Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A happy day!

...Turned into a total gongshow! Just like this blog post!
Wake up after 4 hours of sleep, in a sleeping bag yay! I guess that needs a bit of explanation. This week was a crazy one, and the weekend crazier! I started a 2 week field course at the university (9-5 each day), there is a class of 14 and I'm having a great time! Week one is in Guelph and week two is out on the Bruce Peninsula, staying in lodges and camping and all sorts of good stuff (my total specialty). Fun stuff, met some new people, a very notable one is this girl Shannen. She's a total keener on doing anything active, and when she found out that I ride bikes got super stoked that we could ride next week. She talks a lot too, so there isn't a word lost between us really and we hit it off pretty well right away. She even offered to help me move Friday (on day one of knowing me), which is good because I didn't really have any other concrete plans. Turns out if it wasn't for her, no couches or beds would have made the trip. It was seriously appreciated, we started out by emptying the garage of beer bottles ($40 something worth of empties - a whole pickup truck bed full), this was done all by Shannen while I answered a phone call.
We got back from jamming up the beer store, and my uncle was there to help move. They were both total troopers and it took no time at all to get the bulk of stuff that I had actually packed over to the new place. My unlce kindly offered to take us out for some food right afterward but Shannen had to run to Ottawa to help her mom move, that girl was just on a roll this weekend. The problem is that the whole floor of the basement was covered in the important stuff that I needed for the weekend. Tools, bike stuff, and clothes, along with garbage stuff and stuff that was just generally spread around. I stayed up late folding all of my clothes and searching for the lost house keys, but I got tired at about 3am and decided to go to bed, I could deal with that stuff Saturday after test riding the course - Shannen was going to come back and help me move all the rest of my stuff Sunday night after my first Ontario Cup back! So she basically made my whole weekend happen, I'm a pretty big fan of Shannen right now - we'll see if we can stand eachother at all after camping for a week though!
I unfortunately woke up at 7:30, and couldn't get back to sleep. But that didn't seem to matter, this is day one of being a bike racer again! Rolled out of bed, and had some sushi for breakfast (brought to me by my great friend  Sarah the night before). It was the first nice day I'd seen in weeks, so I sat out on the back deck (which is unfortunately west-facing but I got some sun in the corner of the deck). Wheeled my new bike upstairs (I made some changes to it, orange grips, orange spacers and topcap, and sick new wheels). Just looking at the bike and hearing the hub made me smile. A lot. Energy just kept building as I packed my bag for the day, admiring my beautiful sunglasses, my matching kit, bike, helmet, bike, socks, EVERYTHING. Then my housemate said that marks for the semester were up. Energy gone, why does school always have to chase me down? Upon checking my marks energy got higher! I did a good job! The only thing I was mad about was a 79, WHY CAN'T IT JUST BE AN 80?? Whatever. I'll talk to the prof about it.
My bud Alex picked me up and we headed out to the course, a solid roadtrip ensued, good company and a beautiful day! On arrival I saw some guy wearing the Cycle Solutions  (same sponsors as me) kit. Who is that guy? He looked fit, but I couldn't see his face. I went over to check it out, is that....Teddy??!
Teddy is an ex world cup racer that I had never beaten before. He hadn't raced at all for two years, so I was absolutely shocked to see him! But there he is, grandpa Teddy. I have never beaten him in a race, and he's now 45 (wonder if I'm fast enough yet). He was excited to see me, we spent some good time together, and I absorbed as much info from him as possible. As I set up the remote lockout on my fork (with orange housing of course), a few buddies showed up, it is so nice to be a racer again! my buddy Dave got a similar bike to mine, just in 26 inch wheel version, and with different parts. The colours were a little bit different, but mine was way bigger! Wheelbase was 6 inches longer...yikes. Too bad they had already ridden the course and were heading home, at least I had Alex to ride with still! Alex a bit quiet today, nervous for his fist race in the senior expert category! I should be too! But really this one may end up being a bit of a throw away...Throw away?? uh oh. well I don't have the right tires for the rain (didn't get my new tires yet), am scrounging whatever I can find at my old house to eat (some old pasta Shannen brought me the other day actually, and some questionable fish sticks). Looking back on the "scrounging around" part that wasn't a good idea...I was chewing icecream cake that's more than a month old..But I ate all that's left! Plain pasta with tomato sauce, 4 packets of yogurt, and 3 fish sticks. Carbo-loading? Carbo-loading.
We rolled to the start line and I was shocked to see who I saw, it was Charlotte! She rides for Trek, and is a great friend of mine, who doesn't race O-cup normally. So I dragged her out for a lap! Well she didn't need to be dragged. She's fast. And so is the course!
The course is really awesome, super quick, and flowwy! There are some pretty ridiculous turns though, and some tough little pushes uphill, but a really fast lap. Average speeds should be above 20km/h tomorrow for sure. Unfortunately today was super nice and tomorrow is raining. That changes things, but I'm optimistic! I've ridden far worse trails on my bike in the rain! And though I don't have good tires for the wet, it's what I'm used to, so at least I know what to expect! Mansfield is also a place that takes rain really well. We rode 3 laps of the course, and saw a lot of people, talked a bit, and drank a lot of water. I feel good about this course, and hope that my legs are feeling their best tomorrow!
Upon arrival at my house, I was greeted by my housemate and my buddy. Apparently the house has to be cleaned out for tomorrow. What? how. Lots of bike trips to and from my houses is how. Good idea. O-cup tomorrow? Uh oh.  Luckily I got one car load in too, so that helped out! My stuff is all safely at my new house, and I'm ready to get some rest for the big day tomorrow. My mom and brother might even make an appearance to cheer me on! Keep posted for updates, I'll write a quick report! But I have to pack for a week of camping too!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Biiiiig wheeels

So I rode the bike, like off road, it was like F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. Straight up, that's how it is. Bold claim you say? Well I don't lie, and there are plenty of reasons for its excellence. First of all, of course I like it, I designed it. The parts are of my choosing, and they make me look mega-fast. If they look mega-fast I will be mega-fast, right? Of course. Secondly, steel is real man! It's got a great feel, and combined with some smooth rolling gigantic wheels, it's a buttery smooth time. The other thing about the way that the bike looks is that it looks like it will eat your bike in one bite. Seriously, this thing is massive. Size large frame, and 29 inch wheels makes for a massive wheelbase, and the thing that makes a big bike look bigger are bigger wheels. I've put it down beside my buddy's small bike and it's pretty hilarious. And orange. Which is important.
The first ride that I went on was just inside Guelph, to feel out where I want to cut my steer tube. I slammed the stem all the way down and inverted it, that's where I like to ride, weight forward, steel bike, skinny bars, bar ends, oldschool. Yup.
I had the help of local bike legend Bayden Pritchard trimming my steer tube!

I snuck into some trails that were between a golf course and a river, knowing that it would be some simple doubletrack, but the mucky conditions would be pretty sweet to test the big wheelbase and higher centre of gravity. I left the house and flew down the road, not sure whether it was the big wheels making me fast, or me speeding subconsciously - but I rocketed down the road at 37 km/hr, it was pretty satisfying! When I got to the golf course I was speeding along the side nearest the river when I caught something out of the corner of my eye: I had to look again, it was too good to be true. Off camber singletrack?? NO WAY.
For those who aren't cyclists signletrack is the tighter trickier trails that speed can be more dependent on technical prowess on a bike than fitness. The perfect thing to test my new bike on. So I cut through the forest to the trail, and rode along down the trail. Off camber was the other descriptor I used, by that I mean a trail that is on the side of the hill, perpendicular to the slope. So you are under the constant threat of sliding sideways down the hill. This all on a day where the trail surface was of peanut butter consistency, and I was happy to ride back and forth on the same trail for an hour.
My little climb that I practiced, pretty challenging actually!

The next opportunity that I got to ride I snatched up quickly! My buddy Alex and I went out to a place called "Twin Lakes" (but known among the riders here as "Twin Ponds"). Twin ponds probably the best riding immediately around Guelph. It's about 13 km from my house (which sucks to ride on a mountain bike), but totally worth the trek. The amazing thing about Twin Ponds (TP) is that they have actually packed an ungodly amount of trail in a relatively small parcel of land. TP can be divided into two sections, some really fun trail which twist and turn - good fast riding. Then there's the back 40. That is where you really feel the effect of packing so many trails into a small space: a steep hill? No problem, build the trail up it, straight up it. They don't twist up the hills to give you relief, they just throttle you right up. And the same applies for going down the hills, most hills have a sharp turn at the top, and a steep drop. These were the highlight for me. Testing ground. I had my training wheels and tires on (which weigh almost 2lbs more than my race wheels and tires) and the weight alone makes things tougher. Lots of power was needed to get up those hills, and having the wrong tires on for the conditions made the ride more challenging.
But I'm greatful that I have 2 sets of wheels and some challenging tires to practice on, get used to the tough stuff and fly with my race stuff! Non cyclists are probably thinking 2lbs? Toughen up. The cyclists are thinking 2lbs? wow. I wish I could drop that weight off of my wheels. Cyclists obsess over the weight of their bikes, which is fun to do and all, but not terribly affordable. And if you try to do it affordably, by picking up the older used lightweight parts, you will break your bike. I like to think I'm in the middle ground somewhere. I want a lightweight bike, but I obviously don't worry too much about it (steel frame and alloy parts instead of the lighter more modern carbon fiber stuff).There is however one place I will not cheap out on with my bike. The wheels. Rotational weight has an influence that is exponentially proportional to the force required to move it. And with 29 inch wheels and tires as opposed to 26 inch, I am already packing on quite a bit of extra weight.
It took a while to get used to things on the new bike like how it turns, the "sweet spot" for climbing (the position you want your weight to be to maximize power transfer and grip), to be aware of where the rear wheel is, and to deal with the added momentum of the wheels. As I get better on this bike, I hope to learn to use momentum to my advantage, but that's going to take some practice.
Anyways, riding with Alex was a good time, that guy has grown up in Guelph and knows those trails, so he knew how to give me a good fazing. I fell. Lots. And he smiled. Lots. I'm proud to say however that I didn't back down from any bit of trail, and gave everything my best shot. The back section has lots of tough obstacles (did I mention it was raining too? Has been for like a week straight.) like rooty descents and 3 foot tall log piles. I am proud to say that I managed to conquer everything that didn't involve an uphill, uphills were just too slippery and steep for my tires and poor little muscles. I rose to the dares and challenges, and though I fell lots, that's all involved in the learning curve, I ride mountian bikes, not play badminton or golf. I do it because I love the speed, the rush, the rocks, and every aspect of the forest. It's awesome. I am now super bruised, but I'm having fun, and improving!
I've been training exclusively Subsequent rides have seen a faster, less of a JIT (junior in training) rider, and injuries have been kept down. One notable injury happened one day as I came home from the trail occurred not far from my house (luckily). I was cutting across a field and rode up a big steep berm in the landscape that is covered with trees and has a small trail (which is not maintained). As I descended the other side I kept my head low and was thankful of my glasses keeping all the overhanging branches out my my eyes, until I was suddenly wrenched back by something. Turns out it wasn't just branches hanging low, there was a vine too. This vine brought me to a halt, with my face, and tore me a new smile. I touched my face, and looked at my glove and it was covered in blood. Instantly I thought of the joker from batman. Why so serious? Because I like to eat food and don't want to lose it out of a hole in my cheeks, that's why.
I got back on my bike, and pinned it home, in pretty intense pain, and feeling liquid drip down my face. I jumped into the house and yellled for my house mate Mike to come save the day and assess the damage. We cleaned the blood away, and there was one deep cut, and a few minor ones, on both sides of my face. He inspected it when we cleaned it and pulled a couple of twigs out and said there's something in there deep, you're not going to like that. I decided to shower and then re assess the damage myself, hoping that the cut would clean itself out. Unfortunately it didn't and I saw the exact piece in question. I stared hard at it and splashed my face with water but that thing was comfortable deep into the cut. I tried to dig in with my fingers, but my hands are massive and no luck. Then I grabbed the closest thing I could (ironically another piece of vine or twig we pulled out before) and scraped the intruding bit of vine out. Good.
And now everybody says what a baby, doesn't look so bad. Everyone I talked to was like shouldn't you get uhh...stitches? Nope! I'm not Frankenstein, and I've been scientifically proven to heal fast (kind of like Wolverine, from x-men, but much less hairy). It looks like it will scar, but that's pretty badass right? Scars on faces? Chicks dig that stuff right? Happened almost a week ago and I'm still having people asking about it, it's not closing terribly fast, and the other cuts are much more apparent now too. Seeing my mom last weekend (I went home for the first time since Christmas, to surprise her) was nice, she hugged me for about five minutes and then looked at me, and was like "It's so great to see you! Your face is pretty overwelming though.." Not sure whether she likes this look or the super skinny emaciated look that I typically return from university with..

Anyways! Crazy weekend coming up! Gotta move to a new house, pack for a week of camping/field work, and race my first race back in Canada! Mansfield! I've been training exclusively on my mountain bike, trying to get a feel for it, which means by this point I have a feel for it on the technical stuff, and in the rain! But I'm also exhausted. Time to pull an all nighter packing my stuff from all around the house...Hope I pull this one off!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

preeetttyyy biiiiikee

Sorry guys, but this post is a bit more of a reflection than it should be. But you know where I'm going with it! The new bike is built! and she's BEAUTIFUL! I couldn't ask for a better bike! I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I personally picked the colours and the parts by hand, and didn't ride (or even build!) it until I had all of the componentry collected. This invovled a trip to Toronoto, many phonecalls, much research (sometimes to the point of obsessing) into the parts, and some vanity too. I put the bike together, and kept the wheels off of it for a few days, just so I could admire the craftsmanship, and not be able to ride it during exams. I don't have 29inch tubes anyway.
Then after a few days I decided to *try* to put the tires on tublessly. I put the tires on, seated the bead nicely and pumped very fast on the floor pump. POP! They sealed. hmmm. let it be for an hour...They had lost air, but retained a startling amount. So I dug out my old bottle of stan's juice (some goopey white stuff that you put in the tire to fill in leaky holes) put in a scoop, resealed the tire carefully, got my housemate Jordy to hold it vertical while I wailed on the pump. POP! I dashed up the stairs to the bathroom with a tub, filled it up and threw my wheel in.
That doesn't make sense, does it? Why you might ask? Am I really being mysterious? Or is it common sense that you'd see bubbles come out of the tire where the holes and imperfections are? Maybe the latter. I do miss the river I used to do this in though, a bathtub is much less glorious. One or two bubbly spots became apparent, so I shook the fluid in the tire over to the spot and it sealed. Astounding!

My trianing wheels!
Here she is, day 1
mmmmm all she needs is a cut steer tube!
Then I rode it! The end!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hey, it's my old boss!

This weekend was the weekend of the Paris to Ancaster bike race, one of the first races of the season! Unfortunately I don't have a race report (life of a student, don't have a car, can't get rides to races until they're all filled up), but I did have a wicked guest this weekend! My friend (actually we're practically dating, right meg?) was in the race, and asked for a place to stay. I was a little worried that a 4 bedroom dwelling that has been colonized by 6 university guys might be a little gross for her to want to stay at, but she would have to figure that out when she got here.
Meg and I go way back! It all started when I was at a Canada Cup race, racing junior expert class. Hilarious race actually, I distinctly remember some guy from Quebec leaving the start line to pee a few minutes before the race, making a mess of his uniform, and getting made fun of by all the Quebecois at the race (in french, I may have been the only anglephone that understood) - this was a great way to break the tension of the intense race to come. The race wasn't so great..I broke a spoke and my chain(twice). But I would rather finish dead last than not at all. So I dropped from just 11 or 12 or something to dead last, but oh boy did I finish that race!
Anyways, back to meeting Meg! So there's this rockstar who lived in Bracebridge at the time named Eric Batty, a pro rider for Trek Canada (placed 10th that day, right behind the top rider for my bike sponsors xprezo actually), and Eric had parked right by us. After the race I said something shy and introduced myself, Eric seemed super nice and talked to me for a bit, then Meagan cut in with "Hey! do you have a job this summer?".
So by introducing myself that day I managed to get a job, and a role model in cycling. Eric is a super nice guy, I would ride and train with him, listen to any advice he had and [naively] think I could do what he does one day (still trying to!). And Meg and her sister Char ran a super high end gourmet catering company in Muskoka called Gourmet on the Lake. One time we catered a party that it cost $10000 (yep that's the right amount of 0s) to get your family into. But mostly I would cut 50lb bags of onions. Then my hands would smell like onions, usually for a week. Then it was time to cut the next bag. This job in tandem with being a server at Kelsey's paid for my first year of university (with heavy loans too).
Meg and I keep in touch nicely, and I even got invited to her family Christmas this year. Who wouldn't go? Christmas is a super fun time and the food that these ladies cook is AMAZING. I've also been Meg's date to parties hahaha right Meg? Instead of my old boss she's just a cool chick to shoot the shit with, and it was great having her here! I cooked up a shrimp alfredo pasta, she brought a cake, and my housemates loved it! We even played boardgames!

I thought I had more pictures...
In other news! My bike is done! I'm sitting beside it! Bet everyone wants to see it! Stay tuned! First ride is scheduled for tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A little trailer...

Well they call them trailers right? Like movie trailers? Hints of things to come if you will....

Well I got my bike stuff for my bike finally! Its very arousing if I do say so myself! Going back to my post about my super awesome bike it was going to be a white and orange masterpiece of hand built in Canada buy some funny French guys who like to ride bikes just as much as I do! I got to choose the colours and everything, and when some stuff didn't come the way I wanted it - no problem! Bam! I would get what I wanted, and I sure did! The orange on the bike is perfect, and well white is white, as long as it's white (and not black) it's going to look sweet.
There was a fairly stressful point yesterday in the quest for the perfect setup for me. I didn't get a remote lockout fork like I had asked, and was seriously worried because my race style  is [was] to attack as soon as I'm on double track, fork locked out and just go! This tactic on a 29er mountain bike would be completely dependent on how fast I can accelerate up to speed. Of course I would need the best power transfer, and I didn't want to reach down to my fork to lock it out, forget that it was locked out until I felt it in some singletrack, reach down to unlock it, and "eat shit" (risking a serious hospital visit for another head injury).

 Xprezo said to go get my fork converted to a remote lockout by the local bike shop, keep the bill, and they would pay it.
Just had to get down to the bike store and do it. So I stuffed the fork into my bag (uncut steerer hanging out to the side...) and left. Didn't even make it a block before I somehow got the steerer caught on a bus. But I'm okay. That's just the most exciting thing that happened that particular bike ride. Get to Speed River Bikes talk to Mr. Tim Plunkett, order the parts and away we go. Problem is I didn't get a quote for the parts.

There was a slight problem yesterday when I went to pick up the fork...A $316 bill. I almost couldn't believe it! Over $300 for a switch of a cap?? Would they really pay that? They may as well have given me a new fork...
I collected myself and inquired about the price. Yep that's the price..Plus $20 labour (which seemed reasonable for the fork labour). They had to switch the internal bit (damper) on the right fork stanchion. The bill had 3 things on it, 160 for some part, 100 for another, and 20 for labour. They said that obviously Xprezo would know the price since they are a bike manufacturer, and told me not to worry. So I tried to call the Xprezo rep. No answer. I was about to just leave the store without paying and without the fork unitl I figured out whether Xprezo would pick up the bill for sure when I realized I could likely save $100 off the price by getting rid of the lockout handlebar piece, Xprezo had one for me anyway. Shockingly that piece was the $160 piece, which dropped the price to within reasonable amount. So I payed my $124, hoping that Xprezo would honour what they had said and fix me up. And that was it. I had all of my bike parts! It involved almost getting stranded in Toronto on Saturday, some serious waiting, almost paying way more than I can afford. But now I'm ready to build the bike. There are two concerns though: my bars are 580s, which means ridiculously skinny. I rode skinny bars before though, I like them, there's no school like the old school. I never got that 140mm rear rotor I wanted this was the response (with a thick French Canadian accent):
"No we will not give you de 140 miiliimeeter rotor, you won't stop properly wit de 29" wheels. Especially not ici a Quebec!"
Well that's reasonable...They want their racers to have control over their bikes...Makes sense...I guess...
So here are the teasers..
We walked all around Toronto that day

Silly fork part that worried me pretty seriously


OoOoOoO world cuuup...

Count the cogs! Stoked!

Orange, right?