Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blue Job

Over the last 24 years of mountain biking here in New England, I have more than likely ridden thousands of times in the woods around my area. Any day riding is a good day. Even those days when I came home wet, cold, beat beyond belief, or bleeding from being caught being stupid. Then there are days like today's ride at Blue Job State Park. Timing, location, weather, my mindset, and the group who decided to go all combine to make some rides stand out as rides to remember. Funny how many of my most memorable rides seem to center around this small state park tucked away near Rochester, New Hampshire.

All of us locals know Winter is just around the corner. Live here long enough and you get a feel for when those last nice days of Fall are happening. I guess I should not have been surprised to see so many riders hanging in the shop parking lot this morning. They all knew the days of wearing shorts and light weight gloves were numbered. With less than 24 hours notice, 10 riders had decided to head over to catch one of the best views in southern New Hampshire and Maine combined. The 1300 foot plus Blue Job towered over anything nearby, offering any who climbed her almost a 360 degree view of everything within a 50 mile radius. On a clear day, the Atlantic 30 some miles away is visible. Today was a clear day. A beautiful day.

Here in the East we do not have the panoramic vistas found out West. Views such as can be had atop Blue Job are not rare, but generally not common. Our landscape does not jump out at you. It sneaks up on you. Most of our riding is done under the cover of trees or inside walls of pucker. Being out in the open is usually a brief experience. Blue Job changes that. The top of the lower peak is the closest thing we have to slick rock. Granite slabbed with deep cracks make riding it always a challenge. And the climbing will test the baddest goat in any bunch of riders.

Our group was made up of fast young guys on single speeds, one stupidly fast older guy, and then the rest of us. I brought up the rear. As the bow hunter we passed on the way up responded to my comment that I was the last of the group, "Someone has to be last. Might as well be you." Yeah, might as well be me.

The ride is a short one in mileage, but not short on climbing. Starting at the Rochester reservoir, we climb steadily for 3 1/2 miles. Fool around on top for awhile and then 3 1/2 miles back down to the cars. Everything from recently graded dirt roads at the beginning to steep ledges no one cleaned. This ride will beat you up.

I started the ride not feeling good nor did I feel bad. I was riding my new 29er VooDoo hardtail with rigid fork. I had no expectations other than to see what "Lil Princess" would let me get away with. Once again I came away more impressed than ever with the 29 inch experience. I cleaned sections that have always given me trouble and her climbing abilities were way beyond my skillset and fitness level. The downhill back was long and brutal in sections. I had concerns about how I would handle it with no suspension up front. The Lil Princess laughed at most of it and when I choked on some sections and slowed down, I could almost hear her teasing me with words like "Wimp, loser, lets go you flounder, let off the brakes".

What a great bike. What a great day. What a great bunch of folks to ride with. Days like today are what I live for.
Credits - Dash Jim provided the GPS map and the group picture
- Jim provided the picture of yours truly
- I took the picture of one of the young punks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dangerously Pink

I first wote this back in the Summer of 2005. Posted it in my other blog where it died from lack of attention. Regardless, here it is again in a new format.

A woman came into my bikeshop a few weeks ago. This is not an unusual occurrence, but how she dressed and acted was. Located in Maine, our community prides itself in reticent Yankee behavior. We dress down most times and are slow to warm to strangers. So, the invasion by a boisterous and buxom woman dressed completely in Pink, big hair, and enough makeup to make Maybelline bust with pride was a noteworthy event.

When I say she was pink, I mean pink. Pink pumps, pink miniskirt wrapped around a rather generous butt and a pink belly button blouse that highlighted a naval piercing with a, you guessed it, pink stone in the setting. She even smelled pink. A heavy odor of what I imagine 2 thousand pink flowers would smell like. And to top off the overall effect, a wide pink hairband that kept her Baltimore doo standing up and living large. As soon as I saw her, I thought of Divine and the movie "Pink Flamingos". The only thing missing was the "Bawlamer" accent. When she opened her mouth, the hard speech of someone from the blue collar fringes of Boston came out.

Our encounter was a comedy. She had recently purchased a couple of new bikes from some mass merchant nearby. She wanted to outfit them and her with many accessories. Racks, Helmets, locks, etc. As I worked through all the options, she took every chance she could to throw her sexuality in my face. She was obviously well versed in using her female wiles to seduce men to her bidding. A touch here, an accidental brush there. And always that pink smell permeating the whole shop. I countered every attempt of hers to get close with tactful retreats to keep her out of "my space". I am only human and that smell combined with her overwhelming femaleness was having it's affect on me. It was not like she was seducing me, rather it was more winning by overwhelming me with superior firepower.

After setting her up with all the goodies she wanted and I had her safely on the other side of the counter, I began to breath easier. The 3 feet of glass and wood seemed enough of a barricade to keep me faithful to my wife and out of the madness of brief encounters with the opposite sex. She paid for her items and turned to leave. Then she stopped and turned, making sure all that could jiggle did jiggle. Dirty thoughts danced through my mind as she began to inquire about having me show her how her new bikes worked. I did not answer. And as she repeated herself, she smiled that knowing smile that she still had it. She could still turn a man's head.

She knew she had me if she wanted me. I had lost. That jiggle turn had done it. The icing on the cake. Satisfied she had another notch in her gun belt. She said see ya and left. I sat there staring at the door for several moments wondering what had just happened. It had been a lot of years since a woman had turned my head like that. The feeling was familar but new at the same time. And then I grinned and thought, "Damn women. Gotta love em. We have no choice. They literally have us guys by the short hairs."

*** Artwork by Norman Engel

From BoZone - 7/8/05

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Lil Princess"

I have never honored a bike by creating a special name for it. Most often or as I recollect, I will use their model name. For instance I call my Rocky Mtn "Blizzard", "The Blizzard". My dual suspension scoot I simply call "The Slayer", it's model name. And to be honest, I had nothing to do with the naming of my current new ride, the VooDoo "Dambala". It was Pratt Rat Keith who came up with it. Somebody had to. If any bike I have owned deserves it's very own special name, it would be the "Dambala".

"Lil Princess" took her first ride this morning. Mike took his first ride on a 29" wheel bike that was the right size for the stubby SOB. The two fell in love at some point. Well, Mike fell in Love. Not sure about "Lil Princess". She hasn't said much. But apparently she is fine with the set up so far. She didn't dump Mike in the first stream bed he rode her over. She was the perfect lady all morning.

Mike always had a weak spot for long legged women. Princess had him half way bagged and tagged the minute Mike finished building her wheels. He leaned them up against the counter and wondered what she would look like when she got her legs under her. When he was done gusseying her up with all kinds of new fancy pieces and parts, he stood back and realized she was just about the prettiest bike he had ever built. Not the most beautiful, but the prettiest. In a "can't look away, have to look" kinda way. "Lil Princess" is a brassy broad.

Now this less than manly build has caused some lips to flap here in southern Maine. I am sure that at the next big hoe down with riders from away, it will create even more of a stir. My manhood has been drawn into question. People might think I bat from the other side or at the least am a switch hitter. And I will admit, putting my butt on the "Lil Princess" the first time had me wondering myself.

Ultimately, it is the ride the bicycle gives back that matters. Not the high end parts and bling that do it, but the ride. How it looks to others should never matter if the rider themselves are pleased with how it turned out. And let me tell you, my efforts to build the "Anti-Black" bike turned into more than I could have hoped for. The pink I added was just to make sure those lips had something to flap about.

But looks are only skin deep. How does the Princess ride? She ain't scared that's for sure. Even when Mike was wondering if he was going to stack it on that next log coming up, Lil Princess just took it hard and kept going. Rock gardens were a tad challenging, what with the rigid fork and all. Apparently though Lil Princess just flexed those big wheels of hers and floated over them. Mike was ecstatic. At this point Mike is more than pleased with the ride.

More than pleased - is that possible?

More to come.............................

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Spirit of the Snake

After I removed the wasted chain and rear derailleur from the Rocky "Blizzard", I tossed it in the corner and forgot about it. Well, I did not toss it, but I may as well have. I feel guilty. That bike was and is the best fit I have ever had from a bicycle. That bike has been the most dependable bike I remember tossing a leg over. Ride after ride, it did what I asked with little complaint. And now it sits broken and bleeding in a dusty corner of my shop.

I will fix it. It will ride again. But the surgery needed requires that the patient be stablized first. I don't think the Blizzard is yet. It took quite a hit. It needs a few days to recover, before it can handle any more shock to it's system. The derailleur hanger is bent badly. I expect to be successful in straightening it, but I need to be prepared for the worst case scenario - Loss of a limb due to extreme trauma. But the Blizzard is tough. I am sure it will pull through.

In the meantime, as expected, the parts for my new ride came in the day after the Blizzard's suicide attempt. UPS Guy pulled up in front while I was out back washing Ave's old GT Zaskar. After he left, I looked at the four boxes and wondered how long it would take me to build the wheels. Nevermind finish the build.

I had promised to stay late to help Young Jim from Shapleigh bleed his Shimano Deore Brakes after I closed tonight. I figured between helping him and telling tales, I might just leave for home with the wheels built.

Dash Jim(another Jim - we have way too many Jims hanging out here)swung by in the late afternoon. Since he is the Hydraulic Brake Master, he took Young Jim under his wing and between the two of them, took care of completely rejuvenating Young Jim's brakes. I was left alone to build my wheels. And build them I did.

Not satisfied with getting this far on the custom build, I began to install parts on the Frame. Headset lead to Fork which led to Bars and Stem which led to Tires which led to Cranks and finally it all stopped after Derailleurs, Cassette & Chain. Before I knew it, it was stupid late and I had an almost complete bike to take pleasure in.

Tomorrow I finish it. Uh, no, make that later today. Time really flies when you are having fun.

Friday, October 9, 2009


It was only fair. The wave of luck I had been riding had to break at some point. For the past few years I was replacing parts because I had worn them out, not broken them. Yeah, I was beginning to feel pretty damn cocky. Even this season seemed to be going like the last few. An adjustment here, a tweak there, some new cables, maybe change the brake pads once in awhile, and a regular bath for my ride seemed all I needed to keep the Blizzard happy and content.

This sudden meltdown that came from nowhere has me wondering. I have suspicions. The first sign of trouble was some weeks ago. I was grinding up a hill and suddenly the chain leaped into the spokes. Some chain links had twisted and the chain shifted itself right off the big cog.

"Okay", I thought, "No big deal. Shit happens." I shortened the chain and went on my merry way.

My rides became mechanically blissful again. No issues other than mud grunged derailleurs slowing the shifting or brakes squealing when they got wet. I still had the constant battle with that rear tire. The damn thing just would not hold air longer than a few days. Well, I could be stubborn too. I just kept the air to it before each ride.

A month or so ago I began to dream of a new bike. If it lived up to my expectations it would most likely replace the Blizzard as my go to ride on most days. For weeks I thought about this new bike. For weeks I talked up this new bike. Seven days ago I ordered up parts for my new bike. And last night, the night before all those shiny new parts were slated to come in, the Blizzard found a stick and committed Hari Kari. It self destructed. I had nothing to do with it. I was Just Riding Along.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Without the Vibration

Keeping a level head when dealing with an avid cyclist who desires to custom build a bike from the frame up is a skill I have tried to hone over the years. In the process of the many custom builds I have worked up, worked on, or just ordered the parts so the customer could build it, I learned that it can be a very stressful situation for my customer. Most have thought about and maybe even dreamed about the bike that will fill their every desire or image of what that bike will be. They often have spent many man hours pouring over magazine articles, wasted stupid hours surfing the Internet, calling riding buds for opinions, and generally worked themselves into a frenzied state I would characterize as a manic bee with too many flowers to pick from. They almost vibrate.

It is more than simply plopping down money and wheeling out of the store on a brand new factory built scoot. That will create excitement and joy. But to nurse a wish list into that new dream bike transcends the mere joy of picking a bike from the sales floor. Most hardcore cyclists, even if they have not yet had a custom built bike created, lust after one. We cyclists always find something we would like better than the factory spec. Yes, we often will make changes after we buy a showroom bike. That just does not create the excitement and anticipation working up the perfect bike in your mind does.

The trick to keeping the process on an even keel and keeping at least one of us sane during this transaction is to detach myself from the emotions the customer has invested in it. I try to build excitement, but without the vibration.

Once all the pieces and parts have been decided on and the orders to the various vendors have gone out, the ensuing lull in action from list to actual build is often the worst time for me as a dealer. I used to figure after holding their hand through the parts pick and keeping their choices grounded in reality, the hard part is over. It is just beginning. They have spent their money and unless they stepped up with some extra jingle for fast shipping, it seems UPS slows down just to make their lives and mine miserable. The build is actually anti climatic as the customer has usually worked through most of their fussin and frettin before the fact. Beginning the build for me is when I start to relax. When I relax, they seem to relax. And soon, they are out riding their new ride.

Yes, over the years I have become somewhat.......what's a good word? All business or professionally detached maybe. Yeah, another nice bike for you. So what. I see them all the time. Let's get the parts in, put em together, and get you the Hell out there on your new bike. The sooner it is done, the sooner I can move on to the next project.

Recently, I reminded myself how whacked a customer can get when I decided to yes, that's right, become my own customer. Not only am I dealing with a crazed cyclist who wants their new ride yesterday, as the crazed cyclist I am being forced to deal with a dealer who seems to be less than attentive to my needs. I am caught in the worst nightmare I could have. I am trying to keep myself happy and calm, and restrained. I have been contemplating and scheming for a couple of months now about this new bike I will build up for myself. And try as I might, I cannot seem to even come close to professional, never mind conjure up any sort of detachment.

I have successfully made my final choices of what frame, parts and look I am shooting for. I have ordered up most and will finish ordering tomorrow all the parts I need not in stock to complete the vision I have of what this next "perfect ride" will be. It has been over 5 years since I gave myself a new bike form scratch. Lord knows I do not need another bicycle. I just want one.

I have rationalized this effort as having some kind of benefit for the shop. Like building up a custom bike for myself is really for the bike shop. Yes, it will showcase my wheel building skills and assembling skills such as they are. And yes, I would like to have a 29' wheeled bike in the shop to show folks what is possible with them. But I am not fooling anyone, least of all myself. I'm getting a new bike and right now I am driving the bike dealer part of me crazy. How the Hell I put up with yahoos like me, I'll never know.

Forget vibrating, I am shaking here.

More to come.............................................