Monday, February 8

Continued Assplorations

My plan Saturday was to ride some of the Tour duh Charlotte course to scope out some construction that was going on a couple months ago that could affect our route and to look at the race stage I'm running to see how exactly to manage it.  Kangalangamangus was going to go to the mountains with Dave, but there was a ton of rain out that way.  I bumped into him in the lobby of the big building we both work in, and he was looking for something else to do.

I invited him on my "ride."

"How far will it be?"


"How long will we be out?"



And so it was.  Kangalangamangus, and Dave met up with fellow Faster Mustachios Nick "Dip 'N Spray and BC at Zac's house (who wasn't there because he's on a Amateur Homeless Personning trip in the Dominican Republic).   All of us on single speed mountain bikes.  All going out for a ride across the urban sprawl and through scabby patches of woods.  Eventually, we met up with Tod, who sullied our group's "hardmen cred" with his gears.  Whatever.

We rode, stopped, explored, looked at the map, looked at the map again, rode through parking lots and apartment complexes, neighborhoods and "hoods"... standard Tour duh Charlotte terrain.  Sometimes, we were actually riding our mountain bikes as they were intended to be ridden.  Dirt, rocks, and such.

On our return trip back towards the big buildings, we had to split up and go our separate ways.  Nick and Tod, towards their respective homes.  Kangalangamangus and Dave, in the direction of coffee and frou-frou pastries.  I twisted BC's arm and talked him into stopping at the brewery that gives out a free 12oz beer to Bicycle Benefits sticker holders.

Over beers, BC and I talked about how by then end of the day, most of us had ridden between 45-50 miles... on stupid single speed mountain bikes... on a bullshit, no goals, no real agenda ride.

I realized that if someone asked me to go on a fifty mile road ride on a proper road ride, I'd be calling in sick.  The concept of such an activity sounds only slightly better than sitting on a trainer or staring at the sun.

But fifty miles of whatever it was we did on my favorite bike ever?

I feel like it's the kinda riding I could do all day, because it didn't feel like riding at all.  I know fifty miles is nothing to brag about, but when you spend that much time in the saddle under clear, blue skies with friends and nobody cares where they're going or what they're doing?  Best ride in well over a month.

When I woke up on Sunday and started walking around the house tho...  Mang, I am outta shape.  Not beat down but definitely feeling it.  Which, I guess, is a good thing.

Friday, February 5

Haps and Faps

Just a quick reminder, because things are coming...

Two weeks until Watts Fappening II: C'mon Get Fappy 2016.

Basically the same as before, but different.  We'll start at the Sugar Creek Brewery around noonish and work our way north, going from brewery to brewery until we end up at The Spoke Easy or their event The Cold Sprints at Snug Harbor (depending on how long it takes for us to ride less than ten miles and drink eight or so pints).

It was "fun" the last time.

That shouldn't change.

Also, we are almost a month out from the 2016 Tour duh Charlotte.

"A Mountain Bike Stage Race and Urban Trail Adventure around Charlotte, NC.

Join us March 19th for a day on the bike you will never forget. We will ride as a group on a 30-ish-mile "Party Pace" route around Charlotte. The route will feature urban paths, dirt roads, and even single-track trail. We'll stop along the way at 4 locations, called "Stages" where we will have a mini race. Some races will be Cyclocross style, some Cross-Country MTB, and maybe even a Fat-Tire Road Criterium. The Tour de Charlotte will be a showcase of in-town Charlotte trails, paths, and commuter routes.

I think this is the fourth year that Faster Mustache will be putting on the event.   Beer, food, way too many prizes for an event that only costs $35.  This is a can't-miss event.  CAN'T.  MISS.

One last thing. 

If you want to look like your favorite local racer boys, the 2016 Faster Mustache kits are on sale now and for the next week.

Charlotte and Atlanta kits are available, and I highly encourage you to buy a sleeveless Charlotte jersey...

for my own selfish reasons.  Gotta hit the minimums to get the order filled, or else I'm gonna have to spend two hours with some scissors, a needle, and some thread bringing justice to a short sleeve fashion travesty.

Thursday, February 4

Big Boneder

I know what I like, and I like what I know.  I'm not sure when it will end or where, but my quest to have the perfect single speed (for me) goes on.  Dabbling in gears and full suspension has proven much disappoint over the past decade and then some.  That won't stop me from fiddling with near perfection tho.

This is a start.  I feel like there might be some merit to the 27.5+ thing as it applies to rigid single speeding.  Yeth, much has been said about how great it is for trail bikes.  Some hearsay from someone who talked to someone who knows someone said that in a head to head test with the other options )by a major player in the industry), the plus tweener size was the fastest overall.  In some ways that makes sense, I guess.  Dunno.

What I do know:

The outer wheel diameter of 27.5+ is very close to that of a 29er, so I'm not losing much on the approach angle side of the equation.

The weights of the tires that I plan to run are sorta similar to what I'm already sporting 95% of the time (Ardent 2.4 front/Ardent Race 2.2 rear)... not to mention, I'm moving more of that weight closer to the center of the wheel (insert rotational mass argument here).

As of right now, I think I'm going to run the 2.8 Ikon in the rear, but I might just stick with the 2.35 that I'll be getting next week.  It will be on a rim with a 36mm inner width, so there's gonna be tons of volume there.

I was able to drop 2PSI when I went from a 23.4mm Industry Nine Trail rim to a 29mm NOX Farlow rim.  I'm hoping to maybe get my rear pressure down to >20PSI with a 2.35 Ikon on the Kistuma rim.

I know some might think it's a terrible idea to jump right in with NOX carbon rims on Industry Nine wheels for an "experiment," but I know that if I get some shitty/heavy/cheaper wheels, it will taint the whole thing.  I'm pretty used to what I've got, and the few times I've hopped on demo/borrowed bike, I am disappoint with the wheels.  I'm ordering these wheels with a geared freehub, so if I don't like them, they won't be as hard to sell.  Before that tho, I'd be trying them on the Stickel/120mm fjork.  It's hard to squeeze a 2.35 in the rear (not impossibru) with a 32X20, and I think it might really be a rally machine with the bigger tires... which is all I ask of the Stickel.

Besides all that, I saved a ton of money not buying and hating a full suspension bike late last year.  So, win.

What am I hoping to gain?

Increased traction, lower pressures, less beat-down, more gnar-capable... generally speaking, a better ride quality.

"Didn't you try 650b already?"

I tried 650b, yeth.

I ran it at the Wilkes 100k back in 2013.  The front tire was only a 2.25 on a I9 Trail rim, and I was used to riding a 2.4 on a much wider I9 Enduro™ rim.  Higher pressure, lower volume, reduced wheel diameter, add to that the smaller rear wheel/tire combo than I was used to, and I received quite a painful experience.  Not too mention, that course is not "right up my alley."  Tons of fun, but full gas and all the horsepower.  I don't think I've ever finished without my back being slightly tweaked.

This is nothing like that... I hope.

Oh yeah, what about 29+?

I feel like that was the Papa Bear in this fairy tale.  Just a little too much for me.  Dunno if it's my limited power trying to twirl a giant doughnut in circles or what, but I only found it good for shits and giggles.  I was only mildly tempted to try it in a race, but almost certain it would never be faster for me overall.

So there's that.

And yeth, I've already figured out that the Vertigo can handle the extra meat.

No worries there.  Pretty sure I won't be running anything as fat as a 3.0 on a 45mm rim.

I hope to have this all sorted out pretty soon and get the new setup in some gnar before May when the technical racing starts with Pisgah Productions events and Trans-Sylvania Epic.

Tuesday, February 2

2016 Icycle Night Downhill Race

XC silliness over...

I had a rough idea how to get to my actual night downhill run and survive it, mostly based on all the mistakes I've made in the past and how exactly to avoid them.

I decided to keep myself as busy as possible to stay away from any beer that might cloud my decision making process.  I looked for a bike wash but came up empty.  I took a shower, even tho I knew I was just gonna get back on my bike.  I ate a box of mac and cheese, because eating is something smart people do.

I got dressed for my practice runs and headed out the door to get on the shuttle.

photo cred: Nik Fedele
I've failed miserably at this before.  Too excited about packing in as many runs in as possible.  Logic made fuzzy with too many beverages after the XC race.  Too much shared stoke from the giddy as school children shuttle monkeys packed into the back of a UHaul truck.

I wanted two runs in the daylight... at a very slow pace... so I could actually see the lines.  What few sections of rough terrain that might occur from top to bottom might feel like nothing on a full suspension bike, but they can absolutely knock you off into the woods if you let them surprise you in the dark with a rigid fork.  I would know.  I checked my lines, took it easy, and felt like for the first time in I don't know how many years, I might actually have an idea of where I want to be on the trail to not end up in the shit.

One night practice run to check my lights.  Seemed smart enough... just to make sure my lines are totally dialed.  Nick told me that Chris Joice had bumped his gearing to something taller after the XC race.  Doh.  I never considered the amount of pedaling I might have to do, being that on all my earlier runs, I was only focused on the good lines.  I got through my one practice run with my lights dialed and waited for the race to start.

Waited around for the shuttle, loaded up with the other three guys in the Hard Ass (full rigid) category, and headed up to the top.  I talked to Chris and confirmed that he had decided to go with a 32X16.  I'm still rolling a 32X20.  This might suck a bit.

I rolled out from my start, and as soon as I hit the first section with any amount of roots and rocks, I was not where I planned to be.  All the jostling wiggled my bar-mounted light enough for it to slip off the bulge, come slightly loose, and point at a spot about five feet in front of me.  I still had 700 lumens on my head, so all was not entirely lost, but the lack of 1500 going out in front of me was noticeable.

I bobbled a few more times, and on the flatter more pedally sections, my stupid 32X20 is duly noted.  I came around the second to the last corner where I wanted to, people screaming at me, bottle rocket going off somewhere nearby, came unclipped from my right pedal, and found out just how hard it is to sprint over thirty yards of grassy field in a climb-friendly gear.

I didn't wait around for the other guys.  I had an agenda.  I went straight back to the cabin, changed to spectator clothes, grabbed a bunch of beer, and went back down to join the screaming idiots in the woods... and be one of them.

When the podium finally took place, I found out I was second... to Chris "I'm way smarter and have a better beard than you could ever dream of" Joice.

photo cred: Icon Media Asheville
When there are only five guys entered in the Hard Ass Class, and one of them gets injured during his practice runs, getting on the podium becomes a matter of being one of the three riders who screw up the least.

As stoked as I was to get second, I was mostly pleased that I finally made a successful run at getting through the Icycle weekend without a DNFs, injury, bad decisions, getting lost or any other manner of self-inflicted mayhem.  Regardless of where I placed in either race, I felt like I was a winner.

I want to say this.  For a guy who used to focus on 12/24 hour racing at a time when 15 watts of light was considered pretty solid, I'm terrible at night riding now.  I'm not sure if it's that my eyes are almost a decade and a half older, or if it's the fact that I probably only ride mountain bikes after dark fewer than five times a year.  On top of that, downhill "racing" is sorta stressful.  Knowing that it takes just minutes of solid concentration, every single move you make counts.  The race will come down to seconds, so every bobble and blown corner not only affects your time, it's also detrimental to your mental focus... if you let it get to you.  Which I do.

What can I say?  Something else to put on the list of "things I don't do so well at."

Right under grammar and decision making and friend picking.

photo cred:Courtney McDonald

Monday, February 1

Icycle XC Race 2016

Maybe I mentioned it.  Maybe I didn't.  I headed to the Icycle XC and Night DH with only three goals:

* Finish both events
* Come home uninjured
* Stay alive

So the plan to get off on the right foot meant leaving town at 3:00PM.  I knew that if I had to drive out of Charlotte in rush hour traffic, I would want a beer (or three) if I had to navigate my way through a sea of humanity.  I managed to convince Nick "Dip 'N Spray" Barlow to meet me at my vehicle at the predetermined point of our exodus in a timely manner, and our journey was mostly unfettered by unpleasant people-on-people interactions.

I wanted to go straight to the cabin, cook up some Ramen noodles, and inflate my air mattress...  prepare for a semi-early bedtime (early for Friday night at a typical Icycle).  On our way into Fontana Village around 7:15PM, we were passing the registration, and Nick suggested we stop and get it over with.  I agreed to his brilliance.

Normally, registration is manned by one or two lonesome individuals.  Not tonight.  It looked liked a neighborhood bar.  We walked in, I heard "these two guys," much laughter, and two beers were placed on the counter in front of us.  We registered, talked to the happy shining faces, drank our beer, and another one was quickly presented to us.

"Are we doing this?" I asked Nick.

"Might as well."

And so it began.

Beer, beer, and more beer.  And when it looked as if the beer were gone, more beer appeared.  Shenanigans ensued.

Eventually registration closed... at 10:00?  People hung around for a bit longer, and then we went up to the cabin where everyone else on the team had already arrived hours ago.  Doh.  More bad decisions and we're up until 1:00AM or so... without remembering the whole "eating and making good decisions" thing.

Get up the next day starved, eat Pop Tarts, drink coffee, wait a couple hours, eat last night's forgotten supper, start getting ready for the three lap/21 mile Expert/SS XC race.  I don't usually put much thought into riding that far locally.  Couple bottles, maybe one of them filled with Carbo Rocket Half Evil.  Not much else.  Had I known there was almost 4,000 feet of climbing... maybe I woulda brought some food.  Probably not tho.

Waiting for the 1:00 start that was delayed for technical reasons, I found myself still hungry.  Shit.  Back to the cabin for my can of Pringles and then lie down in the sun to stay warmish.  Line up for the LeMans start, watch Nick struggle to get out of his skinny jeans without taking off his shoes, take advantage of the situation and tackle him to the ground.  With less than forty five seconds before the start, I now feel bad for Nick, so I help him as best I could to remove his pants.  With about ten seconds to spare, we're both on our feet and ready.

Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever says "GO!"  I get about ten strides into my run when I feel something grab my shoulder and throw me into a spin.  Nick has justly payed me back for the late tackle, and when I finally ended up facing the right direction, I was at the very back of the pack.  Getting to my bike was a chaotic affair, as my bike was towards the back, an I had to navigate my way through the stampede of riders coming right back at me.  On the bike, I put in some kind of effort to move up a few positions before getting to the first trail.

photo cred: Drunk Cyclist
The whole racing thing... ouch.  It felt like we were climbing 90% of the time.  The conditions were everything from peanut butter, fudge, Crisco, pie crust, cookie dough, frosting....

I might have been relating all the varying dirt samples to food because by the third lap (1.5 hours in), I was incredibly hungry.  I woulda ate anything I found on the ground, but there wasn't a dropped gel to be found.  I had no idea where I was sitting in the SS class, but I saw Chris Joice coming back up on me.  Damn.  Thought I had put him away earlier.  I decided to just dig deep, keep looking over my shoulder for the catch, and hope I didn't fall apart.  Luckily, none of those things happened.

photo cred: Drunk Cyclist
I finished.  Went straight to my Pringles.  Was handed a beer, but felt severely "meh" about it.  Ate more Pringles.  I finally headed over to see how I did and retrieve my puffy coat from the finish line.

Third place in the SS class, top ten overall or something.  Strange.  I didn't think that could be possible, but things happen.  People quit.  I dunno.  Wait for the podium, get called down, hear Eric say, "Wait, there's been a protest."

I know it's gotta be me getting bumped off the podium.  It is.

Timmy took the win and some guys that I don't know bested me.  This makes sense, and being that my only goal was to actually finish, I don't mind so much.

Time to follow through with the second part of the plan to finish the day with a successful run at the night downhill race.

Thursday, January 28

Chivalry is Dead

The Icycle.  This weekend.  Much excite.  Never can I remember such horrific weather... for drinking.

I'm going to want to make some good decisions.  The weather will be too nice to not enjoy 21 miles (or so) of riding in Western NC, assuming I don't get caught up in all the heavy breathing and racing stuff.  It might be a little on the muddy side, but being that I haven't been on a real mountain bike ride since January 1st, I'll take it.  For almost the whole month of January, I've piddled, raced cross, watched cross, rode across the city to do laps on a short track course and to beering establishments, but nothing I would consider a "mountain bike ride."

My back is in okay shape (my shoulder is still a bit clunky), so I should really make the most of this opportunity.  Then I'll cross the finish line...

I can't remember how many years it's been since I made it to the actual downhill race.  There's usually a plethora of available beer at the XC finish and lots of racers who aren't doubling up as well as spectators with no intentions to race anything at all.  So many bad influences.

The temperatures at the top of the downhill will be something above freezing, which is a pretty rare occurrence.  I feel that not making it to the start would be another wasted opportunity.  I would love to be up there this time... so no risking too many practice runs just because the shuttle is there waiting for me at the bottom.  Also, clean tires on every trip down.  I found out the hard way that showing up to the top of a greasy descent with bagels for tires is no bueno.  To say that last year's wreck took some wind out of my sails for more than a month would be a huge understatement.

Once I get my race run out of the way, business as usual.

Saw this from across the room the other day:

First place prize for winning the Icycle Night Downhill Sport Class... don't even remember what year that would have been.  2000?  Who knows.  Being that it used to be a black hat and its now sun-faded gray/brown, I guess I wore baseball-type hats back then.  That was also a time when the downhill was the night before the XC, so it was even harder to make good decisions.

Or was it?  I don't remember.

I think I need an accountabilibro for this one.

Skipping tomorrow, because I have to load up my car in the morning and drive to work in order to facilitate my early exodus from town.  I hope Nick "Dip 'n Spray" Barlow has lots of sports talk to discuss on the four hour drive.  It will help me sleep.

Oh yeah, this morning's dream...

I was on course at the Fontana XC race.  I saw an unwrapped candy bar on the trail, so I stopped to eat it.  People were passing me while I was enjoying my found treasure, so I got back on my bike, got to the finish line of lap one, and started drinking beer with Eric and Erinna.  Then they told me I was actually still winning when I quit and reminded me that I said I was going to enjoy 21 miles of fun riding regardless of my standing.  After some hemming and hawing and gathering of things, I went back out.  I had to pee, so I leaned my bike against a tree, but in the trail.  Three women on a bicycle built for three went past me, wrecked into my parked bike, and were tossed all over the place.  I walked away from my bike like it wasn't mine.

Tuesday, January 26

Shafting Jeers

Man.  I said I'd blerhg about the whole "gears thing" today.  What a lame and redundant topic to talk about... again.

How convenient that FaceBook reminded me this morning that the last fail I had with gears was three years ago.

I feel very fortunate with how things turned out when I slipped my toe back into the pool to check the water temperature.  Fortunately, the Evil Following was way outta my price range for an experiment when I was ready to make a jump, and the Specialized Camber only just now started being available.  I saved myself a certain amount of grief and an uncertain amount of wasted money by the grace of timing and opportunity.

I think there's only about $300 wrapped up in this pile of stuff.  Maybe less.

And now it's mine.  I can keep it in a box and pull it out the next time I get a bug in my ass.  If I sold it to the highest bidder, the money I'd lose VS the money I'd get back in my pocket isn't enough for me to not just always have it on hand.  Shit, last year when I really messed up my back, I was lucky to have the loaner geared ROS9 so I could still do my job.  Now I have everything I need to make my own handicap enabler.

The Shimano XT 1X11 did work marvelously.  Combined with The 1 Ring from Endless Bike, I never dropped a chain once... on a bouncy hardtail... over some gnarly terrain.  It was definitely an interesting experience being able to climb up certain things in Pisgah that I'm used to walking, but some things that I had figured out on the SS were more troubling with all the options.

You'd have to know what trail I'm talking about, but the cut-through from Cove Creek to Daniel's Ridge is a great example.  I can ride the whole thing on a single speed.  I know how to do it.  I don't always make it, but normally it works for me.  On the geared bike, the timing to get up the tiny ledges, the sections for recovery... I dunno.  Not my cup of tea, I guess.

I'm still going to have to figure out if I'll use the gears to make a terrible road bike for the Tour de Burg (if I do the Tour de Burg).  I didn't mind sitting out one road stage to drink beer and be all Helpy Helperson last time, but I wouldn't wanna sit out two whole days.  It's gonna come down to effort and apathy.  It would be pretty easy to toss some borrowed cross wheels and a big single speed gear on the Stickle and that would be that.  Guh... and a rigid fork.

It's already sounding like a lot of work again.

Oh, yeah.  I still have this:

Speaking of a lot of work, I was too lazy to even take the bike off the hook to get a decent image.  Anyways, different wheels and tires and it's a road bike (enough).  More so than the first pile of shit I brought to my first Tour de Burg.