Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kovit at LOTOJA

This story starts a long time ago in a universe far far away. There, a structure was made in a secret lab called Isotruss. It has the properties of incredible strength but light weight. From this material were built some bikes. I rode one of these bikes for 6 years. Then the manufacturer closed. I was sad.

Then arose Kovit Cycles (read- Covet-like I covet thy bike). Out of the ashes arose the company that is completely rebuilding the Isotruss based bikes- New bottom brackets, new head and seat tube lugs and all new secure lug to Isotruss bonding and joining. What remains from the original is the same incredibly stiff strong Isotruss tubing- stronger and lighter. This will be our story

when I heard of the resurrection, I visited the company headquarters to see what was up- and hoping to score a ride. Doug and Ed took me in. Over the next few months, I watched as, through the carbon fiber ashes, a new bike was born. Each frame component was hand crafted in their lab- from the weaving of the tubes to the lug molds; all the time with strength, weight and beauty in mind. The road bike was coming together. I realized it would need a test. A real test.

I tested out the first Arantix prototype a long time ago and had faith in the structure. Seeing the care and precision that the Kovit team was putting into the new bike I wanted to test it first. I was signed up for LOTOJA (Logan, UT to Jackson Hole, Wy race). I needed a strong stead, it was there waiting at Kovit Cycles. The bike was completed two days before the race. She had no name but was whispering to me. She was all black but the see-through Isotruss gave her a wispy ethereal look . I called her the Phantom. We had two days to get acquainted. She felt right from the start: Strong, whisper light, rigid but not jarring. Oh! She was so responsive and eager to climb. Here's her story.

We took her to the preregistration the night before and Wow! Did she turn heads- as I knew she would! We were continually being stopped: "Can I take a picture?", "Can I touch her?", "WTF!" etc. etc. She was the Phantom Wow bike. But was she ready to race- for 203 miles?

The next early morning, the Kovit team was fussing over her. Putting the last few cosmetic touches on as she glowed under the early morning street lights. At times she would just fade into the dark shadows then reappear, pulsing with eagerness for the ride. I could tell; she was ready.

We lined up in the front. No one even questioned us the spot. They knew we belonged in the spot light. The camera flashes in the early dawn darkness made the Phantom undulate with intensity. We were lined up in the 45+ masters B category. She did not deserve such a mediocre spot but, alas, she had to sacrifice for her rider. Then we were off!

We took off and, as at the starting line, riders gave us space and forced her up front. She was the show piece of our group by silent consent during the neutral 4 miles out of town. Once the race started she settled into a nice smooth rhythm enjoying the early morning chill mixing it up with the front of the pack. She wouldn't allow herself to drop back further than 10th in the peloton- always eager to take lead.

Then the first climb started. She shuddered with anticipation to see how she would feel. But we never had the true test. Before we knew it we were at the first aid station 1 km from the top. She hardly felt the effort. But what did happen during that 20 miles was that the pack split up. The main group had dropped off never to be seen again. There were only 10 or so riders left at the front. The front group rejoined quickly after the stop and easily completed the ascent. One climb down, and a fast descent was coming up. This was going to be new for her as well. How fast would she go? Would there be much drag? Well there should have not been any worries. She effortlessly careened down, down into the turns without a sound- soundless as a spirit. She wanted to go, and go, and go but her rider held her back. It was too early to leave the pack.

The next leg of the race was flat and there was a brisk crosswind. With her open lattice design she sliced up that crosswind like it wasn't there. She was not buffeted as some of the other solid tubed racers were. She was feeling strong and steady, itching to take off alone. But common sense prevailed. It was still too early.

Then came the KOM climb. She had gotten comfortable in the front group, always enjoying her turn to pull, enjoying the rhythm of the rotation, then the climb began. Again, she felt the yearning to climb away but she was again restrained by her rider. We were in the back spinning gently when we came up on the 1 Km mark to the top. It was time. The rider stood up. She responded immediately. There was no looking back, she was free, jumping forward with every pedal stroke. She was not going to waste any of that rider effort. We summited way ahead of the rest of the group. Now what? Should we take off and try it alone with over a 100 miles left to go? We headed down- alone.

Soon, however, one rider caught up and then another. Could the three of us keep the lead? She was eager to try. We rode together for about 20 minutes, strong, steady, easy. But alas the remainder of the group was not going to give it to us that easy. They caught up with us. We were the 9 to the end. The realization that there would be no breakaway after this attempt sunk in and everyone eased into completing the remainder of the grind up to Jackson.

We would head into the feed-zones always pushing our wonderful support team to fuel and replenish the rider's stores quickly. For it was at these weak points that the group could drop us. The support crew was fast and efficient allowing us to head out nearly first in the group. Then we would regroup and head out again. The Phantom was definitely the Wow bike in the group of very intense, high-end cycles AND she had proven herself. She could climb, descend and handle the buffeting of the wind. She was stiff but pliable enough for a rider that had ridden her less than 20 miles prior to the race. She was smooth and comfortable.

Finally, the finish was looming. All knew that the race would be within the last few hundred yards. No one was able to break free from the pack for 200 miles. We were ready and eager. But when? When? We were feeling really strong. We had saved up our strength. How would the finish play out?

At about 500 yards to go we took our turn to pull. We could see the finish. Our pull was a little strong and the second rider dropped about 10 feet. We made our move at about 400 yards out. The rider stood up. She responded immediately. They were off! With every pedal stroke she surged and surged. The finish line approached fast. We were 100 feet away! Then she noticed a slack in her pedals. The rider was tiring. Had they gone out too soon? He looked back- yet another beginner's mistake. The pack was closing- FAST! Could we hang on?

50 feet left to go. OH NO! One rider passed, then another, then..............

I let her down. I miscalculated the strength I had left after 202.5 miles of riding her. We dropped to 6th. 1.7 seconds from first. It was a great ride. Great finish. She had done it. Her virgin ride was spectacular! 9 hours and 40 minutes of pure joy! Not one flaw was noted. She is here to stay!