Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Letter from Spring Training Camp

About  a month ago, it was proposed that the family should spend Spring Break in Minnesota, with the in-laws.  While a similar situation a couple years ago proved to be a decent chance to do some early season riding in slightly better weather than back home, it was still a week-and-a-half in Minnesota.  With the in-laws. 

At first, I demurred.  Maybe I'd stay home; I could finally get the living room painted, after all.  But if I really wanted to paint the living room, I'd have done it already.  And I didn't really want to spend a week alone at home.  And then I figured out how to turn a trip to the states into a new bike, n + 1, as it were.

I would bring a bunch of parts with me, order the rest online, and avoid all the cross-border shipping BS by having it all delivered to the in-laws' place.  I'd get to build up a new machine (always a good time) and then have something to ride for the rest of the week. 

The most obvious hole in the stable is a gravel race bike.  Usually, the cross bike would fill this role neatly, but my Ridley is such a thoroughbred that it lacks even a single set of water-bottle braze-ons, making it a bit of a one-trick pony, and useless for even a medium length ride.  A gravel race bike, in theory, combines all-road capability (tire clearance, appropriate gearing) and light randoneuring duties, so a cross frame is an ideal starting point (provided it isn't too pretentious for hydration attachment).  Hence the Blue Norcross frameset.

In honour of what is arguably the pre-eminent event of its kind, Challenge has started manufacturing a tire specifically for gravel racing, the Almanzo, named after the the 100 mile Minnesota gravel grinder race.  When I left Winnipeg, there was exactly one shop on the whole interweb with stock: Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis.  On previous trips, I've visited One on One and Freewheel, among others, and they're great, but I'd never been to Calhoun.  It has an urban, utility-cycling vibe, with a lot of high-end saddle-bags and such on display, and is attached to a coffee shop.  But most importantly, they had Almanzos.  Score!

What they - and four other reputable shops in the greater Twin Cities area - did not have, were the particular straddle wire cables that my Shimano cantilevers needed (and which I didn't have).  Pictured below are some of the most difficult-to-find small parts in cycledom.

I finally found them in a very neat shop.  Flanders Bros. (that's really the family name, apparently), on Lyndale, specializes in all things cyclocross, and is definitely worth a visit, next time you're in Mpls.

With those two last-minute items tracked down, I was ready to start building up the ideal gravel racer. 

As far as I can tell, the Almanzos are basically Grifo XS treads glued to a slightly narrower 30mm casing.  Having never sprung for such fancy tires before, I have little to compare them to, but they seem to be as supple as they claim, and they roll on pavement as well as any slick I have ridden.  They're not slowing me down, that's for sure.  The rack under the seat is for the saddle-bag.  I hadn't used it much, as it always bounced against my thighs before; with the new support, I don't even notice it's there.

There's still plenty of snow down here, but by waiting until midday, I was able to ride in temps between 3 and 7 degrees most days.  It's not California or Arizona, but it's still a whole lot better than back home, according to Environment Canada.  This, Andrea, is fleece bib-knicker riding at its best, and the cold, moist conditions make for effortless, injury-free farmer blows.  You do need to keep the boys insulated from the wind on longer rides, though.

I've been seriously neglecting the bike this winter (I rode the rollers a grand total of once), but with Brad's race just around the corner, some "training" was required.  I got a few good rides in, including one long loop on rolling hills on Saturday, when I took these:

Apparently, those are the remains of a World War 2 bomb making facility or something.  The car in the trees is just straight-up redneckery, I think.

And finally, to inspire you all for what is sure to be the most gravelly year yet, isn't this a pretty colour for a road?  It must be all the clay.

PS - I don't think "strike" is quite the appropriate term to describe a situation where the boss is the only person refusing to work.  So, what did everyone else do over Spring Break?


CycleChick said...

Wow Adam, that looks pretty awesome. My recent Minneapplesauce trip consisted of hot tubs, malls, and restaurants – none of which were conducive to fleece bib knickers or farmer blows. In fact, some were downright hostile about it.

Brad the Impaler said...

From my perspective, the most obvious hole in your stable is a decent mountain bike. But that is a sweet ride.

Adam said...

Andrea - yeah, they frown on that in the hot tubs.
Brad - you are clearly forgetting about my Specialized. Unless by "decent" you mean newer than 10 years old?

Brad the Impaler said...

Decent = newer than ten years, and with grown up wheels.

Brad the Impaler said...

And ya, I was forgetting about your lovely green Specialized.