Friday, October 30, 2015

Putting Your Brest Foot Forward


Thursday night we had Rebecca Clark, a local randonneur, in the shop sharing her experiences from the Paris - Brest - Paris brevet, affectionately known as the PBP.


What the heck is a brevet... or a randonneur, are you even speaking English? Well, no, both are French terms actually. A randonneur refers to any rider who has complete a 200 km ride, or brevet as they are officially called. The odd thing, for us Americans any way, about brevets is that it is not a race but rather a ride with a time limit but where you place doesn't matter as there are no winners and no losers. Whether you are the first person to finish or the last it doesn't matter as long as you complete the ride in the time allotted both finishers are considered equal. In fact it is often expected that riders will ride at a certain pace, for example no slower than 15 km/h but no faster than 30 km/h, those who show up at the controls (check points) faster than the maximum pace will have to wait before they can leave again. Those crazy French!


A few of the interesting facts we learned about the PBP beret, it is one of the oldest bicycle "races", the first one occurring in 1891 and held as an actual race rather than a brevet. Eventually pros were separated from the rest of the riders until it was dropped altogether as a professional race in 1951, due in part to it being such a long format race. As you can see it is kind of the Grand Daddy of the Tour de France and uses some of the same route that the Tour uses. Plus I think we may have found a picture of the very first Rapha kit.


The route from Paris to Brest and back again, including the various controls (check points).


And just because 760 miles within 90 hours was too easy, look at all that climbing you get to enjoy. My legs are tired just looking at the elevation profile.


In addition to sharing her story with us, Rebecca also shared photos from her journey which included lots of awesome looking French pastries and some very unique bicycles. Sorry, I was drooling too much to get any pictures of the pastries but trust me, they all looked delicious. I really enjoyed the presentation and learned a ton about randonneuring and the history of the Paris - Brest - Paris brevet, it was truly a great night of bicycle talk.


Oh, also, if anyone knows a pastor missing a pew I might be able to help you out. I've always joked about dirt church being a real thing but Sondy's taking it to a whole other level. Church is in session!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

SMNDFBR - Trolling In The Park


Crazy weather we are having here in the Midwest, one week away from the end of October and we're still averaging temps in the 60s, will we pay for it later with piles of snow and freezing temperatures? I certainly hope so, Fat Bikes are fun in the dirt but they are even more fun in the snow and we are starting to get a really good group showing up on Saturdays, a really, really good group.


Barely 8:45 am and the parking lot at 27th & Vine was already buzzing with activity, as a ride leader sights like this always put a big smile on your face.


While we aren't all Fat just yet, we are slowly whittling that number down... just last week Todd was riding a "normal" mountain bike for the ride and now look at him on his brand new Farley 5. The numbers just keep growing for every ride it seems, just off the top of my head I noticed that there are two fewer Mukluks and one less Farley in the shop this week, hopefully that means a few more people for the ride. Lincoln is starting to embrace the whole Fat Bike thing and I for one couldn't be happier. Riding a Fat Bike for the first time brought me that same feeling I had riding my first bike as a kid; they really are just that much fun.



An early Husker game meant a little more paved trail getting to Wilderness Park to avoid the downtown area with the throngs of fans and all those tailgaters with their delicious smelling BBQ grills.




Once we made it to the Park we wasted no time dropping in and getting some perfect fall singletrack. With the little bit of rains we had at the end of the week I was a little worried that it might be a tad bit wet in there as Wilderness isn't the quickest drying trail around but to my delighted surprise, the trails were perfect.


If our numbers keep growing, fingers crossed that they do, we're going to need a bigger bridge. Fist time joining the SMNDFBR this week was Russ on his cross bike, the kid is a fast and skilled rider on that cross bike. The freewheel on those Zipps make a noise that sounds a whole lot like GOOOOOOOOO whenever he had to stop pedaling because you weren't going fast enough. Russ and others his age are the future of the sport and it was super rad to have him come out and ride with us old folks, hopefully we didn't slow him down too much and he comes back out for more rides.



With the Jamaican Trail completely blocked off near 14th street, we decided to make a loop using both the east and west trails. We went out on the west side, a few of us zigged at the proposed turn around point and a few of us zagged. Those of us who zigged tried yelling to rope back in the zaggers but we were unsuccessful so I jumped on the Pugs to try to run them down and pull them back to the regroup.


Caught up to them at the first creek crossing and Bob the fungus tree, I think they suspected we took another off shoot of the trail because when I got there they were all waiting around.

Photo Oct 24, 10 40 27 AM

All back as one group again, we stopped for a little break under the bridge like a clump of trolls, sharing stories and refueling. It seems like the nicer the weather the longer these "breaks" last but on a day as beautiful as yesterday, nobody was complaining about hanging out in the Park.


After a few minutes it was time to make the climb to the top of the bridge, cross over and drop in on the east trail for the ride back. Love this bridge, one of my favorite parts of Wilderness as it's a great spot to come and just chill.




Trails on the east side were just as fast as the trails on the west side and it didn't take us long before we were out of the Park and back to the Van Dorn area. We also started shedding riders at this point as it was getting near 11 and a few of us wanted to try to get home for the game.



Those of us left decided that it was close enough to game time that we could safely sneak into the Haymarket and Crescent Moon Coffee for some delicious caffeinated beverages.


Boom! Lots of cars but very few people out and about.


Besides the great coffee and pastries, the other great thing about Crescent Moon is that we can "invade" the coffee shop and get out of the weather (for when it's colder) without taking over there main seating area.



Smiling, caffeinated faces both new and old... the faces not the people.



Had a brief camera takeover when Tyler got all hopped up on the bean, the struggle is real people, I think I'll stick to taking the pictures for now. From the look on Jorge's face, I think he agrees with me.



Re-energized and reinvigorated, we mounted up and headed back to Cycle Works. If you've never been downtown on game day, some amazing things happen during the magic 40 minutes. The magic 40 are the 20 minutes before kickoff when the crowds are thick and you can barely move without bumping into someone and the 20 minutes after kickoff when you feel like you almost have the town to yourself. Riding on game day, I much prefer the 20 minutes after kickoff.

Photo Oct 24, 1 40 45 PM

Back at the shop, bikes loaded, it was time to find some food for the drive home.

Photo Oct 24, 1 19 38 PM

Tyler and I decided to hit up Honest Abe's. one of the best Lincoln originals that never disappoints with their creative and ever changing selection of burgers. The American Gothic was a winner as are most of their offerings. Now I feel like I need to get out for another ride to help burn this guy off.


Shameless plug time... December 5th is Global Fat Bike Day and we are planning on doing something special for the ride. All of the details haven't been worked out just yet but we have a ton of ideas that we need to sort through and dissect to come up with a great event. I can tell you that there will be a ride, a bonfire, food, drink and most likely a few prizes and contests after the ride. We would love to see you all at the event, even if you don't have a Fat Bike, stay tuned for the official event page and additional details as we hammer them out.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Omaha Jackrabbit 2015 - The Life Of A Staff Photographer

Photo Oct 16, 9 01 36 PM

I'm a better photographer than I am a bicycle racer and I'm a terrible photographer if that tells you anything about my bike racing ability. I often don't drink or eat enough while racing and training, psssh... let's not even get into that. None the less I have inherited the job as Staff Photographer for Tyler and Jamie and they decided to throw their hats in the ring, so to speak, for the 2015 Omaha Jackrabbit race in the Fat Bike category. This of course meant that I would need to tag along as well to fulfill my duties as photographer, thankfully digital film is cheap these days because the loan on the food I needed to purchase to prevent from full on bonking during the 127 mile gravel race was not. Nor was it light, my back may never be the same, luckily Quasimodo's chiropractor has an opening next week that I was able to slide into. The things we do for our art...

Photo Oct 17, 6 03 23 AM

I showed up at the start well before the butt crack of dawn, in the whole internal organ scenario, if dawn were the butt crack I showed up in the colon of dark. As you can see from the photo, the views from the start/finish line were breath taking and it was at this moment that I realized I didn't bring nearly a big enough flash if this was the lighting I had to work with.


The race started in the cold and the dark, which was really poor for taking pictures while moving without everything looking like one big blur but once the sun started to rise it was a beautiful morning.


Riding partners for the day, 'twas a wee bit chilly for all of the morning and a good portion of the early afternoon as well but once the old motor got warmed up, everything but the feet were plenty warm.


Luckily I can't read because that sign seems like it's trying to tell me something important that might make me decide to not cross over the cable onto this sketchy ass bridge but as they say, ignorance is bliss... until the ground falls out from beneath you.


If only they had maintained the bridge as well as they did the now completely unnecessary and highly likely inaccurate 11 ton weight limit sign, they might not have had to close it. Fun bridge though, in a "I really hope the bridge doesn't collapse as I'm crossing it, crushing me until I die, causing me to fall into the water below where I will surly drown and die again" sort of way. Bloated corpses make for the worst open casket funerals ever... and the fish smell never comes out of the coffin.



It wasn't all death defying bridge crossings and cable hurdles though, there was just some ordinary early morning gravel racing going on as well.




Not to mention some really great views of sleepy little towns and farms by the dawn's early light.




The first little outcropping of buildings that tried really hard to be a town we rolled through was Fontenelle, even if it's not technically a town but an unincorporated community and census designated place, it had a lot of cool old buildings.


But what do those census bean counters know anyway, it had a Town Hall; all it needed was a bar and it'd qualify as a town in my book.


As you might imagine with a gravel race in Nebraska, we saw our fair share of corn fields.


Plenty of cows to moo at as well. I've often wonder as we are riding by mooing a them if they ever wonder to themselves how such a moronic, cow imitating,  hairless baboon species ever became the dominant life form. You know, because cows have nothing else to do while standing in a field chewing their cud looking at you with that derpy expression, which is probably more a look of apathy and pity.


Even came across a pumpkin patch, hopefully just a personal one at that, otherwise they had the worst corn maze ever.


Hey look, I'm winning!



There were times I would get lost in all the awesome views and I would need to remind myself that this was a race and I wasn't just out tooling around on the Farley. The scenery was pretty amazing and I could have easily spent an entire afternoon lazily riding around gazing at the sights.


One of the hazards of gravel riding/racing is the dust cloud, dust clouds following you, dust clouds coming at you and always getting closer. You never know what might be in that dust cloud that is stalking you but it's almost always something far bigger and badder than you.


Especially when it's harvest time and that cloud could contain one of these big dudes.


These green guys were everywhere.



35-ish miles of gravel, dodging dust clouds and incredible views later we rolled into the bustling metropolis of Uehling Nebraska and the first official check point.


Picked up a few new cue sheets, some fresh water and left a little recycled water behind before moving on. It was fairly early on in the race but I was feeling pretty good and most importantly I was keeping up on the food intake and as we all remember, not eating enough was my down fall in Gravel Worlds.




Outside of Uehling we started hitting the minimum maintenance roads.


Some of them more friendly than others, this one was greeting us with a friendly "HI".


Luckily we haven't had any rain for weeks, this meant that the MMRs were dry, smooth (for the most part) and fast.


They might have been dry, smooth and fast but they also upped the ante on the steepness scale... although Tyler was motoring up them like they were down hill sections. I really need to work on my mental game when the terrain turns hilly, I get as whiny as Betty White in a Snickers commercial.


Jamie was chewing up the hills like a champ as well, this lady has a serious motor and it's pretty impressive to get to witness it up close.



In addition to eating, the hydration must have been on point as well because it wasn't long after cracking the seal in Uehling that I had to help share the moisture. Luckily corn fields make excellent hiding spots, only takes a few rows in before you just disappear.


Not on the cue sheets but just as appreciated as those that were, was the second (unofficial) check point with bananas and more water... and a little bit of beer brewing discussion. I think Tyler would have been almost as happy to call it a day right there and just talk brewing all day long.


Probably should have stayed at the check point, county road V awaited us about a quarter mile up the road and she was not a nice hostess.



V was just a serious of really steep MMR rollers, some of the steepest MMRs I think I've ever had the displeasure of riding up. V was an apt name for the road as it was one deep V after another for what seemed like 1,000 miles.


A few more fields being harvested,


A few more dust clouds to dodge.


And more than a few miles of MMRs and we were into Decatur and the official 2nd check point.

Photo Oct 17, 3 47 19 PM

Check point two was about 85 miles in and had a oasis in the form of a gas station right next to the park where we checked in. Took a bit longer here to take a break, get some real food and maybe a sip or two of barley pop. More than half way through the race and I was feeling good as far as food, hydration and overall energy, about the only issue was my sit parts were starting to feel the effects of 85 miles of bumpy roads while sitting in sweat soaked chamois but there wasn't anything to do but power through at this point.


After about 20 minutes of rest, food, beer and chit chat it was time to mount up for the final 40 mile push to the finish. Left town on this pretty cool little bridge, luckily we didn't meet anyone coming the other way in the middle.


It seemed like outside of Decatur the Combines got larger and the minimum maintenance roads got softer, the result of which were some really awful, bone jarring, teeth rattling, tire rutted roads. I almost would have rather had the hills of county road V over these flat but tore up roads.


Sun started setting and temps started dropping but with the sun setting the winds also started to drop. I would guess the winds were a fairly constant 15+ mph all day with gusts up to 25 mph but once the sun started going down the winds turned into more of a gentle breeze around 5-7 mph would be my guess.


Once the sun went down, there wasn't much in the way of picture opportunities again, so we just put our heads down and plodded on toward the finish line. 126.2 miles, 11 hours 33 minutes of ride time, 14 hours total and almost 7,100 feet of climbing later our Omaha Jackrabbit was in the books. We had decided before the race that we were just going to ride it together and that's exactly what we did. Having some great company for the race was a huge advantage over talking to the voices in your head for the better part of a day. Jamie being the studette that she is pulled out the win in the women's fat bike category, Tyler and I got 2nd as we all came in at the same time... there was a guy on a Surly Moonlander that just killed it out there, we saw him at the beginning and then nothing but his tracks here and there for the rest of the race.


Jamie was pretty stoked to have her rabbit in hand and deservedly so.

Photo Oct 17, 9 57 49 PM

Tyler and I were trying to work out visitation rights for the 2nd place rabbit but he decided to be the consummate great dude and let me hold onto the little bunny. That was a classy move by a classy dude, truth be told had Tyler decided to race and not ride as a group he would have finished well ahead of me.

Other than a sore rear, tired legs and chapped lips, this was a great race for me and a world of difference from the catastrophe Gravel Worlds ended up being because I wasn't eating enough before it was too late. Non cyclists often think I'm crazy for doing events like this as they cannot fathom riding for that many hours but when you have two great friends and fellow riders to cruise the back roads with I couldn't fathom a better way to spend a beautiful October Saturday. Huge thanks to both Tyler and Jamie for riding with me, listening to my Betty White whine, putting up with having a camera shoved in their faces for the better part of the day and for just being two of the greatest human beings a guy could hope to ride with.

I also want to say thanks to all the volunteers and race organizers who spent months of their free time putting this great event together, getting nothing in return as far as monetary compensation. I don't care how fast you ride, the real studs of these events are the men and women who put these things together and their loved ones as well for allowing them to be gone for countless hours on end so that I can ride my bike through some spectacular country roads.

Last but certainly not least, I have to thank Cycle Works for allowing me to suit up in the Rasta colors and ride for them. I've been to a ton of bike shops in my days but never have I come across a better, more caring, awesome group of people than you'll find right there at 27th & Vine in Lincoln Nebraska.