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Friday, April 20

Auf Wiedersehen

My dreams have been anxiety-riddled all week long.  There was one where I was stressed about how important a bottle of Gulden's spicy brown mustard is to almost every screenplay of my dreams... which upon awakening, I realized it isn't. 

I'm not just thinking about what to wear on Sedona bike rides and how well my outfits will look on Instagram (red desert, blue shorts, I'm looking at you).  I'm thinking about the near future and how far off the regular beaten path I normally follow into the "season" I currently am.  Even though I'm trying to not care about racing and such in 2018, I still have no other frame of reference since @ 2004 or so.

For the last many something years, I start riding a little more (than the least possible, given my job, bike commute and proclivity to enjoy mountain bike cycling on weekends) towards the end of March.  Not this time.  Then the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, the first Saturday in April, fell kinda late on the calendar on the 7th.  My inability to come up with a proper replacement for my morning junk miles on the then nearby greenway has left me without a compass.  A Mancation to Sedona next week... Mancations are usually reserved for August or September.

It's the most different lead up to PMBAR that I can remember in the last decade or so.  I'm not really in the kinda shape I'm used to being in at this point.  At least 5-10lbs heavier.  A lot fewer miles in the legs.  Mancation always means more riding than I'd normally do over five or six days, but also lots of eating and drinking of things.  For the life of me, I have no idea if I'll be in better shape a week after coming back from Sedona or a bloated, worn-out, piece of shit that can barely pedal a bike up a slight incline.

I guess that would explain why unlike in years past, I'm not that worried about PMBAR.  I've come into it super fit (for me) plenty of times only to self-sabotage our efforts with poor navigational decisions or mebbe going a little too hard at the night-before pre-game.  That and sometimes my partner wasn't feeling it or just coming out of a unfortunate Spring malaise more than once.  With knowing that so much can go wrong, it seems like a lot of effort to try to do it right.

It's always fun regardless of the outcome, so why care too much about "performance?"

When I get back from Sedona and I have PMBAR is in the rear view mirror, I plan on switching gears (quite literally).

Call me stupid. It's been done said countless times before.  I've been too old to give shits for at least a decade.

I'm taking the SRAM Eagle shifty bits off the JaBronson and turning it into a 150mm full squish single speed smasher.  I'll probably write some more about it once I get some rides in, but suffice it to say, I can understand why other people like gears, especially in the year 2018.  They're actually working quite well and the chain isn't falling off and I'm climbing up all kinds of things... but they're not making my world necessarily a better place.

This is my world.  You just live in it.

I'll see you ding dongs in a week and change.

Wednesday, April 18

Gauging Interest

Another box from Topeak shows up and I get to play bike mechanic make believe.

I get excite about tools.  More excite when they're something I can actually use.

I've written in the past about how important tire pressure is to me on a rigid single speed.  One to two PSI either way can make a huge difference in ride quality.  It takes me awhile to figure out pressure for different front tires, but once I know it, I stick with it.  Used to be 16.5PSI in an Ardent 2.4, but for me, right now, that's 15PSI in a Rekon 2.6.  11PSI in the Minion DHR+ 3.0.

If I count the gauges in my house right now (including the ones on floor pumps and my compressor), I'd come up with six.  Now it's seven.

The Topeak Shuttle Gauge Digital has arrived.

It does what any decent air pressure gauge should do.  The head rotates so you can read it in just about any position you, the bike, or the wheel are in at the moment you decide you need to get with the checking of the things.

And there's a convenient bleed button for s-l-o-w-l-y letting out a little pressure at a time (crucial for anal compulsivity happiness).

A bunch of other features you can find on just about any digital air gauge designed with bikes in mind; auto-off, .5PSI accuracy, Presta or Schrader compatibility... ho hum and sigh.

What makes it different?

You can hook it directly to your pump head and get an accurate reading while pumping...

as opposed to something closer to 20PSI than 10PSI, so mebbe 18PSI or 17PSI or 19 PSI that you'd be guessing with on most floor pump gauges.

Also, if you're an over-pumper and then bleed down kinda person, the thumb lock lever will keep it locked on the valve while you bleed out the excess air as opposed to a gauge you might fumble with letting out a whole PSI or two when you only wanted to let .5PSI go.

You might say, "I don't need all these features in a gauge," and I'd get that.  Kinda like those multi-tools with a bottle opener for someone that uses SPD pedals and has a brain.

But...

This will be handy when traveling and borrowing pumps with high pressure gauges that don't read to 1PSI, and the locking feature will be kinda nice when I'm trying to get a super accurate reading when I'm rushing around in the minutes before a race situation with trembling hands.

I like it.  All the other pressure gauges got bumped down a peg, and mebbe my finicky, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't SKS unit will live out its remaining days on "a farm in the country."

Tuesday, April 17

Excite?

The Pie will ask me, "Are you getting excited about your trip to (some destination) coming up in (amount of time in days/weeks)?

I stare into space.  Wheels in my head that might have come to a grinding halt earlier start groaning into motion again.  I drift off into my own little world...

"Meh."

I'd like to think that I can live pretty minimally.   I've been doing "packless PMBAR" for years now, a pure act of efficient planning.  It's pretty rare that more than a handful of people will show up to the start without a hydration pack or a bike converted into rolling luggage.  Kitchen sink carrying fools.  I can be very good at cutting the excess fat.

Yet as I stare at shelves and drawers of gloves, tiny hats, glasses, knee and arm warmers, kits, jackets, tools, bits and bobbles, I am paralyzed.

I think one pair of gloves for five or so days of riding might do the trick, but I know two would be better.  If two is better, wouldn't three be ideal?  Same with tiny hats.  Same with everything.

On the last Mancation we lost thirty minutes in Durango looking for a new toothbrush.  Forgotten clutch items equal lost down time.  Trbl.

Things might be sparse on here all week. I did get some stuff from Topeak to play with recently that's worth mentioning, but everything is going to take a backseat to my getting ready to leave town.

That also includes the fact that my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 has to be PMBAR-ready before I get on an airplane on Saturday.  I'll be back late on the following Friday, and I'll need to have the bike rolling in its best form.  Just yesterday, I heard the drive train complaining only to discover that those last laps at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek were not kind to my chain (ded)... and then the new chain didn't mesh well with the old cog... and mebbe also the ring?

Last night, I finally installed the Santa Cruz 780 flat bars (yeth, 780).  They shoulda been on there already, but I thought (stupidly) Bike Source would just have a new rear brake line in stock instead of checking to make sure.  So, new drooper cable and housing, brake line, bars and ESI grips.

At least that's done.

All that, and I'm not sure that it's a great idea to put way wider bars on that I might ride once or twice before PMBAR in order to dial in the fit (I also have a 20mm shorter stem at my disposal if need be).

Arrrgh.

So am I excite?

Yeth?

Friday, April 13

Streak Ded

I woke up this past Sunday knowing there was much to be done.  A towel wrapped in all kinda of nasty clothes from the last lap at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek left on the porch.  A plastic bag full of slightly less nasty clothing from the other two laps.  A bike that really needed a lot of attention.  Another bike that needed to be shoved in a cardboard box to go to Sedona.

So I got up and watched the Paris Roubaix.

Once that was over, I got down to business.

Things that were not just covered in mud but covered in clumps of mud.  Never seen that before.

Water in there... mebbe from the post-race bike-dunk in the lake?

It was a quick dunk, so I think mebbe from all the wets.

In the end, I pulled the seals off a bunch of the bearings, blew them out, and repacked them.  Also, my brake pads were shot (which added some excitement on that last lap), so I pulled them out, did the piston cleansing/lubing thing, and put in some freshies from TruckerCo.  All ready for PMBAR in a few weeks.... once I get my Santa Cruz 780 bars on there... braaaaaaaaaap.

By the time the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 was basically rebuilt, it was 3:30PM.  Meh.

Time to stick the squishy shifty shits in a box.

An activity that leads me to believe that if I ever ship a bike for travel again, it's my single speed or nothing.  That 800mm handlebar barely fit from corner to corner.  Any longer, and I woulda had to remove all the bits from the bar.  Had to pop the crank off one side, drop the shifty bit off its bit hanger, etc.  What a PITA.  I shoulda just told Matt McPee that I forgot to ship my bike and just borrow one of the Hermosa Tours bikes.

Send-ona Mancation '18 in a week.   Woot.

Oh, and Sunday marked something else.  It was my first day without a bike ride since November 27th (or so).  I don't remember when I realized I was on a streak, but it recently dawned on me that it was gonna die the day that I flew out to Sedona (or back), so screw it.  I took the day off and that was that.  Some of my rides were nothing more than riding to my mom's place or home from Bill Nye's house after a night of debauching, but they were still actual rides (not driveway wheelie tests).  There were some miserable weather rides in there, but I've got more GORE Wear than I do excuses at this point.

It was fun while it lasted... I guess.

Wednesday, April 11

6 Hours of Warrior Creek: Part Two

Since I have no concept of time (obvs), as soon as I head into our third lap, I wonder if I made it out of the transition area before or after the team that Nick had just passed.  Had I left him standing there too long?  I had no idea what the guy looked like, because I wasn't waiting in the right spot, so I decide I just need to go as hard as I could and hope for the best.

There are points on the course where I can see anywhere from ten seconds to two minutes behind and sometimes in front of me.  I scan the woods, knowing that if the other guy knows what I look like or my pink wheels, he'll know he's catching me... or being caught.  About halfway through the lap, I'm fairly confident that I'm ahead and outta sight.  I allow myself to have fun...

photo cred: Dan Wilz
Oh yeah, the course is now dry and tacky.  My lower back is still angry about that first lap tho, so I can't push it too hard on the climbs.  I hit one of my favorite descents, Hard Sun starts playing on my Shuffle, I for some reason think of my dad, and remember that it's ten years ago this week that he died.  I start crying.

Odd.

I give myself a moment to do that, but then remind myself that he wouldn't probably advise me to be grieving in the middle of participating in a dangerous activity.  I tell myself to stop that.

As I get closer to the end of the lap, the rain starts back up in a most modest manner.  That should make things interesting if it continues.

I pop out of the woods, cross the line, Nick is ready to go (bless his heart).

I tell myself to actually focus on the task at hand this time.  Eat, change into a dry kit, wash the bike, drink the cheat juice.  I do all those things.

Riders are coming out of the woods at a slower pace than before.  Clumped in mud.  Obviously, the conditions are deteriorating.

I find myself talking to Jarz (in first place SS duo) and Boylan (second SS duo).  Jarz is ready to go back out.  Boylan is wearing street clothes.  He's not going anywhere.

Huh?

He says he's had enough.  His plan?  Tell his partner when he comes off lap four that if he wants a fifth lap, it's on him.

Ouch.

Head back to my pit to wait. Stretch out my aching back before I have to get back to it.

I see Boylan's partner come out of the woods.  I yell to him that he's got a surprise waiting for him.

Nick pops out, I see him this time, toss my puffy, and we transition like you're supposed to.

That last lap... so messy.  So hard.  So...

I wonder if this lap is even necessary.   Did Boylan talk his partner into back-to-back laps, and I'm chasing down a weary rider minutes ahead of me, or are they done for the day?  Did the team behind us even bother starting a fifth lap?  Did they even get back from their fourth lap in time to start?

Such is the way of doing things when racing duo without support people to keep tabs and communicate and whatnot.

Faster Mustache Skinromper, GORE Windstopper vest, Taddihog flannel tiny hat and HandUp winter gloves are my saving grace.  It's cold.  It's wet.  Every rider that I pass seems sad.  This makes me feel better about my situation tho, because I know they'll be out there even longer than I will.

It's been awhile since I've ridden so in the moment.  Knowing I just had to do this and there's no music in my ear anymore and I'm not seeing that many others out there... kinda simplified things a bit.

I finished, covered in clumps of mud in places I don't think they should be.  The bike washes have long lines, so I roll down to the lake.  Me and my bike take a bath.

Head over to the awards, find out that not only did we not get passed when we weren't looking, Boylan's teammate didn't wanna do back-to-back laps four and five, so we moved up to second.

I guess we can go ahead and be a little proud about that.  Only thirteen teams/solo riders made it out for a fifth (regrettable) lap.  We did a thing.  Yay, us.

Despite the conditions, 6 Hours of Warrior Creek and all the halpers and volunteers did a great job.  Once again, the rewards for stepping on the podium were lucrative, the post-race food all the buenos, and this year... FREE (good) BEER.   Excellent.

Tuesday, April 10

6 Hours of Warrior Creek: Part One

I'm standing there, second row back at the starting line wearing my puffy coat.  Scanning around, looking for Nick to come grab my warm layer before we head out... and then there he is.

"Man, I was just riding around, and when I went to unclip, my cleat fell off my shoe."

This is truly a great way to start.

By the way, I'd been thinking about this start for days now.  I agreed to do the first lap when we signed up, even tho I pretty much hate it.  I'm too old for these fast starts, but getting into the woods up front is crucial.  You can lose minutes in those first seconds.  To make things worse, the roads are wet.  There's a few sharp corners that have to be negotiated with a big bunch of sketchball mountain bikers (myself included).

The promoter tells everyone to be careful multiple times.  I know it probably wouldn't make a difference.  People are people.  I kinda mention to the people that cozied into the front line that they could control the pace, if they chose to do so.

They don't.  In a matter of seconds, I'm at full gas and slipping back... as planned and/or expected. 

I know I won't keep the leaders in view, but I can limit my losses.  We get through the first tight corner without incident, but as we get to a roundabout, a rider goes down just up ahead.  Instead of moving out of the way, he gets up and stands right in the middle of the inside line. 

Well then.

I barely make it past his front wheel and a second later, I hear bikes and people hitting the ground.  Look back.  Carnage.  Jeebus.  Back to looking ahead, I guess.

I've already seen a few single speeders get by me, and now I'm riding with Bob Moss.  He's racing solo, and deep down, I hope he's in the lead.  I would also hope I could match his solo pace with mine own duo speed.  The conditions are what I expected, and my 32X18 is too tall for the goopy climbs.  My back begins to protest, and I lose sight of Bob.  Meh.

Josh from Ohio comes single speeding by, followed by two other solo SS men.  The last one confirms that they are all solo.  Now I'm only matching the pace of the fourth place SS solo male.  Double meh.

Last year, Nick was able to pull a 1:16 first lap.  The best I can muster is something like 1:22... and it hurt really bad, even with a good start.  Tag off, look at my computer, do some quick math... figure I've got until around 1:30PM to take care of myself before my next lap.

Eat part of my sammich, drink some Coke (real Coke, not that diet shit I accidentally bought the day before), drink some Rocket Red cheat juice, walk around aimlessly.

I'd finally gotten a look at the results, and we were sitting in fourth.  I was less than a minute behind third on the first lap.  Dammit.  We were kinda hoping to not be even close to contention.  Last year, our non-podium appearance meant we got home plenty early... which can be almost as rewarding as a podium.  We'ere going to have to continue to keep trying.  Team 410.  I'm looking for them.

With about twenty minutes to go, Jeff sees me scraping the mud off my bike with a stick.

"You know there's a bike wash down the hill?"

Obviously not.

I take my bike off the rack, notice some clunking... realize that my front wheel axle-ma-bob is loose.  That might explain some of the weird handling and clunking noises...

Fix that right quick, walk down to the bike wash, give everything a good rinse, head back up to the pits... getting close now.

I feel the need to pee.  I stay close enough to the pits that I can look over my shoulder and see riders go by... at least I thought as much.  In my head, I'm doing lap time math to figure out if there's any chance that we won't get the fourth lap finished before 4:15PM.  It would take a reverse miracle.  It dawns on me (now) that had I not screamed loudly for this option, we woulda never been able to do a fifth lap before six hours elapsed, so there's a strong chance that I'm the sole reason that I'll have to do three laps instead of two.  Triple meh. 

I'm headed back towards my bike when I see rider 410 go by... shit.  Nick should be close.

"Hey, Dicky!  Nick's already came through!!"

Shit.  Toss my puffy coat off, short cut to the transition area, Nick is standing there waiting.  He's moved us up into third, and fourth is just seconds behind him.  Thirty eight seconds minus the time he spent standing around waiting on me.  I'm a moron.

We're going to have to really "race" now.

Monday, April 9

6 Hours of Warrior Creek: Preamble

I'll probably drag the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek out a bit.  Why not?  Enjoy... or not.

I'm watching the weather pretty closely for days before the race.  I know how pointless of a pursuit it is, but I do it anyways.  I'm also refreshing the 6WC Facebook page looking for the announced update.  Postpone a day... months... race regardless of the conditions...

At least that answer comes on Thursday afternoon.   We race on Saturday with a one hour delay (11:00AM) and a six hour hard stop.  That means you don't start another lap unless you think you can finish it before 5:00PM.  Finish at 5:00:01 PM and the lap doesn't count  I don't think it makes a difference to me.  We should be able to get in five laps, me doing three, Nick two.

Friday night, the weather forecast is basically saying be prepared for anything.  It could rain all day.  It might just mist.  We might see the sun poke it's head out for a bit.  It's gonna start out chilly and then get cold.  I pack enough kits that I can wear something warm and dry at the start of each of my laps if necessary.  Lotsa tiny hats and GORE TEX.

I pull my bike off the wall...

I'm back pedaling to see if the chain needs lubed.  I feel the chunka chunka chunka I've been ignoring for... weeks?  I've written it off to some unclean chain or slightly worn cog or ring or that chain again, mebbe it's time to take a closer look.  Flip the bike, remove the rear wheel, drop the chain to the side, spin the cranks...

The bottom bracket is toast.  Meh.

Back in October, I'd replaced the Real World Cycling BB with the stock Race Face unit.  For reasons.  It's an even longer story.  Even though I've done a limited amount of riding on this bike since then, one of the cups has that sweet indexed feeling.  Shit.  That will certainly mess with my head.

So, despite the fact that I told myself to swap back to the freshly rebuilt (in October) RWC BB before the "season" started (and hadn't), not to mention having the knowledge that I might be exposing it to some seriously wet riding for more than three hours, I decide to toss the smoother BB back in to the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.

It doesn't go smoothly.

But honestly, why would I have expected differently?  What sucks even more was that I was going to swap my 32X18 for a 19 tooth because the climbs are certainly a lot harder on my lower back when they're covered in peanut butter mud, but the time I spent fixing my BB was as much time as I'd wanted to spend doing anything mechanical, so I just don't.

I get all the things packed and the bike "fixed" just in time to stare into space for a few minutes before going to bed.

Wake up.  Check weather.  Same same.  Still a chance of moisture with temps starting in the low 50s and dropping into the mid-40s.  Shit.  It looks like it rained overnight as well.  I don't really know how badly I want to do this.   Wilkesbermo trails are much buneos when they are dry, but I've done a wet lap or two there in the past.  The total ass-opposite of fun.

I go to load my cooler and discover that the Coke I bought the night before in a panicked trip to the grocery store is a Diet Coke.  I consider going back to bed.  No, must forge on.

On the drive over to pick up Nick, I'm still wondering if we should bail.  Come up with an excuse or just admit that we don't wanna have a long day of no buenos?  I know Nick will probably agree either way.  He's a very nice person.

Nah... I wait a few minutes into the drive to admit to him that I thought about bailing.  Feels like we're pretty much committed now.

We get there, prime pit location next to Bike Source, I mount my bike computer on my bars, expressing to Nick that I have intentions to actually pay attention to lap times and such, so as to not screw up the transitions.  Way earlier that necessary, I head over to the starting line.  I'm well aware that I need to start at the front in order to not drift back too far on the long, rolling paved start if I wanted to be with faster company when we get into the woods.

I win this race handily.

Although coming in a close second with a way better plan, Faster Mustache teammate Jason Wilson has his kids (and dog) hold a place for his duo partner, Noel "The Killa Thrilla Vanilla Gorilla" Kirila.

As per the usual, as the racers start filling in behind me, the "athletes" who think they can just roll in last minute and back up into the front do just that, putting me now in the second row.  Asshole move?  You decide.  I'm sure they're looking at me up at the front and thinking the same.

Racer meeting.  The usual notes and then the promoter says we're going to have a vote.  Stick with the six hour hard stop or go with a nobody goes out for a last lap after 4:15PM rule with no hard stop.  The "athletes" seem to be in favor of the latter.  Crowd reaction seems split.  The promoter explains it all again.  One more vote.

"All in favor of the six hour hard stop?"

Suppressed and sad reaction of yays.

"All in favor of no going out after 4:15PM?"

Almost the same suppressed and sad reaction of yays... until I let out a blood thirsty scream because I just want some kind of decision, and I don't think it can affect me either way.

"Well, there you have it.  You can go out for one more lap any time before 4:15PM."

Good.  Let's get this shit going.