by CycleChick on September 16, 2013
This weekend, in preparation for Italy, I rode my bike 200 kilometres. Mostly on quiet, rural roads, where I found the drivers (with only one rude exception) courteous and patient, giving me oodles of room when they passed. Once I crossed back into the city limits, however, it was quite a different story. I was repeatedly buzzed, cut-off and generally disregarded, to the point I stared to wonder if my childhood dream of invisibility had finally come true. When I did make it home alive (by no small miracle), a quick check in the mirror told me that was not the case. So it left me wondering what was going through the minds all of these nameless strangers who had, to varying degree, recklessly endangered someone’s life, then carried on their merry way.
Unfortunately, I can no more read minds than I can turn invisible, so I thought I would take a crack at guessing what they were thinking. Here goes.
Who: The guy on a bike who ran a busy three way stop and almost smashed into me when it was my turn to proceed through the intersection.
Guy on Bike: “Do dee do dee do, I love to ride my bike! It’s so fun! But braking is for suckers. I sure am glad I’m riding a bike and not a car so the rules of the road don’t apply to… HEY WATCH OUT! Can’t you see I’m riding my bike! Stupid cyclist, who does she think she is?”
Who: The people responsible for the ridiculous and dangerous new “bike lanes” on Pembina Highway, that include bus shelters who’s doors open right onto the path of the bikes.
Marcy: “Looks great Bill, but won’t the bikes and pedestrians collide when people leave the shelter to get on the bus?”
Bill: “Haha! Of course! But unlike car/bike collisions, when bikes collide with pedestrians, MPI isn’t responsible, so it doesn’t cost the government any money!
Marcy: “Wow Bill, that is awesome. I bet you’ll get a promotion.”
The Pedestrian I almost hit when he suddenly stepped out in front of my bike in order to catch his bus: “HOLY SHIT!”
Me: “HOLY SHIT!”
Who: The car full of guys who thought it was SUPER FUNNY when I almost smashed into the side of their car as they cut me off to get to Tony Romas.
Guy 1 (driver): “Boy, I love ribs.”
Guy 2: “WOAH! Did you see that! That lady on a bike almost smashed into the side of the car!”
Guy 3: “Yeah! Did you see the look on her face? Hahaha! Hilarious!!!!!”
Guy 4: “Hahahahaha! Yeah, awesome!”
Guy 1: “Boy, I love ribs.”
Who: The driver of the truck who buzzed me, even though there were three empty lanes beside him.
Driver: “Oh, look! A cyclist! I love this game… let’s see how close I can get without hitting her. Closer… closer…. YES!!! Probably my best one yet, I must have been no more than six inches away! In your FACE motherfucker! Oops, I’m late for church, better get a move on.”
Who: The woman who turned left in an intersection and almost smoked an elderly lady on a beach cruiser so she wouldn’t to have to wait 3 seconds for the next break in traffic.
Hurried Woman: “I sure would like to be home watching TV instead of in this car. I could be missing something really important! Stupid Sunday traffic! Oh good, here’s a break in traffic. Drat! There’s an old woman on a bike. She’s not going fast enough!! Hmmm. She can’t weigh anymore than about 120 pounds, so she probably won’t even leave a dent – I’m going for it!
Cruiser woman (swerving to avoid being hit): “AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!”
Hurried woman: “Made it!” And I didn’t even hit her! I am such a good driver! I wonder if Hawaii 5-0 is on. I love that show.”
Oy. I should (and will) mention that all of the above encounters occurred in a time span of approximately 25 minutes on a Sunday, about 5:30pm.
Even if you can’t read minds either, you probably know what I’m thinking. It was a scary, frustrating, and stressful ride that left me both furious and sickened by a handful of my fellow Winnipeggers, not to mention the state of affairs in general.
I try to stick up for Winnipeg drivers and cyclists whenever I can – after all, for every bad encounter, I have many, many encounters that are without incident, and might even be described as pleasant. I like to think that while we have a long way to go to becoming a bike-friendly city, Winnipeg is making great strides in improving infrastructure – or at least trying to look like we are. But a ride like this underscores the mountain of work ahead, and the risks that exists for people who choose to ride their bikes in this city. The reality is that, in terms of “bike cities”, this is the wild west, and it behooves every one of us, whether on a bike, in a car, or on our own two feet, to watch out for ourselves.
And maybe – just maybe – watch out for each other too.
by CycleChick on September 14, 2013
The stem is a very important part of a bicycle. Not only does it serve to hold the handlebars, it also ensures that when you turn said handlebars in a certain direction, your front wheel follows. Nobody loves stem like 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome, as you will see from this collection of images my friend Scott shared from the fine (yet undeniably sick) folks at The Sufferfest. Here are some of my favourites:
Looking at Stem while controlling Nibali.
Looking at Stem beside a lake.
Looking at Stem in front of Canadians:
Missing the Stem.
Did you just look at my Stem? EYES OFF MY STEM!
Stems come in many shapes and sizes, and have about a gazillion different measurements you are supposed to know by heart, presuming you have nothing better to clutter your mind with. If one of those measurements is off, several things will likely happen:
1. your handlebars will not fit into your stem
2. the stem will not fit into the steer tube
3. your bars will be too low or too high
4. your bars will be to far forward or too far back
With me so far?
5. your stem could be cracked
6. your stem may have been pried open to remove the bars
7. your stem could be missing a part
Any one of these things could very well cause misery, injury, or death. Of the seven possible stem disasters itemized above, I have now experienced six, and an equal number of stems to match – and that, my friends, is a bullshit number of stems for one bike. It’s a good thing I’m so stubborn. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of all of my stem woes, but suffice it to say there were plenty.
For example, this one was too long. And not quite Italian enough. Plus, since my Cinelli bars were made prior to 1998, they have a diameter of 26.4mm as opposed to the standard 26.0mm. So they did not fit. Like I was somehow supposed to know that.
I’m PRETTY sure the Hipster wasn’t trying to kill me when he gave me a cracked stem. But you never know – hipsters can be unpredictable.
This one was missing parts.
I have no doubt that Hot Legs Coughlin could have found the handle bar bolt in his garage. Somewhere. Maybe.
Thanks to my new B.F.F. Andrew at Natural Cycle, I now have a stem that fits. Mostly. It fits into the steer tube, and it came with handle bars. Gorgeous handle bars. That fit. It is Abmrosio – Ambrosio is Italian. And it was the correct price. Unfortunately it is also a bit too long, but at this point that is the least of my worries. It fits 67 of the possible 70 criteria items and for now, that is just fine. After all, this is lucky stem #7.
It turns out one of the Adrians at Olympia Cycle has an Ambrosio stem that is too short for him. Perhaps I can prey on his penchant for bottled hops and we can work something out.
In the meantime, with all due respect to Mr. Froome, I have bigger fish to fry. Next up: the drive train.
by CycleChick on September 10, 2013
‘Twas the day before DarkCross and all ’round the track
the course tape was stretched out without any slack.The banners were hung on the fencing with care,
In hopes that the sponsors would make people stare.
All of a sudden I heard a loud clatter
And figured I should go see what was the matter.
Away to the flyover I hastily dashed
To see who’s poor toes it had probably smashed.
“Don’t fret about lightning,” he said with a smile.
“The tallest thing out here is certainly Lyle.”
Later that evening the crowd started to thicken.
As my race time came closer I started to sicken.
The course would be tough with some frightening speed
And like you, dear reader, I don’t like to bleed.
Our petite commissaire called us up for our seeding
My heart might explode with the speed it was beating.
“Now Jason! Now Milo! Now Anna and Ian!
On Cameron! On Lincoln! On Trevor and Steven!”
“To the front of the line, get your ass off the wall!
Now ride away! Ride away! Ride away all!
Like a herd of wild bison the racers they thundered.
“What the hell am I doing?” I silently wondered.
We flew ’round the track and dashed up the run-up.
The flashes and pyro lit the sky like at sun-up.
We crashed and we tangled, we flatted and fumbled.
We sweated and dry heaved and cursed and we tumbled.
But when it was over and our breathing came back,
We ran to the bar for a beer and a snack.
We took off our skin suits, grabbed our bells from the truck
To heckle the A Race and tell them they suck.
And now that it’s over, we shed a small tear
Until we remember we’ll do it next year.
So plaster a smile on your dirt-splattered faces
And get your ass out to the next seven races.
by CycleChick on September 5, 2013
Yes, boys and girls, this Saturday it all gets underway with DarkCross. That’s only two sleeps away! I was almost too busy helping run the hype machine to remind you. Running the hype machine can almost be a full time job. Thank God for minions.
Lots of fun new things this year – pyrotechnics from Archangel Fireworks, laser light show, and even fire dancers. It’s like the freaking Olympics, but without all the stupid parades.
Online registration ends tonight, so get your ass signed up now. If racing isn’t your thing, remember you can enjoy it all as a spectator FOR FREE! Not only can you not race, you can taunt, photograph, and heckle those who do. How fun is that? Lots.
Don’t forget to bring some cash for an obnoxious cowbell and sexy t-shirt.
See you there!
by CycleChick on August 30, 2013
In the grand scheme off things, a cracked fork is no big deal. In the somewhat smaller scheme of a bike restoration, however, a cracked fork is a fucking catastrophe. This post is about a broken fork and how my friend Lyle saved the Guerciotti project from a swift and early demise.
I was in the car, driving back from what was supposed to be a very happy visit to Olympia, where one of the mechanics was going to use the “special headset wrenches” to do the final tightening of my headset. It was, a momentous and proud occasion.
After the headset was firmly in place, I happened to mention I was having some trouble getting the stem to slide into the steer tube, trying my best not to be lewd. Scott (one of several) stepped over to have a look, and in doing so discovered a nasty crack in the top of the steertube. This was not good news. The steer tube is part of the fork, a pretty essential part of the bike, and I was going to have to find a new one. It was at this moment the Guerciotti came perilously close to landing in the dumpster behind Olympia.
I looked everywhere from local bike shops to the Interwebs, and had people as far away as Los Angeles looking for a suitable (and affordable) replacement. And of course I whined about my predicament to anyone who would listen.
This is where Lyle comes in. I decided I would let him tell the story from his perspective (with some added commentary from me). He promised to take pictured of how he repaired the fork. In return, I promised to make him famous.
CycleChick: Go ahead Lyle. It’s all you.
Lyle Wiens: A couple of weeks back, at the beginning of a weekly bike ride, I overheard Andrea lamenting the fact that her newly powder-coated fork for the “gwerchy” project was cracked. Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate to the “Citiots” (no offense Andrea…it’s just such a good word) how ignorant they are about how things are made, I jumped in on the conversation. It turns out that the top of the steer tube had a small crack in it at the top.
“Yeah, I can fix that.” I told her.
“What? You can FIX the steer tube?” she said.
“No problem, I do it all the time.” I said. “Seriously, I’m eight feet tall and very few forks come with steer tubes long enough for bicycle frames big enough for giants.”
CC: I should clarify that Lyle is actually 6’8 and a trim 245. So yes, finding things that fit can likely be a challenge.
LW: So anyway, she asked, “Really?! You can fix that?”
“Yeah”, I told her, “I’ll just cut off the existing steer tube and weld on another one.”
So then she asked me if I was sure it would be strong enough. The one benefit of being a Clydesdale is that if it doesn’t break while I’m riding it, it won’t break while you are.
Andrea brought me the fork a week or two later and I took it to my shop and welded on a replacement. The original steer tube was cut, then a smaller steel tube sleeve inserted in to reinforce the joint. A new top was then threaded and welded on to the fork. Like so:
CC: And it is perfect. You truly saved the Gwerchy. When you’re not busy marrying your cousins, you country folk are pretty handy. Thanks Lyle!
By the way, the image at the top of this post was emailed to me by Lyle, with the note: “Andrea, your fork is done.” To which I parlayed my abundant thanks and asked if I needed to get it cut and threaded. Lyle had to tell me it was a joke and that it was just an old pipe he found lying around the farm. Citiot indeed.
by CycleChick on August 21, 2013
Being an international blogging sensation means I get all sorts of free stuff. And by free stuff I mean eye strain and parking tickets. But every so often I do get for real awesome stuff and I am happy to let you know what I think of it. Since they aren’t worth anything, I’m not paid for my opinions, so I promise to give you the straight goods. After all, if you’re unhappy, I’m unhappy. And if you look stupid, I look stupid. That’s just the way this thing works.
If you have stuff you would like me to review, let me know. Especially if it’s a size 54 carbon fibre cyclocross race bike. Or bourbon. If I don’t like it, I will let you know privately, and gently, and let you know why. I may even rock you slowly until you feel better. If I haven’t written about something you’ve sent me yet, don’t worry, chances are I am out somewhere doing power intervals in preparation for cross season. Or sleeping off the bourbon.
Let’s get started.
I recently designed the event jersey for the Habitat for Humanity Ride Around the Lake and was put in touch with the local rep for Sugoi, who is making the kit. Nick came down to the office and in the course of our meeting, asked if I would be willing to try out some Sugoi cycling product (apparently they do not make bourbon) and let them (and you) know what I think. I happily agreed. He said he would send me their top-of-the line RSE cycling kit and would send me a size chart.
After Nick left, I sent him a rather awkward email to set something straight:
Thanks for the opportunity to test out the Sugoi product. Very exciting!
I don’t want to sound picky or ungrateful, but I should mention that I am not a fan of pink. I refuse to wear it on the bike. Same with purple, flowers, butterflies, or anything else that has no business on cycling gear.
A day or so passed and I started to worry I had offended him. Finally I received his response:
So I should cancel the order for the jersey with the purple butterfly flying next to a unicorn with a rainbow over a field of pink roses?
Have an excellent night,
I’m beginning to like this Nick guy.
When the Sugoi package arrived I was away on holidays. The guys at the office were very excited and sent me an email telling me the stuff felt great and promised they would try not to stretch out the bib shorts too bad. Jerks.
The look and feel of the jersey was impressive. It feels almost like nylon – smooth and cool, with a more breathable mesh fabric on the back panel and under the arms. There is a nice wide grippy band around the arms – which I might add are a nice length, not those dumb little short “cap sleeves” that you see sometimes that look stupid and totally wreck your pro tan lines. There are THREE pockets, plus an extra zipped one for added storage.
I like the full zip because I hate fucking around with pulling tight clothes over my head, especially when I forget to take my helmet off first. I also like that the jersey is long enough that I don’t look like Brittany Spears in a tummy-baring pop-top. The RSE is a “pro-fit” jersey (garment industry code for “skin-tight”), and therefore not for the faint of heart. There is nowhere to hide in this little number, especially since it’s white – but if you can swing it, you’ll feel and look like a superhero.
Speaking of colour – Nick was a bit embarrassed because the only colour option on the ladies’ RSE jersey is white with pink accents – an odd decision on Sugoi’s part, since it is by far the most performance-focussed jersey they make, and in my experience (though far from comprehensive) many women who race or ride more seriously are less likely to want pink on their kit. Nick tells me they are working on other options. Good call.
There is nothing more pro than white, and when I wear it I do admit to feeling 1% closer to the golden pro standard we all aspire to. It is, however, quite sheer, so you should exercise extreme caution with your selection of underthings. Especially if it happens to rain unexpectedly, like it did the first time I wore my sexy new pro kit on a ride.Oh yes. Things got a little messy. Oops.
As soon as I got home I doused everything with spray Shout, wondering how I was going to break the news to Nick that I had destroyed the kit on it’s maiden voyage. But to my amazement, it came out as white it had been when I received it.
That might sound a little sales-pitchy, but believe me, I’ve had plenty of jerseys covered with road juice that are forever scarred with those telltale grey stains that just never seem to come clean.
Overall, I love this jersey. The fit, the feel, and the look – even with those little hits of pink, which make me a little crabby, but are actually subtle enough to ignore. If they offered more colour options, that would be rad.
The Bib Shorts
I have a love/hate relationship with bib shorts. While they don’t creep down or bunch like some regular shorts do, they can be problematic on longer rides when roadside nature breaks in mixed company are required.
Thank you Tony, that will be all.
The manufacturers have struggled with bibs for women, both in terms of accommodating nature breaks, as well as those pesky lumps we have on our chests. European manufacturers like Assos and Santini have dealt with the latter issue like this:I’m not sure how many of these bibs they actually sell, but when I Googled images of bib shorts, this image was number one. I guess lots of women are checking out bib shorts online.
The RSE bibs I received have normal, non-Euro trash suspenders that criss-cross in the back, for a snug fit that doesn’t slip off the shoulders when you ride, or when you dance around the house to embarrass your spouse and/or children.
The chamois in the shorts is quite comfortable – not like some others that make you feel like you’re sitting on a sock monkey. There is a glorious absence of “bits pinching”, something that can make even a short ride absolute misery. A plushy fabric, lots of spacey fabrics and venting make this a really comfortable ride – although I’m not sure how it would fare on a longer ride. But considering the aforementioned trouble with bibs and nature breaks, that won’t be an issue.
Speaking of that, Nick tells me they have developed a new women’s bib that may revolutionize the nature break issue. He wasn’t able to get me a sample, but as soon as he does I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes in embarrassingly graphic detail.
The fabric of the bibs is pretty awesome, and includes 75% polyamide, whatever the hell that is. But it is silky and slides over the sides of my saddle like a dream when I ride. It may sound like a small thing, but there is a noticeable absence of friction. Friction makes heat. Heat makes you sweat. Friction plus moisture equals chaffing. Chaffing equals misery. It’s all simple science my friends.Lastly, you’ll notice the nice wide grip band at the bottom of the shorts. Why it took people so long to do this boggles the mind. More comfort and less sausage is a no-brainer.
Thanks to Nick and Sugoi for letting me test their great product. It was pretty fun and I really do love this kit almost enough to sleep in it. I’m excited to see what else Sugoi has coming down the pipes, but in the meantime I will continue to enjoy the hell out of my pink rainbow unicorn kit.
by CycleChick on August 20, 2013
In case you missed my screams of joy followed by loathsome gloating on the interwebs, I got some pretty exciting news today. A few weeks ago I entered a contest on the Facebook for a cycling trip to Italy. It sounded pretty awesome and all I had to do was press some buttons on my keyboard, which admittedly can be tough with these weak tyrannosaurus rex arms.
Well it turns out I WON!!!!
The only thing that would have made this news sweeter is if it had been delivered tattooed on the glistening golden buttocks of Mario Cipollini himself.
The tour is put on by Thomson Bike Tours, specialists in performance cycling tours to France, Spain and Italy and a leading provider of bike tours to the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
Here are the details. Prepare to hate my guts.
SAT Oct 12
Arrive in Rome, transfer to our Hotel
SUN Oct 13
**ROMA Gran Fondo Campagnolo**
MON Oct 14
Rome › Monte Terminillo › Norcia
TUE Oct 15
Norcia › Monte Nerone › Urbino
WED Oct 16
Urbino › Perticara › Faenza
THU Oct 17
Faenza › San Gottardo › Vicenza
FRI Oct 18
**Campagnolo Factory Visit**
Short bike ride accompanied by
Campagnolo staff & pro riders, past & present…
VIP Dinner in Vicenza
hosted by Campagnolo
It’s ok. I even hate myself a little right now.
As you can see, there is about a month’s worth of riding crammed into five days. And enough climbing to probably kill me. But it’s in freaking Italy, so I will die happy. They also don’t mention the prosecco tasting. Perhaps they thought it was too much awesome to fit into one chart.
I’m not going to lie. It’s going to be awesome. I think I need to lie down.
by CycleChick on August 13, 2013
Cyclocross Season Kick-Off Gathering
Wednesday, September 4th, 7-10 p.m.
The Belgian Club, 407 Provencher Blvd
• Pick up your new 2013-14 race numbers. Skip the line at the first race (DarkCross) – Face it, it might be the only chance you get to be ahead of Dan Morwood.
• Season pass available for purchase (cash or cheque)
• Talk to race organizers. Tell them how awesome they are. Heck, buy them a beer.
• Ask questions – new racers welcome
• Have a Belgian brew. Have several. ‘Tis the season after all.
Photo of Danny from SouthernCross 2012. Sorry, I can’t recall who took the photo, and I’m too lazy to find out, but it sure does make me smile.
by CycleChick on August 9, 2013
As you might have figured out by now, this bike is not going to be the all-weather work-horse commuter bike that I intended it to be. No, this bike (which has now garnered nicknames like “The Princess Bike” and “Purple Fantasy”) is shaping up to be a classic Italian road bike, the likes of which any Italian worth their Pradas and pecorino would be proud to ride. Until, of course, it falls to pieces.
With the fabulous purple powder coating done, the next step was to “face and chase” the frame, a process that cleans the overspray from critical contact areas and threads – specifically the bottom lug where the bottom bracket goes in, and the head tube, where the headset (and eventually stem and handlebars) goes. One needs special tools for such an operation, and since the tools I have aren’t good for much more than a manicure, I made my way to Olympia, beer and bike in hand, for some old-school Italian loving.
That done, I was finally able to start putting things back together, starting with the headset. The headset is basically a jumble of rings and bearings that all get mashed and screwed together to hold the fork onto the frame.When Brad The Impaler helped me take it out, the loose bearings scattered all over the floor of his garage. While horrifying, it is apparently entirely natural, and the bearings would need replacing anyway. Equally horrifying was the thought of greasing and reinstalling a million tiny bearings when the time came to reassemble the headset. Thankfully at some point in time, some genius engineer put their powers to good use and invented cages that hold the bearings so they don’t fall out all over the garage floor.The good people at Natural Cycle found me the appropriate set of caged bearings and I was ready to put the headset back together. But then I found out that I first needed to press the cups into the head tube – an operation that required the use of a specific tool. So, you guessed it, back to Olympia with the frame, cups, and more beer.
It was at this point we discovered that something was awry (a fancy term for fucked) with the bottom cup. The cups should be very tight in the head tube, which is why you need the special press to put them in. My bottom cup was so loose (how loose was it?) you could just place it in with your bare hands and pull it right out again. This, to put it mildly, was not very good news.
It’s a good thing there isn’t a Strava for bike builds.
I left the store and spent the next week doing research and exploring my options – which is really nice way of saying I made a pain in the ass of myself asking every bike geek I know what they would do. One option was getting an entirely new headset, but that just sounded like a waste of good beer money. Another option included the use of an adhesive like Loctite or J-B Weld to secure the cup into place. That seemed a bit too permanent, and I’m not big on commitment.
Someone else suggested a radical solution involving cutting small, metal shims out of a pop can to place between the cup and frame. Of course, this was the perfect solution – and most certainly the one that this guy would choose.
First I painted my nails a nice Bianchi celeste since it was the most Italian colour I had.Next, I found a can of Coke in the recycling bin. I would have used Italian beer, but if I was going to buy Italian beer, it would be wine. I cut a bunch of pieces about 1/4″ wide x 1″ long.Then I slathered the inside of the head tube with some really sticky grease and placed the shims evenly around the inside, like so:With the shims in place, I carefully placed the cup into the head tube and pressed it into place.
Just kidding. He didn’t say that last part.
Now I was ready to assemble the headset. I watch this tutorial about a million times, and basically did exactly what the guy told me. While assembling a headset may be confusing and hard, following directions is easy. Especially if you watch them a million times.
Then I had to bring the frame back to Olympia again to have it tightened and adjusted since I don’t have the tools for that either. If the mechanics at Olympia become alcoholics, I may be partially responsible.
You might have noticed that some of the decals are on. They are from Cyclomondo in Australia, and they are fantastic. I got them for my birthday from Brother Al and could not wait to apply them to my newly minted frame.
That was a mistake. With all of the galavanting around with the frame, one of them got scratched, prompting all sorts of pouting and inappropriate language. So the rest will wait until more of the bike is together and there is less galavanting. Waiting is hard.
Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment, tentatively titled “What the Fork?”, where I get a nasty surprise about my steer tube.
by CycleChick on August 3, 2013
Altona is a small Mennonite town in Southern Manitoba, surrounded by a million other small Mennonite towns. In Altona, there is a group of bicycle enthusiasts, appropriately called the Altona Bicycle Enthusiasts, or ABES, which I think is pretty darn clever. Last Saturday, they, along with the good folk of the OCC, held a 170km race called the Knacksot ne Runtreis Gravel Grinder. Heavens. With a name like that, how could I refuse?Plus, word has it the ABES put on a pretty good party.In case you can’t tell what’s going on here, this is Shaun smoking both a real AND an electronic cigarette just before the start of the race. I think in a past life Shaun was an Italian bike racer.
For those not from around here, it is important not to confuse Mennonites with Hutterites. While they share similar roots and beliefs, they are very different in many ways. For example, Hutterites tend to live in colonies and pretty much keep to themselves, while Mennonites live willy-nilly wherever they want.
Many Mennonites speak low German. I’m no expert, but from what I can tell, low German is to regular German what Yiddish is to Hebrew. Since I don’t a word of German, low, high, or otherwise, the meaning behind the name of the race was a complete mystery. KnackSot has a bit of a dirty sound to it, and the ABES do have a pretty bawdy sense of humour, so I assumed the worst.
The KnackSot happened to correspond with Altona’s annual Sunflower Festival, and as such all the racers were invited to participate in the festival parade, which was as awesome as it was slow.
I ‘ve always wanted to be in a parade. Mind you, I may have pictured myself sitting in the back of a convertible with a tiara on my head and a sash reading “2o13 Altona Sunflower Festival Queen” instead of ratchet pedalling a bike at two kilometres an hour in a helmet and sweaty black lycra, but we can’t all be winners. Sniff.Nevertheless, starting the KnackSot gravel race (or any race for that matter) as part of a parade is a pretty big deal, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.The race officially got going at the end of the parade. I should mention here that there were actually three distance options in the Knacksot – 50, 80, or 170 kilometres. When I asked The Dark Lord which distance the Roosters were planning to do, he said “170 of course”, like there was any question. If we Roosters are known for anything other than our love of beer, it is our complete disdain for moderation.All the racers started together, with different routes mapped out for each. Seven kilometers from the start, the Roosters made their move. Or rather, the really fast ones did. I saw the move from too far back and began chasing madly to catch the back of the splinter group. I managed to catch them, but the effort was enough that even hanging on was very difficult. Finally I just had to accept that in terms of this group, I was punching above my weight. If you feel crappy in the first hour of a 170km race, chances are you are in for a world of pain that will last for approximately an eternity.
Here is the lead group at a rest stop one third of the way through the race. Chris, Terry, JP and Daniel would stay together until the end, finishing in 5 hours and 50 minutes. I hope Terry is puking here, because that would make me feel a bit better. The fact that Chris is laughing at him makes me think he is. So we’ll go with that.
Dave Gerrard gallantly waited for me after I dropped from the group, and we picked up Scottie and Adam shortly after, and had intermittent contact with other racers here and there. But for the most part, we stayed together.We had various stops along the way: food stops, nature stops, and where the hell are we stops. Each of us took our turn feeling terrible, while the others offered food, encouragement, and a wheel to follow.
After a particularly heinous uphill gravel climb with a grade of about 14%, Dave’s knee gave out. I could tell because I am so very in-tune with the subtle signs associated with knee discomfort, such as pedalling with one leg whilst lamenting “My knee is fucked”.We called the SAG wagon for Dave, and resisted the temptation to join him. By this point Scottie had ditched us to try to close the gap on the lead group, leaving Adam and I to complete the remainder of the race together. Adam was feeling slightly crappier than I was, so while I offered my wheel as much as I could (or he would let me), he provided excellent company and navigation, without which I would have ended up in Thunder Bay. Thanks Adam!
After the race, we were invited to the amazing Krahn Barn in Neubergthal, a charming Mennonite heritage village five miles from Altona.The Krahns bought the barn in 1998 (or I think that’s what their daughter Genevieve told us) and converted it into a jaw-droppingly beautiful home. I snooped a little inside, but sadly missed the grand tour while visiting with one of the residents.Kitteh!
I am a lifelong city gal, but after seeing the Krahn barn, I think I could adapt quite nicely to life in a small Mennonite Village – growing eggs, planting and tending stuff, or whatever else country people do. This dream is completely contingent, however, on being within five minutes of an operational source of liquor – which in these parts might be a deal-breaker.
Paul and Marguerite were perfect hosts, feeding us locally-made sausage (MUST GET MORE), malt beverages, the requisite shit-ton of chips, and, of course, KnackSot.Yes, it turns out that KnackSot (pronounced ka-NUK-zoat) is low-German for sunflower seeds – or “crack seeds”, if you were to translate literally.
…Crack seeds (giggle). I knew I could count on the ABES.
The rest of the evening was spent, in the words of our host, doing what friends do.Thanks to Jared Falk for the use of his lovely photos. You can tell his from mine because his are good. And huge thanks to Scott, Adam, and David for being such great riding companions. Most of all, thanks to Paul, Marguerite, the ABES, Ian Hall and the OCC for giving us such a great day.