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Friday, January 20

We'll see where this gets us...

In the interest of full transparency, here is my email to the Executive Director of NICA, Austin McInerny.

I did my best to be concise and honest. We'll see how that works out for me.

Dear Austin:

I am writing to you in regards to rule 4.2 in the 2016-2017 NICA Rules and Guidelines.

2016-2017 RULE 4.2.NO SINGLE-SPEED BIKES Pushing big gears has been shown to be detrimental to the joints (specifically the knees) of young student-athletes. Bikes must have multiple gears including at least five cogs in the rear.

Myself and others have been looking for the studies and/or research that's been done to "show" that pushing big gears is in fact detrimental to the joints. Most of what we have found has been purely anecdotal or lumped in with things such as saddle height and poor bike fit. It is a belief that's been widely held for decades, but I haven't been able to determine if there's any true science behind it.

There have been plenty of cycling old wives' tales that have been debunked. There used to be a time when cyclists thought smoking helped "open up their lungs," and "knee over spindle" was the only way to fit a bike. We know better now because we've looked at the actual facts.

The inclusion of "... at least five cogs in the rear" makes the rule seem even more arbitrary. It's been decades since five speed freewheels were a thing, and the era of mountain bikes barely overlaps their existence. If there is any basis for making a rule about gearing in regards to knee health, the USAC "rollout method" at least comes closer to the mark, although there is no way to stop a young rider from mashing a 52X14 whenever they choose to do so.

I also find it peculiar that the wording of Rule 4.2 has been changed since 2015.

2015: 4.2. NO SINGLE-SPEED BIKES Pushing big gears has been proven to be detrimental to the joints (specifically the knees) of young student- athletes. Bikes must have multiple gears including at least five cogs in the rear.

We have shifted from "has been proven" to "has been shown." This leads me to believe that "proven" is too strong of a word, mostly because the proof isn't there.

But why all this concern on my part?

As someone who grew up in rural Ohio below the poverty line, my ability to obtain decent equipment for high school cross country was very limited. I had to make do, and when I was a struggling college kid who took up bike racing, it was very much the same. My $249 Yokota was the start of a lifelong passion, and it was worth every scrimped nickle and dime.

A trail-worthy single speed is much cheaper than its geared counterpart. There are also fewer moving parts to maintain, therefore it's cheaper to keep it on the trail. $100 here or there might not seem like much to those of us that enjoy our privileged lives, but it could be the difference between a kid pursuing a passion or sitting on the sidelines. Regarding the actual gear ratios that would be used to negotiate "terrain that can be completed by beginner riders" (Rule 5.1), I can assure you that a rider on a single speed will see a wide range of cadences, not 45-120 minutes of "pushing a big gear."

All of my arguments are perhaps moot tho, if there actually is some research and studies to back the claim that "pushing big gears has been shown to be detrimental to the joints".

Otherwise, Rule 4.2 should be considered exclusionary.

If our concern is truly for the health of the young riders' knees, they'd be better served with a rule that has them wearing knee/leg warmers below 60°, because there actually is proof that exposure to cold is detrimental to their health. No such rule exists.

So if a baseless rule keeps one kid from entering the sport through this magnificent thing that NICA has become, isn't that one kid too many?

I ask because I was that poor kid who had a difficult time chasing my dreams due to financial reasons.

I ask because I'm a father who's son enjoyed racing a geared bike as well as a single speed, because mountain biking is fun.

I ask because I've been delivering packages and commuting on a fixed gear bike and also racing a single speed mountain bike at endurance events all over North (and Central) America for more than twelve years now. My 47 year old knees are fine... of course that's only anecdotal evidence.

I look forward to hearing back from you and hopefully continuing this dialogue.

Sincerely,

Rich Dillen


UPDATE:

Executive Director of NICA, Mr McInerny has replied back to me. Basically, Rule 4.2 banning single speeds from competition was on the books before he became ED, so he's going to look into it and get back to me.

Thursday, January 19

I hate having a point or at least thinking I do

Sorry that I'm slacking, but I'm actually spending way too much time looking into this:

Yeth, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association does not let kids race single speed mountain bikes based on... science?

I've been busy searching and asking FaceBook friends (because I have some that are way smarter and have better resources than I do) to help me look into this.

My problem with the rule isn't that I'm worried about creating the future generation of degenerates who ride one speeds.  It's that NICA is all about being inclusive and this rule does not serve that purpose.  A trail-worthy single speed can be a cheap way into the sport, and I know "support your local bike shop" and everything, but this:

$349.  No shipping.  No tax.  Some assembly required... but it is a single speed, so... easier than an Ikea coffee table.

Try and find a trail-worthy geared bike for that price.  Yeth, that same online store has some geared bikes that are close, but I wouldn't consider them something I'd want to ride off road and expect to last a "season."  Component spec goes to shit when you're trying to squeeze shifty/squishies into a sub-$400 price point.

This is a sensitive topic for me.  I had no perspective when I was a kid growing up in rural Ohio, but I'm pretty sure that I can look back now and say that I was living in poverty.  We were poor as shit, living in a trailer, dad unemployed for years.... government cheese.

So when I wanted to run high school cross country, it's not like my parents could really buy me proper equipment.  I got a canary yellow, ill-fitting "sweat suit" from Dollar General and a pair of Trax "running shoes" from Kmart (mine were green).

Total investment, probably less than $25.  I ran my ass off, started my freshman year as literally one of the worst runners in Ohio's largest county (no joke) and eventually worked my way up to the varsity squad before I graduated.  Fortunately, my dad had opened a video store, it took off (slowly), and I was able to get increasingly better gear.  A reward for sticking to it and getting better, I guess.  Even still, while other runners had training shoes and race flats with spikes, I split the middle ground and did all my running in a pair of Waffle Racers... because we still weren't exactly wealthy.

Sorry for the tiny image, but this is the exact colorway and everything of the shoe that covered hundreds of miles of pavement and XC courses with my feet in them.  Not the ideal weapon for either, but the best we could afford.  I appreciate that my parents dropped close to $50 on them, and after the "season" ended, they finished their lives out filling the role of my "school shoes."

I can remember how hard it was for me to come up with $100 when I was a freshman to buy my 1984 Olympic Edition 10 speed. It was a hunk of shit, but it was a lot easier to visit my friends (one who lived six miles away.. down State Route 6... and I'm still alive?) than riding my banana seat bike.  Imagine that same kid going off to college (the second cheapest college in Ohio) and finding a real love for road cycling... and later mountain biking.  Let's just say I had to save some nickels and dimes in order to ride some more hunks of shit from 1987 to 1992.  In my last year of college, I raced on our newly formed road cycling team, The Penguin Flyers.  I raced the entire "season" on a $249 Yokota that I got on closeout from Bike Nashbar, which was based out of the same shitty city where I went to college.

With all that, I think I have a bit of a right to talk about how money can be a high hurdle that one has to jump just to find their lifelong passion.

I won't get into the ludicrousness of the "five cogs in the rear" thing, because I'm going to argue that as well in an email to NICA.  If there truly is some sort of science that shows big gears  ruin knees, than they probably need to adapt the roll out rules that the USAC established for juniors... even though that does nothing from stopping a kid from pushing big gears.  Yeth, they'll be told by coaches to not do that, but I also remember adults telling me to not throw eggs at people's houses, so...

And yeth, I also have a problem with the fact that they changed to '15 wording from "has been proven" to the '16-'17 "has been shown," because that seems a bit like an admittance that there actually is no proof.

So why keep the rule at all?

Even if this only stops one poor kid from riding his single speed in a NICA event, what if he/she is our next John Tomac or Juli Furtado (dated reference but whatev)?  We'll never know.  Insert that cute story here that The Pie always brings up about the kid that tosses one starfish back into the ocean and it mattering to that one star fish.

I'm working on an informed email and since I'm not used to taking much of anything very seriously, I'm taking my time composing it.  I want to effect a change, so I can't come off half-assed...

Like I do here...

Every day.

Wednesday, January 18

You're the best... around

I'll admit something.  I've become a solid urban fannypackman.

It was just one of many solutions I tried to solve the problem of getting a messenger bag's worth of weight off a shoulder that's been carrying the bulk of the load for almost two decades on my commutes.   Last Friday, it stood up to a real decent test.  One of the larger temperature swings from my morning commute until I went home.  High 40°s for my ride in, 70°+ on the way home.  I know some of you would like to comment on the relatively mild conditions, but I'm only talking about the temperature variations, and this is a good example of how much clothing I have to shed to compensate and be sorta comfortable... so blow me. 

Flannel, vest, knee/arm warmers all the way to T-shirt weather.

All this inside my Hip Monkey and the compression straps still not fully released.

Flannel shirt
Vest
Arm warmers
Gloves
Knee Warmers ( 2 pair... I'd forgotten one pair at work the day before)
The other crap I always carry: Tools, tube, CO2/inflator, money, work badge

A twenty plus degree temperature swing is about as big as it gets here, unless we have some major crazy weather in Charlotte.  I'm now pretty confident that as long as I don't overdress in the morning, I should be able to always get all my excess clothing in there.  Obviously, the other key is wearing layers, but if you didn't know about that already, I can't help you.  The wide waist strap keeps even a  load this size comfortable and stable.  I've gotten used to wearing it, and it's no more annoying than shoving my feet into a pair of shoes instead of sliding into some flip flops.

I've also carried a six pack of Dale's to a team meeting with room to spare (mebbe could fit eight beers?).  It's gone on the majority of my Tour duh Charlotte assploration rides as well, carrying a camera (w/fisheye lens), cable lock, extra clothes... incidentals (beer).

It will probably still never be used on a mountain bike ride in Pisgah... unless I'm trying to carry something super bulky, like beers, a camera, or... a turtle?  Dunno.  I've just had years to figure out how to ride around Pisgah for a few hours with nothing more than jersey pockets and a few straps from Backcountry Research on my bike to handle my needs, in terms of a "load" and any spare/excess clothing. If you were the type that likes to whip out a burrito or a hunk of salami the size of your forearm and make your friends jealous, this pack would make sense... for you.  Go, you.

I'll just keep carrying the same past-date gel from last "season" that I'll probably only eat if I'm spending the night in the woods.

Oh yeth, going back a bit... the Tour duh Charlotte.

It's happening.  The Fifth (I think) Annual Tour duh Charlotte.

The date is set and much of the planning is being planned to formulate a plan.  More news other than the date (March 18th, 2017) will be forthcoming, such as registration and such, but for now, just know it's happening and make plans to be there.  It will be, as always, the best* mountain bike stage race and urban trail adventure in Charlotte.



*only

Tuesday, January 17

It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours.

I finally broke down and bought a new bike computer.

Yeth, I bought the same stupid, ancient, shitty computer that I already own.  Why?

I hardly ever use my computer.  I never did have much reason for it.  The clock feature was nice on the rare occasion when I thought I might want to be more mindful of my nutrition while racing.  A time piece is required gear at PMBAR (that race I do every year).  Occasionally, I considered it good to know what mile I might be at on some course I'm not familiar with... but normally not never.

It does come in handy for Tour duh Charlotte assploring.  I know I can use my phone and STRAVA and whatnot, but...  gloves, cold, phone-nosing, layers, pockets... stuff.  I just prefer the old school data producer to look at for such things.

Anyways, I went to my LBS to get a new computer last week.   That's where I got my old Cateye STRADA, but it had been acting up... since May?  Resetting for no reason.  Blanking out when it got wet.  Being a general nuisance and also wiggling in its mount.  I was open to looking at other options, but keen on getting the same same because of this:

That thumb dial on the wheel magnet sensor.  Number one value being that when I don't run a computer, I can just do this:

It's slightly cleaner than leaving it on there, and when I want the computer mounted back up, I'm not lining everything back up again with zip ties and anger.

It also allows for this:

That's me trying to remove the front wheel with a monster meat mounted on it.  I can't get the Maxxis 3.0 tires (whichever I might be running) to clear between the sensor and the brake caliper for removal... but if I loosen the thumb screw?

Blammo.  That won't work with a stationary sensor mount that almost very simple computer uses now.  So when I'm feeling totally hateful towards technology, two thumb screws (magnet and sensor) and a 5mm allen to remove the K Edge stem mount, and you'd almost think I was 100% Luddite.

So, I go into my LBS where I swear they had this computer in like a hundred different colors when I bought it last time to find little more than disappoint.  They only stocked a couple of $65 Cateyes with even more features that I didn't need and a ton of Specialized computers for a whole lot cheaper.

A discussion ensued, and in the end, I wondered why Cateye was even bothering to make these $65 computers.  The margins for the bike shop to carry them is dismal.  For a little bit more money (relatively), you can get a GPS capable bike computer, making this computer good for who again?

Anyways... I was disappoint.  The Cateye $65 would probably work with my easily removable (and 3.0 tire friendly) sensor, but $65?  For a clock and sometimes odometer.  Not much else.  I couldn't buy it on principal. 

Since I was looking for a simple and very outdated device, I turned to the internet to solve my problems.  Yeth, looking back, I might have been able to order this ancient POS that I wanted from my LBS, but I was dumbfounded at this point.  When I found a white one just like the one I already have on closeout, as I figured it would be because I'm the only person who would probably want this outdated and at full MSRP overpriced hunk of crap, I just clicked "buy."

Got the new computer, and it totally worked with the old sensor.   Hooray.

But it was a bit wiggly in the K Edge mount.  Hmmm...

Figured out the plastic bit in the K Edge was the same same as the plastic bit in the stock mount, went to swap them out, and no bueno.  Not same same after all.

Spend a few minutes with a file hacking away hoping to not screw everything up...

Done.

I took zero leaps forward as far as technology goes, and in fact, entrenched myself deeper in the past.  I've spent more money and wasted more time to change absolutely nothing.

Somehow, I feel better for it.

Thursday, January 12

Knowledge Bombs

Two things coming up real quick like.

On Friday, registration for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race opens at 10:00AM EST.  It always sells right the fuck out.  Make sure you get on it if you want to do it... "it" being the race I wouldn't miss for nothing.

If you don't do PMBAR, you don't know Dog.

What else?

Pretty sure on Sunday, I'm agreeing to take part in a Beginner Race Clinic.

Despite what you're thinking, I'd be "instructing," not "beginning."

"In an effort to promote and encourage new mountain bikers make their way out to the Winter Short Track Series, we are hosting a free show and go race clinic this Sunday at 10am. We will have several experienced men and women leading small groups of potential racers around the course and addressing several topics to help get your upcoming race season started in the right direction. This clinic is great for adults and junior race participants."

Topics:

• Trail Vision
• Body Position
• Cornering
• Race Passing
• Contact
• Race Starts
• Bike Setup

Now, I know some people would expect me to teach a much different race clinic.

Topics

• Racing With Blurred Vision
• Podium Attire What To/Not To Wear
• Cornering The Market On Post-Race Beverages
• Race Passing And How You Let Others Get By Safely
• Contact With Creepy Baby Hand Etiquette
• Being Late For Race Starts
• Bike Setup For Shitty Parking Lot Wheelies

I've got a lot of mad skills I can share with novice racers.  Masters Class courses could cover the most advanced skills.

• Coming Up With Excuses For Poor Performance
• Riding With A Smashing Hangover
• Quitting Because....
• Faking It
• How To Conserve Energy For Later To Impress Spectators
• Shit Talk
• Sads

So, I encourage anyone that wants to test the waters to come out and glean knowledge from a whole bunch of serious racers... and me.

Out.

Tuesday, January 10

Figgering

So this is all I got for the 2017 "season" (so far):

PMBAR... of course.  Haven't missed it since 2004.  If there's one race I will never miss, it's PMBAR.  Registration opens on the one event YOU MUST DO on the 13th of this month.  DON'T NOT DO IT.

The Trans-Sylvania Epic.  I've done this race every year that it's taken place since 2010.  It's addictive, like crack.  Without the unfortunate side effects associated with crack... just with its own list of side effects such as bumps, bruises, contusions, hang overs, and post-race week sads.  Still one of the best 5-7 days on a bike I've ever had time after time.

So, yeth.  Nothing solid in between those two, and nothing before May that I know of.  I'm probably skipping Warrior Creek for my own reasons (didn't register, sold-out now), and I've got a family Spring Break trip to Florida (near trails) to figure out in April before I can think "me thoughts."

Dirt Rag Dirt Fest in mid-July... yeth, not putting Tour de Burg on there until I have a "coming to Dog" talk with myself.  I've wanted to Dirt Festivate ever since they started doing them up in PA, but they were always the week before TSE, and in the same part of the world... 9-10 hours away.  Seemed like a lot of back to back to back driving.  So wanted to go, especially when I actually wrote for Dirt Rag.  Figured I'd have VIP access to the moonshine or something.  Mebbe an entourage?  This one is in West Gotdam Virginia, so natch, it's a must.  I ain't ridden some WV much in the last decade or so.  So.  Much.  Excite.

There may or may not be a conflict between Dirt Fest and Single Speed USA in Bellingham, WA.  Even if they're not on the same date, I don't know if I want to back-to-back them.  Flying with my bike, wanting to have enough time to really enjoy the benefits of silver tubing my way through the sky across the entire country, being old to tolerate things...

Went from "nah, Bellingham," to "why not Bellingham?" to "dammit, Bellingham!"

And then Breck Epic.  Again.  It seems like it's becoming an every other year thing for me.  It's not that it's not worth doing every year.  Just that it is a bit more logistics and such.  There's a decent crew coming from Charlotte, some yinzers from PA, and a bunch of back-homers from OH.  I am very excite.  Two of my favorite all-time descents, the most incredibly scenic place high up above the world (assuming the USA is the world), just somewhere so special to my heart.

And that's it?

Dunno.  I still have 2016 up on the sidebar, and you can see that I did a fair amount more last year.  I hope to get some new events in there (like I did at the latter part of the year), so I gotta leave some holes here and there to make room.  If not totally new, perhaps something I haven't done in awhile.

I can only think about the future in spits and spurts now.  Too much compulsing is bad for my spleen.

Monday, January 9

Inside the Deductible

La Vida Bachelor while also avoiding the fumes from the polyurethane being put down on the floors of our still to be repaired to a livable state bedroom report.

Wednesday.  Get off work.  Head to Black Bear Adventures Paul's house to grab these:

He noticed my lamentations on Facebook regarding the loss of a sorta similar half a pair of wind layer lobster gloves (and the inability to replace them with anything made today), and he offered these up.  A key component to my three layer hand burrito this time of year.  A great start to everything.  Stoke level high.

Head To Birdsong Brewing for a free Bicycle Benefits beer and a couple more with Nick and Zac.  Then ride over to a fireside Fast Mustache meating about the upcoming (possible) Tour duh Charlotte.  Much good news and a heated as it gets for me discussion about the route, where I may or may not have said, "I'll go the mat for this one" to someone I'd prefer to not wrestle if I could avoid it.

Home late.  No shower... I think.

Thursday.  Chut around town ride planned with Jon Danger after work.  Chut we did, and I stopped at The Spoke Easy on my way home for a beer... when Merrill and Chris showed up and "just one" became more than one.

Home later.  No shower... I think.

Friday.  The weather was coming.  Or it wasn't.  It was changing every hour.  My goal was to get to The Spoke Easy with a dry ass, watch the rain turn to snow from the pleasant side of the window, ride home on the... tarck bike?  Well, it was most of a plan anyways.

Got off work, arrived at Spoke mostly dry, take my stool.   The whole world started trickling in as the night progresses... along with the trickling of a steadying rain.  Zac tried to convince me to go off with him and Andy into the good night, but we left under a drenching rain.  When the times came to split left to the next bar, I split right towards home.

Home late again.  Bad dietary decisions followed and maybe I took a shower but probably not.

Saturday.  I planned on riding out to the Grumble in the Grundle at the US National Whitewater Center... but it was canceled.  My backup plan was to ride the Tour duh Charlotte party pace course (as currently proposed)... no matter what.  I blabbed quite a bit about doing it, set a time and place to meet and everything.  I woke up to a world covered in a thin layer of ice and snow, but since I made it out to the empty mailbox in flip flops unscathed, I decided to go forward with it.

Of all the people that had said they were in, only Tod, Chris and Merrill showed. 

100% the kind of ride I would not do unless I could fabricate some kind of reason or justification.



Pretty much a fucking mess, but assuming no mid-March Charlotte "blizzard," you'll probably be able to do the ride without breaking out your three wheeler.

Back through town and return to... Spoke Easy?  Again?  I need to figure out a way to get my bar tab on the insurance claim.

And then it seemed like all of Charlotte went for a bike ride that ended here and the place was packed until it wasn't and I looked around and it was me and Dread bar tending and Chris (co-owner)... and I knew it was time to leave.

Sunday.

PTSD dreams the night before about a tree coming down on the house.  Maybe it was seeing all the trees coated with ice leaning at me.  Anyways, run around my domicile and do my best to make it look like I had not lived like a pig the whole time, take a shower with my bike (for real), and then head out to Legion Brewing to watch Cyclo Ross Nationals and come home at the earliest I had all week.

Pretty sure I'll be functioning like a normal person by the time The Pie returns this evening.