Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Like Lee Likes Bikes

Because nothing says you've got "STREET CRED" quite as much as writing it on your bike.
I found the remains of this bike chained to a pole in Philly, left to fossilize like the skeleton of a wildebeest glistening in the African sun after the lions, hyenas, and vultures have picked every scrap of meat from its bones. 

I remember, upon seeing this carcass that Bike Snob had mentioned this very bike back in 2009.  Back then, the bike was still in its youth, frolicking with the other fixies and proudly displaying its long bullhorn bars to potential mates.  Yes, in those glorious days, all it took was a paypal account to obtain "STREET CRED."

A fine specimen
Philosophically, I think the bike has more "STREET CRED" in its present, decaying state, chained to a street pole and left to die, than it ever did in its prime.  In its current state, the bike is a sort of art installation - a self-fulfilling irony; a meditation on street cred.

But whereas in Philly, the measure of a man is STREET CRED, in Colorado, they use a different metric - Colorado Rad Units (CRUs).  CRUs are determined by a person's ability to live in ColoRADo, their cycling palmar├Ęs (not to be confused with palmares), and their general ability to get RAD.

On this scale, Ned Overend rates 10 CRUs, because he once lived in Colorado and has an amazing list of wins on mountain, road, and cyclocross bikes.  And he's RAD.

Photo from

Also, he may or may not have been the inspiration for Ned Flanders from the Simpsons.

Photo from bikerumor
 And Missy Glove, who also lived in Colorado comes in at 9 CRU.

Not just because she's RAD and had a ton of wins, and is insane on the downhill, but also, because she was arrested in New York with 400 pounds of marijuana and nine cellphones in her car.  This is worth 2 CRUs, all by itself.

Me, I have 0 CRUs.  I don't live in Colorado, I don't have any racing palmolives, and I have a hard time with being RAD.

So, like a good nerd does when faced with any problem, I bought a book.  Not just any book, but this book:

I have carried this book around and read certain sections several times.  Some sections were easy to incorporate, like braking.  The book definitely helped me to not crash so much, but I was still not RAD and I still had a negative CRU deficit.  And some of the skills in the book involved moving the bike and my body simultaneously in multiple direcations.  I am not athletic, so I was pretty sure I was not doing this right.

When I learned that one of the book's authors, Lee McCormac, was giving a skills clinic in Illinois, I jumped at the chance.

Here, Lee and his twin brother demonstrate mountain bike triple-suspension tandeming.  Picture from Lee Likes Bikes.
Lee one of those guys who seems to use a couple extra percent of his brain potential.  He is a writer, part of a team that won a Pulitzer, and left a high-paying tech-industry job to follow his passion in mountain biking.  I'm jealous, and somewhat in awe of this decision.  He is a former racer, with serious cred (not sure if it's STREET CRED) and is a leading coach in mountain biking nationally.  His training method is widely followed.  He has recently served to train the coaches of the NICA youth cycling league.

So, I  figured I could learn something from him.
I talked my buddy Peter into driving.

We went to a Mexican restaurant whose name translated into "the party ranch" or "the ranch party."  It was neither.
The great thing is that Peter has a minivan, so both our bikes fit in the back without the need for a rack. Honestly, I think his minivan is the main reason we're still friends.

Anyhow, we joined a group of five people at the Farmdale Reservoir trails near Peoria Illinois.  There are arround 15 miles of trails here.  There's a little dirt jump park, sweet single track, and some little "fun dips" - gravity dips as the trail winds back and forth across a ravine.  It even has a (Midwestern) downhill run.  In short, it was the perfect place to do some skills training.

Lee drops science
This trail system is maintained by the Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association (PAMBA). I had the pleasure of meeting PAMBA's Vice President, "Tall" Paul Larson, who joined us for this clinic.

Paul (left) watches as Lee (foreground) demonstrates the proper way to fold a fitted sheet.
As a side note, I wish mountain bike organizations wouldn't go by acronyms. But it is common practice. There's PAMBA, COMBO, CAMBA, HMBA, MOMBA, and, my favorite, MMMBA (Mid Michigan Mountain Bike Association). There's pretty much every permutation that ends in "MBA" (Mountain Bike Association") or the lesser-used "MBO" (Mountain Biking Organization).
Anyways, Lee spent an entire day with us.  We learned how to "pump and screw," among other techniques.  We even rode this little jump.

So, what did Lee teach me?  Well, for one thing, that I suck, although I'm pretty sure I already knew that.  And, honestly, he couldn't have been nicer about my general lack of awesomeness - he didn't mention it at all.  For how much energy Lee has, he's surprisingly laid back.  It was a great deal of fun to hang out and ride with him.  But still, riding next to him and watching his skills, compared to my abilities, it was like shining a flashlight at noon.

What I really took away though was some fundamentals that I read from his book that I wasn't executing properly.  In the last couple weeks I have been practicing, and I can already see improvements in my cornering speed, my ability to clear obstacles, and my overall speed.  And I learned that I need to work on core strength and balance.

Not surprising, looking at the spare tire I'm carrying in this picture.

Want to know Lee's techniques?  I'm not telling.  And I wouldn't do them justice anyway.  Go sign up for one of his training sessions, like I did.  It's worth your while.  Maybe we can even get a big enough group together to get him to come to central Ohio for a weekend.  What do you say Lee? 

So did I pick up any CRUs?  No.  I still suck.  But, thanks to Lee, I suck a little less.

Be brave!


  1. That sounds like a fun adventure! I've read most of that book and find it be a very helpful resource. I would love to see Lee in action. If you can get a skills clinic lined up here in Ohio, I would probably sign up. Although going to learn on trails in Illinois sounds much cooler.

    1. Yeah, they were good trails. Peoria is a 6 hour drive though. I was thinking it would be easier for a lot of us "married with kids" people to do it here. If we can get a group of six together, we can put a day on his calendar and get him to do a weekend here. I'll probably try to put something together. Hit me up if you're interested.