Monday, January 31, 2011

Another Race Report

Wait, I’m not in that photo. Actually, I’ll talk about another race first. On the far right in that photo, you might recognize B-43’s Little Miss Sunshine. She decided to wake her mountain bike up from it’s long winter nap and race in the Winter Series Race #3. Since the weather was surprisingly warm for January around here, she felt that it was time to make her season debut.

All of the members of the local women’s mountain bike club, the Dirt Divas, gave her plenty of encouragement so she decided to get out and race. Here she is getting some advice from local Sport Women’s racer, Stephanie:

At 10:30, all six riders in her class lined up for the start. She was nervous, but ready:

When they were given the signal, the women took off. Not satisfied with starting out mid pack, Little Miss Sunshine took off like a bat outta hell. I was shocked, but very happy for her. She left all the other ladies in the dust, sprinting from the start/finish line to the entrance to the single track. At this point Lunchbox stole the camera from me and headed to the woods to get some action shots. I stay near the end of the course to cheer her on.

After lap one she had fallen to 5th place. The first two women in her class were part of some roadie team, so they were doing pretty well (and obviously not beginners like the class name would suggest.) The other two women ahead of her were looking pretty rough after only one lap, while Little Miss Sunshine looked like she was settling in and finding her rhythm. On lap two, she was gaining speed:

Too much speed makes for a blurry photo.

She came around after lap two and she had moved into fourth place. The woman in fifth place was right on her wheel though, but she was looking really tired. Little Miss Sunshine actually looked like she was getting stronger. I cheered her on and watched as she gunned it for the singletrack. She was moving along pretty well, and tried her best to put a bigger lead on the fifth place rider, all while trying to catch the woman in third.

As she came around to the start/finish line again, the fifth place rider was nowhere to be found. I noticed that third place was just up ahead, and yelled to her that she was doing fine. There was plenty of racing left, so she took to the single track with more speed:

All of a sudden I saw that she was in third place. Fourth place wasn’t far behind, but LMS was putting the hammer down. She seemed determined to catch the leaders, especially with only one lap to go. I knew that third place was hers to lose, but second and first didn’t seem too far out of sight. She blasted through the trail one last time, with a smile on her face even:

When it was all said and done, the professional roadies were unbeatable. However, Little Miss Sunshine finished strong in third place, and she was happy to be finished. I was so proud of her for deciding to race, and even more for getting a top three finish. The was a snafu with the trophies though, so she’ll have to wait a little while to collect her prize. After not riding much over the winter (and not training for a race), she did awesome out there.

What about my race? Well, this is my blog, so I know you expect me to talk about myself. This time though, Little Miss Sunshine deserves the spotlight. I’ll recap my pathetic race tomorrow. I’m really tired after driving right from yesterday’s race all the way to Manassas, VA, so I’ll need a bit of race before I write anymore. It won’t be worth the wait, but wait anyway.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Traveling Man

I’m heading out of town again, but unlike George and Dicky it’s not for a race. No, my real job is sending me to the Washington D.C. area all next week to do some upgrades on the phone system of a new hospital we’ve acquired. The weather promises to be shitty and not very bike friendly, so I won’t get to ride at all. Hell, I can’t even promise that I’ll be here every day with any kind of decent blog posts, aside from the Winter Series Race report on Monday morning.

The plan is to race at 1:30 p.m., go home and get cleaned up, then drive my happy ass 6 hours to Northern Virginia. It’s not a bad drive, but I’m sure I’ll be pretty tired after “racing.” I’m looking forward to the race though, and I can’t wait to see if my new 1X9 setup holds up again. Hell, I can’t wait to see if the Space Cowboy can race without his shit breaking apart. Should be fun for all.

In other news, I finally did a singlespeed conversion.

I took all the parts I’d been gathering the last few months and put them to use. You may be asking yourself, “Why do those wheels look so small?” Well, take a closer look:

Yes, that bike has 26 inch wheels. It’s an old Diamondback Response that I had in the shop, and yes, you’ve seen it before. It is the frame and fork of the former “Greatest Short Track Bike On Earth” (or better know as the Greatest Piece Of Shit On Earth) that I used last year in the Winter Series. Since I am only racing my 29er now, I wanted to test out the singlespeed waters with a bike that I didn’t have to commit to during an event. I figured that it would be a good way to see what this singlespeed thing was all about and maybe, just maybe I could swap all the parts over to The Big O if I like it.

Sure, the wheels are the wrong size, but it’s good enough for “testing” purposes. I won’t get the same feel as I do when I ride my big bike, but it should be close enough to see what all the fuss is about. These days I barely ride on 26 inch wheels, but I’m willing to try it for the sake of testing out this new singlespeed setup. It just looks so simple:

Oh yeah, did you notice in the second photo (you know, the one of the whole bike) that I have v-brakes on the back, yet there is a disc brake rotor on the rear wheel? Well, the frame isn’t disc brake compatible, and I was too lazy to remove the rotor. Maybe it’s time I talk to my pal Benson about getting one of those fancy disc brake adaptors he makes. I don’t want to invest a lot of cash in this test bike, but it may be worth it to get the full effect. V-brakes just plain suck.

That’s it for today I guess. I may bring my new singlespeed creation to Northern VA just to cruise around the streets or something, but more than likely I’ll go a whole week without riding anything with wheels. Maybe my hotel has a fitness center with a shitty stationary bike I can ride. Oh joy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Like A Museum, But Better

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of stopping by one of my favorite bike shops, First Flight Bicycles. Why is it one of my favorites? Well, besides having some pretty cool people manning the shop (yes Jeff and Wes, I’m talking about you), they have the best collection of vintage bikes I have ever seen. Oh yeah, they are a full service bike shop that can handle your every need too. I’ve talked about them before, but I can’t help but show them love every time I visit. Plus, they do a ton of stuff for our local mountain bike community and our local club.

I went in there for no particular reason other than to shoot the shit (although I did manage to pick up a crucial part for my 1X9 conversion.) There is always plenty of shit to shoot, so I spent most of my time in there talking to Jeff and Wes. Because of that I neglected to snap as many photos as I would have liked to. In between customer visits though, I took a few to share here:

I can’t get enough of that place, and I have to stop in there every time I’m in the area. Actually, it’s worth the drive no matter how far away you might be. Where are they? Well, you can find them at Center ST, Statesville, NC. Go there and check out the vintage bikes and chat for a while. They will be happy to have you. If for some reason you can’t make it, then you can check out the shop website (First Flight Bicycles), the museum (Mountain Bike Museum of Art and Technology), or Jeff’s articles in every issue of Dirt Rag. It’s still worth a visit in person, so get off your ass and go there.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some singlespeed stuff, weekend plans, and general randomness. Lucky you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Almost There

I’ve been contemplating the whole single speed thing for quite a while now, which was probably not long after I started riding big wheels. I bought all the crap and nonsense to do the conversion, but I could never fully commit to losing my gears. Until I could make up my mind, I decided that I would at least lose some of my gears and do a 1X9 conversion on The Big O. I took a bashguard off of a single speed crankset I had, and just replaced my big ring with it. It was easy to do, and more importantly undo if I needed to.

I rode the 2X9 setup for a while, mostly because I hadn’t found anyway to keep my chain from popping off when I removed the front derailleur (and the small chainring.) Last Friday, while I was up in Statesville, I stopped into First Flight Bicycles and the topic of my 1X9 came up. My pal Wes was sympathetic to my plight, and offered up this fancy device to help keep my chain in it’s proper place:

It says right there on the package, "KEEPS CHAIN ON!" I figured that was good enough so I bought it. The next day, I put my bike on the workstand and started pulling shit off of it. I removed the left shifter, front derailleur, and the small chainring on my crankset. That was a lot of stuff to remove, so I’m sure I saved a little weight (I didn’t bother busting out the scale, since I could stand to lose some weight myself.) Anyway, the Third Eye Chain Watcher went on without an issue, so I grabbed a beer and admired my work.

And while I was at it I slapped a new sticker on my bike too:

Just showing a little love to Bike29.

Just like when I helped my friend the other day, I decided to race in the Winter Series Race without thoroughly testing out my new equipment. Did it work? You betcha. I never once dropped my chain, and actually I forgot that the Chain Watcher was even on there watching my chain. However, after all that time and effort I invested in my mechanical action, another part to complete the 1X9 conversion arrived in the mail the very next day:

I decided to go with a BBG Bashguard because they are strong, light, and made right here in the U.S. of A. Also, they have a good range of colors (so I could get a red one to match the rest of my accessories.) I didn’t even have to remove the crankset to replace the other bash guard I had on there, so installation was a breeze:

Most good mechanics will wash their bikes before working on them. I am obviously not a good mechanic.

No, I didn’t get to test ride it, but I am very happy so far. It looks good (to me, because I don’t care if you like it), and it seems like it’ll do it’s job properly. The best part? All BBG Bashguards (for mountain bikes anyway) are guaranteed against bending or breaking forever. They must really believe in them to back it up with a warranty like that. All of their bashguards are only $18 (including shipping), and it took less than a week to get here to Charlotte all the way from Oregon. I’m sure I’ll talk about it as the season goes on and I get some more riding in, but so far so good.

My 1X9 conversion is complete, and I’m glad I did it. I never really used the little ring anyway, and over time I became less fond of the big ring too. It just made sense to get rid of them both. As far as getting rid of the gears in the back, that’s probably not gonna happen for a while (if at all.) I’m in such piss poor shape right now that I need all the gears I can get (at least on the rear.) Now, what the hell am I gonna do with all of those singlespeed parts I’ve been collecting. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Can Fix It

This bike belongs to my pal the Space Cowboy. Over the weekend, I was summoned over to his domicile for my uh mechanical *cough* expertise *cough*. His bike had been in a state of disrepair the whole week, and something needed to be done. Since I had a shitload of tools and he did not, that more than qualified me to help him get his bike back in shape.

After getting the bottom bracket and crankset installed, it was so close to being “ready to ride.” The derailleurs were put into place and adjusted, and it was time for the chain. Since it was a new install, we had to measure the chain without using the old one. The first fit wasn’t so great, so we put a few links back in. I was really worried about this, and recommended that we get another chain. Time was of the essence though, so we opted to use what we both thought would be an unreliable chain. Besides, it wasn’t like we were using state of the art equipment. I even had to use old t-shirts and (I think) clean underwear to wipe the grease off of my hands.

You don’t want to see that shit anyway.

So, after finally getting everything together, it was time for a test ride. Even though it was a mountain bike build, there was no reason whatsoever to test out the new equipment on an actual trail. So, we did the next best thing:

Yeah, that’ll do it.

Did it work? Well, at yesterday’s Winter Series race, it was time to see if our efforts were worth it. As the Space Cowboy’s race took of, I watched nervously. Everything looked fine. As he went around the trail on lap one, there were no issues whatsoever.

I saw him come around the start/finish line, and it made me feel like everything was going to be okay. I quit worrying about that untrustworthy chain. Lap two seemed to be more of the same.

After the race had gone on for a while, he appeared out of nowhere at the start/finish line, with a non-functioning bicycle. It looked like my fears were warranted:

Shit. With my help, he received his very first DNF. He didn’t seem to be too troubled by it though:

I apologized many times, but that didn’t get him back in the race. One of the local bike shop fellers said it was due to shifting under a load, but we both knew better. Next time I’ll let my real mechanic tackle such a monumental task. He’s better equipped for it.

Tune in tomorrow for more mechanical ineptitude (possibly.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Trails

Yuck. That kind of trail does not make me happy.

What does make me happy is racing without being caked in mud. After quite a few days of dry weather and sunshine, the trail at the Winter Series was in much better shape than last week. I however, was not. Before the race started, my stomach hurt. I took a quick trip to the bathroom to relieve the pain, but it didn’t help much. As I lined up at the start/finish line, I felt like I was gonna throw up. I even heard a comment from one of the Dirt Divas that I wasn’t supposed to be sick before the race. I raced anyway, and figured I would be fine.

When the race started, I was right up front. I resisted the urge to stay at the front of the pack, and when we went into the singletrack I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. Actually I was right between the really fast guys and the slower than fast guys. I tried to settle in and ride smart, hoping to avoid the inevitable red lining I’m accustomed to.

After the first lap, I felt a little better. While I was really short of breath, my stomach pain had subsided a bit. I still felt like I was gonna puke, but at least I was able to race. I was still in the same place in the pack after that lap, so I tried to give it a little more effort to catch the leaders. It wasn’t easy. On the second lap, I let two guys go by. I didn’t try to catch them, as I figured that I would burn myself out if I did.

Lap three was much better. I was getting into a rhythm, and I had passed one guy that got by me earlier. As I tried to catch the next guy, he busted his ass on the trail right in front of me. I had to grab a handful of brake to keep from hitting him, and I almost fell of my bike in the process. Both of us got back on the trail, and in the process we had lapped one guy in our class. Well, at least I wouldn’t finish in last place. On the fireroad climb out of the singletrack, I passed the guy I almost crashed into and tried to leave him behind. That didn’t work, as he passed me in the parking lot on the way back into the singletrack.

As we hit the trail again, I was right on his wheel. Since I’m so heavy (and have superb mountain biking skills), I usually haul ass on the downhill part of the trail. I decided that I would do whatever it took to get by this guy for good even if it put me at risk of blowing up. I flew through that lap and planned my attack for the fire road.

At the fire road my crashy competitor was looking ripe for the kill. I passed him on the climb and shifted into a higher gear, mashing my way up the hill. My goal was to put a big gap between us, and it appeared to be working. As I crossed the start/finish line, he was nowhere to be found. I headed back down towards the parking lot, and heard someone behind me. As I swerved to my right to get out of the way, I nearly ran over local racing legend Rich Dillen as he tried to pass me. Shit. Sorry man. He got by unharmed, and I tried to keep up with him for a bit. I didn’t realize it, but riding at his pace helped me put an even bigger gap between crashy and myself.

Eventually, I was on my last lap (it felt like forever.) As I passed by Lunchbox hiding in the woods, I notified him that I was headed towards the finish line. He vacated his spot and got a photo of me coming in for the finish.

That kid is everywhere with the camera. It was nice to finish the race ahead of people, and even nicer that I did it without barfing all over the place. Maybe next time I’ll tone down the beer drinking the night before a race. Yeah, right.

I’m not exactly sure where I finished, but not finishing last is good enough for me in this series. I can actually feel myself getting back into shape, and I’m already looking forward to next week’s race. Fun stuff for sure, and it’s a helluva lot better than sitting at home on the couch. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Some mechanical stuff took place over the weekend that affected yesterday’s race, so I’ll give a full recap of that tomorrow for sure.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Back In Town

My three day “adventure” down in Peachland is finally over. All that driving has taken it’s toll on me, and I feel wiped out. Even worse, I’m heading up to Statesville, NC this morning for more work-related non fun stuff. The only bright spot about this particular trip is that I get to visit the Mountain Bike Museum of Art and Technology at First Flight Bicycles while I’m up that way. Luckily, my meeting location is within walking distance from the shop, so I’m hoping to sneak out during lunch and hang out with my pals from there. I’ll try to take lots of pictures, just for you.

The plan is to get out of my all-day meeting a little early (yes, in addition to sneaking out at lunchtime.) I’m also hoping that some trails around here will open so I can take advantage of my planned early escape. It’s been dry and warmer around here lately, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get some biking action.

Oh shit, wrong picture. Sorry.

Okay, it’s really obvious that this post is going nowhere. All is not lost though, because I have a backup plan. Just to keep you coming back, I will post a nice bicycle-related photo for your enjoyment. We all know that’s why you visit here every day, right? Here you go:

Yeah, go ahead and admit you like that. I won’t tell anyone. It’s just our little secret. Now, if you are actually interested in my bicycle-related stuff, then here is a sneak peek of something I’m working on:

See y’all Monday with a race report from race number two of the Winter Short Track Series. I know you’ll still be here staring at the photo of that nice young lady drinking water anyway.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just Peachy

Yes, it’s a giant peach-colored ass.

Well, the above photo was taken in Gaffney, SC (between Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA.) I’ve been there all week working on a project for my real job. While it sucks to drive that far every day, it is nice to get out of the office for a while. The bad part is, there are no trails nearby, or even any bike shops to piss away my time during lunch. The good news is, I’ll be done down there by the end of the day. Whew.

Last night, I was actually able to get out and ride my bike. No roadie shit, or even an inside ride on the trainer either. I actually rode my mountain bike, but unfortunately it wasn’t on a trail. I took The Big O out for some urban mountain bike action. The goal was to ride for 30 minutes or more, and bust my ass trying to climb up hills and such. I figured that if I was gonna get better at this racing thing, I probably should ride more than once a week (that once a week being the actual race even.) While it wasn’t as good as riding on a trail, it was still pretty fun. The trails around here will probably be closed for the rest of the winter with all of the shitty weather we’ve had lately, so it looks like urban mountain biking might be my only option for a while. It’s better than nothing I guess.

Since I’ve bored you to death so far, I might as well keep going. When I took my video camera to Sherman Branch da udda day, I ended up with a lot more footage than I needed. Since I had nothing better to do (like riding), I took a little bit more of it and made another piece of shit video. Ladies and Gentlemen, the sequel:

Yeah, it sucks the big one, but whatever. Hopefully you were the slightest bit entertained. Now, I’m off to check out that Peachoid thingy again. See ya tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Riding Dirty (But Not Really)

Photo credit: Alexander Hawn

My first race in the Winter Short Track Series was a mess, but I kind of enjoyed getting dirty. My jersey (after being washed several times) is still spotted with Carolina mud, and it serves as a reminder of how much of a mess that race was. I washed my bike directly after the race, but I still haven’t had a chance to check it out completely. As far as I can tell, all parts are functioning as they should. I was hoping for a ride last night after work, but the damn rain came and washed my dreams away.

What to do? Well, I could have spent time in the garage working on The Big O to get it in tip top shape for next week’s race, but I found the beer fridge instead. My assistant, R2-D2, was supposed to get on it but I heard him mumbling something about going down to Anchorhead to have his memory erased. Bastard. I guess I’ll get to it later in the week, and maybe even try to get in a ride. No the trails around here aren’t open, and you damn sure won’t catch me riding the trainer indoors. I was hoping for a little night time urban mountain biking action, since it’s the next best thing to being on the trail.

So what’s this talk about (not really) riding dirty? Well, If you’ve been paying attention, then you know that a while back I did a review for the Clean Bottle. I was so happy with them that decided to give them my support for this season. And just like that, this little package showed up on my doorstep:

So, for the 2011 season I’ll be exclusively using the Clean Bottle for all of my races. Since they were brave enough to show their support for me and the rest of the crew here at B-43, I want to encourage all of you to head on over to their website by clicking the logo over there to the left. Tell them I sent you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I’m Shocked

Yeah, that pretty much sums up my first race of the season. As usual, I wasn’t even close to being prepared. While I finished well ahead of my goal not to be DFL, I still felt like I could have done better. Without proper training leading up to the start of the race series though, I’m surprised I finished at all.

I spent the “offseason” putting on way too much extra weight. Before the start of my race, I was clocking in a a whopping 239 pounds, which is well above my normal in-season weight of 225. As the season goes on, I’m sure I’ll get back down to where I need to be, but I could have done more in the meantime to prevent this. Basically my mileage went way down while my food and beer intake stayed at mid-season levels. That is not a good formula.

I’m glad I got out to race though. I’ve missed the whole race scene, and there’s nothing like a little “friendly competition" to get you back in the swing of things. There’s no need to panic at this point though, since this is only the beginning. Like one of my friends from the Skeleton Crew said, it’s the start of the preseason. That’s a good way to look at this series I guess. I’ll use this to race myself into a decent kind of shape to get ready for the season, then I can build from there. Why the hell would I take this stuff so seriously, anyway?

Oh yeah, because this shit is so fun. I love riding my bike, and racing is a part of that (in my world anyway.) I’m not the best (obviously), but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a great time out there when I slap a number plate on my bike. While I entered the “season” unprepared, I’m glad it started. Hopefully the weather around here will improve so I can get back to riding regularly. We shall see.

This just in:

The Big O (and Lunchbox’s yet unnamed 29er) are featured on the "Awesomed Up" Pic of the Week over on the Backcountry Research website. Big thanks to the really awesome folks over there that keep me going.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Saga Begins

Yes my friends, it’s racing season again. Yesterday was the first race in the Winter Short Track Series and it was a doozy. With all of the snow around here still melting away, I somehow knew that the trail would be full of mud. Little did I know that these guys would feel right at home on the race course:

Okay, it wasn’t that bad. But, it was pretty muddy. I kept telling myself (and anyone else that would listen) that I wasn’t racing if the trail was shitty. Everyone seemed to know better. After giving in to peer pressure (and taking a quick lap around the course), I decided that I would sign up to race. Hell, that might have been my only chance to ride, so there’s was no reason to pass it up.

I came back from my “feeler” lap speckled with mud, but I didn’t feel like the trail was too bad. Sure, it was covered in a layer of peanut butter-like mud, but it was actually pretty decent to ride. I started warming up and got ready to race, hoping for the best. My usual pre-race jitters we nowhere to be found either. I was just happy to be out on my bike.

When we started the race, I tried to stay about mid pack. I normally give it all I have at the start of a race, wait until I red line, then fail miserably. I resisted the urge to do that this time, no matter how fun that might have been. I started out in around 4th place I think, and did my best to keep up with the leaders in the soupy conditions. Aside for one obvious sandbagger in my class, it appeared as if we were all equal. I knew I was way outta shape, so my goal was to stay out of last place.

As that first lap went on, the top three started to separate. Two guys behind me came by, and I started feeling like shit. I was regretting the fact that I even entered the race, but there was no way in hell I would quit. As we came out of the trail and onto the fire road, I picked up some speed (and some lung capacity it seemed.) I caught up to one guy that passed me before, and I was gaining on the other. This kept happening throughout the race, so my confidence started increasing. I had no shot of winning, but at least I had a chance to not be DFL. That made me feel good. Lunchbox had made his way out onto the course by then, and snapped a few photos of me and my new found confidence.

After playing cat and mouse for a while with some of the other guys in my class, I finally settled in. On my last lap, I found one guy struggling to get up a climb. Since I was almost done, I decided to give it all I had and attack. I blew by him and didn’t look back. When I came out of the trail and on to the fire road, I stepped it up some more. I made my way to the start/finish line, happy that I wasn’t in last place. Shit, I was happy that I even finished. I ended up in 7th place, which was fine by me. No crashes, no mechanicals, and not really any humiliation (other than making fun of myself on here.) My bike however, looked like I dropped it in a sewer.

Everyone looked like that too, and it was hard to tell one person from another, or even to find your own bike sometimes. It was fun, that’s for sure. The best part? I got to hang out with my new Bike29 teammate, Dicky.

I’m sure he shared my enthusiasm.