22 May, 2012

Eric and Billy are Ninjas

Eric (this is a pseudonym by the way, names were changed to protect the innocent and besides he’s in the witness protection program) and I had post-ride talk today.  It all started with the ride with my teacher-of-the-year home skillet and 1/3 of the homey trinity: Billy aka Hez-Chilly (which is a variant on the militant Islamic group Hezbollah, which is a variant on Hez-Billy, where I arrived on his moniker:  Hez-Chilly, get it?).  I could write a whole blog on Hez-Billy (that's his real name by the way), also my Ninja, but I digress…
…Eric and I have very similar life trajectories.  Even though he is merely a child as compared to yours truly who’s in his twilight years, we are quite sympatico.  We both love bikes, not solely as a vehicle of utilitarian purposes but for the simple aesthetics of it (I can stare at a clean bike for hours given my druthers);  we love the athletes who suffer for a pittance in National Tours;  we raced and still race all manner of bikes (‘cross, mountain, road-well I guess that’s all), we went through a mind numbing divorce of nutty, mental proportions, we actually lived in Alamogordo, NM (‘nuff said),  we’re single Dads and we truly love the simple (I guess simple is relative) things in life.
It all started after Hez-Chilly and I did our annual post-graduation cycle-fest.  About 470 kids at our HS graduated today and to commemorate that, we went on a bike ride, a mountain bike ride.  So, I like have this new ride from Airborne called the Guardian (same frame as the Goblin) and it’s red.  Red is the color of passion.  It reminds me of lips.  Billy showed me a statue of lips today at the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center and I liked it.  In fact, I wanted to kiss it, it looked so inviting (but I didn't).  Coincidental?  I think not.  When unpassionate things are colored red it’s like polishing a turd.  It just ain’t happening.  My new, red Guardian is truly a work of art that’s race ready (and diametrically opposed to said turd).  This was my second ride where I can truly push the performance envelope.  Yesterday I took it on a hill climb workout and it rocked but today with Billy, we did rather rocky climbs on tight singletrack, off-the-beaten-singletrack in a place called Green Mountain.  We went chilly-chill and after a lap, Billy had a tutoring gig and after our teary-eyed goodbyes (c’mon, I’m a guy, NOT!) I tore off for a second lap of $hit on your neighbor intensity. 
I’m 5’7”and weigh 135 lbs.  Ain’t a whole of competitive cycling disciplines this morphology is good for.  I suck at individual TTs, can barely tolerate criteriums, and long road races usually get me cramping but you know what I can do?  I can climb.  I climb all right (for an old guy).  I haven’t checked out my prowess in a climbing road race so I might just be talking out of me arse.  I’ll let you know if I do the Colorado State Road Race Championships.  On the second lap I tried my darndest to go at TT pace without being a dick to other trail users (I always yield to other hikers and uphill cyclists).  The Guardian was killin’ it!  There was a valley on the course where the downhill was shorter than the uphill but if you have sprint intensity you can punch yourself up the hillside marching the big gears.  I stood on the pedals mightily, cranked and wailed and contorted myself on the cockpit to get every ounce of energy delivered to the rear wheels with the lockout on, and not only did she not break traction but she was super quiet (nice component build-X7), tracked nicely due to its wheelbase, and the gearing choices were sufficient from the 10 x 2 setup (goodbye 9 x 3)thereby punching me over the top.  At the top, she whispered in my ear, is that all you have?  I replied with a smile.  I stood on the the crankarms with so much force it actually hurt the bottoms of my feet due to my shoes' stiff carbon insole.  Sho-nuff peeps there is little left to do in the dialing-in department.  She was an extension of my piston-type legs!  The big wheels, should you daydream at speed, will take you flying off the mountain.  When Billy shot out of the cannon at the beginning of the ride (I thought this was going to be chilly-chill?), I saw him down the course and I punched it.  I was also noticing how picture perfect downtown Denver was in the distance.  And in just that short distance, Peneolope picked up so much speed that I was about to go flying off the trail into a ravine. I did a supreme counter steer, contortionistic body English while locking up the brakes to get me back into my line.  This bike is FAST yet compliant enough to take your orders and translate it into manners on the trail.  The Kinesis geometry is aggressive while the 29er takes a wee bit of edge of the babyheads if you can’t thread the needle in the rock garden.  Great second lap and Penelope continues to impress me with what she’s capable of (translatable speed with confident steering, including very fast avoidance maneuvers, while looking sexy in red).  She has balance too.  On somewhat downhill sections of gradual serpentine profile, without too many babyheads, I take my hands off the bars and steer with my hips (yeah ladies!  I apologize…).  I rode nearly all of that short section hands free but needed to hit the brakes because I had to scrub off some speed.  No shimmies, no nothing, like a sled y’all.  Except it has wheels because you know, sleds have rails?
So, after that great ride (I truly don’t need much to keep me happy), I called Eric (mind you this is a pseudonym) for cosmic validation-a cosmic uh-huh from my Ninja.  To keep a long story short, we are kindred spirits of the highest order (my inner circle of friends are more than avid cyclists) and how simple things like guilt-free bike riding is so mentally underestimated but can also lead to meaningful satisfaction that saturates all the fibers in your body with euphoria.  To the uninitiated it looks like grown men riding a bike, a mere child’s toy.  It doesn’t make sense.  It’s like an inside joke for anachronistic weirdos (because of the UCI)  and strangely esoteric to say the least (if you’ve been to a party where two cyclists have a conversation, it’s like a whole other language).  But for Eric and Billy and for myself it’s the straw the breaks the camel’s back for making a difference in mood, identity, and self-inflicted, drug-free therapy.  Riding isn’t our life, but the quality it provides us and  the tangential opportunities that present itself in the cycling community, its absence would make us feel lost.  So, Airborne cycles and Eric-my Ninja (and Jeremy), thanks for providing me a child’s toy where my homies and I can repeatedly find our happy place (it all begins with pedaling), burning enough calories for a beer or a doughnut or a cheese pizza (all at the same time if need be), and a means to $hit on my neighbor come XC race day.   So, like Cube said in his seminal LP The Predator, this is dedicated to all the Ninja's [sic] down on day one.

18 May, 2012

Hello Airborne, it's been awhile--welcome back!

Getcha sum.  Here's my new love suckas, and she's inanimate.
Busted the inaugural off-roadmove on Airborne’s Goblin/Guardian rig. She was spec’d with X7 with a 10x2 drive. First time to run a 10x2 and it worked just perfectly. The big gear wasn’t quite as big as the outer triple and the small isn’t quite as small as the inner but it didn’t slow me down. Seemed my rpms where a tad slower than I remembered but it never slowed my climbing down. Absolutely loved the tires that are on this rig-the Kenda’s small block eights. I’m gonna transfer ‘em on my Crossmax’s and run some Stan’s to become tubeless once more. I did switch the 160 mm rotors and ditched the 185 mm and transferred the 9 nine speed into the 10 speed cassette from my original 29er. Now, after some blue loc-tite and torque spec’ing the TORX bolts, the Crossmax’s are on the Guardian with the proper hardware.

Farted around after I assembled the bike, so my first ride (instead of going during the day) was a night ride. No worries though because I’m pretty familiar with all the terrain nuances out at Green Mountain here in Lakewood. Off the get go I’m digging my upper body stance and how lively the frame is even with the stock wheelset. I remember when I bought my first Yeti racing hardtail how it seemed like it was like a sled on snow. The Airborne geometry is sending the same sensations through my brain, recalling my fondness for a fast, hardtail with sexy lines (no dual suspension evokes such aesthetics like an old school hardtail). The deluxe dealio about this ride though is that she’s a 29er. Thought I’d be the last to pull the 29er trigger but once you start rolling on the big boy wheels the rolling inertia makes for overcoming obstacles, climbing, throwing it around switchbacks almost like cheating (let alone hammering on the flats). Got the 16” frame thinking it might be too small but once I settled in the cockpit and did some counter steering around some curves it felt perfect (maybe a smidge longer stem because I’m a road weenie?). Where the smaller frame shone for me was my ability to English the bike as threading the rock needle or humping over an uphill obstacle without pedaling. Effortless I’m telling you!

Remember when you have a bike that’s so novel it’s like having the placebo effect? Once I got on the long downhill fireroad at Green Mountain she started talking to me (oddly my Yeti was red too, is red my conduit to the darkside?). A smile came over my face because it was like a sled on fresh snow. The 29ers where rolling fiercely and I felt like I was gliding. She, I’ll call her Penelope, was saying stuff to me like, “Hey Mikey, you know you can go faster….” And “What’s up with feathering the brakes?” and “Doesn’t that wind feel good against your face?” I know it’s a piece of aluminum but jeez the riding sensation was terrific. It’s like the difference between quality clinchers and middle of the road tubulars-there ain’t to substitute for tubulars. Well there is no substitute for quality ride sensation that translates to ease of clearing obstacles and climbing. It was quality. The only thing I forgot to do was to put noise erasing material on the drive side chainstay. Other than that the entire ride was ninja quiet. I love quiet bikes.

I also notice I was smiling a lot. Maybe it was night and other senses where being used, but I couldn’t get over how silky smoof my new ride was. Kept thinking to myself, I can upgrade the components on this race frame and she’d be a killer. Ran the fork at higher pressures but that’s because I’m a road weenie and don’t need the big hit setup, just enough to float over the profile that ills me.

Dare I say there are endocannabinoids floating around in my bloodstream? Yes, I think I will.