Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Escape from Granogue

Granogue mountain bike race
Sunday, May 20, 2007

I’m a bike rider, not really a bike racer. I got into bike racing too late to really be any good at it. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy racing. I’m competitive and I like to push myself. Racing is a good way to do that.

I try to be a bike racer during ‘cross season, but other than that I just like riding my bike. Most of the time I’m riding my mountain bike. And for quite a while now the bike of choice has been my singlespeed.

I did my one XC mountain bike race for the year on Sunday at Granogue. I chose this race for a few reasons:

1. The Granogue Estate is a magnificent place for a bike race.
2. fatMarc & the DCCofD have a big role in promoting the race. That automatically qualifies it as a top-notch event.
3. The timing fit my schedule...or maybe I made it fit my schedule because of reasons 1 & 2.

The course was a tough one with a lot of climbing and a lot of tricky singletrack. Slick mud and rocks were also also in abundance. The difficult nature of the race made it a test of fitness and bike handling...specifically, bike handling while cross-eyed and swallowing back vomit.

I raced the Sport Singlespeed class running a 32x20 gear on a 29er. That's the gear I ride so that's the gear I would race. Plus, it's the only gear I've got.

I arrived early, took care of registration business, and got on my bike to do a thorough warm-up. Immediately both of my pedals were doing bad things. The pedal bodies sliding off of the spindles, a not ucommon occurence with Crank Brothers Candy pedals after about 6 months of riding. This would not be a good course on which to have just a skinny metal spindle for a pedal. Come to think of it NO course would be good for this!

Fellow killer B 'cross comrade Rob Campbell tried to come to my rescue. He attempted to rebuild the pedals on the spot, but they were toast.

I was freaking out. Luckily Tom McDaniel saved my day by letting me borrow the Egg Beaters off of his Moots. Now I had pedals, but only 10 minutes to warm-up.

I did the short opening climb a couple of times and that was my warm-up. I was just happy to have unbroken pedals so I didn't care.

At the start I thought I was going fast since I was spinning out my gear, but within 10 seconds I went from the front to the back. I was undergeared and/or underlegged for the start.As we made the turn onto the grass Fort James saw me at the back and yelled at me to move up!

I picked off a bunch of guys on the opening climb and then used my larger size to get by a few more skinny guys on the ensuing downhill.

Once onto the singletrack I had to jam on the brakes as many of the riders in front of me had trouble staying on their bikes. The trail was tight and moderately technical. It made for a logjam.

The rest of the first lap I would ride hard for a while and then have to sit behind slower riders on the tight singletrack sections. This was really frustrating, but in a way it was ok because it gave me time to recover. Eventually the traffic thinned out and I was able to ride relatively smoothly the rest of the race.

The front guys had gotten away cleanly during the initial singletrack logjam but I managed to work my way up to finish 5th, my first podium in an cross-country mountain bike race.

My bike was a joy to ride. The 29er wheels soaked up the bumps and tracked amazingly well on the off-camber slippery bits.

I felt ok all race...I never felt great, but never felt terrible either. I'm really happy with how the race went considering that the lack of racing in my legs.

The only bummer for me is that I missed the Beer stop. In my oxygen-deprived condition I never saw it.

All in all it was a fun day at the best bike racing venue on the East Coast.

Sport Singlespeed Podium
photo courtesy of Bill Deputy at

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The watchful hosemaster

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom

I made it home from the race (more on that later) at 1:45 and spent the afternoon working (playing) in the yard.

The working part was mulching and watering trees. Mr. T is big into fire engines so he got to play the part of fireman working the hose. We both got pretty wet, but the trees received plenty of much needed water.

After the yardwork we kicked back and played in the sandbox.Sitting in the shade shoveling sand was relaxing and much appreciated by my tired legs.

By 5:30 we were all hungry and I was craving nachos. I poured a beer and fired up the grill.
Shortly thereafter we were sitting at the table on the deck eating BBQ Chicken nachos with fresh corn on the cob. Guacamole and BBQ sauce...mmmm. A second beer had me feeling nice. The two-beer buzz is a wonderful thing.

After a full day of non-stop activity sleep came easily.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Originally uploadd by cbnystrom.
Here's a photo from the ride home. I dropped down into Patapsco State Park and rode the paved Grist Mill bike path before climbing back out of the valley via Bonnie Branch and Beechwood.

Part of my 'interview' made the TV. It's here.

The reporter posted a web story that refers to me as a biker. I'm cool with that.

It looks like I'm doing Granogue this weekend. I've been wanting to race my mtb there for a while. I'll be riding my singlespeed, but I'm trying to decide whether to race my age group (35-39) or the SS class.
I've done very few XC mtb races so I'm not sure what to do and I don't have great expectations either way. I do expect to have fun.

Bike To Work Day 2007

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
My semi-regular bike commuting season kicked off today with Bike To Work Day. My commute from Ellicott City into downtown Baltimore is about 14 miles each way.

My place of employment is not too supportive of bike commuting or anything not related to the bottom line. In the photo you can see the one and only bike rack for our 35 story building. There's probably one bike rack spot for every 200+ people in the building. Gee. Plus, we're business dress (suit & tie) Monday through Thursday most of the year. They act like they're doing you some huge favor when they announce business casual dress from Memorial Day to Labor Day...and threaten to take it away if somebody's slacks aren't pressed. Give me a fucking break.

Anyway, the ride in was awesome. I've been off the bike all week so the initial climb out of the Patapsco River valley was painful. After a bit the legs opened up and felt pretty good.

After hauling ass through the muy sketchy west side of downtown I rolled up to city hall for the bike to work day rally. Free t-shirts, tasty Caribou coffee, and pastries from Whole Foods were in full effect. We heard several speakers discuss bicycle transportation advocacy. It's really cool to see so many people committed and working hard to have an effect on our car-centric public policy. Between the speakers and the coffee I was fired up.

Paul K. (from the Wed. SS rides) and I were interviewed by channel 13. The reporter was pretty excited about the whole ride-your-bike-to-work concept and asked us why we did it. I forgot to mention the beer angle. darn.

Now I'm at work hoping that my ride home is not in the rain.



Sunday, May 13, 2007

Afternoon at the creek

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
What's not to love about playing by the creek on a gorgeous afternoon?

Wading in the water

Throwing rocks

Digging in the sand

Getting dirty

Breathing fresh air

Unplugged (except for mobile phone to snap photos)


This was followed up by grilling out, dinner on the deck, and a couple of tasty Raison d'Etre's from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

To quote Melanie, "I wish every Mother's Day could be like this."

Happy Mother's Day

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
We had a fantastic Mother's Day babysitter ride. With the sun shining and the temperature around 70 conditions were perfect.

Here's Melanie riding up one of the tunnel climbs (Soapstone I think).

This afternoon we're headed into the park for a picnic and some fun playing in the creek.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Mulch

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
Thursday evening my trusty assistant/protege/#1 son (seen here atop ever shrinking Mt. Mulch) and I rolled up our sleeves and shoveled more much.

Wednesday was another babysitter ride on dry and dusty trails. After all of the twists and turns at Lodi many of the Avalon trails seemed interminably straight.

I was thinking that some re-routes to crease the singletrack would slow things down and up the savoriness of some already stellar dirt.

Something else I continue to notice is that there are a lot of riders that are either certified assholes or just unfriendly.
I've had more people bomb down a trail without slowing or yielding an inch when I'm riding in the other direction. If I don't pull of the trail completely we will collide and end up bloodied.

In a similar vein there seem to be more people that will not respond in any way to a friendly greeting. WTF? I can see not acknowledging the stranger that approaches you on the sidewalk downtown, but we're both out on mountain bikes in the woods. We're like minded freaks, right?

It's not all bad. I'm still meeting plenty of kind folks out on the trails. I just worry that as a community we're losing our sense of tribe, our esprit de corps.

I suggest more post-ride beers.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

12 Hours of Lodi Farm

Since last year's race I've had the 12 Hours of Lodi Farm on my radar, but it wasn't until a few days before the event that I decided to race this year. I lucked into a couple of super teammates (Chris Perkins and Ricky deLeyos) that had also been on the fence about racing.

As a team we got along great and ran a smooth race. What makes for a good team performance in an endurance race?

*Solid and consistent lap times
*Seamless transitions
*Positive attitudes
*No mechanical or light issues

Check. That pretty much sums up our performance. And we had a lot of fun.

We finished 2nd in the 3-person Singlespeed class. The winners, a bunch of Spot Brand Whores, were on another level. Nobody else was close. fatMarc, Bob, & Matt are not only fast, they're great guys. Though Marc did give me a merciless beatdown going up the first climb sometime Sunday morning. 8-) There's no shame in losing to them. To quote the inimitable Walter Sobchak, "...worthy fuckin' adversary."

Behind them there was a tight battle all race long for 2nd, 3rd, & 4th place. We were camped with our buddies Jonathan, Trevor, and Bob from the Family Bike Shop team and Gwadzilla's team was also nearby. We kept close tabs on each other and engaged in some friendly bantering throughout the race. We were the beneficiary of some light and transition issues that those guys experienced, but that's part of endurance racing.

In any event, it was a good battle that had all of us riding hard from start to finish...and that really made things fun. In the end we all sat down to drink a beer and toast a good race.

Here are some random thoughts from the race:

Slips & negative splits
The rain made the first few laps slippery, but the course firmed up and dried out very quickly. In fact, lap times kept getting faster, even as the legs got more tired.

Bonehead deadhead
I forgot my helmet at home, but Trevor came through with an old school lid sporting a steal-your-face sticker. Thanks Trevor!

Field party
On the first part of the course there was redneck field party, complete with pick-up truck, trans am (camaro?), bonfire, classic rock, and a dog. I was chased by the dog on my first two laps as the revelers laughed their asses off. It was all in good fun. By the time of my sunrise lap the fire was smouldering, people were passed out in the cars, and the ground was littered with beer cans.

A moment of clarity
Hyperion Espresso provided coffee for the event and it was good. After the sunrise lap I was cold and my stomach was funky. I grabbed a cup of hot coffee, a roll of TP, and a few Cottonelle wipes and headed for the port-o-john. After building a cushiony nest on the seat I relaxed, worked out my stomach issues, and drank my coffee. When I opened the door the sun was shining and I had a bright new outlook!

I love my bike!
This race reinforced my enthusiasm for riding a singlespeed. I felt much faster with 1 gear than I did with 27 last year. There was nothing to think about but turning the pedals and driving the bike. The 29er wheels rolled over all the roots like a full suspension rig. The WTB ExiWolf 2.3 tires had no problem with the mud or slick roots. I just felt a seamless connection between me, the bike, and the trails.

The Vibe
The atmosphere at Lodi is just the right mix of competitive racing and fun. People are friendly and supportive. It just seems like everyone is on the same vibe. A big contingent of friends from the DCCofD were there kicking ass. They even had the trailer & Tom McDaniel running support. That crew is all about ~community~ and RIDING REALLY FRIGGIN FAST. They do things right. Hat's off to the promoter and everyone in attendance for creating a temporary utopian mountain bike village in the middle of the Virginia woods.

And lastly a gratuitous self-photo so Mom can see me racing my bike.


Photo courtesy of Gary
Here is his gallery from the race.
And here is his blog.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
I took Monday off to recover from Lodi and have some quality family time. I didn't do much recovering, but I did have a wonderful family day.

I had a big load of mulch delivered in the driveway. My most excellent helper and I spend several hours shoveling, wheelbarrowing, and spreading it around the yard.

My upper body was already sore from muscling a singlespeed around the trails and after a day of yard work it's officially cooked.

After a day of playing in the dirt we all went out for some hard-earned mexican food. The kid gets his own order of guacamole...and he finishes it. That's my boy. 8-)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Camp Lodi

Originally uploaded by cbnystrom.
Here's our compound at Lodi. It was a ghetto set-up of EZ-Up's and tarps hooked up to cars.

This photo was taken from my phone around dinnertime on Saturday. I think it was still raining. I'll have a write-up posted soon.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Attack on Car Culture - WSJ

Wall Street Journal

In today's (fri. 5/4) WSJ there's a very cool piece titled "Building a Better Bike Lane - Bike-friendly cities in Europe are launching a new attack on car culture. Can the U.S. catch up?" by Nancy Keates. It's on the front page of the Weekend Journal section.

You have to be a subscriber to view it online, but if you can get your hands on a hard copy of the paper you should check it out. It's a big story with some nice photos and a couple of useful tables (one about bike-friendly cities in the U.S. and the other about where to buy Dutch-style bikes).

Check check check it ouuuuut!



Some stats at age 2
37.5 inches tall (95th percentile)
30 lbs. (75th percentile)

Thursday, May 03, 2007


On the bike riding front, this week was one of zen-like balance.

Fun vs. Suffering
Smiling vs. Drooling
Enjoying the scenery vs. Tunnel-vision

One adds to the appreciation of the other.
Too much of one leads to burnout.
All things in balance.

On Tuesday we lined up a babysitter allowing us to get out on the trails together.
We rode a casual pace, catching up and enjoying being out in the woods. Leaves and foliage that had only been hinted at on Sunday seemed to have busted out into full existence overnight.

We loosened up sore muscles and stretched the legs on a few of the climbs, but overall it was a relaxing, social ride. It's really nice to share that with the love of your life.

Leaving work on Wednesday I scrambled home in order to meet up with the Singlespeed Outlaw crew for their weekly ride. Traffic had me running late so I hammered from my driveway across the Park and over toward the Rolling Rd. trailhead, making it to the base of the entrance trail in under 30 minutes. I was winded from the effort so I rode slowly up the trail trying to recover before meeting up with the ride. I knew this ride was going to be fast so I was a bit nervous. Halfway up to the road I heard the sound of a train of riders bombing down the trail.

Sure enough, it was a band of singlespeeders out to rock the trails. I joined the group and did my best to hang on. The speed on the downhills had me pushing my limits. That was cool. I enjoy trying to follow and learn from riders that are on a different level. We zipped over to the HoCo side and headed up the steep water-bar climb. Joe and RickyD were putting the hurt on us! I was cross-eyed and trying to muscle my way up the trail.

Once up on the ridge we flew around the singletrack, railing turns and flowing with the trails. I was nose-to-stem and breathing hard trying to maintain the pace, but damn it was fun!

I peeled off from the group over by Landing Rd. in order to get home for dinner. I’m guessing the speed and suffering levels remained high as those guys were heading back over to the Hilton/Hilltop area to ride the re-route from last weekend.

I’m going to try to make this ride on a more regular basis. There’s nothing like chasing fast guys around the trails to build fitness and technical skills.

Earlier in the week I was on the fence about Lodi. Now I’m committed and fired up to do the race. Perkins and I are planning to race the Duo class on singlespeeds, but RickyD might decide to join us for the 3-person SS class. The competition there looks tough, but it would be cool to give it a go. It’ll be fun to hang out and race with a bunch of mtb and ‘cross friends that will be there.