Wednesday, October 22, 2008

- BLOGGER APP #8: Keith Berboken

NAME: Keith Berkoben


HOMETOWN: Somervile, MA

Where are you from? Somerville, MA

What kind of bike do you ride? 2006 Santa Cruz Superlight:
- Fork: Fox F100x
- Shock: Progressive 5th Element Air
- Drivetrain: XTR
- Brakes: Magura Marta SL
- Wheels: NoTubes ZTR Olympic rims on Tune hubs.
What do you love about it? It’s a bike, it’s paid for, and it’s currently not broken. It also feels incredibly balanced in technical singletrack and climbs like mountain goat on steroids.
Solo or team competitor? Why? Team, because the whole is more than a sum of its parts. You combine strengths, protect weaknesses and pick your buddy up when he’s down. The strategy is more complex, and a lot more fun.
Who’s your teammate (if applicable)? Eric Edlund. He’s a Cat 2 roadie with a dangerous wily streak and a pair of legs to back it up. The problem: Breck-Epic isn’t paved. In eight months he’ll love knobbies, I promise.
Done any ultra-endurance stuff before? Raced TransRockies in 2006, 2007, 2008. Every year I said I’d never do it again. Every year I came back faster. Go figure.
Favorite food? Burritos are not food, they’re a way of life.
Movie? Tough one... (Mainly because I’m terrible at remembering movie titles.) Recently, The Departed. In Sports, 24 Solo. Most watched, The Big Lebowski. Most disorienting, Memento. The overall favorite remains a mystery, even to me.
Book? On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. It reminds me that life is for living, not worrying about what happens next.
Worst experience on a bike? It was a 52 mile singletrack marathon race that started after 2 inches of rain the previous night. I was out of food and water after the first hour (long story) and was all alone in the woods after the fifth. By mile 45, every rock, every hill, every bird in every tree was mocking me and there wasn’t enough moisture in my throat to yell back at them. Every few minutes a rider would clatter out of the woods and pass me like I wasn’t even moving. It could be that I wasn’t. I hurt too bad to care.
Best experience on a bike? Stage 7, TransRockies 2008. After 7 days of giving his all, my partner was shattered, cramping, holding it together by a thread, and with a 250m wall and 7k of singletrack to go, our competition was breathing down our backs. My partner hit the hill hard, sweat pouring down his face. No talking, just one foot over the other like a man possessed. We crested the hill first and hit the black diamond Fernie, BC singletrack like it was day 1, railing corners and putting 8 minutes into our chase—the perfect finish to a week of incredible teamwork. (ED: Dude. That's awesome.)
Tell us about your LBS (Local Bike Shop): Ace Wheelworks, my LBS, is about two blocks from my house, which is relevant because I have a habit of going there four or five times a day when I’m working on a project. Not only do they seem to have no problem with my coming in over and over for obscure small parts that cost under $2 and require fifteen minutes to dig out of the back, but they almost seem to enjoy it. Every time I come in, somebody drops whatever they’re doing to help me out, and most of the time they have exactly what I need.
Tell us about your favorite ‘local’ ride: Such things are not for posting on the internet, but if you come out to Boston you can have a guided tour.
Tell us about your favorite ride EVER: There’s nothing like riding all day with your best buddies when it’s 65 and sunny on a Saturday afternoon. Two winters ago we had a 65 degree Saturday in January (I live in New-England), the ground was dry, and everyone I know put their lives on pause to go out and play. As we were all in full-on hibernation mode by that time of year, an all-day trail ride was a circus—people tossing over the bars, huffing and puffing, bikes breaking down in comically ridiculous ways—but no one cared because we were having so much fun riding bikes.
Who will play you in the Breck Epic movie and why? Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones: Indy is the master of getting himself into sticky situations—trapped in a pit of snakes, getting shot at, chased by a giant boulder, etc—then delivering the perfect pithy, one-liner right before making his spectacular escape. What better quality to have for mid-race interviews?

KB: [takes bad line and gets himself stuck on a rocky outcropping over a cliff]
BE: Wow Keith, that looks tricky. How do you suppose you’ll get down from there?
KB: "I dunno. I’m making this up as I go…”
KB: [jumps off ledge, lands miraculously on trail 30’ below]

What do you hope to get out of this experience? Expectations/goals/etc. “No wrecks. No mechs. No pulling big gears.” The underlying message is simple. Be consistent, be prepared, and don’t do anything stupid to end your week early (in reverse order). Despite its simplicity, I’ve found this mantra to be all but unachievable in multi-day ultra-endurance events. No matter how hard we train, how meticulously we prepare, and how careful we are, something always goes wrong in 30 hours of mountain bike racing. Nevertheless, we continually strive for the triumphant confluence of preparation and dumb luck that is the perfectly executed stage race.

This year’s journey, after three years of practice, is all about the perfectly executed stage race. We will be sharing every step of this journey—gear, training, the deepest cob-webbed corners of our psyches—on our blog, which is already up and running at

Some of the big questions:

- Are eight months enough for my partner to convert himself from a ‘cross-leaning road racer into a rock-loving mountain goat?
- Will Pedal and Wrench triumph over the brutal New England winter?
- How many bike parts can one person break between now and July?

Read along at

Tell us about your history as a cyclist or in the industry: I’ve been having a love-affair with mountain bikes for about twelve years, but three years ago it started to get interesting. Sometime early in the winter of 2006, a (now) good friend of mine invited me out for a drink on a snowy Wednesday evening. I got to the pub and she was sitting at the table with a manilla folder full of print-outs from (Many of you may recognize that as the website for the TransRockies Challenge.) She hands me the folder and a pint and says, “I need to do something crazy, you in?” I flipped open the folder, skimmed a few pages, and by the time I polished off my drink, my life was forever changed—little did I know it at the time. I’ve been racing mountain bikes ever since, and I have the scars to prove it.

In my other life I’m an engineer working in healthcare IT (my partner is a plasma physicist, working in a giant contraption that makes plasma). I also coach the MIT Mountain Bike Team, was once a bike mechanic, and aspire to still be in one piece by the time I reach 35. We’ll see how that last part goes.

An except from our blog:

it's 4pm and I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Madison, WI where I'm drinking hot cider with cinnamon at 4 in the afternoon … 1,100 miles from my bike I've done nothing but eat, drink, sleep and stare at my laptop for four days … Although the YouTube mashups of Palin/McCain faux pah are very amusing, I'm genuinely worried that if I don't get stabbed with an epi-pen soon my life is going to become the languid whine of the radiohead-clone indie band playing on the speakers behind the counter.….Bike racing isn't about a deathwish, or an ego, … , it's about feeling alive--alive with real pain, real fear, the ecstatic joy of success and the devastation of defeat. It's about learning to appreciate the coffee shop and the hot cider because they're the polar opposite of everything you experience in racing. It's about having your life be more than a flatline of comfortable homogeneity that you trace from office to couch to restaurant until you get married, you have kids, you get old and you die. We race because we love life, and life is best experienced at its limits.

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