Broke Ass Racer: aka the BAR bike

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle Racing, Cyclocross, DIY, Seattle, Washington No Comments

Cyclocross season is coming up quickly. Next month, people will begin attending CX camps to hone their skills for the upcoming race season, which begins in September.

10733846_10204050088066291_2340075667420873788_oFor those of you not familiar with ‘cross racing, Ryan described it best as “combining the worst elements of bike riding and long distance running into one sport.” Admittedly, CX racing is, by nature, a sufferfest. You ride what equates to a road bike equipped with knobby tires over courses that may contain some or all of the following:

1) Dirt

2) Mud

3) Sand

4) Stairs

5) Barriers that require riders to shoulder their bikes and run with them.

Weather. Does. Not. Cancel. EVER.10750013_10204049976903512_5293972783870888779_o

In fact, race organizers have been working with the CIA and Area 51 to ensure that the worst weather of the year occurs between September and late November requiring  CX races to take place in ankle deep mud and freezing rain and Category 5 hurricanes. While the racing may be miserable, watching your friends suffer before or after your race, brings miles of smiles. 

10683568_10204049999424075_4987743583948998782_oThe Seattle area has two CX racing series: MFG and Cross Revolution–neither of which are UCI sanctioned. Even though non-sanctioned racing can be frustrating to aspiring pros who are chasing points, removing the UCI licensing rules and requirements opens the door to anybody that wants to come out and play in the mud on whatever bike they want or can afford.

I’m pushing 40. I sit behind a desk 5 days a week and I’m lucky to get in an hour of riding a day Monday thru Friday. My training regimen consists of riding my bike for 6-8 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday, followed by large plates of food smothered in gravy and hot sauce.

That said, I could probably take racing more seriously, but that would take all the fun out of it. While I know many a racer who has thousands of dollars in their CX race bike, why spend all that money on something that you’re just going to destroy over the course of a race season? Cross racing ruins shiny paint jobs, makes derailleurs surrender their powers (they are a French invention, after all), and turns wheels into tacos for lunch.

For a weekend warrior like me, I just can’t justify literally throwing away thousands of dollars for the sake of entertainment….unless porn stars are involved, then it’s anybody’s guess.  In all honesty, I’ve seen people on cobbled together mismatched rides decimate riders atop full carbon unobtanium steeds many, many times.

After watching my friends race for a couple of seasons, I decided to try this thing called cyclocross myself. Being a man of modest means, I found a budget ride at big box bike store Nashbar for about $400. I figured if I didn’t like racing cross, or if I wasn’t any good, I could always turn the bike into a commuter.

As it turns out, I LOVE racing cross…although, I’m still not any fucking good at it.  I raced the bike mostly stock, save for the pedals and a secondhand saddle (thanks, Rob!) for 2 seasons. Realizing that the bike was pretty much useless going into the 3rd season, I decided a rebuild was in order. I knew I wanted to upgrade the brakes and I also wanted to go single speed for added simplicity and drivetrain strength. As a beer gutted man who hovers around 180-190, when mud and hills are added to the mix, things like spokes and chains and things begin to break.

Using the power of the internet, I found clearance parts, NOS pieces from a few years prior, and rebuilt the race bike for just a few hundy. I also scoured the used parts bins at the local non-profit bike shop. Most of those hundies are wrapped up in my Vuelta wheels. They are handbuilt, but I suspect that they are built by the same kid who builds electronics at the Foxconn facilities. I’ve created these fantastic infograms below showing how I pulled off such a feat.

So now, when I finish at the back of the pack, rather than people saying, “That guy sucks AND he has a $5000 race bike. What a dick!”, people say, “Wow, that guy sucks but he’s on a shitty beater bike. Dick.”

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5th Annual Girls of Summer Alleycat Race

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Alley Cat Racing, Bicycle, Bicycle Racing, Races, Road, Seattle, Washington No Comments

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It’s that time of year again. When the girls come out to rip up the streets of Seattle in Menstrual Monday’s “Girls of Summer” all female alleycat race.

This no rules race around the Emerald city is open to women of all ages and skill levels whether this is your first alleycat race or your 40th.

The race features a bunch of fun checkpoints and great prizes from Seattle-area companies such as Raleigh, Recycled Cycles, and Detours.

 

Sat. June, 13. $5 registration 2PM. Racing starts at 3PM.

GOS Facebook page

Menstrual Monday’s Blog Post

 

 

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On the Cheap– (Don’t?) Try This At Home: Rockshox Coil to Air Fork Conversion

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle, DIY, Mountain Biking, Seattle, Washington No Comments

Full and utterly not shocking disclaimer: The advice in the forthcoming article WILL (not maybe, probably or might) void any SRAM/RockShox factory warranty on your fork. If you’re not comfortable reading service manuals and/or if the thought of beating your forks with a mallet makes you ill, don’t try this at home. If you’re ok with those things, by all means, try this at home.  

I recently purchased some stickers from AHTBM which read, “My Life Is a Cautionary Tale.” Those words echoed in my head as I stood on the deck of my apartment beating the lower legs off my 2014 RockShox XC 32 29er forks. Up until this moment, the forks had another year left on their factory warranty.

Let me back track to explain how a man in his late 30’s gets to the point where he feels the need to take a plastic mallet to a perfectly good suspension fork:

I purchased a squishy bike on clearance from my LBS late last summer. Obviously, a budget bike isn’t going to be spec’d with a high end menu of parts. In the case of the Fuel EX 5, that means a  fantastic Monarch R  air shock in the rear and a coil XC32 fork up front with a 15mm thru axle. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those products on their own, the mix of a tunable air shock on one end and a basically non-tunable coil on the other end makes the bike do sketchy things when the terrain gets sketchy at sketchy speeds.

I’ve been a fan of RockShox products for years, mainly due to their easy maintenance. In the case of the XC32 coil, there is basically no maintenance to be had and changing spring internals to help “tune”  the fork to the rider’s weight is a 10-15 minute process with spring kits running about $25 from my LBS. Changing the firmness of the springs on this fork really does make a significant difference. You can even adjust travel from 100–120mm by adding or removing the rubber spacers included in the spring kits, which is a nice feature on such a wallet friendly fork.

But I was also aware that RockShox makes a Solo Air version of this fork, which I could purchase for a couple hundy. However… I heard rumors on the ol’ interwebs that any rider worth his blood alcohol level could convert one of these babies for around $70. Since the Solo Air system is a self contained cartridge system, it appeared to be a simple plug and play process as the IT nerds say.  I found out that it really is pretty much plug and play, but with fork oil and hammers involved.

Things you’ll need:

1) A copy of the SRAM/RockShox service manual

2)  A SRAM/RockShox Solo Air cartridge for the XC32 fork (DUH!!). I managed to finagle one from Bikewagon for about $55.

3) A long handled 5mm hex wrench, or in my case, a ratchet with a long extension and 5mm hex attachment. More on tool length to cum.

4) A 2.5mm hex wrench

5) 24mm wrench or socket.  An adjustable Crescent style wrench will do the trick as well since this is just used to remove the top caps from the fork.

6) 15wt fork oil

7) Graduated fork oil syringe with about 5″ of rubber tubing. Brake bleed kits work great for refilling this fork. I tossed my brake bleed kit because I’m an idiot, so I used the body of an old ball point pen to get all up in there.

8) Not a requirement, but I also recommend a seal kit because you’re going to have the whole fork pulled apart anyway, so why not rebuild the whole damn thing, Capt. Halfassington?

9) A bike stand or at least a good bench vise. Remember, you will be beating things off with a mallet, and everyone knows that beating off requires good grip.

10) A rubber tipped or plastic mallet

11) Last, but not least: a drip pan. There won’t be a lot of oil that comes out with this procedure, but you probably don’t want fork oil all over the floor. But if you don’t mind a little floor lube, who am I to judge?

The Plan:

In hindsight, I recommend removing the fork completely from the bike. Just makes shit easier to work on. I kept the fork attached to the bike, so it’s definitely possible to do it, but I think it would have been easier to remove the fork before proceeding.

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Resurrection 8 Alleycat Race 4/4

Written by Tall Bryan on . Posted in Alley Cat Racing, Bicycle Racing, DIY, Events, GO MEANS GO events, Races, Ride Your Bike, Rides, Seattle, Washington No Comments

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Back for the 8th year running the Resurrection Alleycat is this Saturday April 4th. Registration starts at 2:30pm @ Cal Anderson Park. Race starts at 3pm sharp (don’t be late!) Finish and after party at Gaswork Park. Come to ride, come to race, roll the dice and with a little luck this may be your year to be champion…

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Stolen in Seattle

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Seattle, Stolen, Washington 2 Comments

I hate getting emails like this: 

 I’m sending my sad story to all bike places/people in hopes that I get my ride back. My bike was stolen today. I’m near Queen Anne/Interbay and thought maybe someone might see it go by. It’s an 80’s lugged steel Trek road bike with special custom powder coat, sparkle orange.
Thank you friendly local bike blog!!!
Betsy
206-380-4550 

 

More info from Betsy:

1987 Trek 400 Elance 50 cm-ish (I don’t know the exact size, but right around 50)
Powder Coated Orange Sparkle
7 speed bar end shifters 105 group
Sugino crank set triple

I know of at least a handful of bikes recovered through posting to the blog and social media and then concerned citizens keeping an eye out and being vigilant- so this is hopes of good results.

Death to bike thieves.

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Seattle Bike Show 2015

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle, Bike Porn, Events, Seattle No Comments

The Seattle Bike Expo is no longer. Thankfully, Cascadia Events picked up the ball and created the Seattle Bike Show for 2015. The event will take place Feb. 28th & March 1st at Century Link. This year’s events feature speakers such as the one and only “Bobke” Bob Roll, local celeb and mountain bike coach Kat Sweet, and of course, trials rider and yogi from the north, Ryan Leech.

This year’s shindig will feature a pump track for adults, and what appears to be a zipline. Your $10 ticket also gains you access to the Washington Travel, Trips and Adventures expo, featuring cool outdoor gear and local outdoor trip planning and advice.

Hope to see you there!

Sat. February 28th 10:00Am–5:00PM

Sun. March 1st 10:00AM–4:00PM

Adults $10

Kids 17 and Under FREE

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Everyone’s Drinking Fireball and Other Irresponsible Liquor

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Events, Seattle, Uncategorized, Washington No Comments

photoYesterday,  Feb. 22, was the “official opener” of cycling season in Seattle. That means two things: Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual Chilly Hilly  30 mile group ride around Bainbridge Island, and the cheaper, funner alternative ride: .83’s F—ing Hills Race (FHR).

The FHR is always held on the same day, on the same course and at the same time as the Chilly Hilly. In contrast to Cascade’s paid entry fees and manned rest stops, the FHR is free to enter (but you have to pay for your own ferry boat ticket, 9 bucks) and is fully self supported and features copious amounts of beer, liquor and other things that are legal here in Washington State, but still federally blacklisted. There are also prizes and priceless shenanigans.

After riding my first FHR a couple of years ago, I decided that this ride was more fun, and cheaper.

And they feed you at the end of the ride.

On the Cascade ride, you have to buy your own bowl of chili at the finish line.

Instead of bib numbers, the .83 riders attach small pirate flags to themselves, each other, and small children.

This year’s FHR began as all FHR’s do. Riders gathered on the Seattle waterfront, signed up for the “registration,” and promptly began sipping on cans of Rainier beer and pulling from flasks that were being passed around the group.

At 8 AM.

Once we arrived at the ferry terminal, the Washington State Ferry workers did a good job of segregating the Cascade riders from the .83 riders. They actually loaded us onto opposite sides of the boat. The weather was an unseasonably warm 50 or so American degrees. Perfect for sipping booze and riding bikes.

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On the Cheap Reviews Pt.2.–Rock Out With Your Rock Hawk Out

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle, Bike Parts, Reviews, Seattle No Comments

As a lover of all things two wheeled and pedal powered (a bike-sexual if you will), I’ve been spending more and more time in the dirt than on the road.

Since mountain bikes and mountain bike parts have become increasingly more technologically advanced and expensive over the years, it pays to do your research and get the right parts the first time.

One of the, if not the (IMHO), most important parts on your MTB is a set of tires. After all, tires do a lot of work keeping you upright and shredding when the going gets gnar. With the ever changing trail conditions of the Pacific NW, it’s best to have a few sets of tires laying around the studio apartment for mud, rocks, dry trail, blue groove, snow, and sandy conditions.

Oh, and one set for night racing on Wednesdays.

But, if you’re on a small budget, all those tires add up. Then you can’t pay rent and you’re living in your Subaru.

Even a single set of high end tires can set you back a few hundred smackers.

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On the Cheap

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle, Bike Camping, Commuting, Ride Your Bike, Seattle, Vintage, Washington No Comments

The Seattle metro area is one of the priciest areas in the nation to call home, and while cycling has been called many things by many people, “cheap” is not one of them.

For those of us who live in and around Seattle and like to ride and race bikes, but don’t make anywhere near a six figure income, something’s gotta give.

This usually means that you find yourself sharing a $2000 a month 300 sq. ft. studio apartment with your 2 cats, a dog named Freewheel because you had one too many PBR’s one night and thought it was a good idea to name him “Freewheel,” your road bike, fixed gear bike, fat bike, SS hardtail, full suspension long travel trail bike (to show off your prowess at Duthie Hill), full suspension short travel trail bike (‘cuz it’s faster, goddammit), CX race bike, commuter bike and, since it’s Seattle, your full fendered rain bike.

You eat ramen noodles because your Safeway card gets you 10 for $1 and you’re saving up for that sweet new cargo bike so you can go car-free and  the “N+1″ rule of bike ownership mathematically dictates that you need another bike or else the universe may collapse in on itself.

For those not familiar with the “N+1″ rule, it states that the number of bicycles you should own is one more than you currently own (N). The same rule applies to snowboards, but that’s another blog.

Algebra’s fun!

…and expensive…..

Even though rent may be expensive in Seattle, with so many great shops in the area, building a bike doesn’t have to be.

I stumbled upon a 1993 RockHopper Comp on the local craigslist for $75. I was looking for a commuter/light touring rig on the cheap and I thought that with some creativity, this old machine may fit the bill.

While I’m not a fan of Specialized and their business practices as of late, their old frames always fit me well (short legs, short arms, round torso) and were pretty reliable pieces of steel, so I thought I’d check it out.

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Photos: A Walk in the Park

Written by greghxc on . Posted in Bicycle Racing, Cyclocross, Seattle No Comments

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No one will ever confuse me for a competitive cyclist, and any time someone talks about an upcoming cyclocross race, I can only think of Clubber Lang’s pre-fight interview from Rocky III:

But there is something incredible about watching riders push themselves beyond their limits, often with nothing more than pride or their own expectations on the line. This past Sunday, I got up early (my own little sacrifice, it’s ok to be in awe) to head out to MFG Cyclocross’s Woodland Park GP to capture riders facing the course, their peers and themselves. These are some of the results.

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(Lots more after the break…)

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