Tag Archives: bikes

Race Report: Coup de Cascades Ultra

Last weekend I attempted the Coup de Cascades 425 mile solo ultra-endurance race, a RAAM qualifier outside Seattle. Unfortunately I had to abandon after 281 miles, 18.5k feet of climbing. I have some ongoing disc and nerve issues from an MTB ultra earlier this summer that I just can’t bull through much past ~16 hours of riding.

Back at the starting area post-abandonment.

Back at the starting area post-abandonment.

For those who’ll skip the text, more photos are in the Flickr gallery.  Strava logs are up here: Part 1part 2.

Thanks

Any race like this is a big production and takes a lot of people.

I especially have to thank Johann Liljengren (TriCycles/UPenn) for crew chiefing the race, supporting both the race and the extensive planning beforehand. Brian Thompson, my brother-in-law, also worked the on-site crew. Tim Manzella (TSV/Drexel) was incredibly helpful as my chief mechanic, keeping my bike running smooth and doing an extensive overhaul leading into the event. My wife Caitlin (PBCO/Tufts) of course was also as always supportive and helpful.

Johann and I revel in our pile of awesome!  This... doesn't even include food, water, etc.

Johann and I revel in our pile of awesome! This… doesn’t even include food, water, etc.

Brian has no idea where he's going to nap, but the answer is anywhere and everywhere.

Brian has no idea where he’s going to nap, but the answer is anywhere and everywhere.

Just another Friday night for Tim, drillin' out a stripped bolt at 2am...

Just another Friday night for Tim, drillin’ out a stripped bolt at 2am…

I also want to thank Richie Cortez at Philly Bikesmith for spending a morning on his day off on some last minute bike fitting. Alex Walker, Johann’s brother-in-law, also lent us tools and spare parts out here in Seattle so we didn’t have to bring everything cross-country. Ted Slack (QCW) graciously leant his bike case for the trip.

As usual, both Caitlin’s and my parents are unspoken heroes, shuttling us and all of our stuff to & from airports at all hours of the day.

Riding

A few days out there were serious mudslides on the first mountain pass of the original course, closing the road indefinitely. We were just glad the organizers came up with an alternative, though it turned out the local endurance racers felt the new route was much harder. For us the big effect was that we had no time to really chart up the map and figure out how long the climbs would be, etc.

The final course featured four 4000ft mountain passes and otherwise rolling terrain with almost literally no flat spots, conceptually broken into 4 parts:

  • A hundred miles of rolling hills starting a bit east of Redmond;
  • A hundred mile block crossing Stevens Pass eastbound out to Leavenworth, followed by Blewett Pass;
  • A hard, remote 150 miles through Yakima and over White and Cayusa passes alongside Mt Rainier;
  • Seventy five miles of rolling hills back to the finish.
The road ahead.

The road ahead.

Between Stevens and Blewett Passes.  I think.  It's all kind of blurry.

Between Stevens and Blewett Passes. I think. It’s all kind of blurry.

Breakpoint at the top of Stevens Pass.

Breakpoint at the top of Stevens Pass.

The first ~200 miles and two passes we flew through in ~12 hours, including two refueling breaks, well ahead of our time goals and the other two solo competitors. At that point though I had to take a long break. The multi-hour climbs up Steves and Blewett had put a huge toll on my back injury. I was barely pedaling at the top of Blewett, and it was almost an hour before I could put force on my feet again. By the time I got rolling both riders had passed me.

Still, we were hopeful because I pulled another solid 4 hour night block, covering another ~76 miles of hills into Yakima. Along the way I recaught one rider, and it seemed promising I’d be able to catch the other and be near my time goals even with substantial recovery periods after each of the mountain passes.

After that though the load had just built up too much. Another hour and my nerves were burning even softpedaling flat stretches, and I was already well past the 24hr anti-inflammatory daily limits without clear sign it was helping any more. After a few more hours of start & stop riding trying to pull it back together, I eventually just ground into a wall of pain I couldn’t overcome.

Race Nutrition

The nutrition plan I’ve been using lately was working out well. My main goal beside hydration is trying to take in around 300 calories an hour, to my limited understanding very roughly about the rate your body can process. A key point is that you can’t skip hours, you’ll never make up that deficit.

The first 12 hours of a ride the bulk of my calories come from egg & rice patties Caitlin makes from the Skratch Labs Portables recipe book (~100 calories per patty), with occasional Clif bars (240 cal), basically a a bar or 1–2 patties an hour. Hydration throughout this is a bottle an hour of Nuun (0 cal) or Hammer HEED (100 cal), supplemented by straight water from a small hydration pack.

Between 12 and 16 hours of riding I tend to find it pretty hard to continue using solid food. The rice patties are nice in that they’re fairly bland yet appealing once you bite the bullet and force them into your mouth, but it gets harder and harder to do that. So around this point I start using Hammer Perpetuem drink mix (270 cal/bottle). It’s somewhat hard to train with because it’s really best consumed while chilled, so you can’t easily take a bunch of bottles on a 4 or 6 hour ride. It also is pretty bland yet vaguely appealing and seems to play well with my stomach and deliver just enough of both calories and satisfaction, so I’m happy with it.

First stop. While I was originally mostly trying to train in ~6 hour blocks, we cut to 4 in an attempt to preempt back troubles.

First stop. While I was originally mostly trying to train in ~6 hour blocks, we cut to 4 in an attempt to preempt back troubles.

An hourly bottle feed.

An hourly bottle feed.

Technical Notes

On my bike we did a couple interesting things. After years fighting the logic of it, I did recently switch to 50×34 compact cranks to go with my standard 11×28 cassette. As a high cadence rider, frequently pedaling at 100–120 bpm, I can really use the extra gears on long or steep climbs to rely on my cardio and avoid digging into my strength reserves. Note that this setup works on a standard length rear Shimano derailleur, but just barely.

I also sparingly used a set of clip-on aero bars. Beyond the more recent back problems, I’ve had trouble adopting a true TT position, though this isn’t a huge problem on climbing-intensive courses. It puts so much more emphasis on your quads that I can’t sustain power in it for more than a couple hours. So, my clip-ons are set up fairly non-aggressively, as are my bars in general. The pads are also set farther forward on my forearms than normal and the rails cut down to match for better leg clearance climbing out of the saddle. Even only using them sparingly though was helpful to have a fifth hand position and stretching out my back on less technical descents.

Part of Johann’s whole system of over-engineered paper notes and spreadsheets for tracking mileage, estimating times, monitoring nutrition consumption, etc..

Just some of the stuff from our packing list, in this case logistics-oriented materials.

Just some of the stuff from our packing list, in this case logistics-oriented materials.

One other notable is that in focusing on this kind of long form riding, I’ve consciously been less conscious about dieting. Historically I’ve been pretty good about being able to hit a pretty lean peak fitness weight for targeted events. But a true minimum weight is a literally thin line to be riding. At that point any travel, bad weather workout, or other exposure, and I get sick. That’s especially true under very high training volumes. So this year I opted to not worry about it so much. That’s cost performance on short, steep, high-intensity, climbs like the local group hill rides, but paid off in not getting sick nearly as much.

Parting Thoughts

This was a crushing disappointment, especially to be so close to doing so well. I’ve been thinking about this most of the year, since realizing it was the weekend before we would be out here for Caitlin to do IronMan Canada. A lot of prep work and planning went into the logistics, on top of all the riding. Worst, as far as I made it wasn’t even much of a stretch in length, and not at all in climbing, from many of my training rides earlier this summer.

That said, behind the disappointment it was still a really good experience. Our logistics and prep all seemed spot on, and I think we can dial it down even more with what we learned here. My vaguely structured, ultra-flexible training regimen, more a set of principles and desires than an actual plan, did a reasonable job at navigating a lot of work travel, ECCC commitments, and other obstacles to deliver the fitness I needed to do well, and based on this experience I can tweak that as well as plan even better for other events.

A middle of the night breakpoint.

A middle of the night breakpoint.

Re-catching second place on a climb along I-82 toward Yakima, approaching midnight.

Re-catching second place on a climb along I-82 toward Yakima, approaching midnight.

Also on the positive side are the simple basics of some great riding. Despite some overly busy sections, most of the course was really nice. Best though, the night sections were an amazing surrealist dream of incredible cycling—spinning along deep purple ridgelines under the slowly churning, looming blades of windfarms in silhouette; cranking at maximum speed down flats and false descents as endless wheat fields wafted in the breeze on either side, headed directly into the low hung full moon ahead; the lights of Yakima suddenly appearing in the deep valley below over a final peak. Unforgettable.

Beyond that, the event was also still a lot of fun, though obviously only in retrospect now that I’ve ice creamed to my best ability for the bulk of a week and am even starting to feel my feet again in ways other than burning. It was great calling and getting together with Johann to work logistics, and debating mechanical options with Tim on long rides. Having the guys with me was also really meaningful. I’ll always mantain that the team time trial is the most satisfying form of competitive cycling, and this is really similar. The crew fills a very different role, but it’s most definitely the same kind of collective team effort, and deeply satisfying in the same way.

Next time!

Again, there are more photos in the Flickr gallery.

FOT4153

Race Report: Burn 24 MTB Enduro

Last weekend my wife Caitlin T (PBCO/Tufts), Alex L (QCW/Temple), Johann L (Tricycles/UPenn), and Adam L (Tricycles/Drexel) went down to North Carolina for the Burn 24 Hour MTB Challenge at Dark Mountain.

The dream team.  And some random hanger-on.

The dream team. And some random hanger-on.

They did the 4 person relay and will have to recount their own details (Caitlin has a race report up), but an outsider summary sounded like this:

  • 12pm: “What a beautiful day—woo, bikes! Let’s race!”
  • 8pm: “Let’s make some dinner! Awesome race! Party times, woo!”
  • 12am: “…”
  • 4am: “Wake up, damnit, wake up, it’s your lap!”  “No! No! And don’t ever talk to me again!”
  • 12pm: “Well, I might MTB again sometime… if forced… maybe.”
"Yep, you're doin' a great job there Adam.  Great job.  Keep it up."

“Yep, you’re doin’ a great job there Adam. Great job. Keep it up.”

Intense logistics and strategizing!  Also, they completely stopped checking on me, and I needed checking on!

Intense logistics and strategizing! Also, they completely stopped checking on me, and I needed checking on!

I finished 2nd of ~15 in the Men’s Open Solo race. The winner did 18 laps and 3rd place 15; I did 17 laps in 24:17 hours race time, exactly 17 hours riding, for 108 miles, 13400 ft climbing. The GPS track is an amazing mess of scribbles.  Fantastically, a couple guys in the 40+ bracket crushed us all. As much as cycling is an old man’s sport, endurance mountain biking is a sport for grizzled old men with bones as old as the dirt underneath.

That result was completely unexpected. Work has been real busy in 2013—I wound up riding just a few hours less than I slept the preceding week, and went straight from the weekend to another work trip—and I’ve been MTBing very little the past year. This was really just a training and fun race to ride as much as I could, and I was mentally prepared for that to be as little as 6–8 hours.

But in the end it was a very rewarding experience and fitness check. Besides work, cycling this year has been tough. The last ~18 months or so I’ve largely “just” been distance riding, and balancing riding with other life priorities, travel, etc., my force and speed have really suffered. It’s discouraging to go to Greentree every week and just be pack fodder after being reliably able to touch the breakaway the past two summers. Late in the race then it was rewarding to still be riding well, rolling down the trail in the Carolina sun, and reflect that this is exactly what I’ve been “training” for and here I was, with 2nd place all but locked up.

The full(er) story & some technical notes follow below.

The real accomplishment was stepping onto the podium without falling over.

The real accomplishment was stepping onto the podium without falling over.

Recap

The defining moment of the race came just after midnight, my 12th hour break. I was still riding well, but without joy. I’d even been chased by a dog on a lonely, lonely stretch. Caitlin was out then and I was terrified she would be chased as well and come in… not happy, to say the least. I decided to clean up, wait to check on her, and go to sleep. Luckily the dog was chased off and she never saw it. But just as I was about to tell her to let me sleep as long as I could, she said “Yeah, Joe, you’re still in second, two laps up on third!” File this under THINGS TO NOT TELL A YOUNG-ISH ADULT MALE WHOM YOU ARE TRYING TO ENCOURAGE TO MAKE HEALTHY AND WISE LIFE DECISIONS.

Instantly I faced a strategic dilemma: Try to crank out more laps, or sleep and hope to recoup the time in better riding afterward? Any sport in which power napping is a valid strategy is an awesome one…

When the night calls...

When the night calls…

Full moon rising!

Full moon rising!

In the end I took a nap, figuring: 1) Otherwise I’d just wasted half an hour; 2) A break would ensure my lights lasted the night; 3) Third place probably wouldn’t be able to regain 2 laps on me. So I told Caitlin to wake me up in an hour and a half… and in 90 minutes told her that again, for a good 3 hour nap before heading back out at 5am.

Then: Near disaster—3rd place did two laps while I was sleeping! At an 8am break I learned I’d only been 4 minutes ahead of him at 6am. That’s nothing! I had to assume he was passing me even then.

At that point there was nothing to do but go crush four straight laps and hope I caught him or he fell apart. It must have actually been pretty exciting in that 3am–9am period as he got on lap and then tried to chase me down. Well, as exciting as a race drawn out over 24 hours with dudes riding around like zombies can be. The volunteers at the halfway aid station clearly knew a close race was going on and were real real stoked. 3rd place told me afterward they’d been excitedly giving him splits on me every lap.

In the end though that was his high water mark. I must have started my 5am block just ahead of him on course so it was fortunate I hadn’t slept any longer, but after that I reclaimed 5–10 minutes a lap. Unknown to me he saw this happening and gave up around 10am.

"Yep, we don't know these idiots.  Just here for a Sunday ride..."

“Yep, we don’t know these idiots. Just here for a Sunday ride…”

On trail though, I didn’t know. Realistically I figured he’d probably stop at 16 laps, but if I stopped I’d be rolling the dice if he slogged out another. Plus, the race ain’t over till it’s over.

Coming through the grasstrack start/finish loop to head out for that final, 17th, lap was loaded with trepidation. I hadn’t actually managed 4 straight laps without a break since the 1st & 2nd blocks of the race. That’s ~25 miles, in and of itself more than enough mountain biking for a good day. It was clear this was going to hurt.

Ultimately it was indeed probably one of the five physically hardest things I’ve ever done. Tellingly, 3 of the other 4 are also MTB enduros. My legs were still spinning well, my hands and arms solid enough to hold me on course, but my lower back rapidly degraded from passable to completely unforgiving. It was actually a fascinating lesson in physiology. It turns out you need your lower back for all sorts of things besides pedaling—like hard steering, and reaching for water bottles! On the steepest pitches I was finally forced to walk. On lesser climbs the effort required to put my lower back into it and anchor the pedal strokes was intense. How many times you can tap a completely tapped muscle before real bad things happen?

It felt like forever, but I focused on the lap mileage ticking away, no matter how slowly, and just kept rolling around. Eventually I hit the top of the course, saw daylight, and sailed down to the finish, safe in 2nd.

This is the end; my only friend, the end; of our elaborate plans, the end.

This is the end; my only friend, the end; of our elaborate plans, the end.

Tech Notes

For a few technical notes, my current ride is a carbon Jamis DXC Pro (26″ wheels). This is an amazing bike: Great climber, responsive, but very comfortable. Osprey Packs gets a shout-out for sending me a free replacement bite valve in very short order in time for the race. Rudy Project gets a big thumbs down; one of my helmet strap adjustors cracked for no reason early in the race, a significant problem later trying to stabilize a heavy helmet light. That’s the third straight Rudy I’ve had fail like that and won’t be buying them again.

Nutritionally I did pretty well. Caitlin and I have been experimenting with sticky rice cakes from the most recent Skratch Labs book, and I ate a couple of these per hour on average. That was augmented with some Tofurkey and cheese slices, muffins, bananas, and oranges in the breaks. This worked out really well, I had zero gut rot, indigestion, or nausea throughout the entire race.

The one downside was that in the last third solid food became very unappealing. I had to consciously work on continually eating, and needed something like protein shakes or yogurt. I’ve been meaning to figure out a liquid diet I like and will have to get on that. The last block I drank a couple bottles of Accelerade to compensate for eating less solids, but otherwise drank water and Nuun, caveat a couple sips of Coca Cola early on.

"Mmm...  Peanut butter... or peanut butter?"

“Mmm… Peanut butter… or peanut butter?”

Strategically, it worked out really well to break the day up into 4 hour blocks. Even if nothing else, that reduces the whole thing down to mentally palatable chunks. Each block I would break for a bit to refuel, stretch, and beg the guys to do some minor bike work. Every other block I cleaned up with towels and baby wipes and switched out all of my clothes. One thing I did have to fight a bit mentally was to stay focused on 4 hour blocks, rather than trying to do a set number of laps per block and winding up grinding out one too many.

Mountain biking is haaaaard!

Mountain biking is haaaaard!

Buuurn!

Unfortunately this was the final Burn 24; the organizers are, appropriately enough, burned out and taking a break. That’s a shame because they did a great job and it’s a really good course. I highly recommend anyone with the opportunity to go ride on those Dark Mountain trails outside Wilkesboro, NC. It was like racing an all singletrack version of the Kingdom Trails, a high compliment.

Of course, what really made the weekend possible was being with a great crew of friends. I had almost no mechanical problems, but it was incredibly helpful to have guys on hand to deal with what little stuff inevitably cropped up. Other than the obviously necessary 3am gruffness, the group attitude also made the whole thing a great time. It really helps to be with good people when it’s 4am, pitch black out, raining lightly, and you need to chamois up and head out…

See y’all out there!  Just a few more photos are in the Flickr gallery.

"That was great.  Now let's never ever do this again," said everyone.

“That was great. Now let’s never ever do this again,” said everyone.

Friday Night Track!

Caitlin and I went up to T-town last Friday.  A couple monkey girls were racing so we had free tickets for the finish line bleachers.

I’d actually never been up to the track for Friday night racing before, so it was interesting.  Overall I thought it was cool, but a bit too much of a drive to do very often compared to my relative level of interest and limited connections to the track community.  I was actually a bit surprised how few people I knew that were there that night.

It was fun though, and a great cycling hangout.  Being way up there in all that space, it had a nice summer country fair feel to it.  Just with bikes and spandex instead of pigs and corn.  As a bonus, the fast food place on-site has a couple vegetarian, apparently organic items that didn’t blow my mind but were definitely edible.

The women’s keirin final gets up to speed.

Sally (the starter) lays down the law as Julia (left rider) gets ready for a match sprint heat.

Peanut butter monkey girl!

One thing that was indisputably great was just how many juniors were there.  There must have been a good fifty kids between 9 and 13 years old, boys and girls, that took part in various races.  Some of them were on bikes tinier than Caitlins’!

There are just a couple more pictures in the Flickr gallery.

More Secret Bike Races: Beroun Bike Weekend

Saturday Caitlin and I took a train to Beroun and then hiked over to Karlštejn.  Of course, the first order of business was to find coffee for Ms Thompson, so we walked to the town center—a full kilometer in the wrong direction!

In any event, coming into the main square, what did we see?

Mmm... Looks like some kind of run or something.

Oh man, that kid's got a number plate on... Maybe a bike race?!?!

We had indeed stumbled onto the opening act of the Beroun Bike Weekend, kicking off with a ridiculous amount of kids’ races around the town square.  This was only made more awesome by the fact that we had no idea what was going on and no one spoke English, so we could only assume the entire setup was for the kids’ races.  And, let me tell you, there was a lot of setup.

This is a way more elaborate finish than I've seen at some US national championships...

Food trucks, with the beer flowing readily by 9am at the latest.

Spin bike demo truck. These three people were in this thing for at least an hour.

He's a one man band caught in a trio... The first of two bands to play throughout the morning.

The awesome thing about kids' races is they bring spectators like nothing else can.

There were no less than four giant inflatable arches around the quarter mile square.

A strict bouncy castle regimen is now the only Joe Kopena-approved warmup routine.

A lot of the activity was actually really neat, and very kids-focused.  Several organizations had tents up teaching kids about road safety with different games and coloring books, in addition to more generic fun like facepainting.  There was also a really sweet, super well put together micro pump track thing for tiny kids to ride some bumps and curves on.

Lining up for the bump track.

Shreddin' some gnar... on push bikes!

The local police had a whole bunch of coloring books and posters about riding in traffic. I looked for the much-needed "How to Avoid Death by Angry Tram" but they were all taken already.

I have no idea what the guys on the left were teaching, but it seemed to involve painting things.

The table on the right had a guessing game about road signs. I... did not win.

The wisely chosen white tiger paint provided the necessary aerodynamic and ferociousness advantage to propel her to the win over the orange tiger girl. True story!

Racing was also in no shortage of supply, with a ridiculous number of categories divvying up the horde of little kids.  Boys, girls, toddlers, pre-schoolers, elementary school kids, everybody got a category, almost all with a whole bunch of other people in it, with each age group doing another lap beyond the previous one.

Pre-schooler boys get ready to rip it...

Some highly technical number placement adjustment going on.

From now on, this is the new gold standard in pace car technology.

And they're off!

The field comes back through the gates.

Girl pre-schoolers, goin' a whole lot faster than those wimpy dude pre-schoolers...

A girls' race winner after her epic victory. She looks way more credible as a bike racer than I ever have.

We gather there was some crazy mountain bike race there later in the afternoon, as well as some kind of gran fondo ride/race the next day, but we eventually managed to determine it wouldn’t start until late afternoon and couldn’t stick around.  The course looked awesome though, and was apparently quite long.  As we left organizers had started moving barricades to create a prologue sequence that looked super crazy to watch, wrapping and twisting all throughout town before making its way to the woods and an egregiously long opening climb.

Start line. (photo by mtbs.cz)

Across the Berounka river. (photo by mtbs.cz)

A long stretch of the trail we hiked out of Beroun was actually course taped, quite likely for this race.  We were super disappointed they started too late and we were not caught by a raging tsunami of mountain bike racers, especially given the seeming Czech predilection for starting all categories at once.  Except in kids’ races of course.  That’s serious business.

There are a few more photos in the Flickr gallery.

Prodoli

Following today’s workshop I was wandering about and heard the “faint” stirrings of Euro-pop way off in the distance. It turns out all these little walled-in town squares and narrow roads basically turn the whole city into an amplifier…  Obviously compelled toward it, halfway across the city I found an open air concert, apparently a benefit “for the gorillas.” Which gorillas or why or how were a complete mystery because that’s literally all anybody said, with no explication and no signage, pamphlets, or anything—in any language—but I am sure some primates somewhere feel better about themselves now.

In any event, there were a lot of stands filled to the brim with sausage, many other stands baking fresh cinnamon rolls, and then there were these folks!

The Prodoli Bikes stand.

Prodoli, it turns out, is a Czech manufacturer of high end road, mountain, and cyclocross bikes. I gather the frames aren’t made here, presumably the carbon is laid up in Asia with everyone else’s, but it seems like they do the painting, finishing, and final assembly here, though I could be wrong.  Almost all are carbon fiber with a mix of classic lines and newer, Specialized-style compact sloping road frames.  Part of their deal seems to be a heavy emphasis on aesthetics, with some really good basic stylings as well as more ornate, airbrushed artwork.  A lot of them look fantastic.

Seemed like their top-of-the-line road bike. Handlebars look awesome, I'm a big fan of the comfort of fat-wing geometries.

Bumpy bikes!

The blue lava frame in the background is very nice.

Another road frame---this stem not slammed, the horror!

I'm not sure I'd want to ride it forever and ever, but I certainly love this frame art.

Gorgeous. But a bit expensive to hang as art...

This I find a bit too creepy, but it's well done.

Their more traditionally styled bikes also look pretty sharp.

The crawling ants on hexes—a combo that seems to happen often, for some reason—is my favorite of those on display and looks amazing.  Prodoli’s gallery has a bunch of other good designs as well.  Even some of the wheels have ornate patterns.  I particularly like the Butterfly, the blue variant of the Romance, also the blue variant of the Lava, the Square, and the Oxygen team design.  In general I prefer a lighter, more open aired aesthetic, but Flames is a super well executed design that I could see a lot of people getting behind.  The Spider design also looks a lot less creepy on a solid background with less realistic bloated creepy-crawlies.  However, in addition to the Ants layout above, which must be new as it’s not in the gallery, my favorite is probably the clean, simple CSK team design.  There’s a whole bunch more in the gallery beside these, plus a custom design program.

I thought it was neat to see a local bike company, and to have a high end manufacturer—I don’t see anything of theirs under about $3500 USD; divide the CZK prices on the website by 20 for a rough idea—out at a smallish, random Saturday benefit festival.  I don’t know why I went to all the trouble and worry of packing up my bike to bring over here when I could have gotten one of these beauties around the corner, especially now that I’ve got that credit card linked to Caitlin’s account.  I mean, it’d be supporting the Czech economy, buying local, helping an independent manufacturer, all that kind of good stuff…

Prague Arrival

With just a little bit of doubt, both my bike and I have arrived in Prague.  Actually, I wasn’t too worried when my bike didn’t show up at baggage because I figured one of two things would happen:

  • It would never turn up, and Caitlin would be powerless to prevent me getting a new bike, hopefully supported by the largesse of British Air and/or our homeowner’s insurance.
  • British Airways would solve my problem of getting the bike box from the airport to the hotel by delivering it there directly since it was late.

The latter is what turned out.  This was good, as none of the taxis at the stand could have taken it and shepherding that and everything else through public transit would have been beastly.

Riding in downtown Prague looks… interesting.  One first observation, of some concern: It seems like the painted lane lines have ambiguous meaning.  There’s no yellow-line, white-line differentiation, everything’s just white lines.  I haven’t figured out yet how you would really know how many lanes are going in which direction…

Also, my hotel—which definitely feels like a hostel that got fancy and expensive—has a lot of awesome Euro sort-of-classy, sort-of-trashy going on.

Looking at this, I can’t help but feel a bit like I’ve fallen into some sort of torrid vampire romance novel.  Which, you know, I completely support.

Weapon of Choice

So, to do a great injustice to the substantial amount of deliberating that went into it, a few days ago I up and ordered a new bike, my first in 6 1/2 years.  I’ve decided my $50 commuter doesn’t count against that tally…  In any event, fancyness!

Giant Trinity Composite 2

This will be my first TT bike.  I’ve never even used clip-ons for any meaningful length of time, so this should be real exciting, particularly when it arrives around New Year’s and the roads are all ice filled and slick…

Caitlin thinks this is ridiculous.  I don’t disagree, but I can only ever approve of ridiculous things.  Ultimately though the QCW team deal made it a pretty cheap purchase.  Originally I was looking at the Composite 1 but stepped down a level as they seem to be basically the same frame and definitely the same sure-to-be-upgraded wheels with still pretty reasonable components.  The price drop made it a no-brainer, I can’t imagine not getting the value out of it and won’t feel the need to baby handle the bike.  More importantly, the Composite 2 has a blue highlight rather than a black…

More seriously, I’m super excited about this.  Somewhat quietly, I spent a fair bit of summer riding this past year consciously working a bit on my TTing and it definitely improved leaps and bounds beyond what it ever used to be.  I found myself wishing for a TT bike a number of times, so in a complete reversal from a few years back I’m actually super eager to spend a lot of time with this.  You know, get out and crush people on the almighty WRD TT and maybe some state races.  I’m also really really excited about some ultra top secret, long-form TT training grounds we found on some of our super long exploratory rides this summer.  To a large extent I think 2011 was the year of mountain biking, and this will be the year of TTing.

Game. On.