The Definitive Guide to Riding Your Bike To A Whitecaps Game

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Baseball season is in full swing! If you’re ever driving up US-131 or West River Drive during a home game at Fifth Third Ballpark, you’ve certainly noticed the traffic backed up for a mile in any direction. It’s even worse when the game gets out, with darkness compounding the congestion.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the ballpark is surrounded by the White Pine Trail, the converted railroad line that extends from the North end of Riverside park to Cadillac. There are a ton of places to park and then ride your bike right up to the gates of the ballpark without dealing with traffic or paying for parking.

Where to start your trip

From the South:
If you’re coming from the south, Riverside Park on Monroe Avenue north of Leonard is an ideal place to stage. The most southerly parking at Riverside park is only 3.6 miles from the ballpark, all on paved off-street path. The path winds up through the park, with the option of a fast protected bike path next to Monroe Ave or a more leisurely winding path next to the river. Both converge at the expressway underpass and then a quick connection at the Park St roundabout gets you toward the White Pine Trail. Take the first right to go straight to the park, or continue under US-131 to connect to the path through Comstock Park. Both options go directly past the ballpark.

Looking to start and end your trip downtown? It’s easy to extend your ride. From downtown, just take Monroe Ave north, using the bike lane all the way to Riverside Park.

From the North:
A great option if you’re coming from towns on the 131 corridor, Rogue River Park off Belmont Ave in Belmont offers plenty of parking and direct access to the White Pine Trail.

Don’t forget about Trailside Treats behind Belmont Market to cool off!

When you get to the north access road near the AJ’s Family Fun Center next to the ballpark, follow the path left until you get to the south end of the ballpark.

At The Ballpark

The bike racks are located on the apron around the ballpark on the southern edge. At the time of this writing, they are the barricade style that accept a wheel, but not just a frame. Bring a flexible lock, like a strong cable or folding lock.

After The Game

Keep an eye out for inattentive drivers always, but especially when you get out of the game! Flashing lights are highly recommended as the human mind naturally notices flashing and movement. Be courteous to your fellow trail users!

Downtown Comstock Park is just down the path from the ballpark. Stop by for a 10th-inning beer at Elk Brewing, grab a pizza from Vitale’s, or an ice cream from Dairy Delite!

As always, ride and drink responsibly! And don’t eat too many hot dogs!!

Enjoy the game and drop us a line if you need anything to help get you riding!

The Mysterious Cue Sheet

Many of us that go on long rides these days have a fancy GPS device with some kind of navigation function, making it really easy to upload and follow whatever wacky route you cooked up late at night four beers in. In the olden days, riders would have to write down their turns by hand and wrap them or clip them to somewhere convenient, periodically checking throughout the ride to make sure they were on-course.

The big races and rides release the course maps and files ahead of time, but reading a cue sheet is a good skill to have (and more challenging!). Using just the instructions written down lends a bigger sense of adventure to a ride, and simply following someone around a turn becomes a much riskier proposition.

For the HellKaat Hundie, everyone gets a printed sheet with every instruction. We’re going to give you some pointers on how to read it. All cue sheets have the same basic features, so this lesson will be pretty portable to any race or ride.

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On the very left you’ll see the “leg” distance. That’s the distance to the next instruction. Leg distances are sometimes in different columns, so familiarize yourself with them before starting your ride.

This example card has a visual indicator and a “type” which indicates left, right, straight, etc. This gives you a fairly easy method to identifying what you should look for without parsing an actual word in your head.

The Notes column has the actual instruction and the street, feature or landmark. Sometimes these are obscure such as “Turn left after the second barn”, but most of them will accompany a signpost of some sort.

The last column is the total odometer reading at the instruction point.

So for this example, you would read it, “In one mile, turn left onto 140th Ave. Your total distance at this point is one mile. In two miles after that, turn right onto 12th St. Your total mileage at this point is 2.9 miles (maybe 3)”.

Yes, there’s a minor discrepancy there, but that’s because a lot of cue sheets are automatically generated from a mapping program. You will encounter rounding errors here and there, but unless the routemaster is especially devious, there won’t be anything truly confusing. One tenth of a mile is 528 feet, so it’s close enough for government work.

If you get off-course, your total mileage will be off. That’s where leg distances are helpful. You can also use your odometer to figure out how far off you went, and then add that total distance (including doubling back) to your Total mileage. Otherwise, you’ll just need to be checking that cue sheet more often!

Knowing how to read a cue sheet is fun, adventurous, and a good backup for the space compass when you forget to charge it or it simply decides that reality is a lie.

See you out there!

Bike “Fit” – What’s the big deal?

By Mike Clark

In the past 10 years or so, the topic of “Bike Fit” in bike shops has gone from a behind-the-scenes protocol practiced by a few forward-thinking shops to “the mainstream”. You can “get fitted” now with lasers, stop-motion video capture, adjustable-while-you-pedal fit bikes or the tried-and-true tape measure and eyeball technique. (And you can expect to pay accordingly. The going rate for a “fitting” in U.S. shops ranges from $50-$600)

You can also find a bevy of physical therapists, sports medicine practitioners and yoga instructors offering fit consultations devoid of a shop connection – not to mention frame builders, coaches, and racers.

So, how did we get from “stand over this one, does it hit you in the crotch?” to a several-hundred dollar session involving body measurements, a flexibility assessment, and maybe some fancy tools? Basically, the advance of sports medicine and orthopedics gave us a lot of insight into how the body works best while on the bike. Lots of apparently small pieces make up the whole puzzle. Folks realized that bikes weren’t built for everyone out of the box.

The current general consensus that “Fit Matters” is great in our opinion, and we’d place ourselves among those aforementioned forward-thinking shops that figured out back in the day that offering our clients a more evolved level of bike fit was going to result in happier, more efficient, faster, and more comfortable riders with fewer injuries. We LOVE that the bike biz has caught on!

Fundamentally, your bike fits properly when your contact points (hands, feet, butt) are in the proper relationship when you sit on your bike(s). When your saddle height and fore-aft position is spot on you are a pedaling machine: efficient and powerful and protected from injury. When your “reach” or “cockpit” (the distance from saddle to handlebars) is correct for your particular combination of torso length, arm length, flexibility, age, injury history, riding style, goals, and preferences you are the ideal combination of biomechanics, aerodynamics, and comfort. When your handlebars are the proper width for your shoulder measurements, you slip through the air without giving up control or leverage.

And most of all: you ride without pain (or at least only with the pain of the effort – should you chose to go there)

How do we do “Fit” here at Alger Bikes?

We’re a bit “old school”. We believe in and rely upon The Fit Kit, the industry’s original fitting system. The Fit Kit showed up waaaay back in 1982 and remains utterly valid in the face of about 23 bazillion (estimated) new systems that have been developed over the past couple of decades. In addition to The Fit Kit’s database and bevy of tools we apply the knowledge and insights we’ve gained from performing hundreds of fits as well as riding thousands of miles. We’ll take some skeletal measurements, ask you a few questions about your injury history and goals and do a quick flexibility check. This will allow us to properly size your new bike and help us position you properly on it.

(This service is included with the purchase of any road, gravel, cyclocross, mountain or tandem bike)

We also offer “remedial” fittings for a bike that you like enough to keep but doesn’t currently fit well enough to ride. We can “fix” fit issues, help you nail down your aero bar position, chase away aches and pains, help you shop for a used bike that fits you and make sure that you’re in the proper position.

Regardless of your fit needs, we’re ready and eager to help you out. Please stop by any time!

Mike Clark has fit a pretty huge percentage of West Michigan’s riders, and has been professionally trained to fit a couple custom makers, like Seven Cycles

Cleaning the Barry-Roubaix Off Of Your Bike – The Alger Bikes Way

So – You raced Barry last weekend (or Melting Mann the weekend before, or Landrun 100 the week before that) and your bike is still sitting in the garage covered w/ mud, right?

We feel ya.

Early season gravel races, the infamous “Mud Year” up at Iceman or just all of those dirty rides in between – the cruel truth is that bikes get dirty…but work better when they’re clean.
So – how do we get there?

The longer that you let it sit, the bigger project it’s gonna be so let’s get it started

First off – water is okay. The car wash is a option but your good ol’ garden variety garden hose is good too.
RULE #1 – Do NOT direct water at high pressure at the headset, bottom bracket or hubs! Water isn’t bad per se….but blasting away at the bearings will ensure that you force H2O past the seals and contaminate the grease (Can you say “Time for a new bottom bracket?”). As a good guideline: direct running water PAST bearing areas, not AT them, and you’re good.
Remove the wheels and use the water to rinse off as much of the dirt/mud as you can. Then take a clean rag and do the “shoeshine boy thing” in all of the nooks and crannies, paying special attention to the derailleurs and brake calipers. An old toothbrush or that Park GSC-1 brush is good for getting crap outta the chainrings and frame junctions.
Once the frame and components are spotless (kidding!), give the wheels the same treatment. Make sure that you clean out the space between the cassette cogs ‘cuz dirt loves hangin’ out there.
Okay – wheels back on and onto….
SPECIAL PROJECT #1 – The chain is likely a mess. This guy has a huge job to do and is worthy of some TLC. Take a brush or clean rag (and maybe some degreaser) and clean it off as best you can. You’re gonna re-lube it and there’s no reason to lube a dirty chain as you’re simply rinsing the dirt down farther in the rollers. Park makes a cool device for cleaning your chain called the CG-2 that is essential a car wash for your chain that makes cleaning it a piece of cake… but failing that some elbow grease and some solvent will get’cha there. Once it’s as clean as you can get it, wipe it dry and apply your chain lube of choice (We like T-9).
SPECIAL PROJECT #2 – Your shift and gear cables are likely running through their respective housing slowly and with a lot of extra drag. Some attention paid to them can really help with shifting and braking. For the shift cables, shift your bike into the lowest gear then shift all the way into the highest WITHOUT TURNING THE PEDALS so that the cables hang loose. Then you can move the lengths of housing back and forth and even hit ’em w/ some lube. For the brakes you can lube the housings at the points where the cable enters and exits. (Note: Internal cable routing effectively eliminates this trick)
Once the cables are running as smooth as can be – it’s time for….
SPECIAL PROJECT #3 – Brake pads! Whether you were fortunate enough to finish B-R w/ function brakes or were among the decent percentage that were seen employing the “Flintstone Brake Maneuver” by the end, the fact is that wet gritty conditions beat the crap outta brake pads. Even if yours aren’t all the way gone, check them for wear and to make sure that there’s no grit embedded (that’ll ruin your rims or disc rotors).
Okay – that may sound like a lot of work but it’s r-e-a-l-l-y only about 45 minutes of good work – and you’ll be REALLY glad you did come Lowell 50 or the Hellkaat Hundie!

As always – stop by the shop w/ questions, issues, problems or just ‘cuz you wanna hang around and talk bikes!

Mike Clark has worked, owned, or operated bike shops most of his adult life. He has an inordinate amount of experience cleaning crud off bikes.

MikeClarkLandRun

Barry-Roubaix – The Final Countdown

Every year, hundreds of riders prepare to tackle West Michigan’s “Spring Classic”, the Barry-Roubaix, for the first time. Many of these riders haven’t tackled their chosen distance on gravel before. Others are looking for a benchmark against their peers. Yet others are gunning for a win. But if you haven’t raced Barry (the local nom de guerre for the event) before, what should you expect? How do you make final preparations?

Stay Fed!

The Barry-Roubaix is an unsupported race. That is, there are no official refueling points along the route. Support vehicles are verboten (and would be wildly dangerous) and the routes don’t cross paths with gas stations or other stops. A school or church group might offer a tiny cup of Gatorade, but riders need to be prepared to bring as much as they will need to finish strong.

Hopefully you’ve been planning your food and liquid strategy, but if not, expect to bring at least two “big” bottles (24oz is the standard) for the 36mi or 62mi routes. One bottle per hour is the typical recommendation, but your needs might vary depending on what kind of shape you’re in. Consider putting a third bottle in an extra water bottle cage, or putting one in your jersey pocket. If the forecast is wrong and it’s cold, make sure there’s enough sodium or sugar in there to keep it from freezing.

What about food? Don’t switch up your typical ride food at this point. In general you should never introduce a new food during a race, since you might discover that it doesn’t sit well when you’re riding even if you’re familiar with it off the bike. This is especially true of sports drinks and food, since they are very processed and dense. Dropping out due to indigestion is the most embarrassing way to end your day. If you’ve been eating PB&J for the past year, bring PB&J on your Barry bid. Plan on eating 300 calories or so per hour. Try and eat something every 30 minutes, and package your food so it’s easy to grab and eat while you’re on the bike!

In the morning, the general rule is to eat a hearty breakfast 3 hours before your start time, and then another 100-200 calories or so an hour before the start. This will give your body time to process the food without it putting all that energy into long-term storage.

Plan your pre-race setup!

Barry starts early, and you should get there even earlier. You need to get your kit on, sort out your tools and spares, gather up your food and make the final adjustments to your bike. If you live in or you’re staying in Grand Rapids, there’s a Friday night packet pickup at Founder’s Brewing. This will save you a half an hour or more in the morning on Saturday. Consider getting to Hastings at 7:00AM, as you’re going to have a tough time finding parking near the start. Get familiar with the venue map and know where the parking areas are.

Even though there’s a strong temptation to warm up during the beginning of the race, once the whistle blow you’ll be sailing on adrenaline and trying to keep pace with the rest of the leaders in your field. Spend 30-45 minutes getting the blood in your legs with a light to moderate effort. If you have a stationary trainer, put it in the car. It’s easier to get warm and stay warm if you aren’t roaming the streets of Hastings. If you do plan on warming up in the streets, pay attention to where you ride so you aren’t late to line up for your field.

Think about your kit. DO consider using chamois cream if you haven’t before. DON’T consider using embrocation if you haven’t before (bring leg warmers instead). Temps will go up as the day goes on, so even though you’ll feel chilly, start just a bit cold so you’re not boiling in a hardshell jacket a few miles in when the hills begin.

Don’t forget to use the porta-potties! PROTIP: take your gloves off and put them in your pocket BEFORE going in. Trust me.

Double-check your bike!

You may have gotten your bike back from a tune-up at the shop a few days before, but go back through and make sure everything’s the way you want it. Check your tires for debris lodged in the rubber. Lube and dry your chain the night before. Resist the urge to change your set-up! Go with what you know.

While you’re setting up your bike, make sure your cycling computer is charged and load the routes. The course is well-marked with marshals at most of the turns, but a computer will help you keep track of your pace and let you know how far you have to go.

Have fun!!

If all else fails, enjoy the camaraderie and share in the suffering of the riders around you. You’ll make new friends and have plenty to celebrate when you finally roll back into town! Chances are, you’ll finish the race and immediately be thinking to the next race! (such as the Hellkaat Hundie on April 22nd!)

I hope this helps you sort out the details for race day! Head to our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/algerbikes if you need any more tips for taking on this awesome challenge!

Chris is a 3-time Barry finisher, a 1-time DNF, and a 2-time spectator. He will be riding an absurd bicycle for the 2017 edition.

Avoiding the dreaded “JRA”

By Nathan Falls

You checked the weather. You inspected the kit you are wearing, filled water bottles, grabbed some energy bars, and strapped on your cycling shoes. After spending all that time getting ready, nobody wants to spend another 5 minutes to check their bike over. When asked to do a quick write up of a pre-ride bike checklist all I could think about was that feeling of “I just want to go ride!”

You get the bike out and give the tires a squeeze for pressure. Do you know what the range of PSI for the tire is (PROTIP: It’s printed or set in raised lettering on the side of every tire)? Tire pressure could be a blog in itself but for now making sure you know the range is important, and the max pressure is not always the recommended. Checking the quick releases or thru axles is a great next step. No one wants a wheel coming off during a ride. Grab each wheel and try to rock it from side to side. This will let you know if the axle is tight or if you have a loose hub.

Next up, grab the bars and while squeezing the front brake rock the bars, feeling for any play. This could mean you have a loose headset or stem. Put a hand on each crank arm and try the same side to side rocking motion to ensure the bottom bracket, crank arms, and pedals are not loose.

JRA

Yup, just riding along

Grab both brakes to ensure they are moving smoothly and pads are opening back up freely. Give the chain and good visual inspection, and if you have a geared bike, stand behind the bike looking at the derailleur hanger. Does the chain line up in a straight line from cassette down to both pulley wheels? If the rear derailleur is not straight this could likely be the culprit of poor shifting or a more serious mechanical failure during a ride. If everything looks good, shift through the gears a few times to make sure the shift cables are moving freely.

I know this sounds a bit like one of the many checklists we all do each day. But keep this in mind. Almost every time I am checking over a bike repair I hear, “I was just riding along.” The few minutes before a ride giving the bike a good once over can be the difference between a good ride and having the problem that means you are walking home. No special bike shop tools are needed, just a few minutes to make sure your bike is as ready as you are.

Nathan is our lead service writer here at Alger Bikes.

So, you are thinking about commuting by bike…

by Chris Jensen

Let me start by saying you’re making a fantastic decision. Across the US and the world, commuting by bicycle is gaining popularity. Starting the habit of riding your bike to work and errands can be daunting, however. I’m here to help you overcome the most common obstacles to taking up bike commuting.

Why commute by bike?

When you use a bike for everyday travel, the benefits are myriad: you save money on fuel and upkeep for your car; your fitness increases; you get the sun in your face and the wind in your hair. But on top of the obvious reasons, when you commute by bike, you become more alert and your work productivity increases (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29175088). Bike commuters are healthier, happier and more productive than the average.

Staying Safe

The most important aspects of staying safe while commuting is to be visible and be predictable. Drivers are by and large conscientious of the safety of others, and being present in their minds will go a long way to prevent you from a crash.

A good set of blinking lights is your best defense against going unseen, even in the daytime. State law requires a red rear reflector and a white front light at night, but a flashing white (front) and red (rear) draws attention to you. Most modern lights  are USB-rechargeable (like the Serfas E-Lume 850, $85) so you can make sure the battery is topped off at the office and overnight. If you want to go whole hog, you can get a dynamo-powered light that works from a generator in your front hub. These lights don’t require charging since they run off the energy you’re putting into pedaling.

If your commuting route takes you down dark streets, consider a blinking AND solid front light. Michigan is famous for it’s potholes, and nothing will ruin your day like a pinch flat from a sharp edge you didn’t see.

When we talk about being predictable, we mean maintaining a consistent path and using hand signals to make your intentions clear. Michigan law requests bicycle riders stay as far to the right as is practical, which means you can and should avoid debris and dangerous surfaces. Making sure you let drivers know that you’re going to change your position on the road is critical. The driver’s ed technique of signaling a right turn with your left hand in the air is a throwback to the driver-side window being there. It’s ok to point to the right with your right hand to signal. Motorcyclists like to “point” to where they are going to be, and cyclists should absolutely do this as well.



It’s important to respect the rules of the road and other road users. Don’t run red lights and stop at stop signs. Michigan doesn’t have an “Idaho Stop” rule yet, so slowing down enough that you demonstrate you’re respecting the rules goes a long way to encourage drivers to also respect your right to be on the road.

The Commuter Bike

What make a bike a commuter bike? It only takes you commuting on it. People commute on mountain, road, comfort, fat, any kind of bike.

If you’re looking for an option that isn’t your carbon fiber race rocket, consider a “hybrid” bike such as the Cannondale Quick (starting at $440).

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 A bicycle like this will be upright for a comfortable ride, and being upright allows you to look around you with ease. These bicycles also accommodate fenders and racks.

Fenders are what I consider to be “must-have” items like lights. They will both keep you and your bike clean when the conditions turn wet or snowy. The peace of mind that you won’t have to change your pants or hose down your bike after getting home from a long day at work will make it easier to make that decision to ride.

Carrying The Load

A lot of people take their work with them when they go in and leave the workplace, and there are plenty of ways to haul a laptop, notebooks, personal items and clothing. The sportier among us may opt for a backpack like the Thule Pack n Pedal. Contoured shoulder straps and back make it easy to maneuver while keeping your stuff secure. The downside to a backpack is that your back will almost certainly sweat. A change of tops at the very least is usually essential for the backpack commuter.

People usually associate commuting with panniers/saddle bags, and for good reason. Keeping your cargo off your body means you’re more likely to arrive at your destination without the telltale signs of the effort you’re putting into the commute. These bags attach to a rack, either front or rear. Rear racks are the most common, as they keep unfamiliar weight off your front wheel. Most commuter panniers have a quick-release handle to make the transition from riding to walking simple and easy.

Front racks or baskets are handy for miscellaneous baggage that might not fit on a rear rack, but the extra weight on your front wheel will affect your steering. Some people (myself included) prefer the front rack because of the flexibility they offer.

Staying Comfortable

Getting sweaty right before going into an office is likely the biggest objection people have to commuting by bicycle. With a bit of planning and some practice, you can travel miles to your destination without being a mess when you arrive.

Perhaps one of the best things people can do to mitigate the sweat is to simply not ride as hard as they think they may need to. Often, the time you might gain by pedaling harder is negated by stoplights and other things that you’d have to slow for anyway. As your fitness increases, you’ll be able to increase your speed or reduce your effort to suit your needs.

When choosing clothing in the summer, the more breathable the better. Being able to ventilate your body will keep your cool and improve your performance. With winter comes different challenges. Dressing for temperatures higher than what the thermometer reads will allow you to warm up to a comfortable temp after you start the ride.

If you’re looking to save money, be kind to the environment or simply pursue a more active, healthy lifestyle, commuting by bicycle is a fantastic choice. Come by Alger Bikes to get outfitted and get advice on how to achieve your goals and realize all the benefits from going by bike!

https://www.algerbikes.com

GAP ride 2016

gaptrail_mapupdate-01The Great Allegheny Passage is a 150 mile rail trail that runs from Cumberland Md, to Pittsburgh Pa. It’s largely flat, as rail trails usually are, and improved with cinder, although some small sections of it are asphalt.

Mike Roon of Michigan Coast Rider’s (MCR), America by Bicycle and Alger Bikes fame has been leading a ride on this trail during October for the last several years. It’s been a “friends of Mike Roon” type of ride, so maybe you haven’t heard about it, until now.

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The short bus – somewhere in Ohio

I was honored to be invited (well Mike told me I should go, that I would enjoy it, and that I needed it) this year. We left Thursday, October 6th about 6am and drove to Cumberland in a pair of MCR’s vans. Upon arrival, four of us took off on a short ride just to get rid of that car ride sluggishness that develops. Then we met the rest of the group for dinner and a cocktail, wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

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Cumberland, MD – Thursday eve – on the C&O Canal Towpath – yes 3 of us rode our fatbikes.

Friday morning we were up early and hitting the GAP trail at mile 0.

This group spanned from the very experienced to folks who were worried whether or not they could finish this ride. All in all a nice group of people, most of them better riders than they thought they were. Day 1 starts with 27 miles uphill to about Frostburg and the Eastern Continental Divide. Then lunch in Meyersdale at this great little restaurant that we totally overwhelmed, and on to Confluence to our hotel – yes hotel – I’ve camped, it’s great – I like a hotel. If you’d like to ride this trail sometime on your own and camp, there appeared to be plenty of nice facilities for that along the way. Day 1 is about 65 miles. Rain for part of this ride made a pretty big mess of our bikes, as much as I hate using a hose to clean my bike, it was our only option – fortunately the hotel was willing to let us use their water to hose off – suppose they don’t want that mess in the rooms though do they?

 

Day 2 was Confluence to Smithton, just over 50 miles, and almost all downhill, very slight grade – almost can’t tell – my Strava segment shows 737 feet of elevation – almost all of it in the last 2 miles where a few of us left the trail and rode to the hotel. We delayed our start in the hope that the rain would subside, and it did, for a while. Several of us stopped in Ohiopyle for a sandwich and a cocktail, kind of hoping the rain would subside. Ohiopyle is a cool little community established along a bend in the river, lots of kayaking and sights here. It’s beautiful all along this section, we saw a lot of the river and had better access to it than day 1. Our official lunch stop was in Connellsville. Several of the participants changed clothes, I just kept warm as much as I could while eating lunch, knowing that riding would warm me back up. Rain kept us on the trail most of the day. I stopped early and snapped a picture of the river because it seemed a shame not to appreciate the beauty of the area just because of rain. Did I mention it rained?

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The Youghiogheney river

Day 3 was Smithton to Pittsburgh. Got up to dryer but cool conditions. Rode the hill back down to the start of the trail, always enjoyable. We stopped to look at a few waterfalls along the way. As we got into Boston, PA, I made the group stop – my foot was freezing – shoe was probably still a little wet from the day before. The riding became much more urban as we got into the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Small towns give way to bigger towns, then small cities – some of the towns look like they haven’t really recovered since the steel mill days. As you get into McKeesport it starts to look a little nicer, but still abandoned factories… As we got near our destination I was really impressed with the city Pittsburgh has become. I’ll admit I’d envisioned an old town I’d probably not want to visit, but it’s really quite interesting and I would like to go back. Day 3 ended up being a little short of 40 miles. Mike took us to the top of Mount Washington (in the vans) for a view of Pittsburgh – gorgeous. There’s also a really pretty Catholic Church that overlooks the city up there.

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view from Mount Washington

This was a great trip.

Mike has decided to make the trip next year into an official Michigan Coast Rider’s event. You’ll be able to visit the MCR website and sign up. Price is $375 including transportation and food, you buy your own lunches, deserts, and drinks with dinner.

The road to the Dirty Kanza 200 – Part III

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by Don Lee

The bike.

This was the most detailed and complicated bike set up that I’d ever undertaken. It seems pretty obvious given the nature of the event. There are so many details that I considered that I wasn’t aware how involved the process was until I started writing it down.

I started with my 2015 Cannondale Super-X CX-1. It’s a hi-mod carbon fiber Cannondale cyclocross bike with 11-speed 1x SRAM Force and Velocity Aileron/Industry Nine pro-build wheelset. It’s my go-to bike. There may be more practical bikes, but it’s my favorite and I’m comfortable on it. For a 200 mile gravel race I think that’s very important.

I had a complete tear down and tune up in the fall near the end of CX season last year so everything was pretty well dialed. I decided based on Elliot’s recommendation to replace the chain and cassette. My chain and cassette were in good shape with somewhere between 1000 – 1500 miles of late season and pretty chill spring riding. From all accounts the DK 200 exploits every weakness… Physical, mental and mechanical and I wasn’t going there to quit because of an equipment failure. I stuck with the same gearing I use for CX season and Barry-Roubaix which is 42 x 11/28. I considered an 11/32 but my thinking was it might just be an excuse to bail when I should be pushing. I also went with the cheaper SRAM 1130 chain as suggested by Justin Naley due to the solid chain pins as opposed to the hollow pins on the SRAM 1170 which is what I normally run. I’m taking the chain I removed as a spare as well as three 11-speed SRAM Power Links for emergency repairs.

My carrying capacity was exclusively products from Revelate Designs. I purchased a size small Tangle frame bag, a Pika seat bag, and a Gas Tank that I borrowed from Chris Jensen.

I took some time and a couple shake down rides to get the contents of the bags organized in a way that made sense. I originally had all my tire repair supplies in my Pika seat bag. I only used about 35-40% of the carrying capacity of the seat bag. It’s HUGE and unobtrusive and I wouldn’t think you could carry so much in a seat bag. Leaving room gave me options for inclement weather clothing and having some flexibility is good for your brain. Josh Duggan pointed out that it would be pretty slow rifling through the seat bag if I needed to repair a flat. I ended up moving my very compact Cannondale Multi-Tool, Sefas Microblast inflator w/COs (2), a tube and Park Tire Boot to the Gas Tank. The Gas Tank has a small divider in it so even with those items in there I still had room for 3-4 bars and 3-4 GUs. With that my Gas Tank was set.

The small Tangle bag only contained three items. My Cannondale AirSpeed Max hand pump, a 70 oz. Camelbak bladder and a bandana that I used to protect the bladder from the pump and the zipper on the bag. The Camelbak bladder had the long insulated hose. I had a system of zip ties that kept it in place and allowed me to extend and retract it as needed.

The Pika bag contained my remaining tools and spares. This included a tire, tubes (2), COs (4), Presta adapter, Alien II Multi-Tool, derailleur hanger, bandanas (2), my phone and wallet. The Alien II has everything and I wouldn’t do a long race without it. The idea was to never have to get into this bag.

The bars on my CX bike are always double wrapped. I feel I have more control on rough terrain, less hand fatigue from over-gripping and more padding for comfort. I decided to triple wrap the bar with a gel-based bar tape from the hoods to the end of the existing tape near the stem for extra padding and comfort for what I imagined would be long periods of time spent on the hoods.

I also wrap the drive-side chain stay on all my bikes with a neat, double-layer of electric tape in order to protect the frame from chain slap. Clutched derailleurs alone will not protect your stay on the rough decents of the flint hills of Kansas.

The Tuesday before DK, Josh and I did Matt Acker’s Tuesday Night Gravel Adventure for a final shakedown. The previous Tuesday after the Founder’s TNR I had a conversation with Jeff Jacobi about what I thought were worn bearings in my Industry 9 hubs. He confirmed my suspicions based on my description and the next day asked Ryan Olthouse to get some bearings coming our way. I brought the wheels to Brian Walquist at Alger Bikes that morning a little desperate to get them back before Matt’s TGA that night. Jeff called me about 3pm with the good news that the wheels were ready! I was floored. He unfortunately had some bad news for me as well. Paul VanWesop had discovered that the Clement MSO tubeless-ready tire I had mounted on the front the night before was defective. It had a snake wiggle in the tread that was not going to be rideable.

I picked up the wheels directly from Velocity USA. The guys went way above and beyond turning these wheels around so I could get in my final shake down ride before leaving for Kansas the following day. Once again, I was feeling the love from our amazing local cycling scene and moved my piece one step closer to the DK 200.

I threw on an old tire for the shake down ride. Other than that, everything was set up the way it would be for the race. I liked the way the bike was rolling with the MSO on the rear, even though I was running an old Schwalbe with a tube up front, I could tell that the MSO would be a solid tire. I rolled fast and hooked up nicely. Brian got with the distributor to ship one out to Bill Hill’s hotel in KS so I figured I was all set. I was super bummed that Josh had a pretty bad crash during the ride that night. We cleaned him up, drank some beer, and ended up at CVS buying up mass quantities of Tegaderm while hoping for a speedy recovery.

At this point I have travel and lodging set. Support is in the exceedingly capable hands of the Apex Mulit-Sport Team, my bike is completely dialed and ready to rock and roll. Next… We race.

The Road to the Dirty Kanza 200 – Part II

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by Don Lee

The outreach to support my “little indulgence” has been heart felt and humbling. Sometimes we have casual conversations about the “cycling community” and how great it is, etc. blah, blah, blah. I’ve come to realize that it’s not cliché, but something deep and meaningful. So many people have stepped forward to help me get to this race and (hopefully) finish it. My team at Alger Bikes has been generous and helpful beyond expectations. Brian Walquist keeps putting up with every single request and last minute change I’ve come up with based on all of the great advice I’ve received. Justin Nalley has endured endless questions and has ensured I have everything I need for the bike. Bob Hammond has patiently allowed me to camp on a stand in the back and has twisted more wrenches on my bikes in the last twelve months than I think I have in my entire life. Nathan Falls has become my “stand partner” and a great resource to bounce ideas off.

I’ve had people from competing teams support me in ways that have both astounded and surprised me considering the level of energy and persistence required to do such a generous thing. Elliot Cooper, Sally Finkbeiner and Mike Bernhard from the Founder’s team for the great conversations about the race and setup, Mike Clark and Kathy “Kaat” Tahy from 3rd Coast Cycles (check out the 2017 HeelKaat Hundie if you love gravel) both pulled strings in Emporia to ensure that I would have the support I needed. Brad Rivard and Steve Kenneth advocated on my behalf with the Grand Rapids Bicycle Company riders who are heading to DK. The final hookup came courtesy of Kevin Soules of Team Apex by way of him introducing me to Bill Hill. I met Kevin just before CX season last year, he became a regular and good friend via the Questionable Traction CX practices that Chris Jensen and I organized.

Bill Hill is a four time Dirty Kanza 200 finisher. If John Despres is the West Michigan ambassador to the DK 200, than Bill is the commander-in-chief of the WM contingency. Bill is out to earn the coveted DK 200 1,000 Mile Chalice when he hits 1,000 miles of DK punishment this go-round on his fifth finish.

The DK requires every rider to have a support person. Minimally this requires you to have the phone number of a person with a vehicle who can bail you out if you destroy your bike, your body or your mind. Or if in Johnny D’s case last year, have so many flats that you run out of tubes (Johnny D’s NOTE:  I’ll share that my 7 flats with 6 tubes was 2014, not 2015. Last year saw me ride into town without a rear derailleur. 2014 I made it 93 miles while last year, I abandoned at mile 25 and rode back on my super slow SS.) Team Apex offers their teammates and as luck would have it, me… a significantly higher level of support than this.

I was invited by Bill to join the Team Apex DK 200 organizational meeting. I spent much of the time at the meeting texting notes to myself and trying to ask relevant questions. I learned much and felt fortunate to have been invited into yet another group of seasoned DK finishers. Plus there was an abundance of Founder’s All Day so I felt right at home. It isn’t lost on me that this group of people had endured in some cases, multiple DK200 experiences and had no trouble sharing every tip, trick and hack that they have collectively learned over thousands of miles of riding with me, more or less a complete stranger to most of them.

The conversation stayed mostly on track with a couple deviations including Chris Knight jumping in Rich’s pool in his kit, Troy Carr’s constant comic relief, recollections of being stuck in the mud, varied states of ass chafing, and of course, tire choice.

When the conversation turned to GPS there was some discussion about keeping your Garmin running for 14 hours plus. Through trial and error and tearing open a bunch of chargers in the Emporia WalMart, Bill discovered that there aren’t many battery operated chargers that you can plug into a Garmin with out having it shut down, reset and erase your entire DK effort. Jack Carpenter mentioned that he found a portable emergency charger that worked while the Garmin is running. Then he offered to lend his to me… I was pretty blown away considering we had only met thirty minutes earlier. I ended up getting one shipped to me in time but it’s always amazing to me how generous people in the cycling community can be.

We discussed the way support would work and what riders needed to have together for their individual support kit. For the most part everybody settles on some basics, but then individuals will detail out their support kit to suit their personal needs or perceived needs.

For Team Apex the individual support kit is a 15qt. plastic container. The example that Bill had was Rich Worth’s. It had his name and phone number, and three ¼ sheets of paper with an instruction/reminder list of things to do and or eat at each checkpoint. Rich also had a reminder to follow Rule #5 when things get tough at the end of each list.

The basics included repair parts, chamois cream, food, etc.
My kit specifically contains:

  • Spare Tire
  • Tubes (2)
  • CO2 cartridges (4)
  • Chain w/quick links
  • Zip ties
  • Wet wipes
  • Cycling shoes (spare)
  • Socks
  • Ziplocks
  • Zip Ties
  • Electric tape
  • Chamois cream
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Bars, GUs, peanut/cashew mix and Polish Dill pickles
  • Bandages
  • Food, Acetominephin, Ibuprofen, Enduralytes, multi-vitamins in three separate Ziplocks each labeled with a stop number.

Support is ready. Now to prep the bike.