Falling for fall…and cyclocross.

By Jeffrey Stern

The leaves are changing, coffee shops start adding funky flavors (for no good reason) to the already amazing organic fair trade colombian coffee and the lost layers, arm warmers and gloves that hibernated deep in your closet for the past few months need digging out. You can try holding onto summer for as long as you want, but the morning temperature and frost on your lawn don’t lie. Fall is here.

What does that mean for many cyclists across the world? It means that cross is here, too.

You know, cyclocross – the sport where beer chugging is encouraged and dollar bill tornados can be seen every weekend through the New Year from New York to Chicago, Los Angeles to Portland and everywhere in between.

Cross is fast and fun!

Cross is fast and fun!

The best part of ‘cross, as it’s affectionately called by its aficionados, is the jovial spirit it elicits among those both in and out of the “serious” ‘cross crowd. Even complete cycling virgins can stumble across a weekend cyclocross race at their local waterfront park and be mesmerized by the pure silliness. A sand pit you have to ride your bike through? Multiple times? Stairs and other manmade obstacles? Multiple times, too?! The more the merrier motto rings true when it comes to ‘cross.

It’s the sport for everyone; woman, man, child, no matter your age, size, style or cycling abilities there is a spot for you on a start line, likely even two. Some super-crazy CXers race up four times in one weekend! Cyclocross embodies the essence of the proper competitive spirit. Even the best pros admit an addiction to the sport, through the sheer pain and ridiculousness of the various course designs. No two races are ever the same, except for the fact that they are outrageously entertaining and fun; like clockwork, every time.

The best part of cycling’s fall and winter off-season? There is no wrong way to race cyclocross. Just by showing up you can feel the energy as there is always a race going on, music pumping from the speakers and beer a-flowing from the tent. Sunrise to sunset, east to west coast without fail.

Cleaning the cross bike is also fun!

Cleaning the cross bike is also fun!

Now that you’re in the know, without a doubt the best case for the summer, endless day blues is to show up to a cyclocross weekend – yes, that’s right, people lover their ‘cross so much that they don’t just race on one day, but often times two even three days straight in the same course.

But it’s ‘cross, so you should also know they change up the course to keep things funky and fresh and that’s why we all love it so much. Never has something so funky felt so right.

Show up, be yourself, race your heart out, crash, get up again, have a few beers, ring a cowbell (in whatever order you want) and try to wipe that grin off your face after getting home. That will be the hardest thing you do all weekend, I promise.

 

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Team Rwanda makes history at the Colorado Classic

By Jeffrey Stern

For the first time ever, Team Rwanda, coached by former professional cyclist of Santa Rosa, California, Sterling Magnell, traveled halfway around the world just for the chance to make history.

During the second week of August, a team of six riders that have been training under the guidance of Magnell and founder of the team Jock Boyer, tackled their first UCI 2.HC sanctioned race in the United States, the Colorado Classic. The competition jump was significant from local and Africa Tour races the team had competed in over the past few seasons, but they held their own.

“What an honor and a privilege to spend today with Team Rwanda,” said Magnell pre-race. Coming from the cycling hot bed of the Bay Area, Magnell knows talent when he sees it. The dedication, kindness and pure joy are elements from the young riders that might come as the biggest surprise. It’s odd to not to find them with grin to grin smiles on their faces at all times of the day.

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With a mission to not only recruit, train, and compete in international cycling competitions, but also share knowledge with the next generation of athletes and coaches for sustained growth across the nation. Ultimately, Boyer and Magnell see bringing the program to other African nations as a way to help rebuild build communities with histories of conflict through the sport of cycling.

The team fared pretty well during the Colorado Classic competition too, with four of six riders surviving to finish the grueling high-elevation, four stage race in the Rocky Mountains including Jean Cloude Uwizeye finishing 47th out of nearly 100 riders. Didier Munyanez finished 25th during the Stage 3 circuit in Denver and Jean Paul Rene Ukiniwabo took 6th place in the young rider classification (riders under 25 years old).

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Considering the new environment, atmosphere and long journey not only from Africa but from the horrific 1994 genocide that plagued the country (many of the riders were young children then), their accomplishment carriers an even bigger meaning.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame believes so much in the good the Team Rwanda is doing for the country and its people that they’ve stepped up support for over 35 men and women cyclists across all levels and disciplines training in collaboration with Rwandan Cycling Federation (FERWACY) under the guidance of the Ministry of Sport and Culture (MINISPOC) as well.

Although a few riders have graduated onto the bigger World Tour stage and European racing, the heart and focus of the program is growing these young men and women into leaders in their own communities, Team Rwanda included.

One of Boyer’s dreams when founding the program was to have Rwandans coach and mentor their own. His dream came true in 2017 – after competing in the Olympics last year in Rio, Nathan Byukusenge, an original member of Team Rwanda from 2006, retired to become a coach for the program. A selfless act for a person with as much talent as Byukusenge, realizing the greater good of spending his time mentoring the next crop of up-and-comers.

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In just a decade Rwanda has become somewhat of cycling hotbed in the country of Africa, supported by the people, cycling world and government. “It is time for us to step up and give you what you need to continue your success,” President Kagame said.

It’s this circle of support that will see cycling in Rwanda, Africa and beyond continue to touch lives, rebuild communities and provide inspiration for generations to come.

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Dad Bod: Fanboy

Words and illustration by Stephen Haynes

It’s natural for us humans to emulate those we look up to. In fact, it’s part of how we learn. As a kid, I’d watch surf videos and daydream about what it would be like to be as good as the dudes in the movies, traveling the world in search of waves. It’s also natural for us humans to compare ourselves to one another through competitions of one sort or another and eventually my friends and I started taking part in local surf competitions.

Now, I was never a very good surfer and I was consistently outmatched in competitions, my dream of being a jet-setting surf ambassador dying a little with each loss. Still, the combination of emulation through watching and expansion through competing made me better. Not much better, but when you start at the bottom, there is only one way to go.

I’d like to say I grew out of this watching and emulating as I got older, but I didn’t. Now, instead of surf videos, it’s the mountain bike downhill world championships and now, like then, I try to channel the pros on screen when I’m riding (emphasis on the word try). This applies to road rides as well. Pondering what it must feel like to ride in the peloton during the Tour de France, or one of the brutal, cobble-strewn Spring Classics. Maybe even stand up and try to “crush” some of the rolling hills in my suburban Pennsylvania town. Legs burning, heart blowing up; this is what the pros must feel like topping out on Alpe d’Huez! Perhaps it’s delusional, but I love a good daydream.

Eventually, a friend talked me into doing a mountain bike race, promising donuts if I showed up, a good incentive for anyone with my physique. It was a small local deal with a total attendance of about 200 people. It was fun and challenging and I failed miserably, just as I had done at the surf competitions all those years ago.

Yet, while I was pedaling hard enough to coax the Bavarian Creme I’d eaten pre-race to make its way to the back of my throat, I was channeling riders whom I’d seen on television. I was Steve Peat, or Lance Armstrong, or whoever, pushing myself beyond the normal, trying, in my own limited way, to be better.

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The main take away was this: I could ride trails I was familiar with in about half the time that I’d normally ride them and could clear obstacles I normally had a hard time negotiating because I was doing them at speeds I never would have thought to explore on a casual ride. The experience of racing expanded the horizons of my thinking about riding bikes and made me slightly better for the effort.

As a parent I’ve tried to instill this lesson in my kids, encouraging them to compete in the things they’re interested in, whether it’s the school art competition or a kids mountain bike race. Simply putting yourself out there and testing yourself can expand your own self-image and prompt you to greater things. It’s not about winning, it’s about doing.

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Video: 2017 Brompton World Championship USA

The ninth annual Brompton World Championship USA was held on June 18 in New York City as part of the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic. The race is part of a global series of Brompton racing events that take place around the world.

The race begins with a Le Mans style-start (meaning participants must first run to their bikes) to folded-up Bromptons, so quick unfolding skills are certainly an advantage. Racers in the Brompton World Championship must also wear “dress clothes” including a suit jacket and tie. For more info, check out the Brompton World Championship website.

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Two Wheel Time Machines

By Adam Newman, photos by Jordan Clark Haggard

Almost as soon as mountain bikes burst into the public consciousness in the late 1970s, the bikes themselves began to stratify. Downhill, trials, cross country, enduro—the list goes on and on. But it wasn’t always this way. For a few glorious years, the mountain bike was just a bike, and all racers competed in all types of races with essentially the same machine.

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While there’s no disputing modern bikes outperform the bikes of a generation ago in every way, riders are rediscovering the simplicity and camaraderie of those heady times. For 28 years, mountain bikers have been gathering at the Keyesville Classic stage race in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The bikes that were cutting edge when the racing began are now organized into their own vintage category, competing on the same course as modern, carbon fiber wünderbikes.

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“This race always has a downhill and cross country [segment], and both are hard and challenging by today’s standards,” said Sky Boyer, who raced at Keyesville for the first time in 1990 and houses a substantial vintage bike collection in his bike shop, Velo Cult, in Portland, Oregon. “Back in the day, we [raced] them on rigid bikes so there’s really zero excuses for anybody showing up on a vintage bike. We did it back then, so you can do it now.”

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For Eric Rumpf, the passion to both collect vintage bikes and to race them is fueled almost entirely by nostalgia. He takes special joy in finding bikes he idolized as a kid.

“Once I got older, not only could I afford the dream bike from my youth, they were cheap! The challenge became how many dream bikes could I find? How many could I rebuild just as I would have as a kid? There’s great satisfaction in finding something you’d only ever seen in magazines, rebuilding it back to a running mountain bike, and actually getting to ride it.”

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Boyer saw that collectors had a passion for their bikes but were looking for a be er way to enjoy them, not just put them on a pedestal. He worked with the race organizers to start the vintage category in 2006. Now there’s such a diverse collection of vintage mountain bikes at Keyesville that the race has divided them into categories of “1986 and older” and “1987-1996.” The course itself has a variety of terrain to challenge anyone with a rigid fork, super long stem, rim brakes and sketchy tires.

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“There’s no arguing that modern sports and muscle cars are faster, but the soul of driving an early 911 or classic Mustang is something that can’t be replicated. It’s the same for vintage mountain bikes,” Rumpf said. “Vintage mountain bikes are more challenging to ride. You get the same thrill of being on the edge of control, it just comes a little sooner.”

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Despite the challenge, or perhaps because of it, more and more people are discovering the joy in simplicity, Rumpf said. Half are riders were barely even born when these bikes first hit the trails and are looking for a way to connect with a bygone era, he said, and half are folks who have been riding since these bikes since they were new and like things just the way they are.

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“The number of racers grows slightly each year, but there is always a core group of collectors who make their way back year after year. I think that’s telling of a quality event.”

Boyer cites the laid-back vibe of the weekend and the positive camaraderie as the biggest draw.

“The general vibe of the race is exactly the same as back then,” he said. “Seriously, this race has never changed.”

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Meet Ayesha McGowan, A Quick Brown Fox.

Photos by Jesse Lash

When I spoke to Ayesha McGowan, she was in the car making the 2-hour commute to her part time job as a preschool music teacher. “I like to take calls while I’m driving,” she’d told me when I called her to set up the interview. “It helps keep me awake.”

This spunky lady is an expert at multi-tasking and planning, making use of every minute in her day. She’s a tireless planner. “I even plan my downtime,” she laughs. But apparently something she is doing is working, because Ayesha is on track to become the first ever professional female African-American road cyclist after racing for only 3 years, while also acting as an advocate for minority groups in cycling and putting effort towards a number of different projects and volunteer work.

View More: http://jesselash.pass.us/quickbrownfox

Ayesha moved to California last year for better outdoor year-round training opportunities, but she’s originally from the East Coast. She grew up in New Jersey, moved to Boston to study music at Berklee, and starting riding bikes because the public transportation system in the city wasn’t great. “I’m the type of person who wants to find the most efficient way to do everything,” Ayesha says. So she grabbed an old bike from her parents house that still had a baby carrier attached, got it fixed up, and started commuting to class on it.

Soon after, she got involved in her local bike shop, learned about bike mechanics and advocacy, and became a bike messenger for a short period of time. After school, she moved to New York City, where she found it hard to make friends, until she got involved with a number of different cycling groups, including We Bike NYC, an organization dedicated to empowerment of women through bicycles, and InTandem, a program that helps get people with disabilities on bikes.

The community of people she found through these groups encouraged her to stick with riding, and helped with her fear of trying new things, such as racing. “The hardest part of trying something new is being vulnerable,” she says. “I like having someone to try it with.”

Ayesha took a track racing clinic while living in New York, and thus began her journey as a competitive cyclist. She started out with alleycats, but soon realized she wasn’t as aggressive in traffic and city riding as those races demanded. She then enrolled in criterium races, took a few more classes and learned the ropes, and had a great first season in 2014.

As she continued to upgrade in rank and class, she realized something. There weren’t any other African-American women in professional cycling. “Representation is important,” says Ayesha. “If I’d seen another black person in cycling when I was a kid, maybe I would have been inspired to get into it sooner.”

That’s when she made it her goal to be the first. And not because she just wants to be first, but because she wants to inspire other people to overcome obstacles and odds stacked against them. Her mission is so much bigger than cycling. It’s about inclusivity, chasing dreams, and realizing potential. It’s about getting black people, or any other underrepresented group, to realize that they too can reach their goals.

View More: http://jesselash.pass.us/quickbrownfox

This year, Ayesha is racing at Cat 2 level. She has the opportunity to compete in pro races, and she’s at a level where she could be recruited at any minute. This is her time. “I’ve made a big noise about what I’m trying to do,” she says. “It’s up to them to decide whether or not I’m worth it.”

Currently, she rides 16-20 hours per week, goes to the gym at least twice a week, and practices yoga. In addition to riding and training, she also juggles her part-time job as a teacher, producing a podcast called Fix It Black Jesus, work for non-profits like InTandem, writing for her blog, and getting other people feeling empowered and stoked on cycling through projects such as her virtual ride series, called “Do Better Together.”

I asked Ayesha what some of her favorite and most rewarding moments have been in her journey as a cyclist. “I love planting the seed in people,” she says. Like last spring, when she convinced her 80-year-old grandmother to ride a tandem with her around Atlanta. Or, when she gets messages from other black cyclists and people of color going after their dreams.

“Don’t just talk about it,” Ayesha urges. “Write it down, make a plan, and do it. You’re totally capable.”

View More: http://jesselash.pass.us/quickbrownfox

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Field Tested: Trek Émonda SLR8

The Madone has been the staple of Trek’s elite road bike lineup since the Armstrong era, and while you’ll still find it in Trek retailers, a new model has surpassed it as the lightest production bike Trek has ever built. The new Émonda line shows what Trek’s decades of experience building with its OCLV carbon fiber can create.

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Weighing in at just 14 pounds as tested, the bike is in a category that simply needs to be experienced to be believed. As bikes get lighter, each additional pound of weight shaved off represents an even larger percentage of its mass. and while knocking five pounds off my mid-section might help me get to the top of the climb just as quickly, a bike this light has an instant tailwind.

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While the Madone is still the out-and-out aerodynamic race bike, the Émonda was designed to appeal to a broader range of riders. While not everyone is pushing a bike hard enough to enjoy the aero benefits of the Madone, everyone can immediately notice a lighter bike. To ensure everyone can enjoy one, the Émonda is available in a remarkable 16 sizes with two different fit profiles from 47 cm to 64 cm, not including the Trek WSD women’s specific sizes.

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The simple white-on-black paint with gold accents of the Émonda SLR8 recalls the John Player Special livery of the 1970s Lotus F1 cars. While most modern bikes have crazy aero shapes and bizarre curves, the Émonda has a handsome, traditional look to it. And just like Lotus race cars have done for decades, the Émonda gets its advantage from “adding lightness.” A bare Émonda frame weighs a ridiculous 690 grams. That’s less than a full water bottle.

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I was expecting a super rigid ride to go with the stiffness and weight, but when out on the Émonda I was often checking to see if I had a low tire. The ride is taut yet refined—it sends enough of a buzz through the frame to remind you that you are on one heck of a fast bike, but it remains remarkably poised over impacts like potholes. Last year I rode and reviewed Trek’s spring classics-inspired Domane model, with its unique isoSpeed decoupler system, and while the Émonda isn’t quite as supple on rough roads, it is darn close.

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Climbing is what the Émonda was born to do. Every meager watt I can generate goes straight to the road through the bike’s massive down tube and BB90 bottom bracket. The full-size 53/39 crankset is clearly meant for racing, but the 11-speed 11-28 cassette gave me plenty of range to tackle the local hills.

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What goes up must come down, and the Émonda responds to corners with a razor sharp response, but settles in once it spots the apex and sets an arc. It can’t quite match the glued-to- the-road feeling of the Domane, but it can change direction remarkably quickly. Controlling the descent is a pair of Shimano’s dura-ace direct-mount calipers, which require a specially designed frame and fork to mount. They’re likely the finest rim brakes to ever see the road before disc brakes inevitably take over. The rest of the Dura-Ace running gear works as flawlessly as a Swiss clock, though i do think the throw of the cable release levers is a bit long.

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The SLR8 model comes equipped with Bontrager’s RXl tubeless-ready wheels, with a generous helping of carbon fiber in the XXX OCLV handlebar and Paradigm RXL saddle, which certainly looks intimidatingly slim but is in fact remarkably comfortable.

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As the keystone model in Trek’s road bike lineup for the foreseeable future, the Émonda is likely to reset riders’ standards of just how good a modern bike can be.

Vital stats

  • Price: $7,880
  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Sizes: 16 sizes, plus women’s specific models; size 62 H1 tested
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What’s your speed? Slowing down to go faster

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By Nicole Duke. Photo by Nils Nilsen/N2Photoservices

We all have a choice—What speed would you like to live your life? Tackle the obstacle or revel in the moment? As a professional cyclist and just all around bike lover, I’ve learned a lot about speed throughout my life and career. When I was younger and a downhill mountain bike racer on the World Cup and national circuit, it was all about how fast I could do everything, without regard for one very important rule: sometimes, you have to go slower to go faster.

As my cycling life and career have progressed, fast seems to be less of a concern for me. I’ve learned that speed—used correctly in the precise moment needed—is the key to enjoyment and success. I was riding just the other day on something I like to call my soul loop. I’ve done it with friends, by myself, in shape, out of shape, slow and sometimes just flat-out, soul-crushingly fast. It’s been awhile since I’ve done this loop alone and without agenda of pace. I’m just starting to train again, so my legs are just warming up.

This loop takes a little over two hours and has over 4,300 feet of vertical gain, mostly on gravel, with breathtaking views. On this day, I left all judgement behind; the pace was slow, many views were absorbed, pictures were taken, and a smile stayed on my face. Later, I noticed my time on the loop—even with all my departures from pushing the pedals—was only six minutes off my normal pace, and I received so much more enjoyment from the ride than I had in years.

Conversely, the rest of my day moved at a much more productive pace than usual after a hard ride like this. Maximum speed is not always best; find your flow and your rhythm and it will lead to more beauty and grace on and off the bike. This is a lesson for me every day now. I’ve managed to fine-tune this on the bike but need to transfer more of this awareness in everyday life. The bike can be such a great life giver and source of self-awareness.

When do I choose fast to go faster? It’s when most of us want to grab the brakes and our minds scream, “Danger, danger! Must slow down!” Most of us have a survival gene, thank God, that tries to keep us intact. Our first reaction to rough terrain is to freeze and grab the brakes. This is where most of us need to hit the override button. Speed is now your friend.

Sometimes you want to embrace the peaks and valleys, but not this time. You want to skim effortlessly across the tops, avoid the deep holes and bumpy crags. The only way to manage this is to trust yourself, the laws of nature; just let go and relax. Like a river flowing over rocks, this is what speed allows: smooth transition. Speed is now your friend! Speed is also about timing and approach. You must learn its subtleties, when to use it and how. Much like life it’s a balance, an ebb and flow. I’ve used speed throughout my life on the bike and in sports to actually find my limits, to feel my primal instincts, to arouse excitement. At one point everything had to be fast, or else I felt like I wasn’t living. Now, life comes to me more in those times of slow and delicate approach. Speed is beginning to leave my ego. I will use it for the moments needed with fire and grace, and dismiss it when it cries and begs my ego to rear its ugly head.

Yes, sometimes I want to skim across the top of life. I don’t want to feel every bump, but more and more, I want to feel, absorb and appreciate the stillness and beauty in my ride and in life. Speed is all in the approach.

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This piece originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #35. Support your favorite independent cycling magazine by ordering a subscription today.

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