Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas is in the bag.

It was a nice week leading up to Christmas. The concert at church, looking at decorated Christmas light displays, and last minute gift wrapping.

Christmas Eve began with a candlelight early service at church then moved to an early present opening to provide Snuggies for the Momma and Teenage bears....

...and the next day Christmas proper: The Inlaws and us, dog included. No that is my son...not the dog. It is easy to tell them apart...the dog's room is neater.

Here, Moots, the everlasting gobstopper of a dog, goes dumpster diving for his Christmas day treats.

Christmas Cinema Trivia: Can you tell what movie is playing from the scene on the TV?

The next day was a quick ride with some of the group. In this pic, Ed the Tall is astride the Epic Marathon.

I am sporting some new Gargoyles sunglasses that I am reviewing.

In this group pic, JeffJ is demonstrating a technique that is not often seen. In order to tell if the tire on that bike has hit it's expiration date, he smells the tire for freshness. Not everyone can do that, ya know and I know how he does it.

Here is a close up.

To understand how JeffJ can do this, I caught him napping later in the day and shot a pic of his olfactory factory. I think this explains the mystery.

The next day I tried on a new lady friend for size. Say hello to Selma. Related to the Mamasita, this close cousin is a single girl, light on her feet, pretty fast and gorgeous to look at.

Monday means back to a short work week and there are plans for a New Years Day ride. Ya' gotta love the holidays.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Every so often I try to connect another section of forest road or trail in a way that I have never done before. Today was one of those times and I put the word out to a few folks that were ready to go along. Although I still did not get it done exactly the way I envisioned the ride, it was pretty close.

There were four of us (See how happy everyone looks? That may not last):

Ed the Tall on his Dos Niner

Tony the Tiger on the Sultan V1

Navy Mike on the lone 26er Rocky Mountain (a bike they should make in big wheels...classic design there)

I was on the Epic Marathon 29er.

We began at Crash Canfield's ranch estate (yeah...everyone gets a name) in Three Points on what was looking to be a really nice day. We have had a pretty early rainy season and it was a cold storm too (thank Al Gore...I know I do), so this area got a fair amount of snowfall. I was counting on more recent and warm rains to have abated that snow pack a bit. I figured on around 30 miles and five hours of riding if we kept to it. I knew that a good amount of the ride would be very slow going, likely hike a bike, but there was enough elevation loss on good singletrack and pavement that we should make my schedule.

We started the ride and soon, only a mile or two down the road, Tony found out he could not unclip his right foot from the SPD pedal. His shoe would just twist around and nothing happened. I guessed that he has the cycling equivalent of a horse losing a horse shoe nail and I was right. he has lost one screw out of an SPD cleat. I saw this happen with another rider at the top of Hazzard Trail in Moab. We were able to use a button head water bottle cage screw in Moab, but no one on this ride had one. Worse that that, I would have sworn I put a spare screw in my tool kit but it was not there. Back to Dave's house where he pulled a screw out of his garage tool box and we were off again with a late start.

An hour and a half later, we topped out on Sawmill Saddle.

The beginning of the dirt climb.

On the way up to the saddle, we rode past quite a few patches of snow and ice and the temps dropped from the high 50s to the high 40s with the wind chill. I was wearing that Merino wool Salsa EWR jersey that GNAT sent me this year and it just rocks for temp changes like this. It does a great job of breathing, buffering the wind, and never feels clammy on the skin when wet with sweat. Wool is the real deal.

From here, we turned north and climbed more fireroad in search of an obscure section of trail that connected with another more familiar singletrack. We found it, and the real work began. Brushy, narrow, and with a rut down the middle of the sandy soil, it made for slow going.

Yes, there is a trail in there somewhere.

The views were sweet...when we actually could see around us more than a few feet at a time.

I was running some new tires on the Epic, something a bit better suited for trail riding in poor conditions. I had a WTB Wolverine 2.2 front and a Captain Control 2.2 rear. I could not have asked for a better set of trail tires for this day. Even if they are heavier then the stock 2.0 Captain/Fasttrak rubber, they are a real step up in flotation and traction. the Wolverine is fast becoming my fav front tire. It just seems to do no wrong (other than needing a bit of a diet).

Epic with Wolverine 2.2 front tire.Link

We peaked out on Liebre Mtn and ran into about 20 motos up there that had just ridden up the Golden Eagle trail. Great! Well, we shall see how they treated the trail surface, and, as it turned out, they did not hurt it much at all. The rain and snow melt had packed the sandy soil into a fabulous combo of swoop and traction. Ed the Tall remarked it was like someone had raked the sand for us. It was about as good as it gets up there. There were sections of snow that required pushing, but the Specialized Defroster shoes remained water tight and warm.

A lighter patch of snow on Golden Eagle Trail, still hiding in the shadows.

Soon enough we broke out into meadow and sunshine and left the snow behind.

Tony the very tired Tiger

The pavement return was all that was left after dropping down the six miles of Golden Eagle singletrack. Ed the Tall decided he would throw down the gauntlet and streaked off the front. Drat. I was managing some leg cramps so I backed off and spun a few miles, keeping the break-away in sight. The cramping went away and I reeled Tony and Mike in near the end. Ed was found sitting happily in a lounge chair back at the trucks looking like he had not even worked hard...I know better.

Great day on the bikes. 35 miles, just under 5 hours. Climbing, pushing, riding, crashing, snow, wind, dirt, pain, scratches, pain, smiles. A bonafied mountain bike ride.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Is it Christmas already?

Where has the year gone? We are already all shopped out for Christmas. New Years plans are made. It will be 2010 before I know it.

So while this is not a full year in retrospect post thing, a bit of surfing other folks blog musings got me thinking about how, in some ways, the year fell short of my expectations. To sum up... I 'don't get out much'. I had plans and intentions to ride a whole lot more in far away lands then I ended up doing. There were some highlights: Camp Lynda 2.0 in January, Vision Quest, The Paunsagaunt Enduro, some semi local semi epic stuff, but that was about it. I actually rode a lot, but it was mostly mundane saddle time. And, I am uncertain to know how to feel about that.

Any time you can get out on a bike is a good time. I am fortunate to have stuff I can ride right out my front door that is, maybe not world class, hardly that, but uncrowded and open to riding pretty much year round. I could be stuck in some city somewhere with only concrete pavement and stucco houses for miles. Or, it could be worse than that. I could be in Texas.

So I am enchanted by the promise of new trails and long days spent pedaling yet I am constrained by the realities of life that often do not allow for distant adventures. I can chalk some of it up to poor planning. Some of it is financial and some is the feeling of abandonment of family if I head out for weekends in the woods without them. Then there is fear and doubt. Can't forget about them. That big ride or race can be intimidating. Staying in familiar territory can be so comforting that way. Not much to risk or lose and I still look like a mountain biker to those who know me.

But I know better. I am diminished by what I do not risk to accomplish. It seems that, if I am to have a more complete peace about myself as a mountain bike rider, 2010 needs to come up a notch or two.

My Idol, The Kirkster, gettin' it done.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tubelessness can be a journey.

I really prefer to run without tubes in my wheels. I rarely pinch flat, but we have enough thorns to make life (and tires) full of tiny little holes. One ride, while on the still tubed SS Jabber, I even got a flat from an acorn shell and I did not know that was even possible, unlike the time I laid my bike down in a yucca plant. That I knew was possible. And stupid.

It has been pretty painless with the taped up Stan's Flows, especially with 2 Bliss Specialized tires, but the Conti Race Kings have rocked all year tubeless. So, it seemed like it was about time to convert the Roval wheels on the Epic Marathon to tubeless. I also wanted to run some bigger tires at the same time, larger than the 2.0 Captain front and 2.0 FastTrak rear.

The wheels come with the Big S blue tape (and valves too) but there seems to be some teething issues with applying the tape during assembly as it was crooked and a bit bubbled. Also, I had pranged it in one spot with a tire lever. So, I pulled it off and had a bright idea to replace it with strapping tape. Real tough with that string in it, very sticky...seemed like a good idea at the time. Funny, that.

Cuz it really sucked when I was sitting on a bucket in the garage removing the gummy residue with a rag, alcohol, and elbow grease. Turns out that the tape leaked...pretty much all over the place and the air and sealant chose to exit around the valve stem. At first I thought the valve stem was leaking at the rim, but more than enough tries to seal it had me wondering. The next day I removed an airless tire and found sealant under the tape and in the rim center. It turns out that the string that gives the tape the strength also makes a dandy wick and a corridor under the tape for goo to get out. Drat.

So, now the Rovals have a nice application of Stan's tape (I had a roll sitting around for an upcoming wheel build) and they are cooking overnight with tubes in the Wolverine/Captain 2.2 combo. I read that giving them some tube time really sits the tape down evenly before you go for the full monty of airing them up tubeless. Makes sense to me.

Saturday, if all goes well, I have a fairly long ride planned on the Epic Marathon, so I hope for tubeless bliss. However, I am bringing an extra tube just in case.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rain, Rain...Go Away???

Not if you are Buddy Steve, then you relish the chance to ride in it. Sick man. But he talked a few of us into joining him in a local ride that is mostly sandy soil, so the ride was not going to be an exercise in cleaning out nooks and crannies of bikes and cleats with sticks just to keep rolling.

The were 4 of us: Myself, Tony The Tiger, Navy Mike, and Buddy Steve. Steve is lucky if not anything else, as the rain gave us a window of relief for the time we rode, then cranked back up again as we were leaving. Still, I had to post the pics just to show that we actually ride in wet conditions in So Cal (if we want rain today in the forecast). Buddy Steve was concerned about his autograph from Gary Fisher washing off his bike frame. He moves in lofty circles, that Steve.

Another thing about rain/mud rides...singlespeeds rule, geared bikes drool. Or squeak, or ping and pop, or grind away expensive parts. The price paid for all the eezy-peezy-nofuss-no-muss riding and clean up on the SS was the crazy hard workout pedaling the one gear up carpet padding-like dirt surfaces that sucked the life out of me. You know the movie, The Princess Bride, where the torture chamber has the 'life sucking machine' that Wesley AKA Dread Pirate Roberts is hooked to? Well, it was kinda like that, only wet. I think I lost a significant amount of years to that life sucking sandy hillclimb.

Thanks for the fun. See ya next winter...if I still have that much time left.

Which would you rather clean...this...

...or this...

...or this?

By the way, the Specialized Defroster shoes rocked! No wet feet.

Thanks, Boys! Motley Crew group shot.

Friday, December 11, 2009

29er Tubulars Are Coming...

The scale shows the difference, but the tubular rims are lighter than clinchers and a really strong, plus the tubulars are pretty difficult to pinch flat. I hear the riding performance of a MTB tubular is off the hook.

From Edge Composites Facebook page.

...and Edge Composites and Geax are leading the very expensive, but very high performance charge.

A Siren Bikes Holiday wish!

I got this from Siren Bikes as a holiday greeting. What ties this all together is that Mr and Mrs Siren Bikes have a bun in the oven. Great pic. I want a straddle bike in my size for when I get old.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Fine Line Between Sweating and Freezing

Last night I grabbed a quick ride...90 minutes or so...before the next storm rolled in and it rained again. This last storm was a very cold one and temps dropped overnight into the low 30s. Last night was likely in the high 40s when I began the ride, so I was wearing knickers under tights, 2 pair of socks in my Defroster shoes, a VBL tank shirt, wool LS jersey, long gloves and a wide sweatband. The climb is 30 minutes of pure up-ness followed by some rolling dirt trails that are pretty steep but short. I was just beginning to feel cool by the time I hit the pavement again but I was jacket yet, but I was still creating some body heat with all the climbing.

At the top of the hill, just before a 2-3 mile drop...a fast drop...I put on a jacket, added a full head cap under my wide sweatband, glove liners, and took off. Way before the bottom, my toes, fingers, face and knees were just frozen. I was maintaining core temp OK, but not for much longer as the temps were likely in the low 40s and the wind factor was who knows what.

It got me thinking about how you can possibly dress for that type of ride and be comfy both up and down. If I had worn heavier gloves or tights on the way up, I would have overheated. Same for the head covering. To be OK for both parts of the ride, I would have had to be a quick change artist and carry all kinds of clothes. I don't know how I could do that.

I think I could have been OK if I chose a less digital ride, but we don't have that meandering type of ride here...pretty much up then down, repeat until done. Well, anyway, I sure need to upgrade my clothes if I ever moved to colder climates. Chemical foot warmers, Gore Tex, pharmaceutical enhancements so even if I am cold, I don't care. I dunno.

Kudos to you folks who get it done in cold temps. My frozen hat is off to ya.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Defrosters for the Feet

Well, it I have had enough time in these zapatos to know that they are pretty much what I needed and less than I hoped for. I was hoping for absolutely warm feet and that did not happen, but I am pretty convinced that a good deal of that is my body chemistry at work as I have chronic issues with cold fingers and toes.

That said, the BG Defroster shoes are well worth a look if you need something more than a typical riding shoe. More details here.

Disclaimer: The shoes were freebies from the manufacturer as noted in the article.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Who do we thank for this improvement?

I find it rather amusing that, with something like 12K worth of 29ers sitting in my garage (depending on the timing of test bikes, I don't own that many scoots), that I chose the least expensive one of the bunch, my steel-is-real(ly kinda' heavy) Jabberwocky SS for my last weekend ride. The ride was about an hour of climbing and another hour of a combination of winding singletrack and fast fireroad downhill, so an FS would have been appropriate.

So why the Jabber? Why, with all that technology hanging in the rack, did I grab the lowest tech one of them all? Is it ignorance, or enlightenment?
"When you can ride across the rice paper and leave no tracks, you are enlightened, Grasshopper." Master Po, Buddhist monk and fixie rider.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One More Ride For The Holiday

Sunday afternoon opened up enough to allow for a 3 hour window of riding. JeffJ and son Ted came along for the ride and I was eager to show them an area they had never ridden before. The wind was up and in our faces a bit, but the climb is favorable to singlespeeds and nice and sandy, so I took the Jabber. We climbed for a few miles and then dove into some singletrack for a bit.

The views were exceptional and there was the first snow of the season on the distant Tehachapis.

Autumn is solidly in place at this elevation. The Oaks here change color and drop their leaves, unlike the Live Oak that grow at lower elevations and stay green all winter. It may not be Aspens, but I will take what I can get.

I took the SS out since it had been ignored lately due to a combo of a sore knee, tire testing on the Lev, and the Epic Marathon requiring my time for review purposes. I missed it, that simple, steel singlespeed, and it was good to get back to one gear again before I resume the testing duties. It was a great end to a holiday weekend - friends, bikes, good times, tired legs. And, better still, I think is one more piece on pumpkin pie waiting for me at home. Sweetness.

The pumpkin orange Jabberwocky, looking like it belongs in autumn leaves.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Epic Ride, Epic Bike.

It seemed like fate, that an epic ride (or close enough to epic for my fitness level at this point in time) would come onto the calendar just as I took delivery of the Epic Marathon 29er.

The organizer was jeffj, ringmaster of the Dirt bags, a local riding group. The course was in the semi-nearby hills of Ojai and consisted of an 8 mile paved climb to the beginning of Sisar Rd, then around 9 miles of pure uphill fireroad, first along a running creek under the Sycamores, then on open mountain side, a few more miles of faster ridgeline fireroad, and then around 7 miles of downhill singletrack, twisty, loose, narrow, rocky So Cal singletrack. 31 miles and around 5ooo feet of climbing. Sweetness.

There were several of us...9 all total...and the weather was perfect with temps in the 60s to the 70s with no wind. Once the pavement connecting part was out of the way, we hit the dirt and began the climb along a running creek under the canopy of sycamores and poison oak.

There were two water crossings before the real climb began and they were just deep enough to be a concern for wet feet.

Chuck is worried his new Giant will shrink to 24" wheels.

Todd goes for shrinkage happened.

From here, it was head down and pedal...and pedal...and pedal. maybe two hours? Not sure. The Epic is a superb climber. I am an average climber. The bike is light enough and all that, but the Brain shock, combined with a lock-out on the Reba fork make for a hardtail-ish experience that is the real deal for long climbs like this. But, the rear shock will open up and take all the sting out of any roughness in the uphill path unlike a true hardtail. Niiiice. Then, for all that hard work, ya gotta stop and enjoy the view.

That arrow is pointing to islands off the coastline of Ventura, CA.

Can you hear me now?

We hit the saddle and took a well deserved break. Much past here my camera batt expired so I cannot show the singletrack, but it is typical So Cal stuff: Narrow, sloughy, off camber, switchbacked, loose, rocky, covered in oak leaves, brushy, fast in places, and steep. The Epic was all I could have asked for. I really expected it to be a bit of a nervous race horse, but not so. Very competent and more.

jeffj (aka circus bear on a bike), stage left.

The Epic in repose.

Smile for your close-up.

Singletrack zoomage.

Thursday, November 26, 2009