Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: A Statistical Review

I rode a lot, surpassed my mileage goal, had a great Race The Lake, bought a new cyclocross bike, and didn’t get injured. There: that’s my 2018 cycling season in a nutshell. It was a good year in the saddle, but one that produced only a few memorable moments. The mileage breakdown by month tells much of the story:

150 Jan
125 Feb
275 Mar
271 Apr
757 May  (PR)
650 June
852 July
827 Aug  (PR)
613 Sep
505 Oct
157 Nov
176 Dec  (PR)

Those are solid totals for the winter months, then a very bad April, personal records in May and August, a disastrous November, and another PR in December. As usual, it was all about the weather. We had a long, cold spring, then a properly warm summer, then an early start to this winter. The speed with which the weather changed was remarkable. Just look at what happened in October:

And that was it; we never recovered. It was wet, too, so the cyclocross season became a cold, muddy mess that held no charms for me. I did only 5 cyclocross races this year: 3 in September, 1 in October, and 1 in November. Combined with Race The Lake, that’s a total of 6 races this year, down from 21 in 2017. My 2019 season must be better! I’m going to return to mountain bike racing after taking this season off. That will stoke the competitive fire early in the year.

In my 2017 statistical review I said that I wanted to return to my roots as a cyclist by taking a series of long rec trail rides. Those never materialized in 2018. I still made frequent use of the Eisenbahn State Trail and paid one visit to the Wild Goose, but I didn’t explore anything I hadn’t seen before and I didn’t return to a couple of long-neglected favorites as I had planned. Giving more emphasis to mountain biking in 2019, I don’t think I’ll be making up for these missed opportunities.

With 5,358 miles this season I had the third best total in my 15-year history as a cyclist. My 183 days of riding are sixth most, all-time. I expect both numbers to drop in 2019. More mountain biking will mean fewer miles overall, but that’s OK. My 2019 will be less about the statistics and more about the experiences and the people: friends, teammates, and rivals.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

It’s A Jersey Thing

Here’s the situation: for 2019, Team Pedal Moraine is breaking out a new look. We’re keeping what we liked about the old jersey, introduced in 2017, and we’re fixing what we didn’t like. It’s going to be hard to miss us in this kit, and hard to mistake us for some other team. What do you think? I can’t wait to get mine!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Cross Training (Not ’Cross Training)

Watercolor by A. Kingston Rudd, 1899

I had a busy morning today … the good kind of busy, not the “too much to do / no time to do it” kind. Things kicked off at 6:30 with the NBC Sports Gold webcast of the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup from Namur, Belgium. Such a cool setting! Maybe that’s what we need to bring a top-level cyclocross race to Washington County: a citadel. Holy Hill is the closest thing we have. As far as I know, it doesn’t have any artillery platforms, but that’s fixable.

Namur is a gateway city for visitors to the Ardennes, a hilly and heavily forested area not unlike our Kettle Moraine region. I was reminded constantly of the similarities later this morning as I hiked the Ice Age Trail from Ridge Run Park to the Paradise Drive trailhead and back. That was more than 7 miles in 2 hours, a good pace on such terrain. If not for the wind chill, I might have been tempted to do a bike ride today. As it was, today provided an opportunity for my first hike since November 29, 2017.

I’m shocked to realize how much time passed between hikes, given how much I enjoy hiking. But in recent years I have been more willing to ride on these in-between days. There are a few in-between days in the forecast for the final week of 2018, and I wouldn’t mind tacking on some more cycling miles to this year’s total. My next hike may have to wait, but probably not for 13 months! By next weekend we should be consistently below freezing but not yet snow-covered. That’s the right combination to make me lace up the boots again.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

For December, That Ain't Bad

That was my week: 5 rides in 7 days, a total of 112 miles and almost 7.5 hours in the saddle. There hasn't been anything like it since October 22-28. November was dreadful and December didn't start well—I sat out all of last week with some lower back pain—so this week felt especially good. It’s not really training; it’s just getting outside and slowing down the rate at which I’m putting on my off-season body fat. But right now that’s good enough.

Friday, December 14, 2018

My New Bronze Medal

With a 23-mile ride around West Bend this afternoon I did just enough to make 2018 my third-best year ever for mileage. Here’s the new Top 5:

1. 6,236 miles in 2015
2. 5,620 miles in 2016
3. 5,237 miles in 2018
4. 5,236 miles in 2014
5. 5,113 miles in 2011

This season won’t rise any higher in the standings. Only 17 days remain, and you can bet most of them won’t be warm enough to draw me outside. Yesterday and today represent my first back-to-back rides since October 24-25. I have ridden only 55 miles so far this month, so I’m not going to find another 384 to surpass my total from 2016.

But I’m not stopping at 5,237. We might hit 40° tomorrow, a temperature we haven’t seen since November 24. We might get to 40° again on Sunday. The whole weekend should be sunny and dry. Even next Tuesday and Wednesday look OK … then winter officially arrives on Friday and the forecast shows a commensurate drop in temperature. I don’t ride in sub-freezing temperatures, so that might be start of a little break for me.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Switching GEARS: Life After IMBA

These are tough times for the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the advocacy group that began in 1988 and rose to prominence by providing a unified voice for access to public land. IMBA started in California when a handful of local mountain biking clubs decided they would be stronger together than they were individually. They needed critical mass to influence lawmakers in Sacramento. IMBA gave them that. In the 30 years since, IMBA has extended its reach across the country and is counted among the special interest groups affecting federal policy in Washington DC.

But recent setbacks and controversies have taken some of the air out of IMBA’s tires, and a new membership model has led many IMBA chapters to abandon the organization … or, at least, to question whether they could be doing things better themselves.

Right here in Washington County, the Glacial Edge Area Riding Society is one of the chapters that has decided on a different path. Rich Ramsey, a founding member of GEARS, has seen the good times and the bad.

“The IMBA chapter was as good as it gets for local clubs,” Ramsey said. “For a one-time setup fee of $500 you got 501(c)(3) status, revenue sharing—a 60/40 split, 40% returned to the chapter—and a membership tracking/communications system … also a regional representative who made connections to IMBA headquarters a breeze.”

That business arrangement allowed GEARS and other clubs like it to focus on trail building, trail maintenance, and riding their bikes. It was a good deal for a while. But this year IMBA discontinued its revenue sharing. Local clubs still may benefit from nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, but otherwise their contributions to IMBA are paying for little more than access to a suite of fee-based services. It’s like paying admission to a shopping mall.

“As with many other chapters, GEARS United decided return on investment was not worth it and we would try to find our own way,” Ramsey said.

The “GEARS United” to which he refers is a recent combination of the original Glacial Edge Area Riding Society with the upstart Ozaukee County Mountain Bikers and Sheboygan County’s venerable FatKats. GEARS United was in the process of reorganizing to prepare for life after IMBA when another disgruntled IMBA chapter came calling.

“Metro Mountain Bikers, reorganized as a standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit under new leadership, has a plan to unite the mountain biking community of southeastern Wisconsin under one flag,” Ramsey said. “They are offering chapter-style organization that will include 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and insurance coverage for the price of individual membership. The Glacial Edge Area Riding Society, Ozaukee County Mountain Bikers, and FatKats would become chapters of Metro Mountain Bikers. We would operate as separate entities but under their umbrella. This was the structure of the former Wisconsin Off Road Bicycling Association: WORBA was the 501(c)(3) with insurance coverage for the price of membership. And, by the way, Metro offers a membership service. We are in the process of working out details of any type of ‘official’ chapter agreement.”

Representing Milwaukee County and Waukesha County, Metro is more than 300 members strong.

“From my point of view, the trail systems will all benefit from the larger pool of resources that this unification will create,” Ramsey said.

Eric Hackbarth of the Ozaukee County Mountain Bikers agrees.

“IMBA’s new membership model … not a good fit anymore,” Hackbarth said. “With the Metro relationship, everything stays local. They know the area. We have access to years of experience in trail building, as well as dealing with local officials that we’ll be able to tap into for advice. And the integration of the membership tracking into the Metro website will be a nice feature. Again: all local. It should serve us well as it gets built out to take on the GEARS members.”

What effect will reorganization have on trail building and trail maintenance? That might be hard to quantify, but reorganization at least should do no harm. Lower administration costs should mean more dollars for GEARS United to spend on tools and other necessities. During the last few seasons there have been numerous refinements at Pleasant Valley and at Glacial Blue Hills, but nothing revolutionary. In a future blog post I will examine some really ambitious plans for Glacial Blue Hills, plans that already enjoy the support of West Bend’s parks department. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Paul Sherwen

The cycling world lost one of its most recognizable voices yesterday. Paul Sherwen was just 62. As a rider he competed in the Tour de France on 7 occasions, but we knew him best as a television commentator for 33 editions of the Tour. Always insightful and always the gentleman, Sherwen teamed with Phil Liggett to define televised cycling coverage for a generation.