Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wait, I wasn't already on vacation?

I know it's hard to believe, but I'm actually in school right now. Like, I spend about 20 hours a week in a classroom learning French and European culture stuff and do a little bit of homework too. But, this week and next I am on vacation. I'm taking the opportunity to do a little bit of traveling around Europe, so I'll be off the bike for about 10 days but that's the price you pay to see the world. I'm jetting off to London tomorrow and from there it'll be Amsterdam and then Berlin. Quality Eurotrippin'.

My vacation started on Friday though and I've been taking this first part of it to cram in the miles before I go. That's a valid form of training, right? I did a nice long team ride and some beautiful spins on my own as well. The team ride was mostly without incident, until some dude crashed on one of the corners in a little village and snapped his rear derailleur off. Ouch! The bike was fine though, that's why they make the hangers out of aluminum. Easily replaced and then your good as new. Oh, the rider was okay as well.

Man down! Also, is it fucked up that after this happened the first thing I thought was, "I should get a picture for the blog?"

The best part of my week was probably this killer long ride I went on on Monday though. I headed East into Germany in search of the little range of hills there that offered about as much elevation gain as I could find in the area. My regular readers will probably know what I'm going to say next. I got hella lost. You can see that ride on Strava and it looks pretty silly, it's basically a big loop with little spines coming off all over of roads I started to take but than realized they weren't going where I wanted. Navigating is a bitch man, I need one of those fancy ass bike computers that tells me where to go. "Uphill!" it would say and point me towards the sky.

Das Rhine

Honestly, it probably wouldn't help though. The "bike paths" here are usually pretty poorly marked and I doubt they would even be on the digital maps. A lot of times they will be just dirt or gravel. In fact, I'm pretty sure I figured out how the sport of cyclocross was invented, but here they just call it winter training. It's partially due to my sense of direction often leading me towards the edges of cliffs, but I usually find myself riding onto unfinished roads, through construction sites (seriously, half this damn country is under construction), or on trails through the woods. I've just given up trying to avoid it and write it off as some quality bike handling practice, but man am I gonna need a new chain when I get back stateside.

Das Flatland

Anyway, yeah German excursion. I eventually found some real pretty vinyard hills. None of them were more than 1,000 feet, so I don't want to call them mountains, but it was really nice to get a chance to do some climbing. I live next to the Rhine and pretty much everything around here is flatland. It was a beautiful day too, which made the five hour ride a breeze. It was really the sort of thing I'd been praying for these past couple weeks of consistant shitty weather. Midway through I even stopped and grabbed a slice of pie and a coffee from a little bakery in the country. Sun, hills, and pie? Now that's my kinda vacation.

Das Fuel

Cheers folks, I'll see you after the break. And remember: Live to ride. Ride to live.
Kyle McCall

Bonus !  Want to see some more pics? Check out this album.
Probably be posting some more there during my travels, so check back often.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You Must Believe in Spring

Things have been trucking along nicely this past week, but I'm getting damn tired of the snow and ice. It's pretty and all, but it's a pain to ride in. Sometimes I actually miss the rain! This past weekend the clouds parted for just long enough to thaw the frozen crust on the land. Both Saturday and Sunday had beautiful afternoons. Saturday I set off on my own, but some group ride swept up shortly into my ride and I decided to hop on. Why not? I'm here to meet people after all. It was a slower paced ride than the other ones I've gone with, but the riders were a nice group of older club guys who still set a decent pace. I'm really impressed with all of the teams and clubs here, there are just tons of groups riding around. Sunday I met up with my usual team for a quality long ride, but nothing crazy this weekend. I just appreciated the breaks of sun I was able to get and some quality long rides.

That's all a really want, the sun. Spring is only a couple of months away. I can almost taste it! There is a girl on my program here who hails from Southern California and we talked about the weather. She says she doesn't really like the weather there, "it's too sunny all the time." This is a sentiment I've heard echoed by other SoCalites, believe it or not. I think they just get engorged on Vitamin D and can't handle anymore after a certain point. As an native Oregonian, however  I am habitually Vitamin D deficient and so have a fetishistic love for the sun. That's probably one of my favorite things about Oregon in fact: what a bunch of sun worshipping hippies we are. There's the slightest cloud break and people start playing ultimate Frisbee, having vegan picnics, and walking their labradoodles. Yes, it's as Bill Evans always said, You Must Believe in Spring.

This weekend. Real perdy.

Today. Also perdy, but less fun for riding.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oh, My Portland

There is this magical effect that has been prevalent in my life whenever I travel that I call the "Portland Curse." Basically, the curse is that wherever I go the Portland weather follows me. I can travel to San Francisco and it'll rain. I went to Nice in the French Riviera and it rained. Whether it's Germany, Israel, or Hawaii in the summer, even if it's supposed to be blue skies, it'll start raining when I get there. So it's been pretty rainy in Strasbourg because it's in Northern France and it rains here all the damn time. But today I was reminded of the Curse in a uniquely charming way.

The infamous David Guettler of River City Bicycles generously sent me one of their kits to enable the looking pro and as well as spreading the love of this awesome shop to Europe. Pretty cool deal. And a fine looking kit of I don't say so myself:

So, the first thing I did this morning after I got it was the same thing I do every morning: I went for a ride. It was beautiful out, a veritable rarity in Strasbourg. I did some jumps, worked on the leg speed, and spun down the canal. A real nice ride. Then, after about an hour, the clouds started to roll in. Damnit, I thought to myself, there's a lot of white on this kit. The sky opened up and it didn't just rain, it started to freakin' hail! Luckily I was wearing an RCB cap too, which I flipped down to semi-protect my face from the icy bullets hitting me in the face at 50km/h.

I felt so at home. I had already turned around at this point and threw in some impromptu threshold work to keep the blood flowing and get out of the freezing rain quicker, but it wasn't an all bad experience. I was actually kept pretty warm and dry thanks to the weather resistant fabrics of that fancy new jersey (as a side note, this is perhaps the only construction of a sentence where the word "fancy" can appropriately be placed adjacent to the words "new jersey"). After I got home was a little dismayed at the dirt soaked into my new duds, especially the white leggings. But, they rinsed clean real nice with just a little bit of dish soap, so they will be looking fresh to rep this weekend on the team ride. It's all in a days work. And you gotta love the work.

A little on the bike vanity. You can see how sunny it was when I left the house.

Disclaimer: This blog is not sponsored by River City Bicycles, Castelli, or the State of New Jersey. I just think they do/make great things. Except the State of New Jersey.

Kyle McCall

Sunday, February 3, 2013


The pros do it, so it must be good.
Motorpacing, the practice of a single or group of cyclists drafting a motorized vehicle, such as a car, motorcycle, or scooter. It's a great way to simulate the high speeds and varying paces of a race in addition to allowing a coach to have a more hands on interaction with his riders during their training. For this Saturdays ride I joined up with team Eckwersheim again. They brought about 20 of their riders and the team coach, who was in their team car (I know, what?).

So, needless to say, it was pretty badass. We met the coach out near a little commercial area that was pretty light use. For our main workout we were going to ride a ~5km loop with him motorpacing us from the team car. Well, a recurring theme with my experiences with the Euro cyclists is that nothing is ever that simple. The ride evolved very much like a race. From the start we were tucked behind the car going nearly 40km/h (25mph) and the pace rarely dipped below there. On one particularly open flat stretch of the road, that brutal pace was matched with a strong headwind so if I got even slightly out of the draft I could feel myself being torn away from the group. The challenge wasn't in staying inside the constantly rotating echelons on the flats though, but keeping the bunch together out of the turns. Our route cornered through a couple of round abouts where the pace car would shoot out like a criterium racer. Pummeling winds were followed by explosive sprints in a constant battle to keep in the group behind the car. 

There would be no respite though and the pace just got faster and faster. Eventually, coming around a corner, I couldn't grab back on and got spat out the back. Fortunately I wasn't the only one who got dropped, so me and another team mate trucked on along the loop, waiting for the car to come back around. After a few minutes we I could see it coming around a corner and down a long straightaway toward us. We built up speed, preparing to jump onto the back of the pack. I gritted my teeth with the effort as the group thundered along side of us. Like jumping onto a freight train, I hurled myself up and into the draft. But the pace continued to quicken and my legs were considerably drained. After a few more minutes of sprints and turns the team car unforgivingly rolled over my legs. Metaphorically speaking. That is to so, I felt like my guns had been crushed and I simply could not hang on any longer. 

As the train thundered away down the tracks I was actually relieved to see a dozen or so riders – more than half the group – scattered around the road within a kilometer or so of me. The sight of others alone or in small groups around the loop told me I wasn't the only one who's legs had given out on them. It wasn't long after that point that we all regrouped back together and rode the loop a couple more times at a well earned relaxed pace. I talked with some of the other guys about are high intensity workout.
"Yeah, it was fast," a team member said to me, "I've never done that before."
Oh yeah? For some reason I had assumed this was the reg, but it was some great threshold work either way. The rest of the day was pretty moderate riding around the area and then back into town. Overall, it was a great day for cycling: forging new friendships and elite fitness. That's what I do.

-Kyle McCall

Team Eckwersheim, lookin' Pro