CIRREM metric gravel grinder ride report and review

CIRREM was even better than expected!

All the other Rochesterites backed out so I wound up taking the Mini Cooper and leaving fairly late in the night Friday. Stopped when I got tired and filled up on Applebee's then made a bed in the back of the car. Turns out it is possible for a 5'11" tall human to stretch out in a Mini Cooper if they do things just right! I'm not going to give away any secrets here though...

Woke up around 8 on Saturday and had a breakfast of XXX Vitamin water and Chia "fresca". I eyed the wonderful spread set up at the Cumming Tap, but knew eating any of it would come back to haunt me.


Thanks Jed and Kent for putting this thing together. The Cumming tap is a perfect start/finish (other than the spring across the only "busy" road the riders see all day), and all the details that go into the race are excellent. Providing food before the race, at the checkpoint and after the race is awesome. It's also convenient to finish somewhere with excellent beer on tap. The course is great. Lots of rolling hills on secluded gravel roads. It's very similar in feel to the area between Spring Valley and Decorah which I consider some of the best gravel riding I've experienced.

The thing that really sets this race apart though is the riders. 101 people showed up this year despite the "crappy" weather (snow and colder than expected isn't ideal). Everyone was friendly. Not too many cycling events I've been to where you can go in only knowing a couple people and leave with a new nickname and a couple handfulls worth of new friends... especially not when you're the jerk who fell and took out a bunch of innocent bystanders. This is what will keep me coming back to race/ride in Iowa.

Wish I had some pictures of all the awesome prizes and giveaways or of the after party in general, great stuff!


The temperature was colder than expected overnight- hovering around 14. The weather report had called for 18 and a high later in the day around 28 or 30. I had 700x42 Specialized Borough CX Pros on my Viner- figuring that the biggest potential issue would be sloppy/wet gravel and wanting to float on top rather than sink. At the last minute before leaving home I'd thrown in my IRD Crossfires just in case it seemed that traction would be more important than glide. For some reason I didn't even consider swapping them out, even after I noticed it was a bit slick on the road in front of the Cumming Tap. In retrospect I have no idea what I was thinking, but I think I was thinking that I wanted the faster roll of the semi-slicks (this would eventually be my undoing). I'm sure if the race had been on pavement the combination of my semi-slick tires and "aero" wheels would have given me an almost unfair advantage. The race wasn't on pavement, it was on gravel roads with 3-5" of snow over them and then somewhere between 3 and 10 sets of car tracks through that.

The race started and I was happily comfortable with the pace up front. Felt good too! It wasn't long ago that I would have been struggling just to keep up at the beginning of a race like this. I noticed it slicker than I'd expected and began to spend a lot of time at the front to minimize the chance of someone falling in front of me and maximize my visibility of the good lines. My sunglasses became covered with freezing rain and I could hardly see anything- but my bike felt good. Eventually I had to pull the Sunglasses off for better visibility (wow had I ever left them on too long- I could see great after removing them).

There were a few mini-attacks etc., but nothing major. Then at mile 26 or so we came to a long downhill. I was out on the far left of the road, noticed there was a car coming and almost immediately went into a 2 wheel drift back across the road to the right. I was off the brakes the whole time, but had caught a bit of a ridge from where a few cars had driven and once both wheels weren't tracking I knew I was in trouble. After crossin the road in slow motion, I laid it down and 4 or 5 other bikes followed me. I felt terrible about taking people out. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, although I've been taking a lot of Advil and ice ever since.

The group waited for us all to catch back on at the bottom of the hill, thanks! However, when I got to the next uphill I realized that I had knocked my shifting enough out of wack that I would have to get off again and mess around. By the time I got going again I was surely 3-4 minutes back.

It was a long road back to the front (now a group of 8-10?) but I eventually got there. Three or four miles later someone told me that the next climb was long and winding. At that point I felt pretty shaky going downhill and I knew I had to make the best of the uphills. I put in a solid, albeit careful due to the 18 miles left, effort and there were only 4 of us in sight at the top. We crested the next uphill with just three. Then we started hitting some longer downhills with lots of snow on them and one guy flew by me on the way down then the whole group pulled away from my scared ass more and more on each subsequent hill.

I tried to pull them back in after it got flatter, but I'd burned too many matches catching up the last time to chase down a group again. I was happy to notice that I didn't have any back pain despite spending a lot of time in the drops. Eventually I got a bit lost, but finished under 4 hrs and feeling happy overall. Might have been different if I'd swapped tires (or just not fallen and shaken my confidence). Overall though, I am very happy to have rode as strongly as I did at this point in the year.

Congratulations to all that finished- particularly Guitar Ted... he stuck it out despite having frozen feet with a lot of mileage left to go. As always it's the guys who are out there the longest who are the most impressive. I know I didn't feel like riding any longer than I did!

Next up is the Iowa Spring Classic Race this Saturday.

what not to ride when racing on snow

what you may regret leaving in your car while racing on snow


learning to skate ski at wolverine village first ever cross country, birkie training

I'm sorry, this is going to be a bunch of words with no pictures once again...

Just finished the first part of my "year" or "season" this year. This year I started riding December 1st of last year, if you know what I mean. I've mostly just been commuting. In fact, I've only missed a couple days. No empirical evidence or anything like that, but I like the idea of more shorter rides all the time rather than 2 or 3 long ones per week. Makes some sense that the long rides are more likely to make me sick and no more beneficial. I may have taken that idea a bit to the extreme, but I've been keeping it light and having fun.

Next up I'm going to increase the hours a bit while the temperature rises. It's conveniently about 10 more weeks to the beginning of May (half way there). Come May I plan to be starting to feel pretty organized. May and June are what it's all about for me right now. My schedule is shaping up to look very very similar to last year, something I said before I wouldn't do... but when I said that I was only thinking about my performance. I had a great time last year and this is all about THAT, so why not do it all again. Hopefully do it all a bit better too. Also, I'm not stupid and I've plans to tweak a few things in order to better prepare myself for the challenges of the wide range/mix of races I want to do. The big change from last year will be that I'll be doing some road racing over the next 10 weeks. Yes, I said road racing. I bought the bike, paid my $30 for my license, 4 races on the my schedule, start in two weeks, wish me luck!

picture stolen from google- is of the wolverine xc trails, so almost legit

I made it up to the wonderful Wolverine Village again this weekend (wolverinevillage.com if you're interested). I'd called Bob a couple of weeks ago about my bike touring trip this June, making sure I could mail myself some stuff so I could resupply at his lodge. While on the phone he convinced me that I should come up and learn to skate ski. I figured it might be fun and the chance to get world class instruction, lodging, terrain and conditions just 5 hrs from home doesn't come along all that often. For what it's worth, my Dad used to be Bob's Alpine coach and Bob still refers to him as coach even 30+ years later. Seems an odd thing to say, but it's nothing new either- Dad's got an almost cult-like following amongst his athletes. Anyways, after a short career as a "pro" skier Bob switched almost solely to cross country and had some very very good results as an athlete and as a coach. It was going to be an honor to learn from him. For good measure I also convinced Dad to come up, hit Indianhead with me in the mornings and do whatever else (we'd end up going on a long night hike with a messed up map, never finding our destination... saving some snowboarders from a huge towing bill with our ingenuity after they tried to drive their civic in 2' of snow, and learning about turn of the century Lake Superior Gillnet Tugs after seeing on in the Black River Harbor).

One time in 7th grade I'd gone classical xc skiing. This was my first time skate skiing. Bob showed me how to get into the bindings, told me he wouldn't watch me until "later", and took off to find good snow. We made about 40 laps of the same 100 yard section. Each time he would give me something to think about/watch about his technique. Always he would go in the front and not watch me, in order to let me find my own feeling without extra pressure. After that first 45 minutes we went up and down a 150 yard hill about ten times. At that point he watched me ski about 3 steps and told me I needed to better synchronize poles and skis (I could have told him that...). The key would be to plan the poles as I set my ski down to glide. We worked on that for the remainder of 2 hrs.

Day two immediately felt a lot better- conditions were incredible (groomed, soft, fast) and I was right away able to get good balanced glides and better coordination with my arms. I think I surprised him with my progress. We ended up skiing all the Wolverine Village trails after another focused 30 minutes of practice. Throughout the whole trail system he always had something for me to focus on. I think I got better every 5 minutes. It was pretty exhilarating... until we got about 3 km from the lodge and my arms just died (I actually can't lift them over my head as I write this).

Bob is learning Spanish. This means that he gave most of my lesson in both Spanish and English, first with the Spanish for him? then a translation for me. Kept me on my toes. Funny part is that it actually led to him falling. I just finished the book "Born to Run" and a researcher referenced in there found a huge link between running/balance and language learning (the roots of language in our evolutionary history). When Bob couldn't think of the right word in Spanish and fell over it pretty much confirmed that link for me, no more research necessary.

After the first day Bob had decided I didn't look "right" with my purple flannel on, so he gave me a really nice wolverine village jacket and hat to wear. Also, the equipment I had borrowed was all real good, top of the line, Atomic stuff. I'd joked with my Dad about how funny I would look with all the gear and no clue what I was doing... but we'd also both agreed that having none of the gear and not knowing what I was doing would have been just as bad... I didn't really care either way. About half way through the main loop we hit the bottom of a long uphill and paused for a bit of instruction before continuing on. Right as the trail really kicked up some guy caught up to us in full xc "kit". I immediately moved over to let him pass, but he didn't want to. 300 feet? of climbing later Bob stopped at the top to give some more instruction and the "racer guy" stopped to talk to us. He asked if we'd raced the day before... Bob said "no, we were taking it easy, just getting ready for next week (meaning birkie)". He asked me about my skis, and after a 10 second pause while I tried to figure out how to explain the situation, Bob said, "he loves them". He probably should have explained it was my 2nd day ever on xc skis and taken some glory for being a decent coach... but this was a lot funnier if you ask me.

I'm thinking about heading back up in three weeks for more... whether or not that works out I'll be up a few times earlier in the year next year and hopefully skiing around here some a couple times a week.


anybody know how this thing works?

So, I got a few email complaints that you now had to click a disclaimer in order to enter my blog. Assumed it was because of the, not even at all naked, girl pushing the car... which was then removed. Now, a day later, the disclaimer still pops up?

I feel like I'm posting on RASC (where the Dickiescramble.blogspot.com address turned into thingyiescramble.blogspot.com and a link to nowhere). Was it that picture? Is the rest of my content to blame? what the heck is going on? Are the republicans in charge of congress so against bikes that they've decided to "pg13" any bike related content? Maybe it was all that talk about "hipsters" and "bike commuting".

I'm off to Ironwood for the weekend to relax at the rustic "Wolverine Village"- not a lot of internet for me until Monday.


trans upper peninsula bike tour route, June trip

more information here click this-


brief synopsis- a large chunk of my route for spring has been made for me. It's very close to my initial plans. Freaking awesome!

Gear has come together for this thing too. Only thing left really is to see how it goes trying to get it all on my bike. Then figure out what sort of cooking setup I may want to bring.

Unbelievably pumped for something so far out!


near death ride

Beautiful, warm weather continues! Felt like a higher intensity workout once again. Crazy Courtney had given me a free burrito card last time I was in Chipotle and it's not fun riding hard without going fast. Decided north Chipotle on the pink bike would be the ticket (it has 28s on it rather than the studs on the Kona). Pace, cadence, breathing were all up. Felt awesome to get out in the warmth and dream about summer. Can't remember getting the legs spinning over 100 rpms so much since cyclocross. Ninety minutes later, and covered in road grime, came back into town from the north and wound my way through the traffic to Chipotle.

After lunch I basically only had enough time, 45 minutes or so, to head down to work and change. I would head down the frontage road, cross at 19th street and then take side streets down to the bike paths and on in.

I crossed under the bridge to IBM and approached a long, gradual left hand turn. A car came by, Nissan Maxima, and something felt off. It buried itself into the turn, almost struck the outside curb before overcorrecting back across the road. Totally out of control, tires and engine screaming, it spun, righted itself and breached the slushy drift lining the road. Slush flew everywhere as the car lurched through, only to shoot forward even further almost to IBM's fence. I dismounted and walked through the slush and mud to the car to find two young women. Each done up in a sort of "hippy chic" motif, complete with creative piercings, low-cut shirts and skirts. They looked at me with absolute embarassment.

Eventually I helped them push their car back onto the road and get out of there. I wish I would have asked them if they almost hit me or if they passed by me "normally", but then lost control because they were checking me out. I think it was the latter, I just don't remember then being real close to me... and if they had swerved around me then why would they have missed the apex of their turn to the OUTSIDE back in my direction.

Vanity aside, the power of the car was incredible. Out of control like that and thrashing along the road like an animal it was easy to appreciate the power at hand, easy to imagine the forces involved and what they could do to me. After they went on their way I reflected on the experience. I think I was hoping to have a feeling of ecstacy or euphoria at my near death experience, but it never came. I even tried to fake it for a moment, as that sometimes seems to be the way to conjure up my expected emotions. I left with the same feeling that I'd get from seeing a bear or a wolf in the woods; initial shock, but in the end just a bit of excitement and wonder once things settled in.

sort of like this, but I ended up doing the pushing...


valentines day

from the top of the G. Semlow Memorial Hill

Well, Valentines Day is here and it has gotten warm the last few days. We were able to get in a greatly successful Dickie Scramble Saturday before everything went to slush (write-up will be on the blog for the race soon). The warm weather and the hard effort Saturday meant that yesterday was bike work day once again. Got everything ready to go for spring, or at least ready to continue being useable in winter (the chain on the kona was REALLY rusty and REALLY REALLY "stretched").

Got up early today to get some riding in before Laura woke up. Seemed fitting to ride the pink bike on Valentines day. One repeat of the George Semlow Memorial Hill for each woman I've loved, or something close to that...

It was fun. Next is lunch and work.


Dickie Scramble Prep.

No clue how big the turnout will be for this thing, but I'm trying to run it like I'd want it done if I were a participant.

That means a course that is tough, but friendly enough for mountain bike tires (hopefully without penalizing the stray pugsley) and enough organization on my part that no one notices my lack of organization. Sounds easy right?

I got out and scouted a bit yesterday and rode the first 2/3 of the course today. Todays conditions were awesome almost throughout the trail (I'll post a picture or two) I've made some changes that I think will be for the better based on conditions. Tomorrow I will ride this new modified course in it's entirety and see how it goes. I'll likely also start from home which will double the distance. I'd be surprised if I don't wind up in metric territory, and with a bunch of it on snow.

Friday I'll be pulling for cold overnight temperatures and a bit of a delay in this pending warm-up. I'll also be out with my lights double checking things and marking a couple of tricky spots on the course.

Hope people are ready for a TOUGH 28 or 30 miles.


Dickie Scramble

who: anyone

what: 25 mile ride from the Rochester trailhead of the Douglas Trail to Pine Island and back. Hot beverages, good cookies and hopefully some warmth will be available in Pine Island. The "full pull" will be out and back, but rides will be available from Pine Island back to Rochester for those who prefer that distance (this is meant to be fun).

where: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/douglas/index.html This trail gets a lot of use and should be rideable for anyone on a mountain bike although Pugsleys are more than welcome. We will stay off the snowmobile only parts of the trail and yield to snowmobiles and all other traffic throughout.

why: I enjoy riding the trail and think this will be fun. I would also like to raise awareness for my wonderful girlfriend's Southern Minnesota Rescued Animal Coalition. I will ask her to write up a bit more about this, but here is some basic information-- http://www.kttc.com/Global/link.asp?L=462903 We will accept donations with every cent going directly to the coalition efforts. Anything will be helpful, send on what you are comfortable with, a paypal link will be proved ASAP.

when: February 12th. Start at 10am.

registration: email speshysilence@gmail.com if you want in. I'm not expecting a huge turnout for this inaugural race so it will really help me out if you RSVP as early as possible so far as planning goes. I've got a few volunteers lined up and want to make sure I keep our efforts in line with the numbers. Of course, if you don't RSVP I'll still be more than happy to see you on the 5th. I'd rather not ride alone (even if I've convinced Laura to sit in Pine Island with Hot Chocolate and Cookies for me).

classes: I don't care how you get from place to place... heck, RUN or snowshoe if you want to. That said, I anticipate giving prizes to an open winner, a singlespeed winner, hopefully a women's winner, DFL, and the finisher who rides the narrowest tires.

after party: First stop will be Buffalo Wild Wings. I expect that most people will be done some time between 12:30 and 2. So, we will likely be at B-dubs around 2. Some of us will continue on riding from there and we will likely hit up a few other Rochester area establishments. All are welcome.

more info and some tips/tricks