Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another Six Hours

Last spring I had a crazy idea.  Host a ride that followed a solo endurance race format in a loose way by doing a set course over and over till we ran out of time.  I laid out a local loop that was pretty much ten miles even and took me an hour at a moderate but steady pace.  I made it fun...some singletrack sections...and not too hard with non-techy climbs and about 1000' of elevation change per lap.  We roll by our trucks every lap so re-fueling is easy.

I had a group start time and a closing time of six hours later and no one could roll out past that time. I ended up with a few nut cases that came along and a couple of us made it to 5 laps within the allotted time.  Six laps would mean a less than one hour per lap average and I knew I could not do that, but I figured if I came in with 30 minutes or more to go, I would look at a 6th lap, finishing over the 2:00 stop time.

Did not happen.  I pulled in at 5 minutes before the bell and called it good enough.  Maybe next time that 6th lap will happen, but it still made for 50 miles and according to one guys stats, 1200' per lap, so about 6k' of climbing.  That will have to do.  We had pretty good headwinds and that slowed the ascents a bit but made for blistering fast downhills, even on the singlespeeds.

We began with 8 of us.  One guy was shooting for 4 laps as that would have been more miles on a MTB than he had ever ridden.  He made 3 laps and still set a PBR, but just barely.  One very fit lady joined us and she was recovering from some wear and tear repair on the hamstrings, so her pace was moderate but she still got in 4 laps.  Two other guys did the 4 laps as well.

Ed the Tall and Navy Mike brought out the singlespeeds.  Really?  Man, I should have done that too, but there were two things holding me back...I needed to get some ride time on some carbon wheels I am testing and honestly I am not sure I could do 5 laps on a singlespeed.  Hard to say, but I was hurting at times and was in energy conservation mode a few times...hard to do that on a singlespeed.

I was trying a new endurance drink by Fluid and used that as my primary source of energy.  I ran with one bottle per lap mixed two scoops per bottle.  I had a 2/3 full 70oz hydration pack with Elete in it as well and a few of my oat bars stuffed in my pocket.  I want to find a liquid based product that keeps me fueled, even, and prevents cramping.  I was pretty happy with the way the Fluid Performance worked.  I felt very even and did not get any blood sugar issues, something I struggle with.  I ate 4 of the oat bars squares (not very big...two bites each) and that was it for the 6 hours of nearly constant riding at a fast pace.  I did get some hints of cramping at lap three, and I think I underestimated the amount of water to bring as the dry winds and warm-ish temps tended to dry out the bod pretty good.  At one point I took the squeeze bottle of Elete and put two shots of the additive straight under my tongue.  I swear that did a miracle and gave me no hint of cramps again for another two and a half hours of pedaling.

Ed the Tall ran out of water due to a spilled supply jug and pulled the lug at 4 laps, but he was holding a one hour time per lap.  Man, he is strong.  He does not say much or brag or talk smack...he just rises out of the saddle and lets the cranks turn while the bike moves forward out of sight.  Ed is my hero.  I have enclosed a picture of Ed below, or at least the way I see him, in the spirit of the old west.

Navy Mike is becoming a monster on that new SS of his, a monster I created by selling him the little steel beast.  When he began the ride he had legs like this guy below.

When he finished the five laps into the wind on that SS, his legs looked like this.

Yep.  All true, I swear.  The home grown 6 Hour is a fun thing to do and I bet most areas near you can support it.  Keep it fun but hard, let everyone shoot for their own goals, and then go grab Mexican food or a brew sample...or both.  Be careful about the singlespeeds and leg muscle thing though.  That is gonna' cost Navy Mike a bunch of money in blue jeans.

Thanksgiving morning.

Thanksgiving morning dawned cool and overcast and I joined a ride up a nearby canyon that KT the Man hosted.  There were all kinds of people there.

Old guys on singlespeeds...

guys who used to be really fast...

Bicycle Bettys...

...and a bunch of other folks.  Looking around you would think it was an Ibis Bikes only ride as it seems the Ibis Demo van was in town.  Neat bikes.  We all headed up into the clouds in search of singletrack.

The Old Guy on the SS beat me to the top...the Guy Who Used to be Fast still is (some things never change), and I rode up talking to Bicycle Betty and KT the Man.  I have known some of these folks for over 20 years and that is a lot of pedal time.  I was thankful to be there, if only for part of the ride (family obligations) and it was good to see old friends and be on a bike.  Great combination.  I am always thankful of what I have been blessed with and I know from where all blessings come.  May I never forget.

Obligatory hero shot....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Home Grown Energy Bars

OK... for all those folks I know that keep raving about the oat based energy bars we make (and I share on-trail), here is the recipe.

1 C Brown Sugar (Splenda brown as option)
2/3 C peanut butter (your choice,,,JIFF...whatever)
1/2 C honey.  We are lucky enough to have a honey house nearby
1/2 C low fat butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 C quick cooking oats
1/2 C coconut (shredded)
1/2 C sunflower nuts (I like the salted ones)
1/2 C raisins or craisins.  I like the cranberries better.
1/2 C flax meal
1 C semi sweet chocolate chips or carob chips if you like.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, grease 13x9 pan.  In large bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, butter, and vanilla.  Blend well.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Press mixture evenly into pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool completely, cut into bars.  Ride.  Eat.  Be happy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We got mountains.

One thing we have in spades in So Cal are mountains.  Ok, not Fourteen'ers, but still, we got some pretty good hills to ride up and over.  Most of them are criss crossed with fire trails (dirt roads) that allow access for wildfire fighting or whatever.  We have singletrack too, but there are waaaayy more fire roads than true trails.

This last Sat a group of pilgrims set out on a loop up and over one of those mountains that split the boys into two partitions....a slower paced group that began at the base of a serious dirt climb and a faster group that I was in (hey, every train needs a caboose) that began 6 miles lower and connected things with a paved climb out of town first.  The idea was that we would all summit at around the same time so there would be little waiting at the top.  Good thing too as it was full on clouds up there on the ridge and likely in the high 30s for temps.  Brrrr.

But the slower group got a late start due to a late arrival of one rider (who turned around early in the ride...well thanks a lot...make us late, then leave).  So we ended up passing them not even half way up the 2 hour climb.  Not a good sign.  The fastest of the fast were long gone now and were nowhere to be found at the top of the main climb.  It turned out that one of the guys was a bit under dressed and was feeling the weather up there.  We waited for a while at the top...maybe 45 minutes, till we could not wait anymore...too cold.  We completed the ride by running 8 miles of ridgeline in the clouds and then dropped down 5-ish miles of singletrack.

A chicken burrito later at a Mex food joint, and no slow group.  I called JeffJ who was coming off a head cold and a month or so of little riding, and I got a broken reply on the phone before the call dropped:  "...halfway down Gridley...legs...locking up....feels like I might....throw-up...*click*"  Oh my.  Not good.

We were planning the rescue mission when we saw the entourage coming back into town.  JeffJ (in the blue windbreaker) looks like he is smiling in the pic.  I think it was a grimace that stuck there...kinda' like the Joker on Batman.  But it is amazing what a plate of Mexican food will fix and in the end, things worked out just fine.

We got mountains here, by George, and we ride over them on occasion.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"You Must Like Pain"

"You must like pain".  That was said to me in a recent email after I announced a 'Six Hours Of' ride in the local trails.  Simple idea.  We all begin at a set time, ride a one hour, ten mile loop as many times as we can, coming by our trucks every lap for re-supply, and we cannot begin another lap once the clock hits the beginning of the sixth hour.  Fun loop, too.  Hard, but not too hard and good payoffs.  Really, just a fun way to train a bit and see what that kind of experience is like for those who have never done anything like that.  At about 3 hours, then 4 hours, then 5 hours, it does begin to hurt a bit.

I had plenty of time to think about the 'loving pain' comment as I was chin deep in a multi hour hill climb this past Saturday.  This 5 hour loop begins with a 6 mile paved road section, pretty much all uphill to one degree or another, then hits it hard into the dirt and just goes up....and up...and up.  It was maybe 40 degrees at the top and cloudy and we were all pretty cold as we traversed the ridge line toward our 5.5 mile singletrack descent.  It was a very painful climb and suffering abounded.

I am planning a ride next year of the White Rim in Moab.  The WRIAD covers 102 miles of dirt road in remote territory in a day.  Pedal, little mtn biker.  Pedal.  It will hurt, I suspect.  I can't wait!

So now I am considering the comment made by the person, himself an experienced rider, and wondering if it is true.  Mountain biking is hard.  Yet I do not go out of my way to do hard things by nature.  No Everest ascents or runs across Africa.  You won't see me on Shark Week.  However I have to admit that I embrace the more difficult aspects of riding a bike over longer distances and such, although I am certainly on the moderate end of such endeavors by many people's standards.  So what is the deal?

I think is it more complex and yet simple than just a pain fetish.  I am a mountain biker.  I love being all that that encompasses.  And folded up in that knobby tired wrapper is a healthy dose of pain and suffering.  It just goes with the territory.  And the territory is exceptional.  The big climb into the clouds we just did looked down on hundreds of folks who were scurrying around the valley floor doing their busy things, looking up into the clouds we were in and thinking, "sure glad I am not up there in all that weather".  Honestly there were times I wanted to be warmer, but I would not have traded places with them.  There were times I wanted to have the climb over with, but I would not have skipped it to stay where it was easy, down in that valley with the coffee shops and heated cars.

I guess what it comes down to is that I like the view from the saddle more than any other view I know of.  And that view is a fine one indeed.  From slow, plodding efforts that lead to vistas and high places to blurry ones where gravity is pulled and stretched as we slingshot along with the laws of physics firmly in our jersey pockets.

And, I guess that is that.  Mountain biking is hard but rewarding and it is that balance of sweet and salty that has captured my heart for over 25 years.  The pain is not something I seek, but just comes with the territory.  I do admit that I enjoy the looks of non-riders who, when hearing about a recent ride will look at you like you are crazy.  "You rode up there?  On a bike?  Pedaled up there?  You are nuts!"

Maybe I am, a bit.  But I think I am smart.  God's grace has allowed me to participate in a great sport for many years now and has kept me fit, younger feeling, and happy.  It gives me goals and rewards me with great friends and great experiences. 

And the pain part?  Well, OK...I like it just a little.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Could it be?

I knew it was somewhere and then, while cleaning out some old files, I found it;  a folded piece of yellow, lined paper with hand written, faded blue ink on it.

26 min. 40 sec.
From S/S to S/S
Ridge Rte

This simple message is haunting me.  Taunting me.  Smackin' me down.  That note records a time trial result I used to do on a local road.  It is a pretty constant 8 mile climb and in earlier times I ran it with a heart rate monitor and a cycling computer to train with...measure myself against.

I long since stopped using a heart rate monitor and I have no use for a cycling computer, so I kinda lost track of any measured times.  But I still ride this, especially on the singlespeed, and I have a pretty good idea how long it takes me.  Let's say 50 minutes, a bit less on the road bike.  50 minutes.  Fifty.  Five...Oh.  Not 26 minutes and 40 seconds.  Not even close.  How can that even be?

Well, the other day I did that ride again and kept the pace up as fast as I could manage on the SS.  Yep...50 minutes.  So how is it possible that I used to be...what?...twice as fast?  No way.  I would need a scooter or something.  So I am left with the only real possibility...I wrote it down wrong.  I remember it being 46 minutes 40 secs. 

Now I know that I am not the rider I used to be, but I don't think I am that much slower.  The other day I rode up The Beast, another local hill climb, dirt this time, that is a 3-ish mile butt kicker of a climb.  I did that in 40 minutes.  That is as fast as I ever have done this climb, at least as I can remember.  A local fast guy I know who used to be a top ranked Expert/decent Pro racer said he did that in 30 minutes.  Wow.  Well, if that number on that yellow note is right, and I used to be that much faster, then in ages past I should have been able to do The Beast in half the time it took me the other day.  Never happened.

So I really want to think that I wrote that note wrong.  Otherwise I used to be really fast and I sure don't remember it that way.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mad Scientist at work

I am creating again.  I am elbow deep in metal shavings, silicon bits, wire, and JB Weld.  It is time for another set of LED bike lights.  I made a set of bar lights and helmet lights a couple of years ago when LED DIY (Do It Yourself) lights began to be turned out by hobbyists all over the country.  At the time, a high end set of bike lights was typically HID based with a big batt pack and very expensive parts.  But the LED changed all that and allowed for smaller batts and smaller and lighter lights with looong burn times.  LEDs are very efficient that way.  And they were embraced by a few brave and curious folks and so the 'modding began.  Human kind loves to tinker and improve things, do they not?

So, at the time the new commercial LED lights were still darn expensive...$250.00 or I built my own set of bar/helmet at a cost of $130.00 all in.  Yes, they were not as slick as the store bought ones, but they were bright and simple with a high/low bar mount that put out 400 lumens on high and maybe 30% of that on low...good for climbing...and a helmet light that was a one-button clicky 200 lumens deal.  Both were built from those little 5 dollar flashlights you see on the counter at the auto parts store, gutted, and then stuffed with high power LEDs, drivers, and wires.  The batt pack was 10 AA rechargeable cells.

But LED technology has moved on fast and even the batteries have taken huge leaps in size and capacity.  So the new lights will be at least twice as many lumens and will be half the weight.  The new Cree XML LEDs are more efficient (less Vf) AND put out more lumens per mA then the ones of a year ago.  The batts will be half the size and just as powerful.  Sweet.

The funny thing is, I can do it cheaper if I just pulled out the credit card and hit the Buy Now button.  Yep, now I can buy a commercial/premade light cheaper than I can build one.  Thank China for that one. The Magicshine shown at left, and others that have followed, have been a game changer allowing you to get at the 800 lumen range for 80 bucks or so all included...charger, etc.  The thing is, the cheapest components are often used here so long term may not be the best results, but hey, if you get two seasons out of it, then you can just pick up the new version for even less, most likely.

So why should I build?  Well, it kinda is like building your own bike from parts rather than buying it whole.  You typically spend more in a custom build unless you really get some bro-buddy or eBay deals/steals.  I get this light to be just the way I want it within my own limits of construction, at least.  No lathes or mills in my garage, so I am using square alu tubing and scrap I had around the garage.  Some work with a cut off saw and file, JB weld, some Lexan from the scrap pile, and wire scavenged from work from the toss-it bin, then add in some store bought components and hopefully I will be in the light zone with a new torch set that I made for myself.

And really, that is the real issue here.  I made it myself and for some reason, that appeals to me, even if it does not make practical sense.

Now, if I only would get an answer to that ad on Craig's List for a laboratory assistant.  I thought folks were looking for work?

Wanted:  Laboratory assistant needed for a local Mad Scientist.  No prior experience needed, but must be shorter than I am and have the inability to look me in the eye when I speak to him.  Groveling may be required.  Hunchback optional, but is a plus as is being bi-lingual in Hungarian.
Apply here with qualifications and any references.  Address reply to 'Master'.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Magic Carpet (Fibers)

Now that's a top tube!
Carbon Fiber...often derided as Carpet here to stay for cycling products.  No doubt there.  But the last year I have been able to ride three bikes, all full suspension, both in aluminum and carbon frames, and the difference has been quite striking.  Each time the pedaling response and the overall chassis feel has been noticeably superior.

Now I am on the 'Half-Caff' carbon front/alu rear Camber Expert 29er and the difference is there too.  It just pedals 'lighter' then the scale says it should.  And stiff too, from end to end, no doubt the 142+x12 back end is helping.

I am somewhat conflicted in that carbon is quite a nasty bit of chemicals and such in the making of it.  I am not a hard-core Greenie, but even I am not so crazy about this part.  Then the cost is high and likely to remain so unless you want to buy China Direct.  And, it breaks.  The shadow of fragility hangs over the carbon component like a shroud.  But I think that is fast becoming a thing of the past.  Everything can break (and will).  I have broken alu frames.  I have seen plenty of broken steel frames.  Ti can break too and does.  And, carbon can be repaired.

So it becomes a bit of a gamble.  Carbon is really good at hiding warts under a skin of beauty...hard to see how well the lay-up went and such what.  But the bike guys that do this well seem to have a very strong track record of longevity and I think that, unless you have a track record of bike abuse and breakage, that carbon should be fine for most folks.

I know it sure is wooing me and winning me over ever time I pedal one of the little dears.  It has me wondering when the right carbon fiber SS frame will come along and tempt me over to the dark side. 

Magic carpets indeed.  They only had one gear too.  I will pass on the monkey option, though.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The more things change...

...well, the more they stay the same. 

Lately some really cool stuff has been coming though the garage.  Carbon wheels, carbon bikes, etc.  And I will tell ya', carbon when it is done right is a real game changer.  Last weekend I did a pretty big ride with the carbon wheels on the Epic and they are pretty amazing.

You know what I miss the most right now?  My singlespeed.  Crazy huh?

Then, when discussing the possibility of a WRIAD ride next year, I was talking about it with Ed The Tall and I casually mentioned that many folks do it on an SS.  "Really?", he said?  I could see the wheels turning.

And it brought out from the shadows of my mind that I really would like to do it on an SS as well.  Silly me.  I worry that my body may let me down.  Gears and full suspension help a lot when it comes to avoiding a beat down.  But the SS always amazes me as to how well it can cover ground.  I swear there are times on the trail that I am going faster than a geary guy and not working as hard.  Over and over again, if you compare my times over a typical ride between SS and geared, I am the same nearly to the minute.  But there is little grace there to tired legs.  No cruising gear.  Just a pedaling gear and a walking gear.

Then there is the punishment to the low back.  I avoid geared hardtails due to all the sitting and pedaling and most hardtails these days come with oversize seatposts.  Whap...whack...smack to the back.  But could I make it work with a very compliant post, a good saddle and a low pressure tire?  I would sure like to find out.

I just think that it is funny, when I could be riding a uber-bike or when I am considering doing the longest MTB ride I have ever done, I find myself drawn to the simplest bike I have.  I do have one consolation though.  I am building up another SS, just to make it even harder to choose.