Monthly Archives: October 2008

Taiwan days

Today I went for my first bike ride ever while in Taiwan. I have been coming to Taiwan for work since 1993. It is usually such a tough work trip, that I never bother to try to get out for a ride. It take 3 days travel time back and forth. Because of that, I usually just have my head down working for the days that I am here that I have not wanted to stay longer. Get in, get the job done and get out. That is how I have approached it. I stay at a hotel that has a nice workout facility and I usually just treat the week as maintaining in the gym.

This time I had to stay to do some work over the weekend, and the guys in the office had a ride planned. I knew that before hand, so I brought gear along with me and borrowed a bike, and there I was at 8am on a Saturday out in front of the coffee shop waiting for the group ride. Just like I have done in 50 other cities around the world.

I really didn’t know what I was in for. I have been in Taiwan a bunch and all I have seen is tight little streets, with cars and people, and scooters and bikes everywhere. It has always looked like chaos.

After a bit of bike set up work, we rolled out of town a group of 6 making our way across Taichung city. I was surprised how much it was like riding anywhere else I have been. The traffic is bad in the city, but it all kind of flows. The scooters occupy the side of the road, and you just learn to share space with them. They don’t go a lot faster than we do on bikes and they seem to just give you space. Yes there are trucks and you really have to watch out for pedestrians, but I was surprised that it wasn’t that bad.

When we got out of town to the east, is where it got really fun. The mountains we headed towards, I am told are called Da-ken. I am sure that is not how it is spelled, but that is how it sounds. The traffic falls away when you get to the mountains, and the roads get narrow and go steeply up. We went up a double climb that was about 1 hour worth of climbing. The sun was hot, and there were a ton of other riders out. Mostly casual, but some serious looking cyclists.

I rode with Kevin, his wife Kerry, Johnson Jan who works at a bike parts supplier and Wendell who works for Burley in sourcing. We had a nice pace going. They all live here, so they knew where we were going and I was just tagging along.

Johnson schooled all of us on the climb, but we came tearing down a really narrow poorly paved road on the back side of the mountain in a group. It was huge fun.

Below are a couple of photos from the day. We ended back down in Taichung at a Starbucks, and I have to say that I really never knew what I have been missing. It was a lot of fun. 2 hours of riding, some urban a good mountain climb a fun decent and a good coffee at the end. Not that much different than the riding that I have done in a bunch of other places around the world.

The world is truly “flat”.

Joe

That is Johnson leaving me behind on the climb!

That is Johnson leaving me behind on the climb!

Over my shoulder up the climb!

Over my shoulder up the climb!

Kevin and I going up the climb!   Great vegetation in the background.  Definately not in Wisconsin!

Kevin and I going up the climb! Great vegetation in the background. Definately not in Wisconsin!

Kevin, Johnson and I at the top of the climb!

Kevin, Johnson and I at the top of the climb!

Kerry and Kevin, back at the starbucks.

Kerry and Kevin, back at the starbucks.

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Crawfordsville is in the books!

I GOT 5!!!!!

5 laps that is. As you may have noted from my previous post, I had a plan to figure out how to get 5 laps in for the first time at a GNCC. 5 laps has eluded me all season.  I have come close, but in the end no cigar.  In fact, at Ohio I came within just a minute or so of getting the 5th lap in.  You will recall from my previous post that I was going to sign up for a class that started earlier to try and stay ahead of the leaders – thus getting in the 5th lap.  In the end, when I got right up to the counter to sign in for the race, I just could not pull the trigger. It felt like cheating to sign up for a different class just so that I could get 5 laps in. I made a decision right there, that I was not going to cheat myself. I started the season in the +40 B class, I was going to finish the season in the +40B class.

The flag went up on my wave 14 minutes after the pro’s went off. I hit the woods in 5th and rode my ass off. Nathan Kanney came by me at the beginning of my 2nd lap. I rode hard and did not fade for my 2nd and 3rd laps. Nathan came by me again at the beginning of my 4th lap, and I kept my focus and did not fade nearly like I have in the previous races. I came through ahead of him still and got the white flag (one lap to go)! I cheered, out loud when I came through the finish chute at the end of lap 4. I suspect the course workers thought I was whacked.

I did come apart on the 5th lap, but it did not matter at that point. Unfortunately I came apart enough to fall out of the top 10.   I did not finish in the top 10 (11th), but it did not matter to me. I got my 5th lap in.

I GOT 5!

This has been a tough season for me. I had a couple of bike problems, but that is racing. You cannot do 10 or so races in a year and not expect that you might have a problem or 2. I have had good fitness all year also, so It was not my fitness that limited me. But, there were 2 things that I struggled with all year.

  1. My knee. It was harder to recover from my knee surgery than I admitted to myself or anyone else. I have not been confident in my riding at all this year. It has been tough for me to race and not think about my knee.  Hurting my other knee mid season did not help matters either.  But, i am starting to feel better about it now. Only this last race have I felt even close to my old riding ability.
  2. I have never been passed so much in my life. I am used to one or 2 or the really fast local B riders catching me (they start behind me in the local races), and the winner of the AA class catching me and putting me down a lap. But that is normally it in a local race. I race forward for the whole race. Because we start so long after the leaders at a GNCC race, I only really get one good racing lap in. Then from the 2nd lap on, there always seems to be someone from the head of the field catching me and passing me.  I don’t want to screw up their race, so I spend way too much time staying out of peoples way.

But, I would not have traded the experience of doing this season for anything. It has been great fun, a huge learning experience and a barrel full of life experiences. My sponsors have all been super. My Vesrah Suzuki is absolutely the best bike I have ever ridden. I am looking forward to racing another one again next year.

I finished the Crawfordsville race and proclaimed to Scott that the Ironman GNCC Crawfordsville race is the best race of the whole GNCC calendar. It is.

The dirt is the best, the mix of woods – fields – rivers – hills – crowds – weather – mud etc… is just perfect. There are hills there that are super super hard. I had to have a human chain help me get up one of my 5 times up Ironman hill. Scott says he had to have help twice. The gulleys that you have to ride up and down are super hard. The rocks under the bridge crossing are amazingly difficult. The straight up a hill after coming out of a culvert under something is crazy tough. The loop is long and tough to learn. The lines are hard to find.

Scott goes through list of people we have met during the year on his blog. I will not recreate that list here, but it has been really fun.

So that is it for this GNCC season. We don’t yet know what next year holds for our offroad team. Stay tuned here and we will try to make that clear very soon.

Thanks for following along. Sorry about no photo’s. My photo file got corrupted, and I lost all the photos from the weekend. (Sorry John)

Joe

Quad People

I do not know if there is a more interesting group of people anywhere! Quad people. ATV riders to be exact. And to be sure, the epicenter of quad-ness is Crawfordsville Indiana!

I know you would not guess it. It surely is not what most think of when they think of Indiana. But, there is not a more beer swilling in the morning, rebel yell volleying, confederate flag waving, mud bogging and quad loving group anywhere in the whole USA. Now of course I have not been everywhere, but I have been a lot of places, and I do not know of anywhere that can beat it.

I am talking donuts in the truck when it is muddy until well after midnight. I am talking smashing into your buddies nice new looking pickup, and everyone just laughing it off because it happened while “mudding” your pickup. It seems like it is the most American of all rights.

So, I love racing my motorcycle. I love the physical nature of it. I love the skill required. I love it because it is 2 wheels. I love the fitness required. I just cannot relate to quads and the people who ride them.

I certainly respect the athletic effort and the skill required. I can watch a quad rider and tell a good one from a lesser one. I just don’t have much of a desire to race one. I suppose it is, like everything, an acquired taste. I know that I have spoken to quad riders about bikes who say the same about bike riders.

I guess that is what makes racing and specifically GNCC racing so great. There are pro’s, there are great amateurs who will be pro some day and there are amateurs who do it just because they love it. That can be said about quad riders and bike riders alike.

How many people does it take to hook up your little pickup to something much larger, and drag it out of the mud? At least 4, maybe 5.

More mud.

Joe

On the way to Crawfordsville – 10/24/08

So this is the big one. Probably the best race of the GNCC circus all year. It is the one that started us on this adventure. I have never been able to finish this race. I fell and broke my front brake line in the first 1/3 of the first lap 2 years ago, and then had knee surgery a few weeks before this one last year. But, it was after coming down to do this race 2 years ago that started the wheels turning in my head. It was the experience of the whole circus 2 years ago that germinated in my little brain. It was seeing the whole pits, seeing the excitement of the demo’s, camping, dealing with jetting and being part of the whole thing that did it. Damn. It all led up to the fateful day that I said to Scott, while driving to a local race “We should do the GNCC circuit”. That one statement led to all of this craziness.

That one statement created the

– multiple bikes

– travel

– finding places to leave the van and trailer

– buying the trailer in the first place

– Florida, Georgia, the Carolina’s, NY, Tennessee, et al…

– ATV awe

It has been a great adventure.  But, there is still the grand daddy of it all to go.

We are going down on Friday to do the whole thing up right. We are going to the demo to ride a quad, we are going to eat at the concession stand, we are going to watch the quad race, we are going to watch the UTV face. We are going to get a complete fill of the whole GNCC thing today, tomorrow and Sunday.

We have a guest with us on this trip. That is my wife Liz.

You can tell she is super excited to be in the van all the way to Indiana.

Right now Liz is asleep in the back. She is not missing much. We are in Illinois. The road in Illinois goes straight. I don’t mean that it goes a little bit straight, it goes STRAIGHT. I think that it is about the most boring state ever to drive across.

Candi says it is 3 more hours until we reach the race site. It is 2pm Indiana time. So, we should be there before dark. With any luck, we will not get stuck in the field trying to find a parking spot. It is not raining now, but it did rain pretty good. We have never been to Crawfordsville without getting stuck in the field.

Fast forward to our arrival in Crawfordsville. We have not arrived this early to a GNCC race yet. 5 in the evening on Friday. On the way down, Mat and Carley texted to say they were going to arrive in the middle of the night, but have had enough of camping and have decided to stay at a hotel in Crawfordsville.

We paid our way in, figured out where the course went and then headed towards the perimeter so that we could set up a pit along the course. We spent a long time trying to plot our way through the field so as to not get stuck. We were doing pretty well for about 80% or our way into the field. Then, after stopping on a high spot, and targeting our run in, I made the fatal error of making my turn to slow to back the trailer in. There we were for the 5th time in our GNCC life, stuck in the middle of the field. Ugh. What a non macho set up we have. A 2 wheel drive van that, although it gets 24 mpg pulling the trailer at 75, it cannot make it across the field with the slightest bit of mud. I love the van, but we always feel a bit silly having to ask someone with a big pick up if they can pull us out of the flat field.

In the end, we got the absolute primo spot. Along the course, just after the start finish.

I have a plan.

I have not been able to get in a 5th lap at a GNCC yet. I start on row 15. That means I am 15 minutes behind the leaders already when I cross the finish line. My first 2 lap times are usually pretty consistent. My 4th lap is usually pretty slow. That is a combination of my fitness end, the course deteriorating and being passed by a lot of people during the 4th lap. At Ohio, I was only about 1-2minutes away from being able to finally get a 5th lap.

So, I have a plan.

I am going to race the +40A class on Sunday. They start 5 minutes earlier than I do. Although I am not fast enough to race with the A class, starting with them may allow me to get past the start finish line before the first place rider catches me and stops my race.

I know my bike will do 4 laps without stopping for gas. We are pitted just after the finish, so if I can get through the finish I will stop at the beginning of my 5th lap to get gas.

I have a plan.

Dinner looks a little bit more presentable when we have a guest with us!

Back with more tomorrow.

Joe

10/12/08 St. Clairsville – Powerline Park

Apparently, powerline park is a big off road truck and ATV area. The guys camped there tell me that there really is only the one bike race there per year. It is a huge place. Here is what the race sight looks like from the to of one of the hills on the property.

The morning of the race started as they usually do, but this time it was still in the dark. Winter is coming. Breakfast at 6am is a good time, but at this time of the year when it is still dark out, makes you dread the coming of winter. The 2nd to last GNCC race of the year, also heralds that season change. Ugh

The circus is in town. This is what the morning of a GNCC race looks like. This isn’t the biggest, but pretty close.

In the morning, I did a tour around the pits looking at peoples race rigs and their set ups. It is truly amazing how much money people put into their overall rigs to go to the races. But, the range is out there. Everything from $200,000 toy hauler RV’s and dually diesel pick ups to pull huge trailers to Volkswagen Golf’s pulling a 3 rail trailer and a tent. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.

This is an example of the big rig! But, this one was interesting because it was also pulling that small 1970’s trailer behind it.

Here is one of the huge toy hauler trailers that requires a huge diesel pick up to pull it.

This one is interesting. The box van is actually been converted into a camper instead of transport for the bikes.

These guys were a bit more reasonable. An old RV, pulling a small enclosed trailer. Crappy gas mileage I bet though.

This one is my favorite though. The “Motobus”.

Then there is our little set up. Kind of pales in comparison.

So we finally hit the dry GNCC. In fact, it was beyond dry. Dusty. Let me say that again. Dusty! I was sure there would be a mud hole out there, and I was right. But, I will get to that later.

The kids finally got to race without having to deal with rain or freezing cold or any other really bad condition. I love how some families have turned this into their thing. The kid races, the mom and dad are there the brothers and sisters are there and their friends. It makes the kid feel like an absolute star.

For sure this kid feels like he is David Knight. Dad is filling his bike full of gas. His uncle is giving him fresh goggles…

Look, no mud!

My prediction of no mud for us, was premature. We definitely had mud. The course was 13 miles long. Most of it was the width of a quad, after all they are running 400+ bikes down a trail, and they have to give them space. There was some actual singletrack and of course there were a lot of wide open whooped out areas.

The thing about a GNCC race, is that there are 400 racers. That means that the line that you used the last time around is now completely gone. It makes racing about seeing lines. I have gotten much better at that this year.

There were 2 creeks that you had to ride right down. It was the water was like pudding, brown and flowing. Sort of the consistency of pea soup. The part that was tough is you had no idea of how deep the water was. Sometimes the water was just an inch deep, other times it would be 2 feet deep. Scott tells a story of being completely submerged. I did not have that piece of bad luck, I found my way through pretty well each time.

Both creeks had a really difficult get in. The first one had a super steep little drop, that you had to make 90 degree turn at the bottom. If you did not make the 90 degree turn, you would fall off this ledge into the creek. I saw at least 2 people and their bikes laying in the creek each lap. The 2nd creek also had a steep down hill into the creek, and you had to make a 90 degree turn in the creek once you got down there.

I am having a difficult time starting my bike in gear, so I made a decision to start it in neutral and shift and go. It means that I did not get the greatest start, but I did not have to be off the back from the start.

The start group was pretty big.

The fast parts of a GNCC thing are not my thing, but the technical stuff can really be fun. I loved this course. The creeks, the singletrack, the big up hills and down hills… YES!

Me with my height helper at the start!

You can see what starting in neutral does to your start. You are a bike length behind from the gun.

One of my gas stops. You can see that the mud is not too bad.

You don’t have to be too far south to find a Confederate flag. Even in Ohio, you can find someone sporting the colors.

Next stop Crawfordsville. Looks like I am finally going to get to do that race! Looking forward to it.

Out.

Joe

10/10-11 on the road to St. Clairsville – Ohio

Ohio. On my way, as the muppets were and as Chrissy Hynde said, “no train station, no downtown.” I read on the GNCC website that a huge number of the best offroad riders live within 100 or so miles of the St. Clairesville Ohio GNCC. Powerline park. Think of all the great races that have happened there. Whether it has been super muddy or dust that grenades engines, the place is storied.

I am really looking forward to this one. I have been waiting for this one for a while. It is going to be dry. Dusty for sure, but not a mudbath.

But, before that can happen we have to get there and a motorcycle has be made ready. It will be a big job for Saturday.

Scott arrived at my house at about 8:30am on Friday. We had to hightail it and get to the airport to catch our flight to Harrisburg Pa. On the way into Harrisburg, we got another great view of 3mile Island. In all its nuclear glowing glory. Unfortunately, it was out of the other side of the plane, so I could not get a picture. But, the view was pretty cool. Somehow, I expect to see Dan Akroyd as a Conehead waving to me as I drive by, whenever I see that place. Consuming mass quantities and marveling at his fortunes of working in a nuclear plant. Or at least Homer.

So we drove by the signs to Gettysburg again. We drove by a creek called Confederate creek. They probably found a thousand bodies in that creed, so it was renamed or something. I don’t know if Gettysburg is the most bloody day in history of the USA or not, but if it wasn’t I bet it was close.

Candi was set to avoid tollroads, from way back when when we were leaving Wisconsin originally and trying to avoid stupid toll roads in Illinois. Hard to do in that state. Unfortunately I made her plan a route for us that took us at least an hour out of our way. We were will into things before we realized what she was doing. Oh well, a tour of Maryland was in order. I have never driven across that state, so now I have.

We stopped at a sweet grocery store and gas stop in Cumberland Maryland. It was an old mining town, but had a sweet grocery store. I have sworn off Wally World from now on. It is a sucky grocery store anyway. After the gas and grocery experience, we went to see the sandwich artists at Quizno’s. They truly are better sandwiches than at Subway. Even Lebowski’s friend Donny could not say it better “that is a good sandwich”:

Entering Ohio.

I am eventually going to do a post about all the great signs we see along the way. I am keeping an inventory of signs. I can only really take them when I am in the passenger seat – but I am trying.

We found a great campsite, and the night was cold. I mean actually cold. I had to get up in the middle of the night and get a second sleeping bag. But, damn do I sleep well in that trailer. I love that thing.

Of course, at 6:15 some moron with a quad had to start it up. I am not talking about a quite little kids quad. I am talking a 450 4stroke. Loud and obnoxious. You never know, if you have not started it since 10pm or so the night before – you have to get that thing started up if you want to make sure it is going to run.

I had lots and lots of work to do on my bike today. Remember that Unadilla was the worst mudder ever. In that situation, mud gets everywhere. I had to do all of the following.

– pull all the suspension linkages off the bike and clean and lube all pivots.

– new brake pads

– new tires

– new chain

– new sprockets

– new clutch

– replace the clutch rod

– replace the clutch clevis arm

– jetting

– oil change

– air filter change

– rig up a filter skins since the prospect for bad dust is there

– my float was sticking down, so my carb was overflowing and spilling gas out. carb had to be pulled all apart and cleaned.

There were a huge number of people that kept asking why I was tearing my hole bike down the day before a race. I like to, was my answer.

Back into our rut of dinners and breakfast. This is generally how the table looks.

These 2 guys were having their own race around a post. It was a bit silly.

Usually it is not Scott that looks like this. This is my usual look towards my bike.

It was easily about 7 hours worth of work on the bike. It is perfect now though.

Scott and I had a great dinner of salad, chicken on the grill and pasta with pesto sauce.

As usual, there are a bunch of people who feel the need to ride their bikes and quads around as the rest of us are trying to go to bed. Time for bed, as I think I can go well tomorrow.

I hope so.

“Eh, oh, where’d you go – Ohio?”

Out.

Joe

2 Races to go

Wow.  Seems like just a few months ago, we were building bikes and collecting sponsorship and coordinating gear.

The air is starting to get colder now, and that reminds me of driving to Missouri last winter to try to get in some riding time at a time when riding was hard to find.  It was just 12 months ago, when I shredded my knee and began the long road to getting it healthy again.

So, just 2 GNCC races to go.  Saint Clairsville Ohio, Powerline park.  Crawfordsville Indiana, the Ironman.  There are 2 other possibilities in there.  The Race, the last race of the OMA series is on the off weekend between the last 2 GNCC races.  And, the last D17 Enduro in Morrison Illinois.

Regardless, Powerline park is coming.  It looks like the weather is going to be great.  Rain on Wed and possibly Thursday, but nice over the weekend.  This could turn out to be the first GNCC race I have been to since Florida that is not going to be a mud bath.  I am looking forward to it.

This Friday, we will do our last fly to race.  Sounds exciting from the outside.  In actuality, i really much more enjoy the drive to races than I do the fly to races.  This one is sort of a half and half.  Fly to PA, pick up the van and bikes with the trailer and drive to Ohio.  After the race, we will drive home from Ohio.  So, I will get part of my drive to the races thrill.

See you at the race on Friday.

Joe