Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Changing Gears

I was in Asheville, North Carolina, at the airport with a little time to kill. It was late summer of 2007 and I hadn't talked with Aaron in a couple of months so I rang him in Portland to catch up. He told me he was going to UBI to try his hand at making custom bikes. Aaron needed to be reinvigorated - he had burned himself out designing traditional consumer products and saw handmade bikes as an opportunity to be inspired again. By the time we got off the phone I had involved my self in Aaron's adventure - I wasn't going to be there to make the bikes, but I new I could support him in many other ways. Game on.

Aaron is the most methodical and talented designer I've ever worked with. I knew we could make something valuable, a product, a brand - a statement cyclists could get excited about. Well, here we are, three and a half years later, and we've done it. Using design as our voice, and with the support of a lot of good people, we have an established channel for expressing our opinions about what makes a good bike and how best to invigorate cyclists - purpose, honesty, beauty.

However, we're making a few changes at COURAGE. We will continue to use design as our voice for engaging the cycling world. We will continue to produce bikes. We will continue to explore how to be a productive entity in the bike industry. The main change you will see is Aaron will not be making bespoked frames, not for the foreseeable future. I'm testing the best ways to build limited run race bikes to embody our ideas and create valuable products.

COURAGE is not done exploring. Watch for new projects and new inspiration to come out of the studio. You can stay tuned to the latest happenings at Chicago.CX, where COURAGE is proudly supporting their elite race team.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chicago Bike Community

Can I help you?

I started this season in April with a desperate, empty attempt to stay on an RVB group ride. I failed, hard. I was still 20 miles from home and seriously hurting. We're all big kids out there, everyone knows if you get dropped, you need to be ready to handle it on your own - equipment, fuel, and the know-how to get home. However, for me, at that moment I wasn't just physically empty, I was mentally checked out.

We've all been there. Unable to assess the situation, so shelled you couldn't even form a survival plan. It could be a drawn out moment, 60 miles into a grueling Saturday ride as the pace steadily picks up and you steadily fade. It can also be instantaneous, like charging towards a set of barriers without a thought in the world about dismounting because there is no blood going to your brain.

On that sunny April day I got lucky when my buddy Jim turned around and road back to me. He assessed the situation, got me to eat, then told me to sit in and proceeded to pull me back to the group over the next 30 minutes. We made the catch with just a couple miles left. Instead of wondering why my form was so far off and stew around the house all afternoon, I was pumped all day. Thanks Jim.

We can also find ourselves in need of help off the bike. This season I got some incredible support from the crew at Roscoe Village Bikes. Shipping logistics, last minute repairs, locating hard to get parts, planning, etc - these guys really helped Mike and I run a successful 2010 campaign for COURAGE.

Ever have a change of plans that's free up a weekend and offers another chance to race, only to find out cyclocross is so popular in Chicago that the race is full? I'll use an alias in case it's somehow against the rules to help a guy out, but race promoter "Jris Chensen" did me a big solid by getting me in the race in exchange for a $20 gift certificate to use as a prime for his race. Word.

Every weekend at the ChiCrossCup events I saw people helping each other out. Need a tube? A beer? A place to warm up? Need encouragement? Bacon? Advice about the fastest line? The Chicago cycling community has got your back.


Friday, December 17, 2010

One Small Step

Montrose Harbor is home to my favorite race of the year. It was where I watched my first cross race, where later I competed in my first cross race and where I had my best finish, ever. The crap conditions, technical nature of the courses and huge crowds feed every craving my cyclocross super-ego begs of me.

This year about mid-way through the season, when I finally got into the call ups, I knew I wanted to podium at Montrose. That desire became serious motivation at 5:ooam on bitter cold, pitch black mornings.

This year, Montrose once again delivered all the best parts of cyclocross. What follows is the launch sequence and subsequent flight that is The Illinois State Cyclocross Championships.

T-4 Weeks
The race in Woodstock was run on a great new course. More compact and more technical. I cracked the top five for the first time all season and was seeing my form take shape. I was in the call ups and feeling good.

T-3 Weeks

Indian Lakes Day 2 was hard. The wind was relentless and insulting, and ended up being a major player. I had a good race and was able to dig deeper than I had all Fall. I finally beat young David Lambardo - kid is fast - realized I was starting to put together clean races on demanding courses. 8th place felt good.

T-2 Weeks
Northbrook was another great course. After a per-ride, I thought a top five was doable. The course suited me, I had been on the bike a lot, and I knew the railroad ties and a few other spots would let me open up gaps on some of the less technical guys.

Hole shot. Then David Lombardo and I took off with a gap. Chip Williams made me look like a star with a beautiful shot of me skying the railroad ties. I got around the first lap in the top five or six, then I tired to ride the run up out of the woods. I had cleaned it on my pre-ride and first lap, but ended up jamming my chain under the inner keeper and loosing about 10 spots. Then I crashed trying to catch back on, then I through my chain again trying to revenge the run-up. I finished 25th... and barely stayed in the points for the call up at Montrose. Lesson learned, run up the run-up.

BTW, that was my fist and second dropped chain on my bike in almost three years of racing.

T-1 Week
Thanksgiving weekend I had my whole family in town and was going to host a five course avant-garde meal. Laura and I had been planning, practicing and prepping for weeks. Then I got sick. Horribly sick. Just like last year, but not on the weekend of the race. I was able to serve Thanksgiving on Saturday and it turned out pretty good. However, I'm already looking forward to a simple, delicious, classic meal at next years Thanksgiving.

T-3 Days
The weather man says snow. I'm getting pumped.

T-1 Hour
I pre-ride the course for a second time - it was perfect. Turin built a great variation on last year's course and Mother Nature coated it in a crusty white layer of awesome. I found a few corners where the worn line was pretty icy, but with a different apex you could get around faster if you were confident in the deeper snow. This was the first time I also stopped and tried a few different lines in a pre-ride. It was a confidence booster.

T-30 Minutes
Hemme makes his move in the 1/2/3 race. Fourth place is meaningless, he wanted in, he wanted on the podium.

T-10 Minutes
Hemme is on the podium and everyone is cheering like mad. Hemme gets a lot of love out here - dude is fast, exciting to watch and couldn't be nicer. Word.

T-5 Minutes
I get out of the car, high five some of the Roscoe Village guys, and eat a caffeinated gu.

T-2 Minutes
Snuggy off.

Hole shot!

T+5 Minutes
I'm holding everyone off and real thoughts of the podium begin coursing through my head.

T+ 6 Minutes
I'm loving the course - it sucks so good.

T+8 Minutes
Just gave up my lead to Bryan Lee and an overly aggressive junior from EXPO. I cannot loose another place or the podium is gone.

T+10 Minutes
The three of us battle pretty aggressively after the big lake front sand pit. In the following half a dozen corners I think there were five passes made and I finally get back ahead of them. Then I hear them tangle and I step on the gas to open up a gap.

T+14 Minutes
Brian Hague comes flying by. I had been hoping the fast man of the 4As wouldn't be able to get his power down in the shitty course conditions, but it wasn't the case.

T+20 Minutes
Tim Holt of BSM comes by me with a lot of speed on a straight and I just couldn't react in time. I worked hard to stay close but he's riding fast and smooth.

T+24 Minutes
Lew from Rhythm Racing had been giving me splits throughout the race - helpful on such a stressful course. Turns out my friendly nemesis all season long, Half Acre's own, Paul-Brian Mcinerney was closing... I know Paul-Brian is a mountain biker so he's loving this course too, and he's fast and knows he can beat me, so I have to start digging deeper. Anyone have a flashlight?

T+28 Minutes
I'm keeping it together. I haven't crashed, and I have the course figured out. I just have to keep it together up and over Cricket Hill and around a few more icy corners.

T+30 Minutes
Finish line in sight. Third place! I did it, and it felt good.

T+35 Minutes
While the third place finisher doesn't actually have a step on the CCC podium, it still felt like being on the podium to me. I think next year I'm going to donate a 2'x2' sheet of plywood just for all the third place finishers.

Quick Thanks
Thank you CCC, thank you Turin, and thank you officials, fans, and racers. I'm organizing a longer community focused thank you entry to get into more details, but until then, you all rock.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

COURAGE Bicycles on Velonews

Who doesn't love a little press? Looks like COURAGE's Joel Madrone made it on Velonews.com.

Sunny and muddy?

Pic: Pat Malach for Oregon Cycling Action

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CCC Race Catch Up

Hello Blog, it's me, Jonathan... It's been a while but for my own vanity I want to drop a few brief race reports. Later in the week I've got a big community post that'll go up.

Hup Hup Hup

I love Half Acre Cycling, and I love Iowa, so how could I say no to the Dekalb race. Fun course, some awesome high speed flowy corners, but lacking some really tech stuff. Unless you count the flyover - which was awesome. It's fast downhill approach, short top deck, and g-out transition quickly separated the mountain bikers from the road guys.

I had a good race. Battled out front for a bit then found my groove and held on for my first top 20 finish of the year.

Dirt Bag

Beverly Bike Vee-Pak went two for two with their race. Last year they introduced a real crusher of a course, and this year it was more of the same, plus Elvis and all his accoutrements. Even with some of the big power sections this was a mountain biker's course - killer hill, tight loomy corners, and a few gravity fed sections that required more skill and less braking.

If you were comfortable laying the bike through the corners and getting a little drift in your skift then there were big time gains to be had. I'm born and raised a dirt bag and I railed corners all day on the south side to close gaps on the guys that are typically faster than me. I walked a way with my first top 10 of the year and huge grin.

My dirt bag instincts were on high alert as John Kalnins (pictured above) flew by me in one of the downhill sweepers. I later learned he was a factory DH racer - awesome.


I was a double looser last weekend at Psycho Cross. First, I lost the opening lap prime in the last 50m even with a solid holeshot. I had given it everything, lost the lead, picked it back up, stayed on the gas, lost the lead, launched a big attack at the double barrier, got the lead, got passed with 50m to go, got passed with 30m to go, then made it up the flyover - so close, yet so far.

Then after suffering on the power course (curse you long straightaways!) and earning my way into overall top 10 standings I couldn't make the Sunday race and missed out on a call up (curse you responsibility!). Kyle and Brian, I'm coming for you.

As a lead in to my next post I've got to say the guys racing in the 4As are awesome. We heckled, encouraged, and raced hard against each other all in the name of good fun and maybe a little post race puke. The community that is Chicagoland cyclocross rocks.