Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Levis did not disappoint..........

A cacophony of themes to be considered as it rains here in Duluth…
· Levis-Trow,
· SS versus Gears
· 1st amendment, individuality versus the common good, and the Hells Angels

Levis-Trow 100

Having raced there now on three occasions, The Levis-Trow 100 to my way of thinking is the best overall mountain bike race in the area for the following reasons: The comprehensive course is long enough, demanding, exciting, and yet fast and flowing. The rural picturesque setting is compelling, complete with amazing limestone and sandstone structures. The on-sight camping is convenient, top-notch, and social (this year the Muddy-Cup coffee trailer was there as well). The organization is spot-on with not too many rules and regulations and you don’t need a USCF license. The cost to participate is completely reasonable and in addition the fee gets you free beer and other treats, plus the prizes are very nice. And so, not surprisingly, Levis-Trow seems to attract a great field of competitors that love bike racing, appreciate tough courses, but never-the-less approach the activity with an emphasis on personal challenge without interfering with the overall emphasis on having a great time. In summary, itz a very cool vibe!!!

This year’s event included races in the following divisions— 100 mile, 50 mile, 25 mile, and the Wisconsin Single Speed Championships. Tim Ek, Matt Evingson, Hansi Johnson and the writer represented Duluth in the 100 miler; Eki in the geared solo class, the author in the single speed category, while Matt Evingson and Hansi Johnson teamed up to race in the Duo 100 mile class, and Mike Bushey raced in the WI SS Championships. Hansi and Matt won their event and had a blast. Hansi relayed a humorous, but dramatic incident involving a speedy miscalculation along a precipitous ridge that ended up with him hanging onto a tree, while his bike cart-wheeled down a sandstone cliff. It was funny because he was unhurt and his great ability at story-telling always guarantees a good laugh. Mike Bushey ended up a very impressive fourth place in the SS Championships finishing just a few paces behind the very talented Ron Stawicki. Mike Bushey inspires me with his amazing ability to make technical cycling look easy and fluid. Tim Ek and I lined up with a strong field of enduro-hounds including Charly Tri and Dan Dittmer from Rochester, Chris Peariso, Chris Scholtz, Lee Unwin, Justin Lund, Mark Burkholz, and nearly thirty+ others. Charly Tri won it in impressive style just like he did last year while both Scholtz and Eki battled for second and third respectively. The outcome regarding the single speed class essentially boiled down to the difference between the author’s and Mark Burkholz’s gearing. Mark went with a gear-ratio that would allow him to climb the three big hills, but force him to spin out on the flats. I went with a gearing that would hurt on the hills but allow more speed on the flats. I guessed right and with the hinge-factor swinging my way I was able to hold on to finish the eighth lap in the lead, but certainly had it been a 12 hour event Mark would have persevered. My legs were completely used up at the completion of the 100 miles; no way could I have gone another lap.

SS versus Gears
Having raced in two long ones using a single speed, I feel I am now ready to offer some preliminary and anecdotal conclusions regarding the utility and/or efficacy of racing single speed versus geared. Based solely on my results in these two events I think it is a fair assessment to submit that my use of a single speed did not alter my outcomes. In other words, I do not think that I would have placed higher overall if I had used gears at the Metro Challenge or for that matter, even at the Levis-Trow 100. I believe this is especially the case at Metro where I did not feel hindered by using just one speed. At the Metro, I finished third overall and I am quite confident that the addition of gears would not have allowed me to improve on that finish. At Levis, the course being much more varied, I finished fourth overall and again I doubt that gears would have improved that standing, although this conclusion is not as solid. I can state with certainty that gears would not have allowed me to stay with Charly Tri, so in reality the difference in concrete terms is not significant. Perhaps with gears I may have been able to battle it out with Scholtz and Eki, but perhaps not. Historical patterns favor the conclusion that Scholtz would have maintained his second place and Eki his third place. I did feel hindered by the one gear on some sections, but on others I felt compelled to go much harder than had I had gears, especially on the climbs. Regarding Levis, of course on the flats (especially the long ski-trail portion), some declines, and some minor inclines the lack of higher or lower gears was frustrating, but as alluded to above, on the three major climbs, in the tight single-track, and on steep descents it seems to me that the single gear was advantageous. There is no doubt that I climbed much faster given the one gear option. Another interesting aspect of racing a single speed is that one is forced to constantly contemplate and focus on how and when to rest and how and when to give a hard strenuous effort. At Levis, I was able to climb at a rapid pace the big hills nearly every lap because I took concerted and premeditated rests leading into what I knew would involve high physical exertion. Another aspect of single speed racing is that one is forced to use his/her upper body to a greater extent. Perhaps this allows a more balanced exertion amongst the muscle groups? Prior to these two races, I had grown accustomed to dealing with leg cramps, but at both Metro and Levis I suffered no leg cramps, but instead my biceps, lats, and forearms all experienced degrees of cramping. Another explanation is that the high reps associated with riding a single speed on the flatter sections allow the muscles to discard lactic acid in a more efficient manner. Another factor in riding a single speed well (as in all aspects of cycling) is to really commit to keeping momentum going forward. Of course itz all conjecture and it really doesn't matter. Itz like Ben Shockey sez, "fast guyz are fast guyz no matter the bike..." But it is fun to experiment and make conclusions. I really do not think that it is as simple as it seems in terms of determining what makes for the fastest recipe when it comes to an off-road racing bike (especially if one imposes reasonable restrictions on considerations such as cost and numbers of bikes). Think of all the combinations of wheel sizes, suspension, gearing, air pressure, Q-factor, weight, rotational weight, etc., etc., etc., the "Industry" wants you to think that itz all about carbon, complex suspension, and that the more gears the better, but to me the jury is still out...
More on this as the season progresses…….

1st amendment, individuality versus the common good, and the Hells Angels
Thankfully Carlton County's political reach does not include the power to restrict a motorcycle gang from riding their obnoxious bikes and acting-out in odious, albeit legal fashion, unless it can prove a clear & present danger. Following the same rationale, Carton County cannot restrict citizens from voicing their distaste for such groups. So it goes………its this notion of individuality versus the common good that makes this such a great political system. Given the above, can someone explain to me how the State can impose seat-belt laws on its citizens who choose to ride in cars, but cannot restrict 1000+ HELLS ANGELS from riding their motorcycles en-masse through the small hamlets of northern MN during the height of the family tourist season? Maybe they have seatbelts on their rides?


  1. Super race recap Charlie and I think you are being far too generous to me. You had it even if we raced ANOTHER 12 hours. Keep on it maybe one day we can race on the same part of the course!

  2. Singlespeeds are indeed a great way of riding. I have made some improvements to my drivetrain by using Surly stainless steel chainrings and a tugnut that keep the chain tension where I want it.
    I am glad to hear you are digging it.

  3. My good man, I know that you want to call yourself a single speeder and get sleeves, etc. But, in your heart of hearts you still think about the gears. I'm totally down with the "fast guys are just that, fast guys" on gears, singles, trikes, what have you. A geared bike vs. a single under a rider of your caliber is not going to make that much difference in regard to results (my opinion). That is to say, you know how to adapt and make the necessary adjustments depending on the machine you're using at the time. One may be inclined to think, "I would have been faster on gears", but then again one would have been big ringing the double track with their chin on the handle bar, therefore ultimately expending the same amount of energy in the end anyway. You're riding impressively and I will relay just that to Mallory. Maybe he'll let you back into the DBD on a probationary basis.

    Keep it up buddy,

    Eki -Lifetime DBD member

  4. Yes Yes Yes....thatz what I was trying to get at. The single speed does sometimes act as a kind of governor that forces one to rest or at least forces one to spin at a high rate which eases off on the legs...well done Eki.