Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Vacation Again

As you can see, the bikes were loaded up, and gas was purchased. I hit the road yesterday, and I am currently down in sunny Orlando, Florida. I'm here for a little mountain biking fun, and also to retrieve Lunchbox from the clutches of his biological female parental unit. Most likely, I'll have some good shit to talk about when I get back. That also means that I probably won't get back on here until next Tuesday or so. In the meantime, check out my local pal/internet celebrity Rich Dillen, and what he has to say about some shit he reviewed recently. Most notably, he discussed something that Little Miss Sunshine made for him; a changing towel. Sound interesting? Well then, head on over and check it out.

In the meantime, the Big O and I are gonna get some rest.

I asked for a 29er-sized bed, and this is what I got.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Going Ghetto

Ha. Well, sort of. We’re not packing up our shit and moving out of the ‘burbs. Rather, I decided it was time to do something about this flat tire shit I’ve been dealing with lately. Since a lot of riders around here run a tubeless setup, I figured I would try it too. However, I’m doing it Ghetto Style (read: cheap.) I found a link on YouTube for a video about the conversion. I realized that I could do a homemade version on my own, so I gathered up some supplies.

I obviously had plenty of old tubes lying around, so I figured I could use the valve stems:

I purchased some Gorilla Tape from a local hardware store:

…and some Stan’s sealant from a local bike shop:

This seemed like it would be an easy job, so I dug right in. First, after removing my tires and tubes, I cleaned the rims. Then, it was time to apply the Gorilla Tape to the rim channel.

I overlapped it a little, which amounted to about a spoke on each side of the valve hole. It went on nice and smooth:

Next, I cut a valve stem from one of my many old tubes:

And placed it in the rim:

Disclamer: The valve stem in the photo was for illustrative purposes only. I didn’t like the bubble-looking thing, so I used another in the final installation.

Anyway, after installing a GOOD valve stem, I mounted the tire. I slapped on a little soap action to aid with seating the tire bead:

I aired up the tire with my compressor and the bead popped into place. No muss, no fuss. After checking the installation, it was time for the sealant. I broke the bead in the bottom and poured in a couple of scoops of Stan’s.

I popped the bead back on, and it aired right up again. After following the sealing procedure (without all that drilling and crap) on the NoTubes website, I was golden. I did the other tire the same way, and mounted everything back on. I took a moment to admire my work:

I decided to take a ride to the store (around 4 miles roundtrip), just to test it out. No lost pressure, so I was feeling good. I checked it every couple of days, and I was satisfied. Finally, I had the nerve to take my new ghetto tubeless setup out on the trail. After a lap around one of the rootiest places in town, I knew I was gonna be okay. No flats, no leaks, no problems. It’s about time I got with the times.

The setup was pretty easy for a tubeless newb like me, so that means anyone can do it. I don’t have a tubeless wheelset, nor do I have actual “tubeless” tires. I’m running regular Kenda Small Block 8 tires on WTB Speed Disc 29er rims, which I’ve heard is one of the most difficult setups to do. It’s actually been over a week now since I did it, and everything is still tip top. Maybe now I can stop worrying about flatting all the time. I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tour de Blue Ridge

The final day of the B-43 Cycling Vacation Extravaganza saw us in the mountains again, but this time we brought along our road bikes. Since Mr. Shepherd, The Dirty Party Cycle, and I all dabble in roadie action from time to time, we decided that this would be a good way to cap off the week. We would ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The plan was to take two vehicles, and stage one at each end of our ride. First, we stopped at the Linville Falls Visitor Center to drop off the Dirty Party Truck.

We loaded up the DPC’s road bike into my truck, and headed north to Moses Cone Memorial Park, some twenty five miles away. This would be the first time any of us have ridden on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it was interesting to drive the route first. A short while later, we arrived at our destination and got ready. We would have plenty of time later to take in the sights at the Moses Cone house, but here is a preview:

After Mr. Shepherd sparked up a conversation with someone at the park, he convinced him to take the ever-important “before” picture.

We hopped on our road bikes, and uh, hit the road. We headed south towards Linville, and prepared for a nice ride. Just in case we weren’t sure which way was South, there was a sign to help us.

The ride started with a little downhill action, but it quickly turned to climbing. It was 8.5 miles of climbing, to be exact. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but we were still working out the kinks in our legs after all the riding we did during the days prior. Every once in a while, I would shoot up ahead to get some photos, since I needed some pics to document the ride.

I stopped every once in a while if I saw something of interest, which led to more photos.

After about 10 miles, we came upon the Linn Cove Viaduct (on the side of Grandfather Mountain), which is somewhat of an engineering marvel.

I’ve seen this plenty of times in a vehicle, but the view from a bike saddle was way more impressive. We stopped to take it all in. Since this was Mr. Shepherd’s first trip on the Parkway, we stopped to check out the surroundings.

I setup the camera on the side of a wall and set the timer (and hoped like hell a swift wind wouldn’t throw my camera down into the valley below), so we could get another group shot (with Grandfather Mountain in the background no less.)

We took of on our ride again, but I kept the camera out. Since traffic was pretty light (aside from the numerous Hog Packs that actually knew how to share the road), I was able to snap so photos while I traversed the viaduct.

After we crossed the viaduct, the really fun downhill started. I reached speeds of 43 miles per hour (figures), and it was fun as hell. In fact, most of the rest of our trip was downhill, aside from a few short climbs. I did stop again at a viewing area to get one last look of Grandfather Mountain.

After the downhill/short climby sections, it was kind of flat. We entered into the Pisgah National Forest, but our ride would end way before we traversed it all.

With only a few miles to go, we were feeling good. I kept the camera out and got a few more shots.

We were almost there, and a conveniently placed sign told us so:

After a short, fun-filled, twenty-five mile ride, we had arrived back at the Linville Falls Visitor Center. We left a cooler there with drinks and food, so we chowed down. The best part of the day had to be this:

That watermelon was so good. While we were tear-assing through it, the same guy we talked to at the beginning of our ride walked up and chatted with us again. He offered to take the obligatory “after” shot, for which we were greatly appreciative.

We opted to end our ride there, after only twenty five miles. We had originally considered riding back to Moses Cone, but the weather had different plans.

We packed up ourselves and our bikes in the Dirty Party Truck, and headed back to Moses Cone. We were satisfied that we rode what we did, especially with the chance of the skies dropping a shit storm on us. That would have been just miserable, especially if shit really did fall from the sky. Oh yeah, no flat tires this time either. We ended the day by having some good food, and drinking beer from mason jars (hey, we’re in the South.) Vacation over, but I have another one coming up in a few days. Isn’t that just grand?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Fine Day In The Mountains

Last Thursday (not yesterday), we found our heroes in the Brusy Mountains in Wilkesboro, NC for a ride on the trails at the Kerr Scott Trail System. Since we had been riding every day, we were starting to show some signs of fatigue (imagine that.) After leaving the B-43 Worldwide Headquarters early in the morning, Mr. Shepherd and I picked up the Dirty Party Cycle on our way up Interstate 77 and continued north. First stop, Warrior Creek. We quickly got ready for a nice ride on some super-fast, bermed-up singletrack.

This was a pretty uneventful ride, but we kept a pretty good pace. The weather was perfect, and the trail was in great condition. We didn’t stop very often, so there were very little photo taking opportunities. We did however; get a chance to stop off at the bar:

Mr. Shepherd seemed to really enjoy the fast descents and short, yet tough climbs. I’m sure The DPC had fun too, especially since his last ride out there was when the trail was in a slippery state. After riding along a bit though, the DPC had a little difficulty unclipping from his pedals. A quick check of his shoe gave us the reason why:

After a quick trailside fix (tightening the shit outta the lonely cleat screw), we were back in action. Since we were riding pretty much the whole time, I didn’t take as many photos as I wanted. If you want to read a real review of the trail, then check out my solo ride out there. Anyway, when we finished, we rested up a bit before we headed over to the Dark Mountain Trail.

We hit the Dark Mountain Trail next, and it was just as fun. There is a shitload of climbing at first, but the payoff is a super-fun, fast downhill section. Once again I didn’t take any photos, but I did run my shitty helmet cam for some of it. If I get around to it, I’ll upload my horrible-quality videos. For now though, just imagine that we had a great ride, and everyone had fun.

When we finished, we decided to stop by and visit my pals at First Flight Bicycles in Statesville, NC. The neatest thing about their shop is the fact that it is also the home of the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology (MOMBAT for short.) What is that, you ask? Well, the MOMBAT is basically a collection of vintage bicycles, and they are housed within First Flight Bicycles. You can check out the website for more details on the bikes, or you can just pay them a visit. While we were snooping around upstairs though, one particular bike stood out:

This bike was basically a two-wheeled drive thingy, and I had never seen it before. After using The Google, I found an article in a newspaper from back in 1988 about it (coincidentally the newspaper is from my former hometown.)

Check it:

Look, Ma, I Can Pedal This With My Hands!

So yeah, that was pretty much our day. Fun riding, and yet another visit with some cool people. I didn’t get a flat tire when we rode that day, but when I got back to the B-43 Headquarters I noticed that I was still having some bad luck.

Shit. Tubes and I just don’t seem to be getting along lately. It looks like I’ll start looking into the whole “tubeless” thing. See y’all tomorrow for the final day of our vacation recap. Tune in to find out if it will be flat-free. Next up, a nice little road ride, which is the end of our vacation (finally.) Oh yeah, I’m headed to the mountains again this weekend, so that will put me even further behind in ride reporting. Well, at least I have something to talk about.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rules for Racing . . . as far as I can tell.

Mr. Shepherd here. I wasn't real keen on racing during my vacation to North Carolina. I've never raced before but I figured it couldn't be as bad as the near death experience that was Kitsuma, and I'm not one to back down from a new experience. I didn't have the pre race jitters probably because I was tired from the weeks festivities and the "warm up" lap I experienced.

Rule #1: Don't start the race at the back of the pack. If you feel you're the slowest person out there make people pass you:)

As The Mutt said, the race started at the bottom of a gravel hill. Being from flat Florida, this wasn't how I wanted to start out. I entered the trails somewhere near the back of the pack and realized that I had made a mistake. The pace was slow and I was losing ground on the leaders.

Rule #2: If you ain't rubbin' you ain't racin'!

The trails at Renni are narrow; however, there are several spots with "go arounds" ideal for passing slower riders. I made the best of these go arounds but I was going to have to make the use of every available inch of trail if I were to make up time. I tried to pass a few riders in places that I shouldn't have and wound up crashing and losing ground.

Rule #3: Attack on the hills.

After a few attempts (with varying degrees of success) of passing, I found that it was easiest to pass on the hills when people slowed way down.

Rule #4: Keep your football on the pedal; Son nevermind them brakes!

The course at Renni is broken into North and South Loops which are separated by the parking lot. I passed most of the Back Of the Pack riders before I left the South Loop and was riding by myself in the gap created by the FOPers and the BOPers. I put the hammer down and gave it hell!

Rule #5: Don't stop until you've crossed the finish line.

About half way through the North Loop I started to pass riders from earlier waves, and I started to wonder where I might place within my own wave. Were there riders ahead of me? Was I in the lead? I kept the hammer down and passed a few more people. As I left the trail onto the parking lot (and towards the finish line) I looked back to see how close the next rider was behind me. I didn't want to get passed on the home stretch. I had fifteen yards on him but I knew he'd push for the finish line so I cranked it up one more time until I crossed the finish line; as it turned out he was a racer in my own category. I was exhausted but not so much so that I couldn't pick up my second place medal:)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Racing Vacation? You Betcha!

The B-43 Cycling Vacation Tour was in full swing, but we hit a small snag on Wednesday morning. We had originally planned to ride Sherman Branch that morning, but a wee bit of rain had thwarted our plans. While we plotted our next adventure, the DPC and Mr. Shepherd went for a short road ride. As for me, I spent a little time in the shop taking care of some odds and ends. As the day wore on, we figured that our only chance to ride would be to partake in the Summer Series at Renaissance Park. I had heard that the rain had spared those trails, so we headed out there.

When we arrived, we had plenty of time to get ready (which is really unusual for me.) While I got got caught up in some chatter with some local racers, the DPC and Mr. Shepherd headed out for a warm-up lap. Eventually I was able to break free from the chit-chat and headed out as well. I didn’t really feel like racing, so I hammered around the course to see if I had enough in me to participate. At least I would get in one good lap, I figured. Eventually I caught up to Mr. Shepherd and the DPC, and hollered out, “On your left!” as I passed them by. I figured I would give Mr. Shepherd a little race practice, and it was all in good fun. When we got back, I decided to register for the race. The DPC would be our official camera guy, since he didn't feel up to doing some hot laps. Mr. Shepherd and I got ready:

From this point on in the post, I’ll just stick to my race. Since Mr. Shepherd is a contributing member of this blog, he can tell you all the story of his race, in his own words. We raced in different classes anyway, so I didn’t see him after I started.

As usual for Renni, we started at the bottom of a long gravel climb. I took off at a moderate pace, just trying to get in a decent-paced ride. I managed to get somewhere in the middle of the pack, and I didn’t feel too bad. I stayed with the group, flying through the trail. I was actually surprised that my legs felt so great, especially since we had just spent the last three days riding nonstop.

As I headed down the trail, I took a corner super fast, and leaned in. Suddenly, I felt my rear wheel wash out. It wasn’t due to my poor bike handling skills though, rather it was because my tire decided to spit out all of its air again. Shit, are you kidding me? Another flat tire? Damn it.

I pulled over to the side of the trail and watched as the rest of the pack went by. At first I contemplated replacing the tube, but I quickly changed my mind. It really wasn’t worth the hassle since the race was so short. After a quick inspection, I noticed that my spokes were tight, so this wasn’t a repeat of the XTERRA fiasco. I decided to turn around and walk the bike out, and hopefully I would be able to just patch the tube later, in a non-race (and stress-free) setting.

As soon as I turned around and started walking, I heard another group coming down the trail. I jumped to the side of the trail to get out of the way, and I saw a rider go down pretty hard. As the other riders attempted to go around him, another guy crashed right next to him. After the rest of the group went by, I ran over to help. I asked if they were okay, and I pretty much got the same response from both of them. Their race was over, so we would all walk out of the trail. The first guy banged up his knee pretty bad, and was unable to ride. He ended up using his bike like some sort of cane. The second guy didn’t fare so well either, and he suffered what we suspected was a broken thumb (and possibly his rib.) We took the long way out, and I told them I would take care of them when we got back to the parking lot.

When we finally arrived at our destination, I flipped my bike over and asked the race volunteers for some ice (for Broken Bones Guy.) I ran over to my truck and grabbed my Bike Patrol pack, and got ready to perform some first aid. The DPC was standing by with the camera, so he captured a shot of me looking like I was about to give The Big O some surgery:

The Big O would have to wait. I tended to the wounds of the first crash victim, as the second guy applied ice to his thumb. I cleaned up the road rash, and got some ice for Twisted Knee Guy. Everyone would live to ride another day, but it might be a while. I soon realized that maybe I flatted for a reason, possibly so I could be there to assist these two crash victims. The good news is, I was able to repair the tube with my patch kit. It was only a pinch flat, so it wasn’t too serious. Still, I'm getting tired of flatting all the time. Something must be done, since I’m really sick of buying tubes every couple of days. There would be more riding on The Big O, so I wondered if my half-assed tube repair would work, or if I would suffer from more bad luck. The next stop is Wilkesboro, North Carolina. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Meanwhile, Mr. Shepherd will hopefully try to get a story together about his race adventure.