Monday, December 8, 2014

2 Serious 4 Singlespeed: Part 3


Introduction: It's known as the party class. In CXSS you might race a gorilla, battle with Batman or tangle with a triple tandem. Bacon, bananas and beer are acceptable hand-ups. You choose one chainring, one cog and seal your fate with burning lungs and acid filled thighs. There is no description of this class that doesn't include the word: Crazy. This made me wonder if my sullen disposition and oft poetic ruminations were simply too serious for singlespeed. Then I thought... screw it! I'm gonna write whatever I feel.


Stoopid Loop: Mileage is a measure of accomplishment in the world of cycling. A rider's confidence is often attached to the longest distance they have completed. I've heard it said that CX racers don't need more than 2 hours on the bike at a time to train for competition but that blanket has some holes in it. It's not the minutes that matter but rather what happens during those minutes. A Pro, hauling ass, could shred singletrack for twice the distance of an Amateur and do so with an intensity and ferocity that begets astonishing fitness.

My journey towards a defining century has been elusive. Cat 3 XC races in New England topped out at 15 miles. Training rides up north were cut short at around 22. The strength and fortitude required for more epic treks seemed beyond my grasp, until earlier this year. At a local gravel grinder known as Piggy's Revenge, I signed up for the 40 mile race and with no shortage of pain and ambition, completed it. Now I endeavor to take the next step forward.


The Stoopid Loop is just what it sounds like, an urban cross group ride for 90+ miles that shreds every available stretch of trail, dirt and gravel within reach. It is a test of torture that lasts for hours. Your legs, your bike and your will shall be tested. The Stoopid loop would be twice my longest ride and harder than anything I have ever attempted.

Could I prepare for such an endeavor? Apparently not. One week of give it my all, tires to the pavement added up to 3 rides which totaled only 78 miles. It was not enough to adjust my focus but it was enough to pull a muscle. For another week I limped, drank Mexican Mudslides and caught up on Redbox flicks. The whole time kicking myself about improper training methods. There are only so many times that you can whine about injuries before sounding like a cry-baby so I'll spare you the ice pack details.

Somehow during my unintended off time I did manage to make a promo video for an upcoming race. The desire for self-expression shuns any aches and pains. The next day I went back to limping. Doh!



The million little aches of this world never really end for an athlete. My leg/hip/lower back pain was joined by a pulled muscle on the upper left side of my back only days before the ride. Now I was truly frustrated. It was time for extreme measures.

The T-Burn Chemical Massage

Warning: This particular remedy is not recommended for sane, healthy human beings. If you are a reasonable person with a good sense of caution stay clear from anything that could cause more harm than good. Having said that, if you are straight up crazy then no one really cares what you do.

Step 1: Take a scolding hot bath with Epson salts in the water. Take several deep breaths. Make sure the bath lasts at least 15 minutes. This will relax your muscles and open up your pores.

Step 2: Lay face down on a bed and have your friend/significant other rub a sloppy amount of Bengay into your back muscles. It will start to burn almost immediately.

Step 3: Scream like a little girl. Your back is now on fire! Have your friend/significant other towel off as much of the BenGay as possible before you run back to the bathroom.

Step 4: Stand under a freezing cold shower for several minutes, the desire to jump off a high rooftop will pass. Then towel off and return to bed.

Step 5: Have your friend/significant other cover your chemically burned back with Aloe Vera of the sun burn variety. A thick coat over all affected areas is best.

Step 6: Promise yourself that you will never do that again!


Stoopid Day. This cool, cloudy morning gathered a flock of 18 riders, many overdressed for the task at hand. If ever my rebellious nature was evident, I was the only person dumb enough to bring a Cross build to a Mountain Bike ride. We left the parking lot on time and dove into the nooks and crannies of Englewood's back roads and grass trails. It was off road that my 41/17 gear immediately felt a little forced. If my legs were working hard at the beginning of the ride, where would I be 80 miles from now? We'll never know because things went sour rather quickly.

A squeaky bottom bracket grew louder and louder as the first 12 miles breezed by. Then the squeak turned into a wobble until I could feel the crank arm disconnecting from the bike. I stopped on the side of 776 near the Englewood event center and tried to fix the problem only to discover that I didn't have the right tool and neither did anyone else. It was time for an emergency call back.


My wife arrived with 10 minutes carrying the tool I needed. I tightened the crank arm and darted off to try and catch the group. They had a fifteen minute head start but I suspected that they were doing the southern loop in Myakka State Forrest, that gave me a window. I time-trialed up Winchester road against a headwind and banked right into the park entrance. Another mile down the gravel road towards the ranger station and there I saw the riders gathered, waiting for lost stragglers.

Now came the real challenge. What had been a tough churn on previous terrain became a brutal push through the Myakka mud bog. My 37cm tires sliced through the brackish water but the each pedal stroke felt like I was towing a camper behind me. Then it happened again, the crank arm came loose. Seriously? I wedged it against a post and tightened it with more muscle hoping that this time it would stay in place.


We took to the Palmetto trail and all went well, for a while. I was adjusting to the movement of bouncing through singletrack without suspension but as the trail got wetter my average speed slowed to a crawl. Then the crank arm started to wobble again. Each time I stopped to fix it, the line of riders snaked further and further away until finally I was alone. There was no way I could catch them in this muck, in this large of a gear and on a broken bike. I called my wife to designate a pick up at the North entrance. I was a wet and depressed pile of misery by the time it was over. My epic event had fallen apart on so many levels and there was nothing left to do but return home and lick my wounds.

Not every story has a happy ending. My next race is a gravel grinder but having lost faith in the durability of my CXSS, I'm thinking it is time to retire it for the winter and switch bikes. I really enjoyed my first season of Cyclocross and will be better prepared for next year but it was time to cut my losses. I can only afford to keep one running at a time. Was I too Serious for Singlespeed? Sure but the great thing about fanaticism is that it has a long shelf life. I will be back.


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