Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A look at the stead

In the history of this web log I don't think I have every really gotten down to talking too much about the bikes I race on. With the current frame I am on being almost a year exactly and having changed so dramatically I thought it would be a good idea to so a review on it and explain all the changes I have made to it.

First the original incarnation...

The frame is the Eighth Inch Scrambler V2. With this bike I began a sponsored relationship with the Eighth Inch brand which is also owned by the bike retailer company I work for part helped with the ground work.

I contacted Noah at Eighth Inch in July of last year seeking some form of component hook up in exchange for branding help while I was in Tokyo at CMWC. I was looking to hook up a pair of the deep dish Julian Wheel's and instead was offered a complete build. I jumped at the offer and was given free range to put the build together with the available components at the time.

Eighth Inch Scrambler Frame w/steel track fork
Eighth Inch crank w/48t Sugino Messenger chainring
Eighth Inch Julian 42mm dish wheels w/CKS tires
Eighth Inch classic track drop bars w/ Origin 8 track grips and 120mm 3T stem
Eighth Inch 15t cog w/ Eighth Inch lockring
Velo saddle w/ generic seatpost
My Shimano SPD double sided moutain bike pedals and Cane Creek brake and cross-top lever

So this is what I rode in Japan with...with the exception of the saddle in this picture. A week prior to the trip I was hit by a car and broke the rails on the saddle but Noah sent me a new one that was red.

I went with the color scheme to attract attention, I figured I was there to rep the brand second only to racing so I had to make it flashy and attractive. I'm not big on the whole colorway thing to that extent but it was fun to piece together. I think it worked, I talked with a number of people in Tokyo who really dug the bike, especially the handlebar.

After I got back from Tokyo I started to slowly swap out parts. I was done doing the major show and tell with the bike so I figured it would be ok. One of the first to get changed out was the saddle. The Velo is nice and it did well to comfort my taint through all the riding I did in Japan, but I really love my F:zi:k Aliante and so I moved that over eventually. I also had to swap out the tires with in a month of Japan due to a series of flats. I eventually went to red colored Continental GP4000's.

The rear tire only lasted me until January when I got a major sidewall puncture and had no choice but to replace it. At that time the new Continental Gatorskin Hardshell came out and I gave it a try. This tire is one of the best I have ridden on. It is a hybrid between the GP4000 and the Gatorskin. It has the profile and compound of the GP but the damage resistance of the Gatorskin...a supple, fast and damage resistant skin...everything I look for. After the first 4 months of riding it there was no visible wear and only now, 10 months later of heavy riding is it starting to show some, but I foresee it lasting me another year or so and soon I will swap out the degrading GP4000 I'm still riding on the front.

As fall set in and heavy winds picked up I had to swap out the Julian wheels. While nice and super resistant to damage the wheels are too heavy for my taste and 30mph crosswinds don't bode well with any deep dish wheel. I went back to my cheap hand built wheels that I had rode through the previous winter. The rims are Alex DA23's laced to cheep Dimension hubs. Not the greatest especially after 1 winter but I also didn't want to trash they Julians or deal with the wind catch rims. The 32h are laced to Formula hubs where the 48h, at least last year, were laced to a different brand I can't remember and had hollow axles. I never weighed them side by side but the 48h Julians seemed lighter than the 32h. I also inadvertently switched back to my Shimano Dura Ace cog and gneric lock ring for not wanting to pull the Eighth Inch one off of the Julians at the time.

I also swapped out the fork eventually, favoring my carbon Bontrager Satellite fork over the heavier Eight Inch one. While the Satellite is a more relaxed rake than the Eighth Inch I found it didn't make that noticable of a difference in how I was used to controlling the bike. Through out my experience with track geometry over the past few years I have found that I highly prize the tight and steep geometry of them over the more relaxed road frames. The steeper the better in my mind!

Next to get swapped out was the crank. A month prior to getting the bike I had bought the FSA Pro Carbon Track crank for my old bike, a top of the line track racing crank with a bomb proof chainring and bottom bracket. After a while I missed not riding on such a sweet crank and threw it in the Eighth Inch. There it stayed through all of this year until a few weeks ago when the non-drive crank arm began to fail. The aluminum insert that connects to the spindle began to de-laminate and pull away form the I warrantied it and they gave me a new one. In stead of risking the same problem again I decided to try out SRAM's Omnium crank. I went with the Omnium due to it's cost and from the recommendation of 2 different sources. The first is a friend of mine who is the top elite track sprinter in the state and has won most of the events he has entered in the past two track nationals. This is a man who puts out extreme stresses on his equipment and he know swears up and down the river on this crank where he used to live and die by all the older, more tested and more expensive set ups, particularly Dura Ace. The other source is one of the top trick riders in the country who has been riding this crank for a while now. So if this thing can put up with both sub 11 second 20m sprints and bmx style trick riding, it must be worth something. At the time of this writing I have only put 4 blocks on the in the future I will do a follow up on it.

In the spring I finally jumped the gun and swapped out the handlebar. While I liked the slopping classic design of the Eighth Inch drop it is too shallow for my tastes. At only 120mm of drop it came short of my requirements for tucking down and fighting resistance as much as possible. Instead I went with Soma's Major Taylor track drop. It has 165mm worth of drop and shares a similar old school curvature to it that I fell in love with in the Eighth Inch bar. Eventually I also switched from the crosstop lever and 1 brake to 2 brakes and drop levers. I am still working out the placement kinks with this set up but like it so far. The Major Taylor fits a few of my requirements, deep drop and long flats at the end of the drop. In design it actually reminds me of the Easton EC90 carbon track drops I rode for a little bit on my Felt TK2. Great bars but not meant for the road.

Along with the handlebar I changed up the stem. I switched to a 70mm slight rise Dimension mtb stem as I found the deep drop of the Soma was causing me some back problems stemming from poor ski waxing techniques. I tried momentarily to use the brand new Eighth Inch BMX stem but he 50mm length was too short to be effective and comfortable. I'm still unahppy with the 70mm stem but will deal with it until I get around to replacing it with a 100mm Thomson stem. The Eighth Inch stem is nice and looks sharp so I threw it on my mountain bike instead.

I also replaced the wheels a second time. This time I built up a front to a 28h Dura Ace 7100 with a Velocity Fusion rim and a 36h Formula track/track threaded hub with another Velocity Fusion rim. Before winter sets in I want to pick up a set of Eighth Inch Tessa wheels to ride in the winter.

The things that have not changed are the seat post, which has given me no reason to change it as it has performed as it has been designed too...perhaps in the future I will swap it out with a carbon or Thomson post, but for now I don't care. The original generic loose ball headset is the same and hasn't cause me too much problem, I'm sure it could be better and I have repacked it twice, which is normal but eventually I will replace it with some Cane Creek headset.

Then there is the frame.

This is a fun frame to is fast and nimble and as stif as a 5 pound frame can be. What can I say, it's done me well and brought me back to loving steel over aluminum. Everyone I have talked with that has the frame too agrees with me that it is a fun bike to ride. It is an inexpensive bike but that doesn't mean it bad...that means its affordable. It has really tight geometry with 75 degree seattube and headtube on my 58" size frame...that's nice and twitchy. In today's bike market almost all frames are made in Taiwan and China so it's a little hard to scoff at it's origin of manufacturing. Even most of Treks frames are made in China, by Giant no less. It's just the nature of the business and unless you want to spend $1500+ on a frame your not really going to get it any other way. I hope this frame lasts me for a long time to come and unless it gets destroyed I plan on holding onto it even after I get my dream frame or the prototype Eighth Inch I'm harassing Noah for.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Friday Alley Cat - September 2010

As the year has been quiet in regards to posting about the races I have been in this year, I felt I should get back into that mode since another big out of town race is around the bend and post about the September race that I ended up winning.

The year has been a bit on the slacker side when it comes to training. My form has been off and I have felt out of touch all year. This years MMI was somewhat disappointing as I didn’t feel I had the energy in me that I normally do and du to a few errors I placed 17th, which is still good, but I could have been top 10. Oh well, it was a fun race and I left myself out there so I can’t regret not giving it all I had, what I had to give though was lacking.

Riverwest 24 this year was also lacking and our team, at my suggestion, pulled out with 3.5 hours to go in favor of partying instead. We rolled well for the first 12 hours, sticking in the 3rd/4th spot for our division but the sudden loss of a rider and the relentless rain took its toll on most if not all of our determination. As we watched our standings slide so did my moral and after a while I just didn’t want to mount the saddle any longer.

The First Friday races have been up and down through the entire year with turn out being abysmal for the first half of the year. Due to being the winner, being out of town or being injured I have unfortunately only been able to participate in a portion of the races. On top of all of that I was riding a bike that I didn’t even own as my bike is in parts due to problems with the crank.

Augusts’ race had been won by Capt. Jake and I had slid into 2nd due to answers, not speed. The race was part of an effort to help raise funds for the Berlin bound MKE Bike Polo team (who also went the on next weekend to take 1st in that world championship!). The race kicked my ass and I wasn’t the fastest one in but I still grabbed a podium spot. So Jake put on Septembers race.

A good sized group showed up, around 12 or so, including many faces that have been frequenting them this summer, hopefully they will still come around in January. The manifest was handed out and we all had a chance to plot our route before take off. Working with Matt and another frequent race partner Dan we plotted a route. I decided to leave the bag at the bar and ride with only my flat repair hipster pouch. I grabbed my bike from the alley and took off as soon as the start was called, pulling onto a dead Clybourn and turning at a green onto Water Street, as with so many other races.

The majority of the riders headed south as well and we flowed between slowed Friday night traffic through the 3rd Ward, summoning a few car horns, on our way to the first stop, the Circle K on Water. I was the first to pull onto the sidewalk and up to the mart, franticly scanning the window ledges along the west face for a sign of silver colored pennies. As we searched more racers showed up until someone noticed them on a higher ledge. Matt grabbed one for me which I snagged as I shot north to go down Chicago to hit the next stop which intersected with Broadway. This was the only stop I was unsure of as the cross street was unfamiliar to me.

The cross street is Menomonee and it is the street that exists for about 2 blocks and is near the southern terminus of Broadway…right in front of a small park. I flew through the park, not even finding a street sign for Menomonee, thinking it was the name of the street on the other side of the park. Dan was following and when we go to the other side and I didn’t see it I said to hell with searching and kept going. I pushed forward across the river and onto the southern leg of Water Street for the next stop. At this point I lost Dan I believe but still had 2 racers following me. I put my head down and pounded down the desolate industrial area south of the 3rd Ward.

I almost missed the next stop at 700 S. Water and came back around to mentally note the answer, before pulling out to National. As I circled around one of the racers following wondered what I was doing, saying the stop was right there. I didn’t answer and shot off towards the next stop. I took National to Barclay as the next stop was Barclay and Greenfield. As I approached Greenfield 1 of the racers had caught up with me. I also noticed that the answer was on the other side of the street and needed to take 1st to get to it. I quickly swung west then rode against traffic southbound to Greenfield and to the stop. As I approached the intersection I could spot the answer and added this one to my mental list. I did a u-turn and headed back to 1st and on my back north to the next stop.

At this point I realized I needed to write an answer down as I was beginning to jump up the first one in the queue. I jotted down the last stop as I rode down 1st, which was easy to do since it was just a number. Then I continued to go over the other answer making sure I remembered it correctly. As I neared the 5th stop a group of about half of the racers were headed south to the Greenfield location. Among them was Matt and he shouted something out to me about the stop I missed but that was all I could decipher. A few seconds later I pulled into the parking lot of the large gas station next to the HQ of American Taxi and started to scan for the answer.

As I did the two racers who were following me since the 3rd ward arrived as well and I realized it was my buddy Flynn’s rookie named Devon and a cat from Minneapolis. As Devon got closer I asked him to reconfirm the answer for the stop on Water Street and jotted it down finally. We all tried to scan for the answer to the question; I circled around the other side of the store to make sure I didn’t get the wrong one. As I came back around the other 2 guys had started to head north again. I came back around and had to get right up to the window to find the answer and as I did they came back. I shouted out the answer to them and asked if anyone had gotten the one I missed. I noted that down and took off to the next stop.

From there I took of west through the parking lot to 2nd street and realized with horror it was under construction, selective memory I guess. I turned off of the street as soon as I could which ended up being Virginia which worked out perfectly due to the road having fresh blacktop, being essentially dead and dropping us off directly at the 6th street roundabout. We flew up the bridge to the viaduct and slowed down as we approached Canal. The question called for 133 S 6th street. The guy from Mpls mentioned something about people saying it was Harley, but I knew it couldn’t be if the manifest was correct because Harley would be an even number. We went back and forth scanning the two grain warehouses on the west side of the street for anything. I ended up heading back to Virginia to check on the address for the building that used to house Il Mito, wondering if it wasn’t one of the buildings off of the road and along the river in that area. I went back north and another racer showed up to help in the search. Everyone decided it had to have been the ad council based on all the ads in the bus stop but I held off on deciding. We shot north on 6th, up the viaduct and into downtown on our way to the east side.

The 4th racer pulled off on Michigan and I lead the other 2 guys to Wells. We hung a left and took that all the way to Water where we used a break in traffic to head north on a red light. At Kilbourn we shot east again and started zig-zagging north and east once we crossed Van Buren. We salmoned up Franklin for a block passing by one of the stops, the Shell station on Farwell. As we passed I shouted to the others following me that we would hit that stop on the way back downtown. We headed up 2 more blocks to the next stop and I mounted the curb, scanning the building and taking a mental note of the answer then off north to Brady Street.

I pulled onto the sidewalk just before Brady and was a bit shocked as I turned the corner to see the large group of racers gathered in front of the next stop. We all tried to get the answer and many of them were telling us it was 3. I was in doubt and scanned as closely as I could. I was kicking my self for wasting so much time at 6th street that the mass majority of the riders were putting my podium placement in jeopardy. They all took of and I continued to scan for the answer, trying not to get close to the dumpster that hid the answer as it reeked of garbage. I finally found it and called it out. The 4th rider who met up with us at 6th shot off like a rocked back towards were we came to get his last answer and we rounded out to Farwell to get our last one. I pushed as hard as I could down the street, slowing down as I neared the gas station and spotted the answer. The question related to which of the 2 Blues Brothers was on the left side. They had statues of them sitting there.

For the life of me I couldn’t remember the characters names…at least Belushi’s. I thought Aykroyds was Elway but that was throwing me off. We all kind of agreed as we rolled south on Farwell that it was probably John. At this point I wasn’t confident in my placing, all I was trying to do was not be DFL. I had 1 answer that was questionable, 1 I didn’t verify and 1 I didn’t even have an answer for. Over half of the racers were ahead of me and I was worn out. As we crossed Mason on a red, cars angrily honked at us and I smiled as I pulled into the left lane and tucked into the corner for Wisconsin, I hung left at the next street then right onto Michigan, pounding as hard as my worn out legs could go. At about Jackson Devon pulled ahead of me and I feared he would overcome me but as he pulled off to get around a block or so later he lost time and I shot past him and onto the crowded sidewalk in front of the door.

Everyone was surrounding Jake, who was on the ground trying to organize everything. In a last ditch effort I wrote down Harley on the manifest for the missed 6th street question and left it all to fate. A minute later Jake announced that the 6th street question was being nullified as it should have been 1333, instead of 133. I quickly sent texts to Matt and Dan to let them know as they were not back yet. A few minutes later they showed up and we went inside to beer up. Jake came in as well to begin going through the race results and questioned my answer for the blues brother’s question. I explained my reasoning that I was sticking with John because it was Belushi’s first name, that’s when it was pointed out to me that Aykroyds characters name was Elwood, Jake and Elwood…it instantly came back to me. Oh well, tough luck. Apparently you could have scanned the statues knuckles for aftermarket tattoos to match their name tattoos in the movie. Jake said he would deduct ½ point from my total and I was fine with that. I went out side to drink and converse feeling confident I ended up hitting the podium after all, convinced the mob had at least 1 wrong answer while I had ½ of a wrong answer. I was pretty sure Steve, who was the 4th from the bridge, had taken first.

We stood around waiting a little longer for the last racer to come back, a diminutive messenger with STS (or what it is now). When she got back she instantly threw her helmet to the ground and shouted that she was only 5 fucking feet and that Jake was a bastard for putting a penny up on a ledge she would never be able to reach. She ended up finding one on the ground anyways, but it was one of the funniest moments in race history. Soon after the winners were announced and too my surprise my name was called off first, so I figured at first it was 3rd place. But when he handed me a wad of cash and told me to go talk to the rep for Bern helmets, which had stopped by unexpectedly, to get a new free helmet I knew I truly had won.

Now it was time to plan the October race…I still have a few ideas to incorporate but this one might be a little more simplistic than past ones, no multiple manifests…or maybe I will. For me the next race I have to look forward to is the Cuttin’ Crew Classic in Chicago, which I am extremely stocked for, even if I am out of form. It’s going to be a great time and my liver is already building up a hatred for me thinking about the after party…the Messenger Prom.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MKE Polo Fundraiser

This Saturday, February 20th, will feature a Poker Run fundraiser for the legally embattled Milwaukee Bike Polo team. The event kicks off around 2pm at the Roman Coin on Brady Street. Details can be found on their website and on the flier below.

You don't have to ride a bike to participate, as the club didn't want to exclude non-winter bikers who want to help them out with their legal battle and in securing a winter practice location. If you need any questions answered shoot them an email at

Stupor Bowl XIII

After five or so hours of driving to Minneapolis with Matt, Dan from polo and Nicole from racing in Milwaukee, we finally arrived to take part in my first alley cat in a city I had never been in before. We dropped Nicole off with a friend of hers and on the way to drop Dan off at one of the Minneapolis polo players’ house, tried to find him some water proof socks and some dinner.

After snow the day before the streets were messes, to say the least. Everything was coated in a fine slush with curbs and driveways drowning in mini lakes. We knew we were in store for a rough ride. On top of the extremely wet conditions the roads themselves were dangerous. Right off of the freeway we got a sample of the horrific road conditions through out Minneapolis, pot holes everywhere. Large gaping pits of tire trashing despair, some hidden in deep pools of water, waiting to destroy your spirit and body.

After no luck with water resistant socks we hit up an over priced but tasty gyro joint and realized that people in Milwaukee are so fat because the portions are so huge and soaked with grease. Oakland Gyro’s looks like garbage compared to the gyro we had at Falafel King. From there we headed out to Sven’s house, which Dan was crashing at. After a beer and some whiskey we took off to visit the Minneapolis branch of the Nomad World Pub to pre register. We paid our $15 entrance fee, received the manifest, t-shirt, spoke card and where all set. After listening to part of the opening bands interesting performance Matt and I headed off to the deep suburbs to spend the night at his parents’ house to keep drinking and eating.

Race morning was rough for me due to the amount of food and booze consumed Friday night, but once we got the car set and got back into the city I was feeling a little better. We met up with Sven, Matt and a few other racers from Milwaukee at a very punk rock bar/restaurant named Triple Rock for some pre race fuel. My stomach was still turning by this point and I was only able to eat half of my oatmeal.

From the Triple Rock we all headed to One on One for the start of the race. Once there I unsuccessfully searched out some of the Chicago people I had met in Tokyo. I tried to stay in the shop as long as possible to get my feet to warm up and by the time they felt good it was time to take off to the secret start location. The mile or so ride from the shop to the start was interesting as a flood of cyclists dominated large swaths of Washington Avenue.

The start location was on top of a snow covered hill in a small park. We climbed to the top and waited and waited to be given the first of 2 secret locations not listed on the manifest. Due to standing around in the snow my feet started to freeze again. The race was called and everyone flung themselves down the hill to their bikes at its base. Matt and I had our planned course and we snagged ours in the middle of the wave and ran out to the closest street. We shot south west with a large group of people but headed northwest once we hit Washington while everyone else headed southwest. As we barreled down the pot hole strewn street Matt wondered if that was a bad sign that everyone else had gone the other direction.

We took a left onto 2nd right next to the notorious Sex World porn store (which is also right next door to One on One) and headed southwest. We got stalled on 7th Street by a train (which is a new experience in racing for me) and continued on to the first stop. As we neared it we began searching for the cross road, I wasn’t sure which one we were looking for and based on the rough Google maps we had we knew it was near by. We circled around the back of the stop and approached it from the long way which meant we had to navigate a street covered with 3 inches of ice that had its own potholes on top of the pot holes in the actual asphalt. The Chicago Cuttin Crews’ bus proved as a drunken beacon of hope and confirmed we found the stop. We ran up to the house and around the side to an open window manned by two women who stamped out manifests and told us we where the first ones to get there…not bad.

We took off and headed points north, back tracking towards the warehouse district then north to the next stop, a bar on the near north side that has become a blur of unknown streets and constant fear of road hazards.

At the bar we free locked our bikes outside and ran in to get stamped. Once there the people at the table asked us if we were doing the drunk race or the speed race, our response of speed got a groan and some jovial harassment, this was the start of a continual trend through out the race. On the way out the door I asked Matt what our next stop was, street wise, and we took off. We had to back track half a block and stuck to the sidewalk, which was ice/snow covered and I made the foolish mistake of following Matt through an alley shortcut, as Matt was running 28c tires I still had my 23c racing slicks on. On the other side of the street I hopped off my bike and ran it across, through the waiting traffic and over the snow covered median, once on the other side I hopped back on and cruised after Matt.

We hit the next bar and got our speed stamps then it was on to the 4th stop. I was starting to get into the groove and my heart rate was starting to mellow out. At each stop I would ask Matt what the next couple of streets were that we had to hit and we would take off, usually with me in the lead. As we rolled I would shout back at him for additional directions or to double check. We rolled into one north side stop which was a café/bike store possibly bar as well called Behind Bars that had us plowing through an ice and water covered driveway to navigate a few hundred feet down a hardened ice drive. From there it was onto another bar, this one was pretty crowded with racers and when we took off some of them asked us where we were headed next and where we where from.

We took off and pounded a few miles towards the University on the northeast side of town. We hit one stop at a mid to upper class dinner bar, getting some odd looks from the well dressed patrons and ended up circling back up the other side of University avenue to a bike store for our next stop. From there we headed back downtown to Washington Ave and hit up a bar called Palmers which was right across the street from the Nomad.

Inside of Palmers I realized with horror that my manifest was missing and the best bet was that it was laying on the floor in the bike shop we had come from, a mile or so away. I searched everywhere and when Matt got his stamped we headed outside with the possibility of having to retrace out steps to the shop. I checked everything one last time only to find it in my right pocket instead of my cargo pocket, hidden among some other paperwork. I ran back inside, smiling and told the woman stamping that I ended up finding it.

With overwhelming relief we ran across the street to the Nomad to get stamped. On the way in a group of drunk racers cheered us on and shouted with joy about my Pentabike hoodie. We came back out and I ran to our bikes while Matt got stalled by traffic and started a talking with the drunk cheering squad. The guy who liked my hoodie told us a quick way to get to the next stop, the secret stop, a coffee a few miles south of us called Minnehaha Coffee or something.

Matt came back and told us what to do; we were going to catch the nearby bike trail called the LTR and take that to Minnehaha Street. I was a bit leery of the trail, as the streets weren’t even all that well plowed. We took it anyways and gritted through the inch or so of hard compacted snow littering it, running along the light rail line. It was bizarre having a commuter train run along side of you, just a few feet away, separated by a chain link fence. Before the train got near I noticed a high pitched ringing coming from the rail which also was audible a while after the train had passed, just one of many hyper sensitive moments during the race.

Half way down the path we came to an intersection and noticed a crossway with a group of cyclists stopped, we paused for a second to try and figure out if we where going the right way and secretly I feared that the cyclists were at the second secret stop. We kept going and a few minutes later we found our exit and proceeded to pound down the street to our destinations. We rolled on for at least 10 minutes, my feet were by know well frozen, I pushed through it just trying to make it to the next stop. Once there I had to pull into a water drenched driveway that hid how deep it really was, once on the stops parking lot I stopped to warn Matt of how deep the water was. It wasn’t deep enough to run your chain through but it was deep enough to surprise you. We parked and headed into the quant establishment to find the checkpoint manned by what I assumed were the married couple who ran the place. They gave us our 2nd secret stop and some general directs of its location when they found out we were from out of town. We thanked them for the help and headed east into St. Paul to hit the stop.

For the most part Minneapolis is pretty flat but the stretch of road to the 2nd secret stop located near the Ford plant in St. Paul had a few hills that sapped our energy. This stop was another fancier than expected location and again the casual diners gawked at the crazy/drunk/dirty cyclists in their midst. We got heckled again for not doing the drunk race, got our stamp and headed back to Minneapolis with 4 other racers. Matt commented to one of them that we had a mini peloton going and I used the speed of the other racers to push myself further. They broke off as we hit the 1st secret stop again, we continued to head west on 46th and they headed north on Minnehaha.

Our next stop was a place called Angry Catfish, as I pulled onto the sidewalk and free locked my bike a small group of older road racers/weekend warriors commented audibly that you could only go in the shop then if you had a track bike. I smirked and headed inside to get my stamp. We headed back out quickly, chatted briefly with 2 other racers, finding out where they were headed (the opposite way we where) and took off to our furthest southern stop.

After zigging and zagging around the deep south side of town we ended up at a dive bar named Adrian’s. By this point I couldn’t take the numbness of my feet any longer. Outside of the bar I undid my shoes, took off the outer wool sock and attached my toe warmers to the underside of my neoprene socks. I hoped to at least warm them up a bit for fear of seriously damaging my feet. I was out of my mind to say the least at this point and when Matt commented on an approaching riders joke I didn’t get it right away, mostly due to not being aware of the name of the bar we were leaving from.

We took off, to hit the last of our stops and to head back to downtown. We backtracked up Chicago Ave South and made our way to Lake Street. The trip was long, probably one of the longest stretches of the race and we met with a few energy sapping hill climbs that would have been easy under normal circumstances. Both of us had drained all of our resources at this point and could only keep eating energy gels and sharing my bottle of Heed to make sure we didn’t completely bonk. This race is brutal for more reasons than the cold, but the cold enhances it.

We hit increasingly congested traffic on Lake Street to reach the stop on a frozen over lagoon. We ended up having to walk the bikes towards the lagoon, dumped them in the snow and crossed the ice towards a group of people around a fire. When they saw our condition they offered us to warm up by the fire and to give up toe and hand warmers, we declined, wanting to finish the race and grabbed our bikes from the snow bank.

We headed back east on Lake and navigated up to our next stop which was the residentially based Trash Bags headquarters. We got stamped and thanked them for their support of the race. As we were about to take off from there Matt realized we had missed a stop a few blocks back on Lake, at which we retraced our steps and made with minimal waste of time.

Once done with the missed stop we shot up Lyndale to stops at bars called CC Club and Red Dragon. At one of them we ended up running into Nicole and her friend who wished us luck and rooted us on as we were close to finishing up. At Red Dragon we tagged along with 3 other racers, one of which lived in Riverwest for some time, as we all screamed into downtown. Being with a group of what seemed like fresh riders kicked me into gear and I followed closely behind the first guy as we cut through the parking lot of traffic that clogged Hennepin. I was blown away by the amount of traffic on a Saturday afternoon and was even more amazed when we crossed over a stretch of freeway that looked like it should have been 5pm on a Friday before a long holiday weekend.

We rode between the lanes and sometimes had to take the center lane as traffic compacted in tight, everyone trying to squeeze closer to their destination. It’s incredibly invigorating to ride in conditions were the cars are virtually at a stand still and you flow through them, sometimes less then smoothly. Because of the lack of heavy congestion on Milwaukee’s city streets I rarely get the opportunity to ride let alone race in these conditions and greatly enjoyed myself.

After running the gauntlet we came to out last stop at a bar called Mackenzie. Myself and the lead guy almost missed it but were called back about a half block after over shooting it by Matt yelling at us. We ran in, got our stamps and the other 3 riders talked about being lucky to get stamped after the 5pm cut off time. Time was out apparently but we wanted to finish so we parted ways with the other 3 as they hit a few stops they missed and we headed to the end point.

At the end point, the 501 Club, we came across a sea of parked bikes. Sven ended up finding us right away and told us he would watch the bikes so we could go hand in our manifest, he told us to tell them we were from our of town and to take the manifests even though it was past 5. We ran in and searched out the manifest takers in a sea of celebrating cyclists. We found them, handed in, Matt first of course and got awarded somewhere in the upper 30’s for the speed race, 37 or 38 or so. We were done…thank god.

We headed back out to the bikes to find a place to lock up and were greeted by two interesting scenes. One was of a guy who looked exactly like he was racing asking what was going on, at first we thought he was joking and told him a bike race. Then we noticed the blank reaction and a sense of animal fear in his eyes and he stated he needed a place to lock his bike up so he could go to his yoga class.

The next event was shortly afterward and a guy came to a stop with his bike and shouted at us if he won, Matt told him he did, at which point he began to celebrate and them took a head dive into the newspaper box and proceeded to lay in the street in front of on coming traffic. Gotta love the drunk race!!

We headed in to warm up and get sustenance. I was in no mood for beer and sipped my tall boy while putting down the water. We eventually thawed and I ran into some people I was hoping to run into. We watched the award ceremony at which point the crowd got pretty crazy. The guy from Philly who took Stupor Champ was doused with beer from the Chicago contingency after he started celebrating the first Female Stupor. Once it was his time to get his winnings he was heave-ho’d onto the stage which he dove off of when it was all said and done to a mostly unsuspecting crowd.

After the awards were given out we returned to our collective table and commented on how early it was an all of us felt like it was so late. We all gathered ourselves up and made our way back to Sven’s house for some relaxing and relative quiet.

The next morning we parted Minneapolis after an awesome breakfast of a brat with bacon and eggs wrapped in a pancake at an awesome and affordable dive restaurant called The Wienery. We thanked Sven for the hospitality and headed off for Milwaukee to resume our normal lives


Stupor Bowl was an entertaining and grueling experience. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been. It wasn’t nearly as cold as the planners probably hoped it would be. A funny factoid I discovered about this long running race is that it has never snowed on the day of the race, which seemed pretty remarkable as this years race was bookended by two storms, one light and the other pretty big. I was pretty happy with my placement given the fact I had no idea were I was going. If I choose to venture to the Twin Cities again for this brutal race I will probably do it for fun instead of competition, hit some of the stops and party more than anything. The people there were a blast to hang out with and the bike culture in Minnesota is inspiring to say the least. But in the end I raced Stupor Bowl 13, hit all the stops and got a relatively good placement and all I ended up with were a crappy t-shirt and nerve damage in my big toe from frost bite.

Thanks Minneapolis, it was special…just not sure how.

(Matt and I going over the route before the start of the race)

Go here for more Stupor Bowl XIII photos.

Warmer Days

While in Tokyo last September I met an ex-messenger current freelance photographer from Canada by the name of Jerome Abramovitch. We got lost together trying to find the opening party, while doing so Jerome took some shots of me riding. Here is an image he sent me from that night. Thanks to Jerome and the excellent work he does. To see more of what he does check out his companies website at Chapter 9 Photography.

Ah, the weather was warm and balmy during that race. How I miss being able to ride in just a t-shirt...soon, soon...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mayhem, Stairs and High Life

After spending a jam packed weekend between the shop and 2 related bar adventures I’m actually happy to not have anything planned for the next 2 weeks. Ahh…relaxation. The weekend was semi fruitful as I was able to connect with a few people, some old and some new and make some hopefully important connections for the future of my racing. Saturday this past weekend was the first Midwestern and possibly national major fixed gear trick riding competition titled, Midwest Mayhem.

The event started off at an old place of employment, Hi Hat lounge were they screened a premier for a new and highly anticipated fixed gear film, Revival. Before everyone headed 15 or so miles west I decided to cal it a night and went home in the fog…which would have been an adventure without the beer I had consumed earlier. From what I gathered the event was epic and unprecedented, with out of town people giving the local planners serious respect for the planning and executing of everything. Something tells me that this might lead to something even larger in the national scene.

Now, I’m not a trick rider, I don’t want to be a trick rider. I just want to be able to track stand long enough at a red light to keep from having to unclip, but I do enjoy watching trick riding and have respect for what these people can do, it’s pretty unbelievable. Instead I focus almost exclusively on racing. With Stupor Bowl less than 2 weeks away I have been working my muscled into a nice gelatinous substance leading up to the event by increasing the gearing on my bike from a 48x15 to a 49x14. Not much compared to a friend from track racing who is currently running something like a 54x13 or so, but it’s still a big gear to be pushing up and down the hills I hit. Once it’s time to head to the Twin Cities I will drop it back to the 15 which should feel like butter at that point.

In a round about way this weekend also sealed an idea I was kicking around last week, to participate in a stair climbing race for charity. On Saturday March 20th the American Lung Association with be putting on it’s annual Fight For Air Climb in which participants race up the stairwells of the US Bank building in downtown Milwaukee, 47 floors, 1034 steps. Part of my registration is to raise a minimum of $100 for the American Lung Association. So once again I send out the call of help from friends and family to help me raise some money for the ALA and make me run up 47 flights of stairs. Now you may be thinking, what the hell is he doing running stairs, he hates running, let alone walking and would prefer to actually just bike everywhere he goes. Running stairs use much of the same muscles a pushing a gear, so it’s all good! I see this as crazy cross training at its best. I first heard about this event last year but was too late and too lazy to participate, this year is a different story.

If anyone wants to help donate to the charity on my behalf for registering for the event let me know. I will post more info soon to how to donate as I might be able to get some sort of deposit account set up for this through the organization for direct transfer.

I was worried that I might have to pass on this event as March 20th seemed like the most likely date for this year's MMI. Friday I asked a few people if there had been a date set, then Sunday night I took a peek at Cog’s site for the hell of it and spotted the rad logo for this years race posted by Kevin. I had heard about the logo when asking around about the date, but it exceeds what I had imagined what it looked like. The logo clearly states that this year’s race will be taking place in the warmer and cleaner (hopefully) month of April this year. Now I can participate in climbing stairs until I puke and this also buys some more time to unveil something special that should be done by then. That’s it for this unusual type of post and there will be something in about 2 weeks recapping Stupor Bowl XIII.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Friday Alley Cat - January 10

January’s First Friday found me planning it due to my win in December due to a small field of participants. I was not hopeful for a large race this time around especially after the couple of inches of snow fall the day before.

Leading up to the race I took about an hour riding around downtown putting a sticker with a number on 25 different bike poles for the race. I arrived at The Door to find it unusually busy, there was some companies holiday party happening at the same time. I pulled up a stool at the crowded bar next to Matt and Steven and began to drink.

The race was based on a bingo card that I had made up for the racers. The card listed all the numbers in the squares and it was up to the racers to ride around a concentrated area of downtown and find the numbered stickers. Once a sticker was found the racer had to jot down the associated street address on the manifest. The person with the most bingos/points wins. Pretty easy, but took a whole lot of pre-planning and will not be in my top list of alley cats to run again. I wanted an easy race for a change as the past few months of races have included some semi long treks. It also played in favor with the winter weather we had experienced.

Soon the time to start drew near and Matt, Capt Jake and a brand new racer were all that there was. After explaining the rules to them I let the go for an hour worth of rummaging through the winter mess while I sat and enjoyed beer and eventually shots. A few messengers I hadn’t seen in a while showed up and conversations began. After a while Capt. Jake came back and needed a pen as he had lost his. He headed back out into the cold after some jeers. The new racer showed up 15 minutes early and I told him to get back out there and find more.

After another 15 minutes they all arrived at close to the same time and I went through and tallied up the points. No one had received a bingo so it was strictly points based. Each square was worth a certain number of points and that was determined by how far I had placed them from the bar. In the end Matt had won but since both of us would not be in town for the next race we left it up to the new guy, who took second to plan the race. I fear that no one will show up for that as lately Matt or my self have been 1 of 3 racers…but time will tell.

Instead of racing for February’s First Friday, somehow I seem to miss or come close to missing the races in February, Matt and I will be in Minneapolis for the 13th annual installment of Stupor Bowl.

For those that are unaware, Stupor Bowl is one of the longest running alley cats in the country and is slated to be the toughest. Always set for the weekend of the Super Bowl it finds it’s self in the middle of the Twin Cities hellish winter. Last years race brought in around 400 people! The majority of the past races have been single digit or sub zero temperature affairs and from what I have heard if the temperature is above 0 the planners get irate due to the slack mother nature allows the participants.

This will be my first time doing this race and the first in a list of larger messenger races in different cities. It will also be my first time in Minnesota so I expect poor results. I plan on following people who know the city better than I do to at least give me the chance to complete it with in the time frame. Stupor Bowl is notorious for it’s name sake. Along with the usual fastest male/female/messenger/non-messenger/out of towner/etc, they also have a second race that takes place at the same time whose goal is to crown the Stupor Champ. The Stupor Champ is the person who hits all of the designated stops and has at least 1 drink at each, the drunkest racer to finish with in the time limit wins. From the photos I have seen of past Stupor Champs I am not even close to being able to attempt this stunt. Some of these people are professionals in both drinking and biking and they are so loaded they can barely stand. Fun times abound!!

My excitement for the race is building as it nears and it will be both and adventure and a lesson in my abilities. Luckily Matt’s parents live in a suburb west of downtown that we can stay with so the trip should be minimal in the way of expenses, and Matt has some knowledge of the city. Soon I’ll have a understanding of it too, in the meantime I’m studying the map of downtown to try to get it under control. Sub-zero Minnesota insanity…here I come.

Here is a post I lifted off of a current thread for this months race to help shed some light on the insanity of it all; “Last year was my first year for this race. I didn't drink the entire race but some how managed to get plastered at the after party. Long story short, woke up the next day with the previous night's dinner on my face and all over my friend's closet.”

I can’t wait!! for images from last years race.