Thursday, March 31, 2011

Something Awesome

No, not the local massage place that’s offering facials. That’s just gross. No thank you. I’m actually talking about my latest shipment of awesome from the fine folks at Backcountry Research.

I’m sure that by now you’ve heard of the new Awesome Strap Race. Ever since I teamed up last year with the folks over there at Backcountry Research, I have been a huge supporter of their goodies. Ditching my sorry ass seat bag was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Just when I was getting used to the Vital, Zone, and Ragtop though, they come up with something new just to keep me on my toes. The best thing about these? They come in a wide variety of colors and designs.

Here is a sample of what you can get:

Like I said, this is only a sample. If my count is correct (and I are good at math and junk), there are almost fifty different colors/designs available. I’m very happy about that, especially since it was all my idea. I asked about colors quite some time ago, and it’s nice to see them running with it now. Well, I can't take all (or any) of the credit. Those guys are just on top of things, and they know that mountain bikers like customized goodies to put on their bikes.

You know what else is so great about the new Awesome Strap Race? The fact that it ain’t going anywhere when you put it on. Yeah, the other ones held on tight too, but this one has a grip like a fat girl on a plate full of chili cheese fries. In fact, the quote on the website says, “The Race was purposely designed to stick to your saddle like a sombitch...and any line you take.” Talking like that I’d swear that these guys are Southerners, except that I know that they are out there in Washington State. If I know anything about geography (and I are smart about that stuff too), I’d say that’s pretty far from the South.

I picked my favorite out of the bunch, and loaded it up. It was pretty easy to get on the bike, and I was sure it wasn’t going anywhere.

You can get one of your own for only $10, which includes shipping. If you want more than that, they have once again offered up the Whammer Deal, which gives you a choice of three straps for only $24 (and of course free shipping.) You can’t beat a deal like that with a wet noodle.

You might want one of these just to be like me or Dicky. You may just want to be different. I don’t really care what your reason is, but you should really get one because that seat sack on your bike just ain’t cutting it anymore. Who the hell still uses those anyway? Also, they are once again a sponsor of the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek this weekend. That will be my first test of the new awesomeness, so I hope you notice it strapped to my seatpost as you pass me by. More about Warrior Creek tomorrow, so tune in to find out what my plans are. In the meantime, go over to Backcountry Research and order up some of your own Awesomeness.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nice Big Wheels

Luckily, someone was home last Friday afternoon to sign for a package from Bike29, or else I would have been shit out of luck until sometime this week. Boba Fett was there to greet the FedEx dude, and he kindly guarded the box and it’s contents until I got home. I know I’ve already mentioned it, so I’m sure you know what was in the box.

Oooohhh, yeah. George shipped out my new wheels faster than bad chili goes through a hound dog, and I had them in my grubby hands before I knew it. I just stared in awe at how pretty they were, what with the shiny red Industry Nine hubs and all.

The black Stan’s Arch rims looked really nice with red nipples too.

Heh heh, he said “nipples.”

Don’t forget about the white spokes.

Notice the Bike29 sticker? I did.

I couldn’t wait to check out the engagement of that fancy hub either.

Also included in my box of goodness was a new tire to try, the Kenda Slant Six.

It’s a mix of my two favorite tires, the Nevegal and the Small Block 8. It looks to be fast rolling, with more grip than the SB8 (especially when cornering.) Here’s a closer look at the tread pattern:

I can’t wait to try them. All I had to do was mount the tires (tubeless of course) on my new wheels. This would be much easier, since the rim is already setup with the necessary stuff for tubeless. No more ghetto for me.

Setting them up tubeless was a breeze. The tires went right on, and it didn’t take long to seal them up with the Stan’s fluid (I used two scoops.) They sure looked pretty on my new wheels.

I didn’t put the new wheels on before my race on Sunday, since I knew the conditions were going to be shitty. I didn’t want my first ride to be in sloppy sand and mud, so I kept my old shitty wheels on The Big O. Besides, I wanted optimal conditions to test out those tires. When I got back from the race though, I gave my bike a thorough cleaning, and installed the wheels. I was pleased with the results.

Yup, a winner for sure. Now if I could just get the rider to be better then I would be all set.

Big thanks to George at Bike29 for building me a bad ass set of wheels. He’ll build you some too, but you have to ask nicely (or not, your choice.) Go to the website and find something you like. If you don’t see anything that tickles your fancy, then give the shop a call and tell them what you need. Yes, they are a real shop with real people over there at Bike29, not just an internet store. You can get wheels just like mine (you better not), or you can get something cool just for you.

The only bad part about this whole deal is that the weather around here sucks this week, so I probably won’t get a chance to ride my new wheels on a real trail for a while. I’m sure I’ll figure out something though. I’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Still Rockin’

But unlike these guys I don’t have one foot in the grave. However, after one lap at San Lee Park on Sunday and one more to go, I sure felt like it. I hit the singletrack on my final lap, and I decided to take it up a notch. Just before the end of that first lap though, I had dropped back into third place. First and second place were still within sight, so I still had a chance to catch and overtake them. I settled into a good pace, and made up my mind to take a few more chances on this go ‘round.

I was still slipping and sliding everywhere. The trail had gotten a little drier since the rain stopped, but there were some spots on the trail that will probably take weeks to recover from the wet weather. I thought about taking it easy to guarantee a safe finish, but seeing the two guys in front of me made me forget about all that horseshit. I pushed and pushed, tackling the very technical trail with ease, especially the climbs. My legs were feeling good, so I knew I could get up there and take the lead. All of a sudden though, the trail started getting the better of me.

I slid off the trail a bunch of times on the downhill stuff, and got intimately acquainted with several trees in the process. The climbs weren’t too bad, even though there were a shitload of rocks. The Dirty Party Cycle (who got in a lap before the race started), said that the trail looked like a river bed, minus the water. The lines through the rocks were few and far between, but I managed to find them. With all the switchbacks, I could see that the two guys ahead of me were having trouble navigating the rock stuff. It would only be a matter of time until I caught up, or so I thought.

With about four miles to go, I decided to speed it up. I had been riding with a guy from another class the whole time, and we were helping each other keep a good pace. I was leading him at this point, when all of a sudden I slipped on a sloppy berm and headed straight for a tree. I put my hand out in front to catch myself, and basically punched the poor defenseless tree with my left hand. I thought I had broken it, and it immediately started to swell and hurt like crazy. I hopped back on my bike and caught up to my riding partner, and he said he was glad to have me back.

I could barely hold onto the handlebars with my left hand, especially on the climbs. Shit. The technical climbing was the only way I could catch those two guys, and I was suffering. First place was no longer close by, but I could see number two just ahead of me. On the last climb out, I ignored the pain as best I could and tried to catch him. When we reached the final descent, I let it all hang out. Lunchbox was there to catch the action.

One more climb up that paved hill and I crossed the finish line. I wasn’t too far off second place, but at least I got on the podium this time. It was a tough course, and I earned that shit for sure. I was freezing by the time I finished, so I went back down the hill to my truck and changed into some warm, dry clothes. Then, I went back to pick up my loot.

If you look closely, you can see my little trophy. In case you couldn’t keep your eyes off of my fancy new Bike29 t-shirt though, here is a close up of my prize:

Yeah, I know it looks like a rock. In fact, it is a rock. Pretty clever, I thought. Actually, I found it quite ironic that my prize for suffering through a shitload of rocks for twenty miles was a rock. I was very happy to have it nonetheless, especially since it means that I reached my goal of getting on the podium at least once this season.

I got quite a few other goodies in my prize bag too, so don’t think I’m complaining. I really enjoyed that trail, even though it was super tough (and cold, and wet, and kicked my ass.) The folks out there in Sanford put on a good race, and I would definitely go back and do it again. I was happy that I pushed myself through such a tough race. The fact that I got to ride a new, highly technical trail in wet conditions made the whole day worth it. My hand still hurts a little, but it’s not broken (at least I’m pretty sure it isn’t.) I should be just fine to ride another day. I love suffering, can’t you tell?

I’ll be back tomorrow, because I have some new shit to talk about (and because I have nothing better to do.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

See Rock City

No, I wasn’t at the famous tourist trap in Tennessee yesterday. It sure felt like I was in some kind of rock city though. I went to race number three in the Southern Classic Series at San Lee Park, and that trail was one of the rockiest I have ever been on.

The day started out early, with the Dirty Party Cycle meeting Lunchbox and I at the house at the crack of dark. We headed out in the rain, making the little over two hour drive to Sanford, NC. The temperature was in the high 30’s, but the rain made it feel much colder. I wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into as we drove through the Uwharrie National Forrest, but I wasn’t about to turn around. Part of the thrill of racing in this series is getting to ride different trails, and I wasn’t about to miss this one.

I was ready.

We got there with plenty of time to spare, but I was way too freaking cold to ride around for a warm up. I did anyway for a bit, but I just couldn’t get warm. At a little after 10:00 a.m., we lined up for the start.

Just like last week, we had to climb this big ass paved hill to get to the singletrack. I decided that no matter what happened, I wouldn’t get caught up in trying to haul ass at the beginning of the race. I felt good (other than freezing my ass off), and I wanted to keep it that way.

After that hill, there was more climbing to be done. When I entered the singletrack, I was in third place. I felt okay, but my heart rate was up. I could see the two guys ahead of me, and they weren’t really getting away. I wanted to keep my steady pace, but the trail had other plans. All of the rain that had fallen on the trail had made things pretty slick, and I didn’t really have the right tires for those conditions. Also, there were rocks everywhere. Big ones, little ones, baby heads, etc. More rocks than you could shake a um, rock at.

I was being really cautious on that first lap, and it seemed to pay off. First and second place were withing sight, and I was staying right there with them in spite of my lack of control. I hit a few trees because I slid out a few times, but overall I was feeling good. Well, at least until I hit a section called, The Gauntlet.

Holy Shit. There were rock gardens upon rock gardens, with rock gardens in between. Oh yeah, it was a ton of switchback climbing while riding through them too. I could see the guys ahead of me having trouble, so I figured that it was a good time to make my move. I seemed to ride fine through the rock gardens, and I was gaining lots of ground on my competitors. All of a sudden I passed one guy, and I left him way behind. First place was in my sights now.

I kept climbing, but on the downhill stuff I had to back off a lot more than I normally would because of the conditions. It was slicker than a slugs belly out there, and I wasn’t about to have some catastrophic crash and DNF. Hell no. I kept my slower than usual pace, and I was also finally staring to warm up a bit.

Yep, I was feeling good. Well, until another section of climbing switchbacks called Charlie’s Mountain. I was not winning, because Charlie was kicking my ass. Eventually, the guy I passed came by to reclaim his spot. He didn’t get far away though, and there was still plenty of race left. I was tearing it up out there, which you can plainly see in this photograph that Lunchbox tried to get.

Um, yeah, that didn’t work. He would get another shot though, as I still had one lap to go. I climbed up that horrible paved hill again, and got ready to turn it up a notch. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow though, because I can’t be on here all day telling you about my silly race adventures. Come back and find out what happened, okay? Good. See you then.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tease Me


Wait, I meant to post up this photo:

I told ya. Yesterday, George posted a photo up on his blog of my new wheels. He’s teasing me, I just know it. Well, maybe not, since they are actually on the way:

They are almost here! Hooray!

The only problem is, I may not be home to sign for them. Hopefully, Lunchbox will be, as he has already been instructed to be on the lookout for any suspicious packages arriving at the B-43 Worldwide Headquarters. If I get them, I guess you’ll find out Monday. I’ll probably have a race report instead though.

Race report? Yup. Sunday is race number three of the Southern Classic Series. This one is being held in Sanford, NC at San Lee Park. I would tell you that I am looking forward to it, but I’m kinda not. The weather is supposed to be shit this weekend, including thunderstorms, cooler weather, and other general suckitude. I’ve already signed up though, so I’m in no matter what (unless they cancel the race.) I’ll go out there, ride around their trails with a number on my bike, and call it racing. Not much different if it was gonna be dry out there I suppose.

So yeah, this weekend could suck. Racing on an unfamiliar course in wet conditions could be fun, but it will probably do more harm than good. I could end up needing more new parts for The Big O, as well as medical care for any crashes I might have. Luckily I am trained in first aid.

Yeah, this post is not going anywhere. However, I am. I’m outta here until Monday. See ya.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spend To Win

If only that’s all it would take.

I’ve decided that some upgrades to my mountain biking equipment are in order around here. I’ve got some old, shitty equipment I’ve been dying to upgrade, and now the time has come. First off, my old shoes had to go.

It’s kinda hard to see (especially with Bigfoot on my socks to distract you), but they are worn down past the point of no return. I’ve been shopping for shoes for a while now, but I could never find the right one. Finally, I decided on these:

These are Mavic Razors. I’ve always been an Adidas guy (both on and off the bike), but they no longer make cycling shoes. That kind of put in me in a pickle, so I had to find an alternative. Luckily, I found out the the Mavic shoes were pretty much the same thing, because I heard that they had Adidas making their shoes before. Since they fit pretty much the same way, I knew I would like them.

Next up was my pedals.

I am still a big fan of Crank Brothers stuff, specifically the egg beater style pedal. The ones I have are old, but since I rebuilt them they have been sufficient. I went with a newer model, but not much has changed I guess. I shouldn’t notice anything different, except that the new ones look a little better. That’s good because I don’t really like change.

Back when I had to change my seat, I opted for something I had ridden before. Not satisfied with the same old shit I guess, I decided to make an ugrade after riding the new one only a month. I got a killer deal on a WTB Silverado Thinline saddle, so I decided to give it a go.

It looks to be about the same size as the one I was riding, so I shouldn’t notice much of a difference (I hope.) On the plus side, it is really light. In fact, it made all of my other seats feel like a brick. Let’s hope that my ass enjoys it’s new resting place.

In other news, I got some more new shit on the way. If you are my Facefriend, then the cat is out of the bag. If you are a total stranger and you read this stuff every day (bless your heart), here’s a little tease.

Photo Facejacked from the Bike29 facepage.

Okay, I won’t tease you. One of those sets of hubs are mine, and I commissioned George to build me a set of killer wheels. He finished them, and teased me with a photo of them on the Internets. Now it’s your turn to see.

Yeah, I stole this photo from the same place.

Yup, fancy stuff. A set of Industry Nine classic hubs, laced to Stan’s Arch rims with (mostly) black spokes and red nipples. I say mostly black spokes, because you can plainly see that there are four white spokes on each wheel.

Initially, I asked for some kind of combo deal with black and silver spokes, but then I just told George to be creative. He mentioned something about using white spokes to make a rally stripe, so I told him that would be cool. The end result is a wheel that no one else has, and I am very pleased with the results. I was surprised that they came out so nice, but I fully trusted George’s creativity.

I’m not sure when I’ll get them, but I sure can’t wait to get my grubby hands on them and ride around on the trail (on my bike of course.) He’ll probably just torture me with more photos before he ships them though, so in return I’ll torture you if he does that. I’m hoping to have them mounted up in time for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek next weekend. With those cool rally stripes, at least I’ll look like I’m going fast when I’m suffering for six hours.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let’s Get Down And Dirty

After recapping my first two “real” races of the season, I’ve had to step back and do a bit of thinking. Am I really trying hard enough? Is my fitness where it should be this time of year? Do I really train like I should? Am I having fun regardless of what happens on the race course? No, no, no, and yes, sort of.

Even though I’ve suffered through two races in the Southern Classic Series, I’ve actually enjoyed it. Sure, I can’t ride more than two miles without breathing like some kind of mutant offspring of Darth Vader, but it’s been kinda fun. I push myself hard during each race, more than I would if I went out and actually trained. I have the skills to ride pretty much any trail, so that does keep things on the fun side of things. My fitness level is way off, but it will eventually come around. I probably need a little help though, so I’ve decided to get a bit more serious.

Training. You’re doing it wrong.

Will Joe Friel’s Mountain Bikers Training Bible help me? Probably, if I actually read it and followed along. In the photo above though, I was actually reading Dicky’s column in the latest issue of Dirt Rag, which I carefully hid inside the book. I mean come on, the Tootsie Rolls and beer were a dead giveaway.

There is a lot of interesting and practical shit in that book, but it’s too late to start worrying about that now. I’m pretty much doing the opposite of everything that’s written in there and well, you can see how that’s working out. Also, I’ve been scouring the Internets for information, and even that great resource of all things true tells me I’m doing it wrong. Maybe it’s my computer though.

Should I keep this racing stuff up? I had a strong desire to give up at Hobby Park, but I fought through it. Will I have to do this in every race from now on? I don’t know if I can handle that kind of pressure. I don’t quit, and I hope to not ever get into the habit of doing so. Maybe I should take up a different form of racing. You know, one that doesn’t make me have to work so hard.

Nah, that wouldn’t be any fun. If I was a top-notch mountain biker and won every race I entered, then I have a feeling that things around here would be shitty. I would be all high and mighty, and all of my blog posts would look like they were written by some elite douche bag. No one wants to read that kind of shit every day. I know all of you read this nonsense, so why should I change anything? If by chance I start improving this season, then I’ll still keep things on the less than serious side. I mean, what would be better, getting on the podium at every race, or having my ass handed to me in a battle for the back of the back? Yeah, I thought so.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dog Tired

And there will be no squatting to shit either.

Yup, I’m still going on about race number two in the Southern Classic Series at Hobby Park in Winston-Salem, NC. After narrowly avoiding a crash with some guy that wasn’t paying attention, I was heading out for lap two. Once again, I had to climb that giant asphalt hill, and this time it was much worse. Since I was all alone and not battling for position in the woods, I climbed even slower. It hurt like hell too. All I could do was suffer through it and get to the singletrack, where I thought I would fare better since I got to know the trail a bit on lap one.

Once I made it up that horrible climb, I was back in the woods all alone where I belonged. I kept catching glimpses of a couple of the guys in front of me, so that helped me creep along and not give up. I rolled the downhill sections much faster this time, and I felt like I had a lot more control. The climbs were still a problem though. It seemed like the harder I pedaled, the slower I got. It felt like there was something wrong with my bike, but I knew it was okay. It was my legs, and they didn’t want to work for me. Damn it.

After every switchback, I would see some guys in my class. I knew I could catch them, if only my legs would respond. Since I couldn’t climb worth a shit, I decided to go balls out on the downhill stuff, putting my own safety at risk. There are several rock and root drop-offs, and my big wheels helped me roll over them with ease. Later, I thought about that if I had been riding smaller wheels out there I would have gone over the handlebars. I had so much more control, even when I was riding out of control. The 29er stuff is here to stay for sure.

On the very last section on lap two, I was closing in on the guy ahead of me. I crept closer and closer, and I could see that he was struggling too. All I had to do was outlast him, and I could move up one place. As I was trying to catch him, I realized that he was the same guy from the last race that rode my wheel for most of the second lap. He eventually dropped off before the finish, so I thought that I would enjoy the same luxury during race number two.

I didn’t happen though. On the last little section of climbing, I noticed that I had lost some air in my rear tire. I didn’t want to stop and put a tube in it (even though I had a fully loaded Awesome Strap), so I just pushed through. When I came up on the approach to the start/finish line, I gunned it. Later, I found that he had only finished ten seconds in front of me. Shit.

When it was all said and done, I finished in 9th place. While that may sound better than last week’s 10th place finish, it was not. There were only 9 riders, so I was DFL. I gave it my all, and it wasn’t good enough. The only good thing about it was that I was only 11 minutes off of the winner. Well, I don’t know if that was good or not, but I guess it could have been worse.

Since Lunchbox and the DPC were along for the ride, they took their bikes out for a stroll too. I managed to capture the action after I “raced.”

I wasn’t as tired after the race as I was last week, but I felt worse during it than I did before. I’ll have to figure out what went wrong, so maybe next week things will be better. I don’t regret not riding the course beforehand, because that added a little excitement and “danger factor” to the race. One of these days I’ll learn not to go so hard at the start of a race though. It was still a good day to be on the bike, and it sure as shit beat sitting at home on the couch. Lunchbox will agree I’m sure.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What It Was, Was A Race

Yesterday, me, The Dirty Party Cycle, and Lunchbox traveled to the city of Winston-Salem, NC for another bike race in the Southern Classic Series. It was race number two in the series, at Hobby Park. I’ve never had the pleasure of riding there until yesterday, but I wasn’t really all that worried about it. Everyone I know that’s ridden there told me that it was much easier than last week’s race. Since I believe everything I hear, I decided not to preride the course.

It only took an hour or so to gt there from my house, so we arrived with plenty of time for packet pickup, chit chatting with my mountain biking friends, and other general nonsense. I didn’t have that usual nervous feeling I get before a race, so I started to wonder what the hell was wrong with me. My legs even felt pretty good when I was spinning around the parking area.

There was only one problem though. I was tired as hell. Little Miss Sunshine was on call for work all weekend, and it seemed to affect me as well. Hearing the phone go off in the middle of the night so she could go save someone from a heart attack had me suffering from a severe lack of sleep, so I wondered if I could even stay awake during the race. It wasn’t her fault, and what she was doing was definitely more important that me being well-rested for a bike race. Nevertheless I knew I would be in for a sufferfest.

When 10:30 rolled around, we all lined up. When we were given the signal, we all took off. Since I wasn’t familiar with the course at all, I was hoping to fight of the urge to get into the woods first. It would be a little bit of a challenge to get in the woods though, since we had to ride up this big ass hill on the way to the trailhead. I couldn’t help but pedal my ass off, and I started up the hill in third place.

It would quickly bite me in the ass though. As soon as Lunchbox took that photo, the molehill became a mountain. That shit went straight up, and I nearly came to a complete stop. A few guys went by me, but I pressed on and tried my best to stay ahead of the rest of them. It wouldn’t be easy though.

I think I entered the singletrack in around 5th place or so. My legs were burning, and my lungs were feeling shitty. Sure, I warmed up, but I wasn’t ready for this. The trail was in prime shape though, so I pushed as hard as I could to get through the twisty trail. It was fun, but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t enjoy it like I really wanted to. The rest of the pack was right on my ass, and eventually one of them went by, followed quickly by another.

We continued on the first section, and it was full of short, bursty climbs, and swoopy downhills. A combination of being too tired and not being familiar with this particular trail started to affect my riding. I was making big mistakes, and it was costing me and kind of momentum I could have been gaining. I kept thinking I was gonna fall off the side of the trail, which made things even worse.

Eventually I let two more guys go by. They didn’t get far ahead, but I was;t recovering very well from my effort either. Since there were so many switchbacks, I could see most the riders that were ahead of me on that first lap. I thought I could catch them, but I had to settle down and get some of my lung power back. It seemed like I would suffer the whole time though.

With only a couple of miles to go on that first lap, the guy who had been riding my wheel for quite some time finally got by me. Well, actually I let him by (sort of.) I told him I couldn’t pull him around anymore, and that really sucked. Any motivation I had to catch the leaders was gone at this point, and I even wondered if I could finish the race. I’ve been riding enough, the course wasn’t that difficult, and the leaders weren’t out of my reach, but I just didn’t feel like I could do it. I decided that I would somehow finish, because I don’t quit during races. That would hurt way more than if I finished last.

After winding through the last section, I rode the long downhill to the start/finish line. I got passed by one guy from another class (who was finishing because he started a half hour earlier.) As I was rolling through to the next lap, he turned right in front of me. I shouted out to him, swerved to avoid a crash, and he mumbled something back to me. I couldn’t hear if he was being a smart ass or not, but he should have been paying attention. I guess he though that he was the only person out there that day.

Yes, I’m cutting it off here. Not so much because I want to spread this out over a few days, but more because I went on a little too long today. I know y’all have a short attention span, and since I didn’t use a lot of photos today, that makes it more difficult for you to follow along. I’ll be back tomorrow to finish up this hellish race adventure. In the meantime, go check out Dicky’s new bike.