It's become somewhat of an institution around these parts, and of course I'm talking about the Slick 50 Spring Class-Sick ride. I try to never use the same route twice, and this year we'll be heading easterly, foraging some new and old roads, a mixture of fast urban path climbing, wide-shouldered country byways, and greasy peanut butter secteurs.
The planned end point is the [*EDIT]
Flat Earth Brewing Co. located over near Swede Hollow, on the grounds of the famous Hamm's Brewery, Wabasha Brewing Company [*EDIT] Please remember, the Slick 50 is not a race, although the pace can be, uh, "spirited," and selections may be made. But fear not, we'll regroup after the return via Concord Ave and the Wabasha Bridge, before dropping down Bum's Row for the second time and onto the Bruce Vento trail to Flat Earth, via Swede Hollow. There may, or maybe not, be a food truck there. I'd pack an extra burrito in your jersey pocket, just in case. Lastly, there is only one rule on the Slick 50: NO KOOKS!
When Breadwinner Cycles chose me (!) to complete their team for the Rouge Roubaix Builders Challenge, you might say I was flabbergasted. Stoked, hell yes, but flabbergasted, none the less. What's a 47 year old geezer like me doing with these fast hot-shots? Apparently there were over 200 applicants, but they liked my answers best, (sample questions: Stage Race or 1-day classic? Pantani's skull cap or Roger De Vlaeminck's sideburns?) I received my new B-Road late last week and was able to get a couple of long rides in before boarding the plane today. Now here we are, in Baton Rouge, on the eve of a long weekend of great riding with great riders, and great builders, for the Rouge Roubaix. There'll be updates all weekend long on The Radavist, as well as Instagram. Stay tuned.
Austin is in the rear view mirror, and CX Nationals are just a contentious memory. Here's a few shots from the trip.
While many winter riders are convinced that fat bikes are the answer, I'm well into my second winter season riding the 45Nrth Xerxes 700 x 30c studded tire on my Surly Steamroller, and I will sing their praises to anyone who'll listen. Last winter seemed to go on for six months, and the Polar Vortex gave us three consecutive weeks of below zero temperatures, with a brutal layer of black ice on thoroughfares, side streets, and bike paths alike. The Xerxes kept me upright the entire time. This year's early onslaught of snow and ice, folllowed by below freezing temperatures have made studded tires a logical choice for many city riders, and the Xerxes has two qualities that make it stand out.
The narrow profile of the Xerxes slashes through snow better than a wider tire, which tends to float, in turn sacrificing control. Second, the placement of the carbide studs (aluminum on the 120tpi folding version, steel on the 27tpi steel bead) is along the outer edges of the chevron-lugged tire, leaving the center row free to roll unencumbered over dry pavement. Cornering is enhanced, and more importantly, it lends an air of confidence to riding across icy chunder and black ice.
But riding through winter is not as simple as throwing a pair of studded tires on your bike and hitting the streets. Up until recently, studded tires were heavy numbers with stiff, unforgiving sidewalls. In addition to the already dodgy conditions thrown at you, these heavy tires made your bike handle like a '73 Chrysler. Not real responsive. Today, the more supple casing on the 120tpi folding bead tires means you sacrifice little, if any, of the "road feel" you get from better quality tires. Don't want to shell out for the more expensive tires? That's ok, because the wire bead tires are still an excellent choice, too. Even more important, though, is tire pressure. If it's super gnarly ice you're dealing with, lower the pressure in your tires to the lowest recommended level. I've gone as low as the mid-20's on the Xerxes with no major issues, and the traction is incredible. Conversely, if it's a sloppy and wet mild winter day, jacking them up to the mid 40's enhances the ride by giving better straight line speed using the center tread. Experiment with what works for you, based on conditions, rider weight, and personal preference. Just make sure you carry a good working mini-pump in your bag. Lastly, these tires have been exceptionally durable. I think I've lost a total of two studs in the course of an entire season, and 45NRTH does offer replacements as well as an installation tool. With the enhanced control these tires offer, there's no reason you can't be a year-round rider.
O.G. Boston Baked Bean