Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hardcore commuting on the Voodoo

13 miles to work on ice and snow. Mostly ice. It took me 1 hour and 35 minutes to get to work. Then it took me 1 hour and 55 minutes to get back. Traffic was horrible getting back. When I got to the shop I believe that everyone was both surprised and impressed that I was nutty enough to ride there. I did feel hardcore though.

I had Hutchinson Bulldog tires on the Voodoo singlespeed and they rocked. About 38 pounds of pressure in the front and rear and I had plenty of traction. It was amazing how much traction I had on even black ice. I never came close to biting it either, surprisingly. In fact, other than it being slow, cold (21 degrees when I arrived back at home), dark, and slightly dangerous because of idiots with 4 wheels (as opposed to the one here with just 2) it was a sort of fun commute.

Anyway, tomorrow it is supposed to be pretty bad--freezing rain and snow up to 8 inches. If that is the case I am going to take a pass at trying to get there and back in such conditions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Psycho Cross Finale and Season Recap

I woke up at 3am Saturday night and looked outside. Still no snow. Good. If it had started snowing during the night there is a good chance that I would have been shut down by Capt. Safety, AKA Bridget. She was not in favor of me going down to Eugene with a big snow storm on the way. I wasn't looking forward to sitting on my butt all day while others were out there getting muddy. If it came to it I was prepared to leave extra early, before Bridget woke up, so that I could be on my way.

But, no worries. When I left at 6:45 there was not a hint of snow. I met Lane at the shop at 7:15. We grabbed a pump and relieved ourselves (the two things had nothing to do with each other) and headed out. That was at about 7:30. It was then that it started snowing. Within 10 minutes it was really coming down. I was worried about the trip down and back if it kept up. But after about 30 minutes we south of the storm and things were pretty clear the rest of the way down to the Eugene area.

It was cold, but not as cold as at P.I.R. last weekend for the USGP. It was a bit rainy but not too bad. I had on my Pearl bib knickers, craft shortsleeve mock neck undershirt, Fat Cyclist short sleeve jersey and arm warmers. It was perfect for the race. The temp as about 36 degrees or so.

I also wore two pair of socks. Both thin so that they would fit inside my Sidi shoes. Additionally, hidden inbetween sock layers I was wearing small, very thin trash bags. Yes, trash bags. They were unobtrusive while on and they kept my feet dry despite getting pelted and soaked with watery mud everywhere else. It was sweet ghetto set up. I had forgotten about this trick until a few days ago. I used to do it when I played snow football with friends in college. The trick kept my feet dry even if they were still cold. Still, it was nice.

The race started and I got an OK start. I was mainly out to win my class, and then to try out the Voodoo Wazoo singlespeed. I had planned on doing two races, the Master C's and the Singlespeed race, but thanks to a phone call from my wife just before the race telling me that they were closing the highways in Portland, I decided to do just one and get my butt back home. So my plan was to do half the race geared and the last half single so that I could at least have a taste of racing singlespeed. It was interesting.

On the first lap one of the other two Master C riders passed me. I wasn't too concerned, even though I was a bit surprised. About a 1/4 of a lap later I passed him for good and by the end of the lap I had significant distance on that fellow and Lane (who was the only other Master C rider). There were still a dozen regular C riders though and I settled in to trying to hold off a significant number of them. I was doing moderately well after two laps and then swapped bikes.

The Voodoo performed well, but it wasn't really the proper tool for the job with the gearing I had. The tires, Hutchinson Bulldogs really hooked up well, much better than the Challenge Fangos on the geared Curtlo in that slipperly mud out there. The positioning was not as spot on as the Curtlo though, but close enough. My gearing was 42x20, which was decent, but not great. On the flats I was passed three times by geared racers had was having little trouble holding off while on the Curtlo. I overtook one of the them during a singletrack section during the last lap and was able to hold him off the last few strait-a-ways, but not without great effort. 42x18 or 17 would have been better for that course--assuming that I had the muscle to push it. As it was, after just two laps on the singlespeed my lower back was killing me. I definitely have some training to do before next year. SS'ing is all about pain. But I liked it. I will have to mix in a few SS cross races next season on the courses that are flatter. There is no way I would throw down with a singlespeed out at a course like we raced in Astoria.

I was first in Master C category again. That means I was three for three out there. And I took the overall for the series. Not that there were many guys to compete against, but it was fun. Lane ended up tied for third for points and becuase the other guy wasn't there, Lane got to take home the third place prize--which was the same as mine--$20 at Hutch's bike shop in Eugene. We also got cool Redline bags...not a great return on my race fee investment, but then it wasn't it racing for the prize. I race for the rush that I get from just being out there and "killin' it" as Jimmy Packfodder would say.

Congrats to Brian Spears for winning the series in the B's out there, too.

Lessons learned:
(1) Challenge Fangos are not the end all in tires. They were much less useful than the Hutchinson Bulldogs during the race. The Bulldogs are a clincher. Yeah, the clincher kicked the tubular out there today amazingly. Fangos are a good general tire, but when the mud is sloppy it becomes sketchy.
(2) Installing thorn resistant tubes in a clencher tire is very beneficial. I was able to run the Hutchinson Bulldog at 38 or 39 psi. I usually pinch flat at that pressure. I could have run them even lower without pinchflatting. Basically, I can run almost the same pressure that I can run in my tubulars. The casing is still pretty stiff though. I think Dugast Rhinos are the only tubular that will provide that sort of traction in a tubular though.
(3) I need mo' Powa'! If I am going to do any sort of single speed racing I need to work on strengthing my core. My lower back killed me way too soon. I need stronger legs, but that will come if I just keep using the Voodoo to commute.
(4) Not enough people are making the trip down to this series. It is well run and the course is one of my faves. Next year, ya'all need to make this series a priority. I would rather race this series than go to some of the Cross Crusade races (Hillsboro especially comes to mind, yuck).

Also, I must thank my wife Bridget for letting me race 12 races this season. Here are my season stats:

Pain on the Peak: 12th out of 29 (Master C)
Veloshop Rickreall Rampage: 3rd out of 13 (Master C)
Cross Crusade #1: 80th out of 153 (Master C)
Cross Crusade #2: 31st out of 149 (Master C)
Psycho Cross #2: 1st out of 4 (Master C)
Cross Crusade #4: 29th out of 63 (Master C)
Cross Crusade #6: 39th out of 159 (Master C)
Psycho Cross #3: 1st out of 3 (Master C)
Cross Crusade #8: 79th ouf of 90 (Master B)
Portland Cup Day 1: 37th out of 88 (Men C/Beg)
Portland Cup Day 2: 44th out of 83 (Men C/Beg)
Psycho Cross #5: 1st out of 3 (Master C)

Top 50%: 9 of 12
Top 25%: 6 of 12
Wins: 3 (all at the sparsely populated Psycho Cross races)

I even tried a Master B race...that didn't go so well, but I won't dwell on that here. A pretty darn good year. Can't wait for next year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Twas the night before Psycho Cross...

Twas the night before the Psycho Cross Race
My heart beat excitedly, a grin on my face

Tubulars were glued with the utmost tender care
Swiss Stop yellow rat brake pads slow me whilst I am there.
Carbon rims washed clean of P.I.R. soil
and a steel frame instead of aluminum foil.

My gear bag was packed to bursting I willingly ceded
Pearl Izumi bibs of various lengths are just what I needed.
My Craft Prozero long sleeve was folded and stashed
and a Giro Pneumo helmet to save my melon if bashed.

I starred out the window watching the sky.
Would racing be good with snow in my eye?
I hoped for some white 'cause it was the season.
But please not too much, let's keep it within reason.

My Civic, my sleigh awaited outside
in it 106 horses to give me a ride.
Two bikes would be going, the both treasures of steel
Master C and Singlespeed races, the pain will be real.

No matter the placement, the misery is fun
even if my wife thinks I am especially dumb.
I will return home, happy, tired and worn
to see my three boys, one recently born.

Here is to having a great safe final race at Psycho Cross #5. Post race update either late tomorrow or Monday.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Psycho Cross #5: Preview

Weather forecast for Eugene is...

Epic. I seriously am so flipping excited that I am almost giddy. I have never done a cross race in snow. And I am planning on doing the Master C race and the Singlespeed race an hour after the end of the prior race. I must be a masochist.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

USGP: OBRA C Race Day Two

Today was not a good race for me. Not as cold as yesterday, but the mud was more abundant because of some overnight rain and because of some re-routing of the course through some of the muddy sections of the grounds.

My legs still felt heavy. Not so rubberish as yesterday, just heavy. There was one steep run up that made me just feel old and out of shape. It seems obvious that my single speed commuting is at least partially to blame. But as to how much, I am not sure. My bike handling skills were not sharp in the mud. On the grass I was fine for the most part, but for some reason I just wasn't feeling it on that part of the course.

On the first lap there was the usual cluster of guys wrecking. I piled up on a guy in front of me and I could not get untangle for what seemed like 30 seconds. Then when I did I saw my handlebar was off center significantly. So I hopped in front of the bike and manhandled it so that it was pretty close. But having them go off center was a little worrying since it seemed very possible it could happen again in some of that thick mud.

At some point during the second lap in that same section I busted the barrel adjuster on my rear derailleur. So my shifting basically went to hell at that point. I had a hard time keeping it in any specific gear. I would have to shift around until I found something reasonable that wouldn't skip. Frustrating.

The third and final lap was better the whole way around. It was pretty clean except for one minor dab and I managed to catch two guys while losing a place to a third guy. I was gaining on another guy and had it been a longer race I would have caught him. That doesn't mean I wanted a longer race. I was ready to be done. I finished 44th out of 81. A couple of guys beat me that had no business beating me. And I can't blame it all on mechanical or on rubba/lead legs.

Am I really in worse shape? I didn't think so, but maybe. I have gained a few pounds (low 190's right now) but I have been riding more miles the past 6 weeks...meh, who knows. Despite the small weight gain when my legs are fresh I think they are stronger. At least I think so. I don't have any way to quantify it. It is a little too late now to be worrying about it. Next week is the end of the season and I am hoping for a good Master C race there. I am also still planning on racing in the Singlespeed race an hour after my race, but that is more for fun than for any expectation of doing well.

I hate weekends like this. Neither race was a great and no matter how good the excuses are for my performance I am still frustrated. And when I get frustrated or fed up enough I can often turn it in to a leap in performance. The last leap was after then half Ironman distance Triathlon. I turned that into a loss of 17 or pounds. 5 of which I have gained back unfortunately. But I am fairly peeved and that is a good sign for me, a bad sign for Packfodder Jim next year. But it is early yet so who knows. Right now I feel humbled.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Brief: USGP Day One, OBRA C Race

Very Cold at Eight
Legs Rubba from my single
Thirty-Seventh, meh

More details tomorrow after Day Two, but I will briefly explain the above Haiku. Start time was 8 am and it was around the freezing point. I was at the race site prior to sunrise "warming up". This week I had rode my Voodoo singlespeed all week and my legs were not used to it. They felt like lead anytime I tried to push it. It was annoying. I ended up 37th out of 85 finishers in C/Beginner Class. I doubt there were too many Beginners in that field. There were a lot of guys from out of state, probably half my class. I had hoped to be in the top 1/4, but at least I was in the top half.


Riding half the race with the left arm of my front brake rubbing against the wheel. That sucked.

Knowing that we were supposed to race for 30 minutes and figuring that because our laps were taking about 10 minutes each that I would do 3 laps. Because of this I gave it all I had that 3rd lap. Umm, no, apparently they decided the race was 40 minutes long and I had yet another lap to do. Did I mention my legs were toasted? Yeah, the first half of that last lap sucked.

Dropping a load in the Port-o-potty only to have what felt like a tidal wave of that feces and urine infested P-o-p juice splash nearly all of my backside. Yeah, that was awesome. There was some sanitary soap in there so needless to say I put a bunch of it on some toilet paper and tried to cleanse myself as best I could. I wanted to go home then and there and take a shower. But, being the guy I am, I pulled up my P.I. knickers and concentrated on the positive--that from here on anything brown on my backside would be soil as in mud and not soiled as in, well, you get the point by now.


Riding over a guy's rear wheel that fell right in front of me in a grassy turn. That was sort of cool.

Riding up all of the slippery climbs that others around me had issues with occasionally.

Not having any back pain.

Racing. Love it even when I am hatin' it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 3

75 or so miles down so far this week while commuting on the Voodoo. Trip home wasn't any worse that Day 2, which was a concern. After the 2nd day I worried about having the legs to ride the last mile or so home without having to stop. But even though it was tough, I think I managed to do it without throwing out my back.

I thought I was going to drive to work tomorrow so that I could have a day off prior to the race. Umm...no. Bridget said she needs it and so I have to do it all over again tomorrow. My expectation for Saturday's race are relaxed a bit. I doubt my legs will be feeling spry. Actually with the race starting at 8 am I doubt anyone will be feeling spry.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Voodoo Hurts

42 teeth in the front and 16 teeth in the rear hurts. Bad. Legs are rubber. The last mile home really puts it too me. But....I love the bike.

I have already done some customizing. I swapped the stem to a slightly shorter one to match my set up on the Curtlo. Only 10 mm shorter but it made a big difference. And importantly I chopped off the end of the derailleur hanger that would allow me to mount a rear derailleur. No it didn't weigh much at all. It was more of a statement--NO GEARS. Not even a possibility.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Voodoo Wazzo, AKA, the $#!% Bike

A victim of these lean times has been the bike stable. I have the Curtlo Cross, and the Fuji carbon bike and I used to have a Curlto Singlespeed mountain. That had to go by the wayside so that I could buy Bridget a blingy Fuji full carbon job last month. Before you think that that this was a big sacrifice on my part to sell the sweet custom Curtlo, I will say that the wife is super happy with it and she has lost 7 lbs during the time that she has had it. And frankly, I will take the hot/sexy and happy wife over a bike any day. Especially when it was the least used of the three bikes.

Anyway, so down to two bikes and both of them are raceday bikes. Since it is cross season, the Curtlo stays dressed for race day, not for commuting. So the Fuji got fenders on it and became the $$$$ commuter. I had a good attitude about it for a while. I rode it no matter what the weather was like. And it got dirty. I cleaned it and then the next ride it would be just as dirty as it had been before. A couple of creaks started up after the weather turned sour. I would strip stuff down and fix the creak. Then another one showed up. Then I was done with it all. I needed a crap bike to take the abuse instead of worrying about the spendy one wearing out. One that I could ride to death and not worry about creaks, scuffs, dirt or grease. Oh and it had to be cheap. What to get...?

Requirements: Cheap and it has to be a singlespeed ready bike with canti brake mounts.

Surly? Yeah, a Cross Check would work. I checked stock...none available.

Pake Commuter? Super cheap, but again none available in my size.

Salsa Cassarole? Sweet, a little more money, but do-able. But again none available.

See a theme here?

I tried looking for a SOMA Double Cross and found one my size, but it wasn't really singlespeed ready. So I continued my search.

Packfodder Jim tempted me with a Felt Breed Singlespeed cross bike. That was really tempting, but too much money. Oh man is that a sweet ride though.

Hmmm, what about the Voodoo Wazoo? Frame was a little spendier than I wanted but I looked around the garage and the shop for anything that I could use to build it up that I without spending much more money. I found some crap wheels in the garage, a discontinued crankset, $5 canti brakeset (that's total for both front and rear), crap headset, and other stuff out of the garage. Stuff that I probably couldn't sell to anyone else. I also figured I could transer the lights from my Fuji as well.

Yup, the Voodoo would fit in the budget I set for myself. After some momentary waffling I pulled the trigger.

Here is the result:

I rode it to work and back today for its first ride. Gearing is 42 x 16. I wish I could run a 14 or 15 cog instead of the 16 because I spin out on a slight downhill a little too easily. But climbing the last mile or so back home is brutal as it stands with the 16 tooth rear cog, so until I get stronger the gearing won't be changing.

The bike rides great for the most part. The fork seems like it has a bit too much rake for my taste, but by the time I was riding home it felt fine. The steel frame ride well. My initial impression is that it offers a fairly stiff bottom bracket, which is a good thing for a singlespeed to have. The steel gave a good feel on the road. How much was from the frame and how much came from the Continental Gatorskin tires, I don't know. This is my first set of Gatorskins, which really feel much slower than the Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires. But if they provide a flat free commute--I will take the trade off. The sliding dropouts were easy to use with the singlespeed set up. Oh, and it is disc brake compatible for those who care.

I will give more updates later. But, on the whole the bike is sweet, especially considering the money that I have in it. It is probably the cheapest bike I have had in a decade or more. For a $#!% bike, it sure seems pretty.

Frame weight was 4.9 lbs. Fork weighed 760 grams. Both are porky. For comparison my steel frame Curtlo weighs 3.55 lbs and the Alpha Q fork weighs under 500 grams. But whatever, that was not the point--having lightweight frameset.