Monday, September 8, 2008
Psycho Cross Shakedown
Rich aka Chet aka Phil and I recently built up a couple cross bikes and needed a little shakedown ride to make sure things were tight. DKEG comes up with a little route inspired by RiderX's famed 1903 rides with one small exception......rocks.....lots of freaking rocks!
Phil exceeded what I'm sure Ellsworth had in mind when they created his pure CX race thoroughbred. A sexy mix of aluminum and carbon with canti brakes and no braze-ons for water bottles, his bike was made for the grassy knolls of traditional cross racing. I opted for a more utilitarian (read cheaper) steel steed and Salsa's La Cruz disk specific cross frame and fork. The La Cruz is a bit more of a "jack of all trades" bike and really exceeded my expectations during our ride. Both our bikes were spec'd with Shimano's Ultegra SL group that blew my mind with uber crisp shifting throughout the entire ride, even when the trails took a turn for the rocky. I was also happy to have the non-UCI-compliant disk brakes providing the stopping power. I always knew I could stop on a dime, if needed, and I needed that power a few times during the ride.
On the initial descent into the valley Phil got a little loose on a sweeping right turn and spun the bike around 180 degrees......at 35 mph! Not wanting to have to explain things to his wife I encourage him to go "a little easier", we still have 30+ miles left on the planned route and I don't want to spend my day in the emergency room. He smiles and takes off on the next steep section. Personally I think he just didn't like the squeal his canti's was producing, so, he didn't use them. At the reservoir we take a hard left and begin the first climb of the day. The previous days rain settled the dust on the gravel road and gave the mountain streams plenty of water to cascade down the mountain. This has to be on of the most spectacular sections of "road" in the Shed and the day was shaping up to be near perfect.
After a good bit of climbing we get to the first section of single track and the "trail of tears". Things were a little sketchy at first as I had to get accustomed to the skinny 32's on this wet and rocky climb. Finding the right balance the La Cruz carried me up the hill with a sure-footed confidence that put an instant smile on my face. Even the wet log piles that required negotiating could do little to dissuade the bike from achieving its goal and the top of the climb. We bomb down the ridge and picked up Salamander at the over-look. This section produced some of the biggest grins and almost uncontrollable giggles as the narrow small blocks tackled the technical rock sections with aplomb.
Off Salamander we road it for a little until the "gold-fish pond". Back on the dirt we take the trails to and around Sandflats, a short section of Blue and then the "golfball" connector trail over to DeLauter and Five Points. At this point we begin RiderX's traditional 1903 route and some incredible gravel/country roads through Frederick. The gravel of Rum Springs gave way to the asphalt of Highland School and our max speed of the day @ 54 mph. That was a screamer! Quick left on Wolfsville and then a right on Meetinghouse. We re-group and take in some calories that will be needed for the next series of climbs. Up Meetinghouse and then the steep and loose Wildcat. Right turn on Wolfsville for a little road section, left on Spruce and a quick left back to the gravel and Hayes. This was a nasty bit of "road" that was long, steep and rutted in several sections. Right turn on Stottlemeyer and an extended road climb. I can't remember the name to the next road, but, we stopped, refueled and took it over to Tower. At this point we were on our way back towards our starting point and felt we had spent enough time on the road. Our tires required some dirt and the Blue trail off DeLauter was happy to oblige. Phil got the first of our only two flats on the road and then the second one a little while later after a nasty rock garden on Blue. We all agree the descent down Blue sucks and decide to give the "tricky trail" a shot on our skinny tires. This is a section of trail that gives pause to many people when running full blown mountain bikes and we hit it with our cross bikes. It was kinda ridiculous and amusing at the same time. With the exception of one small ledge drop I clean the whole trail including the rock slab drop back onto Blue. It was here I was extremely happy to have the stopping power of the disk breaks. I set up quickly and hope to catch DKEG and Phil as they negotiate the slab. David looked good at first, but, didn't get enough weight over his rear wheel and did a flying superman OTB, hits the ground and then his bike lands on top of him, just to add insult to injury. He doesn't get seriously hurt and even threw his arms in the air like a gymnast upon a successful dismount. Phil looked good the whole way and rolled the slab like the seasoned pro he is. From there we climbed up Buck Flats trail and back to the car.
The La Cruz put a smile on my face from the moment I threw a leg over her and kept it there throughout the day. She didn't complain once as I asked her to take on trails the engineers never thought she would see. 32 miles, 4300 feet of climbing and lots of big honking rocks. Damn, I LOVE my new bike!!