My Last Muddy Weekend in 2014 and the Lessons Learned
by Mark V on Dec 15, 2014 at 4:43 PM
Somehow at the last minute, the Pacific Northwest got their UCI-sanctioned cyclocross race. When the Deschutes Brewery Cup in Bend OR was cancelled mid-season, it looked like there wouldn’t be a UCI race anywhere north of California all year. Luckily the guys who run Seattle-based MFG Cyclocross secured a sponsor in the form of Waves For Water, a nonprofit organization that works to provide clean water to communities in need worldwide. With a little help from the guys at Cross Revolution, a rival CX race organizer, MFG managed to deliver 2 days of racing this past weekend that attracted racers from all over the NW as well as places like Colorado. Hats off to all involved!
For me, that will be my last weekend of cyclocross racing, though I mostly missed out on the first half of the season. Instead of getting ready for racing at the end of the summer, I was breaking down a 31 year old bike shop. Long, relentless hours of packing and moving made riding my bike, let alone going to the races, into a whimsical daydream. My long-awaited Davidson D-Plus cyclocross bike was the last bike to be painted at that location, but I was too busy to build it up until after we completed move-out on Halloween. I assembled the frame with a 2x10 drivetrain for photos and then immediately rebuilt it as a no-compromise singlespeed race bike, thereby fulfilling the D-Plus design concept (you can read more about the design and fabrication in Issue 19 of our downloadable magazine).
Before the season began I had ambitions to double up on race days, entering both Cat4 and singlespeed events. The plan was to use my still-awesome Redline Conquest Carbon as my geared bike and the D-Plus for singlespeed. As it actually played out, I raced Cat4 at Silverlake and Magnuson Park; SSCX at Woodland Park, Frontier Park, Gig Harbor, and the first day of Waves-For-Water at Marymount Park, Tacoma. At Steilacoom on the second day of the UCI weekend, I finally managed to do the double, so now it’s time to clean all the mud off my race wheels, return the D-Plus to a fully-geared mode, and reflect on what I have learned this season.
One thing I learned is that I don’t like being at the back end of my fields. I’ve had good CX seasons in the past when I was consistently in with the top quarter of the finishers, but this fall I’ve been tail-end Tommy most of the time. The biggest difference is my lack of fitness. I have been lax in my training, spending too much time fixing other people’s bikes and making poor use of my time. And I’m not getting any younger; from now on fitness won’t be a happy accident. I’m kinda glad that CX season is over, because now I can concentrate on developing and implementing a training plan.
It wasn’t pure humiliation though. I still have a decent finishing sprint in Cat4, and I am capable of racing twice in the same day. I expected to get trounced in the singlespeed races, especially in the races without separate “A” and “B” division. Lumping the fast racers and the race fodder into the same wave means that the field strings out right from the start, and the slower riders can at best hope to not get lapped by Craig Etheridge as he slays the singlespeed field yet again. Craig’s stranglehold on the competition would be a lot more irritating if he wasn’t the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet at a starting line or in the parking lot. No shit, the guy is so nice it’s inhuman. Craig aside, a drubbing in the singlespeed division doesn’t get me down, especially this season since I’m still getting a feel for gear selection. After 3 or 4 seasons, I am familiar with most of the courses, but I’ve never had to think about how I would set up the bike if I couldn’t shift during the race.
The day before Woodland Park CX, I put a 36x17 on the bike, partially because that’s what I could scrape together from my stash. With the bike shop closed, the pool of parts from which I could draw supplies had disappeared, but I found that ratio to work reasonably well for me at Woodland Park. At about 58 gear-inches, it’s not a very tall gear, but I have always been a spinner on the road. And on the Redline’s 1x10 setup, I use a 38T ring and spend most of the time in the lower gears. But even with that low gear I start to suffer on the longer climbs by the end of the race (another motivation for training). Still, even if I return to a competitive level of fitness, there is a practical limit of how much I can spin a low gear when the terrain is rutted and bumpy because you can’t keep a smooth cadence while bouncing all over the place. In retrospect I wish I had tried out the BodyFloat suspension seatpost in a couple of the races. I had success using that post in gravel grinders last summer, but I have been hesitant to use it in a CX race since I don’t feel confident about trying to remount the suspended saddle. For one thing, the saddle would be higher than normal without my weight on it, so I would need to leap a little higher as I remount, and then I’m worried that I might not stick the landing as the post sags under my downward inertia. By next fall I would like to have the fitness to move up to a 38x17 (~61 gear-inches), but later this month I plan to experiment with the BodyFloat at Marymoore, since that is one of the really bumpy courses that is readily accessible.
I learned to look at the bottom of my shoes. It’s probably a good idea to start the CX season with fresh cleats for your shoes. I didn’t check the condition of my cleats before Silverlake. I had problems staying clipped in, I flubbed the sprint when I inadvertently unclipped, and in the end gave away a placing that I had worked hard to gain.
Another learning adventure has been tubeless cyclocross tyres. My goal has been to find a trouble-free CX tyre that would perform well in stereotypical NW courses: muddy grass corners, deep mud, and loam. Last summer I discovered some great gravel tyres in the Kenda Happy Medium. A tubeless-ready version is available in 32mm and even the regular 35mm version works well in a tubeless conversion. Having the wider option in a dry conditions/gravel tyre is great on rutted descents from mountain passes, but the tubeless-ready tyres are frequently only available in the 33mm size to meet UCI regulations. Worse, manufacturers want to make sure that their tyres will not exceed 33mm width even on today’s trendy wide rims. That means that the tyres actually measure significantly less than 33mm unless they are mounted on those wide rims. When it comes to cyclocross racing, pretty much the only time narrower tyres offer any benefit is if you want that skinny to give more space for mud to fall through on a frame with tight clearances. Since I’m racing in Cat4 or singlespeed, no one cares if my tyres are wider than regulation, but it’s not so easy to take advantage of that without wider mud tyre options. I’ll talk about my tubeless tyre revelation on another day, but in the end I did find a good tubeless CX tyre for Washington state.
For my Redline, I am using the Tufo Flexus Cubus 34 tubulars that I have had for the past few seasons. Tufo tyres may not be the lightest or most supple CX rubber around, but they are tough and long lasting. You do want to spend the money on the “Flexus” version of Tufo tyres, as the base version is like a garden hose. Tufo has recently updated the tread designs of both the mud-loving Cubus and the medium condition Primus. I suspect that the Primus had more room for improvement since it really suffered badly in wet conditions, whereas the Cubus’ only real weakness might be a little excessive rolling resistance on hardpack or pavement. Regardless, I’m going to keep the older Tufos since they pre-date the UCI 33mm rule. Maybe they stretched a little over time, but those brick red lovelies measure 35mm as they are now. Monster truck grip, Cadallac ride. If the Cubus didn’t shed mud so well, their bulk would be a problem on the Redline, which is not overly generous on clearance. I do have one Flexus Primus mounted on my backup rear wheel; the only time I used it was actually for the singlespeed at the chilly Gig Harbor race. I was actually surprised how competent it felt on frozen grass. The experience rekindled my appreciation for the original Primus, though I still feel that it is not as versatile as some other options out there.
Since I cannot get the Flexus Cubus in 34mm anymore, I have reason to maintain those tyres for future seasons. Somehow I had slit the tread on the rear, maybe at Silverlake. The slice was just short of going into the casing, and I figured out that I could repair the wound in the rubber with a little bit of Aquaseal, which I have been using to seal the sidewall on CX tyres with cotton-poly casings like Challenge and FMB (Tufo’s vulcanized construction eliminates the need to seal the sidewall). The fix worked perfectly.
One key lesson that I learned was this: don’t take whiskey hand-ups during a race. I don’t know why I did it at Marymount; maybe the self-awareness that I was nowhere near the front of the singlespeed field. And I often have more than a shot of brandy or applejack immediately after the race, so what could it hurt to have a snort of the hard stuff in the final lap? All seemed well as I finished, but then I was overwhelmed with nausea. I was by the team tents when I started wretching, then soon I stumbled over to the treeline out of courtesy. Nothing was actually coming out of my mouth, but I wasn’t fit for moving for a good quarter hour.
Bike Works Kids Bike-O-Rama Event
by Byron on Dec 15, 2014 at 3:48 PM
Bike Works at work in Seattle. Photo: Kristie McLean
This weekend, Bike Works is holding its fourth bi-annual Kids’ Bike-O-Rama at its Columbia City location. Staff, dedicated youth, adult volunteers, music, and community will accompany over 100 kids receiving a bike—for many, their very first bike. Partnering with social service agencies that serve individuals whom are low-income, refugee, and newcomers; including Neighborhood House, East African Community Services, and Southeast Youth and Family Services, Bike Works will give over 100 bikes to kids from the community from neighboring communities.
An article about Bike Works, written by Steve Gluckman, was also included in the current issue of our magazine.
At Bike Works our youth programs are rooted in the belief that young people thrive when they are valued, feel a sense of belonging, and value themselves. We actively involve young people in their community which helps them to develop new skills and promote links with neighbors while catalyzing future youth involvement in community change. Our youth programs offer an innovative combination of education, bicycle repair and ownership, outdoor activities, and community service and include….
For more information about Bike Works, visit their site and Bike-O-Rama is December 20th, 2014, from 10am to 2pm.
Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest 2014
by Byron on Dec 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM
It was fun AND competitive
This afternoon on your local CBS station, the CBS Sports Spectacular: Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest is showing. We attended the event as guests of Deer Valley to ride, hang out with the celebs, watch a Lady Antebellum concert, and take some photos. Like these….
DV Celeb Skifest: Alysia Reiner and Amy Ackker of Orange is the New Black and Person of Interest
Giancarlo Esposito and the Crab Wizard from Breaking Bad and the Deadliest Catch
The annual Celebrity Skifest pairs former Olympic ski legends with television and film celebrities for an exciting weekend of skiing, live music and fundraising for Waterkeeper Alliance, the fastest-growing grassroots environmental movement in the world. Waterkeeper defends communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water—from law-breaking polluters to unresponsive government agencies. So it was celebs in Park City and a couple of cyclists (us), having fun and protecting water. A pleasure to attend, and as I posted this week, the snow conditions weren’t great for skiing, but were for snow biking!
Conditions good for snow biking
Our host hotel was Goldener Hirsch where we enjoyed apres ski with yodelers and before that, a tasting with High West Distillery, and dinner at Mariposa.
Lady Antebellum performed
More photos are posted on G+ and Flickr, including celebs, and the bikes we rode.
The best of High West
by Byron on Dec 13, 2014 at 11:57 AM
While the switch back to road starts tomorrow and before we ride in Maui next week, still thinking about single track in the snow on fatbikes. The rest of that story is being saved for an issue of our magazine.
Huggacast Shorts: Fatbike Slopestyle
by Byron on Dec 12, 2014 at 1:55 PM
We rode fatbikes on the slopes in Park City and it was SUPER FUN.
Velo Gingerbread Haus
by Byron on Dec 11, 2014 at 11:57 AM
We attended the annual Westin Seattle Gingerbread event, made our Velo Haus, and then … wait for it…Santa showed up. In this crazy, mixed up, f’d up world, it was good to have some fun with children like Izzy that believe in what the holiday season is about.
Fizik Volta R1 Saddle Reviewed
by Mark V on Dec 10, 2014 at 8:53 AM
The Volta saddle is perhaps the most striking saddle in Fizik’s lineup, at once familiar and stunningly different. It’s deep flanks harken back to the days of the Selle San Marco Supercorsa or Selle Italia Turbo, yet the Volta’s visual lines are brutishly simple and sharp, as if Fizik had extracted and purified the essence of cycling in the 1980s.
Fizik is a brand that appeared less than two decades ago under parent company Relle Royal; the new flagship brand fuzed the latest technology and materials with innovative style, and promptly joined companies like Selle Italia and Selle San Marco as a marquee name in the high-end of the market. Fizik models such as the Alliante became trendsetters, while the Arione is destined to be a Fizik signature for decades to come. Fizik rode to success with modern designs that all fully embraced the aesthetic of lightweight and low-profile shell as displayed by the Selle Italia’s slightly earlier saddle Flite, a smash success in its own right. But not every rider has found a happy perch atop these low profile, ultra-modern seats like a Doritos chip dusted with foam padding. Is there something about the ergonomics of those older designs? Or have the 1980s finally become a stylistic touchstone for cycling, a Golden Age of Cycling for the millennials? Yet while Selle San Marco and Selle Italia are restarting production on the revered favourites from the past, newcomer Fizik had to invent their own retro “classic”. And thus became the Volta.
While consciously echoing the aesthetic of another era’s saddles, the Volta R1 is thoroughly modern in construction. The carbon composite shell straddles Fizik’s proprietary “Mobius” rail, formed by one uninterrupted loop of carbon that is riveted to the shell (the 2015 Volta R3 has “kium” metal rails). The shell has a relieved central section where a more pliable plastic takes the place of the carbon, to reduce pressure in the perineum area without relying on bulky padding. The microtex (a microfibre material) takes the place of leather, covering a thin layer of dense foam. In profile, the vintage saddle that the Volta most closely resembles is the Selle San Marco Rolls, having moderately deep flanks with a virtually flat upper line (no sag along the back nor kick at the tail). Like the Rolls, the Volta is well rounded laterally from the nose all the way back. However the Rolls flares wide from the centerline abruptly midways along the saddle length. In contrast, the straight-lined Volta looks almost a perfect triangle from above; the broad nose leads back to a moderate width at the rear flank. The flexible sides drop down just low enough to obscure the rails from view, but the saddle still weighs a meager 181gr, less than the original Flite that started the low-profile trend.
I’m going to be upfront about my riding impressions of the Volta: I really wanted to like it, I did in fact hate it. When people ask me about looking for a new saddle, I always advise them to pay attention to the characteristics of the saddles they’ve liked in the past. All the saddles I’ve found some success with had the same flat profile as the Volta, but they were more squared off across the top rather than the Volta’s domed shape. At this point all of my bikes have ended up with Arione saddles, which are long, flat, squared off, and have a gentle flare at the flanks. This shape allows me to scoot around on the saddle rather than being limited to one distinct “sweet spot” along the length of shell. But atop the Volta, rather than feeling that I could comfortably move fore or aft to alter how I was pedaling or change my upper body position, it just felt like I was sitting on a traffic cone that I had mounted sideways on the seatpost. Sliding back on the saddle just wedged more material between my thighs rather than better supporting my “sit bones”. And despite what other reviewers have written, I did not feel like the Volta offered anything at the back to push against. Maybe if the Volta was a little more flared at the flank or perhaps swept up at the back, then I would not have felt like I was going to slide off the back edge of the saddle. Sitting on this saddle was like being lost on an open plain: I never knew where I was and never was any place where I wanted to be.
This isn’t to say that the Volta doesn’t deliver on its promise to fit like those classic saddles of yesterday. If I reveal the fact there are no classic saddles that suit me either, one could argue that my displeasure with the Volta implies that this saddle actually may suit riders who can’t find what they want in the low profile saddles of today. However, I will caution that there is much more to the shape of a saddle than whether or not the shell obscures the rails from view. This is most definitely not an Arione with shorter tail and deeper flanks. At $300 with the Mobius carbon rail ($200 for the R3’s kium rail), the Volta R1 would be a costly experiment in style for most riders. It also seems like an odd duck within the Fizik saddle line because it does not easily slot into their “Spine Concept”, in which saddles are marketed to three categories of riders, differentiated by their posture and riding style.
Saddle preference is a distinctly personal thing, arrived at with experience and long miles. It is good to experiment a lot if you are unsatisfied with your current perch. And if what you discover at the end of your search is something that looks beautiful atop your bicycle, then so much the better. The Volta R1 was not that saddle for me.
Issue 19: Super Green
by Byron on Dec 09, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Issue 19 dropped last week and includes the return of Mark V with a story about his new Super Green bike….
Two years ago, Bike Hugger collaborated with Seattle’s Davidson Custom Bicycles on a titanium cyclocross that could be easily switched from singlespeed to multispeed “modes.” Sure, just about any multispeed bike can replace the rear derailleur with a chain tensioner, but the idea was to eliminate such items since like derailleurs they can foul with mud, grass, or ice. Also, one would want to have two alternate handlebars, one connected to only to brakes and one with derailleurs as well, and be able to swap them with minimal cable replacement and/or tuning. The bike that came to be known as the Davidson D-Plus has seen plenty of racing, geared and singled, and has actually gotten tons of road riding in these Northwest winters. But like all prototypes, there was room for improvement.
To read what improvements Mark made in the latest iteration of the D-Plus and the rest of the story, please subscribe on iTunes or the Web. Annual subscriptions are $16; individual issues are $4. Your money directly supports authors like Mark who contribute to Bike Hugger.
In the Wasatch Mountains
by Byron on Dec 08, 2014 at 6:56 PM
Before heading back to Seattle today, we hiked above Guardsman Pass, and at the the top of Empire Pass, to shoot this view of the Wasatch Mountains. Will share the rest of the Park City story soon, about the biking we did, gear we used, and the Scott Foil.
Hiked with a Thule camera bag full of gear
Rode up Marsac
Fat Biking Slopestyle
by Byron on Dec 07, 2014 at 7:00 AM
While we’re riding fatbikes on ski slopes in Deer Valley, Mark V is racing. Matt Hill writes about the importance of the races in Issue 19. I’ll share the Fatbike Slopestyle next week. For now, here’s a photo and video.
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