Friday, October 26, 2012

What Next: The overwhelming weight of being Lance

I've been asked by several readers why I have yet to weigh in on the Lance Armstrong news/scandal/tragedy/whatever-it-is. I've actually expressed my opinion in various contexts over the years in a number of posts, and my basic position hasn't changed all that much based on recent detailed revelations. When asked in recent years if I think Armstrong doped, I've answered, "yes". I think that he went about doping much as he went about his training, equipment selection, and marketing plans; with cold calculation, intense attention to detail, and the rigid discipline of a champion. Self-serving and self-sacrificing at the same time.

Was he an egocentric asshole? Yep.

Did he step on a lot of people along his path to glory? Yes.

Was he a remarkably gifted athlete who attracted huge numbers of fans and unprecedented sponsor dollars to cycling. Hell, yeah.

Should he alone have been singled out from among his peers for a years long investigation?
I'm not so sure about that.

Some folks feel that if he had simply confessed that he could have been forgiven. Jan Ulrich never confessed. Ivan Basso never confessed. Vinokourov never confessed.
 All were busted, though none of them have ever faced the overwhelming degree of investigative fervor and sweeping retroactive sanctions that were unloaded on Lance Armstrong. Is it because of his success, his arrogance, his lack of repentance? All of the above? Likely.

It remains to be seen whether he can carry the weight of the lies, but he is in a unique situation. Much of his compensation over the years was conditioned on him not using PEDs (as, I'm sure, was that of other leading riders) so that he puts himself in a massive trap should he elect to come clean. Nike, Trek, and others may be distancing themselves from him today, but they, too, reaped huge benefits from his endorsement deals and I don't think that they'll be lining up to repay consumers who might now be a little embarrassed at having shelled out big dollars for a yellow Madone.

I know that what was done by many riders over the years was wrong. They were cheaters in a world of cheaters. The losers are not you and I, but the riders who couldn't compete because they chose not to compromise. Unfortunately, we've never heard of most of those guys, and there may have been a few among them who could have risen to the pinnacle of the sport had there truly been a level playing field. On the other hand, Lance Armstrong didn't create the world in which he competed; he simply excelled in it. Riders like Marco Pantani stood between Armstrong and glory, and I don't think that there were many white knights at the top.

I'm not going to close this post with a conclusion, because I can't seem to come to one.

On one point, Lance made me a little proud...
I busted Lance long ago for shilling for near-beer, but in all the commercials and print ads for the product, it appears that he never actually took a drink of Michelob Ultra! For that, he can stand tall and knock back a Shiner.

The Look? What kind of look is this? Is Lance waiting for a friend to bring real beer?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Starting Over: My Mountain Bike Season Begins

I have related this analogy before, but it is relevant as I begin my annual mountain bike "start over". A boating friend once told me something along the lines of, "The difference between you and me is that you have 5 years of experience and I have 1 year of experience 5 times."
That seems to be the perpetual state of my mountain biking skills development; my groundhog day starts each fall as I am driven into the woods to rediscover the joys of single-track. I am admittedly a road rider. I enjoy some technical descents and other bike-handling challenges, but I can happily ride for hours out on the road. The trail is gratifying to me, but the requisite level of concentration for Arkansas single-track can make me tired!

Here I go again! My annual mountain bike beginner phase.

I started last week with a few circuits of Pfeifer Loop and then rode some of the loops on higher ground in Burns Park this week. I didn't fall off of my bike, but I blew a few climbing turns and had a some foot dabs. It will take me a few rides to get my single-track groove on, but it is a cold weather goal for me. Again.

Camp Robinson Access Update

I have not ridden Camp yet this fall, but I did run out to the visitor's center to get a current Sportsman's Pass.  The annual passes are now $25.00 and are good for one year from the date of purchase (they were $10.00 and expired each June). You'll need to show a driver's license, auto registration, and proof-of-insurance along with the twenty-five bucks. The extra fee revenue is being used to pay for a full time employee to issue and administer the passes. The passes may be obtained from 10AM -6:00PM Tuesday- Friday. The clerk takes lunch from 2-2:30pm. You can call (501)212-4090 before you go if you want to be certain that she will be in. The is no back-up in the event the primary pass maven has to step out. The Sportsman Pass system makes checking in and out a painless experience.
You can also call to check the status of TA-2, as there are scheduled closures October 20-28 and December 15-18, and there may be others for hunting and training events. Camp Robinson offers a many miles of trail and a wide range of single-track challenges, from beginner-friendly to damned difficult. Over the last couple of years, the riding scene at Camp has faded due to extended closures and compromised trails due to a timber cutting project in addition to confusing signals over entry policies. I'd would love to see a resurgence of use at Camp Robinson. The more the trails are ridden, the better they are, and, at this time, they're not getting ridden enough to stay prime. I hope to do my small part over the winter to break them back in, and I hope to see some of you out there!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Along The Trail:

Sometimes when I feel like I'm out of subject matter for the blog,
 I just go for a ride and try to open my eyes to things that are commonplace at a glance, but that are interesting, at least to me, upon a second look.

Sunday saw a good number of folks out on the BDB.
The  barriers were down to the bypass trail that was used during the construction of the BDB west ramp. I decided to check it out. It is rapidly being reclaimed by nature as grass grows into the cracks and potholes, mud washes across it, and water finds its course.
Dog Pack
The River Trail and the BDB in particular seem to attract many special interest activity groups. I came upon a gathering of dogs consisting mostly of hounds and German shepherds at the pavilion near the NLR foot of the BDB. They were participating in search and rescue training. This shepherd's expectant look said that he felt like he was not receiving quite enough attention. I know my dogs!
Amateur Radio operators. With antennae strung along the ground and up a sycamore, they were chatting with some counterparts in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
These amateur radio operators were set up along the river near the NLR soccer fields, and were visiting with passers by as they spoke to other ham radio operators in distant locations. Coincidentally, friend had recently professed an interest in amateur radio, and I was curious as to how it fit into the Internet driven world, though I remembered that after the earthquake disaster in Haiti that ham radios were the only viable means of communication in some areas. These guys reported that interest was high, some coming from end-time survivalist types who are preparing for the shit to hit the big fan, but mostly just curious folks who enjoy the wonder of tech toys as much as the rest of us. After visiting with people from all over the world, sometimes not knowing where those people are, they can go to the Internet and enter the call letters into a registry to see who they've been talking to. New technology doesn't always replace the old; sometimes it just adds another facet to the experience.
Barge traffic through the lock beneath the BDB is often interesting. I'm curious about this load of what appears to be coal heading downriver. Where did it come from and where is it going? Almost all western coal travels by rail to Arkansas.
I rode out the trail spur from the top of the Fort Roots climb on Sunday. The view is great and this dead end will soon be joined with the paved trails of Emerald Park.
North Little Rock could have done a better job of informing the public of plans to join paved trails in Emerald Park to the trail section to the east. The folks of Save of Emerald Park and Big Rock Quarry were justifiably concerned and mountain bikers expressed their displeasure at the loss of trail. My understanding is that the dirt track will be restored so that mountain bikers and road cyclists alike will be able to enjoy the vista from the rime of the quarry.
This structure will support a bicycle work station similar to the one provided by CARVE at the NLR BDB pavilion. The facility will serve as a memorial to Marilyn Fulper, a local cyclist who was killed while riding as a driver ran a red light on Cantrell Road. 3
UPDATED: I was informed via comment that this station is being installed by the county and funded by proceeds of the Wampoo Roadeo . Shout out to the Mellow Velos for their part in the event and the work station placement.
I am easily entertained and the River Trail is home to what is very much a community- an interesting community filled with active folks with a wide range of interests, set alongside and adjacent to major transportation routes, industrial areas, neighborhoods, and urban parkland.  A place where you're likely to have views of barge traffic, the state Capitol, a soccer tournament, and a mix of wildlife all from the same spot at the same time.
NLR Levy Spur Update: Media Release From the Mayor's Office

Construction of Bike/Pedestrian Recreational Trail Begins

On the Levy Spur Trail

October 12, 2012  (North Little Rock)- Paving began this week in North Little Rock on the Levy Spur Trail, a new bike/pedestrian recreational trail which starts in Levy under the  1-40 Overpass and runs along the old railroad track line to Camp Robinson up to 52nd St.

“Sections of the trail will be closed as needed for construction, with an anticipated four month construction schedule. The trail goes further but the paving project stops at 52nd Street,” according to City Engineer Mike Smith.

The spur property was established to support WWI Camp Pike. According to Robert Voyles, City Planning Director, “It was last used about 16 years ago. The City obtained the property using our Local Urbanized Attributed (LUZA) funds with a generous contribution from the Union Pacific Rail Road.”

 The first phase of development is between 33rd and 52nd. Another grant application through the AHTD Recreational Trail program has been submitted to obtain additional funding. The spur is 4 miles long.

A community walking tour and discussion was held on April 19, 2012, and residents weighed in on their vision for the trail. One resident believed that “houses will definitely go up in value,” while another expressed optimism that the trail will “draw visitors to area businesses.”

A bike/pedestrian trail near homes will also support community health, says North Little Rock Fit 2 Live Coordinator, Bernadette Gunn Rhodes. “Residents have already started using the trail, and one neighbor let us know that she had lost over 50 pounds from the trail use alone, logging dozens of miles on the trail with her German Shepherd.”


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Self-Serving Post:Gary Fisher 29er for sale

I am ready to part ways with my Gary Fisher 292 Sugar full-suspension 29er. When I bought this bike, I had almost no enthusiasm for mountain biking, but it kind of grew on me. That said, this bike likely has less than 1000 total miles on it and it's been well cared for. I'm selling it because I am now mostly ignoring a very sweet Niner Jet 9 and Gary Fisher bike is just too nice to be left sitting in my garage. The bike is 6 years old but has very good components, was ridden mostly on Sundays, and is priced right at $800.00.

 MD (17.5") |
Main frame
Platinum Series ZR9000 double-butted aluminum | Genesis 29" Geometry
b*link swingarm | Carbon fiber seatstays | Disc Specific | 4" travel
RockShox Reba Race Dual Air 29 | External rebound, external floodgate, external compression and lockout, Butted aluminum steerer | 100mm travel
Rear shock
Fox Float R
Cane Creek S-6 Aheadset, sealed
ISIS GigaPipe
Bontrager Race Lite  44/32/22
Shimano M520, clipless
Shimano Deore XT
SRAM X.0 1:1 Alloy
SRAM X-9 Trigger 1:1 Alloy
Shimano XT 11-34 9spd
Shimano HG-73
Front wheel
Bontrager Race Lite 29" Disc Specific wheelsystem
Rear wheel
Bontrager Race Lite 29" Disc Specific wheelsystem
Front Tire
Bontrager ACX 29x2.2, folding
Rear tire
Bontrager ACX 29x2.2, folding
Front brake
Hayes HFX-9, hydraulic disc
Brake levers
Bontrager Race Os Riser, 31.8mm clamp, 25 degree rise, 630mm width
Bontrager Race X Lite OS, 31.8mm clamp, 7 deg rise
 Ergon grips.  aftermarket
Bontrager Race Luxe, Hollow Cromoly Rails
Bontrager Race X Lite Carbon, 31.6mm

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mud, Blood, and Beers

Cyclocross season is here!

Cyclocross season starts in Central Arkansas starts off Saturday night, October 13 at Little Rock's Kanis Park with the Arkansas Superprestige Night Cyclocross Race sponsored by CARVE. If you have a hot date Saturday night that does not involve mud, you can still get some 'cross at the Reservoir Cross event on Sunday morning at 11:00AM, sponsored by the Community Cyclist.

Saturday night (10/13)
ASP Night Race presented by CARVE
Kanis Park, Little Rock
4:30pm Registration opens, course open for practice
6:30pm Kid's race
7:00pm Women, Masters (40+), Juniors (18-), Fours
8:10pm Open

Sunday (10/14)
Reservoir Cross presented by The Community Bicyclist
Reservoir Park, Little Rock
9:30am Registration opens, course open for practice
11:00am Women, Masters (40+), Juniors (18-), Fours
12:30pm Open

Come out & race or spectate/cheer/heckle your friends

OK, I'll admit that cyclocross doesn't make much sense, but it sure is fun to watch and, from what I'm told, even more fun to race!
 Cyclocross is supposed to allow bike racers to mimic the "good old days" of steeplechase, when the boys from the villages of merry old England would race their horses cross country while leaping hedgerows and slogging across muddy bogs. Since we are in a modern era of paved roads, new-fangled pneumatic tires and the like, course designers have to seek out natural barriers or build them in order to punish new-age 'cross racers. The sport is huge in Belgium, where there is usually plenty of naturally occurring mud and if there is not constant drizzle, the spectators usually spill enough beer to make up for any lack of precipitation.
For the uninitiated, cyclocross involves riding what is essentially a robust road bike with knobby tires and caliper brakes (remember the frequent mentions of mud) around a course that includes barriers, stairs, hills and anything else that can be put in the way of forward progress, usually along with copious quantities of.....mud. Riders run, jump, hop, and climb their way around in circles until they get tired or someone is declared the winner.
It is a fall and winter sport often associated with being cold, muddy  and wet, fried potatoes, suffering, cow bells, rowdy spectators, and beer.
You can keep up with the cyclocross scene at Arkansas Cyclocross
If you lean toward northeast Arkansas a bit, more 'cross opportunities arise..
Gearhead Outfitters of Jonesboro is sponsoring races on 11/4 at Village Creek State Park near Wynne and on 11/18 at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Many people relish the thought of fall as it brings relief from the heat of summer, along with football, cool nights and slipping into your favorite jeans and flannel shirt. And then it gets cold. And dark. I'm good with most of that, and I'll ride all winter. My main argument with winter is that it just gets dark way too early, but winter isn't going to listen to my side of the story, so I'm getting ready. I had a couple of seasonal firsts on Monday- I rode my mountain bike and I put on knee warmers and a long sleeve base. It was 60 degrees and that attire was just about right, though the fact that I had laid around on the beach in Florida for the previous several days may have impacted my perspective slightly.

What to wear, what to wear?

This can be a damn difficult question to the rider striving for maximum comfort, so it is helpful for the serious cyclist to develop a system. It's easy to throw on a pair of tights and a jacket and be warm enough on a cold morning, but the range of temperatures and of effort that is typical of a fall ride in Arkansas calls out for adaptability in the fly. And that calls out for what I refer to as my collection "winter bits", which includes arm warmers, knee warmers, long finger gloves, caps, ear bands, toe covers, and a variety of base layers. Arm warmers can be pulled down or removed,  knee warmers and an ear band can be stashed in a jersey pocket as the day warms, and a base layer can be selected to meet the expected range of conditions.

Black-on-black: a common problem for many of us it that all of our warm fuzzy stuff is black. Within this pile are knee warmers, arm warmers, toe covers, a base layer and tights.

Who among us has not cursed the missing arm warmer as we prepared for the cold dark start of a winter ride? Even if you have all of your cycling gear in a single location, the fact that so much of this stuff is similar in color and texture calls out for a  little more organization.

These 3-drawer bins take up little room and pay off in frustration avoidance.
I solved most of my "missing bits" problem for under $10.00 and the cost of trip to Lowe's to buy a couple of 3-drawer plastic bins. In the open drawers on the right, I keep caps and headgear in the top drawer, warmers (arm, knee, leg, and toe covers) in the center, and gloves in the bottom. Tights are stuffed in a vertical file divider above. The second bin to the left is home to seasonal overflow (long finger gloves live there for the summer) and a variety of parts and supplies. This compact arrangement is close to the laundry room and to where I get dressed, so it is easy to put everything back in its place and I don't have to search around to find my kit for the day.

I think that most of my readers are well-equipped, but now is a good time to take inventory and find any holes in your quiver of gear. It's a good idea to have two of most things, and I know that I need to replace my ragged toe covers. Visit your local bike shop and buy what you need now, rather than wait until you've suffered a few uncomfortable rides. Selection should be good and you'll get a full season of use from your new gear.

Friday, October 5, 2012

NLR Parks Update

Folks, I'm traveling and have limited web tool access, but here is an update on NLR Parks Trail closures and a link to a map of the affected areas.

This will be the first email regarding trail closures due to maintenance. You have either requested to receive this email or it was requested you receive this first email. If you do not want to receive emails regarding trail closures in NLR, please let me know so I can remove your address from this list.

EMERALD PARK - There have been rumors going around that Emerald Park is closed. The whole of Emerald Park is not closed, just the center portion while a trail gets rerouted and paved connecting the two current paved portions on the west and east end. This portion of the park and trail will be closed indefinitely (at least 2-3 months depending on the weather). A map of the closed portion is available here:

The paved trail will be called the Highland Trail and the unpaved portion will remain known as the Emerald Park Trail. Once completed the Highland Trail will be ADA accessible and the old trail bed will be available for off-road bicycles and hikers.

ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL - In addition to the trail work in Emerald Park, we will also be doing improvements/repairs to sections of the Arkansas River Trail due to soil erosion and tree roots. We will send out notifications of when these sections of the Arkansas River Trail will be closed and whether or not a detour is available.

FUTURE NOTIFICATIONS - Notifications of these trail closures will be sent via an email blast and posted to our trails' Facebook page (

Monday, October 1, 2012

BDB100: Another Successful Event

The weather forecast was keeping eveyone nervous in the days leading up to last Saturday's BDB100, with rain probabilities ranging from 30% to 70%. E-mail lists and message boards were alive with the  question, "What are you going to do if it rains?" Like most folks, my bunch just decided to saddle up and see what happened, which turned out to be nothing in the way of bad weather and an ideal day for riding a bike. It was cloudy, cool, and not too windy.

The morning broke cloudy and cool, but the pavement was dry and the rain stayed away for the 2012 BDB100.

Best laid plans..  Our ride.
Our core group actually managed to pretty well stay together after a few early splits, and we came in just about where we expected at 51/2 hours total time. Probably where we deviated from our practice on previous BDB's, a routine that resulted in faster times with little more effort, was our pace in the first 20-30 miles and a couple of over-long stops (OK, my folks were waiting on me!). We likely failed to take full advantage of the dynamics of the fast front groups by settling into a moderate pace very early on. It is hard to keep a group of any size together while jumping from pack to pack trying to move up, especially when riding styles differ. We also stopped to make sure that things were under control at the scene of a violent crash that erupted near us in a big pace line, and I spent waaayyy too much time waiting in line to pee at our first rest stop around mile 46. An extra 5-10 minutes taken early will haunt you! By the time we got to Wye Mountain, I was admittedly the weak link in our little pack, fending off leg cramps and glad to see my friends gathered at the aid station just past the summit waiting for a couple of us late-arrivers. Those same folks pulled me into town a little later on. I've suffered more on long rides than I did on this day, but it wasn't my best day. Thanks go out to my hard-working companions. Note to self: Train harder, drink more fluids.

Good organization and traffic control

Thanks go out to Fred Phillips of DLT Event Management for their usual fine job of producing the ride, and to all of the law enforcement folks who did their part to keep us safe out on the road. There was a police officer at virtually every intersection along a route that encompassed 3 counties and several cities and towns. The aid stations that we visited were well-stocked and I am always glad to see plain lemon-lime Gatorade. I think some events use whatever is donated, with the result being the doling out of Powerade of some color not found in nature. I did, however, find myself yearning for a banana slathered with peanut butter as was served on the recent Bike MS ride.

The Course

I haven't heard much from folks who did the shorter courses, but that's probably a good sign. Last year's 50-68 mile routes surprised a lot of riders with the climbs on Batesville Pike, resulting in long lines of people walking bikes up the biggest hill. The 100 mile course just keeps getting better. The route through Conway was different from last year and a little loop to the Houston community made the ride very close to 100-miles as opposed to the 105 we were blessed with last year. Wye Mountain has added a character-building climb of 3-4 miles and there are plenty of smaller climbs and rollers along the way. The opening of Two Rivers Bridge made that addition possible and also got the return route off of Maumelle Blvd., a move welcomed by riders and drivers alike. The resulting route is a well-balanced mix of town and country along with hills and flats; something for everyone to either love or complain about.

The usual.
There are a couple of pieces of equipment that have absolutely no place in a big, mass ride like the BDB, those items being aerobars and ear buds. I'll qualify the aerobars to say that I have ridden comfortably with people I trust who were on bars, but generally speaking, they have no place in a pace line. Save the ear buds for the trainer.

Start-line blow-outs are slightly amusing to the crowd. Less so to the rider with the flat.

Somebody always seems to have an explosive flat at the start. It generally amuses the crowd and gives the curbside mechanic a chance to replace a tube under hundreds of watchful eyes. The seemingly spontaneous
blow-out is usually the result of a tube pinched between the tire bead and rim wall.

There are also almost always a few crashes on rides like this.They seldom involve the fast riders who are off the front, but usually occur with the touch of a wheel or a corner taken too hot in the excitement of the first miles of the ride. One such crash took place in the double line in which we were riding a couple of miles south of Mayflower. I caught some out-of-place motion to my right just as the rider  ahead of and beside me had his wheel clipped by the rider in front of him. He crashed hard over the bars and was hit by the woman behind him. It happened too quickly for me to do anything other than stay the hell out of the way of the carnage. I was a hundred yards or more up the road before I could get safely out of traffic and stopped. One of our riders, Dumas, called 911, and the ambulance was soon on its way. The woman who got the ambulance ride was not seriously injured, it was reported later.One of our team had labeled the front rider in the mayhem as erratic, was conscious of the guy's position and was avoiding him. It's a good idea to pay close attention to those around you when riding with folks you don't know. We all make mistakes, but pace lines depend on predictable behavior, steady handling and a sharp eye for danger.

Joe Jacobs of hooked a ride in a team car for some local fast boys who were shooting for the four-hour mark. Instead of turning over the pedals, Joe spent the day taking photos and handing up bottles. You can follow the link above to see what that was like.

CycloCross, Taking Kids Mountain Biking, more, more, more

Fellow BikeNerd Cliff Li (well. I'm more of an associate Nerd) has put together a schedule of events for this week that I could not improve upon. I'm bailing out of town for a few days, so I'll substitute some poached information for writing of my own:
From Cliff:

Since there's a lot going on this week, I thought I'd give everyone a heads up in what's going on this week with cycling related events. I've been wanting to do this for a while now anyway, at least get the standing rides posted.

It all starts Monday night!

Monday (10/1) - Cyclocross mock race - relay style! (Cue Gangnam Style song). 6pm tonight at Reservoir Park. Teams of 2 will race the reservoir cross course in a relay format. The only stipulation is that at least ONE of the bikes has to be a mtn bike. You can have two mtn bikes, or 1 mtn/1 cx, but not 2 cx bikes. If you don't have a team yet, don't worry, just show up & get matched up with someone else. This is just for fun so come out & have a good time!

Tuesday (10/2) - AC&F Tuesday night mtn bike ride - 6:30pm at the sub in NLR. River Trail/Ft. Roots/Emerald Park/Pfieffer Loop. Lights required!

Tuesday (10/2) - Urban assault aka the Pain Train - 6:15pm @ Methodist Church on Woodlawn in Hillcrest. Not for the weak-hearted.

Tuesday (10/2) - MtB Race Practice @ Burns Park - 6pm @ the BMX track. Short, fast laps to simulate race conditions & to get the heart rate going! Bring lights! Not sure if this is for sure, so post if you're going to be there!

Wednesday (10/3) - Allsopp MtB Ride - 6pm @ Spokes or 6:10pm at the trailhead on Kavanaugh. Bring lights! This ride will change to a night MtB ride @ Burns/Emerald in the near future.

ATTENTION JBAR READERS! If you have time and a mountain bike or just a desire to help, please get in touch with Joe at Arkansas Outside to help he and Cliff get some kids out on bikes.
Joe does a great job with his blog and we all know that kids need more time outside on bikes. Otherwise, they'll just sit in front of the TV and eat all of my Cheetos.

Saturday (10/6) - Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day sponsored by our very own Joe Jacobs @ Arkansasoutside.com

 - 9am-12noon @ the NLR side of the BDB. We need to grow the ranks of future mtn bikers so this will be a great opportunity to do so! There will be Strider balance bikes for young kids to try out, an obstacle course, some freebies, and group rides around Pfieffer Loop. Please bring your kids and invite your kids' friends to come out! We are also in desperate need for volunteers to lead rides & help out so get in touch with me or Joe Jacobs at if you think you can help. Please spread the word & get the kids out there!

Sunday (10/7) - Spring Hill Classic XC MtB Race in Barling, AR (just outside Ft. Smith).