2014 Bloomington Criterium

20140823_174902_IMG_2320This weekend I raced in the second annual Bloomington Criterium.  This year the event was made the Illinois state championship criterium.  I love that Bloomington Normal has a local triathlon race, mountain bike race, cyclocross race, and a criterium!  Just thinking about the local awesomeness makes me smile.  A big thank you to the race director Brandon Beehner, the volunteers, and all of the sponsors that made it happen!

20140823_161007_IMG_1834When I watched last years local crit from the sideline I was hooked.  The speed and tactics made it look like a lot of fun!  Earlier this year I did my first criterium to get my feet wet before the local crit.  As I’m new to racing crits I went into the state championship in category 5, something I previously tried to be moved out of but USA Cycling has strict rules about new crit racers.  My Bloomington Cycle & Fitness teammates and I worked well together and we had a large presence in my races and most other races as well.  In my Cat 5 race, I went into the last lap in fourth behind a very strong teammate and after he pulled me up half of the climb on the back straight I jumped off the front and laid it all on the line.  No point to hold anything back, and when I finished my sprint at the finish line, I found I was alone and in first place.  It felt amazing.  I was and still am a bit shocked.  I have to thank my teammates for working for me in the race and helping me be in the shape I am in, Scott & Caryn from Bloomington Cycle & Fitness for being awesome and taking care of everything bike related I need, and especially my wife for allowing me to spend probably too much time on a bike.

My amazing wife and I took a few (164) pictures of the races.  Click the link to see them all!

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Lee McCormack Skills Clinic

2014-08-16 18.11.13This weekend I joined a group of friends for a skills clinic with the talented Lee McCormack.  Lee is a devoted rider, award-winning writer, self-proclaimed “decent racer”, and instructor.  Some of my best cycling friends have had previous skills clinic sessions with Lee and when the idea of having him come to Illinois to put on a local clinic was presented, I was in!  The day was bittersweet because I had an incredible time and gained a lot of knowledge and practicable skills but the good friend who set up the clinic was unable to attend due to an injury.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical of what I would get out of the experience, not because of Lee’s skills, experience, or ability to teach techniques, but rather I doubted my ability break bad habits that have become second nature over the years.  It wasn’t long into the clinic that I realized this was probably the best money I’ve ever spent on cycling.  Concepts and theory that I’d only thought over were quickly put into physical practice allowing my body to safely experience these techniques.

We practiced a range of skills including cornering, weighting the bike, drops, and worked with rock gardens and other technical features.  Some things like cornering were skills I thought I had down before the session but it was eye-opening how much improvement was on the table when following Lee’s mountain bike Kung Fu!  I by no means have all of these skills dialed in after this one day session, but I feel like I have the tools and knowledge I need to continue to make progress.

We rode and sessioned a variety of trail and features at Farmdale in Peoria Illinois.  The drops, jump sections, downhill course, and other features make practicing a variety of skills easy and enjoyable.
2014-08-16 15.57.012014-08-16 11.24.13 2014-08-16 15.30.09Lee talked us over the technical features of the trail and showed us how to cleanly traverse them.  I found this very helpful as it allowed me to watch, process, and attempt myself.  I heard times when Lee would give the encouraging feedback that a rider had demonstrated the skills needed to nail the feature at hand and also when a rider should practice a skill in a safer manner until it is dialed in for consistency.  I really liked that I could put honest trust in him as he wasn’t a “you got it” guy.  When Lee said I had something, I trusted him, and that made a lot of difference to me.

2014-08-16 14.28.08 2014-08-16 16.21.14 2014-08-16 13.05.11 2014-08-16 15.02.15My new Stumpjumper has been great so far.  The ride is plush and the trail-oriented geometry provides confidence and soaks up my mistakes.
2014-08-16 15.56.14The group all seemed to take a lot away from the day.  I half jokingly said that if I could do the four plus foot drop in the skills area by the end of the day I’d be overwhelming happy with the day.  Others and I were doing this about an hour and a half into the day.  Furthermore, I wasn’t just hucking my bike off the ledge and hoping for the best.  I felt completely in control and confident in my ability.  Seriously different feel and experience from how I’ve felt in the past.
2014-08-16 11.29.00 2014-08-16 14.28.16-1By day’s end I was extremely happy with my progress and what I had learned.  Lee is a seriously fast and talented rider.  He is a great teacher and is very easy to work with.  He can explain and translate theory to you with demonstrations on your local terrain.  That was huge for me.  He evaluates your ability to safely and successfully attempt new skills which providing confidence.  I’d highly recommend working with Lee if you have the opportunity.  For me after today, it’s not a matter of if but when I’ll be signing up for more.
2014-08-16 15.31.59For more info about Lee McCormack and his books and classes you should check out his site http://www.leelikesbikes.com/

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Today On A Bike

2014-08-14 21.01.44-1Night rides on a mountain bike are a lot of fun, and last night’s was no exception.  When I first started to ride routinely five or so years ago the local weekly mountain bike night ride was something that seemed very foreign but now I think do more mountain bike riding under the moon than I do under the sun.

Strapping a light or two on a bike and following friends through the woods ups both the difficulty and the fun factor!  It also has a hidden benefit of make riding safer because approaching riders on two-way trail are much more visible than they are during the daytime.  This added safety mixed with more challenging trail and the routine post ride beers and conversations make this one of my favorite rides of the week!

2014-08-14 20.45.09 2014-08-14 20.51.12-1 2014-08-14-21.01.54-6

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TRP Spyre Disc Brake Review

MJ5L0909When I was thinking through my commuter build I knew I wanted disc brakes for their superior all conditions braking ability.  I also knew I wanted mechanical brakes to keep costs reasonable for a commuter.  Within those boundaries I choose TRP Spyre brakeset for a few reasons.  Most importantly, they feature dual pulling brake pads.  Unlike the vast majority of mechanical disc brakes on the market, when you pull the brake lever with the TRP Spyre brakes both brake pads compress equally.  This gives the brakes a consistent feel and an easier setup.

MJ5L0912 Since June I’ve spent a lot of time riding my commuter and I’ve formed some opinions about the TRP Spyre brakes.  The modulation and feel are both still good.  They have good stopping power and they have not come out of alignment since initial setup.  The brakes have plenty of clearance with the rear rack.

MJ5L0915 MJ5L0920Overall I have been happy with the brakes.  The only downside has been a touch of roughness between the pads and rotors when braking.  It’s not at a level that causes concern, but it’s worth mentioning.  When compared to Avid BB7 brakes I’ve used in the past, I like the TRP Spyre brakes much more based on look, feel, and ease of maintenance.

MJ5L0941

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2015 Sram Red 22 Hydraulic Disc Brakeset First Impressions

MJ5L0876I really like my Specialized Crux, so to say I was bummed when Sram announced the hydraulic brake recall last winter would be an understatement.  Furthermore, the recall took a serious toll on my faith and desire for Sram products.  The recall was the reason I switched my road bike order this spring from being a Sram equipped bike to a Shimano equipped bike.

Sram handled the recall as well as possible from my perspective.  They provided a mechanical brakeset to use while the new brakes were designed, manufactured, and tested.  The 2015 Sram Red 22 hydraulic disc brakeset arrived at my local bike shop around the time Sram said it would and shortly thereafter I had my Crux back to the spec it was when it was purchased.  I hope Sram took care of the local bike shops across the country with reimbursements for parts and labor.

I wanted to give the new brakeset a fair, open-minded chance.  This has been a bit tough because it’s hard to shake the thought that Sram had years of development and testing for the first set which had defects and now Sram was telling me to put my faith in their new set when they designed, manufactured, and tested this set in less than six months.

The 2015 Sram Red 22 hydraulic disc brakeset appears to be a completely different brakeset.  The shape of the hoods is bigger and shaped differently.  I have average sized hands for an adult male and these hoods are about as big as I can feel comfortable riding with.  They are not too large, but they are substantial.
MJ5L0880 MJ5L0879The modulation and lever range are greatly improved over the first generation.  The first generation brake levers would touch the handlebars when squeezed with force, a real problem when you were using gloves with any bulk on or wanted to switch a gear while breaking.  Now the brakes have great lever range with smooth braking and great modulation.  They simply feel great.
MJ5L0896 MJ5L0895The finish on the brakeset is great and has the typical Sram style design and flash.
MJ5L0883 MJ5L0886Time will tell how well these fair.  So far I am very happy with them.  Cyclocross season is approaching and I’m excited to put these brakes through their paces!

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