Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Skills vs Watts

Everything today is all about watts. Sure fitness and improving it are definitely high on every racers list of thing to do but don't neglect working on the skills.
Being smooth and finding "free" speed should also be on the agenda.

I am fortunate that I grew up on a BMX bike. I raced them for 6 years and made my way up to a Single A Pro before I stopped. I also spent plenty of time on quarter and half pipes as well as skate parks. All things that contributed to the way I ride my mtn. bike today. Racing BMX taught me how to speedjump or pre jump obstacles. It also got me comfortable drifting and sliding my bike. BMX tracks tend to get pretty dry and hard packed so you are gonna slide around a bit. Riding ramps taught me how to pump the transition which helps build speed and enables you to get air out of the ramp. I was able to go head high out of a half pipe and could go fence high out of the Full Pipe bowl at the Upland Skatepark.

I realize that if you didn't grow up doing this stuff it is going to be kinda hard to take up BMX or ramp riding as an adult but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to develop these skills. I will still go out once a week or so for a mtn. bike ride where I work on flowing lines and keeping my momentum at a maximum without having to pedal to do so. Perfect time to work on this is when you are riding with a slower rider. I will try to pedal as little as possible and still keep up, or if I am up front I will get a few quick pedal strokes in and then see if I can coast away from them by staying off the brakes and pumping and pre jumping transitions.

I often hear comments about how I always seem to be in a bigger gear compared to others, I don't think it is due to me just simply being a masher but more due to my style. I can use a bigger gear because I don't let corners or obstacles slow me as much so I am maintaining my speed rather than having to re accelerate back up to speed.

Just like like fitness, with work your skills will improve as well. Also just like fitness some people are just better at it than others. I went for a ride once with a 15 year old punk kid by the name of Mitch and I could tell right away he would be a good mtn. bike racer. He just had good flow, he wasn't super fit but you could tell it came naturally. If it doesn't come easy for you that doesn't mean you shouldn't work on it, most likely if your not it is whats holding you back more than figuring out a way to produce 20 more watts.

Oh yeah that punk kid is now a Pro Mtn. bike rider, guess I was right about him.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

41 year old "neo pro"

When I lived in Ft. Worth, Tx. we had a Thurs. night single speed road bike group ride that the guys at Colonel's bicycles started. Everyone ran the same ratio, either a 42X17 or a 39X16. It made the ride super fun, kinda equalized the fitness differences between the group.

I got a Kona Paddywagon from them and I really looked forward to those rides. I ended up riding that bike quite a bit more than just on the Thurs. rides. I found that if I was heading out to ride by myself I just liked riding it more than my geared road bike. Little did I know it was just a start to my single speed fixation.

After moving to Asheville, NC I got a Kelly single speed mtn. bike. Just like the Paddy it wasn't long before the geared bike wasn't making it off the hook. Since the geared bike was a really nice Moots 29er I made the logical choice and sold the Moots and replaced it with a Moots single speed 69er.

I went to a few races last year and what I found was that by racing the single speed bike with the geared bike guys it kept me from getting to worked up and made me remember why it was that I was there in the first place, too have fun. It helped that I was also able to be competitive but mostly I just really had a good time.

So that brought me to ask NORBA to give me back my Pro license. A couple of years ago I asked for a downgrade as I figured what is a almost 40 year old guy doing with a Pro card? I didn't see me doing any races where I would need it and when I lived in Texas they had a Pro/Open class so it I could race the super fast guys anyways.

So now I am a 41 year old guy with a Pro license who plans on racing on a rigid forked single speed. Pretty big change from a couple of years ago. Sure I want to do well, at least not make a fool out of myself but I also know that no matter what I will also remember that I am there to put a smile on my face first and foremost. And I guess if I do stink it up I have plenty of excuse cards to play, I am old, I don't have gears, I don't have suspension, and I am sure I will come up with a few more as the year progresses.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mtn. bike season is here.

Warm weather has finally hit the mtns. of Asheville. I actually went out in shorts and short sleeves this weekend, and got a bit warm on some of the climbs. I know we will have a cold snap or two before it really stays warm but I will take it, better yet I needed it.

My wife, Melanie and I are planning on doing a 6 hour race this weekend in GA. We are both going to do it on our single speeds in the coed class. It works out really well, we hand off both the baton as well as our two little monkeys. We attempted a 12 hour race last Summer and quickly found out that 12 hours was just too much. While we watched others enjoy the down time between their laps, eating, changing clothes, getting themselves cleaned up, we had to hustle around and entertain two high energy kiddo's.

That transitioned to dealing with two grumpy little kids about half way through the day. You actually seemed to get more rest while you were riding your bike. We had a deal that at any point if either one of us had enough we would pack it up and go home, no discussion. So with about 3 hours to go and with us in first place in our class we decided we had maxed out the fun meter and it was time to go home. As I started packing up the race announcer saw what we were doing and came over and tried to talk us out of heading home. Nothing doing, though he did have a hard time figuring out why we would drop out when we were likely going to win the race.

By doing "only" 6 hours we should avoid the meltdown stage and keep everyone happy.
We are both looking forward to it, and it will be a good way to kick off the offroad racing season. Once we get it going the races come thick and fast, I put together a potential race calendar and we have only 3 weekends with no races between now and the second weekend in August. I am sure we will miss some of those but to have so many options will be nice.