Usually, when I talk about heading down to Leesburg, VA for a race in the dead of winter with non-mountain bikers, I’m told with varying degrees of vulgarity that I lack intelligence. But I like to think that Plum Grove Cyclery’s Snotcycle is the beginning of my training for one of my favorite events, the Leesburg Bakers Dozen, and there are certainly other measures that better represent my low intelligence.
This is the time of the year that I find myself cursing the cold and wishing for longer days. It’s also the time of the year that I’m starting to think about riding a bike faster. For the past two years now, I have used the last weekend of January to kick off my training for LBD. To those that are unfamiliar with Snotcycle, it’s a weather-be-damned event. This year it’s part of a point series along with 3 other events. Leesburg Bakers Dozen, a 13hr endurance race in April, being one of the 4 events.
The northern Virginia events are a great excuse for me to visit friends and ride bikes. Every race I’ve been to at the Leesburg farm has had a great atmosphere. There’s always plenty of smiles and laughing. Even when snow threatens to shut down our Capital, it couldn’t chill the mood of many of the riders.
Snotcycle is a one-day event that I like to drag out to an entire weekend. I arrived at my friend’s house in Arlington Thursday night and after a small sampling of Belgium beers it was off to bed. Friday began with the promise of another one of our D.C. area traditions – Anita’s. There’s something so great about scrambled eggs, cheese and refried beans with chili sauce in a warm tortilla. Chips and salsa for breakfast? Yes, please.
After the southwestern breakfast it was back for bikes and gear. We stopped at Revolution Cycles for some tubes and hand and feet warmers. Then it was off to The Bike Lane to grab a new lid for my buddy, Matt Mead. (Somehow he lost two.) At The Bike Lane we ran into several employees leaving for the farm who where excited about the prospects of another Snotcycle.
We arrived at the course around 3pm for the pre-ride and found that the ground was hard and fast. It was bone cracking cold and overcast. The two of us met up with The Bike Lane crew and the Leesburg course didn’t disappoint. However, it has changed a bit since last year. In the past the events have alternated directions each year. This year the race was clockwise, but the length of farm road near the end of the lap was removed. In place of the road there is new single track through the pines and along rt.15. This was a fantastic addition. I was a big fan of the course and even more so now. More flowy singletrack is always nice.
Bill learned the importance of torque wrenches.
After the ride it was Thai food and an early night. The next morning we woke to an inch of snow and nickel sized flakes kept dropping. No worries, I thought. I borrowed a pair of Nokian studded tires from our editor, Karen. I brought an extra set of wheels in anticipation of changing conditions. The Nokian studs were meant to mount a pair of Bontrager Rhythm wheels. I have been riding a pair of Shimano XT wheels, reviewed in #142, tubeless and was going to swap wheels if the conditions got icy. Unfortunately I can’t report on the benefits of studded tires. The tire and rim pairing just wasn’t cooperating and the plan was abandoned. After an exerted effort it seemed better to actually make it to the race on time.
By the time we left for the venue there was easily an inch of snow on the ground. When we arrived at the race, there was two inches, and it wasn’t slowing. I regretted not trying harder to get those tires on. Prior to the 1pm singlespeed start, several hundred tires had been compacting snow on the course. There were definitely sections which studded tires could have benefitted riders. Oh well, I thought.
As I waited for the singlespeed line up by one of the bonfires, I couldn’t help revel in the setting. Frigid temps and heavy snow certainly befitted the title of Snotcycle.
My race was more of a ride with a fast group. After dropping my bike several times and one bad crash, I ended up content with my low gear ratio. The other riders I knew at the event had smaller rear cogs giving them a higher gear ratio. I didn’t see them after the start. (At least that’s why I’m telling myself I didn’t see them.) I finished my two laps and headed straight for the warmth of the fire and some hot chocolate. It wasn’t much longer before I was laughing with friends and tipping a beer.
The Leesburg events seem to embody much of the grassroots camaraderie and ambience of historic mountain biking. Despite the weather, 292 racers were timed at this year’s Snotcycle. And proven by the 58min registration window for this year’s Baker’s Dozen, the word is spreading quickly that there’s some extremely fun singletrack along the Potomac.
Coming from a city that has a notorious reputation for snow, it was astonishing how little capacity there seemed to be for accommodating the frozen precipitation. Combined with the motorists who obviously were not used to dealing with winter conditions, the ride home from the venue was treacherous. But we had big plans for the night.
I have been to northern Virginia on several occasions over the last couple years, but have never made the effort to travel into Washington D.C. Saturday night our plan was to take the metro to The Mall and get some pics of the capital monuments for this blog post. Well, we traveled there, but that’s about it. Walking to the surface from the Smithsonian metro stop, we were greeted by snow and even colder wind then previously that day. I took a couple lame pictures, east then west, only a few yards from the entrance of metro, and then scurried back underground. We hopped another couple trains and warmed up with some international beers at Brickskeller.
Thanks to Go Time Racing for providing computer timing for all the racers, and as always, thank you to Plume Grove Cyclery, the Brown Family and Rockland Farm for another great time.
Race Results: click here.
Race Pics: http://www.pingelphoto.com/