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Monday, December 9

Same shit, different (but still same same) day

Being fifty means I'm very aware of the fact that every day is one more step in my shuffle off this mortal coil.  Knowing this, I'm more tempted than ever to load my weekends fuller than a shit wagon.

Somehow, once again, I agreed to getting up at 5:00 AM on Saturday to head to the hills.  A fast group.  One old friend, one newer friend, two strangers.

I'd say it was the fastest group I've ridden with in a very long time.  The least amount of bullshitting around in the woods I can remember.

 Well, you always stop at Lake Julia if you're there... because... Lake Julia.

I ended up getting my dick solidly beaten off.  I was (obvs) the oldest guy in the group.  I'm getting used to that.  Niko is only 28 years old.  My son will be 28 in two months.  I've been mountain biking for 30+ years.  I have items of clothing that are older than Niko.

Continuing with the mostly business theme, after a dick-beating ride, we pounded the drive home with no stops for burritos and novelty-sized beers.  I got home, ate everything I could find that was edible in the fridge, and spent the rest of the evening in my squeezy bags with a beverage.

Somehow, I found myself still awake at 11:30 PM, despite my "big" plans for Sunday.

Up some time after 7:00 AM.  Coffee.  Get to "the stores" before other humans start showing up and standing in the aisles with their mouths agape, staring at all the pasta options whilst their toddler-laden cart blocks my path.

Get home, dump the goods, change clothes, head to the Winter Short Track course for some trail work.

Not a published group work day, but a small bunch of guys with some heavy lifting to do before a call out to the masses can be made to spread Crush 'n Run and tidy things up.

 I was pretty pumped about that.  A choke down on the "fast line" that goes around a small drop.  Anything that rewards riders with a "particular set of skills" on the course is good with me.

A rough cut of a new section was benched in with the giant machine.  A few of us were tasked with the less than glamorous task of destroying an old bridge and building two new ones. 

After a break for pizza (and mebbe beer), Evan, his buddy and his big machine left.  So much got done with the robot.  Scott needed to get out of there as well.  Santana, his broke off thumb, and his leaf blower also vacated the scene.

It came down to Big 'n Buttery, Good Guy Greg and me, and two yet to be built bridges.  One had to be completed as it was part of the main (still open) trail.  The other was on the new and yet to be opened section of short track.

Grab wood, tote it down the hill, repeat.  Drill, drill, drill.  The sun is getting closer to the horizon...

One bridge done.  Someone asks the obvious.

"We gonna do the other bridge?"

I was gonna clean my gutters.  Rake my yard.  Go see my mom. 

Still need to feed the dogs...

"I'm not leaving if you guys aren't."

So we all stayed.
New twelve foot bridges up there above one built a few years ago.

Bridgework complete, we went ahead and opened up the new section of trail and mebbe while Big 'n Buttery was walking around checking over the work, Good Guy Greg and I built a tiny booter... because I only show up to Winter Short Track work days to build shitty jumps.

Celebratory parking lot beer, home, feed the dogs... rake my backyard in the dark.  I can smell the occasional dog turd hidden by the darkness and spent foliage. 

What you can't see can't hurt you.

Something like that.

Although I woke up sore all over today.  Can't blame that on the dog shit tho.

Tuesday, December 3

Back in the Buckeye State

The somewhat semi-annual but not really evenly distributed on any known calendar trip up to Ohio to see The Boy and his family.

I always bring my bike.  The area of Ohio in which he resides would be ideal for a road bike, mebbe even a garvel bike.  I see recreational riders constantly coming through town and stopping at the quaint coffee shop across the street (as road riders are apt to do) when the weather is decent.  I just stare out the window like a cat watching traffic go by.  I am perhaps jealous.  I cut my cycling teeth riding the rural Ohio back roads on a skinny tired noodle bar bike, so my member berries get all excite.

But I have dumb bikes.  Single speed mountain bikes.  A single speed beer fetching bike.  A tarck bike with no bottle bosses.  None of those get me overly excite for a long day in the saddle.

So I grab my Vertigo Meatplow V.7, gear it with a 32 X 18, and head out on the long greenway that passes less than a half mile from my son's place.

This time, with a goal tho.

I'd found some trails about twelve miles from his house almost right off the greenway (okay, I had to jump on the real road for about a mile).  There was also a brewery just off my route by a bit.

Out I went.

What's strange is that these were the kinda trails that you might find on one popular app but not another.  They're not anything official, but they are there, so that's that.

Hard to believe I racked up almost twelve miles to get here and only less than 30 feet of elevation to find some sort of paradise.

Only three trails were on the app. 

I found like eleventy four.

I ran into a guy on a giant Pivot Firebird riding in jeans.  Another guy on an e-bike with his dog, and then later with a group of guys all about my age or (prolly) much older.  There was stopping.  Talking.  They weren't worried about sharing their gem of a trail system with an outsider.

I do sorta miss these kinds of trails.  Back in the early '90s, this is what we had in Ohio.  I had to drive over an hour if I wanted to ride anywhere "official" with the possibility of "trail maps" or some sort of markings or signs.  It was mostly just riding patchwork trail systems that probably saw way more motorcycle and ATV use than anything else.  The old guy on the e-bike told me that's how all this started all those years ago, but they've succeeded in chasing the motos out of the woods.

I have to admit, I was "lost" at one point.  I mean, it's pretty hard to get "lost" on most of the east coast.  We've done a great job over-populating it and encompassing all the natural spaces with roads, strip malls, and houses.  Yet when I was running short on time and finding myself on a trail that wasn't on my app (putting me in some random no-man's land), I had to just start walking and riding randomly through the woods trying to get back on a known trail, as I was trying to get to the brewery when they opened at 3:00PM.  Oddly enough, it reminded me of one of the first times I rode a mountain bike, literally just forcing my way through the woods... no trail... nothing.  Just riding around through the sticks and leaves and trees with no real direction other than relatively forward.

Stickle not Stickel... so close.

Homestead Brewing.  There are times that I lament the saturation of our landscape with breweries everywhere. 

This was not one of those times.

A couple beers with The Boy (who met me out there), and then back to the greenway grind back home before dark.

Things to see and whatnot.

Moots Run Rd...

so between Moots Run Rd and Stickle (not Stickel) Funeral Home, I just need to find a Vassago Landromat and a Misfit Blvd to cover 95% of my most recent single speed mountain bikes.

Not for nothing, but I can't wait to come back (when it's a bit warmer) and explore the area a whole lot more.  There were a bunch of spurs that I didn't take, and the elevation out there was nasty.  I was off my bike and walking more than once.  The one guy had told me about some "downhill lines," but I could only find the bottom of a couple and the tops of none (leading to another moment of just randomly riding my bike down a hill through the woods.

Ohio.  I miss exploring.  I miss brown dirt.  I the smell...

Enough to visit from time to time.

I also did "family stuff," but this is not a "family blerhg," so you get this:

Yeth, I'm wearing pants for the cutting down of (and also the lugging of) a scratchy Christmas tree. Get over it.

Monday, November 25

Smoothing my Droopy

I know sometimes, this is an infomercial.  What feels like a paid advertisement.  Talking about sponsor stuff.  I get it.

I talk about stuff that works tho.  Stuff I like.  Surprise, surprise... I pay for more stuff than I have handed to me on a golden serving platter. 

So a bunch of time ago, I read this article on Bike Tumor about a drooper specific cable.  My jaded POS brain said, "whatever."  How can one improve such a simple component?  Is it even worth considering a "component?" 

Fast forward many months of forgetting and way more months of just doing what I do, and I start thinking.  My drooper activating thumb is acting up again.  So much drooping since the Van of Constant Sorrow trip.  Loads of cold weather riding. 

Then I see this chatter on FaceBook:

I (kinda) trust Andy at New River Bikes.  He touches more things than I do.  A lot more things.  I can honestly say that I've been drooping longer than most people, and I'm very aware of the difference that a reduction in cable friction can make.

So, I'm in.

I've been running a standard 1.2mm Shimano cable inside a Jagwire shifter housing for years.  Things have been great.  For the most part.  Sorta.  At least as good as I thought it could get.

Too much exposure to goopy conditions and things act sluggish with my setup on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.  My cold (and mebbe wet) thumb gets the sadness.  Extra effort becomes required to make my droops.  And I make a lot of them.  Ask anyone who rides behind me.

Anyhoo,

I had a fair amount of time to invest during a rainy Saturday to get my crunk-less bike ready for a trip to Ohio, so why not make so many things happen?

The Jagwire kit comes with elephant trunk ferrules, so I trimmed one down to fit the external drooper bit.

Extra contamination control is buenos,  I had to trim the trunk a bit to work, but...  small stuff.  I sweat it.

I can't believe how long it took for me to apply this kinda thinking to my non-external and also non-internal external setup.  It was some extra PITA, but I heat shrunk my housing/brake line for cleanliness.

So hot, right now.

No more nine zip ties messing up my curb appeal.  All tight and wrapped like a Christmas present.

Whence the work was all done, the reduction in effort to push my lever was very noticeable.  Much less of a concerted effort and slightly more like turning on the TV. 

Color me impressed and also sold on the concept.

Now, my real "problem."

I was only gonna do the Vertigo Meatplow V.7, but yesterday I was out riding the Vassago Meatplow V.8 in the Pisguh.  Not the most descendy gnar gnar loop, but my favorite seasonal route that's only connected Oct 15 - Apr 15. 

With one bike being totally crunkless since Nov 3, I've done all my riding on this bike.  Coincidentally, it's been cold and my droopy thumb pain has been on the rise, forcing me to really consider if the effort required to get droopy is too much.

It truly is.

Which means I need to double down and set this bike up with the Jagwire droopy kit.  It has an even tighter bend in the housing at the bottom bracket, so despite my lack of desire to mess with its internal routing (and to spend another $20), I'm pretty sure I need to do this.

I know it's been a long time since I dropped this in, but I fully give this my Seal of Semi-Approval.

It works as advertised, but it is a bit pricey when compared to bulk cable/housing available at your local bike shop.  But it works better, so you get what you pay for?  Mebbe I'd bitch about the inability to buy the .8mm cable alone as I'd like to have a replacement on hand, but if I believe that conversation I mentioned all the way back at the beginning of this post, my prayers might have already been answered (or will be soon).

Tuesday, November 19

Squid Bro Bro

This is life right now:

Not mine own trail chicken biscuit but definitely a fair representation of my now.  Navel gazing.  Hiding from the outside world inside my cocoon waiting for the coming weekends and the eventual prospect of warmer weather.

Rain, cold, dark... weekdays.  The promised respite of Peanut M&M's left hung up on the vending machine trap door.

Thinking about the passage of time in the smallest of chunks.  Rubbing my imaginary rabbit's foot hoping for a sun-blessed weekend.  Clinging to the dream like Todd clung to his chicken biscuit until we got to the view overlooking the valley from Pleasure Rock.

So fortunate to get out to ride Weed Patch for the second time in my life.

Those stats don't lie.  4,600+ feet of climbing on a 21 mile ride.  It's downright silly.

The last time I rode Weed Patch, the trail surface was fresh and soft.  There were downed trees.  Multiple flats.  So much titty-dicking around.  This time the conditions were perfect... but still some of the latter tho.

I don't know how to convince someone that despite the stats, it's totally worth doing.  The miles on the way out to Eagle Rock are hard fought, but the trip back to the car is all the (well, mostly) buenos.  The views, which can be found on the internet if that's all you want from Weed Patch, are insane. 

I don't wanna think about next year yet, the 2020 "season" as we'd refer to it.  I'm having too much fun packing my weekends full, even though these ding dongs that I've been riding with all think that waking up at 5:30 AM on a Saturday makes sense... when you're not even racing.

Expect less content here and more living IRL in the upcoming future.  I'll try to post up at least once a week to let you know I'm still not ded.

Thursday, November 14

You will not read all this.

Mebbe I should enjoy working on my bikes.  It's not like I have some other handyman hobby, like woodwork, making duct tape wallets, or...

Just like that, I've exhausted my entire knowledge base of being handy.

I know I was thinking I had my tire situation all figured out recently, but after considering every tire I have mounted, in the laundry room hanging on the wall, mounted on spare wheels, and stashed away in the bench, I decided I needed to change some things.

Like all the things.

But as I thought about the whole mess, it was becoming quite the process.  This tire on this bike off and replaced with this tire from that bike and that bike gets the tire from this storage location and the wheels hanging in The Pie's office get...

If I let myself dive into the rabbit hole of the sequence of moves, I would find myself staring into the darkness while lying in bed instead of getting some broken up by dog activity sleep.  So I avoided doing anything until last night while The Pie was at yoga, so I could have the whole place to myself to make messes and run the compressor every five minutes, much to the annoyance of my neighbors.

What did I end up with?

The Vassago Meatplow V.8 now has .75 lbs less rotating weight while still having some girthy meats.  I'm a tiny man, and spinning those super aggressive tires up a mountain and re-accelerating them constantly on local trails was making me feel like not firing ze missiles.  It's not like I'm in shape right now, unless you consider round as a shape.

The Hydra wheels came off the Vertigo Meatplow V.7, tires replaced with shart tarck appropriate rubber... even tho it's months away, and I don't even know if I'm racing.  I just don't like the way wheels look hanging on hooks without tires on them.

The Torch/NOX wheels went back on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 with a Minion DHR 3.0 up front and a 2.6 Rekon on the rear... mebbe.  The clearance is pretty tight with a 32 X 19 gear, but since I don't have a crunk on the bike, I can't go spin it around and see if it rubs... so there's that.

All that really matters here is that when I went to bed last night, I was no longer thinking about tires.

Now, on to the next pointless distraction.

Tuesday, November 12

Oh bloody hell.

There's been a lot of attention at an international level regarding the mountain biking opportunities in Pisgah for a decent amount of time now. I'm not sure if any place on the East Coast of the (semi) United States has had the same (un?)healthy dose of media hype in the last decade. If you think you know of of one, fill me in with your wealth of knowledge.  Please don't go telling me about a place that deserves it more, but a destination that is actually getting it.  I've been to places on the East Coast that I'd dare say are better, but that's just IMHOMO (In My Humble Obtuse Myopic Opinion).

I've been riding in Pisgah since 1997. That's long before MTB Project, Trail Forks, STRAVA existed, and even before the Pisgah Map Company released a decent map that made the OG Nat Geo map look like the user-unfriendly piece of pooh that it is/was. In order to get a decent ride in without having to flip flop the Nat Geo map over seventeen times while also analyzing the contour lines and blazes or being brow beaten by a bunch of "locals only" folks on the MTBR NC forum when asking for advice, a lot of us got by with this:

Don't bust my balls if that isn't the exact book we used in 1997.  You try google image searching for a limited print paperback book cover from the mid-90s.

I used to check the book out of the library mid-week, and our assembled group of weekend warriors would all agree on a loop to follow.  Yes, I'd actually carry the book in my hydration pack.  Yes, I actually wore a hydration pack.

Anyways, the book became known to us as the Book of Lies.  Using our wheel sensor equipped old school computers, we'd often find ourselves at the suggested mileage looking for some intersection, gated road, trail head or landmark... and be very disappoint.  It was inaccurate so often, it defied all logic and reason.

But it's what we had and Pisgah seemed so big and no one wanted to spend the night in the wilderness or perhaps live there forever as "settlers."  Credit where credit is due, thank you Jim Parham for making the great unknown that is (well, actually was) Pisgah more accessible to a bunch of flatlander noobs.

Being that I've ridden in Pisgah for over two decades now, I've seen so many changes, for better and for worse.  Some through natural erosion (it is a temperate rain forest after all) and overwhelming storm damage, and some from a serious uptick in users.  As of most recently, a lot of trails have seen some attention.  Some general maintenance, some work to divert water, and some total realignment (moving the trail elsewhere) to create a sustainable trail that doesn't wash out and end up dumping tons of sediment into our creeks and rivers.

I'm gonna stop myself right there. 

This post started writing itself in my head on the lower half of Bennett Gap this past Saturday.  I'd just ran into some friends and strangers doing heavy work on a technical, highly eroded section of trail I probably haven't attempted to ride in over a decade.  BTW: My much younger daughter would tell you that a stranger is just a person you haven't met yet.

I digress.

I started thinking about how some are gonna love the work being done here.  Others are going to hate it.  Some will be more vocal than others (your guess as to which group is probably correct).  I started going down the rabbit hole of ranting about the ranters, pounding the keyboard with furor, but then deleted a few paragraphs after some further thought.  As I get older, I find myself making a conscionable effort to not add more negativity to the world, so complaining about complainers does little to further the dialogue.

I just wanted to take the time to truly thank those thick-skinned individuals who put all their hard work and effort out there just to be judged by all the "experts" and found guilty of the highest crimes in the public court of social media.  You're the ones with blistered hands, smashed fingers, and sweaty ass cracks trying to make our world a better place, and I wanna reach out and virtually shake your hands.  Also, I'll just take this opportunity to remind everyone that before you chastise our paid workers and volunteers over how they ruined your favorite trail, mebbe wait a year or two... or five before you go passing judgment.  You might be pleasantly (eventually) surprised.

*ahem*

Spencer Gap

*ahem*

Thank and blessed.

Wednesday, November 6

I wouldn't call it love...

I have a bad tendency to write things off based on an early bad experience.  This is especially true for tires.  When I first got on the Rekon 2.6 tires, I went with the 120 TPI with the Maxx Terra rubber compound.  I didn't even get a few months in before I flatted on a rock chundered descent on the first timed section at the Giro d'Ville, and I automatically swapped over to the 60 TPI version with only a dual compound.  Essentially, I gave up this technological marvel of earth grabbiness (and took an 80 gram penalty) in the name of increased durability:

And I stayed that way for a very, very long time.

Well, until I started getting super psyched on the grippy 2.5 Minion DHF with Maxx Terra that I ran on the Vassago Meatplow V.8 in the Fall of 2018.  It was just hot glue on felt.  It got me to thinking...

When I flatted the Rekon at the Giro '18, I wasn't alone.  I'd seen scads of riders at the side of the trail fixing flats before I completely bottomed out my tire in the thunder chunder.  What truly had scarred me was the semi-catastrophic, multiple issue fix that took me forever to address, seeing me down to the finish long after everyone else. 

Never again.

That certainly was some short-sighted thinking.  Flats happen, and when they're happening to loads of other riders, it might be more the trail's fault and less the blame on poor tire selection (see the Ledges Trail at the OZ Off-Road for example).

So upon further reflection, I went back to the 120 TPI version in 2019, and thousands of miles and tons of bike cycle racing later, I've not had one flat since swapping back to the lighter and waaaaaaaaay grippier version of the Rekon.

What we'll refer to as the "meat" of the "season" of 2019.  Everything there aside from the Bootlegger and the Pisgah Enduro™ on the Rekon, and a whole lotta other riding in between.

Da doi.

I've made the same sorta mistake before.  Back in even earlier 2018, I was trying out new rear tires.  I was interested in the Forekaster 2.2 for something a little knobbier to handle shite conditions.  I got four rides in before this happened:

Dumb me blamed it on the open spaces between the knobs making the casing more exposed to damage. 

Smart me, who took a long time to realize it, remembered back to when we had cut the fresh trail through a swampy scab of land for that year's Tour duh Charlotte.  Some of the ubiquitous bamboo had been cut off at a perfect, tire-spearing length.  Once again, it might be more the trail's fault and less blamed on tire selection.

So flash back to way earlier this year and the Forekaster was made available in a 2.6 size with a 3C Maxx Speed compound.

I mounted it up, used it for a slimy Whole Enchilada, took it off for some short track racing, put it back on for an even slimier Ride and Seek... and then took it off because it was time for "serious" racing. The venerable Rekon was put back on, and that was that...

until I headed to Greensboro for the JA King and Queen of the Watershed race.  I was still running the Rekon, but Watts had Forekasters on front and rear (2.6 and 2.2).  Trading notes after the race, he mentioned how confident they felt in the slick conditions, the exact opposite of how I was feeling.  It's worth noting that Watts didn't actually make a conscientious decision to run these tires on this given day.  They were just the tires that were on there the last time he touched his mountain bike...  weeks ago?  Months?  One never knows, especially not Watts.

Not knowing exactly what we'd get into on our trip out to Arkansas, but with some certainty that we'd eventually see some moist trails, I dug the Forekaster outta the laundry closet and put it back on the front of the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.

I was never disappoint.

We rode totally dry and clear trails.  We "raced" fifty something miles in Bentonville in the soaking wet, over sharp rocks, through gritty mud and just about anything else you can imagine... unless you imagine something like cactus or snow.  There was none of that.  Our ride in Eureka Springs was a splatter fest.  Since getting back from our trip, I raced the Fonta Flora Barnburner 50k when the trails were still slick from a previous day's rain, and I had a pretty mega day at DuPont this past weekend on trails that were wet, leaf covered, dry, drifty, sendy, rocky... pretty much all the things... except cactus and snow.

Wait... did I have a point when I started writing all this?

Mebbe.

I guess I'm saying that I'm not only stoked on how well the Forekaster has done when things get loosey goosey moist, but I'm also not noticing any more rolling resistance on hard pack, gravel, or pavement.  All that information means I'll probably default to the Forekaster up front next year UNLESS I know I'm heading into a bone dry, predictable conditions race.

And none of this matters now anyways, as slow and low is the tempo as I slide into the grips of winter.  I'll be mounting up a 3.0 Minion DHR on my spare wheels and riding chubby until the time comes to pretend to be an "athlete" comes around once again.

But when I do...