Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Statistical Review

As 2017 began, my mileage goal was a modest 3,378. That was the number I needed for 60,000 lifetime miles, and I reached it easily. But as 5,000 came into view, I decided to go for it. That meant riding on some pretty cold days after the cyclocross season ended, days that I would have skipped otherwise. I will remember 2017 as another good year on the bike despite coming up short of that 5,000-mile goal. If only the weather had not been so cold lately: below 32° since December 22, and below zero for much of that time! I finished the year with 4,933 miles, the 6th highest total in my 14-year cycling career.

Here’s the breakdown by month:

120 January
285 February (PR)
158 March
439 April
516 May
615 June
727 July
694 August
583 September
425 October
260 November
111 December

If March had been even close to normal, then I would have wrapped up a 5,000-mile season before December arrived. Oh, well. And it should go without saying, but all of those miles are real miles. I would count miles around an indoor velodrome if I had that option, but I don’t count “miles” on a stationary trainer.

I did 21 races in 2017: 11 on the mountain bike (6 WORS, 4 WEMS, 1 unsanctioned short track race), 9 on the cyclocross bike (7 WCA, 2 HICX), and 1 on the road bike (Race The Lake). I won’t count my 9 practice cyclocross races at Royal Oaks Park in August and September, but those efforts were every bit as hard as some of the sanctioned races in which I competed.

While my 2018 competition goals are still forming, I can say that I won’t be as heavily involved in mountain bike racing as I was in 2017. Right now the only WORS event on my calendar is the short track race at the WORS Cup. That’s July 8. I should be good for 3-5 WEMS races. On August 26 I will be at Race The Lake for the third straight year. It might be my only road race again in 2018. Cyclocross will be the focus, and it could be months before I know that schedule.

I plan to spend more time on the road bike in 2018, and that should result in a higher mileage total. My goal is 5,000 miles. I have averaged 5,177 miles over the last 7 seasons, so that seems like a reasonable level. And I want to return to my roots as a cyclist by taking a series of long rec trail rides. I missed the Wild Goose State Trail this year. I also have unfinished business with the Wiouwash State Trail. I would like to see the Mascoutin Valley, Ahnapee, and Devil’s River state trails for the first time ever, and I would like to return to the Glacial Drumlin State Trail for the first time since 2009.

It’s hard to predict the future, but I expect to race a little less in 2018 and to spend a little less money on cycling. There are a couple of significant home improvements on my To Do list—expensive and time-consuming tasks that I will try to complete before July. With them behind me, the second half of 2018 will belong to bike racing!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The 2018 WEMS Schedule

This is definitely a work in progress and even some of the dates that appear to be set are subject to change, but this afternoon the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series announced its 2018 schedule:

04/28 - The Wild Ride Buzzard Buster @ Hatfield
05/05 - Southern Kettles Classic @ La Grange (John Muir Trails)
05/12 - 9 Hours Of Alpine Valley @ Elkhorn
05/19 - Stump Farm 100 @ Suamico
06/09 - Romp In The Swamp Epic @ Wausau
??/?? - 9 Hours Of Silver Lake @ Salem
07/14 - RASTA Rock ‘n’ Root @ Rhinelander
08/18 - Hundred-Down In The Underdown @ Gleason
09/08 - Northern Kettles Fall Epic @ New Fane
09/15 - Jack Lake @ Salem
10/06 - GEARS Greenbush Grinder (WEMS Championship) @ Greenbush

It’s great to see plans for an 11-race season from a series that was in danger of losing Greenbush and dropping to just 8 races in 2016. And for me it’s great to see two dates at Kenosha County’s Silver Lake Park in Salem, a new venue in 2017 that I found to my liking. Count me in for both as long as the September date doesn’t conflict with an important cyclocross race. That weekend belonged to Jingle Cross this year, a race against which the Wisconsin Cycling Association doesn’t compete. But for 2018 Jingle Cross likely will move to the last weekend in September. That means the UCI World Cup race at Trek headquarters in Waterloo probably will fall on the weekend of September 22-23, and that means there could be a WCA race on September 15. (This year’s Jingle Cross and Waterloo races were held in uncharacteristic heat, unpopular with the top European pros. Don’t be surprised if next year’s dates get moved back in an effort to find cooler weather.)

As for the rest of the WEMS schedule, I might be in for Alpine Valley and Stump Farm again. Those races plus the two at Silver Lake plus the can’t-miss Northern Kettles Fall Epic at New Fane would give me the five results I need to have a respectable finish in the season-long points competition. But again my Friday night work schedule will make traveling to the more distance races an impossibility. That’s OK. I gave a lot of attention to mountain biking this year. In 2018 my focus will be cyclocross.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

West Bend Bike Route Proposal Fails

Bike Friendly West Bend suffered a resounding defeat at last night’s meeting of the Common Council. The advocacy group hoped to get approval for its Orange Loop, the first of four proposed bike routes in the city. Alderman Roger Kist made a motion to approve but there was no second, so the proposal died without a vote. Aldermen Adam Williquette and Chris Jenkins spoke in opposition to the plan on financial grounds. BFWB was prepared to cover much of the installation cost—estimated at almost $24,000—but not the ongoing maintenance of about $5,500 per year. As a point of policy, BFWB believes ongoing maintenance for on-street bike routes is properly a function of general street maintenance.

Implementing all four routes—expected to take 5 years or more—would require almost $100,000 initially and more than $23,000 per year in ongoing maintenance. All of the costs were presented on Monday, so maybe “sticker shock” played a factor as the Council contemplated the total price tag for the BFWB plan.

Whatever the case, the future of bike routes in West Bend is very much in doubt. But early this morning, BFWB signaled that it wouldn’t go away quietly. The group will ask the city to make the bike route plan part of a larger street maintenance referendum, to be conducted in early 2018. The Common Council has authorized a referendum in response to widespread criticism of the current condition of city streets. Asking that the entire electorate be given a chance to vote on bike routes is an interesting maneuver by BFWB. Strong public support would be hard for the aldermen to ignore, while strong public opposition would simply leave the topic where it stands today. It’s a nothing-to-lose moment for BFWB … and probably the last chance for the group to realize its primary objective without a major shift in the composition of the Common Council.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cycling Without Age

Pedal Moraine owner Mark Ramsey gets familiar with the Cycling Without Age rickshaw.

At the next meeting of the Common Council—6:30 p.m. on Monday the 18th at City Hall—Bike Friendly West Bend should learn whether its bike route plan will go forward. The vote could go either way, so contact your alderman and then attend the meeting to show your support.

Hopefully the Common Council and the rest of West Bend will recognize the earnestness with which BFWB is working toward more cycling opportunities in the city. For example, yesterday at Samaritan Health Center a joint effort of BFWB and the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department took another step toward implementation as training began for the Cycling Without Age program. Beginning in Spring 2018, Samaritan residents will be able to take rides on the rickshaw bike pictured above. Trained pilots will take the residents to popular locations like parks, the Museum of Wisconsin Art, and the downtown farmers market.

Cycling Without Age will be more than just a nice amenity for Samaritan residents. It will be part of a larger strategy to make bicycle traffic a normal part of transportation in West Bend. More riders, more awareness by motorists. More awareness, more safety. More safety, more riders ...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Presenting The 2018 Cheesehead Roubaix

We all appreciate a challenge, but the 2017 ride was, well ...

The 9th Annual Cheesehead Roubaix will begin at Newburg Fireman’s Park on Sunday, April 29, 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.

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. There will be a donations jar at the concessions stand before and after the ride. NFD is a small, all-volunteer department. Your generosity will make a big difference!

There will be a free, mid-ride rest stop courtesy of our friends from BELGIANWERKX. Please let us know you plan to attend so that we can ensure there’s enough food & drink at the rest stop. Join the fun at the Facebook event page, send me email or leave a comment below.

Moroder Photography will be on hand again to preserve your Cheesehead Roubaix memories. Check out these awesome images from last year!

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.

See you on April 29!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bike Washington Counties (All 30 Of Them!)

Perhaps you have noticed that today is more than 30° colder than yesterday. It’s the sort of day that makes me wonder what it would be like to be a cyclist somewhere else. Usually such fantasies take me to places that are appreciably warmer. But today let’s confine our search to other Washington Counties … and to Washington Parish in Louisiana. What would a cyclist find in them? It’s really a mixed bag.

Washington County, Alabama – A sparsely-populated area on the Alabama-Mississippi line north of Mobile, this county has lots of forests and lots of dirt roads. We’re off to a good start.

Washington County, Arkansas – Although it is the 3rd most populated county in the state, this county features big hills and unpaved rural roads. Home to the University of Arkansas, the city of Fayetteville has designated bike routes and miles of paved recreation trails.

Washington County, Colorado – Flat and featureless, this county in northeastern Colorado is far from the image of Colorado shared by most cyclists. It’s almost 6 times the size of our Washington County but has fewer residents than Kewaskum.

Washington County, Florida – If you like flat, quiet roads, then this might be your little piece of paradise. Located in Florida’s panhandle west of Tallahassee, this county was poised for explosive population growth in the 1970s. Developers paved miles of roads for new subdivisions, then the economy tanked. The planned cities were never built, but the roads remain.

Washington County, Georgia – Road density is an issue in this quiet central Georgia county: few places to go, and few ways to get there.

Washington County, Idaho – Located north of Boise on the Idaho-Oregon line, this mountainous county features the Weiser River Trail. At 84 miles total, it is Idaho’s longest rail-trail.

Washington County, Illinois – Located southeast of St. Louis MO, this county is the typical flat, Illinois farmland you either love or hate.

Washington County, Indiana – The gentle roll of this rural area north of Louisville KY will remind you of our Washington County.

Washington County, Iowa – South of Iowa City, this county features the 14-mile Kewash Nature Trail.

Washington County, Kansas – This is the Kansas that the riders of the Race Across America warned you about: a whole lotta nuthin’ but sun-parched roads and headwinds.

Washington County, Kentucky – There’s good cycling to be had in this sleepy central Kentucky county, especially if you like long, gentle hill climbs.

Washington Parish, Louisiana – This mostly flat area on the Louisiana-Mississippi line features surprisingly good road density for its population, so it’s not a surprise that many of those roads are lightly traveled. You’ll find some unpaved roads too.

Washington County, Maine – The easternmost county in the United States, this Washington County borders the Canadian province of New Brunswick. At a massive 2,563 square miles, it’s bigger than Delaware and more than twice the size of Rhode Island. The county has hundreds of miles of quiet country roads, plus the 85-mile Down East Sunrise Trail.

Washington County, Maryland – This county can boast of gorgeous, Civil War-era farm roads and almost 80 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail network that connects Pittsburgh and Washington DC.

Washington County, Minnesota – Located between the city of St. Paul and the St. Croix River, this county shares a border with Wisconsin. Suburban sprawl from the Twin Cities is rapidly replacing farmland, but bike paths are common.

Washington County, Mississippi – This pan-flat county is bordered to the west by the Mississippi River. You’ll find a decent network of farm roads, some of which are unpaved.

Washington County, Missouri – Very hilly, very wooded Washington County MO is also very sparsely populated. Road density is limited, but what is there is gorgeous.

Washington County, Nebraska – You’ll actually find a few long, gentle hills in this rural county north of Omaha.

Washington County, New York – Home to several state forests and other natural areas, this county on the Vermont border offers many cycling opportunities far away from East Coast traffic.

Washington County, North Carolina – It’s easy to find a quiet country road in this flat county near the Atlantic Ocean.

Washington County, Ohio – Big hills, dense forests, and unpaved roads are common to this county in the southeast corner of Ohio.

Washington County, Oklahoma – This rural county north of Tulsa is home to the 12-mile Pathfinder Parkway along the Caney River in Bartlesville.

Washington County, Oregon – This rapidly urbanizing county west of Portland has a bit of everything: flat farm roads, long hill climbs, and a complex network of bike lanes, paths, and recreation trails.

Washington County, Pennsylvania – I was not yet a cyclist in 1988 when I lived in this county near Pittsburgh, and I’m not sure I would have become one if I had stayed. The hills are extremely tough and the roads are busy. But nowadays cyclists can enjoy long, flat rides on the Montour Trail and the Panhandle Trail. Those trails didn’t exist when I lived there.

Washington County, Rhode Island – This low-lying county in the southwest corner of the state is surprisingly rural and has a dense network of quiet, wooded roads.

Washington County, Tennessee – Unless you really like climbing, skip the road bike and bring your mountain bike to this northeastern Tennessee county. The new Tannery Knobs Bike Park in Johnson City is going to be a big deal.

Washington County, Texas – Good road density provides lots of places to explore in this rural county between Houston and Austin.

Washington County, Utah – Bordered by Arizona and Nevada in the southwest corner of Utah, this arid, mountainous county is home to Zion National Park and a growing trail network in the booming city of St. George.

Washington County, Vermont – Very hilly and heavily forested, this county features miles of gorgeous gravel roads.

Washington County, Virginia – This mountainous county near Bristol is home to the 35-mile Virginia Creeper Trail.

See anything that you like? The grass isn’t always greener, of course, but some of these places look pretty appealing as winter blows into Wisconsin.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2017 Wisconsin State Cyclocross Championships

Surprise! My 2017 racing season did not end on October 21; it ended today at Trek’s world headquarters in Waterloo, site of this year’s state cyclocross championships. (Yeah, that’s the same place that hosted a UCI World Cup race back in September, and today we used most of that course.) It was my first participation at a state championship race—usually the weather is far too cold for me this late in the season—and even though I didn’t get a high finish, I raced well and had fun.

We had lots of bad weather from late October through late November. By the middle of November I was convinced my racing season was done. My training volume and intensity dropped to almost nothing, my weight went up, and I was content to be done. But the weather made an unexpected recovery late last week and I started riding with a little more interest. As this weekend’s forecast came into view—dry and 50°, more than 10° above average—I ramped up the intensity even more. I don’t know how much fitness I recovered in the last two weeks, but I was good enough for 17th out of 21 today in the Masters 35+ Cat 3 race. Madison’s Tim Vanderjeugd (unattached) took the win, followed by Brent Rohrs (Diablo Cycling) and Ted German (Neff Cycle Service).

My race was largely a duel with training partner Jeff Wren (Team Extreme), who pressed me hard on his way to 18th. I was faster on the steep hills and the flat power sections; Jeff was faster on the technical dirt sections. We were a long way from the leaders, but our friendly rivalry helped us to dispatch some of the Elite Cat 3 and Open Singlespeed riders who had started before our wave. We rode well; we simply got outrun by faster guys. The racer I was back in October might have been 14th or 15th today, but that’s barely worth mentioning. I got what I wanted out of today and out of the season generally: races that were fun and in which I always had someone against whom to test myself.

One final cyclocross race remains on the 2017 calendar: the USA Cycling Midwest Regional Championships next Saturday in Sun Prairie. As I write this, the forecast calls for a high of 17° that afternoon. You could double it and I wouldn’t be interested. You could triple it and … well, maybe.