Friday, November 30, 2007


Hey look! Cyclocross made the Chicago Tribune Magazine and the New York Times. Although the web site doesn't show the picture, our friends at Chicago Bike Racing point out that the picture in the Sunday magazine was not the rider whose name appeared in the caption.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I really like my Light & Motion ARC light for illuminating my way when needed. Even when a friend just recently acquired a new Lupine Betty with its 1400 lumens (vs 675 for the L&M), I don't feel any light envy (or heavy jealousy). Of course, if you want style points, you can get one of these.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's the Weather

I was wondering what the "normal" weather was for this time of year. I'll settle for average temperatures since what is normal, anyway? I found this cool tool. Put in your zip code and out pops a histogram of monthly average high and low temperatures.

Seeing the numbers in metric doesn't help at all.

Not that I thought it would, but this doesn't make getting up in the dark to ride in the winter any easier.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pre Ride Check

Last night in a rare fit of forethought, I decided to check to make sure my bike was ready for the ride this morning. With a 5:00 (sharp) departure, the bike's either ready, or I ride alone. Since I cleaned the bike and lubed the chain after the Sunday ride there shouldn't be much to do. Or so I thought.

While topping off the front tire, the top of the valve broke off in my fingers. OK, change the tube. Better now than right before the ride, right? Next, I topped off the rear tire, wiped down the chain and...hmmm...the saddle looks a I take the bike off the stand and sure enough, the saddle is pointing up at about a 30 degree angle. I wonder how that happened. No matter. A few quick adjustments and it's back to where it should be. Finally, I reinstalled the rear fender and tail light and gave the chain a quick wipe. All done and now off to bed.

So at least my bike was ready for the ride this morning. Turns out my body wasn't. I nearly got dropped on the ride to the trail head. Then I did get dropped on the trail. I took the shortcut through Old School and got caught in the Savannah. I was cooked, baked, done, fried. Probably braised and sauteed, too.

And, worst of all, I couldn't even blame the bike.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Trail Ride

For a nice description of the Sunday Daniel Wright Woods ride see the Go Faster Jim blog. This gives me an excuse to post a post-ride picture and compose a baiku (I think Fritz's beeper just went off).

Sun warmed frozen trail.
The spray of mud hits my frame.
Still life with crank arms.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lan Oak Park Cross Race

I got a late start so I didn't race the 40+ Masters race as planned. I would have liked to see how this strategy played out. Would gaining familiarity with the course compensate for the energy expenditure of a 45 minute race? My guess is no, it wouldn't, at least not for this course. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Getting to the race was easy. With the work on the Dan Ryan nearly complete and light Sunday morning traffic, I got there in about an hour. I arrived during the women's 1-2-3 race and got a chance to take a few pictures and take a ride around the park. As soon as it ended, I jumped on the course and got in two laps to check it out.

It was obvious even to my rookie eyes that this was going to be a fast course. There were no really sharp turns, one single barrier and one triple barrier section, two roundabouts on asphalt and a long sand pit. One of the roundabouts was made interesting with tree roots pushing up the tarmac and some leaf cover, although this was more visual scare than actual problem.

I was advised to carry the bike through the sand pit and I noticed that many of the Pro 1-2 and Cat 3 men did just that. During my preride, I decided to try to ride through it figuring I had nothing to lose. My first attempt was nearly perfect and gave me what turned out to be a false sense of confidence (note foreshadowing). On my second attempt, I nearly collided with three riders who were carrying their bikes, so I had to dismount. OK. Even though I won't be able to steer through the sand, I'm going to have to find a way not to hit someone in the sand. This just might get interesting.

I finished warming up by doing laps around the park. Took a few photos of the men's race and had some last minute water and a gel (yummm...banana flavor). 42 of us lined up at the start and after the usual announcements we were off. I got a better start than usual, but it wasn't long before I found myself in the back third of the field. If I'm going to do better next year in this series, I'm going to have to work on my fitness and power. For now, I'm going to take pride in little victories like passing a rider, or taking the barriers cleanly or not coming in DFL.

My first attempt at the sand pit was a stunning success. Not only did I ride clean through it, but I passed 3 guys in the process. My second attempt wasn't quite as good. And, wouldn't you know it, someone photographed the whole thing:

On the next lap, I wasn't going to make the same mistake, so I made a different one. I came into the sand fast, lifted my front wheel on the entry and gave it all I had. I exited the sand pit so quickly and was so surprised and happy with the effort that I wasn't paying full attention to where I was heading and I nearly missed the jog left around the tree and had to hit the brakes hard to avoid a collision. I'm not sure if the guy behind me was amused or pissed (or both), but no matter, I'm two for three in the sand. Another small victory.

In the second half of the race I was one for three in the sand. In retrospect, I realize that my main problem was that I needed to keep my weight further back so my front wheel didn't dig in. I'll try to remember that for next year.

On my last lap, I marked one rider that I might be able to pass. As I entered the sand trap, I was gaining on him (he carried his bike), but I had to dismount near the end and he exited with a few bike lengths on me. He had a little trouble with the left turn after the jog around the tree and I got on his wheel. As we rounded the backstop fence the course opens up into what is mostly a straight section into a gentle turn to the finish. With about 200 yards to go, I jumped out of the saddle and sprinted around him. As I passed him, I heard him say: "Oh, just go ahead". He was more cooked than I was. Another small victory.

I took 31st place. Not as good as I had hoped, but a decent effort. Montrose Park is the next Chicross Cup race on the 9th, but I might do the Wisconsin race the week before. Yeah, I'm hooked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ID on Trial

Last night I watched "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" a fascinating documentary that covered the trial in Pennsylvania where a group of parents sued the school district over the inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum. The show does an excellent job of explaining what the Theory of Evolution is (and that the scientific use of the word "Theory" is much different than the common use of the word) and how the history of ID demonstrates without much doubt that ID is just rebranded "creation science". If you haven't seen the show, you can watch it online after November 16.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Recovery Ride

Earlier in the week, I needed a break, a solo ride, an easy ride, to clear my head and legs (respectively). I decided on the North Branch Trail, a route I haven't taken in quite a while. This turned out to be an excellent choice as it had been recently repaved and the fall colors were gorgeous. It was dark on the way out, adding to the quiet and the solitude. At one point, my light reflected green in 5 pairs of eyes, deer on the trail who scampered away when I got close. As the sun came up I was able to see more of the forest and lagoons.

Another advantage of a solo ride was that when I saw an opportunity for an interesting picture, I was able stop and take it on my own time. I had to detour into a parking lot to take this shot.

I got back on the bike and continued home. As I crested a small rise I saw a deer over on my left. She stayed perfectly still as I approached and slowed down. I stopped when I was even with her and carefully reached to get my camera. I was sure the sound of it powering up would scare her away. Well, as you can see, it didn't and I was able to get a few pictures before the deer decided to run off.

I've heard it said that a true recovery ride is one that is so slow that you take a secret route so that your friends don't see you and mock how slow you are going. That secret route just might have other advantages as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Letter to the Editor

This letter (in italics here) appeared in today' s Chicago Tribune. The letter writer is from Highland Park.
Do you ever find yourself driving and out of nowhere a bicyclist cuts you off? Bicyclists are a huge nuisance.
Swap bicycling for driving and cars for bicyclists and the statement is just as true. Oh, and if you ever just "find yourself driving", I suggest you give up your keys before you start to drink or take your medication.

Why do they perpetually insist on riding on the streets?
Because that's where they belong. I am assuming that the writer means adult bike riders.

Do they have a death wish?
I'll assume that's a rhetorical question.

Have they ever wondered why sidewalks were created? Clearly, to bicyclists, they serve no purpose.
Sidewalks belong to pedestrians. In some suburbs, anyone over the age of 12 can be ticketed for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. In Highland Park, not every road has a sidewalk and not every sidewalk is permitted to bicycles. You might want to read this.

It's for their own safety that they should stay on the sidewalks. I know I have almost hit a bicyclist before, as have many.
Seems the issue here is your poor driving skills. May I suggest you read these tips for motorists. I won't even press the obvious point of how dangerous distracted drivers are to other drivers, bike riders and pedestrians.

The frightening thought is that just a few seconds more and the biker could have been hit.
Why suddenly the passive voice? Guilty conscience?

Why don't the rules of the road apply to bicyclists?
They do. You might want to read those rules of the road again. Or once even.

Just because they aren't in an automobile doesn't give them the right to ignore a stop sign. These bicyclists are asking to get hit by disregarding the rules of the road.
Ah. Here's the heart of the matter. You don't like seeing bicycles ride through stop signs. I have news for you. That is, indeed, illegal (point for you). But please, no one is asking to get hit. And not all bike riders do this. And of course, you come to a complete stop at all stop signs, right?

And the funny thing is, we as the drivers are accused if bicyclists were to get hit because they are considered pedestrians. When a bicycle is on the road, they are vehicles. See that link to rules of the road above. And if a bicyclist gets hit, your main concern is that you might get accused?

To me, this is a joke. Bicyclists should just ride on the sidewalks.
I'm not sure that even a sidewalk would be safe when you are behind the wheel. You need to deal with your road rage, improve your driving skills and, above all, share the road. You should also know that the Illinois vehicle code was recently amended to require motorists who are overtaking bicycles to leave at least three feet of room until safely past the rider.

OK now, group hug.

Give Yourself a...

I just like the name of this blog.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Campton Cross Race

I arrived at Campton Park during the women’s race and got a chance to snap a few photos before registering. It was another beautiful day for a race. Temperatures were in the mid 50s and there was a fairly strong wind competing with full sunshine which kept things comfortable.

As soon as the women were finished, I jumped on the course for a lap to see what I was up against. In addition to the usual barriers and sharp turns, there was a small gully to ride through (similar to the one in the Carpentersville race), a short sand trap leading into a sharp left turn and something new for me to learn, an off-camber section. By the time I rode it, the earlier rides had worn a slight path and the grass had dried out which made it somewhat easier. Still, I was tentative through it and probably should doubled back to practice it a few more times. There was also a section through trees that was muddy and required hitting the right line where the mud was packed. If you miss this, the deeper mud on either side slows you down quite a bit. This leads into a section with four partially buried railroad ties. The first of these was high enough to require a bunny hop, but most riders rode around it cutting a narrow lane between the tie and the brush. I rode around it the first two laps, but did the bunny hop thing afterwards, only hitting it hard once (luckily no pinch flat). This saved me a little time as I had to slow a bit to hit the lane around it. The last two railroad ties were low enough to just ride over. This took you into a downhill and fast approach to the last barrier before the finish line.

The mens 1-2 began to line up and the 3s were right behind them. I snapped some shots of my teammates, registered, dropped off the camera at the car and put the number on my jersey. I used pins from a previous race and wondered what all the other racers do with their pins after racing. It seems wasteful to throw them out, so I have decided to hold on to them and either reuse or return them. Also, I am happy to relate, my number attaching skills are improving. I locked the car, stashed the key on a lanyard around my neck (has anyone ever fallen in a race and gotten strangled this way?) and took off to warm up.

With about 15 minutes to go, I headed over to the starting line. I adopted a new strategy this time and lined up in the second row. Similar to last week, the start leads into a sharp turn, although this one was more of a challenge. We go from grass to a 180 degree turn which hits a dirt walking path and goes back onto the grass. I knew that with at least 40 of us it would stack up here (experience has its benefits) so I made up my mind to start off as hard as I could to get through this without losing much time. This was probably my best strategy even if I had to go slow for a while to recover afterwards.

They called the start and I got through the first turn OK and began to settle in. My cross racing skills are improving, but I still have to work on my handling skills, especially around sharp turns and crossing gullies. These are costing me time and effort that I just can't afford to waste. I am very happy with how I handled all the barriers during this race. I did trip once, catching my foot on the barrier as I jumped over, but having my hands on the bike kept me from falling and I actually remounted without losing any time. A few times I entered the final barrier at faster than running speed and still was able to clear it and remount. I'm sure a video replay would look ugly, but I got the job done. I lost the most time when I hit the sand trap poorly and couldn't handle the sharp left turn, taking out a stake (sorry guys). I was also too cautious during the first two attempts at the off-camber section, but had it mastered after that.

Near the end of my second-to-last lap, I got passed by the leader which meant that the race was actually over for me. I still took another lap. Hey, it's good practice and I must be getting better, since there is no way I could have handled another lap at Jackson Park or Carpentersville. I hung around waiting for the results, and saw that I got 28th. Not as good as I had hoped, but I'm staying close to the top half.

While packing up I got into a conversation with another cat 4A racer that I recognized from a couple of other races. He advised me to try racing in the masters race earlier in the day to use as a warm up and preride. His thinking is that it is a good way to warm up, the experience on the course is invaluable and, if you don't race all out, you have enough time to eat afterwards and recover. I think I'm going to give this a try at the Lansing race in two weeks.

I got home, started unpacking and someone seemed happy to see me.

Either that, or I forgot to feed him this morning.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Daylight Saving Time Part 2:00

As both of you undoubtedly recall, I hate the longer daylight saving time this year. It turns out, we may have the candy manufacturers to thank for this. You think I'm kidding.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Great Pumpkin

I was listening to a Scientific American podcast last night between visits from trick or treaters. The current episode, fittingly enough, included a discussion with the author of the book, Backyard Giants, The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever. So, what do you think the current world record weight for a pumpkin is? It's much more than you might think.