Thursday, June 30, 2011

Must have been having fun

Took a couple of days off this week and rode Sutton State Forest as recommended by John Beaupre through this Facebook group:!/home.php?sk=group_139364369448144&ap=1

GPS data from a fellow on

Superb trail network - very, very well done.   Pretty much New England riding at it's best.

These pictures were from a well used / maintained trail coming  directly off the Mendon Rd Trailhead.   Perfect features to keep things interesting and just enough up and downhill for single-speed interval style riding.

Came around one corner and BOOM! there was this (maybe 7' high)  Didn't make it the first time - had to go back and try again of course.

Any moment I expected to see a Gnome run across my path here..  Lotsa lush moss. 

Should have put the bike in for reference.

Stone berm!  Felt better coming from the opposite direction.

Heading West there was another great loop - a little more bony - but right where I like to be: On the the ragged edge.

New destination to ride?  Check. 

It always feels a little silly to drive somewhere to bike - but this place is totally worth it.

It's also been awhile since I went out mountain biking purely for fun.  I was thinking of maybe a 2 hour ride - when I got back to the car it was more like 3.  The main reason for heading back:  Blisters on my palms..(no gloves dumbass)  There's a couple of ways to get those - hard to decide which is more exciting.

Thanks John!

Monday, June 27, 2011

RACE REPORT: 19th ever Putney/West Hill Mtn. Bike Race

With Lucy headed up to NH for a "girls only" weekend  -racing plans were pretty vague early in the week.  The EFTA series Moody Park race looked interesting but involved quite a bit of travel and interrupting Lucy's experience by dropping off Ava on the way. 

On Thursday the solution smacked me right upside the head.  Drop Ava off at my moms place in VT and do the ROOT 66 race about an hour away.  Like..duh!  Not only would Ava get to hang with her grandma, she'd get to hang with her cousins.  A few calls and it all came together.

Yet another opportunity arose:  Ava has expressed interest in camping so we headed to VT on Saturday and stopped at Woodford State Park.  Luckily there were two lean-to's available (out of twenty) when we arrived. Heavy rain was forecasted.  In turn, heavy rain was delivered about an hour after setting things up.

It was pretty soggy - but we made the most of it burning helpless marshmallows, terrorizing newts and walking the reservoir loop trail in a thunderstorm.  Good times, good times.

Stylin digs.  Later we ended up setting the tent up - too much light and too many mosquitoes.  
Ok, so it ain't the "proper" way - but we had our reasons!  It was raining pretty steady.  Note use of "LU" cookies - very convenient / chic substitute for graham crackers and chocolate bars. 
Trying not to laugh with a mouthful of 'Smallow.. 

Newt hunting


C'mon dad!!  Stop taking pictures so we can get this crap hike in a thunderstorm over with!

Both Ava and I didn't get as much sleep as we'd like.  Ava claims to have been visited by a bear in Telluride last summer while camping - so she was a little bit nervous trying to relax in a room missing one wall.  Ahh.. but at least we were dry. 

The next morning some pancakes slathered with Nutella - then we packed up and it was off to moms in Shaftsbury. 

Along the way I had to stop at the fish hatchery.  It was one of my favorite places to visit as a kid.  Some of these old trout are over 3' long.  Sadly - they no longer fill the 5-cent per helping fish food dispenser.  So we threw pebbles in there to get'm all riled up for nothing.

Still in her PJ's - clothes ain't quite dry..

Oh yeah.. This is a race report. 

I dropped off Ava and headed back over the mountains to Putney.  With all the recent rain, parking near the event was out the question.  Thankfully the event coordinators figured out a spot about a mile away so we got plenty of warm-up heading over to the course - which was also a test of your cow patty dodging skillz.  Man, this was just like being a kid on the BMX..

Mmmm.. fresh poo.  At least it's not between seasons if ya' know what I mean.

I entered as a CAT 1 not realizing I could race the pro/open category.  No worries though - as soon as the race started it was obvious it wouldn't be easy - at all.   Additionally, I haven't gotten much riding in for the past two weeks.  Between work and other commitments - training has come to a complete standstill.   

My usual strategy is to ease into a race - which I did for a whole 5 minutes.  Then for some reason I felt compelled to catch up with the guys up front.  The course started with a little field section, then went into a slight downhill with the first of many muddy corners.  Prior to the race I scoped out one spot that had strategic appeal (not an obvious line, but definitely faster) which yielded three riders in one swoop.  Ooooh yeah!!  Man I love strategery.  That one spot was about all I pre-rode. Oh well.  Time to test your unknown course adaptability the rest of the way around.  

The course wound through some mid-strength tech and then up and into some climing,  then some more tech with switchbacks and some more climbing.   When you got done with that climbing there was a downhill section that didn't last nearly long enough. It was in this section that one of my main opponents (Brian Cantele) had some kind of mechanical problem which soon put me in 2nd place right behind Ben Silberfarb who appears to live for climbing - what, being 20 lbs lighter and all. When we get to the top of a particularly long climb some guy says:  "There's a downhill coming"  which does come - but then is followed soon after with more climbing - enough climbing for Ben to just drift away.  Drat! Drat! Drat!

You picking up what I'm putting down?  This freaking race is a climbers fantasy.  On the last hill of the first lap I lose Ben entirely.  I was making some time on the descents but there's just not enough descending happening to compensate.

The  first part of the second lap is fairly quiet - until Jon Rowe (any relation to Mike??) shows up.  Great.  Another ridiculously skinny bastard on a climbing machine (rigid fork)  I struggle up the climbs and we trade spots a little here and there.  Again, on the descents I can create a good gap, but he gains it back and clings on for the climbs..  This lasts all the way through lap three where I catch Charlie "The svelte" Beal on his single speed.  He says "Took you long enough! ".  Yeah, yeah - just you wait till I get gravity on my side Prince Feather Lung.  I make a pass on the downhill (how sketchy was that Sir Charles??) and sure enough on the final climb of lap three he enjoys humiliating yet another gearie..  Whatever pal.  I have to think more to keep my bike going - so there!!

Into lap four I am hanging with Charlie.  No way I'm letting him go unchecked after that exchange. We get about 1/3 of the way in up a short steep climb then: POP!!  DAMMIT!!   Yet another SRAM Powerlink lets go (three this season - I must be doing something wrong).  Jon goes past, offers his condolences and I rapidly extricate my spare while 3 more riders go by.

Usually I can re-fit a new link in under a minute but this time the existing link is stuck.  The pin has been sheared off one end - so the two plates are still attached to the chain on the other.  After much griping and twisting it comes out and I link it back up - kind of.  All the mud is preventing proper seating of the new link - so I grab the only thing available for cleaning the chain - Gatorade.  Gatorade peeps - I have a new slogan - forget about  "Is it in you?"  How about, "Is it on you?" or "Sticky, but effective" 

The chain goes back together and I saddle up.  It's funny how an excuse like "I broke my chain" makes you go easier on yourself than you should.  I ride at a reduced intensity for a little while - then see those same three guys who passed ahead.  Hey,  it's not totally over yet!!

So I git crankin' and on occasion have to git' hiking.

Sidetrack moment: Speaking of hiking,  during one lap a thorough scientific evaluation of the merits of  hiking were tested.  At a certain point going up "Heartbreak Hill"  I hopped off and hiked alongside another racer who would not get off his bike.  I say "Your a stubborn one huh?"  He makes it clear that he feels it's better to ride.  At the point where the terrain becomes tractable again  - I hop back on and take off fairly quickly.  That pretty much seals the equation  for me.  Why bother wasting your biking superpowers when they aren't any better than walking it?

The last bit of the last lap is fairly quiet in terms of traffic.  I dart around a few riders and gasp up the last incline.  Not thoroughly taxed - nor exactly relaxed.

I figure - maybe 5th or 6th place if I am lucky.  Surprise!! - 3rd.  I'll take it.

After the race I clean me and the bike up in a little creek nearby.  A not so gentle reminder of how cold the mountain water in VT is.  Ahhh..  Yet again - just like being a kid - maybe a tad bigger..    Also after the race - I find out Jon Rowe grew up in Bennington and graduated Mt Anthony in 89' (just one year after me).  Cue "It's a small world" and if that weren't pathetic enough - I have to say: "You can take the boy out of Vermont"

This is a really great race.  Right up there with the Pinnacle and Camden.  It clearly demonstrated every ones weaknesses.  While I'm not terrible at climbing - there is obviously some room for improvement - most likely in the form of 10-15 lbs.  Charlie recorded just over 3000' of climbing.   Pretty stiff for a claimed 18 mile course.

The ride home was miserable.  Alot of mud / grit got into my eyes during the race.  So much that my vision was borderline dangerous.  Even after several eye washes- vision was compromised (scratched cornea?).   What worked best was to hold your eyes open for as long as possible to build up natural tearing - then do some blinking. Repeat every 5 minutes or so for the 3 hour ride home and everyone arrives safely.

Next race:  Who knows.  Let's hope I can take Ava along for a little side adventure.  It adds a whole new dimension to this silly obsession.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You know you want some of this.

Early this week I headed up to Montreal for a short business trip.  If you haven't been - you'll find a little something that's in short supply here in the states.

Freedom from fear. 

Montreal has been "doing" bikes since the seventies - building its infrastructure little by little.   Aside from bike paths and dedicated lanes throughout the city, you'll find  these nice pay-by-the-hour bike stands.

Everywhere you look - bikes, bikes, bikes.  

For certain a great deal of the experience is due to  Montreal's position as the most European influenced city  in North America.  I'm not suggesting that Europe has it all figured out - but when it comes to this,  sorry  - they're several decades ahead of us.  

Really folks - you know you want some of this..    

Sacre bleu!!  She has no helmet!!  She is so smart, so fit, so free, so..  unafraid.  Ooh la la! Summer has arrived in Montreal. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

RACE REPORT - The Pinnacle EFTA series # 4.

The Pinnacle is just one of those races you can't miss.  To podium one needs to demonstrate talent across the board. A fair amount of climbing, followed by fairly techy terrain - that leads into swoopy single track and then the ultimate rush - The plunge at the end:  Nearly instant 35+mph on yer mountain bike.  Ooohh yeah!!  EFTA should totally add one of those "your speed" radar displays at the bottom:

The other race in the series that offers similar dynamics is the Maine Sport Run-Off: A great climb followed by a marvelous switchback descent with a few rock gardens along the way.  Good stuff - in a beautiful location to boot.  Aside from lacking the plunge aspect - it's way up there. 

Some of the scene. Check out that sky!!

This was my third visit to the Pinnacle.  The prior two had been on overcast / drizzly days.  Today (Fathers Day) was about as good as it gets.  On the way in I couldn't help but think how tragic it'd be to be that guy who died "doing what he loved" on fathers day.  Yeah,  a bit dramatic - but life is damn short. You never know.

As a few folks might have noticed  - I bumped my arse up to Elite.  It wasn't an easy decision. But a few things helped turned the corner:

  • Stupid Colin is right.  A challenge is better than just about anything
  • How many medals is too many?  They are pretty awesome at first - but after a dozen or so they lose their "zing". Man this sounds like Willow elaborating on her desire for a "fix". 
  • Apparently I have issues with losing.  In the last race - I made a move that I'm not entirely comfortable with - don't think I ever will be either.  On the one hand - it's racing - the other, well...  Let just say I was AUDI before it became the choice of assertive @$$holes worldwide.  Back when I bought it, it was the understated counterpart to BMW's. These days everyone knows better. (Dang)
  • My offspring has witnessed nothing but winning and I fear it's staring to rub off in the wrong way.  Competition is good - but everything in life deserves tempering. 
So.. The race!!

On arrival I immediately notice I forgot socks.  Crap.  How the heck did that happen?  I bring 4 pair of shorts but no damn socks??!!  I headed over to the Nelson-mobile with my sob story and they dig around and find me some genuine Bikeman socks.  Thanks guys! Let's hope Marcy doesn't fall head over heels in love with my smell..

A few rides here and there to warm up then t'were go time.  Always comes up quicker than expected.

The race began like just about any other - with the exception of being first in line.  At the start - dudes TOOK THE HELL OFF.  Around and up we went.  Being new and all, I kept in the shadows - but maintained my position.  When the course opened up on a funny little residential street section I even gained a few spots.

Onward and upward we went.  I was feeling pretty good.  About 3/4 of the way up on a double-track section I could see the main pack just ahead.  That was fairly encouraging.  I don't trend towards negative splits - but I do have some of that slow-twitch business going on.  If I can keep these guys in sight - I should start being able to pick folks off later in the game..  Or so I had hoped..

You see, on top of experimenting with the Elite group - I decided to experiment with my drive train.  My bike has been dropping the chain off the inside since day one.  I have tensioned the rear derailleur, aligned and dropped the front derailleur - but it continues to be a problem.  Particularly over rooty flat or downhill sections. 

I decided on running a 1X9.  Isn't that what all the cool kids use?  In a few tests on the backyard trails it seemed to offer the reliability desired.  

Pauls keeper

Close to the top of the first climb - I experience some chain suck.  In the process, the chain wound it's way around and jammed into the keeper.   No worries, I back-pedal some and it frees up.  The keeper is a little tweaked now and scraping a bit - but its not so bad.  At the top of the climb I pull over and get to work with a rock to put it back in position.  Off we go..

Soon it's time for some downhillin'  Hell yeah!  I start getting in the groove through the singletrack - really flying and taking chances here and there. Behind I can hear another rider.  It could be me, but it feels like I have "inspired" him some.  In tight sections I gain on him (I'm sorta narrow and twisty) but when things open up a little he is able to gain.    Clearly - these Elite chaps know how to ride.   At one point he asks "can you let me through?".  Fair enough - when the time is right (this is all on the singletrack) I pull over.  He goes by then gets a bit  loose.  It's fun to watch and all - but I don't know if I should have let him go.  He's not really going any faster..   Oh well.  We catch up to another couple of riders and get slowed down quite a bit.  Then it happens - pretty close to the bridge heading down:

Chainsuck to full-on chain keeper tweakage.  

Crap, crap, crap!! 

I pull over to address the issue -but it's no use. The keeper is just too far out of whack.  There is no getting it right.. 

From then on - the remaining laps revolve around this sad, sad routine:  Beginning with the plunge on the first lap:
  • The plunge induces full chain drop - re-position at / near all the water bottles.  Make sad faces for spectators.
  • Head up the climb using the straightest chainline available - this is awesome - I am gaining on people! Even if it sucks using more gear than I'd prefer.
  • As soon as the trail becomes flat or downhill - be ready for the chain to come off many, many times - try to keep the brakes on while pedaling - that helps.  When it doesn't, pull over, re-attach - gain on someone, pass them, then pull over again as soon as the chain comes off while apologizing for wasting said passed person's time. 
On top of the chain issue- my fork seemed to be bottoming out - and the wiper / seal came out of position.  That's weird.

Around the end of lap three I am considering hanging it up.  The problem is - this course is too freaking fun and it's so nice out.   Also - If you do the math - the extra $6 for the entry fee is more economical.  Experts are paying $8.3333333 each lap - but the Elite ares cashing in on $7.50 laps!!   I'm finishing this damn race.

On lap 4 my connecting link lets go. I'm sure the chain slapping the tire, spokes and getting bound up in the derailleur isn't helping.   Whatever..  I'm used to this by now - and put it back together in less than a minute.  At the last part of the last lap I catch the last  Elite woman.  She pulls over - and I warn her:  "I am going to have to fix my bike a few times - you should keep going"   She encourages me to go ahead - and sure enough, we swap positions a couple of times.  Finally I get to the downhill sections that don't need no stinkin' chain and I can gain some ground without impeding her progress.

End result:  DFL!   To be expected.  Usually I'll have some nice piccy's for folks of the results board etc.  Not this time -seems I missed the awards while out riding and cursing the idiot mechanic.

I did get another #1 number plate for being the series leader....  In Expert.

Humility:  Achieved.  Well... Kinda.  This wasn't a complete test of how I'll manage overall amongst them thar Eeelites.. but I'm pretty certain I'll be staying with them.   You really, really have to work hard to keep up with these guys. The distance wasn't an issue.  Speed and power to weight...Well.. That'll take some doing.  

When I got home - the best Fathers day surprise ever.  Lucy organized / cleaned the workbench in the garage.  I own virtually everything I need and then some, which makes it hard for family to come up with gift ideas.  Pure genius solution.   I wish I had a before picture so you could see the difference. 

As for my own dad, I wish he was still around to see his long term impact.   Among his many talents - he was quite good at going fast on two wheels.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

RACE REPORT: Big Ring Rumpus: Cat & Mouse meets Rubbin is racin'

In an about face this weekend, the race of choice turned out to be the Big Ring Rumpus.  In the last post a 90% chance of going to the Domnarski  Farm was declared.  Good thing there was another 10% remaining..

You see, my old man knee has been acting up.  Nothing too terrible, but enough to have changed up plans.  I had been thinking no race was the smartest decision, but smart decisions are often boring.  End result:  Lets do a "dirt crit".  The bobbling between trees up and down steep little hills wasn't an issue to be concerned with - meaning a nice controlled (read: knee friendly) cadence  race could be administered.  On the way in I kept thinking "You are a stupid little man"  - "This could cost you for the rest of your life".  Speaking of rest - I flat out did not ride all last week.  That's hard - even if your knee winces at the thought.  So.. it was off the races - hopefully not to end up trounced by what has to be a roadies dirty dream.

Turnout was pretty decent - overall I think just about 300 folks showed up.  Not bad when you consider this course isn't anything like any of our usual technical courses. The ironic part about this is that there are some really nice techy singletrack trails all through the place.  Maybe someday EFTA can work things out with the property owners to include bits of singletrack.  I mean, we don't crash and burn that often - right?

I arrived about 1 1/2 hours early - to allow for some good stretching & saddle time.  After riding out and about for a bit I headed back and found a few guys near the car - including Maz..  There under my rear wiper..  this rather conspicuous number plate:

Good grief - really?  A few weeks back I was some unknown Bikeman guy. I miss those days.  

When a few folks asked about the plate I played it down with:  "Oh, I've just done all the EFTA series races this year"..  It's kind nice to be recognized, yet also embarrassing.

Starts were running late - so I got at least 45 minutes worth of warming up.  My knee doesn't like sitting still - the more movement - the better.  Finally we headed over to the staging area around the corner from the field.   This was on a very straight piece of double-track  that had little signs indicating "VET 2" and so on..  Nice.  This works well if you happen to be an absent minded twit - like say... Rick Nelson.   I say that in jest (kind of) but he had the coolest system (not his idea he said)  going for counting the 7 laps:  7 Little pieces of electrical tape along the top tube.   After going an extra lap at the Orchard Hill race - I can respect the value of such a system.  Oh well - too late to do that now - gonna hafta count.   Reminds me of the cognitive processing tests they do on Mt Everest.  Take a little oxygen depletion then ask people to say and remember stuff.  My kind of entertainment right there. 

Soon enough it was go time.  Off we went.  Kind of.

A few of the guys suggested that the first lap was fast.  I suppose it was a touch more aggressive than laps, 2, 3 - Woah!!   Doug  tests us for about 45 seconds..  then  4... yawn... 5....sigh....  Things got so "relaxed" I felt compelled to sing mellow stuff whilst passing folks at the lap count area. 

This one came to mind:

The Faith No More version has been brought to my attention - it's OK. But I still like the original.

Then this one:

On top of my annoying short-lived attempts to get others to sing - my front brake had been squealing THE WHOLE EFFIN TIME!!.  The only way to placate the farging thing was to apply the brakes.  This does not help one "Go faster"   Nor are "Sneak attacks" even remotely plausible.  Oi vey... 

So our group meekly swapped pulls here and there - with Steve, Don, Geoff and myself  (that order) doing the majority of the work.  Meanwhile... Somewhere off in the back...  A few experienced road guys were counting their tactical earnings. 

Ka-ching!  OK boys!! Heeerrres lap seven!!!  Off goes Doug - with Geoff hanging on for dear life.

Musical theme just changed a little:

This began on the straight stretch where we start.  I watch as Doug and Geoff get smaller and smaller and smaller

OK - that means our pack of 7-ish will give chase right?  RIGHT!! ??

About half way across said straight stretch it becomes painfully evident - NO ONE is going to give chase.  Doug and Geoff are now at least 500' beyond us.  Yeeeeah.   I guess I'd better cash in all that energy I have been saving.   I sure hope singing doesn't burn too many calories..

Lowering into full time-trial mode I hammer, and hammer then hammer some more.  It takes at least  3 minutes to finally close the gap on Geoff who is now blown out of Doug's wake.  Doug:  Up front occasionally popping into sight - thank the lord for such long straight sections of course.   When I catch up to Geoff, he yells "Let's work together!" or something...  I hear: "Did you work to get here!?" or something... Then it finally registers in my puny Mountain bike mind:  Ohh... WORK TOGETHER.  I GET IT..  Like road guys!   Geoff calls out "OK, we need to do short pulls" - so I get in front - pull and after 10 seconds or so pull over.  Geoff pulls a bit, then we swap places - being careful around traffic.  I'm feeling fairly strong now - and just start GUNNING it.  To heck with short pulls - I'm gettin' that bastard. 

It's a good thing I don't wear a heart rate monitor at this point.   The redline surely has been reached - and now it's a matter of how long the little engine will hold together.   Not only does it hold but I gain on Doug with a fair amount of gusto.  Approximate distance left:  Mmmm.. Maybe 1500' or so. 

Doug pulls over and is now drafting me.  I haven't partaken in such tactics - but I know exactly where this is headed.  Sure enough - he hangs on behind me and we approach the end of the course - with a big pack of riders ahead.  This'll be fun.

Just before we reach the taped off chicane style ending we get a surprise visit from the Elites.  They are hauling ass- to the point of having to employ the same techniques as the "need for speed" sector of society weaving through interstate traffic.  For a moment I thought Jonny Bold was Doug.  Good thing it wasn't.

Doug makes his move as anticipated and now its on:  Before entering the Chicane he quickly passes on the left.  Through traffic I gain it back on a RH turn.  He and I rub a touch and he gains it back while turning left - now we head into a RH turn and I take the best line available - which includes trimming a few branches off the pine tree on my right (why,  you *can* do yard work and bike!!) .  The next turn:  A LH to the finish.  Doug is barely behind me and I use the only trick left:  I cut the corner and my opponent.   Doug can be heard cursing and sputtering.  I cross the finish maybe 3/10's of a second ahead.

Sorry Doug.  Tunnel vision prevails in moments like these.

So there you have it.  1st VET II by a whisker.  4th Expert overall.

There was a bit of panic at the finish.  Initially the timekeeper had suggested that I had only done 6 laps.  We rounded a few of the guys up and sorted things out. 

Preliminary results:

Andy Gould killed it (again) netting 200 smackers for top Expert finish of the day.  Makes a difference running with cohesive bunch at the Big Ring Rumpus.  His time was over 3 minutes ahead of us!

Till next time race fans.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adventure by Bike - Part 2. White Clay Creek Preserve: The sweetest single track

If you happen to be in SE PA near Kennet Square / Landenberg or DE - you must check out the White Clay Creek Preserve

Maybe enter right about here

On your left you'll find a parking lot with a trail heading off into the field

Opposite the lot  - this trail will swallow you whole..

These wide open trails will bring you into quite possibly the most flowy bits of single track perfection on really nice dirt you will ever find.  The trails easily rival anything the Kingdom Trails have to offer - except for maybe "Sidewinder" or "The Webs"   They just don't offer as much real-estate. 

I rode around for hours.  From time to time coming back to trails I had already done.   At one point you'll find a tunnel that goes under the road - then takes you out onto more supremely engineered trails.  Along the way you'll find a nice little skills section.   I can't say it enough.  The place is amazing.

Nicely canopied spot

Pump track style riding -that goes on, and on..

OMG!  A rock garden!!

Wooden bridge towards the Northern side

The Preserve was about 12 miles from my relatives house.  In total I rode about 54 miles - so 30 or so single track miles..  Amazing - not really doing my knee much good as it's been acting up.  But I couldn't help myself. 

The Vaya performed flawlessly here rolling the hybrid tires.  It's possible that things could get dicey in muddy conditions but with dry trails even a CX bike is plenty. 

After getting back I made sure to scold the in-laws:  "I am so pissed disappointed with you - been coming here for 15 years and you never told me about this place!!??"

To think - all these years I have continued to visit without even knowing this was there.  Such a good son-in-law was he..

One of many videos on Youtube:

For this coming weekends race - about a 90% chance I'm doing Domnarski - knee be damned.  The Rumpus is a fun time - but just a bit further out.  That and I prefer technical trails