Spencer Paxson

From Zero to PANIC!

This is the third installment in From Zero to…? A firsthand account of taking a normal sucker (me) and putting me through a tough training regemen to try to get stronger on the bike. Chapter 1. Chapter 2.

It’s hard to believe I’ve rounded the bend of Week 7 in this three(ish) month experiment of Make Lacy “Feel” Stronger. Having mostly intangible goals makes noticing an improvement (or lack thereof) somewhat challenging. Some days I feel like a superhero on the bike. Other days I feel like I have lead weights tied to my quads. They just don’t want to move!

The last couple weeks have been spent building up my “engine” as my coach, Spencer, would say. I’ve been packing in more interval sessions on the trainer as well as on actual rides. It seems like every couple weeks I have a little victory as well as a sobering realization. I’m definitely learning to hate bigger rides less. Two weeks ago I did roughly 23 miles and 3800′ of climbing. That may seem like small potatoes to some people, but that was a fairly long day for me. Fortunately, one of my girlfriends is an ex-pro road racer, a CX phenom, and a total masochist, so she is PSYCHED to do these death marches with me. It’s a total blessing. While I want to barf on the climbs she just chatters away telling me all kinds of stories from her life. It’s kind of like an autobiography on tape, only way more interactive. If you don’t have a Mindy in your life, you should all find one!

The Chuckanut death march route.

I was happy with how that big ride went. Aside from a few moments of utter pain, I felt pretty strong overall. I know I didn’t break any speed records on the climbs, but I was pleased with my ability to stay consistent ascending. We even did a bonus loop just so I could have a little ripper of a descent. Spencer says it’s important to balance these big, challenging days with reward. I guess I’m really just like a dog. You want me to do something hard? Give me cookies (or in this case, Organic generic Pop Tarts. They are delicious and I can pronounce every one of the ingredients!) Even better than completing the big ride was the fact that I didn’t feel awful the next day. I ate everything in site, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I stretched and stretched and drank a lot of water. I’m learning to eat more “whole foods” that help aid in recovery and energy. I’m adding in more natural proteins and good fats. Avocados, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and dried fruit have replaced energy bars and mini bags of Swedish Fish.

I’m not kidding about those Pop Tarts. Pure joy!

As all things that rise eventually fall, I did have a real struggle, too. On a recent interval day where I had to do 4×8 minutes at 80% power, I had a near-panic attack. Since I work full time, teach yoga, and have a healthy social calendar, I have to squeeze in every ride/workout before or after work. The Pacific Northwest is dark in the winter. The sun rises at 8 am and sets at 4:30 pm. This means that no matter when I ride, it’s dark. It gives an illusion of it being late and I think it tricks my brain into feeling tired. So, it’s a constant battle to stay motivated and switch from “tired” to “strong” in my mind. This interval session got the best of me, though. On the first leg after a ~2o minute warmup I hit the cranks hard. The gravel road turned sharply uphill. I timed the ride all wrong. Pushing power up a steep hill for that kind of sustained time sucked the life out of me. My breathing was panicked. My heart rate was too high. I felt like there was no way I was going to complete it. I felt like I was going to cry and fail- two things I do not enjoy. I’ve had panic attacks on climbs before that forced me to pull over and take a long rest and remind myself that biking is fun. Yet I have a tendency to be intense and take things way too seriously sometimes. I’ve learned this lesson on rides before so when I felt this emotion washing over me I was able to calm myself down and keep pushing up the hill with fervor.

After the first interval I found a less intense grade for the remainder of the ride and was able to complete the workout satisfactorily, but I still felt a bit shaken after that initial incident. It’s weird doing these workouts alone in the pitch black. My only other companions were two bats that kept darting in and out of my light beams. I was oddly glad they were there to distract me from the pain. Eventually, I made it to the top of the climb and enjoyed a cruisy rip down one of our longer downhill trails. I got back to the car and struggled to even walk. Everything hurt-even my shoulders from pushing so hard up the hills. But whatever, I guess this is my engine going from a V6 to a V8. It better be working because that ride totally sucked.

What’s next? Another mega day. Tomorrow’s plan is 4+ hours of moving time and 4500′ on the bike. I’m oddly looking forward to it… or perhaps I’m just looking forward to more of Mindy’s and shoving more Pop Tarts down my throat. Wish me luck!

 

Say Hello to the 2019 Endurance and Adventure Team!

Guess who’s back? The Kona Endurance and Adventure Team! This four pack of distance/type-two/pain-loving cyclists plan to travel across every kind of terrain on multiple continents throughout 2019. In its third year, the Kona Endurance and Adventure team returns ready for some big days in the saddle. From lung-busting gravel grinds, mountain biking in places we may not have ever heard of, to a full season of Elite XC, gravel and marathon racing, they’re ready to dig in, ride hard, and capture all of the excitement they can find aboard two wheels.

The Endurance and Adventure team is made up of Kona veterans that know exactly what it takes to squeeze the most out of every single adventure. Team ringleader Barry Wicks is back with a full agenda of rides all across North America and the World accompanied by probable world record-holder Spencer Paxson, 24hr World Champ Cory Wallace, and the ever-keen-to-crush and party pumper Kris Sneddon. And be on the lookout for guest appearances by Kona Maxxis Shimano CX racers Kerry Werner and Rebecca Fahringer. Together they make up a crew that is champing at the bit to push the limits of where bikes can go, how hard they can be ridden, and how much fun is actually possible while inflicting what seems to mere mortals like some sort of self-inflicted punishment.

Oh the places they’ll go! They’ll cross the plains and race the Dirty Kanza, traverse BC’s best trails in the BC Bike Race, leave their marks in the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder, spend days in the high alpine of the Trans Rockies and pay visits to the Epic Ride Series of events. In addition, they’ll be busy crossing many a mountain pass, bikepacking to locations that seem impossible to reach, racing the races that scare most people, and leaving dusty contrails in their wakes as often as possible. If it sounds like a challenge, these guys are up for it.

Barry Wicks

Barry Wicks

Cory Wallace

Cory Wallace Photo: Margus Riga

Spencer Paxson

Spencer Paxson

Kris Sneddon

Kris Sneddon

 

Stay tuned to the Cog and Kona Features for the latest on their travel shenanigans.

All photos by Patrick Means and Duncan Philpott

From Zero to….?

This is me… taking life seriously, as you can see.

Hi! My name is Lacy Kemp. I work in the marketing department at Kona and have the keys to this blog, so I figured I’d invite you all on a three-month journey with me. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for about 10 years. I started kinda late (I’m 38 now), so the learning curve for me wasn’t as fast as, say, an 18-year-old, or a kiddo. I mean, have you seen the kids these days? There are seven-year-olds that outride me. It’s humbling, to say the least.

I ride so I can experience moments of solitude like this one.

The thing is, I’m not a bad rider. I’m a proficient climber and find my comfort in the scary steep stuff. But, for whatever reason, I feel so inadequate when I ride with my crew. Granted, I try to keep up with some exceptionally talented riders, but still. I am a capable human and I want to feel better on my bike. It has gone from just cruising with my buddies to me putting this weird pressure on myself to be “better” and  “faster,” even though none of them care whatsoever about my pace. I think this is something a lot of us deal with – especially women. Mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport for most if its life, and therefore many of us ride with the guys. Personally, I love riding in a coed group. It’s the vibe I like most. It’s silly, fun, strong, and always a good time – in spite of the mental traps I set for myself.

While I *can* climb just fine, I absolutely loathe how it makes me feel.

So, what’s a person to do? I’ve taken clinics and classes every year since I’ve been riding. I’ve raced downhill and even klunkers. I understand how to ride a bike, but what is lacking is how to keep myself physically and mentally in the best condition for enjoying my rides. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘who cares? Just go ride your freakin’ bike.’ You’re not wrong. In an ideal world, I’d just ride and not care about my pace or my hangups. But I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t want to ride better and feel better. The feeling is the most critical thing to me. I want to be able to laugh and chat easily on climbs. I want to be able to absorb the surrounding beauty of the land while I’m out on an adventure versus focusing on breathing and keeping up my pace. But, how do I improve my overall feeling on a bike? It seems to be largely a mental hurdle.

I want climbing to make me feel like crashing in the snow. Silly and carefree!

I decided to give myself a fighting chance at overcoming the barriers that seem to be constraining me. It just so happens that Kona Adventure Man and all around freak of nature on a bike (and I mean that in the most loving way), Spencer Paxson has transitioned his career into athletic performance services at Prime Bellingham- a high-end institute where athletes can go for goal-focused training, psychology, workouts, and many various forms of training. I’ve never had a bike coach before. I’ve never even had a structured workout plan at any point in my life. I don’t know what the difference is between circuits, high-intensity training, and intervals. They all sound like math to me, and math is scary. So to get over the scary, I have hired Spencer to be my personal coach, guru, and advisor for the next three months. My goal? Feel better on my bike.

Dennis Crane

I mean why wouldn’t you hire this guy as your coach? Clearly, he knows it’s all about having fun!

I am going to be a unique challenge for Spencer. Unlike every single other athlete he works with I have no quantifiable goal. I’m not training for an event or a milestone, per se. I’m training to understand why I get caught up in my head when I pedal. I’m training to cut myself some slack when I fall off the back. I’m training to maybe fall off the back a little less. I’m training to see what the hell training is all about. I like systems and processes and structure as much as like a free-spirited life. I’m a quintessential Libra if you believe in that kind of thing.

 

Our first meetings have set the tone for the next 12 weeks. We are working on what is known as Rate of Perceived Exertion (on a scale of 1-10), where I usually hang out at the 4-5 range and want to die around a 6 or 7. We are hoping to make the 7s feel more like 5s… but again it’s all based on feeling. As of this week, I’ve begun logging my miles and vert and RPE for every ride. I’m forcing myself to take recovery days (which is REALLY hard for an exercise junky like me). Next time we meet we’ll do a movement screen to see where I have physical weakness and room for improvement. We’ll check in to see how my sanity is holding up. I’ll see if Spender is ready to kick me and my quirks to the curb. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually enjoy climbing after all of this is said and done? Wouldn’t that be something!

I’m writing this for you because I plan to share the experience with you. The highs and the lows. The learning and growth. The frustrations and challenges. Maybe I’m crazy for starting this around the holidays, but if I can make it through without royally screwing up the next few weeks then the rest of the program should be manageable. I think as cyclists and humans we all have insecurities. Some of us are just better at not giving AF. Maybe that will be my greatest takeaway- learn to let go. It’s a lesson we could all probably use.

Until next time, I’m turning on my Strava (something I NEVER thought I’d say) and will see where this sweet little bike takes me.

-Lacy

Bikes take us to the most amazing places!

 

Spencer Paxson Gets Hounded

Freehub Magazine‘s hound dog Lucy takes no prisoners when she hangs on the couch with athletes during their “Hounded” series. The latest episode features Kona Adventure Team Rider, Spencer Paxson. Spencer is known for his mega rides (remember that 32,000-foot day on Solstice 2017?) his penchant for capturing podiums at MFG Cyclocross races, and his Tally Tuesdays where he breaks down some facet of cycling with all the data points one could ever imagine.

Spencer is entering “Season 9” with Kona Bicycles as part of our factory endurance and adventure program, as well as an assist with the product development team, and we are looking forward to even more good stories unfolding along the way…and his hopefully improving his Neglin game, too!!

 

 

Local Pride and a Star-Studded Soirée, Spencer Reports from a Top-10 at Trans Cascadia

Trans-Cascadia is a blind-format, backcountry enduro race held in the wilder corners of the Pacific Northwest’s Cascade Mountain Range. Previously held in Oregon, the fourth-edition of the event made its way north to the deep corners of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in south-central Washington State. This year’s edition included a heavy-hitting cast of gravity heroes, including international stars Greg Minaar, Steve Peat, Loris Vergier and more. Factory rider Spencer Paxson was on site to represent not only for Kona, but for his local heritage, having grown up just over the hill from where the race took place. For Spencer, Trans Cascadia was a full-spectrum experience of modern mountain biking, from exploration to advocacy to participation. From helping vet the quality of the routes to volunteering in pre-race work parties to finally racing the event, Spencer shares with us his special account from this piece of MTB goodness. 

I credit the terrain around Trout Lake, WA and the greater Gifford Pinchot National Forest for inspiring my deep connection with sport and the outdoors. When I was informed that Trans Cascadia would be venturing to this area for 2018, I leapt at the opportunity to help out. From writing letters of support to the local USFS districts to participating in trail work days, my connection to the region gave me the sense that I owed a concerted effort to support the Trans Cascadia crew and their terrific event. My family’s history goes deep with these forests, including four generations of a family-owned timber and sawmill business and many years of my grandfather and father flying surveillance patrols for the US Forest Service. Not to mention my own experience growing up in these hills. Now, as the economic landscape continues to evolve, it is inspiring to think of mountain biking becoming a more important part of the recreational activities in the area. What better way than to usher it in with revamped trail systems and a world-class event!

I never dreamed I would share these trails alongside 100 other like-minded mountain bikers, let alone legends of the sport whom I’ve looked up to throughout my cycling career. To be clear, this was the zone where I would often go to be solo, or perhaps accompanied by a stalwart family member or friend. I even performed my marriage proposal on one of these trails! This was the zone where I fostered my “benign masochism” on long rides and bushed-out loops with heinous amounts of vertical ascent and frequent hike-a-bikes. But the reward of alpine vistas and remote singletrack was always worth the effort. Fast-forward a decade-and-change later and there I was sharing the same routes with a dozen good friends, trading high fives and trail snacks with the likes of Steve Peat and Greg Minaar, and being able to reassure others with local knowledge of: “don’t worry, it’s almost the top”.

Speaking of more meet-and-greet, the video above captures perhaps the best “nice to meet you” moment I’ve ever experienced. If you follow the big mountain ski world, you’ll get a kick out of it. If not, the running commentary is entertainment enough.

For all the fun that was had, the week was not without a healthy reminder of the fragility of pleasure and the sheer remoteness of the place we were riding. On Day 1, a long time fellow pro racer and friend dropped in ahead of me on Stage 2 and ended up losing control and impacting a tree. I had given enough of a gap on the high-speed stage that I didn’t notice that he had sailed off into the woods until after waiting at the bottom when he was nowhere to be found. After a few riders passed without seeing him, I notified the stage timers and medic and ran back up the trail. Sure enough, my friend was a few minutes run up the hill and laid out on a gentle slope below the trail. The thought that I had ridden past him without seeing gave me a pit in my stomach. A medic and I arrived on scene at nearly the same time and began to administer care (I have my WFR precisely because of these backcountry activities…it’s not much, but it’s far better than nothing). As difficult as it was to see a friend in so much distress, and as scary as the uncertainty of injuries was in the first hour, it was amazing to witness the clockwork of the Trans Cascadia medical crew and staff as they switched-on to expert care for my friend while keeping the rest of the event running smoothly and out of the fray. I can’t speak highly enough of the medical crew and organizers for rallying the way they did to ensure safety and care. After three tough hours, my friend was able to get up and move out on the back of a motorcycle. As for me, I coasted out the last two stages of the day, race brain totally fried.

Mike Thomas

Thanks to Day 1’s strong reminder of two-wheeled hubris, I had the mind to savor and respect Days 2-4. We were still deep in the woods, and any serious incident meant a long wait and (likely) helicopter ride at best. That said, topic for a future piece is the phenomenon of continued risk-taking in the wake of incident. There are so many angles to open up on that topic that I’ll save it for later, but suffice it to say, I didn’t feel like I slowed down despite the experience of my friend’s crash. And I wouldn’t have gone any faster, either. F#@(%…it felt fast!! And on average I was still 3% off pace. I’m happy leaving that remaining sliver to the forest gods. That said, over the next three days I managed to eke out a top-3 and a few top-5 stage placings, which seemed remarkable to me (and scary/exciting?). Maybe everyone else slowed down? Whatever the case, the local pride probably had something to do with it. Witnessing everyone’s enjoyment of the trails and terrain gave me that special form of joy that comes from sharing with others. In that way, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to have my ass handed to me on fairly familiar trails than by the likes of the international gravity stars in attendance.

Chris Hornbecker

In the end, we grimy bunch of mountain biking adults spent 4-days feeling like 19-year-olds with no curfew, no homework, and European drinking privileges. Our cups runneth’d over. I bathed in cold streams and lakes each evening, ate delicious food, and shared lifetime good laughs and high-speed trail sensations with old friends and new ones. As for the racing part, I got myself to 9th place (FULL RESULTS HERE). The morning after the race, a bunch of us loaded into a truck and started the long drive back home. On the way we stopped in sleepy little Trout Lake. There was the gas station and cafe as it always had been each morning before school started, the mountain looming over the valley. I was a visitor in my own home this time, but there was a new twist that felt good. It had been put on everyone else’s map, and in this capacity, it felt really good to share it. I hope people come back. I certainly will!

Thanks for reading.

Photo credits: Mike Thomas and Chris Hornbecker

Cross is Coming Part 4: We Like to Party!

Cross is still on its way… and that means one thing for sure. PARTY TIME. While some folks race the old CX for fitness and prestige, others get after it for the party. Back in 2015 Spencer Paxson put his fitness to the test as he donned his red undies (aka party pants), ripped around on his Private Jake and went the distance for one of the rowdier Single Speed Cyclocross World Champ races.

 

Solstice Madness

Spencer loves massive days in the saddle.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we’re celebrating the summer solstice today. It’s annually a day where we pack as much into a single day as possible, taking advantage of the gratuitous daylight that mother nature has granted us. We thought it fitting to take a look back at last year’s amazing solstice achievement by Kona rider Spencer Paxson as he packed in more vertical in one day than almost anyone else in the world ever has on two wheels.

When I heard Spencer was attempting to ride one of Bellingham’s most awesome trails as many times as possible during daylight hours, I became really intrigued. Spencer is freakishly athletically talented, but that climb is a MONSTER….not in length but in steepness. The average grade is puke-inducing on a good day. I remember polling my friends asking, “How many times do you honestly think you could climb to the top of that trail in a day? Honestly?” Some said two, three, four. One said six…but he’s also freakishly talented. While I’m not the most talented rider on the planet I consider myself to be in good shape and I think I could maybe do it four times. That four times includes me crying, barfing, screaming, trying to quit at least once per lap, and consuming as many cookies as my body could handle. In other words, four would be a massive stretch for me… but if my life were on the line I could probably make it happen.

Spencer climbed that climb FIFTEEN TIMES. Over 32,000 feet of climbing. My mind is still blown. Every single time I ride that trai

Spencer, no doubt planning some sort of Type 2 mega sufferfest.  Photo: Sarah Paxson

l I am in awe of that accomplishment. You can read all about it in this feature from Bike Magazine.

Today Spencer and Kona product manager Mark Allison are attempting another brutal feat that includes climbing an actual mountain on foot (the North Twin Sister off of the Mount Baker Highway) and a bit over 100 miles of riding their Honzos on some of Whatcom County’s most epic trails.

Stay tuned for an upcoming report of their day. Do you think they’ll make it?

 

Whiskey Dessert: A Kona Adventure Team Project


Do this after you’ve left home a few hundred times, kids: do something you’ve done many times before, and do it with a big twist. Such was our experience at the 15th Annual Whiskey Off Road. We’d done it collectively around thirty times. We’d been on the podium, we’d been around last place, we’d been somewhere in between, and so the race itself was nothing new. The twist was that we traveled to-and-from the event by mountain bike. Instead of the typical racer’s approach of arriving at the airport, renting a car and zipping to a comfy accommodation, we mapped out a route across 130 miles of urban sprawl into desert scrub into pine-forest mountains. We slept in the dirt. Then we did the race. And then we rode back. Instead of six or eight hours of total ride time during a typical race trip we logged over thirty. Indeed, we made the most of it, and it was remarkable. Here are some moments that stuck. Read more over at Pinkbike.





Spencer Paxson Wins Inaugural XC-Enduro Combined at the Vedder MTB Festival

 

‘Enduro! It has what XC racers crave!’ my buddies and I joked as we rolled in to Day 2 of our “Vedder Doubleheader” weekend up in the Fraser Valley. The Idiocracy reference was a double entendre of sorts; the easy, no-pressure climbing and ripping downhill in enduro, along with questioning our own sensibility for racing two hard days in a row.

Why two days in a row? The true prize of the weekend, for me at least, was the newly minted King/Queen of the Mountain Trophy devised by the organizers of the Vedder Mountain Classic. It would go to the man and woman with the fastest combined time in the XC and enduro. Day 1 was the Vedder Mountain Classic, a 30km marathon-format cross country race. Day 2 was the opening round of the Canadian National Enduro Series. Combined, the days would tally around 11,000 feet of vert up and down. Imagine some of the best dirt conditions you’ve ever had (and that is not hyperbole!), and any sensible MTB-er would have taken up the challenge.

 

Well…I’m not sure if sensible is the correct word, but how about eager? You could say that Saturday’s XC was an aggressive practice day. The course was challenging, but the immaculate conditions took the edge off of the effort. Teammate Cory Wallace and I battled out on the start loop and up the first huge climb to the top of The Den with Canadian cyclocross National Champ Micheal Van Den Ham in the mix. My Hei Hei (size Large) equipped with MRP Ribbon fork and WTB Trail Boss tires was feeling spry, and I sneaked around Mr. Wallace on the long descent back down to the lake, beginning lap two with a comfortable gap, and pressing on up the second half of the race to take the win. Cory rolled in 2nd, we traded some high fives, went to the beer garden, jumped in the lake, and even collected some Canadian cash. Day 1 done!

Phillip Jones

Sunday’s enduro is captured well-enough in the images. It was a ripping good time! I raced three out of five stages blind (good prep for TransCascadia coming up later this summer) and executed a quick-but-conservative day to get through cleanly. My result on Sunday was lackluster compared to Saturday’s XC, but it was good enough to claim the first-ever Vedder KOM Trophy! Truth be told, there weren’t many who went for the double header, so it had a bit of a tree-fell-in-the-woods level of accomplishment, but given the caliber of this event, I’m hopeful to see this “omnium” format more hotly contested in the future. It has to start somewhere! So with that, the weekend was wrapped up, and it was time to get back home to finish celebrating Mother’s Day.

James Lissimore

As I said of last year’s experience racing the Vedder Mountain Classic, there is no pretense to riding or racing mountain bikes in this part of the world, no matter your skill level, because in BC, mountain biking and racing just is. It’s a f*@#% good time!

Spencer Paxson’s PROgram

Adventure team rider Spencer Paxson is no stranger to punishing days in the saddle. Last year’s monster 32,000 feet of vertical in a single day proved exactly that. Paxson’s drive to elevate his base fitness so he can handle the big days comes with a ton of training. Recently Stages Cycling profiled one of his workouts to show just what goes into his training practices.

 

Imaginary Domination Under the Eye of Stravaman

After suffering a mishap 15-miles in to a 54-mile day, Adventure Team rider Spencer Paxson shares his experience of what possessed him to keep riding real hard through the forests of the Black Hills.  

On the penultimate day of March, spring seemed preterm in the Black Hills (Capitol Forest) outside of Bordeaux, WA. Just shy of 200 bike riders gathered in the chilly, misty fields of the Evergreen Sportmen’s Club, set at the edge of the forest. Named for its border with the Black River, which is named for the “dark water” of Black Lake, the woods of the Black Hills did not hide their sinister nature. Indeed, the Eye of Stravaman loomed over all who pedaled through.

Spooky woods

Bordeaux, WA circa March 1903. Not much has changed except that there are bicycle races here on the weekends.

This was the sophomore year of the Cascadia Super G, put on by the Race Cascadia crew, which is best known for its regionally popular Cascadia Dirt Cup Series. This event was intended as a blend of enduro-meets-road-racing, or what these days we popularize as “gravel racing”.  At 9:30am we set out on a 54-mile course (shortened by 1 mile due to logging activity) to see just how we would fare. Unfortunately, the enduro timing system (which was supposed to record special downhill segments along the way) had been stuck in customs, so aside from the clock ticking at the finish line, we were all left with the Eye of Stravaman to decide the (unofficial) champion of the “race within the race”.

They say few can endure its terrible gaze, but for better or worse, with the Eye staring down, it didn’t matter so much when I suffered a nasty gash in my sidewall just 15 miles in, which I proceeded to have trouble fixing. After a few false starts of plugs, CO2s, boots, pumps, and even a nice helping hand who pulled over to see that I was alright (thank you, kind Sir!) I had lost around 18min. The race was rightly over, so it was time to go in to TT mode and let the Eye see what I was made of.

Blazing through moody clearcut vistas and spooky woods, I got to say hello again to most of my fellow bike racers who had passed me while I dealt with my mishap. For the next two hours I carried on with the Computer of Power weighing ever heavier on my handlebar. Lured by the Eye, I saw just how fast I could sustain.

With cracks beginning to show at the seams, I crossed the finish line a bit over 3 hours since I’d left it. According to the the clock I was 5th, but according to the Eye, I’d logged the fastest times on the major climb and descent segments. Be that as it may, the Eye grants no real dominion, only imaginary domination. And thus the ride was done and we left the Black Hills behind for another go some other day.

Chris Mcfarland

Racing against myself after getting rolling again…flat-out from mile 15 to 54.

Relive ‘Morning Ride’

 

Spring petals and pastels. Super Jake dressed pre-race like it was ready for an Easter egg hunt (it was Easter Weekend).

Super Jake with CX/MTB gearing combo (46/36 front, 11-40 rear) was the ride of choice for the 2018 Cascadia Super G

Super Jake, super gravel style. It was just an unlucky matter of physics and statistics (okay, and probably rider error!) that got the better of an otherwise burly tire setup.

The Computer of Power, displaying some heavy numbers from the day. It was “flat out” despite “flatting out”.

Crown Town

Spring Ahead(set)

Praise be the longer evening light and lifting of the dark, dank veil of the northern winter. Not only do we northern-hemisphereans have an extra hour (and building) of daylight at the end of the day, we also (hopefully) have several minutes less of bike washing to do after our rides. That is assuming that conditions where you live will dry up a bit… Regardless, if you live anywhere north of the 39th N. parallel, chances are you are thinking about more ride time, dry or wet, and therefore a much needed ‘spring cleaning’ for your trusty two-wheeled friend who ushered you through the last four or five months of muck.

The best option for a spring clean is your favorite bike shop. Second to that, some of us have the time, interest and ability to do the full deep clean of every single moving part. If neither of those apply to you, then it’s likely that your simpler D.I.Y. checklist will include: a little polish (mmmm), fresh set of cables and housing (for sure), drivetrain parts (that fit the budget), and brake pads (if you haven’t changed them a few times already). Here’s one more, especially for you mountain bikers (and anyone else who doesn’t ride with full wrap fenders): Replace your headset, too!

Headset, new & used

If you are riding the same headset that you rode in all of last summer, give it a test to see if it is worn out. To test, remove your front wheel and place your bike in a work stand, or balance vertically on the rear wheel. Rotate the fork by gently holding one hand on one end of the handlebar. Do you feel any crunchy-crunchy? How about a “notch” when your handlebars are facing straight forward? If you feel any of these things, then your steering and bike handling are being affected. This is likely coming from the lower bearing, which gets blasted with gallons of filth all winter (not to mention higher loads). Some servicing is certainly possible (clean out with solvent, re-pack w/ new grease, etc.), but if it’s been as long as most people go without servicing their headsets (12+months), then $40-ish+ will be well-spent on a new one, and it will have your bike feeling extra nimble and precise for spring. Think of how good a “new” bike feels. Much of this comes from all of the bearings/pivots being at the lowest friction state of their lifespan.

Extra nimble you say? Consider this: the headset is what actually allows a bicycle to be balanced. Take away a bike’s ability to steer and it becomes unrideable. All of the micro-steering (rotation) in the headset is what enables controlled riding at any speed. Therefore, any crunchiness in a headset, or worse, pitting or notching, takes away from a bike’s innate stability, agility and precision. A bicycle is balanced by steering in a left-right direction while rolling forward (even with no conscious steering input from the rider). This steering accelerates the support of the bicycle laterally, enabling the gyroscopic force of the rotating wheels to change heading and stay upright, thus assisting a rider to balance.

So, there you have it. Add a fresh headset to your “spring cleaning” repertoire, a small cost for a (likely) big improvement in that “fresh” bike feeling. Happy spring riding!