Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Riding for Independence

Just a quick word on my training today. After talking coffee with a number of my clients (and potential clients) in the Roaring Fork Valley, I pulled my custom ti IF single speed cyclo-cross bike from the roof of my Cravens car, and mounted up for a ride out of Aspen to the top of Independence Pass. Starting off at 7908', I set out for my ride w/ the intent of climbing to the summit of the pass @ 12093' on my stout 44x17t gearing. Mile marker 42 lies on the edge of town heading east towards the pass, the air was fresh and clear, full of fresh summer scents as the afternoon light emitted a golden hue. Not alone, I passed several others both making the ascent and whizzing by in the the other lane enjoying the rewards of their climb.

The steep gradient forced me out of the saddle occassionaly, but for the most part I was able to keep the pedals turning in the saddle. Mindful of my heartrate, I kept it around my 75% range, and felt great. Slowly the snow started building around the edges of the road as my rise to the top continued. Early season tourists would glance at me while passing, and then would be taking pictures of the early summer panoramas. The tempurature was defintely dropping, and I had no jacket or extra clothing with me, and that was a little concering considering most of the riders coming down were wearing extra clothes. 1 hour 20 after leaving my car, I reached the town site of Independence, and kept going. I reached the final hairpin at 1:30 and decided to turn around there, as it was cold enough that not to press on. With the summit just a mile or so up the road, I dropped what took my an hour and half to climb in less than 30 minutes. It was worth every white knuckle, heart pounding corner and apex on the way down. Blasting back into Aspen, I spun around for awhile, and was beeming with the feeling not only of a great workout, but an awesome descent.

This weekend, Teva Games.

Hot Rodding your espresso machine

My good friend Jason over at ElCaminoFab has been at it again, but atleast he has the right tools to do the job. Customizing his double-shot portafilter, to a triple, bottomless one. Using only the finest machining tools that turns out some of his sweet ti and steel frames, Jason cleanly cut out the bottom, and then dropped in a triple shot basket, pretty trick. But where's the carbon fiber handle? According to Jason, and the catalogue, one can "taste the difference, and watch the coffee brew right from the bottom." provided me w/ one of the customized barista tools, but I am not convinced. It was more of a novelty than anything, I did not taste a difference, but it was pretty cool to watch. You can send yours to Jason for customizing, maybe some custom pinstripping around the outside to make it really standout, or throw down $59 @ for a pre-fab job.

Personally I would save your time and $$, and opt for a sweet tamper, maybe a barista instructional DVD, and buy the best espresso you can find, that will really make a difference in your shots.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Race Report: Chile Challenge

Ken rippin the downhill in Angel Fire, NM. Photo:
Angel Fire has always been an important race to me, it was the first 'mountainous' course I ever raced a single speed on, it is one of the most physically and mentally demanding courses, it is super techy going up and coming down, and is just a lot of fun. The 2006 installment of this event did not dissappoint.

After an easy pre-ride the day before, I was a bit nervous in the thought my legs did not feel fresh, and was unsure about being to push it. My training leading inot the season has been completely different than that of prior seasons, leaving the door open for self-doubt. But at the same time, I have never felt as fresh mentally nor physically, I know I am missing some top end speed, which the plan was to gain through racing the month of May and into June.

We had a solid field of riders at the starting line, soem of whom I have already raced once, most I have not, so lots of questions to be answered, and they were on the first climb. Dan Durland, as he has done for several races going back into last season, grabbed an early lead which was short-lived, as I took over at the top of the start shoot. Rolling around the side of the ski hill, I rode very conservative, and had a look at the rest as we hit the fist switchback. Just a few minutes in, and it was David LaBarr (he won the IF frame at SSWC05) and myself off the front. The climb from there was gradual, until we hit a loose fast descent that dropped us out onto a ski run, and then it was a hard right for one of the steepest climbs. I punched it to see how David was doing, he dropped back, and struggled his way back up, and I thought I was in for a long hard fight.

I kept the lead as we plowed through the Expert classes that had started before us. The climb varied greatly in grade, and was mostly doubletrack for the first part, then we hit the twisting and techy singletrack climb. It was there I made another attack, putting about 6 experts and a lot of daylight between David and myself. On the gas, I kept climbing, making quick work of the Expert riders on front of me. The climb weaved in and out the woods, and was speckled with gnarly rock gardens. My new Hutchinson Piranhas were finding great purchase in the loose conditions, as I kept rolling to the summit. peaking out the first of two laps, I gave a quick glance back - no one.

The descent is so sweet, tight, snappy, rock strewn singletrack the whole way down. Makes for interesting passing, which I made a few, but it felt great to get into the flow on the way down. This is the kind of descent you do not relax on, it is punishing, but I was ear-to-ear smiles.

Through the base area, I charged out on my second lap, but still looking for any sign of my pursuiants. Like the first lap, I was charging through categories that had started earlier, and was getting a lot of encouragement from the riders I was passing. Near the top, that pain of several thousand feet of climbing over the course of the race was starting to be felt in my legs, but was dimmed by the thought if I can just keep my bike on the trail, this was my race. At the bottom as I circumvented the base area loop one last time, I saw the line, as was so stocked to have won the Chile Challenge for a 5th time.

Once David came in, we conversed, and then 3rd place Kenneth Kisiel joined in. We all had a great time out there, and enjoyed the competition. In the end I was able to ope a good gap over the field, and beat every time of the categories that did two full laps. A lot of spectators cheered me on as the IF Single guy, a nickname I wear proudly. It is a great start to the season, and it looks like my training is already paying off. Thanks to my sponsors and everyone who supports me!

Men - Single Speed
Place  Name Time License Bib Team
1 Ken Bloomer  1:52:46.94  161389  35  Independent Fabrication
2 David Labarr  2:00:12.89  20065  692  Tamarack Resort
3 Kenneth Kisiel  2:01:36.05  19279  39 
4 Michael Cubison 2:05:13.87  229210  36  University Of Colorado
5 Clinton Knapp  2:06:54.23  19424  40  Blacksheep Bicycles
6 Devin Curran  2:08:47.01  211576  37  Wily Cycles
7 Robin G  2:08:50.39 467 
8 Dan Durland  2:17:12.10  199907  38  Pro Cycling
9 Chris Sulfrian  2:24:29.30  185757  42  Team Pink Taco
10 Andrew MESESAN 2:37:17.05  727 
11 Thomas Ray  2:43:59.33 213174  724  KHS
3 DNF's

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

IF Ti Deluxe Single Speed

When I started racing back in Germany circa 1993, it was all about steel bikes for me, and honestly nothing has changed. Back then, I was riding a sweet Brodie Expresso, and my best friend had a Fat Chance Yo Eddy. Both bikes were magical, beautiful and always got a look over from people passing by. Since then, I have moved through a few bikes, another Brodie, a Dean (which really sucked), two single speed Sycip's and my current steed, this sweet Ti 2005 Ti Deluxe from Independent Fabrication. I landed my dream ride with IF last year, as part of my sponsorship they built me this mtb and a single speed cross bike (look for it soon on this blog).

It is a custom geometry, like all of their bikes, Reynolds Ti tubing, disc brakes, with a sweet Phil Wood eccentric bottom bracket, which makes for easy wheel changes. Phil Wood is also pulling BB duties with a silent, Ti 113 BB that has already seen two hard seasons, and still buttery smooth. Flanking the PW BB is a set of custom anodized White Industries ENO cranks with a 34t ring. Stealthy, stong, and absolutely wonderful to look at. Outboard from those are some sick Triple Ti Crank Brothers Eggbeaters, light, strong, and simple.

Suspension duties are handled by a more than able Fox Racing Shox F80X, and I was sceptical of this fork when I first tried it, but I am really digging it. A fan of really supple-active forks, the 80X is set on the lightest setting, so it blows opens with the slightest trail variation, but still provides enouh lock-out for those stand-up and grunt sections. It feels as good as my F80RLT did, and is the best steering fork with awesome torsional rigidity of any other out there.

Look at those dropouts! The wheels are courtesy of DT Swiss, which include their new Tubeless kit, it is a really slick system, and have had no issues with it since it was installed. The cool feature about the DT tubeless system is, if you flat, just remove the valve stem, and throw in a tube, no need to remove the whole system like with the Stans, this way you still have rim tape. The 240s Single Speed wheels w/ the Centerloc disc brake pattern are a beautiful black all over, run sooo smooth, and engage without a thought. Using DT adapters, I can run my Magura Marta rotors on the Centerloc system and actually save a few grams with this light weight alu adapter over those heavy steel bolts. Chris King is handeling my rear cog duties w/ their sweet stainless steel cogs, the one you see here is five years old, and is still like new!

Magura Marta Sl's keep my bike firmly dowm from orbit, and this is my second season on this set of brakes, they have been bled only a couple of times, and changed the rear pads once. Titec's new Pluto bar and post shine brightly clad in carbon, while the Thomson X4 stem rouns out the cockpit. Only a Chris King headset will do, topped off with an OTE Sports headcap. Troy @ OTE Sports in Fruita lent me his personal Edge Cycles single speed for my first race on a single speed. That, and my close ties to those guys, I am honored to run their headcap.

This bike was electric blue last season, but it did not feel right to me, so I had it stripped and redone for this season, in a proper Lime Green scheme with the team decals. This goes awesome w/ the assorted black parts, and the custom silver Fizik Gobi saddle, which is by far the best saddle on the market. It has a soolid feel to it, but is not so hard that you get sore, and has a great form. The paint schem also matches well with our Squadra IF team kits, featuring the oh-so-to-be-desired YPro3 pad from Castelli.

The overall ride of the bike is incredible. Only a couple of my bikes that I have owned have felt seemless, like that in this bike. I literally float down the trail, and can really push it hard through technical sections, corners and in flight. It my not be quite as snappy as some of the steel bikes I have had, but the bonus there is I don't feel beat after a hard ride or race. The frame & fork do an awesome job of soaking up the terrain, I also attribute this to the tires, Hutchisons, which I will write a whole blog soon about those, and a new set I am trying.

The carbon bar and post from Titec also take the edge off trail roughness, and yet are very stiff, and confidence inspiring. I love bikes, especially custom ones, and while it is nice to upgrade and get new gear, this bike fills all of my need as a mtb, and there is really no reason to change anything (unless the day comes and I want gears - like that will ever happen). I am fortunate to be aligned with all of the companies involved in this bike, oer the years I have learned what I like in my equipment, and these companies represent the best in what they do. Thanks to everyone who help put this dream machine.

Enoy the ride!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Race Report: Battle @ the Bear

Last year Charlie Hayes smoked me at this race, and this year I wanted to change that. So w/ a stout 34x15, and rigid fork, I went looking for redemption, I found humbleness.

Completely wired and nervous nearly three hours out from our 11:30 start time, I had a bad feeling about how the day was going to go. And as I fed Sandi during her Pro Womens race, I could feel I forgot to pack something, fresh legs. Sandi was in a great race, four girls out front, playing road racing tactics in a flat mountain bike race w/ some strong winds to make it interesting. Sandi sat fourth position most of the race, siting the girls were excellerating off each turn, and uphill, and could not play the game. Could have fooled me! She launched a counter attack after young 17 year Tokyo Joe's sensation Cloe got away, and Sandi dropped the other two girls to take home a solid 2nd place.

Then came my race, after watching scary high heart rates during my warm up. Off the start, I grabbed the point to try and set a sensible pace, but the Junior Experts were havingnone of and animated some attacks just a few hundred meters in. Charlie Hayes followed suit, and I gave chase. Once on Charlie's wheel, I tried to settle in and draft, but my legs felt sluggish, and heartrates were off the charts, I was in trouble early. By the end of the first lap, I let Charlie go, but had a huge gap on third place Dan Burnett, so I settled in to suffer through to the end. Finishing a disappointing second, disappointing because I wanted to run w/ Charlie, I sought consolation, that even on a bad, actually a really bad day, I still finished well ahead of the rest, found some good power to push the stout gearing up steep climbs, and fought through despite my anguish.

The next day I had a stellar follow up on the road bike, climbing a 9 mile ascent w/ ease. Funny how that works, off one day, on the next. Next weekend is Angle Fire, and while it is still early in my season (@ 95% of peak right now), I am hoping to be in the mix.

Enjoy the Ride.