Thursday, June 29, 2006

Coolest kid in school...

It's official, I'm the coolest kid in school...

Here's a few shots of what a Lefty looks like on a 'normal' bike. Thanks to Roberts for giving me a hand with this one. This is not exactly a legit use of a Lefty. I've been told (repeatedly) that this fork will rip the front end off of a bike. So, in the interest of either REALLY hurting myself or proving some guys at Cannondale wrong, I'm personally stepping up. I'm not saying that there won't be a full-face helmet on during the first real trail ride (heh) but I'm pretty sure I'll be ok out there. Dont' worry, I'll post pics if I end up on the bad side of Brokenbikeville... I wonder if Sycip will honor the warrantee on the frame. I'll have to send a couple o pics over to the brothers and Brent at Phil to see what they think. I had to ditch the Phil front disc wheel for the lefty wheel so maybe he won't be so stoked. Oh well, there's my hint, Brent.

Oh, and I'll be sure to lug the Phil out to the Cannondale 2007 product launch on Monday. I'll be sure to lock the bike on the roof and get a REALLY good parking space right up front at the hotel. I think this is going to me a parking ticket.

Enjoy. I'm hoping that Cannondale will be scared into making these for sale for the not-stupid public. By the way, if you've never ridden one of these forks, you really oughta try it out.

Yeah there's a lot of spacers in there. Yeah the steer tube is silver and the rest is black. Yeah I finished it off with two silver spacers on top of the stem, under the black topcap. I figure I'll have to hit it with a sharpie and no one will know. I still have some room to mess with the head angle. I could raise the headtube about another 2 cm if I want to slack that sucker off a degree or so. It's about where it was before so we'll just run with it like that.

I've got a funny picture of Roberts that I'm going to have to post. After the good shot of him at the Demo Day on the phone, I don't want him to feel too special OR like I'm singling him out. Oh well. I'll ask him tomorrow...

Here's the Dread Pirate Roberts, manning the phone, again.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Whitetail Wrap-Up

Fear of my own weakness is the source of my strength. -me

I bailed on racing. I rode both courses, and they were fun. Adam and I both decided to hang out and watch, this being our first race. It was nice to hang out and support the riders without any pressure. I regret not racing but I had a good time, for sure.

Here's Bryan on what will be called 'Dry Friday.' Can you see the moth/butterfly on his finger? I've got lots of pics from the event and I'll try to get most of them up.

Friday was travel day. Adam met me at the shop a little after 10am. We had to wait for a Chase to be delivered via UPS which put us out the door before 11am, one way or another. Of course, we left closer to noon.

The truck ran well out there. We had plenty of music and plenty of gas. It only took us about 1:45 to get out there. Not bad considering top speed, down hill, is 53mph in that sucker.

Here's RobVV's goon wheelie. Adam, Rob and I were the last one's on the mountain after around 6pm. We hiked up past the slalom course and hung out on the mtn for a while. I managed to get a bunch of solo runs on the slalom course.

The weather rolled in a little after dark and the rain came down in buckets. We lowered everyone's EZ-ups and hung out in the rain for a few hours. We finally crashed in the CB truck around 11pm. I pumped up the air mattress to find that the valve had a leak. I fixed it with duct tape and was ready for a comfortable night's sleep. I had to cut some zipties off of a cable lock to lock the bikes up outside and I followed through the zip tie with my knife right into the air mattress that was propped up next to me... Dumbass. I patched it with duct tape. I went to sleep and woke up an hour later... on the floor. So much for that air mattress. I slept like crap...

Saturday morning, we were woken by Blaze and promises of breakfast. Guess what? No breakfast... The ground had soaked up the rain overnight and people started rolling to the lift when it opened, around 10am. Here's a pic of some guys practicing on the slalom course on Sat. Here's another pic of some lucky guy going big popping out of the woods at the bottom of the Sat course. There was a nice off-camber right turn about 3 bike lengths before this drop so it was tough to carry as much speed as you might want to but this dude pulled it off. I took a bunch of these pics, most of them turning out poorly. I got Bryan dropping in but it's just him landed, not in the air. I suck.

Susan made the call to bring the kids up to hang out on Saturday. Balls. She got there a little before noon. Jeremy and Emma had a GREAT time running around. We hiked up the course to watch the riders pop out of the woods on the Sat course and some slalom riders. Jeremy was whacking everybody with a 5' stick that he found. What a boy. We took the lift up the mountain and hiked down to watch some riders come down the 'rocky part' of the course that was the most technical part of the Sat DH course. I rode it the day before after giving it a quick look. It looked a lot worse on foot than it did on the bike. I probably should have had more than knee/shin pads on and more tire than those WTB Weirwolf LTs, but I rode it just fine, thank you very much.

The rain Friday night really made the course a lot more rideable than it was on Friday, especially the slalom course. The loam got packed in and the rocks started to get exposed.

Sunday morning brought out the rain. And I mean RAIN. It was a few inches, for sure. The lift opened up within an hour of the rain start so people thought it wouldn't be bad... until it kicked in and REALLY started to come down. It didn't stop and hasn't. Lightning shut off the lift for a few hours but they turned it on to get everyone up the mountain. The course was tough, to say the least.

Here's your window into our Sunday. Yes, we were set up in about 1/2" of running water. We had to get the rain out of the tents about every 5 minutes or so. We stayed 'dry' in the sense that we weren't standing in the rain, but when Adam was standing around in his flip flops, he looked like he was just barefoot. You couldn't see half of his feet because they were under water. People were taking it all in stride and just getting wet. There wasn't too much actual mud, but it was really wet. The eternal optimist, Mike Calfo, when asked about the course said 'Aw, yeah, it'll be great. The rain will wash all the mud off the rocks so it will be really fast.' I love that guy. I was thinking 'the rain will wash the mud off the rocks and the riders will lay it back down AND your brakes won't work so well and neither will those tires.' But what do I know... He's the race pro.

And finally, my favorite pic from the weekend (besides those of my wife and kids) has got to be this one. A loving man, taking his favorite person to her favorite place: the beginning of a racecourse. Mike was seen running around on a little 50cc bike, a 6-wheeled Gator, his 4-wheeler and his new Judge DH bike. So here they are, Mike and Hillary, shuttling up to the top of the slalom course for some practice, Fredneck style. If only Mike had a Budweiser tall-boy in his hand, it would be perfect. Here's my thanks for a great weekend. DH will be a slow entry for me, especially since I fee like I'm in good xc-racerboy shape and don't want to risk injury. Yeah, that's the ticket...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Night-time Cross Race in AACo?

Here's a proposed course...
There's so much more. I have a lot of pics that I'm going to post on this potential race venue, but I want to hear back from the staff regarding actually renting it before I spill any more. This is one of the many things that will probably never happen, but Roberts and I have been wanting to put a race on for a few years.

Who knows. This course would be fun. It would be partially lit and there is a great microbrew 'roadhouse' just a mile or so away that could sponsor the event. Lights, bikes, beer, jumps... we'll see how it goes. Send me your thoughts...

The Tech Side of the Race

I've had a few conversations and a few random emails so I thought I would share some of my personal race strategy/equipment info with everyone...

Everyone has their own reason for racing. I like to go out, socialize, talk friendly smack and ride as hard as possible. Winning really isn't a consideration. Generally, I've found that the more that I race, the more disciplined I am during the 'season' and it gives me just enough focus (I need all I can get) to stay in shape and temper my riding with what is best for me regarding recovery, intervals and miles. It's also fun to ride somewhere you don't usually ride with people you've never met. It's just part of the whole mtb community, of which I consider myself a part.

My bikes and gear have changed in a BIG WAY over the last 6 years. I used to Mr. One Bike Guy, commuting to DC, riding and taking that bike on trips for work. That was the first stage of my riding... getting REALLY in tune with one bike in all situations so I was comfortable and could push my limits. It's easy to push limits on a hardtail steel bike that is too light for you and only takes 2.2 tires and vee brakes. From 1993 and my first rockhopper, then my first 'race' bike - 1993 Sworks Steel rigid - then a Marin ti team bike, Bontrager Race Lite, Stump Steel single (in 1998), Phil Wood Kiss Off singlespeed... I've had a good stable of rides. Still do...

After spending some time on a 6" fsr bike in CA on a visit with Lars, I realized that there's nothing wrong with more weight, more control and more comfort. My loving wife bought me a 2001 Rocky Instinct 3" bike that took me a while to get used to. Once I got that dialed (new fork, brakes, wheels) I started wanting more. In 2004, I hooked up an Sworks Stump FSR 120, almost 5" of love. I started riding skinnies, doing drops and hitting jumps. I wasn't really racing during those years, with the new wife, house, kids, long-ass commute. There just wasn't time.

I managed to get a few races in during 2004... The single rocked at Lodi. I went fast (kinda) and got beat up a bit. That was before the stump fsr. I tried to race the SM100 off the couch, which, if you don't know already, is a bad idea. I made it uncomfortably to mile 75 on the shop YBB. I realized what the future had in store for me. In 2005, the only race I remember was the SM100. All I wanted to do was finish. I was stoked with a 12:22:17 after four weeks of training. The time was right for a return.

Now that it's 2006, I upped to the Stump FSR Carbon bike (130mm) with super-control Trail Tune Brain Fade. I'll be racing that bike DH or Slalom next weekend and I just raced it to 3rd in Expert at Big Bear, but I digress. I also picked up a new road bike for long miles of training. I lost a little explosive speed but I have KILLER endurance. I wish I had both, but it's easier to train for long distances than speed AND distance. I'm glad I've got one... I'm spending time on an Enduro SX Trail to try and do some weight/resistance training on a heavy bike, pushing a big gear around. Oh yeah, and hitting drops and jumps...

Along the way, I have learned that some base layers make my nipples bleed (TMI?), stiffer shoes are more better, supporting my arches in my feet makes ALL the difference on long rides. Tire choice is critical as is suspension set-up and heavier is usually better.

For most courses around here when it's not wet, I use Nokian 2.2 NBX lite tires. They measure 2.0 and are very light. You have to watch the PSI if it's rocky, but it's easy to get it right. I also spend a lot of time on WTB ExiWolf (used to be EpicWolf) tires. This is a popular tire with the 29'er set in 2.3 although a lot of those guys say that it wears out too quickly. I have had great luck with the 2.1s in 26" and the 1.9s as well (although I haven't ridden them since last year).

I've learned that tires are the first and most critical piece of suspension that you have. If your sidewall is too stiff, you'll bounce off of everything and feel out of control, too light and you have to run a ton of air, causing you to bounce off of everything and feel out of control. I think that the width of your tires is the most important indicator of how it will react. A really knobby 1.9 with 45psi is not as fast or controllable (for me) as a light, low-tread 2.2 or 2.5 down around 34 or 26psi.

There are a few people out there who are super-conscious of this stuff. My bro Lars is the NorCal king of mtn bike stuff... He deals with a lot of competitive guys racing xc and dh in pro and expert classes. I've realized that once you get to race day, you aren't getting any faster. You've got to run the legs ya brung. BUT, you do have equipment, tire and suspension choices that can make you faster or keep you strong. It's not about the bike... it's about the bike and the rider.

Next weekend at the City Bikes Capital Cup, I'll be racing DH both days and slalom. I've never actually raced like that before, but what the hell. Life is short, try to do whatever you can to come close to ending it...

See y'all out there.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Big Bear Race Report and...

It's Tuesday. I got my emails caught up from the weekend, got my 'to do' list together, dropped the kids off and poured myself a hot-ass cup of coffee so I'm ready to talk... Here's the story...

MattyD and I relegated ourselves to driving the City Bikes truck down to the race. It's camping, there's lighting involved so a generator and warm, dry place to change into and out of race clothes while actually standing up was attractive, too. It's the 24 Hours of Big Bear, hosted by the guy who invented the genre, Laird Knight. You want to make sure you represent, which put me at MattyD's house a little earlier than the Friday 10am pickup time we agreed to. We got his stuff in the 'ru for the drive up to Chevy Chase to pick up the truck. We did a few minutes of cleaning then loaded the old girl up for the drive. We picked up some food and got on the road around noon, as planned.

It's 175m to the race venue, the truck has a full tank of gas (35g?) with a 6g jerrycan just in case, because the gas gauge doesn't work. So, we thought the mileage would be above the 7mpg we got, so we almost ran out of gas, which we didn't know until we pumped it full again at the gas station just outside the campground. Plus we ran the generator the whole way to we could listen to the stereo the whole way.

Friday night was relaxed and fun. Once you talk everyone out of gettin ready for the race, you can all relax. Everyone is thinking they are racing in the morning (which they aren't) and really, only one of the four of you is riding before 1pm the next day, but it's just normal pre-race stuff. We were lucky that we had the Gwadz boys and Kent camping next to us. We also had some cool local Bmore boys racing sport next to us. We had decided over email that we would race Expert because there were too many sport teams signed up. MattyD, Jonathan, Alex and I had done 2 TOTAL expert class races EVER in our lives, but we all did REALLY well at the 12hrs of Lodi, placing 1st and 2nd in 3 man sport. So expert seemed like the right thing to do. Not to ruin the story, but we ended up 3rd in Expert so we chose right. We also beat ALL of the sport teams, so we REALLY made the right decision. Pop around here for more race results. That link is our times. I was second so you can see the times. MattyD was 1st, Alex 3rd, Jonathan 4th. We should have been called 'City Bikes Anti-Sandbaggers.' We got 14th place overall, again, huge for us.

The course was rad. You started on a flat section then into a downhill with fun jumps and little gaps. It was all 10-14" wide and dark brown. The trail was SUPER-tacky. There was no slipping on the dirt. The rocks and roots were another story, but I really didn't have any major problems. The course has a few surprises, but the narrow trail has been ridden so that you have to go out of your way to hit stuff that will mess you up. The steep couple of descents are fun and I REALLY railed them, even at night. I felt like I had the perfect setup. Tires, suspension, pressure, fit, gear, food, sleep... I was prepped to do well. And, luckily, I did.

Lap one started out with MattyD ROLLING into the start/finish with a quick time and the day was set. We had a clean transition and I got on the bike and went out too hard. I finally managed to slow myself down after big-ringing the first 5 miles or so. I passed 2 people on the first climb and another 4 throughout the lap. 3 passed me. I was lucky that I calmed myself down because the last 1/4 of the lap is the toughest. I had never ridden the course so I was just trying to hammer and rest, when I had to and when I could. It was early afternoon and I had plenty of time to recover later and I had a team counting on me. I managed to get through the slow part of the course, middle-ringed up the steep climbs after the hike-a-bike, then big-ringed the back part of the course. It's up hill, but not steep and I felt great. 1:19. Solid lap.

My other lap times were 1:17 (6pm lap), 1:27 (nighttime crash lap), 1:24 (6am dawn lap) and 1:20 (pre-noon lap). The only mentionable lap was the night lap. I was ROCKING the downhill at full speed and feeling a little scared but excited. I like me some fast riding. At the bottom of the section, there is a hard right-hander. It's pretty smooth, but the whole section was a little slick around midnite. I was leaning hard into the right turn and the front tire just went left on me. I went down on my right hand and felt it skip over a few rocks. I knew it was going to be a problem but it slipped ahead of me and I fell on my right side, with no real impact. I jumped right up and grabbed the bike, made a joke to somebody hanging out down there and HAMMERED away from the site, knowing that I had time to make up AND I had to get off the bike just in case there was bleeding or something worse. I didn't panic, but I was eager to see what was going on with my hand. The glove got tight so I backed off the pressure on the hand. My lap time wasn't bad but, luckily, I had 4.5hrs before my next lap. It's a good thing we had a 12 mile lap.

Short follow-up: palm bruised, right hand didn't slow me down, I felt great and am really proud of myself for pulling through and feeling good. The ONLY problem I had was my damn shifting.

My first lap, I didn't really notice it. My rear der was a bit off, but I usually just adjust my shifting and move on. I usually don't think about it after I adjust. After lap 2, I realized that I had a problem. Both up AND down shifts required an extra shift each time. You want to downshift a little? Downshift twice, wait for one shift to happen, then upshift once to keep the chain in place. Same for upshifts. It was nuts. I was pretty sure I knew what the problem was, but when I got off the bike after lap 2, I felt like I could deal with it. After the midnite lap, I knew that I made a mistake. The shifting got more inconsistent and I thought about it the WHOLE TIME I was riding. That's bad. I was WAY too tired to work on it after that lap and went right to sleep after trying to stuff a bunch of food down my throat. I woke up feeling goofy and got on my bike to check it out again and just rode it but it was depressing. I got off the bike after lap 4 and was so happy that I was done that I chugged an orange soda and ate a bunch. I put the bike in the stand to figure out what was wrong and I fixed it in about 4 minutes. The ferrule was letting the wire pull through the housing which would compress/decompress with every shift. I was right. I cut both ends of the housing and put it back together and it was fixed. I did some math on our lap times and? Yup, I had another lap coming up. I was actually stoked ot get out there and ride a lap with a fully working bike! The 1:20 says it all. I'm an idiot...

I'm sure I'll remember more stories from the weekend. MattyD, Alex and Jonathan made City Bikes and the Meatwagon a perfect team. No mechanicals, two small crashes, consistent lap times, sharing, caring, funny guys. I was lucky and we had a great time.

Did I mention that it was F'ing freezing? It blew about 25knots most of the time. Oof. I'll be back Laird. Next year, let's forget the 'raffle' at the end of the race and actually give some prizes away to podium finishers...

Pics: MattyD on the left, Kent on the right, pre-run. MattyD (partial) on the left, Kent on the right at the start of the run, start line (MattyD, Kent on right), base camp fleet, my dawn lap, my hand, expert podium (courtesy JGwadz)...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

So I says 'hey, llama, how about something, you know, for the effort!'

I spent some time with Bill Murray today. He's so sweet... Here's the entrance that scared Crawdad.

I have a mcleod stashed out there so I can just cruise over there. In lieu of driving down to the HooHa!, I stuck around with the fam today but managed to find an hour to head over and dig a little. Next weekend is Big Bear so I'll be away a lot... Discretion is the better part of valor. Plus, I pulled something in my back yesterday and couldn't breathe for about 2 minutes, which was fun.

This first pic is from the top of a 6-7 ft embankment after you roll down a big hill. You are cooking right here at around 26mph then you drop right the hell into the dark shadows of doom!

This next pic is from the bottom, just inside the trees. The leaves on the ground make it a little hard to see, but the trail carves up around to the left. You scrub a lot of speed pretty quickly as the ground is still soft at the bottom. I didn't want to do any digging down there as I don't want anybody to find it just yet. It's still a little soon. As a reminder, this IS legal trail but I don't want anybody taking matters into their own hands. As soon as the surface gets a little harder, it will be a lot faster and you will scrub little, if any speed down there. Right now, the part just above this is ALL clay so it packs really well and makes an instant superhighway. As soon as you hit this little wall and start heading left, you get to the first little hipper at the top of the left-hander. I smoothed out the grade so the transition is a little more natural so it already holds more speed than it did last week. I managed to get about 10 linear feet of full-bench work done in an hour today, so that's good. Again, there's so much clay in the soil that as soon as you get past the organic stuff, the construction goes quickly.

Final picture is a self-portrait with the upper section and hipper. The trail drops off to the left at that high spot so you won't see it from this angle. I have more grade work to do off the backside but you will get a little boost in the current condition as long as you hold speed.

More to come. I don't have much time this week as I have a lot of work to do plus prep for Big Bear. I'd like to be able to ride once or twice this week before the event but I don't think it's in the cards.

I'll work on my funny faces, too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Goin' over

So here's Irv. This skinny 'rican has way too much stuff on... Irv got out of the Navy a few years ago, went to law school then got married and signed up for the Reserves. Two days later, he gets his orders and he's off to Mississippi for training before heading to Afghanistan. Nice. Oh, and his wife found out they are expecting just a few weeks before. Great.

Wouldn't you like to be sent to a place called 'the Valley of Death?' Sounds like a great vacation spot. 115 deg F sounds dry, eh? Politics aside, please wish this guy (and all the other people over there) well and do what you can to help out. And that doesn't mean putting a damn yellow ribbon sticker on your SUV... If you have some old books or some CDs that you have converted to MP3s, let me know and I'll send 'em over there for you.

Take it easy, Irv. We're here for you and Sarah.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's Go Time

This weekend is the CSC Invitational in VA, just outside DC. Also, for us dirtheads, it's the Massanutten HooHa! It's another race I've never done in the area (Harrisonburg) so I'll check it out. It's a 20 mile single-lap race with a 38 mile xxc option, starting an hour earlier. With my lack of riding recently, I think the 20 miler is my style. Plus it starts an hour later and it looks like I'll be driving down that morning.

It looks like a bunch of us will be racing down there while others are braving the pavement and racing at CSC. I still don't know about that road racing stuff. Crashing into trees is more appealing, I'm not sure why...

24hrs of Big Bear is just 10 days away and then Father's Day weekend (riding?) then the City Bikes Capital Cup at Whitetail. Busy month. If you aren't ready for July's Wilderness 101, it's crunch time. Time to rock and roll. And ride.

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