Monday, November 29, 2010

Somehow, I missed the turn on my way back from NJ and never found this track. I'll find it and ride it next time for sure.

Taneytown CX, the Turkey Chase

The MABRA cross series came to an end at the Turkey Chase in Taneytown this past Sunday.  I was glad I signed up for the race this year and even happier once I rode the course. It was a lot of fun.

Hosted by TEAM Fuji at the Taneytown Memorial Park, the venue made use of every square inch of the park and then some. The pancake flat terrain was very deceiving and the course designers threw in a number of twists, turns, off-camber hills and one run-up to keep us on our toes and working hard around the entire course.  This was another race that didn't cater to any particular style of rider and had something for everyone. The dry weather limited the amount of mud we encountered, but, there was more of it here than at any other venue I've visited this season.  Sadly, we won't have an epic cross race like the one we had at the Capitol Classic last year. Mud, snow and ice were not on tap and we raced under sunny skies and brisk Autumn temperatures.

Call-ups moved a few guys forward and the rest of us back a little. The pack was dense, but, I picked the outside line and that helped as we went into the first set of turns.  I was on the right side (lower line) of the first off-camber hill and that helped move me ahead of some guys that tried to stay high. An inside line got me to the next section in good position and I picked through the crowd when the opportunity presented itself. The main group got strung out pretty quickly and it was hard to ride most sections in a pack. Single file through the tight turns, jump on the gas and pass before the next turn. There were a few open power sections to pass or get passed and I tried to limit any losses in these areas. I'd close down the gaps when the course became technical and hoped the guy in front would crack or bobble. I was running 15th on the second lap and was at the tail end of the lead pack. The second pack was about 10-15 seconds back from us and loosing ground as the race progressed.

On the third lap a rider took a bad line, went into the fence and took out the two guys behind him. I tried to sneak by on the inside line and got knocked down as one of the riders picked his way out of the mess. Everyone recovered quickly and I moved up a couple spots in the process. The lead rider slid out at the bottom of the off-camber run-up and I had to lock my brakes to keep from running into him. That sent me down and into the tape. We both recovered (again) and got to work on the next technical section before the road section and the timing table. We both gunned it on the road and were jockeying for position on the bell lap. He held his lead and I held his wheel. I managed to pass on the back side of the warehouses and he puled ahead near the ball fields. It was a good battle. We opened the gap on the chase group and had a few guys within striking distance ahead. Bill was one of these guys and he lost a few spots in some altercation a little earlier as well. They caught wind of our challenge, kicked it into high gear and effectively shut down our attack. Crossing the line, I was 11th overall for the Masters B race and 5th (again) for my age group. The top 3 overall finishers were in the 45+ age group as well. There are some pretty damn fast old(er) guys at these races.

Like Rockburn, I had a LOT of time to kill before the tandem race at 4pm. I passed the time the same way I did 2 weeks ago with a couple beers, talking with friends and taking some pics of the other races. Cyber Monday seems to be slowing down the internet, so, I'll post those pics a little later. The extra time did give me a chance to re-dish & true the rear wheel on the tandem, adjust the brakes, tension the timing chain and give her a proper look-over. The borrowed C'Dale was ready for her final cross race of 2010, possibly forever.   

David was not at the morning race. He decided to sleep in and met me for the tandem race late in the afternoon. That meant my stoker would have fresh legs for our challenge against Padam,  the reigning tandem masters. We rode around to warm the legs while the Elite guys raced. There were a lot of tandems rolling around the park and it appeared there would be some kids out there as stokers. A very cool thing to see. We lined up on the front row and were a little bummed to see the Kelly team of Connolly-Shiao (KBS/LSV) missing from the race. However, the Tom Tom club was there as was the AFC team of Blair-Driscoll. We got the hole shot and actually held the lead a little longer this time. As expected (I am a realist) Padam passed us and we went into chase mode. We were able to keep the gap a little smaller this time and even closed it a few times during the race. At one point we were right on their wheel with only a few turns left in the race. I can only assume they were toying with us, because they blew our doors off once we hit the road on the bell lap. The Tom Tom club was slowly moving up on us throughout the race and at one point I was concerned we didn't have enough course left to counter their advance. Once we hit the technical sections, we were able to put those fears to rest and could focus all our attention on the leaders. As we crossed the line, we looked back to see how far back the Tom Tom team was.  Oddly, they were not behind us. One of the teams with a junior rider was in the third position, followed by another team with a junior rider. Off in the distance, we could see the Tom's stoker off the bike and pushing, as he has done in several other races. Mechanicals have plagued them throughout the series and kept them off the podium once again.  However, this being tandem cross, everyone is a winner and they scored a nice bag of premium coffee beans. We got a water bottle. I guess we'll have to assign alternating weeks to share it. Hmmm........

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rockburn Cross

Another weekend of double dipping and the dipping was good.  Took the kids up to Chambersburg and rode the pump track with Larry and Oliver on Saturday. Then, spent Sunday in Howard County on skinny tires riding around in circles.

I'll get to the pump track session tomorrow, maybe. Right now I'd better focus on Rockburn while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind. David and I strolled up to Rockburn for the second day of the HoCo 2x CX races. Schooley Mill was on Saturday and while registered, I couldn't race.  So, I double dipped (again) on Sunday and did the Masters B race at 10am and then the Tandumb race with DKEG at 4pm.  It's a hellava long wait between the two races, but, it was worth it.  Early registration got me on the 3rd row of the Masters B race (3/4 35+&45+) and in a great starting position. It was a pretty full race with a lot of guys fighting hard for position.  I went off fast and hoped to get into a lead pack early in the race. The competition was tough and everyone else had the same idea. We went up the road section in a fairly large group, guys were rubbing elbows and jockeying for position all the way around the first half of the course. One guy tried to force an inside pass and he went into the tape when I held my line. Another guy tried to force a pass and we locked handlebars for a moment. My front wheel came off the ground and I thought I was a goner.  The bikes unlocked and we kept riding only to be sent into a pole and the tape 100 yards further up.  I went down that time and lost a couple spots. We were maybe half way around the first lap. It was going to be a physical race to be sure.

I ran through the sand pit and made up a spot on the inside corner. My transition was smooth and I was back up to speed quickly. A little straight-a-way and a hard left into the single track. Some roots on the high speed turns meant you had to check your speed, but, I was able to carry momentum and open up some gaps in this area.  The little climbs hurt me a bit and the geared riders were able to make up ground in these areas. Still, the legs felt good and I kept the intensity as high as possible.  By the time the second lap rolled around the field had spread out and you could ride your race without too much interference.  I really enjoyed the course this year. Last year I liked it, but, being new to cross I don't think I rode it well. Hell, I KNOW I didn't ride it well. This year was different. The tires were perfect, I had the right gear and everything just clicked. A nice semi-technical course that played to both types of racers. Power sections for the big engines and twisty, off-chamber turns for the technical weenies like myself.  There was something for everyone here.

The next couple laps were simply trying to ride smart and push as hard as the legs would allow. I bobbled a turn or two next to the tennis courts, but, nothing too bad. I guess it was my third or forth lap I decided to ride the sand pit. Many tires had packed a good line and riding was much easier now. I believe it was on this lap that Bill caught me and never looked back. He had a great race out there and I just hope to make the highlight reel, as he was passing me. Prior to this I was in something of a "no mans lands" with no one within attacking distance, either in front or behind. I had become complacent and I let up a little too much on that lap.  Shell shocked, I couldn't mount a decent counter-attack and watched him slowly ride away.
Bell lap was all about riding smart and not giving up any spots. I was able to do both. I found just enough extra kick that I was able to open the gap on a rider who had been breathing down my neck a littler earlier. He faded off the back and I drove hard through the final sections of the course.  Near the tennis courts I looked back to see my gap had increased a few more seconds and I knew unless something catastrophic occurred, I could soft peddle to the finish.  Rolling in I was 13th in the Masters B race and 5th in my age group.

The tandem race came next, well, not actually next, more like 5 hours later. So, I had a lot of time to kill and tried to limit my beer consumption while I whittled away the afternoon. I later found out I cracked a beer while standing next to the parks liaison that help organize the race. Apparently he just shook his head as he walked away and I was just blissfully unaware of the entire situation.  Oops. Where was I? Right, 5 hours to kill. I watched the Little Belgium's race, the junior's, the women's race, 3/4 mens, 1/2/3 men's, got a portobello  mushroom sandwich and fries (which were tasty), took a few race pics and laid out in a warm Autumn sun for a bit. Nice way to kill a few hours.

As the sun tracked across the sky, the temps dropped and we started to get ready for the tandumb race. David and I rode the bike around the roads and on some grass. We practiced a dis-mount and adjusted David's seat.  We were ready and lined up on the front row.  Nice piece of real estate we had there.  The Elite guys had just finished and we were waiting on the AFC team of Padem. Dressed as Mario and Luigi, they made a dramatic entry on the back of a Gator. Another couple was dressed as Santa and his elf. They would later get the best costume award. David and I hit the gas hard off the line, grabbed the hole shot and were beating the reigning MABRA tandem leaders...for about 15 seconds.  They passed us on the first turn and continued to open the gap. Still, we had them even if it was only for a fleeting moment.  We did, however, ride strong and held second place for lap 1 with both the Kelley squad and Tom Tom club close behind. By lap 2 Padam was just a distant speck on the horizon and a team from Kelly Benefits was knocking on our door.  David threw an elbow or two, so I'm told, and was able to thwart their first attack (I hope they know he was just messin' with them). They did eventually pass us and we passed them again.   All in all, I think we swapped positions a few times on lap 2 and the first half of the bell lap. Then, on the far side of the course, they dropped the hammer and slowly pulled away from us.  While this happening, I could see one of the AFC guys riding with one leg. I guess they decided to tie a leg behind their back to make things interesting.  So, the Kelly guys, with their aero-dynamic advantage, pulled away and we tried to close the gap. They put pressure the AFC team and were only a few seconds back going into the last few turns. It was probably one of the closer tandem races we have seen in the series thus far.  David and I were able to keep it together and rode a bit smoother on that last lap. We kept the pressure up and that got us on the podium with a solid 3rd place.  I guess 5 hours of "rest" helped us out after-all.  Tanytown, the MABRA championship,  is next week and we will be looking for a rematch against that Kelly team AND their time-trial helmet.
Photo by Baler
Photo by Baler

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tacchino Ciclocross 2010

My weekend could be summed up in two words, Bicycling Nirvana.  The Bootlegger's Bliss on Saturday followed by a full day at Roseryville and the Tacchino Ciclocross on Sunday.

One year ago Sunday, I did my first "traditional" cross race at the Tacchino, presented by Squadra Coppi.  I had done the Iron Cross a few times, but, that hardly counts as a traditional cross race, in the modern sense. Some would argue the IC is, in fact, a real cross race and what passes for cross now is some sort of watered down version of a once "manly" endeavor.  All I know is it's fun, all of it.  But, I digress.

The Tacchino kicks ass, plain and simple.  Jim and the whole Coppi squad put on a great event and they really kicked it up a notch this year.  Back for the 2010 edition was the incredible course, the tasty beer, sausages, and a live funk band. All that would have been fine for me, but not one to rest on his laurels, Jim kicked it up a notch with better beer, a better course, better swag from the generous sponsors, cool prizes, a Single Speed class, a tandem class (stolen from a stolen idea) AND a moon bounce.  Hell, they even got a horse to run along the course during one of the races.  How's that for a party?!
Photo by RickyD & Jojo
My first race went off at 11am with the "Super B's". They threw all us Single Speed guys in with that motley crew in hopes to give the race a little class and distinction.  It was hard work, but, I think we pulled if off.  One gear love, that's all you need.  There was a little confusion with my number as the registration guys gave it away to someone else. Then they tried to hand me a number that would have me lining up on the back row.  I protested, they told me to chill and Jim stepped in to make things right.  Unfortunately the line judges didn't like 9 guys on one grid and we had to shuffle. Guys looked at me to move back and I told them to piss off. Not my fault someone else can't read a name properly. I held my ground and DKEG took the bullet. He moved back a row or two so I could maintain my third row position. I owe that boy a beer.
Photo by RickyD & Jojo
At the whistle I get to work and make my way up a few spots. Halfway through the first lap I think I'm going to die and loose those spots to some geared riders. Somewhere on lap 2 my legs settle in and I pass an AFC rider who was looking strong on lap 1. I give him some encouragement and think he's done for the race.  A few minutes later he blast pass me like I was standing still. Maybe I should encourage myself like that once in a while.  I try to close the gap, but, he keeps opening it up.  Cargo Mike is now closing in on me. He's been working his way up through the pack and I'm next on his list, apparently.  I ask for a little more from the legs, they refuse.  Mike catches me as we start lap 3 and he's riding strong. I am able to muster a little something and hang on his wheel for most of the lap. No one is challenging us and we have clear sailing ahead. Lap 4 comes and Mike fades a bit, I moved ahead briefly and then he attacks and passes once again. On the far side of the course I stuff my wheel in an off-chamber turn and go down. Mike calls back for me to move my ass and I'm back on trying to make up the time. I close the gap a little, but, he still had more in his tank than me. We cross the line 3rd and 4th with two AFC riders in front.  That was a good race.

My brother Keith shows up with my kids and his daughter.  I have already registered the kids for the Lil Belgium's race at 1 and we have some time for a beer or two.  Tood, Anne and the whole Bike Lane crew rolled out the welcome mat and we enjoy some of their fine hospitality. Back at the kids course, Jonathan was doing laps while the others worked off their energy in the moon bounce. They lined up the kids according to age and had 3 separate races to keep things fun.  Jackie lined up with the other "training wheels" and they were behind the "skoot" bikes.  1 lap for the littlest of the Lil Belgium's and they all got medals and goodie bags. David's boy Will went with the next group and he was really racing hard. They went for 2 laps.  Jonathan Lined up with the 8+ year olds and that group included his cousin Jenna and Jake, David's oldest boy.  He had a smile on his face the entire time. At one point he stopped on the course to see if the kids behind him were "alright".  Seeing as he was near the back of the pack I told him they were fine and he should keep riding.  He finished the same way he started, with a huge smile. Not bad for a kid who didn't want to race.  Medals and more goodie bags for all.

After their races, David and I had to get to work on the tandem.  It needed some new tires, the old gum walls were looking a bit dry rotted and a swap was in order. We also needed to install some pedals and remove the bar ends. Some lube on that 20 feet of chain wouldn't hurt either.  Prepped and ready we take it out for a little spin.  Considering I had just borrowed the bike the day before and neither of us had ridden one together, we needed a little practice.  We tried some mounts, dis-mounts, rolling beer hand-ups, you know, the usual sort of stuff.  Armed with 15 minutes of saddle time on a tandem we acquire the day before, we were ready to race!
Photo by RickyD & Jojo
JoeP and RickyD were fashionably dressed as Piglet and Tigger, respectively. Anne and Andrew from the Bike Lane went as a gorilla and a banana. It was pretty comical. There were 15 tandem crews lined up and some heavy hitters again. The AFC team and DCCX tandem wining team of Padam was there. The Tom Tom Club, Jonathan of Family Bikes, a couple Kelley Benefits teams and a few others.  David and I got to the staging area a little late and had to line up on the back row.  That's a lotta people on big ass bikes to have to navigate through.  Somehow, with all 15 minutes of preparation, we managed to screw up our start and and almost fell off of bike. Righted, we were underway and catching teams quickly. David was a great stoker and we worked well together as we picked off the low hanging fruit.  Ricky and Joe, no problem. I think they owe DC Tony $50 bucks on some sucker bet that they could beat us. Ha!  Next was the gorilla and banana, bamm...done.  Now we had some serious riders clad in Lycra, not funny costumes. A few of those went down on that first lap as well.  We rode the big hill, we rode the log barriers we carried over the regular barriers.  We drove hard into the turns and the bike handled great.  Tandem is addicting and we were having fun. The kids were out on the side of the course cheering us on and it was nice to have them there. We threw out a couple "high fives" on lap 2 and were ready for one more. Alas, the promoters thought were we having too much fun, probably wanted to get to the heavy drinking or were simply cold, they stopped us after 2. 1 more wouldn't have changed our position, but, it sure would have been fun. 5th place will have to do... for now. We'll have our revenge at Rockburn on the 21st.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

DCCX 2010

Now that was my kind of course. DCMTB & Family Bike's teamed up again to bring the latest edition of this popular race. Some refer to it as the "Queen" of the MABRA series and I can certainly see why.  Held on the campus of the Armed Services Retirement Home in DC, this race saw large fields, a huge spectator gallery and some new categories.

The gang at DCMTB designed the course and it was well suited for those of us from the fat tire crowd. Very punchy course with lots of tight, twisty, technical turns and very few wide open "power" sections. Personally, I like that type of course. It levels the playing field and let's us dirty mountain-bikers have some fun.  I didn't do the race last year, but, I heard they removed a long power section on the far side of the course.  With only one gear, competing against guys with many, I was glad to hear of its removal. I was probably a little under-geared for the race (still had my Iron Cross gear), but, I didn't have time to change it and had to run what I brung. Even with my early registration, I was several rows back and had some people to pass if I wanted to do well. With a good warm-up, I hit it hard at the start and tried to pass as many people on the road section as possible, before things got jammed up on the course. I moved up quickly, found a good position and tried to settle in for the next 45 minutes.  The legs felt great, my tires were holding the line and I was having fun out on that technical course.

Rubbing is racing and there was no shortage of racing. I almost got forced into a tree on one turn and was shut down once entering a run-up. Of course there was the usual "shoulder to shoulder" action in a number of turns. That's the kind of stuff I live for and apparently a lot of other guys feel the same way.  Some really great competition without any attitude.  Just a bunch of guys turning themselves inside-out on a beautiful Sunday morning.

Being fairly new to Cross, I learn something new with each and every race. Today's lesson: There is no recovery if you want to do well. You pin it and keep it pinned until you cross the finish or explode, whichever comes first. Every time I tried to ease back the throttle, I'd hear the guy behind me make up some ground or the guy in front open the gap a little.  As long as the legs would allow, I pushed them as hard as I could.  My lesson paid off with my best results to date. 18th over-all in the Master 35/45+ B race with a 4th place in my age group (guys with gray hair).

That was the first of two races for me that day and the next race was a dedicated Single Speed category. I'm glad to see the race promoters adding the SS Cat to the races, I just wish it wasn't 5 hours after my first race. Especially when consider Dogfish Head is one of the sponsors and primary supplier of all things hoppy.  I tried to be good, I mixed equal parts 60 minute with equal parts H20, not together mind you ,but, in close proximity.  My good friends at the Bike Lane let me hang out in their pit and I was able to get additional hydration in the form of some Michelob Ultra. If it's good enough for Lance.......

Anyway, so the family shows up in the afternoon and we got to watch the ladies race and then the fast guys.  Jackie had an endless supply of lollipops and had to pee every 4.5 minutes. So, if you saw a guy holding the hand of a 4 year old in front of the porta-potti's and it looked like he was ALWAYS there, it was me....and Jackie.  Eventually it was time for me to kit up and prepare for my second race, the single speed class. Even after my long break, the legs felt a little dead. Not completely shot, but, the snap was gone.  There were a number of guys from the 1/2/3 race lined up and a few guys with fresh legs who were there solely for the SS race. Cargo Mike, DC Tony, DKEG, Seibold, Wheaton and Foley, to name a few, were on the line and it was great to be racing with these guys again.  Someone mentioned a 3 lap prologue and there were several guys that thought that was a great idea, in theory. I guess no one took him seriously because they all hit it hard from the start. Neiters jumped out front, after just finishing the A race, and left a few of us in a cloud of dust, literally.  Cargo Mike dropped his chain at some point and was able to get back in the game pretty quickly.  DC Tony took off and his silhouette became smaller as the race progressed.  My legs just were not in the hunt and I bobbled on a few of the run-ups. I was able to hold a few guys off, but, it wasn't the race I had run earlier. I managed 10th and I should be happy considering the competition.

One highlight, and another first for the race, was the tandem competition.  This was the final race of the day and was wildly entertaining. Throw some of the best local cross racers on a bike built for two and how could be anything else?  Driscoll & Blair from the AFC team, Neiters & Dombrowski from Haymarket, the Tom Tom Club of O'Donnell & Bartlett, the Klasmeier's, Biggs & a few more. Run-ups, twisty turns and a few bikes caught air.  It was a spectacle I was glad I caught. DKEG and I are already keeping our eyes open for a bike, er tandem.  Look out DCCX 2011!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Pulled this off Jim's blog.  Incredible display of power and skill.  Just sick.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ed Sanders @ the Lily Ponds

Cross season officially kicked off for me at the Ed Sanders memorial cross race Sunday morning. I got home from the Beer Run around 7:30 and didn't have much time to dick around before picking up DKEG and heading to the race.  Fortunately, I knew Saturday might be a long night and I had the bike and gear ready to roll for the race.  Quick cuppa joe and a shower helped to clear some of the cobwebs and I was off...again.

The venue is a cool water garden/nursery with numerous ponds and you guessed it, lily pads.  Coming back from PA I drove through some heavy rain and was looking forward to a nice, wet & muddy race.  That's what cross is all about, right?  We drove through some light rain on our way up there, however, it stopped before the 9am race.  With the exception of some damp grass in a few (very few) places, you'd never know it rained.  Much of the course was dry and dusty and could have used a little more rain, just to be tacky.  I geared the bike in anticipation for some mud bogs and probably could have used those teeth out on this fast track.  However, I knew I would be staged WAY in the back of a large field, 110 registered racers to be exact.  Only 98 of those people actually showed up that morning, but, I was still pretty deep in a very competitive class.  Today was going to be about improving my passing skills....and not puking on anyone.

As usual, I tried to hit it hard at the start and gain a few positions.  Tough to do when there are so many guys, but, I got a couple in the opening straight-away.  From there it was all about finding a hole and jumping in it.  I felt surprisingly good, considering, and was looking for my tempo.  About mid-way through the second lap my seat starts to move and slowly slides all the way down until it bottoms out.  Well shit, that sucks.  Nothing major, but, I'm not getting any extension in my legs and this is not the most efficient position to be in.  Riding out of the saddle for 3 more laps is not really an option, so, I just deal with it as best as possible.  The long, flat gravel sections kill me and my legs burn as they grind from this compacted position.  The good news is my gear choice helps with several of the steep hills encountered and I only run up one, which is a mandatory run-up anyway. 

It was on the second lap I saw a rider down on the side, not looking very good.  A number of people were on site to direct people to the side and keep the injured out of harms way. Well, any more harm that is.  I later read that he may have broken his neck and the race volunteers continue to re-direct racers for the remaining laps. Apparently he tried to cut a corner a little too short and stuffed his wheel in nice sized hole.  I wish him a speedy recovery.
Update:  I just read the rider did not suffer a broken neck. He got banged up pretty badly and is in a neck brace, but, nothing is broken.  I'm glad to hear this.

With my elfish seat height I rolled along for 3 more laps. It was damn near impossible to push hard on the flat sections and I lost time here with each lap.  I would get passed and then make up those spots once the course got technical again.  Unfortunately, it was a fast course and straight-line speed was more important than technical ability.  I finished mid-pack at 39th and 11th in my age group, meh...

Later that night I was sitting in front of my computer waiting for the registration to open on 3 more races. Hitting the refresh button in my browser every few seconds.  Start position is everything in these short races and the race to registration is just as important as anything you do out on the course.  Learning to play the game, one race at a time.

Anaerobic Assault (aka. Beer Runs)

The Tractor hosted another Beer Run Saturday night.  We staged from Bucks "Love Shack" and rolled over to the top of Scientology. This was the hill that crushed my will to live at The Curse of Dark Hollow and gave me my first DNF.  Fortunately, we were going down and I thought all I had to do was hang on and hit the brakes once in a while. Well, there was a bit more pedaling involved and the 1 minute start intervals meant you never knew how close you were to the person in front or how closely you were being chased.  Only thing to do is gun it from the start and keep the needle pinned the entire time. This hurts when your legs are stone cold, you just finished a turkey and bacon sandwich and washed it down with an IPA at the top of the run.

I blew a couple turns that came up alarmingly fast and took out a shrub or two. I was, however, was able to keep the rubber side down and not t-bone any trees.  That's a good thing considering the lack of oxygen impaired my ability to think rationally and see clearly.  17 minutes (or so) later we were down at the bottom, cracked another beer and waited for the remaining riders.  One more beverage for the climb back up to the Love Shack and then the drinking got serious.  Brett and Donna brought 4 kinds of homemade sausage and tossed them on the grill.  A clear sky and harvest moon made for a great night under the stars.  I was going to hang the hammock, but, decided to simply racked out in my car for a few hours. Rolled out around 6 as I had to get back home and prepare for the Ed Sanders cross race at 10. Good stuff.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Redemption at Teaberry

I never posted a race report from The Curse of Dark Hollow. I didn't think anyone would want to hear my whine like a little bitch. The Curse put a major smack-down on me and was the first race I ever DNF'd. Sucked. I'll just leave it at that.

A late season push to spend more time in the saddle and less time moving rock hasn't really panned out. Several projects have limited my time spinning the cranks, but, it's all good. Trying to find the balance in things. Dutchy tried to kill us on a road ride, a race at Schaeffer, some Psycho Cross, riding with the kids, plenty of rock crawling and that sums up the training regimen thus far. The Tractor even gave us a nice preview of the Teaberry loop a few weeks back. Chasing gunslingers through the woods on wet, slimy rocks is always fun.

So that's it, my fitness is adequate, not great, but, I can get through a ride. I skipped the SM100 this year and I sorta regretted not doing the race. Lots of friends, new and old, were there and it looked like a good weekend. If nothing else, it would have been good prep for Michaux. No, my final "big one" of the year was going to be Teaberry. "The hardest 40 miles in the forest" as the T-Shirt states. I knew what to expect and was going to ride a little smarter this time. Don't go out too fast, keep a sensible pace and try not to die.

The forecast didn't look good for race day. 50-60% chance of rain in the morning with possible thunderstorms. The forecasters were right on this time and I heard the first clap of thunder around 4am Sunday morning. Then, the sound of rain beating down on my roof. Shit, it's gonna be a wet one. Filled my belly with pancakes and bacon and decided it was all good. Just another day riding the sweet rocky goodness in Southy. Picked up DKEG and Jim and we headed north.

The mountain was socked in as we arrived, but, there was a lightness in everyone's attitude. Lots of smiles as everyone got ready to ride. We set up our pit, got prepped and had time to socialize before the start. A short beer to get in the mood and then the pre-race meeting. Another Le-Mans start and I line up a little further back than last time. Trying to keep myself honest this time. Bang, and we are off running.

A little longer run than The Curse and we are back at the bikes. Rolling, I settle in with a nice pace and find my place in the pack. They give us some open, flowy trail to warm our legs and a few guys comment about the fast trails. "Give it time" I tell them. The beat-down is coming up. Buchness is riding at a nice pace and I settle in around him. A Gettysburg rider is with us and a single speeder from Harrisburg. It's a good group. We pass Roger Masse on a descent. He dropped is seat bag and went back to find it. A few people have already pulled over with flats. It's going to be a long day, gotta ride smart.

Southern Gas was a blast. My first time on that trail and I really enjoyed the narrow "bench" sections. Rocks are typical on a Tractor trail and this one was no exception. Next was Mackey, then Virginia or maybe the other way around. Tough stuff, but, worth the price of admission....and then some. I didn't hit it fast, but, the tires held nicely and I rode a lot of wet rock I thought I might be walking. Little victories for the taking and I savored each one as they happened. I was on the bike more than off and that was good enough for me.

photo by Tomi

Somewhere on Mackey, I come up on Nate. He's having some issues but says its under control. I roll on thinking he'll catch and pass me any minute. Unfortunately, his misfortune was worse than he led on. A solid ride by a hard man, I wish I could have helped more. A loose brake lever meant a quick pit for me and I dropped a couple spots in the process. Not sweating it, I'm back on and in pursuit...sorta. I'm not chasing people today, but, I catch them in the technical rocks and regain my position. I rolled into AS 2 and was fortunate enough to get the last cup of Gubna. That, and a couple cups of the other beer, was just what the doctor ordered and I was ready to keep the party rolling

Fireroads provided a little recovery from the single-track smack-down. I knew Stooges was ahead and suspected it would be our final climb to the finish. Most organizers might take it easy on the racers and send them up a fireroad. This, however, is Michaux and the Cupcakes play by their own set of rules. After we worked our way down into the valley and had some work ahead to get out of it. With all its wet roots, rocks and punchy climbs, Stooge's hurt and yet it rewarded you with some beautiful scenery. Tall pines, narrow bench and mountain streams let the mind relax as the legs screamed for mercy. I picked my way up this trail, soaking in the views, knowing we had made the turn and were headed home.

photo by Tomi

A little more fireroad climbing and then the final stretch of single-track before the finish. I heard we were using some of the beginner loop for this final section. At AS 2 a Gettysburg rider grumbled and said something like "that stuff sucks". The fireroad was nothing to write home about (they never are), but the single track was kinda fun. Fairly flat, a little bony and a tad faster made for a fun way to finish the race. You could drift through the muddy turns as you tried to avoid small baby heads, it was a blast. I knew I was getting close when I could smell the camp fires. Then, you'd hear a cheer, next was the glimpse of the tents poking through the woods. I rolled into the chute and ended my race the same way I started it, with a smile on my face. Travis and the Gettysburg crew sure know how to throw a party. They serve up a hearty meal, so, bring a big spoon and prepare to feast.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back On The Chain Gang aka. Gates Follow-Up #3

The second belt the good People from Gates sent me worked great for one race and a couple rides. Then, at some point, I compromise the carbon in that one as well. Maybe it was that stick that got sucked into the drive-train (not very badly I'll add) or maybe it was the large logs I like to hop or the rocks I ride over. Who knows. All I know is it's a mountain bike and things like sticks, logs and rocks will be encountered during the course of a ride. At least I would hope these things will be encountered, otherwise, I might as well just stick with skinny tires and asphalt.

I knew the system was failing on a ride at Raystown Lake PA.  RAYSTOWN LAKE of all places!  These are some of the smoothest, buffest trails on the East Coast.  They don't get much smoother. If a Carbon Belt can't handle the demands of this trail system, I can't think of any situation it can. I'll also add that a few people who know me all commented that if I couldn't get the system to work properly, no one can.  Not trying to boast, just stating comments made by  people who know me.

Road bike, Commuters, sure. I can see it working in these situations. Larger cogs means more contact area and you can probably run a little less tension than the high torque demands of a mountain bike.  The Carbon Drive System "should" be perfect for a single speed commuter. Internally gear hubs?  I don't know. I think the tension this system requires would toast an Alfine hub in short order.

So, I'm back on the chain gang.  I re-installed a roller pin drive train that had seen countless miles and numerous races. One that has had sticks jammed inside, rolled over logs and the seen the occasional rock strike. This old, "inferior" drive-train never complained as I grunted my way up rock strewn climbs before and it's not complaining now.  It hasn't popped or slipped once since going back on the bike.  It's nice to be able to focus on the trail again....and not my belt.

Photo by DKEG.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gates Belt Drive - A Follow Up

A post in April was about some great customer service I received from the folks at Gates.  One (brutal) race in Michaux and several rides later, I thought a follow-up on the new belt was in order.

Armed with my new belt, tension gauge & some good info from Steve @ Gates I installed the replacement belt a few days before the Michaux Maximus. I had a little "shake down" ride in the shed with the fellas and the new belt worked great.  The popping sound was gone and I could crank up a hill without fear. 

Then came the Maximus and the drive system worked flawlessly over the rocky trails in Michaux.  Part of me (a very small part) wanted to test out the belt drive in "less-than-optimal" conditions like last year. However, that was not to be for 2010 and the trails were dry and fast.

This past weekend I did an incredible ride at Rattling Creek in Lyken's Pa. and once again the belt worked great.  The system was subjected to very tight single track lined with rain soaked mountain laurel and blueberry.  Everything got wet quickly and stayed that way the entire ride.  A roller pinned chain would require a nice lube bath once home. Not the case with my Gates belt.  It was getting cleaned and lubed the entire time. 

Several recent rides have confirmed the new belt's reliability and over-all I'm pretty happy with the system.  My only complaint has more to do with frame design and how it accommodates the belt drive. With two drive-side spacers on the bottom bracket, the front chain-ring rides dangerously close to the chain-stays. I added an extra half width spacer to the drive-side to give the ring some extra breathing room.  This meant the BB cup has fewer threads in the shell and I've already stripped one Endura BB cup on this side. I have a beautiful Phil, with stainless steel cups, sitting at home and that will make its way onto the Spot soon enough. I just think that these sort of things should be taken into consideration during the frame design process. Again, no fault of the belt drive. It's just that frame builders need to do more than put a split into a stay when they build a belt-driven bicycle.  If the bike were from any other builder, I'd chalk it up as a rookie mistake.  However, as a pioneer and earlier adopter of the Gates belt drive, Spot really should have this stuff perfected by now. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Michaux Maximus

The Maximus was a very different race for me this year.  First, it looked like the course was going to be dryer and faster than last year. Second, it was going to be much hotter with summer like temps in the 90's.  Third, I decided to do the shorter, 20 mile race and miss out on the "good stuff" only found on the longer course.

One thing that didn't change this year was the number of flat tires.  Last year, the trail was lined with people changing out tubes and this year was no different. In fact, I'd say it was even worse.  It was for me.  After gunning it at the start, I found myself with the lead pack and headed into the single-track in great position.  We were zipping through the woods and I was feeling pretty good considering my lack of "training".  Topped out and riding along a ridge, the trail started it's first real descent down some of that rocky goodness know as Michaux.  Weaving through the rocks the smile quickly leaves my face as I hear the dreaded "whoosh" of air escaping from my rear tire.  The rocks have claimed another victim and the wind has been knocked out of my sails. It's mile 3 and I have a long day ahead of me.  The tube change went as well as can be expected. I will say the new dropouts are much nicer to deal with and make for easier tire repairs.  I get rolling again, however, I saw most of the SS class pass me as I tended to my wheel.  My work just got a little harder if I plan to salvage this race.

Knowing you have to play "catch-up" is a pretty crappy feeling under ideal conditions. In Michaux, it's down right nasty.  I was now riding outside my comfort zone, had a LOT of people to pass on tight single track and have already used the one spare tube I have for the day.  I had to ride aggressively AND smart at the same time.  I was on the hunt and working my way through the field.  One nice bonus was seeing so many friends out on the trail during the race. We'd chat for a second, find a good spot and I'd pass.  This went on for a while, but unfortunately, only a few were racing in the SS class. Then, I saw Aaron who fell victim to the rocks and was quickly repairing his tube as well.  I was starting to get concerned. 

Around this time a guy comes up from behind pretty fast. It's obvious he suffered a fate similar to mine and was trying to make up some time.  He passes and I see he is a SSer as well.  I assume he was in front of me when we hit the single track and was the leader for a brief period, before we both flatted. He's pushing hard and doesn't sound very good. His breathing is labored with a little wheezing mixed in for good measure.  I now have my carrot!  He is riding fast, but a little reckless.  I know if I can keep him in my sights my chances are good if it comes down to the wire. He bombs the descents like a wild man while I back it off a tad to save my tube.  I know I'll see him again once things level off, if not sooner.  Sure enough, around mile 14 I loose him briefly as we negotiate a fast, rock strewn descent.  Then, near the bottom, he's off to the side with a second blown tube and no spare. Without a spare of my own, I can't help him and press on.

I picked off a few more geared riders, but, I don't see anymore monocogs.  The miles are ticking down and I'm pretty sure I'm in 5th or 6th place.  Aside from a couple stragglers, I haven't passed many guys in my class and it appears the podium will have to wait for another day.  I make my way through a stream valley trail, wash off and lubricate the belt drive in a nice water crossing and slide around on the wet roots.  Coming out of the valley, there is another rock infested ATV trail that has become slippery from a brief shower that passed over-head.  A little more single-track and I get dumped out onto a fireroad and my last couple miles of this race.

Last year, we took this fireroad up to an ATV trail for added mileage and a big climb. This topped out at a rock garden called "Shake & Bake" and the final push into the finish. Oddly, they are keeping us on the road a bit longer this year.  No worries, I'm feeling good, pushing hard and know I'll pick off a couple more people in the remaining few miles.  I pass by one geared rider and a woman walking her dog.  Way off, in the distance, I see a rider near the top of the climb.  I dig a little deeper and find some extra kick in the legs.  As soon as the road tops out I start to see canopies on the other side of the trees, then some course tape.  Crap, can this be the finish....already!?  The fireroad climb was a bit anti-climatic compared to the smack down of Shake & Bake last year, however, it's getting hot and the beer is cold.  I make the left turn into the timing tent where I'm greeted by Camps, Tomi, Rich and a host of others.  David is there as well and just pulled off a strong 2nd place.  Apparently, I just got 3rd.  Damn!  That was a fine day of racing and even better when you can share the podium with a friend and teammate.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Steak Night @ Viper

Steak Night @ Viper
Originally uploaded by wrench177

The original post-ride chips and jerky got serious last night. Stir-fried veggies, sauteed veggies, pan seared lump crab meat and some fat ass NY strips. Add a fine selection of beers and you have "Steak Night" in the Shed. It's going to be a little hard to top this one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Customer Service- Alive and well at Carbon Drive Systems

I had to follow up on my last post.  A rep from Gates Carbon Drive Systems read my review and suggested I call them.  Well, I just got off the phone with Steve and my faith in humanity has been restored.  My call was taken immediately, I was never put on hold and was treated to exceptional customer service. 

Steve asked a couple questions about my drive, cog/chainring sizes and belt length.  He informed me that once the belt starts making those sounds, the carbon fibers have been compromised and the noise will only get worse, which is exactly what has happened.  I was also informed that the smaller cog combo likes higher tension due to reduced contact area.  Initial setup is very important and running the belt at a higher tension is much better than less tension. Good things to know.  Armed with this new information, and my cricket gauge, I look forward to installing the new belt.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I really love the Carbon drive and hope to get it sorted out.  Hopefully it'll be here in time for the Maximus this Sunday.  Talk about "trial-by fire".

Steve, thanks again for the exceptional service. It's great when a company stands behind their product and takes care of their customers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gates Carbon Drive- A Review

The boys in Golden treated me great when it came time for a replacement frame. The new Spot is great and I'm loving the Paragon sliders.  My only gripe, the Gates Carbon Belt Drive.  I can't get the damn thing to work right.  The alignment looks dead on, the tension is high, but, when I really torque down on the cranks, it makes a popping or "snapping" sound.  The belt doesn't slip, I'm not throwing my knees into the stem or anything like that, but this sound is VERY nerve racking.  It always occurs when you really need your drive-train to work and work flawlessly, on a steep pitch on some insanely technical climb.  It is at this moment I need to focus on the task at hand, not worry about the snap, crackle, pop coming from my rear wheel.

Even at cost, converting to a belt drive is not cheap. It's a major investment that one "should" be able to rely on.  Now, in all fairness, the system is phenomenal 99.8% of the time. It's light, quite, requires almost no maintenance and provides instantaneous power to the rear wheel.  Several reviews mention this perceived power to the wheel and I was skeptical.  I found myself going back to a chain drive recently and noticed a lack of responsiveness when the chain was installed.  I ran the chain for a local 12 hour race and went back to the belt drive a few days later.  There is a noticeable difference between the two drives when it comes to crisp transfer of power.  The belt drive puts power to the wheel instantly and effectively.  Combined this with the reduced weight, lack of required maintenance and long life span and this should be the perfect system. Should be.

I've aligned, re-aligned and re-re-aligned the belt ad nauseam.  I've added tension to the point I heard the BB bearings cry "uncle".  Then, I'd re-align the cog once more.  Out on the trail things appear to be great until that first big, steep pitch that requires an all out effort, then "SNAP!".  That sound that sends chills up my spine.  WTF!  This is getting old.  Well, I'm pretty heavily invested in this drive, and really want to give it a fair shake, exhaust all avenues if you will, so, I drop another $40 bucks on the little "belt tension indicator" Gates sells (along with a smaller cog (for more money than I'm comfortable discussing right now)).  I re-install the belt and align, re-align and re-re-re align the cog a few thousand more times and then throw the tension gauge on there to see how far off I was with my own guesstimate gauge.  Well, I had a little too much tension in the belt (according to the Gates do-hicky) and back it off a smidge.  Considering the belt has already made the snapping sound at a higher tension, I'm not overly optimistic things will improve with reduced tension.  Still, I follow the directions and figure these big brained people know what they are doing.

Today's ride proved one thing, those guys, in their white lab coats and fancy computer models don't know shit about real world mountain biking on a single speed.

Edit: Gates Carbon Drive System is sending me a new belt as a warranty replacement.  Initial setup/tension may have been incorrect (my fault) and the good folks at Gates are not holding it against me.  They stand behind their product and were very helpful when I called....which they suggested I do after reading my review.  This level of customer service is impressive!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Time to kick the tires and light the fires.

While not "technically" the first race of the 2010 season (Snotcycle was numero uno), the Leesburg Bakers Dozen kicks off the racing season this weekend after a long, snowy winter.  I missed the registration (sold out in 58 minutes) while tubing with the kids.  Several other avenues never bore any fruit and I resigned myself to a supporting role this time around.  Then, about a week ago, Walsh asks if I ever found a spot and if not, would I like to join his three person co-ed team.  The epic winter conditions conspired to keep me off the bike and on my skis most of the winter.  So, naturally, I was very excited to be part of a team for this race.  I jumped aboard with both feet and can't wait until Saturday.  This race is usually more like a race within a festival.  Setup and camp the whole weekend if you like, kids races, the main event, bonfires and bluegrass are all on tap for this weekend.  The boy said he wants to race and he'll have plenty of competition from the Kegley boys (among others).  Me, I'm just happy I get to ride my bike and hang out with my friends.

Oh, and the Blue-Eyed Devil is writing again, with a vengeance!  Just doesn't get much better than this.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mason Boner

Mason Boner
Originally uploaded by bundokbiker

RickyD has a fixed wheel frenzy on the books. April 11th at Gambrill SP. Details can be found here.