Friday, May 27, 2011

An outlier in the glove world?

Well, Ergon has finally given in to my requests for a lightweight glove with pre curved fingers and seams I can't feel.

This is assuming they have had gnomes in the woods spying on me to hear my bitching about my five year old Fox gloves with the worn out thumbs and saggy palms. Saggy palms. It just sounds bad.

This is all good news, right?

Sorta. They are close to 50 bucks. Bah, unless Mr. Kerkove wants to send me a pair to sample/fondle (Medium please), I am going to wait until I see a few reviews of these.

*I feel that I should mention that I probably have 20 pairs of gloves in the house, all of which have some sort of small flaw that irritates me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rest stop on a Saturday morning.

Just a quick snapshot from a Dirty Kanza shakedown ride on the Scandal (it's on the right, the other one is Boris' bastardized road bike Paragon) in Vandiver, AL.

Some brief notes on the ride since I have some biscuits & gravy calling my name:

-Explore new roads in the middle of nowhere and you WILL get chased by dogs. 3 times...
-32/15 seems like a good gear, if a bit spinny on the road.
-106 miles and around 8,000 ft. climbing.
-All the water bottles are working great, the bike only feels weird carrying it.
-Pretty sure I drooled on my bike coming back up Shades Crest Rd. It was steeeeep.
-We saw some (thousands) weird cicadas that only come out every 13 years. Incredibly loud.

Fun ride, I'm ready to go to Kansas.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dirty Kanza prep and surgery on tools.

Recovery weeks: This past week saw me riding less than any other week this far. I can be lazier, I promise.

Two leisurely rides to work. That's it. I made sure to eat plenty also. The beauty of the "recovery week." Justified laziness and slothfulness - It is reason enough to ride hard the other weeks of the year.

Yesterday was a gloomy, stay inside all day Saturday. As promised, I helped Melissa take on 10 hours of spring house cleaning. This post better get interesting in a hurry, I just realized. I have noticed when reading others' blogs out there, if the bike stuff is buried under three paragraphs of house cleaning and job complaining I will never make it to the bike stuff.

House looks awesome, BTW.

Ok, I'm ready, bike related things.

I spent a couple hours yesterday morning transforming my mountain bike into what Guitar Ted and others would affectionately call a "gravel grinder." Before I was able to muster the motivation to start swapping out tires full of sealant, I was distracted by a side project.

A multi tool that is useful: This took the better part of 45 minutes. I got distracted from the distraction and a slight hangover made my fingers just clumsy enough to drop every washer I picked up. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, it was worth it. Every multi tool I have ever owned has been full of useless stuff that just gets in my way when trying to open it with gloves on. This one is easy to open. So easy I opened it about ten times yesterday for no good reason. This started life as a Pedro's RX tool and is now pared down to the bare essentials I need:

3, 4, and 5 millimeter allen wrenches
Chain tool that actually works
Plastic body that holds it all together

Every ounce of self control in me was used to NOT weigh it before and after. I like to think I'm not that obsessive about small side projects.

Dirty Kanza prepwork: I have had parts waiting around to swap onto my mountain bike for Dirty Kanza for a good while now. I could have just as easily used this time to find a good, cheap cross bike to ride. The mountain bike was awesome at Southern Cross back in February so I decided to just go with it for the DK200. I have seen lots of talk about how rough the terrain is up there in the prairie lands and the organizers recommend at least a 45c tire. A cross bike may be a little faster but all I need is something comfortable and reliable, which are the only things that really matter when it is dark and you have been on a bike for 200 miles.

In the picture above, you can see a few parts picks which have a common goal. I refuse to carry a hydration pack that far on my back in June so it is all going on the bike. This setup may change some and I also have a King Cage top cap mount for another water bottle on top of the stem but I feel good about the storage capabilities of the bike. Current plan is one bottle on the seat tube, two on the Salsa Fargo fork, one in each of the bags on the bars, and one in the top cap cage. Six should be enough. The Jandd frame bag will carry tools and food. This means my jersey pockets are free to whatever I happen to find on the side of the road or at a gas station that looks good.

Although it looks like it, I did not take this picture to show off a horribly misaligned rear triangle. I caught it at a funny angle, that's all. The tires are Bontrager 29-3s, which measure out to around a 1.9 and have thick enough sidewalls to make me feel warm and cozy inside. Just out of the picture is the rear cog, a 15T matched up with a 32 in the front. This may be too steep on some of the hills but I cannot bear the thought of being spun out on every non climbing section for over 200 miles. No way.

I did not have time to put on the new Hitch strap from Backcountry Research before PMBAR but it now has a home. Yes, that is a total of three tubes on the seatpost. The flint up there is sharp and I want the insurance with me. The lower strap with two tubes in it will probably be moved to the downtube since the frame bag has rendered that cage unusable.

For anyone else considering using the Fargo fork on a mountain bike, think hard before throwing down for it. The 2011 model is not yet available. This is important because the newer ones have a more mountain bike friendly 470mm axle to crown height. I settled for a 2010 with a lower 447mm axle to crown height. Coming from the 100mm Reba, this was quite a change. The bike now has a 74 degree head tube angle (similar to most road bikes), a lower BB, and a shorter ETT requiring a change from a 65mm stem to a 100mm. Getting the bars in the right spot was a bit of a head scratcher but all seems well now and it actually handles really well.

Three weeks until we leave for Kansas. We have a good group going including Melissa, the Beagle, Lee, Zach D, and myself. Hopefully, the Mississippi chills out soon since we will have to cross it at some point.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2011 PMBAR Results

Well, they are posted.


Looks like we ended up 51st out of 107 teams after the nickel damage was said and done. Eh, good enough for some out of town rookies. I have not analyzed it too closely but we would have a top 30 spot somewhere if we had turned the nickel in. Next time.

I just finished the Dirty Kanza 2011 bike and will post up some details once I track down a picture taking device.

Monday, May 9, 2011

PMBAR 2011

*First things first, Happy Mother's Day Mom. Love you lots, will buy you a propane tank and cook for you next weekend.

It was around 7 o clock the evening before PMBAR when it dawned on me that it would be dark soon and I should probably take a look at the map of Pisgah National Forest. I attempted to piece together potential routes from scribbled lists of checkpoints of previous years' races. I quickly ran out of fingers to mark places on the map and gave up after about twenty minutes. My thoughts quickly turned to the steadily decreasing likelihood we would make it to the Davidson River Campground by 11. Jimmy, Nick, Sean, and Jason had already secured two campsites but it seemed that the volunteer night guard there was somewhat ornery about rules and there was "No way we would get in after closing time." In what would become the theme of the weekend we decided to figure it out when we got there.

Then the dude let us in with no problem and was even friendly about it. I took this as a good omen for the weekend.

For the uninformed PMBAR is the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race. It was been put on by Pisgah Productions since 2003 up in the rugged forests of Brevard, North Carolina. Riders in teams of two (Lee Neal joined up with me for the trip and there were a couple other teams from Birmingham as well) compete to reach up to five checkpoints spread throughout Pisgah National Forest within the time limit of fourteen hours. Four checks are needed to finish and three are mandatory. A typical day would comprise 50-80 miles of trail and up to 15,000 ft. of climbing.

As we stood around with 100 other teams at the start I couldn't hear a damn word that Eric Wever was saying. Oh well, I figured, I read all the rules online. Eric handed out each team's Passport and map of the forest. Turned out Eric was saying "Read all the rules before you start" over and over and over...yeah. Mistake.
"I read the rules online already, we're good..."

Here are a couple of the snippets we missed during our brief scan of the rules:

1. You are required to read ALL the rules.

13. Every Team Race Packet contains a Wooden Nickel; that must be given to the Race Director prior to leaving the start!

With our Wooden Nickel firmly taped to the last page of the Passport we booked it up to Pressley Gap to figure out where to go from there. As we started to hike up Black Mountain we noticed some riders cutting left towards Maxwell Cove on a gravel road. I have gone down Black before and the thought of walking up it was not the least bit appealing. Bye bye hike a bike, hello gravel climb. The gravel eventually led us to South Mills River and we nabbed our first checkpoint and backtracked it out to the gravel climbs on 476 and 1206 to get to Pilot Rock. This ended up being the move that prevented us from getting the fifth checkpoint. Going in this direction would eventually put us at the farthest possible spot from the Daniel Ridge/Farlow Gap check making it not worth the three hour time bonus we would earn.

Anyone who made it through PMBAR without crashing is a better rider than me. My crash wasn't even cool looking. Uphill. Slow. Still clipped in. My right knee made sweet love to some granite and I spilled my first blood of the day. I popped some Advil and continued-no reason for a small flesh wound to mess up a good ride.

Lee and I both decided that we would rather hike up Pilot Rock than Laurel Mountain since it would be a MUCH shorter hike. We hoofed it up Pilot and made our second check of the day. Much to my surprise, the checkpoints actually had food at them. The Pilot Rock/Laurel Mountain check had Pro Bars, which are way better than they sound. For some reason I remembered the descent down Laurel as somewhat serene and fast. Wrong. We were met with plenty of steeps and off camber rock on the way down to 1206 and our third check at North Mills River/ Lower Trace. Someone on 1206 was cooking grilled cheeses on the side of the road and offered us some. Lee and I ate two each. Both amazing, way better than "energy food".

As we were downing the second grilled cheese, we chatted with a team that we had seen at the start of the race busting ass to get back to the Start/Finish. Turns out they were heading back to turn in their Wooden Nickel to avoid a two hour time penalty that we would eventually earn upon our return.


I had assumed, yes... assumed, that this was some sort of token to turn in at the finish. This knowledge did little to dampen the good mood going and we decided to just go on with our original plan and finish it out. Dumb and avoidable, sure, but this is one of those races that is a blast regardless of finishing position. Time penalty or not, we had set out for a huge ride and this was no reason to stop.

Water consumption was a big concern of mine using a Camelbak. I am horrible at estimating how much I am drinking if I can't see it and this day was no different. We missed the turn to Yellow Gap and ended up at the North Mills River campground and a beautiful sight: an old water spigot. After five hours of riding I opened up the 100 oz bladder to find close to 75 oz staring right back at me. Oops. I guzzled until I felt uncomfortable, filled it back up and decided I had enough for the rest of the day. Slightly dehydrated and running on denial, we took a longer gravel loop to North Mills River to avoid the potential failure of being unable to find Yellow Gap. This was a great choice as it earned us one of the best downhills of the day on Wash Creek. Steep, technical descents were plentiful and I loved every minute of it.

The climb up Yellow Gap was rough due it not quite being steep enough to walk but steep enough to hurt the whole damn way up. As if that was not enough of a treat, Pisgah served up another long climb back up 1206 to find Bradley Creek. The entrance to Bradley was well hidden but was fortunately home to a hiker that gave us a heads up before we blew by it. This is where the creek crossings began. We hiked across close to twenty creeks before we got to the South Mills River/Bradley Creek checkpoint. Once I figured out the correct way to get across without falling down they were a mere nuisance and we were still having a great time.

The checkpoint at Bradley Creek meant we would be official finishers of the event if we made it back before the 14 hour cutoff. We had been racing for eight hours at this point and our chances of getting to Farlow Gap and back in without adding more than three hours to our time was looking grim. With the help of a volunteer and some other racers, we decided to head back to the Start/Finish at Davidson River. The question was how. We had a few options:

1. Backtrack through the wading pool that was Bradley Creek.
2. Wade through South Mills River trail to get back.
3. Face the 6 mile hike a bike up Turkey Pen Gap.

As the volunteer at Bradley Creek put it so eloquently "Fuck walking through all those creeks..."

I agreed. Turkey Pen Gap it was.

We hiked, hiked, hiked some more and then had five more miles to go. The climb was the steepest, longest hike a bike I have ever done (600 feet of elevation gain in the first quarter mile and over 2,000 feet total). LATE EDIT: Looks like the max grade on this thing was a little over 35 percent. Yeesh.

It was downright brutal, not to mention a big time suck. Every time I expected it to level out, it turned even steeper. Every downhill meant we had to make up the elevation loss with even more hiking. This was the first time I have tried to walk backwards up a hill carrying a bike (Do not try this by the way, very poor idea). If there was a chance for a mental or physical breakdown, this was it. We held it together, voiced none of the complaints in our head, and continued towards the clouds. Close to two hours later, we made it to our reward for all the climbing: the Black Mountain and Thrift Cove descent. Whatever pain and fatigue was present was pushed to the back of my mind and I had a great time the last few miles.

Ten hours and forty five minutes after we opened our maps we were once again at the timing tent. I handed over the Passport to a volunteer and announced to him it still contained a wooden nickel. He handed over a two hour penalty to us and mentioned that a huge number of impatient teams made the same mistake. I am guessing a few teams argued with him as he was very ready to go on the defensive and point out all the rules again. Bleh. I was more interested in getting a burrito and as much beer in my belly as possible and strolled over to Lee's truck for a well deserved sit on the tailgate.

I know this is long as shit already but there is no way to boil one's first PMBAR down to a couple brief sentences so there ya go.

We would have actually had a pretty good finish if we had turned in our nickel, but it really does not matter. I can not recall a race I have had a better time at and this was easily one of the hardest rides I have ever done. Just the way I wanted it. Having a good partner is crucial to finishing this race and having a good time. Neither one of us complained or moped the whole day, although there were certainly plenty of times it would have been appropriate. Crude jokes and heckling other racers do wonders for team morale.

Thanks to Eric and all the volunteers out there. You guys rock. This race might just be my favorite one yet and I will be back next year.

Here is our route. It was about 70 miles.

Thrift Cove>Black Mountain>5058>Buckhorn Gap>South Mills River>Squirrel Gap>back on South Mills River>476>1206>Pilot Rock>Laurel Mountain>1206>5000>Wash Creek>Yellow Gap>1206>Bradley Creek>Turkey Pen Gap>Black Mountain>Thrift Cove

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Very bad things

I feel like I have used this as a title for something before, most likely a paper I wrote while I was in college. A movie that great can be referenced more than once, as far as I am concerned.

Life has been...different the past few days. As everyone who has even glanced at the internet knows there has been a veritable shit ton of tornado damage in Alabama and the rest of the southeast after Wednesday. Melissa and I have been out in Pleasant Grove, AL the past couple days helping with some clean up. Clean up would be an understatement there...lots of people are in a very bad spot right now and I feel quite fortunate we are okay and more than happy I had an opportunity to help. Details on the damage are easy to find so I am not going to put up pictures or anything like that.

THE IMPORTANT PART: Go here for ways to help!

PMBAR is in just a few days now and I am becoming more excited by the minute. Excitement is not synonymous with prepared unfortunately. My partner, Lee Neal, has been diligently studying the map for at least three days at this point. I have not looked at it any so I have appointed him official navigator for the race. Pacing coordinator or some other duty will go to me I guess. I have decent mechanic skills. I can cook. I can scout out small game if we run out of food and daylight. Does Pisgah harbor any nutria?

Do I have my racing legs ready?


I made sure they were covered in poison ivy last week so all of our competition knows I am a serious woodsman. I really hate riding the trainer and had to make a choice between trainer time and a muddy, four mile trail that is a poison ivy nightmare anytime between April and September. Yep, my legs itch...

There are numerous home remedies for this but the Remedy of the Day today was to scrub the rash with Gojo hand degreaser and then apply a liberal amount of hydrocortisone cream. It is working well so far, I'm no longer glancing curiously at the 120 grit sandpaper in the office.

On the plus side my ivy covered legs have plenty of miles in them so far this year and I am only mildly unhappy with my fitness level right now.

What about that blogger contest?

Well, it is not going well. I actually decided to quit looking at the votes since I didn't like the way they were looking. This is going great. I figure...if I can't see it, I won't be bothered by it until all the votes are tallied. At that point I will either weep or rejoice, but ONLY at that point.

Industry Nine update: Wheels are ordered and should be here by the end of May. That seems like a long time.