Friday, December 30, 2011

End Of The Year

I propose a toast to you, my dear readers. Whether you come here every day, every once in a while, or ended up here only once because you searched The Google for some kind of weird shit...I'm glad. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be talking to myself. It kinda feels like that sometimes anyway, but my stats tell me otherwise. Anyway, thanks a bunch for coming here everyday to read the nonsensical crap that spews from my brain. I really mean it too.

Moving on, I’d like to thank all the folks that have supported me over the past year. All of the companies over there to the left have helped me in one way or another, and I probably would be less than what I am today without them. Can you really be less than nothing? I doubt it. But anyway, some helped more than others, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not thankful for each and every one of them. There are also some individuals that helped me along the way, but I’ve always mentioned who they are and what they’ve done when they did it. Confused? Sorry.

2011 was a pretty awesome year. I pretty much gave up small wheels for good, and converted my geared bike to a 1X9. I got quite a few upgrades here and there for it, and eventually ended up with enough parts to build a second 29er…this time a singlespeed. Having two good bikes to use throughout the season has been really nice. Also, 2011 marked the debut of two more 29ers in our house…one for Lunchbox and one for Little Miss Sunshine. We all ride big wheels now. Even the Dirty Party Cycle and The Chili Man have gone the way of the 29er.

I upgraded the shit outta my road bike for some reason, and even started doing some group rides for training purposes. I nearly went out for my first-ever road race, but my better judgment prevailed. Maybe I’ll get the balls to do it next year. It is for the sake of training, after all.

My racing season wasn’t too bad either. I took second overall in the Southern Classic series, and managed to get on the podium a few times over the course of the year. I travelled all over the Southeast to race, and got to ride on some pretty sweet singletrack that I would have otherwise missed out on. I even did my first singlespeed race and survived. It was a good year for sure.

2012 should be better. January 1st is just another day, but it is the start of a new year. Most people look at this as a time to make a fresh start, and I guess I’ll be doing the same. I’ll do my best to get into more shit this year, especially so I will have something to talk about on here (to keep y’all coming back for more.) I promise to do my best not to fail.

I’m taking Monday off. I’ll be back on Tuesday with my plans for next year…hopefully.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Upgrade All The Things

Yup, that’s pretty much what my Christmas list was all about. Well, in regards to the bike parts I asked for anyway. After getting a new set of singlespeed wheels, I still had other parts to install.

I got a new set of handlebars and a better stem for the SS bike.

After riding with a sub-par stem and handlebars (from the spare parts bin), I now have something much better. The bars are also wider, which makes the bike more comfortable to ride. Since I was already upgrading stuff, I decided to rob parts off of another bike I wasn’t using.

I didn’t think to ask for new brakes for Christmas, even though I had a set of shitty cable disc brakes on the SS (that worked kind of okay by the way.) I took the hydraulic brakes off of my little-wheeled squishy bike since they weren’t being used. Now they will get some trail time for sure.

Up next was an upgrade for my geared bike. It’s been a while since I’ve replaced any drivetrain parts on my primary race bike, so it needed some love. I got a new cassette and chain.

Since I am an awesome mechanic, it didn’t take long to change everything over. And while I was at it, I had to install something else.

Lunchbox got some new pedals for his 29er. See, I’m not the only one that had bike parts on the Christmas list.

While I did receive lots of stuff (both bike and non bike related), I’m pretty much done talking about all the new shit I got. Well, except for something that Lunchbox got for me.

What? A bike trailer? For kids? Don’t worry, we won’t be hearing the pitter patter of little feet here at B-43 anytime soon (and Lunchbox is way too big to ride in it.) I wanted a bike trailer for other reasons than having little kids to pull around.

And no, this is not gonna be attached to my singlespeed full time. I actually wanted a bike trailer so I can take trips to the grocery store, and a kid’s trailer seemed to be the best bet to keep the beer safe (it has seat belts in it.) I try to take my bike to the store whenever I can, but it’s been difficult to carry stuff home in a back pack. Now I can ride to and from the store with out dropping anything on the road.

Another use will be to haul tools to Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure when trail work resumes (in the near future.) Having a trailer attached to my bike can keep me from driving so much (and wasting gas), so this is just my little contribution to help save the environment. Besides, I can pull Dicky around town when he doesn’t feel like riding. He’s only four apples tall, so he’ll fit right in there.

I’ll be back tomorrow, probably with the obligatory “what kind of shit I got into this year” post. See y’all then.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Caught By Surprise

Christmas was here before I knew it, and gone just as fast. The days leading up to the holiday gift exchange are always exciting, but not because I think I’m getting a whole bunch of new shit. The reality is, I like buying presents for other people. I’m always making my list, checking it twice, and not giving a shit if they are naughty or nice (because I already spent the money.) The people on my gift giving list deserve it, and I’m happy to oblige. When I make a list for myself (so other people can get me stuff), I normally don’t expect much. I usually just cave into the pressure of others that want to buy me stuff, but I am happier doing the giving than I am the receiving. Since this is my blog though, I’ll talk about all the cool shit I got.

Of course my list included new bike stuff, and most of it consisted of upgrades for my singlespeed bike. Since I’m really enjoying the one-geared life now, I felt like it’s time to put some nicer parts on my “other” bike. After opening almost all of my presents (bike and non-bike related), I had one left.

Lunchbox is smiling in the background because he knows something I don’t. Hmmmm.

When I opened the box, I was shocked to see what was inside. I learned that Little Miss Sunshine had been conspiring with George to make my Christmas pretty freaking awesome.

Look what was in the box:

Holy shit. Another set of Bike29 wheels (red Industry Nine hubs laced to Stan’s Arch rims. This time though, they are of the singlespeed-specific variety for my one-geared riding pleasure.

George went all creative (like the last time he built my wheels) and added a few personal touches.

The wheels on my geared bike have all black spokes, with four white spokes making a “rally stripe” around the valve stem. These new singlespeed wheels have all silver spokes, with four black spokes. I guess the rally stripe is my new thing, and I have George to thank for giving me my new “style.” He even used different colored nipples on the spokes to set everything apart.

All I had to do now was put them on.

I spent most of Monday installing new bike parts, which included my new wheels. I installed a new 18 tooth cog and spacers:

After mounting up my tires (which was way too easy), I put everything on the bike. And just like that I was ready to roll.

Wow, just wow. I am really happy to have such awesome wheels, and I am thankful that Little Miss Sunshine thought to get these for me. She is pretty awesome for sure. Big thanks to George too, because he worked his ass off to build these and ship them out lickity split (in time for Christmas.) Little Miss Sunshine told me he was pretty happy to have the opportunity to build another set of wheels for me too. He likes being creative, and he will build you a set too. Just don’t ask for the rally stripe, because that’s my thing, bitches.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more Christmas recap action, including something pretty cool that Lunchbox got for me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

My cat is really thrilled to play Santa this year.

Yes, it’s Christmas time once again. Time for you to spend time with your family and friends, eat too much, and hopefully get a shitload of presents. No wonder this is most people’s favorite time of year. Things are slowing down at work for me, Lunchbox is out of school, and we are making our last minute preparations for Sunday’s festivities. I’m pretty excited. I feel like a kid at Christmas. Wait, never mind.

I’m taking some time off, which means I won’t be around here to give you thought provoking words and controversial photos. You’ll have to find something else to do for the time being. After the big day arrives, I’ll hopefully be installing shiny new bike parts and drinking beer in my uh, bike room. I guess it’s like any other day around here.

So with that, I’m cutting today’s post short. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever else you celebrate. I’ll be back next Wednesday, and we’ll pick up where we left off. See y’all then.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Night Mission

Getting home from work every day at dark means that if I want to ride my bike, I have to do it in the dark (duh.) Some days, I bring my bike with me to work and hit up a local trail. Most days, I figure I’ll just go home and grab my bike and head back out. By the time I get home though, I usually don’t feel like packing up the truck and driving back out to a local trail. I always have a backup plan, and it involves greenway riding. Most of it is paved, but there is a pretty good gravel section for me to get all mountain bikey on.

Just a short road ride from my house and I’m there. It’s very quiet and peaceful out there, and there are enough hills to make it worth my time and effort. After a little gravel action though, it’s back on the paved greenway. It has some pretty cool stuff, especially at night.

That’s the part where it goes under Interstate 85 here in Charlotte. It’s really cool going under it in the dark, since well, it’s all lit up.

I ride until the end, and I pop out in some park/soccer field place. There is a boardwalk at the end that goes through what looks like a swamp, and I kinda like riding on it (reminds me of Florida, minus the alligators.)

The best part about riding out there at night? All the critters. I saw no less than thirty deer, and a host of other unidentified animals. If you look closely in this photo, you can see little eyes staring back at me in the darkness.

Is this considered “training?” Yeah, I guess. I mean, I’m out on my bike you know. I’m riding pretty hard on my singlespeed, and I actually feel like I did something worthwhile. Besides, being all alone at night on a bike ride does wonders for me after a long day at work. It’s no substitute for actual trail riding, but at least it’s something. Now that Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure is finally complete, I can get in a short trail ride on the way out and on the way back (which I did last night.) Sounds like success to me.

In other news, I’ve been cleaning out my “bike room.” It’s nothing extravagant like the one over at Bad Idea Racing. In fact, it’s just a garage. But, it’s my garage, and it’s full of bicycle goodness (plus a beer fridge.)

Right now, there are twelve bikes and two unicycles out there. Two of those bikes are pending transfer to other locations, but the rest will stay. Why was I cleaning? Well, with the upcoming Christmas holiday, I need to make room for more bike parts. That’s pretty much all that was on my Christmas list, so I am hoping that I have enough room. I also needed some space to work on bikes (very well constructed homemade bike repair stand not pictured), in anticipation of installing the aforementioned new bike parts. At least now I have a really local place to test them.

See y’all tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Looks Like We’re Done (For Now)

So I can finally sit back and relax for a bit.

This weekend, we finished up the main loop at Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure. There wasn’t much left to do, but I feel like we actually accomplished something. After several weekends of digging in the dirt, we were on the home stretch.

We had to cut a short section (picture above) to get the loop back out of the woods, and all that was left was a little trimming. Lunchbox whipped out his trusty loppers and was ready to put the finishing touches on our trail.

He was basically cutting out small saplings and their remaining stumps, and also trimming up the corridor so we won’t get clotheslined when we ride. He really likes helping out.

He also likes doing his impression of Bigfoot.

Since it had rained a little bit late last week, the trail was kinda wet. We decided to wait until later in the afternoon to test it out. We got all gussied up in our actual mountain bike attire (helmets and clipless shoes), and gave it a proper ride. I didn’t get any photos, since we seemed to be in a bit of a hurry (I got called into work.) The next day though, the Dirty Party Cycle stopped by after some hot laps at Sherman Branch, and I convinced him to get out and ride our new neighborhood gem. We didn’t bother wearing “proper” mountain bike equipment this time though.

There was a photo of me taking a whiz in there, but you don’t want to see that. Okay, maybe you do.

With the main loop of Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure complete, we were pretty proud of ourselves. Coming in at around a quarter of a mile, it is pretty short. For being so small though, it is certainly packed full of fun. We spent the rest of our time out there flagging out the next phase of the trail. There will be a lot more fun packed into this trail, and we can’t wait to get started (or continue, whatever.) For now though, we’ll just admire our handy work.

This will be a really nice place to ride that’s close to home. The trail seems to hold up pretty well even when wet, so we can most likely ride here even when everything else in the area is in substandard shape. That’s good, because my ass really should be ramping up the training this time of year. I guess I’ll be making my self dizzy riding in circles on our short little trail. It’s much better than sitting on my ass getting fat, that’s for sure.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Finally Won Something

It has something to do with bikes, but nothing to do with racing them. Last week, there was a contest on Facebook from the folks at Honey Stinger. All you had to do was come up with your best Chuck Norris quote. I was one of the first to post mine up, and actually didn’t think it was so great.

“Chuck Norris doesn’t eat honey…he chews bees” was mine in case you don’t know who I am.

When I got home, I mentioned the contest to Lunchbox. When I told him what I posted, he laughed his ass off. He also proceeded to tell me all kinds of other Chuck Norris quotes that he had stored in his teenage brain (which was a lot.) Apparently Chuck Norris is quite popular with today’s youth. Anyway, my comment somehow got the most “likes”, but it was a close contest. I got an e-mail stating that I was the winner and that I could expect some waffley goodness coming my way. Awesome. I was pretty surprised since I don’t usually win shit.

A few days ago, I received my goodies.

I’ve used these waffles pretty regularly now (before the contest), and they are damn delicious. It was all I could do to keep from chowing down on the whole box right then and there. I put the box away so I wouldn’t be tempted, but I will definitely grab a few on my next ride.

Are the Honey Stinger people gonna be on board with me and my cycling adventures next season? Sadly, no. This was a one time thing, but I hear that they are accepting sponsorship applications. Maybe I should throw my hat in the ring because, you know, I have nothing better to do. I’ve been lacking a nutrition sponsor around here, so this could be the ticket. I guess the worst they could say is “Get the hell off my lawn!”

In other news, I have no set plans for the upcoming weekend (again.) I have some trailwork to complete on Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure, and I also need to actually get some riding in. The problem though, is that I am on call for work. If the work people will leave me alone, then I can get some “personal” stuff done. If not, then next week could be pretty boring for you around here. We shall see.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Set Your Phase To Stun

Four. I mean set your phase to four, as in “Phase Four of Captain Jim Bob’s Space Adventure.” Another Sunday, another trail workday on our “secret” trail project (well, secret to anyone who doesn’t use the Internets or live nearby.) After my near frostbite-inducing road ride, Lunchbox was ready to get out and do some digging in the dirt. We tried to recruit The Chili Man, but he was run down from way too much working. I don’t blame him for not wanting to join us for even more work.

It had warmed up a bit after the short ride to the local woods, and we got even warmer once we started working. Phase four was a long, twisty downhill that shot you back into the woods, and we had already completed some of it last weekend (until we ran out of time.) The rest of the new section was cleared out, and the trailbuilding began. Lunchbox went through and trimmed the tree branches, making a nice path for us so we wouldn’t get decapitated. He does good work with those loppers.

We had quite a long section to build this time, but we made a lot of progress. After getting to a nice stopping point, we decided to test it out. Lunchbox went first.

Funny, the lighting in that photo makes it look like there is no trail. Let’s keep it that way.

After we both took a spin (no photos of me), we had a surprise visitor.

Yup, Little Miss Sunshine rode over to take a ride. She was preparing to take her bike over to Sherman Branch for some hot laps, but took a slight detour to test our new neighborhood trail. She seemed to like it, but had one slight complaint. It seems that the log rollover that I repaired last week was a little too steep. Upon further inspection, I realized what the issue was. Since Lunchbox has been testing on a 1X9 and me on a singlespeed, neither of us have a large chainring up front. Little Miss Sunshine, The Chili Man, and Chili Junior all have these hideous things, and they were hitting the top log with it. Lunchbox and I promptly dumbed it down a bit so it can be enjoyed by all.

Little Miss Sunshine parked her bike on the trail until we were finished, and made sure that we did a good job.

After she left, we got back to work. Since Phase Pour goes pretty far back in the woods, we were getting out of sight of our bikes and the tool stash. I grabbed everything I could, and told Lunchbox to walk the trail to make sure we didn’t need to make anymore “improvements.”

We got to the bottom of the hill, and we were faced with a dilemma. The brush is pretty thick, and it would require a shitload of clearing out. The other alternative was to cross through an old, half buried barbed wire fence, so we picked the lesser of two evils: clearing the trail. It was taking a lot longer than expected, and we had to call it a day. It looks like we only need another hour or so to get Phase Four completed, and then we can have a nice little uninterrupted loop to ride. After that it’s on to Phase Five.

We have big plans for Phase Five, but we have to finish the main trail first. I’m hoping that The Chili Man can help us out this weekend, because we’ll be building some features and will somehow have to transport them to the trail. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unpleasant Surprise

Yep, that’s my truck getting towed. Normally I mostly talk about cycling stuff on here, but today I have to mention my latest adventure.

After running a few errands at lunch time, I started making my way back to work. Suddenly, my truck shut off. It sorta acted like it ran out of gas, but I knew I still had plenty. After several unsuccessful attempts at trying to start it back up, I had no choice but to coast down the hill and find spot to pull over. I didn’t get far enough off the road though (there was no place to pull off), so I sat there in the lane like a goon. I put on my flashers and hopped out to get out of harm’s way.

I whipped out my phone to call AAA (don’t use it very often but I’m glad I have it), but before I could dial some nice citizen stopped to see if he could help. He offered to tow me to a neighborhood, or even give me some gas. I thanked him for his help, but I suspected that my fuel pump had gone out. After making arrangements to have my truck towed to a shop near my house, another guy stopped to help. He was wearing a mechanic’s uniform from a local Chevrolet dealer.

He suspected the same thing as I did (the fuel pump), and crawled under my truck to bang on the fuel tank to try to get it going while I cranked it. He told me where he worked, and that they had the part in stock and could get it done right away. That sounded much better than possibly waiting for days at the other shop (like I have before with our other vehicles), so when the tow truck driver got there I made him change my destination.

I don’t normally promote non-cycling things here, but in this case I will. I ended up at Parks Chevrolet in Huntersville, which coincidentally was less than a mile away. Once upon a time I worked at a GM dealer, so I’ve always been “in the know” about shops and how they do business (and also how to avoid getting ripped off.) They were very friendly there, and really eager to help me get my truck fixed right away.

After checking me in and running a diagnostic, the faulty fuel pump theory was confirmed. They had the part in stock, and they put three of their best mechanics on it to get me back on the road in a hurry.

They gave me a ride back to my office to get my laptop (so I could do a little work while I waited), and told me it would be about two hours. Two hours was not even close. In a little over an hour, I had a new fuel pump installed and I was ready to go. The price wasn’t nearly as high as I expected, and it actually was a little cheaper than what I would have paid at the “other” shop. These guys were all about service, and went above and beyond.

Customer service seems to be a lost art these days. Most businesses (especially auto repair), seem to know that they have you by the balls and can do whatever they want. Not true in this case. I guess that’s why I felt like devoting a whole post to my experience, instead of the usual bike stuff. If you ever have a service need, then don’t hesitate to head on over to Parks. I’m a stickler for customer service, so the fact that I’m recommending any type of business should really mean something.

A new fuel pump wasn’t exactly what I wanted for Christmas, but it was something I definitely needed. I kinda need a vehicle to get back and forth to work, and of course to and from the trail. My truck is a pretty nice vehicle, and this is actually the only issue I’ve had with it. I guess since I spent so much money on my truck though, I may have to hold off on getting those new singlespeed wheels I've had my eye on. Damn it.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with my regularly scheduled cycling junk.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Forced Myself To Do It

I don’t mean to get all roadie on y’all, but I felt like it was time to get out for a ride on skinny tires. I occasionally bash road riding around here, but it’s all in good fun. I bought my road bike a few years ago to help with my overall cycling fitness, but I rarely take it out. When I get out on the road, it always seems like people are trying to run me over. I’m sure that everyone that rides on the road experiences this, but I really hate it. That’s probably why I prefer to be out on the trail.

Anyway, after sleeping in a little bit due to a Christmas party the night before, I decided that I wanted to get out and spin for a while. It was a cold and windy thirty nine degrees outside at 9:00 when I finally headed out, and I immediately regretted my decision. Riding on the road amplifies the wind and the cold, but I had already made up my mind to ride. Besides, I had plenty of clothing on.

I had tights, bib shorts, two pairs of wool socks, and shoe covers on the bottom. On the top it was a short sleeved base layer, a long sleeved thermal base layer, and my Cane Creek long sleeve winter jersey (along with a knit cap under my helmet.) I was warm in the house, but as soon as I stepped outside I felt cold again. I decided to get moving so I could warm up.

It didn’t take long for my body to get warm, but I felt like I was getting frostbite on my face. I had sunglasses on, so at least my eyeballs didn’t freeze. I took a nice loop on some local country roads, and I really enjoyed the scenery.

When I took this photo, my smartphone displayed, “Flash is disabled due to cold weather.”

I live on the outskirts of Charlotte, so it doesn’t take long to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city driving. Long, lonely country roads surround me, so at least I don’t have to fight traffic. This also reduces the risk of being struck by a car. And you know what? I was lucky this time. Not one texting soccer mom tried to kill me with their minivan. I call any ride where I don’t have a near death experience a success.

I only rode less than an hour, but it sure beat sitting around in the house getting fat off of Christmas cookies. Little Miss Sunshine was baking tons of holiday goodies, so I try my best to stay the hell out of the house and far away from the temptation when she does that. The only bad thing about my ride was the fact that I got some windburn on my face. Their seemed to be a headwind no matter which direction I rode, but I’ll call that “training.” Anything to help me keep from becoming a fat ass in the offseason.

I could’ve gone on longer, but I had other stuff to do. Of course, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out what that was. I can’t promise that it will be exciting. If you come here and read this every day, you already knew that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Way Too Nice To Ride

Well, to ride a road bike. I wasn’t about to waste my time riding on the road, despite the fact that I had little time to waste. I stayed up a little too late Friday night watching Star Wars, so I slept in a bit too long Saturday morning. It wasn’t a big deal, since it was in the 30’s outside anyway. When I finally left the house for Fisher Farm, it had warmed up a bit. Well, kinda.

When I got to the trail, I was ready to ride. Well, until I got out of my warm truck. It was still in the 40’s, and I brought plenty of stuff to wear. When I finally got dressed, I felt like ten pounds of shit stuffed into five pound bag. Up top I had a long-sleeved base layer, arm warmers, and a Twin Six jersey. On the bottom I had baggy shorts, knee warmers, and wool socks. I was still shivering for some reason, but I thought that I would warm up quickly. I just had to hurry up and get going.

Did I mention that I brought my singlespeed? I needed to work hard on the trail, so having only one gear would assure that I couldn’t take it easy out there. Even though I was a little cold, I got going and hoped I would warm up quickly. It was such a nice day out there, it didn’t take long for me to forget that I was cold.

So this is what it feels like to be a mountain bicyclist. It’s been so long since I had a good jaunt in the woods that I almost forgot. I really should do this kind of thing more often. My bike even seemed to be happy out there.

I did a few laps out there (basically until I got bored.) I wasn’t tearing it up (lap time-wise), but I made sure to push myself. I mashed up the climbs, and once again realized why I built up a singlespeed bike. I guess I’ll ask Santa for some upgrades for it. Until then, I’ll still ride it a bunch.

I’ve been neglecting my geared bike, but it’s not going away for good. In fact, I just have it a nice bath. Hopefully really soon I’ll put on the new tires that George sent me. I just can’t seem to find enough time to do everything. I can’t wait until winter is over, but it only the beginning. Damn it.