Lots of time on 2 wheels, no broken bones, and lots of good times. 2011 has been a good year of riding, and after a crazy event this weekend, it seems like a good time to summarize a few things.
At the track, FM:Race held our own, even as people got injured, moved out of the country, and were just slacking. We were able to snag 2nd place team out of 28 teams, and our top A racer Brian Tester won Rider of the Year, getting more points than anyone else at the Dick Lane Velodrome in 2011. I finished in 19th place, and we had a few other people scattered through the top 30 placings.
This year, Jason Atwood and I raced in almost all of the "Madison" events and did pretty well. Winning one on April 20, and not getting lapped too many times in 7 others. Jason is out of state at grad school now, so we weren't able to do the last few.
Track racing has been a lot of fun, but it's also a huge time sink for the amount of 'saddle time' (4 hours every wednesday with 1 hour on the bike) and I got hurt due to actions of other people a bit too much for my taste. Mountain biking is what I enjoy doing the most, so track racing is going to take a back seat next year for other things.
New for this year, I've done a handful of cyclocross races. Cyclocross bikes are basically road bikes with weird geometries, less effective brakes, and slightly knobbier tires used for riding around in grass and parking lots. Pretty ridiculous, but there was a great deal on a bike on the internet so I figured I would give it a shot. After a handful of races, I'm still not sure if it's fun, but I figure I should give something super crazy like Southern Cross a try before deciding if this bike is a keeper or not.
So far I'm 29th out of 170 for the season, and FM:Race is in 7th of 139 teams.
The vast majority of my road biking this year was the weekly FM:Race Training Ride, a terrible hill climbing ride that I try and add a few more hills to every year. This will continue in 2012 with a few small changes. I also did a few 100 mile rides, and I'll probably do a few more of those in 2012.
But then, sometime last week, Strava announced the Turkey Takeoff: Ride 250 miles in a 5-day period over Thanksgiving weekend. For some reason, I decided that this was a good idea to do and came up with a plan of attack. After my ~7 mile commute on Wednesday, I was running a little behind schedule. Thanksgiving morning, with perfect weather, I rode to Stone Mountain and did 2 laps. I've done this route more times than I can count and it get's pretty boring, but it was an easy way to grab 41 miles. Then it was off to Thanksgiving dinner.
Friday morning at 6:30am, full of turkey, I picked up Stafford and we headed to the start of the Silver Comet to head towards Anniston, AL. It was supposed to be 48F as the sun barely rose above the horizon, but ended up being 33F to start, and as we rolled westward we struggled to keep warm and stay positive. 2 hours in it finally passed 40F and we started to have a better time. We crossed the Georgia/Alabama border and started down the Chief Ladiga trail, and at Piedmont, AL we'd been riding for close to 5 hours. Based on some rough math, we figured that if we turned back, we could make it back to Smyrna, GA and the car by the time the sun went down.
Our original goal was to get all the way to Anniston, but that would have us riding for 2+ hours after sunset in the freezing cold which neither of us was really prepared for. I scarfed down a bag of Doritos from a gas station and we headed back. Once back in Georgia, the mile markers slowly ticked down, and we made it back as the sun was setting with 149 miles and 9 hours of riding time behind us. (more photos)
I was planning to take Saturday off and finish up the 250 miles on Sunday, but the forcast for Sunday called for rain so Jim, Bob, Federico, and I met up at 9:30 am on Saturday to squeeze in the last 50+ miles. I led the way, doing a combination of routes pretty familiar to me and making some random turns as well. It's touch to fit in 53 miles without a plan, but we pulled it of in one of the craziest intown routes that I've done.
250.9 miles in 4 days. Not bad! I was the 10th person to finish the Turkey Takeoff, and it looks like more people will be finishing throughout the day today.
Per my plan, 2011 was full of mountain biking. I spent a week mountain biking in Colorado with Jason, and Jason and I did the entire Chainbuster Racing 6-hour 2-person race series. More details about that on the FM:Race blog: Chainbuster Series Finale.
Much more important than racing is just mountain biking with friends, and this year was pretty successful. I took my college friend Dave up to Stanley Gap for his first ride in the North Georgia mountains; Bob and I continued to boldly go and explore new places like Rock Hawk and Tanasi; I got CBQ and Mike from Highgroove on mountain bikes, quickly moving up from Atlanta Beach to Blankets Creek to Mulberry Gap; And it's looking like I will have done over 30 tuesday night "Dirty Mustache" mountain bike rides this year with anywhere from 4 to 15 people.
This was the last week of track racing season at the Dick Lane Velodrome, and the end of my first year of track racing. This was supposed to happen last year, but a pesky broken collarbone got in the way so my first race wasn't until the beginner races this year on April 7th. This was 2 days after a mountain bike race, and this would be pretty consistent for a while: racing mountain bikes on Sunday and track bikes a few days later. My only goal for year 1 was to move up from the D beginner category (which races on Tuesdays) to the C category which races on wednesdays, and to be slightly competitive in the Cs. After 4 days of beginner racing, I'd collected enough points to move up to the Cs just in time for the first of 3 Need For Speed events that preclude the 3 pro racing series events each year. My 200m sprint that Friday was the first one I've ever had timed, and I pulled a 13.03s which, while not a world record by any stretch of the imagination, did place me smack in the middle of a field of familiar names. That night, I got to race with some Cs and Bs for the first time, and had a blast.
Because I wasn't a B, I couldn't race in the Pro series on Saturday, but the following week I started up racing with the Cs and continued to improve over the summer. I'd occasionally get a 1st place in a single event, but never for the points total for the evening because there was always someone really fast (Cat 1 roadies for example) that was quickly moving through the Ds, Cs, and Bs, up to the As. However, I consistently was in the top 3 by the end of the evening and on September 2nd, none of those crazy fast people showed up, so I got first place in the C 8 lap scratch, the C miss-n-out, and the C tempo race (what all these mean) which placed me 1st out of 11 that night and I figured that meant it was time for me to move up to the Bs. I'd sat down and taken off my helmet, but heard Hoppy call out my name "Chris Kelly, you're up!" and after a bit of heckling from the B field, I geared back up and climbed onto the back of the B tempo race.
I wasn't at all prepared for this, but the field was very slow to get going and I knew I wouldn't have a chance to get any points later in the race so I headed up to the boards in turn 2 and took off the front. As I came around turn 4, the field was pretty far back, Jason Atwood was right behind me yelling "GO GO GO it's just us!" and I got points on the first lap of my first B race! Right before crossing the finish line on lap 2, twotone inched by me on the outside and said something along the lines of "in your face!" but I managed to stay at the back of the pack for the rest of the 20 lap race and got to do the same thing to him on the last lap. Lots of fun, and I ended up in 5th place out of 11 which got me 8th place overall for the evening for Bs points on top of my 1st place for Cs.
It was close to the end of the season and due to weather complications, there were only 2 more nights of B racing. The first one, I didn't get any points but played a part in setting the 8 mile scratch record by pulling for 4 or 5 laps, and at the second one (this past Wednesday) I managed to get 3rd place in a win-n-in which got me 6th place overall for the evening. Not too bad for just planning on being in the Cs all year. I was 1st of 28 for points overall in Ds when I moved up, 2nd of 53 in the Cs when I moved up, and with my tiny venture in to B racing, I managed to get 38th of 55 in the Bs. Using some crazy formulas, this got me 25th overall in Mens for the year of atleast 75 but probably around 120 people that raced at the track in 2009.
Next year I'll continue racing in the Bs and will be able to participate in all of the pro events now that I'm out of the Cs, and we'll see what happens! I've met a lot of people including a few that may be on FM:Race for next year, and even if I don't get too much better I'll definitely have a good time. Check dicklanevelodrome.com for the next beginner class, take it, and come out for some races next year! And heres my full results.
It's Bike Month this month in the United States and that means all kinds of crazy bike related things are going on. However, for someone with no commute (working from home) that rides a whole lot, there just isn't that much to change. However, I've been having some issues with shifting on my road bike and while looking at my ride log I realized that I've had it exactly one year, have put 3189.6 miles on it, and the only drivetrain maintenance (aside from replacing the shifters after a wreck) I've done was replacing the chain at 2000 miles. This combined with a super sweet donation of ~20 cleaning wipes that Tim from Grease Monkey Wipes sent over to FM:Race, meant that I would celebrate bike month by actually doing a detailed clean of my drive train. It's not a terribly exciting story, but the pictures are fun:
Parts come off (and not just sort of off, all the way off)
Hands get dirty
Things finally are clean again (the front too)
This was a somewhat long process with part removing, degreasing, rinsing, scrubbing, more degreasing, reinstalling, greasing, and my hands had to be cleaned several times throughout the process. I used a Grease Monkey Wipe on the big chainring on the front the first time around, but it started out pretty dirty and before all the grease was removed, the wipe was pretty much all used up. Much more successfully, I used a fresh one on my hands at one point and it got them from relatively dirty to pretty clean. The wipes held up admirably and did a pretty good job getting grease off, and are perfect for carrying around in a saddle bag, but if you're going to be getting seriously greasy you'll need slightly tougher ammunition. I know people that keep rubber gloves with their bike tools and in their bike bags, but I seem to have less than my share of mechanicals so I only get greasy working at home and Fast Orange does an amazing job getting rid of crazy amounts of grease. I bought that container a few years ago and have barely put a dent in it. Both Fast Orange and Grease Monkey Wipes use all natural solvents, both leave your hands smelling citrus fresh, and form a great pair for degreasing your hands in all situations.
Typically as people learn to fix things about their bike, a few things still usually mean a trip to the bike shop: bottom brackets, headsets, hydraulic disk brakes. Every bike has the first two of those, and my mountain bike happens to have the later. (Thankfully, they've yet to need to be serviced.) There are two reasons that people stay away from fixing bottom brackets and headsets: One, they are scary and important parts of the bike and doing something wrong with them can cause you bodily harm while riding or damage to your frame. Two, they need their own special tools.
I've need to do a lot of bottom bracket replacement on my bikes, both replacing old ones and moving ones between frames so I picked up a Park Tool BBT-22 and stick to bottom brackets that this tool will work with. Everything I ride is square taper, and the only bottom bracket that won't work with this tool is the on in my track bike due to it's adjustable chainline (this BB needs it's own special $50 tool but it should stay in that bike for a while). The BBT-22 is only about $20 and gets the job done pretty easily.
Headsets however, are a lot more trouble. There is one kind of tool to remove them, and another kind of tool to install them. Neither of which I had or wanted to pay for because I almost never need to do this kind of work, and buying tools for these things is just silly. This was fine until the headset on my mountain bike started to feel sticky. I pulled the fork out and found out that unfortunately, the headset was a semi-cartridge headset. These are better than cup and cone headsets because they don't require adjusting to work correctly, but worse than cartridge headsets because grit and water can still get into the bearings pretty easily and to repack the bearings, you really have to remove the entire headset and soak things in degreaser first instead of just popping out the bearings. This meant it was headset tool time!
I didn't want to buy big expensive tools when other things would do... For removing headsets I used a piece of copper pipe and a hacksaw per this example. $5 for the copper, and with a few smacks with a hammer my headset was out. I cleaned things out with WD-40 until both the top and bottom bearings spun smoothly with no gritty sounds, and repacked them with grease. Then for re-installation, a rubber hammer was all I needed! I put the opposite side of the frame on a wooden block outside, put in the headset, and just gave it a good smacking and that was it. Some people say that this is not enough to get a headset fully seated, but it's close enough for me. With a press like the park tools one, it is possible to over-tighten a headset and damage it or your frame, so usually even with these it remains too loose and takes a few miles on the trail to get fully seated anyways. Hopefully I'll go riding tomorrow and will get to test it all out!
Customer support is almost always awful, or so has been my experience but I've come across something somewhat surprising.. bike related support tends to be awesome. Not just getting my friends that work in local bike shops, but pretty much everything. Some examples:
- CrankBrothers - first thing was with these guys some time this summer. A piece on one of my pedals snapped on a weld, I called them, and for the $2 that it cost to ship the broken pedal to them, my pedals got a trip to the "pedal spa" and came back completely rebuilt with mostly new parts. Cool
- Performance Bike - Warehouse in the sky, and what do you know, they do some awesome things. See this post for more.
- Sigma Sport - I called them because the little plastic mount that holds my wireless bike computer went missing and I couldn't find a way to buy a replacement. They sent me a new one free of charge.
- Redline via Seattle Bike Supply and Free Flite Bicycles - truly a tag team effort. A new frame I got from a bike shop in Seattle via eBay had a manufacturing defect. That bike shop's supplier sent a replacement frame to Free Flite, the closes bike shop to me that works with Redline. Two companies, neither of which I'd paid any money to, were willing to ship a new frame and ship the old frame back. It doesn't get much better than that! I paid Free Flite to move my headset from the old frame to the new one. $30 ain't bad for something that could have basically been $200 lost due to getting something on eBay.
So bike related things = awesome customer service. That's something I can live with!
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Performance Bike. They're not a local bike shop and are bad for local bike shops because they are able to undercut prices because they're a national chain and started off without any retail stores, getting big enough with mail/phone/internet orders only to be able to continue it's reduced prices in it's newly opened retail stores. Low prices are great, but I have friends that work in bike shops, and it's good to have well qualified people working in bike shops instead of some kid that Performance hires at minimum wage. (This may not be factual, but is my impression.)
In Atlanta I support my local bike shops (they're within biking distance of my house, unlike performance), but out here in California, the closest shop happens to be a Performance Bike. I wanted a road bike to try that out and got one there. It was great, but I notices parts of one of the front chain rings flaking off after my first ride. Not just slight wear on them, but big thumbnail size chunks of the finish just falling off. I was a little ticked about this, given how much I spend on the bike, so I went back by Performance and had a heated discussion with the manager there. Not cool. He thought I was complaining about wear and tear on the chainrings, and when he saw where the flaks were falling off and understood that it only had ~25 miles on it, he apologized and said he'd call Truvativ (the manufacturer of the bb+cranks+chainrings) and see what they said. He said they'd call me when they heard from Truvativ and three weeks later I still hadn't heard from them. I went back in once to buy something else and the manager immediately said hi to me and that he hadn't heard back from them, so points to him for that.
A few weeks later, I decided that road biking wasn't for me. There was no way I was going to get my moneys worth out of the bike and I was nervous about shipping a carbon fiber framed bike back to Atlanta. I called Performance and they said I could still return it! I took it back there the next evening, and they refunded my entire purchase price! I had taken all the stickers off the wheels and frame (there were a lot of them) and there was a little bit of wear on the seat, but it wasn't a problem. Major major points to performance for this. It had been ~45 days and ~350 miles, and they understood that road biking wasn't for me and took it back no problem.
I'll definitely still be mostly visiting my LBSs in Atlanta, but when people ask me how I feel about Performance I'll have better things to say and I won't feel as bad buying things from Performance.