Sunday, October 2, 2011

long time. smeh.

Haven't written here in a long time. Sorry. I've been busy and lazy and drunk. Lots going on in September kept me from wanting to sit down and write despite it being something that I totally should have done help get my brain around everything that was happening. Now it's October and I'm finally back to my normal easy going, bike riding, beer drinking self, at least kinda.

Tons of bike stuff happened in September. There was the Interbike trade show, that yet again I did not get to attend as my boss went, so it fell to me to run the shop. No huge deal but I've never been and would *love* to get out to the outdoor demo where you can ride a ton of sweet bikes (both road and mountain) from tons of manufacturers, and the indoor trade show part is likely fun as hell too. But such is the life of a second in command type person, so whatever. While he was gone there was the National Championship for the IronKids Triathlon series in Des Moines. Hy-vee was the title sponsor and we were tapped to run mechanical support and bike shipping and such. 99% of this happened while Kyle was out of town. It was a bit stressful, but overall kinda fun. The shipping in and out of bikes was hectic and I'm glad I've got a solid staff with me, helping me get this kinda shit handled as well as can be expected. Being out in West Des Moines at 5:15 am to run support was kinda horrible, and the day was overcast and pretty cold for mid September, but I had fun. There's something endearing about tons of kids trying their best to do a triathlon. The enthusiasm that 90% of these kids had overshadowed the crazy "sports parent" parenting skills of the rest.

Labor Day weekend, whilst taking a slightly buzzed mid-afternoon bike ride around town to enjoy the sunshine and the day off, I broke the seat tube on my commuter bike. Check it out:

I guess my awesomely powerful legs are too much for a 1976 mMotobecane frame. No, but seriously, I can around a pretty lazy corner in town, going maybe 12 mph and felt a "clunk" and wondered, "wtf was that? wheel seems straight, chain seems fine, what was that noise?" Just as I thought those thoughts, I pushed a bit harder on the cranks to see was else might be wrong and they felt super spongy, I quickly figured out what I'd done. I limped home and figured I'd have to ride something else to work the next day. I eventually got a replacement frame figured out and had to futz with assorted parts to make everything work, but I think I've got it figured out, but sadly no photos yet. I did get another new bike though.
BLAM! 1996 Specialized Shark Cruiser. All sorts of kick ass shark related detailing, and a pretty sweet cruiser ride. Someone traded this in with some other bikes and we gave them a package price assuming we couldn't sell this for much. After we sold one of the other bikes for a decent price, I snagged this for not much money. Being a cruiser, it only came in one size, and me being 6'4" I was too big for it. So, like any bike dork, I upgraded/swapped some parts to make it fit/work better. Enter the ape hangers, longer seat post, clear grips and pedals:
I not only sit completely upright on this bike, I'm comfortable doing so, and have adequate leg extension.

As I mentioned above, I've been drinking more than normal. Just the usual suspects mostly, Point beers (cheap-ish and awesome), martinis, assorted whisk(e)ys, the occasional fancy beer. Not 100% sure why I've been drinking more. Okay, wait. Scratch that. I do. My personal life is a shambles. Plus stress from work, a surprisingly active social life, and general malaise, my drinking took a slight upswing in September. A few noteworthy things to tell you about: New Belgium's Lips of Faith series has not disappointed me yet. Kick and Clutch are awesome.
Fall seasonal: clean, crisp, tart, minor cranberry and pumpkin notes. love it. Won't bore you with details but you should totally go drink this beer.
Clutch is a sour dark ale. The band with the same name helped create this, and it rocks. Seriously, the band is super rad and the beer is awesome. Go try it. It's dark but not crazy black and motor oily, with some sour, but not too much. 110% recommend it.

One last thing before I wrap this rambling and probably too long of post up, new tires for my mountain bike! Not just any tires, but tires you can't even buy yet. Our Specialized rep stopped by Wednesday and dropped off some 29er mtb tires that have "prototype" on the side.
This is the Fast Trak 29 prototype. And if I've got a set, I'm guessing this is the 2012 version or 2013 or something coming soon anyway. Check out the tread on this thing:
The center is like the old Fast Trak/fast Trak Lk tires that I love, while the weight is darn low (575 g or so for each tire on our shop scale), and the side knobs are much beefier than the old Fast Traks. Thanks to Kyle's wife being out of town, he suggested we go mountain biking at Seven Oaks near Boone this morning before work. It was awesome. The best/most technical/most difficult/most fun trail in the area on a sunny fall morning while the trail is in amazing condition save for the leaves covering a few bits. Woulda been fun regardless of tire choice, but trying new tires was darn fun. I've got a bit of a history with this trail and different tires. I've ridden here a bunch and the last three years of the 24 hour race I've been on different tires. A few years ago I had the Fast Traks, last year I ran the Captains, most recently I ran the ultralight Renegades. So trying a different version of a tire I like was a treat. Review: awesome. If you like XC tires that hook up better than the Renegade of the Fast Trak, go buy this tire. While the Captain had more sheer traction, this thing rolls great, is pretty light, and will be my go to tire for 99% of my riding. I ran them (as I do every tire I can) tubeless with 32 psi in both front and rear. They were incredibly easy to set up, and felt like I probably could have used a hand pump instead of the compressor. I'll have to ride them more, but for right now, they're an incredible tire that hooks up really well in dry conditions in both hard pack, off camber, loose dirt, gravel, etc. My coworker Bret was riding the same bike with the stock Renegades on it, and I had noticeably more traction than he did in virtually all situations.

I'm seriously gonna try to update more often than monthly. September (I hope) was an aberration, and I can get back on track. Hassle me about it on twitter or something if you give a shit.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New beers, recovery, and a crazy health problem

My last post was a race report about the 12 hour race I did about a week ago. I'm happy to report that my recovery is going nicely, and I'm pretty much back to normal. Hands were the slowest to recover and I have full strength back in them but on a mountain bike ride Friday night they got a tad sore, but nothing terrible. I didn't really do anything special to help myself recover, I tried to eat better and outside of commuting I really didn't ride anywhere, so I think that helped. Something that certainly did not help my recovery is how I spent my Tueday; dealing with benign positional vertigo.

Woke up on Tuesday morning feeling groggier than usual and slightly dizzy, in a few minutes this turned itself into "OMFG standing is a hard, I'm gonna puke!" level dizziness. So after puking my guts out and wondering what the hell was wrong with me, I figured I'd eaten something bad and I'd just go back to bed for a while and worry about work and whatnot once I woke back up, this was a bad move. Literally 5 seconds after laying down, my head was spinning so hard it felt like my whole room was in a blender. I sprinted the few steps to the bathroom and again puked so hard I thought my bellybutton was going to touch my spine. At this point I knew something was seriously amiss I tried to plan my next move. Having no idea why I felt this was I was pretty freaked out, but knew I was "okay" sitting still and even standing, but laying down or cocking my head to the side caused horribly vomit inducing dizziness. So, I determined that the urgent care place was where I needed to go, so I called the only person I knew in town that wouldn't already be at work, my boss. In fairness, it was a little after 9 am, and he lives about 3 blocks from me, so he was a good choice even if I'd had a few more options, which I did not. Anyway, filling out paperwork is kind of a bitch while somewhat dizzy, at least sitting and standing weren't too horrible, some wobbly moments, but reclining or fully laying down was brutal. Once the doctor saw me, it took him about two minutes to diagnose it and sent me to the pharmacy to get an over the counter anti motion sickness drug. Weee. I spent the rest of the day napping and trying to watch tivo'd cycling while in a sitting position on the couch. I'm fine now(I think), but the problems could come back at virtually time with no warning or obvious cause. Great.

Once I got to feeling better, I resumed my usually habit of trying new and/or fancy beers. Here are a few:

Shipyard's fall offering, Smashed Pumpkin.

I generally am not a huge fan of pumpkin beers, most have minimal pumpkin flavor and focus on the spices you'd use in a pumpkin pie. While I like many fruit beers and many spiced beers, most pumpkin beers I've had fall flat, this is no exception. There's a ton of pie spices in this beer with a whisper of actual pumpkin flavor. Shipyard has even less pumpkin in this beer than most other breweries, which is kind of a let down. I think with a somewhat different base beer, and maybe dropping the pumpkin all together, Shipyard has a sweet-ish and spicy christmas/holiday beer. Not entirely sure how to alter this beer to make it better, but more pumpkin would be a quick fix, or scrap it, make a different fall seasonal, drop the pumpkin and try a different base and call it a holiday ale.

This next one is a bit closer to home, I made it.
\That's my Bourbon Oak Porter, aged several months, I don't have an exact record that I can find right now, but at least four, probably closer to six. Anyway, it definitely got better with age. The flavors blended better and the oaky character that was slightly annoying in the initial tasting has mellowed out is is not a present but not overbearing note that works really well with the rest of the beer.

Now for the crown jewel of what I've been drinking recently: 3 Floyd's Zombie Dust. (You'll have to click on the tap list to see a description of it)

Only available in their brew pub and only in pints and growlers, I was lucky enough to have a friend visiting the area who was kind enough to drink me one. I didn't ask for it, I asked for plenty of other things from them in bottles though (which he also brought) but this was a big surprise. It's a fruity, citrusy IPA that is excellent. It's super smooth, not over the top hoppy, but has a citrusy and almost sticky hop flavor. Much love for damn near everything 3 Floyds does and this is no exception.

Monday, August 22, 2011

race report and crash pics

This past weekend was the 24(and 12) hours of Seven Oaks. Trail conditions were as good as they've been in ages, weather was outstanding, and I again attempted the 12 hour race solo.

Yet again I finished 3rd and had a blast. As has been my custom, I'll break the race down lap by lap, as that makes the most sense and is easiest to remember.

Lap 1: Not a bad start, but whatever, it's a long race. a tiny bit of traffic here and there, but I focused on staying smooth and figuring out which parts of the trail were worth working hard at and when I'd be walking later. Rode almost the whole thing without putting a foot down, had a couple small dabs but nothing depressing. Tried to remember/figure out gearing to use in certain spots.

Lap 2: Saw virtually no one. Had the trail to myself and tried to go at a somewhat easy pace and stay off the brakes whenever I could. Figured the more "free" speed I had, the better I'd fair later. After a quick stop at camp for a fresh bottle and some energy gel, I went for #3.

Lap 3: Getting into a serious groove. Things are clicking really well, everything is semi-easy at a moderate effort. Picked a spot to stop midcourse and slam a gu and take a deep breath. Planned on using it most laps. At this point I was a tad under an hour a lap average, even with my quick stops to reload bottles and food. Felt great.

Lap 4: Starting get a little headache and possibly hungry. Probably haven't been eating enough, but pretty sure I've been getting enough fluids. I walk a few steeper climbs, I also experiment with some different gearing. I went to the granny ring on my triple. Turns out that's too low. Seriously, I still had to stand/crouch to get the weigh distribution right to keep climbing, and in that position a little bit harder gear actually works better. Lesson learned, I never went back down that low. Middle ring up front and big cog out back were plenty low enough, 34x36.

Lap 5: Before I started this lap I took a bit of a break, not terribly long, but probably 7-10 minutes. Ate a good amount of food, drank most of a bottle of gu brew, tried to relax a little, reminded myself that I was on a pace to do 12 laps or so. Basically told myself to chill out and that I was doing great. The actual lap was okay, still not feeling as good as I thought I should be but still on an hour/lap pace, despite breaks. Figured after this lap I'd take a bit longer of a break.

Lap 6: I tried to take a longer stop before this lap. I really did. I ate a good amount of food, drank most of a bottle. stretched a bit, restocked my bottle cage and jersey pocket, and got underway relatively quickly. Felt okay, but not great, probably should have stopped longer. Anyway, just after a part of the trail called "Rick's Drop" I went off trail, just a touch, and well, the trail got really really soft and horrible. I started to wash out and fought hard to save it, which really just prolonged the inevitable. But during this process I got crossed up, and did a half lay down, half endo, and hit the very hard and slightly gravely trail pretty hard. Not sure how I did this, but I managed to mangle my front wheel. It rubbed both sides of the fork pretty hard when I got around to sorting my bike out after fishing it out of the weeds. So I did the only logical thing, pull the wheel out and smash it on the ground repeatedly. After a few minutes of doing this and swearing a whole lot, I got it straight enough to clear my fork, and off I wobbled. As the adrenaline spike wore off, I still felt okay, but noticed how much of my had hit the ground really hard. Once I finished the lap I took some time to assess the damage to myself and my bike. I rinsed my legs off to see how much of the filth was blood and what was just dirt. Check it out:
Before any cleaning. Most of the dirt on my shin was there before the crash. The trail was lightly tacky and awesome to ride on.A little bit of a close up to the main damage. It was really hard to tell how much of that was blood and how much was just dirt/sweat mud.

There's the rinsed off view. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but not exactly awesome either. It didn't hurt as much as feared, and even two days later as I'm writing this, my hands and lower back are the worst.

When I went down I hit my head a bit. While I knew my head contacted the ground, it wasn't until hours later that the slight bruising showed up, and I knew I hit kinda hard. A closer inspection of my helmet revealed some cracks and some dented plastic, so I get to buy a new one. Not really looking forward to that, I liked this one. But I think Specialized makes the same model, probably not the same colors though. Oh well.

As I said, I took a long break to check myself and my bike out. I borrowed a wheel, graciously offered by Rick Blackford, and spent 45 mins thinking about if I wanted to try more laps. Turns out I did.

Lap 7: Started slowly, making sure everything on me and the bike worked correctly. I was plenty hesitant about most tighter/faster corners. Once I got deeper into it, everything was fine, but fatigue was starting to show and I was taking slower lines and not making as many slight corrections as before.

Lap 8: Took off without much of a break, but felt good. Figured I had to get moving if I didn't want to take the time to get lights on the bike. As the shadows started to get really long, especially in the eastern parts of the course, the trees and brush seem to get much bigger. The trail gets super narrow where before it wasn't. Finished the lap feeling okay, tired, fatigued, but semi-excited to still be riding. Plenty of light left, but I needed lights for another lap, and it was pretty well impossible at this point for me to get 2 more laps in.

Lap 9: I took a nice long break before this lap, took my time installing lights and getting a good amount of food and beverage. This was the first year I had a powerful light on my helmet. In years past I've had a bright light on my handle bars and either a crappy head mounted light or none at all. I've gotta say it was a great change. The laps started in heavy shadow and quickly moved into total darkness. With a combined 1100 lumens, I laughed at the darkness, I could see almost everything. 600 on the bar and 500 up top worked really well, though the helmet mount on the Serfas 500 was not as secure as i would have liked and bounced around a bit. While this didn't cause problems it was a little distracting at times. Finished at about 9:20, which because the event started at 10am this year, was closer to the end that I've made it in prior years. Somehow despite the crash and general lack of training, I made it the same number of laps, and feel better how than I did last year. I have no real idea what I did differently.

Final thoughts: Good lights are awesome, wish I had more night lap opportunities, but oh well. Crashing sucks, but not being too hurt is awesome. Being smart enough to smash a wheel back into shape in a nice thing, but having generous people to loan you things is definitely better. Hands and back and legs are still sore, they should come around in short order, probably a few days.

I know I haven't posted in forever, but I have no excuse, just busy, lazy, etc. Gonna try to do more writing in the future.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ragbrai, collaborative beer, plus some whiskey

RAGBRAI was this week in Iowa. Tens of thousands of cyclists rode at least a portion of the route across the state, and most drank a beer or two. I was lucky enough to get out and do 3 whole days. Not entirely sure how I pulled that off, but I did. It was fun as hell, like it always is riding bikes with friends and drinking a few beers along the way. Sure there's thousands of other folks doing the same, many of whom don't know what they're doing, but it's okay, fun is still fun. As a "bike shop guy" from a busy shop in the area, I felt like a celebrity, tons of people knew me and said "hi Mark" as I rode by or they saw me in town. It was kinda weird, but pretty cool at the same time. This year on Ragbrai we passed through the small town of Templeton, Iowa, where (of course) Templeton Rye Whiskey is made. The company did a big beer/whiskey garden and had tours and such, it was a good time.

The whole place is like two huge machine sheds stuck together, very small for as awesome of whiskey as comes out. A room full of these barrels smelled amazing. I've gassed on about how good this whiskey is, and it being a big part of Al Capone's empire is extra cool, plus it being semi-local to me is a big plus, but I'd love the hell out of the stuff if it were from anywhere else, but being Iowa made is sure a bonus. Not quite Iowa, but Missouri made, is Boulevard's newest Smokestack: Collaboration No. 2, White IPA.
Boulevard partnered with Deschutes to bring the world this kick ass beer. Roughly half IPA and half Belgian White, it hits a ton of notes on the palette, not unlike Neil Pert on drums. There are some yeasty esters happening, some fruity hop notes, just tons of things going on with an incredibly smooth finish. Plus, it's only $8 for a 750ml, I almost can't believe how good this beer is for the money. It is crazy good period, and when it's only $8, it is extra awesome. If you see it, get it. If you don't like it, I'll come over and punch you in the junk.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

long time in between updates, ragbrai is to blame

For those of you who don't know, in Iowa we have this thing called "RAGBRAI" it is effectively a 20,000 person rolling party that has become much more family friendly in the past few years. Regardless, tons of people need bikes, gear, tune ups, all manner of bike gear, and they need it right-fucking-now. We've been super busy all day every day for at least the past two weeks, if not longer. The ride finally starts Sunday, so the end is in sight, but I've not had a chance to write much nor to ride much. I have been drinking plenty though. This Wednesday the insane heat was still around, the weather had been dry long enough to try mountain biking again, and I felt like attempting an off road ride. Sycamore was in generally great shape, dry, firm, well worn in, if a tad overgrown in places. There were of course a few mud spots, but those never seem to dry, and there are dry lines on the edge of all of them. The beaver dam creek/inlet/whatever the hell we're calling it, was as bad as ever. Check it out:

As wide and flooded as ever. The log pile in passable but it is quite tricky.

Not all the logs are solid. Many are just floating there, making shuffling across this a vexing and time consuming task. I'm glad CITA reportedly has a plan to build a bridge of some sort in the relatively near future.
That's why it's still super wide/deep. The thing at the end of the little creek is the river. It has been so high all summer that this little stream is ultra high and making riding bikes a pain.
Aside from the dodgy creek crossing, the ride was awesome. The insane heat and humidity were sort of balanced by the constant shade and slight breeze of riding. Stopping was cripplingly hot, and the ride to and from the trail on paved MUPs was also incredibly hot, actual temps in the upper 90s and heat index around 110. Oh course I refreshed myself afterwards with a beer.

Odell Brewing's Myrcenary, their Double IPA. It is packed with floral and citrus hops and has a smooth, clean finish, and a well balanced body with a noticeable malt support. Very fruity with dirty floral scents, and a nice but not really apparent 9.3% abv.
If you get the chance, try it.Sadly a friend brought me this from Nebraska, and as far as I know, it isn't available in Iowa.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sam Adams Deconstructed Latitued 48

This July fourth, as many of you did, I consumed a fair amount of beer on a deck while cooking/eating grilled meat. One of the things my friends and I drank was the Latitude 48 Deconstructed mixed 12 pack. Sam Adams makes an average IPA that involves 5 hop varieties and is named after the latitude containing the "hop belt" when most hops are commercially grown. The deconstruction is a great idea for both beer geeks and craft beer neophytes. In the 12 pack, you'll find 2 regular Latitude 48 bottles, plus 2 bottles each of a beer made with just a single hop from the 5 that make up the full hop list in the regular version. Supposedly, and I can't find confirmation online anywhere, each of the single hopped beers have the same IBUs as the regular, so the difference is exclusively which hop is used. Here are my photos and notes.

Regular Latitude 48, nothing amazing but an okay IPA. Somewhat bitter, slight earthy and fruity notes, nothing that sets it apart from a sea of average IPAs. We drank this first as to get the whole thing in our minds before breaking it down. We tried to go from mildest/cleanest to biggest/burliest in our tasting progression.

Hallertau Mittelfrueh, mild, earthy, clean and crisp. Not a hop that can support a beer like this, but not bad.

East Kent Goldings, the classic English hop. medium bitterness, smooth, slightly fruity, very familiar.

Ahtanum, piney, medium bitterness, not terribly fruity or earthy, great addition to a more complex beer.

Zeus, bigger taste, fairly earth, much more bitter than the previous three.

Simcoe, sharper/more bitterness, more fruit and citrus with piney notes, we thought this one was the most prevalent/noticeable in the complete/regular version.

Overall a great experiment and something I'd like to see more of in the future. Maybe not this exact set up, but a similar thing, maybe with the same base beer and then more creative additions as has been popular at various homebrew clubs.

This is definitely not a 12 pack to buy and drink by yourself, this is meant to be a group experience and I sure enjoyed it. So get some friends, get a few bucks from each of them and sit around grousing about each variety and enhance your understanding of hops.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

long time no blogging and two crus from New Belgium, plus gin news

Ah July in Iowa, heat and humidity are ramping up, the rainy damp trails of June are fading, and a little ride called RAGBRAI looms large on the horizon. This means that I've been even busier than normal at the shop, attempting to mountain bike more, and drinking more. Of course I've been twitterizing many of my drink choices, but a couple I wanted to go more into here. New Belgium's awesome Lips of Faith series is their more experimental line up, which 99% of the time knocks it out of the park. The two beers I'm about to talk about are no exception. First up: Grand Cru.

A pretty good example of the style, fruity, estery, kinda sweet but with a bite to balance it out as to not be cloying on the palette. I quite enjoyed it. Maybe not quite as awesome as some actual Belgian Cru style abbey ales but still a nice entry in that style. Next up: Super Cru

This beer really knocked my socks off. Reportedly it starts as a Fat Tire but with 2x the malt and 2x the hops, then they add Asian pear juice, and a Saison yeast. It's vaguely familiar but entirely new at the same time. The pear notes are subtle and present throughout, but most prominent in the finish and aftertaste, but it totally works. I'd like to try this without the pear, to see what a super fat tire might taste like with that estery saison yeast and a ton of extra malt and hops. I think it could work great.

As any astute reader of this blog will note(and I'm sure you're one), I love gin. Martinis and gin and tonics are some of my favorite non-beer beverages. Sadly, one of my favorite, if not my favorite, gins is not going to be imported any long: Quintessential has reportedly been purchased and the new owners don't want to jump through the hoops to import to the USA any longer. I'd link to an article but 30 seconds of googling has failed me. Anyway, I've been searching for a replacement. So far, Plymouth is the leader. There is talk of a blind taste test with Q vs Plymouth, but as of yet, my friends and I haven't put it together, but expect much tweeting and blogging about such an event.

Until next time, keep it rubber side down, and don't drink and drink, you might spill your beverage.