Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ride x(3+4/3y) = Make up your damn mind already

Damn, my mind leans which ever way the wind is blowing... and my opinions change as quickly as the new england weather!

Took the Scott Scale 29er out yesterday for a little two hour jaunt in Arcadia w/ Freddie and a buddy of his.  Pace was easy, very easy! Got to ride the 666 time trial course in the "right" direction at a fair pace though.  I think I prefer the "wrong" counter clock wise direction.  Arcadia in general is fairly rocky and rooty and the 666 course can get quite technical.  Some sections are completely unrideable to me, but I know some of "those guys" can clear it.  Impressive really...

Somehow, I felt really good and at home on Scott.  The bike floated easily over rocks and was a pleasure to handle and throw around on the trails.  The climbing grip is really amazing.  I did endo once but that was my fault.

So what was so different from the last time I rode the bike and hated it????

I think it all boils down to being able to take it easy.  If I am not trying to push the bike too hard, I have the time to unweight the front and then the rear, and can then roll through the techy stuff while remaining in control.  This would be in contrast to me trying to slam through it at race pace and being bounced all over the place, and eventually off the trail.  So the lesson I have to take from this is that my skills on a hardtail need to really increase and the way for me to do that, is to go out and ride technical trails at an easy pace.

I know that sounds stupid (since it is!) and should be easy to do, but since I tend to ride w/ guys that set a slamming pace and whose tech skills are much more advanced than mine, it is actually very difficult to "take it easy".  If I do take it easy, I end up being that guy every one has to stop and wait for.  I thought I was done being that guy and don't want to turn back into him!  This is also why I am having such a hard time letting go of my full squishy bike.  My rear suspension has allowed to me slam ineptly through stuff to keep up.

So to transition to a hardtail, I need to be able to develop my riding skills, and for that to happen I need to slow down.  Guess that is what the off season is for...  Maybe I'll have to start riding w/ the slower group...  Sitting behind a desk writing this, it's actually doesn't sound like a bad idea for me to go w/ the slower group during the off season.  If I can plan it well, I can do the hard rides the day before on my own and then use the group rides rides as my recovery/ skill development rides.  Of course, knowing myself, when I show up on at the group rides, my ego is going to push me to go w/ the faster group.  We'll see...

What was also nice about this Monday Am ride, other than riding on Mondays and the perfect sunny 45 degree crisp light and air, was ridding behind Freddie.  He rides the same bike (a little nicer version: the Scott Pro) and has some good techy skills. He would pic lines I would not have thought of trying on my own but watching him clear it, would motivate me to try as well.

So for now, I am back to riding the 29er....

Since it's important to have a picture of some sort, I'll post my new dreamy bike:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ride x+1

Some obvious thoughts about the 29er vs 26er:

I was riding w/ my brother in Cape Cod at the Otis Airforce base. I know the area fairly well.  Lots of crisscrossing trails which can be somewhat confusing but they mostly have the same feel: sweepy turns w/ punchy climbs in a well drained pine forest.  I was again somewhat struggling w/ my Scott, especially in the turns and in the one rock garden that is present there.  Just could not get the center of gravity for the bike quite right.  Then, just for fun, I switched bikes w/ my brother who rides a Niner Air 9. We set the bikes up right and took a 3 mile spin.  I was and felt noticeably faster on the Niner, and had my brother dropped pretty quickly.  The steering was much more crisp and fast and the bike did not feel like the front end wanted to wash and wonder off.  Even in the punchy climbs the bike felt like it had more grip and needed to be weighted down less. After the ride, my brother also commented he felt the front end of the Scott felt vague and that the bike had "truck" like feel to it. So my struggles w/ getting used to a 29er might not, obviously in hindsight, be w/ the 29er per say, but rather w/ the slack angle of the Scott at 69% and how the bike is balanced out.  I have wondered why Nino Schurter was not racing the scott scale 29er but that is most likely the reason why.   It's just not a racy bike!

I also took my Specialized Epic 26er out for a night ride.  It took a couple of miles to get back into the handling of it but it came back pretty quickly.  Specialized really nailed the suspension w/ their development of the "brain".  It is such a fun bike and I was quickly trying to find the lines over everything instead of around, like I have been on the 29er.  I struggled a little w/ the real narrow bars I have on the bike and did wish for some slightly wider bars even at the end of the ride.   Also I could certainly feel the loss of traction on the steep uphills and spun out once where I normally make it up w/ the 29er.  But overall, the bike felt much more right than the Scott.

This leaves me w/ a Scott Scale I really want to like, but sadly just don't. So I will have to most likely ebay it!  I have been looking at the Air 9 but since my shop doesn't carry it, I 'll have to shell out full retail for it, which is going to hurt!  Also I would need to make sure I scoop up a Scandium frame before they are gone:  A nice Vana white frame w/ a red Chris King headset and red seat colar, a white Sid XX and white AM xc wheelset...full X.O drive train, white & red marta sl brakes, and ec 70/90 post/stem/handle bars... yum....

Addendum:  This post seems to be the most read post on my Scott Scale experience, so I wanted to post the link to the follow up on the bike:


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

here we go: Ride 7 +

I lost count how many rides on dirt I have done.  It should be around 8 or 9 by now.  This one was the Wicked Ride of the East, a Nemba sponsored event.   Never had ventured out there and was looking forward to some new trails.  It's about an hour and 1/2 drive North of Boston to Harold State Park.  Why I had never heard of this place when I lived in Boston was beyond me since I would have been there a lot!

Pulling into the park showed the venue to be well attended as there were riders everywhere and it took a while to find a parking spot. I was supposed to meet some fellow RI riders at 9 am but had that usual late thing going. Met up w/ some other great riders and we decided to do the long loop of 20 miles, which seemed not that long at all.  Some in our group of 10+ knew the area well and described it as fairly flat but "bony".  I figured the 20 miles should take about 2 hours... yeah right.

Bony was quite the understatement. The trails were twisty and rocky.  Lots of rocks, big ones, small ones, and many many sharp one, like shark fins. The trail was littered w/ people pulled over fixing flats. Thankfully, I had the night before found the freaking leak that had been plaguing me for a while.  It was a little whole in the side of the tire that was so close to the rim, I had been thinking all along that it was the rim that was leaking air from not making a secure contact w/ the tire.  I made sure plenty of stans went into the hole and let it sit before I pumped the tire back up.  Before the ride I let air back out and rode w/ 28 psi in the front (still had a tube there), and 26 in back.

Within the first mile we had dropped more than half the group.  Of the five of us remaining, I was the only one on a 29er and a hardtail.  One person was on a Ibis Mojo HD, there were two Pivots, a Spech Stumpy, and a Rocky Mountain.  All of those guys were big drop/ downhill guys & who could also really lay it down on XC.  The kind who put you to shame going up, but then really stick it to you going down.  The J. Tomac kind!  Very soon I found myself holding on with all I had.

I have been enjoying riding the bike w/ the front susp locked out and started out this way.  Yet I soon found out that trying to climb the short punchy rocky rooty hills like that would rob me too much of my momentum.  I needed to have the front end absorb those hits instead of bouncing off of them, to be able to make it up the technical climbs.  Once I gave up on the full rigid idea, I surprised myself a couple of times by making it up some steep technical stuff I would have never cleared on the 26er!

Throughout the ride I noticed that I was getting much more comfortable with the bike.  Even though  I did have two incidents where some rather delicate parts made some rather painful contact w/ the stem.  In one of these, my pedal got caught a small tree on the side of the trail.  It made the bike come to an instant stop.  My body of course, continued with it's forward momentum to only be stopped by the stem.  W/ that forward motion I started to tip over while still being blocked by the stem. My legs up up from the back rising above, while my face made contact w/ my front tire.  Somehow I remained in "balance" like that for a couple of seconds with the balance point still being the stem & my delicate area.   However, I was able to get myself up right w/out falling.  I got a hoot and an applause from the guy who was behind me for it!  Overall though I noticed I rolled over stuff with much greater ease and noticed some of the momentum benefits of the larger wheels over the really choppy terrain.  I was especially getting comfortable on the downhills (though I was not taking the +-4 ft drop line my fellow riders were taking), and as long as I kept my weight off the handle bars, the bike would just roll over all the chop.  I was really impressed by how much the chainstays were actually absorbing the trail chatter.  I pulled over once to make sure I was not loosing air in the tire because I thought I should feel much more beaten up.  All the air was still there!  We did catch the 9 am group I had missed as they were changing their 7th flat (in a group of 5).

As the ride crossed the 2 + hour mark, I was getting more tired and started to make more mistakes.  I was reverting back to my 26er old habits.  This cause me to wipe out in corner after attempting to lean the bike through the turn w/out turning the bars.  As I was getting more in tune w/ bike as a "bike" and getting away from my obsession w/ how it was not riding like my 26er, I was starting to actually enjoy the bike though I did notice that the Scott has a tendency to be a little front heavy.  It is actually oddly paradoxical because it is very stable at speeds but at the same time steers very quickly (when you turn the bars - not when you lean it).

So overall I was quite impressed w/ the bike, and can feel myself coming around.  The ride ended up being 2 h 45 min long (actual moving time). Though I felt tired, I did not feel beat up, which was a real surprise being on a hartail.  I was really surprised by how comfortable I became when the trail pointed downwards and letting the bike just roll over all those rocks.  Often all I needed to do to clear a drop or a rock garden, was to just unweight the front and let the bike roll over it.  I really wonder how much different and even better the bike would be w/ a nice lightweight wheel set.  I guess I know what I am asking Santa...

Want it Wednesday...hopefully sooner than later

So I bought a new bike.  Not a top of line bike but a nice carbon frame w/ a good medium parts list on it.  Unlike my Spech Epic Sworks, it's actually a nice way to buy a bike as it leaves rooms for upgrades and for personal customization.  I can now day dream about shiny new parts and spend countless of wasted hours online doing research of what is the best price per gram component.  I have a list of every part I want to upgrade and have started an excel doc listing component maker, weight, price, etc...  So far on the bike I have upgraded my seat post to an Easton EC 70 I found new on ebay for $45.  Next is this:

in black of course...

It's an odd looking saddle w/ some very mixed reviews.  Mtbr reviews are a little silly as some are posting you can only ride it w/ "padded shorts".   Duh...silly noobs!  I don't think I have been on a bike w/ out my padded bibs in years so that is no issues.  The other biggest complaint is that they are designed to only last about 1 year.  After one year the plastic tends to crack and the whole saddle needs to be replaced. From the reviews online, this seems to be true for mostly heavier riders.  Since I am pretty light, I am hoping that it will last me two years.  What attracts me to this saddle is of course its light 140 grams and it is supposed to offer a fair amount of trail dampening.  Good for hardtails!  All this can be found on ebay for about $80.   Since my current Scott Scale Saddle comes in at 265,  that is ratio of .68 grams per dollar.

For more cycling wanted items on this "Want it Wednesday", go to Jez's Page and click here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ride 6.0 thoughts...

So more some thoughts I had about riding the 29er:  First I noticed that I am much more comfortable getting this bike up to speed now that I have a couple of weeks on it.  It hurts much less to stand up and mash them pedals and launch or climb in "danseuse".  

Secondly, and most importantly, is that my last ride really pointed out to me that I am "psychologically" uncomfortable w/ the bike and that I am actually fighting the bike and thereby limiting it. The biggest hurdle is getting over tall stuff.  I used to be really good w/ my Spech at just jumping over stuff.  My attitude was not to ride around anything if you could possibly get over it.  Now I find myself trying to get around everything because I am afraid I am not going to make it and take a face plant.  Ironic really, since so people profess how much easier it is to get over things w/ 29ers!  Part of me wants to it be as nimble as my 26er and I am trying force it, which is of course not working.  I noticed that during a tight rocky turn where I caught myself trying to pull the bike sideways.  W/ my Spech I used to be able to move my body in a certain position on the trail and just pull the bike underneath.   The 29er seems  to need to be ridden just the opposite: make sure you body stays on top and centered, and then the bike will get over "it".

Another major change is steering.  It was a rare day on the 26er where I would use the handle bar to alter course.  That bike was steered from the hips.  Period!  It's why I had 22' bars.  The 29er on the other hand needs to be steered by the bars.  And this bike is twitchy, at least comparatively so.  Turn the bars and whoop, off in another direction you go.  This is great at times, not at others.  For example, not when hitting an larger than expected bump that has you jerk at the bars unintentionally and sends you into the brush because of it.  

All these are adjustments I need to make and should be able to make without too much trouble.   I think my biggest worry at this time is about some loss of the "fun factor" of the 26er.  I loved throwing that Spech off of every little launch I could find. A bike that fulfilled my ADHD quite well. In comparison, the 29er seems more of a serious calm type!  I do need to have fun w/ the bike during the off season as it will get me comfortable w/ it's limits.   Speed should then come naturally!  Though, a nice set of much lighter wheels would greatly help with that.  Going from 1400 grams wheels to 2000+ will make anyone slower and is going to make any bike feel more lethargic.   Can't  wait to see what the new 2012 AM Classic Race wheels are going to actually hit the scales at.  Or might just get the standard Stan's Crest...

A digressive random though that just popped up while riding that day was that riding a hardtail might actually good for you when it comes to bone density.  There is that report that cyclist have low bone mass density.  Of course that research is based on roadies (and I wonder if there would be a significant difference between road pros vs mtb pros).   Maybe the increase off impact from the hardtail helps to prevent bone density loss...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ride 5.0 or so...

Sadly enough I think this was actually only the fifth time I took this bike out on the trail.  That gives me pause as to how little I ride the trails.  Not nearly often enough!  I guess my life is such, w/ the family and all, that for me to be able to get my training rides in, I need to ride on the road.   If I had to add 15 or 20 min commute on either side of a 1 1/2 or 2 hr training ride that just would not be sustainable.  My training time has actually gone down significantly during this fall.  Purposefully so!  Again for sustainability reasons.  I usually burn out in Aug and at that point am done trying to follow a specific training regimen.  Doing short rides in the fall helps me to be willing to go out there and increase the intensity.  My training log, which I usually am very anal w/, looks empty every year usually by mid July.  Just stop caring at that point.  This year it has been worse.  I don't think it has any data in it since the end of June (well just my race results).  Part of that though is me realizing that all that data doesn't do shit (since I am not training w/ a power meter) and that I am experienced enough now that I can use my perceived exertion pretty accurately and can organize my training routine in my head.   My routine right now is also very simple: once a week do those crazy ass 20 secs on/off for 10 mins intervals 3x (on the road), another once week, hill climbs (on the road), and fart around the rest of the time!  No need to keep a training log on that!  But back to ride #5.

This was supposed to be an early ride at 7 AM.  I like saturday mornings easy and slow but had agreed to meet some friends.  Well I did not get there until 7:40 and it was still cold!  Rode around at an easy pace warming up and found my friends.  One of them was pretty fast, though he was riding his full stiffy single speed since was in the process of building up his new Scott Scale 29er Pro.  So the pace was sustainable.  They had to leave pretty quickly though (that getting to work on time thing) and I found myself trying to decide which loop I wanted to do.  Since I had not been in that area since my first ride on this bike, I decide to retrace the same loop as ride #1 to compare.

I found my way to "Dead People" pretty quickly.   I needed to try that step up and see if I would go OTB again.  I found the trail leading to that rock very manageable and noticed I was much more comfortable on the bike.  My pace was good but I was not trying to kill it.  I got to the step up and though lifting my front wheels was still not easy, I did clear the rock and rode over the rock w/out feeling like I was a newby at this stuff. I almost cleared the rest of the trail w/ out dabbing, like I know I normally can.  I did get hung up on another step up but noticed that the reason I did was because I was trying to ride around it instead of riding right over it like I normally do.  I decided at that point that my issues w/ this bike had been mostly psychological and that I was ridding like I was not trusting the bike (let me say like it is: I was ridding like a pussy!).  I needed to start ridding w/ much greater confidence and not try to ride around stuff I know I can normally ride over.  To get in with this bike I needed to start having some fun and try to get over stuff and getting it a little air born.

On the "Elephant" trail, I cleared w/out issues the corner w/ the big log I had tripped over last time.  The rocky climb to the top was comfortable, including a tight left turn I occasionally washed out on my 26er.  On "Allen's Ave" I focused on taking the most challenging line and started to notice I was really just focusing on the 10 inches in front of my wheel instead of looking down the trail like I should. Again a sign of my lack of trust/ comfort with the bike. I tried to make the adjustment but caught myself again looking at my front wheel.  Allen's Ave has a very challenging large boulder section with two section I would get hung up on on my 26er.  The first time I rode it w/ this bike, I got hung up a dozen times.  This ride, I got hung up on both sections I have yet to clear to date and just one other section.  Clearly an improvement from the first time.  The other place I did not clear was tight turn w/ a steep step up.  Again struggling w/ getting the front end up high!  I crossed Cardy's road, took the drop down "the wall" and climbed the slight hill to the parking lot on Hopkins Hills.  I followed it w/ bombing down the rooty downhill where Steve broke his bike, and though it felt a little out of control,  I could tell I was getting much more comfortable w/ the bike.  Since I was out of water, I decided to skip "Shoot the Moon" and just took the connector trail back, a fast swoopy trail.  I greatly enjoyed the great traction of the bike through those turns.  No need to slow down at all for any of those turns.  When I got to the car, I was smiling!

There are certainly some things I will need to continue to work on and left the ride w/ some clear thoughts (see post ride 5.1 for those).  I'll post those tomorrow since I need to hurry up and get home to hop on the...no, not already...the...urgh...trainer...  :-p

Monday, October 24, 2011

TVR: Treasure Valley Rally or the Terrible Viscous Race

I was looking forwards to testing the new Scott Scale 29er under race conditions.  But let me start first with one of the top race rules: do not mess w/ your bike the night before the race.  As a cat 1 racer I should have known this.  I did know this!  Yet temptation was just too much to not try to convert a brand new wheelset to tubeless the night before the race.  Mind you I had set up my 26er wheelset tubeless a gazillion times w/out any issues and have gotten pretty good at it.  So no big deal I thought!  During the conversion process I noticed that the inner rim edge of the DT Swiss xr39 seemed to have a very small bead.  My concerns were amplified when pumping the tire to 60 psi without ever hearing that "pop" of the tire locking onto the rim. I continued anyways, shook the stans all around, and checked for leaks by applying soapy water and checking for them bubbles.  All seemed to be good.   Let the air back out to 30 ps1. Took the bike out in the rain for 1/2 hour stint in the dark to take some really tight turns on a grassy field to make sure the tire would not burp.  All seemed good... Next morning some air had leaked out of the tires but nothing too bad.  Pumped air back to 26 psi and off to the race.  Also right before leaving, installed a new Easton EC 70 post that had just arrived in the mail. Not a lot of 34.9 post makers out there!

An hour later parked in the lot (fast driving!), pulled the bike out and... the rear tire was flat w/ the tire being off the bead and stans leaking out all over my man van!  Not wanting to take any chances, back to tubes.  Since I had flatted twice on a night ride the previous week with 26 psi and I had heard the course was really rocky (which it was!), I decided to play it way safe and add 30 psi in the rear and 28 in the front.   With the changing of tires, (mostly spend cleaning up the stans liquid) this left little time to warm up.

Race course is in blue.
I knew nothing of the course other than having heard a couple of the EFTA regulars casually saying it was rocky and technical (boy did that turn out to be an under statement).  The course was a 9 mile figure 8 w/ most of the climbing and the technical sections in the first half.   Below is the elevation profile for two laps.  Right at the start there were two creek crossing that seemed to have caught many off guard.  There are a couple of photos floating on the interweb of racers taking a header right into them.  The climbs were good but not too bad.  The first one being long but gradual, probably around 6% with a little kicker at the end of it.  It was followed by a fast and steep down hill section w/ some very challenging rock gardens. The rock gardens were not just big but they were sharp and pointy too. Some of them were even challenging to just walk through.  And for some icing, a few of them were wet and slimy!  The second climb was much steeper with a surprising second kick to it.  The back side of the course was not as technical but did have a couple of small creek crossings and enough rocks to keep you at attention.  I would say this course was the most technical race course around.  Much more challenging than Glocester Grind or the Wrath of the Boneyard.   Many after the race used the term "a real mountain biker's course" to describe it.
Elevation Profile of the course. Two laps for a total of +- 1800 feet of climbing.

I almost missed my start trying to get a quick warm up in, and like the last few races, decided to sit back and take a couple of miles to ease into the race.   When we came to the first creek crossing i was dfl but holding on to the stragglers.  The crossing was not clean but I made it through w/out dabbing.  I ended up w/ one wet shoe for the second crossing.  Since I had no idea what to expect out of the first climb, I settled into a sustainable pace and passed a few of the guys.  On the way down I was really struggling w/ clearing the rock garden's.   I know I should have been able to clear them and it was getting really frustrating I was messing up.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had no confidence left and was hesitating even over small stuff.  Those guys I had passed were now back on my wheel.  I dropped and passed some more on the second climb but once at the top, every time the trail turned rocky or rooty, the bike would bounce off the trail or the line I was trying to ride.  3/4 through the first lap, I was fighting the bike and the trail and was back to being dfl since I was dabbing on everything and riding w/ a fist full brakes.  I even fell a couple of times and was starting to use profanity way to much.  My hr wasn't even high since I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to try to bring my speed up.  I was actually hating it so much I had decided I was going to dnf once I hit the start/finish area and sell the bike to the first person who offered me a $100 for it.  29er my ass!!!!  Had I had my 26 inch Epic, I would have easily floated over that terrain and probably be in the top 5.

From the Tvr facebook site
When I came to the start/finish, since the last mile had been mostly rolling trail, I had somewhat regained my composure and decided I needed to ride this course out.  Minimally I should use it as training.  As I calmed down, I started to figure out that under racing conditions I was automatically trying to ride and race this bike like it was my Epic (three years on a bike is hard to unlearn!)  I needed to slow down even more, take my time, and try to adjust to the bike.  I knew I had way to much air pressure in the tires but because of the sharp rocks, did want to let any out.  I did pull over and slowed the rebound on the fork some which somewhat calmed the front end.  I crossed the two streams w/out issues and half way up the first climb started to pick up riders.  By the top, I had passed three.  The technical descent was another disaster and I was now mostly walking all the rock gardens.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had been passed by everyone again and was back to being dfl.  During the second climb I passed those riders again and picked up a couple more.  Climbing the hills on the second lap showed me how slow I had been going thus far because I had no difficulty powering up them and my legs were way to fresh.  Since I had passed a few riders in my category on the way up, I decided to try to get back in the race and hold some off.  It partially worked.  I continued to hesitate and not have any confidence in the bike.  I had now take my hands off the brakes and was trying to find some semblance of flow but this happened very infrequently.  I had become flustered enough that I was not even tying to my pick lines ahead of time anymore and was just staring at my front tire.   Though I was trying to bring up my pace, two caught up to me again and I let them through.  Every time the trail got a little technical they would pull away further until they eventually disappeared. 

great movie from higginchuk on youtube! 
Boy was I glad when I finally saw the finish line.  Though it was a terrible (awful, bad, sucky, stinky, suck ass) race, and I did not even really get a hard work out of it (I did not even need a cool down ride after finishing since my hr was not very high), I was still glad I got to be out there, experience the course, and be w/ my fellow racers this late in the season. What is great about mountain biking is that even really bad rides or races are still just awesome!  I can't wait to race it again next year. By that time, hopefully, I will have adjusted to the new bike and should be even able to ride the power line rock garden.  I ended finishing 6th out of 10 starters and 8 finishers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ride 2.0

First, a little spam here cause it's well earned/deserved!  I was just looking at this bike's value and damn it's pretty good.  For $2500, you get a 1050 grams Carbon frame, mostly XT drivetrain, DT Swiss wheels, Avid Elixir 5S disc brakes, and Shim 520 pedals.  The bike weighted a little more than advertised but still a very respectable 24 pounds 2 ounces (w/ pedals, no water bottle cage).

Other entry CARBON bikes (these are the lowest cost carbon bikes from other manufacturers) are: Specialized is $2900, and the parts are not as good; at Trek, an entry carbon Superfly will set you back $2800 again w/ lesser parts; the entry carbon level Marin, $2999!  A Felt, $2800 (w/ sram x7); Santa Cruz Highball, starting at $3100; Cannondale Flash 29er 3, $3000 (though the shifters are xt instead of slx).  The only other bike I could find w/in the same price range was the Giant XTC Composite 29er 1 which retails for $2500 but the parts are really lacking (Sram X7 and Elixir 1 brakes).

So that Scale Expert 29er is really the best deal you can find around for a new bike!!

On to the ride:

My second ride on dirt w/ this bike was at the nemba fun ride at Arcadia.  I was really looking forward to this as Arcadia can get pretty challenging with it's rocky terrain.  I had my tire pressure figured out this time and was running w/ tubes, 24 psi.  By feel I could have probably dropped one or two psi more, but since this was Arcadia, I did not want to risk anything.  I rode w/ a small group of very good riders: Fast Freddy, Craig M, Dan, and Mike Merlin. It took me a couple of miles to settle into the bike, especially since I still had those un-expected endos on my mind from my first ride.  I was not necessarily afraid i was going to endo, but rather was more acutely aware of not knowing this bikes "tipping" points. It had been raining before and as I got ready to go, a short but intense deluge covered the area.

Though I dabbed unnecessarily on a couple of wet roots and on an easy climb through some rocks, I could tell the bike was much more comfortable with the right air pressure and also much less over-reactive to the trail.  It was rolling easily over the terrain and the rear was not hanging up as much.  I was still somewhat struggling w/ getting the timing of lifting the front end over logs but it was getting better.  Since the terrain was wet, I was noticing how much more traction I had through turns and climbs. I was able to easily reach the top of a couple of small steep hills I would have washed out on on the Epic.  The grip was so good, I didn't even really need to worry about balancing my weight on the bike.  I just stood up, mashed the pedals, and up I went!

Overall I had a really good time on the bike and there were no major complaints like I had on my first ride.  The ride was very different though from the first one in that the pace was much more mellow and we ended having to walk some of the more challenging terrain since everything was so slick.  Going up Mt Tom I went down, leaving the bike w/ a small scratch on the top tube (from my toe spike), and w/ a usable bent brake lever in a U shape.  It wasn't a hard fall or the bikes fault.  I was following someone closely up a slick rock wall when he came to stop.  I too had to stop, and the moment I put my foot down, both my foot and the rear tire slid out from underneath me and down I went.  When I got home I was able to bend the lever back w/out braking it. (Freddie went down on the other side of Mt Tom but that was because he was crazy enough to try a techy rocky decent that was slick as ice. He drew blood and busted his brake lever as well!).

The ride ended up being about 14 miles and I felt that I was getting much more comfortable w/ the bike as the ride progressed.  I think not trying to ride it at race pace allowed me to explore the change in a more relaxed and less urgent fashion.  One thing I don't like is the lower BB since I was hitting rocks w/ the pedal constantly.  The new two day old pedals look like they are six months old already.  So much for listing them "as new" on ebay!  So ride two was much better in that it seemed more comfortable and stable.  I still need to find it's sweet spot over technical terrain though.

Next ride I'll publish is about the race I just did at Treasure Valley, which was far from successful.  Some of that was my own damn fault and I am still trying to figure out all of the things that went wrong!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Scott Scale 29er Ride x.1 and x.2

I spend a fair amount of training time on the road.   But I like to train on what I race, which means I ride my mtb on the road.  Since these rides cannot really be part of the "ride it 5 x before you make you mind" test ride of the Scale 29er, I'll enumerate these rides as x.1 and x.2. I know you can't really get a good sense of a mtb by riding the road, but it does allow to detect some nuances I might otherwise not pick up on while barreling down a rocky trail.

One of the things I noticed pretty quickly was how stable the bike is.  For example, on my Epic I cannot let the handle bars go at more than 25mph.  The front wheel will shake like crazy.  I've never let go long enough to find out what happens after wards or at higher speed.   On the Scale the bike just plowed comfortably forwards regardless of the speed or if my hands were on the bars.  This actually has a small mountain bike application for me.  My back tends to really tightened up during racing, so I often like to let go of the bars and sit up straight to stretch out.  Maybe now I can stretch for longer than 1 second and without having to slow down.

My local training route includes a couple of smaller hills at about 5% grade in a residential area I ride several times over.  For entertainment I usually ride figure 0 and 8 up and down through the neighborhood.  On the way down I can pick up a fair amount of speed and have always needed to slow down for the turns (especially since the rain always deposits a nice little pile of sand right at the bottom of the turns).  The Scale, through those turns, felt very stable and comfortable and the increase in traction was very noticeable.  I don't ride with a computer anymore but I know I was taking those turns at several mph higher.

On ride x.2, I rode the bike path to Providence to do my "weekly" College Hill workout (which I actually have not done in while).  This consist of ridding every hilly side street off of South Main street to the top.  I start at the Wickenden street intersection and then rid up: James street, Williams, Power, Planet, College, Waterman, S. Court to Meeting - that one hurts like a mofo!- and if I have anything left, Jenckes (I haven't had anything left in a while). I'll then ride to Casters Bike to refill my bottle and ride them in reverse order on the way out (though since it's the off season I have been leaving Jenckes and S Court out!) .  I rode this last week on my Epic, and since it had been a while since I had done this workout, when I crested that last little 20 % riser on Meeting street, I almost passed out, then almost puked!  So I thought this work out was going to be significantly harder on the Scale based on the weight of the wheels and the overall bike.  Yet I was happily surprised and made it up all the hills (w/out ever feeling like I was going to vomit!).  I did notice however that this bike wants to be climbed while standing and requires more raw power than the Epic, which I can sit and spin on  (bad phrase there!)  Anyways, not too interesting stuff here but there it is...

Data from an old College Hill climb session!

2011 Landmine Classic, Root 66 Race Series

Woke up at 6:30 w/ plenty of time and knew I needed to be on the road by 8 am. Too much time...   Ate my not instant oatmeal (after the online lecture from Gewilli on how bad instant cereal was for you), farted around, and suddenly it was 8:45 and I was still in my pjs!  Ooops...  Driving to Hingham I was prepping my checklist of things to NOT forget since I knew the moment in pulled into the lot, it was going to be a crazy rush: fill back pockets with 1)extra bottle, 2) insta fix a flat, 3) gels. Then soften the front fork just a touch, double check my tire pressure:  26 psi for the front tubeless, but 34 for the rear since that was tube'd and knew the course got quite rocky at times.  No need for my somewhat 1/2 working polar piece of crap bike computer since I knew the course had mile markers though it. The race was starting somewhat behind schedule which left me time to register (and pay for a guy who thought he had pre-registered and had therefor no money on him) and get no more than a 3 min warm up.

I let our field of 14 go and focused on warming up.  I knew it was a long loop and would have time to try to catch up.  After about 15 mins I was starting to make contact with some the stragglers and passing them.  I was feeling pretty good especially on the technical sections and the little "hills".   Like last year, the next age group "fast train" caught me and I grabbed the back of it.  I was able to hold on for much longer than anticipated. On those short asphalt and fire road sections, it was really paying off to be hanging onto a faster wheel.  At about the 1/3 mark, we passed Robert from my group fixing a flat.  He had been my mark for the second half of the season!  At Hodges Village, I had actually passed him but he caught back up and I eventually faded.  Passing him because of a mechanical this time was not a gratifying way to pass him.  I was eventually dropped from the fast group when the guy in front dabbed on a short steep uphill, forcing me to dismount in the middle of the hill.  By the time I got to the top, they had a little gap, which turned it into a large gap when they hit another section of pavement.  Back to riding on my own.  I caught Garry (single-speed class) and then Mike (in my group).  Mike held onto my wheel for a short while.

About a mile later I was flying down some single track when I almost collided into the above mentioned fast group.  They were coming from the other direction.  They were yelling that I was going down the wrong way!  Oxygen deprived I yelled back they were the ones going the wrong way, but eventually caught on that they meant we all missed a turn somewhere.  I turned around and followed them up the hill picking up Mike again along the way.  We eventually found the turn we missed.  It was marked by only one arrow up too high on a tree.  All the other turns were very well marked, and there were a lot of turns on that 26 mile single loop, but somehow this one got screwed up.  Second time trying to hold onto the fast group but got dropped pretty quickly.  Since I was not ridding w/ high placement expectations, I was not too upset about missing the turn.  I was just glad I had made it there in time to start.

Maybe a mile later I spotted a Team Edge kit in front.  Slowly I clawed my way to the person's back wheel, and it was Robert again!  I must have been of course for longer than I thought!  In a way having gone off course was equalizing the race more between him and I.  I debated passing him right away but recalled that it required too much effort at Hodges and paid for it.  Instead I decided to stay behind him for a bit and focus on pacing myself.  He was putting a little gap on me on the flat stuff but the moment it turned rocky/technical I was right back on his wheel. I'd give the bike credit for being better in the tech stuff but he was riding an epic Sworks as well.  Eventually the positions reversed, and I would create a small gap on him in the tech stuff but then he would find his way back onto my wheel.  After the last feedzone, the gap became became large enough to stick.  I kept on looking backwards expecting him to pop up but that never happened.

I finished in 6th place, 40 seconds behind 5th.  I know I lost more than two minutes for going off course.  But who knows, maybe 5th also missed that turn.  Overall I was two minutes slower than last year.  Not exactly what I was hoping for.  But that is why there is next year...

Friday, September 30, 2011

First Ride

This was my first real ride on: 1) a hartail, 2) a 29er,  and 3) on my new 2012 Scott Scale Expert hartail 29er!.   I bought this at Caster's Bike shop in Providence and retails for $2500. It's a lot of bike for the cash: super light and beautiful carbon frame, Reba RL fork w/ remote lock, and XT drivetrain, and some yet to be identified DT Swiss wheels (XR 39?).  All the info on it is here!

I'll start out by saying that I have been told by several respectable cyclist that it takes several rides to make the transition from a 26er (especially a full susp!) and to not judge it until I am at least into my 5th ride.  I'll start out by saying that i really really want to like it:  1) It's a gorgeous bike, so visually it's easy to like. 2) It's a hard tail and I would love to have a much simpler bike and not have to worry about my pivots, shock, etc... and 3) It's a 29er and I am a sucker for fads and raves...
Off to Big River I went for the maiden voyage.  Within 20 yards on the trail, I already had a "urgh...this sucks" moment.  Riding down an easy but rooty trail my ass and back were getting a pounding and the rear end was bouncing.  Once I got my ass out the saddle that made it a little bit more tolerable.  Right, not on a squishy full susp anymore...

The second "urgh" moment came a mile later on a set of little tiny hills on "Piney trail"; a trail I was very familiar with and could probably ride with my eyes closed.  On my worse days I can usually handle the two little hills by dropping just one gear.  Not on this bike.  I had to shift down two or three gears and then had to get out of the saddle and grunt my way over the top at 0.5 mph.  (at least now I understand the concept of leverage and the need for those wide bars).  The weight of wheels was so apparent and getting this bike rolling on anything that pointed up slightly uphill was a chore!

On the other hand, on "Barbie trail", a fast and swoopy trail,  the bike handled very nicely, especially through the turns, as the traction was really superb.  At this point I had adjusted my riding style a little to be off the saddle more especially when the rear wheel needed to roll over stuff.  If I didn't,  the price was pretty high as the bike would bounce.  The worse part of the "bouncing" was not the physical cost, though that was certainly not pleasant, but rather the loss of momentum.  The 29er front wheel would roll over things much easier than my 26er, but the rear suspension on my Spech just swallows the trail.  Having susp on the rear is very much like having a very smart independent child: you can give it half assed directions and it will figure out what to do.  On my full squish, if I can get the front over it, the bike will sort out the rear on it's own.  On the other, the hard tail needed to be micro managed.  I use the word "bounce" above deliberately because the bike was not harsh and really took out the sharpness of the trail.  Unlike my aluminium road bike, which is really jarring, I could really tell that this bike was actually muffling and absorbing that direct transmission of the trail.

After Barbie and it's extension, I rode to "I see dead people", a slightly more technical trail. I had to get there  by a fire road with some minor climbing on it.  Again this climb was a out of the saddle mash the peddles experience and felt twice as hard and twice as slow as my light 26er.

My experience on "Dead people" was very good at first.  Some sections were off camber w/ roots and small baby head rocks.  The bike never lost traction and rolled with ease over everything.  My 26er in this section would need to be micro managed.  I was especially in awe by how well the Scale corned in the really tight switch backs and though the bike looks big, it certain did not steer as such.  On my 26er in the these tight switch back climbs, I would at times spin out the rear end, but no chance that was going to happen with the Scott!  The problem happened when I came to the most technical part of the trail: an off camber large flat rock that needed to be hopped on to.  This section is normally quite rideable and hasn't been an issue for me in the past.  Well, I endoed!  And I endoed again on my second attempt!  Thank fully, though my body took a hit both times, I was able to save the bike!  Filled w/ PO energy, I made it the third attempt but it wasn't smooth or pretty.   Sure 29er role over things more easily, but getting them on top of things they can't roll over is not a given!  I noticed that even over log crossings, I was struggling w/ getting the front end up high  (this might be more a results of wimpy arms though).  Someone had warned me that the the timing on 29er is really different and this was clearly a struggle for me. The same happened on the next trail (Elephant) on an angled log crossing.  It took me several attempts to get the front over it and to clear it without having to put my foot down (again this normally not an issue at all).

The usual Big River picture spot!
Where the bike came to it's own though was on the rocky climb to an overlook (see picture).  The bike rolled with ease over the smaller rocks and did not loose it's momentum, and again the increase grip was terrific. On my Epic I will at times get hung up on the rocks since they are in close proximity to each other.  I don't think I made it to the top faster, but noticed I felt more relaxed when I did get there and it had required a lot less body english.  The bike also did very well on "Allen's Ave".  I never needed to slow down for any of the fast turns and the bike rode like it was on rails. This bike really turns so well, whether it's tight or long fast turns.  The technical rock wall decent was a slight disaster though.  But that was mostly out of fear of damaging the new bike and still not haven gotten over that I had endoed twice already!

When I finally made it out to Cardy road, I decided to feel how much air I had in the tires.  I had pumped them up the night before at Caster's  to 32 psi (I had tubes in there), but they felt rock hard.  I let out a significant of air but not so much that I would risk pinch flatting with tubes.   Ridding the climb to the Hopkins Hill parking lot and the decent on the other side, both a mixture of lots of roots and rocks, the bike felt significantly better.  The bike was not as "bouncy" any more and became much softer; the rear end easier to control..

I finished the ride (as the sun was setting quickly) by taking "Shoot the moon" trail, a fast loose trail with lots of sweeping bermed turns.  I think I touched the brakes only once.  The bike never even felt close to being pushed too hard through those turns and if I had the legs, could have easily handled more speed.  Had I had lighter wheels, I would have been in heaven!

When I got back to the car, I checked my tire pressure and it was at 22 psi.  The pressure did not feel too low though.  Must be that high volume thing.  Maybe my "feeling gauge" is way off but to me the 29er tires at 22 felt like what my 26er would at 28 psi.

My phone data showed that my average speed was 8.1 mph for a two + hour ride.  That is way slow for me.  In Big River my avg will usually be at least in the low teens.  That was really disappointing since I felt like I had put in a serious effort.  I need to find someone w/ a light set of wheels to loan me to make a more fair comparison between my Sworks 26er wheels, which come in at 1400 grams, versus the current DT Swiss at 2000+

This was ride 1.  Four more to go before I make up my mind.  Sunday should be a good ride #2 at the NEMBA fun ride in Arcadia.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Bike

Haven't ridden it yet but thought I'd post some pics.  Will hopefully spend a couple of hours this afternoon seeing what that whole 29er thing is about.  I am pretty nervous as buying a bike sight unseen and un-demoed is risky.  I will say that this bike in person is absolutely gorgeous!

I was a little disappointed the weight did not come in as advertised (23. 57 lbs) but of course not surprised.
The Shimano 520 pedals are of course a boat anchor as are a couple of other components on here.  First upgrade will be a straight seatpost.  34.9 is not a common size so I'll most likely go with an Easton EC 70 (the largest EC90 is 31.6).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old photo

Trying to bring this blog up to date (contents and visuals),  I was going through some pictures on the hard drive.  Buried in there, I found the below picture of my ride up the Tourmalet last year.  Though I know it's not current at all, I like the picture a lot and it's the only one of all the pics I took while riding (you can't really get off the bike to take pics as that looks way too touristy) that captures the length and height of the climb.  This was only about 3/4 of the way up.


I haven't blogged about my little bike races in a while.  Shame on me. Mostly that my work's fault.  I really only have the time to blog while I am at work (don't tell my boss).  Once I get home, forget about it... too busy.  Well it's been busy at work for way too long!  Which side tracks me to having to say that I am so freaking tired of hearing people say " count yourself lucky that you have a job nowadays".  Really? Is that what our middle class is being broken down to. No pay raises in several years; increase in benefit co-payments; significant increase in productivity due to staff not being replaced when it should; and we should just count ourselves happy and lucky???   People seriously need to be able to discern between two scenarios. If your company is struggling in the red zone and no one has been laid off, then yes indeed count yourself lucky!  But if your company is posting profits, like most large ones are, then let's face it, if you consider yourself luck, you are just being suckered!  It spells out: more work for less pay so someone who already has enough can have even more!  Anyways, back to the important stuff: bike stuff...

There have been several noteworthy races since the world cup in Windham, and I did not do that race justice in the blog below but I needed to get it out of the draft area it has been living in for the past two months.    

After Windham, there was the Wrath of the Boneyard in CT, a new race.  Great course.  First half was very rocky with a nice techy rock garden.  The second half had no rocks at all and was swoopy loamy single track in the woods.  Very nice contrast between the two sections of that race.  Finished 6th.  

Then there was the mud fest at the Annual Hodges Village Dam race in MA.  Boy did it rain that day!  Just driving my car on the highway was challenging.  Best part of the race was jumping in the creek after the race, bike and all, with fellow racers.  Worst part was ruining new cable set, and all the new bearings on the bike I had just paid an arm for.  That race hurt like a mofo too.  Physically and mentally it was painful pushing through all that water and mud.  Finished 5th. 

 Next race was the Millstone Grind Race in VT.  Went up the day before w/ Mike and Stacey since it was a long a** drive.  To add to it, I screwed up the directions and suddenly realize we're heading to Canada on the wrong highway!  That extended the drive by only a couple of hours.  Millstone is such a fun race course.  First lap was great: Sunny, dry, fast, but lots of tight swoopy turns you have to throw the bike through.  Beginning of second lap clouds had settled in and distant rumbling of thunder could heard.  By the end of the second lap rain was coming down pretty hard and the thunder was getting pretty loud.  By the last lap it had gotten really dark and lightning was striking very very near.  One of the lightning bolt struck so close it shook the forest all around.  I was climbing one of the two hills at that very moment which was not very comforting!

By the end of the lap the rain had stopped and the blue skies were back. I did have a slow leak on that last lap and managed to complete most of the lap carefully enough to not require a tube change.  I was completely flat about 1 mile from the finish and decided to ride it out.  Finished 2nd (out of 4! - in other words, another mid pack finish). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Windham World Cup, 2011

What a weekend!  Weekends like these are not just great biking weekends, but great "life" weekend as well.  A weekend where I will not only remember the riding but the whole thing from start to finish.  Of course it helped that it was, from start to finish, directly related to cycling!  One track mind...

I had the pleasure to share a rented condo for the weekend w/ Mike and Stacey.  It was right off the Windham mountain. Though the condo was comfortable and well located, I could fill up several pages discussing the frightening decor of the place.  All I'll say it that is even in the 80ies it would have been considered awful by someone from New Jersey (I have actually no idea if people from Jersey have bad taste)!  

We took off from home on Friday morning, and were on the Windham course to pre ride at 4 PM.  The course was the same as last year with over 700 feet of climbing over a little more than 3.5 miles. Not exactly very a very long course. It wound it's way up through the open fields of the ski slopes, with the climbing broken up by sections that would cross the slope horizontally and enter singletrack sections in the woods. The down section of the course followed pretty much the same pattern. In the open sections, the course was dry, but in the woods things were quite slick.  There were a couple of deep mud holes, but mostly it was just a thin layer of wetness that made things slimy and very slick.  The course was very fast in certain sections and this slime was going to make things quite challenging during the race.  We used the pre ride to really look at the lines and practice them. Most of it was quite ride-able even wet as long the lines were right.  There was one steep downhill section that presented as a challenge though. It was quite steep and at the bottom of it had even steeper section with one side being wet rock and the other wet off camber roots.  What made it challenging was that this led into a very tight left turn.  Therefor, somehow you needed to scrub your speed to be able to make the turn or risk going over the edge.  The first time down it, I made the mistake to touch the front brake which skid my bike side ways, throwing me over it.  I was thankfully, but somewhat painfully, stopped by a tree from tumbling down quite a distance. The second and third time down  were more successful but were still feeling somewhat out of control as the bike would skid and slip. 
That night a big storm came through w/ thunder, lightning, and lots of rain!  In the morning the storm had passed, and the weather was clear, windy and dry.  We went to see the pro's race and made it in time for the women's race (Bresset won, and it was great watching her fight off Pendrel).  I was expecting a super wet and muddy course but the wind must have dried everything.  Even the sections that were slick on Friday were now dry.  There were just a couple of big mud puddles left in the cross sections of the course.   We watched the pros on that steep downhill section and which lines they picked.  There really seemed two good lines going down and using the side of the off camber roots to drop into the tight turn at speed. 

We sneaked in one more lap right after the pros were done.  The course was very fast.  Everything was rideable and I got to try both lines down the steep section. Both worked fine. 

Race was Sunday morning at 8 AM and again the sun was out and thought it was warm, the air was nice and dry. 

Two months have gone by since I started this way too detailed report.  I can't seem to finish this now and am so backed up w/ other race reports that I'll just cut to the chase:   Race was great fun, but a little short.  Probably one of the shortest cat 1 races of the year.  Not what you would expect for a World Cup Race.  They do really need to add another lap!  Finished 10th in my category which was a slight improvement over last year.   the end....

On a side note, saw some picture of what Irene did to the area and my heart goes out to everyone there!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Putney, VT, Root 66 MTB Race.

Late post for this race since I really don't have anything nice to say about it, and can be summarized by: It sucked, I sucked and together it was one big suckfest! I would call it "suckfest 2011".  The reality of it (I hate it when people use that term. As if saying it establishes the ultimate truth!), is that I am a little bit of a big ass wimp.  I don't like getting hurt and I don't like being out of control (on and I guess off bike too).  Skidding though inches of thick peanut butter mud certainly does not reassure that need for control. In addition, this would be my third race of season, including Willows where since I broke my chain, I "rode" more than really "raced".

So I came into the race feeling very unprepared.  I had taken an easy week since my legs were feeling tired, but on the warm up, and especially on the first lap, my legs were still feeling like junk.  Every little climb hurt and I had no power.  I do usually consider myself to be a decent climber (until i have to actually climb), but the hills were killing me. There were two long fire road climbs, with one that felt ten times as long due to being soft and muddy.  First lap, I tried riding it left, right on the second, then straight through on the third. All three ways sucked! The climb by the finish was actually in remarkable good shape considering the rest of the course.  Since I knew this was going to hurt, I started towards the back, and quickly found myself way in the back: in last place actually.  After the first lap, I didn't really care where I placed and was just looking to complete and finish all the laps w/out ending up on the side of the trail in the fetus position.  I did eventually  meet that fairly low standard! I got one good spill when riding a fast downhill and hit large thick mud puddle that took my bike in a direction I was not going.  I got to fly like superman (sans cape) for a second before a fairly soft landing the mud.  I used to really like the Putney course.  Not a big fan this year!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weeping Willow, Ipswich, MA, EFTA 2011

Chains of broken time...I mean times of broken chains...

A last minute family scheduling change meant I would not be able to attend Domnarski Farm this year. I was looking forward to racing it not only because it's a great climbing race, but also because last year, half way through the second lap, I broke my chain.  My hope was to try to do both laps under 2 hours. But since I had to give this race up, at the last minute I decided to make up for it by doing the Weeping Willow, EFTA race in Ipswich, MA.

I had never raced it and had no idea what to expect, but thought it should be a cake walk compared to Glocester Grind.  Got to the race on time (wtf!), and registered for one of the few remaining spots.  Limit was 400 racers and they were close to it! Our expert Vet II field was 43 deep and had heard there were quite a few roadies who had dusted off their mtbikes for this. I don't think I've ever been in a Cat 1 field that deep (granted this is only my second year as a cat 1 guy!)

The warm up pre-ride showed the course to start out w/ about 1 mile of fire roads before entering a twisty single track w/ some pretty slick roots.  I was actually surprise at how slick some of the turns were.  Also it looked like passing was going to be difficult once on the single track.  Had it not been for the wet roots, and some slick mud in the corners, the course would have been a very fast twisty short up and down non technical race.  Quite fun actually and reminded me of the Root 66 Hodges Dam course.  It was going to be critical to be close to the top 10 when entering the single track to avoid being held back.

The start went w/out a hitch and the long fire road allowed the group to be fairly well sorted out.  I found someone to draft behind all through the fire roads and when we entered the single track, it looked like I was at least in the top 15.  About a 1/2 mile into the single track I was feeling comfortable with the pace. There was a line of riders strung out through the single track, and the group was tight.  There really was no room to dab w/out being passed by the four/ five guys behind me. I needed to stay loose, and error free.  Then it started!  Every time I shifted up, the derailleur would not move to the cog picked, skip, and would take several pedal rotations before before settling in. Barrel adjustments did not seem to make a difference.  Then came a steep short climb.  Sadly at that point my concern was more w/ not giving up any spots than it was w/ my derailleur not picking a stupid cog to stay on.  While the chain was still skipping I tried to just power up the hill and was just about to crest the top, when I lost all resistance at the pedals. The chain had broken.  This was a two day old new XTR chain!  Fhack!  Now what?   I had a quick link but no chain tool to remove the mangled link.

ya know I'm concentrating hard when my tongue is sticking out

Never mind that I had driven 2 hours up, paid $40 in fees and dog knows how much on gas, to ride all of 3 miles!  The real dilemma was that I had not been on a proper training ride since the Glocester Grind race and REALLY needed to get in a good work out.  Fhack!  Out of desperation for any form of exercise I decided to just run the race as fast as I could.

After about two miles of "running", I found a guy lying on the side of the trail w/ someone else putting his bike back together.  I stopped to also offer some help and found out he had crashed and hurt his shoulder pretty badly.  After getting him walking in the right direction, and since there was no way he could ride anymore, he offered me his Sram chain (got to love those quick links). Though at least 20 minutes had gone by since breaking my chain and there would be no way to catch anyone in my group, this would give me at least the chance to finish the race, and get in a good ride!

I finished the race in 2 hours and came in dead last.  It was quite a good course actually.  Not a lot of climbing but twisty and fun and though not technical per say, it did command your attention if you did not want to wash out in the turns or on the wet roots.  I'll certainly be back for it next year! Hopefully w/ a fully functioning drive train...

Lesson learned from this race: if the chain is skipping, run...run up those damn hills!  Loosing a couple of places is better than DNFing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Glocester Grind, RI. 2011 Edition!

In all my years of racing, I've never ended a race where I cross the finish line screaming at someone.  Of course there is a first time for everything!

Glocester Grind has some pretty technical sections when the course is dry.  Add some water, mix hard, and it gets nasty!

Though it had sprinkled the night before, the weather was still holding when I was driving down to the race (a nice easy 1/2 hour drive for a change!).  The clouds were pretty dark though and it was only a matter of time before the sky opened up!  I don't mind racing in the rain, but I find it pretty awful to be waiting at the start line while it's pouring.  Got to the race late of course, registered, found my brother (who had spend the weekend in the cape and decided to race this instead of his usual NY State series), and got a little warm up on the course to get a sense of what was coming. 

The start was a mess! Once we entered the woods, the roots, and there were lots of them criss crossing the course, were very slick.  At one point I got tangled up w/ a guy who abruptly dismounted right before a mud pit.  A couple of guys, including my brother passed me as I got untangled. It was a little tricky to pass during the first 1/3 of the course as there was pretty much one line through either the rock garden, the mud pits, or over the roots.  Eventually passed my brother again and a little group of 4 or 5 formed.  I was chasing Rich L. and was sticking to his wheel fairly comfortably until I dabbed.  By the time I got going again he had gained, and since I was not getting comfortable on the bike, he was slowly getting away.   I was now also at the back of the little pack, spending way too much time hesitating, and not clearing stuff that I really should.  My confidence was in the shitter and it was fighting the course way too much.  On lap One I dabbed at least 20 times, endoed on the first bridge crossing, had my hr hit 204 bpm after running through rock garden section w/ hill after it ( I noted to myself that I really should drop to the granny before coming to that rock garden so that I could get on the bike right after rocks instead of trying to run up that hill), and fell pretty hard carrying the bike through the last muddy rock garden.  My foot slipped and both I and my pretty carbon bike landed hard on a rock.   I knew I had caused some damage to the carbon (after the race I found a good gash on the top tube, but thankfully no crack- also found a few gashes on my body as well!), but more relevant was that the bike was no longer shifting correctly, the chain was skipping, and every time I came close to the 34 tooth cog, the chain would get stuck between the cassette and the spokes, meaning I would  have to dismount and pull the chain out.   All in all, not a good first lap at all.  Then the sky opened up and rain came... 

By lap two I had lost the gruppeto but was able to fiddle enough w/ the barrel adjustment to hold the chain in place on the bottom 1/2 of the cassette.  I was able to mentally regroup and my technical skills increased exponentially as a results.  For lap Two, I had a couple of dabs, no falls, cleared the bridge no problem, and rode most the course, besides the rock garden with the hill (though rode up the hill) and the last rock garden with the deep mud pits (in which I almost lost my shoe when I stepped into a puddle of mud that was thigh deep!).  Though the course was getting really slick from the mud and rain, I was feeling more and more confident.  By lap three, I cleaned the first rock garden section and in doing so caught and passed three riders. As I got towards the end of the lap, I caught up to a guy I knew was in my category but had to wait to pass.  As we entered the last turn out of the woods and into the clearing to the finish area, I tried to pass him by taking the inside line onto the grassy area. I sped up and was almost passed him, when he purposefully cut me off, making contact with me and sending me into the brush.  I clearly had the better legs and should have beaten him.  When I crossed the finish line, my adrenaline was pumping and I was pissed.  I was yelling at him that he was an A hole and that he knew I had him and should have let me pass.  He replied since he was in front, the inside line was his and I should not have attempted to take it. I replied that he was not in the line when I took it and was next to him when he knocked into me. He later apologized.  I did not apologize back but perhaps should have because I don't know who is actually right.  Maybe I should not have tried to cut the inside line?  I actually don't know what the etiquette is on taking the inside line from behind. Anyways, I got to feel a little like Cavendish at the beginning of this Giro, in that I too was pissing and moaning crossing the finish line...

10th place, which I was quite content with, especially being able to come back from that first lap.  My brother finished pretty close after too. Thanks to the NBX boys for bringing the beer!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

HR data for Fat Tire Classic, Farmington, CT

From my Polar RS800 PTE:


Large Pic of this Data

From this data, my lap times were (rounded off by a couple of seconds):

lap 1: 25
lap 2: 25
lap 3: 26
lap 4: 25

Not exactly impressive!

That lap 3 was the slowest makes complete sense to me.  The first two laps are usually filled w/ adrenaline, wanting to do well, and trying to keep up w/ the Joneses.  Then the pain sets in and the reality that I am only half way done takes the wind out of the sails.  Lap 3 is demoralizing and is in no man lands.  I worry about sustainability and not wanting to over do it.  But then eventually lap 4 starts and comes with renewed energy/hope/end of the tunnel in sight... since this is the last one.  This is it!   Just have to survive it one more time and then DONE.  Every root, log, mud bog I hit will be the last time I will have to cross/fight it. I can tolerate the pain a little bit more since it will be gone soon.  

I did not get a medal at this race and my time was not very stellar, but if you look at my hr data, there is a clear proof of effort and hard work, and with that I am pretty satisfied!!!  Maybe I can call Jill and ask for an "effort award"!  I do have to admit that part of me is a little impressed that at my 40+ age I can still sustain an avg hr of 191 bpm for 1h 40 min!

I had this long conversation w/ my wife the night before this race about the state of our higher, secondary, and elementary education and one of the topic was how our educational systems rewards and even encourages mediocracy and even less! I'll try to keep it short here.  Case in point is how everyone gets a medal for participation.  The original intent behind this was actually quite good.  It was meant to reward, especially in the early grades, those who worked really hard but came just short of coming out on top; to recognize that hard work; and to encourage them to continue working hard in the future.  Sadly, like too many things, it has been taken to the extreme, since now the system just rewards everyone, including those who do nothing.  This now results in kids electing to not put in any effort since they'll get rewarded anyways.  Later on these same kids turn into a bunch of entitled teenagers who think the world should be handed to them, without having to do anything for it.

I do like my polar rs800 pte in that I can wear as a watch and never loose my bike computer that way.   Also the Pro Trainer software is really pretty good, though has a little learning curve.  What is nice about it is how much manipulation of the data you can post ride/race.  The real problems are that it breaks often and is today back at polar for the 3rd time in two years, and I would like power data, which Polar doesn't offer as an ad on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Root 66 Race Series: Fat Tire Classic, Farmington, CT (4/17/2011)

Ah yes the annual leg opener.  The race that really holds that mirror up to how well you have prepared for the season and how fit you really are.   I love this damn race.  Even though there are no hills and there is nothing really technical about it, its a great challenge.  There are really no, and I mean NO recovery areas.  It's all pedaling all the time.  (There is actually one area where you can coast for maybe 100 yards: 2/3 of the way through coming out of the fire road left into a slight sandy down hill under the power lines.  That is it though.  And even there, if you are fit enough, you should not coast.  Which I didn't...on the first lap and I pedaled about 1/2 on the second lap. The other two laps, well they were what they were!)

It had poooooored the night before and driving on Route 6 from Providence to Hartford, there was a lot of flooding and could only imagine what kind of mud fest this race was going to be.  I almost turned around a couple of times and called it quits.  In my defense, since I had re-injured my IT band on my strained my knee two days before and it was still quite sore, the smart part of me told me to lay off the bike of a week.  I almost listened to that part. But I kept on driving!  It was the Fat Tire and the root 66 opener after all.

Got there later than I wanted (of course), and though it was cold, things warmed real quick in the woods during the pre ride.  I actually had to go back before the start of the race and peal off a couple of layers.  Glad I did too as I would have baked!

Like every year, this race brought out a lot of racers, and the field at line up was quite big.  Tried to look for the familiar faces and found a couple but also noticed many of the past years usuals were missing. I knew the start was going to be a mess as the start was again sandy fire road into a sandy turn and then quickly into a single file singletrack w/ a slimy log crossing that needed to be taken slow.  And it was indeed quite a mess almost having to com to a full stand still.  After the log, the pace picked up nicely and stayed there.  (I like that in cat 1 racers start at a pace they can usually sustain.  I guess if you made it to that category, you have some fitness self awareness!  In cat 2, there were a fair amount of guys that would sprint to the front at the start but then blow up 300 yards in, fumble, and hold every one else up.  Always the same damn guys too...)

Though Farmington is far form a technical course, since the course was tacky and the roots were wet, it did require some attentiveness as some tight fast turns could get quite slippery and if you did not pay attention, you could end up w/ a mouth full of bark. I heard someone crash behind me close to the start but could not turn around to find out what happened. They had added some new singletrack sections this year which made for some nice minor changes. They did remove the off camber drop.  Too bad as I liked that one, though I bet w/ the wet course that would have been a neck breaker! There were two large mud pits. The first was very watery and going straight through the center created quite a splash but did not really slow you down.  The second one was towards the end and was the same one that was there last year (and is in the picture at the top of this blog from the 2010 race).  This one was long, like peanut butter, and had no line through it.  It sucked the energy right out of the legs.

I lost track right away of my placement in the pack.  I didn't really care anyways.  I was more competing against myself at this race and testing my overall fitness/endurance.  Also, I needed to make sure I was warmed up before trying to hammer to make sure I protected my knee as much as possible (which I had triple wrapped).   As we hit the first open sections of fire road and the passing began in earnest, I was able to keep up w/ whoever tried to pass me and stick to their wheel.  A BikeReg.com guy on a 29er Giant passed and set a good pace so I stuck w/ him for a while.  Eventually on the short steepish fire road climb I passed him and he stuck to my wheel for a while.  On the start of lap two, some guy on a Cannondale passed us and I was again able to grab his wheel.  Again on all the climbs I was able to make up space.  Towards the end of lap two I had passed him again and was holding him off (barely).  I was feeling pretty fast and my knee was showing no signs of any pain.

Yet going through the start/finish area into lap three, I suddenly started to worry I was not going to be able to finish the race.  My legs were starting to really feel heavy and my tank felt like it was about to run out.  I had no idea how I was going to be able to finish another two laps.  (Endurance is such a weakness for me since I really only get to train for about 1.5 hours when I go out. I know I should be doing double or triple that, but just don't have time.)  Gu shot to the rescue, which helped just a bit!  Through lap three I was able to hold both Mr Giant and Cannondale off, though they felt very close, and I could spot them at the switchbacks.

As lap four progressed, they were no longer there and I had been able to get a little pull by the 50+ fast guy that passed (I believe his name is Josh).  I kept on checking behind me but there was no one there.  On the road section towards the end, I looked for any traffic coming through the wood but again I seemed to be in the clear and should not get passed before the finish.  I worked through the last mud pit and up the short steep climb w/ less than 1/2 mile to finish.  Somehow how though, some guy in my age group passed me as I started to climb up to the finish line!!!  I have no idea where he came from or how I missed him but he beat me by 7 seconds! Had I known he was coming I most likely would have been able to hold him off (or so I tell myself).  I've replayed this in my head a couple of times, and really don't see how I could have missed this guy or how he could have caught up to so quickly towards the end. Hmmmm....

The nice thing about finishing mid pack is that you barely have to wait for results to be posted.  I finished 16th out of 29.  Not great but honestly I am okay w/ that result.   I was able to leave the race w/ out blowing up my knee (which is a little sore today but nothing too bad), and no blood was shed on the course!

Some random thoughts after the race: 1) I somehow really need to find time to do longer rides.  2) though the there were really no real climbs,  I really did quite well, comparatively speaking, on the short climbs, being able to catch up or shed anyone on my wheel.  I wonder how that will translate on a climbing course. 3) I need some precise warming up routine.  The showing up late and getting a frantic 10 mins in is most likely not very conducive to a good start.  4) I also need to develop a decent cool down /post race routine.  5) Gu really seems to make a difference towards the end. 6) what the hell is up w/ my knee?  7) Damn I am far from first place time.  I would need to improve by 10 mins to move into top 3...