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New Toy: 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 (2) Mountain Bike

XtC_27.5_2

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.

 

Building My Own Bike: Part 1

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.

-Karen

New Cycling Club Announcement-2nd Crack Cycling

**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.

2ndcrackcycling

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!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/2ndCrackCycling
Twitter: https://twitter.com/2ndCrackCycling
Strava: http://www.strava.com/clubs/2ndCrackCycling
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

Vicki Bocash & Karen Lynn pictured her at the DAS Beaver CX Race in December 2013.

Vicki Bocash & Karen Lynn pictured her at the DAS Beaver CX Race in December 2013.

CSI Cyclocross Weekend 2013

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.

Day 1-Saturday

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.

By this lap I had the run up practically to myself.  Much better.

By this lap I had the run up practically to myself. Much better.

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.

Some choose to run the mountain-bikey section of the course.  A tactical decision, but I think more fun to ride it!!

Some choose to run the mountain-bikey section of the course. A tactical decision, but I think more fun to ride it!!

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.

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Some of the fellas on the same section. Larger fields in the men’s categories mean more traffic.

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.

If you look closely, I'm sticking out my tongue for the camera.

If you look closely, I’m sticking out my tongue for the camera.

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.

Crossing the finish.

Crossing the finish.

Day 2-Sunday

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.

Coming off the barriers I tried to keep things moving quickly on the grass.

On day 2–coming off the barriers I tried to keep things moving quickly on the grass.

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.

-Karen

MORE PICS:

Run up #2 on Day 1-Women's Elite race.

Run up #2 on Day 1-Women’s Elite race.

More run up!

More run up!

Coming out of the woods.

Coming out of the woods.

Voted best kit by me and Heather :)  I think even Cycling Fashionista Aileen approved.

Voted best kit by me and Heather :) I think even Cycling Fashionista Aileen approved.

P1050063

Anthony Clark on the run up.

Anthony Clark on the run up.

Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross 2013: Photos Day 1

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!).

P1050072

The name of the game is pain.

P1050128

Ride. Climb. Cross.

P1050001

This was the “easy” run up. Ha.

P1050191

Anthony Clark of the JAM Fund Team. SickWhat? This guy is infectiously crazy. I’m really rooting for him.

Race organizer of CSICX and #NECX legend Adam Myerson.

Race organizer of CSICX and #NECX legend Adam Myerson.

Lots of crashes here.  Nice to know my crash site was the same as many elite riders as well. (Well, not nice, but you know what I mean.)

Lots of crashes here. Nice to know my crash site was the same as many elite riders as well. (Well, not nice, but you know what I mean.)

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The new Gnar section in the woods. Thank you for adding–LOVED it.

This is by far the most intense run up I've come across thus far.

This is by far the most intense run up I’ve come across thus far.

Crystal Anthony on the run up.  She won the women's elite race on Saturday.

Crystal Anthony on the run up. She won the women’s elite race on Saturday.

Lots of remounting on day 1.

Lots of remounting on day 1.

Molly Hurford of Colavita Women's CX Team (and writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and author of Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross, looking focused.

Molly Hurford of Colavita Women’s CX Team (and writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and author of Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross), looking focused.

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Charging toward the downhill.

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.

-Karen

 

 

 

 

 

Pics from the Providence Cyclocross Festival 2013

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!

Divine Providence

Divine Providence

 

Run up

Run up

 

The flyover!!  I'm on the left....

The flyover!! I’m on the left….

 

Oh the bike porn!

Oh the bike porn!

Barriers Cat 3/4 Women Day 2

Barriers Cat 3/4 Women Day 2

 

Stay tuned for the race report……

-Karen

 

 

 

 

NEW BIKE ALERT! Kona Major Jake 2011

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……

Kona Major Jake

 

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.

Carbon CX Kona

 

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.

-Karen

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