Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why I Do This

I don’t have a lot of time this morning for a big, flashy blog post, so I figured I would take a few minutes to reflect on some things I learned over the weekend. As you may know, Saturday was the start of the Burn24 up in Wilkesboro. I didn’t race in it, but it sure felt like I did. I hung out there pretty much all weekend, although I didn’t camp out overnight (I drove back and forth from Charlotte both days.) I still had a good time though.

I showed up to support Little Miss Sunshine and her Dirt Diva teammates, and also to get in a ride or two. Also, I got to hang out with a lot of my cycling friends out there. That’s one of my favorite things about these events: the people. I haven’t always been a social butterfly, but I’ve made a lot of friends from this mountain biking stuff, and they are good people. I look forward to seeing them at each and every event, even if I’m not racing.

While I talked to these folks and watched most of them race (some were there just for support like me), I realized why I go out and race. It’s not because I’m actually good at it, or because I am a fierce competitor. It’s not because I want to collect sponsors and be famous on the Internets. It’s not because I have nothing better to do than to spend my money on bikes, entry fees, and gas to travel all over the place. After watching people race over the weekend, I learned the main reason why I do this stuff.

I like what these races force you to do. You push yourself harder than you would sitting behind a desk at work, or when you’re out mowing the lawn or whatever it is you do. I saw all kinds of people out there competing, with abilities ranging from professionals, all the way down to beginners (and even kids.) Every single one of them had something to prove, and they had to push themselves in their own way.

Some of these people have years of training that makes it seem effortless, but even they have to work hard during these events just to get a podium spot. As for the beginners, some of them are just trying to survive their first race (or even a lap.) Each one of them has the same drive, albeit for different reasons. That made me proud to be a part of the mountain biking community, and maybe it will help me the next time I’m out there working hard on the race course. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to inspire someone to race for the first time.

That’s pretty much all I have for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with some sort of recap of the Burn 24. I got some photos, and even went for a few laps myself. Maybe that will give me enough to talk about for the rest of the week.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Big Brew (Ha-Ha)

It’s been a while since I’ve talked specifically about beer on here, but don’t think I quit drinking it. I love beer almost as much as I love bikes. In fact, if I rode as much as I drank, then I could compete on the pro circuit. Nah, that still wouldn’t happen.

Anyway, today’s post is mostly aboot beer. I say “aboot” because the brew pictured about came damn near all the way from Canada. Little Miss Sunshine just returned from a trip to Buffalo, NY, which is pretty much Canada as far as I’m concerned. Even though she went without me, she did manage to bring back some souvenirs. I’ll start with the first I guess.

The one in the jug (and the glass) is from the Ellicottville Brewing Company. It is a black IPA, called Black Hops. For you gaming nerds, Lunchbox approved the name Call of Brewery, Black Hops. I don’t have much more information about it, probably because Little Miss Sunshine drank too much of it while she was there filling up a growler for me. It is really good though, even though I don’t normally go for darker beers. It has a nice, full body, and it’s a little sweet. That is, until you get to the end. It has a nice, hoppy finish. That’s just the way I like it, because you should all know by now that I like really bitter beer. I guess you can’t get it here locally, so if you’re ever in the area (I hear they have some good mountain biking trails), then I suggest you stop by and get some. They also sell food there, so you don’t have to get liquored up on an empty stomach.

Next up is of course more beer, this time in the bottled variety:

I have one six-pack each of Southern Tier IPA, and 2X IPA (which is a double IPA in case you don’t know math that well.) Good stuff, but not super hoppy. The IPA is actually closer to a Pale Ale, but it has a good flavor. It’s a good summertime ale, and I enjoyed some after mowing the yard in 90 degree heat. I think these two breweries are somehow related, and you can tell that they are all of high quality. Since I can’t get any around here, I kinda wish I had more. I would even share some with Dicky if he was gonna be in town. It will be gone before he gets back, so he is already a loser.

The 2X IPA is stronger, but I wouldn’t call it a “double.” It’s definitely hoppy, but it won’t knock you on your ass with the alcohol content like a lot of double IPAs. It’s nice and light too, and I also enjoyed one on a hot day. I think these two breweries are related somehow, but I forgot the story. Anyway, this stuff is good enough for a beer snob like me, so I’m sure it’s good enough for the masses. Head on up to Southern Canada and get you some.

I know you don’t just come here for the beer, so I’ll talk about bike stuff for a second. First off, I got a little love from the folks over at Cane Creek, in the form of some goodies. Some of my favorite things (besides beer and bikes) are stickers and hats, so I am really happy about my latest acquisition.

My beer fridge is gonna look awesome.

In other bike news, Little Miss Sunshine has a big race this weekend. She is teaming up with a few of her Dirt Diva friends to race at the Burn24 up in Wilkesboro. She enjoyed her first crack at endurance racing so much that she is gonna attempt it for twenty four hours in the mountains. I’ll be up there this weekend to support her, and Lunchbox will be hanging out too. We’ll get to shoot the shit with all of our cycling pals, and hopefully be able to get a ride in on some of the other trails out there. I can’t wait. I know she is probably nervous, but she’ll do fine. I’ll probably have a report on Tuesday morning. Yeah, I said Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday and I’m not working. Have a good weekend. Go drink some beer and ride your bike, ‘cause that’s what I’m gonna do.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Little Miss Sunshine has been testing a new bike. Let's hope she likes it. Here is the spy shot:

Big wheels. Nice.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Snakes On A Trail

I still have some video left from the Ride With Me Series. Well, there is only one left. The best part about that last section was the multitude of snakes I found during the ride. In hindsight, I should have left in the snake wrangling part for you to see, but honestly I had way too much footage left. It wasn’t that exciting anyway. I had to get this guy off the trail so he wouldn’t get hurt:

I almost ran over him, and when I stopped he wouldn’t move any further off the trail. I tried to tell him that someone could still run over his tail, but it didn’t matter. He was pretty nice though, and didn’t seem to mind me moving him further into the woods. I said goodbye and headed down the trail.

Not long after that, I nearly ran over two more. These guys got the hell out of my way though.

After I took their picture, they took refuge under that log.

Just as well, since I didn’t want to have to move them myself. They watched me as I hopped on my bike and rode away.

Anyway, this post isn’t all about snakes. I did mention some video, so I guess I can show it to you. It’s quite a bit longer than the others in the series, so much that I had to use two different songs. I did that so I wouldn’t have to drag it out into another segment. This one is actually my favorite, especially the beginning. Check it out:

Yup, good times. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about my other favorite subject, beer. I have some new brew that needs drinking, and of course a discussion about it is in order. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Mechanic Has Taken A Vacation

Damn you R2. Just when things start to get busy around here, you take off and mix it up with the ladies. Those are ladies in that photo, right? It’s hard to tell since they are machines. Anyway, I would fire his ass, but since I’m not really paying him I shouldn’t complain. I can handle the workload I guess, but I have to pay closer attention to what I’m doing.

Since I’ve been having issues with chains a-dropping on my 1X9 setup, it was time to figure out what was going on. With the chain watcher thingy in the way, it’s supposed to prevent the chain from dropping, but actually it just made it more difficult to put back on when it did fall off. I think I may have figured out the proper placement though.

I moved it down a little further, and placed it a little closer to the crankset. I did some on the workstand testing, and I couldn’t get the chain to fall down in there no matter how hard I tried. I left as little room as possible.

I think this might be the sweet spot. I did the same to Lunchbox’s bike too, but we haven’t had a chance to test it out on the trail. I’m pretty confident that it will work just fine. I have a little bit of riding planned this week, so I’ll hopefully be back here with a success story. If it does indeed work, then I guess The Dirty Party Cycle will be bringing his bike for some adjustments as well.

The next item on the agenda was something I was unsure about. I’ve been rocking my Cane Creek Ergo 2 Bar Ends for about a year now, and I like them. Well, when I remembered to use them anyway. They are great for climbing, but most of the time I never switched my hand position to use them for that. Plus, my hands would hurt sometimes when they pressed up against them (in the normal hand position), so I started to feel like they were in the way. I noticed that the last few rides I’ve done that I didn’t even use them once. It was time to get them off of there.

I liked them, I really did. I just figured that I would try riding without them for a while though, just to see if I would miss them. Besides, it did save me a little weight when I replaced them with the standard Lizard Skins lock rings.

Even without R2D2 doing all the work, things still went well under the supervision of my pal Boba Fett. He’s a real ball buster, so there was no chance of me slipping up.

I got some other odds and ends wrapped up, and then my pal Space Cowboy dropped by for a visit. We had to setup his new tubeless tires on his primary ride, and then get his spare bike back together. He plans on using it in case of an emergency only, which is a good thing because I’m the one who put it together. That shit could fall apart at any time, and I don’t want to be the one responsible for him having another DNF. He was taking plenty of pictures while I did all the work, so I expect that he will put them on his blog in the near future. You know, as soon as he is done blogging about his wedding and stuff.

I’m out. Y’all just relax here until I come back tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Things Could Be Worse

Yeah, my race at the Catawba Riverfront Classic was kinda shitty. I could have been a whole lot worse I guess. The fact that I even finished the race with two mechanical issues should be enough. That’s not the real issue though.

I was so close to a podium spot that I could almost taste it. During my mad fury (and before my chain crappage), I made my way up to the front of the pack. In fact, I felt so great out there that I could have caught the leader. I guess that’s what pisses me off the most. The trails out there are mine (so to speak), and there’s no way that some out of towners should have gotten the best of me. I went out to the trail ready to put it all out there, and I left with my tail between my legs. I was on pace to beat my time from last year, but instead I spent probably a total of 10 -12 minutes fixing shit that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place.

Yeah, I was sick too, but that didn’t matter. Once the race started I felt fine. No excuses though, and I certainly don’t mean to bitch about the way things turned out. I’m just disappointed. There are a few bright spots though.

First, I finally have a reason to address my chain issue. It’s happened before, but never during a race. I shrugged it off, but now I found out that Lunchbox, The DPC, and my pal Hop are having the same issues. I put some thought and my awesome troubleshooting skills to work on it, and I think I figured it out. More on that later though.

Second, I looked damn good in my Bike29 team kit, even if I do say so myself. I know I had sworn off of the tight shorts when I ride, but I was reminded of how comfortable that stuff is to ride in. It didn’t make me any faster, but I sure felt better. As a bonus, I get to represent Bike29 at my races and on the Internets. You know, much better than I have been. Big thanks again, ‘cause it did make me fell better out on the race course.

Lastly, it looks like the little bit of actual “training” I’ve been doing is paying off. I’ve been riding harder out on my leisurely trail jaunts, and I can see the improvement. I had plenty of leg power on Sunday, but my mind wasn’t in it after having chainage crap. It looks like I will keep up the ‘training” rides from now on though.

I learned some lessons out there, and that’s what it’s all about. I’m not in danger of becoming a super serious dirt roadie/ racer boi, but I do need to get a little better. I’ll cut my whiny rant off here I guess. I’ll be back tomorrow, with a lot less bitchin’. Maybe we can talk about beer…and Sonya Looney.

I’m sure she won’t mind that I stole this photo. I like taking shit from the Internets. It completes me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

That was my strategy, but it didn’t work. I guess I should start at the beginning, huh? I woke up early Sunday morning, and felt like shit. When I got Lunchbox out of bed, he was sick too. I ate a bowl of oatmeal to get some long-lasting energy, and I thought I was feeling better. As Lunchbox got ready, I loaded the bikes on the trucks. Then all of a sudden I felt nauseous. I threw up in the yard, emptying my stomach of the oatmeal I had just eaten. I know, I know. Gross, right? Anyway, my day was not starting off well.

We headed out to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and I was wondering if leaving the house was such a good idea. If it was any other race (meaning not one close to my house), I would have stayed home. Since I needed the points for the overall standings in the Southern Classic Series, I decided to go. We got there and I prepared myself to race.

I knew I wasn’t 100 percent, but I was racing regardless of how I felt. After a warm up, I lined up with the rest of the racers for the start. A last minute change in the lineup had my group departing a little earlier than originally scheduled, and that put me at a disadvantage. When everyone lined up, I found myself towards the back of the pack. I didn’t mind though, because at least it would prevent me from going all out at the beginning for the lead and burning out shortly thereafter. When the race started, I was hidden in a mass of riders.

We rounded the first turn at the start/finish line, and I tried to work my way towards the front. It was pretty crowded though, so I didn’t get very far.

You can’t even see me yet. Damn.

We hit the trail, which starts out with a long downhill section that’s pretty fast. The problem was, everyone in front of me was riding their brakes. There must have been some dirt roadies in there or something. I was right on the wheel of the guy in front of me, hoping that these guys would speed up a little. I settled in, and kept up with the pack. I would make my move later when the time was right.

The first section was pretty uneventful, and we all pretty much stuck together. Up next was a long climb, and I hammered my way up it, passing one guy in my class. The trail quickly turned to downhill again and I turned it on. I tried to make up for lost time, and I was feeling a little better. After a few long climbs and fast downhills, I settled into a good pace. I ended up riding with one of the locals (we’ll call him Mr. Ryde), and we kept each other company for a while.

The first difficult section is called the Carpet Trail, which gets it’s name from a piece of carpet strewn across one of the climbs. I hammered my way up the last big climb on that trail, passing several guys in my class in the process (including Mr. Ryde.) I felt great, and hoped that I could use the downhill section after that to put a gap between me and the guys I just passed. My bike had other plans though.

As I hauled ass down the descent, I picked up a ton of speed. I didn’t see anyone behind me. That was a big boost in my confidence, until I got to the end of that section. I heard a grinding noise, and looked down to see that my chain had popped off. Shit. I had a helluva time getting it back on the front chainring, since my Third Eye Chain Watcher (which was supposed to prevent that shit in the first place) was in the way. I flipped my bike over, and I saw all of the guys I had just passed go right by me. I finally got the chain back on and hopped back on my bike to try to regain the precious minutes I had lost. I had to at least catch up with Mr. Ryde so I had someone to uh, ryde with.

I hauled ass, but I didn’t see anyone for a while. When we got to the next tough section (Goat Hill), I saw a few of those guys. I mashed my way up the tough climb, and passed most of the same guys again. I was hoping to leave Mr. Ryde well behind me this time. With the same plan as before, I gunned it all the way to the top, and when I hit the downhill section I shifted into a higher gear. Everything was going swimmingly until I got back to the bottom.

My damn chain popped off again, taking the wind outta my sails. With my sickness subsiding and my legs fully cooperating, I had to fight off mechanical issues with the 1X9 setup on The Big O. Putting it back on took a little less effort that before, but I had lost a lot of time. I gave it my best effort, but my confidence in my bike was all but lost. I felt like some more bad shit was about to happen. After finishing up the last few loops and having the last section of trail in my sight, I sped up and tried to finish strong.

The very last section is usually fun, but I was trying to catch people that were long gone. The only good thing about it was seeing Lunchbox hiding in the bushes with the camera.

Yeah, that’s me looking extra sexy in my Bike29 team kit.

When I popped out of the woods on the gravel road headed towards the start/finish line, I shifted into the highest gear I had and pushed it hard. I crossed the finish line at full speed and never passed another rider in my group. Damn it. Well, at least I finished, and it wasn’t DFL. I think I ended up in 10th place, which was good enough considering the circumstances. I will live to race another day. I’ll live to blog another day too, when I further analyze my pathetic performance tomorrow morning. See ya then.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time To Race Again

I got this e-mail yesterday:

Dear Racer,

Congratulations! You have qualified for the 2011 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-country National Championships scheduled for July 14-17 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Race registration is now open. Online registration will close on Sunday, July 10, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. On-site (late) entry fees will go into effect starting on Monday, July 11, at 12:00 a.m. EDT.

Find course maps, schedule of events, qualification standards, local lodging options, news and more on the Mountain Bike XC National Championships event page.

If you still need to renew your 2011 USA Cycling MTB license, now is the time to do it! Licenses purchased now are good through December 31, 2011. All riders must have an annual USA Cycling MTB license in order to register and compete at the 2011 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Cross-country National Championships.
USA Cycling license renewal information

Hope to see you there! Good luck with your season.

Blah blah blah.

They obviously have the wrong “racer.” While I am flattered that I “qualified” for the National Championship, there’s something fishy here. I’m not that great of a racer, so it must be a fluke. Either that or they invite pretty much anyone to race. If it is true, then I’m still not going. I asked Lunchbox and Little Miss Sunshine if they wanted to take a trip to Idaho this summer, and they both said no. I asked what the hell was in Idaho anyway, and they both replied, “Potatoes.” Clever, but not enough to get me out there. Sorry USA Cycling, but I won’t be getting my ass handed to me by a bunch of “good” racers in a far away land. Maybe next time.

I am racing again soon though. This Sunday is the Catawba Riverfront Classic, the next race in the Southern Classic Series. It’s right here in Charlotte, so I won’t have to drive all over hell to get there.

You might remember me saying that I won this race two years ago, but last year I got schooled by a bunch of “professional” Clydesdales. I’m not sure what to expect this year, but I will give it my best. In fact, I’ll be looking good when I race in it thanks to Bike29.

Yup, it’s time. After seeing Dicky, George, and Emily rocking their Bike29 kits, it’s time for me to bust mine out. While I will look extra serious in my team kit, that doesn’t mean I’ll race any better. I will look dead sexy though.

See y’all Monday with a full race report, and maybe even some photos of me looking good in the Bike29 colors. Hopefully I won’t ride like a roadie out there on Sunday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kids Ride And Cookout

Somehow I forgot to mention what I did over the weekend. Sunday, my local club had a cookout to cap off Bike Charlotte. The Tarheel Trailblazers Ride and Cookout was back again this year, but we added a little twist. Since Old Man Winter is long gone, it was time to have a Kids Ride. Having it at the same time as the cookout seemed like a good idea.

Lunchbox, The Chili Man, and Chili Junior joined me and the rest of the club at Colonel Francis Beatty Park down in Matthews, NC for the ride (and food of course.) We had a pretty decent crowd, and the kids were eager to hit the trail. It had rained the night before, but after waiting for a little while the trail was in great shape. Now I’ll shut my yap and get to the photos.

In case you forgot because he is man-sized, Lunchbox is still a kid.

We did have adults there too though:

Even The Chili Man got in on the action:

Junior Chili had fun:

But he had a minor mishap:

After the Medic (me) rushed to the scene and took that photo, it was determined that he would be okay.

We hit the trail again after playing on the jumps. Here is Lunchbox helping Junior Chili with one of the features, with The Chili man standing by:

We rode about three miles or so, and the kids had a blast.

And of course the adults did too.

I’m glad we’re back to doing the Kids Rides again. I really enjoy watching the little ones tough it out on the trail. It wasn’t all about the kids though. A little while later I met up with The Dirty Party Cycle, and we got out for some hot laps. There were no photos of that, because we were going too damn fast.

I’ll be back again tomorrow to talk about an upcoming race, and also about some new clothes. What? Yeah, it’s like that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away

This sucks. The weather has been quite shitty here in Charlotte the last few days, and I hate it. Plenty of rain equals no mountain bike riding. Aside from a little urban action on the Shitwagon (I’ll get that royalty check right out to you Dicky), I won’t be hitting up our local trails anytime soon. Lucky for me (and not so lucky for you), I have a solution. I can make things worse by watching my footage from a nice “dry” ride da udda day at Sherman Branch. I filmed most of my trail time out there, so I had ample footage to put together a part three in the “Ride With Me” series.

Unlike Return of the Jedi though (the real Episode III by the way), this video isn’t an epic story. Again, it’s just me wandering along some smooth singletrack here in Charlotte, with the occasional obstacle mixed in. My favorite part is around the 2:05 mark, where I got to ride one of my favorite features out there. Check it:

If you’re rained out like me, then this could be just what you need. If you suffer from motion sickness like The Chili Man (or just hate shitty videos), then you probably won’t like it. Whatever. I’m having fun making these, and at least I have something to watch when I can’t ride. See y’all tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Single Again

Remember this?

This was my play bike. My first foray into singlespeed riding. While I did enjoy the simplicity of having only one gear, I had trouble riding around on those tiny little wheels. I’d been hoping to eventually do the 29er singlespeed thing, but I didn’t want to invest any real money into it. Sure, I could have converted The Big O into a one-gear machine, but I’m too lazy for that. I need my gears. Well, at least the ones in the rear anyway. I'm running a 1X9 setup, remember?

Da udda day, I found a deal on a 29er frame and fork here locally, so I scooped it up. Since I had a small-wheeled singlespeed bike and spare set of big wheels (ever since George got busy and built me a new set), I had plenty of parts to build up a singlespeed 29er. The frame kinda sucks, but at least the wheels are the right size. I spent about an hour building it up, and here is the finished product:

Most of the parts should look familiar:

After finishing everything, I took it for a test ride. It seemed much better than it’s small-wheeled counterpart, and I was happy about that. Lunchbox even took it for a spin:

He really liked it too. While I won’t be riding this bike very often, at least I can go out once in a while to see what the single life is like. Lunchbox even said he’d like to try it on the trail sometimes. It ain’t pretty, but it will do the job. In fact, I think it's downright ugly. Because of it’s not-so-pretty disposition, I even came up with an appropriate name for it: The Shitwagon. Yeah, I got the idea for that name from one of Dicky's posts, but it wasn’t being used on a bike he owns. I hope he doesn’t mind.

If I like this singlespeed thing, then I may just spend some real money on a real frame. If not, at least I can pretend to be like the big boys whenever I want. It’s nice to have choices when I ride, and you can never have too many bicycles anyway.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Friday The 13th

Holy shit. Friday sucked. I woke up late because my alarm clock didn’t go off, and I ripped a pair of pants as I was about to leave the house for work. When I finally got to work, it was time to upload my blog. I was all ready to post up some good stuff when I found out that Blogger.com was down. I couldn’t sign in and post up anything. I’ve never had that happen before, and I was kinda worried. Sure, y’all can go a day or so without my shitty posts, but I didn’t think I could. This is kinda like therapy for me, and I like coming here every day. I appreciate all y’all that read this stuff though, I really do.

Anyway, the Blogger people finally got their shit together later in the day, but by then it was too late for me to post anything on here. I decided to cut my losses and wait until today (Monday for those of you that don’t own or look at a calendar.) I have a whole lot of catching up to do from this past weekend, but I’ll get into that stuff later in the week. For now, I’ll show y’all part two of my “Ride With Me” series of videos. This one was pieced together from the same footage as the first one, but at least the music is different this time. Hope y’all enjoy. See ya tomorrow.