Tuesday, April 29, 2008

If I Were a Bike...

(Chicago Critical Mass - April 08)

If I were a bike, I wish I lived in Chicago.

Spent a few days up in Chicago for some business and got the chance to take in the sights and sounds of the Windy City.
What grabbed my attention as I was riding in a taxi from Midway down Lake Shore Dr to my hotel up on Michigan Avenue?
Was it the famed Soldier Field? Nope.
The skyscrapers that dotted the skyline? Nope.
The museums? The shopping? Nope.
The greenish/blue color of Lake Michigan? Nope.
It was the amount of bike commuters found in the city. As I was sitting in bumper to bumper traffic with taxi cabs blowing their horns, I counted over 50 cyclists that passed my idle butt over a few city blocks.

Chicago has this whole "green" thing down. It's not a trend as other cities are starting to adopt, it's a way of life. Spending 45 minutes in a cab to go 8 miles like my taxi ride, is not the most efficient way of travel in this city. Getting on your bike and utilizing the hundreds of miles of bike lanes and paths the city has developed is the way to travel. Yes, HUNDREDS! As of 2006, Chicago surpassed the century mark of bike lanes within the city. That's a far cry from my current city where there's about 4 miles of bike lanes. The mayor (Daley) is a roadie and has stated, "My goal is to make the City of Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the U.S." It looks like he's well on his way of doing that.

I had some hours to kill so I went down to Bobby's Bikes and rented a cruiser for a few hours (the fixies/ss were still boxed up and were about to be built). I biked up and down Lake Shore path on a beautiful morning. Sure I felt like a touron who rents a bike at the Oceanfront boardwalk and tries to pass as a local but I didn't care. I saw cyclists of all shapes and sizes. The bikes ranged from beater bikes who's chains were screaming to be lubed to a Look 585 with Zipp 404s and the cyclist in full team kit. Pistas to Pinarellos.

I spoke with the guy at the bike shop and was talking about how great the cycling vibe was in the city. He told me the monthly Critical Mass has over a thousand cyclists and even gets a police escort. Not many cities would do that for cyclists. I flew out Friday but would have loved to rent a bike and rode in thier Critical Mass.

If you're ever in Chicago, I recommend getting a bike to rent for a few days and explore the city.

And if you ever wondered if you had a twin somewhere, I found Dinsey's red-headed twin in Chicago.

All photos courtesy of Donsorsa.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Right or Left Side?

Finally I can pin on a number again. Left side?
My off the bike hiatus is over and decided to do my 1st group ride of the year on Thursday and then a TT on Saturday followed by crit on Sunday. Nothing like racing into shape. I have been on my TT bike for a few training rides to satisfy my triathlon curiousity (see Smithfield report below) but nothing that put me into race shape. It's pretty bad when your running shoes have almost as many miles as your bike does at this point in the year.
On to the race reports:
Conquer the Canal TT - Saturday. My expectations were low - don't be DFL in my CAT. I also didn't expect to beat last year's time (32:03) due to my lack of fitness. The winds blowing 10-15 SSW which is a headwind/sidewind on this course. Got to the line and clipped in and went. I'll spare the mile by mile account but the highlights of TT was eating 2 bugs on the way out and dry cotton mouth (after 2 bugs and inhaling a pound of pollen) by mile 3.
With the headwind I was happy to keep it over 22 on the way out and around 26/27 on the way back. As I had the finish line in sight (1 mile), I looked down and realized I would come close to beating my time from last year. I finished, hit the Lap button and it read 32:10. Dang - seconds off from last year. Rolled around to spin out my legs and heard someone talking about how the course was 13 miles this year (versus 12 from last year). Cool - I would have beat my time by last year by at least 2:30. Bonus! Final results posted - 18th out of 21. Goal accomplished. Offical time: 32:06

Part of the scenary along the TT course. The Dismal Swamp was part of the "Underground Railroad". More history on the canal can be found here.

Picks courtesy of Dan Gibson. Click on his link for more TT pics.

Langley Speedway Crit CAT 4 Race - Sunday. My expectations on this race was stay latched on with the pack and get a gauge on my fitness. This was only a "practice" crit for me at this stage of my training. My strategy was to help a teammate get into a break or reel any breaks in. That's kind of hard sitting in the rear of the field the majority of the race. I did manage to get into a break early on in the race but that ended quickly. It was flattering to hear someone yell out when last year's BAR Champ AJ and I took off on a breakway - "Hey watch them - don't let THEM get away." I'm sure he really meant, "Don't let AJ and whoever that wheelsucker is get too far away."
I would waste matches moving up and back on the field (by the way, my matchbook looks like the ones you find at the bottom of a washing machine at the corner Suds 'n Duds - there ain't nothin' to light). Front of the field felt safe but man that was too much work - give me the rear of the pack with the shelter of drafting off of 50+ riders. I wanted to try to be at the right spot when the prime ($100) would go off and to attempt to get on a decent break when it launched. Again being at the back of the field didn't help. $100 prime bell goes off and I'm sitting back 3rd of the field. 10-12 man break gets off the front and I'm sitting back 3rd again.
No breaks stuck today and it was down to a massive field sprint. With 2 laps left, I latch onto Amos' wheel and he pulls me on the outside up towards the front. As the bell sounds, I find where my zero base miles of training hits me. I start losing positions rapidly until I just sat up with 1/2 of a lap left not wanting to contest for a 30th spot. I got a good view of the sprint and watched Shawn pick up a 7th.

It was good to be back on the race scene again. A few more "practice" crits for me and some long training rides and I should be peaking when everyone else is burned out by July/August.

Big thanks to Jeff Craddock and the rest of the Fat Frogs team for putting together another excellent weekend of racing.

I saw K Dillard with his camera. Check out his site for some pics.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Book of the Month Club

Book review coming soon...

Buy it at Velogear.com

The book is written by a long time roadie/racer turned events announcer. This book gives a humorous insight to the inner-world of the roadie's mind, habits (think shaving legs), training and bikes (why so many?). This book will help your (spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, co-worker, neighbor, dog, etc) understand the facination we have of riding our bike in a circle at 30+ mph.

After finishing just the first chapter, I already told Mrs. nPlusOne that this IS a must read for her.

My favorite line so far in chapter 2 (The Bike) reads:
"Most roadies have differnt types of bikes to suit the many differnt styles of riding. They choose which bike they ride based on the type of race or training ride they are going to tackle. Most roadies believe that the ideal number of bikes to own is one more than they currently own."