. I felt that having her spend an extended period of time in the lab developing a cost effective vaccine for my ailment might not be the most efficient way to go. Besides, in my new profession I am ill-equipped to help her identify a proper research assistant.

After much deliberation I came to realize that I had no choice but to reach out to The Little Italian for help. To the unsuspecting reader this may seem like a very pleasant way to go. How could it not be? It seems to reason that receiving care from the love of your life should be a pleasant experience. Under any other circumstances this may be true. I, however, made the very foolish mistake of marrying a strength and conditioning coach. What can I say? She's cute. Except when she's "helping".

Anyone who has seen the movie Misery can skip the rest of this post because you already have a pretty good idea of what my evening looked like. I was anticipating a gentle massage to help alleviate my condition. Oh how foolish an assumption that was. When I was instructed to lay face down on the floor I started to get a little nervous. Then "the device" was revealed. It was shaped like ET's head and had two large vibrating knobs. Under the right circumstances this tool may have been used for the power of good. Tonight it was pure evil. As The Little Italian kneaded my leg with the vibrating instrument of destruction I writhed in pain and begged for mercy. It was not to be granted. She cackled with glee as she ground the tool deeper into my leg. I banged my fist upon the hard wood floor and screamed for help but there was none to be had. We were alone and my slow, painful death was imminent. With each pass of the machine, the knot in my leg exploded in a burst of pain.

And then she was gone. I was alone on the floor feeling lost and helpless. The events of the evening left me flushed and exhausted. I was left with only a few instructions and a hope that I might soon return to my full physical capacity. The first rule cast in my direction was something silly about not running or riding my bike for the next few days. I forgot exactly what was said. That usually happens when I am told to stay away from my bike. The second bit of advice was to utilize "self massage" in an attempt to aid the healing process. Although I'm familiar with the technique I have no idea how that might help my leg. Well, I'm no doctor but I'll give it a shot.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Can Feel You Judging Me

My Hello Kitty band aid rocks your world
My Hello Kitty band aid won't come unfurled
My Hello Kitty band aid...
...not just for girls

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hoff and the Giant Peach....

....or Hoff's Big Day Out

This past weekend was a happy one indeed for it saw yours truly embarking on a much needed road trip with my little German friend. Those who keep a keen eye on the cycling calendar will know that the US Pro Road Championships were held in Greenville SC on Sunday. Ahhhh Greenville, so much better than Charlotte in so many ways. I suppose the only thing keeping me in NC is the fact that I like to be on top. How's the view from down there SC? Not too good is it? Not too good at all.

So back to my road trip. No visit to Greenville by car can be completed without a thrilling passage through Gaffney, home of the water tower painted to look like a peach. Why does their water tower look like a giant peach? How should I know? I'm from the cool Carolina. SC is just weird. Anyway, I have passed by this massive salute to the fuzziest of the fruits many times without stopping for a close up look. I almost drove by again but in a last minute, multiple lane changing decision I gave everyone on the highway a little thrill while I careened toward the exit in search of my prize. It was everything I hoped it would be. It was so large that I had to stand many yards back to take in its majesty. Just like the Statue of Liberty. Only sticky. Because The Hoff is a camera whore I had no choice but to take advantage of a photo op.

I find it strange that my wife pretends not to know me when we venture out in public. I can't understand why she would do that.

Giant Peach? Check! Off to Greenville!!

Having been to this race in the past I arrived in Greenville with a plan. A perfect plan. A plan that I formulated after I missed my turn. First stop, Paris Mountain. Any trip up Altamont Road leaves one feeling a bit weary. I've done it on my bike and actually found it far more pleasant than driving up the hill. I am slightly stronger than my car so that makes sense. Stupid 4 cylinder. Well, I suppose all that matters is getting to the top. The Hoff and I set up shop at the top of the climb and we were even joined by The Little Italian. We created a cheering section with international flair. We did of course have some company on the hill.

Hoff loves talking trash with the other fans

They said two '80s style thumbs up in one photo could not be done. Nay I said. Nay.

Our arrival time was spot on and we nabbed a great little shady area to set up camp. We watched the race come up the climb just once and were slightly underwhelmed. The riders did not appear to be climbing quite as quickly as last year. The breakaway seemed to be gifted a ton of time and for a moment I thought the race would be quite boring. I would later learn that you should never make fun of U23s on Nat day.

Having been satisfied by the passage of the race caravan on the uphill side of Altamont we decided to make a move to the descent. The first curve coming off the hill is a frighteningly tight bend and a great place to observe some solid bike handling skills. Last year I sat to the outside of the turn and was nearly run over by a rider who clearly didn't understand that the good line was not through my chair. For safety's sake I sat to the inside this year. If you ever have the chance to do so, don't. You get dizzy pretty fast pivoting repeatedly to watch the riders complete the turn. Dizzy is bad.

Who doesn't love a good high speed turn?

The Hoff respects warning signs.

With my thirst for Paris Mountain action quenched I decided it was time to head into town. Greenville is a beautiful city made only more so by the presence of countless cycling fans. I was quite surprised to find that Ben King was still holding his lead when we finally found our seats on the edge of the circuit. I thought for sure he couldn't hold on for the win. Besides, this is Hincapie's race and I am an armchair quarterback. How could I be wrong? I'll tell you how. You can't make solid predictions if you mix your sports metaphors. It just can't be done.

One of the highlights of watching the racers complete multiple circuits through the center of town was having a rider I wasn't paying attention to throw a water bottle at my feet. I wasn't paying attention because Taylor Phinney had just passed and I was still basking in his 2X 4000 Meter Pursuit World Champion Glow. The light is blinding. Nevertheless, I am now the proud owner of a discarded water bottle and am living every 8 year old cycling fan's dream. It took a great deal of restraint to keep myself from immediately licking every inch of the bottle. Everyone knows that the true path to speed is ingesting the saliva of a professional. Training certainly doesn't cut it.

If I were 25 years younger the joyful expression on my face would be a lot less lame. I think The Hoff looks a little embarrassed in this photo.

Not long after I caught my bottle we moved over to the finish line. Ben King rolled through with arms held high to become the US Pro Champion. It was a beautiful sight. I for one did not believe for a second that he would hold off the pack and was only more impressed as a result. I'm sure many of the riders were glad to be done and rushed off to escape the heat in an ice bath. It can be a long day for spectators as well.....

When you are a big hairy man like the Hoff, you have to take extreme measures to stay cool.

After I had time to digest the details of the race, it seemed all too fitting that a young man like King took the top spot on the podium. I'm certain that many residents of Greenville wept as they watched old George roll away. We need champions. We need heroes. We need those we can look up to as great patrons of the sport. But we need the next generation as well. As a sports fan we can never turn back the clock. However, the men we watch are immortal. They never get tired. They never get old. They just get replaced with a new name and a new face. I look forward to seeing our new National Champion in his stars and stripes jersey over the course of the next year. And of course, I look forward to being in Greenville in 2011 to watch a new challenger push him to the limit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Faster Than Your Mom

Now that my new bike and I have had a chance to get to know each other I felt it was time for a review. The past two weekends presented me with very different rides, each providing an excellent test of my bike's abilities. Before these rides could happen there were important details to iron out. The first of which involved how to carry my essentials. I was fortunate enough to recently take possession of the ultimate weight weenie spare tube retention device. For those of you keeping score at home, yes indeed, I got an Awesome Strap. They sell for a very reasonable price but I wanted one for free so I chose the slightly more complicated acquisition method of stalking a local blogger for three years and then pretending not to know who he was when we finally met. Being a grown up is cool.

If Backcountry Research sold belts and bow ties I would be one well accessorized little dude

As you can see in the photo above, the Awesome Strap securely held my spare tube, pump and a tire lever all while looking oh so pro. But what about mud, rain, fire or hail damage to my equipment? Yes, this thought crossed my mind. That and the fact that I could not fit my tool pack into the strap. I got two or three rides in and can say that this minimalist product did serve its intended purpose, which was to make me look awesome. I may even use it for shorter races. However, I have found that I much prefer a more traditional manner of attaching crap to my bike. I conferred with The Hoff and he agreed. Saddle bags are where it's at. In the non body type sense of course.

The Hoff says "zip it up"

Once this debate was settled I thought my bike and I were ready to take on the world. Then I got a very disturbing phone call.

The call is coming from inside the house!!

Apparently my little German friend felt that with a change in bikes it was time for me change pedals as well. When we first discussed the possibility of switching to a new pedal system I was not pleased. I have been riding Time ATAC pedals for the better part of a decade and have been extremely happy with their performance. So much so in fact that I currently have six pairs of them even though I only have two bikes. I was very hesitant to change until Hoffy said just the right thing. Weight Savings!

My new eggbeaters weigh less than Hasselhoff's chest hair and provide a much firmer pedaling platform

With my new bike nearing perfection it was time for a proper break in ride. The trails around Charlotte can be fun but to really put a bike to the test you need to head to the mountains. Last Sunday I joined a rag tag group of mountain bike junkies for a ride at Wilson's Creek. Climbing? Yup. Long downhills? Yup. Sasquatch? Maybe next time, eh? Take a good long look at the course profile below and tell me that doesn't get your heart rate up a bit.

Image "borrowed" from a blogger who stole it from another blogger. That thieving bastard.

The ride at Wilson's was a great test. The climbing was fantastic but for one brief moment 45 minutes into the first climb I wondered why I bought a singlespeed. When I looked down the mountain behind me to see most of the other riders strung out along trail with tears in their eyes I remembered why. I did have a couple rabbits to chase on this ride and they both humbled me quite a bit. Lesson of the day - don't chase a former world champion on a climb. Only pain can come from that. The not so painful part of the climbing came in the way my bike handled the technical ascents. I am in love with the 29" wheel format. I was able to clear rocky, rooty climbs far more easily than I ever did on my old 26" bikes. The big wheels simply roll over everything in the trail and do so with surprising speed. I can attribute a small portion of my bike's climbing prowess to the fact that I swapped the stock tires for a pair of Schwalbe Racing Ralphs. I never felt short of traction, even on the most difficult ascents.

And the downhills? Well, I sucked at downhills before and I still suck now. I will say that my choice of a 680mm Salsa Pro Moto carbon handlebar was very wise. The extra width of the bar gave me superb control and their is really no substitute for the comfort of a carbon cockpit.

After 25 miles of riding that included 5000 feet of climbing I felt I had finally put in a good test ride. There was only one thing left to do. Racing is of course the next natural step. I have been waiting for an endurance event to fit into my schedule but that just has not happened. I got desperate and decided to do a cross country race. 18 silly little miles. I remembered almost instantly why I do endurance races. I hate cross country events. The problem is simple. I have one speed. I can hold that speed for hours and hours and hours. However, that speed is slower than most people travel in an average cross country race. My racing experience this past Sunday left my name at the bottom of the list and my morale even lower. The little Italian managed to snap a couple good photos and I present them now for your viewing pleasure.

I may be off the back in this photo but if it makes you feel better you can just pretend that I am in the lead for the next class

I learned that climbs are much easier when people on geared bikes don't stop directly in front of you

You could serve cheese on that shit

My official opinion is that the Stumpjumper is indeed the fastest 29" hard tail I have ridden yet. Its handling is far more snappy than the other bikes in its class. The light weight certainly helps with the climbing but the short wheel base doesn't hurt either. It has lived up to one 29" trait that is most pleasing and that is stability at speed. It flows through the woods at incredible rates of speed without a tremendous amount of effort. The only way to make it better is to wrap it in bacon and serve it with a side of ranch.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Trail of Joy

Earlier this year I embarked on a new journey in my career that dramatically changed my work schedule. This has allowed for two very important things. First, I am now able to go to Crossfit in the wee morning hours before I make the low speed commute to my secluded, windowless office. The second little bit of wonderfulness is the introduction of a Friday afternoon bike ride. Monday through Thursday I fight crime(or something like that) into the early evening hours. On Friday, however, I am set free at lunch time to head out into the world with my wings fully extended. I find this to be pleasing.

With a long holiday weekend at my finger tips I chose to launch myself onto the trails of the US National Whitewater Center. They are not the most challenging trails in the world but they are fast and fun enough to hold my attention. This past Friday I chose to bring along a riding partner who I find endlessly amusing. He is relatively new the sport and is always good for at least one spectacular crash per ride. Our ride this weekend was no different. I sadly missed his acrobatic display because my new bike and I got a bit carried away. I just can't help myself sometimes. I knew something was wrong when I waited at the top of a hill and found myself alone for quite some time. When I rolled back to find my partner he was slumped over his shiny red Cannondale with a look of abject terror on his face. I'll spare you the details of his specific injury but lets just say that only men can understand why laughter was not allowed. Our ride was enjoyable overall but my camera stayed in my pocket for the majority of the time. I did take a moment to snap one quick picture.

My weekend led from one joyful trail to the next with a significant change in topography and in the chosen mode of transportation. To celebrate the 4th I took a trip to South Mountain State Park. It was hard to leave my beloved singlespeed behind but after a long embrace and a few tears I said goodbye as the little Italian dragged me to the car. This was to be a hiking trip which means no 29ers allowed. Just Chuck Taylors.

There are very few places I would rather be than the Western half of North Carolina. Ever since my first trip to NC in 2002 I have longed to live here. Our Sunday hike was a delightful reminder of why. Spending week upon crowded week in the Queen City it is easy to forget what the NC wilderness has to offer. I will most certainly be much more mindful of the gaps between my mountain day trips from this point forward. I had an absolute blast chasing trout, climbing on rocks and simply gulping in the fresh air. My camera did come out to play, just for bit.

If all goes well this tiny brook trout will some day be big, hungry and chasing my fly

Not a bad spot to stop for a break

My weekend came to a close right where it began. I joined a few thousand of my closest friends back at the USNWC to watch the fireworks. I feel quite fortunate to be able to celebrate two major national holidays in the month of July. I, like most Americans, love Independence Day. But two weeks from now while everyone else is lost in the blur that is summer, I will be celebrating Bastille Day. Am I French? Well, not exactly. But I'm working on it. If all goes according to plan I'll spend my final days wearing skinny black jeans and drinking over-priced coffee out of a tiny cup. Ahh boyish dreams.

So yes, I am well aware that the Tour de France started this weekend. I originally planned to go on and on about the finer points of the UCI's 3:1 aspect ratio rule and how Lance can't possibly win. That would have been great. For me anyway. The first three days of the race have been fairly exciting albeit predictable. Cancellara won the prologue. A bunch of people crashed. And I got a phone call exclaiming that Armstrong's fourth place finish on day one is a sure fire indication that he is going to be on the top step of the podium in Paris. Yeah, no. Check back in a week after a few mountains have sorted out the GC as I'm sure I'll have much more to say about the race at that point. I will say that I have spent far too much time this weekend reading race analysis and checking out photos of the latest and greatest tour tech. Good bike porn is hard to beat. Damn I love July.

I'll leave you with a parting shot taken as the sun dropped behind the trees on Sunday evening. I watched climbers scale the tower in front of me in the fading light as I sat quietly waiting for the sky to explode in the annual celebration of our independence. With memories of a weekend well lived dancing through my head and the little Italian at my side I could not help but to think that it is indeed wonderful to know that another little adventure could be right around the corner.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Every Story Has a Beginning

More proud than most fathers, I brought my new mountain bike home just two short weeks ago. After five months of waiting I could not be more pleased to have it taking up space in my living room. Thinking back and counting as best as memory and fingers will allow, this is the seventh mountain bike I have thrown a leg over in my lifetime. Although the other six have all been cast aside, they each served as a crucial element in my transformation from a normal human to a cyclist. So where did it all begin?

My first two mountain bikes predate digital photography and even the interweb as it is known today. The bike that fueled the beginning of my journey was horrible by today's standards. Even by the standard of the day when it was made, my first bike was hardly worth riding. I began life as a roadie and only came to own a mountain bike when my sister won a coloring contest at the local grocer and was awarded a mountain bike for her efforts to keep her crayons inside the lines. The bike was a 10 speed Columbia with non-indexed above the bar shifters and brakes that must have been solely for looks because they certainly had no stopping power. Comically, the bike was badged with Diet Mountain Dew stickers. Obviously the drink of choice for mountain bikers in the early nineties. I'm sure there is a photo hiding in a box somewhere but to look at it may burn my eyes. As inadequate as this bike was, it paved the way for a life spent behind the bars. I rode that bike as hard as I could and it showed. I broke many of the sub par components and first learned bike maintenance skills trying to keep it on the trail. My favorite memory of the Columbia involves sitting in the garage watching my father bend the rear triangle with a crowbar after a particularly nasty crash left it twisted and unridable. I spent hours aboard that bike and it led me to meet many people who would teach me the finer points of riding and mountain bike culture. But as will all bikes, it had to leave to make room for another.

My second mountain bike was not the best purchase I have ever made but at the time it seemed like a good idea. With a pocket full of money from a summer of hard work I strolled in to the local shop to buy clipless pedals, proper bike shoes and a Scwhinn. The model name escapes me but given the caliber of the bike it certainly does not warrant any research. I was proud at the time though. This bike was a huge step forward me. It had a 21 speed drive train with twist shifters and I thought that was the hottest thing going. There was a suspension fork but as with many forks of the era it really did not do much. The bike's steel frame offered more to soften the ride than the fork ever did. Only a a year and a half after buying the bike I had outgrown its limited capabilities and sold it to a friend. Enter my first "real" mountain bike.

After ten years of abuse and many wardrobe changes she still looked pretty good in her final days.

In 1998 I bought a Specialized Rockhopper made from Ritchey Nitanium tubing and for the first time felt that I had a capable machine. It had a relatively nice frame and a Manitou suspension fork that provided a whopping 63mm of travel. The component spec was far better than on my previous bikes. This is where the love truly began. I spent hour upon hour riding that bike as hard as my little legs would allow. I even spent the first half of my initial year of racing aboard her flexy frame. That bike was rebuilt more than any I have ever owned and stayed in my stable for over ten years until I recently gave the frame away because I simply had no further use for it. It served as a race bike for both myself and later my wife. I turned it into my first single speed and even built it into a drop bar commuter at one point. Astetically, it has always been my favorite. Its steel frame was simply brushed and clear coated. The graphics package was subtle enough to not be distracting. By the time I gave it away every surface had been scratched but it still had plenty of life left in it. Perhaps most importantly, that is the bike that deepened my obsession and led me to purchase the fastest bike I have ever thrown a leg over.

If that's not sexy I don't know what is.

To this day I still proclaim the magical power of my 2001 Schwinn Homegrown. It is the bike that carried me to my first race team and through the two most serious seasons of my lackluster racing career. And this is the origin of Dirty Bike Love. Someone once asked me how the title of my blog came to be and the answer was simple. My Homegrown. She and I spent a great deal of time together and my obsession with her was painfully intense. In my effort to keep her safe at night while camping at various races I would bring her into my tent. Inside my six man dome tent there was plenty of room. As the story goes, I crawled into my tent one night and as per usual, I slept on the left side of the tent and laid my bike on the right side. On a particularly chilly evening in Southeast Michigan I must have been feeling a bit lonely. I awoke to find that I was spooning my bike and I really felt no reason to stop. Would you? Take another look at that picture and tell me you could have let go. That bike was a work of art. It was light. It had a beautiful set of hand built wheels. And it was yellow. Seriously, could that bike have been more perfect? As with all of my bikes it saw several different configurations. Perhaps my favorite was as a single speed. I converted it for the Great Lakes Single Speed Championships and that was the end of my run with gears. I have since that point ridden geared bikes less and less all because of one little yellow rocket ship that climbed like a mountain goat and had handling so fast that it could make you forget your name.

I suppose the bike that followed was not much of a departure. I gave my yellow Homegrown to a victim of bicycle thievery and took advantage of the hole in my collection to full effect. I bought another Homegrown. This time however I was able to purchase one of the older models that had been built in the Yeti factory. Yes it was light. Yes it was fast. Yes I converted it to a single speed. This is the point when I decided that there was simply no need for me to own a geared bike. Another of my bikes went the way of the buffalo to make room for something new.

My first dedicated single speed was a sad little collection of spare parts clapped together on a used Kona Unit frame. Only one year after I built it I parted it out and sold it off. It did serve its purpose. It carried me through two six hour races and proved in my mind that I could handle the torture of endurance racing without the use of gears. Enter my Stumpjumper.

One less 29er my ass

It seems fitting that I have once again found myself aboard a bike bearing an S on the head tube. After today's lengthy history lesson I'm sure you'd love a shake down ride report but that will have to wait. I have had a chance to take her out and tear her up a bit but we're still getting to know each other. I will say that my initial impression of this bike is that it is far and away the fastest 29er I've ridden to date. If you want to see her up close just watch for a silent grey streak on the trails of NC and try to catch me. However,if you want to see her standing still, just look for a big tent with a little Italian standing outside the door shaking her head. Rest assured you will find me inside spooning yet another two wheeled lover.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Gospel According to Dave

I'll never claim to be a religious man because I'd be lying if I did and we all know where liars go. Washington DC is a place where I have no desire to take up permanent residence. My personal religious views are well known by those in my inner circle. I am most assuredly a believer. My belief system is simply based on something slightly more grounded than an omnipotent being. All I have ever needed to believe in is the overwhelming power of well manipulated aluminum tubing and the sacred space between my saddle and my handlebar. Amen.

This thought struck me this morning as I maneuvered my bike along a ribbon of single track in the warmth of the early morning sun. There are those who will tell you that god is found in ornate buildings lined with sculptures and multi-colored windows. I spent my childhood staring through those distorted panes questioning why any god would choose such uncomfortable seating. As the light danced off the leaves this morning I knew full well that there was perhaps something more to learn than what I found inside those walls. I found a more comfortable seat as well.

You few yet faithful followers of my random musings may notice something odd about the picture above. No, closer examination will not reveal a large reptilian creature momentarily breaking the water's surface before returning to the depths. The oddity in this photo is my chosen mode of transportation. I, at least for the moment, do not own a mountain bike so I have borrowed one from my favorite Greek. I'll pause a moment while you all catch your breath. Is everybody OK? Good. This has been an eventful week indeed. I was able to sell my most recent rig within days of posting it on the local message board. It is not gone entirely. A few choice pieces have remained to bring another in my stable up to speed. The frame and fork however have passed through my fingers and hopefully gone on to good homes. You may think this is the last act of a dying man but that is not the case. This week I finally received confirmation of the delivery of my new rig. At long last my bike is heading toward American soil. With just over a week to go before the delivery I can say that I am more than a little bit excited. You will be too when you see her in all her glory.

So what have I been riding? A bike with a personality more unbalanced than my own. With a 29" wheel in the front and a 26" wheel in the back, my borrowed machine leaves me a bit confused. Perhaps the engineers who were designing it were drinking heavily on final draft day. The bike can move, I will give it that. It can climb like a goat and accelerates faster than a standard 29er. All is well until you turn. With two different sized wheels tracking at different rates I find it is far better to just go straight all the time. I tried that this morning and can say that it did not work as well as I had hoped. If nothing else, the color of this bike really works for me.

With my morning ride leaving me a bit less than satisfied I decided to pursue my quest for tranquility elsewhere. Today seemed like a perfectly fine day for a hike. With a brisk ascent to the top of Crowder's Mountain, my thirst to embrace the natural world was being quenched. A light breeze kissed the top of the mountain and broke the afternoon heat. The views from the top were refreshing as always. Perhaps the most important part of any journey to this locale is finding the view back to Charlotte. She sits off in the distance and although very real, seems to be more a memory than a part of daily life. Perhaps it is the chaos of day to day living that drives people into church on Sunday morning. It may not be the religious experience itself but instead, a coming together. A community if you will. And perhaps, just maybe, I found a little bit of that on the hill today.

I'll let you figure this one out on your own.

Like I said in the beginning, I'm not a religious man and I'll never pretend to be. I also won't suggest to anyone else which particular path they should follow. And no, for those of you wondering if a tide has turned, I did not have a religious experience today. I will say this. There is much to be enjoyed in our world that has nothing to do with Tivo, iphones or anything made by D&G. There is a peace that can be found by embracing the outdoors in any form that suits you. Take a deep breath, feel the wind on your face, and you tell me what you believe.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Six Hours of Wounded Ego

So yes, for those of you keeping score at home, I skipped my post last week. You'll be fine. I spared you 1000 words on how much I love Taylor Phinney. Not in a touchy, squeezy, is that your leg or mine sort of way of course. My love is based solely on his ability to make the U.S. a viable threat on the world track cycling scene. If you all checked Velonews like I told you to then you already know that Taylor won a second consecutive gold medal in the 4k pursuit at the world championships. Another year. Another amazing ride. Another win. The highlight of the event was a post race interview where he proclaimed that he is going to focus for the next two years on breaking the long standing world record. If that boy can break 4:11 we may finally see track cycling on the national news. Perhaps I'm dreaming but I'm good with that.

On to the reason you all come to this page. That's right, this was race weekend and that means self deprecating race analysis.

Yesterday was the second annual Six Hours of Warrior Creek and it could not have been a better day. The weather in Wilkesboro was spectacular. With 300 riders attending this sold out event there was was plenty of bike porn to go along with the natural scenery. I even brought a little of my own. No, my new bike has not arrived yet. The delivery date has unfortunately been pushed back. Apparently it takes a long time for little chinese children to carve 29" wheeled single speeds out of a solid block of aluminum with nothing but a paring knife. Even without a new bike to play with yesterday I did have a small but important piece of new equipment to unveil. I bought a space ship for my head! It landed on Friday and by Saturday morning was perched securely upon that oddly shaped thing on top of my neck. I'm afraid the landing occurred too quickly to be captured on film so you'll have to settle for the slightly less than dramatic Area 51 style photo below.

Do you believe?

As for the race itself only one thing can be said. I'm slow. Very slow. And I apparently weigh far more than the scale has been telling me. The 6WC course is fast and flowy with beautiful bermed turns and a well manicured trail surface. There was plenty of climbing to be had but not as much as the pain in my legs would suggest. The race started with a great deal of sunshine and smiles all around. Bicycles East had two riders in the single speed class so it was destined to be a very interesting day.

Despite how it may appear, we are not holding hands in this picture. And even if we were, who are you to judge us? Go back to Alabama and leave us alone!

With a pack 300 riders strong I came up with the brilliant plan to start at the back and let everybody else fight for position. If I ever suggest following this plan in the future, please punch me right in the mouth. I spent the better part of 12 miles apologizing for bumping the back tire of the riders in front of me. The course was tight and did not offer a great deal of passing opportunities. I mistakenly assumed that the riders on geared bikes would climb quickly. I was very very wrong. By the time I was nine miles in I was offering motivation to the riders in front me in the only way I know how. I yelled at them. They deserved it. If they didn't want to get yelled at they would learn to climb better.

The highlight of not only that lap but the entire race was when I rolled into the pit and found two random Michiganians rifling through my gear bag. They swore through pursed lips that they didn't take anything but I don't know if I trust them. They looked pretty shady to me. I've recounted all of my spare gear multiple times but I still feel something could be missing. If you see me on the side of the trail scratching my head over the loss of my pump you'll know who to blame.

I couldn't help but notice that they kept looking at my cooler and smiling. I'm willing to bet they spiked my bottles.

My second lap was a great deal more fun and reminded me of why I showed up in the first place. Out of the crowd with some room to run I had a great time. The course at Warrior Creek is fast and favors a rider who can carry their momentum instead of scrubbing their speed. I found myself behind a geared rider with shiny blue Hope hubs and decided I should make a friend. We spent about six miles together and moved quite quickly. I was pleased that he stayed off the brakes and let his bike do a little work. He eventually dropped me but not before wishing me well and pointing out the fact that it was nuts to ride a single speed. He's probably right but I'm better looking and at the end of the day that is all that really matters. That and winning of course. Until I stop finishing in the bottom 1/4 of my class I'll have to fall back on my looks.

A quick pit stop before lap three found me ravenously hungry. I had brought some sliced oranges that I anticipated would last all day but I housed those inside of two minutes and grabbed sandwich for good measure. At the time I didn't think much of it but my unusual hunger was a sign of things to come. My third lap was not meant to be my last but five miles in I hit a brick wall. Where it came from I have no idea but people really need to be more careful when they build those things. When assembled in the wrong location they can be a killer.

I limped around my third lap at a speed to slow to mention. My original plan was a four lap race with a stretch goal of five laps. Four laps would have put me in the middle of the pack where I belong. This time around it was not to be. The other Bicycles East rider was in the pits with my number one fan when the lap clock ticked 1:20 and I was scheduled to return. When 1:40 came around there was some shifting in the chairs. Once the 1:50 mark passed the worry set in. Only for those who have not been with me on such days was this occurrence something to warrant concern. I only race in two ways. On my good days I will turn obnoxiously consistent laps back to back and you can set your watch to them. On the bad days? Let's just say that when I blow up, I blow up big. I don't know how long that third lap took but I do know that when I hit mile 9 I knew my race was over. I said goodbye to my self esteem and hobbled my way back to the pit. So it goes.

All in all it was a great day. There is no better way to spend a Saturday than riding around the woods with your friends. Win or lose all that really matters is that we weren't sitting at home on the couch drinking beer, eating pork rinds, and watching golf. My legs may hurt. My ego may be bruised. But when I come to my final days I will never question why I do what I do. Now put down your computer and go ride your bike.

Feel free to frame this photo and hang it above your bed

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hey, Where Have You Been?

Wait a minute. Ok, fine. I dropped off the face of the blog-o-net for a few days. What can I say? The stress of a new job combined with a lack of saddle time proved to be a toxic cocktail. Now that I'm back on track there is much to talk about.

First, where have I been and who or what I have been doing? My two week media black out began with an event that can only be described as inspiring. By inspiring I of course mean that it was intimidating to the point that I wanted to run home and hide under my bed. Yes, I fit. No, I won't show you.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at the Crossfit Sectional Games in Charlotte. On paper, this athletic spectacle seems just a little far fetched. When you see it in person it is just plain ridiculous. Four WODs in two days is not something I want to do any time soon. However, I did sincerely enjoy watching other people destroy themselves. That was a good time. Sand bag sprints, rope climbs, clean & jerks and so much more. I got to watch the pain and suffering from the sidelines while I played t-shirt salesman and music coordinator. These roles required so much effort that I had to take on an assistant.

If only I could teach Max to make me a sandwich

My personal adventure with Crossfit has been wonderful. I have seen tremendous gains over the past two weeks with the highlight being the completion of 100 unassisted pull-ups on Friday morning. I may not have been able to lift my arms above my head that night but that is a small price to pay. I gain a sick satisfaction from knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am the fittest person in my office. And the most handsome if I do say so myself. I have to settle for office domination because the little Italian in my house can dead lift me while I hold on to two twenty pound dumbbells. So it goes. At least I'm taller.

For those faithful readers wondering about the broken relationship between my Kona and I, there is an update. I can't say that all is forgiven but she appears to have come to an understanding that life must continue, even for those with broken hearts. She and I spent some quality time together on Friday afternoon at my beloved local loop. Gone was the awkwardness felt only one month ago when she cast me into the stones. Gone was the tension. Gone was the anger. We flowed together once again and it was a beautiful feeling. The weather could not have been better and the trail conditions were perfect. Each ride on my Kona brings me one closer to my last and I try to hide my excitement the best I can. My new bike has yet to be delivered but that very special day is fast approaching. When it happens, you will know. Not because I will write about it but because you will see the sun shining just a little brighter that day. The flowers will smell just a little bit sweeter. And when you feel the kiss of an exceptionally pleasant breeze on your cheek you will know that I have finally thrown a leg over my new big wheeled friend.

I also have an economic update to share. I have heard a great deal of chatter about this so-called recession and let me say that it is total bollocks. High unemployment rate my eye. I'm over-employed. What is all this jibberish? I have finally started working at my favorite bike shop! My Saturdays will now be spent spreading the gospel of Merckx from my podium in downtown Matthews. My first day was a blast and I can't wait to spend the rest of my summer enjoying the sweet perfume of bike grease and inner tubes. Stay tuned for updates on any major shop events as I will be sure to blather on about them here.

I know you have all been waiting for the track cycling history lesson that I promised so very long ago but you will have to wait just a little bit longer. Its hard, I know. To get your fill of track excitement you will need only to turn your attention to on Wednesday. That's right folks, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships are finally here. I can only imagine how excited you are. Who will win the 4k? Will it be the be Bobrick, the ripping fast Aussie? Will Taylor Phinney pull off back to back gold medals? Oh, there is going to be so much to talk about next week! Don't pretend that you won't be back. I know you'll be here. That's what I pay you for.

My closing thought for the week has me celebrating a ride that I did not personally witness but I feel must be recognized. There is something very special about a rider's first experience on a new bike and one of my favorite local riders enjoyed just that this weekend. With the help of her startlingly lovely guide, my favorite immunologist put her new Tricross through the paces on Saturday afternoon and the result was a smile from ear to ear. I've infected yet another. It's good to be me.

A lovely sight indeed

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Make the Hurting Stop

I am tired to an extent that is quite unfamiliar. I am tired and I am sore. I have also been crying a lot since yesterday at about 9:35am. That is the approximate time that my workout at Crossfit Charlotte came to an end. That is also the approximate time that I realized that Crossfit was sent to this planet to destroy me. The workout looked quite simple on paper. It involved a great deal of counting but I have been quite adept at that since cheating my way through Advanced Statistics during my sophomore year in college. Count to 20 four times. Count to 30 four times. Count to 50 four times. I don't even need an abacus to do that. It would have helped though. It was the movement behind those numbers that left me shattered. What do those numbers represent? In sum: 100 squats, 100 push ups, 100 pull ups, and just for kicks, 100 sit ups. Yes, that was unpleasant. When you are fighting to hold my wheel this summer you will have only Crossfit to blame. True fitness is not found in your dvd player. You have to go to the box for that.

I spent the rest of my Saturday lying on the floor in the fetal position with a plate of bacon and avocados within reach. Add a little maple syrup to that and you have a raucous party for your mouth. Properly refueled by copious amounts of fat and protein, I was ready for Sunday's ride.

The weather in NC has been unseasonably and unreasonably cold but I was motivated to leap out of bed for an early morning road ride by an invite from a skinny tire newbie. This was to be his first road outing and I could not pass up the opportunity to serve as witness, participant and spiritual guide. Southern roads are unfailingly quiet on Sunday mornings as the faithful gather in large numbers to worship in their chosen religious spaces. Empty roads are a special treat and not to be wasted.

Rising to temperatures hovering around freezing was not only disappointing but also served to sap some of my motivation. Still weak from Saturday's flogging, I considered staying in bed but an old friend was waiting for me in the living room.

Yeah, she's pretty.

I'm poorly insulated and do not enjoy wearing three layers of clothing in order to stay warm on my bike . My beloved TCX must have known I would need a little extra impetus to brave the cold weather. She decided to bring in some outside help. It is simply impossible to say no to certain people and one of them was in my living room.

Who could say to no David Hasselhoff? He's just so German.

Although a bit chilly, it was a beautiful morning. The ride began with a short roll into my adopted home town and then to one of my favorite places. There was just one pit stop along the way.

Don't question my love for the train. Just accept it and move on.

That sight can break even the worst morning frost.

A few moments were spent discussing the rules of the road and proper safety precautions. I prefer to avoid getting hit by cars so safety instructions were a must. There are some roadie culture rules that I wanted to share but felt they should wait for a more appropriate time. Like now perhaps.

Bubblegum colored bar tape is never allowed. It's just not done.

As our two man caravan rolled away from the shop it became immediately apparent that the stage had been set for a great ride. The temperature increased quickly as the sun rose to greet us. We quickly settled into a rhythm and headed toward the peaceful country roads I have come to know so well. Everything was going well until Aaron tried to sneak up behind me to steal the fruit snacks out of my jersey pocket.

How could he possibly expect to get away with that. I knew he was back there the whole time.

There were three major players in this Sunday morning jaunt. Myself, of course, or there would be no blog. Aaron, mountain bike maniac and soon to be road monster. And the wind. The horrible, relentless wind. It was strong enough to be a burden and always seemed to be hitting at just the wrong angle. My 130 frame was not built to power into the headwind for long stretches. I am much more suited to sucking the wheels of larger men. So I did exactly that.

Long live smooth roads and good drafts.

As we hit the halfway point of our ride it seemed like a good time to catch our breath and grab a bite to eat. My remaining fruit snacks went down smooth but Aaron's chocolate covered energy bar needed some help on the way down. Bicycle's East water bottle to the rescue.

How's that for product placement?

With our stomachs full and our spirits high we rolled back toward town. We had a few good hills fast approaching and it was time for me to go work. I moved back to the front and pointed my front wheel uphill. There was no spirit crushing on the schedule today so I took a look behind me to make sure the gap stayed small.

He's faster than I thought. This is going to be a problem.

There were a handful of little climbs to test our legs before our ride came to a close. All were taken in stride as we moved toward my favorite climb of the day. Marglyn road is the last bump on the way home and I always greet it with a smile. It is the final test before you can sit up and spin freely into town. As the final mile passed, Aaron pointed to our reflection in window of a local business. Some quick camera work savored the moment and we brought the ride to an end just where it began.

Reflecting on a satisfying ride. Hey, that's funny. Ask anybody. That's comedy gold right there.

We look good and we know it.

Sad to see the ride end but happy with the outcome, I headed for home. Little did I know that there were two wonderful surprises waiting for me. The first was a delicious assortment of paleo baked goods and snacks prepared the by small Italian 5k monster that lives in my house. Blueberry muffins, apple bread and crispy kale snacks. Screw nachos and beer. You haven't truly utilized your taste buds until you have had salty, crunchy kale.

Looks like a great way to spend an afternoon.

The second surprise was a salad the size of Ohio made by my two dimensional celebrity friend. He is really into the zone and sticks to it whenever he cooks for me. His salad was five blocks of total happiness. There is some tension between us though. I have asked him a thousand times to wear a shirt while he prepares my meals. I don't understand why he won't listen. Silly Hoff.

Please, I beg you, put on a shirt.

As my weekend draws to a close I find myself repeatedly checking my new favorite website. What will tomorrow's work out be? Well, with a little luck and some divine intervention I have to believe that I will get to use the rower. If you have not used a proper rower then you can not understand how satisfying it can be to break yourself against this destroyer of humans. One round of that is never enough.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Fourteen Minute Apology to the World

For the first time since he entered the stuffy world of professional golf(not a sport by the way), I have been inspired by Tiger Woods. I don't watch television so last night I took a moment to log on to the wonder that is you tube and watch Tiger's heart felt(cough cough) confession. Fourteen minutes? Really? Was that necessary? I think not. I watched it anyway. Despite my intense effort I was not able to stomach the press conference in its entirety. I got the basic idea after the first four minutes. He's very very sorry that he cheated on his wife with those less than visually appealing young women. He did not get into the hows and whys but I think we can all assume that they would do all the filthy things his wife would not. I could spend time speculating as to what those things might have been but I will leave that up to you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

-Livestock in lingerie
-Sticky things in sticky places
-A goat named Steve

Wow, that was a little disturbing.

On to the meat and potatoes of this post. If you are a vegetarian that is not my problem. Stop whining and eat a chicken. A chicken would eat you if it had the chance.

Much like Tiger, I have been unfaithful and am burdened with a heavy heart. There is a love in my life that has been neglected. We were smitten in the beginning but the flame has flickered. I thought we were both pulling away but it appears that I was the only one. I have been thinking about her and why she was once the only one for me. She is pretty in her own way. She moves fast when I want her to and slows down when it feels right. She never says no when I ask her to go for hours. When I need her, she is there. She is my Kona Unit and I once loved her simple beauty. She is a steel single speed with 26" wheels and until recently that was all I needed . Now I need more. What can I say? I'm a wheel man and I love 'em big.

There is a new love in my life. She has big beautiful 29" wheels and a curvy frame. She and I won't be together for another two months but the connection has been made and my affection is now for her alone. My anticipation for her delivery is more than I can handle. I thought I was hiding my excitement but today I learned that my Kona discovered my indiscretion. She knows and she is angry.

Today was the final installment of the Charlotte Mountain Bike Winter Short Track Series. My Kona and I screamed through the course together only two weeks ago. We moved as one. My thoughts were hers and hers were mine. As we flowed through the woods I understood where our initial attraction had begun. As we crossed the finish line together we were on a higher plane. Today was different. She was angry because she knows that I have placed the order for my new bike. How she found out I don't really know but I am now battered and a bit bloody as a result. Lap after lap I could feel that we were disconnected. I begged her for a smooth, fast ride but she resisted. She had only one thought on her mind today. Revenge. She got her wish when she slammed me to the ground on a pile of rocks. Now I have a hole in my leg to match the one in her heart.

I must now apologize for fourteen minutes. Not only to my once faithful companion but to my team, all the racers on course today, and to the world at large. I did something very stupid. I was reckless. I only considered my selfish desires and acted with complete disregard for the feelings of others. This indiscretion was not motivated by any unrest in our relationship. When the truth came out however, I did receive a beating and must be honest about that. She hurt me. She liked it. I'm sincerely sorry and can only hope that forgiveness can one day be granted. Was that fourteen minutes? No. Well go back and read it again but much more slowly. Use a stop watch to help you get the timing right.

Yes beloved readers, there is a new bike on the way. There is no sense in getting into specifics at this point. That will come later. The one thing I will say about this new machine is that it has big beautiful wheels and bigger is definitely better.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Super Bowl Weekend Recap

You didn't really think I was going to talk about football this week did you? That's just not going to happen. I don't eat Doritos. I don't drink light beer. And I definitely don't watch American sports. I gave up on football a long time ago. Why? Because I am a Detroit Lions fan and that means I experience nothing but pain, sadness and confusion when I try to follow my favorite team. I just don't need the stress. How can we get the #1 draft pick every year and still never make it to the playoffs? It makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. I didn't even watch the Super Bowl because there was a far more important sporting event this weekend. That's right, the Charlotte Mountain Bike Winter Short Track Race. No, you didn't miss the ESPN coverage when you stepped away from your TV to get a snack. Oddly enough, their cameras never showed up. There must have been some sort of scheduling error. I'm sure they meant to be there.

A short track race in itself is not particularly noteworthy. No, this weekend gets a few column inches because there was a two day celebration of awesomeness that began with a Mexican pajama party. You read that correctly but if you would like to go back and read it again I'll wait. Yes indeed, a Mexican pajama party. I suppose I should clarify that the pajamas themselves were not in fact from Mexico or any of the Spanish speaking areas near the border. That would have been cool though and I'm going to work on that for next time as long as the shipping costs are reasonable. This particular gathering of friends was formed around a table of Mexican food with a requirement that all guests arrive in their sleepwear. We did set some ground rules ahead of time of course. No dairy in the guacamole and no pajamas that might have been worn on a romantic weekend trip to the mountains. Nobody wants to see me in a bottomless tuxedo. Trust me on this one.

Nothing makes people smile like turkey burritos and cozy sleepwear.

Here we see Ripley preparing to launch an attack on a pair of innocent party goers trespassing on his couch. You don't want to see Ripley angry. You don't want to see him too happy either but that leads us to a story for a blog with a monthly membership fee.

Our gracious hosts basking in the sweet glow that could only come from Jess' candy-like margaritas.

After a night of laughter and overeating it was time to hit the race. Rising early after eating my weight in burritos was no small feat but I managed to roll out of bed before dawn motivated by the fact that I don't have a car. When you have to choose between getting up early to bum a ride or sleeping in and pedaling through the city the decision is easy. The morning got off to a great start and the shop had a sweet set up just feet from the start/finish line.

Screw the pro teams, we had donuts!

Bicycles East was well represented. Cody(far right) may be the fastest of us for the moment but I'm old enough to buy beer. Take that!

Despite week upon soggy week of rain here in the Southeast the course was in great shape. With three riders in the singlespeed class Bicycles East was set for forty five minutes of lung busting short track mayhem. Photo dump anyone?

A clean bike is a fast bike. Write that down.

Why is it that whenever I go into the woods large men in tight shorts start chasing me?

Justin learned a hard lesson about riding behind someone with thumbtacks in their jersey pocket.

My body double makes me look fast. I don't do any of my own stunt work.

Aaron rocking one of many slick turns.

Aaron was all smiles after his first foray into mountain bike racing.

With a life like this you don't need cable.

The salesman told me black arm warmers are slimming.

All in all my first race back after a one year hiatus(that's german for economic recession) was a great success. I finished well off the podium which was a huge relief. I would hate to change the subtitle of my blog. Stay tuned for some exciting news about the new race rocket I'll be throwing a leg over in the very near future. That was called a teaser by the way. A teaser is used to entice an audience to return in search of future entertainment.