Sunday, August 31, 2008

Jonathan Page Cross Clinic...

I was fortunate enough to spend yesterday afternoon with one of the best cyclocross racers in the WORLD. Yep I went the the Jonathan Page/Planet Bike/Capital City Velo Club Cross Clinic yesterday - it was a blast. Thanks to Renee Callaway , Planet Bike , and all of the volunteers for making it happen! Both Renee and Planet Bike do a ton to support an awesome cross scene in Wisconsin. Renee is a class A race promoter and runs THE site for cross info in Wisconsin and Planet Bike in addition to giving 25% of it's profits to cycling advocacy is a major supporter of the local series. So sign up for her race and go buy some Planet Bike product from your local bike shop.

On to the clinic. 40+ cross fanatics showed up to glean every bit of info they could out of JP and the rest of the Planet Bike Cross Crew. After some introductions, Jonathan jumped right into demonstrating the most anxiety ridden skill for most racers - dismounts and remounts. JP walked everyone through the basics of stepping onto your bike (Never think of it as jumping back on to your bike!), making contact between the saddle and your inner thigh then sliding onto the saddle. Jonathan also showed everyone an often overlooked subtlety of the dismount - resting your left thigh against the saddle as you approach the dismount and prepare to swing your right leg over so that you have total control over your bike. After everyone was turned loose to practice under the watchful eyes of the Planet Bike crew it was awesome to see people dialing in the skill and start to banish the dreaded skip/stutter steps.

Interesting side note: JP is of what I consider the "East Coast Old School" of clipping your left foot out and resting it on the pedal as you approach the dismount, then unclipping your right swing it over and passing it between your left foot and the frame vs. the "other way" of swinging your right leg over stepping behind your left foot as you pop your left cleat out. I was taught the step through way and tried to master it over two seasons (crashing numerous times in the process) before giving up and going with the step behind method - it works for me, I am much faster this way, and I don't get tripped up. I did try the step through method during the clinic, but it still feels wrong and slow to me and I feel that as long as it works for you, is fast, and it doesn't trip you up whichever style you go with is fine.

Jonathan then demonstrated a much under utilized portaging skill in the US - shouldering your bike. Every year I see racers pushing the bike or struggling with how to carry the bike on run-ups, stairs, etc. It is obvious they haven't been shown or practiced how to shoulder a bike. When done properly it is a much more stable and faster method to get up a run-up.

Next was cornering, for me this was the highlight as I got to ride Jonathan and Jesse's wheel through some off-camber turns and see their body position and lines. JP talked about scrubbing speed early, digging your tires into the turn, using your body position to control the bike and keep positive traction, and then accelerate out of the turn. He highlighted a major difference in the cornering style of road racing v. cross racing. Roadies tend to lean the bike into the turn, but in cross that is a recipe for washing out your tires and going down. Instead keep your body centered over the bottom bracket keeping your self balance over the bike so that you can shift your weight to increase traction if needed.

The group then road over to a sand pit where Jonathan demonstrated the fine style of riding sand. I really do wish more courses incorporated sand pits/beaches into the races, they are a great way to split up a field and make a race more interesting as they tend to make the cross specialists (those who practice the unique skills of cross) rise to the top v. the fast bike riders.
Jonathan's advice here was to actually accelerate towards the sand, commit to riding it, slightly unweight the front end as you enter the sand then immediately accelerate all the way to the end. As you can imagine much comedy ensued as bodies and bikes were piled all about the sand pit and riders were dumping sand out of their shoes. I think in the end most everyone made it all the way through the sand a few times.
As the clinic was wrapping up and people were patiently waiting for the post clinic cookout to begin, Jonathan had us play a bike handling game "A little dab will do ya". The rules are simple everyone rides their bike into a small square, you have to stay clipped into your pedals, your hands must stay on the bars, if you put your foot down/ride out of the square/or take your hands off the bars you are out. It was fun and a great way to practice controlling your bike with body english.


Renee, Planet Bike, Jonathan Page, Jesse LaLonde, Bob Downs,
Kristin Wentworth, Anna Young and all the volunteers that made this clinic a success. What a fabulous way to kick off the cross season. Sorry no pictures, I was too busy paying attention. I am sure their will be some up on the maddcross site and Jonathan has a couple on his page.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


On Tuesday I ran over a squirrel. It ran in front of the guy riding next to me then right under my bike, I hit it with my rear wheel then it was flung up and the squirrel hit me in the ass. I was so freaked out I kept asking the other guy to check by butt for squirrel guts! Well ever since then it has been an all out onslaught of suburban wildlife - squirrels, bees, big ol' flies, deer, everything except the bunnies. The bunnies and I have an understanding they run the other way when I yell "bunny, bunny". But the squirrels are pissed about the "Incident" and the word is out. They want revenge and they have enlisted all the other critters. That or these guys got together with the squirrels for some heavy work prior to cross season (just kidding guys). It is getting dangerous - deer in the middle of the trail, kamikaze insects, I need to find a way to make it right with the squirrels before they take me out.

...any one have a bunch of grade A acorns?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


So it seems I have become the go to guy for some cross builds this year. I currently have two home builds lined up and have just completed one. It's nice because I like building race bikes, prepping the frames, hanging the parts, dialing everything in, it's all in the details. Maybe that's why I have a small but loyal following of customers who allow me the privilege of working on their wonderful racing machines. Well here is my friend Ross and fellow My Wife Inc'ers race rig for this year. A sweet looking 2008/9 Blue CX6.5. His first ride was tonight at Wednesday Cross Practice and he was all smiles.Notice the "team issue" green bar tape and pedals
This is what happens when doctors work the night shift - they end up with green skewers that match the springs in their green pedals!

Ross is stoked on his new bike. I had one for my "b" bike last year and they are very nice. If you are looking for and affordable race ready cross bike, put the CX6.5 on your short list. Top tube cable routing, full carbon fork, nice geometry, and a cool paint job this year. This bike as pictured is just a hair over 18lbs with out any silly parts or going too crazy on the wallet.

Oh, I forgot my socks tonight and did the cross ride w/o it was a pretty funny sight, seeing as I usually roll the tall boy socks.

..can you feel it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

To run or not to run...

There is a lot of talk this time of year on the subject of running and if you should or shouldn't bother. I don't like to run, in fact it is one of the reasons I stopped doing adventure races, but last year my coach had me run twice a week and WOW did it make a difference. Run-ups were no longer a problem in fact they became a strength. I could now gap or catch on any run section, the one time I had to run to the pit for a bike swap I wasn't dead when I got there and was still able to pick some people of after swapping bike (that's the point of a pit bike to stay in the race, not look good right?) So say what you like about running but if your courses feature regular run-ups it is well worth an hour of your time a week - unless you are racing Masters in Wisconsin then stay on your couch eating creme puffs. Just like riding, start with some base mile runs and gradually work in some short intervals and stair/hill climbs you will be glad you did when you are forced to run in a race.

...vary your routine and reap the benefits.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What you want...

So this is the first of things you don't NEED, but want for cross season. The Karcher power sprayer. The sponsor, aka my wife, got this for me for father's day after I put it on my wish list for cross season. What is it you ask - it's an electric power washer, yeah I know no power washing bikes, but come on you've never taken your bike to a coin operated spray car wash on your way home from a muddy race. Well this thing rocks, plug it into a power outlet hook up a hose and instant controllable power. It features a nice long sprayer hose with either a rotating spray head or and adjustable power head, it's small lightweight and easy to hook up . It made short work of the Wednesday night cross practice leftovers and was much faster than the tried and true bucket, brush, and rinse method (I am sure you can use for lots of non bike related stuff as well). They are available at Target, Lowe's and I am sure a ton of other places for around $100. If you don't like spending all afternoon cleaning your bike before the next day's race then go all euro and get your self an electric sprayer you will be glad you did!

...remember a clean bike is a fast bike!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thanks Coach....

For the hour and a half long bowl of lactic acid for breakfast.

...I am full now!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Spinning faster...

So this guy uses a three sided teeter totter to represent the balance in his life. Keeping with the playground theme - I like to think of the merry-go-round. You know the one that as a kid you would hold on as tight as you could while your friends ramped the speed up as fast as they could trying to rip you off or make you puke. The merry-go-round would gain speed then your friends would get tired right at that puke/fall off moment and they would let it slow back down, then in your dizzy nauseous state you begged for another turn. Everything speeds up and gradually slows again much like that merry-go-round ride - base training to specialization, summer craziness at the bike shop to fall lazy days, summer off school to LeBam's first year of all day school. Yep that's it my merry-go-round has slowed down and I am spinning it back up as fast as I can for another fast and furious fall. Weeeeeeeeeeee.......

...cross season is racing ever closer.

Registered for the first Wisconsin race, we have gone big time. Weekly cross practice started last night. Only three of us showed but it was a blast - Cool rain falling down, a few warm up laps then the chase was on. Chasing each other all over the park getting turn practice at speed. Wet grass + friends = good times.

So the race rig is coming along nice. Still need the last ingredient to awesomeness! I am still undecided on race wheels for the year, what to do - get with the crustyes and carbon up or play it safe and go with a couple of sets of aluminium hooped wheels. I made yet another change to the components this week. They are VERY nice and don't go to eleven.

Back to wheels. Options, options, and options. Balance of cost, desire, functionality, and brand support. I like my Record hub/Velocity tubies from last year - fantastic hubs and okay rims, but after rolling the bosses carbon clincher Reynolds for the last couple of weeks I have been seduced by carbon's sweetness. In the grand scheme does it really matter, but after all that is part of what makes THE season so rad!

...Cross Geeks Unite THE season is upon us!