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Wednesday, December 8

Looking back, around, down, and sideways

I guess before I come up to periscope depth to take a look at what's on the horizon, it's time to reflect and be thankful.  

Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please.

Holy poop in a bucket. What a year 2021 was (or is thus far).  I started out with the Winter Shart Tarck Series.  I wasn't sure if I was gonna give the whole series a go in 2021, and even though the venue change was a bit disappointing, it was the closest thing to normal that I had available to me.  Such a sweet distraction it provided for a few weeks.  Although the rest of the world seemed to be insane, spending a Sunday outside with frans and bikes and beers was refreshing... even if it was cold and muddy most of the time.

It was a short respite before I was back to "racing" at The Triple Dip in March... as long as you want to call that "racing."  It was such a great time, and once again, at least for a day, the world made sense again.

But then there was a short drought that was kinda moistened with the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek followed by a return to normalcy that may have been equal parts blissful ignorance and guarded optimism at the Trans-Sylvania Epic in late May.

With the announcement that I'd be going back to work like normal (as opposed to every other week) in July, I did what I could to suck the marrow from those last moments of pandemic free time, filling my day with bike rides and organizing my sock drawers.  A couple weeks after being a normal worker bee again, I was on a plane headed west with my new squishy/shifty bike that I didn't know I was going to buy until I did... only to bust the rear rim on day one... and then bust so many parts of my body on day two.  Regrettably (at least now that I'm looking in the rear view mirror), I went ahead and showed up for the Breck Epic nowhere near physically or mentally healed.  I found myself piled up in a heap at the side of the trail on day two hurt even worse than I was a month ago.  The right side of my body from shoulder to big toe was pissed off and constantly reminding me of my mistakes.

Fuck.

I still went to the Shenandoah Mountain 100 a month later.  Mebbe I'm "proud" that I managed to finish, but once again, the smarter move mighta been to stay home or just volunteer.  I was still a broken (small) man.  Riding scared with a foot/ankle/leg that didn't wanna do stuff like "move" or "exist" was just plain stupid.  

And I was still pretty terrified about wrecking again... like give up mountain biking for life petrified.  I thought mebbe this is how it ends.

But somehow...

And I got to slam my way through a bunch of racing in three weeks at the King and Queen of the Watershed, PMBAR, and the Pisgah 55.5k... although I carried The Fear with me through all of those events.  It's a heavy rock to get out from underneath.

I'm definitely getting my mojo back now.  Me and my relatively new'ish bikes are getting along like Peanut M&M's and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  Admittedly, I'm not railing leaf covered trails in the Pisgah without at least acknowledging that danger might be lurking below in the form of giant holes, loose rocks the size of a loaf of Wonder Bread, or a spoke-eating log.  For all I know, there could be a predator hiding in the leaves.

You can't tell me with 100% certainty there isn't.

Can I say it was a "good" year?  Why not?  I'm feeling great riding bikes in the woods, I have a wife who loves me, a jehrb that still lets me wear shorts while only occasionally doing hygiene stuff (I really need a shave right now), and my dog still greets me when I get home as if I'd been on a deep space mission to Mars for three years.  Mebbe I learned a lesson about respecting the limitations of my injured body.  Perhaps I've become a better person...

Probably not, but I'm trying.

Only twenty something more days till 2022.

Thursday, December 2

Everyday Normal Guy

This time of year, life is a lot like the night laps at a 24 hour solo mountain bike race.  Not the good-good rips around the course when you first strap a light on your head part and go into the grand adventure of darkness with almost fresh legs and a "go get 'em" attitude.  No, more like the 2:00AM "I've been at this for fourteen hours and I still have five hours before the sun comes up but I still have five more hours to go after that..."  You put your head down, tuck your sads into your jersey pocket amongst the so many empty but sticky gel packs, and keep moving forward with some but not much of a sense of purpose.

But...

The silver lining being that I can sorta focus on finally dialing in my Epic EVO and Vassago Meatplow V.9.  Yeth, the bikes I've had since July and August respectively.  Life has been messy and busy, and all those injuries stacked up on top of each other certainly took a toll... not to mention embracing apathy as a lifestyle as of late.   

Four most excellent and very different rides took place over the holiday, and some were much needed reminders that my bikes still needed attention.  Whoddathunk that raising my bars and reducing the reach on my Radimus put less of my weight distribution on the front end, thus making it necessary to lower the pressure in my fork (front fork for those that speak in such terms)?  Is my rear brake still rubbing even though I spent at least a couple inattentive minutes in a perfunctory manner trying to fix it on the trail the other day?  Did I really think my last ride on the Epic was a little too plush so I put in another volume spacer... and then did zero testing before taking it out on the trail... to find it was no buenos... and then forget to take the spacer out before I grabbed the bike at the very last minute for a ride in DuPont? 

I'm "focused" on getting through the next few weeks.  Enjoying whatever time I can snag outside in the sun, even if it's pushing stupid leaves from one stupid place to another, or riding my bike, or drinking beer, or staring at the crack in the front of my house. 

Chilly commutes, twenty hour a day darkness, rain (wait, does it rain in Charlotte anymore?), and general morosity be damned.

At least Watts contributed content to the internet again, further proof that anything can happen.

Tuesday, November 23

Surf leaves, not the internet

This is how blogs die, don't you know.  

There's no fanfare.  No "so long and thanks for all the fish."  No fireworks or long goodbyes.  No disco-length, well-choreographed dance number with sequined top hats and canes.  No manifesto stating that a proclaimed noble goal has been achieved, and with nothing further to accomplish, all are bidden a fair adieu.

It's more like giving your dog a pat on the head, walking out the door without turning off the lights or locking the door.. and then never coming back again. Schrödinger's dog... I mean blog.  As long as nobody checks up on it, it's still alive.. but also ded... like single speeds, 26" wheels, 27.5" wheels, 2X drive trains, hispters, and irony.

Go ahead and take the time to scroll down that list of blogs over there on the right (click "show all" to see the worst offenders) and see how most bike blogs died.  I recently tried to trim it down to just those that were staying at least semi-current, but this blogger device won't let me save the changes.  It's as if the blog-o-sphere is saying, "No... wait... give them a chance.  They never said goodbye."

It's not like Fat Cyclist wanted to end his blog with a quick update on his 2019 weight loss challenge.  I'm sure Wadsworthless is just saving up all the good stories since he got back from Africa in 2018.  Tomi had an epiphany in 2017 that he then forgot it, so mebbe he's still trying to remember.  Steve Tilford was still posting right up until the day before his untimely demise, and I'd give anything just to read about him remodeling his friend's bathroom for two weeks before heading to cross nationals or delivering a table or fixing a chainsaw or riding through a cloud of cement dust or...

Sigh.

This blog is not ded tho.  It's the forgotten, not completely empty two liter bottle of Coke in the bottom of the fridge door that was purchased because you were having family over.. some time ago.  It might not make that crisp "psssssssshhhttttt" noise when you crack it open or even give your nose that little twang like the first sip did, but somehow it's not getting thrown out quite yet either.

It exists whether you like it or not.

So the blerhg will continue, but also see abrupt halts like this past one.  Life is good.  I'm riding bikes and looking forward to 2022 as much as I look forward to the weekend or supper or bed time or... whatever.  Everything is on some kinda complacent cruise control and until there's a moment where I need to hit the gas or the brakes, things will kinda stagnate here.  Unfortunate?  Mebbe, but at this point, I'm past dumping out the contents of my big blue bins to create fodder. 

Suffice to say, just because things are a little quiet here, it is not a bad thing.  It's not a good thing either.

It's just a thing.

See you when I see you.

Thursday, November 11

Where the mild things are

Did I "learn" anything in 2021?

To the point that mebbe regret is a way of learning, I guess so?

Perhaps it belongs in the "da doi" column, but I shoulda not tried to "race" at the Breck Epic.  That was one of the stupidest moments of bowing down to my own personal stubbornness and inability to respect my limits.  I was still pretty banged up from my wreck on the Palisade Plunge that happened on July 16th.  I just went through my Wahoo data acquisition device, and I only managed to ride less than twenty miles of trail from then till August 14th, the day before the Breck Epic started.  I'd skipped out on all the non-cycling exercise I normally do (mostly core stuff) because I couldn't manage to do any of them without pain.  I'd resorted to strapping KT Tape across my injured shoulder/back because according to what I've gathered, it's the panacea for all achy muscly things and all the other things as well.  

Did it help?

Dunno.  I felt like an "athlete."

But I decided to start the Breck Epic anyways.  I was taking ibuprofen and something else from the medicine chest from a previous injury.  Despite that, the pre-ride we did on August 14th was harrowing.  The pain in my ribs and shoulder would spark up with every quick movement, and I could feel my inability to react to the trail.  On top of all that, I was still kinda mentally scarred from the previous incident.  I was terrified of going down again, especially on the same side of my body.

So it should be no surprise that I only made it eight miles into Stage Two before throwing the right side of my tiny physique into the ground and adding my foot/ankle/leg to my list of problems.

Stupid.

I don't think of myself as a proud man (def not a Proud Boy), but I let pride fuck with me nonetheless.  Just because I had a plane ticket, a place to stay, and a number plate with my name on it in waiting for me in Breckenridge, and I could still hold onto my handlebars, none of those were reason enough to follow through with participating.  

I coulda respected my injury, flew out, volunteered, and still got on the board for the El Jefe Margarita Challenge Edition II... the only thing that mattered.

It woulda been "fun."  I coulda been soaking in the hot tub, course marshaling, riding around town or on the greenway... recovering.  Who knows?  Mebbe I woulda came back from Breck feeling like an almost whole human and been able to ride a bike in the woods without pain.  Mebbe the Shenandoah Mountain 100 would have been a less harrowing/slightly more rewarding experience.  Mebbe I wouldn't have been still dealing with my injuries on the week long trip up to West Virginia.

And by "mebbe," I mean certainly.

The worst part being that instead of losing a month and a half of good riding, I extended my misery out at least another month.  A summer month.  A mountain biking month.

How many of those do I have left?

So here's to making better decisions in 2022, or hopefully not having to make those decisions again.  Mebbe if getting in and outta bed is an awkward struggle trying to leverage my grip on the sheets with my good arm in order to maneuver the rest of my body, that's a good sign to hold off on trying to have happy fun times.

Mebbe.

All that said, it feels awesome to be normal (50+ year old me normal) again.

Tuesday, November 9

Hum a few bars and I'll wing it

I used this past weekend as kind of a reset.  I was "living la vida bachelor," but I decided to take it relatively easy.  I spent Saturday standing around outside watching a bunch of cyclo-rossers ride their bikes around in the grass between tapes and farm animals.  It was a great excuse to be outside without a rake or a leaf blower or some other yard utensil.  I've ridden a decent amount over the past few weeks, and voluntarily taking a day off the bike was much buenos.

When I got home, I was greeted by something extra special on my porch.

My Oddity Lowrizer bar had arrived.  I was tingling with excite when I got the delivery notification whilst loafing in a vineyard next to a goat, worrying that some porch pirate was going to make off with something they wouldn't even understand.  Obviously, I went immediately to getting them installed after five or six weeks of...

Regardless of my excite, I had small plans for my Sunday Funday, being that I lost most of a day of productivity to race spectation.  Leaves don't mulch themselves, groceries don't magically appear in the fridge, Boppit doesn't check outta boarding and Uber home, and sundrious other ignored duties that needed to be handled before heading back to work on Monday.

Still, I got out for an in town ramble ramble to two local trails on a regrettable 32 X 20 gear (because Pisgah bike is Pisgah bike) on a windy AF day.  Ten something miles around the airport over to the Airline Bike Park to hit all the new new that I haven't seen since before the park officially opened.  Then six something miles with big ol' jet airliners flying overhead over to Southwest District Park.

This stone flyover bridge is so dope it don't even know.

Of course, I didn't set the brake levers where they needed to be the night before.  I also never addressed my saddle height that I kinda messed up by 5mm the last time I rebuilt my droooper.  Also also, the saddle still needed the nose bumped up... which I think I've told myself to do something about since... September something something,

Meatplow V.generic because I didn't wanna tie this bar to any one bike.  All single speed mountain bikes are Meatplows of one kind or another, and this bar will be around for awhile.  I ended up deciding on the Lowrizer with only 45mm of rise even tho I fell in love with Boyes's bar which was the Oddmone' with 70mm of rise... because our bikes were apples and oranges.  He also had loads of spacers on a totally different frame with a stem that was boner long but the bars had way more sweep...

I had multiple emails and then a phone call with Burnsy before settling where we did.  I have 35mm of spacers to play with, and if I went with the 70mm of rise, there would be no way to get lower than full stem slamnation.  Also, trying to work around leaving the steer tube long enough to not kill a future resale, making room for the entire EDC tool, and also not having 35mm of spacers ABOVE the stem.

The other "oddity" I had to cope with was that although I planned on not riding with a Wahoo data acquisition device on my mountain bikes for awhile, I knew I'd eventually have to find a work around for the 22mm bars.  Since I wasn't all that familiar with the roads I'd be taking to put this in town roll-around into action, I decided to see if the 22mm-31.8mm shims I found would work in reality.

Short answer, yeth.

Now what?

Dunno.

I was gonna ride the geared bike a whole bunch just to cleanse my cycling palate, but now that I got my new bars and I wanna dial my position in but my new Industry Nine wheels aren't here and my old ones are back on the geared bike and riding with these Shimano XT wheels is noticeably a different experience but I'm fortunate to have them because of the way the "industry" is working right now and I still wanna think about getting a shorter 35mm stem but not until I ride these bars a bunch...

At least when I got home Sunday evening, I did take the time to dial in my saddle in all X, Y, and Zs, and my brake levers are close to perfect although...

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." ~ football coach guy 

Catch most excellence.  

Tuesday, November 2

Hey mighty brontosaurus

Don't you have a lesson for us?

The other day, I had a series of long runs to do at work.  I put on my bone conduction headphones and followed some strange urge to pull up "Synchronicity" on YouTube.  As soon as the title track kicked in, I was magically transported back about thirty something years ago into the past.

Had I held onto mine, it woulda been worth enough to buy two seats in Row F at a Sting '21 concert.

Summer of '84... or '85... or '86.  Doesn't really matter in the context of the story.  It was more than likely all the above.  I can only guesstimate based on the fact that I had an auto-reverse Walkman loaded with Police "Synchronicity" on one side of a 120 minute cassette tape and Huey Lewis and the News "Sports" (both released in 1983) on the other, and I would have been riding my 1984 Olympic Edition Murray 12 speed.

Best picture I could find of my beloved bike that I bought with my own hard earned, hay-bailing $120.  I can remember because my dad thought I was wasting a lot of money, because I'd have my drivers license in a few years, and I'd never ride a bike again.

Anyways, I had a friend that lived (what seemed like) a million miles away from me, being that the majority of my local rural friends lived within a 1.5 mile radius of our mobile home.  By "radius," I mean they either lived west or east on Route 6, a very popular road for semis, drunk drivers (you gotta get home from work somehow), and people who liked to randomly park their vehicles in ditches.  My Murray 12 speed expanded my range and enabled me to ride over the PA border to my friend Todd's house close to five actual miles away.    

Todd had everything that unsupervised teenage boys could want.  A pool, three wheelers, satellite TV, salacious periodicals, a pool table, guns, slingshots, snowmobiles, power tools, farm machinery, and lots of open space to abuse most of those things.  He was what I thought being "rich" would be like.

I spent as much time there as I could during the summer.  Todd lived on a farm, and of course that meant his life of privilege came with daily chores.  I'd help Todd clean up cow shit, pick corn, toss bails of hay, dump feed where feed goes (1%er people work)... whatever it took to get it over with as fast as possible so we could get to his rich people toys.

To this day, I can't believe my parents let me ride a bike on Route 6.  Those were different times tho.  Their only concern with my safety was that I be home before this ambiguous time known as "dark."  I didn't own a watch, street lights aren't a thing in BFE, and I firmly believed that time is and always will be a construct.

My parents expected me home before dark regardless ... for my own "safety."  It's not like I had a helmet... or lights... or that my parents forbade me to grab my Walkman and have Huey Lewis and the News pumping into my developing brain through my earholes.

"THEY SAY THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL IS STILL BEATING..."

There were so many evenings that I can remember riding as fast as I could as the semis came around me on the narrow two lane road honking their horns.  The drunks headed to (or from) the bowling alley veering across the yellow lines.  The strange noises off in the woods when it was dead quiet and about as dark as the inside of Satan's buttholes.  All the while, I'm destroying myself trying to cross the finish line before this random (to me) event known as "darkness" ended my game for good.

To be honest, I don't think my parents ever said anything to me about my arrival time.  No commendations for beating the sunset by twenty minutes, but also no reprimand for coming up the driveway in the pitch black of a country night.  I don't think that they didn't love me.  They were probably more like "ok, he's alive," and that was that.

When I think about those many days (nights?) of my childhood riding into a setting sun driven by the fear of a good tongue lashing and mebbe the back of my dad's hand, I wonder if that's where the foundation was laid for me to want to race my bike.  The adrenaline fueled chase, the looking over my shoulder, the abject fear of a failure that can't be exactly defined... the stupidity of doing it over and over again.  

Racing is the only thing that gives me the joyous tingles of being the same stupid teenager walking the fine line of personal safety and self-fulfilled but also dubious glory, all at this age that I woulda considered elderly at the time... of fifty two years old.  Well... I guess mebbe my job can occasionally bring a similar excite, but I'm a "professional," so whatevs.  Thank dawg I have these outlets available to me.

Viva bike racing.

If I forgot to say it already, welcome to the addled remains of my psyche.  Happy International Single Speed Day.

Thursday, October 28

Pressure is Building

As of now, I'm taking the Wahoo data acquisition device mounts off my mountain bikes until next year.  I've had enough with numbers and maps and buttons for now.  I bought it back in July '19, and it's been a nice distraction, tool, mileage/effort shamer, and beer calories burnt counter.  Enough for now.

But for someone who is trying to get away from anally compulsing over numbers, my bike life just got more "informed."

Tallest to shortest, the JOEBLOW® TUBI 2STAGE floor pump, the POCKETSHOCK DIGITAL shock pump, and the SMARTGAUGE D2X pressure gauge.

Firstly and secondly, let's focus on the little things.

Just as Apple recently decided to stop supplying all the accessories with new iPhones because you probably own plenty of headphones and charging blocks (but still need Apple stickers?), there was once a time when new forks and full suspension frames came with shock pumps... and then one day... they didn't.  My remaining shock pump is one of many that have come into my life and is probably from my Santa Cruz Tallboy (if I had to guess).  All the other ones (save for the Marzocchi one in the junk closet that I used to inflate balls back when I had "kids") were either sold or given away.  Dunno.  I just know they're gone, hopefully to a better place.

For someone as hyper-anal as I am about tire pressures on my rigid SS, I've allowed for some sloppy suspension setups.  Don't blame me.  Blame this:

When I've got a suggested fork pressure of 63PSI and rear shock pressure of 146PSI, you tell me that I'm not taking a stab in the dark with those 10PSI increments on the gauge.  It hurts my head that I have the technology available to get my tire pressure correct to .5PSI accuracy, but I gotta settle for "something in the range of ?" when it comes to my high dollar squishing bits.

So now that all the "racing" is over for the year (and hopefully my injuries), I can take the time to dial in my suspension AND write down my ACTUAL settings so I can get it where I want it and keep it there.

Worth noting, this shock pump has the Pressure-Rite connector so when the pump is removed from the valve, I can rest assured that I didn't lose even one of my precious PSIs. 

Oh... and just when I thought I was limited to tire pressure accuracy being in the .5PSI range, the new SmartGauge D2X is accurate to .1PSI.

Yeth, it used to hurt my head that as I was bleeding air slowly to get 11.5PSI, and it goes 13... 12.5... 12... 11.5...

And I'm left wondering if it just displays 11.5 once it gets closer to 11.5 than 12 (like 11.74) or when it's 11.5 on the nose, or if I skip a beat, it could drop to 11.26 without me knowing it.  Mebbe it doesn't matter to you, but these are the things I think about when I'm talking about my turgid frok happiness.  Perhaps it's less than a 3% difference, whatever.  Numbers...

I was previously relying on the Topeak Shuttle, but not using it 100% the way it was meant to be utilized.  It can be hooked inline with the pump hose (which felt a little like putting a hat on a hat), but I was:

* Too lazy to connect/disconnect it every time.
* Too lazy to just leave it connected and take enough care to not drop it to the floor as carelessly as I know I would.

The new D2X feels better in my hand, it's backlit so old people with bad eyes can read it more easily, and unlike the Shuttle Gauge which would shut off after 80 idle seconds, you can shut the D2X off by holding the power button down for 3 seconds (and save your battery, bless).

I would say that I'm kinda picky and also sentimental when it comes to floor pumps.  The pump that lives next to the tarck bike in the spare room is a replacement that Faster Mustache bought for me when mine came up missing after the indoor night criterium that had a LeMans start that involved inflating balloons until they burst before running to your bike. 

It's special to me... well, because it is.

The one I keep handy in my work area that I use for pumping up mountain bike tires has to fill certain requirements:

1. High volume for less pumpings.
2. A gauge I can see with old eyes WITH 1PSI increments up to 30or so PSI.

That's about it.

There is the added bonus that I can swap this new pump from high volume to high pressure so if I'm closer to it than my "sentimental value pump," I don't have to walk all the way across my spacious thousand square foot home to get my tarck bike ready to go to work.

There's also this nifty feature:

Yeth, you can remove the valve core with the Tubihead while the pump is attached so you can get more air flow through the valve with zero air loss... which would be handy for setting up tubeless if you don't have a compressor OR a canister device like a Tubibooster... which I predict someday will come with this Tubihead feature... and I'll make zero dollars for coming up with the idea.

And going back to my laziness (and not my decrepit vision), I found the Tubihead to work nicely when I was inflating a tire with a valve core that probably should be replaced due to being sticky with sealant but now mebbe not as soon as I would normally because I can just move it outta the way short term.  No, not the best idea as far as making a trailside flat repair easier, but it did get me out the door quicker the other day... and I'm sure I'll get around to replacing that $1 valve core before it becomes a real problem in the woods?

Mebbe.

Life is getting more dialed right before I get to spend the next three months going off the rails.

Bless and thank.