My first love, mountain biking, is being rekindled with the long awaited arrival of my newest toy: The 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 Mountain Bike. It’s been 14 years…..YEARS…since I bought a new MTB. It was time. I probably could have done smarter things with the money, but after putting my first love on the backburner year after year, I took a look at my chronological age and thought if it was going to happen, it probably should happen now.
The XtC is a fairly reasonable mid level bike. Not carbon but lighter than what I’ve been riding, even with it’s disc brakes. I’m also on a larger wheel, a 27.5 (650b). I demoed the XtC 29er and the 27.5 and found the 27.5 much nimbler and responsive than the 29er. The 29er rolls fast but I found you needed to plan turns. When I mountain bike, I find it a reactionary experience…quick decision making on the trail and nimble handling is much appreciated. I’m riding a real upgrade in the XtC. Here are just a few highlights:
- RockShox Recon Gold with 15mm thru-axle, OverDrive steerer suspension fork
- Shimano SLX/Deore 2×10-speed drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes
- Giant S-XC2 27.5 double wall rim, Giant Tracker hub, stainless steel spoke wheelset
I’d like to report more on the riding experience, but truth is, I got it on Saturday and haven’t had a chance to ride it yet. It’s driving me a little insane to have this machine in my living room with 62 degree perfect degree days and me not having the time to ride it. I mean to remedy it soon, and as soon as I do, I’ll give a full rundown of it’s awesomeness.
When my brother gave me a $75 gift card to Bike Nashbar for Christmas, I’m sure he didn’t think he’d be the tipping point in me deciding to build my own bike. I just learned how to change my own tires last year, so sure, I can build a bike, right? Right.
I purchased an aluminum cyclocross frame off Nashbar’s site and paid about $30 for it. That was mostly for shipping. I took advantage of the gift card, a fantastic post holiday sale and Nashbar’s brand frame. As soon as I ordered it, I tweeted about it, which resulted in a flurry of closet bike mechanics coming out of the woodwork giving me advice. Wow–I had no idea how many bike builders I knew. I know next to nothing, but with their help, and the Internet, I’m learning so much. And that was partially the intent of taking this project on.
Now, armed with a ton of online articles, Twitter, and an amazing spreadsheet from Ashley from Aerochick, who built her first bike last year, I am researching parts and slowly buying what I need. I’m giving myself until September to finish it. I’m planning on building a single speed cyclocross bike, and racing it occasionally in 2014. With talk of the Single Speed World Championships coming to Boston in 2014, I want to give the fringiest part of my fringe sport a try.
I’ll keep you posted on the build, how it goes, and where I run into trouble (I’m sure I’ll run into a bunch). I know there are a few stages that require me to bring it to the LBS for installation (feeling no shame–Cyclocross Magazine even recommended this), but otherwise, I’m going to try and give everything a good college try before taking it to my mechanic for help.
**LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT & INVITATION**
Do your plans for 2014 include getting on your bike or maybe even trying out a little racing? Or perhaps you know someone who does? Check out Second Crack Cycling – a fun recreational women’s cycling club hatched by Vicki Bocash of Evverge Creative and me! Karen Lynn of Sip, Clip, & Go! Coffee.
We love bikes, coffee, and good design & technology. In addition to all those things being a bit like crack to us, in coffee roasting terms, the “second crack” is the point of roasting when the coffee bean cell wall breaks open and the richer flavor develops. That being said, this may be our second+ time around on many things, but we like to think we just keep getting better one sip and pedal stroke at a time.
Sometimes it’s tough to hit the reset button when you’ve been out of the game for a while, or just feel a bit intimidated or don’t want to go it alone. It doesn’t matter your geography, or if you are a beginner or already belong to another club or team, we welcome all affiliations and skill levels – and encourage it, actually. Same goes for the dudes who support, train/race with, encourage, heckle and cheer us on. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do intend to have some serious fun! And we’re not afraid to try new things. We also like to mix it up with other sports and recreational activities and spend as much time as possible outdoors. But our common ground is cycling and its soul-liberating power! Almost every discipline of cycling is open: road, recreational, mountain biking, and even cyclocross. We love it all! Racing is NOT required, but if you’re game, so are we. Vicki competes in Triathlons, Cyclocross, and is generally up for anything. Karen competes in Cyclocross, Mountain Biking, Dirt Road rides/Events, Road Cycling Rides (no races), OCR (Obstacle Course Races like the Warrior Dash) and 5Ks.
Join in the fun and get cracking!! Club kit apparel and random merchandise will be available for the upcoming season. Connect with us while we crack the code on a new website and make plans to organize opportunities to ride, train and race together.
Please send us your ideas, comments and suggestions and please pass along!
Main Website: TBA (in development)
We welcome you to the sport of cycling, and encourage you to get on your bikes and ride!
-Karen & Vicki
It seems like every time I sit down to write about a race, I always want to convey how excited I was about the event–how much I look forward to it. Each race is different and special. Northampton is my home (or thereabouts) and is special for that reason, but it’s more than that. This is the oldest UCI race in the country, and in its 23rd year, the race has taken place at Look Park for many years now.
This weekend is the ONE weekend I have ALL YEAR that is ALL MINE. My son is away with my ex. My significant other is away on business. And there is a huge 2 day cyclocross extravaganza practically in my backyard. I look forward to this weekend all year.
So you can imagine how bummed out I was when I started to feel like a tired piece of crud on Thursday. I started popping Zicam like candy on Friday and by Saturday morning, I was still feeling abnormally fatigued and a bit sneezy. Not to mention, I haven’t been riding much the last month Work, fading daylight, and increasing demands of my son’s schedule have made rides few and far between. Now that I’ve properly explained away why I did so crappy, I’ll tell you about the races.
Course was slightly moist, not really muddy, but greasy in spots. I got a really terrible start. Too much hesitation in front of me and I was caught in the dominos. On the first pass of the run-up, I was forced right, up the steepest, least climb-able part of the hill. The racer in front of me slipped and lost control of her shouldered bike and hit me, and then the same thing happened to me. I practically dragged the bike up the steepest part of the hill. It was ugly.
Then we were in the woods, which I liked. The course twisted and turned and spit us back down onto the flat and fast grass, taking us down a swift singletrack. On the grass there was lots of sprinting and braking and turning and more sprinting. The second run up wasn’t anything to sneeze at, and wound us through the woods again, and onto my favorite addition to this course. A very mountain-bike-esque set of dirt turns through trees with minor elevation changes. I LOVED this section. It was just plain fun and challenging enough to keep the best riders on their toes. I think I liked it because it was hard without being dangerous. Perfect.
I did, however, crash in this section. My first actual crash in a race. The rider in front of me spilled and forced me into deep unstable soil and I went ass over tea kettle. She quietly apologized (Cat 3/4 Women as very polite racers I’ve discovered) but I hopped back on and kept going (and so did she). No worries. This was all part of the adventure.
After this the course shot us down a trail on over the railroad tracks. If you had enough speed, you could catch air here. I did every time and it was wicked fun. Despite feeling like shit, I was having a good time.
Back on the grass it was power, power power……something we all know I’m short on. I did my best and tried to ride hard and smooth. I finished 60 out of 82 racers. Now I shouldn’t feel too bad about this since the top 15 are all crazy good. But this wasn’t the middle of the pack I was aiming for. Sigh. Being off the bike for nearly a month has its repercussions.
On Sunday, the two monster run ups were gone and the course was much, much faster. The good news is I felt much better this day. After spending Saturday hanging out with co-blogger Heather and new cycling friend Aileen drinking beer and eating pizza and watching the Elite races, I got some rest and Daylight Savings Time gifted me another whole hour of sleep. Sunday was a new day. The bad news is it was 15 degrees colder and fast courses eat me for breakfast.
Whatever. I was there to race. I decided that I was going to leave it all out there on the course, Save nothing! I lined up and had a much better start. I was more aggressive and sprinted when things opened up. I had contact with riders for 3 of the 4 laps, playing cat and mouse with several. By the 3rd lap things had shaken out and riders were stretched through the course. I stayed on the wheel of one rider for a half a lap until she shook me and steadily opened a gap on me that was too big to overcome. I worked on keeping myself enough ahead of whoever was left behind me.
I sprinted for the finish alone, finishing 62 of 75. A worse result than Saturday. I was a bit mystified by this because I really felt like I raced this one, rather than just survive it. I think this just illustrates how much better I do in technical sections than on flat open sections. I am no sprinter, I am not fast. I like dicey technical stuff.
So a great weekend all in all. I really would like a full CX experience by having a really sloppy muddy race. Or snow. Most of my races (this year and last) have been very dry. The muddiest race so far has been Providence. I’d love to see how I do in some terrible conditions.
Too much to post about! I raced both days, lackluster performances both days. More on that later. I’ll start with some photos. (I dare say I’m a better photographer than I am a bike racer!).
A write up will come….sometime this week. I’m spent. This was a fun weekend, on a great course. I went in sick and my results were my results. It is what it is. It was a beautiful weekend in New England for bike racing.
Boom! Providence Cyclocross Festival! Probably my favorite course–especially with today’s rain–a true CX experience! Race report will follow. Results are in but under review so I’m going to wait until those bake a bit to talk about the race itself. Until then, here are a few pics of the fun!
Stay tuned for the race report……
Since my first cyclocross race ever last September, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I was hooked. I wouldn’t be able to stop. And judging from my numbers on Crossresults for the season, I knew I’d need a faster bike.
No disrespect to my Specialized Tricross Sport, but truthfully, it wasn’t meant to race. Dirt and gravel roads, a randonee perhaps, but it just wasn’t made for speed. Weighing in at 23.5 lbs, I got strong riding it, but placed at the end of the pack every time. I decided at the end of CX season in 2012 I needed an equipment upgrade.
Enter the Kona. I walked into a bike shop I’d never set foot in in Southwick, MA called New England Bike Shop. The only reason I went there was because my friend and I were bored and she said they carried Cannondale, and I had my eye on the Cannondale SuperX Carbon Rival. I was dismayed, because despite having a really wonder selection of mountain bikes and road bikes, I couldn’t find any CX bikes. Finally after a bit of browsing, I asked if they had any Cannondale CX bikes and they pointed to a CAADX. But next to it was this……
The price was reduced from $3282 to $2252 and it was a leftover demo from 2011. They had demoed it last year at the NEMBA Fest. The new Major Jake (2013) retails at $3400. I was surprised to see it there, since it was a 2011, and was loving the price. Once I picked it up I was very, very interested. It weighed in at 17 lbs, 15 oz. A very noticeable difference from any of my other bikes. Oh the difference a full carbon frame makes. A seed was planted, and a few days later I returned with my pedals and cleats and bike shorts for a test ride. 3 hours later, after a few adjustments to the stem and handlebars, I was packing it into the back of my Element and taking the Major home with me.
One of the deciding factors was watching the “Bike Talk” video with Helen Wyman, the British 8 time National Champion, who rides the Major Jake. I’ve watched Helen race the Gloucester Gran Prix in 2011 and 2012, and I even managed to sneak her a bag of my coffee to her at the 2012 race (although I missed meeting her, she tweeted some nice words about the gift the following day). Helen is FAST. Like, no one can touch her fast. A few months back, I openly polled my Twitter Stream for CX bike recommendations and Helen responded with “Kona. End of Discussion.” Sure, she races for them so of course she says nice things. But her performance speaks for itself.
After I got the Jake home, I had almost no time for a ride before my son returned home from school. I jumped on the Jake and sprinted over to the closest patch of woods to my house. I have a nice, private CX loop segment I do there, and it’s saved on my Strava profile. It’s a great area to practice CX. My best time on the Tricross for this segment was 6:02. On the Jake, without going 100%, my time was 5:09. Almost a whole minute. What would that mean over the course of a whole CX race?
Middle of the pack, here I come.
I never knew how poorly my road bike fit me until I spent some serious time on a bike that actually fit me.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been riding my CX bike almost exclusively. Before that I had returned to mountain biking for a spell, and as a result, I spent spare little time on the road bike (a Specialized Dolce Elite). During that time, some nagging physical conditions evaporated–but I didn’t notice they were even gone until I started riding the road bike again.
Here is what hurts: lower back, my shoulders, the base of my neck. The neck is an issue–and I was in PT last year because of it. I have some disk that’s askew and the position I have on the road bike makes it worse–so much so I cannot turn my head. What hurts most this morning is the lower back. All of it is no good, and I can’t believe I endured these aches and pains for so many years.
The road bike is a women’s specific frame. The CX bike is a standard frame, also a Specialized. I can ride and ride this without issue. So to solve my pain problem, I have 2 options:
- Get the road bike professionally fitted to me.
- Sell the road bike and get slick tires for road work with the CX bike.
I have to say I’m leaning toward option #2. I wouldn’t mind the extra cash and would use it toward buying a true racing bike for the CX season, something I’ve been saving my pennies for. The CX bike I have now would be a great all around training bike. If I had more disposable income I’d upgrade the road bike outright, since I bought it back in 2006. But that’s not where I am right now (at the moment). I really don’t want to invest the time and money in getting my road bike professionally fitted to me. And I suspect the women’s specific frame was a little too much marketing and not enough function for a woman who is as tall as the average male.
The one (silly) reservation I have is that although painful, the road bike is faster. I can go longer, faster on it. When I ride the CX bike with friends who are on road bikes, I have to work harder. Maybe that’s a good thing overall, maybe it will make me faster come race season.
So what do you think I should do? Weigh in, because Craigslist is a few clicks away….
This week is the week schoolchildren pine for–their spring break, April Vacation. And while my son is doing a week long happy dance, I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get any saddle time this week.
I have some ideas….although it remains to be seen if they will pan out. I sometimes tempt my son to ride bikes with me, and although it’s not the kind of bike ride I would want to do, it’s something. He’s 8, so he peters out after about 5 miles. I can hire a sitter, but that gets expensive fast. I have one coming today, and at $8-10 bucks an hour, anything more than 20 miles gets pricey. I am planning to drive out to Boston to visit the family, and I could take the bike along, but truthfully there are no areas to really ride where my family lives. It’s too congested and drivers there see a point value when they see a cyclist on the road, so I have never tried a serious ride so close to the city. I heard Boston has improved, but alas, I just don’t trust my fellow Boston drivers with my life, for the sake of a quick workout. I also considered bringing my mountain bike home, since Lynn Woods is nearby and boasts some excellent mountain biking. Alas, I just don’t feel comfortable riding there solo, not due to difficulty level but do to crime. Again, maybe it’s improved since I grew up but too many dead girls wound up in the Lynn Woods when I was a kid, so I really don’t want to ride there unless my not-so little brother comes along.
Overall, I’m not feeling encouraged about the amount of riding I’ll get in this week. I hate to think that I would resort to the trainer, but I may have to.
Small post, big news!
Sip, Clip & Go’s Coffee is now available for sale in its first retail location in Holyoke, MA. Read about all the details here.