Friday, December 27, 2013

Escape from Hoth

I recently made a break from the horribly inverted western slope. Since Dec 1, we haven't really seen temps above 30 and the snow/ice has yet to recede. For me that has meant lots of time on the indoor trainer and too much time thinking about riding dirt. Angel had the entire Christmas week off to go and visit family. I had 3 days. Looking at spending day 1 traveling, day 2 with family, and day 3 traveling didn't seem like the best value for $1100.

Seeing too many photos of Sedona, AZ with it's trails and landscape, a 60 and sunny forecast, and the recent delivery of my new bike for the 2014 race season created quite the itch.

A plan was made for a scratch.

 23-24-25 off.

Calls were made.

Messages were sent.

No one else jumped on board.

No stopping me.

Get off work on the 22nd.

Throw in the laundry.

Toss the riding gear in the car.

Toss and turn.

Alarm buzzing at 3:45am.

Start this post on an internet forum.

Drive west.

Turn south.

See the sunrise.


Book a room (how cool is a smart phone).

Stop by Over the Edge in Sedona for a map.


RIDE.

Eat.

Sleep.

RIDE.

Nap.

Eat.

Sleep.

Pack the car.

Drink coffee.

RIDE.

Load car.

Decide to ride something else.

It's Christmas day. How can you not do a ride off this road?
RIDE.

Load up.

Drive north.

Watch temps drop.

Frown.

See sunset.

Turn east.

Unpack.

Sleep.

Work.

Think about going back.

There's the quick and exciting part.

Now the mundane details. When I got off work that night, I ordered a pizza, went and grabbed a duffel bag, opened the drawers and pulled out some bike shorts, walked around, put more stuff in a bag.....KIDDING

 I didn't have a plan other than riding my bike in Sedona. A little research via Youtube/Google and I figured I'd play the typical mountain bike tourist. Ride the A-list stuff. The stuff everyone knows about. The Kessel's Run, Zippedy Do Da, and Horsethief of Sedona. A number of these trails are also the most technically challenging trails on offer. BONUS

I love rocky, techy, mentally thoughtful riding. And I really enjoy riding the stuff blind. Just get in the flow of things and react to what comes. Most of the time it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. (Sedona is a good place to have it work. There's a lot of thorny, spiky, needley, I can't wait to make you pay if you screw up objects out there.)

Day 1

 I was thinking a 20 mile ride in the 3 hour zone that included Slim Shady and Hiline would be a good warm up. Keith from Over the Edge had a great loop to recommend that came in at 21 miles. Perfect. Hiline is great, but the fun chute on the backside was too short lived. Oh well, guess ya just gotta ride more. I made some wrong turns, back-tracked, took a few different options and finished in 4.5hrs and 30 miles. And damn, was it fun!

Day 2

 
Hang Over was my trail of choice. "They" say it's difficult with life-threatening exposure. I hear fun. And it was. Some fast and flowy stuff, some slow trials moves, some icy, off-camber slickrock. It delivered. It was fun. Cruising down Munds Wagon Trail was my favorite part. Perhaps it's from spending lots of time climbing vertical objects or maybe it's being used to riding trails with your handlebar overhanging a void, but I didn't find Hang Over to be intimidating in the least. If it's that fear keeping you from riding it, just go. Any moments of terror will be short lived and soon erased by a shit-eating grin.

 Day 3: Merry Christmas

Selfie!
Last day. Bummer. At least I've got till noon. And I've got the last of the "H" trails to ride. High on the Hog with a couple of other Hog in the name trails. I'll say Hog was/is my favorite of the 3 H's. No particular reason either. I'd like to ride them all again. I harvested the Hog and still wanted to ride. The guys at the shop mentioned Teacup was fun. Teacup it was. And it was really fun. Don't miss it.

Random notes: 27.5 and the Bronson are AWESOME. I'll do a review between the Bronson and Tallboy LT soon.

These chips are tasty


650b and the Bronson are AWESOME


I love riding bikes

Proof that I did in fact ride my bike, if only for 10sec

video

Most of what I rode: Broken Arrow Lama Slim Shady Hiline Old Post Templeton Hang Over Mund's Wagon Pigtail High on Hog Hog Heaven Hog Wash Teacup Solider Pass Brewer Trail Baldwin Mystic

What I found waiting at home

Mom's famous Christmas Mint Brownies

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anti-Training

Things have a been a little lackadaisical since the end of the race season. I figure it's some well earned downtime and I've been able to reacquaint myself with some of the finer things in life.


I eat mostly gluten-free by choice, but this stuff is too good to pass up all the time. A couple of extra beers and margaritas may have snuck into the system, also. I've still been riding my bike, for sure. The only difference is a total lack of purpose other than having fun. No heart rate tracking, no timed intervals, no worries. Ride fast, ride slow, ride with friends, take photos. Enjoy the place we live and the trails we have. Not ride and watch The Walking Dead on Netflix.






Sadly, it hasn't all been fun and games. Now is the time to pay for all the weekends of work that I skipped out on to race. Not to mention, in November, I'll start training for next season and there are a few things I've had to pick up. Good thing the hospital is busy and there's been no shortage of overtime shifts available.


Revelation: modern road bikes are FAST and STABLE
Start training in November? But your season won't start until May, what are you thinking?

Good questions

I'll be racing the Pro class next season and I want to make the most of the opportunity. My race times as an amateur rider were just outside of the top 20 pros. Next season, I want to be well inside the top 20 and I'd like to finish a few stages inside the top 10. This isn't a light task when the pro field literally includes former Olympians, World Champions, and National Champions. Hence, the Stages power meter and Felt Z5 road bike. This stuff doesn't do one a lot of good without proper application. Enter a professional coaching service, Fascat.

Hello winter of pain. Hello bike trainer in the garage. Hello waiting for more days like this:





I've got to throw out a big thanks to Brad Stewart and Bicycle Outfitters, here in Grand Junction. They've always treated me and Angel very well and have been a huge help in my successful season.


Eric Landis and I will be riding/racing enduro for them in the coming year and with their support, we'll be gunning for our goals!

On trail history

Seasons are changing

Monday, October 7, 2013

BME #5 Moab Finale

The Big Mountain Enduro series finals took place in Moab, UT recently and saw us racing some great trails in perfect desert fall weather. Not too hot, maybe a bit too cold for a small portion, fantastic sunrises/sets. Does it get any better? (no, it doesn't. Stupid question)


I was going into my last race of the season with a comfortable points lead for the series. Short of something catastrophic, if I rode consistently, I'd win the overall.

Talk about a position I never thought I'd be in when randomly signing up for a single race just to have a little fun.

So, big weekend goal #1-prevent catastrophe and win the overall.

But, we are racing. And the first day wasn't overly risky to bike or body. Hence, goal #2-win a stage

Goal #3, lets not break anything. I'd really like to enjoy fall riding, after all.


Day 1

Our first day was to be 3 stages on some of the newer trails in the upper Mag-7 area. Parts of these same trails had been used in the spring as part of the Enduro Cup, but this was before I'd ever heard of enduro racing. (late to the party, right?) However, I'd ridden these trails a time or two and knew they were a lot of fun. Not difficult, not very downhill, but lots of fun and with good flow. They could be raced hard without a huge risk of bike or bodily injury. Plus the scenery can't be beat (not that I could see it through the lactic acid haze).  

Stage 1

Ah, stage 1, upper Bullrun. You're so much fun when trail riding, but you really hurt when racing. The first stage of any race is always tough for me and that goes double when it is also the most pedal intensive stage of the day. Despite a nice 2 mile ride from the parking area to the start line and thinking you're warmed up, think again. 

5 seconds. Beep. GO! Pedal, stand-up, brake, turn, gas, turn again. Turn harder, stay on the trail. Make a pass. Seat up. Pedal. Seat down you pansy, pedal. Pass again. Keep pedaling. My legs hurt. Slam on brakes. There goes the turn. Shit. Really pedal. Pass. Sit, stand. Turn. Oh hey there's someones Garmin in the dust. That sucks. Pedal. Am I there yet. There's the finish. Yes!! Its over!

2nd for the stage. Two more to go and two more chances to get my goal of winning a stage. I'm awake now.


Stage 2

An easy ride down the road took us to stage 2, the Great Escape. I'll go out on a limb and say Great Escape is the funnest trail in this area. Any day of riding that included the full Bullrun and Great Escape would be a good one, but if you've only got time or energy for one, make the Escape. It's a bit less pedally, a touch more techy, has a few more sneaker turns, and is just plain fun. Even at race pace. I managed to find all the turns and control the sideways slides down slickrock rollers and pulled off the stage win! Weekend goal #2 accomplished. 

Stage 3

Another easy transition ride and I was at the bottom of the Gold Bar singletrack. However, the timing guys and equipment was not. Nor were they at the top. But lots of riders were. What to do, what to do. I can ride up the trail and ride down! Great idea. A short ride and I was at the top among hordes of racers napping, tanning, chatting. I did a little chatting then turned and rode down. Uh, where's the trail? I can't find the yellow dots. Oh, gee it's over there. The yellow brick road went left and I went right. Note to self, remember that one for the race.


At the bottom, the timing guys were showing up so I began pedaling up the official transition, a.k.a the long way round.  

A short wait at the top and I was lining up for the final run of the day. Then off I went. Making turns, feeling strong, having fun. Uh, where's the stupid yellow dots? Where am I? Oh, yeah. This is that "note to self" spot. Fantastic. Pull a 180, look left so I don't smack the guy behind me and go. Cross the line, shake head, and wonder where my 30sec guy was. He came down almost exactly 30sec behind me. So I lost about 30sec and finished 6th for the stage and 2nd for the day. I also secured the overall BME series win. Goal #1 for the weekend accomplished!

Looking at my time for stage 3, I finished 29sec in front of my 30 sec guy who got 4th on the stage. I figure I lost ~29sec on my little excursion and had that time not been lost, I was knocking at a top 10 finish in the pro class. What if….


Day 2: The Enchilada 

After day one's racing, we got official word from the USFS that enough snow had melted and we would be able to race the Whole Enchilada. We were also told to bring a jacket. 

I was in the second shuttle wave and loaded around 830. It was still 40 in Moab. It was a good deal more chilly at the drop off point. With snow still lingering in the shade and soupy mud in the sun, I slogged up to the top of Burro Pass and a full 7,000ft above the finish line.



Since I had secured the overall on day one, I planned to ride conservatively, not break my body or bike (Goal #3 for those keeping track), and just enjoy the ride. Since Burro was covered in snow and ice, this was kind of nice. It was a total blast slipping and sliding down! I clearly remember laughing my way through the snow and just having fun on my bike while taking a 10th place finish.


One more to go. 

A golden ride to the top of Hazard County and there was the last start line of the season. Hazard was perfect. Fast, smooth berms and turns. No need to brake for them. Just lean, push, and smile. On to the Kokopelli road. No brakes, bomb it. Then the UPS-LPS with its techy, chunky, twisty fun. And onto the not fun Porcupine Rim. Yes, that's right. I said Porcupine Rim isn't fun. At non-race pace it's okay, but not great. Racing it just isn't fun at all, not in my mind anyway. It is challenging in some ways, but doesn't feel overly rewarding. Mentally, I think this was the most difficult portion of the BME series. The unending roughness that constantly tries to rob your speed and shake parts off the bike goes on and on. Of course the saving grace is the final few miles of singletrack, which is certainly world-class. 

With a mentality of enjoy it as best you can, make it down in one piece, and a broken derailleur cable I pulled of a 6th in the stage, 6th for the weekend, and the big win for the season.


Then it was time for a burger and strawberry shake at Milt's.

Season Summary:

Gunny LTR enduro: 3rd Am men
BME Angel Fire: 1st Am men 30-39
BME Crested Butte: 1st Am men 30-39
BME Keystone: 4th Am men 30-39
EWS Winterpark: 6th Am Master Men
BME Durango: 1st Am Men 30-39
BME Moab: 6th Am Men 30-39

1st Overall Am Men 30-39, Big Mountain Enduro Series





Friday, September 20, 2013

Santa Cruz Tallboy LT + RS Pike: A review

There's been a number of topics on mountain bike forums asking about the Tallboy LT. Specifically, one outfitted with a Rock Shock Pike and angle-set headset. So instead of posting in a forum, everyone is going to be forced to come and check out the blog for what they want! Brilliant, right?

Getting into it.

I've been racing enduro in the rocky mountains on my aluminum Tallboy LT all season. I can say it's an amazingly capable machine and by far the most fun bike I've owned. I've ridden, jumped, and dropped things with more confidence than with a previous 160mm 26er.

For the first handful of races this season, I rode the bike mostly stock with XT drivetrain, RP23 shock, and Rock Shock 140mm Revelation RCT3. Only changes were going to a single-ring with either an MRP AMg or G3 guide and different tires. The bike was fantastic! The Big Mountain Enduro races at Angle Fire, Crested Butte, and Keystone were all raced with this setup. I won Angle Fire and Crested Butte in the Am men 30-39 and finished 4th at Keystone. The bike and Revelation never missed a beat, even at Keystone. Being mountain bikers and Americans, something can always be better though.

Enter the Rock Shock Pike (150mm) solo air and Works Components 1.5 headset.









For the first 3 weeks I only had the Pike, as the headset was backordered. I rode my local trails and raced the Enduro World Series in Winter Park with this setup. First date with the fork and huge difference. The stiffness and suppleness of the fork is incredible. The end of stroke ramp is excellent. The Revelation was superior to the Fox's (Float 36, Fit 32, CDT 34) I've ridden and the Pike blew it out of the water.

While the fork was great, I honestly wasn't overly crazy about how the bike felt with the change. I couldn't quite pin it down. Seemed somewhat twitchy maybe. Either way, I squeaked out a slightly disappointing 6th at Winter Park. (EWS recap post)

A few days after the race (typical, huh) the headset showed up. Had it popped in and went out riding. First ride was down a local DH trail, rough, flowy at speed, large drops, steep rollers, and max fun. Instant change. Bike really came alive. Stability in chunky fast stuff is great. Popping up the front end for wheelies and manuals is easier. The bike is much more confident on steep rollers and chutes. Steering is excellent. The bike can bob and weave as well as any big wheeler. I've noticed no negative changes to the bike's climbing abilities, so kick that worry to the curb. As many have said, Santa Cruz needs to sell the bike slightly more slacked on the front. It makes a fun, capable bike even better.

Reasons not to do it?

That'd be none
iPhone measurements place the head angle around 67. 
Pike with 3 air tokens, 50psi. Rider weight about 165 with pack

Thursday, September 19, 2013

BME #4 Recap

Big Mountain Enduro #4, which took place in and around Durango, CO, is in the books. Labor Day weekend saw 250 riders racing down Kennebec Pass and the Horse Gulch system, providing what was probably the most difficult race of the season physically, mentally, and technically.

I headed down to Durango Thursday afternoon to squeak in an easy spin and get ready for some pre-riding on Friday. Eric Landis and I had ridden the majority of the courses in a previous trip, but between the singletrack trials riding of stage 3 and the unknown stage 4 we wouldn't be bored. And we would be riding our bikes, which is always fun.

Day 1: Kennebec Pass

Start line view
Saturday's racing would be all in the backcountry on a great mix of fast, high consequence terrain that required a bit of work to access. It went something like this:
5:15a.m. and the alarm was going off
6:30 we were loading bikes in trailers for the hour long shuttle
8:00 found us starting the 6 mile, 2200ft climb to the start line

Then, with a 5sec countdown, time stopped and started all at once.

Our first half mile was the most puckered of the weekend. High-speed water-bars, off-camber turns, loose dirt, and a scree field (slide rock as the locals call it) were all part of the deal. Even after this, there was no shortage of chances to blow through turns, endo into creeks, hug a tree, or fall down the mountain's side. Leaving the start gate with a rule not to over cook it on stage 1 and to pedal hard when I could gave me a clean run and a 1st place finish.


From the valley bottom finish to the top of stage 2 was another 4 miles and 1200ft of climbing. Stage 2 gave us full throttle, roughed up double track into overgrown snaking single track and loads of opportunity to hammer the pedals. Too bad I met a sudden stop with the ground during a loose right hander! Oh well, a little rest and adrenaline helps the power output…Even without the crash, the Durango local who won the stage would have smoked me. 2nd in the stage would do just fine.



Day 2: Horse Gulch

Racing didn't start until 9. And it was right in town, allowing me to pedal right out the front door. Guess who got to sleep in. Angel.

I was up at 6, going over all the nuts and bolts of my bike and reviewing course video. Stage 3 would be the most difficult of the season and locals had a big advantage knowing the fast "B" lines. Imagine sidewalks seen in war zones. Holes, shattered rock tilted at fun house angles, up ledges, down ledges, cactus to the left and a cliff on the right. All on terrain that wasn't steep enough to carry speed without pedaling. Then give us a couple of steep, punchy climbs to break things up. OUCH! More than a few people throughout all divisions had a plan to carry their bikes through various sections. I was one of them, though it happened more often than I had planned.

Wow, this was hard. I felt redlined down the entire thing, but my HR data didn't reflect how I felt. Not sure what to make of that! Toughen up I suppose.


I was having a great run and feeling pretty happy until the chunky climb/run/hike in the upper section. I cranked too hard, blew up, started making mistakes, cussing, and having an OTB moment off a rock bridge. I knew I was losing a huge amount of time, but kept going as hard as I was able. Really, I just wanted to be done. I wanted the pain and frustration to end. I had a moment or two when I was ready to skip stage 4 and call it a weekend. Somehow, I recovered a little bit of technique and let things fly on the lower fast tech. Still nothing in the gas tank, but gravity was my friend. Down baby head alley through the bushes and across the finish. Looking down feeling beaten and in pain, I saw the front of my shirt was pretty well ripped….I guess that crash was harder than I thought.


As I rode up the trail towards the climbing transition to stage 4, I came across Angel and the Landis clan. Eric hadn't faired so well on 3 either.
Spend the money on a good helmet
I was still feeling pretty low as I rode towards stage 4 after a little snack and pep talk from Angel and Sara. A couple of high fives and advice not to crash coming from Eric's kids did give me a smile though. The ride up to 4 went quickly and better yet, there was no line at the start. I could hop in behind a late coming pro and have a clear track to the finish. What stage 4 lacked in techy stuff, it made up for in flowing turns, smooth gradual rises, and spin out your gearing straights. I couldn't wait to be done. I had blown my race on the third stage, this was just to get to the car. Off I went. Strangely, my legs seemed to be perked up. And my HR was telling me to go faster. Somehow, I had an engine and renewed spirit. Paying heed to my heart rate and preventing another blow-up, I found myself dropping into higher gears during the short climbs. At the end of a long straight, I caught the rider that left 60 seconds before me. This was the best I'd felt all weekend. Crossing the line to a 3rd place finish on stage 4 and ending the weekend on a high note was great. Better yet, stage 3 hadn't gone as poorly as I thought. 1st for the stage with over a 30 second gap to second! I'm really curious to go back with a clear head and see what I can do on a clean run. Next year??

With all the racing wrapped up for the weekend, we had nothing to do but wait for results and visit my new favorite taco spot.


How'd the weekend turn out?

Top of the box
Talk about feeling stoked. This was the race I was most looking forwards too for the year and I had a huge goal of winning it. It marks the first time I've truly trained for a specific event/activity and to have the pay off was a huge mental boost.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

BME #4 Video

Here's a video recap of the race weekend. Words to follow once photos turn up.

I made the video twice @ 3:08 and 3:39. Red shirt and blue shorts.

http://vimeo.com/73646308

Proto Shoot

While we anxiously await some photos and a race recap from the Durango enduro race, I thought I'd share a few photos, courtesy of a local mountain bike legend who happens to be a fantastic photographer.

I linked up with Mike C after destroying a rear wheel. Soon there after, I was back in his shop having a front wheel built up when he asked if I'd be interested in testing out a prototype 29er and providing some feedback. About .02 seconds later, I agreed. After doing a few rides on the bike, Mike wanted to get a few publicity photos for the bike's release and the proceeding images are a piece of that effort.

If you ever need a solid wheel built up for a 29er, look him up. He'll get it done fast and for a fair price.

http://lacemine29.com

Also check out his blog with no shortage of excellent writing, photography, and adventures.

http://lacemine29.blogspot.com

Here's the shots







Monday, August 26, 2013

Like a Fool in the Rain

Here I sit on a rainy day. Being unexpectedly called off work, up to early, and over-caffeinated finds me with time to do the weekly blog update. Gotta stick with the self-imposed goals. Good thing I've got something to share!

We've been paying for our 300+ days of sun recently. Heavy rains for the last few days have left our trails in sour shape and provided some comical (after the fact) experiences for a number of us.

Just the beginning


Rain and moisture are certainly good things, but I usually prefer to pay for my sunshine during the months when the day is too short and moisture comes in a less fluid state of matter.



Don't let the photos fool you and start thinking I'm out of bike mode. Far from it. With Big Mountain Enduro #4 coming up this weekend and being the series leader, I'm more focused than ever. Durango is the race I'm most excited about and is also the first race of my life I've put specific training into with a specific goal in mind. I want to win this race. Bad. Knowing my loose training plan of ride hard one day and easy the next wasn't going to cut it. Sure it worked for races of a shorter duration in the bike parks, but Durango is a different beast. Having ridden part of the course and researching last year's race times gave me a good idea of what it would take to win. Time for some self-inflicted misery. 25min threshold intervals. Uphill, downhill, flathill. Love em'. Hate em'. Will they be enough to beat the Durango locals at their own game? One way to find out.


New favorite

Training isn't without mishaps
First kayak descent of Holy Cross, anyone?