Sunday, March 28, 2010


No season opener is fit without a fresh mixtape. If you think race reports are more boring than music, then all I can offer you at the moment are a few albums that I checked out on my trip to the first big race in Fontana this weekend:

'Ambivalence Avenue'- Bibio
'Swim'- Caribou
'Black Sands'- Bonobo
'Crystal Castles' - Crystal Castles
'Psychic Chasms' Neon Indain

Race report:
The scene at Fontana this year was quite similar to last - first big off-road event of the season, same techy course, same nice warm weather, same hotel...The starting line-up was 18 riders shy of last year's numbers, with a similar spectrum of talent (but with more Canadians it seemed). Having all of these similar variables was a good thing, because aside from having a solid race at Fontana, I wanted to have a good comparison to my performance from last season. I felt more confident this year having put more time on the bike. In summary, 2010 is off to a better start. I ended the day in 21st (11th American) 11:24 behind the leader, whereas last year I finished 36th (26th American), 18:30 back.

I've done a few road races so far in 2010, but none of them have offered the same rush as the start of an off-road event. There was a hectic, 30-second start-loop at Fontana this year, followed by the same fast fire-road into absurdly steep climb into techy descent...all said, don't f#%@ it up in the first 3 min of the race or you'll get get caught in energy-wasting traffic. Suddenly, cyclocross nationals in Bend didn't feel so far away. Looking ahead into a sandpit before the first climb I could see riders fumbling slowly, frantic-lemming mode onto the otherwise fast rock line, so I preemptively dismounted and ran through the outside of the sand, gaining 6 places that I didn't have to worry about again. At that point, I was sitting in 19th, with Barry, Sneddon and Ryan close ahead. The first lap went by smoothly (besides the start), and I focused positively on the four laps ahead. With a steady pace I gained another three spots going into the second lap, now in 16th. For laps 2 through 3, I focused on riding consistently and focused (though I felt confident, I didn't want to induce another overzealous blowup like the beginning of last season). At the beginning of the 4th lap, Canadian Peter Glassford caught me on the windy paved climb, and I was beginning to feel my strength fade. I grabbed his wheel through the singletrack climb but lost him just before the top. That's when I may have slipped for a bit off my good form both physically and mentally. By the end of the lap (17th), I could see a group of 4 closing on me. I held them off up the last steep climb. They caught me on the pavement, and at that point I slowly began to lose them in the headwind. It was a painful four spots to lose, especially because it came at the end of the race. I pushed myself as best I could to the finish, feeling spent. It was a good race, except for the last 20 minutes.

Overall, I am happy with the outcome. I'll take this weekend's shortcomings as motivators, and focus on making a positive trendline from this point onwards. It's good to be starting considerably ahead of last year. Looking forward to the longer daylight and the opportunity to finally get solid mid-week riding after leaving the office. Looking forward to Sea Otter...

Monday, March 8, 2010

new setup

On Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 12:31 AM, Spencer wrote:

from Spencer Paxson
to Sean Babcock
cc Erik Tonkin
date Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 9:01 PM
subject bike review

Hey Sean -

What ensues is a total nerd sesh about riding the new 120:

Bottom line, the bike is suhWEET. I went on about a three hour ride (a.k.a. Shred Mish) at Tokul, east of Seattle. The rain held off and the trails were in surprisingly good condition, especially the one with bras clipped around every tree trunk...I hope the trail is named actually named 'Boobs'...dude, you are totally destined to ride it! In addition to the brassiere-adorned trees, my overall experience with the bike was positive...schrepic to be exact. I took my time to make the fit adjustments I needed, and was able to test the bike on a medley of terrain (a.k.a. gnar) - fast, flowing singletrack, techy rock gardens, steep climbs, long gravel road climbs, sketchy chunder chutes, tight switchbacks up and down, slippery roots, and some jumps or course. I felt that the bike excelled (a.k.a. schralped!) in all situations, except maybe for uphill switchbacks...but that could have been me sucking or staring at trees with boobs. I had my fork at 85psi and the shock at 140psi (I weight around 160 these days). I'm thinking I could even put it at 150 and it would be better for racing, but after a bit I was having too much fun to pull over and change it.

The 120 is a whole different brew than the King, like an exquisite IPA compared with a hearty Guinness. i.e. it felt much more energetic and swift than the King. The rear end also felt much stiffer and more responsive. Climbing was a breeze with ProPedal turned on, and the travel felt more progressive and supple than the King when I ran the shock soft on descents. In turns, the bike carves through the apex without getting skittish or nose heavy, and the rear end is stiff enough to really lean the bike into a power-slide, then grab like a sharp ski edge as you exit the turn. I was running a 90mm stem and appreciated the agility of the shorter wheelbase on the 18" frame, as well as the lower center of gravity of the frame design. I think one benefit of the longer travel, among other things, is that it gives the bike the "reach" of a bigger bike (i.e. extension when rolling over drops and rough terrain), but in this case, I didn't notice any sacrifice in agility and snappiness....or weight (the setup is at 25.5lbs right now with XTR could be 25 with XTR crankset...).

As for the drivetrain, the 27/40 provided noticeable extra clearance, and the gear ratio made a lot of sense. On steep climbs and other sections where leg speeed was important, the 27 offered more reasonable gear options that the traditional 32 I've been running. The 40 is plenty big enough for most conditions. Shifting between the two was crisp. For much of the ride, I found myself riding the bike as a two speed, simply changing from big to little ring in front. I was able to do this while maintaining good chainline, and it was that much less to think about. I figure, for the fast, wide open courses where a 32/44 would be better, we'd be racing our hardtails anyway. After riding today, the 27/40 definitely seems ideal for the duallies.

anyway...those are my thoughts. I'm eager to race on the 120. I'm going to make sure that the fit on my hardtail is as close to my duallie as possible...even though the geometries are different.

Hope you've been well lately. You get in any riding yet this weekend? Catch you later.


Monday, March 1, 2010


Two years ago, Erik Tonkin approached Sean Babcock and Spencer Paxson with the open-ended concept of the Team S&M Young Guns – to share their talents, philosophies, and pure love of cycling to develop a platform for the future. Sean had already earned a top-15 finish in the Elite Cyclocross National Championships his second year racing bikes, and Spencer had already competed in the 2006 U23 Mountain Bike World Championships. Enter in fantasies of pursuing the glamorous(?) life of a “professional bike racer”…whatever that means…

To Spencer and Sean, bike racing is fully connected to all aspects of their lives. Sean is earning his degree to pursue a career in nursing, living and studying in Portland, Oregon. Spencer is using his degree in Geographic Information Science working for a wind energy developer in Seattle, WA. They don’t spend their time thinking about bike racing vs. everything else. They simply choose to be bike racers, where racing is treated like the job, albeit the fun one. That means sacrificing time and money for the cause by dialing in the workman-like approach to races, where the default setting is “win”, meaning “ride well”…no matter what. Sean and Spencer set high standards for all aspects of their lives, and when priorities are so connected to one another, achieving big goals amidst the obligations of life requires a dance between passion and logic, sometimes a leap of faith.

The Young Guns cultivated this philosophy of bike racing over the last two years, not solely based on their individual practice, but by learning from and receiving generous support from family and friends. Sean and Spencer are ultimately a product of those who have believed in them. They have proven to themselves and their supporters that their racing is a worthy investment. Their positive trajectory on the racecourse has demonstrated that the goals they set before themselves are fully achievable. Last year, Spencer started the Elite Cross Country National Championships in Colorado aiming for a top-15 and finished 11th. He went on to finish consistently as a top-10 US rider in the country’s premier off-road series. His big goal for 2010 is to qualify for one of seven spots on the US National Team and compete in the Elite Mountain Bike World Championships in Mt. St. Anne, Quebec. Sean’s accomplishments in 2009 included the overall win in the ‘Cross Crusade Series, and an unparalleled performance at the Elite Cyclocross National Championships where he battled from 149th place to finish 23rd. His goal is to claim a top-10 finish at next year’s ‘Cross Nationals, as well as compete on the World Cup ‘Cross circuit in Europe.

...2010 is just upon us. We'll see how we do at recording some of the highlights along the way. Thanks for reading.