Friday, December 26, 2008

satisfy the itch

Today I got out on snow for the third time this season. So far, I have had nothing but powder days! I'm in Montana for the holidays and we skied the best "unknown" lift serviced powder in America. Seriously, I've never not had powder here. On the way to Lost Trail Mtn we passed half a dozen big horn rams licking up the road salt and paying minimal attention to the cars creeping by. Not likely to see that in New England, or even Colorado.

I didn't want to hassle with lugging my skis through the airport so I rented some at the mtn. $16 for skis and poles (I brought my own boots)! Either New England is way inflated or Lost Trail Mtn has no ambition of making money.

We were on the slopes when they opened at 9:30 and we skied until almost 2. Powder stashes were easily found all over the tiny mountain. Despite temperatures in the low teens, we had a blast floating through champaign powder that rivals any place on Earth. Oh, and did I mention the lift ticket was only $32? Try finding that in New England.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

my morning coffee

Most folks know (and probably despise me for it) I don't drink coffee. I just never developed a desire for the stimulant. Instead I rely on scenes like this to get me going in the morning. What a great way to start the day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It just feels better

I motivated enough to ride the 15 miles to work on Monday. The roads were wet but the temperature was warm and the air was dry. I got a late start and didn't get to my desk until after 9:15 but I felt great. I've realized that the 40 minute drive which usually includes fighting traffic along Rt 9 and I95 leaves me in an anxious, distracted, and unsatisfied state of mind. I much prefer riding to work and I end up being more productive and less distracted as a result.

Now if only I was motivated to gear up at 7am when the temp is still below freezing. I'm going to make more of an effort to do so though. Anyone got tricks to help them motivate in the morning when the weather turns cold and wet? I hate driving in the Boston area.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

just because the shoe fits does not mean you should wear it

Sometimes I feel like a woman when I look at my mtb shoe collection. I have a pair for really crappy weather, a pair for really cold weather, a pair that looks like sneakers so I can blend in when I ride to the bar, a pair for 'cross racing, and a pair for cross racing when the conditions require toe spikes. I've also used and passed along a number of other mtb shoes in recent years. Since it is (er, was) cross season for the last three months I've mostly been using two pair. The first pair is a super light pair of Specialized S-Works with the silly ratchet system. I bought them for a song on ebay so I don't mind abusing them. Here's a recap on the shoe

Specialized S Works BG MTB shoe
- Fit: The BG fit that Specialized advertises is nice. The shoes conform nicely to my feet without any hot spots or pressure points

- Stiffness: With the carbon reinforced sole, the shoe is stiff enough to satisfy me without being too stiff
- Durability: I'm glad I didn't pay much for these because they simply do not hold up. Friends have gone through multiple pairs with Specialized warranty due to treads delaminating (at least they stand behind the shoe) but frankly I don't want to deal with sending back my damaged shoes every 3 months. Also, mine are wearing out on the inside of the heal (probably from striking my chainstay or crank) which is a problem I've never had with other shoes. My suspicion is that the lame carbon-like material is just not durable enough for a shoe of this caliber. My other shoes have either hard plastic or tougher fabric in that area.
- Weight: These things are darn light. They are half the weight of any other mtb shoes I've had.
- Grade: I'd give these a B- if you buy them for $100 or less. If I had paid the retail price ($200+) I'd give them a C-

My other primary shoe of late is the Adidas Marathon mtb shoes. I've had these for over three years now and they just keep ticking. Too bad I can't find them in stores or online anymore. Here's a recap

Adidas Marathon mtb shoes

- Fit: These shoes took some time to break in. After a season of fighting the flimsy stock footbed I upgraded them with the black Superfeet inserts and they are much better.
- Stiffness: These suckers are as stiff as any mtb shoe I've ever owned and stiffer than many road shoes I've owned. If you like stiff soles, these are worth a try.
- Durability: These shoes have held up to two seasons of cyclocross thrashing as well as a season of mtb riding and racing. Earlier this fall I noticed a toe tread starting to rip lose (maybe from kicking a barrier at Suckerbrook). Two and a half months later that tread is still hanging on! Also, the velcro straps are holding up just fine despite repeated adjustments.
- Weight: These things are not the lightest out there. Being the middle of the line offering I don't suspect Adidas was trying to keep them super light but they are by no means the heaviest either. Given their durability, I'm willing to accept a bit of extra weight.
- Grade: B+ They'd get an A if they were lighter.

I've outgrown my Sidi lust faze as they are simply not stiff enough for my liking and there are plenty of less expensive options with similar or better features. Oh, and the adjustable top strap mechanism tends to rub on my crankarms which is not cool.

I'm interested in trying the new Shimano shoes when the Specialized finally die (or when I find a screaming deal on them). Lots of people seem to be enjoying the Shimano shoes these days so they seem worthy of a try.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

mud and guts

Wednesday night was the highly touted Superprestige event in Allston. With mild December temperatures I expected a reasonably sized turnout but was disappointed to see only 6 or 7 folks on the start line. The once fantastic stadium lighting has been shut off for the last 6 weeks so we were relying on our memories and the strategically placed blinky lights at the corners.

Our race promoters set up a beautiful barrier section with knog lights that doubled as a nativity scene (although I didn't see the baby Jesus anywhere).

The usual Le Mans start was fueled by the first lap preme and the "uncertain" whistle of race director RMM. Somewher inside of 15 seconds we were given the green light and the foot race started. The course is a flat (as a board) spin with minimal need for shifting that wraps around the fields before darting across the mandatory running sandpit and into 3 tight turns that were punctuated with wet gooey grass and mud. With 15 laps projected I was not optimistic of taking the first lap preme but did want to give a few hard efforts so I jockeyed back and forth as I put in efforts and then eased off to recover a bit.

The mud in those 3 turns made for such a filthy and poor shifting bike that I almost wished I had a pit bike! We have been blessed/cursed with mostly dry conditions in New England this fall so I was surprised at the end of the event to see just how filthy everything was.
I should have known it was bad because my shifting stopped performing somewhere around lap 9 or 10. It was nice to get a little handling challenge in the sloppy corners since the course is otherwise tame.

As I circled the .5 mile loop over and over and over again while PVB
and I chatted about how lackluster the season has seemed as he agreed with my previous post. We also endured some good natured heckling from the fans at the nativity scene/barrier section. After the race I was invited for burritos (too bad it was Chipotle and not Anna's) by RMM. We discussed the potential to grow the Superprestige into a more challenging, larger event for next season with some prizes and added shenanigans in exchange for a small entry fee to cover those prizes and shenanigans. That gets me excited for next season. I like the idea of a weekly event at home that is designed to share the fun and rewards with everyone, not just the winners. Those who have attended the Middleboro training races put on by Union Velo last season can attest to how much potential and fun there can be for a mid week race.

So tonight I have to clean up the 'cross bike, replace my chainrings (they've been overdue for months) and chain, and get everything together for one more weekend of races. Hard to believe it is December and 'cross season is almost over.

Thanks to Craig Roth for both racing with us and snapping the snazzy pictures. Thanks to the Quad Cycles guys (mostly Ian Sutton I think) for getting the Superprestige started and to RMM for keeping it going. Next season it will return in a bigger and better format I hope.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Since returning from my cross country adventure, I am once again gainfully employed and making quick work of yet another 'cross season. As I pedaled into Boston on August 6th, it seemed like cross season would never arrive and yet now it is almost gone. Somehow three and a half months and 16+ races later there is little to look forward to. The days are shorter, the temperatures are staying lower, and soon enough the roads will be littered with sand, salt, ice, and snow reducing my bike commuting opportunities.

As I rode in to work this morning I was thinking about why this year's 'cross season hasn't really thrilled me quite like years past. The results have been good and there certainly hasn't been a shortage of racing. I think the biggest difference this season compared to years past is the lack of camaraderie and the almost routine feeling of doing some events for the 4th or 5th year in a row with the same dry conditions as last year. The last two years I was fortunate enough to travel to some big events (USGP in CO in 2006 and USGP in PDX in 2007) and enjoy a lot of time with new and old friends in the process. This year I missed out on the travel partly because I couldn't justify the cost after 4 months without a paycheck and partly because it is not fair to my family after being away for 2 months this summer.

It's rare for me to be looking forward to road or mtb racing with 'cross races still on the schedule but I've found myself doing so this year. Most of all I'm looking forward to the return of my buddy. His presence was sorely missed this fall. He and his wife have been the glue that holds together so many New England friendships and they are without question the best teammates I could ask for. Without Mr and Mrs Zanconato I would not have met great people like Kenny and Matt. Heck, without Mr. and Mrs. Z I might still be in the Cleveland IHOP. I'm looking forward to the triumphant return of the Zanconatos and the revival of our band of 'cross racing misfits. They will uplift the spirits of the whole New England racing community.

Is it time for the 2009 'cross season yet?