Friday, June 15, 2012

Scott Scale Follow up...almost done!

Still working on working out the kinks out of the handling of this bike.  Part of that is that I am not the greatest handler out there, so in fairness to the bike, it means I am also trying to work out the kinks out of myself.  I did definitely have very good connection w/ my 2009 Sworks Epic, where I felt very connected w/ the bike and it felt like an extension of myself.  The bike was part of me and I never had to think about the bike itself! This has yet to happen w/ the Scott.  Though I have written about how it has some great qualities as a hardtail (feels like a softail, forgiving when screwing up, and damn light), it has never felt like I was in charge of it and quite the opposite actually.  Again, this might be due to coming from a life time of riding 26er full susps bikes.   My struggles w/ the bike are specifically w/ being able to lift the front end high,  "J hop" tall objects, and "railing" the bike through corners.  This has forced me to slow down on log crossing or very techy terrain.  It has also meant that through turns I have needed to brake much more than I really want.  When chasing someone's wheel, a gap always forms coming out of the turn and then I need to make that up.

So I have been giving those two areas more thought lately!  Especially now that racing season has started (and not going so well!)  It is obviously important for me to really not waste my momentum and to not have to work the race course twice as hard because I am constantly riding the damn brakes before and through a turn.  Then recently I had a conversation w/ a dedicated single speeder, who commented that I should really be riding a single speed in the off season.  On a singles speed you cannot afford to waste any forward momentum when you ride that single gear, so it forces you to learn how to push the bike as much as it can take. I doubt my knee would tolerate a single gear all the time, but it certainly got me thinking; and since I have been chasing a couple of single speeders lately, I decided to pay attention to their riding style.  The first thing that I noticed, was that (this particular single speeder), rarely sat down.  This is of course in stark contrast to my full susp style, which had my ass planted on the saddle all the damn time.   So I decided to try emulate the single speed riding style, and whadda you know...

First thing is that it hurt!  Legs were burning burning from pedaling and supporting the weight at the same for extended periods.   Even coasting while standing hurt.  Yet something else was happening!  With the weight shifted towards the front, the bike wasn't looking to go extra wide through the turns and didn't feel vague in the front.  The front tire was actually gripping the trail and steering the rest of the bike tightly through.   I was riding behind someone who would usually create on a gap on me in the tight turns, yet if I rode standing up,  I stayed right on his wheel and felt comfortable and in control through the turns.  He even washed out a couple of time, while I was very comfortable in the turns and never touching the brakes.    Was it really this simple?  Was this the adjustment I needed to make?

The answer is a simple yes.  I have continued to ride like this and now will stand up to weight on the front to get through the turns quickly.  This works great when out JRA-ing.  The main problem though, is it's very difficult to do during a very twisty race course (Weeping Willow, EFTA comes to mind), as it becomes really tiring and difficult to stay standing up throughout the whole race, as your legs cannot relax and take a quick break.

I wonder if the front "vagueness" is a 29er trait or due to the slack angle of the Scott headtube (69.5 %).  I have a Lynskey Ridgeline on order that should arrive towards the end of July.   The HT is a full degree steeper, so I will be really curious to see how different the handling is going to be, and if this remains an issue for me.

All this being said, I do have to mention that Scott front end has saved my ass more than a couple of times. I have blindly ridden over stuff to discover drops w/ rocks on the other side that I would have eaten a mouthful of dirt if I had been on the my Sworks.  The Scott has each time easily cleared the obstacles and kept me out of trouble.

One thing to mention about this bike as well is that the carbon drop outs are misaligned.  This has caused some PIA problems w/ the rear wheel consistently rubbing against the non drive side chainstay.  I have had two different wheel sets trued by my lbs and each time I put the rear wheel back, there is less than 2 mm of room on the non drive side chainstay, vs 1 cm on the drive side.   This means that if I lean through a turn or if I power the bike up, the wheel will rub that chainstay.  When going fast enough through a turn, it will should like a table saw cutting through a 2x4.  Pretty unsettling to hear that!  I have tried various tapes to try to protect the chainstay w/ out success.  I now resort to applying a layer of epoxy where it rubs every week to try to prevent the wheel from cutting all the way through.

Scott has recently agreed to warranty the frame.  It took quite a while and having to send many pictures and my lbs advocating for me to get this done.  Of course they are out of replacement frames, so the warranty is mostly "theoretical" at this time.   They aren't quite sure when they'll have a replacement frame available.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pat's Peak, Root 66 MTB Race Series

Never had raced Pat's Peak.  Some races have always been too far me for a one day drive.  Usually anything over a two hour drive each way in one day, is out of my tolerance.  Also, I am afraid that a mind numbing two plus hour drive home after a really hard race is going to lead me to just passing out at the wheel.  And on the way home from Pat's Peak, there was as little of that: at one point I had the air conditioning blasting, the Killers blaring, and sticking my head out the window! Not cause I was tired but mostly out of boredom!

contemplating life before the start...
I was initially going to race the 6 hours on Saturday but after taking a little OTB on Thursday, my body signaled it would be a really bad idea to be on the bike for that long.  Made the mature decision to listen to it and just race the XC race on Sunday instead.  In hind sight, I am glad I did!

Someone had described the course to me as serious climbing but not very technical.  Well 1/2 of that description was right.  When I arrived I heard they had added some new sections, and someone who had just finished the cat 2 race described it as a "real mountain bikers course".

Mike, who had missed his start time had decided to race the cat 1 w/ me. We lined up and it was hot! They changed the course lap requirements from four to three.  "Tough course with long lap times" was the reason given.  How tough could it be?  That unanswered question is why I hate going into races blind!

The course started right away with a fire road climb (kinda like Mt Snow used to have); went around a pond (like Mt Snow used to have though granted in a different location); crossed the mountain over some slick rooty and rocky tricky single track (kinda like Mt.  Snow); dropped back towards the base of the mountain on a crazy fast choppy fire road (Mt Snow...), and then started the climb to the top in earnest (hmmm...Mt.  Snow anyone?).  There was even a hike a bike section as it got too steep and slick to ride (Mount sn....). The climb was long and twisty and at times technical, and just when you thought it was done, it would go again. It also was quite muddy and slick in certain areas from the water running down the mountain.  And the 1/2 of the course description that was missing, was really missing!  It was quite technical in some spots.  Most of it ride-able, but needing some careful line choosing.  Once at the top, there was some fun twisty single track, a couple of fun features, and then it bombed down to the base (just like...).  Did I mention the course really reminded me of the old Mt Snow course?  And was tough!

Mike on his little wheels before getting lost
On the first lap, due to the heat, I elected to start somewhat slower than usual.  I realized quickly this was a good move as the climbing was going on for much longer than anticipated.  I was also a little worried about my shoulder and since I wanted to make sure I did not crash, I elected to walk some of the techy parts of the course on the first lap.  My legs also felt pretty heavy during the first lap and I did not feel like I had my normal climbing power.  So I didn't push too hard and played it safe for the second lap as well.   My goal was to keep my legs fresh-ish for the last lap and then go for it.  I had a couple of guys in front I kept w/in reaching distance (though lost some ground when I missed a turn), but did not try to catch up to them.  Since I was playing it safe on the downhill, I did again loose significant ground on them once the second lap was done.

I brought up the pace and intensity on the third lap and soon could see "those" guys in front again and that I was gaining on them.  By the time we had reached the top, I had passed two of them w/ a certain "authority" (you know, like when you pass someone in such a way to let them know there is no way they are going to be able to keep your pace or catch back up, so please don't try!)  Since I did not want to get caught, I rode all the tricky sections and just let it rip on the downhill section. I knew I had not pushed it hard enough on the climbs as I was still feeling pretty snappy and fresh on the way down.  This however did allow to pass two more guys.  One guy did manage to pass me back right at the bottom but I was able to pass him again (w/ "authority") on the last little climb before the finish area.

My placement ended up being pretty dismal (but I had a sh*t load of fun racing it!).  I realize in looking at the results that I was racing in last place for the first two laps and am glad I passed three people in my group on that last lap (to finish 8 out of 11, + 3 dnf's).  Mike ended up not finishing the race because on his second lap he got off course and ended up in VT somewhere (slight exaggeration!)  Since I had no idea how well my legs were going to hold over the three laps, I played it way to safe on the second lap.  I ended up not being that tired after the race and today, post race day, I am not even really sore.  I think part of my need to play it safe was motivated by having hit the wall way too early and hard at the Weeping Willow race three weeks ago. So I really overcompensated here, and played it way to safe.   I do need to need keep on working on developing a good sense of what my overall sustainable maximum effort is.  I think I have it down for flat courses but not for hilly courses. And I only have two weeks to figure that out since we line up for the world cup then...