Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SSWC10: The Incredible Adventure

Below is a short (or long) summary of the crazy events that took place in New Zealand during the Week of October 17th - 23rd. As I like to say, the events included: 3 Kiwis, 2 Americans, a Black Sheep, an aerospace company, titanium and many many cool dudes in Rotorua. I left off the last names of those involved to protect 'the innocent'. I tried to summarize the events based on my memory - which isn't as good as it once was. So please forgive me if a detail or two are twisted or forgotten. Also, go easy on me if my sentence structure and grammar are less than perfect. (Just Joking, maybe.)

And, you want the cliff notes of this adventure? Sorry, a story like this can't be summarized. It's all or nothing, dude!

So, Here it is

The Early Days:
Back in the day a dude we’ll call Jasper was searching the internet for information on Black Sheep Bikes. Jasper came along this blog, Back of the Pack Racing. Who knows what Jasper’s initial reaction was, but he spread the word. Sooner, or later, Jasper’s buddy Dan started to review the Back of the Pack site. I guess the humor & the lifestyle intrigued Dan. Who Knows. But Dan and Jasper continued to review the info, checked out the Back of the Pack Operating Instructions and decided to drop me, The Judd, a line. We traded a few emails, talked about SSWC10, New Zealand, garage parties with sheep, etc. Just the normal stuff that single speed fanatics would talk about. We arranged to meet up in Rotorua to tip back a few beers, talk about sheep and race hard in the biggest race of the year - The Single Speed World Championships. Well, that is the beginning of a crazy story. 
A Few Days before The Day:
I traveled to Rotorua on Oct 13th. My goal was to race in the Whaka 100. Why? Because, a 100km race sounded like a nice cool down from my long season of 24 hour racing. Well, I put out a good effort for 60+ kilometers and then coasted for the final 40. (Yeah, 'coasting' is a good word for it.) That’s OK. But something happened - sometime. I didn’t know it.
On Tuesday morning, two days after the Whaka 100, I headed out for a ride with my friend Lenny, an Albuquerque dude representing Big Wheel Racing. To my great shock I saw a massive crack in my Black Sheep. Damn! My brother (The TeddNeck - Click for BPR Profiles) accuses me of riding like a possessed gorilla, so this stuff can happen. But in New Zealand? Come on! It can’t get any worse than this. I think.
Well, I knew that Todd of Black Sheep Bikes was headed towards Rotorua, so I quickly emailed James (Mr. Black Sheep Bikes) in an effort to track down Todd. I didn’t think a fix was possible, but you never know. James responded almost immediately with two options for contacting Todd, so I was in business. Maybe. 
As I waited for Todd’s arrival into Rotorua I headed to a few shops just to check out my options. I headed into KiwiBikes to check on the possibility of buying a new frame and fork. Jeff (the owner / operator) had a frame and fork available - he was more than happy to help me build up a racing bike the following day. That’s cool, but I needed to talk to Todd before I decided on any options. So, I headed off to Bike Vegas, just to check it out. They just sold a Niner frame, Damn! I had a Niner, I liked my Niner. But they had another option....they had The Guinness Bike and were willing to loan it to me for the rest of the trip. Awesome. A zero cost solution! So I was at least back on wheels, now the wait until Todd arrived.
Wednesday night Todd arrived and I met up with him at The Pig & Whistle. I showed him a picture. It was clear that the probability of a fix was close to zero. Todd didn’t bring any of his tools, obviously, and Jeff at KiwiBikes didn’t have the correct materials for welding titanium. So, it looked like my Black Sheep was officially on vacation for the remaining days of my New Zealand / Singlespeed World Championships adventure. 
Bummer! I was bummed out, bummed out beyond your wildest imagination. Why? Because it’s my bike, man. We singlespeed freaks all have an intimate connection with our bikes - no matter what bike we ride. My bike was taking a long overdue vacation - Ok, but I was still bummed out. I knew my friends at Black Sheep Bikes (James & Todd) would fix the bike, restore it to primo racing condition. But when you spend countless hours / countless miles on a bike (Ok I count the hours and I count the miles), you want to race that bike in the biggest race of the year. 

The Day It All Started:
Thursday rolled around, I finally figured out how to sleep in. My only plan for the day was to ride the SSWC course. So, I could do that in the early afternoon and still make it to the bars for the early party & before the late party. I slept in til 11AM. That is bizarre. I usually can’t sleep after the sun rises, but I did. Did the late AM wake-up have something to do with the late nights at the Copper Donkey? Come on! Of course not.
Ok, now this is where the story gets really interesting.
In the meantime Dan and Jasper were headed north, north to Rotorua. They landed at the Wellington airport. From there they were planning to take an easy drive north and eventually make it to Rotorua by Friday AM. Funny thing. Dan and Jasper ran into Henry (Dan’s brother) in the Wellington airport. The dudes talked about the race. Dan and Jasper said they wanted to hunt down this freak Judd that runs the Back of the Pack Racing team. They were also looking to track down Todd, one of the master craftsmen at Black Sheep Bikes. Ok, interesting - not really. But Henry must have a 30GByte memory disk in his head - because he remembered all this from the short conversation.
Back to Rotorua / Whakarewarewa Forest.
I finally rolled out of the hotel around 12:00PM and headed to the forest. The Guinness Bike was holding up, but man, it had a huge gear on it. (A late night count revealed that the bike was sporting a 32x16.) But I could deal with it. I rode the course at a very slow pace. I stopped at all major trail intersections / crossing - just to mark GPS points. (I need GPS / GoogleEarth maps of my race experience. I’m a data freak.) 
After the long ride I was hanging out at the Waipa MTB Carpark just messing with my GPS, paying zero attention to the world. All of a sudden some dude on a Spot Titanium SS rolled up. This dude saw my patches (the rockers + back patch) on my red team race shirt (I mean work shirt, I mean 'a shirt that doesn’t include ANY spandex’) and asked where Back of the Pack was from and how many racers were in town for the race. I laughed and said that I was from New Mexico and the only racer from the team that made the trip. This dude asked me if I new Dan. I said, ‘Maybe, I’ve meet a thousand people and can’t remember all the names’. This dude then said ‘No, Dan and Jasper are not in town yet. I’m Henry, Dan’s my brother.’ The lights went on. I woke up!
I quickly connected the dots. Dan and Jasper, the dudes from the south island. (Jasper just received his Black Sheep a week earlier, by the way.) Henry asked how it was going. I said Ok, but explained how I cracked my frame. Henry asked a couple of questions about a potential fix. I explained the situation, i.e., Todd was in town but didn’t have the correct equipment for a fix and the local bike shops didn’t have the tools / materials for titanium work. Well, Henry got on the phone and make a few calls, left a few messages. Turns out Henry has a friend that’s involved with an aerospace company in Hamilton. So, Henry and I discussed a few options. But I basically said that I needed to track down Todd and have him check out the frame and the damage. I didn’t want Henry to waste his time if a massive repair job was required, i.e., new titanium tubes. So, Henry took my number and said he’d work on it. Cool. I was off to the bar and off to the 1st SSWC11 team competition at Agroventures
A couple of hours later I showed up at the bus stop - ran into Lenny & Claudia and didn’t see Todd anywhere. Oh well, I wasn’t very optimistic about the fix. So, I tried to put on my happy face and have a good time. Out at the Agroventures site I received a text from a ‘foreign’ number. This text said “Judd. Just talking to Todd. He’s going to agroventures then niner party. Have organized welder and can get you there tomorrow. Going to kiwi bikes to check now. Pls confirm you got this.” Wow, what the hell! Who is this ‘Todd’. Todd from Black Sheep Bikes? No Way! Can this really be happening?
So I confirmed I received the message and was as happy as a kid in a candy store. Turns out Henry was at race registration, walked out of The Pig & Whistle and saw a Black Sheep. Henry asked the dude next to the bike if he was Todd - Todd of Black Sheep Bikes. Bingo Bango. It was Todd, the missing connection was made. Henry and Todd went over to KiwiBikes and talked to Jeff about tools and workspace. Jeff graciously loaned out some tools / some reamers and offered up all his help and his shop. Unbelievable!
Later that night I meet up with both Henry and Todd at Agroventures and the final details were made. Henry arranged for a Helicopter at 8:30 the next morning. We were headed to Pacific Aerospace to fix ‘the sheep’. Unbelievable! Three chance encounters in one day led to a possible fix of ‘the sheep’. 1) The meeting in Wellington of the brothers and Jasper, 2) meeting of Judd & Henry at the bike trails, 3) meeting of Henry & Todd on the streets of Rotorua. 
So, we all hung out for the rest of the night. Partied like pseudo rockstars at the Copper Donkey and prepared for The Incredible Adventure.

The Day of the Adventure:
The plan was for a) Judd to meet up at Henry’s pad at 8:15, b) Todd to bike out to the helipad and arrive at 8:20, c) takeoff ~ 8:30. Well, at 8:05 Henry called and said he was on his way. He picked me up early and we headed to the grocery store. Groceries? Yep, we pay with beer.  We made the short drive to the heliport and there Todd was waiting. This was a big day for us all, but I bet Todd was both excited and anxious. Nothing like 1000 eyes starting over your shoulder and critiquing your every move. Anyway Todd quickly checked out the frame and was fairly confident that he could engineer a fix. AWESOME! Then, a few minutes later the two dudes that started this all, Dan and Jasper, showed up. It was great to meet these guys, in person, after all these email / cyberspace based conversations. 
We loaded up the sheep, the beer, the bodies and headed to Pacific Aerospace in Hamilton NZ. It was a very scenic flight, around 30 minutes. The pilot circled into Pacific Aerospace and landed right next to the management building, right next to a BWM. Sweet! No Helicopter pad, no remote landing, we landed right there - in the parking lot. 

Once on the ground we meet Damian - the CEO of Pacific Aerospace. We unloaded the sheep and headed towards one of the shops. Damian introduced us to one of the welders and made the necessary arrangements in terms of workers / materials. This was now Todd’s show - so Henry, Dan, Jasper and I headed off to a 2 hour tour of Pacific Aerospace. Todd went hard to work. 1st he removed the aluminum shim - milled it out, reamed it out, whatever you call it. Then he welded the cracks - no problem!

Three interesting notes. 1) Todd was not experienced with the specific welding machine at Pacific Aerospace. So Todd had to ‘tune’ the welder and alter his technique a bit. Nothing like learning on the fly, in a high pressure situation. 2) Pacific Aerospace has titanium sheets, but not titanium welding rods. So a machinist skillfully cut off a small sliver of titanium and fabricated a piece of welding rod - awesome! 3) A new aluminum shim was required. No problem, a machinist skillfully created a new aluminum shim, just in a matter of minutes. Awesome!
After the welding was completed, we thanked the Pacific Aerospace crew, handed over a few cases of beer and headed back to Rotorua, on the Helicopter, for Part 2 of the job.

After arriving in Rotorua we hit up a sushi bar / restaurant, talked about titanium and Black Sheep Bikes, and laughed about the adventure. Next we walked over to KiwiBikes and Todd went back to work. 
Todd and Jeff worked on the aluminum shim and prepared for the final assembly. We were missing one thing - epoxy. So Jeff gave us a few options on shops. We ended up at a costume store / crafts store and found the goods. (I believe this is the shop that many singlespeed freaks went to for the outrageous costumes that were put to the test on Saturday.) Back at the shop Todd and some of the KiwiBikes crew muscled with the shim, made a few last minute tweaks and then the final assembly. It wasn’t an easy fit, but the shim fit. Jeff cut the horizontal slit in the shim, required for the seat post collar. The fix was in. The job was done! UNBELIEVABLE! Just 24 hours earlier I was hanging at the trails with The Guinness Bike. Now I was back in business. My sheep was ready to roll, well almost.
I headed back to my hotel, a nice 45 minute walk. (Ok, ok, those that know me know that I don’t believe in walks. There is no such thing as a ‘nice walk’.) I stopped off at a liquor store, purchased a 6 pack of my favorite NZ beer - Speights Distinction Ale - and headed to the bike assembly shop, the shop in my hotel room. So, 3 beers later my sheep was rolling. I was set. I was the happiest dude in the world. What an amazing adventure! What an unbelievable set of circumstances!

The SingleSpeed World Championships:
The fix was in, the job was done. But we had a race on our hands. I showed up to the race venue ready to roll. No breakfast, not much sleep. But I was set. I had a new bike; I was psyched. I meet up with all my friends. Dan and Jasper were sporting the plaid - in usual Back of the Pack fashion. It was a day that we would all remember. 
I won’t bore you with the race review. That is covered in a separate blog posting - Click Here for the BPR SSWC10 Race Review, Dude! All I can say is the sheep held up. The sheep took a pounding from me and the trails. But it held up - zero problems. I had an unbelievable race. I loved every minute, every mile of the race. I had a perma grin the entire race, I finished with a perma grin. I was the happiest dude in the Whakarewarewa Forest. Enough said. 

If you want to check out all the pictures of the adventure:
Click on this Link!

Final Thoughts:
I was a bit hesitant to make the trip to NZ solo, but then again all us Back of the Pack Racers ride / race solo. So I decided to go solo, that’s just what I do. I knew that the trip would be a trip of a lifetime - so I was going. I couldn’t walk away from all the experiences that were waiting for me in NZ.
Well, as it turns out, it was The Trip of a Lifetime. I made a large number of friends, friends that all have the same singlespeed addiction, friends that all tear it up on the trails. 
I’ll never be able to thank / prepay all those involved, but here is the short list.

the man with the plan
Todd, the bike builder - Black Sheep Bikes
Dan, Jasper -  the bikers, the rockstars
Jeff & Crew - KiwiBikes
Dave & Crew - Bike Vegas

And By the Way:
I was born in Minneapolis Minnesota but grew up in Durango Colorado. While in Minnesota my dad, The Padre, had a sailboat, a 1976 Ensign. The boat was named 'The Kiwi'. Interesting, isn’t it? 

Singlespeed World Championships 2010: Race Review

The Singlespeed World Championship 2010 / Rotorua New Zealand was unbelievable. I had the time of my life. I traveled solo but I meet many awesome dudes / dudettes. The Singlespeed World Championship participants / groupies are the best group of humans to assemble in a common place. Everyone was smiling, everyone was cool, everyone had a common goal - to have an incredible experience. 

And.... a race with 1000 single speeders feels like a small local race with a boatload of your best friends. If you think I’m joking, go to SSWC11 in Ireland. You’ll find out for yourself. Many of dudes / dudettes will be SSWC veterans, many will be rookies, but they will all have the same great attitude.
Well, I won’t bore you with a long race report. I have a few comments and a few pictures and a lot of video footage. Check it all out.
A Few Thoughts:
The start was absolutely chaotic. But it was a very cool, unique way of corralling the heard and inducing mass chaos and disorder.
The beer shortcuts were awesome. The short cuts were really short cuts. Well done! In my opinion, it’s a good idea to penalize those dudes / dudettes that don’t really understand that the best beer in the world is.... free beer. And free beer on the race course is the ultimate! Anyway, the free beer was awesome, it quenched my thirst and provided the necessary fuel.
The voluntary crew was awesome. The spectators were awesome. I was thinking that spectating may be as much fun as racing. Ok, that’s going too far.

An Example of 'Friendly' Competition at SSWC10:
Mr D. (as we will call him) was talking to a Foxy Mama during an early climb in the race, “Hey, tell me a joke”
Foxy Mama’s reply: “I don’t have a joke, but I’ve got this” The Foxy Mama shoots the moon to Mr D.
Mr D. replies: “Honey, that’s no joke.”
The Quote of the Race:
A spectator or beer babe was checking out Trudy’s smut badge and said “Now that’s a money shot!” Smut badge? 

The Lessons:
  1. Beer at the start. 1 beer if you had breakfast, 2 beers if you’re running on empty
  2. Get out of the starting gate at the front of the pack, by any means necessary. You’re screwed if you’re hanging at the back of the pack at the Singlespeed World Championships.
  3. Hard & Fast is almost always better than Easy & Slow. Except for the 1st split at the Rockdrop descent. I would know, I did a study.
  4. Don’t be fixated on the Foxy Mama in front of you - you’ll run off the track and could plow into a tree.
  5. After 5 beers (2 before the race, 3 during the race at the beer shortcuts) it get’s kind of (just kind of) hard to haul ass through the trees and stay on track during the fast downhill sections.
  6. McDonald’s at 2:30AM can be classified as the prerace breakfast. Assuming Lesson #1 above is followed. But the 2:30AM breakfast forces the rider into the 2 beer option of Lesson 1.
The Video:
Below are 3 videos that you, the B.P.R. Fan, may like or may not. Doesn't matter. It cracks me up. And, if you didn't notice, I speed up the action a bit. Why? Because.... I can!

A Short Teaser - With Some KoRn and Some Action

SSWC10 - The Race, A Teaser from Judd Rohwer on Vimeo.
SSWC10: The Race - Short & Sweet

A Longer Version - With More KoRn and More Action

SSWC10 - The Race from Judd Rohwer on Vimeo.
SSWC10: The Race - Some of It

The Corral - Go to 3 Min for a Shot of Dejay Dirty Dancing with 'The Babe'

SSWC10 - The Start Before The Race from Judd Rohwer on Vimeo.
SSWC10: The Corral

The Race Info / Data:
SSWC10: Whakarewarewa Forest / Rotorua New Zealand

The Course: Looking East

The Course: Looking NE

The Data, Dude!

Best Costume:
Dejay’s Thong

Worst Costume:
The dude in the skid marked tighty whities

Most Disturbing Costume:
Rich in his cocktail dress. He just flat out enjoyed wearing that sexy outfit.

Most Foxy of all Foxy Mamas? 
Impossible to decide. But I like the foxy mama racing undercover as the devil. 

The Black Sheep at SSWC10

The Judd & The Dudes from New Zealand. Dan & Jasper, Nice Plaid!

More Pics?

Click on This Link, Dude!
Final Remarks:
SSWC10 was an unbelievable race. The entire 11 day experience (including the Whaka 100) is something I will never forget. I can’t wait for SSWC11 in Ireland. (Ok, I can wait. I probably need a couple of months to recover from SSWC10.) I hope a large fraction of my new friends make the journey to the land of Guinness.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Zealand: What I've Learned

So, I’ve been in New Zealand for about 5 days. I’ve learned a fair amount about this country - the way of life in the Southern Hemisphere. Below are the more interesting things that I’ve learned.
Bike Vegas (a local bike shop) is totally cool. The dudes are totally cool. I ran into a problem with the sheep, it’s a big problem. So the killer dudes at Bike Vegas set me up with the Guinness Bike for the rest of the week. I’ll be rolling through the forest on this new beast. Thanks dudes!
The sun is in the north, not the south. Weird, but think about it. Does it have something to do with the Tropic of Cancer? The Tropic of Capricorn? The Equator? Ok, I think you can figure it out.
Traffic does not stop for Pedestrians. Watch Out! Look right then left, not left then right. And, there is no such thing as a crosswalk.
If you wander around a small town for a couple of hours, you see the same freaks wandering around for a couple of hours. Us wanderers are all freaks.

The local economy would be far more profitable if a) the gas stations sold beer, b) the bars opened early, c) the bars served breakfast burritos during the 8AM happy hour.

I think the beer in New Zealand is watered down. 15 Ska Modus Hoperandi would send me to Intensive Care! 15 beers in New Zealand just.... makes me hungry.
Kilkenny (Irish beer) is awesome
I watched the move 2012 on Sunday night, as I watched the rain fall. yeah, it’ll happen within the next 15 months. You wait and see.

In the USA we argue about evolution, religion, abortion rights. In New Zealand, gun control - the right to bear arms - is the best subject if you want to start a heated debate.
The moon’s made of cheese. The moon landings were a hoax. This is a common thought / opinion held ‘down under’. I say ‘down under’ because the Australians are the dudes / dudettes convinced that the moon landings (yes, plural) were a simple Hollywood production. Amazing! Looks like I now know another awesome topic to bring up at the bar - every night.
I met up with some psychotically cool dudes from the USA. Jake, Dejay, Kramer, Rich, Sam, Dave, et al. These dudes remind me of the psychotic bunch that lived / squatted at the infamous Rugby House (Prescott Az) in the early 90s. It’s good to know that the dream of social irresponsibility and good clean fun still exists. These dudes party like it’s 1999 - just like we worn out dudes partied back in the day, back in.... 1999.

The Guinness Bike: The Judd's New Ride - For the Rest of the SSWC10 Week

Judd Wandering - with the other wanderers