Friday, December 28, 2007

Finesse

This is not something I possess out on the trail whilst riding my bike. I often bang my way down a trail as though I am a four year old banging on the flippers of a pinball machine. This has lead to the untimely death of most of my frames.

I often jinx myself but it normally isn’t on the same day. Since things have been relatively slow at work I typed out the “Reflection” post yesterday and I said:

It has been over 15 months now that I have been solely riding a rigid single speed bike in the mountains and I haven’t died or broken the bike yet.

Well yesterday after I took Shade out for a dog loop. David George and I started a loop when a ½ mile into the ride I said “Man that noise coming from my headset is awful, it sounds like a broken frame.” After another ½ mile I felt the frame sag and there she went, down for the count. The down tube broke in half very close to the steer tube but not on the welds.

I called my boy in blue and I will have the new Husker Blue Karate Monkey in my hands in no time at all. I have become indifferent to breaking frames. In all reality, every bike that is ridden hard enough for long enough will fail at some point. In Pisgah, this timeline is shortened exponentially.

So look for some hiking reports in the near future as it will be a week or more before the bike is built and ready.

Here is my current busted list:

4 Sugar 292 Gary Fisher 29’ers
1 Cake Gary Fisher
1 Karate Monkey – Steel

Late Edit:

Since I posted this and sent an email, I have had three offers for bikes to borrow. My friends are fantastic!! However, I will take non of them up on the offer. I am just not into borrowing bikes. More because I am picky than anything else but thank to all of you who offered help!! I really do appreciate it.

Peace

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reflection

It is that time of the year when everything seems to reflect. It doesn’t really matter what direction you reflect, just as long as you do so. Often times we are spending time with the family, friends and loved ones. I separate those three for obvious reasons but hopefully they are all encompassing 8-) Unless your having an “Uncle Earl’s” Christmas.

So in keeping with this and the biking theme I will reflect and prospect in this post. It has been over 15 months now that I have been solely riding a rigid single speed bike in the mountains and I haven’t died or broken the bike yet. I broke one rigid fork from my sweat but that is bound to happen with me as I don’t carry a proper sweat rag. That’s what we simpletons call it anyway.

Last year at this time I was telling myself that I would only ride the single speed until the summer. Well 2007 is almost over and I haven’t used a shifter the entire year. As I looked through January 2007’s posts I can still remember the New Year’s pre-ride to Wilson’s. That was a great day. I had never been there and a big group of us romped it hard in the woods. That was definitely one of my favorites. You just can’t beat the mountains in the winter, summer, spring or fall.

Checking out February makes me sad as I won’t be skiing this year but I will have TMHTE to fill my head with visions of cold, pain and suffering. I will be attending the Icycle again this year and I am looking forward to it! That was one of the best parties all year last year. Some of our good friends won’t be attending but we will keep them in our cogs.

As I look at March I realize that the Wednesday night Dupont rides have almost been going on for a year now. That has been a HUGE success and I now I can officially call those riders my friends. It takes a good group of semi-talented, nut-job, psychopathic, bunch of crazies to want to continue that ride. I hope it lasts for years to come.

Ahhhhhhhhh April, the gathering. . . I remember being on a ride where I fell so hard on Horse Cove that I had the ghost look for the rest of the day. Just as I thought the day might never end Broussard went hopping through the woods screaming BEER BEER. It was unbelievable as he spotted two 24 oz Highland Oatmeal Porter’s in the woods. We drank one and then D-Kuntz rode down Bennett Gap with one in his bottle cage. Is there anything more that needs to be said about April? I think not. Well actually April was the month of the Pisgah contact stealer. I lost three contacts on rides that month.

Early May was PMBAR, the greatest mountain bike race on earth. It was the second year for Team Trippin’ on Lactic Acid and we had a great time. We will be looking forward to it again this year.

June always consists of National Trails day and to keep with the theme of prospecting, I think we need to get on the ball with UpState SORBA and either join another group or organize our own trails day. We worked on Wolf Branch in Bent Creek last year and that was the last time I was in Bent Creek. June also brought on my second solo 12 hour race of my lengthy career. The good ole HotBell, ooops I mean Cowbell. I dedicated the race to my late Grandfather and tried my best. Ultimately I was 13/44. Some day I am going to hit the 100 mile mark in 12 hours. . . Maybe I should try a flatter course on a day with temps below 100 degrees.

Its getting hot now as I reflect on July. I really am not a good hot weather rider. I sweat slightly more than the average rider so fluid and electrolyte consumption is my number one goal at this point in the season. July also brought our second big work day of the year at Dupont. This was when we rock armored Big Rock. July also brought the NORAMM tradition along with our initial push to create an UpState SORBA chapter.

August was momentous for multiple reasons. Our chapter of SORBA was accepted at the BOD meeting and we officially became a chapter! We introduced a lot of new people to mountain biking through our advertising of an advocacy group and I think it has changed their lives for the better. That’s something to be proud of. August is emotional in my mind as well because I had the best race of my life to date at the Fool’s Gold. I was able to unveil my X-treme tomato logo, attack of the kilter hornets started in Pisgah and we had another couple trail work days.

September was huge on a personal level as I struggled to find a house and succeeded. This year was a great one on the personal level for me as well. I struggled through some of life’s decisions and came out on top, which was tough at times. In September, I moved into a new house, rode the Old Toll road for the first time and I took my second longest road bike ride. I missed my goal to complete the SM-100 but I can deal. . .

October was the double dare after moving into my house while I was sick as a dog. The double dare ended up being insane even though we didn’t “complete” the race. October also brought our happy little Pup Shade into our lives. It has only been a little over two months but man I love the guy. A better dog couldn’t have fallen out of the sky.

November was just another one in the books. One of the funniest stories on the blog this year is in November entitled “Have you laughed at me lately?” as I describe some house training incidents. Good birthday mojo with rides and Pops helping with much needed chores on the house.

As I look back through the posts I have made in 2007, I realize how much I love this little online diary I have created for myself. I try to keep it light and entertaining for the most part. This is more for me than anyone else anyway. It is great to go back and read all the adventures I have had over the past year. Now is always a good time to say where I am headed in 2008 but I am not really concerned with things like that as always. If there is anything that 2007 has taught me it is that life changes and you must change and adapt along with it. I hope everyone is ready for 2008’s changes, I am sure it is bound to be a great year!

Peace

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Story of Tomato

I wasn’t going to write until after Christmas but I have had such good rides lately I thought I would share a story .

While we were adopting Shade from the center, a stray dog was brought in by a lady that worked at the center. The dog was very afraid and had obviously suffered some serious abuse in his life. The lady asked if I would mind going in the holding room to console him and name him, I obliged. As I walked into the room, I heard Kristin laughing.

He was very scared and after a few minutes of me sitting on the floor, he ventured a smell of my arm. We greeted each other and his gentle frightened nature pulled so hard at my soul that I forgot my mission.

When I walked out of the room Kristin said “Guess what they named him?” I said “What?” Kristin proceeded to tell me that they named the dog “Tomato” right as I walked into the room with him.

Tomato is still at the adoption center in Columbia and my thoughts go out to him on this day.

Tuesday night I needed something different, something fresh. I loaded the car up with shade and my bike, drove downtown and let Shade wander in the dog park. Well, Shade really doesn’t like the dog park so after a few minutes I leashed him up and ran him beside the bike up and down the paths at Cleveland Park.

Then Andrew, Chuck and I all went out for an urban assault. It was fantastic, we hit some steps, I tried to screw up some stone wall rides and we just generally bs’d around town.

Last night was the weekly edition of the Wednesday night ride at Dupont. Dennis, Jeremy and I went pretty hard and pretty big for a cold December night. If you haven’t ridden the newly re-routed Ridgeline, go hit it. If you are disappointed, please don’t ever read this Blog again. The ride stats are pretty impressive considering the Goat bonked and Dennis hit the ground pretty hard. We were hauling up and down.

So that’s it folks until after Christmas. Everyone travel safe and if you are down for “The Most Horrible Thing Ever, Training ride # 2” show up at the Black Mountain Trailhead on December 29th 8:00am. Plan to ride into the wee hours of the evening.

Peace

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The F Factor Part Two

Sunday morning was planned to be “The Most Horrible Thing Ever” training phase number one. That would explain why I was driving in the dark to meet Dennis, Eric and Mike by 7:00am at the Fish Hatchery.

Mike needed to be back to ride with his other half by 10:30 so Eric and Mike made the executive decision to do a Farlow lap, however my idea of a start was still utilized. We started straight up the single track on Cat Gap -> Long Branch -> 475 -> Pilot Mountain Road -> Hiking Art Loeb (for a quick rain stop in a shelter) -> Farlow -> Daniel -> 475 -> Davidson River.

I was pleasantly surprised how much we could ride up Cat Gap and for the first time ever I had fresh legs going up Long Branch so it seemed like a snap. Past the forest road on Long Branch the climbing gets tough and then there is a short downhill. This was the best part of the day for me. I had Mike in front of me and Eric behind me with Dennis pulling the lead on the downhill. I was able to keep a really fast speed and stayed right in behind Mike and getting a “nice ride” from Eric after I pulled out of some sketchy moves.

The weather had been forecasted to reach 60 in mid December so Dennis and I had both left copious amounts of clothing in the car. 3000 feet later in elevation with a little rain left us feeling pretty stupid about our choice and at the top of Farlow Mike directed us to a shelter so we could take in some rest out of the rain.

The climb up to Farlow brings the “F-factor” to an all time high. It is not a normal climb even by Pisgah standards. You climb hard, lung busting, wishing for more gears (even if you have gears), wanting the top, and cussing the switchbacks that turns into more miles of climbing right before your eyes. Add in some cold rain and you have some “epic” conditions on your hands. I have to admit, at one point, I had the thought “why are we climbing this road in the rain when all we are going to do is hike down this trail…” Hike down the trail you ask? Well, if you have ever experienced Farlow you know why I say this. It is a treacherous trail when it is a dry summer day with no leaves.

After our brief break, and a chat with some hikers from Greenville that were packing up and headed to their car, we were headed down the beast. The “F-factor” was in full force. I let everyone go in front and then casually made my way down the top of Farlow. I had to walk a steep section before the rock wall but then I was motivated to ride the wall after I watched Eric expertly bash his way through the waterfall of rocks. I got on the bike, pulled a two second track stand in the wet rocks and then bounced my way down to where Eric stood. This was the first time I had ever ridden that much of the rock wall. Sometimes it just helps to watch.

Eric was feeling good and cleaned some more sections that the rest of us walked. After some of the more treacherous sections were behind us I found myself in behind Dennis with Eric and Mike eating the trail up behind me. We were all railing and hitting moves that were probably beyond the conditions when the “F-factor” switched over to “your *&^%$ factor.

I was flying along and really watching what I was doing when I saw Dennis pull up his front wheel up and huck a long section of rooty rockiness. I pulled the same move as I have done before and thought in the air “I wonder what is under those leaves.” I tried to stay as light as possible but just could not hold onto it. I was catapulted into the air and before I even knew it, the bike was no longer under me. I hit the ground pretty hard but continued a fireman’s roll and started to come up with a huge smile when my bike caught up to me and smacked me good in the knees. Luckily I got my arms up in time. Mike and Eric later called it an “Explosion.” I imagined it more like a fancy snow skiing yard sale.

I really don’t feel like I was pushing beyond my limits. I still felt great on the bike when I got back on. I just think I hit something that caused me to lose control.

In conjunction, I believe everyone went down at one point. I saw Mike go down twice and they both looked like pain. I took it easy down Daniel and then we headed back to the Hatchery. We made it back down from Farlow before noon.

Eric bid us adieu and Mike, Cassie, the dog Max, myself and Dennis all went back up for some more fun. Back up Davidson River Trail -> 475 -> Gravel road to the middle of Long Branch -> Long Branch -> 475 -> Butter Gap -> Cat Gap

The rest of the ride was tiring for me but coming down Butter and Cat Gaps were as wonderful as always and I kept the rubber side down.

Thanks for a great ride everybody!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The F Factor

It is 8:30am on Sunday, raining and I am pedaling up Pilot Mountain Road headed to the top of Farlow. Just a few minutes ago the rain was only like heavy dew but now it seems as though Mother Nature is out to get us while we plow up one of the hardest climbs in Pisgah. Eric is somewhere behind me while Dennis and Mike pedal in front of me. I just stand up and crank. . .

Saturday morning Kristin and I had some breakfast and headed out to the Greenville Christmas Cross. I don’t think you have to celebrate Christmas to race but I could be wrong. The scene was small but not painfully so.

I greeted those I knew and then watched the masters take off for their race. The course was awesome and set up really well. Not hard to follow unless you’re an idiot like me. There were even a couple tricky spots that could put you on your butt if you stopped paying attention.

The barriers were much higher than I expected and there would be no bunny hopping these beasts. I had never even practice jumped a barrier before so what the hell let’s go race cross. After the masters, we were allowed a course warm-up where I almost killed Seth the race organizer and Land Rover Coach. Whooops!

After I realizing that I am about as graceful as a giraffe trying to limbo jumping the barriers, I was ready to race. As soon as I saw which way the course started I knew I was in a heap of trouble. I wasn’t the only person on a mountain bike but I was the only person with one gear. So when we heard “go” I just watched everyone big ring it away from me. Coming to the first hill I had pulled my way into sixth place about 20 yards behind Mr. Buffington who was racing his first cross race as well.

I can’t remember everything that went on but I felt like crap the first couple laps and just tried to hold my position as I was having a hard time closing the gap up to Ed. At some point a fellow Bo who I had not previously met passed me on the steep run up about ¾ of the way through the course. We were doing five laps and I believe we were on lap two or three.

I thought Bo was going to leave me for good but I pedaled hard on the first climb and held his wheel all the way to the steep run up again. I realized on lap four that I could not let that happen on the last lap or I would lose a place. After the flat section on the final lap, I put the pedal down hard and tried to go by Bo as fast as I could. I pulled a pretty good gap and just prayed that I could hold it in the run up. I held the lead throughout the lap and finished 6th. That was awesome and I really enjoyed it! Thanks for making it a race Bo!!

As to why I would be climbing Farlow 19 hours later, well that will have to wait for another story time.


Thanks to everyone who came out and cheered me on!! All the yelling sure is motivating. I hope we get the chance to do this again in G-vegas.

Photo credits go to Brado, thanks!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Baby Cross

Its the busy season again and last night I had to cancel on the Dupont ride. Stinks, but it is the way of life right?

First I would like to say CONGRATS to my best friends back at home Shana and Michael for giving birth to Wyatt (man I hope that is spelled right) yesterday morning!!! Soon I will be making the trip back home for Christmas and I will get to meet the little tike, I can’t wait.

Ok so back to business here. I figured that since I didn’t make the normal night ride last night I would go try and see if any of the Cross freaks were out and about. I rolled up at dusk and found Mark loading up his gear. As soon as he saw me, he put his Camel Bak back on to show me the course, thanks Mark.

The course is going to be much better than I ever thought. I have never been to a cross race but it seems kind of long. The west side Aquatic center has a lot of land and a lot of steeeeeep hills. The course runs sideways along the hills to create some pretty sketchy off camber downhills. If it were raining, it would be awesome for spectators. However it looks like those ideal conditions will have to wait for next time.

If you don’t want to race, you should still come out and spectate. I hear cross is a great spectator sport as you will see a lot of carnage and action without having to run around like a normal mountain bike race. Plus the pain in people’s faces should be worth the trip.

I think it will suit a mountain bike just fine. I am going to stick a 32X19 on the bike and just pedal as hard as I can. If I can’t make it up a hill I am going to get off and hoof it. There are some flats and I don't want to be spinnign my ass off watching everyone take off without me. We will see how many gearie crossers I can beat! I have not raced since Fool's Gold. . .

See you all on Saturday.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Second Home

Most of my riding time has been spent at Dupont lately. It is just the best option for me right now as it is close to my house. Saturday we had a good group of Andrew, Pisgah Pro, Chuck and myself. Jamie was out and about on the ride but he told us he was out for a short loop.

Kristin was out on a hike with Shade so that meant I had a time schedule to keep. I am not very good at keeping time schedules lately. Our ultimate route:

Fawn Lake, Reasonover, Lake Julia, Camp Summit Road, Airstrip, Mine Mountain, Laurel Ridge, Corn Mill Shoals, Burnt Mountain, Nooks, Burnt Mountain, Corn Mill Shoals, Longside, Rock Quarry Road, Buckhorn Creek Road, Cannon Creek Trail (out and back) Buckhorn Creek Road, Buck Ridge Road, Micajah, Wilkie, Corn Mill Shoals, Shoals, Laurel Ridge, Airstrip, Fawn Lake

About halfway through the ride Eric asks me “What route have we gone so far?” After I rattled off the first five intersections he said “Ok, you are going to have to email that to me.” Just because I like tooting my own kazoo, I never had to look at a map.

It was another great day in the woods and we got to ride the newly re-routed Burnt Mountain. This trail is one of the most highly regarded in all of Dupont.

It is always a treat having people who don’t know where they are going ride along with you in Dupont. The intersections come by so fast that if you keep things moving most people won’t have a clue where they are after a few turns even though you are only a few miles into the ride.

I always seem to forget how much there is to play on at Dupont too. I always recognize it more when I am riding with somebody on my tail. Here is a list of the technical features we passed on Saturday:

Log ride on Reasonover
Log Step up on Reasonover
Bridge steps on Reasonover
Cruised right by the big tree at the intersection of Mine Mountain and Laurel Ridge
I noticed another obscure log ride on Laurel that I have yet to ride.
Two Rock steps on Laurel Ridge
Rock Huck on Corn Mill Shoals (didn’t hit this one either)
Wall Ride on Corn Mill shoals, Nailed it!
Creek crossing both ways!
Rock Huck on Burnt Mountain (too high for me)

There are probably some that I missed as well. If you make it a point to master these moves, it will improve your riding.

Most of the ride on Saturday was typical with big smiles and some out of breath moments. Andrew was hammering it up the climbs and Eric was flying on the rocky downhills. Andrew had a “confession of the big wheels” coming down the top of Micajah. It is always great to see another soul enjoy the 29’er lifestyle. You are definitely “out of the norm” if you ride 26 inches in our group. Not that there is anything wrong with 3 less inches. . .

Burnt Mountain and Nooks trails have recently been re-routed. Nooks is nothing but a flowing lollipop loop now. Burnt has changed flavors quite a bit but it is better than ever. The first downhill leading to the climb now has a bunch of optional table tops and doubles that just plain rock. Eric and I both exclained that it was the first time we had “cleaned” a jump like that in a long time, they are set up absolutely perfect. There were also some wall rides and banks that were added. Right before the initial climb there is another banked corner that is not finished yet but when it is, it will be a strong kick to the beginning of the climb.

The climb is now extended and rolling instead of rutted. The downhill starts in the same spot but extends out to the riders left and weaves around some awesome rock formations. Just when you think it is ending the new section sends you soaring back toward the triple huck water bar, water bar, rock drop. Eric went flying off the hucks as I negotiated them as step downs. The bottom section after that is all the same.

After everyone exclaimed their excitement about Burnt we headed all the way up to Rich Mountain Road for some true single track. I knew no one knew where we were when we were standing there. When I told them all it was the furthest point from the car and we were headed back now. . . It was great.

Sunday’s ride was painful as I had not recovered well from Saturday at all. We had a big group and a big time. Ridgeline now goes on forever and is a fantastic downhill with a sweet skinny log ride and plenty of alternate lines.

Peace