Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Grapes of Wrath

I rode out of Thompson today heading east toward the Grand River along the roads with names like Cork, Callahan, and Ireland Road. I've ridden those roads before, but didn't spend any time on the many gravel roads out there. Here's a map. The vague outline of a Paris-Roubaix style race started to come together.

The best "worst" road of the day is Atkins Road, which at one time was paved, but has since decayed and has become a mix of several surfaces. That means you can go fast, but you have to be careful. Bombing down that road in a pack would be a thrill.

There's even a potential Forest of Arenberg section toward the north end of the road where it crosses a stream through a shallow valley--I guess that's called Mill Creek.

The road ends up running through the vineyards of the wineries up along South River Road. There are countless farm roads through the wineries.

So the hypothetical race "The Grapes of Wrath" would be held probably in early November. It would start somewhere in southern Geauga county and work its way north and east toward Atkins road, wind around a couple winery roads, and finish at South River Road.

Now the fun part will be to knit these roads together into a hypothetical course to see what the major planning obstacles would be.

Here's a few more pictures from today's ride.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There are no Trails

I've been noodling around on the back roads lately keeping an eye out for side roads and trails to follow. It's been disappointing. Trails are few and far between, and they rarely go anywhere. Generally, side utility roads are fenced off and some even have security cameras. There's hardly any evidence that people leave the main roads, except for footpaths around Amish farms.

It's pretty weird. If you go to the Allegheny National Forest, utility roads aren't closed off. Do people steal pipes? Around here even the gravel driveway to a natural gas well is closed and fenced off. Why aren't there trails? Most of the roads in northeast Ohio are on a rectangular grid, so presumably there would be some trails that cut across the grid for foot traffic. But I'll be hard pressed to find even one.

In lower population density areas, like the eastern set of townships in Geauga County much of the land off secondary roads is wooded or is farmland and is rarely crossed by human feet. For example, in Montville Township, the population density was 81 per square mile according to the 2000 census; if those people gridded themselves across the township, there would be one person per 178 meters. There are some roads that are surrounded by woods or farms, but generally, there are no trespassing signs.

The default position of land owners is to keep people from walking (or riding) through parts of their property that are remote from a house (if one is present). The default position is probably reasonable. In my imagination, I see a trail network peopled with hikers and cyclists around northeast Ohio, but it would probably turn into an ATV trail/garbage dump/shooting range pretty quickly.

It would take a monumental effort to convince people to pass Freedom to Roam laws in Ohio. There's been a crazy amount of resistance to rail-to-trail bike paths in Ohio. Presumably there would be exponentially more resistance to foot/bike paths through marginally used lands. But let's ignore that reality for now.

It could be possible to build a network of trails around Northeast Ohio that would turn the area into something unique--a mixed use park with hundreds of miles of trails.

Here's a pretty interesting article detailing the legal history of the right to roam in the US.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kirtland Park CX

I look forward to the Kirtland Park race every season. It's cool to be racing so close to downtown Cleveland right by the lake, and the course is great with lots of technical turns, including some off camber stuff in the amphitheater, and multiple ascents and rapid descents between the baseball field at the top of the bluff and the lake plain.

I had a pretty good start. The large "B" field flew down the long straightaway to the first turn, a 180 left hander. Everyone got through the turn safely, and we were onto the first climb. There actually wasn't much of a traffic jam, but I had to dismount near the bottom to run around one guy who crashed. At the top, I got a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick from another rider trying to get back on his bike, but my kung-fu was stronger than his and I managed to get around him.

As usual, after a few minutes, the head of the race was stretching out way ahead of me, and I could see the leaders on the first downhill, but I was still planted firmly in the field and buzzed downhill to the first flight of steps. Some people were riding it, but I didn't get enough traction to make it up there, so I shouldered the bike and ran and passed a couple people.

I made my way around to the amphitheater and the second major challenge of the course. In previous seasons, the amphitheater section descended the hill in steep steps. This year, it went uphill in one big steep step. On the first lap, there was a traffic jam, so I had to run it. On the second lap, I tried to ride it, but lost traction and momentum, then almost went head over heels backward, so after that, I just ran it.

Eventually the field stretched out and I was racing with a small group, Seth, and I think the other guy's name is Josh. I had my usual second lap slump, and Seth got ahead of me, Josh tried to pass me in the amphitheater but missed a turn and went down hard. Eventually I passed Seth on the stairs and made the pass stick.

We fought tooth and nail for the rest of the race. I think I hit my max heart rate at least twice a lap. On the last lap, Seth caught me as we turned onto the finishing straight and we drag raced to the line. I actually threw my bike. I don't know which of us took 43rd place (or whatever it was).

One more race to go in the series. I'm hoping for one ice bowl. I might have to go to Shawn Adams's winter CX races if conditions don't match up to last season's deep freeze at Boughton Farm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Gravelmaster 2000

My old Litespeed Siena has gone through a couple transformations over the years. I raced it for several seasons until I snapped the handlebars at the Race for Alex, and that gave me an excuse to get the Cervelo. After that, I converted the Litespeed to a single speed, and now I put some new heavy duty Continental Contact 28 mm tires on it. My plan for the next couple of months is to ride around on the bad roads in northeast Ohio doing long steady base miles, and then in the spring, I'll take it on Jim's Paris-Roubaix ride.

I took it out today for a test around East Branch Reservoir near Middlefield. (Map with pictures.) I tried pretty hard to get a puncture. First, I rode the gravel utility drive between 322 and the southern end of the park. That's got a pretty good surface with only a few rough patches. I made sure to roll through the loose gravel.

Then, I took the farm road that connects 608 to Hale Road (pictured at left). It has some chunks of new gravel--the big chunks that are almost guaranteed to cause a puncture. I rolled over it with no problem. After that, I was pretty confident in the tires, and looped around Durkee and Princeton Roads.

Since I took four gravel road sections, of course, I started to compare them. I started thinking up some criteria for rating the roads with 0-5 stars (ripped off directly from the ASO's Paris-Roubaix cobble ratings). The number of stars would indicate how hard it is to ride fast. New pavement would be 0, a 5 means you have to constantly be adjusting your line to maintain speed. The road can't be so bad, though, that you can never build momentum or have to stop to keep the wheels intact.

For these roads:
  • Durkee/Hale West of 608 ***
  • Durkee East *
  • Princeton *
  • Pioneer *
  • East Branch Utility Road *

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kent CX

With the good weather this week, I was riding, running or lifting every day. On Friday, I went out for a quick ride with the best intentions of going at an easy pace, but ended up doing several hard efforts. So, in spite of the 60 degrees and sunny weather I was feeling pretty flat this morning when I drove down to Kent.

I had a bad start. My cleat missed the pedal, so I was stuck spinning with one leg for several revolutions and ended up with the last few riders. I moved up in the field at the first turn and made up some ground on the bumpy dry grass. There was a traffic jam on the second right hander into the muddy grass (I wondered why it was muddy after so many dry days), and another traffic jam at the entrance to the gravel path.

During the warmup, I was thinking the tricky twists and turns on the course would cause carnage on the first lap, and I wasn't disappointed. A mountain biker went into the 180 turn onto loose gravel with way too much speed and washed out his rear wheel and went down. I stretched the tape on the outside of the course to work around him. I managed to overlap my front wheel with the rider in front of me, and we rubbed tires pretty hard. This was a case where racing at Westlake every week for several years paid off and I kept it shiny side up.

I was with a group of six or eight riders that was bottled up behind a guy on a mountain bike who looked like he was riding way over his ability. He'd get out of the saddle and sprint when someone would try to pass, then blow up and sit down, but I didn't get around him until the turn just before the singletrack. I overcooked it and hooked my left brake pedal on the tape, and snapped the tape.

The singletrack didn't really provide many opportunities to pass, so I just settled in to the suffering. The group got to the first steep 40-50 foot hill, but I had to brake on the downhill leading into it, so I didn't have enough momentum to even try to ride, so I hopped off and waddled up with the rest of the group. Everyone kept it shiny side up on the down hill and the next run-up, but there was a tricky left hand turn over two muddy roots that took out three riders at the same time.

I finally worked my way around to the start of the second lap and was feeling pretty bad. 60F is a great temperature for riding on the road, but feels like tropical heat on the 'cross bike. I was melting. I muddled through for a couple more laps until I started to feel pretty good again, then picked up the pace when I closed in on the riders in front of me.

There were three riders that I chased down, but I didn't manage to overtake permanently. I made up ground on the run ups, which kind of surprised me, but then they would open the gaps on the singletrack. I thought I'd overtake them on the last lap, but ran out of gas.

That was a tough course, but it was a lot of fun and was really challenging. It had a little bit of everything, and the woods section was great. As usual, Team Lake Effect did a great job.

Just two more races to go in the series.

Here's a link to my A race snapshots : Link

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Riviera of Geauga County

Sunday, we did a group ride out of the Mountain Road shop in Chagrin Falls. I think the highlight of the trip was Valley Road in Geauga County at the east end of Washington Street in Auburn Township. The road is chip and tar and runs along the shore of the LaDue Reservoir. On a sunny day, it's a pretty spectacular view. It could be the Riviera of Geauga County. Well, if there was a beach. And if there were a beach, I think you'd see a lot more toothless bathers than topless bathing, but still, it's a cool place to ride.

Not Training with Power

The warm weather we've been having has me out on the road bike again after several weeks of running, riding the mountain bike, or racing 'cross.

Saturday, I rode down to the Burton/Middlefield area. I did a pretty easy spin down the bike path from Chardon, then went south on 608 up the steep hill at the south end of the reservoir. I planned to take it pretty easy so I wasn't even paying attention to the power meter. About half way up the hill, I glanced down and was pretty surprised by the number--quite a bit higher than my perceived exertion and way over, like 100 Watts over, what I thought my threshold power is. I kept the pace up to the top of the hill. I tried a few more efforts like that on the way home.

That got me wondering if I've been suckered by my power meter over the past few seasons into thinking my threshold power is lower than it actually could be.

During the 'cross season, I try to ignore the computerized aspect of cycling as much as possible. My 'cross bike doesn't even have a computer, so I have no idea how fast (more like slow) I'm going, let alone how much power I'm cranking out. I just go as hard as I can stand to. I'll have to mix more of that into my prep for next season.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Best Nature Preserve

The new trail at the Best Nature Preserve in Chardon is open. The trail used to inexplicably dead-end about half way around the lake, but now loops all the way around and is about 1 mile.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Lame Analysis

This is the probably the last post I'll write on the Mandeville Canyon Road Rage Trial. Thompson has been found guilty of serious criminal offenses and now faces what will probably be a costly civil trial. The legal stuff will probably drag on for years, and it will be boring for spectators and a stress-o-rama for everyone that's actually involved.

This incident has provided a lot to think about on training rides lately.

I don't think this event has significance for cyclists as a group, nor does it have significance for drivers as a group. There's no war between cyclists and drivers over the roads. Thompson is an aberration. There is an order of magnitude difference between the pathetic loser who shouts insults at you from the safety of her Hummer and a psycho that hunts cyclists with the trunk of his car.

One thing I take away from this incident is that cars have the weird power to bring out the beast in people. Thompson's Infinity Sedan transformed a 60 year old dude into a would-be murderer. I have no sympathy for his actions, but I can understand his anger; during my driving career, a few traffic incidents have pissed me off beyond all reason.

Anyone can lose their temper and do something stupid. Rage is a reflex. The wise thing to do is come up with a strategy to deal with your anger and the person who caused it instead of pretending it doesn't exist.

Over a long life, most people learn to tame the beast, but in his 60 years, Thompson didn't. Cyclists pissed him off so much that he tried several times to hurt them with his car. When he finally succeeded, and a guy's head was through his car window, he still didn't wake up--he complained that an injured cyclist's bike was in the road! When the prosecutor brought charges against him, he refused to admit any guilt. When he went to trial, he made up a crazy story about the incident to try to get away with it. My guess is he'll still be mad when he's writing all the zeros on the check to pay the cyclists after they sue him, and he'll be mad when he's picking up garbage at the side of the road and cyclists breeze past.

No doubt, there will continue to be confrontations between drivers and cyclists. The question this trial raises is, how should you react when it happens?

Monday, November 2, 2009


VeloNews broke it first (link):
Thompson, a former emergency room doctor, was found guilty of six felonies and one misdemeanor and could face as much as five years in prison.

He was remanded and ordered held without bail until sentencing. He was handcuffed in the courtroom after the verdict was read.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chagrin Day 2

This morning, after I popped a few Advil and did some last minute wrenching on the bike, Chris and I made the quick trip down to Bainbridge for Day 2 of the Chagrin River CX Challenge. The weather was dry and windy last night, so I was looking forward to faster conditions.

Most of the course had dried out significantly and was quite a lot faster than yesterday. The pine tree section was perfect. The mud in the single track section and woods firmed up and provided good traction, and there were sections of the trails that were solid. There were lines through the fields that were solid at the beginning of the race, and the conditions improved through the day.

I decided to run low tire pressures today, which usually doesn't work out too well for me. The tires were probably at about 35 psi. During my warmup lap, that seemed like it would work. There weren't any off-camber sections to roll the tire, and I could baby the wheels over obstacles and avoid a snakebite puncture without too much trouble.

I felt weary during the warmup. My legs didn't loosen, and my heart rate stayed pretty low, so I planned to start off at my own pace (slow!), then build up my tempo through the race.

I lined up in the second row with 26 other racers. The field was a little bit smaller than Saturday, but it seemed pretty crowded when we got to the first bottleneck of the course--the wall climb up and around the telephone pole. I coasted to a stop, got off the bike and waited in line to find a spot to run through the scrum. Chris was just in front of me, and in a million to one shot, he hooked the back of his shoe on my left brake lever just as we were getting ready to ride down the wall again. I thought for sure we were both going to tumble down, but luckily he got clear without a problem.

By the time we were into the single track, I got into a rhythm. I had a pretty easy time riding the more technical parts of the course. I kept my head up and picked relatively fast lines. I was way back in the field, but was steadily making up ground, and the time gaps to riders ahead of me were small.

I picked off one guy after he bobbled through the ditch, then worked my way up toward a group including Dan and Seth. I chased them for the rest of the race. I closed the gap through the grass section on every lap by pushing a big gear at low rpm. That seemed to work better for me than spinning. I actually had momentum through the corners in the damp grass. I guess the lower tire pressures helped.

In the singletrack, I rode the ditch when Dan was running it. As I closed the gap, I lost my Zen trail riding mindset and botched the ditch crossing. I didn't crash, but my momentum was completely absorbed by my front wheel, fork, and arms. I thought I cracked my steerer or fork, and it hurt to take such an impact.

On the final lap, Dan did a good effort and opened the gap up again on the gravel. I was dialed in on the barriers today, so I thought I might make up a couple seconds there, then catch him in the field. I was quick through the barriers, but slow to get back in the pedals. By then, he was already to the first corner. I didn't have enough juice left to sprint the gap, so it stayed about the same until the finish.

Even though I finished way back from the leaders, I was pretty happy with that effort. I didn't crash. I only made a few mistakes. I was smooth through the technical stuff and the barriers and was racing other people instead of suffering a lonely mud time-trial.

I know it's corny to say, but it's too bad real life isn't more like the cyclocross scene. There's a crazy positive vibe that permeates the whole day.

Only three races left!