Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Statistical Review

Statistically, 2014 was more than just a return to form for me after an abbreviated 2013. Getting through all of 2014 without illness or serious injury allowed me to reach a personal-best 5,236 miles, topping the 5,113 miles I rode in 2011. I rode on 184 days—second all-time to the 204 days on which I rode in 2012—and with our weather, that’s saying something. I pushed my single-day mileage record out to 114 and set new marks for August and October. Here’s the month-by-month breakdown:

000 January
031 February
300 March
519 April
650 May
659 June
825 July
809 August
593 September
534 October
197 November
119 December

In recent years, working from home has greatly expanded the number of days on which an outdoor ride is possible. I’m not wasting time by commuting to and from the office, so more hours of daylight are available to me. I am also more willing to ride in the cold than I used to be. Here are the dates of my last outdoor rides since 2003, the year before I really dedicated myself to cycling and started to count the miles:

2003 Nov 16
2004 Oct 29
2005 Nov 19
2006 Nov 23
2007 Nov 10
2008 Nov 02
2009 Nov 22
2010 Dec 31
2011 Dec 18
2012 Dec 14
2013 Dec 28
2014 Dec 26

My new BMC road bike became my workhorse this year, taking the No. 1 spot away from my Diamondback cyclocross bike.

Year     Diamondback     Raleigh       Trek           BMC
         (cyclocross)    (road)        (mountain)     (road)
2014     1358             105          529            3244
2013     2341            1270          489
2012     2889            1462          654

I competed in 13 cyclocross races and 4 mountain bike races. That’s up from just 9 races in 2013 but short of the 20 I did in 2012. Prior to this year I had never reached the podium in cyclocross; now I have done it 5 times.

In 2013 I spent 26.5 hours on the trainer. This year I spent just 23 hours on the trainer, and I would have spent zero hours if I didn’t feel like it contributed to my fitness objectives. For cross-training, I went hiking on 12 occasions, went snowshoeing 8 times, and did 135 upper body strength workouts.

In 2015 I want to reach 50,000 career miles. I will need 5,234 to get there, and that’s almost a repeat of the record-setting pace I kept this year. It won’t be easy; that makes it a good goal. Competition goals for 2015 are still coming into focus. I will write more about those as the various racing organizations finalize their schedules.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Now I've Gone And Done It

Being on the podium in cyclocross was fun while it lasted.

I accumulated 15 points this year and that got me to the mandatory upgrade threshold. In 2015 I will race as a Cat 3—USA Cycling approved my upgrade request this afternoon. Among the Cat 3 Masters are a few guys with whom I know I can compete, but we will be fighting for pride and not for victories. Whether in the Elite Cat 3 race that is not age-restricted or in the Masters race that also includes Cat 1 and Cat 2, the only time I will see the leaders is when they lap me.

For the privilege of getting clobbered, I will pay a higher per-race entry fee. But I think I will like racing for 45 minutes instead of just 30, and I know I will like starting late in the day when the temperatures are higher.

Upgrading was my goal, and there is satisfaction in the achievement. But there’s also some trepidation. I don’t want to be only pack fodder. Training in 2015 will take on a more serious tone. And I hope that some of the other Cat 4 guys who are ready to upgrade actually will upgrade. Let no one call me a sandbagger, and let no one say that of you.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Oh, What Fun It Is To Ride!

"Enchanted" photo op at Regner Park.

Today’s ride was pretty neat. At 18 miles, it wasn’t a long ride. At 15 mph, it wasn’t a fast ride. But it was a bike ride outdoors on Christmas, something I had never done before. We briefly touched 39 degrees this afternoon in West Bend and the winds weren’t that bad; we never got the 30+ mph gusts promised by the weather forecasters.

On today’s ride I surpassed 5,200 miles, so for the first time I can say that I have averaged more than 100 miles per week for an entire calendar year. And I should add to that total tomorrow when the winds are even lighter and the temperature jumps above 40 degrees. That’s more than 15 degrees above normal. Even Saturday may offer an opportunity to ride, but proper winter chill will return on Sunday.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Presenting The 2015 Cheesehead Roubaix

The 6th Annual Cheesehead Roubaix will begin at Newburg Fireman’s Park on Sunday, April 26, at 9 a.m.  Inspired by Spring Classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, Cheesehead Roubaix is a 63-mile ride that features almost 10 miles of dirt and gravel. The ride will test your fitness with rough road conditions and about 2,000 feet of climbing.

There will be a mid-ride rest stop courtesy of our friends from Belgianwerkx. Registration is not required for Cheesehead Roubaix, but please let us know you plan to attend so that we can ensure there’s enough food and drink for everyone. Join the fun at the Facebook event page, send me email or leave a comment below.

Cheesehead Roubaix is designed for self-sufficient cyclists. The rest stop will be your only support. The ride uses only open public roads and park paths. You are responsible for your own safety and conduct, and you are expressly not exempt from Wisconsin traffic laws. Represent the sport well.

Please visit the Cheesehead Roubaix website and print out your own copy of the cuesheet and map. The website also offers a data file for Garmin GPS devices.

For the third straight year, Moroder Photography will be on hand to preserve your Cheesehead Roubaix memories.

Cheesehead Roubaix is free of charge, but please consider making a voluntary contribution to the Newburg Fire Department to show your appreciation for the use of its facility. Last year we collected more than $300 for the department. There will be a donations jar in the parking lot prior to the ride.

See you on April 26!

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!