My New Mountain Bike–3rd Time is the Charm

As many are well aware, I love PINK and really love riding pink bikes.  It was no surprise to anyone, especially not to Ironman Danish, that I would want to replace “Ma,” my 26er hardtail mtb with an even pinker replacement when the time came.  That time was approaching fast all summer, as I noticed small cracks in the seat tube of my frame.  Safe to say, after a summer that included ORAMM, riding in Breckenridge, and the Leadville Trail 100 mtb, “Ma” was ready to retire.  The small cracks were becoming big cracks, and one day the seat post just poked through the frame while working on jumping and wheelies with my MTB Coach Bob McCarty (of AG McCarty Factory Racing/McCarty Training).

"Ma" enjoying the view and fresh air at 12, 000 feet atop Wheeler Pass in CO.

“Ma” enjoying the view and fresh air at 12, 000 feet atop Wheeler Pass in CO.

So the search began.  Ma and I had a real attachment, it was not going to be easy to find a replacement.  I tried to get my hands on some pink bikes, but none seemed to be coming to fruition.  I was about to give up all hope and just order a run of the mill black bike and accessorize it with pink until I got a text from Bob.  He rides for this bike company, based and built in the USA (and not just in the USA–in MIA…that’s right there is a little ‘dale’ in my bike)–AG Bicycles.  AG has been developing their custom brand for a little while now and were excited at the idea of making a pink MTB (which I also was pretty excited about).

Bob and his AG (not sure he names his bikes...)

Bob and his AG (not sure he names his bikes…)

Now, obviously, I had to first see if I even liked riding their bikes.  Since I had been bike-less since the seat post incident and had been living on borrowed bikes (and racing on them–thank you Darren from the Scoot, Skate, Bike Co aka Miami Bike Shop for EVERYTHING he did and does to get me out on the trails), I had a pretty strong feeling for the type of bike I like.

Me racing on one of the sweet-ass bikes Darren let me test.

Me racing on one of the sweet-ass bikes Darren let me test.

I knew that I liked the way the Jamis that Mike has rides (at the time, he was riding the 2012 version of this bike, now he is on this sweet machine).  It was stiff, snappy, and didn’t feel like a 29er.  So upon my next lesson at the trails, Bob and I traded machines for a lap at Amelia Earhart Park (he had Mike’s Jamis and I had Bob’s AG–that’s right, I got to ride Bob’s bike–we are all the same size as luck would have it).  I was SHOCKED.  The AG FELT LIKE HOME!!  It felt like if I closed my eyes and you told me it was Mike’s Jamis, that I would believe you–only it felt a hair lighter (granted, this could have been the fact I had an empty water bottle).  I was sold–this would be my bike AND IT COULD (and WOULD) BE PINK!

Hot damn! Hot pink!

Hot damn! Hot pink! (note: this is not just a primer)

It could not have turned out any better.  In fact, I sort of wanted to cry because the guys at AG Bicycles were so amazing (including Bob and local MTBer and AG McCarty Factory Racing Team Manager John Koch who provided me with status updates).  The care and detail that went into this bike was unreal.  The AG guys even took me to the paint mixer to make sure it was a pink I liked!!  Amazing!  But nothing could compare to when I saw the finished product.  They went ABOVE and BEYOND….and so, with no further ado, I introduce you to Babs:

Babs

Babs, aka a nickname for Barbara, is inspired by several strong women in my life who have owned this name.  Babs because in my head I always secretly referred to every Barbara I knew as Babs.  One of them had the strongest handshake anyone has ever encountered.  She was and is a powerful woman.  The other was outrageously outgoing who was not afraid to tell anyone who she was and was all about having a fun time.  Strong, confident, and fun? What could be three better attributes to a sweet ride?

Now to face the facts–riding a hot pink bike in Cat 1 racing–I have NO CHOICE but to ride this bike as fast as I can and show the power of pink!

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QOM Points: Part 1- The Buildup

So, this summer I set out with some pretty lofty goals:  I was going to race the ORAMM (aka the best Mountain Bike Race ever) and then just a month later turn around and race the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race (aka the Race Across the Sky starring a certain Lance Armstrong and a Mr Dave Weins).

As the dates got closer I was more and more convinced I was not ready to tackle these big days and began to doubt my training and preparation, I even sort of began hoping that for some catestrophic reason (in which no one was injured of course) they would have to say the LT 100 2012 was not happening.  As the date got closer and closer, I realized this was not going to be the case and I was going to have to face my fears (I wasnt really afraid, but I cant think of a better word), pull up my jock strap, and get er done (or, in the words of Ken Chlouber, I committed that I would not quit)

So, I started with the ORAMM.  This race is absolutely amazing, minus the fact that you are constantly reminded that you are surrounded by large bears, and it was just a year ago that the ORAMM was my second mountain bike race EVER–oh how time flies (as did the swear words I hurled at Ironman Danish in the painstaking process of learning this wonderful sport).  This year we did things a bit differently.  We went up about three days early, booked a house through my FAVORITE site of all time VRBO in the woods, took the dogs, and were minus one Fast Freddy and minus our friend Ra-ul (his name is actually Paul, but a friend misread his name one day and thus began our calling him Raul) who was supposed to join us.

My trusty Bear Whistle

The cabin we stayed in was fantastic, again, minus the reminder that BEARS ARE EVERYWHERE thus resulting in my not wanting to go outside alone ever (or at least not without my trusty bear whistle).

We cooked out own food, had a lovely workshop area for bike maintanence, and it was still close to town.  The plan was to ride snipits of the course in the days leading up to the race (not long rides, just carefully planned with the occasional interval as the sooth sayer Joe Friel would approve of).

Ironman Danish getting some help from “wrench” Margarita

We started our NC riding with, of course, Kitsuma.  Kitsuma=not nice to me last year.  I was pleasatly suprised upon my return to this challenging climb and descent that not only was I able to ride every switchback, but, I was able to haul serious mail on the descent (something that I had struggled with the year before).  Sweet!  The next day we took a rest day since we ALWAYS (we=Ironman Danish and I) take two days before an event as a rest day.  The day before the race, we moved on to riding some of the double track road you descend after you climb star gap.  I had erased most of this portion from my brain from the year before I discovered upon getting there since I did not recall nearly as many “rolls” on this rolling descent to the bottom of Curtis Creek Road (aka the 9 mile climb).  Good thing we rode it–phew–now I be totally aware of where I was on the miserable double track the entire time–yippee! (biting sarcasm, but, really, it was good to pre ride this part).

Race Morning on the way to the start line–this isnt even Instagrammed…

The next day=race day.  I was a bit nervous, as is usually the case for me before any race, but all things considered calm since this year I knew how to ride my bike substantially better than last year…..TBC

Gee, I Wish I Were a Man???

Being one of the managers of the all women’s cycling team the Rose Bandits leads to many discussions about the state of women’s cycling.  Women make up 60% in cycling industry purchasing power and 60% of cyclists on the road, yet it is completely disproportionate to the amount of women who show up to the starting line at races.  Because of the disproportionate number showing up to race, there are completely unequal payouts for women to race and unequal salaries (or none at all) for women who choose to race and unequal R&D into women’s gear, equipment, etc (although great strides have been made in recent years).

My Women's Specific Design 6.9 Project One Trek Madone...now that is and example of a great stride in women's cycling!

Personally, I think part of the problem stems from the “to race or not to race the girls with the men” debate on the local race level.  Many girls want races WITH the men because they know that they can hang on to the pace that the men set and the weaker girls will naturally get weeded out.  And, lets face it, the men do USUALLY race faster than an all women’s field (locally) and fast is fun.  But, this scares new racers away.  They hear about crashes in the men’s fields, and have no interest in being part of that.  So, a potentially talented racer gets turned away from the sport.

Kristen LaSasso winding up the women's field at Presbyterian....known to be an INSANELY FAST race...

Part of this desire to stay with the boys I also think in part has largely to do with the fact that when you ask a female cyclist who their favorite cyclist is or who they aspire to ride or race like someday, 99% of the time they will answer a male cyclist’s name like “Fabian Cancellara” or “Jens Voigt” or “Tom Boonen” or “Lance Armstrong” or “Dave Wiens” and “Ned Overend.”  It is a rare case that you get a girl to answer “Evelyn Stevens” or “Kristen Armstrong” or “Laura Van Gilder” or “Catharine Pendrel.”  And cycling is not alone in this area of women holding men in the sport to a higher level than the women in their sport.  In hockey, I admit, I wanted to have a 105 mph slapshot like Al Iafrate, to play with the finesse of Ray Bourque, and be able to deke defenseman like Adam Oates.  It wasn’t until much later in my career as a hockey player that I wanted to beat the odds like Mannon Rheaume or be feisty like Cammi Granato on the ice.

A gold medalist to boot!

I wonder, is part of this “be a man and do it” mentality what is holding us back?  The same one that helped lead to women’s independence?  Are we stopping our own growth in sport by still wanting to hang and play with the boys and holding them to a higher pedestal than the top women in our sport?

Why is it that we compare top female athletes to men?  Why can’t women just be compared to….I don’t know, maybe other great women?

So, as we try to get more women to the starting line to race and bring attention to the sport of women’s cycling, every woman needs to ask themselves “what great female do I want to be like” and instead of looking to just “hang” with the boys, instead switch your mentality to going all out to make the women’s field more dynamic, exciting, challenging, and fast in your local races.  Especially since when we do finally get out of our own backyard, women’s racing is fast and furious (and, according to one of my teammates, much harder than any local pro men’s race here in Miami).  So, get out and race on the road AND on the dirt–and encourage new racers to as well.

The Finger

The other morning I went for a nice “easy spin” with Ironman Danish on the Key.  As we rode on the key, traffic was backed up all the way to the tolls.  At first, I had a knot in my throat,

Our easy ride on the key

hoping to God it was not another cyclist taken down by a car.  The morning of Aaron Cohen’s death traffic followed a similar pattern.  Luckily, it was “only” a car accident–a VW that was almost completely totaled.  Leaves you wondering how fast that car on car accident had to have been traveling to cause such damage to that German engineered vehicle…hmmmmm.

Anyway, about hour 3 into our ride (thus near the end), a car laid on their horn as they swerved close to us (in the bike lane) on the Rickenbacker Bridge.  My reaction was to immediately take one of my hands off the handle bar and give the guy “the bird.”  Ironman Danish immediately jumped on me for my action asking, “why give the guy the finger?”  I had a few short answers to him, but, I have had more time to think about it and here are my reasons (as childish as they may seem):

1.  It made me feel better and maybe a little vindicated.  Similar to Jen Aniston’s character in Office Space when accused of not having enough flare for the third time and quits.

2.  I felt it was my job to point out to the driver that he/she is, in fact, a duechebag.

3.  I was pretty certain that the driver would not HEAR me shout my lecture I wanted to give him/her.  I always hope that they will get stopped at a light and I can ask them to roll down their window so I can tell them the laws and rights I have as a cyclist-that never happens.

4.  Why not?  So, I get it, I am going down to their level and blah, blah, blah.  But–they started it damn it!  The hockey player in me will not let the incident just slide by–unless, of course, there is a ref next to me (in the real world a ref is a cop–you hope).

So, it is for these reasons that again yesterday when a car went by and honked as they had one tire in MY bike lane that I again whipped out the bird.  Sometimes I think about an alternative, but carrying a sign of the size needed to be a real eye catcher  is just too impractical (I am not sure it would fit in my jersey pocket).   I also have thought about getting a jersey made to look like this shirt:

I am in the works of centering my chi so that I do not have this need to let people know they are not awesome, but I have a feeling re-setting the hockey player in me could take a while….in the meantime–stay safe out there, make sure you know the laws and ride within your rights (and ability).  Wear lights and of course, aways make sure you are highly visible (I got that covered):

Time to Head to the Woods…

The day has come…winter is officially almost here in South Florida!  It is glorious and not all at the same time.  Last week here in MIA we paid the price, having to deal with no riding at all due to five days of rain.  There is no riding on the road because of the torrents of rain and no riding the mountain bike since the trails will get destroyed if you ride them in the rain–there is no winning.

no one likes wet feet!

ruined trails...

Finally, the rain passed, and out came the sun–and–the cold!!! Brrrr….60 degree mornings in Miami are here!  Time to dust off the vest, break out the arm warmers, and my favorite part–the long socks!!  I love rocking ridiculously crazy long socks while riding on the road or trail–but nothing beats the priceless looks you get from uptight “european cyclists” roadie types when you show up like this on a cold morning:

my awesome crazy socks (one of the many pair)

On my team’s regularly scheduled Friday “chatty paced” ride (yeah, we have a ride deemed “chatty” paced, time to get together, chat about life, weekend ride/race plans, and have fun–my fav ride of the week) I was reminded that riding in the cold sucks!  It is time to head to the woods!  I feel as though there are few major benefits of riding on the ol’ mtb trails more regularly this time of year:  a) it is the season b) the trees that keep trails cool in the day keep that heat in at night in the winter c) if it is windy, which front season usually is, there is less wind in the trails d) there is lots to look at and concentrate on so you are not thinking about the “cold” and e) its fun–you can hit some sweet jumps!

I was happy to run into other mtb buddies once our Friday ride had concluded at the local coffee shop (as always on the Friday ride, no matter what group you are in, you stop and get either a cortadito, coolada, a cefecito):

We all were riding on the road, and couldn’t stop talking about and thinking about riding the trails…especially after watching a vid like this one recently:

Tell me that you don’t want to go do that now!…Yup–its official, after watching a video like that, it is not just me jonesing to hit the trails!…it is definitely that time of year….go grab your mountain bike and get on the trails!!  And, if you don’t have a mtb, go get one!

"Ma" is also ready to hit the trails!