Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my friends, family, and colleagues.  I’m thinking of all of you this holiday season, and I wish you all the best for 2014.

The race mechanic requests for 2014 are rolling in.  I’ve already had to turn down a few upcoming opportunities due to scheduling conflicts.  I hate turning the jobs down, but it’s a double-edged sword.  It’s really fun to travel, to see new places, and to work with new athletes on the road.  The downside is being away from the family.  I was on the road A LOT in 2013, and missed my wife and kids very badly.  We’ve both been blessed with steady jobs, and are FINALLY falling into some sort of rhythm in this crazy life.  As much as I enjoy managing all the moving parts and hitting the road, my flexibility to do so isn’t going to be there in 2014.  I haven’t said “NO” to everything yet.  I’m still trying to shift some things around to try and sneak in a bit of race work next year.  Maybe get a little fix during the upcoming season…

I am hopefully going to do some more local races next year.  I changed race team affiliations, and will be racing with Team Energy Velo for 2014.  It’s a team that my shop sponsors, and it’s headed up by two very good friends and customers of mine.  They’re looking after me very well, and I hope to represent them to the best of my ability at the races I’ll be able to attend.  I’m trying to get a few solid results early in the season, in order to get my upgrade to Category 3 this Spring.  I’ve been a Cat. 4 for as long as I can remember, and the tail end of the season I actually had some decent results.  Hoping to upgrade sooner, rather than later.

Gotta get some of my fitness back.  I hyper-extended my left knee the day before the Hincapie Gran Fondo, and decided to ride the entire 80 mile ride with a little soreness in the knee.  That turned out to be a horrible idea.  I severely strained my patellar tendon, and was off the bike for over a month.  There were times I could barely walk, and most nights I spent with my leg elevated and icing.  With some amazing help from one of my friends, Jeff, a physical therapist, I was able to rehab and strengthen the knee back to normal.  My fitness took a serious dive, however.  I’ve been able to ride during the past three weeks, but it’s still winter, and I’m being a bit of a wuss about it.  I’ve signed up for the Strava/Rapha Festive 500k challenge, which entails riding 500k between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  I don’t see any way to finish it, short of burying myself on NYE, but I’m doing as many miles as I can until then to see if I can regain some of that lost form.  Definitely got some pounds to shed and some muscle to regain in that leg…

Oh… I need some help.  I want to plan some sort of bike adventure for 2014.  I need some ideas.  Leave me a comment here if you have any thoughts for what kind of bike mischief I might get into.

Good talk.  See you out there.

It’s been so long since I blogged, I can’t even remember what the subject of my last post was.  I will say this… it has been one HECK of a year, and it ain’t over yet.  Here’s a timeline, of sorts, since I last blogged:

  • I finished up my gig with Carmichael Training Systems at the Tour of California (Holy Cow… I haven’t blogged since May/June!).  It was another great trip out west.  We had a busy 10 days out there, and I got the opportunity to work with a lot of great coaches and staff, and a very talented group of cyclists.  It’s always a pleasure to work with such a professional organization like CTS.
  • For Memorial Day weekend, I missed USPRO Championships in Chattanooga, TN, in order to head to the Princeton/Pennington, NJ area for a training camp for the team I was working Race Across America with.  Team Melanoma Exposed consisted of 4 employees of Bristol-Myers Squibb, all of who were dedicated to raising money and awareness to combat melanoma.  We had a great training weekend, and were definitely prepared for our trip across the USA in June.  I also learned that not all of New Jersey is as terrible as portrayed on MTV.  The Princeton area was beautiful, and had some amazing roads for cycling.  I’d like to get back there with my own bike sometime.
  • While in California, I was asked to work at the Philly Cycling Classic with the Specialized-Lululemon Women’s Team.  I was stoked to have the opportunity to work with them for that weekend.  It was good to see my friend Carmen Small, again.  She was one of the ladies on the Aaron’s team when I wrenched for them in 2007.  She’s come a long way since then, including winning the USPRO Women’s TT Championship the previous weekend.  The whole team was amazing, and after a very interesting race (including temporarily being pulled from the caravan for our vehicle being too tall), we pulled off the victory, with Evie Stevens taking the win.  As a mechanic, it’s always good to get a win like that… it validates the work you do.
  • I flew home from Philly to Greenville, SC, to start my new job as Store Manager at BikeStreet USA.  It was a bit of a weird transition, because I only got a week and a half to work at the store before heading back out west for RAAM.  For two months, I stayed with my best friend, Josh, commuted by bike to and from work, and had to try and buy a house… all while the rest of my family was in Florida, vacationing with the in-laws.  It was tough to be without them for so long.
  • Mid-June, I flew back out to California for RAAM.  This was my first time working the event, so I didn’t know what to expect… and neither did the rest of the team.  We were determined to make it work, however.  After a couple of prep days, we started in Oceanside, CA, and around 8-9 days later, we arrived in Annapolis, MD… ocean to ocean.  The team finished 3rd in the Men’s 4 Person Team division.  It was a surreal experience, and I can’t even come close to describing it all right now.  I will say that once you spend over a week working, sleeping, and enduring 16 people in an RV… there are definitely some bonds forged that cannot be broken.  Take that however you like…
  • Since late June, I’ve been at the helm at BikeStreet USA in Greenville on Woodruff Road.  I think we’ve got the best staff in the business, and I’m dedicated to making things work more smoothly and efficiently around the store.  We’ve done well for the past few months, made some changes, and we’re constantly looking to improve the way we do things around the shop, to enhance the customer experience, and to make our shop the go-to shop in the Greenville area for… well, for bikes in general (No offense to my other buddies at other shops in Greenville… nothing but love for you guys!).

I may recap some of these events in greater detail later, but for now, I’ll try to start posting a little more regularly. We FINALLY got our internet set up at our new house, so I’ll have a bit of time in the evenings to catch up on things.   I post fairly regularly on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, so if you just can’t wait for a new blog post, follow the links to those pages.

Thanks for the support.  More good stuff coming soon.

I took a brief hiatus from writing on my blog, not because I didn’ t have anything to say, but because I simply haven’t had time to cram another thing into my schedule.  Looking back, I see my last post was before Cyclocross Worlds in February, so I’ve got some catching up to do.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • Sickness – Everyone in my family (with the exception of my amazing wife) got some form of a flu or stomach bug AT LEAST a few times.  Niki had some debilitating migraine issues, rather frequently, which required some added responsibility on my part after work.
  • School – Had one class during the first half of the semester, and one during the second half (which ended May 10).  I did okay during the first class, but the second, I tanked.  The class wasn’t interesting to me, and I didn’t put in the time needed to make the grades happen.  I feel really guilty about it, but sometimes those things happen.
  • Shop Closed – The shop job that I landed in September came to a halt in mid-April.  Free-Flite Bicycles bought a multisport store in Sandy Springs, Cadence Multisport, forcing our store location to close.  It was a great financial move on the owner’s part, and will work well for the company, but a shame for the Canton community.  Half of the staff decided to transfer to the main store in Marietta, and half of us opted for other things.  I didn’t know what I would do at the time, but I knew I could get some jobs in the interim, in order to make it work.
  • We’re Moving! – With all the melee going on with my job, Niki and I decided that it was time for a change.  We informed our landlord that at the end of May, we would be vacating our current residence.  The plan was to head to Jacksonville, FL, to spend the summer with Niki’s parents.  It would give the kids some quality “grandparent time,” and give us a break to regroup and figure out what our next step would be.

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Those were the difficulty-riddled bullet points.  The following are some great things that came along, filled in the gaps, and offered the silver lining to my aforementioned dark clouds:

  • UCI Paracycling Open (Greenville, SC) – I was asked to round up a crew of mechanics to provide neutral support for an international paracycling race near my hometown.  I was happy to oblige, mainly because it was a win-win; I had the opportunity to work on some exquisite machines, meet some absolutely unbelievable athletes, and my kids got to spend some quality time with their grandparents.  The field was filled with World Champions in their individual disciplines (at one point, there were FIVE World Champs in the TT start house at one time!), and other local athletes, who had never competed in road events before.  It was an incredible experience, that I will post about later.  I want to thank my neutral support crew for all their help:  Neal Herring (Sunshine Cycle Shop – Greenville, SC), Tim Wellborn (Cycle Center – Columbia, SC), and Derrick O’Shields (Grady’s Great Outdoors Bike Shop – Anderson, SC).  Honorable mention goes to my wife, Niki, who helped me at the TT start and ran a lot of errands for things we needed during the weekend.
  • Athens Twilight/Roswell Criterium -  Since my bike shop had closed, I had some free time on my hands, so I picked up a job with a pro team, Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis.  I had followed them for a while, and had worked for some of their riders when they were on other teams in the past.  They had a split team, meaning half their team was racing in Arkansas at the Joe Martin Stage race, and the other half were racing the USACRITS Speed Week criteriums in the Southeast.  I provided mechanical support for them over the course of the weekend, and they managed to be one of the strongest teams in the field, putting several riders in the Top 10 each day.  More to come on those events, as well.
  • Amgen Tour of California w/CTS – I’m currently in California, on my way to work at the Tour of California, once again working with Carmichael Training Systems.  I worked California, Utah, and USPRO Challenge in Colorado with them last year, and had a really good time.  I am looking forward to the next nine days of work.  Although there are extremely long, hard days of work ahead, I really am in my element when working like this.
  • Race Across America (RAAM) – A week or so ago, I accepted a position as mechanic for a RAAM team from Bristol Myers Squibb.  These men are trying to raise money to bring about a greater awareness, and hopefully a cure, for melanoma.  After Tour of California, I will be home for three days, then flying up to Princeton, NJ, for a camp with the team.  On June 12th, I’ll fly back out to California and follow Team Melanoma Exposed across the United States, on their mission to spread awareness of this terrible form of cancer.
  • GOT A NEW JOB! – When visiting my parents in SC last weekend, I visited a friend in Greenville, SC, who is regional manager for a chain of stores called BikeStreet USA.  He was in need of a Service Manager at his largest store, and asked if I was interested.  After several discussions and a really great visit to the shop, I have accepted that position, and will start very shortly.  The plan is to spend a week in Greenville after my Tour of California and RAAM Team Camp trips, but before RAAM.  After RAAM is finished, I will fly back down to Greenville and be there full-time from that point on.  This will mean a big move for our family, but we’ve discussed it and feel it will be a good move for us, on several levels.   I am going to try and take some traveling mechanic positions in the future, and it seems by the way the regional manager and I were talking, that scheduling adjustments and vacation days can allow some of that to be possible.

Lots of change is happening, and on some fronts, I’m very nervous and anxious.  I can’t help thinking that when things stop changing, we stop living.  We become stagnant at that point, and fall into a really bad spot that nobody wants to be in.  I’m glad things are changing for us, and I can’t wait to move on to the next several chapters of our lives.  We’ll be leaving a lot of good friends in Georgia, but we’re close enough to make occasional visits, and there’s always Facebook

We’re currently halfway finished with our move, but will be transitioning over the next two months.  If you need to contact me, e-mail me at probikewrench@gmail.com.  Thanks for your friendship and support.

 

I had planned to attend the UCI World Cyclocross Championships in Louisville, Kentucky this weekend, but life happened and things got crazy. I wasn’t going to be able to make the drive until after work today (Saturday), in order to catch the Elite races on Sunday. Then, the organizers changed all the races to TODAY, because the park where Worlds is being held is expected to be flooded by a major storm rolling through tonight, thus ending my plans to attend. Oh, well…

The next best thing to being in Louisville today is watching the races LIVE online! Live streaming video of today’s events starting at 9:30am: http://www.cxmagazine.com/live-video-stream-2013-cyclocross-world-championships. Lots of racing today! Tune in and cheer on the Americans!

I’ve been drooling over several new tools lately, so I’ve decided to start a list of which tools/items are striking my fancy.  Here’s the first of many:

Abbey Bike Works Dual Sided Crombie SL

This gem is a sweet new tool from Abbey Bike Works, called the Crombie.  The Crombie does the obvious job of removing a cassette lockring.  There are a few different models of the Crombie, including a single-sided model with a Campagnolo or Shimano head , a dual-sided model with Campagnolo AND Shimano heads, and a dual-sided SL model with both heads and a hollow handle.  The hollow-handled SL model is made with the traveling mechanic in mind, understanding that for those mechanics, like myself, who utilize air travel from time-to-time, there are weight restrictions on toolboxes that we must meet, in order to spare extra fees.

It’s a pretty handy tool with these functions alone, but one additional function of the Crombie makes it stand head and shoulders above the rest.  The Crombie fits over the quick release nut, enabling the mechanic to swap cassettes without removing the QR skewer.  This is a HUGE plus for anyone having to make a cassette swap in a hurry.  Sure it doesn’t take THAT much longer to remove the skewer, but every second counts in a race mechanic’s day… why not make it easier on yourself?

The fact that I can carry a handled multi-use tool, and eliminate two small bits and a wrench, makes this a tool that I must have.  Several mechanic friends already have the tool, and are really enjoying it.  Abbey Bike Works is also beginning production on a chain whip that the Crombie will slide into, making a very lightweight and compact two-tool combo.  Both tools are on my shopping list, and will be purchased soon.

Oh, yeah… for an extra $10, you can get your name engraved on it, making it a truly custom piece.  Yes, I’m a nerd.  Yes, I’ll probably pop for the custom tool.

For more information on Abbey Bike Works and their line of tools, visit http://www.abbeybiketools.com/