Sunday, January 22, 2012

Skyway Epic Preride

For those of you not in the know, the Skyway Epic is a section of trail/ forest road in the Talladega National Forest that goes from Sylacauga to Adam's Gap near Mount Cheaha in Anniston. This will be featured in the Skyway Epic race on May 20. Brent is still figuring out logistics but one can assume if it comes from Brent's mind it will be wonderful, hard, and feel like getting kicked in the gut a thousand times.

I will not be able to attend the race since me and Melissa will be at the Hangout Music Festival but uh, I still wanted to preride it. Thanks to the facebook Skyway Epic group it was pretty easy to coordinate a ride and amazingly enough everyone showed up plus a few bonus folks.

I should mention it has rained a Costco sized shitload here in Alabama the past few days. Yes, we got wet. Yes, the trail is rideable in the wet and handles water well. More on that in a minute.

We had an awesome group this morning. Boris and I rode out to meet Lee, George, Stewart, Matt, John Newsom, Mike the Cramper, Gavin, Tony Esposito, and JD. Big group of good riders. Big groups are great but with an increase in group size it is common to see an exponential rise in mechanicals and waiting around. We had lots of waiting but only one mechanical.

The rain held off but a thick blanket of fog covered the National Forest. I didn't take many pictures because we could really only see about 50 feet at any given time. The trail looked great considering all the rain. There were huge puddles and some slick spots on climbs but overall not bad. ZERO peanut butter mud. Awesome.

Coming from the Sylacauga end the trail starts with maybe a 3 mile climb which isn't bad. I was a bit sad there was so much fog, I'm sure the views are awesome out there. The area has a feel like that of the North Georgia mountains. About 8 miles in, Mike the Cramper rode up and announced his freehub had failed. After closer inspection a gnarled up chain was found and fixed and we were all done with mechanicals for the day!

Around 16 miles in there is a ripping fast downhill that comes out on the road for about 2 miles then climbs again. Mike was now having some cramping issues and went ahead and turned around. Ouch, hope he made it out ok. Not a good area to be in if you feel bad. The downhills are not your typical gravel fare with nasty turns waiting to wash out tires and rub your elbows raw. They require caution of a different sort. Folks with good line picking skills will be rewarded. Those that aren't paying attention end up in some nasty ruts. Be careful. They are fun in an "Oh shit I'm going to die, but not really" way. The climbs were saturated with water and really took a lot of energy to get up today. This course is ALL climbing. It is hard and deserving of its name.

Singlespeed Course Notes: I used a 32/17 on a 29er out there today and really like it. It felt good everywhere but there are some grunt climbs going Cheaha to Sylacauga. I didn't walk but really wanted to a few times. If I did the race, I would probably do a 32/16 on a 29er and hope for fast, dry conditions.

Bike Notes: Don't use a cross bike, terrible idea. I think a 29er with a rigid fork, maybe a front squish would be good. Bring some durable, fast rolling tires and you will be happy.

We reached the turnaround point and I noticed the ride time was 2:12 on Gavin's GPS. Pretty good I think. Elapsed time was ridiculous due to all the stops but I didn't mind the breaks. Going back was much tougher. It began misting and I was now soaking wet. Our group for most of the ride ended up being Tony, Gavin, Boris and me with some switching around depending on who was hurting the most.

I was shocked at the amount of climbing in the final ten miles. It was nuts. They were steep and rutted out. Many looked the same and began to play tricks on my mind. I wanted to be back at the car but I was still digging the ride. Soon enough, the Element was in sight! Six hours later, we were back where we started. Soaking wet, exhausted, and smiles all around. Notice all the fog still around.
Done. So Done.
 I was a bit surprised by the good legs I had today, being January and all...good omen for Southern Cross I hope. Killer ride today, if you haven't been out there GO. I'll be back soon.

LINK to Boris' Strava data on today's ride.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Some changes for 2012

As I mentioned in a previous post there is some sponsor switching around happening this year. I wish I had a dramatic story about being fired or heavily recruited but it really isn't like that!

The Good People sidebar over there to your right (stage left) has dropped and added some names.

Maxxis is a bit of a gray zone. I still have them on the list because I test tires for them but let my sponsorship go for this year. I had the chance to renew and let it go in a fit of guilt since my favorite tires happen to NOT be Maxxis currently. The Panaracer Rampage has been a great front tire and my go to rear is currently an oddball 1.9 Bontrager 29-3. Weird combo but it works and is durable. Who knows, maybe I will someday settle on 2 tires from the same maker I like.

Nuun is gone. I will still use the stuff sometimes, plenty of other stuff on the market I like well also. Thanks for the help when it was there!

Twin Six is now down at the bottom. Pretty excited about this one, I have some of their stuff already and have applied for sponsorship the past two years. Second time's the charm ya know? Oh, the third...oops. Some T6 darkness is on its way. I have no idea when it will be here. The deal here on kits will likely be T6 stuff for non local races and Bici Coop for the local stuff and CX season. I think that is a good compromise. If not, I'm sure our dark overlord/team manager Alan Babar will let his unhappiness be known.

Bici Coop will still be the main deal for this year. It is a good place and a good group of guys (and gals) to ride with. I have a feeling many of my teammates will be focused on road racing now that cross season is almost over. That's fine, it will be good to have the team at a variety of races and there will be a few of us covering the dirt scene around the Southeast and also a couple WELL outside of the Southeast.

The rest is the same as it ever was but I have to give a special thanks to Richard Clark from Backcountry Research. He always comes through and has been kind enough to get Lee Neal, Thad, and myself into the Dirty Kanza 200 since he is also a title sponsor of the event. THANK YOU. Again.

We have a good group headed out to ride Bamacross Brent's Skyway Epic course tomorrow in the boonies. Stay tuned for a report.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross build - Part 1

New bike time. Uh, again.

I had decided a Salsa Vaya would be awesome and really the only thing I was interested in. With all my eggs in the Vaya basket I found out Salsa was sold out of the frameset in my size for an unknown amount of time.

Time to find a new basket. Bike. Whatever.

My buddy Nick stepped up with an offer on his Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frameset modified by

Here is Nick's verison of the bike.

Off road fixie...what a weirdo.

Weirdness aside, after one ride around his neighborhood I was sold. The brakes stop, it turns nicely, feels stiff enough. Best of all, it matches my two other green bikes. Solidarity and all.

I will update this as I get more parts but here are some pics of it's current state, which could be described as incomplete and unrideable. Thanks to the guys at Industry Nine for the hubs. I need to do a write up on the straight pull spoke MTB wheels I have had for six months soon now that I think about it. Amazing wheels. So much so that I have nothing bad to say, which is rare for me.

Yeah, bike progress:
I9 Classic front
Homemade tools
3x with DB14s to ZTR Arches
Disc fork by Waltworks
SS or gears
Salsa Woodchipper

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Another one gone.

2011 has come and gone with the quickness.

I meant to write a brief recap post last week but my free time was spent racking up miles for the Rapha Festive 500. The Festive 500 was a promotion by fancy garb dealer Rapha to encourage people to balance out their excess holiday food consumption with an equal helping of miles, er, kilometers. 500 of 'em. The challenge was to finish 500 kilometers between December 23 and December 31.

The prize?
A badge or possibly some clothes.

My plan was to use my smartphone's smart Strava app to track all the miles but I gave up after the first day. I don't know why I didn't want to press that start button the next day but I just couldn't do it. I had some days off work and wanted to ride 500 kilometers for the hell of it, not to win a badge so off I went. I tracked hours in my notebook, same as always.
Yesterday I rolled 70 miles in four and a half hours to make 25 hours for the Festive period. Unless I am just riding slow as dirt this has gotta make 500. Not that it matters, it was fun and all but I'm not submitting anything to the contest.

Oh yeah...2011. Here are the quick highlights, some bikeish and some not so much.

*Surprise 2nd place at Southern Cross. Met the infamous Rich Dillen who turned out to be as tenacious a racer as he is a blogger. 
*Escaped corporate hell to go work in a private practice clinic for people who are now like family to me.
*First time at PMBAR. So hard. So fun. Best race of the year. Fear and grilled cheese make for good times.
*My first DNF. 150 miles into Dirty Kanza and faced with impassable roads Lee and I had to ride 30 miles back to town on a dark, 60 MPH two lane.  Felt like I could have ridden it all again when I got done.
*Developed a mysterious leg injury of still unknown origin. It is about 90% better currently.
*Built a "real" cross bike, an All City Nature Boy, that is currently serving as my fixie brah ride. I'm still a mediocre cross racer unfortunately.
*Another great year with Melissa, my beautiful and oh so tolerant girlfriend.

I had some great sponsors this year, thanks to all you guys who put up with my stupid questions and pestering. 

Aaaaaand for 2012?
Two big gravel death marches will happen. One in Iowa. One in Kansas. Anything else is going to depend on Melissa's school schedule so that will be a wait and see deal. I want/need a road bike to replace the Trek. A Salsa Vaya would be superb. I will continue to ride with the Bici Coop team but there will be some changing of other sponsors. 

Happy New Year all, go for a ride or something.