The Challenge: Urban Assault Ride
At the same time I trained for Run for Your Lives, I also trained for New Belgium Brewing's Urban Assault Ride, a traveling checkpoint bike race. The way the Urban Assault Ride works is that you're given a series of checkpoints throughout the city, and you and your partner can map your own route between the checkpoints. The goal, according to New Belgium, is to get you more familiar with how your city is laid out and how to safely bike around it. After all, as the classic game Paper Boy taught us, there are a lot of hazards out there for a cyclist.
I trained simultaneously for both the Urban Assault Ride and Run for Your Lives, which was nowhere near as insane as it may sound. In short, I rode my bike to the office in morning (because that's how we do things in Minneapolis), took the bus home at night and ran in the evenings. The biking helped with the jogging, and the jogging helped with the biking. Here's a bit on the gear that helped my rides.
The Gear: Origin 8 Cutler 7 bike, Chrome Kursk shoes, Chrome Pawn bag
This spring I traded in my decade-old hybrid bike at my local used bike shop and purchased an Origin 8 Cutler 7, a modestly priced entry-level commuter bike. As I started making the roughly 6.5 mile commute to work I accumulated more and more biking gear, including new biking shoes and a biking bag from Chrome. The company specializes in gear for serious bikers, so to a relative biking novice like myself, the company's stuff is dazzling.
Let's start with Chrome's Kursk shoes. Steel tips on the laces keep them from fraying and the ends tuck into a "shoe garage" on the tongue. The soles are skid-resistant and reenforced in several areas along the bottom to protect your foot and keep it comfortable for your whole ride. I simply love these shoes. They're comfortable on the bike and off, look stylish and are very thoughtfully constructed - for example, you'll never notice the subtle reflective surface on the heel - but cars on the road will. To return to the video game gear analogy, these shoes are an instant +5 to your Biking Skill.
I'm similarly impressed with Chrome's Pawn backpack. Despite a relatively shallow profile, the center pocket holds a ridiculous amount of stuff, and the roll-top closure keeps the inside dry no matter the weather. The exterior pockets were designed for bike tools and U-locks, but I've been using them for my tablet, miscellaneous small items and even the occasional sandwich. The padded back is comfortable, although does get a bit warm. As much as I like this bag, I've put it away for the time being, instead using a pannier bag from Banjo Brothers for my commuting needs. I like not having a bag on my back in this warm weather. Once the cool weather returns, I'll definitely switch back to the Pawn, as any additional bit of warmth can be a valuable thing during Minnesota winters.
In other bike gear notes, I've discovered that I prefer Endura bike shorts (seriously, get a good pair of bike shorts) and Specialized helmets. The skateboard-style helmets favored by the cool kids make my head look like a 1-Up mushroom.
The Apps: Map My Ride
Like Runkeeper, Map My Ride tracks your distance, speed and other statistics as you ride. There's not much else to say about it, other than that it works nicely, is easy to use and really drives home the fact that I'm just not very fast.
Speaking of my lack of speed, my teammate Zombinate and I finished pretty much smack dab in the middle of the pack for the men's division in the Urban Assault Ride. All told, the route we took through the various checkpoints clocked in at about 25 miles. Like many of the teams who competed in the Minneapolis event, we were thrown by the "mystery checkpoint." We were directed to find the ice cream shop that MSN.com called one of the best in the country and ate up a lot of precious time trying to figure it out on a cellphone network that was absolutely slammed with riders trying to do the same.