Monday, August 29, 2011

Snapping Turtles

Corey and I ran into this monster near the end of last week. While I didn't start taking video until after he'd threatened us multiple times, as you can tell, this wasn't someone to be messed with.

Shortly afterward, Corey turned into a bit of a snapping turtle himself. We made the mistake of discussing the cheating which transpired at Gravel Worlds and found ourselves keeping a 20mph for far longer than my legs care to remember.

Friday, August 26, 2011

War Axe Launch Party

Launch Party or ReLaunch Party... heck, simply Party works too. Here's the details. Come hangout a while.

Date: Saturday, October 1, 2011
Time: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Address: 140 North 8th St #10
Lower Level
Lincoln, NE

Friends of yours will be there. Each of our bikes will be there to check out. Our softgoods will be on-hand. Beverages of all shapes and sizes.

Consider this your invitation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Fascist Killer T-Shirt

Simply said, working with Chad Hawthorne makes doing things like this a pleasure. He kills it.

Full Frontal

Front Lettering Detail

Rear Lettering Detail

Sock Detail

And for the shameless plug... This bad boy is now available in the War Axe Online Store.

Oh Yeah... As Hoss pointed out, if you fold it just right, Sam's guns appear. That's worth it's weight in gold.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Frederick Krull House: A Perfect Checkpoint

I was sitting by a pool in Miami when Corey first mentioned the Krull House to me. We were texting back and forth about remained incomplete for Gravel Worlds and how we might be able to help with some of that. I was still debating racing, as opposed to 'working,' when Corey sent me the following link: The Fredrick Krull House.

Matt Steinhausen providing an oral history of the Krull House.

Last Tuesday, I decided to ride out to the house to see what I was dealing with. The link left me intrigued and Corey obviously thought it was cool, so I looking forward to seeing the place in person.

After dealing with some questionable directions from Corey, I finally found the turn and checked the place out. I had been trying to think of ways to make the checkpoint memorable, but it was obvious standing in front of the house that it would be carrying the day.

On race day, we were fortunate enough to have Matt stop by and tell us about the house. It is certainly the man's passion and he clearly enjoyed sharing it with all of us.

If you didn't get a chance to really check the place out, make it a point to ride out to SW 2nd and take the place out. During a race we can all be too concerned with getting in and out of a checkpoint quickly or too worked to really take everything in. It's worth a (re)visit when you've got a bit of time to relax.

And if Matt happens to be there, tell him 'thanks.' He's already offered to let use the place again next year. Seems the least we can do.

Monday, August 22, 2011

PCL's Gravel Worlds: The Krull House Secret Checkpoint

At some point during this year's TransIowa, I started thinking through the idea of doing War Axe secret checkpoints at gravel races. The idea was simple. Once you get deep into a long race, a surprise oasis looks like a utopia, even if you're stopping for thirty seconds for a Coke and a smile before pressing on.

In bouncing the idea off of people, I tossed the idea by Corey, who said that Gravel Worlds could really use a checkpoint late in the game. It really could only be semi-secret, but could we modify the two thoughts and make it work. Of course we could. Throw in the Krull House as a location (separate post to follow) and it was Game On! for Gravel Worlds.

Is this the way to the Renaissance Fair?

Having ridden through my fair share of checkpoints, I, as usual, had opinions about how things needed to go. Easy to find and Memorable, that was the goal. With the Krull House taking care of the memories, Mrs Snob helped me with a few banners that worked well with the posts I had seen in my Krull House recon and we had visibility covered. Despite the fact that this was a CP and not an Oasis, I grabbed a variety of beverages before driving out to the house and a checkpoint was born.

First Across the Line

My intent was to pass out Scratch Offs, throw updates into the world of social media and hang out, throwing in a few War Axe touches as a bit of tasteful PR. Jeff Bonsall came early to help me out and there were almost always five or six people chilling throughout the day. Even though a dying phone kept the updates to a minimum, everything else went down smooth and easy.

Riding is easy, dealing with this cap is not.

Currently, Jeff and I are working on an algorithm that I have tentatively named the "Mullet Theory." In short, the racers in an endurance event can be categorized as, "business in the front, party in the back." The first people in grab what they need and are gone. As you move toward the back of the race, things get loose, people linger and the mindset is a bit different. Neither are wrong, of course. It is just a different approach.

Dale, doing his best to cause problems with the Mullet Theory of Endurance Racing

Of course, every theory has its statistical anomaly. Dale hit the checkpoint in sixth. Was very mellow and friendly with everyone, casually got what he needed, then strolled back to his bike and continued to crush people. I guess it's a working theory...

Ahhh, thanks Scott, that's more like it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scratch Offs!

Gravel Worlds 2011: I'll Let You In On A Secret...

... War Axe Bicycles will be hosting the secret checkpoint at the race this year. If you'll be out on course, keep your eyes peeled, but we won't be that hard to find. If you're playing the home version of the event, check in with this blog periodically. We will be posting throughout the event, sometimes out of boredom, sometimes excitement so hopefully we continue to get service at the CP. Here's to the rain staying away and everyone having a good time.

See you on course.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Branding with Iron - The WMD

When we started walking through the concept and design of our first three bikes, we ended up in a strange place with the second bike. We knew exactly what we wanted it to be, how we wanted it to ride and what we wanted it to be when it grew up.

The only catch... we couldn't think of a name for it.

On the surface, it seemed like it should be a piece of cake. We've seen so many of our friends turn their cross bikes into commuters that the need seemed obvious. The design elements of taking a race worthy rig and simply adding just enough 'bits' to make a transformation to a commuter smart and efficient quickly feel into place. We wanted this bike ourselves, so our confidence was high enough.

The branding spark simply lagged behind, if it was there at at.... We quickly went through the bad and the obvious. I searched the web for a bit of inspiration, made lists, really did write on napkins and still had nothing worth using.

Once the Fascist Killer arrived. I mentally set the CX/Townie 'challenge' aside, but the night Sam, Hoss and I gathered to build and take pictures of the frame, things started to take shape for the story of bike number two.

As we were chatting, it became clear we'd already confused Chad. We already had a name for bike #3 and for a while Chad thought it was for the CX/Townie. As we clarified, I remember saying that we didn't have anything for #2, so if Chad had any ideas, please let them fly.

The next day, Chad emailed us with a few quotes to consider for the chain stay. They were all good, inspiring and, in a flurry of Google searches and emails, we arrived at a winner.

"I am become death, shatterer of worlds."

The philosophy major in me was instantly happy. The words come from the Bhagavad-Gita, which I originally read in a late night reading bender with the Upanishads after finishing Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. We also selected the less commonly used translation of "shatterer," as opposed to "destroyer." Why? Because in my read, to be destroyed is finite, to be shattered, while close, keeps a glimmer of hope.

Of course, most people know the quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer and his reaction to the "success" of the Manhattan Project. Watching his reaction to the result of the project made me consider throwing the line and subsequent name aside completely. I decided to lighten up a bit instead.

With that decided, we still needed an actual name to reference. We were using "Death" for about 24 hours, then the ah-ha response took over and it was clear, the WMD. And there it was, full circle.

Our first WMD is set to arrive back from paint tomorrow. I know the owner is looking forward to building it up and we're looking forward to having bike number two out in the world.

As for the name WMD, I'm looking forward to hearing the word play people come up with around those letters. I already have one for CVO or Eric Brunt, Wheels Making Deliveries.

Has a nice ring to it.

Monday, August 01, 2011

What's Old Is New Again

I can't remember exactly how John Lefler Jr. phrased his comment when he saw me signing in at the Flatwater Twilight MTB race last Wednesday, but it was something along the lines of, "who are you and are you lost?" It was a perfect hello, because it really has felt like a very long time since I toed the line and really raced.

Frankly, I was a little nervous. I've really only been riding consistently again for four months. That is, the four months since I resigned from my job and dove into trying to move War Axe Bicycles forward. Four months after not truly racing for two years. Four months of saddle time that didn't seem like much time at all.

Plus, I had the newly arrived Fascist Killer on my hands. I didn't want to be the guy who played chopsticks on a finely tuned grand piano.

Wednesday went well enough. The surprised faces always held a friendly hello. New faces introduced themselves and several took a few minutes to look at the bike. The race went fine as well. Not last, certainly not first, but solid enough riding that occasionally had some flow, power but was certainly hitting on fun the entire time. I think I was the only person riding single speed, so I wasn't sure what to think about my gear choice, but I left Branched Oak with a smile and looked forward to Saturday.

Saturday offered both a time trial and XC race and I was cautiously optimistic that I'd avoid the side of myself that takes last place as equaling failure. When the time trial start times arrived Friday night, I was happy to see I didn't go off until 8:55. Happy until I then read that Aaron Gammell was the guy going off 30 seconds after me. I then began to play a game of guessing how long it would take Aaron to pass me, tried to remember my lap time from Wednesday, then decided I didn't want to do that much math.

The following morning, Aaron was one of the first people I saw. We chatted, discussed the TT and warmed up together before heading toward the start gate. Part of our discussion was the classic single speed "what gear?" discussion. Aaron, was running about five gear inches less that me, which means that while I lost most of my fitness over two years, I didn't lose my penchant for overdoing it when it comes to gear choice.

Out of gates, I just tried to go after it. One Lap, Balls Deep. However, the course wasn't in condition for a frontal assault, at least not the opening turns. Greasy and and wet, the trail required some prudence, which I failed to take with me. I blew through the first few turns and continued to slide off the trail even after I was trying to take them slowly. The fact that Aaron came by less than a quarter of the way through the course wasn't a huge surprise. The guy can ride a bike. I got better (and so did the course) as the lap went on, could see Aaron at times through the trees and finished up strongly, telling myself not to make the same mistake when the XC race arrived.

I found Aaron after the finish and we went over/under on how far back I finished from him. I went with 55 seconds and was close, 58 seconds back. A quality Price Is Right estimate.

Waiting for the XC start was a good time. I continued to chat with Aaron, saw EB, MG and Dale Pinkleman, wishing them luck in the marathon class and watching them power through the beginnings a of long day in the saddle.

For the XC race, it turned out the single speed group would be going off on our own, three minutes back of the Cat 2 folks. With my handling in the TT speaking for itself, I thought it best if Aaron lead into the single track, he'd be riding away from me anyway and there was no reason to pin him behind me if I fumbled my way through the turns.

Luckily, the course had really firmed up by our 12:30 start though and Aaron and I went into the first climb together. He gapped me a bit on the climb, and I decided on the next, longer climb I'd do everything I could to stay with him and, if not make a decent race of it, at least not ride solo for two and a half laps.

Unfortunately, we never got that far. In twisting section of trail, Aaron went down and dislocated his shoulder. I stopped. He yelled for me to go on and I called to some people watching to get him some help and carried on. Aaron's a tough guy, so seeing him in pain and grasping his shoulder like that changed the dynamics of the day. The race turned into a hard ride and I just cranked it out to the end. Job done.

Aside from Aaron's injury, I had a great time and it was nice to step back into the scene and have it feel like you haven't left.

Of course, it would be nice if at some point I put the right gear on my bike. I actually used the Beta version of our gear calculator to see how different what Aaron ran was from my 36x18 selection. Considering I now have lap times I can use, I plan to head back out to Branched Oak with about five gear inches less in my set up. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Aside from poor gear selection, it seems I've kept another habit from days gone by... writing long race reports.

See you next race.