Team Blog

Bike Jam (05/23/2017)

Bike Jam returned to Patternson Park in Baltimore this year. As always, it’s great to have a local race in the city. Our teammates turned  out in great numbers and with much enthusiasm. To quote our long time friend and super racer Ezra Khan:  “Local races are like a Tomaguchi, you have to feed them or they die!” Here are some repots from our teammates:

David:

I had such a good time racing this weekend, I thought I’d write a race report. Spoiler alert: I did not win.

My preparation for this race was – how shall I put it – unorthodox. I managed to avoid riding my bike for 12 days prior to riding it in the 4/5 Men’s race Sunday. My previous ride was TNTT nearly two weeks ago, and that was the first ride for me since two weeks prior to that. To ensure maximum physical condition for this afternoon event, I spent the morning straining my back doing yard work. In other words, I was as prepared for this race as an arm wrestler is for a gun fight.

But that was my advantage, see. I knew exactly what I was going to accomplish well before the race even started. I knew I would eventually be spit out the back like a greased watermelon seed – it was just a question of when. But I was NOT going let anyone else decide when; that was my decision to make dammit! And make it I did.

I hung with the pack for 3 laps, and on the fourth I grew tired of the bunching up on the back side of the course, which was slightly downhill and pretty fast. So I slowly passed the pack on the left – it was easier than I thought it would be – essentially moving up from last to the very front. And when I got to the front I said “hey look, I’m in the front!” and kept going. I knew I was burning myself up, but that was my plan. So I went all in on the second half of lap 4, led the pack up the hill and across the finish line. I was in first for a whole half a lap and that was the best time I have ever had in my entire (now 3-race-long) road racing career.

Happy with my effort, I pulled up to recover and the entire field promptly passed me in a blur of pretty colors, and I could not catch back on. I was toast. But not burnt toast. I kept riding as hard as I could, picking up riders along the way, including Ross and Ted, and pulled anyone else who wanted to jump on my wheel. I just time-trialed the last 10 laps, got lapped by the field on lap 11 or 12, but still finished and felt good with my effort.

If anyone is offended that I did not take this race seriously because I did not go into it trying to win it, too bad. I knew where my lack of training and fitness put me and I just wanted to mix it up and have fun. I accomplished everything I wanted to do in this race: I rode in a crowded field at a high speed (for 4 miles on really poor pavement); I got comfortable passing and getting passed in close quarters at speed; I got to lead a pack for at least a little while; and I finished! (I was really afraid I would get yanked from the race and am glad I did not.)

I also put so many of the lessons I learned from my teammates that kept running through my head in all the situations I experienced: keep your elbows loose in the pack, pressure on the outside pedal in the turn, look up through the turn, protect your front wheel… Thanks for all the good advice – I used it.

It was really fun to have teammates there both in the race and on the sidelines (I heard you cheering – thanks!). I do hope I can get my training ride schedule to better coincide with race season some day. In the meantime I can offer this advice: I don’t recommend anyone train for a bike race by using garden tools.

Grace:

David- this is amazing! The attitude, the writing, the ability to get this freaking race report thread stared. Excellent.

I fear my report will not be nearly as fun to read, but you asked for it!

So, if we’re being completely honest, I was a tiny bit anxious about going into this race after hearing about its reputation and thoughtful nickname of BikeSlam. I’ve spent the past few weeks training for the Killington Stage race and breaking something the week before would be a real shame. But I love racing bikes, and the 1/2/3 field had some pretty reputable chicks in it, so of course I had to race too!

Alright, so here we are at the line, I scooch myself in between colavita and a mathlete on the front row (because if I’ve learned only 1 thing from Damon, it’s to never sell yourself short when self-staging!) and Sue Mcquiston takes the lead while I stick to her wheel like glue. Then of course things got shuffled, and people try to make stupid early breaks and we drag them back in, no problem. That course feels like it’s 75% downhill so I’m pretty unsure of my own plans of a break, and then I notice my right hand’s gone numb from the absurd amount of shaking it’s being put through on these “roads” (read as: trashed sidewalk/gravel). But I determine that I can still successfully shift and that’s all I wanted from that hand anyway.

Michele Scherer makes a promising effort on the uphill finish w maybe 10 laps to go – chased her down cause I figured that match would be worth it, but a couple girls came with me and we were soon consumed. So now I decide to just hang out, position myself in the top 5 w 3 to go, and prep myself for the group sprint. BUT as fate would have it – one of the Colavita’s totally miscalculates the laps – surges ahead w 2 to go (to everyones confusion) and puts her arms up on the finish as if she’s won! lol. We are just now starting the last lap. ABRT uses this confusion to their advantage and Dori rips away from the field immediately. I chase her down knowing if anybody could make that stick it would be her – and to my surprise it’s now just the two of us! But omg now it’s just the 2 of us and there’s a pack chasing us down w less than a mile and we are laying it all down just to stay away. And it hurts. And one little brain voice is like “cool! you did a thing! great job, lets go home” and another, much louder, voice is like “If you quit now you are NOTHING! This is Carl Dolan again and you will NOT be 2nd!!!!” (which is a little dramatic, looking back, but effective!) And then we hit the uphill finish and the voices are gone and I’m just doing what I can to salvage some kind of sprint. And it did the trick, my first 1/2/3 win! Made even better by seeing/hearing some rad teammates at the finish! Thanks for the cheers!

The end.

TNTT Mythbusters

Today we are going to dispel some myths about TNTT. The biggest hurdle for anyone getting back in shape from “winter’s” season of sloth is, what if I do not feel fast enough to come out yet? Mmmk. April 25th is the PERFECT time to get yourself out on course. Whether you’re going for that type 2 fun or want to get the last breath of freshly fertilized fields in your lungs before the growing season, let April 25th be your baseline for the next 10 TNTT’s of 2017. Remember how
rainy May was in 2016? Take advantage of the dry weather and the scenery in case we are in for a repeat… Secondly, who does not enjoy seeing personal progress over time? As tradition, we will continue to bark-out the names of our peers who reach new personal records, because small victories should be shared! If anything, I encourage you all to come out and be slow, yes, sandbag that first TNTT time a little. Next TNTT you can push harder to see your time drop and get that early fitness momentum going.

The next myth we will touch on is the need of using aerodynamic (aero) equipment. Answer: do what is within your comfort level of clothing and cost. TNTT is free, not because we expect you to save your pennies for aero equipment, but rather feeling fast can be freeing to the soul. We want to share that feeling with everyone who comes! The true race is between you and your bi-weekly efforts. We support your goals of going sub-X minutes or ability to use this as a focused event to train for an upcoming race. If anything, you may see progress and wonder if you were to tweak your seat position, or see if some piece of aero equipment would get you to your next TNTT goal. If this is the case, you may find yourself slowly upgrading equipment-I did! However, no amount of aero equipment can account for unexpected events on this unreferred course. For instance, will we ever have a black angus beef cattle get loose on course? I’ve heard the grass is greener on the other side…Aero equipment can be as simple as making sure you don’t show up in an old baggy t-shirt, to making sure you’re pinning your numbers down-I’m a notorious offender. Do you want to improve your belly aerodynamics? Here are some ideas for plant-based recipes.

The last myth we will investigate is whether you should warm-up? Warning: there is personal bias. I have been a soccer goalie through grade school, college, and club/social leagues. I hated warming up, and did not after college. Warming up before any run, recreational to marathon distance, you can bet I’m not warming up either. There is a lot of scientific debate out in the academic community about warm-ups and athletic performance in many disciplines. I do recommend looking at the peer-reviewed publications than Googling what you may read for this type of guidance. Hope to see you on course this year!

Flo 60 [2016] Wheelset Review

Flo has become famous in the game of affordable, well-designed aero wheels. Not only do my Flo 60 [2016 revised model] aluminum+carbon wheels check all the boxes on my wishlist for a set of race-day wheels, they also bring some nice surprises to the table as well.

  1. Affordable – at under half the cost of new big name carbon aero wheels, this set is comparatively a bargain. I opted for the aluminum rimmed version which are $100 cheaper per wheel compared to FLO’s fully carbon version. Although the aluminum version takes a slight penalty in aerodynamic testing and weighs ~380 grams more, I’m content with the tradeoff for cost, as well as not having to swap brake pads between training and racing wheels (yup, I’m that lazy). The aluminum brake track comes anodized black, and will wear off after use. I’m starting to see fading after 5 races, and I’m looking forward to more wear as a badge of use.
  2. Stiff – I opted for the Clydesdale build on these wheels. That entails 28 bladed, Sapim CX-ray spokes instead of the standard 24 spokes on the rear wheel. I’m right at the border on the recommended weight (<198 lbs), and I do not regret going for the heavier duty version. Under load during climbs and sprints, there is no brake rub or disconcerting flex from the wheelset. For reference, rider weight is at 190 lbs and max power output is just north of 1400 watts.
  3. Mid-depth aero at 65mm – They are slightly deeper than my previous race wheels (Campagnolo Bullet 50s), but handle better in cross winds. There is feedback when crosswinds pick up, but nothing sudden or unpredictable. I have Continental GP4000s II 23mm up front and 25 mm on the rear, both at 100 psi under usual conditions. The front is 23mm because FLO optimized their rim shape using that configuration, while the 25mm rear gives me more compliance and suffers less aerodynamic penalty.
  4. Stays true – After hitting some unavoidable potholes at race speed, I was nervous that I would find the usual wobbles upon inspection later. However, I am pleased to report that both front and back are straight as the day they came to me. It is a nice load off to not have to worry about the strength of the build during a race.
  5. Width – These rims are 19.4mm wide internally, which means that when mounted, my 23 and 25mm tires come out to be more like 24.5 and 27mm respectively. This is in line with the recent trend towards wider tires for rolling resistance benefits.

Bonuses:

  1. The sound – The sound of these wheels rolling at race speed is “fear inspiring”. I have had multiple racers come up to me after races and comment on the sound that they generate. It is a very distinct and audible whoosh altogether very different from the Campy set I raced before.
  2. The hubs – The quality of the hubs were a nice surprise. They spin up and hold speed very well. I will update over time how well they last.

In closing, I am very happy with my choice. For the price they charge, it is a perfect combination of weight, aerodynamics, and stiffness. If you want to spend some more for the full carbon versions, I’m sure they will not disappoint either. These wheels have served me well for the race season this far, and I look forward to putting more miles on them.

 

Monster Cross (02/19/2017)

Monster cross this year was another great time for TeamBBC. Here’s what some teammates had to say about it:

John:

This was my 4th time at Monster CX and my 2nd best effort! 2013 saw me come in at 3hr25min on the CX bike, then the following year my seatpost broke half way through the race. 2015, 3hr 42 min on the 29er, but the course was muddy and wet, which slowed everyone down a lot. 2017, I came in at 3hr 30-something minutes (according to my Strava). I’m heavier than i’d like to be, but whatever that was a fun race!

Conditions were perfect and dry which made things as fast as you could push yourself. I knew that the start would be hard to hold back and pace myself, but after the first 5 miles or so I tried my best to give myself little breaks. I’d just get into an easier gear for a minute or two and make sure I wasn’t breathing too hard. Before sunday I had only done a couple road rides over 40 miles this year.

I have been getting on the mountain bike a lot so that helped, since I used my mountain bike in the race! The rigid carbon fork feels so light but beats the crap out of you if you’re not used to it. I’ll throw the suspension fork back on for the Baker’s Dozen in April. By the second lap I ran out of fluids in my 2 bottles so I stopped for a second the next time I saw a dropped bottle; picked it up, then I wasn’t out of fluids anymore!! I cramped up a little in my left calf in the last 5 miles or so but that’s expected since I hadn’t done any long efforts for a really long time!

It was so awesome to have so many teammates to kick it with afterwards!!!

Scott K.:

First off, is John is still going on about that rigid fork? ;p
This was my 3rd time doing this race and I came in with fairly high expectations given my CX season and where I felt my fitness was. The first two times I did this race, I had problems with mechanicals and or serious bonking, so I came into this year with a much stronger nutrition plan. You need to force yourself to eat and drink to a plan to keep your energy up.

The race started fast but nothing that made me too concerned. My concern started when I dropped one of my bottles on that crazy root section and after I decided to drop off of the lead pack and settle into my race. Soon after that I was caught by a SS CX bike (who I assumed was leading my race), so I stuck to his wheel for a while. I had no problem holding the power to stay there, but I was struggling to hold him in the turns and was burning more matches than I wanted to, so I let him go. Flash forward to the second lap, and I knew I was feeling good, but that I should really get my bottle that dropped. I stopped to get it and when I did, my foot didn’t come out of my pedal and I just fell over. One of the bolts on my cleat came out, so twisting my foot to unclip just twisted the cleat on the shoe. I got it kind of squared away but accepted the fact that I wasn’t unclipping with my right foot for the rest of the race.

Eventually we got stopped and all regrouped with the medical situation¹. I was talking with the SS CX guy and we were pretty sure that we were 1,2. I didn’t want to be a jerk and race him the last 10 miles when was clearly stronger than me earlier in the race, so I just rode the last few miles with him chatting and let him pull away at the end. Overall, I was happy with how I felt, although I really wanted to dig deep in those last 10 miles and see what I had if we didn’t get stopped. It was great seeing everyone and playing bikes in some amazing February weather!

Laura:

This was my first long race AND longest off-road ride I’ve ever done (besides the NCR). I had SUCH A GREAT TIME. Everyone was so effing supportive and friendly (highlight of the day was when an older rider told me how much he loved my fox socks, then when he saw me bunny hop over a root he screamed “AND SHE CAN HOP! GIRL YOU ARE AWESOME.”)

Nothing was technically difficult, but there were a few sections that were a terrifying at race pace, especially surrounded by a bunch of mountain bikers who don’t believe in brakes. The upside was that I took a lot more risks than I normally would have if I was just riding around in the woods by myself, and it was actually okay. I had some near wipe-outs that I managed to correct, and I think I finally got over my paranoid fear of stream crossings, because oh-s**t-here’s-another-stream-crossing-can’t-stop-now.

I did NOT quite finish all 50 miles, a big group of us missed a section of the 2nd lap. I checked the map yesterday, and there’s a 1/2 mile section where the course doubles back on itself. A few people passed in the other direction on the flat part where it seemed fine (hi Ezra!), but then we hit an uphill where the elite men were descending at top speed, and everyone began to doubt that we were on the right trail. To be fair, it was kiiiinda insane to have two-way traffic on this section with no warning that you should probably stay right and not pass anyone here if you want to avoid a head-on collision

Craig was nice enough to stop and try to help us, we tried to backtrack, couldn’t figure out what went wrong, so we ended up just following the elites instead. I got to totally confuse Adrian and Lindsay when they came up behind me, annddd it meant I got to get to the finish line and eat giant plate of southern food sooner.

Alex G.:

How many years in a row can we get such great weather?!? Great day for racing. I still love my SS bike. I felt good, but could tell I hadn’t been on the trainer as much this year. Those hills were much harder on lap two. I think the park had laid down some rather fresh gravel in some areas, that with dry conditions made for fast but sometimes sketchy descents and turns. I love the course. It’s fun, yet challenging. Totally CX bike able. Great food and drinks afterwards. Despite the large crowd the race (where I was) spread out pretty quickly. Can’t attest to the folks up front. I’m looking forward to going back next year and will make a real effort to get more miles in ahead of time. That race was my longest bike ride of the year so far. Not an advisable strategy.

¹ Our thoughts are with Josie Measures from Cary, NC, who suffered a crash during the race. We hope her the best recovery.

2016 Gunnar Roadie Review

After having put about 500 miles on this build I thought I would give some quick thoughts about my Gunnar Roadie. The frame is a size 58 and replaced my Giant Propel Advanced that was also a size 58. After having been around the cycling scene for any significant amount of time, one is bound to hear the line “steel is real”. I’m not going to be arguing that steel is better than carbon or vice versa. Instead, I’m going to highlight the qualities of steel and the Roadie that surprised me the most.

Ride – The ride of steel has a very distinctive feel. I would describe carbon as smooth, aluminum as edgy, and steel as a median between the two. Accelerating under hard efforts is rewarded with a little pushback from the frame, whereas pushing against aluminum felt like a wall. Full out-of-saddle efforts do not create any excess motion in the bottom bracket area nor result in any tire rub. This is pretty impressive given that I easily push 200+ lbs with full riding kit.

Weight – This is another area that generates constant questions from riders. The conception is that steel is much heavier than carbon or aluminum. The final weight of the bike with bottle cages and pedals is around 17.5 pounds – exactly the same weight as my Giant Propel had been. Most of the parts were transferred over from the propel with the exception of the non-aero seat post on the Gunnar. For a full list of build components please see the end of the review.

Finish – The people at Gunnar bikes have done a marvelous job at painting the frame. The spray is very consistent, and the striping very even. They were incredibly flexible with my request to add the stripes that flank the logo on the down tube and the seat tube. The clear coat has a very deep shine to it that I expect will be very durable. Worst case scenario, Gunnar offers a refurbishing service to repaint the frame when you feel like you need a refresh.

Racing – I’ve raced this setup now in a road race and a criterium, to 3rd and 2nd place finishes. There were a lot of full accelerations throughout the course of both races, and I was never left with the impression of excess flex in the rig. Another much better racer in my league also has been racing the Gunnar Roadie with great success. I’m eager to tackle more coming races on this machine.

Overall, I would summarize my experience with the Roadie with one word – Zen. Despite the lack of aero shaping compared to my Propel, I have not felt any slower. For those of you on the fence about modern steel race bikes, I would highly recommend giving the Gunnar Roadie a try. Thank you Baltimore Bike Works for helping me get my hands on this!

Build

Team BBC Track Camp (07/16/2016)

TeamBBC rented out a track for our teammates to learn and practice track riding on. Here are some of their thoughts!

David:

Track day was so much fun. How much fun? Imagine you did something and liked it so much you had to do it over and over again, like 75 times right away. That’s what we did going around the track today. This isn’t a race report (yes we did race, but I don’t want to talk about it), so I’ll just call it a class report. Our teacher, Damon, was amazing. How amazing? He taught us 4 hours of material in 3 hours! We all knew he was fast on the bike, but who knew he was so fast teaching about the bike too! We learned so much. Important stuff like how to start and stop. Where to ride on the track and what the colorful lines mean. And what it means when someone yells “stay,” “stick” and “rail.” Also how to get lined up to race when they announce “racers to the rail.” I heard someone yelling “go fast Daddy” but Damon didn’t explain what that meant. I also learned so much as it was my first time on a fixed-gear track bike. (Can you believe they had one big enough for me? Woohoo!) I learned there is a lot of room for water bottles on a track bike my size, but nowhere to put them! I learned that to ride a track bike you don’t need any fingers (no brakes or shifters). I learned that the staff at the T-town track is really nice and knowledgeable. Finally I learned, again, why I like Team BBC so much. Thanks Alex H, Damon, Josh S. (for driving a bunch of us), and the team for subsidizing this event. Go Team BBC!

Scott:

Awesome time today! Thanks Damon and Alex! Damon you did a great job running us through drills and slowly building our confidence on the track. I wish we had time for more! I will definitely go up for one Cat 5 race to give it a shot. It was super weird not being able to free wheel. My legs are currently doing that thing after you go skiing when your legs feel like they’re still skiing, but instead they feel like they’re trying to push back on the pedals to slow me down.

Alex:

This was awesome. Everyone was looking pro as hell, and the pace lines were looking smoooooth all the way up and down the track. Best of all, no one got hurt! I’m glad everyone is as pumped on the track as I am. I will definitely be going up to do a race or two when things calm down. Especially when the Olympics start and everyone is going to get velodrome fever! Thank you Damon for being an amazing coach, and thank you to the team for helping us put this together. It was awesome to see everyone come up with us and have a blast.

The Bicycle Escape 2016 MABRA Senior Criterium Championships (07/03/16)

A race review from teammate Damon Wyatt:

First, I have to say although our road team is small, we represented (by we, I’m definitely not including me but I like to grasp firmly to the coattails of glory). As soon as I arrived with Spokes (who by the way dropped me off since he needed to pick up a new chain), Ez and I watched Lindsay pulling hard at the front of the chase group. She mixed it up, jumped out the saddle, led and ultimately sprinted for 3rd in the chase group. Although I definitely witnessed the expressed of “F This” on the last lap, she finished strong. Josh and Ez mixed it up as well. Josh went on a fierce break with 4 to go in the Cat 3 race and sadly, the pack chased hard to gobble him up. Not only did he finish strong but then he mixed it up in the front of the 1-2-3 race as well. Ez ruled the front as well in the 1-2-3 race and had some sick jumps to bridge up to breaks. The 1-2-3 race was incredibly fast in the last 10 laps and anyone that even finished that race is my hero.

Damon