‘Cross Crusade Halloween

Sorry I dropped the ball on the blogular activities back in October, but I’m gonna try to make up for it with some recap posts now.  Let’s see where we? Ah, yes. The last race I covered was Heron Lakes, so up next is the 2 day Bend Halloween ‘cross extravaganza. Team Metropolis fielded a fairly small contingent, half of whom didn’t arrive in time to race on Saturday. I myself had planned to race at least one day, but discovered upon waking on Saturday that I wasn’t feeling so hot and bowed out of racing for the weekend. I likewise passed on taking pictures on Saturday, so we’ll fast forward to Sunday, which is the costume day anyway.

Sand? Rocks? Sage brush? Must be Bend.

Cross in Bend is a whole different animal than West of the Cascades. The ‘Cross Crusaders did a typically stellar job in designing the course, combining loose off camber, thick grassy sections, deep sand, two runups and a purpose built flyover ramp.

Dr. Hymans writing a prescription for dirt.

Crappy picture of the flyover. The Deschutes Brewery is in the background.

Sr. Chilidog blending into the background.

The Gnarwhal passing a convict on the inside.

The nastier of two runups. Really loose sand.

The Great Pumpkin rising from the pumpkin patch? Nope, just a costumed rider at the top of the runup.

Cross Crusade Heron Lakes

The third race of the 2013 ‘Cross Crusade took place on October 20th at the Heron Lakes course north of Portland International Raceway. Once again, the day started off foggy and cool, before breaking out into brilliant sunshine. Team Metropolis had a sizable group in the “C”/Clydesdale field and several racers were caught up in a nasty pileup at the start of the first lap where the course took a turn through a long stretch of loose gravel. Young Adriel was one of the casualties.

Lots of loose gravel on this course. photo courtesy of K Nash.

This was also the driest a PIR course has been in anyone’s memory, and it was fast and fun, if a bit sketchy in spots.

Action on the runup.

The Schwartz making a move.

Loose corner under the bleachers.

We set up camp near the Vault, a large concrete platform about 16 inches high and 8 or 10 feet square. The fiendish minds that design the Crusade courses have long since determined that this makes a perfect barrier, and it has been featured in many races at this course. It’s always a great place to spectate, especially since some of the more skilled racers don’t dismount at all, but simply ride up and over the impediment.

The infamous Vault. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the racers who just rode over it.

The other main terrain features are a couple of stretches of off camber terrain on the backside of the only hill on the course. Otherwise, it’s mostly flat. Most years, when it’s wet, these provide a serious challenge; forcing many riders to dismount. But when it’s dry, they are quite rideable.

Digging into a corner.

Off camber on the backside of the big hill.

More off camber.

All in all, another great day of racing!

‘Cross Crusade So Far…

Hey Gang, sorry we didn’t post a recap of the Cross Crusade opener from the Alpenrose Velodrome. We’re going to make up for it now with TWO races in one post, both Alpenrose and Rainier High School.

The first race of the 2013 River City Bicycles Cyclocross Crusade dawned cool and foggy over the hills of Southwest Portland and the grounds of the Alpenrose Dairy. Team Metropolis was there bright and early for a long day of racing. We are pretty well represented in most categories, but the bulk of our racers go in the second race, composed of Category ‘C’ and Clydesdales (racers over 200#). Unfortunately, since most of us were racing, there aren’t a lot of pictures of us doing so. The weather had recently turned from very wet to very dry, and the course was in good condition with the exception of some very muddy stretches which dried through the course of the day with the assistance of the sun, which came out in force during the second race.

This was a theme that was to be repeated the following week at Rainier.

Johnny B, single speedin’.

K Nasty (AKA Lil’ Snacky) attacks the off camber

Senor Chilidog looking pro

JoJo overtaking the competition.

The stairs of doom.

Using the Schwartz

Sunday at Rainier High School started off cloudy and cool. It took a little longer to burn off than the week before, but once it did, it was a beautiful day. I expected the course to be pretty dry, but there were still some severely boggy patches. Rainier’s most famous feature is a long and brutal climb, but this year there were many downed trees as well, which the Crusaders worked into the course.

Using the natural terrain in course design

Notice Brad yelling on the left

Coming out of the woods

Not the big climb, but big enough

A hell of a lot of downed and limbed trees

Tricky corner.

The Team Metropolis encampment is in the background.This weekend the Crusade returns to Portland and the Heron Lakes course at Portland International Raceway! Come out and enjoy the sun. Stop by the Team Metropolis tent and enjoy a beer courtesy of our friends at Widmer Bros. Brewing!

Enter, ‘Cross Season!

It’s been a busy summer here at the shop, and I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging duties. As we transition into fall, I hope to be able to devote a little more time to the blogular sciences. We’re also going to have a lot more subject matter to write about as cyclocross season is here and heating up quickly. The first race of the season was actually August 31st (I know!) and there has been at least one if not two races every weekend since. I myself (along with the Hymanator and Secret Chilidog, with moral support provided by The Schwartz) kicked off the season last Sunday at Fazio Farms. They call it a farm, but it’s as much a gravel pit as a farm, with lots of heavy machinery and huge piles of dirt and rock. I didn’t have much time for photojournalizing, and I didn’t have a real camera, but here are a few cellphone pictures to give you an idea of the majesty of the scene.

The 3 tents on the right are the finish line. The tents on the left had FREE BEER!

The course is in a great location between the Columbia River and the Columbia Slough, just West of the airport. It was an easy 15 minute ride from my house. It featured a mix of fast, flat (though bumpy) dirt and grass stretches and a few short but steep climbs. The main feature was the bomber downhill followed by the uphill to 180 which I referred to as the halfpipe. Holy shit was it fun.

Dropping in. Don’t touch your brakes. Just trust me.

Full speed ahead!

Now pedal your ass off!

But wait, there’s more!

The view from the beer tent to the “dinosaur back”.

The other main feature was the so-called Dinosaur Back. It was a steep (though rideable) hill with a less dramatic though still fun descent. It’s best feature was a sweet berm that funneled you around the hill and into a narrow chute of marshy grass that immediately sapped all your momentum.

Coming down the Dinosaur Back. Note Sr. Chilidog repping the orange.

Dig in and let your tires do the work.

All in all, I vote Fazio Farms as most fun cross course ever. And there was free Tecate!

Next weekend you have a choice between Ninkrossi (featuring lots of Ninkasi beer) or the Battle at Barlow (featuring no beer because it’s at a high school). For more details check out the OBRA calendar. If Fazio Farms looked like fun, it’s coming back for a rematch on November 16th! In 2 weeks shit gets real when the infamous ‘Cross Crusade kicks off at the Alpenrose Dairy.

Last Sunday I rode my bike up Mount St. Helens…

Well, partway anyway. It sure felt like I rode all the way to the top. Of course, I didn’t do it alone. The whole trip was masterminded by the Hymanator who wanted to cross it off his “bucket list”, whatever the hell that is. I’m guessing it involves doing things that make you feel like you’ve kicked said bucket, ’cause that’s sure how I felt after. Along for the ride was D-Bone (AKA Dime Bag) because we figured somebody out of the three of us would probably survive to go for help. We headed out bright and earlyish after a hearty breakfast.

Man what a crappy view!

The trail from the parking lot climbs steadily up through an evergreen forest, following a ridge line that eventually takes you to Ape Canyon, a deep but narrow cleft in the flank of the mountain. Before that, we had to read about the dangers of Giardia.

Not to mention get swarmed by a horde of black flies that were attracted to my sweaty, salty flesh. I felt like one of those kids in the Sally Struthers infomercials, I had so many flies crawling all over me. I didn’t get a picture of the flies, but here’s one from where they were thickest.

The climb was long and challenging, and I’m not ashamed to say I had to walk a good chunk. Eventually it leveled off a bit and we reemerged from the trees to this:

And this:

Another mile or so of intermittent climbing brought us to the actual Ape Canyon.

We didn’t see any apes, though we did see some other primates.

From here the trail wound up and over a rocky saddle to the Plains of Abraham. (Insert biblical joke here.) The trail up this point had been fairly typical of riding West of the Cascades; steep, with roots and rocks, but mostly firm soil under tree cover. From here on, it was markedly volcanic, lots of loose gravelly sections composed of pumice, interspersed with harder rock shelves and outcrops. Also, not a tree in sight and little other vegetation. It kind of reminds me of the plateau of Gorgoroth in Mordor. You know, if it were real.

Once we ascended to the Plains, we had a mile or so of flat, moderately technical riding before transitioning onto a ridge that headed toward Spirit Lake. From here the trail wrapped around numerous narrow drainages cut into the side of the ridge.

Until we came out here:

If you look on the left hand side, you can see where the trail continues.

This seemed look a good spot for a break and a chicken fried steak sandwich before continuing on. From here we dropped down a hundred feet and continued on a trail running along a narrow spine before arriving at the “stairs.”

As you can see, they’re not really stairs, but that’s the easiest way to describe them. We descended 8 or 10 sets of these before continuing a few hundred more feet along the spine to a road. From here, it was an uneventful 2 miles to the Windy Ridge viewpoint.

That’s the rim of the crater in the background.

We loitered around the viewpoint for a bit, wolfing down some more food and water in preparation for the return journey. Of course the trip back required us to go UP the stairs, which was not my favorite part of the day.

View from halfway up the stairs.

All in all the return was uneventful, if a little thirsty. By the time we were back under the trees, I was almost out of water and wishing I had more.


Looking East from the top of Ape Canyon.

Almost done!

After a long, fast descent, we were back at the car and ready for some damn ice cream! Fortunately the store in the little town of Cougar obliged us.

New Stuff

Hello to everyone out in blog land. It’s been a busy summer here in the bike shop, and new blog posts have been a low priority, but I wanted to do a quick post about some of the cool new stuff we have in the shop.

First up is something we are all excited about being long time fans of Vans footwear: Vans sole pattern lock on grips from ODI.

Available in classic natural, black, red, and white. $30 per pair.

On the handlebar coverage front, we also have a fresh batch of Deda handlebar tape in a wide range of colors in synthetic cork and synthetic leather. The cork is stretchy and cushy, and you can clean it with soap and water when it gets grimy.

Colors to match any paint scheme! Regular synthetic cork is $15, synthetic leather is $20.

We also have a new helmet model which has turned out to be a hot seller, the Lazer Beam. It has an automatically adjusting headband, and comes in 2 sizes and 4 colors.

On the left is hi viz yellow, on the right is grey. Also available in black and brown. $50.

We also have a new batch of Raleigh closeout bikes. They are all models we have carried before, but now they are on sale. First up is the Furley, Raleigh’s disc brake equipped single speed cross machine.

On sale for $800. We have 53, 55 and 57cm.

Next is the Clubman Mixte, a classy step through road bike for commuting, light touring or weekend fun rides. Great mix of Shimano components and color matched fenders.

We have the Clubman Mixte in 50cm only. It’s $1,100, which is $200 off.

Next is the Raleigh Port Townsend, randonneur champion and commute slayer. Bar end shifters, Shimano CX 50 cantilever brakes and a smart and affordable parts mix make this a super versatile steed.

Available in 55 and 57 cm. On sale for $900!

We also have a cool new model from Felt called the York. It’s a sharp, classically styled city bike with a 2 speed kickback hub, hammered fenders, and a roomy front rack for hauling your stuff.

In stock in 56cm.

Finally, something we’ve had for a little while, but is still fairly new to us; the Devil and She Devil from Handsome Cycles. Cro Moly steel frames with all the braze-ons for racks and fenders, and plenty of clearance for big tires, they’re ready to be turned into your ideal adventure machine.

We’ve also got plenty of closeout models that are priced to move. Checkout out our website for a complete list of all our in stock bikes.

Bend Weekend

I did a bunch of mountain biking in Bend over the 4th of July weekend. Here are some pictures and words.

Day one was COD, on the southern edge of the Phil’s Trail complex. The plan was to head west on COD to Storm King, then north to connect with Grand Slam before swinging back south to the start. Unfortunately, a misleading  fire road derailed my plans and brought me back to COD early. Still a good ride.

View from the Deschutes River trail. This was my jumping off point for the first ride of the weekend, COD.

The Battleship, looking tough.

I didn’t ride it, but it sounds good. It’s hidden away on the back side of the Phil’s complex near Storm King.

On Day 2, I wanted to cover the ground I had missed the day before, but I attacked from the north. I started on Kent’s Trail from the main Phil’s trailhead, then took it to the junction with the actual Phil’s trail and followed it to the north end of Storm King via the helicopter pad. From there I descended Storm King to Grand Slam and headed back west to the start.

The so called “helicopter pad” at the top of Phil’s. You couldn’t really land a helicopter there.

Grand Slam. This is my new favorite trail at Phil’s. Part of it parallels a spine of rock that makes for some fun and interesting situations.

More fun and techie bits on Grand Slam.

Day 3 I rode Mrazek, a super fun out and back that runs along the ridge north of Tumalo Creek. I started at Shevlin Park, and climbed 1500 feet in 11 miles. The climbing was mostly gradual enough that it didn’t feel like a chore, and the trail was twisty and fun, with many berms. Of course, 11 miles of climbing means 11 miles of descending.

On the way back down, you get a choice of difficult or intermediate.

Unfortunately, this is as good as the view got. Looking south towards Mt Bachelor.

Suck it horses! Getting ready to descend Mrazek from near the top.

Brad’s Custom ‘Cross Bike.

After a long wait, Brad’s new Ahearne custom ‘cross bike is built and ready to rock! (I apologize in advance for mediocre cell phone pictures.) It’s single speed only with Paragon sliding dropouts and disc brake tabs. Brad is planning on doing some racing on it this Fall, but mostly using it for urban assault and Forest Park runs.

I think the coolest parts are the split seatstays, which are something Joseph has never done before.You can also see pictures of what it looked like before paint on the Ahearne Cycles website.

It also has the new improved super awesome Ahearne Cycles head badge.

Are You Ready To Meet Your Maker?

The South Fork of the Trask River

Looks nice, doesn’t it? Such a pleasant, pastoral image of stereotypical Oregon bliss in no way represents the pain we inflicted upon ourselves on Saturday, April 4th. That’s right, it was THE RAPTURE!

First, a little background. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve probably seen something about Velo Dirt. The VD (haha, VD) gang inaugurated the Rapture route a few years ago to coincide with one of the many “end of the worlds” various lunatics are always forecasting. Unsurprisingly, the world didn’t end, but a small group of dedicated cyclists did ride their asses off in the Coast Range. I had done the Dalles Mountain last year, and after riding quite a bit this spring, I was thirsty for a new challenge. In the Rapture, I got it in spades. I somehow convinced Senior Chilidog, and Dik Dik Tracy (aka D-Bone, aka Dime Bag) to accompany me on this foolhardy and potentially suicidal venture. The route is tough, around 70 miles in length with over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, virtually all of it on gravel roads. What adds an extra degree of challenge is the remoteness. Unlike other VD (haha, VD. That just doesn’t get old) rides, you don’t pass any convenience stores or restaurants, and hardly even any houses. You are really on your own, responsible for carrying anything the ride might call for, including of course food and water but also anything that might be required to keep your bike rolling through some pretty deep and rough gravel roads.

Girding our loins for battle.

One of the the only easy aspects of our day was the start time, a civilized 10 am. This allowed us to roll out from Portland at a fairly late hour for the drive to the Flying M ranch, the start and end point of the days festivities. A number of riders had elected to camp out at the ranch, and we were greeted by a number of tents with cyclists milling about in preparation for the day. We geared ourselves up and chatted with some of our comrades before gathering around the man who had planned the whole thing for a few last minute instructions.

Donnie from Velo Dirt putting the fear of God into us.

After the safety briefing, we rolled out. I would estimate 60 to 80 people, on a mix of mountain, cyclocross, touring, randonneur, and even a few purpose built gravel bikes. The weather was amazing for April in Oregon, with temperatures forecast in the 80’s and endless blue skies. After 2 relatively flat miles, we passed our first gate, crossing into private timber lands and starting up the first climb of the day, an 8 mile grind that wouldn’t release us from it’s grasp until we climbed almost 3,000 feet.

Just getting started. If you look close, you can see the nice deep gravel on the shoulder.

The climb was steep, but what made it tough was the deep, uncompacted gravel. Log trucks had carved out two parallel tracks that were fairly smooth, but they were separated and bordered by deep, loose, rock. The group stretched out quickly and I found myself at the back of the pack regretting my missed opportunity to gear down to a 34×32 low.

Halfway up the initial climb.

Still halfway, but this time looking uphill. The ridge to the left is where we end up.

We regrouped 6 miles into the climb and paused for some fuel. We had only been riding for an hour, but after already climbing 2,000 feet I was feeling the burn. Fortunately, the gravel mellowed a bit at this point and the riding (surface wise, at least) became a little easier. Another 2 miles of out of the saddle grunting brought us to the top, where a stretch of slightly descending road felt like heaven.

The top, more or less.

We passed a large group around this time, including Johnny 2.0, who you may remember is the guy who (voluntarily) rode the Ronde twice. One of his compatriots would be cursed with recurring flats, and this was the first of several times we would leapfrog each other throughout the day. We then began a furious descent for several miles, winding our way down the West slope of the Coast Range.

This gate marked the bottom of the descent and our return to public lands.

Sr. Chilidog coming in for a landing.

From here we stopped for water in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Trask river.

The boys, making some water safe for democracy.

D-bone had brought a water filter so as to avoid carrying 2 gallons of water on his bike. Streams and rivers were plentiful along the route, it was just a matter of rendering the water safe to drink. I opted for a 3 liter hydration pack and 2 water bottles on my bike, though I was happy to drink filtered river water before the day was done.

How’s that for mountain fresh?

After topping up our bottles, we ventured forward on the now gently descending road, following the quickly widening river. We began to encounter small groups of motocrossers, and could see MX trails branching off the road.

The road ahead.

A few more miles and some more descending brought us out to a main road and something we hadn’t seen in hours: pavement! It’s hard to describe how good a nice smooth asphalt road felt after three hours of gravel. It was not to last, however. Two or so miles and we turned back onto gravel, this time following the North Fork of the Trask. This also meant we had hit the lowest point of the day, and would be climbing until we began to descend the East slope of the Coast Range. Sure enough, after a few gentle meanders, the road turned sharply upward, before leveling out on a moderate cliffside traverse a few hundred feet above the river.

82 degrees and blue sky in May?

Six or eight miles of ups and downs on the cliffside, and we dropped back down to the river level where we took the opportunity for one more water stop. My levels were getting low, so I took advantage of the boy’s generosity to top up.

So thirsty…

It was a good thing we stopped when we did, because immediately after our water stop we began to climb again, this time battling a wicked set of switchbacks that seemed endless. We finally made it to the top and cruised along a nice smooth logging road before arriving at Barney Reservoir. The end was finally in sight. Well, metaphorically, anyway. We still had around 20 miles to go, but most of the climbing was over. We took a break on the shore of the lake and powered through some food before gearing up for the final push.

Barney Reservoir, looking southwest. After this I was too tired to take any more pictures.

The road around and past the reservoir was the loosest and deepest gravel we had seen all day. I believe the cue sheet referred to it as “regraded total shit”. I pretended I was Phillipe Gilbert, put my head down and powered through. By now it was four o clock, and I was starting to feel a little punchy. We were all ready to be done for the day. The cue sheet had mentioned a final “bail out” about 10 miles from the end that would cut 7 miles and 800 feet of climbing off the total. We decided to make for it, but first a bit more climbing followed by a wicked fast gravel descent awaited us.

Finally, we re-emerged onto the pavement like dusty butterflies bursting forth from a gritty chrysalis. The asphalt was even more blissful than before because it descended gently, allowing me to take my hands off the bars and stretch my aching back. We found the turn for the bypass, and limped back to the Flying M. It was 6 pm. The final tally was 8 hours total, with 6.5 hours moving time and about 63 miles total. I found myself thinking “what the fuck were we doing for that hour and a half we weren’t riding?” it certainly didn’t feel like we spent that much time off the bike.

Our timing was good, because the food came off the barbecue right after we arrived. That didn’t stop us from getting milkshakes at Burgerville on the way home.

Summer Night Ride

The view from the intersection of Leif Erikson Drive and Saltzman Road.

Last Friday I made it out to my first Metropolis Night Ride of the season. Hosted (most) Fridays by Lil’ Snacky and the Utard, (aka Kristina and Brad) the route winds from the bike shop over the Broadway Bridge, through Northwest and into Forest Park. Attendants on this particular edition included myself, Senor Chilidog, the Utard, and our friend, neighbor and framebuilder extraordinaire Christopher Igleheart.

Self Explanatory.

After navigating the mean streets of the West side, a short climb up Thurman Street brought us to the Leif Erikson trailhead and the end of the pavement until just before the Saint Johns bridge. Friday had been a warm day, but the air cooled appreciably on entering the newly leafed trees of the aptly named Forest Park. By the time of our arrival, twilight was approaching and traffic was thinning out. We passed a half dozen runners and three or four cyclists on the first leg of our trail journey, before pausing for liquid refreshment at the crossroads of Leif and Saltzman Road.

Okay, on 3, nobody look at the camera.

We hung out at the picnic table at the crossroads for a bit, cracking jokes, enjoying the view and sharing libations. It was getting dark under the trees, so we turned on our lights and embarked on the next leg of our journey. Lil’ Snacky had told us about an old car hidden in the trees below the road shortly after Firelane 5, and we were determined to spot it.

Trust me, it’s a car.

And spot it we did. Judging from the suicide doors and the general shape it looks like an early ’60s Lincoln Continental. Supposedly there are two cars in the same vicinity, but we only found one. After a bit of gawking and photography, we wound on through the rapidly darkening forest. Another 3 miles brought us to another crossroads where Leif Erikson is intersected by Springville Road. A left turn climbs up to Skyline, but we opted for a right and the short, steep descent to Bridge Road and the Saint Johns Bridge.

Looking toward downtown Portland from the bridge. You can see Mt. Hood to the left.

Normally, when I cross the Saint Johns, I like to take the lane, but tonight I decided to take the walkway and enjoy the view, which gave me the leisure to snap some pictures. After the bridge, we headed back into the city along Willamette Boulevard and some welcome post ride drinks.

Friday night Forest Park rides run most weeks from our shop at around 6:30. Call us or check out our Facebook page for more details.