Dirt Rag Magazine

Karen Brooks

Karen Brooks

What do you think about when you're riding your bike?

I try to think as little as possible, and listen to the birds.

How would you rate your coffee consumption on a scale of 8-10?

ZERO. I drank a lifetime supply already, when I worked in a bike shop.

Complete this sentence: "My other bike is …"

Broom! Heh. No, more like a singlespeed mountain bike.

What are you eating, drinking, reading, or fearing these days?

Eating: lots of chocolate, always. Drinking: the darkest, blackest, stoutest of beers I can find. Reading: too many magazines, not enough books. Fearing: the imminent collapse of society, the environment, Earth's magnetic field, etc. etc. It's a pleasant surprise to wake up and find things to be relatively normal!

Elvis or the Beatles?


Say something profound and meaningful in exactly seven words…

She sells sea shells by the seashore.

I like your answers. How can I get in touch with you?

412.767.9910 x104

Smoke signal: two big puffs, one small

Email me

Dirt Rag 2009 Literature Contest Results Announced



We received more entries than ever for Dirt Rag’s Seventh Annual Literature Contest, and many of them were quite good, which made judging difficult. It came down to two standout stories, and the voting between them to determine the final winner was tight.

But a victor has emerged: Kevin MacGregor Scott, who has been a finalist in the Contest the last four years, finally made it all the way to the top with his story entitled “Libra.” Kevin was beyond thrilled to find out that he won, saying that, “In my short writing career, this is certainly the highest honor I’ve been graced with. I’m rather vibrating with joy right now…” He’ll be vibrating even more when he received his prize, a Santa Cruz Nomad X.9 expertly built by Speedgoat Bicycles. The winning story appears in Dirt Rag issue #145, hitting the newsstands October 6th.


The closer-than-close second place goes to Casey Smart for “Disappointment By Way of Gypsum.” The news of the win cheered Casey, who at the time was stationed in Oklahoma: “You just made a muddy, sh**ty day much better.” The considerable writing talent that went in to the story has earned Casey a Salsa El Mariachi built up as a trick singlespeed by Speedgoat. “Disappointment” will appear in Dirt Rag issue #146, on sale December 1st.


Interbike Day Five

Friday was the last day of the show. We saw a lot – here are just a few things to tide you over until we can take a breath and post more.


The whole week was a whirlwind. Besides all the ogling of stuff, there was also a lot of hanging out and having a good time – read Lockwood’s blog about his Thursday activities. Matt, Andrew, Shannon and Andy also took a trip to the Hard Rock and rubbed shoulders with what sounded like half the industry, from Floyd Landis to Hans Rey. There will be more photos and words posted about the after-dark goings-on, once we sort out the stuff that’s too incriminating…

Some of our hanging out and having a good time occurred on video, in fact, right in the Interbike TV studio. You’ll get to see this and the rest of our Interbike TV mini-shows sometime in the coming week, after Lockwood gets himself back to home base in Belgium and readjusts to an opposite time zone.

Here Nick Sande, Selene Yeager and Stevil Knevil expound on the pairing of bikes and beer. The nice TV people didn’t even kick us out for spilling some on their couch.


Our Interbike experience was made much better by the fact that we got to commute to the show on bikes graciously loaned to us, often traveling by quiet back streets, avoiding clueless tourists for the most part. We’ll be posting mini-reviews of these bikes in the next couple of weeks.

So keep checking this space as we decompress and debrief (and rehydrate – they don’t call it the desert for nuthin’.)

Interbike Day Four

The second day of the indoor show was the scene of many a hearty greeting. Really, this whole thing is just a big ol’ family reunion for the bike industry. There are a lot of people we only see and maybe hang out with a bit once a year.

We tried to hit as many booths as possible today, but after this second day, it felt like we had only covered about half the show floor. Nevertheless, we found some cool stuff to show you.

One thing that is always fascinating is the mix representation, from huge companies we’re all familiar with and their giant installations with rotating stands and pro lighting and glass cases, to the one lone person walking the floors telling about their tiny garage operations. They all come here in one big soup; we journalists dip in a spoon, and sometimes come out with a big hunk of familiar potato, and sometimes a tiny sliver of some exotic spice. It’s all good.

For Dirt Rag style  photo-journal coverage from the show floor, click on our  Day Four Gallery.

Interbike Day Three

Time to move the show into the cavernous halls of the Sands Convention Center. Surely I’m not the only one that thinks it’s a damn shame that the name of this giant box is the only remnant of the legendary hangout of the Rat Pack? But I digress.

Today we hit the show floor with a spanking new booth – well, at least most of it was new. In any case, it rocks.


We saw a lot of interesting stuff, and talked to some knowledgeable bike people. Check out our new-improved Gallery for the scoop.

We also did the first couple segments of Interbike TV: one on the theme of bike projects in developing countries that actually make a difference (“real good instead of feel good,” as Craig Calfee said), and one with a couple of mountain bike pioneers and their passion for getting people to ride all the time, not just on trails. We’ll have those videos up fairly soon after the show.

This evening, Maurice and Eric went to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame induction ceremony, an Interbike tradition. Some others are just now heading out to Cross Vegas to check out the action… rumor has it some Belgians are going to show up to throw down.

Tune in at the same bat time, same bat channel tomorrow for more.

Interbike Day Two

We have another new Gallery up with captioned photos of the highlights of the day. Go check it out!


In the course of snapping photos and gathering details, it’s inevitable that we’d also have some interesting conversations with the people behind the products. It’s sometimes tough to capture such talk, but really, that’s a big reason we come to Interbike – to exchange ideas and get fired up all over again about bike riding.

Some highlights:
– It’s a small world… Jackie of WTB was one of the experts showing us how it’s done at the Dirt Rag Women’s Weekend at Ray’s MTB back in February. She can sling some facts as well as huck a bike. We also saw Ray himself walking around, testing bikes and working on sponsorships, taking a break from building more stunts at his place.

– Craig at Jamis and I talked about the role of 650B wheel size, after he showed us their new B2 full-suspension bike that uses the ‘tweener wheels. I’m currently testing a Carver KillerB that also has 650B’s. Two different styles of bike, but we agreed that 650B’s are a nice middle option that allows you to sling the bike around more than with 29” wheels, but that still has more rolling-over capability and grip than 26”. It will be interesting to see who else makes use of this size, and for what. Craig said it best: “It’s not a new standard, it’s an option.”

Sanyo, the electronics company, is debuting a new electric-assist bike on Wednesday at the indoor show. But what’s really cool is that they are working on a solar recharging station for electric bikes.

– We tried several electric-assist bikes today, doing research for future Bicycle Times coverage. It seems that their batteries and motors are getting smaller and more powerful – these bikes aren’t the hulking beasts of ten years ago. They definitely have a place in getting people to try riding who aren’t as fit as us mountain bikers.

Hans Rey was hanging out at the GT booth, passing out flyers for his Wheels 4 Life charity program, which is one of several groups working to get bicycles in the hands of people who really need them. He also told us about a new concept he’s working on he calls “Flow Country”: it’s a designation, in a similar fashion to IMBA’s Epics, that would mean those sweet trails that are a mix freeriding and cross country – flowy, fast, with berms and jumps that could be hit with a big travel bike or rolled with a hardtail for equal fun. He’s first trying out the concept in Livigno, Italy.

– Celebrity sightings (besides No Way Rey) included Cristina Begy (from that famous cover of issue #105), Chris Currie from Speedgoat in the same Dirt Rag jersey he always wears, Joe Breeze helping prep demo bikes, and Jay Petervary – who described his recent tandem running of the grueling Tour Divide with his wife Tracy as “a lot of fun.” There are only a very few people who would call it that.

Interbike Day One

Today was the first day of the whole shebang, starting off with the Dirt Demo. Some of us grabbed demo bikes for some hot laps (hot being the operative word), while Justin and I took the opportunity to take pictures and ask questions. There is so much going on at Interbike that it’s hard to get a good sampling at the indoor portion alone so we thought we’d get a jump start.


This is a good time to introduce our new Gallery for photos, which we’ve been tweaking and fiddling with for some weeks now, so that we could present our awesome Interbike photos in a cleaner and easier-to-view format. There are also captions to tell you about what you’re seeing. Check it out, and look for much more in the coming week.

Meanwhile, back at the convention center, the artistic types and the nuts-and-bolts guys in our crew assembled our brand-new booth (made out of some recycled parts), which took them most of the day, but the results are fabulous. You’ll have to wait until our first indoor show update to see it.


The One, the Only… SSWC09

So tomorrow starts the circus that is Interbike, but we’ve had a little extra fun along the way beforehand: the Singlespeed World Championships shindig in Durango, Colorado, which was conveniently placed in time and space this year to make for a proper pre-show road trip attraction.

And what a trip it was. Justin, Maurice, Lockwood and I are still sucking wind as we reminisce about the elevated fun that was had. We all agreed that the townsfolk of Durango have outdone themselves as SSWC hosts. This was about as big and well-organized as an event can get while still maintaining that certain underground-ness (or shall I say, dirt cred). The parties—one before, one after the race—had live bands, food booths, keg upon keg of good-quality beer, good people to meet and some entertaining shenanigans. (Lessons were learned: 36″ bikes are not crash-proof, and liquor does not make brakeless BMX stunts easier.)


The town’s independent businesses welcomed us and did what they could to be accommodating. We even rode over to Ron Andews’ house and got a personal demonstration of the making of a King Cage.


The traditional competitions to decide next year’s host country were over the top in themselves. (Check out the photos of the basketball game between spokesmodel/players representing Italy and New Zealand.)


They even went and made a magazine, for God’s sake, a good-looking one, and we know that ain’t easy. To top that, a documentary will be coming out sometime in the future—there were large, serious-looking cameras everywhere.

Really though, Durango is used to playing host to big bike events—this was just one more in a long line of World Championships that have been contested out there.

The race? Oh yeah, there was a race. The course was pretty tough, but I gotta tell ya right here, Herb Belrose, whoever you are, that we easterners were not frightened. Add some mud, subtract some elevation, and you’d have a classic Appalachian hoedown. We do appreciate all that the course designers did to make us feel at home, though: there were tight and twisty sections, there were big slabs of rock on a ridgeline trail (at nearly 9000 feet, with a thunderstorm brewing, very dramatic), and they even threw in a couple of logs to hop over. It was a blast to ride, at least after that loooong hike-a-bike section in the beginning. But even that was enjoyable, as while close to 1000 racers funneled through, I had some time to chat with the people trudging up-up-and-up with me. In fact, Blair from Flagstaff and I made a pact to blast through the cutoff at the midway point if we hadn’t made it there in time. But we did make it, and lived on to fight another loop, which was victory enough.


Ross Schnell proved his radness once again by winning the pedaling portion for the dudes and claiming his traditional winner’s tattoo. Of course, he had the help of one Terry Bradshaw, so his win was perhaps inevitable. (Damn, I looked for a lucky Steeler card at the sign-in and didn’t find one!) Heather Irminger was the winner for the chicks, and looked quite pleased while receiving her trophy in permanent ink. Jacquie Phelan easily claimed first in Wacky Awesomeness.

Now the gang’s all here in Las Vegas, chillin’ by the pool, getting ready to hit the desert. Check back here tomorrow for our first day’s report. Also check back later for a full Gallery of the SSWC09 adventures.


A Little Shindig Called the Singlespeed World Championships

A Little Shindig Called the Singlespeed World Championships

The Singlespeed World Championships are one helluva good time – an underground, sanctioning-body-free race that attracts badass dudes and chicks to come and ride and party together. One can have a beer with the likes of Marla Streb or Adam Craig at night, and then get dusted out on the course by both of them the next day. Of course, one may not recognize the many pros racing here, as they may well be wearing bikinis, capes or feather boas, or all of the above.

It just so happens that this year’s SSWC takes place in Durango, Colorado, the weekend before Interbike. So we figured, what better way to mix business with pleasure than to stop in at the festivities on our way?


Maurice, Justin and I left the office at about 9am Wednesday with a van and a trailer full of Interbike booth ingredients, swag, some singlespeed bikes, gear, and maybe a feather boa. Thirty hours later, we arrived safe and sound (if a little sleep-deprived) in Durango. We aim to make good use of our time by riding and hanging out as much as possible. Our esteemed web manager Jeff will be joining us, along with some of the crew from my adventure at SSWC08.

A group calling themselves Passion Productions (or the D9 crew…information is spotty) have been hard at work for nigh on a year now, preparing the course, planning various parties and group rides, organizing live music and bike polo matches, and generally making sure they will host the best gathering they can for the singlespeed tribe. There will even be live radio coverage on KDUR, the radio station of local mountain bike powerhouse Fort Lewis College.

The course promises to be brutal, with lots of technical sections and 4K of climbing, topping out at nearly 9000 feet. Some dude named Herb, in a comment on the SSWC09 site, said, “All of the east-coasters have no idea of the terror that awaits on the other side of this monolithic beast.” That sounds like a challenge to me. Were you at State College for SSWC05, Herb? Were ya, punk?


Moochpa guarded our travels, with the help of Boudreaux.

Bicycle Times Walks the Walk… er, Rides the Ride

We do a lot of bike commuting here at the Bicycle Times / Dirt Rag offices. Why not carry on with our riding ways while in Las Vegas for Interbike?

For the third year in a row, the staff will be riding to the indoor show at the Sands Convention Center from our rental house each day, plus to various after-show activities, on a fine fleet of bikes that would otherwise be sitting in a truck somewhere after the Outdoor Demo prelude to the show. (The bikes no doubt appreciate their freedom.)

After the Interbike dust has settled, we’ll be posting mini-reviews of these bikes on the Bicycle Times website.

Here’s the lineup of companies thus far who have generously agreed to help us get our daily pedaling fix:

  • BH – Gira singlespeed/fixie
  • Breezer – a townie sort of bike
  • Brompton – a folding bike
  • Charge – Plug, another singlespeed/fixie
  • Civia – Loring utility bike
  • Currie – Urban Cruiser Enlightened, an electric-assist bike
  • Dahon – another folder
  • Gates / Spot – belt drive!
  • Raleigh – one of many to choose from
  • Rans – the Hammertruck recumbent cargo bike

As you can see, we’ve got quite the motley crew. Check both Bicycle Times and Dirt Rag next week for the goings-on at Interbike, and remember to keep on checking afterward, to see how our borrowed fleet fares. We’d better be careful the traditional derby around the pool doesn’t get out of hand…

Blinky Lights Primer

princeton tec swerve“Blinky” lights, in other words flashing red safety lights for the rear of your bike, are a must-have item for riding on any route that is shared by motor vehicles. These are the basic things that will make you more visible to cars coming up behind and overtaking you. The more the better—if a driver is bewildered by the vision of a blinking red spacecraft moving along up ahead, he or she will be more inclined to slow down, and thus hopefully avoid hitting you.

In issue #2 of our sister publication Bicycle Times, we take a look at  the latest generation of  high-powered LED blinky lights, and review the features on five different models. Click here to read the web reprint of the Bicycle Times article.

Web Extra for Dirt Rag #144: Zach Adams Interview

zach adamsAs noted in the Dirt Rag #144 article “Massive Success,” I encountered Zach Adams at the recent VisitPA.com Festival and Rassin’ Weekend. Zach is at the center of a fiefdom of mountain biking in the area: he leads the Cyclesports/Fast Forward Racing junior development mountain bike team, runs the Pennsylvania Scholastic Cycling League for high schoolers, puts on mountain bike events, and also coaches young racers. Somewhere in there he also finds time to attend college and race himself.

I talked with Zach about his motivation for keeping all these plates spinning, and how it all fits together.

DR: How did you get involved…you started the team, right?

ZA: Started the team, and I’ve been running races and things for the last 3-4 years, and have been running a junior race series for the last four years. When I started racing, it was through Mike Kuhn’s series, Pennsylvania Scholastic Cycling League (PASCL). He moved away from the area, to State College and then Allentown, and the name changed, but I revived it this year as a legitimate, recognized school series. Trying to market it to schools, I guess. I raced on my own for the whole last season, I coach as well, and I started coaching a number of these kids, and it just seemed like something I wanted to do, have a team and run it.

DR: A natural pairing to have…

ZA: The coaching, the team, the events… it all kind of intertwines. I get the kids to help out with all the events and they get to see a little bit behind the scenes, what it actually takes to keep the sport alive…be a part of the sport instead of just taking from the sport.

DR: That’s a good thing to get kids into. So how old are you?

ZA: 19.

DR: And you’ve been putting on races since you were how old?

ZA: I ran the 2006 PA State Cyclocross championships as a 16-year-old. And uh…I had to take a short break after that. It wasn’t exactly kosher. You won’t find anywhere that there’s an age requirement for promoting races. They weren’t exactly excited about that… but, it was a good event, and that’s what I like to do, I like to make good events, not just run a race. I go to a lot of races, 30-40 times a year, go to a lot of different events, and they’re all different, and they’re not all “events.” I think there’s a big difference between just running a race and having a good event that people are going to come back to and talk about.

DR: How many years has the junior development team been going?

ZA: This is the first year for the team. It’s been a good year. I still have yet to put together my mid-year report…I was trying to put that together three weeks ago. But, we’ve been going since January/February with camps and weekends and stuff.

DR: Yeah, Loretta was telling me…it sounds very involved. How did you decide to start the team?

ZA: We started planning the team around May last year, looking for sponsors, laying out the framework and structure that we were going to base it on, and the big picture that I wanted to see.

DR: Whose idea was it? Was it your idea initially?

ZA: Yeah, it was my idea, and Jake Davidson, a friend of mine that is living around the same area right now, and we ride together a lot… He is helping out with it, and carrying out some of the stuff for me. You know, we sat down, talked it out, and it’s been going strong.

DR: How did you attract people to join the team?

ZA: At that point I was already coaching a couple kids in this area, and I was still a junior…it was my last year racing as a junior when I started it. So I’ve actually raced against a few of the kids…it’s actually funny to say that. I always keep my eye open and I run a development camp too, in the spring.

DR: That’s part of the team too, or is it a separate thing?

ZA: It’s a separate thing. That’s where I met a lot of the kids from last year.

DR: It’s open to anyone?

ZA: Yeah. I had 15 people show up last year, and they’re pretty much all on the team now. But it was only open to juniors last year. I actually lost a good bit of money on it. It’s a good thing though—I think that when you’re trying to make events like that, you have to look at it as a multi-year picture, and you have to establish ground somewhere. This year we had 61 riders come and spend the weekend with us, and walk away learning a little more and having a good weekend for it.

DR: So it’s one weekend?

ZA: It’s one weekend, the last weekend in March. That’s where I met a good bulk of the kids. I had seen them racing around.

DR: Did you advertise the camp through bike shops, handing out flyers, etc.?

ZA: Yeah. Bikereg.com—I’m a firm believer in Bikereg. I think it’s a great marketing tool, and it’s a great service for not only promoters but racers as well. Bike shops, flyers, word of mouth, email blasts…kids really help out with getting the word out to a lot of different areas. My riders are spread out across Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey as well now, so we’re a four-state team. That’s a lot of ground that gets covered, a lot of word of mouth. That’s really helpful.

DR: What did you guys do at the camp? Just a weekend, that’s pretty intense…

ZA: It’s Friday through Sunday. It’s not necessarily a training camp, it’s a development camp where participants come and learn. I try to pack a lot into it. We had maybe eight classes offered, some Q&A with local pros, some nice long rides and on-trail technique, learning to ride rock gardens, logs, cornering, braking… all the basics that we as elite riders kind of take for granted, that we think is just completely second nature…

DR: We’ve talked about that with some sports, even for adults, you start off taking lessons, and there’s clubs you can join…for mountain biking the tradition’s been that you go off on your own and you bleed.

ZA: Mountain biking’s a very…it’s a harsh learning curve. I took very well to that, because I think you learn your lesson better when you do that, but it’s nice to have a lot of help on the way, too. I was lucky enough to get a lot of help from Mike and the other VisitPA.com guys. I’ve been a part of a lot of good teams coming up through the ranks.

DR: In addition to your junior development camp, you also do some events for the team?

ZA: I have eight events a year (I think)…we started with the Michaux Mash, which is a 4-hour endurance race in the Michaux State Forest, one of the best places to ride in my backyard, I love it…super rocky, super awesome. We had a much better showing than I anticipated for that, which was good.

DR: When you say… you went to that event, or you put that event on?

ZA: I put that event on. Ran that, two weeks later, we ran the devo camp—that’s adults now as well as juniors. I opened it up to adults this year.

DR: That can be a good way to make some money.

ZA: Pretty much the bulk of the proceeds I make from events goes straight to the team.

DR: Loretta was amazed that you were able to pay for renting a house out on Colorado for the team to go to the Nationals. That’s great.

ZA: I contribute a good bit of money to the team. That’s why my company is a title sponsor. Fast Forward Racing Productions is me…that’s my events company.

DR: Have you had some people helping you figure out how to form corporations and all that?

ZA: The business is a sole proprietorship with a fictitious name, which is the easiest way now…when I get a little bit further down the road I’ll probably do a limited liability, but for now it just doesn’t make sense, cause I have positively nothing to lose. I barely eat. I’m a thing I like to call “bike poor”…everything I have goes to surviving and racing. It’s not a bad life…I enjoy it.

DR: So you’re in college now, right?

ZA: I’m in college, exercise science major.

DR: Have you found it hard to do both at once?

ZA: Not really. I was out at Slippery Rock for two semesters, and I raced around the Newark and Philly area most of the cyclocross season…I think I ended up driving about 15,000 miles. It was very hard. My racing suffered a lot. People wouldn’t think so, but it did. It was just very fatiguing to drive 12 hours alone every weekend.

DR: So are you at a different college now?

ZA: Yeah, I transferred in to Shippensburg. It’s around here. Little closer to Michaux and the people I like and closer to the scene out here.

DR: Who’s been a big influence on you? You mention Mike Kuhn…

ZA: I’ve had a lot…I’ve been really fortunate in the influences I’ve had. I mean, Mike’s been a really big influence. Mark Laser, one of the head promoters of the Iron Cross , he’s been a pretty big influence over the years. Runs the local club and I was pretty heavily involved in that for quite a while—Yellow Breeches Racing.

DR: This is the first year for the team…that’s pretty awesome that you’re able to collect everyone up and take them to the USA Cycling National races in Colorado. Are you and the team traveling anywhere else?

ZA: Well, we’re going to do the Valley Point-to-Point in Winter Park the weekend before. Kind of set up as a race to get adjusted, to, first of all, the altitude, which is a major change…it’s 9000ft. up there, it’s a big deal. And just the style of racing out there, because it’s way different. We’re used to slow, twisty, rocky, punchy stuff…ski resorts where you climb for 20 minutes. and descend for 8. it’s the NORBA-tized course. It’s all fast and flowy and smooth, with some big stuff, berms and…your west-coast riding style. I think that’ll be a big eye-opener. That race on the weekend before is definitely going to help out with that, kind of get the chills out of the kids, and take off that edge, and I think that’ll really help them out.

DR: And then the week after that is the Nationals.

ZA: Yeah. They’ll start racing Thursday. We’ll spend two weeks. We’ll leave the day after the Long Pine Classic, next weekend, which is also one of my races. It’s the next cross country race in the MASS series.

DR: That’s ambitious.

ZA: I’m gonna be hurtin’ on the drive out.

DR: But it sounds like you have it pretty well planned.

ZA: Yeah, uh…the pre-registration is 17 riders as of Thursday. I’m not sleeping too well right now. But I think it’ll all come together really well, and work out, and it’ll be a good race and a good platform to build on. This is the first year I’ve had a date in the MASS series. Kind of getting my foot in the door with them, establishing a solid date.

DR: That seems like a good series to get into.

ZA: It definitely is…it’s a very large pool of people. It’s a place where I think a good solid event will help the riders as much as the promoter.

DR: What do you hope to accomplish this year? At the Nationals, do you hope to dominate, or…?

ZA: For the team? I’d like to see some kids on the podium. Last year most of the kids I was involved with at the time had jumped up to the next level, and it showed, but they took it for what it was, and they’ll come back stronger. With the kids this year, I’ve seen such a vast improvement over last year. It’s been mentioned to me on more than one occasion, it’s night and day with where these kids were last year and where they are this year. Part of that’s just them being a year older, part of that’s just the attitude they’re bringing to it, and I think part of that’s also been the program. We did four weekend camps throughout February and March, lot of skills stuff, learning to take the next step. I think the kids have really taken to it, and I’m very proud of them all. It’s awesome to see all your kids clean up and sweep the podium. Second-to-last MASS race we were at, we cleaned the podium. One of my kids is leading the expert senior men’s series as well, at 16 years old. We’ve been working pretty closely for two years now.

DR: You probably give advice on nutrition, and…?

ZA: They get the whole nine yards. I coached three of the seven kids on the team right now, and I’ve taken a short stint with a few others, and they get it all. I really preach recovery, and more or less the attitude you go into things with. Racing is a highly mental game, and you have to have the legs for it, but if you’re legs are there and your head’s not, you’re still not going to have a good race. I think the biggest thing is just realizing, and letting them realize in their own ways, that they’re juniors, and that I want to see them when they’re 26, being the pros out there, just completely housing it up every weekend.

DR: So you don’t want them burning out, in other words?

ZA: No. That’s actually why I started coaching the kids. I see a lot of pressures from parents, I see a lot of pressures from teammates that mean well, but aren’t necessarily… they don’t quite have the grasp on it. I want to see these kids being lifelong members of the cycling community.

DR: That’s awesome.

ZA: One of the kids, him and his dad are already stepping up to start a race, a local race on their own.

DR: Gunnar and Randy Bergey?

ZA: Yeah. Gunnar’s been helping me a lot out with the team as well. He stepped up and took control of the team website, and he’s been handling all the race reports since about April.

DR: Who gets your race reports? The sponsors, and do you have a newsletter signup?

ZA: I plan to have a newsletter…it hasn’t quite worked out. It’s something I want to see be resurrected, and actually enacted as a decent way to do it. I mentioned my year-end report and I plan on sending that out to all the sponsors, all the parents that are involved but didn’t have the budget last year. People like to see these kinds of programs.

I like to work with companies that I can wholeheartedly endorse, not just companies that are names. When I was getting the kids to race for me, I told them my philosophy: Anybody can give you product…you can get money from people, you can get product, you can get a jersey, but it doesn’t mean you’re on a team. Somebody gives you a bike, still doesn’t mean you’re on a team. A team is the network and the infrastructure that you’re racing with, the guys that you’re spending time with, racing and training with…it’s so much more than about what you’re getting out of it.

DR: I think that’s a great concept, and that’s something that cycling really needs. We said there’s no real instructional structure. It’s great to see kids getting some structure and support, and not just “maybe you can get a name on your jersey, and go to it.”

ZA: And understand that there’s a bigger picture to it as well. There’s more to cycling than racing. Racing’s not the end of the world. I fully encourage the kids to do other sports as well, enjoy them while they do them…I kind of base most of what I do with them off of my mistakes. I’ve made just about every mistake out there.

DR: Do you feel you got too serious too soon?

ZA: I got real serious probably when I shouldn’t have…I’ve gone through a lot of really harsh burnout cycles.

DR: Already? At 19?

ZA: I’ve been racing for 6 or 7 years. The first year I raced, I started with 30 events, and I’ve been racing full seasons since I started.

DR: Wow.

ZA: When I started I was a 195lb. 6th-grader. It’s been a “180” turn in my life.

DR: How did you get involved in the first place? What drew you to cycling?

ZA: Mark Laser was actually a teacher at our school, and he ran the Yellow Breeches Racing, and Iron Cross…and there was actually a lot of juniors at my school that raced. I’m the last one that actually races still. Very recently one of them got back into it, but… they’re all burnt out, and don’t ride. Not only do they not race, they don’t ride.

DR: A shame.

ZA: I’ve seen a lot of burnout. It’s not a good thing.

DR: You mentioned your personal goals. What do you hope to do this year?

ZA: I’m playing around with this Cat.1 category and this USAC mountain bike stuff. I don’t know…I want to see where I’m at. I’ve been doing pretty well, I won the Maryland state championships by a lot, did the second-to-last Kenda Cup at Massanutten, got fifth after cramping really bad, I think I was in second most of the race without really knowing it. So I’m kind of waiting to go out there, I think short track will go really well for me.

DR: So that’s your event?

ZA: I’m a cyclocross racer. I’m actually not really racing right now. I might race this weekend, short-track tomorrow, but I’m kind of in my off-season-ish.

DR: Your focus is later in the fall?

ZA: I plan on racing through January.

DR: Is that partly because that’s what you like, or is that because of the schedule with the team?

ZA: It’s been nice to be able to focus on supporting the team and the program and doing my events this year. My goal for the mountain bike season was a 24-hour solo race, which I did in Wilkes-Barre, North Carolina, in May…I will never do another one again.

DR: Really?

ZA: I wasn’t having a lot of fun…except for the last lap when I rode with one of the kids .

DR: Has it been hard in general to do both, to support these kids and also do your own thing? Since you’ve got the different schedules, that helps a lot…

ZA: It works out really well. They help each other, the parents help a lot. Most of our structures are in the off-season, and there’s a lot of race-day support. I’ve had the pleasure of racing with the kids a couple of times. I raced the weekend after the 24-hour race and Gunnar caught me, and I ended up racing with him for the rest of his race. I think my legs were fine but I was mentally…didn’t want to race. So when he caught up to me, it was like…I kinda want to see how he’s doing. To be a coach it really helps to be able to see your athletes.

DR: I don’t know of another sport where you could potentially be out there with your athletes competing—that’s pretty great.

ZA: It worked out really well. Massanutten Hoo-Ha was a mass start with all the Cat.1 categories, so I got to race with Jeff Bonson as well, another one of my athletes, he’s a two-time cyclocross national champion. I got to see him ride to third, and I was riding to fifth…we rode the whole lap together in the top 3, 4 places. It was a rough race, but an amazing course.

DR: What are your plans for the future?

ZA: I’d like to live the dream. Race as a pro for a while, take this team a little further. Keep this grassroots development thing going for a while, but I’d also like to have a nationally represented squad as well. Probably a much smaller program…that’s actually in the works for next year, as far as the team, Junior Cat.1—kids that are going to be on the national team, kids that are going to represent at Worlds. And helping them, the more serious ones, take the right steps to get in on the national pipeline, which is a pretty big deal. It’s hard to get into.

DR: At every level there’s a big jump…something that American racers have struggled with is the final jump to the world level.

ZA: Got a lot of really good guys…Aaron Snyder just went with the national U23 team to Germany for two weeks, for the training camp. There’s a lot of good directions that the local guys can go in. The talent’s here, the depth’s here.

DR: Are you familiar with the NorCal Cycling League?

ZA: That’s actually what Mike based the PASCL series off of when he started it. The money’s not quite here to do what they’re doing…I think a lot of their success has been the sponsorship that they’ve been able to get for it. When you have that sponsorship, you can have somebody dedicated to it…I mean, we’re all trying to fit it in to our lives—the teams we run, the events we run, our own education – jobs – careers – families. It takes a lot of time and energy and it’s hard to do it because you have to coordinate with a bunch of schools, and that’s a lot of maybe paperwork, but a lot of high-energy communication to get it settled out and structured with schools. I think it’s great though, and I’d like to see something like that in PA.

DR: Like an officially-sanctioned school sport sort of thing?

ZA: I’m planning on having it USA Cycling-sanctioned next year, working with some officials and hopefully we can do it. When Mike did it, they were USAC-sanctioned, and he ended up paying a lot out of pocket for the series.

DR: The USAC thing…it sounds like recently they’re trying to change some things and do some better things, but traditionally if you want to get involved, you have to pay quite a bit of money.

ZA: I think with some of this restructuring that we’re on an upswing with this sport, but there’s a lot of other things that have to happen to see what we might have seen in the past, and see that kind of energy and involvement again. It’s a cycle and we’ll see a high side again relatively soon.

DR: What you’re doing I think is the most important thing, getting kids involved, and not in such a way that they’re slaves to the sport, they can enjoy it.

ZA: They’re going to be around for a while. I think how much fun they’ve had is just because they’re around kids their age, racing, riding and training. We would spend weekends together, away from their parents, away from adult teammates. It was me, Jake and them, maybe another adult or two, but adults they don’t necessarily know, maybe hipster types…people they look up to. They can have fun and be kids while on their bikes, they don’t have to make the separation. And I don’t think you have to make that separation. It’s about having fun riding your bike. I have no problem dropping out of races if I’m not having fun…I’ve been known to do it.

DR: It sounds terrible, but that’s a great attitude to have—don’t kill yourself.

World Tour Report: VisitPA.com Festival and Rassin’ Weekend

This past weekend, Justin and I traveled to Marysville, PA, just north of Harrisburg, for the VisitPA.com Festival and Rassin’ Weekend (formerly known as the Stage Race). It was a great time that lived up to its name.


The venue was an idyllic wooded farm belonging to race promoter Mike Kuhn’s inlaws, the Oesterlings, that had most of us dreaming of living on a similar spread, sitting out on the deck with a laptop “working,” taking a dip in the pond, hanging out in the barn or the chicken coop that had been converted to a workshop.


Mike had built an impressive array of trails snaking all through the 99 acres – a map of them would no doubt look like a pile of spaghetti. Riding the race course was an adventure in sudden sharp turns and logs. What better way to check it out, I figured, than to enter Friday night’s Lupine time trial and see it for the first time at night, alone, with a timer and people shouting “Go! Go!” to add to the drama? Fortunately I didn’t break myself or my bike.


Saturday’s “rassin’ ” action continued with a 12-hour team relay and a 9-hour solo event. Those brave souls who endured that video game-like course for so many laps are the definition of honch. The racing crowd was a diverse mix of everyone from kids on up to retirees, but was heavy on the fast guys and girls, with lots of drama. Mike Kuhn is not only the race promoter, but the director for the dominant VisitPA.com team (including Rob Lichtenwalner and other fast dudes), who battled it out with other pro teams like Bike Line, Bikesport (friends of the Rag from SSWC08 adventures), the up-and-coming juniors of CycleSports/Fast Forward Racing, and “Euro” Aaron Snyder of the Scott East Coast team (recently back from the USA Cycling U23 Development Camp in Germany).


To keep things from getting too serious, the weekend also included a rockin’ cover band and a couple of kegs of Victory brew on Saturday evening, which led to some nice and relaxed socializing. Sunday the fast folks were at it again in the Short Track XC race, turning some incredible lap times despite having thrashed the course twice already. After that was a highly-entertaining slow downhill race that revealed who’d been practicing their trackstands, and the old-school traditional bike toss.


All in all, this was a true grass-roots event (and not just because there was a fair amount of grass on the course), one that combined the best parts of mountain bike culture. I was able to interview some of the key players involved for an upcoming feature in Dirt Rag.

By the way, Justin and I stopped by the Tröegs brewery for a tour on our way up on Friday. Why not check out our office beer sponsor, since it was so convenient? Seeing what all those big tanks are for, exactly, was entertaining and instructive (more on that later), and Chris Trogner himself poured us some samples of their work. The fine folks at Tröegs then pointed us in the direction of Appalacian Brewing Co. not far away for some lunch and more brew sampling. Fortunately the farm at Marysville was not far from these adventures, or we might have had to stop for a nap.


Check out our Gallery for more photos of the Festival.

RIP Anthony Sloan


Anthony Sloan, Yeti’s demo guy for the Rocky Mountain territory, died suddenly on Thursday, May 7th. He will be missed by family, friends and many who rode and hung out with him, but also by many more riders who were inspired by photos and writings posted on his website and on the Passion forum at MTBR.com.

From Yeti Cycles:

Yeti Cycles and the mountain biking community is holding a memorial service in memory of Anthony Sloan, who passed away on May 7, 2009 in Golden, Colorado.

Anthony was known to many of you as Yeti’s demo guy. We know him as much more. Anthony was erudite, curious and well traveled. He was compassionate and kind. He was a brilliant wordsmith and photographer and was eager to share his experiences in words and images on his website (www.anthonysloan.com). He was an accomplished rider and lived life with zest and purpose.

Friends, family, fellow riders and colleagues will gather on Friday, May 15, 2009 at 11 a.m. at Alderfer / Three Sister’s Park for a memorial ride to the top of Evergreen Mountain. Afterwards we will gather in the Alderfer / Three Sisters Park by the big barn in the Evergreen Rec. District, to pay tribute and celebrate the life of Anthony Sloan. Food and beverage will be provided. A memorial fund will be set up in behalf of Anthony’s family. Any donations will be welcome.

Parking will be limited to 50 vehicles at the parking lot on Buffalo Park Road & Le Masters Road. All other vehicles are welcome to park by the Evergreen Lake and ride up the road to join.

Directions / Map

Park Map

Please RSVP to [email protected] or (303) 278-6909 ext. 1015.

This past Tuesday, the members of the online bike community BikeMojo.com, where Anthony was a member, held a memorial ride and party to celebrate Anthony’s life at his old stomping grounds of Emma Long Park in Austin, Texas. Many other such celebrations are planned around the country.

Anthony’s talent and passion for riding were evident in the piece (and the photos above and below) he submitted  for the Interstate 70 Ride Guide in Dirt Rag issue #136:

Colorado – Always Ride
You learn the tricks pretty quickly. In my job as a demo driver for Yeti, second priority is learning where to go for an easy access ride. (First priority: Keep the beer cooler full.) Easy access, meaning easy to pull the rig in, quick access to the trail from the interstate, a satisfying but not too epic ride…you know…easy. The I-70 corridor has a wealth of options. The obvious choice is the Fruita area, with the plethora of desert trail goodness that lurks just beyond the Mack exit, but when it is rideable, I head for Minturn, Exit 171. The Meadow Mountain Loop.

Last November I was spinning back to the Front Range after a 4-day demo out in Fruita and spent the first stretch debating on whether or not to try for a ride. I was torn between steaming back home in a diligent fashion, or trying for one last high country ride. I drove right by the exit, in fact. Spent the next two exits drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and looking at the mountainside in the rearview mirror. The old adage ran through my head like a stock ticker: “always ride…always ride…” So I dove off the Interstate and turned around. I ended up swiping a ride right out of the clattery beak of winter. I rode the jeep road up and spun the highway out of my system. It was a funny sort of day out there. Quiet, quiet. With occasional groups of wildlife moving around in excited little clusters. A couple of magpies bustled and fussed over me, followed by several crows. The woods had that aimless feel of the last day of school. Up top at the line shack I could tell I had some postholing in front of me. The first section of singletrack had a healthy layer of snow on top of it. The easy had become epic. Well, sort of epic. Semi-hemi-demi-epic. But as always, it paid off. After losing about 700ft. of elevation, the trail cleared out and turned into flowy, loamy Colorado singletrack. One last taste before it all went under for the winter.


Sea Otter Classic Day 3

The pinnacle day of the Otter dawned warmer and less windy, and stayed that way all day. It was really nice to experience some stereotypically Californian weather for a change, although those of us just emerging from winter layers had to be mindful of the need for sunscreen.

There were so many kids ripping it up around the place. Really encouraging to see.


This was also the day we were to do some test riding. Oh yeah, riding! Over at the Santa Cruz booth, they had reserved a few of their latest creations for us freeloading journalists to try: a carbon fiber version of the Blur LT. While helpful Cruz employee Scott set the bike up for me, I ogled its racy lines. SC had learned some things about working with carbon fiber from their development of the carbon Blur XC released last year, and decided to apply them to its heavier-duty cousin to bring it up to their high expectations of strength and stiffness while losing weight.


Talking to Santa Cruz spokesmodel Mike Ferrentino (above), he mentioned that a lot of bike materials technology originated in the weapons industry. Rather a shame, but the bike industry sure does make it beautiful. This one-piece lay-up front triangle, held by Scott, looked just as sleek and clean on the inside as on the outside:


“Heavy-duty” and “carbon fiber”? Four words that don’t seem to go together, until one considers this bike. It has no rider weight limit, and the tapered head tube can handle longer-travel forks to go with its 140mm rear travel.

It’s the little things that count though: grease ports for lubing the suspension, integrated chainstay protector and chain-slap plate, super-clean cable guides, and a direct-mount front derailleur.

grease_ports.jpg  headtube.jpg  midsection.jpg

At last it was time to ride. Shannon grabbed a bike from British brand Orange and we headed out to do a piece of the cross country course. The last bike I spent significant time on was a 29er, so I was prepared for that initial “whoah, sketchy” transition period I usually get when going back down in wheel size (especially on sand as I had in front of me), but it wasn’t there. Pretty quickly, I settled in to letting the VPP2 suspension do its work, and began to feel that burly-n-fast moto feeling that a good 26”-wheeler can give, blasting over stutter bumps and throwing it in the berms. Despite the Blur’s 69-degree head angle, I didn’t get any of that side-to-side wheel flop in sharp turns. The suspension wasn’t too squishy yet active at the right times, reminiscent of the last time I tried a DW-Link bike. I didn’t feel like I was hauling a whole 27lbs. (approximate weight) up the nasty steep climb at the end of the trail. Yeah, sweet.

That day I also stopped by the DT Swiss booth, where they plied me with chocolate croissants and showed off their new wheels and suspension. Another theme of this year’s Otter goods: carbon fiber. The spoke masters had their XRC 100 Race Ltd., a racy, Swiss-made 100mm-travel fork with a carbon steerer tube, crown and lower that comes in at under 1200g including the remote lockout switch (that’s around two-and-a-half pounds for standard measurers).


For all-mountain rear squish they offer a new M210  shock, featuring external rebound and compression adjustments and platform damping that is tunable to suit different frame designs. It’s notable that DT Swiss has been using spherical eyelets on their shocks for some time with success, and they point out that no motorized toy uses fixed-mount shocks.

The Swiss masters are offering two new wheelsets, an XRC 1350 based on their successful 1250 but less expensive, and an all-mountain EXC 1550.

1350.jpg 1550.jpg

Both wheels have uni-directional carbon fiber rims with a structure that remained secret, no cross-sections to be seen. I wasn’t aware that DT hubs could be converted to different axle styles with available kits – if you’ve got a regular quick-release DT Swiss hub and want to switch to a 20mm thru-axle in the front, for example, it can be done without buying a new wheel. Here’s a cutaway showing their star ratchet engagement system:


I love cutaways – so fascinating!

Later that evening we got to hang out with Billy Savage of Klunkerz fame, as well as the luminaries from the previous evening. Our campsite was a lovely haven of good food, good beer and good company.


Sea Otter Classic Day 2


Friday is the day that the racing kicks in, for amateurs and pros alike, and there was a sense of excitement and urgency among the kitted-up people riding around the venue. It turns out we were camping with one such racer: Adrian Studdiford, son of our west-coast-host-with-the-most Robert Studdiford of TwoFish Unlimited. Some backstory: this year, as in most years, Robert drove up from El Cerrito carrying a lot of our goods along with his own, as well as the makings of a kick-ass campsite, complete with a wood stove made out of an old Weber grill. It has been really sweet to sit comfortably by the stove as the fog rolls in at night. (Left to right: Mia from Momentum Magazine, some dude named Gary Fisher, Laura also from Momentum, Robert cooking up a storm, and Adrian.)


Anyway, Adrian is a freshman at El Cerrito High, a school that participates in the excellent NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League. Sea Otter is not an official race in the series, but he was racing anyway as a Dirt Rag rogue. Having heard a lot about the NorCal league, I asked Adrian about what it’s like to participate; he says that it’s so much fun he plans to continue racing with the League all the way through his senior year. “Everyone’s really nice, and it gives me an excuse to get out. It’s much better than football.” The team practices in December, then races from late February to early May. On this day Adrian suffered through his chain dropping and getting caught behind the chainrings, and still managed to place mid-pack, in only his fourth race.


It’s become somewhat of a tradition at Sea Otter that SRAM will have a large and well-orchestrated presentation of new shiny bits. This year, the bits were extra shiny, and colorful – sense a theme here? We’re going back to the days of decorating a bike in matching (or clashing) anodized bits. Personally, I’m into it. SRAM’s contribution is the Select collection of X.0 derailleurs and shifters, Noir cranks, and PG-990 cassettes in five color options: red, orange, gold, green and pink.


SRAM also made it known that RockShox is staying in the rear shock game. Expect to see more of their shock offerings as original equipment on bikes, the higher-end Monarch (notable on new Santa Cruz Blurs) and the midrange Ario line. The Arios in particular have been revamped to have the same quality internals as the Monarchs, just fewer bells and whistles (e.g. external adjustments).

For the front end, RockShox is taking cues from other forks to spruce up the Revelation to make it the lightest and stiffest all-mountain fork around: “Power Bulges” to reinforce the bushing area from the Lyric, weight-saving shorter upper tubes from the SID, and a travel increase to 150mm. The Revelation will have options for regular QR or 20mm Maxle Light thru-axles, and 1-1/8” or tapered (1-1/8” to 1-1/2”) steerer tube options. The latter tapered style is showing up on many more bikes; various stress tests show that most of the bad kind of front-end force, what’s not absorbed by the shock itself, is transferred into the lower half of the head tube, so it’s a good idea to make it larger.

One interesting development is that Avid’s Juicy brakes are making way for more versions of the awesome Elixir brakes. New at the top of the line, replacing the Juicy Ultimate, is the Elixir CR Mag – it has a forged magnesium lever body, a carbon fiber lever with a larger pivot, and a new master cylinder, among other tidbits. For a cool retro touch this brake also has a U-clamp that pays homage to that of the original Speed Dial brakes. Also notable is the fact that Avid will now offer Centerlock-style rotors – although they are not allowed to sell the necessary lockrings due to “shenanigans” (but those lockrings usually come with the hubs).

After this presentation, the plan was to go riding on some Commencal bikes with Cedric Gracia, but I had not been properly hydrating myself all day and had developed a killer headache, so Shannon and Eric went off in my place. Turns out C.G. was recovering from an injury and couldn’t ride either. So I made my way back to the Dirt Rag booth and spent some time behind the counter, peddling goods and subscriptions. We did a brisk business, especially considering it was only Friday. Tires from Continental, totes from SealLine, and hydration products from Platypus helped entice people to sign up for subscriptions.


Next door to the Dirt Rag booth were some crazy-looking bikes I had seen online, the Delta 7 Arantix mountain bike and Ascend road bike.


This one had been raced for a win in XC just a while before, thus the dust and the medal adorning it. I’ll admit that after seeing some photos, these weird carbon fiber and Kevlar matrix creations seemed a bit… well, hokey. Plus the initial retail price – an astounding $12,000 – was a deterrent to serious inquiry on my part. Well, oftentimes in the bike business, one forms a different opinion of a product after meeting the rational, friendly and quite passionate people behind it, and this is the case with the Arantix. For one thing, Delta 7 has dropped the price down a few levels in the stratosphere to $8500. (This is still intended to be a very-high-end bike, and the company only plans on producing around a hundred a year.) For another thing, the explanation of how the frame works actually makes sense. It’s a result of engineering research at Brigham Young University concerning the ultimate combination of strength and weight in structural pieces; the IsoTruss structure, consisting of carbon fiber wound with Kevlar into a tube made up of isosceles triangles (a grossly oversimplified description), is what they came up with.


Wanting to put it to a real-world test, the engineers decided on using it in a bicycle frame, as the structure has to be hand-made and thus isn’t ideal for larger creations. Delta 7’s parent company, Advanced Composite Solutions, is also looking into using this structure in other applications. We may end up with a bike to test pretty soon, so we’ll go into more detail then.

We’ve got a lot more on tap for the second half of this bike gathering. In the meantime, check out our Gallery of photos, to which we’ll be adding in the next few days. Right now, it’s time for dinner!


The 2009 Sea Otter Classic – Day One


We’re here at the Sea Otter Classic, the kickoff event for the cycling season – at least the “official” part of the season, the racing and product launch part. Many of you probably never stopped riding in the winter, nor did we. But hey, this event is interesting and a lot of fun, with something for pretty much everyone on two (or one, or three) wheels.

This year, the weather has been unusually nice – no rain, no gale force winds. (Well, at least the wind died down after Wednesday’s debacle of trying to set up camp with everything blowing away.) The expo area was already drawing a decent crowd on Thursday, a nice mix of local enthusiasts, international pros, and groms cruising around popping little jumps on 20” bikes. This event is sort of like Interbike for the masses with a full complement of exhibition booths and demo bikes that anyone can try.


Wandering from our home base at the Dirt Rag booth, we first encountered Chris Sugai of Niner Bikes showing off an impressively colorful display of the new Niner rigid carbon forks. A year and four months of development have yielded a uniquely-shaped fork that is almost stupid-light at 550g, yet has passed lengthy stress tests at both Niner and RockShox’s labs with flying… er, colors. It’s made completely of carbon except for a steel “sandwich” of plates to protect the dropout. Despite it’s almost aero appearance, it seems like something that would be right at home on a 29er singlespeed for a wicked-light and fast ride.

The question of where the fork is made (China) led to a discussion of the state of global parts manufacturing. The fact is that facilities to make quality carbon parts just don’t exist here in the States. To mitigate one big problem with overseas manufacturing – industrial pollution, Chris and Co. have done what they can to work with a factory that uses more environmentally friendly practices, such as water reclamation and solvent-reducing painting methods. Of course bike-making is not dead here in the U.S., although Cannondale’s imminent factory closing strikes a blow; instead it has shifted back to the small-scale and individual builders, as testified by the NAHBS and the explosion of regional handmade bicycle shows.

Next we wandered to the WTB booth. We’ve got some stuff from them on tap to test. But I also spotted a guy that looked familiar… turns out it was Bobby McMullen, the WTB-sponsored rider who happens to be legally blind. (See issue #122 for an interview with him.) He was at Sea Otter to race, of course, but also to meet folks and promote an independently-made film about him from Poison Oak Productions, called The Way Bobby Sees It. It was a pleasure to meet him, and hopefully we’ll get to catch him out on the course later.


Further on down the row of booths, we spotted Pittsburgh ex-pat Mike Rainey at the Commencal booth. He was there to show off prototypes of the carbon-fiber version of the Meta 5.5. The frame looked pretty sweet, offering the same 140mm of travel as the aluminum version but weighing under 5lbs. Mike also told us about the Absolut SX slopestyle bike, developed in part with help from their “Young Guns,” two teenage Commencal riders who had been “crushing” the regular dual slalom bikes and needed something beefier. The Absolut’s rear end pivots around the bottom bracket, and thus can work with either a deraileur or as a sisinglespeed, and it will come complete with both types of dropouts.


Mike regaled us with tales of an event Commencal put on late last summer at Angel Fire resort in New Mexico – a 12-hour downhill race. This sounded like a crazy amount of fun. Racers could choose from three courses – easy, medium and hard – and their times were started from the moment they got on the lift. Mike said this made for a tense ride up, but then an explosion of that tension out on the course. Apparently times actually got faster once it got dark and the riders couldn’t see the rocks. The event wasn’t publicized for the first run, but Mike says they hope to do it bigger this year.


After this we went in search of some refreshments, but on the way found some really unusual and cool-looking street bikes. I stood there puzzling over the stylized logo on the bikes’ tubes, trying to figure out what it said, but then the builder handed me a business card – he is Matthew Rodriguez, and his brand is Shortyfatz. This frame had a beautiful raw-plus-clearcoat finish. Also displayed were several long-n-low cruisers (in the background) with many-spoked wheels, and a couple of singlespeed/fixie street bikes, all with “pointy” downtubes resembling those of big ol’ motorcycle frames made to support a giant engine.


On some of these bikes and in this up-close display, Eric’s sharp eye spotted a unique eccentric bottom bracket by Phil Wood with a smaller diameter, which is made for use with a half-link chain, and thus smaller and lighter than its full-link cousin.


Toward the end of the day we wandered to the Control Tech booth and saw this cool new carbon crank for a 2×9 set-up. (I’ve long been a fan of the 2×9.) Its two chainrings are a regular 94mm bolt circle diameter, but its spindle is an elongated triangle shape, which should eliminate the problem of stripping splines on a round spindle. Jason Rico, doing double-booth duty, also showed us some slick wheels from relatively unknown maker A-Class. They are diving right in to the 650B size, and also had a nice-looking high end mountain wheelset, the BXD-1, with scandium-alloy rims and aluminum disc rotors.

For Friday, it looks like I’ll get to do a bit of riding with none other than Cedric Gracia. Whew, maybe I better find a full-face helmet and some pads…  In the next couple of days we’ll hopefully get to demo the new carbon version of the Santa Cruz Blur, and some new bikes from Specialized. We’ve also been speculating about the possibility of actually participating in a race. I’m sure we’d get our doors blown off by all these fit people who live in perpetual sunshine, but it would be nice to experience another main attraction. Oh, how we suffer for you readers!


Here is Maurice (DR’s Big Cheese) with the special inflation forces from Genuine Innovations, Marty Mares (president of the company) and Michael Drabousky (communications director). Bigwigs have fun too in the bike industry.

Dirt Rag’s Seventh Annual Literature Contest

Dirt Rag’s Seventh Annual Literature Contest

It’s become a tradition in the pages of the ‘Rag… the Literature Contest. From it we’ve garnered some great stories, winners have received some awesome prizes, and there have even been a few “so bad it’s good” entries passed around the office.

This year our good buddies at Speedgoat Bicycles have stepped up to provide two sweet prizes:
– The First Place winner will get a Santa Cruz Nomad decked out with SRAM X.9 drivetrain, Avid Elixir brakes, RockShox Domain 318 fork, Mavic Crossline wheels and the rest of the necessary bits.

– Second Place will win a complete Salsa El Mariachi built with Shimano/Surly/WTB wheels, Salsa CroMoto fork, Avid Juicy 3 brakes, Truvativ Stylo crank and more.


Both First and Second Place entries will be published in issues of Dirt Rag. The deadline is, as always, June 1st – may seem like a long way off now, but it takes time to produce good literature, so get to writin’ (and ridin’ for inspiration).

To submit:
– Include one cover page with the title, your name and contact information.
– Don’t place any personal information, such as your name or address, in the article itself (so that we can judge anonymously).
– Entries must be postmarked by June 1, 2009.

The fine print:
– Entry must include a reference to cycling, preferably mountain biking.
– Length limited to 3,000 words. (This is not a quota. If you can get your point across in fewer words, all the better.)
– Original, unpublished work only.
– Do not plagiarize.
– One entry per person.
– Entries accepted by mail only. Please print out on paper – no floppy disks, thumb drives, or other electronic media.
– No, we cannot answer every query as to whether we’ve received your entry, whether you’ve won or not, what you should do to become a better writer, etc. Results will be posted sometime after the deadline. It might be a while, as we’ll have a lot of reading to do.
Good luck and happy writing!

Dirt Rag Women’s Weekend at Ray’s Indoor MTB Park

rays_wmns_web.jpgWe had such a good time last year, we’re doing it again… the Dirt Rag Women’s Weekend at Ray’s MTB Indoor Park!

It starts this Friday, February 20, with a women-only day of riding and skills clinics with some top pros. There will also be demo bikes from Trek and Specialized, and cool raffle prizes from SRAM and others.

During the day we’ll have free lunch (a good Mexican-style one) from Chipotle, snacks provided by dirt jump bike builder Superco, and free recharge fuel courtesy of Red Bull.

Friday night we’ll have a party at the local Holiday Inn with snack food provided by Subaru and hey, beer! – from Pabst Blue Ribbon.

For those of you that want to come in from out of town, the Holiday Inn (Cleveland Airport location) will also have special room rates for the whole weekend.

The fun continues on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22 with half-off entry for women, so you can practice your newfound skills. (And guys can hang out with some rad chicks!)

Saturday night will also be a first for Ray’s – a night ride, with demo lights from NiteRider Lighting Systems, from 10-12p.m.

Oh yes, and we’ll also have deals on subscriptions and merch available.

If you’d like to come and haven’t already, please send us an RSVP email at [email protected] so that we can be prepared.

See you there!

It All Started With a Chainring


Some weeks ago I noticed that the large chainring on my cyclocross-style commuting bike was badly and unexpectedly worn – the teeth looked like pointy little shark teeth, rather than the rounded swells they should be. It wasn’t all that old, but it did go through some nasty street slush and muck this past spring.


So I set out to replace it. The chain was also worn, but fortunately not to the point that it had caused the other chainring and the cogset to assume similarly wrong shapes. Whew. I got a new chainring, but found that the new one, while being very nearly identical, was just a slice of a millimeter or so thinner at the bolt holes. So I went in search of spacers at the local shops. One mechanic graciously spent about 15 minutes searching in basement bins and came up with four of the five I needed. Close enough for now.

Of course, like many errands of this nature, it took me a few days to do this shopping, and in the meantime I had thoroughly cleaned the cranks and bottom bracket, and applied grease where necessary. Since I did all that, I figured I might as well clean the cogset too. At some point during the past six months I had experimented with a vegetable-oil lube, decided I didn’t like it, and switched back to my trusty Boeshield T-9… but I had neglected to clean all of the old lube off of the drivetrain. The resulting paraffin/oil/grime mixture had encrusted itself onto the parts like some sort of evil alien lichen, and needed several more days of soaking in degreaser, plus scrubbing with toothbrushes and rags, to remove.

So while the cogset was off I decided to check out the hub internals. Lots of cleaning and regreasing there too. Next, might as well true up the rear wheel, which meant bringing it into the office. Rather, remembering to bring it in to the office.

It seems the Chris King headset was the only part that barely needed any attention, just a little wiping. Pretty impressive.


So while my bike was mostly disassembled, I thought I might as well replace the cables too. We happened to have scored a couple sets of Gore RideOn cables to test at Interbike. I took the old cork tape off the bars and cleaned the adhesive residue off, only to find a suspicious-looking line… was that a crack?


Yes it was, and there was a matching one on the other side. I inquired with the fine folks at Easton and found out that the older yellow paint on my bars was not as flexible as the newer stuff, so it was possible that the cracks were not structural. However, I wasn’t totally sure of the exact age of the bars, as they’d come on the bike when it was a tester, and while I hadn’t crashed the “holy heck” out of them (in the words of the Easton rep, Sean Coffey), they had survived quite a few minor bangs. Witness the shifters:


So new handlebars were also in order.

Then there were the brakes… this bike has Avid BB Road mechanical disc brakes, which as the name implies, contain actual ball bearings, which are user-serviceable. If something is user-serviceable, it’s probably a good idea to do so, ideally before three years of use and abuse have been heaped upon it, as was the case with my brakes. I had previously tried to overhaul them in the spring, but the parts were long since corroded and stuck together from all the wintertime salt on the roads. Since then I had been dealing with the fact that they were no longer adjustable, and with some unholy squealing noises, and with decreasing braking power. Time to remedy that.


OK, now all of that was done, finally time to ride the ol’ Stumptown once again. I made it in to work, and realized that the seat height was not quite right, so I went to unscrew the pinch bolt to adjust it, when… PING!


The threads in the seat collar snapped and came out with the bolt. Huh.

Justin helped me jerry-rig up a different bolt with a nut to get home.

Now I have a new/old bike with new cables, brakes, chain and chainring, and with everything else cleaned, tuned and generally spiffied up. Holy cow, what a difference in the ride! I am particularly amazed at the difference in the handlebars. Apparently Easton has been monkeying (no pun intended) with ways to manipulate the carbon layers in their handlebars to make them more compliant in the downward direction to absorb more vibration, but to remain stiff in the upward direction, such as when pulling hard in a sprint. Our very own Saxonburg Blvd. got a nasty coating of rough “chips” in the asphalt a couple years ago that rattles our teeth, but suddenly, with the new bars, the rattling is turned way down. And wow, it sure is nice to have brakes that work reliably again. I promise to give those ball bearings some love before 2012!

Cold Weather Riding #7: Physical Considerations

There is a panoply of excuses we can choose from when wimping out of cold weather riding. Some of them have more validity than others – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be overcome. I’d like to address a couple of physical limitations that can be good reasons to bow out of a cold ride, but that don’t necessarily need to stop you, especially in their milder forms.

Asthma is basically what happens when your lungs try to reject some air they don’t like by swelling their bronchial tubes and making extra mucus. This constricting of your airways can be triggered by a wide variety of things, but cold air is one possibility, along with pollution, allergies, and others. The tag “exercise induced” is applied to a slightly different kind of asthma that happens during aerobic workouts. This one is interesting in that it’s apparently more prevalent among athletes, especially those in biking and other aerobic disciplines. A study done on the 1996 Olympic participants found that many more of them (15%) had exercise induced asthma than the general population. Is this because of all the dirt and smog and pollen in the air that we athletic folks are breathing at higher rates than couch potatoes? Or is it because the medications used to treat exercise induced asthma – inhalers with corticosteroids – can also give the user a speed-like boost, and some of the research subjects may have been fibbing? Tough to say. (“Trucker speed,” or ephedrine, used to be a common asthma medication but is no longer common.)

One thing is for sure – if your doctor has prescribed an inhaler for you, even if his last name is Ferrari, bring it with you on all your rides, not just the cold ones (or Olympic competition). An asthma attach is inconvenient at best, deadly at worst, and nothing to trifle with. And a bad case of asthma might indeed be grounds for avoiding exercise in the cold air altogether – only your doctor can tell you.

My experience is with the mild kind. Riding in any weather often involves some mouth-breathing, which means the air isn’t getting filtered, warmed and humidified by your nasal passages. If the available air is cold and dry it can irritate your lungs that much more. Apparently though, it’s not so much the cold as it is the dry – another research study (where would we be without them?) found that dry, room-temperature air had just as much negative effect as cold and dry air. The solution is to breathe through a piece of fabric, so that moisture is trapped on the exhale and added back in to the air on the inhale. I like to use a Buff, because it’s thin enough that it doesn’t restrict airflow on its own and it doesn’t leave lint stuck in my teeth. (You can find some fashionable Buff options here.) I’ve also used a thin balaclava or even a bandana. I don’t cover my nose, since the trapped moisture then fogs my glasses. I’ve had two asthma-free winters so far with a good face covering, that and taking steps to keep my allergies in check.

Raynaud’s Syndrome
Just like cold air can make some people’s air passages constrict, it can make some people’s blood vessels in their fingers and toes constrict. Of course one of the healthy body’s natural responses to cold is to reduce bloodflow to the extremities to conserve heat at your core, but Raynaud’s is a peculiar kind of dramatic version of this. The typical distinguishing symptom is a pronounced skin color change from red to white to blue, along with pain and numbness. I shot the photo below on my cellphone – note the white tip of my ring finger…


Blood loss is bad, mkay, particularly when it’s cold and the flesh not being warmed properly can freeze.

This can also be a very serious condition leading to such nasty things as gangrene, so if you think you’ve seen your fingers change colors and you haven’t been fingerpainting, talk to your doctor. If one of your parents has it ask your doctor about it as well, as this condition is most likely genetic.

Since my mom has it, and I have seen some finger-colors going on, I made the appointment. There are some medications to alleviate the symptoms, but they all lower your blood pressure, and since mine is already pretty low, they were ruled out. Plus these medications – usually calcium-channel blockers – have some nasty side effects. (Interesting side note – another one of those helpful studies found that Viagra works pretty well against Raynaud’s.)

What I do is simply be careful to protect my hands and feet well when riding in the cold. Sometimes this means wearing big heavy winter stuff in the fall when nobody else is yet, but so be it. Currently I use Lake CX Zero gloves, which are sadly discontinued (but may be on closeout at a bike shop near you!), and Lake MXZ302 boots, both of which have served me well. On a day down in the low twenties or below, I’ll wear a pair of nylon stockings underneath thick wool socks for an extra degree or two of warmth. (Guys who’ve been wanting to “experiment,” here’s your chance.) My hands often get painfully cold before my feet. I’ll probably look into some good silk or wool glove liners soon. One thing that helps my hands tremendously is to make sure my wrists are also adequately covered, and not constricted by too much elastic.

Road riding is more of a challenge than mountain biking, since the speeds tend to be higher with less work, and I’m more exposed to wind. Pogies are a great invention from the far northern frozen lands to help keep your hands warm, but until recently they’ve been made exclusively for straight handlebars. Here’s an option for drop handlebars. I haven’t tried them (yet) and there may be more. The serious long-distance winter specialist types generally go with the mountain bike setup, with flat bars and pogies, as well as flat platform pedals and hiking boots – something to keep in mind if I want to tackle any truly cold days.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my finger-colors and numbness are less likely with exercise. For instance, the above photo was actually taken after sitting most of the day, while I was a passenger in a car that hadn’t warmed up yet. I haven’t found any scientific evidence to back up the exercise cure, but it makes sense, since it’s all about blood flow. It’s a catch-22 for sure – go out in the cold to prevent its effects. But getting in a proper ride sure beats a boring spin on a trainer no matter the weather.

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