Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Over Here, Out Of The Way

The Wisconsin Cycling Association’s cyclocross calendar is always a work in progress. I have no problem with that; I know it’s hard to get commitments from host clubs and communities. But since the announcement of the 2022 calendar on May 24 we have seen significant changes and don’t be surprised if there are more to come.

The first published schedule placed the season opener in Sheboygan Falls on September 3. That race not only moved to October 16, but also moved to Evergreen Park in the City of Sheboygan. And that made the Milwaukee Bicycle Co. CX Classic on September 10 the new season opener … until it got cancelled. So, now we’re looking at a season opener on September 11 in the Town of Waterford.

If I am not mistaken, the cancellation of the Milwaukee Bicycle Co. CX Classic means 2022 will be the first full season in WCA history without a race at a Milwaukee County Parks property. And while I have no insider information about the negotiations between race promoters and Milwaukee County, it seems like that relationship got much harder to manage after the 2015 Halloween race turned Washington Park into a muddy mess. To avoid an encore, Milwaukee County cancelled the 2016 Washington Park race as soon as rain appeared in the forecast, and other Milwaukee County dates have been disappearing ever since. Hampshire Cycle Club moved its long-running race from Estabrook Park, a Milwaukee County Park property, to Wern Valley Sportsmen’s Club, a private facility in Waukesha County. The only race in Milwaukee County this season will be Hill Bill at The Rock in Franklin, which is privately managed.

So, none of our races are actually in our two largest cities, Milwaukee and Madison. You have to wonder about the long-term effect of almost never racing in front of a crowd, almost never engaging the community beyond the existing pool of racers.

If we omit the non-series Trek Cup, then 5 of our 14 dates are on courses that are privately owned and/or managed:
  • The Rock Sports Complex, Franklin
  • Englewood Farm, Fall River
  • Angell Park Speedway, Sun Prairie
  • Wern Valley Sportsmen’s Club, Waukesha
  • Trek Headquarters, Waterloo
You wouldn’t expect races at those locations to attract attention from anyone other than the participants themselves. And the situation is only marginally better at these 7 facilities, which are best described as destination parks, not neighborhood parks:
  • Waterford Town Park
  • Silver Creek Park
  • Badger Prairie County Park (Dane County)
  • Fox Crossing
  • Richfield Nature Park
  • Evergreen Park, Sheboygan
  • CamRock County Park (Dane County)
That leaves only Waterloo Firemen’s Park and Grafton’s Lime Kiln Park as true neighborhood parks where an unsuspecting public might bump into a cyclocross race and say, “Hey, that looks like something I’d like to try!”

Racers probably don’t care whether they race on public or private property. They’re happy enough just to race. And in some instances, holding a race in an out-of-the-way location is the only way to hold the race at all. But I worry a little about exposure for and access to the sport. How would someone who doesn’t already know about cyclocross find cyclocross? Word-of-mouth promotion still counts for something, but how do people find it on their own?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

West Bend Receives Grant For Safety Study

Last month the City of West Bend applied for a grant to study safety issues facing pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter users. Today the city announced that its application was approved and the study will move forward in 2023. It will be interesting to see the results of the study, and based on those results there may be infrastructure improvements in our future. Stay tuned.

Here is the full text of the city’s official announcement:
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has awarded the City of West Bend a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant worth $220,000 to fund a Safety Study for Pedestrians, Bicycles and Electric Scooters.

The City of West Bend actively seeks programs and grants that maximize the ability to accelerate and complete important infrastructure projects. Collaboratively, the Administration, Economic Development, Engineering and Police Departments developed the TAP grant application to fund a safety study that will examine crossings of state highways, main arterial roads, high-traffic roads, and the historic downtown. The City of West Bend will request proposals for a consult to conduct the study. This evaluation of existing roads and routes will help the city team prioritize infrastructure projects to offer safer pathways, crossings and intersections for multi-modal transportation. The study will identify areas in the city that could benefit from greater connectivity through future improvement projects. It will also facilitate economic development by increasing opportunities for bicycle, pedestrian, and electric scooter traffic throughout the City of West Bend—particularly in the historic downtown, Eisenbahn State Trail and Riverwalk.

“The City of West Bend is committed to the safety of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter riders,” said Police Chief Tim Dehring. “We look forward to conducting this study in 2023.”

A statewide selection committee competitively rated and ranked applications across three geographic population areas (0-5,000, 5,000-50,000, 50,000-200,000). Additionally, Transportation Management Areas (TMA) selected projects within their geographic boundaries. A full list of awarded Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) projects proposals can be found on the WisDOT TAP website (https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/doing-bus/local-gov/astnce-pgms/aid/tap.aspx).

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

My 2022 Framed Gravier




Yes, it’s New Bike Day again! This one’s a 2022 Framed Gravier and it will replace my other bikes for gravel grinders, recreation trails, and urban rides. And I do a lot of those. I’m very fond of mixed surface rides around West Bend, combining paved streets and trails, gravel trails, turf trails, boardwalks, and even short sections of dirt singletrack. The new bike will handle it all with ease. This is the new workhorse.

My 2013 BMC granfondo GF02 will continue to be my road bike. Let’s see if we can extend its life a bit by not asking it to do more than you would normally expect of a road bike. My 2017 Trek Boone will continue to be my cyclocross bike, but it also will serve as my indoor trainer bike. I have two wheelsets for the Boone. One will stay set up for cyclocross; the other will stay set up for indoor training.

I briefly considered buying a used bike to devote exclusively to the trainer, but anything decent was going to cost at least a few hundred. To me, it made more sense to get a new bike that is better suited to the roles in which I was trying to make my other bikes fit. (It should go without saying that my 2021 Giant Anthem mountain bike will continue to be only a mountain bike!) If you’re thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have sold one or two of the bikes I thought I no longer needed, then you may be right. My Diamondback Steilacoom, for example, would still be fine for gravel, rec trails, and indoor training. But there’s no going back, and the new bike is another step toward an all disc brakes future.

Framed is a small company from Minnesota and a great option for the value-conscious cyclist. I was drawn to the Gravier for its carbon frame and fork, and for its efficient simplicity: the drivetrain is a reliable 1x11 SRAM Apex/Rival mix, and the disc brakes are mechanical, not hydraulic. Yes, hydraulic brakes are stronger, but they come with a lot more fuss and bother. And at the Gravier’s price point—only $1,600 for the complete bike—you accept a few compromises. Try to get a similar setup from a big company like Giant or Trek. They wouldn’t sell you a comparable frame by itself for $1,600. The Gravier came tubeless-ready but not tubeless, so that’s a future project. And I may replace that beefy aluminum seatpost with a carbon fiber one to cut weight and to improve ride quality.

I don’t know whether this bike will ever see competition—hopefully there are gravel grinders in its future and not cyclocross races in relief of a broken Boone—but it will get a lot of use in training. I had a fun time with this evening’s 32-mile shakedown ride on the Eisenbahn State Trail. We’re off to a good start.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Always Faithful: Tarra Gundrum’s Ride To Remember 9/11

Life’s an adventure for West Bend’s Tarra Gundrum. Two years ago, the accomplished US Marine Corps veteran did her first bikepacking tours and on August 14 she will begin another: a 950-mile expedition to Washington DC to raise funds for the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial and Education Center in Kewaskum.

Gundrum has set a goal of $25,000 to support the memorial’s ongoing mission: to build and sustain a 9/11 memorial to remember the victims, honor those who responded, celebrate the resilience of our communities and country, and educate future generations. Gundrum’s fundraising efforts will support the education goals of the memorial by providing lesson plans and activity guides to students throughout Wisconsin.

Her trip will include a ferry crossing of Lake Michigan on the first day. She then will ride through Michigan and Ohio before stopping in Pittsburgh to celebrate another of her causes at the Black Girls Do Bike annual meet-up. When her tour resumes, Gundrum will continue through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia before reaching Washington DC. She hopes to visit with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to discuss still another of her priorities, I Am Not Invisible, a program for female veterans of the US armed forces.

Returning to Wisconsin by train on September 3, Gundrum will ride from Milwaukee to the southern terminus of the Eisenbahn State Trail at Rusco Drive. That’s where the final leg of the journey will begin.

“I am welcoming the community of supporters to ride the final 10 miles,” Gundrum says. “Just a meet-up; nothing formal.”

Departing from the Rusco trailhead at about 5 p.m., Gundrum will ride up the Eisenbahn to Kewaskum to finish the journey at the memorial by 6 p.m.

The trip will be a huge effort that requires not just physical toughness, but also the right equipment and no small amount of planning. Gundrum has learned a lot from previous bikepacking trips, including a week-long ride in Summer 2020 on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, which once again will be her connection between Pittsburgh and Washington DC.

Her physical preparations have included a long (50+ miles) fully-loaded trip every week for the past two months, plus frequent commutes between her home and her workplace: 22 miles roundtrip on “the hilliest route I can find!”

Having reliable gear and knowing how to use it will be critical to a successful trip.

“I’ve taken many ‘shakedown’ rides by traveling in my neighborhood and then setting up camp in my backyard, without going into the house,” Gundrum says. “It really helped me to get back in the mindset of bike touring.”

What’s different this time?

“I had way too many items that I did not need,” Gundrum says, “and I learned to improvise by using the same items for multiple purposes. I learned that all of my years of carrying zip ties as a ‘MacGyver tool’ finally paid off when 2 of 4 panniers broke. Zip ties saved my life! I moved away from clipless pedals because I only want to carry one pair of shoes.”

What else has experience taught her?

“I learned that people are genuinely good. My first tour (Michigan, Spring 2022) restored my faith in humanity at a time when the entire world was broken. I found reinforcement in the fact that with a strong mind and faith in God, all things are possible.”

To promote her tour, Gundrum will appear at the Downtown West Bend Farmers Market on Saturday, August 6, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. CDT. For updates on the tour as it progresses, check out her YouTube and Facebook pages.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Miles In 2022 Are Still Coming Hard

Today's ride featured some of the best roads in the Northern Kettle Moraine.
Today I surpassed 2,000 miles, year-to-date. Last year I surpassed 2,000 miles on July 3, so I’m about three weeks behind last year’s pace … right now. In 2021, I had a big July and a record August. It’s going to be hard not to fall even farther behind during the next several weeks. But September 2021 was pretty average and October was a full-on disaster because of my big crash. If I stay healthy this year, then eventually I should cut into my mileage deficit. Right now that deficit is 525 miles. I’m 17 rides behind last year’s pace and my per-ride average is 1.3 miles lower. I still expect to beat my official goal of 3,612 miles this year, but it will be a challenge to top last year’s total of 4,704.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Presenting The 2022 Royal Oaks CX Practice Series


After two years lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're back! And we're moving from Tuesdays to Thursdays. So, get ready, because #crossiscoming!

Monday, July 4, 2022

A Few Notes For July 2022


Independence Day fireworks aside, today is going to be quiet for a lot of people. It’s a Monday that acts like a Sunday: a day without work for most of us, a day without mail and banking and stock markets. Today also will be hot by Wisconsin standards: 80-something degrees. That’s enough to make a lot of cheeseheads languid. But before they feel too sorry for themselves I hope they will take some comfort in knowing that West Bend hasn’t seen a 100° day since July 4, 2012.

If you’re a cycling fan, then today also is a day without the Tour de France. This year’s edition began in Denmark last Friday and today is an early transfer/rest day as the riders prepare for the first stage on French soil tomorrow.

I’m already irritated with the cycling press, whose predictions proved incorrect when Yves Lampaert won the Stage 1 individual time trial. Lampaert’s victory was universally regarded as a “surprise” by the journalists who had overlooked him in favor of world champion Filippo Ganna, the versatile Wout van Aert, and other contenders. But if you were surprised, then you weren’t paying attention. Lampaert was the Belgian national TT champion in 2017 and 2021. With his Etixx-QuickStep teammates, Lampaert won the 2016 UCI World Championships men’s elite team time trial. This is a guy who performs well against the clock, and to dismiss his Stage 1 victory as a fluke is misinformed and disrespectful.

The journalists are probably going to fare better with their pick for the general classification when the race concludes in Paris on July 24. Two-time defending champion Tadej Pogańćar will be hard to beat.

I don’t expect to watch much live coverage of the Tour. I’m getting my fix with extended highlights and interviews. And I didn’t watch much of this year’s Tour of America’s Dairyland, which concluded on June 26. I went to Shorewood on June 24, but I was in a sour mood and left before the end of the men’s pro race. I think ToAD suffered from a lack of star power this year. There was no “must-see” rider, and crits are simply not that interesting. As a fan, I’m far more interested in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, and I’m looking forward to three events this month: Lenzerheide, Switzerland (July 8 & 10), Vallnord, Andorra (July 15 & 17), and Snowshoe, West Virginia (July 29 & 31).

My own mountain biking ambitions are pretty humble. For now, I just want to enjoy the trails again, and only more practice is going to fix me. Last Friday I rode at New Fane for the first time since September 2015 and I was absolutely awful. Trails that once were so familiar now seem filled with hazards at every turn. I managed not to crash, but I very nearly went over the handlebar on a section of trail that never used to challenge me.

On the evening of Sunday, June 5, we had a fatal bike accident in Washington County. A 62-year-old man hit a pothole in Germantown on Lovers Lane between Pleasant View Drive and Mary Buth Lane, causing him to lose control and crash. News of the accident reminded me of my own crash last October. Everything was fine, then in an instant I was on the ground, and I never saw the bump in the road that got me. Several years earlier I had a similar crash on the Wild Goose State Trail, losing my front wheel in a big erosion rut hidden by the shade of an overhanging tree. It’s scary how quickly things can go wrong. And they can go wrong inside or outside of the presence of motor vehicles. They can go wrong anywhere. I’ve ridden Lovers Lane in Germantown many times and can assure you it’s not an inherently unsafe road.

So, now you know what’s going on. And there’s always something, even on a holiday.