August 2010 Archives

Epic August

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It's just been non stop epic for us at Bad Decision Bicyclist. 10 days and 850 miles around Lake Michigan by bike, killing it in the UP State Single Speed Championships, and an awesome gravel ride down to Eagle River, WI for a motorcycle rally. Surprisingly, we took very little shit for arriving in spandex trousers on bicycles.  I did have a weekend "off" in there where I merely camped out up in Copper Harbor, did some mountain biking and helped out at a "trekkie convention" of endurance sports- a half iron man triathlon.  I would have entered, but my mankini was at the cleaners. 

I'd promise to get around to stories, but it doesn't seem like things are going to let up anytime soon. Next weekend is Fat Tire up in Copper Harbor, where I will once again be defending my title as the Western Central South of Houghton But Still North of M-38 UP State Touring/XC/Super-D Champion. Should be a good 3 day bikepacking trip with some racing and a lot of partying thrown in.  

Then it's a couple of weekends spent doing rally layout stuff and thank whatever deity made LSPR a one day event this year, because after that- back to back gravel grinders. I've got the Gentlemen's Ride, immediately followed by The Heck Of The North. And then BAM!, we're in the midst of cyclocross season.  

I doubt things will slow down much in November neither, because I've been down at the Ye Olde Bicycle Shoppe waving around cash, trying to get myself on the list for Salsa's new Mukluk.

And if you think things are going to slow down at all this ski season.....

My Big 2010 Tour: The Prologue

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So it's just a little bit more than 24 hours since I completed my longest bicycle tour to date, 859.25 miles over 10 days of riding. I'll get the stories and pictures posted over the next few weeks, but there's something I'd like to start with... 

Now, everybody seems real impressed by what I've accomplished, but honestly- I'm rather humbled by what I came across the weekend before I left.  On my way home from 12 hours of Potluck, I saw a bunch of bicycles stopped on the side of the road, one of which was upside down on it's seat and handlebars.  Looked like a flat tire.  Since I had a full size floor pump with me, I'd figured I'd stop to help.

What I encountered really impressed me.  It was a group of about a dozen teenage girls, pedaling their way across the UP.  Now, I follow all kinds of hardcore adventure touring races; the trans-wisconsin, the tour divde, etc. These girls beat them all. 

Any schmoe can spend a zillion bucks on equipment, spend months or even years training, and still keep the ol' Visa card in their back pocket for an easy out when things get really ugly.

Not these girls. They had a collection of old step-through hybrid bikes running semi-knobby tires and had Walmart's finest in outdoor gear unceremoniously bungie corded to their bikes.  I think the only nod to actual cycling clothing any of the girls had was one with a "Livestrong" t-shirt. 

And you know what?  They were out doing it, and clearly having a great time.  Hell, I'd be surprised if they had a collective $250 in saved up babysitting money between the lot of them. And they were still looking forward to what the journey brought their way, despite the day's setbacks.

Turns out, they didn't even really need my help, or that of the two motorcyclists that also stopped. They had spare tubes and a pump and were having no problem getting themselves going again.   

It's too easy to put off a bicycle trip because you don't think you have the right equipment or enough money or whatever. These girls didn't. 25 years from now, they'll still be reflecting on what they learned on that trip.  If you can pedal across the UP with only what these girls had available to them, you can probably accomplish damn near anything in life. 

It's one of the few, truly inspiring things I've seen in the bicycle world. I hope the rest of their trip went well, but given their resourcefulness up to that point, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it went great.   

It really set the tone for my upcoming tour. I had a couple of down moments along the way, but man... I didn't want to be outdone by a bunch of teenage girls!  :)  

So apparently, "The Killer Gravel Road Race" didn't quite scare my dad off from bicycle racing. Earlier this summer he expressed interest in maybe doing a mountain bike race too.  When he found out about 12 hours of Potluck, and the informal "Best Dish" award, he announced- without hesitation that he was in it.  To win.  He might even ride a bike too.  

After digging around, I managed to convince Tim and Christina Smigowski to join our team riding under the name "Otter River Pneumatic Yachting Society".  Tim and Christina's initiation in the ORPYS is a whole other story, and even if I could remember it- probably not suitable for even my blog. All I know was that the next morning I woke up with way shorter hair and a blistering "Maker's Mark" hangover.  

Anyway, the plan was to take it easy and just enjoy the event. Dad had about 25 lbs of pulled pork BBQ ready to go, and we had no expectations of winning or even really doing well.  I expected we'd maybe drop in the standings as the 12 hours wore on and packed a cooler full of beer for midrace handups and other back-of-the-pack antics.  

Well, Tim asked to be first one out. I was OK with that as I don't really start too well anyway. The race featured a "LeMans" style start with racers running ~25 yards to their bikes before hitting the trail.  Tim apparently had other ideas than "taking it easy" and went out and got the holeshot, being the first one on the trail. Then went out to set a pretty blistering lap speed.

Well, I guess we're racing now....

I managed to turn some respectable lap times as my turn came around. Racing this event as a team make it a totally different race than solo.  Dad managed to break his chain on his first lap, but was still turning some great times for somebody who's cumulative mountain bike experience was growing by several percentage points each time he went out.  

I sat back and waited for the inevitable point in the race when the leaders would start to walk away, but it wasn't happening.  There was one team with a solid lead, but it was neck and neck for everybody else. Looks like we're in for the long haul...

Tim, Christina and I set to work churning out the laps while Mom and Dad turned to dishing up the barbecue. Dad didn't have a whole lot of competition on the food front, but the bike race was coming down to the wire. We'd need every last minute to try to eek out an extra lap.  

With just over an hour left to go, I set out for my 6th and final lap with the simple goal of burning it down to the end in hopes of buying enough time for Tim to complete a final 7th lap in the dark.  It was kind of like one big solitary cyclocross lap... and probably my fastest of the day.  But I managed to get Tim enough time to complete his final lap getting us third place in the co-ed team division. 

But dad's BBQ kind of stole the show... a week or so later at a group ride, some guy commented that he heard my father had fed half of Houghton county that week.  I wouldn't be surprised if the bluegrass band that performed that night is composing a ballad on the subject. Generations from now, children will be singing songs about it.