A guest post on safety!

Hey guys,

As a lot of you are probably new to the club (and maybe new to the sport), we thought it would be a good idea to do a post on safe road riding. The good folks at Estey & Bomberger LLC (a law firm specializing in bicycle accidents) were kind enough to write up a post on proper bicycle safety. Some of it is pretty basic, but there is good stuff in there for everyone, so read up!

Bicycle safety

Not only is bicycle riding a wonderful way to exercise, it is also great for the environment. If you choose to ride your bike to work, you can also save money on gas and other expenses associated with driving. Using a bicycle for your main form of transportation has many positives associated with it, but it can also be dangerous if you do not use safety precautions. Just as there are ways to stay safer in a car, like air bags, and using a seat belt, there are many ways you can help keep yourself safe on your bicycle.


· One of the most important safety tips for riding a bicycle is to be sure that the bicycle is properly adjusted for you. Your owner’s manual will have specific directions for you, but you should be able to stand over the top tube of the bike.

· Check your bicycle before you ride it; every time. You should always make sure that your bicycle is in top condition before you ride. Check the air level in the tires, make sure the brakes are working properly, and make sure that everything is tightly together, with no loose screws or wobbly parts.

· Wear proper safety gear. A helmet should be worn at all times while riding a bike to help protect your head in case of a crash, but the type of clothing you wear is also important, in order to help prevent accidents. In the day time, you should always wear bright clothing, and if you choose to ride at night, reflective clothing or gear is a must, along with a headlight. The best way to prevent a collision is to be as visible as possible.

Be Alert

· Make sure you are aware of any construction or other obstacles that may be on your route. If possible, do not travel through construction areas at all.

· Always be aware of vehicles, whether they are parked or traveling in the same direction as you. You must be aware of the cars around you because it is likely they are not aware of you. Pay attention to parked cars, and look out for doors opening, or pedestrians in the area.

· Always travel in the direction of traffic on the right side of the road, and in the bicycle lane if there is one.

· Obey all traffic laws, including stopping at stop signs and red lights. Most accidents between bicyclists and cars occur at intersections because the bicyclist was not seen.

Know the Law

· A bicycle is considered a vehicle, and as such, is subject to the same rights and restrictions on the road as any other vehicle, when applicable. This does include no riding under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

· There are special provisions for riding a bicycle at night, which include having a headlight, a red rear reflector, white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, and there are laws providing for the visibility of said lights and reflectors.

Riding a bicycle for a commute or just for fun and exercise is a wonderful choice for the environment and for your overall health. It is important that you keep your bicycle in good working condition, and ride safely. Be aware of your surroundings and use precaution at intersections. Although wearing a helmet won’t prevent a collision or an accident, it will do a lot to protect your head and brain should such an accident occur. Broken bones heal, but some brain injuries are permanent, or even deadly. If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident contact an accident lawyer to help you gain compensation for your injuries. And remember when riding use your best judgment and ride safe.


I always hate this part.

Some people choose to stick their nose in their books from the first day of college and never look up until the day they walk across the stage, shake the dean's hand, and receive their diploma. Some party their asses off and eventually flunk out, or at least come really damn close to it. And there are others who only associate with a small group of people throughout college, usually the same people they hung out with throughout high school.

Well, thankfully, I'm none of the above.

Four years ago, I came to Penn State as a transfer student from community college. Although I knew a good number of people here at main campus, I figured it wouldn't hurt to find something to get involved in. You know, something to keep me physically active, something to stave off the evil 'freshman-15' that latches on to your midsection during your first year of classes and sticks with you for the rest of your life unless you stay fit through college.

During one of my many trips through the Hub that first week of classes, I stopped by to check out the involvement fair that was going on in Alumni Hall. Someone dressed in a Penn State Cycling jersey managed to coerce me into putting my name down on an e-mail list after I showed a bit of interest in the club... and well, four years later, here I am, writing what will probably be one of my last entries for this here blog.

On my first group ride, I somehow managed to drag my 40 pound clydesdale of a mountain bike to the top of Lower Trail in Shingletown, and all the way back down. I knew nary a soul on that ride, had not ridden a bicycle in quite a few years, and my bike was neither light nor comfortable, especially not on a rocky, rutted, root-covered trail like Lower Trail. That ride hurt. Hell, I was ready to give up before I even hit the trail. Still, people cheered me on and got me through that ride and back to campus. From that moment on, though, I was hooked.

I've since pedaled thousands of miles, driven thousands more to ECCC race weekends, won myself an ECCC race, shared many laughs, exited and re-entered the atmosphere with Vanya, learned how to turn a bike wrench properly (thanks, Sparky), built my own bike from the ground up, had a few falls, shed some blood, shared some beers, and made some of the best friends I'll ever have. I will seriously miss this club, its members, and every single experience that I've had over the years.

Sure, I probably could have devoted myself entirely to my studies throughout my time here at Penn State, but where's the fun in that? After all, the time that you enjoy wasting is never wasted time at all.

So, to those sticking around for another year or more, keep the spirit going. Recruit new riders in the fall. Maintain relationships with local sponsors. Upgrade from D's, C's, or B's. Win Easterns again! Most importantly: Ride your damn bikes and keep having fun doing it.

I'll definitely show up at a few races in the future to cheer you guys on and take some photos.


Pace car driver
Rec-ride leader
Graphic designer
Travel coordinator
Vintage steel rider


Mid-season Update

Quite a bit has transpired since the last entry was made about proper preparations for a successful ECCC weekend. Here's a rundown:

The first weekend at Rutgers marked the opening of another ECCC road season. Despite a weather forecast that called for doom and gloom, 31 racers from Happy Valley suited up, loaded up, and descended upon central New Jersey with a ferocity unparalleled by any other team in the ECCC that weekend. When the spray settled and the points were totaled on Sunday after a very wet Men's A points race at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, NJ, Penn State Cycling stood atop the ECCC team omnium scoreboard with 209 points to second place MIT's 172.

Weekend number two was intended to be a split weekend, with Columbia University in New York City hosting a race in Manhattan on Saturday, and Stevens Institute of Technology hosting a road race on the Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap on Sunday. Unfortunately, mother nature felt like throwing a big wrench into the plans for the weekend, with multiple inches of rain falling on the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania on Thursday and Friday.

While the weather cleared by late on Friday, the significant amounts of rainfall had led to a partial inundation of the Stevens road race course, which ran parallel to and was level with the Delaware River at certain points. Thus, it was announced at midnight on Friday that Stevens had no choice but to cancel what would have been an otherwise spectacular road race through the beautiful scenery of the Delaware Water Gap.

The deluge from the heavens was not enough to shut down the show for Columbia University's Grant's Tomb criterium event in Manhattan, where there was plenty of sunny weather and dry pavement to be found. Strong performances from Wyatt Stoup (2nd in Men's A), Lauren Shirock (2nd Women's A), Jessica Kutz (5th Women's A & multiple prime points), Kevin McGuire (Men's B), Jonathan Cochrane (solo breakway in Men's C), and the rest of the Penn State squad solidified yet another team omnium victory over MIT.

Weekend number three, at least for as long as I have been racing in the ECCC, has traditionally been occupied by the Philly Phlyer, and this year was no different. While the weather was neither wet nor warm as it has been in years past, it was reasonable and definitely prime for an awesome day of racing. Saturday began with the first TTT of the season; nearly every TTT team that Penn State fielded managed at least a 4th place finish or better that morning.

Immediately following the TTT was the infamous Schuylkill Scrambler circuit race. As usual, the strong headwinds on the river flat section served to shatter the legs of many that day, those who were able to conserve their power and work the wind to their advantage were the ones who came out on top that day. In Men's A, Wyatt Stoup took 2nd and the field sprint; Lauren Shirock and Jessica Kutz worked together to nail down 3rd and 4th place in the Women's A race; Jonathan Cochrane lit a full book of matches on the Men's B field sprint and came away with second place; Adam Capatch brought home a 3rd place in Men's C, and Matt LaMonte snagged 6th in Men's D.

The Sunday morning light revealed a new beast known as the Temple Campus Crit: a fast and unforgiving course characterized by its potholes, trolley tracks, and the occasional rogue urbanite stumbling off the curb in front of the peloton. On first impression, it made many yearn for the smooth and safe pavement of last year's Naval Yard Crit. However, aforementioned hazards aside, it still proved to be a fast and fun course that favored those with superior handling skills, flat out power, and impeccable luck.

The various teams of the ECCC had to wait with bated breath to hear about the weekend results due to an upset in the scoring of the Men's A circuit race: UPenn racer Robin Carpenter was not actually a UPenn racer, but was discovered to be a student from Swarthmore instead. When the final results were released, it was determined that Penn State had come out on top once more, beating out MIT for the third straight weekend in a row, this time by 14 points. According to professional ECCC racer and Penn State grad, Ryan Smolko, that was a groundbreaking feat. Following a quick perusal through results dating back to 1999, he proclaimed that, "Penn State had never won three consecutive weekends, until now."

The release of results to the public also revealed something else: Wyatt Stoup happened to be in contention for the yellow jersey of the ECCC.

And that brings us to ECCC weekend number four at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who managed to jump through numerous political hoops in order to host their first race: The Tour de Troy.

Given that Penn State Cycling had brought home the big 'W' for three weekends in a row, the team set out on Friday afternoon in search of a fourth team omnium victory and the yellow jersey. Nearly two-dozen racers headed north into the Empire State. The forecast appeared brutal: clear, but cold and windy. In actuality, the race conditions proved to be downright abysmal, with temperatures dropping into the teens overnight and never cresting 34°F by midday. Wind chills were in the teens, and snowfall from the week before had left sand and gravel on much of the road surface; winds kicked the sand and dust into the eyes of numerous racers. Balaclavas, ski suits, and wind-blocking gloves were commonplace, and absolutely necessary in order to maintain mobility and stay warm throughout the race.

However, the arctic conditions were not enough to slow the blue and white steamroller from State College down. In the ITT, Wyatt Stoup (3rd Men's A), Joe Halo (2nd Men's C), Matt LaMonte (2nd Men's D) put in solid efforts that resulted in solid finishes.

The circuit race that followed the early morning ITT kicked it up a couple notches, with distances set much higher than the rest of the races in the season thus far. The entire loop was 7.5 miles long with very little shelter from the wind and enough climbing to test the legs of those crazy enough to compete; Men's A would do 7 laps, Men's B 6 laps, Men's C 5 laps, and Men's D would do 3 laps.

Wyatt Stoup, in an effort to snatch the yellow jersey, put forth a valiant effort in the circuit race, finishing 5th in the Men's A event. According to ECCC director Joe Kopena, last minute registrants managed to blow up the Men's C field to a total of 83 racers, which would normally result in a split field of C1 and C2. Unfortunately, it was deemed to be too late for a last-minute field-split as no extra pace cars could be found, and all 83 racers were released on course at once. This resulted in a large mass of inexperienced cannon fodder that was unable to negotiate small rollers successfully, popping many frustrated racers off the back of the pack as the field yo-yoed around the course. Men's C racer Adam Capatch still managed to make the most of the situation; he battled through the field and dropped the hammer on the final climb for a solo breakway that netted him a 1st place finish. In Men's D, Ian Bensco & Matt LaMonte finished in 5th and 6th, with Matt Drury in 8th.

The next day brought slightly better conditions for some, but not for all. The temperature at the start of Sunday's events was a balmy 20°F, which was enough to make one's hands go painfully numb by the end of a race. However, the winds had died down overnight and would not return until later in the afternoon, much to the dismay of those who had been tortured by the dust it kicked up the day before. Also, the course was beautiful, with wide streets and relatively smooth pavement. What had been predicted to be a technical course that would result in crashes ended up being a brutally fast one that tested the staying power of many racers.

In Men's D, Matt LaMonte led out teammate Ian Bensco to a 2nd place finish, Charlie Spanjers snagged 3rd in Men's C following the prime efforts of Andy Godish, and Mariano Garay put forth his best efforts in a messy Men's B race but was waylaid later by ongoing issues with sand in his eyes from the wind that plagued both Saturday and Sunday.

The Men's A race turned out to be the show of the day. Early on, Penn State racer Kevin McGuire jumped off the front for a solo breakway that strung out the field and prompted a sequence of breakaways that popped off regularly throughout the race. In the closing minutes, Robert Burnett from F&M managed to hang onto a solo break for several laps, however, he barely held off a hard-charging Kevin McGuire for the overall win. Not long after the first three crossed the line, the field rounded the last bend and laid eyes on the finish. At the head of the wave was the dynamic Penn State Frenchman, Arnaud Borner, with teammate and yellow-jersey contender Wyatt Stoup in tow. In an impressive display of baby-stomping power, Arnaud dropped the hammer and launched off the front, leaving the rest of the pack in his wake. At the line, Borner was edged out of the field sprint victory by a 'sketchy' racer from Queens, but still managed to hang to a 5th place finish, with Stoup 2 spots behind in 7th, and remaining Penn State A-racer Rodney Santiago in 12th.

Unfortunately, the efforts of the team were not enough to keep the winning streak afloat without any female racers to help bolster the scores of the men; a number of unfortunate events and illnesses kept many of the female contenders from Penn State home for the weekend.

While the team omnium win streak may have ended, the glory has not vacated the team; the collective efforts of Wyatt Stoup, Rodney Santiago, Kevin McGuire, and Arnaud Borner have helped push Wyatt into first place in the individual racer standings. Thus, the yellow ECCC jersey has returned home to Penn State for the first time in many years.

Photos by Zachary Repp - zacharyrepp.com


4 days to D-day - What to pack for an ECCC Weekend

4 days until Joe Kopena sends off the first rider at the Rutgers ITT. What's in your race bag?

Keep this in mind: If you are going this weekend, expect it to be cold. It might rain. It shouldn't snow, but you never know. And if it's a warm sunny day on race day, you simply managed to get really freakin' lucky.

Here are a few things that I would recommend packing for this coming weekend. Feel free to comment and make suggestions!
  • USA Cycling license (or a printed authorization to ride)
  • Photo ID (If at a military establishment, your college ID won't cut it. Bring your drivers license.)
  • Health insurance card
  • Printed copy of the race flyer. Don't miss your start time or lose the address of the race.
  • Small first aid kit. Band aids, alcohol, peroxide, neosporin, gauze. Man up and shave your legs now or you'll be crying like a baby later when you pull those bandages off.
  • Any speciality tools needed for working on your bike. We will have work stands and tools on hand for minor fixes, but if your bike needs something special... bring it.
  • Helmet. When on your bike at any time at a race location do NOT forget to wear a helmet. Points can and will be docked if you are caught riding a bike without a helmet around the race site. Don't ride around the course backwards, either.
  • A Penn State Cycling Jersey. This is required to race. Either buy one, or borrow one from a fellow club member.
  • A pair of cycling shorts or bibs (either PSU Cycling attire, or plain black shorts will do)
  • Gloves that will keep your hands warm but not hinder motion. Latex gloves work as a great insulator from the cold and the wet when worn underneath lighter gloves if you don't have a pair of waterproof or cold weather gloves.
  • Baselayer material. Cotton t-shirts work just fine if you don't have Under Armor or anything similar. Remember, it's better to be a little too warm, than too cold when racing in cold weather. However, remember when cotton gets wet, it will not keep you warm. Wool or synthetic is best in this case.
  • Armwarmers and legwarmers (easy to make out of a pair of black women's leggings for less than 10 bucks)
  • Toe covers or booties for your shoes
  • Warm clothing to wear when warming up (sweatpants, sweatshirt, jacket)
  • Warm clothing to wear when not racing
  • Safety pins (used for pinning race numbers on)
  • Zip ties (no longer needed for holding Vanya's earth-orbiting techno-blasting Mazda together when re-entering the atmosphere, but they will be used for attaching the race number to your frame).
  • Spare tubes, tires, and chain. And if you're Keith Groshans, a spare frame.
  • Water bottles. And whatever you prefer to drink while riding (water, gatorade, accelerade, etc.)
  • Food to snack on between races. Food is fuel. No fuel? You won't be crushing any souls. Granola bars, cereal, bagels, peanut butter and jelly, bananas, shot bloks, gummi bears, etc. They're all great. Think protein and carbs.
  • Sunglasses are good. Ones with replaceable lenses, even better. Perfect for keeping the sun, wind, road grit, and rain out of your eyes.
  • A towel big enough for you to wrap around you so that you may change into your chamois. Otherwise you'll be crouching behind a car door hoping that nobody sneaks a peek.
  • A roll of toilet paper. Either have your own stash, or you'll be making friends with those who do. Or you could even sell it to those who don't. You just never know when the porta-johns will run out.
  • A proper amount of insanity.
  • Oh, and please don't forget your bike.
Other things to bring:
  • Money. You will need to eat, be sure to chip in for gas money, etc.
  • Sleeping bag. You just might be sleeping on a floor somewhere.
  • Towel. Your host is not expected to provide you with a towel.
  • Toiletries. Nor should they be expected to provide toiletries, either.


Confessions of a Downtube Shifter

March 21st, 2009. The day seemed innocuous enough, with the sun rising in the east, clear skies, and temperatures that were slowly making their way from downright cold to fairly tolerable. There I was, perched atop my steel-framed steed on the line of the Philly Phlyer D1 Circuit Race with 50 other D1 racers from the ECCC, wondering to myself, "What the hell am I doing here?"

I had plenty of reason for that thought. At that moment, I had never participated in a road race, much less a large group road ride. I was a mountain biker. Road riding? What a foreign concept. My bike, a 1990 Schwinn Traveler, was a rescued relic from the garage that I had dragged back to State College with me that semester in hopes of giving it a new lease on life. The lugged steel frame was an antique in comparison to the modern carbon and hydroformed aluminum frames on the bikes of other racers in the ECCC, but it was a complete road bike. Aside from a tuneup, new tires, and bartape, it was 97% the bike it was when it rolled out of the showroom in 1990, downtube shifters and all.

So, there I was on the line at the Philly Phlyer. On a bike nearly as old as I was, and I had not gotten much of a chance to warm up. Oh boy.

Less than a mile later, I was taken out of contention. A strong headwind coming off of the Schuylkill caused the pack to bunch up at the front, and with the combination of tight quarters and a low level of average experience, it didn't take much for good ol' Murphy to rear his head and wreak havoc. In this case, a rider from Columbia discovered that his training wheels had fallen off between the starting line and now, which caused him to subsequently lose his balance and careen into fellow Penn State rider, Steven Derkits. Gravity took the wheel from there, throwing bikes, bodies, bottles, and egos into a tumultuous heap that lay directly in my path.

Given that I had rather unintelligently positioned myself smack in the middle of the pack with riders on all sides, I was left with no choice but to clamp down hard on the binders and try to navigate around the mess ahead of me. The laws of physics were not on my side that morning; I locked up both wheels on the damp tarmac and slid uncontrollably into the mess of bodies and bikes.

As I picked both myself and my bike up, I found that I was in fine physical shape, but the bike was missing a several spokes from the front wheel, the bottle cage was tweaked, and the rear derailleur hanger had been bent out of alignment. I thought I was finished. However, after further inspection, I discovered that my tires still had air in them, and my wheels still spun, so I found my bottle, slapped it back in the cage, and jumped back on the saddle to finish the race I had begun. I managed to finish the race without getting lapped, not too bad.

While I came away from the circuit race with a few missing spokes and a bruised ego, I had gotten a good enough taste of road racing that fueled the desire to come back for more. After all, this was only the first day...

Sunday was the day of the criterium. The air was thick with an impervious foggy mist that managed to penetrate every last dry fiber of clothing on your body. It laid on the road only to be drawn back up through the contact patch of every 700x23 tire and flung into the eyes and mouths of many racers, including myself. Pedaller Bike Shop in Lansdale had managed to replace the missing spokes from my front wheel and true things back into shape. I had a bike again! My father had crammed a canopy into the back seat of his thousand dollar jalopy and brought it down for the team to huddle under between races. It was there, in the middle of the mist that race stories from the previous day were shared and nutella was eaten while the trainers hummed happily away.

Again, there I was, poised and as ready as I could be with 20 minutes of high-intensity suffering ahead.

And with the blow of a whistle from Joe Kopena, we were off. Immediately, there was road spray everywhere, covering my glasses to the point that I could barely see anything ahead of me. I slid my glasses down on my nose a hair to create a slit between them and my helmet so that I could still see, but keep most of the spray out of my eyes. 20 minutes, right? Alright.

Before long, the pack split into two groups. Riders from Penn State were scattered throughout the field. I made an attempt at bridging the gap with one or two other riders, but we were largely unsuccessful in doing so. It was probably for the best that we gave up, as a couple riders lost traction and slid out in the very next corner, causing a small pileup. At this point, I decided that I would play things a little safer and just try to finish the race with all my spokes intact, especially considering the miserable and treacherous conditions. Besides, I found that I was pretty blown up from my bridging attempt; it wasn't worth expending what little energy I had left at only the halfway point in the race. So, I decided to sit on a wheel or two until I got a little energy back in my expended legs.

While I never really did gain any of my strength back, I managed to hang on through the end of the race. I never gave up. When I rolled over the finish in a breathless sprint, I was soaked to the bone and my legs were killing me, but I also finished upright with my skin and spokes intact. I consider that a victory in it's own right.

I don't intend to frighten potential racers anticipating their very own entry into the madness that is the ECCC road circuit. Crashes happen and bikes break; Murphy happens. I'm not about to sugarcoat it for you and tell you it's all trophies and smiles. I'd rather tell the truth. However, these weekends are much, much more than just the sum of racing, suffering, and potentially miserable weather.

More than likely, you will walk away from an ECCC race weekend with a huge grin plastered on your face. You don't need to buy a fancy bike with all the gizmos and gadgets, either. Go ahead and dig out that old 80s road frame and give it a tuneup and new tires. It's all about throwing your inhibitions to the wind for a weekend and cramming yourself into a car with 4 bikes on the roof and people you may not know, jamming out to Russian techno, getting your bike fixed by Vanya, and crushing souls with Biopace and downtube shifters. You learn to bring your own supply of toilet paper, or make very good friends with someone who has a stash. You find out who exactly Coach Young is. You discover the merits of Black Mo', locate the pain cave, and learn about the mystical powers of Moshannon spring water. You get to watch Steve Derkits fall off of Rollers while wearing Kanye shades, hang out with a very dynamic Frenchman, and cheer on your fellow teammates in blue and white.

You have the chance to race for the best damn team in the ECCC this year. There's no thinking twice. Do it!


What did you do this Sunday?

The weather outside is crummy. It's cold, wet, and dismal, but it doesn't stop the Rough Riders of PSU.
We're getting closer and closer to our first race, and these monsters know that it takes more then a few hours on the trainer to get ready.
Hopefully we can get an even bigger show up for our next ride!


March 5th approaches, and PSU ups the hurt.

What did you do this Friday? This group of rough riders fought the cold, climbed some hills, and put out some serious wattz. With easily double the amount of people from the previous week this Friday Fun Day turned out to be great. The weather was beautiful, and Wyatt's beard was in full bloom. If you weren't able to make it to this week's ride hopefully you can make it to the next!



Snow? What snow?

With the ECCC season opener at Rutgers only 5 weeks away, there's no good excuse to not slap on a pair of fenders and booties and get out and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather in State College. Yes, I said warm. 32°F constitutes a heatwave 'round these parts in the middle of January.

Wyatt, Dan, Adam, and Ernie (L to R) at the summit of Purdue Mountain.