Marching along

We went from gray to white in the blink of a shutter.

God is pitching softballs at us (graupel), and the temp just fell 10 degrees in as many minutes.

Looks like I won’t need to slather on the SPF 70 for that bike ride I won’t be doing.

Last year, March 2 was “sunny, virtually windless, 61-65°,” according to my training log. I was doing hill repeats and pulling off the arm and knee warmers.

Big Bill McBeef chases Your Humble Narrator upslope in a rare March cyclocross in Bibleburg.

And to think this year I haven’t even pulled them on. When I get out I’m still wearing long sleeves and tights. The only bit of me showing any color is my nose, and I think that’s windburn.

Well, March is always belligerent. Named for the Roman god of war, it marked the beginning of ass-kicking season, and it has kicked mine many a time.

In March 1994 the Mad Dogs put on a cyclocross in Monument Valley Park just to see what would happen and the answer was, “Not much.”

When even the cyclocrossers think you’re insane you might want to check yourself into the screw factory for a vigorous rethreading. We’d have gotten a bigger turnout promoting a St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl in Qatar.


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26 Responses to “Marching along”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Do people still race cyclecross on narrow rubber? Those look like 700-28 or so.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I think the UCI max is 33mm now, but I’m not sure. I run 33mm on one Steelman and 35mm on the other.

      I have some pix squirreled away of my old-school Pinarello rig. I was running Wolber Cross 28 Extra (rear) and Vittoria Mastercross (front). And yeah, I recall 28mm being pretty fat Back in the Day®.

      Weinmann cantis, seven-speed Shimano 600 drivetrain (bar-cons, 48/38T crank, I forget what in back … 12-26, maybe?). Lyotard pedals, with Christophe steel toe clips and Alfredo Binda straps.

      Your Humble Narrator (Casey B. Gibson photo)

      Your Humble Narrator (Casey B. Gibson photo)

      • Shawn Says:

        Not to mention the intermittent mountain bike sprinkled into the mix for those not as serious folks who don’t want to risk their skinny tire Italian road bikes. But no bar ends please.

        These days if you hosted a similar event, you’d probably get a hundred riders to show up and you’d regret not having splurged on the inflatable start / finish arch and worked harder to get a refreshment sponsorship.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        By the time I called it quits the Boulder ’crosses were getting hundreds of racers, but we never did those kinds of numbers in Bibleburg. All those northern monkeys were askeered of catching Christo-fascist cooties. Also, most weekends they could race at least twice in their own hometown no matter what we were doing down south.

        We settled for running an easy season-opener in El Paso County’s Bear Creek Regional Park. Fast, rolling course with almost no technical aspects, and the weather was almost always gentle.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Cool. All that classic stuff from back when we were young and had to dodge mastadons and sabre tooth tigers. I think I donated all my old clip pedals and toe clips/straps when we packed the house in Honolulu to do the Great Schlep to New Mexico.

        I never raced cross. In fact its been about a quarter century since I put on a race number. Did buy a pair of Richey Speedmax Pro 700-32 tires I use occasionally on the dirt part of the Rail Trail as they are wonderful tires–other than in deep sand. They are getting a little long in the tooth but in theory, Richey still sells them but they are out of the 32s and 35s. I’ve got a set of 700-40 Donnelly MSOs that fit on my cross bike if I want to do the whole Rail Trail down to Maddog Road (remember that?), which ends with plenty of rocky sections that are not kind to narrow tires.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Funny thing is, when I look at that Pinarello it’s not unlike what I’m riding three decades later. Steel frameset, bar-end shifters, wide-profile cantis, etc.

          The biggest differences: Gearing — I’m all the way up to eight-speed now, with 11-28T cassettes and 46/34T cranks — and clipless pedals. And then there are those bar-top brake levers, and 33mm clincher tires.

          I can still ride my ’cross bikes on some pretty sketchy trails, but the local fatheads have been rocking the trails rain or shine and they’re rutted up all to shitaree.

          This can make for some dicey handling if you meet a dog-walker or double-boinger in a tight corner. Even the Voodoo Nakisi — a MonsterCrosser® with 43mm rubber — is not enough bike for that shit.

  2. Pat O’Brien Says:

    You could play old school blues on a carbon fiber guitar, but why would you? Blues require mahogany; dirt riding requires fat tires.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ah, but cyclocross is a thing all its own. Or it was; it’s gotten a little formulaic for my tastes, barring a couple truly insane Euro courses.

      Here’s the world championships from 1988, a year or so before I took up the Sport of Kings. As it happens, my debut was right here in The Duck! City, not far from where we live now.

      • Shawn Says:

        Is that Richard shivering his tail off up on the medals stand? I recall the end of events like that. Great footage. I see the change on some of the bikes to bar routed brake cables. I believe it was a couple more years before STI integrated brake / shift levers were being used in the pro ranks. Tough race.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Your podium: Pascal Richard, Adri van der Poel, and Beat Breu. I think the first world championships I ever saw on video — a bootleg conversion cassette supplied by Boulder promoter Chris Grealish — was the 1995 edition, won by Dieter Runkel.

        Runkel was using top-mounted brake levers — not the kind we came to see regularly a few years later, but an actual dual-cable rig — and I couldn’t figure out how the hell he was managing to ride a sketchy descent with his hands on the tops until I finally spied the extra levers.

        I still use bar-top levers on my ’cross bikes. What a great innovation.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I still have a primal fear of bar-top brake levers. Had a pair on my original commuter back in ’79. Was riding to campus and thinking about my upcoming Ph.D. program qualifying defense when a guy in a VW abruptly turned in front of me. I still think if I had my hands on the traditional brake hoods I woulda been able to turn inside him with a “quick turn”, but I was on the tops and it happened so fast (since, of course, my mind was elsewhere) that I couldn’t make a sharp turn from the tops so I went over the top. Ouch. But they are pretty useful if one is actually competent…

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      Well I did play blues on my Rainsong a few weeks ago. And, I used bar end on rigid fork mountain bikes when I first started. Come in handy when you are trying to tuck out of the wind. Our favorite trails were close by, so we rode some pavement miles to get to the trailhead. Same thing on my dirt commute back home from work.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        In the early days the U.S. governing body let cyclocrossers use mountain bikes because the turnouts were so small and would’ve been even smaller if they’d insisted everyone rock a ’cross bike. Not everybody had the money or the inclination to shell out for an actual ’cross frameset and the bits to build it up. Mass-market ready-to-ride ’cross bikes were a few years down the road.

        The feds did, however, insist that mountain bikers remove their bar ends for fear that someone would stack it and take a bar end to the kidneys or the family jewels or whatever.

        My first “real” ’cross bike was a Specialized Sirrus road frame to which a Fanta Se welder acquaintance added cantilever mounts. Holy hell, was that thing squirrely, with beaucoup toe-wheel overlap. The next was that Pinarello, which I believe I scored from occasional blog reader Tim Campen when he was hustling the Euro goods at Veltec for fun and profit.

        Then I met Brent Steelman at Interbike one year and started getting my framesets from him. Four ’cross framesets and a time-trial rig. Man, he made a nice machine. He eventually hung up the torch and he and the wife deal in antique and vintage handmade rugs now.

        • Shawn Says:

          From building frames (nasty torch fumes, sharp steel edges, dirty overalls, whining customers), to selling nice soft cushy hand made rugs. That sounds nice. Well, kind of. Lugging a rug can be some work and you probably still have the whining customers.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Brent and Katryn used to have a side hustle selling antiques, as I recall. This might be a modification/extension of that.

          And the competition in the frame-building business must’ve been fierce. At one point it seemed as though everyone in Northern California was a frame-builder.

  3. Herb from Michigan Says:

    Where to start? What became of Big Bill? I spy with my beady eye a Descente jersey yes? It looks like that Pinarello took off without its rider and you were trying a stagecoach runaway horses mount. And it would be helpful if I’m going to get re-threaded to know what pitch and should I remain metric or “cross” over to SAE. As for Shawn’s bar end fears, I believe only one person in the whole world was ever impaled with them. But the stories abounded anyway in many a bike shop.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Big Bill is still with us. We saw him in Bibleburg when we drove up for John “Usuk” O’Neill’s memorial. He’s not riding as much after getting clipped by a car, but he still noodles around on the trails.

      Descente jersey, si, and I still have a few of those. Made in Japan, screen-printed in Bibleburg by Michael “Dr. Schenkenstein” Schenk.

      The version in that shot was red, I think. We eventually moved to yellow. I rock a long-sleeved black model as a base layer. That thing has got to be 30 years old.

      I used to have pretty good form when it came to the dismount and remount. That and the endless running were the only things kept me from finishing DFL most days.

      The DogShirt from the mid-Nineties

  4. Shawn Says:

    I wonder if Tennessee is going to ban “Cross” racing too?

    Wow. Really? I guess farting in elevators will be next.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Wonder what would happen if you held a cyclecross race and required all the entrants to show up in drag.

      • Shawn Says:

        I think they do that in Portland. Or if they don’t I’m sure some enterprising soul will promote one and make sure one of the obstacles will be the Tennessee Wall where spectators throw rubber chickens at the racers as they pass.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Now that would be a giggle. Rocky Horror Cyclocross. No need for toe spikes when you have spike heels.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Back in the eighties before I discovered Protogs long wool tights and actually had the moolah to buy some, I bought a couple pairs of those girly exercise leg warmers and used those to bike to campus in the winter. Got a few catcalls and “hey, faggot” from passing motorists, but they worked to keep me warm.

        • Shawn Says:

          Gee, that’s a word I miss. I don’t recall using it myself but I sure like it in Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”. Just think though Khal. The person that yelled out that fine greeting, probably died long ago, obese and choking on a pork rind. Who’s the bundle of sticks (bones) now?

  5. SAO’ Says:

    If you really want to stretch your legs out, here’s an idea:

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      That’s a helluva a story, iddn’t it? Adventure Cyclist did something with it a while back. Erick was on their board of directors.

      Just think about taking that little spin, clad in the height of 1897 U.S. Army fashion and riding a fixie, powered by bacon, flour and coffee.

      Some of us won’t go out for an hour when there’s a chill in the air. And by “some of us,” I mean “me.”

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