Today’s Stampede

Today was Custer Stampede, and we decided to try something new, the Pedal Motivation Station. We had a tent, a generator, a PA system, some music, a cowbell, a bullhorn and several loud voices. As both motivator and motivated, I thought it was great fun, and I hope you liked it, too.

Racing today was pretty terrific. My fitness isn’t great and excuse, excuse, excuse, but it was great to be in the woods with nice people doing something I enjoy. Really great. Several of my co-workers also raced today, but I think Kalyn had the biggest smile.

I rode a bike I haven’t yet written about, a Specialized Camber. I bought the frame and wheels from J’Son (after he’d already used up all the speed, I think) and either had or purchased everything else. It’s a very fun bike and served me well today. For sure: it was not the weak link in my performance chain.

Last recurring thought: lots of fun. I enjoyed the race itself and had an excellent time in the beer tent afterward, swapping stories and cheering for those still finishing. Good vibes all around. Nice work, SWMMBA. I look forward to more.

 

The Charm

I’ve been a big fan of Melting Mann from the word go. What’s not to like about a dirt road race close to home at the start of the season? Well, you might not like…

  • Riding on an ice rink in year one. I think it is 100% due to Melting Mann that we sold more studded tires in early 2014 than all other years combined.
  • Big ruts. This was year two. Icy, for sure, but the big catastrophe was the frozen ruts in the dirt roads. I myself bounced around like a pinball before hitting the deck.

And it was against this backdrop that this year’s event was painted. Imagine everyone’s relief when we had a chilly morning, a really fast non-sketchy course and a wonderful, sun-warmed after party with the best music, drinks and some adult services from UK Escorts. Good stuff. Everyone I heard was very complimentary of the course, the volunteers, the after-party, the excellent beer from Goshen Brewing… everything.

Pedal’s hat is off to Melting Mann, and we extend our thanks to Kona and Central District Cyclery for helping us give away a Rove AL to a lucky raffle winner. Fun stuff! Bring on 2017!

Fluffy

Right around Thanksgiving we brought in a new fat bike from KHS, largely because it looked like Kona might have underestimated demand for the 2015 Wo. Things we like about the KHS 3000 include:

  • The price: $2200.
  • The spec: 2×10 SRAM drivetrain with hydraulic brakes
  • The bigness: 100mm wide rims and 4.8″ tires

fatty

People come into the shop, see a fat bike and ask, “What are these things for?” They’re for anything. Snow. Sand. A quick trip to the bank. I like the way KHS calls their fat bikes Four Season Bikes. You can do everything you’ve always done on a bike (perhaps more slowly, perhaps with more panache) plus ride in deep snow in the winter and sand in the summer.

fourseason

Watching fat bikes evolve over the last few years has been interesting. Gone (one can only hope) are the days of trying to make a cobbled-together frame/drivetrain/fat tire combo work acceptably. Now we have symmetrical frames, lots of cogs in the back and really wide bottom brackets and rear hub spacing, all of which combine to make the whole bike more refined and functionally better.

rdbigrim

A rather recent development is the tubeless fat bike rim. Removing the big tube from a fat bike wheel/tire combo saves you about a pound of rotating mass — per wheel. That’s a big deal. We tried to make the KHS tubeless, but the stock rim just isn’t designed for such a thing; it would burp a little sealant every time we rode it with vigor. We could probably make it work, but doing so represents a return of the kludgy fat bike and would likely negate the weight savings we sought. All of this brings out the double-edged sword of fat bike tubeless: the tubeless ready rim that allows you to save weight also makes it very difficult (sometimes hugely difficult) to remove the tire from the rim.

trunk

On a lark I decided to race the KHS 3000 last Saturday at Ft. Custer for the first race of the 2015 Michigan Fat Bike Series. I quickly discovered that the bike will, in fact, fit in the back of a modern hatchback/dogmobile. Barely. Race day morning I installed pedals, guessed at the saddle height and put some air in the tires, enough to get the front tire to steer and to keep the rear tire from being too bouncy.

fattire

And then I’m racing a completely unfamiliar bike. What fun!

It’s like mountain biking, but different. The traction is incredible. I was constantly yelling (internally and externally) at myself to stay off the brakes. To the surprise of no one, there is a lot of inertia in those big wheels and tires. Keep ‘em spinning and things go pretty well. Let ‘em slow down (going up a hill, for instance) and you’ll pay for it later. Such is the way of things with wheels, but fat bikes exaggerate the extremes quite a lot.

I tried to talk a buddy of mine into doing the race with me. He said, “Racing fat bikes is dumb!” Though it may be kinda silly to ride a bike made for snow on frozen dirt, it sure as heck beats riding the trainer for an hour. I’m pretty anxious to try another one once the snow arrives.

Markin Glen 2014

mgmud

You know, it’s pretty easy when it’s 60 degrees and sunny. People want to set up the course. People what to get outside on a beautiful day and have a few UV rays hit their bodies. People are understandably less worried about frostbite.

For the first time in four years, Markin Glen today was not 60 degrees and sunny. It was, at best, 32 and barely snowing. It was muddy. It was not exactly a day that begged you to come outside and play. Yet 75 people did, and we had a very interesting time. As a result of the snow and mud, the course was maybe a little bit harder than we intended, but it was harder for everyone.

On this site and in our shop we talk often of the shared experience. The race may be great. The race may stink. But if you do the race with friends, reliving it is always fantastic. The race as community builder — that’s what we think. This race was a good, hard race on a pretty sketchy day. We had a good time. We cheered for the other racers and many of us met at a local brewery to eat and drink and talk afterward.

This post is Pedal’s invitation to you to come and race with us. Cyclocross is great for people of any ability. I encourage you to stretch your envelope just a little bit and give it a try. It’s very hard, but very rewarding and very supportive. I’d say the same of dirt road races like Melting Mann and Barry Roubaix — accessible, welcoming, hard, fun.

I’ll close by thanking Kalamazoo County, KissCross and the wonderful folks who help us design, set up and tear down the course. Big, big fun.

Pads

En route to the garbage can this morning, I took a quick picture of my brake pads:

pads

From the top we have a pad from my rear caliper, removed immediately after Iceman (aka IceMudMan). In the middle is a pad from my front caliper, removed immediately after IceMudMan. The bottom bad is brand spanking new, ready to install. It might not be easy to tell from this angle, but the top pad is worn down to the backing plate. The middle pad has a good amount of wear, and the material that’s left is probably gunk-infused. I replaced both sets.

This photo is a good representation of just about every customer bike we’ve seen this week: completely dead rear pads and if-not-completely-then-mostly dead front pads. Conservatively I’d say we’ve ordered more pads in the last three days than we have the previous two years. What did this? Mud. Grit is thrown up between the rotor and pad and eats away the pad material in record time. Globs of mud settle between the pad backing plates and the caliper body when brakes are applied and prohibit the pads from retracting when the brake lever is released. Pads that would last years were devoured in less than three hours.

The other component that got really munched: chains. Yuck.

Next year maybe it’ll just be cold.

Kalamazoo Cyclocross 2014

2014cross

Check it out! Cyclocross returns to Kalamazoo at our two favorite locations, Kindleberger (home of The Hill) and Markin Glen. Races are $25 each (what a bargain!) and work as follows:

  • C race is at 11:00 and will last approximately 30 minutes. This is a terrific way to test the waters. Kids: welcome. Adults: welcome. Sandbaggers: not as welcome.
  • B race is at noon and will last approximately 45 minutes. Fun on a bun.
  • A race is at 1:00 and will last about an hour. Masochists only.

Cyclocross is a sport everyone can enjoy. Please come out and shake that cowbell.

Meet The Scott Solace 30

(Our Man Randy borrowed a Scott Solace for the Race for Wishes road race in Lawton earlier this month. I asked Randy if he’d be willing to write a few words about his experience, and here they are. – Tim)

Many of our customers here at Pedal are familiar with Scott road bikes, especially the CR1, the Foil, and the Addict, bikes that are notoriously awesome. But far fewer are familiar with the new Solace. Maybe we (and by we I really mean me) were even a bit unsure about it. Was it a European classics inspired race bike? A gran fondo machine? A comfort road bike? It was time to put an end to all this confusion and mystery. When Tim asked me if I wanted to race the state championship road race on a Solace 30, I took him up on it.

Moving out. The Solace has tall, relaxed geometry. To get the four inches of saddle-to-bar drop I wanted for my race set up, we put the stem as low as it could go on the steerer. (Then sent photos to slamthatstem.com.) With my long femurs, we slammed the saddle all the way back on the rails. In spite of a tall head tube, set up this way, the bike cut a mean profile. Though the bike comes with a solid Shimano WH-RS11 wheelset, to give me an advantage at the race, we set it up with Stan’s 340s laced to Chris King hubs. I forgot to weigh it (oops), but it was impressively light, maybe 10 pounds. (Okay, maybe 16 or 17).

Smelling the roses. I warmed up for a good forty minutes to get used to the new bike. While Ryan and the Pedal train pushed the pace even during the warm up (Ryan actually doesn’t know how to go slow, if you didn’t know), I sat up to take in the vineyard aromas and sun-lit vistas along the course. I hardly noticed the Solace beneath me as I soft-pedaled along. The Shimano 105 drivetrain was silent and smooth and would remain so through the race. The bike’s silky-smoothness is immediately apparent to the rider.

Handling. Going into the race, I was not at all familiar with the 15-mile course. Luckily, we would use the first lap to get a feel for things before making our move on the second. I was only caught off-guard once on the first lap by one of the course’s many 90-degree turns. (Why weren’t the original architects of this fair state more creative?) About seven miles in, I came into a sharp left-hander at the bottom of a hill with too much speed and had to take it wide. Even as the rear wheel drifted across the pavement as I tried to avoid going off into the gravel shoulder, I felt totally in control of the Solace, steering clear of the gravel, then tucking back in on the front of the pack. With respect to the bike’s handling, then, what stood out to me was that it was totally intuitive and predictable. Again, it’s as if the bike isn’t even there.

Hammering down. After getting fed up with some yo-yo action over a roller section about 3/4ths of the way into the first lap, the Pedal train took control as Ryan, Charlie, and myself moved to the front of the race. We would stay there until the start of the second lap pulling through a long flat section of the course. The Solace excels at hammering down on the flats. I am not naturally a power rider who can pull hard on straight flat sections, but I felt comfortable pushing big gears and being in the wind on the Solace. I suspect the bike’s massive downtube-bottom brakcet junction has something to do with this.

Climbing. In the second lap, it was expected that one of us would attack on the course’s only real climb. A natural climber, this would be my moment to shine and push the limits of the Solace. Giving it everything I had, the Solace and I moved past several riders as I tried to take some of the pack with me and get back on the front of the race after falling asleep in the peloton. Just like that I was back at the front. (I wish I could say this happened effortlessly, but I can’t. The legs were starting to give up!) Though it doesn’t have the get-up-and-go of, say, a Foil, the Solace tears up our Michigan hills at least as well as most other carbon road bikes.

From then on, the Pedal train would be at the front, poised well for the big sprint finish. Pedal would capture first and third, while I had nothing left for a sprint, finishing three or so seconds off in lucky number 13th place. I didn’t mind; after all, I did get to ride around a carbon wunder bike for the day.

Concluding thoughts. I love Scott road bikes. In each of Scott’s road offerings, the rider can appreciate perceptible differences in frame design achieved with specific carbon layups for different riding conditions or styles. Like the Addict, the Solace is buttery smooth, but probably holds a line a little better when the going gets tough as a result of the shock-absorbing qualities built into the seat stays, seat tube, and seat post (the Solace uses a narrower 27.2 carbon Syncros post for a more forgiving ride). And like all Scott HMF Carbon bikes, it’s super light.

And who’s it for? The Solace, I think, is for anyone. It will do anything. Do a 30 mile road race with it. Do a gran fondo. Or go on wine tours in the Leelanau country. Ultimately, I think it will be most appreciated by those who pile on the miles and those who can really put the power down on the flats. And if you want to experience just how smooth carbon fiber frames can be, check out Scott’s latest offering in the Solace. Check it out at Pedal today!

A Barry Nice Day

A good friend is hard to find.
A good friend is hard to find.

Immediately after yesterday’s Barry Roubaix race many of our friends were clustered at the end of the finish chute, coughing, having used parts of our lungs that hadn’t seen much action in a while. “There’s no way a big effort like this is good for your body,” opined one guy. “It’s not,” said another, who then provided science to buttress his argument. After we’d put on dry warm clothes the conversation continued in the beer tent.

This body isn’t what it once was (and it was never all that much), but it seems like a good idea to test the system every now and then. Whether or not it’s good for my body, I know stuff like this is good for my soul. I feel so darn good after a race like this. Why?

  • One reason is the big effort itself. It feels good to take on a project, do the work, finish the darn thing AND receive immediate feedback. In this hyper-efficient global economy it’s tough to find this sort of immediacy in work and social life. I’ve wondered if this isn’t part of the reason for the recent popularity of sport.
  • Competition is good, and by competition I mean the process of figuring out how good we can be, for which we need a course, competitors and a clock. Lemme say this differently: a course, some competitors and a clock allow me to determine how well I can do. In the act of competing I’m forced to acknowledge my shortcomings and deal with them. I know I’m not going to win, but I do wonder what my best might be.
  • I feel a wonderful bond with my competitors on the course. Yes, OK, I would like to finish ahead of you, but I also want you to finish better than you thought. I want you to make me earn it, and I want you to earn it.
  • A big race empties me. Assuming I can get myself psyched up to perform, there typically isn’t an iota of energy or emotion left in my body when the race is done. I feel very pure, as though I’ve sweated and exhaled all of the bad stuff out of my body.
  • What goes into this empty vessel? The companionship and love and camaraderie of my friends and competitors in the beer tent. An hour after the race I am a new man, stripped clean of my stresses and filled only with good feelings.

These are my ruminations. I might be right. I might be as wrong as I’ve ever been. Regardless, I’m still basking in the warm glow that follows a good, hard race. I tip my hat to the Barry-Roubaix crew for providing me the opportunity to feel the feeling.

Man oh Mann

Heard of this Melting Mann gravel road race happening on March 9th, 2014? We have. We signed up. We wondered what we’d gotten ourselves into. And so it was that Special Pedal Operational Recon Team (SPORT) found ourselves at Swiss Valley ski area in the middle of a rain squall on a sixty degree November Sunday.

We found mud. We found hills. We found a couple of nice looking swine farms. We found an incredibly strong headwind at times. We found a gang (or rafter) of turkeys. We had a really great time and somehow managed to do all of this within a brief period of unrain on this very damp day.

How does it compare to the mothership (Barry Roubaix)? Faster, would be my guess. The presumptive uphill finish looks like a crusher, but the course on the whole is a dandy — some big climbs typically followed by a bit of recovery. What kind of bike? We saw folks on mountain and fat bikes, but I’d say a cross bike would be the ticket for a fast ride.

In the event that you’re looking for something more… involved than sitting around in your underpants on March 9th, Melting Mann looks pretty darn good. Only 500 entries this first year, so don’t sit around thinking that you should maybe get to this maybe next month if not the month after. Who knows what the weather will bring, but course conditions are part of the fun.

intense

Southern Cross

Customer, triathlete, landscaper, bike stud and all around great guy Jake Grevenstuk traveled to Georgia to try his hand at a “hilly” 50-mile dirt road ride last weekend. He lived to tell the tale, and gave us permission to reprint here.

The 10am race start time is always a good thing.  Triathlons start at sun up and I always have get up early, which leads to haste.  Getting up at 7 is much better than the gun going off at 7!  We stayed at a little cabin on the outskirts of Dahlonega, GA.  Which happened to be on the opposite side of town from the race so we had about a 25 minute commute to Monteluce Winery. The winery was really cool.  Just as hilly as everything is in northern Georgia, grapes love hillsides so this makes good sense.  The soil is red clay and rocky which also lends itself to a great terroir.  They constructed the buildings and homes to be reminiscent of beautiful Mexican winerys and villas, learn more on it at https://www.exceptionalvillas.com/mexico.  They definitely had a theme going and it seemed to be working.  The first part of our 51 mile ride would start in this setting with a legit cyclocross course. Temps hovered around freezing all morning and during warm-ups so I wore an extra thin layer over my PEDAL garb that I had anticipated wearing.  At 9:50 I made my way with the other 250-300 masochists to the starting line.  I never get to the line on time for a good spot and this was no exception.  I had hoped to be close enough in the beginning to see the leaders and judge my position accordingly as the race progressed.  This didn’t happen either.  At 10:01 the race began and I filed my way along sluggishly for ½ mile to the first run-up.  This ain’t no Michigan run-up either!  Muddy red clay and grass for a 100’ vertical gain.  I later heard ONE of the pros rode it (of course he would). Serpentine roads wound up some more then down and back out of the winery to 4 miles of paved roads.  I started working with several other dudes to keep the peloton in sight ¼ mile up. We turned onto a gravel road over some rollers and made our way onto the forest service road and up we went.  Up, up and up some more.  About 7 miles total with steady grades that became steadily became steeper toward the top.  I huffed and I puffed and I… took my jacket off.  At this point I was damn hot and needed to catch my breath.  With no end in sight, I had to concede to the mountain that it was more than I could muster.  I hike-a-biked up the steep 16%+ pitches to get my heartrate down and rode the meager 10-12%’s. Finally the top and the first aid station which I blew off knowing I gave up spots while walking and talking off gear.  Descending, ahhh yes, descending.  I flew down passing when I could and riding pretty aggressively considering the loose gravel road and break-neck speeds.  I was having fun once again and not cursing as often when we hit the pavement for a bit and managed to make up some more time before ascending once again.  I knew I needed to eat something or bonk city would be the next place I came to.  It is very difficult to take in nutrition on this course.  No group to hide in, no casual flat section, just up or down.  So I sucked down a hammer gel and ate a hammer bar while gasping for breath at the beginning of the next climb. This side of the mountain was a quaffable 7-8% pitch and much more scenic with a creek flowing just off the road and rhododendrons litter throughout the hillsides.  In a few weeks this would be gorgeous when those rhodys all bloom!  After chatting with a 62 year old single speeder on the way up (seriously?!) I hit the aid station to take some Enduralytes before the final 1/3 of the race. How this course kept going up continued to astound this flatlander.  I was getting along though and the climbs were reciprocated by descents of less than equal measure giving my legs a chance to spin if only momentarily.  As we started the, what I thought was, the final descent; I gassed it.  I rode hard and fast again taking advantage my quick rolling hoops.  These roads though, are cut from rocky soil and some the rocks are pretty good sized but partially buried.  I took a chance riding clinchers knowing I might flat in these conditions.  I had brought multiple tubes and co2s just in case I needed them.  I needed them, but luckily just one.  My front bottomed out on one of said jutty rocks in the roads and that was all she wrote.  Literally deflated on the side of the road, 15-20 folks rode by.  Most understood my plight and wished me well offering help if needed.  Declining their service I made the change and took off again.  A little dejected, I made peace with my position and didn’t push too hard after that.  This made the rest a bit more enjoyable as I took my foot off the accelerator.  Not wanting to flat again I eased my through the next long descent keeping my eyes peeled for tire grabbing rocks.  We flew off the gravel and onto pavement and I hammered as best I could with what was left.  There were a few other riders around but for the most part there hadn’t been anyone working together around me for 20 miles.  After a hard left back onto the ‘main road’ we had started on, we wound the 4 miles back to the winery steadily eating the grade to the top of the hill where the entrance lay.  While the cats were away the mice in charge of the race had re-worked the ‘cross course to let us enjoy it once again.  Folks cheering and offering beer-ups greeted the now second and steeper run-up section.  I graciously grabbed the delicious beverage, downed it and trudged upward.  Mounted again we rode down, then back up, then up some more only on pavement this time, then around, then down through woods, then across the road, through the creek, up through the pasture and with only ¼ mile left I had to dismount again.  Too…much…fatigue… Descending again and back aboard my steed I veered through the remaining taped ‘cross course and onto the pavement.  I pedaled hard, right on through the inflated Maxxis tire finish line.  Boom, DONE! 4:12, 51 miles, 6000’ vertical and one flat tire later my Southern Cross race was in the books.  Overall, a pretty ‘fun’ race.  I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime because, of course, there’s always room for improvement.  I can rest assured knowing this was awesome training for my favorite race, Barry-Roubaix coming up in a few weeks.