Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh So Scary

I figured you would be back to see what’s going on around here. I know I said yesterday that I would most likely not post up today since Lunchbox and I are headed to Dark Mountain, but I couldn’t resist. Halloween is approaching, after all. So, in keeping with the holiday tradition, here is our Halloween Celebration.

Little Miss Sunshine has a cartload of pumpkins. Little do they know that they are headed towards their demise.

Last night was pumpkin carving night, so we got everything ready. We first covered our table with a plastic cover to help ease the cleanup burden.

Getting ready for surgery?

After we gutted all of the volunteers, Paul decided that he would help us clean up.

Mmmmm, I likes pumpkin guts.

Wait! I can help clean up this mess!

Mine obviously had too much beer.

Little Miss Sunshine went for a traditional Halloween theme. Or she really loves cats. And spiders.

Of course, Lunchbox carved a skater into his. A mountain biker would have been too much work.

Even the animals got into the pumpkin action.

Here is their final resting place.

So, there you go. Halloween at the B-43 worldwide headquarters. And you thought only our riding and poor grammar were scary. We should be ready for all the beggars searching for free treats tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to it. For now though, I’m looking forward to heading out the door and getting on the road. We have a little bit of a drive ahead of us, and then we will be in Wilkesboro. This should be a fun day. Thanks for visiting, and see y’all Monday.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Got Skillz

"Ever take it over any sweet jumps?"

This picture cracks me up. No, it’s not me. I’ve been over the bars before, but never in such a hilarious fashion. I’m smart enough to let go so I can fly through the air at the greatest of ease. Sure, I can ride, and I’m not too bad at it either. My riding ability has improved greatly ever since I acquired Goose. Experience plays into my increased skill level of course, but the bike helps a lot. My bike may not cost as much as yours, but price has little to do with the quality of my Diamondback. I am convinced that they make great bicycles, especially for the price. It looks like this post might be a lovefest for Diamondback. Oh joy.

"Me likey my bikey."

Some time ago, I mentioned that I ride a Diamondback Sortie 3. I absolutely love this bike. While I was describing the origin of the name “Goose”, I also asked, “What the hell is a Knuclebox.” Well, the good people over at Diamondback put together a video that was shown at Interbike in Las Vegas this year. It explains the Knucklebox suspension design very well. I suggest you watch it.

Knuckle Box Fundamentals 2010 from Paul Giarratano on Vimeo.

I hope you weren’t bored to death. I wasn’t, but I know everyone isn’t as in love with their bicycle like I am. Weird. Anyway, I wanted to share a little nugget of information with my viewers so you can all be edumacated on the inner workings of my bicycle’s suspension design. Again, I’m not whoring myself out to sponsors here. Wait, maybe I am. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Diamondback will send me something as a token of their affection. (Pretty please?)

Okay, so now that I have most likely lost your attention, please come back. Test ride a Diamondback and you will see what I mean. You get more bike for your buck, trust me. Wait, did I lose you again? Quit being stubborn and try something new, will ya? It worked for me.

Speaking of something new, tomorrow is the day for Lunchbox to try something new. Although he is a “mountain biker”, he hasn’t really ridden his bike in the mountains. Our local trails have challenging terrain, but nothing too crazy. Tomorrow morning we are rising yet again at the crack of dark to head up to Wilkesboro, North Carolina to hit the fabulous Kerr Scott Trail System, or Dark Mountain as most people refer to it. I took the day off of work (Lunchbox has a school holiday) so we can head up when bike traffic won’t be so heavy. Depending on what time we head out the door, I may not get on here to post anything, so you will probably have to wait until Monday for any further discussions on the happenings at B-43. I have a busy bicycling weekend ahead, so there will be plenty to talk about next week. Stay tuned (or logged in.) See ya.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hangin’ on the Bars

I guess I was so busy complaining about trash that I forgot to include a report about my new handlebar situation. After all, Sunday’s ride was my first real trail ride since the installation. After unloading the bikes and heading over to the pump track, I immediately noticed a huge difference in my riding position. I liked it a lot. I was more upright, but not so much that I felt like I was on a hybrid bike. I had about the same skill as usual on the pump track, meaning that I could make it all the way around several times without pedaling. That was enough of a “riding position” test. I didn’t feel as if I needed any further adjustments, especially since I checked and double-checked everything when I first put them on. Now it was onto the trail.

The trail starts out with a quick little downhill, and there is a small jump that you can use to clear the remainder of said downhill. I hit it without hesitation, and I was successful. The “without hesitation” thing was foolish on my part, since I was supposed to be getting used to my new bars. I guess I have no regard for my own safety (or Goose’s for that matter.) The little downhill intro felt nice, and it was followed immediately by a climb. That’s when I noticed the biggest difference. By sitting more upright, I was able to place more of my weight towards the rear of the bike without adjusting my position on the saddle. That makes for some prime climbing. It is rare that some bike fit adjustment benefits me so quickly. I usually have to mess around a while to get the proper proclaimed advantage.

As I wound my way through the twisty, rooty singletrack, I noticed that the handling was much improved. Just like with the climbing, I didn’t have to adjust my arse on the seat so much when I took the turns. I could lean into them without fear of rubbing my derriere on the rear tire. Another big plus is I have no more neck pain. I was hunched over before, and I had to strain my neck to keep my eyes on the trail. Confidence has been gained. Why the hell didn’t I do this before the race season ? Oh yeah, probably because it wouldn’t have done anything to keep me from getting tired during the races. Lesson learned.

Once again, the change I initiated turned out to be a good thing. I think I may have achieved a “proper” bike fit, for now. My new Easton EA50 high-rise handlebar did the trick. Who knew I was such a genius? I certainly didn’t, and if you read this blog regularly, you don’t think I am at all. Good call.

One other thing I failed to mention yesterday was the fact that Little Miss Sunshine came up with a name for her bike. She loves her new finely-tuned suspension, and the way it keeps her from feeling the rough spots on the trail. In fact, she calls it “bouncy.” Normally, bouncy would be a bad thing (like throwing you and the bike all over the trail), but in her case it’s comfortable. She just bounces smoothly over roots, instead of beating them to death with her bike (and her spine.) No worries, her suspension is set up perfectly for her (I checked with her mechanic, me.) Anyhoo, she called her bike “Tigger”, in reference to the Disney character of the same name. He sure loves to bounce.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn Goodness

The leaves, they are a changin'

Contrary to what you may have been thinking, I actually rode my bicycle this weekend. While Saturday was filled with work and other nonsensitude, Sunday was a whole different story. The original plan was to wake up at a decent hour to ride at Little Miss Sunshine’s favorite trail, North Meck. Well, as you know, things can change around here in a hurry. Lunchbox got a call with a reminder from a friend that he was invited to a birthday party, scheduled for Sunday at 11:00 a.m. This party was a skate party, just like the one we had for him (minus the kitty litter cake of course.). Since we were all planning to ride at North Meck, a decision had to be made. Lunchbox had spent nearly all day Saturday at Soul Ride, so he didn’t really have the urge to skate. He really wanted to go mountain biking with us, but he also wanted to attend his friend’s party. He decided to go to the party, so I dropped him off at the skatepark at 11:00 a.m. sharp. I left him with enough money to spend a few hours there (in addition to the two hour party.) I stuck around for a few minutes before returning home to pick up Little Miss Sunshine and our bikes.

Little Miss Sunshine was dressed and ready to go when I got home. We loaded up the bikes, grabbed some water, and headed up to Huntersville for some nice fall riding. The air was crisp, even a little on the cold side. There had been some rain the day before, but the trail appeared to be in great shape. We played around on the pump track for a few minutes, and then we hit the trail. I let Little Miss Sunshine lead the way, so I wouldn’t be tempted to go too fast. It didn’t really matter, because she took off at a good pace. She tore through the trail like a seasoned pro, enjoying all of the twists and turns. She especially likes the little jumps out there, calling them “weees.” (Like weeeeeeeee, get it?) We stopped a few times here and there, which was good for picture taking. I got ahead of her every once in a while to capture some “action shots.”

Fast as lightning!

Here is a weeeeee!

Here’s your proof that I rode my bike.

The trail was in awesome shape, the only exception being the leaves on the trail. I may make some time soon to visit the trail there with rake in hand to alleviate this leafy issue. While we had a great ride, I also had another fun thing to do out there. I stopped a few times here and there because I found some trash on the trail. This trail is only 3.5 miles or so, and I didn’t understand why people couldn’t carry their trash out with them. There are several neighborhoods nearby, so that’s even more of a reason to not be a litterbug. Since I had no backpack this time, I had to use all of my available pockets.

Yes, that’s a beer bottle. No, I didn’t drink beer on my ride. Only post-ride beer for me.

The beer bottle puzzled me most of all, since there are no fishing holes, no NASCAR races, or even a decent place to party in this trail. I like beer as much as the next guy, but I don’t see why you need to discard your bottles on the trail of a county park. It’s not like people were camping out there or anything. There are plenty of places to dispose of garbage at a facility like this.

How could you miss this thing? Maybe it blends in with the trees.

Here is a sampling of my trailside treasure.

Look how easy this is.

See how I made a difference? Geez, just pick up your trash, okay? Never mind. Why should people pick up after themselves when they have people like us to do it. Is this what our society has come to? I like being outside in the woods on my bike and enjoying nature. I don’t like having to pick up after litterbugs while I am enjoying said nature. I wonder if they just throw trash all over their own yards. Probably. Okay, rant over. For now.

Don’t make me send in Woodsy. He’s a real badass.

P.S. I noticed that yesterday was my 43rd post. Oh how nice.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Working For The Weekend

Well, not exactly. I wasn’t working for the weekend, like I normally would. Most of the time, I do my regualr job all week, and then turn it loose on the weekend. This one was a little different. Since I was on call, I faced the possibility of working on Saturday or Sunday. I couldn’t plan any kind of riding or other extracurricular activities because I could quite possibly end up working. Unlike Little Miss Sunshine, my on call requires me to log into my computer to repond to service tickets, and most of the time I can take care of them from the comfort of my own home. She has to arrive at the hospital in 30 minutes or less (like Dominos) to save people having heart attacks. Pretty exciting. In case I’ve never mentioned it, I take care of telephone systems for a rather large medical organization in the Charlotte area, and I share the on call duties with 6 other guys. So yeah, I am on call every 7th week. It’s not usually too bad, but it can put a damper on my cycling if it’s busy enough. This time of year, I can’t ride after work as much as I would like to. Daylight hours are shorter, so that means my only quality riding will be on the weekend. Being on call for the hospital phone system means that once in a while my weekends might not feature any riding, or anything but work for that matter.

I had originally planned to ride this weekend, but I didn’t know exactly when. Not only was I at the mercy of my telephone system, but I was also being held hostage by the weather. I arrived home from work Friday night, ready for our regularly-scheduled movie night. After the movie, I heard some rain outside. The forecast had stated that we may get some rain, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. After observing the rain, I realized that it just might be enough to keep me from riding anywhere on Saturday.
I awoke Saturday morning, and my prediction was correct. It had rained enough to prevent me from riding any of our local trails, at least in the morning. It didn’t matter anyway, since I got called into you guessed it, work. After dilly-dallying for a bit, I headed out to the wonderful city of Charlotte to adress my first issue. I then headed out to Huntersville to settle another service ticket I had. Whilst I was out doing my on call duty, Little Miss Sunshine took Lunchbox to the local skatepark, Soul Ride. I wished I could go, but I was stuck fixing telephone problems. I missed my skateboard a little I guess.

After finally finishing my work obligations, I had a few errands to run. I had to pick up a few odds and ends from some local stores, and then I could head back home. It didn’t take very long, and I finally made it to my domicile. Would I go ride my beloved Goose? No. I had promised Lunchbox that I would replace his fork this weekend. I know, I mentioned a fork issue before, but it was my own. Lunchbox has been having problems with his components as well. His RockShox Dart 3 had locked up, preventing him from enjoying a smooth ride. I had the damn thing rebuilt at a local shop (not my local shop mind you), and it never really worked right after that. I know, it’s not the best fork, but it should withstand the rigors of a 13-year-old traipsing through the trails. Anywho, I got a great deal on a RockShox Tora, so I told him I would swap it out.

I got home from work/errands, grabbed a beer, and got busy. It didn’t really take me long to swap out the fork on Clark, since I am such an awesome bicycle mechanic. I checked and double-checked everything, so Mr. Lunchbox will be happy. His new fork went on without a hitch, so I was ready to take it for a test spin. The standard driveway/street test was succesful, so I was satisfied that I did a great job. He would have to take it on a real ride of course, but he seemed happy to have some new, working suspension parts on Clark.

By the time I swapped out the malfunctioning front suspension, it was too late to ride anywhere. Besides, Lunchbox was busy skateboarding, so he would have to wait. I briefly though about joining him at the skatepark, but I instead wasted my time on the internets, which fits well with my post from Friday. I have been lazy. Yes, it’s true. Would I ever get back on the bike? Who knows, but there is still a day left in the weekend. Tune in tomorrow to find out what happens. I’ll tell you something good, I promise.


Friday, October 23, 2009


Remember this guy?

You would think from reading this blog that I am some kind of athlete. I swim, run, mountain bike, and road bike. I compete in triathlons, mountain bike races, 5k runs, and even do charity road rides. I work out at the gym. I guess with all of those things I could call myself athletic. This week however, I am not even close to an athlete. Hell, since the Tree Shaker 12 Hour Mountain Bike Race, I haven’t really done a great deal of anything. Yeah, I did ride last weekend at the New Trail and the Tarheel Trailblazers Kids Ride, but the mileage was so low that it doesn’t really count towards fitness. While I enjoyed those two events very much, I really need to get back in the saddle for some more productive riding time.

I haven’t been able to swim or go to the gym due to work requirements. This month I am working kind of far away from my usual swimming hole, so it has been difficult to make it there. I’ve also been slacking on the after work road rides. I had originally planned to ride last night at North Mecklenburg Park, but I didn’t make it. I was hoping that Little Miss Sunshine and Lunchbox would meet me there after work for a nice family-style ride. As usual, work gets in the way. LMS was schedule to be the “late person”, so she was unsure if she could make it. I was going to bring Goose to work with me so I could just go directly from work, but I left it in the garage. I guess I just used the “late person” thing as an excuse for my laziness. The Tree Shaker wasn’t that bad. I just need to get back into the swing of things.

In keeping with the point of this post, my new pattern of self-induced laziness is having a negative effect on my fitness. I haven’t put on any weight or anything like that, but I’m sure I would be hurting if I went out on a lengthy trail ride. I am hoping to get out sometime this weekend, possibly with the family in tow. I love seeing Little Miss Sunshine out enjoying the trails on her KHS. She has a good time, and I know she would love to get out there more. Maybe we’ll even figure out a name for her beloved new bicycle. As long as no ridiculous calls from work come in this weekend, we should be able to sneak out somewhere for a ride. I’m also hoping to cram in some Halloween-type activities (pumpkin carving, decorating, etc.) over the next two days. Like I said though, that all depends on work. I really need to get back on the bike though, before I go insane. It could happen.

“Went insane, got no brain!”

See y'all Monday. Hopefully I'll have some exciting reports. Probably not, since I will have gone insane by then. It's probably gonna rain, so I will be shit out of luck with my riding opportunities. I'll probably end up working for the man anyway. Damn it.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

New (Old) Stuff: A Review

In keeping with my theme of change, I decided that it’s time to recap another change I made a while back. While it might seem like I’m a little slow posting this, I’m actually just catching up. I missed a lot of prime blogging opportunities since I started this thing, but that will be no more. After two faithful years of riding with Shimano PM-520 clipless pedals, I thought I had found true pedaling happiness. I was content to keep the same pedals on my bikes into perpetuity, but as you know, things change.

Out with the old.

Back at one of the first Charlotte Mountain Bike Summer Series races, I got into a discussion from some of the members of the Kenda team. They were talking about their pedals and the benefits of those pedals, so I listened carefully. These guys were a real team with mega-ginormous sponsors (unlike us misfits here at B-43), so I figured that their experiences were worth a listen. The big buzz was about Crank Brothers pedals, about which I knew a little. Sure, they were sponsored by Crank Brothers too, but they seemed to believe in their products.

The Dirty Party Cycle and Shepherd2LostSheep both utilized pedals from Crank Brothers, so it was strange that I never tried them before. The DPC was the most recent convert, and he’s had nothing but pleasant things to say about his new bicycle accessory. The few times a year that Mr. Shepherd makes the trek from the Sunshine State up here to North Carolina gave me ample opportunity to admire his pedaling assistance devices, but I never gave it much thought other than that. I am usually committed to the parts I currently use (stubbornly I might add), and I’m not usually one to change the status quo. Mostly I would just say, “I should try those.” It rarely went any further than that. I am always willing to give honest reviews to my cohorts however, but I never insist that they try anything I use. I just sort of hope that they do, and they can share my joy. Now the shoe would be on the other foot (or pedal), so to speak.

Now, back to the discussion with Team Kenda. After that evening’s race was completed, we did the usual tearing down of equipment while engaging in small talk. We were gathered around someone’s bike that had a pair of Crank Brothers eggbeater pedals, and someone mentioned these odd contraptions. I didn’t foresee me ever wanting to use a pedal without some kind of platform, at least a tiny form of one anyway. One of the Kenda riders brought over his bike and showed us his Crank Brothers Candy pedals, and I took immediate notice. After all, these were the same ones that were used by the DPC and Mr. Shepherd. That night I heard about the pros and cons (not many) of these fine pieces of hardware (from real, sponsored racers, no less.) I decided at that point that it was worth a try. I immediately started to shop around for a deal.

"Ooooohhhhh, pretty."

Although I’ve had prior experience with Crank Brothers, it was very limited. I had a pair of their 50-50 platform pedals, back when I thought I needed flats to ride really technical terrain (I was such a sissy.) I really enjoyed those pedals, but I didn’t want to switch out my pedals every time I rode something “challenging.” That’s when I went to full-time clipless pedal status. Since Lunchbox has no desire to try clipless pedals, he inherited the 50-50s. He’s been riding them for nearly two years now, with no issues. That was a plus for me as far as Crank Brothers was concerned. I knew at this point that the quality of their products wouldn’t be an issue.

A few weeks after the aforementioned post-race discussion, I found a set of Candys at a reasonable price (in red to match my bike even.) I was going to see what all the fuss was about. If anything, I could turn around and sell them if I didn’t like them, since there are plenty of Candy-loving mountain bikers around here. I installed them on good ol’ Goose, and changed out the cleats on my shoes. After a few “neighborhood tests”, I was ready. I went on a ride that weekend, and I was more than pleased.

After benefitting from the adjustable release tension of the Shimano pedals, I worried that I would have issues unclipping from the Candys. The Candy pedals don’t have any tension adjustment at all. It was never a problem though. The entry and exit were both smooth, and I immediately fell in love with my new pedals. The entry was the weirdest part however, since I didn’t get the usual “click” that I had experienced from the Shimanos. That took a little getting used to, but it was a minor adjustment. Even the rare instances that I rode in the mud proved my new pedals superior. While I was riding in the Sunshine State over the summer, I got to test out the famed “mud-shedding design” of these fancy Candy pedals. It rains pretty much every day in the summer down there, so if you want to ride, you ride no matter the trail condition. I was impressed yet again, and these pedals were far better during inclement weather than my previous ones (yes, even the flats.) Even the constant beatings they take from all of the rocks around here have done no harm at all.

"Oh, did I let some Lizard Skins action slip in there too?"

Well, it looks like I have discovered a new-found love for yet another change I was hesitant to make. Maybe one day I will learn that change is good, especially if I initiate it. I was so impressed with these pedals that I put a set of them on my road bike as well, and my “commuter” bike will soon be fitted with some form of eggbeater-style pedal. I’ve even begun looking for a set of pink ones for Little Miss Sunshine’s still unnamed KHS. In conclusion, Crank Brothers makes quality products, at least in my experience. They sell rebuild kits on their website, and that task seems easy enough should I ever need a rebuild. I am proud to place them on my list of “Click These and Give Them Your Money.” While they are not a sponsor of me or anyone else on the B-43 team, I will still support them. And no, this isn’t a way to whore myself out for sponsors. I support a company’s products if I use them, whether or not they support me directly. They are supporting our team with quality products (even though we pay for them), and that’s good enough. Go get some Crank Brothers !


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time to Try Something New

"Is this race legal?"

Since this is the slow time of year (for racing anyway), I figured I could play around with my bike fit. Back when I built my beloved Goose, I was about to take part in the XTERRA Uwharrie. I originally swapped all of the parts over from Slug, my previous ride. I didn’t think to take into account the new top tube length of the frame, since I only jumped up one inch on the frame size. I was running an Easton 120mm stem with 10 degree rise, so I figured what was good for the Slug was good for the Goose. I was wrong. The top tube length offset my riding position quite a bit, even though I went from a large frame (20”) to an X-Large (21”). As more seasoned riders/bike fitters will tell you, it can make a world of difference. I rode it that way for a bit, but I knew I needed a change. I didn’t want to make any hasty decisions however, especially right before the XTERRA. It would have to wait.

I opted for a new stem right after the XTERRA was over. I swapped out the 120 to a 100mm Easton EA50 stem, but I could only find one with a 6 degree rise. Again, I was wrong. Are you seeing a pattern here with my wrongitude? I did like the new reduced length, because I wasn’t so stretched out in the cockpit like I was before. That missing 4 degrees of rise was becoming a problem though. I rode the entire summer series like that though, as well as the Tree Shaker. After every ride, I felt some pain in my neck from straining to keep my head up. I kept telling myself that being tucked in like that would make me go faster. Forget the pain. Now that the racing season is pretty much over for me, it was time to try something new (and hopefully improved.)

After an unsuccessful search for a new Easton stem that would be to my liking, I had to look for other options. I probably could have switched to another brand of stem to meet my fit requirements, but my obsessive-compulsive disorder keeps me from doing so. I use Easton parts for my bars, stem, and seatpost (I use the same setup on all the bikes in my family fleet too), so it would be hard for me to try another manufacturer. There was only one way to do this; new handlebars.

"Is it a baseball bat? No dummy, it clearly says handlebar."

I got a package in the mail last week which would help me continue my experiments. I am currently running an Easton EA50 low-rise handlebar, which worked perfectly on the old setup, at least as far as the height was concerned. My new stem rise no longer helped my situation though. I opted for the same bar, but a high-rise this time. I pulled my new handlebar out of the box and compared it to the other before I started the swapification process. From the looks of it, this just might work.

"Everyone is running two bars these days."

Since I would be swapping everything out, I figured I would change my grips too. Yeah, I just put these on, but I didn’t really like the fit of them. I love Lizard Skins bunches and bunches, but these Moab grips were a little too small in diameter for my hands. I decided I would switch back to my North Shore lock-on grips, since they were a little bit meatier. I would still keep the Bike Patrol lock rings though, and why shouldn’t I?

"Here, have some fatties."

Well, it was time to commence to swappin’ out parts. This would be a breeze, especially since everything just clamps onto the bar pretty easily. I would have to make sure that I get the positioning correct for everything, and that figured to be a challenge. Even though I had some previous fit issues, I did have the handlebar angle correct, along with the angle of the controls (you know, the shifters and brakes, duh.) I will have to take a few rides to try it out, other than the standard “driveway test.”

Everything seems fine so far, but I need a lengthy ride first. I don’t really have any specific riding plans for the weekend, but I guess I can make some. I am on call for work this weekend, so that could ruin my riding chances. I’m normally not too busy on call, so theoretically I can get in a ride, and hopefully bring along Little Miss Sunshine and Lunchbox as well. I am hoping for success with my fit configuration, so I can mess it all up again when I start shopping for a new fork. Yep, you read it right, Goose needs a new utensil. The RockShox Pilot I’m currently riding is a fossil, and it is slowly dying. Stay tuned for more information on the new fork action, coming soon to a computer near you (hopefully.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tarheel Trailblazers Kids Ride

Some images courtesy of Lunchbox, and others (the big ones) from Doug and Dawn. Thanks!

Rather than clutter up yesterday’s post with, well, clutter, I decided to wait until today to provide a recap of Sunday’s Tarheel Trailblazers Kids Ride. Since there’s no racing going on for me right now, it’s better not to throw everything out on a Monday anyway. The bi-weekly kids ride are a huge part of my mountain biking experience, and it’s great to be out there helping all of the little ones gain confidence with their bicycles.

Lunchbox and I got to the parking lot of one of the area’s favorite trails, Sherman Branch. We met up with the Dirty Party Cycle shortly thereafter, and waited for the kids to arrive. The parking lot was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. It was a pretty chilly day, with highs around 50 degrees. This called for jersey-related warming undergarments and leg warmers (at least for me.) I guess I still have some Floridian in me.

Speaking of Florida, the main ride coordinator, Gramps, is headed to the Sunshine State at the end of the month for a permanent relocation. Looks like he will be giving up his bike for a fishing pole from now on. Since this would be his last kids ride, we hoped it would have a huge turnout. We weren’t disappointed. Kids started showing up in droves, with some parents in tow. Everyone was sad to know that Gramps would no longer be running the kids rides, but they will go on. I will be the kids ride organizer-guy from now on, and we will keep the tradition alive.

After everyone gathered around the Trailblazers Tent, we headed out on the trail. We had such a huge group, and we hit the trail like a giant train (of children, like a Disney movie or something.) As usual, we stopped on all of the trail features to give the kids a chance to try them without fear of crashing. These kids thrived on the encouragement we gave them, and tore it up. Just like life in general, these kids are the future, and the future is bright for mountain biking in Charlotte if you ask me.

We omitted a lot of the trail as we usually do, keeping the ride fairly easy for all skill levels. After the ~4 mile ride concluded, the kids had a surprise waiting. Mrs. Gramps brought some cupcakes and Halloween candy for the youngins. We all sat around the picnic table at the trailhead and enjoyed some tasty treats. Lots of smiling faces all around, even from the adults. A lot of these rides have adults coming out that aren’t super-skilled mountain bikers, so they get a chance to polish up their act as well. This is why I have thought about changing the name to the Tarheel Trailblazers Family Ride. Just a thought, we’ll see how it goes.

I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy watching people get hooked on the sport that has been so good to me. These kids are an inspiration to us all. Fortunately, we didn’t have any accidents or any kind of serious crashes, so I didn’t have to perform any Bike Patrol duties, aside from a dropped chain repair. If I had to choose between racing and these kids rides, I would pick the kids rides 100% of the time. If you are in the Charlotte area, check out the Tarheel Trailblazers website for more information, and you can join us on one of our rides. All skill levels and abilities are welcome and encouraged. See you next time!


Monday, October 19, 2009

New Trail

On Saturday, Lunchbox and I headed out to the new Southview Recreation Center for the grand opening/ribbon cutting ceremony. This event was a culmination of hard work from the Tarheel Trailblazers, the Dirt Divas, and REI. This recreation center now boasts a 2.5 mile trail, with more to come. Imagine having a professionally built trail right in your neighborhood. I hope these kids will enjoy their new trail.

We arrived at about 9:30 a.m. for the 10:00 a.m. ceremony. The parking lot was starting to fill up pretty fast. There were lots of Trailblazers and Dirt Divas on hand for this event. Eventually we all made our way inside to the recreation center for the presentation. This featured speakers from the County Commission, REI, Trips for Kids Charlotte, the Dirt Divas, and the Tarheel Trailblazers. You could feel the excitement in the room.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, we all headed out for a trail ride. We were concerned that the ride wouldn’t happen, since we had a lot of rain. It didn’t rain that morning though, so the ride was on. Trips for Kids brought their giant trailer full o’ bikes and unloaded mountain bikes for the kids in attendance.

Paula from Trips for Kids Charlotte even got a little interview time, as well as some others. Reporter Jonathan Lowe from News 14 Carolina was on the scene, and he did a great job covering the event. I even got a few seconds of TV time, including a shot of me riding the trail, and also an extreme close-up of me filling my tires with air. Jonathan even took to the trails on a bike and filmed while he was riding. I want to give a big thank you to Carolina News 14 for sending him out our way. If you would like to see the story, click here.

As it was probably mentioned in the story, this trail was designed for the children in low-income neighborhoods (including the area where the trail is located), and also for children and adults with disabilities. There was one girl named Cheyenne that came out for the event, and she was happy to be out there. She was in an accident at the age of five (she’s now 12), and she has no use of her legs. However, she discovered the One-Off Handcycle, and the rest is history. Our club, the Tarheel Trailblazers, has two of these wonderful machines available for anyone who wants to take them out for a spin. She has been using one of them at the local BMX track, and she came out to enjoy the new trail on it as well. She was an inspiration to us all.

The rides went well, and everyone had a blast. Trips for Kids even had food for the riders at the end. This was a great event, and a wonderful thing for our community. This is what it’s all about, helping others. The little bit of time everyone took out of their lives to get this trail completed meant the world to these kids and this neighborhood. I am proud to have been even a small part of such a good thing.