“I hope I don’t regret this”

img_1787That’s the last thing  I said as I removed my Nokian Extreme front tire from my winter bike.  The Nokian has 294 steel carbide studs and hooks up on ice like nothing else.  But, on dry pavement, it’s a noisy drag.

The road conditions were pretty decent, so I switched to a non-studded tire.

Six tenths of a mile later I was layed out on the ground.    I hadn’t been looking ahead and found myself going fast on a 100 foot stretch of smooth ice.  The crash was inevitable.

The bike was fine.  I ended up with a crab nebula bruise.

A lifetime of cycling and still learning…

Robert’s Winter Ride Challenge Series Wraps Up

Neighbor: You’re not going biking tonight, are you?
Me: Oh yeah. Can’t miss it. They take attendance.

Winter Ride Challenge SeriesThat was a conversation I had with my neighbor as we were once again shoveling our driveways after the most recent snowstorm.

Winter biking is great fun. Pulling on layers of clothes, prepping your crusty bike, and being cold for that first mile is not fun.

What makes Robert (Herriman’s) Winter Ride Challenge Series (WRCS) so valuable is it motivates you to get out and get going even on the most wicked days. The motivation is he takes attendance. You get more points the colder it is. You also get bonus points for being on a singlespeed. If you can’t ride and just show up to see the group off, you still get social points.

This year there were three rides per week: two from Royal Oak and one from Rochester Hills. It started January 2nd and ended March 10th. The biggest rides had 22 cyclists, the smallest had 3.

As the WRCS progressed through the winter, Roberts tracked everyones points, ranked us, and posted the results on the WRCS blog. Group shots were also posted.

Awards will be given at an upcoming end of the series party.

We had some rough rides this year: icy roads, freezing rain, deep snow, sub-zero wind chills. Mother Nature certainly put the “Challenge” into the series.

So thanks to Mother Nature and Robert for pushing us through another Michigan winter of riding. Indoor trainers and gym memberships? Who needs ’em!

Mike Curiak: On his Own to Nome

Mike Curiak on the IditarodMike Curiak is the top dog in endurance racing. He doesn’t do the 24 hour loop-in-a-circle-until-you’re-a-veg. He does the endurance races that most think are simply impossible. Right now he’s riding the entire Iditarod trail at the same time as the Iditarod Trail Invitational race. Mike’s ridden the full 1100 miles to Nome before. He’s already won that race. This time he’s doing it fully unsupported.

Compared with most races and rides, the Iditarod is about as unsupported as you get. You can stop in cabins along the way and purchase a meal. Further along the trail you can stop in small villages and buy food. Mike’s won’t be doing that. He’s on his own and carrying everything he needs.

Just surviving on what you have is amazing. I just can’t imagine the willpower to ride past some of those cabins where they’ll gladly serve some hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Spending a day slogging through snow, eating just Clif bars and trail mix certainly makes you appreciate a basic hot meal.

The above photo is from Eric Parsons. Eric’s company, Epic Designs made Mike’s storage and handlebar mitts. His stuff looks absolutely bombproof and very well-designed. And I know Mike sets the bar pretty high for his gear. If the stuff didn’t work, it wouldn’t be on his bike.

2001 Iditasport Extreme 350: Pushing it to the Limit

The 170-year-old Assumption Grotto Church sits quietly on Detroit’s Northeast side. Behind the Church, nestled in the Parishioner’s Cemetery is the Lourdes Grotto, an outdoors Marian shrine. Since 1881 this Shrine has purportedly bestowed miracles. Since I’d soon be starting the toughest, longest mountain bike race of my life, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a miracle in my back pocket.

But my 20 mile pedaling pilgrimage ends at a disappointing sign — “Closed at Dusk.” I had assumed it never closed because you never know when you might need a miracle. Oh well. I was at least on the Grotto grounds and hopefully that that was good enough for a partial miracle. (more…)

I Met Isaac Hayes

Isaac HayesIt was a cold, snowy, windy winter day. I was training hard for the Iditasport 350 so it was perfect riding weather. The radio station announced Isaac Hayes was in town for a book signing at a northwest Detroit book store right along my training route. What luck!

Everyone knows he wrote and performed the Theme From “Shaft”, but he also wrote some great tunes for Sam & Dave (e.g. Soul Man) and recorded some of the best make out music ever, including the classic Hot Buttered Soul album. More recently he’d been the voice for the Chef character on South Park and was now promoting his new Cooking with Heart and Soul cookbook. So I rode the fifteen or so miles to the famous Apple Book Center along Outer Drive. I brought a compact disc for him to sign and bought a cookbook as well.

Mr. Hayes has not lost his popularity for the autograph line wrapped completely around the store. This line was mainly made up of moms who split their attention between keeping tabs on their bored kids and conversing with others in line.

I was doing my best to act normal as I stood there in my winter bike gear and helmet. I was definitely hitting the upper reaches of the dork scale.

When I finally got to Mr. Hayes, he dutifully signed my items, looked at me and said in that unmistakable “Shaft” voice, “Did you ride your bike here?” To my acknowledgement he replied, “You are one brave individual.” So cool.

Jumping back on the bike, the wind was at my back and I was making good time through the City. Being a dork isn’t always so bad.

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