March 3, 2014

#529: post

Filed under: Brewing,Races — Ryan @ 20:27

I am still running long on posts.  Since I put up something the last time, I have been riding, working, and brewing.    The riding is a work in progress, raced last weekend in Little Rock, AR on the road.  Nothing really to write home about.

On the brewing front, I put up 3 beers in the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs Extravaganza competition.   There were an IPA, a Belgian Tripel, and an oaked Imperial Porter.  The IPA and the tripel scored okay, but were not in the top three for their respective categories.  The oaked Imperial Porter ended up winning the BJCP category for Smoked and Wood-Aged Beers.   This beer, which I had named Turbo Porter (after our Belgian Malinois Turbo).

I plan on racing a bunch more this year, mostly on the road.


January 19, 2014

#528: Secondary containment

Filed under: Brewing — Ryan @ 11:44

Well, it didn’t take long to have mishap with the kegging….  It filled the 4th keg yesterday afternoon and was contemplating trying out the Blichman Beer Gun this morning to fill some bottles off a keg (sort of a test run).  I went up to start to plan out how I was going to do it and I looked in the keezer and found the keg of Wit with lots of foam at the liquid out post and a 1/2″ of beer on the bottom of the keezer.


The freezer has a drain plug (visible on the lower right of the photo above).  I was able to drain out down to a pretty low level by hooking a hose up to the drain and letting gravity take it to a small low dish.  As it filled up, I could then dump it into the nearby crate.  After the flow stopped, I dumped buckets of hot/warm water to flush out the remaining beer.  All-in-all, it took a while and I had to dry it out with towels after that (good chance to defrost the freezer).  Any water would freeze in the keezer one it got going.

Like all good spill investigations, I controlled the situation first (depressurized the keg) and moved it out of the freezer.  While the freezer was draining, I took a look and found that I hadn’t really tightened the liquid post enough.  It was loose (not even finger tight).   After getting that sorted and working on the gas post some as well (it was leaking a bit under the gas “dip” tube gasket, probably from over-tightening!).  Anyway, the damage was about 2-2.5 gallons missing from the keg.  I am glad that it wasn’t my favorite beer out of the fermenter. Let’s hope that I won’t miss half that keg.

I have got everything back in the keezer and cooling back down.  I had the Wit keg under gas pressure while doing the clean-up and the liquid post held firm.   I am glad I went upstairs and opened up the chest freezer this morning…  By tonight, I would have been probably be draining out 5 gallons of Wit.



January 18, 2014

#527: Keezer, finally started kegging

Filed under: Brewing,Races — Ryan @ 15:14

As I write this, I have filled the 4th (of 4) kegs that I have with beer.  As many have said, it is a bit easier to handle and now you have ready access to a set of beers on tap.  Along with my acquistion of the 4 kegs and related hardware, I got a larger chest freezer with plans to build it out with tap handles.  So far, I have two installed though the collar of the freezer.  The collar is needed to avoid having to guess (and probably guess wrong) where the condenser and evaporator coils are located in the shell of the freezer.

IMG_6289 IMG_6300 IMG_6301

This year, I hope to get back to a more active racing season.  My work travel this summer should be intermittent and allow steady training and travel to races around the mid-south.  I haven’t pulled together a full calender yet, but I am considering returning to Rouge Roubaix.  I raced that early season gravel & paved road race 3 times, but the last time was 3 years ago due to work work schedule around that time of the year the previous two years.

January 1, 2014

#526: Long time…

Filed under: Brewing,Cyclocross — Ryan @ 16:17

I have been seriously neglecting this blog.  I have continued to do the usual things, but raced cross less than I have have done in a few years due to a work project taking me out right in the ramp up period.  I ended up doing only 3 races, 1 at Shelby Farms (pre-2 weeks off the bike), the Outdoors race (right after my hiatus), and the Cedar Glades CX race in mid-November.  All went okay.  Not bad, not good.  (My new Ridley performed well, I just didn’t).

I have increased my brewing a bit, and have just started to keg beer in the last few weeks.     The keezer conversion (that is a freezer turned to a draft beer box) photos are coming.  I have a few more parts to get and I will show it off then.  That is all I have for now.




September 14, 2013

#525: Ridley X-Fire, rev2

Filed under: Cyclocross,Equipment — Ryan @ 19:21

Andrea built up the warrenty frame with the same parts (~2009 SRAM Red, et al).  Anyway, here is a photo, not sure how much I will be racing this year (due to a work project, but at least I have a good bike when I do).


That is all.

September 13, 2013

#524: RIMS system

Filed under: Brewing,Equipment — Ryan @ 08:01

Now I haven’t been racing much this year, although I have been keeping in almost race shape for the year.  I obviously have been getting worse at posting about racing or anything for that matter.   This years cyclocross season is going to be messed up by the timing of  a project I have going at work.  I am expecting delivery of my warranty Ridley X-Fire frame (that broke during CX Masters Worlds).  The first frame I got was shipped was a disc brake frame.  Neither I, not Andrea are interested in making the switch given our existing stable of bikes and rim-brake carbon tubulars.  I will put a post on the build when

Anyway, to put up a post I am going to do a quickie to show off my latest brewing project.  I have build a RIMS (recirculating infusion mash system).  Basically, instead of just heating up water and adding grain to the mash tun (drink cooler) and closing it up and leaving it for an hour (and maybe stirring it a few times), I wanted to start to recirculate the mash liquor (using  a pump).  Of course, once you start to recirculate, you naturally will lose some temperature, so there needs to be a way to maintain the temp.  The drink cooler is great for keeping heat, but it is pretty hard to heat it.

What I ended up building is a pretty standard heater with a control box.  The heater itself is pretty cheap ($12 for a hot water heater element) but I ended up making a pretty nice control box with room to add more.  The controls are a two button latching circuit for the pump start/stop.  The heater circuit is controlled by a temperature controller in duty cycle mode.  (Output at 25% would have the heater running on a 30 second cycle for 7.5 seconds, then off for 22.5 seconds, etc.)   I build the heater so it would tend to hold liquid in the case of a hose leak and required the pump circuit to be on to run the heater (sort of a half-cooked interlock).  Anyway, here are a few photos from the build and some from the first brew day using it last weekend.  The control worked really well and it even used to heat up for the mash out (step to increase the temperature at the end of the mash to increase the solubility of the sugars and stop the enzymatic conversion).  The heater is only 1125 W (derated for 120V service) so that heatup of the ~4 gallons of mash liquor took 25 minutes, but it was all automatic.  The efficiency seemed to be about 50% based on some assumptions, but the amount of heat lost through the recirculation loop easily explains the loss.

The benefit of this I hope is an increase in grain to gravity efficiency, more consistency (better mixing in the mash tun), and more clarity of the resulting wort.  It was much easier to go to the brew kettle because all I had to do was stop the pump and move the hose to the boil kettle and restart the pump (cut the valve back to slow it somewhat).  The beer being brewed this time is a pretty simple IPA using Mosaic hops and a little Columbus up front.  Looking forward to putting this in the bottles

The next evolution of this system will be upgrade the drink cooler mash tun (with a mesh false bottom) to a kettle with a false bottom.  This will save a step of heating the water in the boil kettle and transferring the water to the cooler.  The current setup also requires manually sparging (rinsing the grain) using a large measuring cup and pouring over the grain.  I have a cooler and a sparge arm, but don’t have a structure to put it on out on the patio (previousley, I did the 3-tier in the house using the refrigerator, the counter, and a chair).


June 16, 2013

#523: Racing when I can

Filed under: Races — Ryan @ 14:40

Things are coming back together after my little over the bars launch nearly two months ago.  Things continue to be busy, but I train when I can, commute to work if my schedule allows and have raced a few times.

A couple of weeks ago our team co-hosted the Rockabilly Gran Prix up in Jackson, TN.  The weather looked a bit foul as I drove up the morning of the race.  The weather did not disappoint.  In fact, the local authorities (sheriff?) decided to shut down the late morning racing to take away the possibility of racing into a tornado.  In the end, the worry ended up being for naught, but it was hard to see that (the weather pretty much broke up and parted around Jackson somehow).   In the cat 3 race, our race was shorted to 3 – 11-mile laps with a about 4-5 mile warning.  What followed was a sheer display of horsepower by for the most part my team (although I was in no position to help, unfortunately) that culminated in a M&B victory w/ Brett taking out the sprint win.

The time trail a bit later proceeded in the normal way, however, probably a combination of suddenly shutting down after the race, having my PowerTap 404 battery die, and just generally not feeling good, I turned a unremarkable TT.  I think I was the slowest on a TT bike (yes, you can make a Speed Concept go slow if your legs are junk).

I opted out of the crit, partly because of my bad show on Saturday and partly due to the fact that my collarbone was not 100%.  Maybe I would have found redemption, but most likely not.  I rode that morning with Matt and it wasn’t good at all.

And yesterday, was the first installment of the renamed Memphis Invitational… the Liz LaVelle Memorial race series.  The name was different, but the course was the same.  The 5 mile Long Rd course that if motivated can provide for some pretty high speeds.  Since this was a 1/2/3 format, the Marx-Bensdorf team fielded a bunch.  We had 17 out of 30 of the starters.  We all knew the danger man and Andrew Hammond / Herring Gas, did not disappoint.  He was pretty much in every break (maybe not every) and was in the final, winning break which he won out of.  In the end, it was a fast race that didn’t play out exactly as we wanted, and we ended up with 2nd, 3rd, 5th out of the deal.  My own finish on mostly whipped legs was 13th place.

So there is a post, I need to start posting more often.  Coming up, I plan to race at Cookeville (TN state RR), Liz LaValle Mem / Crit, and maybe MOAB/state crit and Oak Ridge.

May 5, 2013

#522: Temporary setback

Filed under: Training — Ryan @ 06:39

This spring has been a mix of work travel and training whenever (and where-ever) I could fit it in.  Early last week, I was gone all day and came back home and was going to go out for a short ride with Andrea on the WRT (Wolf River Trails).  The weather lately has been wet, so we were going to stick to the sandy yellow trail which actually rides better in the wet season.

Anyway, we were moving along, nothing too fast, but not poking along.   Most of the way through the trial on a downhill sweeper, I caught a pedal on a root ball or something I didn’t see.  When you strike a pedal on something like that, the bike will stop and you don’t.  I ended up flying and landing hard on my right shoulder.

I got up right away and it I knew it hurt badly, but it was hard to sort out what sort of injury it was.  I sucked it up and rode back the 5-6 miles to the house (mix of trail and mostly road).  I couldn’t get into the doctor until the day after the next.  What I found out is that I had a slight fracture in the outside (distal) end of the collarbone.  It location and the nature of it meant that I did not need to be in a sling or other brace, but it did put some restrictions on my movement (pain regulates that pretty well when I move past where I should).

At this point, a week on, I am much better, but I am still limited in my ability to extend and use my right arm.  I can do limited things within a certain range which is increasing all the time.  It also means that I have been riding the bike trainer at the house for the last week or so.  At this point, I can get in the correct position to ride and mostly it is a question of risk.  In the coming week, I will probably try to get outside, but stick to solo rides, etc.

I may be back into for our team’s race the first weekend of June.  I got back for evaluation at the end of the month to see how things are going.

April 16, 2013

#521: Mississippi Gran Prix 2013

Filed under: Races — Ryan @ 18:17

After skipping a year, I went down to Brookhaven to join our 3/4 team at the Mississippi Gran Prix.  The primary goal was get good results in individual stages and the overall for two of our Cat 3 riders that are close to making the leap to Cat 2.  We are pretty Cat 3 heavy team, so we want to get a few more up to the Cat 2 level.  (My own thoughts of upgrading are not looking promising, but I am going to try to get back to the point where I can start really thinking about it again.)

Anyway, Scott and Will were our protected riders and we had 5 other Cat 3′s and a few Cat 4′s to help in the effort.  I didn’t attend last year’s MSGP, so the road course south of Brookhaven was new to me.  The course is not that bad, but it less challenging than the course used for a years before that (most years anyway).  Unlike the 1/2/3 race that I have raced last 4 times I raced (2008-2011), the road race was only about 50 miles.  The goal of our team was too keep the pace up when it slowed on the first lap, start to animate into the 2nd lap (of 2) and help establish and maintain a break containing Will and/or Scott.  Well, after a confusing time as we prepared to overtake the M40+ field at the end of the 1st lap (too slow), we moved back enough to get some running room.

It starts like all good breaks, with a hard effort and then a launch out of that effort when everyone is nearing their limit / are not as fresh.  Unfortunately, the break and the field moving through the M40+ field caused some confusion / disorder in both fields because of the way the speeds of each were similar enough to each other and changing in response to breaks starting to establish themselves on last 10-15 miles of the RR.  Anyway, when things cleared up, the break sat 10-15 seconds up the road leaving us little choice other than to place defensive (chasing down) tempered by not riling up the field to close down the small gap and moderate inference with the chase.  They way that I (and our team approached) was not blocking up merely taking up space in the rotation, not pulling through as hard, and if the field would let (which they did), pulling the field at a more civilized tempo to let the gap widen.

Ultimately the gap did widen out of a corner due to a combination of the field not charging the corner and the break starting to work together more.  By the end there were 9 or so in the break netting Scott a 2nd place, Will a 4th, and one of Cat 4 / BPC riders, Cody, a 9th about a minute up on the field.  I ended up towards the front of that field sprint for 10th, getting a 13th after some dubious early yellow line jumping (I think).  Anyway, it was a sprint for 10th, a minute down.

That result put Scott and Will in good shape in the GC heading into the afternoon 3 mile TT.  Scott stormed the TT and took over the top position in the TT.  Will remained in 4th place after the TT.   Even though I have had my Trek Speed Concept for over a year, this only the 2nd time I have raced it (last year at Aaron Shaffer TT) and this weekend.  I was really happy with result of 8th place given that I just got that bike off the computrainer on Monday to ride it easy and really haven’t even trained on it.  Good stuff.  I probably should ride that bike once and a while maybe.

Overnight on Saturday night, it rained.  A lot.  The rain continued on into the morning circuit races.  The organizers/officials delayed the 4/5 race @ 7 am by any hour and started to chop out laps out the other races to make up time.  Generally, it was pretty miserable compared to the nice day 12 hours earlier.  We started a few minutes late and faced a 13 mile, 2 lap circuit race on a course was “varied” road terrain.  Some of the course was smooth and nice, some was pretty much bombed out.  This sort of thing doesn’t bother me, maybe more so that I have the Domane, but I was comfortable bombing this course on the Madone just the same.

The goal for the team in the circuit race was to preserve Scott’s lead and via hot-spot and finish time bonuses, get Will up to 2nd place G.C.  Again, and probably more so, we needed to keep the pace up.  By the time I got to the start line, I was at the back, so I needed a few miles to move up and then joined my team in applying the pressure and pulling back those that were trying to get clear.  At the end of the 1st lap, I was preparing to push it up the finishing hill, when someone else started the lead up making it a bit easier to get Will pointed at the finish line to pick up the 6 seconds on offer for the hot spot.  Coming over the hill, the group was starting to crack apart a little bit and we kept the pressure up.  After I did a good pull, I dropped back through the field (or rather they charged around me, banging into my bars as they passed).  As we moved into the short little hills in the bad pavement, I was gapped off by a retreating teammate.  Unfortunately, I was off the field and was forced to time trial back the last 3 miles.  By 1 km to go, I was actually catching the field and almost made the junction at 500m before the field started the sprint.  I lost 15 seconds on heavy legs.  Will ended up taking 2nd in the circuit race which did put him in 2nd in the G.C.

In the end the 15 seconds that I lost due not having the snap to not get gapped cost me a lot of places in the tightly packed G.C.  I ended up in 15th place (+1.43) instead of 12th place….

Tomorrow in the 2nd Tiger Lane and the last two days I have bike-commuted to work (12 miles each way).  Not a lot of prep in the legs this week, maybe it will improve by tomorrow evening.

April 12, 2013

#520: Skip a race, do 3 instead?

Filed under: Races — Ryan @ 19:26

This year my schedule should allow me to race a bit more than the small number of times I lined up last year.  After this weekend, I will have started more races that I did all last year.

Anyway, here goes a sort of summary.  Last Saturday (4/6), I raced my team’s race, the JJ the Rooster Memorial Road Race.  It featured a short loop out near the Shelby Forrest General Store where JJ (the Rooster) strutted around for as long as I been kicking around Memphis (back to 2006, for me) as group rides heading up that spent way too long on the deck outside.   I am sure the history is longer, but I don’t know about that.

As a local race (and as our race), we had a good fraction of the field for the 1/2/3 race.  In general, my role was limited to surviving and I was able to do a few small things that slightly affected the race.  In the end, it was a good showing for our team although we did not take the win.  I was able to witness the carnage, because I was shelled off around the 8th (or 13 4-mile laps).  I put in a good chase for a bit, but decided to bag it after 10 laps (2 laps solo).  I was thinking about racing the next day, which ended up happening.

The next day, Will and I drove up to Nashville to race the 3/4 and the Elite Masters (1/2/3 – 30+ age) categories at Cedar Hill.  Even with my shorted race, I was feeling the effort of Saturday, but my legs came around and I was able to stay active throughout the race around the hilly loop ending up in 17th place in the end (50-55 starters).  The hill wasn’t steep, but combine with the two corners, there was a lot of 30 second pretty hard efforts to stay with and move up.  The Elite Master’s race, only 45 minutes later, was a tougher race and I only really just managed to hold on falling off the field in the last 1/2 lap for 30th of 55 or so starters.   Neither of these results are much to brag about as results, but the race was hard enough that I felt that it was a good training day and got me a lot of good race time after effectively taking a year nearly off from road.

(The back story behind the race weekend last weekend actually started on Thursday night before.  I had pre-registered for Ouachita Challenge 60 mile MTB race again this year.  This race fills up in hours when it opens, so I paid up months ago and I was sort of looking forward to it, sort of not.   In any case, when I got back from out of town on Thursday evening, I was going to replace the failed harddrive in my Apple Time Capsule.  Basically, the Time Capsule is a white box that works with your computer to keep a time indexed backup of your computer.  Anyway, the harddrive had died, so I ordered a replacement.   I went bigger (1 TB to 3 TB) because, why not?   Anyway, the bottom of said device has a rubber covering glued on over where the screws are.  I was using a knife to remove this cover and the knife slipped and I stabbed myself.  It wasn’t pretty.  After the bleeding stopped, etc, I was left with a thumb that was not good for down-shifting Shimano XT mountain…. and Ouachita is hilly and bumpy.  Time to bail on that, again.)

So this week, I actually worked an entire week at home, so I was able to recover and race the Memphis spring crit series, Tiger Lane Crits at the Liberty Bowl Stadium.  The weather looked foul on Wednesday morning, but turned out okay, albeit windy.  Again, Marx-Bensdorf showed up with numbers in the 1/2/3 race.  I am not sure of the exact count, but lets say 13 of 22 racers (guess).  My legs were still not pretty from Sunday, but riding from Cordova as a pre-warmup did help (15 miles or so).   Andrea and Matt came down in the car to watch and take me back.  As for the race, it was pretty much together for the first 10-15 minutes, but then it started to splinter and splinter again.  I was left in the pack with 4-5 teammates up the road ultimately resulting in a 1-2 for our team and some more good training for me.  I don’t know my final placing but it was towards the back of the remains of the field, probably 13th?

As I write this, I am waiting at the hotel for my teammates to come back from the 1/2/3 crit at Mississippi Gran Prix in Brookhaven, MS.  I got a later start, arriving at the hotel when the crit was half over, so I didn’t go down.  Also, for the first time in a while, I am not racing the 1/2/3 crit.  I think I have done it maybe 3 times (didn’t race MSGP last year, so it was 2011, 2010, 2009).  In 2008, my first year as a Cat3, it was rained out.  The choice to race 3/4 is align with team goals to race some in 1/2/3 and some in 3/4.  Overall, it works out as a better match for my state right, now coming out of a heavy travel fall/winter, a late cx season (master’s worlds), and lost season last year.  Thing are coming around and I’ll get back.


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