Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Read a good book lately?

I have not. In fact, I really do not read anywhere near enough books. So, for Christmas I asked Santa for this one.

I began reading Jill's blog after stumbling across it linked from another blog. I found she had a nice way with words and natural skill behind the lens, but it all comes into focus with the rugged and harshly beautiful Alaska countryside at the heart of her explorations.

So, now I have something good to read and, if the first chapter is any indication of what is to come, I am in for a great time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Highlights: It's the People, Stupid

Someone once said that "It is the economy, stupid". That is fine, I suppose. But we as bike nuts can be all twitterpated about the latest blingy bike gear or the next great ride. But when it is all said and done and the shiny bike parts are no longer shiny and the next ride is just that...another ride, you realize that what it is really all about is the people in your life, and in this case, your cycling life, that make it all worthwhile.

I met some great folks this year and remade some old acquaintances. But one new person for 2008 has been a real blessing to meet and get to know, even if it is at a distance.

Guitar Ted, international man of mystery. From that fated meeting at the Salsa booth at the 2008 I-Bike to today's relationship as writer-editor, it has been a blast getting to know GT in all his cycling wisdom and knowledge.

I hope that some day we will meet again and ride some gravel road, some singletrack, or just pedal down the street somewhere. Whatever it is, it will be another chapter in what really matters with all this bike stuff.

Bike people.

And that is the final highlight for 2008. May you have a prosperous and happy 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lumens and Drivers and Volts: The headlamp and final results

Here is the headlamp part of the build. Cool camo, eh? It is pretty light and courtesy of an old cut up inner tube and a velcro strap, it sits nicely on top o' the helmetto.

I went on a ride last night with a buddy (I built a set of lights for him as well) and we were both totally stoked with the way the lights worked. With the helmet light on and the bar mounts on high, I never even came close to outrunning the lights.

I have the first series of articles on the DIY build-up on The Bike Lab right now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cutting Edge wheels

Are you sure that Guitar Ted is not Santa Claus? Hmmmm...

These showed up just before Christmas.

When I took them out of the box, they were wrapped in plastic. I picked one up and thought, "Wow, that is a light front wheel!" It was the REAR wheel. Oh!

As soon as the Lenz is back in action after the 100 Dollar Ride (see previous post), I will fit-up these gossamer examples of composite goodness and ride the wujeebies out of them.

Ah, what a chore it is.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A gift is given....

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men
Luke 2:11-14

Merry Christmas and may you have a blessed New Year.

pic courtesy of someone else.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Hundred Dollar Ride

Last night I wanted to get out and test my new lights before the rain came in to town. I went to the garage and stood there before the bike rack, looking at the SS Monkey. I always ride the SS during the week, especially when the weather has been wet and muddy. For some odd reason, I had forgotten that it had rained yesterday. So, I decided to take the Lev out to see how the battery pack fit on the frame. Off I went.

Up the canyon singletrack, it began to get muddy. Hmmm...real muddy. Ridden when wet, the clay soil out here does not make ruts in the trail very often, mostly it just packs up on the tires, etc. So, after a bit I am struggling to keep pedaling. I stopped once when the bike began ghost shifting, but decided to keep on riding. I thought, "I should have ridden the SS Monkey".

About 10 feet further along I heard a sickening 'crunch' noise and then no forward progress. I looked down, knowing what I would see...a pretzel where my rear der and chain used to be. The lovely chunk of aluminum that was an XO SRAM der was sitting nicely on top of my cassette, the chain was lodged behind the cassette and twisted forever, and the der hanger was dead.

I would post pics, but it was dark and I was too depressed to get out the camera. I walked a ways to where my wifey could rescue me in the Grannygear-Family Truckster and rode home on the tailgate of the Suburban, the muddy bike half in-half out.

I ordered a 2008 X9 take-off der for $52.00 on eBay and picked up a new chain from a local shop. Sigh. Luckily I have a spare hanger, but I need to replace my spare as well.

Next time it is muddy (at all!!!) I will look at the Lev, take $100.00 out of my pocket and put it in a drawer safely away, then I will get the SS down and go riding.

Next time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Highlights: Epic/Classic rides

While it may seem like this is just like the Road Trip blog entry, it is different. You can Road Trip to a riding location and have a great time but not do any world class rides. However an Epic and /or Classic ride is one of those routes that folks talk about in excited tones. Mere mention of the ride brings nodding heads and murmurs of agreement out of a group of mountain bikers.

Trail 409, Crested Butte

Porcupine Rim, Moab

Flume Trail, Tahoe

Downieville downhill

WRIAD, Virgin Rim, Colorado Trail, Kokopelli, etc.

Iy may be because of the way it hurts you real bad when you attempt it or it could be that it is so scenic or historical that it deserves the epic/classic moniker. Or it could be the way it has its groove on and how it just simply flattens you with how good it feels to ride it.

If I had to pick one ride this year it would be Thunder Mountain trail in the Red Cliffs area of Southern Utah. Not that long or difficult, it is a 15ish mile loop that takes you through some of the best red rock countryside in town. Smooth, sinuous, sexy and downright fun, the trail will challenge all to get in the groove and flow, baby, flow. The last 2 or 3 miles just may be the most fun I have had on a bike in recent memory...heck, maybe distant memory.

Thunder Mtn. Epic/Classic ride of 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lumens and Drivers and Volts: It Works!

Well, I dood it! After all the mad scientist stuff, I flipped the switch and had success! More on that later as I have had only a quick ride as of yet and I still have to build the helmet light. For now, some pics. I have a DIY series including sage advice and details headed to The Bike Lab, so I will let that cover most of the questions, but I will post up my overall thoughts here.

Darkness, fear me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Southern Cal is under the icy grip of an early winter storm. I am sitting at 2000' elevation and it looks like it may snow any minute now. The area I rode this last weekend sits about 2000' feet higher than this and the weather report from there says 27 degrees and -7 degrees factoring in the wind chill. I think I will pass on riding there.

Last night I snuck out before the rain started and rode the SS into the clouds up an eight mile paved climb out of town. I thought about bringing the camera, but the light level was pretty low, etc, so I did not.

Dang! As soon as I topped out I caught the last few minutes of pinkish light coming across the backcountry mountain range (the -7* area), covered in snow with a cloud layer obscuring the top most section. With the brown hills below the snow layer and the clouds on top, it looked like a great big dessert of some kind, albeit a cold one. Wish I had the camera cuz it was an awesome sight. Sorry.

The coast back down was a descent into ice cube-ness. First the feet, then the toes, core pretty good, but I was juuust beginning to shiver when I hit town. My right knee was really unhappy for awhile. No pics of that either. Sorry again.

The hot shower brought me back to life. Definitely no pics of that. Not sorry at all.
It was also the last venture on the Fast Traks as I will be going back to the Mtn Kings to deal with the sloppy trail conditions. I will say that they totally rocked on the paved climb. It really points out how well they do roll. I still could not run the skinny dudes all the time, but I have come to respect them for what they are.

I have come to respect the cold too. I was talking to Guitar Ted and he said it was -3 with a wind chill of -30 or something like that. Good lord! +30 is cold to me. Since I have more of a commitment to training this year, I have been getting out more despite the weather and it points out that I need better shoes and gloves. Thicker tights would be OK too. Still, the fingers and toes are the challenge since it is very hard to layer them. Too many levels of protection and you cannot feel the controls or pedal. Well, I will figure something out.

Meanwhile, the rain has turned to sleet.

Am I now the King of the Mountain?

Look what the UPS man brought me! I could not pass up the coupon deal from the Interbike Demo Days. Continental was offering a great deal on a limited order of Mtn King tires, so I opted to try some 2.4" 29er tires.

I mounted them on the SS Monkey running tubes on the DT Swiss 7.1TK rims and they are hardly a 2.4 to the calibrated eyeball. I have not actually measured them, but they are a decent enough size for winter/spring riding and the open and generous knobs should work well.

So far I like them. Tremendous traction and hook-up in corners, especially now that the soil is kinda moist and packed down. They roll pretty well for an agressive tire too, much better than the Eskars IMO and they are rounder in profile so I like the way they turn in when used as a front tire.

Longterm we shall see, but so far they were well worth the $.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 Highlights: Single Speeds

"...One Gear to rule them all, One Gear to find them,
One Gear to bring them all and in the darkness bind them..."

Very loosely taken from the Lord of the Rings, with apologies to Mr Tolkien, Gandalf, Frodo, and Middle Earthers' everywhere.

Gears were invented to make cycling better. They allow us to compensate for uphills, downhills, headwinds, steep and gnarly climbs and tired legs. Mountain biking without 27 gears is silly. It would show we have not evolved. It is stupid. It is hard. It is also fun, challenging and addicting.

Just like that Ring of Power, it kinda calls to you and whispers things into your ear. "Come to me and pedal. One gear is all you need. One gear of power. One gear of fun." Your friends will not hear it at first. As time goes by, some will join you on your quest. Some will never understand and as they see the hardened body, the far away look in your eyes and the spittle dried on your chin from the last heart crushing climb, they will be afraid. They will run away from the power of the One Gear.

But not you. You will hold it closely, keep it safe, keep it secret. The One Gear of Power.

My Precious.

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Highlights: Road Trip

All packed up with someplace to go.

I love road trips. I have a goal to do at least one a year to ride somewhere new. This year I had planned to head to the Brian Head area of southern Utah and get on some of the stuff like Thunder Mtn or part of the Virgin Rim trail. Then, an offer came up to head to Moab with a group of slickrock newbies. They had never been there, I had, so I was the de-facto tour leader. I had one condition in going, and that was that I would arrange to ride as much of the Whole Enchilada ride as was practical for our group. I had never done that ride before. If that was around when I was in Moab years ago, I bet it was secret or not even blessed by the gov'mint powers that be.

So we were off and the results are here. Road trips are potentially fraught with peril and ripe for discovery. What a killer combo. Road trips get ya out of 'da hood and into new horizons, new trails, new faces. They may be across the state or across the nation, but they all promise the same thing: Come away to me and ride here. Here is where adventure begins.

It is a siren's call.

So, some advice for your own road trips:

  • Do enough research to have a good time. You cannot know everything before ya go, but too much ignorance can ruin a trip before it gets going. Maps, good fitness prep, etc.

  • Be flexible. Keep an open mind and be ready to change plans or modify stuff to fit the moment. We were planning on riding Gooseberry after Moab, but ended up here as a change of pace. It was a last minute thing, but it was a great decision.

  • Choose your co-road trippers carefully. This is not the best time to head off into new and strange places with folks you cannot get along with or are not up to the quest in fitness or ability.

Road trips. Gotta love 'em.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chillin' on a Saturday morning

No pics. Sorry. My Sat morning opened up a bit so I joined a group ride in the mtns north of home. With a cold storm coming in for Sunday, today was chilly up there. The ride began in the low 40s and dropped to the upper 30s up on top of the hill. 3 singlespeeds this ride and I set a new record for a long ride with one gear...4 hours, mostly singletrack, lots of climbing. Very cold. It was a good ride to try out the Specialized Fast Trak tires. More thoughts on those later, but they are named well.

Getting late and I think I am still thawing my toes from this morning. Man, my feet were bricks of ice. Gotta fix that.

To bed now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...

The fat ol' goose may be me if I do not get out more often than I have been. Holiday banquets, dinners, charity events, weather, etc, have all conspired against me lately. I have plans to be here in January and I really would like to get some longer stuff under me. I have been doing short and hard...that is pretty easy. Just point and shoot toward the hills on an SS. Long and moderate to hard is more difficult to achieve.

I had someone ask me the other day if I had ever done a long ride on the SS and I have not yet. I think 2.5 hrs is about the most right now, but there was only about 10 minutes of flat terrain in that 2.5 hours. I would like to do something longer. Right now I am 2 to 1 SS to geared as far as ride time. I still pull out the Lev for epic stuff or a ride that is very digital, especially among other geared up riders. I still do not have the fitness to hang with a faster pack of riders on the SS over a typical So Cal ride. Maybe I will some day. No biggie. That is why I have more than one bike.

I have time over the week following Christmas to get a couple of good rides in if we get decent weather. It looks like a pretty good rain storm is coming in and it will bring snow to above 3000'. If we stay cool through December then the snow may stay for a while. Well, So Cal means that there is always somewhere to ride.

Cold weather is all relative, ya know?

One of my favorite blogs is Jill's blog from Alaska. I am always in awe of the daily challenge that riding a mtn bike presents in winter conditions.

Pic from Jill's blog page -

Doesn't that look all cozy and inviting, hmmm? I get whiny when it dips below 50*. Below 20*? Not this boy! My house is warm, thank you, and I think I left the water running in the other room...and my mom is calling, etc. Part of that is not really having cold weather clothing for riding. Functional, bad weather technical clothing is pricy stuff and to spend that kind of money when you can just wait a day or two to ride when the weather clears...well, it makes poor sense to a family guy on a budget.

But Alaska...or Colorado or Michigan or Iowa or anyplace that gets really COLD and stays that way for months? I am not sure how I would deal with that. I am not a bike commuter, so riding is about the fun and fitness, not a get-to-work necessity. I guess I would learn to do it anyway, but maybe I would just hibernate or hit the gym for spin class and kickboxing/pilates/yoga with the rest of the over 40 folks.

Props to you guys and gals who brave, or in some cases, celebrate the frozen rides of winter. I would love to ride with you, I really would but I can't find my mittens (I think the cat had them), and I am sure I hear the phone is ringing. You know how my mom hates to be kept waiting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2008 highlights: Good shoes

Earlier this year I finally put aside my trusty old Answer Speeders. The tread was about gone and the fabric at the toes was blown out. So, to replace them I ordered some shoes from an on-line discount store. I guess it was their house brand, but the price was right so I tried a pair. You know the old joke about the Volvo looking like the box the car came in? Well I might as well worn the box these shoes came in as wear these on a ride.

So, I eBayed the discount shoes and hoofed it over to the local bike shop. They happened to be a Specialized dealer, so I tried on a couple of pairs of the Body Geometry mountain bike shoes.

Wow. Those felt good, like someone who HAD feet actually designed them. Actually, Specialized is heavily invested into the Body Geometry concept, that being products that have a high amount of ergonomic technology in them. So basically they are supposed to fit well and feel good, along with supporting the foot and relieving hot spots and unwanted pressure points, etc.

Well, all that aside, I like 'em. They have been consistently comfy and seem to be wearing well. They are quite decent to hike-a-bike in with nicely agressive lugs and a more flexible footbed than the carbon racy-type shoes. These are not the high end ones designed for ultimate stiffness, put at over 100 clams, they are not cheap either. I have the 2008 version of this model.

Perfect? No. I am not too crazy about the buckles. They are kinda glitchy, not always indexing or releasing cleanly. I think I may try some dry lube on them, or, I know I can replace them with the buckles from the higher end versions of the shoes.

If anything, it made me realize the value of a good shoe. Some day I may be able to afford a really high end shoe, but for now, these are getting me down the trail just fine.

Just riding.

Something crossed my mind that has me bothered. I think it was yesterday, the day after the Liebre Mtn ride. Now, that was a great ride. The climb was hard on the SS, but so what? It was what I wanted for training that weekend. The trail itself could hardly have been better. Miles of singletrack, brushy in places, but with perfect soil conditions and nearly magical in the way it weaves underneath the trees, you would think I would have been just blissfully in the groove, just dancing along. Not! I was thinking too much.

What was I thinking about on the way up the mountain? Well, in between the times I stopped for a cardiac break, I was thinking about why I packed too much stuff. Why I had not been riding more. Why I was so slow. I was nagged by the thoughts of some upcoming medical tests that could be less than wonderful. I was thinking a lot. Too many doubts. To quote Niner bikes, "Pedal Dammit!"

What was I thinking about on the singletrack? Frame geometry, fork offset, tire performance, SS good or bad, steel VS. carbon/ti/alu, lean back more, lean forward more. Overdressed? Underdressed? I actually had to force myself at one point to relax and smile as I entered yet another swoopy corner. What is the deal?

It was not always that way. Now, I have a tendency to overanalyze stuff. It is just a personality trait. Kinda like the character Monk in that crime drama on TV: "It is a blessing...AND a curse" It is what makes me the guy you want sweating the details and prepping stuff. But I remember in years past just riding and not thinking. Just riding and feeling the simple pleasure of the rolling wheels being driven along by gravity and one-rider horsepower. Just riding.

Just riding.

The ride is what it is...the bike is what it is, and to some degree I am what I am. I think it is too much time spent on internet MTB sites debating the merits of this or that bike part or set-up. Too much product analysis. Or, maybe it is bigger than that. Maybe it is the cares of age and the loss of the free feeling of youth and maybe...just maybe it is just a reflection of my life's attitudes overall. I am not sure. But, I am very sure that I need to get back there somehow, back to just riding once I am on the bike and save all the pondering for the garage bench and the fireside post-ride discussions. I need to leave the doubts at the trailhead, forget about rebound settings, fork offset, stem length........

Just riding once again.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More planned obselescence?

This post from GT and this post from GNAT along with this opinion on the Bike Lab site have been very interesting reading.

So who asked for expensive parts that cannot be serviced?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Learning to love the whip.

There is an area of the local forest that is so seldom visited by bicyclists, that it is almost weird. I have never, ever, ever seen anyone else there that was not part of the group I was already with. But I am not complaining, mind you. We will just keep it between you and me, OK? OK. Today I rode with KT and Purple Pat.

It begins on an old, paved road with tons of history (see post

This is KT. Loyal readers may recall I mentioned him in previous blogs. He is still rebuilding his strength and fitness after a serious leg injury and his left leg is still about 2/3 the size of his right. KT did a road century yesterday...a pretty hard one...and then brought out his 29er Orbea SS and proceeded to spank me in the climb and really, the whole ride. Mercy. Here he is happy because he is unaware that I am considering pushing him over the culvert behind him.

Snacks at the top.

Soon we hit the singletrack and spent the next 2 hours winding up and down and around the shoulder of the mountain. The recent rains had packed down the sandy soil and green grass was just beginning to show. Dark and almost primeval feeling in parts, the trail stays under a canopy of old oaks for most of the ride, swooping and twisting and diving like a good trail should. It is not a cruise though and on the SS, it purt the hurt on us more than a few times. 3 hours of great stuff and a morning well spent with friends on bikes in a beautiful place.

The SS is such a cruel and tantalizing mistress. It promises to be simple and quiet and easy and whispers things like "I am all you need" in your ear. Then, once you get it out on the ride, it brings out the whip. I mean, why do I do that to myself? That is not really a terribly hard climb on a geared bike. Not at all. On the SS it is another thing altogether. Once at the top, the pain is forgotten and the challenge of finding the right line, less braking into the corners, sitting, standing, keeping momentum and attacking the trail all are such a part of the game on the SS. I am not really good at it yet, but I am working on it.

I still fear the whip, but I am getting to like the sound it makes when it cracks across my soul.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Next time you think YOU have skills...try this.


2008 highlights: GPS gizmos

I had long ago put aside any cycling computers, heart rate monitors, etc. I really did not care how far it was, how fast I went, etc. It was just me on the bike going riding. It took as long as it took and rides were measured in minutes/hours. It worked for me.

Then, completely unrelated to cycling, I bought a hand held GPS unit for family use and geocaching.

It was pretty cheap to buy and I enjoyed learning about how they worked and what you could do with them. In 2008, I began reading that many cyclists were bringing their GPS units with them on rides and downloading the data to web sites or software programs. It would spit out all kinds of numbers like distance, average speed, elevation gain/loss, heart rate (with the right GPS unit)and more and lay it out over maps like you would see on Google Earth. Now, THAT was cool. I love maps. I used to pour over old maps of the surrounding forest looking for old roads, trails, etc and planning rides.

Better than that, you could share the resulting files with others and everyone with a GPS could re-trace the rides you did. Excellent!

Unfortunately, I had chosen the wrong brand for this kind of stuff. Garmin is the king of the hill for athletic based GPS use and I had a Magellan. Many of the programs do not talk Magellan speaky. Then, I found Topofusion. A free download with option to upgrade for $, Topofusion was written by an endurance bike geek and fellow blogger and it totally rocks.

So now with Topofusion and my GPS, I am a fount of statistics and ride info. I can download a file from the net, pop it into my GPS and, along with some good maps, ride anywhere in the country with confidence. I now know how high, how far, how fast and I can lay it out on mapping software and check it all out.


I don't bring it on every ride. I still prefer to be pretty gadget free, but I always have the option of gathering all that info courtesy of billions of dollars of space hardware and a funny looking cell-phone-type thingy on the h-bars.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What a year it's been.

So, I figured I would take a few posts and highlight some of the highlights of 2008 as it draws to a close. There were some victories, some losses, some great new products, clothing etc, and some new friends and relationships that added up to a unique year as a mtn biker.

More to come, right now it is bedtime.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

The un-training ride...finally!

So far, nearly every ride this year has been set to the tune of getting ready for Vision Quest. So, this holiday weekend, Stan the Man suggested a Sat ride around Strawberry Peak in the San Gabriel Mtns. Sitting behind Mt Wilson and next to Josephine Peak, the Strawberry loop is a great mtn bike ride offering hard climbs, death defying trail sections best walked, swoopy, techy, singletrack in hidden canyons and deep draws leading to exposed mountain side trail with excellent views! Got it all except hucking stuff and who cares about that drill anyway? Not me.

We began with an immediate climb toward Josephine Saddle. Steep and switchbacked (arrows point the way), soon we were looking out over Pasadena toward the city of LA, barely visible in the one pic (see arrow). Say hi to Buddy Steve and Stan the Man.

2.4 miles later and 1400' higher, we hit Josephine saddle. We talked to two ladies and one gentlemen who were running the same route we were on. One lady had a Western States 100 t-shirt on. They all were veterans of that race and the Badwater run, etc. In fact, one ladies husband had been the second place finisher in the Western States run. Impressive. I hate running, but I do envy the simplicity of trail travel by foot. Two shoes, a water bottle, some clothes. Go run.

The trail begins with some real hazardous sections. I used to ride this, but no more. A good friend pitched over the side and fell 10' into the canyon only to be stopped by a bush before he continued to a sheer 50' fall to almost certain death. He found out that bar ends, a rock outcropping on a narrow trail, and clipless pedals can be a bad combo. He was just a bit bloodied and was very fortunate.

The trail gets funner from funner a word? More funner. How's that? Recent rains had provided perfect ground conditions and the weather had rebounded to make for sunny temps in the 60s and 70s. Gotta love So Cal. At 4 miles and 1700' of up-ness, we topped out to summit number one and the trail plunged down toward the backside of Strawberry Peak.

The fun is soon over after a sweet section of curvy, mildly techy canyon bottom singletrack. The fun ends because the trail turns up. And up. And up. Pushing going on here. Then riding. It is only 1000' in 2 miles, but some of that is in the first couple hundred yards and is ugly stuff.

At the next saddle, reached at 7.5 miles, Stan the Man let us know how he felt about the whole thing.

The trail drops down quite quickly to Hwy 2 at Red Box (named for a red box that used to sit in the parking kidding, really!) and the beginning of an excellent section of the Gabrielino trail. This is some choice singletrack, even though much of it is on an old roadbed and is quite wide, it still rocks. It is also rocky in the real sense and here the 29er wheels figuratively, on the rocks. Got that?

The trail is so sublime. Very little pedaling required, just enough brakes to keep things mellow and watch for trail users. It swoops and follows along the canyon through tunnels of oak and alder as the creek burbles in the streambed below.

A couple of miles of downhill, nearly perfectly sloped trail later, we arrived at Switzers picnic area. A ridiculously steep paved climb out of the canyon brought us back to Hwy 2 and then our truck. 3 hours and 14.5 miles later.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Be thankful.

Go ride.

Colossians 3:15 (New International Version)

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How was your first solo 12/24 hour race?

A bit of a story from Ed the Tall who finished up his racing season by training for his first 12 hour solo at the Temecula finals. Ed rides a Salsa Dos Niner, was racing on the Specialized Fast Trak S tires, and is faster than I am.

But, hey...who isn't?

Sorry, no pics as you will see, things did not get off to a smooth start. This happened during the recent Sylmar fire that burned over 500 homes and shut down three freeways.

"As you know, this was my first attempt at doing a 12 or 24 Hr race solo. Twice before I’ve teamed up with one other guy, and each time I had some success. I felt like I needed another goal, a loftier one. So, three months ago I marked this race date on the calendar and began to train. Convinced I really needed to step up my quality time in the saddle, I even plopped down some cash for a road bike. Who would of thought it possible?

Honestly, I felt really good about my chances coming into this event. I signed up in the Solo Sport category, foregoing the usual route of starting off in the Solo Beginner’s class. Many rides during the course of the summer were spent on the road bike chugging up and down the canyon roads north of town. Not particularly thrilling rides, but I felt stronger, especially when I hopped back onto the mountain bike.

Last Friday (14th) was not a particularly good day and was perhaps a bit of a sign of things to come. It turned out to be a very busy day work wise and I was putting out the proverbial “fires” all day long. I had decided a couple weeks before to not go down the night before to stay at the venue site. Rather, I would wake up in my own bed early Saturday morning and make the 2-2.5 hr drive down with plenty of time to set up my pit area and spin around on the bike to warm up the legs. Friday being the way it was, I was pleased to make the decision to stay home Friday night. A good night’s rest and I would be ready to go with adrenaline pumping.

The race was slated to start at 9am. My alarm was set for 4. No problem there, I jumped out of bed and was ready to leave the house with a bit of breakfast in me and a cup of coffee in hand by 4:30. I jumped on Interstate 5 and within a few miles I could see the red lights beginning to back up in front of me. Strange, considering it was 4:45 on a Saturday morning! Quickly I got an AM radio station on and learned that a fast-moving, out-of-control fire was moving toward the Newhall Pass, threatening to shut down both the 5 and the 14. However, the news mentioned a few times that the 5 south was open. The CHP were doing their best to slow down traffic by merging all the traffic into one lane before Calgrove. As I was inching towards Calgrove, I noticed a Highway Patrol officer get in his car and quickly make his way to block traffic altogether. I was three lousy cars away from being told I could make my way through the pass. Instead I found myself on Old Rd. heading north towards Lyons. Once at Lyons I sped across the valley to check the situation at the 14. Southbound traffic was being diverted off the 14 at San Fernando Rd. and everybody was continuing sound on Sierra Hwy. So, the lemming that I am, I jump at the chance to see if I could make it through on Sierra Hwy. Once we passed the old oil field the traffic came to a complete stop. Without skipping a beat I whip a u-turn and head north towards Placerita Canyon. I quickly formulated a plan to head over to Sand Canyon and make my way into the Valley via Little Tujunga Canyon Road. A small sign announced that Little Tujunga was closed ahead. The sign gave me pause and I turned around. However, as soon as I did three cars quickly passed me, heading south. I figured it was worth a shot and I followed. I was probably four or five miles from the 210 when in front of me a section of k-rail completely blocked the road. I turned around and really got irritated as I realized that I had just wasted another 45 minutes on this goose chase only to come up empty. Meanwhile, lots of other people were soon to realize a similar fate as I must have passed 40 or so cars all looking for a short cut into the Valley.

In order to get to Temecula, I must drive nearly to Palmdale to get to Angeles Forest Hwy. Ultimately Angeles Crest Hwy would dump out along the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. It was 7:15 am when I got to the 210 Freeway. I was starting to go into panic mode. All the training, giving up the beer, etc. towards this end goal about to go down the drain. I called a friend and fellow competitor and told him to give the race personnel a heads up, I would be arriving hopefully just before the race was to start. I jump on the gas and begin to make some time, finally. After driving 85-90mph I managed to get to the Vail Lake venue at 8:40am. Somehow I managed to find a parking spot fairly close to the start/finish line and expo area! I’m literally running back and forth between my car and the pit area ferrying my gear. I quickly set up my pit area and begin to get dressed. As I finished getting dressed the horn goes off and all the competitors begin the parade portion of the first lap. The parade lap around the resort at Vail Lake lasts about 5 minutes and then all the racers head off onto the race course proper. At 9:15 I roll up to the start/finish to begin my 12, err 11:45 Hours of Temecula.

The race course at Vail Lake is a really great course, a real nice mix of fire road and singletrack. The course is just a bit over 10 miles long with about 1300 feet of climbing per lap. The climbs in general are short and steep, the exception being the first and longest climb on the loop known as the Dam climb. The course is moderately technical, with a few really technical short downhill sections for good measure. It is a course that rewards the mountain biker, not a converted road racer with little to no time spent in the dirt. Conditions this time around were the driest and, consequently, the loosest I’ve ever seen them out there. There were no signs at all of the rains that had fallen a couple of weeks prior. Kitty litter-type sand had reduced a few of the short uphill grunts into hike-a-bikes. The normally tough section of switch backs were a little tougher than I remembered them, each of them loose and would only get worse as the day progressed. The worst, or best (depending on whether or not you were a bystander watching the carnage) section was a short but very steep section of double track downhill covered from top to bottom in silt to a depth of nearly a foot. Many racers, including myself on a couple of laps, would walk this section and many others would walk due to a spill they took on their way down. In fact by early afternoon a group of people had gathered at this spot on the course to enjoy the festivities I saw many nasty spills and I later heard that a couple of people had been taken to a nearby hospital. With the day quickly turning to night the race organizer made the executive decision to “pull the plug” on that section of the course, much to the relief of most racers (including myself).

As a result of my late start I found myself at the back of the race trying to make my way through the slow traffic. I didn’t really mind this since it allowed me to slowly warm up and keep a nice easy pace. Speaking of warming up, the temps were quickly climbing on the course. The Santa Ana winds weren’t that strong, yet, but the air was bone dry. It was one of those days when your sweat would evaporate almost immediately. I was aware of this and made it a point to try and stay hydrated. After my first lap the traffic out on the course began to thin out and I began to make some time. I felt pretty good, though not great, as I made my way around the course early in the day.

Things began to take a turn for the worse on my third lap. The combination of the hot and dry conditions had me reaching for my water bottle at every opportunity. Shoot, I should have brought the Camelback. It turns out I couldn’t hydrate fast enough! I stopped after my third lap and ate a PB&J sandwich. After half an hour in the pits I went out for what would be my worst lap, my fourth. It took me nearly an extra twenty minutes to make my way around the course. Following my fourth lap I collapsed in the pit area and quickly consumed a 32oz Gatorade. I couldn’t eat anything, so I just fell back in my chair. A half hour later I woke up when a friend of mine came into the pit area with his family cheering him on. I was in no hurry to get back out on the course, it was the hottest part of the day. I mulled around a bit, worked on the bite and actually contemplated calling it a day.

Another half hour went by and the combination of rest and fluids began to turn the frown on my face upside down. I suited up quickly, determined to get in another lap before the sun went down and we were forced to run with lights. My fifth lap turned out to be fastest of the day at 58 minute. I came in and quickly got my bike set up with lights. By 7pm I had two night laps under my belt and I decided to call it a day. The winds really picked up towards and shortly after sunset, with 30-40 mph gusts blowing competitors around on the ridges. I finished up with seven laps, one shy of my goal. Next time!

The tires performed admirably, I thought, given the dry and loose conditions. In a non-race situation, I probably would have opted to run a tire combination with a wider and more open footprint, and some taller knobs. However, the tires never let me down! After I adjusted the air pressure, I was able to scramble up every short, steep power climb without the rear tire breaking loose. I never suffered a flat, and these tires roll quite well. The course offered up one section of singletrack (Tunnel of Love) where you could really get off the brakes and let the bike cruise through the desert scenery, and the tires just railed the terrain. I can only imagine what these tires would be like on some tacky, fine-grained dirt! "


Friday, November 21, 2008

Fluid Wrap up.

Well, I am staring at an empty jar of Fluid recovery drink, soon to be replaced by a full jar. This is good stuff, and I am definitely on this bus for a long ride.

The first time I used it after a hard ride, I was curious whether all this was just another product designed to separate me from my money. Saturday was a hard 4.5 hour ride and I was nicely worked. I would have expected to feel the after effects in my legs for one to two days following. Sunday I jumped on the SS Monkey and went out with a small group for what should have been an easy spin. However, everyone decided to do more climbing than I expected, so up I went expecting to feel the hurt from yesterday. I never did.

Oh, I knew I was climbing on an SS, but my legs felt like I had not ridden the day before. Weird. Was it the Fluid or the promise of pancakes after the ride? Time would tell.

Well, time has told me that this is a good product. Not magic, I mean, Lance is not worried about me now, but this stuff is the deal. Today I met the other half of Fluid, David Brown. We got to talking about what the inspiration was behind Fluid, that they were looking to help prevent overtraining issues with endurance atheletes, and why he thought Fluid was a better product than the others out there. Ya know, I am not completetly ignorant, but I have to confess that I would not know an amino acid from an antacid. But, I know how I feel after a workout, and after 20 years of doing hard workouts, I know that the day after is a better day if I put down a bottle of Fluid right after the workout. I know that much.

Want to know more?

Go to school

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thoughts on the Captain Controls and Eskar tires.

I have been rolling around on the Specialized 2.2 Captain Control 2-Bliss and the Eskar 2.3 2-Bliss S model for a couple of months now. I mounted the Captains on the Lev and the Eskars on the SS Monkey.

Check for more on that a bit later this month, but I will sum up a bit here.

The Captains:

See this signature right there on this tire?

That is right, Ned Overend. Deadly Nedly. The Lung. The Captain. I remember standing alongside the racecourse at Mammoth watching him put the hurt on a much younger group of racers like Tomac, Weins, Grewal, etc. Man, I could hardly walk up that hill without dying and he made it look easy.

Ned was the man. So if his signature is on it, it must be good, right? Well, marketing being what it is, that may not be true, but in this case, Ned did me right by these tires. I don’t know if he dreamed them up one night or rode thousands of miles to prove them worthy or what, but these tires rock. They roll well, hook up well in all the dry-ish conditions I have tried them on, and I love how the front tire steers. As a rear tire it is good, but not great. It has a tendency to ping off of rocks that land across the side knobs and it will break and slip down into a rut a bit easily. I blame that on the relative lack of an agressive row of knobs like the Eskar has. Still, it was not bad at all and has become one of my favorite tires I have run on a 29er. If you need a good XC tire that does not need to be huge (these did fill out to be a true 2.2" tire after a while), this is a contender.

Ned is still the man.

Now it was the Eskars turn. I had mounted these on the SS Monkey using the DT Swiss 7.1TK rims with tubes. I was looking for a bigger tire than the Ignitors I had been using. I figured that if I needed more air volume and a bigger contact patch on one of the two 29ers I have, it was on the hardtail SS. I inflated them to 25psi as a starting point.

So, I have to say that I was disappointed in the non-2.3 size I ended up with. The numbers were not significantly larger than the 2.1 Ignitors, although they were sporting some pretty aggressive rows of knobs. Since tires can grow a bit when they have been mounted up a while, I re-measured them after a half dozen rides or so. They went from a 2.025” casing (sidewall) width to 2.06”. Tread width grew from 2.085” to 2.2” and height changed from 2.80” to 2.95”.

They ran a bit slow on pavement, but they made up for it in overall grip when climbing, braking and turning. I am not so crazy about the way the front tire handles, but I have never been a fan of square-ish tires with a gap between the center row and side rows of knobs. It has some certain handling personalities that reward an agressive cornering style that likes to be tossed into a corner and driven out. I am more of a sit back and carve kinda guy, and I always have preferred rounder front tires.

It is a very good rear tire. I even got it all muddy and it just drove along with little drama.

I have more detail of the testing heading toward, so keep an eye out over the next week or so.

In the meantime, I am going to pair up the Eskar as a rear tire for the Lev and keep the Captain up front. For the SS Monkey, I would like to go up a notch to something like a Rampage 2.3 or Racing Ralph 2.4. The Captain/Eskar is about as big as I would go on the Lev, but the Monkey has tons of room and the hardtail SS is just begging for a bigger footprint and cushier ride.

Next up is some thoughts on the FastTraks, hot off the race course.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday wrap up

Friday already?

Well, it was a singlespeed week as usual, meaning I rode SS for my Tues and Thurs night escapades. Tues was a night ride with Ed the Tall. I felt pretty good, which was encouraging since I have been feeling sluggish as of late. Thurs night was without lights (barely got by) since I got out early, but I felt very strong. Yay! Good to see some improvement. SS is so cool in that simple and fun way, but hard enough to get a great workout in 90 minutes. I like.

Bummer note: I have one more portion of Fluid recovery drink. I really have enjoyed the way this product had performed for me and I am planning on making this a regular part of my regimen. Time to stock up!

I have the first parts for my bike light building project and a list for the rest of the parts. Mad scientist stuff going on here and I will do a pretty detailed blog when I fire up the soldering iron.

I am ready to write up the short term test results of the Specialized Eskar and Captain Controls that I wrote about on 29".com. The Fasttraks are heading to a 12 hour race on Ed the Tall's bike. The Eskars have been talked about on MTBR recently. I will keep the Eskars on the SS for a while but they are not a tire I would run long term. More on that later, but the Captains are wayyy excellent so far on the Lev. One final ride this weekend and I will follow up with those later.

This weekend I have plans for a good day on tasty, high mountain singletrack. It is a very digital ride...straight up, straight down. I am very tempted to take the SS, but I will ride the Lev instead. Too chicken to take the SS to a trail that is pretty much a granny ring ride for the first hour on a geared bike. This is a group ride too, so that is a factor. Still, I know guys ride this trail SS, so I have to try it someday.

Well, that is the week as it was. Right now it is in the 70s headed to the 80s and above. So Cal. Mercy! That is the good part of our fall/winter season and the Santa Ana winds...shorts and t-shirts! Not too good for the folks who are losing their homes in the Santa Barbara/Montecito area fire. Sad. That is the bad part of out fall/winter season and the Santa Ana winds.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lumens and Drivers and Volts, Oh My!

With apologies to Dorothy from Kansas and her fears of lions, tigers, and bears (ya gotta see the movie) in the Land of Oz, my concerns of late have been around building the perfect light set up for night rides. I have an old light duo for the bars and a better one for the helmet, but both are pretty ancient technology being halogen bulbs driven by big, heavy, lead acid 6V battery packs.

One can do better.

In fact, LEDS are all the rage among the DIY (Do It Yourself) light crowd. And, I have been reading and waiting till I can make my own set. I want to enjoy the whiter light of LEDs, the smaller battery packs, and the longer run times due to dimmable power settings, etc. Plus, they can look really cool, too.

See this link for more info : Lighting Forums on MTBR

Here are some examples I picked at random of home brew solutions:

I caution you that the terminology can be dizzying at times and some of the lights are works of art and some are works of ugliness. I am gonna make my own art in motion as soon as I get the bikepacking bags paid for (will post on THAT whole deal soon enough) and save up some more sheckles. I figure that between $50 and $100 I can get a simple, low-ish lumen h-bar lights built and then I will convert my helmet light to LED as well. I am sooo excited to get them done, but I am geeky-techy that way.

So tonite I went on a night ride with Ed the Tall and had to fit up my old lights to the SS Monkey. The clamps were a bit loose on the bars, so I wrapped a few turns of the World's Best Electrical Tape around the carbon XC bars. How do I know it was the World's Best Electrical Tape? Cuz it was nearly impossible to unwrap it when I figured out I had put too much on and the clamp would not close completely. Sheesh! It was like it was some evil thing, the way it stuck and stretched and would not let me grab it.

Then I looked for the black strips of Velcro I had brought with me to tie up the cords with. Hmmm, they must be here somewhere...look at watch...Ed the Tall is on his way. Good lord, I have not moved 3 feet from here? Where could they go? back in the house, retrace steps...nothing. Back to the garage.

Here is a tip for ya: If you want to hide two black velcro strips, place them within arms reach on top of a black box and then drape a black witches hat (left over from either Halloween or when the house fell on the bad witch ...NOTE: see earlier reference to Kansas, Dorothy, etc) and I promise you, it will provide at least ten minutes of head scratching, sanity doubting, mildly cursing fun for all.

After all that, we never even needed the lights for our ride. Oh well. I will post up my adventure into LED land when I get the soldering iron out and begin the mad scientist stuff. I will be deep into lumens, drivers and volts by then and who knows what will happen. Stay tuned, and if the West Coast is plunged into a power failure, it was not me. Honest.