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.

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.

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

Here's the shots