Dec 28, 2008

Back online, last race of the 'cross season

Cross season was long, painful and mostly dry — nationals and today's race were the exceptions. Boss Cross #3 was a fast course turned painful slog thanks to risings temps and melting snow.

A third of the course was faster on foot than on the bike.
Still a fun race, and a good way to end the season.

There are three more local 'cross races, but I'm burnt out. I'm ready to ride my bike in the woods, with friends, for fun.

Here are some shots of today's mudder, compliments of Roger Harrison.

Power washing is overrated.
Real men use the Missouri River to clean their bike, then jump in to clean themselves.

Sep 6, 2008

Weekend in review

I've been absent from the interwebs for a few weeks, school is back with a vengeance. I've still managed to have fun on the bike though.
I headed to Manhattan last weekend and joined their monthly Critical Mass. They had a fairly good sized group. Those kids are much more civil than the rable-rousers here in Lawrence.

Saturday was Cruise the Blues, if you're not familiar with the race, it's a uniquely Kansas cycling event. Nestled in the middle of central Kansas is Doug and Tracey Palen's farm. In addition to being a farmer Doug is also a passionate mountain biker. He has created a network of fast flowy singletrack which meander through his fields and pastures. Dodging cornstalks and cow patties is part of the experience.

The race loop is approximately 13 miles of hardpacked goodness. The trail was not as buff as it has been in years past, thanks to a downpour the week before the race. Nothing five hours of racing can't remedy!

My teammate, Cycle City's very own John Waller, and I launched our assault on the men's five-hour "glory" field. I had a good first lap and John had an even better second. Unfortunately for me, the previous night's overindulgence in cheap beer and pulled-pork sandwiches would not be silenced — a counter-attack on my stomach was launched. I hurriedly exorcised the demons in the nearest johnny and just missed my teammate riding in. We lost some time but still managed to hold off third place. We went home with money in our pockets. Not a bad weekend. Congrats to the dynamic Chambers duo for taking home the big win!

Aug 19, 2008

Rapture in Misery

I've raced and ridden at Landhal many times, I don't think conditions have ever been as good as they were for last weekend's Rapture in Misery. Mild temps and tacky hardpack made for ideal race conditions.

There's a bit of wisdom that says one should never race on untested equipment. Excellent advice, but I always seem to mix things up before race day. Many things have been mixed up this season and I've done what I can to make the best of it.

For this year's Rapture I was on a new frame, new drive system, and a squishy fork—first time I've spent any significant amount of time on a suspension fork in over a year. For endurance racing at Landahl I welcomed the chance to run suspension; it was nice to be able to plow through rockgardens, even when fatigue set in.

It did take some getting used to. Halfway through my fourth lap I crashed hard. There's a sharp left turn over exposed rocks and roots where, instead of braking, I lift the rear end and pivot on the front wheel to conserve momentum through the turn.

I did a poor job of executing this maneuver on my fourth lap. I leaned too far over the front and, as the fork rebounded, shot off the front, landing hard on my right side and twisting my right knee. I stood around for a few minutes, catching my breath and making sure my knee was still in working order. One racer, Kyle Shour, passed me while I getting myself back together. I struggled to catch Kyle, but he was hauling and my knee wasn't having it. I decided to try and make up time slowly over the next few laps—bad choice.

Of all the pit crews at Landahl mine was far and away the most spirited, thanks in no small measure to the free beer provided by the fine
folks at Heartland Sports.

Every time I rolled thru the pit raucous cowbells and empty beer cans greeted me. Unfortuntely, in their exuberance they mistakenly thought the racer who passed me was a lap down and relayed this golden nugget to me. I figured I was still in first and rode conservatively the rest of the day.

I ended up taking second, and had I known Kyle was not a lap down, I would probably have still finished second.

New Bike.

I'm not one to rant and rave about bikes until I get some time on them, but I'm enjoying the fit and handling of the Spot. It served me well this weekend—the belt-drive was certainly a conversation starter. More on the new bike in a future post.

Jul 29, 2008

In my search to create what friends have dubbed "The Josh Patterson Fantasy Bike Shop," I've found a great way to build a wheeled cart for my Park TS-2 truing stand.

I love building wheels—I find it very relaxing. Something about taking many disparate parts and creating a single strong, functional structure is very rewarding. One thing I've always wanted to build was a cart to hold boxes of spokes, spoke prep / linseed oil and my tensiometer. Well, I came across a ready-made solution.

I picked up a microwave cart, for free, and drilled holes in the top to mount my truing stand. It holds everything I need. I can wheel it around the shop, I could even roll it into the house and build wheels while watching Desperate Housewives.

I could.

Jul 22, 2008

First Race Back: Shawnee Mission Six Hour

I've been back in the U.S. for three weeks. Europe was great, Croatia was gorgeous, but I was off the bike for six weeks...and I hadn't been riding much before I left. Getting back in the saddle was a rude awakening.

I don't think I've been off a bike for a solid six weeks in many, many years. Since getting back, I've been spending my mornings logging in base miles on the road bike. Prior to this weekend, I hadn't ridden my mountain bike since April.

No better way to get back into the swing of things then a six-hour singlespeed escapade!

I mounted some fresh rubber, filled my water bottles and off I went. This was the first Heartland race at Shawnee Mission Park and the trails delivered. Very fast and flowy, with enough rocky sections to make things interesting.

Saturday was hot and sticky. I was looking forward to it. I knew I was not in shape for this kind of event but was counting on my secret weapon to give me an advantage, provided I could turn over consistent laps. The hotter it is the better I seem to perform, relative to others. The reason: I don't cramp. In 26 my years of existence I have never had a cramp.

I had a good start, there was a long grass section leading into the singletrack. By the time we hit the trail everyone had figured out where they needed to be. I traded laps with several singlespeeders of ill repute, Skip from Lincoln and Team Seagal from Saint Louis. The STL crew rolled in deep, nice guys too.

My first five laps felt good. After that, my lack of fitness began to show—I could maintain a consistent pace, but couldn't attack or power up the short climbs. I took a long pit stop to relax after my sixth lap and felt haggard for the last two laps. My hands took a beating from my rigid setup; towards the end I had to brake thru the rough stuff.

I came in from my eighth lap and called it a day. Considering my current level of fitness, I was more than content with a 3rd place finish in Men's 20-29 .

After the race I was looking forward to hanging out with my singlespeed compatriots around the beer cooler, but it was not to be.

"There can't be good living where there is not good drinking."
-Benjamin Franklin

One thing that makes a Heartland race a Heartland race was absent this weekend.
Apparently you can have alcohol in parks in Johnson County.
Boo Hiss.

Things I learned this weekend:
  • Maybe a suspension fork is not such a bad idea.
  • Hutchinson 29er Pythons are great race tires.
  • The key to comfort on a hardtail during a six-hour race is a Ti seatpost combined with a women's saddle—WTB DEVA—my ass has never known such decadence.

May 13, 2008

Disc brakes for all

I'll admit I have a fondness for disc brakes. I came to cyclocross from a mountain bike background. I haven't run rim brakes on any of my mountain bikes since 2000. I am happy to see them going the way of the Dodo.

Here's an interesting story from Velo News to peruse, Next big thing: disc brakes on road bikes.

Cyclocross is a different story.

Banned from cross? Well kinda. Depends on who you are and the sanctioning body under which you race.

Discussions of the pros and cons of disc brakes generally ignite heated debates among members of the cyclocross community

Many of the reasons given for not using disc brakes — weight penalty, overkill for road and cyclocross racing — have less to do with using disc brakes than using brakes designed for mountain bikes.

There's no way around it, discs will always weigh more than canti's. But they don't have to weigh as much as they do now. When it comes to using disc brakes with road levers there's very little selection. Last time I checked the number of mechanical disc brakes designed for use with road levers was two: the road version of the venerable Avid BB-7 and Tektro's Lyra.

Per wheel the road BB-7's weigh in at 361 grams. The Lyra has a published weight of 148 grams per wheel. These weights include caliper, rotor and mounting hardware.

The Lyra is sign of things to come; 140mm rotors instead of the traditional 160mm sizing reduce weight as well as stopping power. The reduction in braking power is not necessarily a bad thing. Disc brakes with equipped with 140mm rotors can provide more stopping power than cantilever brakes while decreasing the weight penalty.

There's a lot more that has to happen than designing road and 'cross-specific disc brakes. Frames, forks and rims all have to be strengthened. Even though it may be small, there's a weight penalty incurred in a disc-specific road or cross bike frameset and wheelset.

There are significant benefits. Disc brakes outshine rim brakes when conditions turn nasty. Mud, water, sand and ice wreak havoc on rims and brake pads while decreasing braking performance. Discs are less effected by adverse conditions. Wheel changes can be faster with discs, flip the quick release, pull the wheel out — no fussing with the brakes.

If I were to make a prediction, it would be that as commuter bikes become more prevalent, so too will disc brakes for road and cross. I don't think Sven Nys or Tim Johnson will be straddling disc-equipped race bikes anytime soon, but for the the weekend warrior — for whom a cyclocross bike is a commuter / utility bike first and a race bike second — discs make perfect sense.

Apr 30, 2008

Saying goodbye to an old friend

I enjoy having a garage full of bikes, but at some point enough is enough. When a bike sits unused for the better part of a year, and I have no motivation to take it off the wall, it is time to say goodbye.It's silly to get attached to full-suspension bikes. At the end of the day, they're disposable. The shock, linkages and bearings will wear out eventually. Even if you can find replacement parts a few years down the road, the pace of lighter/faster/more efficient hype has passed you by.

Full squish notwithstanding, this bike is hard for me to let go of — 2004 Specialized Stumpjumper, 30th Anniversary Edition. She served me well through my undergrad years, skipping class to explore the unending maze of trails that crisscross the George Washington National Forrest. My first expert race, first Shenandoah 100, my first 24 hour race and many great trips to Moab were spent aboard this bike. Fit and performance were perfect for my riding the time.

A few years ago while in the throws of a bad case of bike shop burn-out, I'd had enough. I couldn't stand working on my own bikes anymore. Something was always broken, needed adjustment, etc. I'm very particular when it comes to bike setup. Full suspension magnified this. Shock pressure, rebound and damping all had to be just right. Enough was enough. Bikes should not be money pits, and more time should not be be devoted to upkeep than riding.

In a fit of "fuckit" I stripped the gears off my Gunnar Rockhound, tore apart an old cassette for its 17 - tooth cog and got lucky, 32 x 17 work without a chain-tensioner. Perfect.

The Gunnar was a stopgap until I acquired a 29'er single speed. Since then the Stumpy's four inches of travel have not been needed. And, honestly, the bike feels damn weird to ride now.

Ciao bella.

Apr 10, 2008

Mass street hysteria

Within seconds of winning the national championship, fans spilled out of bars and onto the streets of downtown Lawrence. I've never seen so many people celebrating together. Everyone was in good spirits, many were three-sheets-to-the-wind drunk.

Festivities were much the same as Saturday night: total strangers giving each other hugs and high-fives, drinking in the streets and occasionally exposing themselves to the crowd.

By and large, everyone got along. The most the police did was to confiscate bottles and cans, "chug it or pitch it they'd say," plastic cups were fine.

Go here go see pics of the Mass. St. hysteria.

Apr 7, 2008

Brew to Brew

Saturday night KU beat UNC, shortly thereafter Lawrence became the drunkest city in the nation. Mass. St. turned into Bourbon St.

Sunday morning was the 14th annual Brew-to-Brew. A 44 mile race from the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, Mo. to the Free State Brewery in Lawrence.

Sunday morning came very early. I've felt better and I've felt worse — but I've never run 11 miles feeling that bad. Our four man team, "The White Trash Avengers," was spearheaded by fearless leader Mr. Joshua Stamper. I was most certainly the weakest link. I did my best to finish my legs of the race in a respectable time, despite my overindulgences of the previous night.

Weekend in review - 6 hours of suck

I've been delinquent in my updates as of late. Real life has taken precedence over the interwebs...

Saturday, March 29 was the Spoke Pony Showdown. The weather was perfect, the trails were fast yet tacky. I ran Continental Mountain Kings — 29x2.2 — corners were railed with precision.

The only thing thing absent was my fitness. I had some "gut-rot"— even if that had not been an issue, my legs just weren't there.

I think a lot of it had to do with the hard winter we've had in the Midwest this year. I actually had some base miles racked up last winter. Not the case this year. As a result, I fell from a second place finish in 2007 to somewhere in the middle of the pack this year.

It was still a good time. This was my first real mountain bike race of the year. I had as much fun catching up with friends whom I only see at races. I could have spend another six hours chatting and drinking free beer.

Mar 27, 2008

Issue #2 Now Available!

Cyclocross Magazine's second issue is hot off the presses!

If you already subscribe, you've either got your hands on it, or will shortly. If not, you can subscribe here.

Issue #2 is jam-packed with tech articles, product reviews and interviews with all the winners at 'cross nationals in KC. Not just the pros, we mean everyone, juniors, masters, you name it, we got'em.

Mar 23, 2008


I took my youngest brother and his friend out west for a few days of singletrack bliss in the wide open spaces of the western slope. Taylor and Graham are accomplished riders, with skills beyond there 17 years. Neither had rode Fruita or Moab before. This was their rite of passage.

I've led several groups to Moab. My favorite part of these trips is watching my friend's reactions to the vast landscapes.

There were quite a few people on spring break. We met people from all over the country. Most everyone was on blinged-out five and six-inch full suspension rigs. I only saw one other singlespeeder. To my surprise, I received several derisive comments on the combination of 29" wheels, rigid and singlespeed. Apparently that's not the proper bike to ride in Moab...

My default gearing of 32:18 suited the fast, flowy trails of Fruita. I did switch to 32:20 for the steeper grades of Slickrock. With the exception of several sections of Moore Fun these gearings made everything rideable.

On the way back we stopped at Spot Brand HQ in Golden Colo. to meet and greet the nice folks building my new ride. Gavin, Spot's product manager, was nice enough to give us a tour. Lots of cool stuff in the works!

Mar 14, 2008

Back in the saddle

As I had alluded to, 2008 ushers in many changes — new job(s), new goals and a new race team.

I've joined up with the Spot Brand / Dales Pale Ale crew to race bikes and spread belt-drive goodness. Spot is a company I have a great deal of respect for; it's nice to see them back with a vengeance. Spot has put together a strong roster and a great group of sponsors.

My team gear is starting to trickle in and I'm patiently awaiting the arrival of my team-issue frame. Can't wait!

Mar 12, 2008

Stan's No Tubes

I have a love-hate relationship with No-Tubes.

As a shop-rat I would mount No-Tubes conversions using an air compressor. Ninety percent of the time it works. For the other 10 percent, I would remove the valve core and use a schrader air chuck to get the maximum air volume into the tire fast enough to seat the tire without having sealant spew everywhere.

Done, ready to ride. Well kinda.

Tubeless works well, when it works – we're talking about non-UST here. Flat protection and better ride quality are why I do it. The downside is that on the trail you may not be able to re-seat a tire. So you throw a tube in and you're back to square one.

A few days ago I mounted a new pair of Continental Mountain Kings – 29x2.2 – on my Stan's 355 rims. I try to not rely on a compressor; I want all my setups to be "field serviceable" come race day. The Mountain Kings fit loose enough that they wouldn't seal with a floor pump.

Luckily there's a quick and easy fix for many loose fitting tires, just build-up the tape. I use 3M strapping tape, cheap, readily available and strong. A few layers on the rim and everything seated with a confident "snap."

Tubeless Tips: To ensure your tires hold air I've found the following works well.

1. Once inflated, hold the wheel with both hands and tap the tire against the ground while rotating the wheel. This ensures the bead is seated.

2. As soon as you've got the bead seated and the tire appears to be holding air put your wheels back on your bike and take it for a couple of laps around the block. This helps the sealant cover the entire surface of the tire.

3. If using tubeless conversions with non-UST rated tires do not exceed 40 PSI. If you inflate standard tires set up tubeless much higher than this, the force exerted on the tire can exceed the tensile strength of the bead. Boom! the bead fails and you are left covered in goop, with a ruined tire, looking like an idiot – been there.

More tubeless setup info can be found here.

It seems everyone who runs tubeless conversions has their own approach to making it work. One of these days I'll get around to brewing my own sealant.

Mar 11, 2008

Weekend on the La Cruz

This showed up at my doorstep last Monday. The Salsa La Cruz, disc brake equipped 'cross bike, to review for CxM. I didn't have time to put any miles on it until the weekend. Even without riding it, I liked what I saw. It has three things I look for in a bike: a ferrous frame, disc brakes and a well-appointed component spec.

I had a choice: spend Sunday logging in gravel miles, or race mountain bikes on what I knew would be a very muddy course. I choose the latter. The Midwest Fat Tire Series promoters decided not to cancel the race. Instead they made an alternate course, which included XC ski trails, gravel roads and some paved sections. It was less a mountain bike race than it was a really long 'cross race. I figured this was the perfect trial-by-fire for the La Cruz.

I pulled the stock Panaracer Crossblasters off and replaced them with a pair of Ritchey Zeds - 700x42. These were my Dirty Kanza tires two years ago. I figured the nature of the race course – relatively flat, smooth, nothing technical – would favor 'cross bikes over mountain bikes.

For the most part I was right. What I didn't count on was the thick mud that made even gentle inclines a slog. The combination of gumbo mud and longstem grass quickly made every rider's drivetrain, seatstays and chainstays a sodden mess. As a result, I quickly found myself over geared – 48/38 in the front combined with a 12-27 cassette in the rear – and spent the modicum of fitness I had in my legs.

My first impressions of the La Cruz are favorable, it's not quick, but predictable. It handled everything I threw at it, and even if it was not the perfect bike for the course, it was good enough for a 4th place expert finish.

...I like to think of it as 'the first place cross bike.'

Mar 5, 2008


Every now and then something reminds me how glad I am to live in Lawrence, Kan. This morning it was opening the Journal World and reading the two front page stories. One delt with a curbside recycling proposal, the second was about a Northern River Otter spotted in the Baker Wetlands. This is the first time in over a hundred years this critter has been seen in the region. Other cities would have relegated this story to page 10A. Not Lawrence, we're proud of our water weasel.

Lawrence is a little town with something for everyone. Esquire Magazine recently named the Replay as one of the “The Best Bars in America.” It's got friggin' Pabst Blue Ribbon Bowling, how could it not make this list!

Other accolades the city has recieved include being one of the best cities to retire in and best cities to educate your children in. lists Lawrence, Kan. as one of the "Top 10 Smartest Cities In America." Other Midwestern cities that made the list are Madison Wis. and Columbia, Mo. Number one on the list is the People's Republic of Boulder. Which, having lived there, would make the list for the top 10 flakiest cities in America. offense.

Mar 1, 2008

Saturday gravel century

The crew at Heartland Sports Productions canceled the first race of the season. Good call.
After a winter like this the trails will take a while to drain. Saturday's forecast called for sunny skies, warm temps and high winds. The trails may be too soggy but it was a great day to ride gravel.

When the wind is out of the south, prevailing wisdom says one should head south into the wind, and then enjoy the tailwind on the ride home. I said screw-it. The roads I wanted to explore were to the North. My only goal was to get myself lost. I rolled out of Lawrence, across the river bottom and into the hills. The mosquito drone of Michelin Muds on hardpacked country roads was a welcome sound; it's been at least a month since I've done anything more than commute.

I knew I'd have a hard ride back when I checked my GPS as I rode up the first big climb: 21.8mph, uphill on gravel—feels great now, will hurt later. The local mutt population was in full force today and gave chase every chance they had.

For the most part, the roads were in premium condition. Only in the lowlands had fresh gravel had been laid. The ride back was as expected, half the speed of the ride out—fighting to stay upright and maintain momentum.

What a great first day of March. I got some base miles in and managed get a farmers tan too.

Feb 17, 2008

Pre-season shit-talking

March 2nd ushers in the first race of the season. With two weeks to go I invited my friends over to use my shop for pre-season tune-ups. There’s something about combining men, tools and Pabst that inevitably leads to shit-talking.

The dialogue begins with questions attempting to size one another up, “So, you been ridin’ much this winter?” Followed by the persistent reply, aimed to protect your lack of fitness, or—if you have been covertly getting in base miles—hide your advantage, “Nah, not really, I’ve been sitting on my ass, I’m so out of shape.”

After a few more PBR-fueled posturings, the conversation shifts to riders outside the present company. We trade assessments and queries of other racers: who has put on weight, who switched teams, who’s riding what bike, who's sandbagging and who’s overrated?

Then we guestimate the wildcards, those racers that—like a Mongol hoard—sweep down upon our fair state to invade our local races from the foreign lands of Nebraska and Iowa. “I read on his blog that he had a kid. I don’t think he’s been able to do much riding.” Or the always-false assumption, “Those guys don’t ride through the winter like we do.”

Each year it’s the same: the same questions, the same replies. It’s an important ritual that fosters a sense of camaraderie and serves to motivate riders who’ve spent the winter doing more drinking than pedaling that it’s time to get back in the saddle.

Feb 16, 2008

Endless Winter

For the past two months I've been testing winter shoes from Lake, Northwave and Specialized for Cyclocross Magazine.

They have all, to varying degrees, kept the elements at bay and made riding through a Midwestern winter more bearable.

Look for a full review in our fall '08 issue.

Personally, I hate winter. I've seen enough snow this year to last me a lifetime. I hate riding in freezing temperatures, but it beats sitting on my ass. I definitely have not done as much training as I would have liked—I have no illusions of grandeur, of decimating the field, I'll be content to hold my own until Kansas thaws.

This will be an interesting race season for me; many changes have been made. All of them for the better. Stay tuned for more details.