As I hit publish on this post, it’s June 20th and a snow squall is ripping through the high country. Unbelievable. I don’t think we’ll be doing mad altitude rides for some time. But alas, as they say here in Colorado: “Don’t like the weather? Just wait five minutes…” True dat.
Summer is here and I’m exploring in so many ways. The longer hours in the saddle give me the opportunity to think about where I am on so many levels. Family, career, fitness, racing…it all gets explored. But none as much as the exploring being done on our back roads here. There’s a lot of contention these days going on between cyclists and cars. I’ve written about it before and the tragic death last week of a cyclist near my home, on a road I use 3 x per week (UPDATE: and now investigation of the driver’s prior road rage vs cyclist incident) has me trying to stay clear of pavement, put on bigger slick tires and cruise the insanely beautiful back roads here within 3 minutes of my house. 3 minutes to the dirt worm hole transporting me safely away in the mountains. Maybe a car seen every hour or so. And so I load up the Garmin 500 to record the goodness I’ll post to Strava and I roll. And roll. And roll.
My rule for time ad infinitum has been to put the cross bikes away in January so I re-fall in love with them come August to re-amp me for cross season. But this year…maybe because I’m getting old and crusty…I said “what the heck for?” I love riding my Ridleys why would I want to sacrifice that? I love the way I am positioned on them, the way my hands and arms fit like puzzle pieces into the Ritchey bars and SRAM hoods. You ALL know that zen when you are in perfect syncopation with your ride. Bottle cages get thrown on and I am on my way. I should say, bottle cages and some sensible wheels and rubber for the longer distances and then I’m on my way. I have this EPIC 10 year old pair of hand built wheels: Chris King hubs, Mavic Open Pro Ceramics and 14/15g double butted spokes. Probably one of the favorite things I own to be frank. Finally after a decade and 10’s of 1000’s of miles, the King rear hub said ‘enough!’. To my fault, I NEVER serviced it. To King’s credit, it lasted that long. My good friends at Chris King components sent me an entirely new set of internals which Katie at Boulder Cycle Sport installed and it’s now a completely new hub again. Another 10,000 miles on it please!
Strapped on these hoops is new rubber. A good friend to the Boulder Cycle Sport ‘cross team is Donn Kellogg who is reviving the Clement brand (more goodness later this summer). He has us dialed in on some great training rubber. I’ve been putting copious miles on the Strada LGG road tire (both 28c and 25c) and they feel fantastic. Confidence in the corners and compliant in terms of the tpi being used by Clement (will source the exact tolerances of this road tire soon). I’m running them nice and low…way lower than my normal road rubber. It helps when on these dirt road slogs for sure.
And so I ride. I ride the open, endless and epic dirt roads that call my name and keep me safe. Unbelievable vistas of the Rocky Mountains you literally gasp of the insanity of how beautiful it is. You can not help but be constantly motivated to crest the next hill so you can check out the next valley and its view. I do these rides often alone, or when I can with my team mate Pete Webber, who has been training on these back roads for 20 years. The stories are priceless: Epic bonks, torrential thunder and snow storms in the middle of summer, getting lost with no food, bears, mountain lions, farmers and shotguns…it’s why we live here. Here’s a phenomenal example of what I am talking about. Shorter one but epic nonetheless:
Also, you think with 20+ years of serious cycling and racing under your belt and you think can handle your bike. Not true. Nothing compares to training on dirt roads at speed when trying to corner on skinny tires over kitty litter-like dirt. It’ll teach you tolerances of what you can and can not (or maybe should not) do. I consider it the equivalent of warming up with two baseball bats if you understand the analogy. Come ‘cross season when the sew-ups are back on the bike, I’ll hopefully rail better than normal given what I put myself through to stay smooth and clean during these training rides. Pushing the limits but finding the balance point. It’s also helping chase the demons of last year when not having enough experience on dirt with skinny tires led to ‘that sound’ of my clavicle breaking. Always learning…
Stay safe. Ride the less trafficked stuff near you if you can. You’ll thank me later.