Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finishes :: Festive 500 and 2011

It's great to finish something.  No matter how much it really sucked, the human spirit has a way of filtering out the negative and only recalling the positive.  Such is the case for me with both 2011, and Rapha's Festive 500.

For some reason, I felt that signing up to ride 500 kilometers between December 23rd and today, the 31st, would be a fitting end to a challenging year.  I figured why not end it with a ridiculous challenge?

My quest began with an aborted ride in the wee hours of the 23rd when I awoke to a few inches of snow on the ground and no studded tires in hand.  Nothing like starting the nine day clock with zero mileage in the bank.

I went to the shop, and realized that my winter Deluxe, although great fun for cruising around town and trails in the ice and snow, just wasn't going to chew up the miles fast enough, so I ordered a pair of studded tires and some clip on fenders for my ti Planet CX and hoped for clear roads until they arrived.

Well... some days of OK road conditions, and then some more ice and snow, so sometimes you just have to "run what you brung" as they say in NASCAR... my trusty XS Club Racer.

She's one of a kind, built for 2010 NAHBS in Richmond, and ended up pulling duty for lots of the 500K.

Animal tracks, four legged and two wheeled.

As the week rolled by, the kilometers/miles began to accumulate, but I quickly learned that they would not come easy.  Lots of riding after dark; and the cold, wind, and messy road conditions made for slow going, not to mention the busy work week.

The workload towards the end of the week only allowed for riding after dark, which turned out to be pretty awesome.  The wind tends to be a little less of a problem after nightfall, the traffic is light on the back roads, and I had more than a few memorable moments of Christmas lights and a waxing moon reflecting on the bay.

I also had one really sketchy moment where my head light died on a very dark and rainy night.  Fortunately I was only a few miles from home, so I knew the roads well.  I just rode in what I thought was the middle of the road and kept looking over my shoulder to see the edge of the road in the glow of my tail light.

So, today it came down to a final 50 miles.  The weather forecast last night called for the dreaded "wintery mix", and sure enough, it was freezing rain, with lots of ice on the roads.

Fortunately, my studded tires and fenders for the CX bike arrived at the end of the week, and I installed them on some older Mavic Ksyrium SSC SL's.  I can remember when those wheels were the hottest things on the road, and now they are my winter warriors... lots of great miles and simply indestructible.

A big shout out to Nokion.  Those fine Finnish folks really know how to make a winter bicycle tire, and the Planet Bike clip on fenders were a breeze to install.

With the icy road conditions, I figured that I'd incorporate some gravel roads, thinking that they'd have more grip, but they were just as bad.  For some reason(s) of physics that elude me, the rain froze just as thick, if not more so, on the gravel.  Kind of funny to see that the municipal trucks had been out to sand a gravel road (the more orange stuff in the middle of the road).

One of my favorite quotes about riding in hard weather comes from Justin Spinelli,  a fellow Granite Stater and ex-pro.  He said that, "riding in the cold and rain is not epic, getting up and doing it day after day is".

The on and off freezing rain, combined with the cold temps were pretty tough, so I did a route in the morning, then broke for lunch and some dry kit.

The temps rose a bit after lunch, so there was some incredible fog.

At one point a truck pulled up next to me at a stop light and the driver rolled down his window and asked, "are you crazy"?  I said, "no, I'm a cyclist".  He then asked, "what kind of a cyclist rides in this weather"?  I thought for a minute and all I could reply was, "a festive one"!  He laughed and the light turned green.

So now that it's all done, time to toast finishes.  Here's a hearty recovery shake to all of you, your friends and families.  May all your rides in 2012, if not be warm and dry, at least be festive.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Season's Greetings :: Longer Days

Tis the season to be jolly... and the days started getting longer yesterday, so Spring is queuing up right behind Santa.

Maybe it's optimistic to think that Spring is right behind Santa, but I've been stressing about the winter 5 that I've already gained, and I haven't even made it through Christmas yet, so I've signed up to try Rapha's Festive 500 challenge.
To complete the challenge one needs to ride and document 500 kilometers (that's approximately 310 miles for us Americans) between the 23rd and 31st.  It's "only" about 35 miles per day, but says easy and does hard given the holidays, family time, short days, cold temperatures... not to mention the potential for snow and ice.

Sure enough, I woke up before dawn this morning with the intention of getting in a few hours of riding, and what did I find when I looked out on the back porch?

You have to love New England weather.  It was sunny and almost 60 degrees yesterday, and today it's a "wintery mix" advisory on the weather reports.  The kids are stoked about having a white Christmas, but it's time to bust out the studded tires, except that my Winter Deluxe is sitting on a stand in the showroom.

Looks like I need to get both of my fender bikes ready to go, charge up the Light & Motion lights, bust  out the full winter kit, and grab an insulated IF coffee tumbler for my bottle cage, so there'll be no excuses tomorrow.

Speaking of coffee tumblers, check out the custom colors that Chris and Phil did to put in the stockings of the ladies at BaileyWorks:

I hope that you've all been nice this year and that Santa brings you shiny new bike things for your stockings.  As we were shooting this Australia bound red Crown Jewel the other day we all joked that it was the perfect "Santa Bike".  Maybe the jolly old fellow wouldn't be so rotund if he rode a bike during his off-season.  Must be nice to eat cookies all of the time and have eight reindeer to pull your largesse around.

2011 has been a busy year, a time of change for us as we settled into our new home.  We are thankful for all of our terrific dealers and friends who have supported us throughout, and wish you all a joyous holiday season and prosperous New Year.

May your glasses always be full and your rides safe.



Monday, December 12, 2011

What Euro Crisis? :: Citrus Squeeze

Our friends at Bike Boutique in Holland recently sent us some build pics of this special hot lime steel Deluxe.

Jaap and his crew place a lot of emphasis on the small details that make the whole special.  Check out the custom stay protector and the tied and soldered spokes on the Enve/Chris King wheel build.

Would you like a slice of melon hubs with your lime frame?  If you haven't held one of the new SRAM  XX cassettes in your hands yet, I highly recommend it.  It is just a piece of machined art, and I hear through the grapevine a glimpse of what's to come with the update to the Red road group.

Plenty of stopping power and Tune skewers to match the hubs.

Chris and Phil put a lot of hours into the custom painted Niner carbon fork.  Seems like an anachronism to put a rigid carbon fork on a steel frame, but the design of this fork somehow just works well with the classic lines of the frame.

A deluxe Deluxe indeed.

Thanks Jaap for sharing the pics!