Martina Jančíková: My vote for the hottest female biker.

As part of my quest to bring you the latest and greatest in the biking world, I make Chicks and Bikes a daily stop. It's hard work, but I begrudgingly do it. Yesterday I found a photo of a very talented looking rider. Sadly, there was no name attached to the photo. But in this day and age, that can easily remedied. After closer inspection I was able to make out the event name. A couple of keystrokes later I had found her. The name of this disarming young lass is Martina Jančíková. It got me thinking. I wonder how many other beautiful riders are out there. If you've got a favorite. By all means...share. The comments are open.

I Love My Bike book

This looks promising. I was already planning to attend North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Richmond next month. This is just added incentive. I'm going to check in on this one. To find out more, email them at ilovemybikebook@gmail.com

Austin - The Pre-ride

After 24 hours of constant rain I knew the track conditions would be tough. Boy did I grossly underestimate that! The course is slippery, full of rocks shaped like tomahawks, pointed stumps in the middle of the trails and mud. Lots of mud. Tires caked with mud combined with high speeds up and down wet rocks is a frightful combination. If there isn't a serious injury tomorrow I will be shocked.

The course starts out with a super slippery and winding false flat. I suspect it'll be high comedy when 100+ riders are trying to make their way thru it. Great photo op for crash cravers.

The next 4 miles winds you through some slippery single track and rock climbs with muddy tires. I quickly lost track of how many times I fell. I spoke with a few Cat 2 riders and they said they were going to use the 'get off your bike and run it up the hill method'. The conditions are that difficult.

During the 2nd half the course rises out of the single track forest festival and opens up a bit. This is where an opportunity to make up some time arrives. However, it was quickly followed by what was probably the most impassable section of trail I've ever ridden. My guess is that it's passable only with the precision and speed I'm uncapable of at this point. My skills, on the other hand, were rewarded with a pinched tire. Without a spare...yes, I know that was dumb. But I'd argue that forgetting my water was an even bigger guffaw. Thankfully a fellow battle weary rider came to my rescue.

The only silver lining to this day was that I was not the only rider struggling. I saw riders from every class take falls, slip on rocks and grow frustrated with their inability to navigate the course.

The Mellow Classic is no joke. But, my dreams of winning it are.

Austin - Day 2

Woke up to rain today. Lots of it. I knew I needed to ride though, so I ventured out regardless. First stop was Mellow Johnny's bike shop. This place couldn't be any cooler. Tons of great gear, tons of great bikes. As expected, it's a bit of a shrine to Lance - complete with his framed Yellow Jerseys on the wall. In the basement is a state of the art training facility and a museum to more incredible and often historic bikes. With my first visit to MJ's complete, I took off the Dean. An hour later I arrived back at my hotel utterly soaked. Picked up Adam at the hotel and we went back to MJ's so he could see. Some BBQ at Stubbs and a lot of browsing at the funky thrift shops in SoCo and the afternoon had come and gone.

After a nap and about an hour of stretching (my back has been torturing me) I walked back to MJ's for a 3rd time today. I felt a bit like a stalker but I was there for registration. Inside the very swag-light goodie bag was my number plate. #589.

Dinner was at a place called Cuba Libre and the beers were at the Tap Room of the Six Lounge. The pints were cheap ($2) and flowing. Perhaps flowing a bit too well. It'll be an exciting beer-free Saturday when I head to the course to do some pre-riding.

Austin - Day 1

The journey began with a 6am wakeup. After loading up the Element and grabbing something to eat I was still able to sneak in a little Call of Duty time. Which of course is a wonderful start to any day. I was really nervous as I rolled my hardcase up to the Southwest counter. But, it couldn't possibly have been more painless. "is that a bicycle", "yes", "ok, that'll be $50 extra". That was it!

However, the arriving in Austin part wasn't as smooth. Turns out the hardcase won't fit in any of the standard sedan/minivan cabs. The dispatcher radioed for a handicap taxi, and 10 minutes later we're on our way to grab the rental car. To make a long story short, 1.5hrs later we're driving away in a Ford F150xlt for the astonishingly low price of $25/day.

Getting to the hotels was a breeze. Downtown Austin is about the easiest city to drive in. Logical grid system with alternating one way cross streets. Even numbered streets take you west. Odds take you east.

Checked into my kitchy liitle hotel, re-energized and then took in the South Congress (SoCo) scene. Gueros Taco Shop for dinner and some music in the beer garden. Then over to the Continental Club for some more live music, (lots of sad country was heard tonight) and then finally over to a sports bar called Doc's.

I returned to my room and built my bike as I heard the rain begin to fall.

Next stop Austin, Texas

It's the eve of my trip and I just finished packing away my Dean in what I swear is the largest hardcase I've ever seen. It measures 50x37x18". It's a rolling bureau!. I've seriously got my fingers crossed that Southwest is good to me. Heck, I even went so far as to slap a few USA Cycling stickers on it in an effort to persuade. No doubt, my trip would be over before it started if I wasn't allowed to bring my bike. Now, while in Austin I'm hoping to keep a running blog of my trip and the Mellow Classic Race, but if for some reason I can't get it to work...I'll be sure to post everything when I get back.

Until tomorrow.

The convert to dirt

Ok, I'll admit it, when I decided to race in the Mellow Classic it was a complete whim. I've never been much of a mountain biking guy. Sure, I had taken the occassional romp in the woods but for the most part, my miles were either logged on the road or on the track (bmx).  I also discovered rather quickly that difference between a good XC Race bike and a bad one is about 7lbs and $3000! Now, I may not have $3000 to throw at my bike, but what I do have is — a crazy, blinding, tireless obsession to scour the internet for deals and information. I've managed to land a titanium frame for under $600 and upgrade to Easton carbon bars, a thomson stem and SLX cranks for around $200.  I'm shaving weight slowly, but it's also not breaking the bank. More importantly, I'm gaining knowledge and finding the resources to help continue that.

Here is what I've learned so far.

#1. There are amazing deals to be found on eBay, you just need to be patient, and know how to look. My favorite method for deal finding is to deliberately misspell words. If you're looking for a Thomson stem....type Thompson. There is a pretty good chance that there is a stem out there, and I guarantee...there aren't many people watching it.

#2. While Jenson USA and Pricepoint are still my first stops for online shopping, I'd recommend picking up a Mountain Biking magazine. There are a ton of advertisements for smaller companies all desperate for your dollar. No one is going to tell you where the cheapest prices are, you have to go find them.

#3.  Make friends with the guys at your Local Bike Shop (LBS).  I can't tell you how many times I've walked in with a broken something or other and those guys have come to my rescue. I can't promise that their prices will always be cheaper, but what they can offer you is knowledge. Take the time to linger in the shop. If they are working on your bike, hang around if you can. You'll not only be able to learn a thing or two but these guys are plugged into what's happening in the biking scene. LBS's are the hub of any biking community. They'll tell you about swap meets, events, group rides, or even take you out on one of their rides. Be forewarned...if you do go out riding with them, chances are they are going to be 10x the rider you are.

#4.  Titanium is sexy and flexy.

FREEMAN at last!

This is without a doubt my new bike crush.  Everything about this company makes me happy. The name transports me back to my very first ride as a kid, alone and unsupervised, and that moment when I realized that the bike – meant freedom. Their bikes, their blog, the whole look and feel is just spot on. Oh, and it only makes sense that their kick ass identity was done by Benny Gold. FREEMAN TRANSPORT is a Montana-based company hand-building bikes in the USA. Using Columbus steel tubing and S-and-S couplings the bikes can be easily disassembled and packed into their signature waxed canvas and leather carrying case – a collaboration with NY-based Billykirk. The case’s 26 X 26 inch dimensions ensure that the bike can be checked onto airplanes with no oversized baggage fee. This unique feature on all Freeman bikes allows for easy assembly/disassembly – with only one simple tool to put them back together – making it easy to ride to and from the airport.

The company was founded in 2006 by the artist and designer team of Nathaniel Freeman and Benjamin Ferencz, both of whom travel frequently and were frustrated by the expense of shipping their bikes and the lack of quality options in the travel-bike industry.  Refusing to go bikeless, Freeman and Ferencz decided to design it themselves.

Our fixed-gear/track model (with or without brakes), is available now, with Commuter, Cyclo-cross and Road bikes planned for 2009.

In addition to bikes, Freeman also makes products for the traveler – hats, clothing, leather goods and bike accessories. Committed to USA manufacturing and sustainable materials, Freeman Transport strives to reduce the impact their lifestyles have on the world.

Shepard Fairey + Lance Armstrong = Awesomeness

I must have been asleep last summer, because I have no idea how I missed this one. Apparently when he wasn't designing his famous Obama poster, Shepard Fairey had time to collaborate with Lance Armstrong and TREK to come up with this killer series. I remember the bike he worked on, just not the prints.

Still enjoying the ride

It's safe to say that I look at my fair share of bike related photographs each day. More often than not, it's either of a slick bike or a slick trick.  But, today I came across 2 photographs that put a smile on my face. I just hope that when I'm this age I still have the knees and spirit to saddle up. The photographer responsible for these two gems is Camilla Candida Donzella.

Next stop, Austin Texas

I decided that the race in Austin was too good of an opportunity to pass upon. So, I pulled the trigger last night and registered for the race. I also went ahead and booked a room at the famous, yet incredibly scary looking Austin Motel.  Oh, did I mention that the sign might be the most phallic looking sign ever created.

I can't wait to get down there.  Speaking of a down note. I found out that Mellow Johnny's bike shop will not rent Mountain Bikes for racing. So, now I'm forced to figure out how to get my heavy ass Jamis down to Texas.

Today I got my USA Cycling License

Today I registered with USA Cycling so that I can begin competing in events. I can honestly say that I primarily signed up in order to compete in one event. The 2009 Mellow Johnny's Classic @ Juan Pelota's Ranch benefitting the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It's taking place on November 21st in Austin TX. Registration for the race itself is on Monday October 5th at 12:01am.  I really hope I can work out the logistics of getting down to that race. It's clear that I'm going to completely outclassed, but I think it's going to be a great experience if I can do it.

Mission Styled

Busy day for me on the job, so I'm digging into my archives for this post.  Starting at a reasonable cost of $750, the guys over at Mission Bicycle in San Fran will build some pretty mean machines.

Here's what the guys have to say about themselves, "We started Mission Bicycle because we weren't satisfied with the bicycles sold in bike stores. The best bicycles on the streets of San Francisco are the custom built fixed gear bikes those with the know-how are building up for themselves and friends. It didn't make sense to us that these bikes were not available to everyone else so we set out to change that."
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