Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

Salomon Trail 20 Review

September 29, 2016

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a review of any sorts, and that’s probably some combination of laziness and wanting to do in-depth reviews with lots of pretty pictures and whatnot. But I figure there may be some useful value to just sharing thoughts on products I use on a regular basis, not worrying too much about getting into nitty gritty tech specs, but just with the hopes of making your next purchase a little bit more informed.

Since moving from the suburbs to roughly 5 miles bikeable distance to Boston, I’ve been biking to work almost daily on my GT Grade. In fact, as of the time I started drafting this post, I think I took the subway 3 times into work as opposed to riding. It’s been a really wonderful change to my daily commute, certainly coming from upwards of 75 minutes by car from our suburban home, and I look forward to it on a daily basis.

Of course, one challenge when bike commuting is how to transport your clothes needed for work. Luckily, I work in an office with a pretty casual dress code, i.e. no dress code, when we don’t have clients, so my daily officewear is jeans, a button down, and sneakers. Since I started riding into work, I’ve left a pair of sneakers in the office, cutting down on the things I need to transport. I also am able to leave my U-Lock and cable locked to the bike rack in our office building. For the rest of what I need, I use the Salomon Trail 20 backpack.

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In this bag, I can comfortably fit a pair of jeans, shirt, and foundation garments (socks too!). Although I generally don’t take my lock with me, I can also fit the U-lock and cable when needed. I would not say it’s appropriate for a suit, but it’s fine otherwise. I think it’d also be tight if you bring shoes with you on a daily basis, but, again, not a concern of mine. For what it’s worth, Salomon states the pack’s volume is 20 l. and 1220 ci.

To keep the pack secure as you bomb through urban streets, the pack has both a chest and waist strap, both of which I find keep the pack exactly where I want it to be. I don’t experience any kind of slipping around, whether when “sprinting” or climbing. The waist strap has two pockets, a zipped one on the left, and a mesh open pocket on the right side. The zip pocket comfortably fits my wallet and keys. Each side of the pack also has deep mesh pockets, which I often use to hold my phone in case I need to access it quickly for, you know, directions. Definitely not for selfies. I never take selfies when riding.

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OK, this ONE time I stopped and took a selfie, but that was purely to illustrate the backpack for this post. Except that I took it a couple weeks before starting this post. And before I decided to write this post. Also, I take a lot of selfies while riding.

So, there you have it, if you’re looking for a streamlined pack for bike commuting, I’d recommend checking out the Salomon Trail 20!

Hannukah Gifts/Stocking Stuffers For Your Triathlete

November 20, 2015

With the weather in Boston in the 50s today, it seems crazy to think that the holiday season is nearly upon us.  I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to know it’s the holiday season when Starbucks cups are just plain red in color, devoid of any symbolism.  Still, Hannukah is a scant couple of weeks away, which I did not even realize until beginning this post, starting the night of Sunday, December 6, and Christmas is, the 25th?  It’s hard to keep track of it with it changing dates year to year!

Last year, R and I switched things up and did a gift each night of Hannukah, rather than one big gift.  I think we kept the price range under $10, allowing for some bigger gifts balanced by some smaller ones.  It made us think a bit more about what we’d get for each other and was pretty fun.  I figure the same guidelines work for stocking stuffers, but I’ll admit I’ve only ever received a stocking from my in-laws, and have never stuffed one myself.  There is truly no shortage of holiday gift guides out there for runners, cyclists, running cyclists, swimmers, triathletes, etc., but I honestly never find them all that useful, and most don’t focus on smaller gifts.  So, here’s hoping this list of gift ideas for the triathlete in your life, any of which I’d want to receive myself (hint hint R if you’re reading this) proves helpful!

1. Bike Tubes

Any cyclist will tell you that you can never have too many spare tubes around.  I’ve ended rides thinking that I was coming home on a perfectly good tube only to find the next time I went to go out that I’d somehow gotten a puncture at a late point in the ride and was in need of a tube.  Road tubes will generally be 700 (diameter) x __ (width).  Do some digging in your triathlete’s stash to see if you can get the size they use.  Otherwise, something in the low 20s will be just fine.

It’s tough to go wrong with a Continental tube.

2. CO2 Inflator and Cartridges

So, you’ve got a flat, you take out your brand new spare tube, and what do you use to inflate it?  While some roadies keep a frame pump or mini-pump on them, those pumps often can’t get a high enough PSI for a road tube, are bulky and heavy to carry (heavy in a roadie sense) and don’t work with tri bikes.  Maybe it’s not the sexiest of gifts, but it’ll help keep your triathlete rolling!

To actually use the cartridge, you need a chuck.  The chuck screws on to the cartridge and lets you actually get air out.

If you want to splurge a little, I use the Portland Design Works Shiny Object CO2 Inflator with 16G Cartridge set, which is $27.76 on Amazon.  What I like about this set is the chuck lets you regulate the flow of air into the tube, which is quite helpful when changing a tube, and the leather sleeve protects your hand from the cartridge, which gets very cold in use.

3. Socks

Good socks are the best.  Like, seriously, the best.  Some prefer short socks, some prefer long socks.  Me?  I like long socks when it comes to training, short for racing, mostly for ease of use with an ankle chip strap.  Socks have special significant, for some reason, in the cycling world, earning multiple references in the Velominati rules, and are a source of expression for riders.  Plus the good ones are super comfortable.  Personally, I prefer socks from The Athletic, based out of Portland.

4. Casquettes de Cyclisme/Cycling Caps

I first fell in love with the cycling cap from an unlikely source…

That’s right, White Men Can’t Jump.  Now, I’ll admit, these hats are rather controversial, with some very strong opinions on both sides.  I happen to love them, both on the bike and off, and have a fairly good collection going right now.  Some hats are made from technical fibers and go well under a helmet to help keep sweat out of your eyes.  They are also great for sweaty trainer rides.

There is a large variety of hats out there, some are vintage cool.

Some are groovy.

And some are just wicked awesome.

5. Fuel

Having the right fuel for training and racing is vitally important.  Especially during peak training periods, this means going through a lot of gels, chews, powders, waffles and bars.  You really cannot have enough of your favorite source of energy and these items make great small gifts.

For drink mix, I like Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, which is sold both in 1 lb bags and singles.  The singles are great for their portability, which is especially handy for traveling for races and for taking on long rides to refuel with.

For chewy fuel, I dig Skratch Labs Fruit Drops, as documented in my review.

6. Tools

Is your triathlete a tinkerer?  Does he or she like to do maintenance on his or her own bike rather than take it into the shop every time it needs an adjustment?  If so, your triathlete might enjoy some new additions to the toolbox!  This might be the kind of thing where you might have to do some inquiry into what tools are already in hand, and what may be needed.  Your triathlete may also have a brand preference for tools.  Personally, I love the look and performance of Park Tools.  Some options to consider include:

A pedal wrench.

Three-way hex wrench.

Mini Chain Brute Chain Tool.

7. Lube

Get your mind out of the gutter.  A properly lubed bike drivetrain is a happy drivetrain.  Give your triathlete the gift of a well-lubed machine.

 

8. Custom Name Stickers

This gift was absolutely my favorite one from last Hannukah.  Most pro riders have custom name decals for their bikes, and now your triathlete can have the same.  Name stickers help set your bike apart from the rest of the field, make you feel like a pro, and give you a chance to add some self-expression to your steed.

Sticker Name

9. Swim Gear

Finally, swimming involves a surprising amount of training tools, many of which your triathlete may not have bought for him/herself, instead relying on the grody stuff at the pool.  To upgrade their gear, consider:

TYR Pull Float

Speedo Mesh Equipment Bag

TYR Kickboard

 

Should I happen upon some other neat-looking gift ideas, I’ll be sure to update this post.  Until then, happy holidays to all!

 

 

Vineyard Sprint Triathlon

October 28, 2015

Sometimes it takes a while to get up a race recap because things are busy at work, or in life in general.  Sometimes I’m just super lazy.  We may never know which of the two resulted in the delay in getting up this recap of the 2015 Vineyard Triathlon.  For the first time, the race included a sprint distance, which is what I opted for, not wanting to tack on another 1/2 Ironman at the end of the season.  The sprint distances were 1/3 mile swim, 13 mile bike, and then a 5K run, pretty standard fare for sprints.

Races on Martha’s Vineyard, as a general rule, are low-key affairs.  If you go into any race, with the possible exception of the Vineyard 20 Miler, expecting the same experience and logistics as a “mainland” race you’ll wind up stressing yourself out and will have a less positive experience as a result.  For example, that same week I ran a 5K in Edgartown that failed to mention on its website that 2 miles would be on singletrack trail and required roughly 5 round-trip shuttle trips to get everyone from the “start” aka finish of the race to the actual location the race started.  Chalk it up to Vineyard racing.  What this meant as it relates to the Vineyard Tri is that we were getting emails from the RDs up until a couple nights before the race with logistics info on packet pickup, transition info, etc. instead of the 30 page Athlete Guide you might get from a WTC race.  While this might be a little scattershot of an approach for some, the RDs replied quickly to follow up emails to address any missing info.  While the emails certainly conveyed the needed info, I think a comprehensive guide on the website might help centralize information and avoid any confusion for next year.

So, on to race day.  It being off-season on MV, parking was the easiest I’ve ever had for a triathlon, maybe for any race ever.  After body marking, I headed into transition to set up my area.  One nice thing about the race was that the transition area didn’t close, like ever.  This avoided the rush and stress that can come when trying to make sure everything is set up before it closes.  At the same time, be prepared to make your own spot without much guidance on where to go as the only real direction was for the half Iron distance racers to rack in one spot and the sprint racers in another section.  Again, different from a larger race, but not an issue unless you get stressed out by that sort of thing.

Speaking of getting stressed out…the state of the ocean on race day was most definitely my biggest source of stress.  It was a grey day and the swells were strong.  The sea was, indeed, angry that day, my friends, so much so that it caused a friend to bag on the sprint race.  Still, the water temp was pretty perfect at least.

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I didn’t attempt any warm-up in the ocean, partly because I didn’t want to wig myself out, partly because I allowed absolutely no time for it.  When the race started on the beach of Oak Bluffs I took my normal position towards the back of the pack, knowing it’d be especially necessary on a day like that to find my own space and not worry about other racers among the waves and in my first ocean race.

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Almost immediately I knew this was going to be a slog of a 1/3 of a mile, not because of my swim shape (at least not any more than usual) but because of the conditions.  Heading out to the first buoy meant swimming into the waves, which meant it was nearly impossible to sight.  I also was not a fan of the constant up and down movement in the water, which served to really throw off my rhythm.  There’s simply no way around the fact that this was a brutal, somewhat demoralizing swim for me, but it did not end the race.  Eventually I made my way out of the water, up the beach, across a street, over about a foot tall stone wall, and into transition to move on to my strengths.

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[A note for the RDs, should they be reading this, on the swim: While the green color of the first buoy likely wouldn’t be a problem on a sunny day, it was difficult to sight on a gray day combined with the water color.  Similarly, the orange t-shirts of the in-water volunteers nicely matched the orange swim buoys, making it tough to tell quickly where one was supposed to be swimming to!]

I most definitely could have made up some time in T1 if I hadn’t let my swim time get to me.  I don’t think I was hustling through it quite as quickly as I could have but, that’s how it goes!

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You can’t tell from this picture, but I’m rocking my new Black Dog socks in this picture.  And, what’s that you say?  New bike?  Why, yes!  That is a new bike!  Right before the race I took the plunge and got a 2014 Cannondale Slice TT bike from Cannondale Sports Cambridge.  I digress here slightly to, once again, praise my friends at this great shop and, in particular, Craig The Manager.  They did both the fitting AND cutting down of necessary components, i.e. the seatpost and aerobars, all in the course of a day, allowing me to take the bike down to Martha’s Vineyard with me and race on it.  I’d also like to thank Greg at Edgartown Bicycle for doing a fit check and adjustment, and bailing me out with a quick pedal installation (along with quick ordering of a rear hydration system).

I set out on the ride hoping for a fast result on the new machine.  With only 131 ft. of elevation gain over 13 miles, it promised to be a fast course, with a tailwind on the final stretch along the water.  Despite a summer of riding on the island, I had spent very little, if any, time on the first half of the course, which made it a little more mentally engaging.  Combined with having a fair number of people to chase down after the swim, I had plenty of motivation to keep my legs pumping, particularly after being chased down by Chilmark Coffee Company proprietor Todd Christy on his roughly 84 year old bike.  Now, one thing I did not plan for was the effect the salt water would have on my respiratory system, or nasal system, or something.  Basically my nose was leaking the entire ride, which was not especially comfortable.  Next time I’ll know to grab some tissues in T1 and stuff them in my pocket.

The highlight of the leg was definitely the stretch from Edgartown back to Oak Bluffs along the beach, which is really the highlight of most rides on MV for me.

Bike Leg

Even though I’d been riding my CAAD8 with aerobars, the Slice is an entirely different animal and I was still getting used to the position during the race, which meant being up on the horns more than I would have liked at the end of the race when I could have really taken advantage of the aero position.  Still, I came in with an official time of 36:27, roughly a 21 mph average, and good for the second fastest bike split on the day.

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As I ran my bike into transition, Rebecca excitedly told me I was in fifth place overall, an unexpected development.  This gave me an extra incentive to try to have a quick transition, and soon I was off to see if I could hunt any of my fellow competitors down.

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I felt pretty good heading out on the run and figured I had little to lose by just going for broke on it.  The only real hill on the course came a little under a mile into the leg.  I’m sure it felt a lot steeper than it actually was, but it definitely hurt at the time.

Run Elevation

Soon after the crest of the hill I caught up with Todd, who not only updated me on placing, but really encouraged me to keep pushing on and finish strong.  It really was the boost I needed to keep driving towards the finish.  The next two miles were fairly uneventful, and I ended up with splits of 7:11, 7:12, and 7:07.  It felt great to close with my fastest mile, not something I usually do in either road races or triathlons.

I came into the finish line feeling fairly triumphant and pleased with how the race went as a whole.

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I ended up coming in 4th place overall and taking my first Age Group win for a triathlon, pretty neat I’d say!  Rebecca and I celebrated with an amazing lobster roll from the Net Result, but not before enjoying some amazing espresso drinks from Chilmark Coffee.  With what may be the absolute coolest perk ever for a race, Chilmark Coffee donated free coffee (including lattes etc.) to the race via a mobile coffee bar.  Immediately after racing, Todd got right to work pulling shots.

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Good guy Todd is a good guy.

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With the race only being in its second year, there were bound to be some growing pains with it.  Some constructive suggestions I’d make for next year would be:

  • Clearer directions from the water to transition
  • Block out the transition area by race number
  • Designating mounting and dismounting zones for the bike leg
  • More clear markings for the turn to the finish line on the run

Before signing off, I’d add this note: Be nice to RDs.  I haven’t always followed my own advice here, but ever since my tantrum at the Marblehead JCC Tri, I’ve really worked on that aspect of my racing.  RDs work tremendously hard to put on any event, let alone a triathlon, and do their best to put on a great event for the athletes.  If you think the race could be improved in some way, take the time to talk about it with the RD, who wants you to come back and have a great race the next year.  Alight, off my soapbox.

This was a fantastic, fun, unique experience of a race.  This is literally the one chance you get to do a triathlon on Martha’s Vineyard and I’m really looking forward to coming back and defending my age group next summer!

Thank you as always to Rebecca for cheering and taking all the great pictures you see here!

Happy racing all!

 

 

 

XX2i Sunglasses Review

August 4, 2015

It is with great excitement that I can say I am now a part of the Rudy Project/XX2i team!  If you’re into the cycling or triathlon world it’s a virtual certainty that you’ve heard about Rudy Project before.  Their helmets dominate the Kona field year after year and their sunglasses are a superb combination of technical features and style.    XX2i is distributed by the same company as Rudy Project, Running And Cycling Enterprises (R.A.C.E.) and has been making a name for itself alongside Rudy Project at race expos as a more affordable entry into performance optics.  There are a wide range of options available in different frame styles starting at $59.99, putting the sunglasses at the same price point, or cheaper, than Tifosi or Optic Nerve, which occupy the same space.  The difference?  XX2i glasses are plain and simple better.

For my review, XX2i sent me a pair of the France2 glasses with the crystal frame, green tips, and green flash lenses.  The lenses on this frame are interchangeable, with replacement lenses only costing $24.99.  The glasses come with a great case that keeps your glasses well-protected with foam while not taking up too much space in a bag.  Also, it looks much cooler than competitors’.

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Here are the glasses themselves.

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I seriously love that green, and it just so happens that it matches my bike, which is super-important!  You can see the nose piece looks a little misshapen, but that’s just because it’s adjustable and got bent a little before I took the picture.  The ear tips are also adjustable.

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Now, of course, sunglasses for running and biking aren’t just about looks –   what matters is how they perform.  I first took the glasses out on a commute ride, about 24 miles, on a hot, humid, sunny morning.  As you can see in the picture above, one of The Rules I adhere to when pure road riding (as opposed to triathlon racing) is ear pieces over helmet straps.  I found the glasses to be very comfortable on my face, with no discomfort in the nose or ear regions.

You can see just how much face coverage the France2 provides.  I haven’t experienced any eye tearing with these sunglasses as the lenses do a great job of providing both sun and wind protection.  The clarity is also excellent, better than my Tifosis, giving me confidence when going from sunlight into shade and not worrying as much about seeing road imperfections.

The coolest feature of the sunglasses though is how they shed sweat.  I didn’t notice this feature until I felt a cool stream on my face and couldn’t figure out why.  With my other sunglasses, sweat would streak the lens and dry, making it hard to see.  Not so with the XX2i’s.  Even on hot, sweaty rides, I haven’t had any issues with the lenses staying fairly dry, a huge plus during a New England summer.  Similarly, I had zero issues with fogging while riding.  If I stopped long enough at a light the lenses did fog up, but that went away immediately when I started back up again.

Two other important features to note from the XX2i website:

WARRANTY: Lifetime Warranty! No questions asked, you break or scratch them, send them back to be replaced for a nominal shipping and handling fee!

RETURN POLICY: 365 Days! We know it may take some time to try on and get comfortable with a pair of sunglasses bought online so that’s why we give you a full year to do so! That’s right, take up to 365 days to determine if you want to keep them and if not, send them back for a full refund less any shipping and handling fee.

You can call me an XX2i convert, which I suppose is a good thing if I’m going to be on the team.  Though I was sent these glasses free (that’s my obligatory blogger disclaimer), these opinions are all mine and completely uninfluenced by RACE, Rudy Project, or XX2i.  Silly though it sounds, I want to ride more so I can wear these sunglasses more.  Feel good, ride good.  Here’s the best part, if you’ve made it this far in the review you can be rewarded with a 50% off discount code for Rudy Project.  How’s that sound?  To get the code, leave a comment with your email address and I will send you directions forthwith.

Happy swimbikerunning!

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Cannondale Slate Details and Pictures

July 11, 2015

Note: In my previous race recap, I included a review of the brand new Cannondale Slate.  But, it occurs to me that it might be helpful to break it out as well for better accessibility and readability.  Now, on to the review.

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.  The frame is aluminium, but I BELIEVE the fork is carbon.  Having shouldered it through a roughly 20 yard rock garden, I can report it feels lightweight.

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.  For an idea of some of the terrain, upon which the Slate did not falter, here I give you photographs.

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Now, tell me you don’t want to see what you can do atop this bike.

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

July 11, 2015

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!