Monday, December 15, 2014

More Thoughts On The Bike Park

I have done some additional reconnaissance since last Thursday, when I wrote about the potential for a permanent bike park at West Bend’s Park Site O. I also received some suggestions from interested cyclists, one of the most intriguing of which was to include the woods when designing the cyclocross course. My original draft of the cyclocross course looked a lot like Badger Prairie, but a short dash through the woods would make the course look a lot like Cam-Rock. I think that’s a good thing.

Imagine the start/finish near the parking lot and a counter-clockwise rotation. The blue dot represents the likely location of a double-entry pit area for some future race. It comes at about 0.4 miles and 0.9 miles of each lap. In the woods, by avoiding the conifers and staying among the deciduous trees we easily could maintain a 10-foot-wide corridor for the course. Much of this course hugs the perimeter of the prairie, making the job of grass cutting as easy as possible. Parts of the course that traverse the interior of the prairie would require more careful mowing. At the end of the lap the course makes several trips up and down the hill. For cyclocross, Park Site O would be a challenging venue.

But as a venue for mountain biking, I would like to see Park Site O develop in a beginner-friendly way. Think of it as an alternative to Glacial Blue Hills, which is an intimidating place for newbies. At Park Site O, the quarter mile of cyclocross course that passes through the woods could be the backbone of the mountain bike trails: a gentle introductory trail to which we could attach a couple of more challenging, singletrack loops.

In the map below, I have tried to show the property boundary (red) and the location of Quaas Creek (blue).

I think the woods to the north are off-limits and that’s a shame because trail-building would be easy work there. The southwestern third of the property would be an easy place to build too … once you reached it. At least one bridge over Quaas Creek would be needed and I don’t know where it would be best situated. There are wetlands and other areas of heavy vegetation along the creek. The northwestern section of the property would be difficult to develop, but not impossible. I think we could get about half a mile of mountain bike trails out of Park Site O before we had to bridge the creek, and maybe 2 miles overall. You could weave around every tree just for the sake of making the trail longer, but on very non-technical terrain that would be silly. And once it’s built, it needs to be maintained, so let’s keep it simple.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Busy On 12/13/14

I chose the 29er for today's all-conditions ride.

If I say, “Saturday, December 13,” you probably do not think, “A full day of cycling in Wisconsin,” but that’s exactly what today was.

As I ate breakfast I watched the live webcast of Scheldecross from Belgium. That new Chromebox makes the viewing experience so much better, and I get to enjoy it again tomorrow morning for Zilvermeercross.

After breakfast I checked out the Milwaukee Area Bike Swap. The event has been running every winter since 2008—it was held in the UW-Milwaukee student union through 2012, then moved to Riverside High School—and it has always been on my calendar, but this was the first time I actually went. For $5 it was cheap bike-related entertainment and a chance to see some friends. There were many great deals, but I didn’t need anything.

Returning to West Bend early in the afternoon, I did a 1-hour ride with Jeff Wren through Royal Oaks Park, then up the Eisenbahn for a few miles, then through Glacial Blue Hills and Regner Park. We were wind-blown and mud-spattered, but happy to be riding outside this late in the year.

At 4 p.m., I joined four other people for what might prove to be the final meeting of the Washington County Bicycle Club. We agreed to cease operating as a formal club, but we are hopeful that the creation of a standing Saturday ride will give area cyclists a framework in which they can come together as a group. Some of the details still need to be worked out and that probably will happen after additional discussion on Facebook. Basically, what was the WCBC is now a Facebook group. West Bend has a standing Thursday evening ride that exists outside of any club structure. Our hope is that the Saturday ride also will organize and regulate itself without formal leadership.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Imagining A Permanent Bike Park For West Bend

Last Saturday the Daily News ran an article about Park Site O, almost 78 acres of city-owned land for which West Bend has no development plans. It’s a nice property whose size and natural features are nearly identical to those of Regner Park. But unlike Regner, Park Site O is a somewhat isolated property without residential neighbors. Since the city acquired the property in 2002, there has been no public demand for development. In the Daily News article, the city’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry said he thinks development of Park Site O could still be at least a decade away.

Back in 2011, I was thinking about Park Site O as a potential bike park. Clearly, some of that was just fantasy. As cool as it would be to have a velodrome in West Bend, usage would not justify the construction and maintenance costs. But what about a permanent cyclocross course, singletrack for mountain biking, and a pump track? Those possibilities have more realistic requirements—just labor, really, not materials.

I can imagine Park Site O as the new home for cyclocross in West Bend, a replacement for Royal Oaks Park and potentially a venue for sanctioned racing. The Royal Oaks practice course has served us well for the last three years but it is too short to host an actual race and there’s no off-street parking. At Park Site O the entire course could be established with a lawnmower, and barriers—perhaps just small logs dragged out from the woods—could be left in place permanently. The course would be available anytime, not just for an hour or two on Tuesdays in August and September. Creating the singletrack would be mostly an exercise in raking leaves and removing fallen branches. There are few rocks at Park Site O, and little elevation change. And the pump track doesn’t have to be an expensively manufactured feature like the one in Port Washington; it could be constructed out of dirt. The pump track would have a very small footprint and could be placed anywhere with level ground. I don’t yet know exactly where the singletrack would go. The cyclocross course might look something like this:

It would be contained within a rolling, open field:

Trails in the field would connect to singletrack in the woods beyond. The woods to the north and immediately to the west consist of widely-spaced trees and few natural obstacles. You could create beginner-friendly trails almost anywhere within them, and that would be a nice complement to the more challenging trails of the city's Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area.

Turning Park Site O into a bike park would be a big job and certainly is not something I could do alone. But it is an idea that might excite the local cycling community. We'll see. In August I contacted Parks, Recreation & Forestry to see whether I might use Park Site O for cyclocross practice and that idea was well-received. The prospect of development without cost should excite City Hall. The city also can take comfort in knowing that if someday it decides to use Park Site O in a different way, all of my proposed changes would disappear after a few months without maintenance. The goal, of course, is to create something so worthwhile that lots of people will use it and be willing to take care of it for years to come.

Friday, December 5, 2014


I delayed the call as long as I could, but I think I knew for at least the last few days that I wouldn’t be lining up tomorrow at the state cyclocross championships. I won’t blame the lingering soreness in my left hip and my lower back from a little crash on Tuesday’s training ride. After resting on Wednesday, yesterday I got on the indoor trainer for an hour without any real discomfort. And while the weather forecast isn’t to my liking—at 9 a.m. tomorrow the wind chill will be around 20 degrees—I still might have done the race if I felt prepared.

The big problem is that I have lost so much fitness since my last race and I know I would not be competitive. I have ridden just 103 miles since Cam-Rock Cross on November 8 and my indoor workouts have not been sufficient. Weight is up, fitness is down, and psychologically I am unable to rally myself.

My 2014 race season is over but I have not given up on riding. We will have some days in the high 30s and maybe even the low 40s during the next week or so. There’s no pressure to train now—I don’t expect to race again until at least May—but the deeper into the winter I ride, the better prepared I will be for next season. Slow base miles will be just fine for a while.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cycling At 1.4 GHz

The components.

Cyber Monday was good to me. My new toy arrived today: an HP Chromebox. It’s a stripped-down personal computer with a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, and an HDMI output. Basically, it’s a web browser for my living room TV. For just $149.99, I could not resist.

The purchase was motivated almost completely by my love for cycling. I don’t watch a lot of television, but I do watch a lot of bike racing on the Internet. That has meant hundreds of hours in the home office—where I spend too much time already—staring at a 22-inch monitor. Now I can watch bike racing on a much larger screen and in greater comfort.

Up and running!

If you are familiar only with the cycling coverage from American TV networks, then you might be surprised by the quantity and quality of live webcasts. Some of my favorite events are available only on the Internet, but even televised races can be better online. Tour Tracker is a great alternative for races like the Tour of California, the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge, providing many additional hours of coverage, tons of on-screen information to augment the commentary, and (usually) video that continues during commercial breaks.

Today I can only play around with YouTube videos of completed races, but this weekend there will be live cyclocross to enjoy!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

5,117 ... And Counting

Possibly the 2 most important miles I have ridden so far this year ...

With 22 miles split between my mountain bike and my cyclocross bike, today I reached 5,117 miles, year-to-date. That’s a personal record, beating the 5,113 miles I rode in 2011. For the first 20 miles of today’s ride I used the mountain bike, taking advantage of its wide tires as I passed through a succession of city and county parks where some of the trails were still covered with snow.

The 2 miles I rode on my cyclocross bike were at Dretzka Park in Milwaukee, a preview lap of next Saturday’s state cyclocross championship course. With temperatures in the low 40s today, the snow melted quickly (though not completely) and the course was muddy but rideable. If the weather forecast is correct, then the course should dry out during the next week.

Now that I have seen the course, I really want to race it. The course is not super-technical and it features a long climb that should be a good place for me to distance a couple of my rivals. But I haven’t raced since Nov. 8, my training volume has decreased and my weight has increased. I need a good week of training, outside, to give me the confidence to do well next Saturday.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bike Friday

Forget about Black Friday insanity at the “big box” stores. Get over to Pedal Moraine tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., or on Small Business Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for great deals and service from people who care about your cycling experience.