Friday, March 29, 2013

Finally, No More Of This

So, I’ll be out riding my ass off this weekend.  The plan is to ride out at the Whitewater Center tomorrow morning with Good Guy Greg, TomTom, and maybe even some of those fancy Lowcountry folks that plan to make the drive up here to ride.  Good Guy Greg had the idea that we should do two laps of everything out there (around 20 miles per lap) on our single speeds as a form of “training.”  While training doesn’t sound like a whole helluva lotta fun, riding my bike until I almost die actually does.

While he’ll be switching to a more endurance-friendly 20 tooth cog on the rear, I plan to keep my 18 on there for some extra punishment.  I have another race next weekend so I have to kinda get ready I guess. More on that next week because I like to build shit up for no reason.  Anyway, since we’re not racing or having any other kind of competition, trying to survive and all-day ride might be a bit of a challenge. 

I’m good with that.

Afterwards, there will most likely be beer.  That’s not a surprise, is it?  I didn’t think so.  If I’m not to dead/hungover, I’ll get out and ride some huge amount of mileage on Sunday too…if it doesn’t rain.  Currently, the weather forecast is showing shit conditions, so Saturday may be the only “trail” day.

That means I may end up on my (gasp) road bike on Sunday.

Whatever.  Who gives a shit.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I’ll Try To Keep It Simple

I don’t wanna be angry, but I do wanna ride my single speed more and more.  Many years ago when I was just a youngin’, I rode bikes with no gears or suspension.  BMX, old clunkers, or basically whatever my Grandaddy and I cobbled together out of spare parts.  It was fun to build bikes, and those homemade machines required little to no maintenance other than spraying some WD-40 on the chain (this was way before the days of ProGold mind you.) 

Many years later when I started riding mountain bikes, I made sure they had all the bells and whistles, i.e. gears and suspension.  Over the next few years, I decided I didn’t need rear suspension, so I went with a hardtail.  Then, I removed a couple of chainrings up front to have a 1X9 setup.  During that time I talked to/rode with many single speeders, and I swore up and down that I would never ride one.  However, watching guys like the MadSS get stronger and faster riding one I thought that maybe I should try it.

I tried a few different bikes setup as single speeds, and it was more of a novelty than anything else.  Like, “Yeah, I rode my single speed to the store to get beer” kind of stuff.  Eventually I ended up with a spare 29er frame almost identical to the geared bike I was riding, and made that my first “real” single speed.  Well the one that saw any trail time anyway.  I rode it here and there, mostly on the easier trails in the area.  Eventually I started getting brave and taking it to the tougher trails, and I even entered my first single speed race.  A few months later, I rode it in Vermont at Single Speed USA.  Being around all those folks on one gear made me think that I was heading in the right direction with my choice to shun gears.  However, I went right back to my geared bike when I got home.  I broke that frame in a race, and rode nothing but SS for several months while I looked for a new geared frame. 

The seed had been planted.

I got the new geared bike, and rode the shit out of for a while because it was all shiny and new.  However, I kept finding myself wanting to ride the SS more often than not.  Eventually I reached the point where I barely even ride the geared bike.  Early this year, I put a rigid fork on the SS to make it even more simplistic.  I thought for sure that I would hate it, but it turned out to be quite the opposite.  Now not only am I riding the SS more, I’m enjoying the lack of suspension when I do it.

Now, here comes the dumb part (as if the rest of this shit isn’t dumb enough.)

As the geared bike sits there getting no love, I came up with an idea of what to do with it.  Sometimes I may find the need to have some sort of suspension up front (like in the mountains or something), and to save myself the trouble of swapping out my fork before I ride I can just grab another bike.  I can remove the gears, throw on a chain tensioner, cog, and a couple of spacers and have myself another single speed with some squishy action.  If I ever think that I might need gears from some reason, the whole process can be easily undone.  Since I prefer to ride SS all the time now, the undoing probably wouldn’t happen very often (if at all.)

That sounds like a good plan to me, and it doesn’t make me angry even a little bit.

Now we’ll see if I actually follow through with it.  I’m pretty sure I’ll change my mind a few times.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It Was So Fun…

That I can’t stop talking about it. 

We had a group ride last night that was really fun, but I'm still stuck on this past weekend.  I mean, I drove three hours to “race” for six hours, got rained on, nearly froze to death, and even got covered in mud.

Although the Falcon (my SS bike in case you haven’t been paying attention) was covered in mud, the simplicity of having no gears or suspension was definitely an advantage out there.

It wasn’t a total success though.  Sometime after the shit storm got underway, I noticed that my braking power had all but disappeared.  The pads were making a horrible noise, and if I ever had to make a sudden stop I found myself flying off the trail.  I rinsed off my bike at a local car wash right after the race, and I thought maybe that sound was because of all the mud in there.  However, when I took my bike apart later to check everything I found this:

Wow.  No wonder I couldn’t stop worth a damn.  I didn’t really need my brakes too often anyway, and luckily replacing worm (or non-existent in this case) pads is an easy task.  While I was at it, I took off that tiny 17 tooth cog and put on a more “hill-friendly” 18.  The Falcon will fly again.  She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.

In other news, I finally finished my video from lap one.  You know, when the weather was still nice.  Since I have an older GoPro, I can’t see where the hell the camera lens in pointing.  So, the angle is a little off, but you get the picture.

“Get the picture?”  Geez, what the hell is wrong with me?

Anyway,  here’s another shitty video to add to my shitty video collection:

Um, yeah.

Anyway, I just want to say thanks to the flatlanders down in Charleston for making my “fun race” a great experience.  They had no control over the weather, but it was still an awesome event.  I hope I get a chance to go back down there next year.

Now I need to start looking for more fun shit to do.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

And The Skies Opened Up

Sometime during lap three, the rain started.  It began as a light sprinkle that came and went, but as I rolled through the start/finish to begin lap number four…the bottom fell out.  Within minutes, buckets of rain drenched me and the trail.  It was so flat that the water had no place to go.

The temperature had dropped considerably, so along with the rain I was getting really cold.  I kept pedaling to stay warm, but the faster I went the colder it got.  It was kind of like being on a road ride I guess, but with roots and sand.  It didn’t bother me a whole lot during that lap (or so I thought), and in no time I was coming around the corner towards the pit area.

After four laps with no break, I decided I that I should stop for a few minutes.  I wasn’t really tired, but a break was a good idea.  It was sorta like driving down the interstate on a long trip…you should just stop every once in a while so you don’t get bored. 

While I was in the pit, I ate a little bit of food.  While I was talking to Lunchbox, I started to shiver uncontrollably.  During that last lap I only had a small issue with my hands being a little cold, but stopping for a minute let it all catch up to me.  I was soaking wet from head to toe, covered in mud, and freezing my ass off.  I contemplated changing into dry clothes, but decided against it for some reason.  Instead, I ran over to my truck and threw on my old long sleeved Cane Creek jersey (right over my muddy, rain-soaked clothes), swapped to a clean (and dry) pair of Lizard Skins gloves, and got on my way.  As I rode off, I thought that I should’ve put on a hat under my helmet and changed my socks.

It was too late to turn back.

During that lap, I was still shivering.  My feet were numb, and I had a headache from the cold wind blowing on my head.  I was miserable, and I’m sure my pace slowed a bit.  After a little while, my buddy Lowcountry Joel came up behind me and asked how I was doing.

“My legs feel great, but I’m freezing to death” I replied.

He rode by and I didn’t have the motivation to chase him.  I struggled through that lap and finally came back to the pit area.

I wasn’t really tired, so I didn’t want to stop.  However, I saw the MadSS sitting down wrapped up in a blanket.  He was having the same issue as I was, so I talked to him for a few minutes.  I had warmed up a little bit, so I made myself go back out for another lap. 

Lap six was better and worse at the same time.  My dry gloves had become wet already, and my hands were tingling from the cold.  Every time I hit a root with my rigid fork, I felt it in my bones because I was frozen from the inside out.  There were a lot of roots, so I was in pain the whole time.  Surprisingly though, my legs still felt as fresh as they did when I started.    There are only a couple of small climbs out there and I had plenty of power to stand up and mash to get up them quickly.  However, on one climb when I stood up I spun out, and almost toppled over.  I couldn’t feel my feet to tell if I was clipped out or not.  Luckily I was able to grab a tree and right myself, and in no time I was on my way again.  It was a short ride back to the pit area, where my kid was standing once again (braving the elements) to take another photo.

When I got to the start/finish line, I took a look at the clock.  I thought I had time for two more laps, so I gunned it through to hit the trail again.  My body was warm, but I still had little to no feeling in my hands and feet.  I picked up the pace, and this lap went by much faster.  I did notice something strange throughout the race though:  every time I went through the pit area I saw more and more people standing around.  They were dropping like flies, and that motivated me to keep going.  I rode almost the whole lap alone, until one guy came up behind and slowly passed by. 

“I thought I was out here by myself” I said.

“There are only a few of us left” he said.

I was too stubborn to quit, and that made me push even harder.  I didn’t really give a shit about being cold anymore either.  I just wanted to get back and try to squeeze in one more lap.  I came out of one section that passes by the pit area (before you go back in the woods for a bit) and I saw my kid waiting again.

It had finally stopped raining (but it was still chilly), so I stopped for a second and took off my long sleeved jersey since I was feeling a little warmer.  One of the race volunteers yelled to me that I didn’t have to go out for another lap since I already had third place locked up.  I wasn’t sure that I heard him correctly (he was a little far away), so I asked Lunchbox what he said.

“He said you’re in third.”

Damn.  I guess I knew I couldn’t win it (I didn’t enter the race for that anyway), so I must have backed off my pace a little bit.  Before long, I rolled through the finish line, just missing the cutoff to go out for one more.

“Do I have time for one more?”  I asked.

“No, but you can do another if you want to” someone joked.

No, thank you.  Six hours in the mud, cold rain, and on a rigid single speed was enough torture for the day.  When it was all said and done, I ended up with seven laps.  As it turns out, I must’ve misheard the guy talking to me because I ended up in fourth place.  Lowcountry Joel took the top spot, and he was also on a single speed.  I was pretty happy with my effort, especially racing against a bunch of people with gears.  If there had been a single speed class, I would’ve been second.  

Not too bad for someone that just drove down there to have fun I guess.  I don't really care about the results because damn, it was fun.  Maybe I’ll do some sort of post race analysis or something tomorrow.

Maybe I'll even have the video done.

Monday, March 25, 2013

From The Hills To The Flatlands

Lunchbox and I left Charlotte at the crack of dark Saturday morning, heading down to the Bootleg Bangout 6 Hour Race down near Charleston, SC.  A little over three hours later, we were wandering around a local Navy base looking for the race.  I found it peculiar that I was lost in the middle of the woods on a military installation looking for a bunch of crazy endurance racers, but I was also starting to panic a little because time was running out.  I eventually called the MadSS to ask where he was, and he directed me to their location.  I found it, and I was already laughing about how “underground” this event seemed.  It wasn’t your typical cross country dirt roadie fest, so my mission to have fun was already heading in the right direction.

It didn’t take long to register, and Lunchbox helped me get our pit area setup.

In most endurance races, I like to have a seat after each lap in order to “pace myself.”  I would learn later on that I didn’t need my fancy Maxxis chair this time.

We lined up for the start, and I didn’t even feel like I was in a race.  There were only four of us on single speeds, with everyone else running a full compliment of gears.  Running a 32X17, I felt like I had brought a knife to a gunfight.

Like a dumbass, I lined up towards the front with the MadSS and Chris W (from Total Cyclist MTB.)  When we took off, I spun my ass off to keep up with the lead group.

Photo cred:  Stolen from the Facebook page

A couple of guys took off way ahead on the super flat trail, and I did my best to keep up.  A few people here and there passed me because I thought I couldn’t spin any harder, but instead of slowing down I cranked it up even more.  The trail came out on a short road section, and I passed three or four people.  I planned to go out in a blaze of glory…all in the name of fun.

The trail was really flat, but I settled in and enjoyed it.  There were a few slight ups and downs, but for the most part I was pedaling the whole time.  There weren’t many opportunities to coast at all.  Could I keep up this horrible pace for six hours?  I didn’t give a shit.  I was having fun.

Lap one ended, and I was still somewhere near the front of the group.  My trusty cameraman/sidekick/son was there waiting to capture the action

I didn’t really get tired at all, and the only time I was breathing hard was at the very beginning.  I stopped real quick after that first lap to grab my iPod and remove my GoPro from my helmet (video to follow at a later date), and I headed back out for lap number two.

I was feeling great, and I couldn’t believe I was “racing.”  I drove down to the Lowcountry to have a fun time, and I certainly was so far.  Towards the end of the lap though, my chain popped off.  I got in back on in a hurry, and realized that my EBB was loose (from my failure to properly tighten it when I changed the cog a few days before.)  I got back to the start/finish line without another issue at least.

I had forgotten my Tülbag back in the truck, so when I got back I made sure to grab it.  I took a few minutes to make sure my chain tension was good and the EBB was tight this time, and headed back out.  I didn’t need a break at all, so I was a little upset that I had to stop.  Lap three went off without a hitch, and I didn’t loose ground to anyone…not even a geared rider.  I was still feeling good, but I realized that I hadn’t been drinking anything.  With the course being so flat, it’s not like I didn’t have a chance to grab my bottle.  If thought that if I was gonna last the whole six hours, I had better get to drinking.  My legs felt fine, but I knew for sure I would have problems later.  This lap went by pretty quick I guess, and in no time I was coming back up to the start.

Lap four is when things got really interesting.  Since I’ve blabbed too much today, I’ll save the rest for tomorrow.  I mean, it was an endurance race, so this should be an endurance blog post.

See y’all tomorrow.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hillbilly Invasion

This weekend in an attempt to do something fun and different, I’m heading down to the Lowcountry to “race” in a six hour event. 

The Bootleg Bangout put on by the Fat Tire Freaks (couldn’t find a legit web page for them) will be my next event.  While it may seem like a pretty far drive down to the Charleston area for a race, I won’t do it alone.  Aside from my trusty co-pilot Lunchbox, it looks like a whole mess of folks from Charlotte will be heading down there.  The Space Cowboy told me da udda day that he was going, and we will also be graced with the presence of some Total Cyclist MTB team members including the MadSS and Chris Dubya. 

So yeah, all of us hillbilly folks are rolling down to the Lowcountry to ride their flat, rooty, and sandy trails, and hopefully we can show them a thing or two about “mountain biking.”  Since there are no mountains to speak of, the fourteen mile course with a little over 130 feet of elevation gain shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s why I got in touch with Endless Bike Co. to get another cog for my single speed.  Since they didn’t have any five toothed cogs (which is more than any hillbilly has in his head), I went with something a little more practical.

I have a feeling that I still might spin more than I would like to though.  Over the course of six hours, it might be okay.  I’ll probably regret it, but that’s how it is when you ride a single speed. 

“Run what you brung”, the old adage goes.

It will probably just make me angry, like all the rest of the single speeders.

I hope those Lowcountry people are ready for us hillbilly folk.

And I hope I’m ready for six hours on a rigid single speed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Keepin’ It Local

Sorry, but I’m going back a couple of days for this one.

In addition to a fun day on the bikes last Saturday, we spent a little bit of time in a couple of local shops.  On the way up to ride, we hopped off the interstate to pay a visit to The Cycle Path.  We all bought a few things to support the local economy (and Mark’s rocket habit), but for some reason I couldn’t take my eyes off the jar of Stan’s boogers.

Anyway, after our ride, we decided to pay a visit to our friend Jeff, owner of First Flight Bikes in historic downtown Statesville (right around the corner from Signal Hill.) 

Yeah, I’ve been there before, but that place is always worth a visit if you’re in the area because it’s also home to the Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology.

Go check out the website, since I’ve already explained what it is in previous posts.

A few things have changed around there, so I got some new photos.  There’s all kinds of neat bike stuff to see.

Even if you visit there often, you’ll always see something you’ve never seen before.  On the way upstairs, a sticker strategically placed on the wall caught my eye.

The Beard and Mustache Club of NC?  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  Turns out that they are a thriving organization here in North Carolina that wants you to join them to “educate and empower the bearded, mustached, and those who appreciate facial hair.”

How awesome is that?

Way too awesome.  Maybe I should sign up.

Anyway, if you’re in the area, stop by to check out one of the most unique shops around.  You can show up with or without facial hair, but you should most definitely bring beer.

They even have some new southern glassware for you to pour it into.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I haven’t talked about a group ride in a while because well, we haven’t had one.  Our regular Tuesday night excursions at North Meck have been cancelled due to rain for the last few weeks, and I though our next one would be too. 

In a effort to be more social, I’ve decided to try to keep our Tuesday night rides going throughout the year, and although we won’t be night riding anymore because of the time change, we will still get out to ride after work.  We started to rotate the rides around to different area trails, with our next stop being Colonel Francis Beatty Park in Matthews, NC.

A storm blew through the night before, and since we respect our trails enough not to ride them wet, I kept hearing chatter about the ride being cancelled.  I got a chance to sneak out during lunch and check the trail conditions, and with a little wind and a warm sun the trail was in prime condition.

The ride was on.

We had a good group that met in the parking lot, including regulars TomTom, Good Guy Greg, Eastwood, and a few new faces.  The ride was super social, and we stood around a lot talking at different places all over the trail.  We even took the time to play on some of the new features out there.

These photos are blurry, yes.  These guys were hauling ass.

While we didn’t get in a ton of mileage, we still had a great time.  In today’s Strava-filled cycling world, getting together to ride and shoot the shit with fellow mountain bikers is a welcome change. 

And that’s what I was talking about by having more fun on the bike.  Screw that boring ass training crap.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Off The Beaten Path

Since I knew I was skipping a race on Sunday, Saturday was gonna be all about fun.  Me, Good Guy Greg, and TomTom all wanted to have a fun ride, and we really didn’t feel like going too far out of town.  So, we all headed up to Statesville, NC to ride a place we’ve never been before:

Signal Hill

Don’t worry, I’m not a sex offender.  It was okay for me to be there.

At only around five miles long, we knew we weren’t in for an epic ride (that word is used to freaking much anyway.)  I flipped a coin that morning before I left the house, and fate decided that I should bring my geared bike for some reason.  Armed with way too many gears and plush suspension, we took off to explore a trail that I’ve been told by many that I should ride.

There were some of unique features there.

Not far into the first lap, we stumbled upon a pump track like no other in the area.  There were berms as far as the eye (or at least my camera) could see.

We all rode around there for quite a while because it was uh, fun.  I had almost forgotten how much fun it could be to ride a bike.

TomTom didn’t forget though.

And neither did Good Guy Greg.

We eventually said goodbye to the pump track and got back on the trail.  It was fast in spots, tight and twisty in others, and just downright fun.  We saw rocks aplenty, big wooden features, and other assorted shit.

Literally, I guess.

The features weren’t too difficult, but the fun factor was there for sure.

I don’t remember a huge amount of climbing, but it took us forever to get through that first lap because we stopped so much to explore everything.  That place was sorta like the little brother of my local favorite, Backyard Trail.  We got back to the parking lot and took a faster lap, and this time we knew what we were in for.  That made it even more fun.

While it was a pretty good ways up yonder from where I live, it was definitely worth the trip.  I sorta regret not riding it sooner, but I’ll be sure to make up for it in the future.  Skipping a Sunday cross country race to have fun did wonders for me mentally, so look for more of that as the “season” goes on.  Sure, I’ll still do a few XC races here and there, but only if I deem them “fun.”

For now, I’m sorta semi-retired from racing.  Well, until this weekend.

I’ll get into that later in the week, as well as the rest of our day on Saturday.  You won’t want to miss it. 

Well, maybe you will.  Whatever.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Racing Is Fun

Especially when I’m not the one doing it.

Instead of driving halfway across the state to "race" yesterday, I decided to head up to Fisher Farm up in Davidson, NC to help out at race number one of the Charlotte Youth Cycling League.  This is a local kids only series that promotes fun over lap times, and it just what I needed to be a part of after getting burned out on my own racing.  These little kids come from varied cycling backgrounds, and just seeing them out there giving it all they had was something really fun to watch.

It was really cool to be out on the course cheering for the kids (we were out there in case they needed help too), and more cowbell was always welcome.

Even the tiniest kids were getting in on the action:

After the race, food was provided:

Thanks to locals shops The Cycle Path and  Queen City Bicycles for being a part of this.

Afterwards, Mark (from The Cycle Path) even treated the kids to a rocket launch.

See, you don’t have to be a kid to have fun.  As a matter of fact, you don’t have to race to have fun.  But, these kids raced, and they all looked like they were having a blast.  Mountain biking is difficult, but these kids didn’t let that get in the way of a good time.

I’m so glad I skipped “my” race yesterday.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Last Year Was Sorta Fun

So I should be looking forward to having a fun race this weekend.  You know, I have a chance to take third place three years in a row.

The second race in the Southern Classic Series is this Sunday, which in reality should be my first race in the series this year.  But, I don't wanna go.

"Why?  Don't you want to race against all the sandbagging clydesdales or the cat1 "I ride a single speed because people think it's cool" single speeders?"

My "season" hasn't even officially started yet, and already I'm burned out on cross country racing.  I ride bikes for fun, and I realized that racing against a bunch of serious people every weekend isn't very much fun. I'll probably do a couple of cross country races (even in this series) here and there, but I won't be doing the whole thing like I did the last two years.  It wore me the hell out, and I told myself I won't do that again.

Instead, I'll find some other things to do.  You know, like actually riding on Saturdays with everyone.  In the past, I would take Saturday off because "I had a race on Sunday."  I missed out on some perfect riding days because of this, and that shit won't happen again.  I also plan to do a few more endurance races (which are way more fun than XC), starting with one next weekend.

More on that next week.

For now, I'm gonna go have some fun.

Fuck yeah.