Wednesday, September 28

Ticking away the moments that make up a derp day

Don't ask me.

Somehow an entire Interbike happened and after all the online perusing of the shiny things, I'm verklempt... except without the emotional part.  I feel nothing and can say little about those non-feelings.  I guess I'm worried about my lack of emotions.  So there's that.  More new stuff, and none of it prying my virtual wallet open.  I guess that's a good thing.

The past week has been quite the drain on Charlotte.  That and the presidential debates hardly make one feel better about going outside where "other people" are milling about with their faces and opinions.

I attempted to kick start my "training" for the Lula Lakes Land Trust 5 Points 50 this past weekend.

Yeth, I actually used STRAVA, for what must be like the third time, I think.  I realized that this is probably sorta how it's supposed to be used?  Mostly I just had a rough plan where I wanted to go, how to get there, and a desire to maybe get an overall idea what the new trails being built on the south side of town look like.  Oh, and also to make sure I got enough ride time/miles to feel like I did something.

The 277 Trails in Ballantyne.  Not sure why they're named that, since Interstate 277 is so far away from here.  I did run into one of the trail builder/coordinators while I was riding.  David?  Shit.  I'm terrible with names.  He gave me a little history about how this place came to be and showed me a trail map on his phone... which only really showed me that I was on "trail proper" maybe half the time... the other half I was on old, illegally built trails that just went, like... all over the place.  Anyways, good stuff.  I'd be stoked if I lived on that side of town.  What I would do to have three or four miles of trail a few minutes from my house for the purposes of shitting and giggling.

I guess I could call that a "road ride," but I was on roads, greenways, mountain bike trails, illegal cut-throughs, parking lots, bike lanes, sidewalks...

Some part of me still hankers for some sort of machine for proper road riding, but not so much proper road rides themselves.

Monday, my early morning extended commute got shut down by rain.  I didn't even try to get up early yesterday... presidential debate (and beer) hangover.  Who stays up past 10:30PM on a school night?

So back at it today and start living La Vida Bachelor tonight.  Currently, I'm paralyzed with a vast emptiness of not knowing exactly what to do with myself until Monday, but I'm sure something will happen and more than likely, it will involve bikes and riding and hopefully sleeping.

At least tonight there's $1 draft beers at Unknown Brewery, and although "beer" isn't really an activity, I'll be drinking it with people that might want to make plans for the weekend. 


Friday, September 23

Thou protesteth too muchly but okay

Well, shit.

Being in Charlotte, the very place where I do my job that's currently in the public eye like an annoying grain of sand, one might expect me to pontificate about what's going on here.  Sorry, but my opinions are mine and not an internet thing.  We can have a beer and chat about such things in person-to-person type situations, but the amount of social media and actual media has crushed my brain just a bit.

What I will say...

I got sent home an hour early on Wednesday... with very little heads up.  I hung out in the center of uptown to see if this was really real.  This is sorta unprecedented, at least in the past twenty years.  The last time we were sent home for something other than snow was 9/11.  Anyways, go home, watch the news and live feeds and have discussions with The Pie.  Go to bed kinda late.

Wake up.  Start the coffee.  Check my phone.  We're opening late... update at 9:30AM.

9:30AM.  We're closed all day.

Do some adult stuff for The Pie so she won't have to deal with it next week before she goes outta town, ride uptown, hang out with Jon Danger and Nick "Dip 'n Spray" Barlow at B-Cycle, get the sense that things might be happening again tonight.  Go home to spend the evening in a better place...

After stopping at the store first.

Eventually I plan on talking about the fact that I'm now commuting messenger bag-free, but another time.  Suffice to say, I have a plan for bringing home quantities of beer greater than six, but that plan was in a locker in the middle of uptown, so... six pack.

Back to mountain bike stuff, which is the thing I do that isn't affected by politics and hate 99.9% of the time.

I'm going to do the Lula Lake Land Trust 5 Points 50.  I've thought about doing this race the past few years, but I've always decided that I was too tired of making plans and hurting myself for the year.

And then the day after the race occurs, I regret not doing it.  Then, I tell myself, "next year."

And then I don't do it then either. 

So because I've heard good things, and I'm tired of regretting not being there, I'm going.  Despite the fact that logistically, because of work and life, my plan to be there is an eight out of ten on the suck scale.  Fuck it.  I can't face another year of "shoulda, coulda, woulda."

When I asked Justin Mace, race promoter and guy who hands my ass to me at the Fool's Gold almost every time I do it, what I was missing, he said:

"...custom Handup gloves to all registered. Chattanooga brewing company beer. Live music from this rad guy named Dan. Chattanooga whiskey, finishers pint glasses, t-shirts to riders, free primitive camping. If time allows after race we might do a pixy bike race and drag race. Bon fire and stuff."

You had me at "beer."

And then also "stuff."

Because I like ambiguity.

Before I just let it go that Justin beats me all the time, let's not forget this moment:

My last ORAMM and also the last time Bob Moss ever stood below me on the wood... probably the last moment before I was officially a "washed-up has-been."  That would be Justin on my left, still taller than me on the #2 box, but whatever.

So, I didn't always suck.  Entirely.  It just happens to be something I'm getting good at lately.

One more race to go (assuming I don't come on cross).  I'm a little bummed that I prematurely removed my racing mustache, but I'm sure I can borrow some mascara from Nick and fix my upper lip coverage.

Wednesday, September 21

The Fox Stepcastki

The Fox 32 SC.  I received mine at the end of July (ordered back in April tho), so almost two months of time riding around with it mounted to the front part of my bike... aside from that week in Durango riding the other bike with a Pike.  I've got 250-300 miles on it, what with the Shenandoah 100, the Fool's Gold 60, SSUSA, a couple rides in the Pisgah mountains and a handful of local jaunts.  Enough to have, like, an opinion, man.

So, I get the fjork and mount it up and take a few stabs at getting the settings right.  A few rides in and either I'm way wrong or this thing sucks bowling balls.  Some local rides and a sketchball trip to the mountains, all tainted with an ill-performing component.  I take a moment and ponder the situation in a pontifical manner... because it certainly can't be me.

The fjork came with a manual, but I'm so used to this extra piece of packing material being pretty much useless, it didn't matter to me.  They were talking, but I'm sorry.  I wasn't listening.

Eventually desperation sunk in, and lo and behold once I turned past page three, the information washed over me like a tsunami of knowledge gleefully crashing into the shores of my gray matter.

Adjustments to make.  Almost max-out the rebound damping, jack up the Open Mode Adjust, remove all the clip-on volume spacers, and head back to the mountains once more.  Did it work?

I tripped on a cloud and fell eight miles high.  The fjork is an absolute dream, without all the bowling pins and upskirts.  I'm almost as comfy cozy descending with the Step Cast 32 on my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 as I am with my slacker By:Stickel Meatplow V.6 with a 120mm Pike.  As far as stiffness goes, I'm not noticing a lack of it at all.  This thing is pretty point and shoot like a 110 camera.  I'm not even running the Boost version of the fjork.  Argue against it all you want, but with only 100mm of travel, I feel like the 32mm stanchions are plenty... at least for a 130-135lb rider (which sadly, I am right now).  Never once did I feel like I was riding a "wet noodle."

The three different compression adjustments?

Firm.  Maximum damping.

Did what it's supposed to do, pretty much locked the fork out entirely.  I thought I'd do all my extended climbing in this mode, but that chunder-fuck mess climb at the Fool's Gold 60 and the Ardent 2.2 at 21PSI had me reaching down for...


I'd pretty much written this setting off as pointless.  The fork did so well on regular trail rides in the open position on everything but the extended climbs, it seemed silly... until the chunder-fuck climb.  Firm was too firm and the fjork was bobbing quite a bit with all the effort I was putting in trying to get over the lumpy stuff in the open mode.  Medium was the Momma Bear it needed to be.

And that open mode?

Perfect.  This thing can rally.  Not necessarily bottomless, but about as bottomless as a 100mm fork can feel.  Hell, I've still probably got about 8mm of unused travel, so either I continue to get fatter or I can probably let a few PSI out before I find absolute perfection.

The downsides?

Since I was running front suspension and no longer needed the volume of the 2.4 Ardent to make the rigid crabon frok tolerable, I dropped down to a 2.2 Ardent Race.  While it felt fast as shit on flats and climbs of most (but not all) sorts, I just didn't have the same confidence on the downhills when things got loose.  Sure, I was probably going faster than I'm used to when riding rigid, certainly adding to the excite, but mang... things got pear-shaped and sideways more than a few times on me.

Full disclosure:  I had moved the slightly-worn Ardent Race 2.2 that had been on the back of the bike since April to the front.  And the rear tire?  I used the pretty much worn-out Ardent Race 2.2 I ran all last year.  Brilliant, I know.

Final words?

I still love riding a rigid bike. Not all the time, but if I had to choose between rigid and sqaushed? Still rigid.  That said, I like trying different things sometimes (like gears every 2-3 years).  I've been somewhat disappoint with almost every 100mm fork I've purchased since... I dunno.  2010?  This one did not disappoint.  I don't know when exactly I'll use it, what the impetus will be that will sway my decision, or why actual "performance" will probably have very little to do with my selection.  Whim, fancy, laziness and peer pressure will end up being the deciding factors, with laziness coming in a strong first place, peer pressure a close second.

Like right now, just as I was ready to go back to rigid and plusser tires but thinking about racing in three and a half weeks and not wanting to do it on plusser tires and the easiest thing being just leave things the way they are despite doing things the way I might want to do them... assuming there's not a rainy Sunday between now and then, in which case bored beats lazy every time.

I like this fjork.  My apologies to whomever put dibs on it as soon as I said I was going to buy one.  I like it enough to put it aside when not in use and keep it around until... I dunno.  Whenever.

But I'm not getting rid any time soon for sure, which means that I guess it gets my Seal of Semi-Approval.

I simply can't say it any better than has already been said (my apologies for the non-Lebowski content):

This is much, if not all, the buenos.

Tuesday, September 20

Rash Potatoes

Before I start babbling about racing and stuff, I thought I should mention that when I got home from the Fool's Gold race on Sunday, we had our three year cupcake party with Sizemore.

The little dog who survived a North Carolina hoarding situation and wasn't expected to live through the night when The Pie brought him home has made it to the three year mark, making him our longest ever long term foster.  He's had to have both his eyes removed over the past few months, but they weren't doing much for him anyhow.  It's been about a week since his last surgery, and while it's not been easy, he's still having a fine quality of life.  Tail wagging and walking the streets and dog (and human) treats and whatever it is that dogs get outta living.  He's getting it all.  I really love this furry tube with legs.

Okay.  Just so everybody understand this, the new venue for the Fool's Gold really tied the room together IMHOMO.  As much as I like racing bikes, I like hanging out and drinking beer with people who race bikes even more.

photo cred: Kelly Dasher

Who wore it better?  The catering people from Moe's decided I did by a landslide.

Having the camping onsite is killer.  It not only saves money, but being able to hang out and drink beer with zero worries about getting back to a hotel/Air BnB/whatever is awesome.  I don't really relish the thought of sleeping in the great outdoors and making great bike race, but when it serves a greater purpose, yeth.  Always.

photo cred: Kelly Dasher
I had a most excellent time, and even if that meant I had to race a few more miles of pavement and gravel to get the extra distance to/from the new venue?  Entirely worth it... except for the excoriated nipple for the second time in two weeks.  I'm still paying for that.

I was going to post a macro image of it, but decided against it.  You can buy me a beer later.

Anyways, you need to be there next year.

And stick around for all the fun.  Hang out, cheer on EVERYONE as they finish, have a good time making friends after making great bike race.  It's September.  You deserve it, not to mention, cross will still be there when you get back.

I did come to some realization out there on the course, shortly after the fat bike passed me (the first time).  I've got several competing agendas at the moment:

I like to race my bike.

I like to drink beer.

I'm 47 years old and not getting younger.

I'm already back to the weight I was back in March.

I've been doing endurance races since the year 2000, so long time sufferer/idiot.

I'd like to be faster than I am currently.

I know what I'd have to do to get faster next year.  It would be hard work.  Even worse, I'd have to really take care of myself.  Sleep, recovery, diet, yoga (boring)... all the things I've not been doing so well at for the last something something years.  I care, but apparently not quite enough.

So the conundrum being, stay the course and enjoy my current status quo or batten down the hatches and prepare to battle the inevitable storm?

I've got a few months to mull it over.  Unless I do something rash between now and then.  Which I might.  Or might not.

I can't even decide what to eat when I'm left to my own devices.  Days and days of La Vida Bachelor loom on the near horizon.

I guess I've got enough time on the Fox Step Cast 32 to blerhg about it, so maybe do that next.  That's easy and I won't have to change my current lifestyle/deathstyle to do it.

Monday, September 19

The 2016 Fool's Gold 60

No real preamble to this race.  I got off work early on Friday, went home, showered, packed, drove to York, SC to meet Bill Nye when he got off work, and then we were on our way.  Got there at 10:00PM, tents up and in bed by 10:30PM.

Scott Rusinko stopped by at 10:32PM to express his dismay that we were not drinking beer.  Apparently, he had been.

Starting into the beers at 10:33PM sounded like a terrible idea, especially as I was already prone.

Wake up, watch the hundred milers go off, and see Justin Mace cruising around.  Great.  Both he and Brad Cobb have both stood on the boxes higher than me at this very same race twice before.  Both of them are here, as well as 20 other single speeders (known and unknown).  I'm gonna have to work for it if I want to win or something close to it.

I line up at the very front, because... why not?  The race goes off in typical NUE "neutral" fashion, meaning I'm almost maxed out trying to keep in touch with the back of the fast guys.  The lead vehicle pulls away, and things start to heat up.  Racers are taking the inside line on blind corners, and my comfort level is exceeded.  I don't want next year's race to be the Fool's Gold Memorial Event.

I keep in contact for as long as I can, but when we get on flat pavement, I'm toast.  I see Justin and Brad still up in the mix and pulling away.  Another single speeder gets by me (Jason Betz), and then as I see the lead pack round a corner and go entirely out of sight, I look over my shoulder.  Nobody.  I'm in no man's land, between the haves and have nots.  Meh.

We finally get into the meat of the first climb.  Holy shit.  A lumpy fuckfest of an old road.  I start making my way back up, and I can see Justin and Brad in the distance, Jason just out of reach but right ahead.

Mash, mash, mash and get by riders all looking for the cleanest line.  The top three SSers are making better at it, and get away from me.  I continue to selectively make my way around the slower climbers.  I ding my bell and come around one.

"You got the whole road, buddy."

I don't hear him at first.  I mean, the words went in my ear, but it took a couple seconds to sink in.  I holler back, "I was just trying to be polite.  Sorry, buddy."

On up the climb picking my way.  Top out and the road back down is equally chundery.  It's a shit show, sometimes three wide in the corners, as riders of varying abilities are all up in the mix.  It's much excite.  I come around Jeff Bartlett (according to him later) on a full suspension bike and give him the sads.  I wish I would have realized it at the time and rubbed it in just a little.

On the next section of chunky but flatter gravel, I go back to getting dropped.  A camo cargo shorted single speeder on a plusser glides by me, seemingly unaffected by the loose garbage we're riding over.  Then, a fat bike single speed does the same... except even smoother. 

I consider the irony of the moments so close together to each other.  Meh.  The podium was five deep last year, and I just got passed by the ghosts of Christmas past and future.

We get into the more single tracky bits, the second most important reason I came back to this race (the first being free camping next to the free beer afterwards).  I close the gap down on the fat bike, make my pass, and spend the next hour or two trying to finish him, only to see him close it up on me several times.

Why did I start with a knee warmer that I would want off a half hour into the race?

Why do I need to pee... twice?

photo cred: Kelly Dasher
I really need to stop screwing around if I want a top five.  I decide that it's all going to come down to the heinous final climb back up the harrowing descent from earlier in the day (the lollipop stick).  I keep it pinned as best as I could on the oh-so-fast single track hoping to get to the climb before the fat bike.

Seriously.  I've never ridden that much high speed single track in a race like this.  Fatigue be damned, you had to really be on your toes, lest ye find one of the many trees or other immovable objects.

Get to Aid Station #4 and see a bandaged and taped up Gordon Wadsworth.  I assume he wrecked out of the hundred miler or had a Revenant situation to contend with.   He yells at me to open my mouth as I get my bottle filled.  I acquiesce his request and am rewarded with a handful of Peanut M&M's.

That guy (insert winky face emoticon).

Anyways, pound out the final bits of trail, get back to the chundery semi-flat where the fat bike passed me the first time, and then start that long climb back over towards the finish I'd been thinking about for hours.   Pass at least six or seven guys on the way up.  Pull up next to a rider who says to me, "I stumbled across your blog recently."

"I'm sorry," I reply.

He pulls away from me and keeps that distance the rest of the way up.

Down the chundery bit we climbed up earlier and then some merciless pavement before getting back to the campgrounds.  One last bit of mowed field (what seems to be a Fool's Gold tradition since leaving the Boy Scout venue from back in the day), and I squeak in at 5:03... because breaking five hours just would have been too rewarding.  Fifth place on the day, just behind camo cargo shorts and somewhere ahead of the fat bike.

Time for the podiums, and they didn't go five deep this year.  Oh well.  I've stood lower than Brad and Justin before... this time they got bested by that other guy Jason tho.  Good job, guys.

Later, they were doing the overall NUE podiums for the series, and Kip Biese couldn't be present to take his spot.

So naturally, I did.

I hope Kip appreciates this and will consider having me play the role of himself in his rock and roll biopic. 

Bill Nye and I stayed at the finish line until the very last of racers in the hundred miler came across the line.  We were two of the few people who stuck around (probably the only non-volunteer/workers), and were thusly rewarded with more than our fair share of beer and tacos (to go).  As a matter of fact, we both came home with way more beer than we had brought with us.

Which is as much of a win as I deserved.

Still, the party died with us.  Somehow, we were still in bed before 10:30PM, although Bill Nye was still trying to drink "just one more" before calling it a night.

Good times.

Thursday, September 15

Ups and downs. Strikes and gutters.

Last race of the year on Saturday.  Assuming I don't sign up for something stupid (like a cross race), this is the end of the "season."


For most, if not all intents and purposes, this might as well be a kitchen timer.  How else will I know that an hour has gone by, and I forgot to eat or drink anything?

Going into the Fool's Gold 50 (60?) with the expectation that it will be... fun?  I really like the trails down there, not so keen on the 15 mile lollipop stick of gravel and pavement to get out there to the good stuff and back, but the ratio is still acceptable enough to make it worthwhile.  My plan to take tomorrow off work and drive down early, set up camp, check in, eat, maybe go for a ride?  Yeah, all that is gone.   Something came up, so I'm working 2/3 of a day tomorrow and getting there in time to set up a tent and pass out.  Not the best plan for making great bike race, but it is my best plan that I can come up with.

I'm so hoping the rain holds off until after the race.  Not so excited about the idea of setting up a tent in the rain and darkness, not to mention the fact that they might use the backup course (no trail) which means I woulda set up my bike differently, mostly just to keep the unnecessary-for-gravel  Fox fjork out of the elements.*

Privileged elitist semi-athlete problems.

After this race is over with, no more mustache.  Time to let my upper lip see the light of day again.  Sad to see it go, but mustaches are for racing.

Also, looking forward to messing around with things.  Mebbe putting a 29+ Chronicle front on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 with a rigid frok and a 27.5+ Rekon on the back.  Of course the obvious downside to that would be having a 27.5 front wheel/29" rear wheel just doing nothing and the By:Stickel Meatplow V.6 also doing nothing... and I just bothered to put it back together after getting it back from Durango... for apparently no reason.

But I do want to try it.

Because I can.

Even tho that means that will be my only bike that will be trail ready.  Whatever.

There are still plenty of fun weekends ahead.  An upcoming La Vida Bachelor weekend, Interbike's Cyclofest is coming to Charlotte, a family trip to DC (this looks like a navigational delight to ride), and the Faster Mustache:Charlotte team retreat to Mulberry Gap.

Stoked to be doing more dicking around, although I've been pretty much doing that all year anyways.  A more focused dicking around tho, without the intermittent trying to care about performance and such.

Oh yeah, in case you don't already get Dirt Rag, you should.

I came out of retirement (I always do) to interview Sue Haywood.  I think I managed to ask her at least a few questions that weren't the same old-same old that she'd already heard, peeling back a few layers of the onion that is Sue Haywood; Recreational Pro.  There's some other good stuff in there as well.  Interviews with Floyd Landis, Ray Petro (of Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park), and some moving words about the late Jeff Archer (recent Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee, owner of First Flight Bicycles and founder of MOMBAT).

It's a good one.  Get it.  Now, please.

* Looking now, it seems as if the rain has been canceled.  Good times.

Wednesday, September 14

Duwango Tango Mancation '16: Days 5 and 6

Day 5.  We'd be left on our own today.  Matt McFee managed to drown his iPhone while fishing behind the Walmart (not kidding), so he needed to spend the day making his Hermosa Tours great again.

Bill Nye and I headed over to the low (but not lowest) hanging fruit over in Horse Gulch.  We wanted to play a bit more on Raider's Ridge and Snake Charmer, and then do some stuff over on the other side of the gulch.

Yeth, same spot we were in two years ago.

Same very awful, somewhat pathetic geek air spot.  Same very awful, somewhat pathetic geek air attained.

Bill Nye wanted to play on a feature he eyeballed two years ago (and rolled with Matt a couple days prior).

I did a terrible job capturing the steepness of this roll-in.  I felt it was very sketchballs, and nothing you're ever going to see me even attempt as I get closer to being 50 and further from 27.

We got a chance to do the descent down Anasazi that we skipped a couple of days ago.  Exposed at the top, so not really my bag, but glad I got to see it.  Then we rode all about and Bill Nye was starting to feel the effects of dragging a very Enduro™ bike all over some not-so-Enduro™ trails.  Cuchillo, Stacy's... what not.  Then one more time up Telegraph to some boner descending.

Bill Nye asked me if I wanted to swap bikes.


I wasn't on it for five seconds when I looked down at all the gears and rode face-first into a juniper bush, ripping off my shades and shredding my nose.  Doh.

"You can have this back."

That evening... free wine at the Bacon Western, hot tub, Thai food... something on cable TV?  Dunno.

The next day, we were going for the lowest of all the low hanging fruit, Overend Mountain Park.  It was literally right across the street from the Bacon Western.  A labyrinth trail system that Matt had told us we were likely to find ourselves going up the good stuff and down the bad if we weren't careful.  I had maps on my phone and whatnot, and we had an entire day to kill, so whatever.

The trails were once again not very Endurble friendly.  Punchy.  Lots of navigational stoppages.  Sun beating down.  Bill Nye called it a day and headed back to the Bacon Western, leaving me to find my way to higher parts of the mountain alone.

Bells was fun, Ned's Hill tried to kill me, some pleasant diddy-bopping, and I got to ride down Star Wars (the fun way).

Then I went looking for the black trails (expert) around Hogsback.

Lots of hiking later, I ended up here:

I thought things would get better from there on.  They did not.

This was the meat of it.  Shale slopes to the left and right.  Not a place to be for the person with an irrational fear of heights.  The wind was kicking, so I figured if I could just walk past this... it would only get better, right?

This is what was next:

I don't know how to describe how steep this really was.  It looked like I'd be tossing my bike on my back and scrambling with my free hand to get to... to where?  It didn't look like it was going to get any better.  I turned around and went back.

I came around the mountain the other way and found myself at the bottom of Hogsback looking up at it.  I made a good call.  (BTW: Since coming home, I've googled images and video of the trail.  I made a very good decision... especially being that I was out there solo).

Back down Hogsfoot and Spirit and back to Bacon Western, where Bill Nye was watching some awesome cable.  More free wine, hot tub moments, and out to eat with Matt to cap off the week.

One stop at the liquor store on the way back to home base so we could ensure much misery on a plane for the perfect bookend to the story.

Huge thanks to Matt McFee and Hermosa Tours for making America great again.  By using the shuttles and doing some in town rides, we were able to have a pretty sweet Mancation without having to rent a vehicle for six days.   Also, even tho it was hardly the coolest place in town nor the trendiest, I've got nothing but positives to say about staying at the Best (Bacon) Western on the west side of the river.  We were still a safe ride in bike lanes and on bike paths away from anywhere we wanted to be.  Free wine, hot tub, hose out back for bike washing (we assumed), bacon (natch) and other breakfast items... and cheap.  I thought it would suck.  It didn't.

I had an incredible time in Durango, despite the lack of dinosaurs.