23 July 2012

You want disc brakes for gravel?

My latest rant and sand in my craw coincides directly with the launch of the Salsa Warhawk and its (of course) eventual TI Warhawk.  This is supposed to be the all brand new gravel racer to take over the fucking world.  Most Vayas don't have enough rust or use to justify the Warhawk but profits must be continued and they want to cash in on one of the greatest forms of cycling ever.  I am sick to death of the speccing of disc brakes on these bikes and I will tell you why, from my own personal experience.

I sold my last gravel rig, a Surly Cross Check and the brakes.  My reasoning was to get my gravel rig lighter, faster, and stronger.  I got a discount on the 2011 Crux non disc frame and it fit all my criteria.  I was super excited about it and got myself a top of the line set of cantis.  Dialed those puppies in and off I went on my first 40 mile gravel adventure on my new bike.  20 miles in I had a revelation like none other.  I hadn't touched my brakes the whole time!  Those awesome stoppers hadn't done a thing but decorated my Crux.  I felt like such an idiot.  You know what I did then?  I sold my stoppers on E-bay and spent 10 bucks per set on BMX v-brakes.  The weight savings are negligible and they do their job in EVERY situation.  I've blown three derailleurs due to mud but guess what?  I've been able to stop my bike every single time that happened!  Without discs!

I'm calling your experience out as well W.C.  You had a Vaya and sold it due to fit issues.  You bought a Tri-Cross without discs.  I hear you crying in the night at your lost discs, oh wait that hasn't happened!  I've not once heard you complain about the loss of your BB7's.  

The use of disc brakes for gravel purposes is just another marketing tool period.  I'm set in my ways but if you have any real compelling argument that disc brakes will revolutionize my gravel experience, I'm welcome to hear it.  All my granny customers grinding gravel in the backwoods on their cheap old Trek mountain bikes would love that info as well.

21 July 2012

Beaumont Gravel Loop (Now Less Diabolical)

I was out of water.  164oz in me.  Forget the fact that I was 7 and 1/2 miles from the car and 3 hours in, I'm terrified of running out of water.  I was in the Flint Hills where anything can happen and I was a little concerned.  My left quad had been having spasms for the last 4 miles and I knew I might be in trouble.

What started Monday and Tuesday as a quest to find a good graveller from Cassoday had led me to Wednesday Morning at 7:00am in Beaumont KS.  I had used every available tool to me to make sure that these were open roads.  I felt confident that I had a good route and so I set out.  Then just around 3 miles in I came to a gate with a padlock.  No sign, just a padlock.  Due to incredible frustration, and weary of all 4 resources telling me this road was open, I jumped the fence.  I wound up jumping 3 more before I found my road and I'll tell you something, I'm never going to do that sort of thing again.  Imagine that around the time of the Romans, a group of them built a road.  Then it was abandoned, forgotten and fell into disuse.  That's what Township Road 499 reminded me of.  I rode through tall grasses, woods, giant rocks, up and down gulleys, and even forded a small creek.  It was two miles and it took me all of 35 minutes to get through.  My bushwhacking days are over, that was definitely enough for me.  Unless you care to join me that is!

Being keen of nose and direction though led me smack dab at the intersection I needed to be on.  Thanks also go out to Google Maps for keeping me in line.  Began one of the better sections of road and felt great having not to think about where I was going to turn.  The roads were heavily disused, grasses sprouted from the middle of the road.  Then I started due east on the county line road between Elk and Greenwood counties.  This road was a thrill!  Scrub grass a few inches high covered the road and the grass in the middle got to the middle of my top tube.  Grasses and wild sunflowers encroached my path on either side, leaving little more than 6 inches to ride on.  This road is so disused I saw fossilized animal poop, not much else a few bugs but not a damn thing else.  Eventually I came to a screaming, haul ass, butt puckering descent.  I grabbed the bars, centered my gravity and fell like a stone.  Quickly delivered to my turn on Road 14/9, I was greeted by a WHOA MOMMA! road.  Two barely visible tracks in grass to the top of my stem. I screamed through this grass until I got to a big fucking gate half a mile in that said no trespassing.  I was forced to back track to the next road to the east.  You have no idea how disheartening it was to be on a "normal" gravel road again.  A few miles later and I was at the intersection of 14/9 and Rock/Crisco.

I had made it this far and was so pleased to be on the downhill slide.  Just one problem, the wind that was howling out of the South began howling Southwest.  Directly and indirectly slowing me down at the same time.  There is no cover on this road and it is wide open, a whole lot of suck.  Then you realize that the hills are getting closer and you no longer see the road going up them.  Just over a rise you see a glimmer to your right, its Crisco.  Bobbing up and up and up bisecting the wind farm.  This road is tough, you climb and at the top you just level off, no descent.  There is one descent, delivering you to the bottom of the big climb of the day.  Looking ahead of you are three humps rising equal and higher each time then the last and fourth little hump beckons.  Again it just flattens out and you are stuck just grinding along.  Thankfully I got to the Latham/Beaumont road and a little bit of a tailwind.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  The giant wind turbines were pretty cool to drive through until I realized that this stretch of road was a tourist area!  Caution Caution Caution.  I got back to Beaumont at around 1030, and headed straight to the cafe.  Closed until 11, crap!  Those tourists I just spoke of?  They too were looking for a hot meal and we struck up a brief chat.  Guy's car was littered with marathon stickers he seemed concerned when I asked him for water and told him I ran out 8ish miles ago.  He carries a 5 gallon of water for his dog and he filled me up.  I was so grateful, I jumped right back on the bike because it would be really embarrassing to be seen sucking down the water so greedily.  I got back to Brie's car and cranked the AC.  I was super excited she let me borrow it. 

At your own risk.....


11 July 2012


This post is gonna suck, I'm just warning you right now.  It may be unsettling and more than likely make you squirm a bit.  This is the only response I can come up with to the Strava post and its pull for so many.  Sorry in advance and in no way am I trying to make anyone feel bad nor that they shouldn't use Strava. 

So first and foremost, Blackberry is going the way of Atari.  They don't make Strava for Blackberry and that is the only electronic device I have to record such data.  I therefore can't use Strava without extra cash involved. 

On April 27, 2012 Mom passed away very suddenly from cancer and diabetic complication.  My biggest cycling fan was gone.  She listened to every story.  Gave expert advice with no experience.  Encouraged me at every turn and never told me to not try something.  She would get very worried when I would get hurt.  Especially when I wouldn't call and she "knew" with her mother's intuition that I'd suffered some injury.  My first bike was a used Schwinn Stingray she bought from Burgess Schwinn Cyclery.  She tore it apart, taped it off, painted it blue and built it up for me.  Back in 1998 she pushed my wheelchair through Wal-Mart to get my prescription and bandages after I suffered  a harrowing mountain bike wreck.  At one point she used her body to shield me from someone that she thought might do me harm.  She even went with me to get my first helmet, the day after the wreck, even though she knew that there was no way in hell I could ride for another 8 weeks.  As I moved to Wichita I began staging rides in and around her house, overnight trips.  She would be so amazed at me for how much I had accomplished and then of course feed me.  Getting the picture here?  She was as much a part of my cycling world as Bike Idiot, and WC were.

After her death I was so busy I didn't have time to think about cycling.  There was so much for me to do and no real time for anything, including the initial grieving process.  When things quieted down, I rode.  My numbers were way down.  Even farther down than I had anticipated them to be.  Then I realized something, I was grieving on two wheels.  Memorializing her with every pedal stroke.  I just didn't give a shit anymore and it was so frustrating to see my plummeting numbers.  I realized that my riding was my catharsis, just moving was helping me deal more and more with her passing.  There was still something off, askew, just wrong.  So I did a little experiment at Miller's Meadow one day, I turned my computer to the bottom of the stem.  Then I rode and I was alive and I was happy.  I felt better than I ever had.  Then I soon realized I hadn't gone the distance.  I removed my computer and logged on to Daily Mile.  I was so dejected, 31 fucking minutes!  I wallowed, and pouted.  Thought about training regimens, going vegetarian, putting bigger gears on.  The next day I commuted and forgot my computer.  EUREKA!  That was it.  I went home that night and tore all of my computers off my bikes.  (To be fair I did scramble the gravel computer to provide inaccurate readings but time is a constant.)  My next ride out I tested and sure enough, cycling enjoyment was up and sadness was down.  I had solved both of my problems.

So that's me.  I'm riding for pure joy, camaraderie and the memory of my mother.  No Strava and not a care in the world about my numbers.  Now they are nothing more than an interesting novelty to be shared amongst those whom I ride with.  Take Saturday for instance, riding SS I had absolutely no frame of reference and I kind of wanted to know.  To my amazement we were actually faster than I think we could have been on our geared bikes! 


Stava has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons.  I

I've never had an issue with having an opinion about things I don't know about.  Strava seemed to me to be another social media, look at me,  think.  But I was looking for some motivation to ride in the heat yesterday and thought I would give it another look.  (Caution....don't let me become a Stravasshole!)

I got my ass kicked on the first segment.  It's a 0.3 mile sprint climb from Pawnee southbound on Greenwich.  Basically you sprint to the buddist temple at the top of the hill.  I managed 23.1 mph during the climb but the KOM set a blistering 29.1 speed.  Shit.

But I was able to feel slightly better on my next attempt.  This climb is west bound on Pawnee from basically the Miller's parking entrance to the top of the hill 1.3 miles away.  The previous record was 20.0 mph and a 4:03 time.  I set a 23.8 mph and 3:24 climb. 

Strava is sorta cool I guess.  It's rather low maintenance.  Simply download the Android or iPhone app, create an account, record your ride and save for an auto upload.  The software checks your route and automatically records your time on existing segments.

But I already know I am a borderline poser and most of these times were probably set by individuals on comfort road bikes anyway.  But regardless I think it would be fun to have WC and #3 create some segments on their rides.  But don't tell Daniel because I don't want to cry.  Speaking of crying, there is a segment at Miller's.  KOM is Kevin Collins with a time of 20:53.  But he is a freak, so there you go. 

I think it is more useful for setting your own times and checking them against yourself.

I set a few segments to check times on my usual weekday rides.

Sierra Hills
Black Flag Sprint Climb
Picket Fence Sprint Climb
Greenwich Stop Sprint Climb

09 July 2012

Daniel, Horizon. Horizon, Daniel

Yesterday morning, way too fucking early we introduced our Tulsa transplant to the trails at Camp Horizon.  WC picked myself and Daniel up around 5:30 am.  We were at the trailhead by 6:30am and went to work.  Daniel, being so much faster than WC and I, was put on a strict 2 lap max diet. 

I haven't been cycling or doing much of anything so it was no surprise within the first 10 feet that I realized to myself that "Hey, I'm pretty terrible at this."  I wound up surviving the rocks and once I got to the bottom, things of course were a ok.  I was super tired at the foot of Cardiac and since I was riding SS, I chose not to do anything but have a leisurely stroll up.  I did get the Stanky Leg award, presented to the dirtiest leg of the day!
Stanky Leg winner!

WC was awarded the Bloodiest Rider of the day.  He has much more experience than all of us at Horizon and he still went down!  He told me that he was going to walk it back in.  However in a move of complete bad assery, I was almost run over by WC.  The flexibility came back and he felt good enough to finish his lap.  I think the bastard even made it all the way up Cardiac.  See what gears get ya kids?  Mrs. WC took him and got him fixed up.  Seven stitches on the top and a couple underneath.  She said she could stick her pinky up to the first knuckle inside the wound.  Way to go buddy!  You are my hero.  14 days until our next ride!
To the glove, now that's hardcore!

Daniel did not get his two laps in.  Case you hadn't heard Specialized has a bit of an issue with tire bead consistency when running  tubeless.  Daniel was hit by this problem on his first lap.  He made it a total of 1 1/2 before calling it a day.  He had an awesome time, loved the trail, even got scared a couple of times.  YEAH!  He would personally plead all of you to switch to GEAX tires or pretty much anything printed without the Big Red S.  He has enough awards so I guess he gets the coveted  I Got Fucked by Specialized award!

Specialized S-Works Captain in time out for being bad.
Amazingly the bike worked better this way!
Absent from our festivities was our own #1.  He cut a sidewall and just couldn't get it together to ride with us.  Get better buddy!  He won Most Aggressive Absent Cyclist on the day.  Good job dude!
This photo was taken 2 days before the ride

SS in the KS, US

WC was told by Mrs. WC that he was allowed a new bike for buying her new Durango.  He went out and got himself an All City Nature Boy.  His maiden voyage happened with me and my latest monstrosity.  I had ordered an 2010 Origin 8 Del Posasdo frame from J&B back in March on closeout.  Spent the last few months collecting parts and finally built it up last Monday.  To my horror, the rear triangle was misaligned!  So I called the good folks at J&B and they warranted me with the updated 2012 version.  They were so great that it came in that Thursday!  WC and I decided that Saturday at 6 am was to be our maiden voyage.  Did the Haverhill loop which is around 27 miles from the casa de WC took us about an hour forty.  We were super thrilled to have that kind of average since we are both more often than not, totally out of shape.  This was my first road SS ride and WC's axiom was true.  You really have 3 speeds:  sit, stand, and walk.  Didn't walk the whole time but LAWDY did I hurt afterwards!

The reason that I love all of my rides to go through Augusta is Patti's Place.  They have recently moved to the old Chinese buffet on the West edge of town on 54.  Great after ride meal.  Try the small Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs!  To die for!