Boston Rebellion and the Barn Burner Race Recap + Ridebiker Alliance + Cannondale Slate First Ride


Alright, lots to get through in one post so, let’s start at the beginning.  Last night I attended an event at the Cannondale Sports Natick store to launch their new association with Ridebiker Alliance.  At the moment, Ridebiker has a somewhat amorphous mission, but it boils down to bringing bikers together, helping them connect with local bike shops, and providing an easy way to get club kits for the stores that are a member of the alliance.  What this means for Cannondale Sports is that, with the purchase of a team jersey you become a member of their club, which will offer discounts to members along with other rider benefits, the details of which are being hammered out by the powers that be.  I don’t know how the Ridebiker people do it, but during their presentation they told us that they do not have order minimums or ordering time restrictions, so they can relatively quickly turn around requests like custom arm warmers, or, say, a tri top.

Given my affinity for Cannondale Sports, there was never going to be any doubt I was in for the team, which is how I ended up with this sweet new kit (or at least sweet new jersey).  You too can sign up for the Cannondale Sports team by going…here.

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It’s just so…beautiful!  Now, you may be saying to yourself, “well, gee, it looks like you have put together an outfit for a ride!”  Indeed, if you’re saying that, you’re absolutely correct.  You see, over the course of the evening, I got to talking with the guys from the shop about a series of races the next day, put on by Boston Rebellion/Barn Burner as part of the Kenda Cup at Adam’s Farm in Walpole, MA.  I’ll be honest, I have zero idea what the race is actually called, or who was behind it (other than Ridebiker Alliance) but it was intriguing.  What convinced me to take the plunge was the offer from Cannondale to let me use their demo bikes for the races, very generous offer that was quite grateful for.  With the promise of an awesome steed to ride, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

The race was actually a series of races over two days.  I decided that I was going to ride the Cat 3 Short Track XC and cyclocross races, separated by roughly 1.5 hours.  Now, I have never done an MTB race, nor a true dropbar cyclocross race, having done my previous CX race on a mountain bike.  Speaking of mountain bike, I got set up on a Cannondale (duh) FSi Carbon 2.  I’ve never ridden a carbon bike.  I’ve never ridden a lefty.  I’ve never ridden a 1×11 set-up.  Despite all that, I felt immediately comfortable on this bike, which proved exceptionally responsive and didn’t break my back when I shouldered it through the rock garden (more on that later).

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A closer look at the SRAM XO1 drivetrain.  It’s weird not having two shifters, but makes the whole set-up much simpler and removes one thing to think about.

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Both races were on the same course, a 0.6 mile loop with sections of grass, loose gravel, dirt trails with random rocks, a rock garden, and bark.  It was really nice terrain to ride, with the constantly changing conditions keeping me on my toes.

Map

And some course shots.

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As the race went on, I got more and more comfortable with the course features, learning which lines to pick, taking corners a little faster each time, and getting a better feel for what the bike could handle.  It turns out, the bike can handle A LOT.  It just ate up rocks and I never felt like I was being tossed around.  My major issue came with not keeping my pedals level, resulting in them bashing against rocks from time to time.  Speaking of rocks, remember how I mentioned the “rock garden” earlier?  Well, here it is.

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Maybe it’s not the worst rock garden ever.  In fact, I know there is another such garden on the pro course that is even worse.  Still, it intimidated the heck out of me so, despite every other racer riding through it, and despite a heckler/encourager telling me to give it a shot, I shouldered my bike through the garden before remounting.

This seems like a good time to transition to the cross race, given that it was essentially the same as the MTB race, just with a different bike.  At this section in the cross race, nearly everyone dismounted and ran through, save for some brave souls who rode straight on.  While I picked my way carefully through the rocks, seasoned veterans ran through like they were on freshly paved tarmac then proceeded to seamlessly hop back aboard their bikes.  It was a sight to behold (and I got yelled at by fellow racers to keep going as I beheld).  Already having some experience on the course by the time I did the CX race, I felt even more comfortable with the race, probably partially a result of the course familiarity, and partially just feeling more at home on a dropbar bike.  Still, I finished quite near the bottom, which didn’t bother me in the slightest.

It’s probably time we talk about this bike, the Cannondale Slate.  This bike is so new it’s not even on Cannondale’s site yet.  The Slate is a dropbar bike in the vein of the relatively new segment of “gravel racer” but what truly sets it apart is the inclusion of Cannondale’s famous Lefty fork.

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That’s right, that bike is missing half its fork.  You might think it’d be weird to ride, but it never even occurred to me once I was going.  The fork, dubbed the Lefty Oliver, has 30mm of suspension, which isn’t a lot if you’re bombing down mountain trails, but soaks up a lot more than you would think.  I hit several larger, sharp rocks during the race (sorry Cannondale) and the bike never flinched while others were getting flats and banging up their rims.  I’m 99% certain that, without the fork, I would have been on my butt many times during the race when I picked less than ideal lines or simply didn’t execute the line I had picked.  There is a lock-out button at the top of the fork that you can press “to climb,” or sprint presumably, but I did not engage this during the race.  Standing still it worked just fine.

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The wheels are 650b size, as opposed to the usual 700cc found on road bikes.  650b is the size you’d typically find on the smallest size of a road bike.  However, the Slate’s 650b Stan’s ZTR Flow EX MTB wheels have 42mm wheels, which apparently wind up producing the equivalent of a 700 x 22 wheel.  All I know is these tires did not feel small.

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It’s a pretty snazzy bike, right?  I got many comments from spectators on it, everyone intrigued by the genre-defying bike that has been, until recently, shrouded in mystery.

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My bike was set up with an Ultegra drivetrain (“Road gearing?” asked one onlooker), disc brakes, and a super-comfortable Fabric saddles.  Seriously, I became a big fan of these saddles after riding two races on them.

All in all, the only word I can use to describe my experience racing this bike is “FUN.”  I don’t know how it’ll ride on every cross course, but it handled this one magnificently, which I feel qualified to say given my lack of cross experience.  Still, I’d like to believe that I am the first person to ever race a Slate in an official cyclocross race.  Despite a lack of knobby tires, it never felt skittish, even on the gravel and bark dust.  This is a versatile bike that will turn heads when you ride it.

Here’s my Strava from the cyclocross race.

https://www.strava.com/activities/343913930/embed/74972a24ddf9952f9d5b6dc72d194ecc79e43877

And the short track race.

https://www.strava.com/activities/343830038/embed/15afc878a629092897307e659b5343ebac80b5f1

I’d like to thank Cannondale Sports Natick again for the opportunity to race today on two stellar bikes.  I’m looking forward to getting more involved with the Ridebiker Alliance and racing on trails again!

 

 

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