Monday, May 21, 2007

Welcome Home, Ben

I've decided to post this entry first as Ben and I had a nearly transcendental ride last week. There are several key factors that contribute to a ride being burned into my memory. First, the person or persons I'm riding with need to be people that I'd spend the time and effort to associate with regardless of whether we are able to ride together. I don't mind suffering up a climb. In fact, sometimes I intentionally seek out that kind of suffering. The saying that misery loves comes to mind. So, if I'm able to have an engaging conversation, the suffering aspect of the ride tends to be similar. Ben is one of my best friends, so this was a no-brainer. Second, trail conditions need to be right. After a while you start sensing when the trails will be good. There's been enough warm days that snow is melted. You can almost smell the recent rain storm that brings down just enough water to pack the trails down, but not so much that they're sloppy. The temperature starts hovering around the low to mid sixties in the hills. It was all there. Finally, riding ability needs to be fairly evenly matched. I hate riding with people when I'm clearly the anchor. I'm talking about those rides where I'm not just a weight in the boat that's making the boat ride lower in the water and slowing everyone down. It's the times that I'm the guy that is dragging the ride to a stop and all everyone really wants to do is cut me loose and go sailing on unimpeded. (Man, that was a long boat analogy for someone who avoids boating). Ben and I are both big guys that ride more than people think we do. The climb seemed to be a decent pace. The trail was grippy. Very few people were out. Just me and my dog Jesse and Ben and his dog Tsubo. South Fork was in rare form. The corners were smooth and grippy. The meadows were green, but not over grown. You could go as fast as you wanted and the trail would just lay out the line for you. We dug into the berms as we railed each corner. We couldn't miss. Ben's descending prowess kept him in nearly constant contact, so there was no real waiting at any of the intersections to make sure he wasn't bleeding somewhere up above. It was one of those early spring rides that makes you remember why you own mountain bikes and one of the best things about Utah. At the end of the ride, I was giddy. I was giggling like a school girl. Ben said, "You know, I haven't ridden that fast for that long . . . maybe ever." I gave him a hug and said, "Welcome home, Ben." After we were done riding, we watched the jazz game and put together a meal. Welcome home, Ben, indeed. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those summers that we talk about when we're old and gray. One of the summers that shapes our childrens' recollection of their childhoods. And that, that's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Intro to Ride Nostalgia

Pro cycling is quickly losing its draw for me. There's only so many scandals I can take before I just give up on it. I thought the Puerto Plus developments had taken me to that point. The acid trip that is the Floyd hearing has taken me well past that point. I hear the Giro's on. So what. The Tour? I've been sick of the French for a while, boycotting the TdF just makes complete my avoidance of France. So, I'm drawn back to riding for the sake of riding. Before I delve into the rosy colored recollections that keep me going in such times, an introduction is in order. My wife, then my fiance, talked me into stepping into Gourmet to talk Ghrumpy into letting me work there - for free. Those of you who know my lovely wife will universally agree that I married way up. As the previous post noted, working at the shop led me to meet the people with whom I spend most of my free time. It also jump-started the money I have in the bicycle loop (more on The Loop) to follow. The geneology chart lists the core members of the cycling family. Many of my best rides happened with these guys. A few riding partners of mine haven't remained as closely tied to the shop as others, but are still the people I call on to ride. An incomplete list of riding buddies that were part of my best rides follows accompanied with one or two of my most memory rides with them, in no particular order: The Family Reunion - as the name implies, was with "The Family" Racer - One of three riding buddies in a whole summer's worth of perfect conditions, exploration, and good times - the Summer of Riding JonBoy and his Mrs. - White Rim DNS B - One ride of Fall Perfection - the rest he missed to his enduring loss. DR - The Trail of Tears. Twice. White Rim DNS. CX RAWROD. And Fall Perfection. Benson - Triathlon is Stupid 07, Several rides which were overcome by the memory of post-ride BBQ's Brently - Fall Perfection and Amos Exploration Stu - Hobble Creek and a Warm Rain, Amos Exploration Original Jared - Brianhead in the Rain. The Ring of Fire, pts 1 and 2 Red (and the apparition formerly known as Keller) - the other two who took part in the Summer of Riding. Prominently featured in the Summer of Riding was Joy, which is the only ride I take full credit for naming. Widmer - Fish Landing Doug (not to be mistaken with Dug of FatCyclist fame) The Trail of Tears (1X), Fall Perfection, CX RAWROD. Doug makes the list inspite of the last entry. While I'm over his part of CX RAWROD, I never offered him absolution. Yury - The Trail of Tears (once, on which Yury applied the name) Ghrumpy - The Wind with Two Heads Only a couple of these rides are epic, but all very memorable. Harse has been there often, but is almost always so far off the front with another group that I barely remember he was there. A couple of months ago, Harse, Thinner, and myself had lunch at a little polynesian place where Harse and I rejoiced in Benson's return. We immediately began planning a trip down south to pedal. While neither of us could promise Thinner it'd be fun, we could definitely promise him it'd be memorable.
Family Tree JonBoy is fond of referring to our group of cycling friends as a family tree. Here's the genealogy as I recall - It all started back with the Highlander. Brently Bob at least worked there and I think Ghrumpy worked there as well. Brently moved on to work as an industry rep, where he remains to this day. Highlander went the way of many small LBS's and Stu kept the ball rolling with Gourmet Bicycles. In describing Gourmet's location, the description almost always included the question, "Do you know where the Bamboo Hut is?" Many still know where the old Bamboo Hut was and thus remember where Gourmet was. Leatherby's is there now. Ghrumpy initially worked for Stu and then took over as owner. JonBoy, Jerome, and J.J. all worked at Gourmet under Ghrumpy's tutelage. Ghrumpy was known locally as the best wrench around. It was this reputation that took me to the shop and inspired me to work for free for several months in exchange for training as a bike mechanic. Several events led Ghrumpy to leave Gourmet and Jerome to take over management. During Jerome's initial tenure, the Tenacious (as in Tenacious D, JonBoy's wife) joined the shop family officially. Without commenting on the particulars, Gourmet folded and Frank's Bikes opened next door with Jerome as the proprietor. During that time, Racer, Jerome, Jared and myself were those holding down the fort. Frank's folded and Racer picked up the banner. Racer started in a storage unit with his tools, a bike stand, and eventually a QBP account. Everything was special order. He only did labor. Racer's brothers include Chucky and the WonderPony, both of whom are hammers in their own rights. Both Chucky and the WonderPony were often found at the new shop on University. As unofficial Racer's employees, they are, of course, part of the family. Throughout, there's been a loyal group of non-shop employees who are equally important to the culture of the shop as they are more enduring than most of the employees. A large portion of the core customers, sometimes referred to as the lunch crowd, include Fatty and his friends which are featured at Widmer and his crew also feature prominently in the core group. These and the other core customers are lifers who are serious about maintaining their bikes and seeking to get others involved in cycling. Racer worked on their bikes as he built a base for his current shop. Racer moved from the storage unit to a small shop on University, where he began stocking selected inventory and also began to stock selected bikes. Harse, already a cousin through the Widmer crew, joined the family as Racer's first official employee. Later, Racer married Steel. Under Steel's influence, the shop moved to its current location at 159 W. 500 N. in Provo. Currently at the shop are Kelly, Shae, and Dan. Others are involved who are not quite employees, but more than customers. Those who have an affinity for the infinitely likable Racer (who's got to be the nicest guy on earth). Asinine definitely qualifies as one such member, as does Kenny. Benson and Wyatt also likely belong in this group. With such a large group, the numbers of those who call Racer their mechanic and Racer's Cycle their shop is large and growing. Long live the LBS.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Writing Down the Fat Kid's Interpretation of the Unwritten Rules of Riding When you're usually the weakest link, you develop a keen interpretation of the rules of riding with other people. You develop an especially critical view of how others violate one set of rules in particular: The rules of waiting for riding buddies, or the waiting rules for short. I have a keen understanding not only what the rules are, but of the intracacies and subtlies of each of them. I guess that means I spend most of my time off the back (OTB) thinking about such rules and how those I'm riding with are filthy vermon. The waiting rules generally relate to when, where, and how long to wait for the people you're riding with. The first rule of where to wait and for how long applies to those off the front of the group. I never have to worry about this on the climb, but on occasion it does come up on the descent. The first part of the rule is this - if you come to a fork in the road and you're not sure where you are going, wait for someone who knows. This should just be common sense. Once on an excursion with a mountain bike class, a couple of relatively new riders got in their head they knew the way. In Moab. In June. In the late afternoon. They didn't. We should have just left them for dead. We didn't. The second part of the first rule relates to the more often overlooked issue of consideration: if you do know where you're going, make sure that at least the person behind you makes the right turn. Thereafter, it's his responsibility to make sure the next person in line makes the turn as well, and so on. Without the second rule, people either blow through the corner and if you're the last guy, like I often am, you're left frustrated and wondering which way everyone went. If everybody stops, the rhythm of the ride may unnecessarily be disrupted, especially if there are a lot of turns to be made. The second rule applies to group rides. Group rides involve more than just you and another person you're riding with. If you know you're going to be the weak link and you honestly suspect that your shortcomings will hinder the others' ability to enjoy the ride, you have the responsibility to bow out. Use any excuse at your disposal. For example, recently Harse and Thinner decided to go out on a road ride during the middle of the week. Accounts of their previous ride involved terms such as hammering, nauseous, light headed, and the like to describe a climb up Traverse Mountain. Combine that with the fact that I was planning on riding the RAWROD with JonBoy and Thinner the coming weekend, and it looked grim. I flatly refused, noting there was no way I was going to go riding with that group. Thinner tried his best to convince me, so I was forced to use any number of lame bike excuses, which are made doubly lame by the fact that they both know I have multiple bikes. If you've done your best to apprise your potential riding partners of the grim possibilities of riding OTB, they then assume the responsibility to ride with you. This applies regardless of the shame they may experience by doing so. This has one exception - the end of the ride/top of the climb exception where they are free to go buckwild on a climb near the end, provided they wait for you at the top. Thinner did a good job of that during the RAWROD, even earning extra points for the ride from behind tactic. He let me lead for a good part of the ride. With that, there was no way that he would be guilty of leaving me, since I was ahead. Also, I was able to ride at my pace rather than blowing up to chase him. Definitely a nice gesture.