My plan to go the mountains was a pile of fake meat crumbles. Almost the real thing, but not really.
I was spurred into the making of a plan when Eric McKeegan of Dirt Rag infamy asked me if I was going to Pisgah this weekend.
"If you're going to grace us with your presence, yeth. I'll try."
I attempted to assemble a posse. A small posse.
Then, Jordan from The Hub texted me and said McKeggan was coming down and I said that I knew and she said she wanted to ride and I said that would be nice and she said she'd try to make it happen so I said I would make that happen.
Then I invited Scott Rusinko because he bitches that we never ride together unless we're racing.
My attempts to get one warm but capable body to join me in the Fit of Rage failed. I forgot some people that were on my Rolidex. Sorry.
I head west alone, Pop Tart in the passenger seat to keep me company... at least until I hit Shelby.
Roll into The Hub parking lot. Check my messages. McKeegan is running late and out for the day. WTF? Also meh.
Check to see if Jordan messaged me. Nothing. Prowl the lot and find Scott and parked next to him was Son of Bob Moss, Adam Steurer. Then Captain Morgan rolls in.
I go into the shop to see if Jordan is inside. Sam (the other owner of The Hub) is installing a headset into a carbon Santa Cruz... with a broken hand... and a mallet.
"Are you doing that in front of a wall of tools, some of which might be the right ones?"
"It's my bike, so yeah."
Sam also tells me that Jordan is more than likely not making the ride. Meh. Four dudes who can (and have recently) rip(ped) my legs off. I'd say "beat my dick off," but only a few people in the Southeast would understand what I meant.
We ride out of The Hub parking lot, down the bike path, hit the climb to Bennett Gap, and it feels like a race to my legs. Probably because I'm only used to racing these guys. Soaked with sweat at the top, we proceed down Bennett, something I just did two weeks ago on a bike slightly more appropriate for such terrain.
I don't know if it's the 100mm fork or my inability to dial it in correctly... or the 2.2 tire not giving me the confidence of a 2.4 and nothing close to the 2.8. I feel... sketchy.
Scott flats. Sidewall tear. He plugs it? Plug a sidewall tear? Is that gonna work?
A few minutes later, a tube is going in on the side of the trail. When he's done fixing it, he fills his pockets with these ground scores:
I talked about earlier. Just off the trail in a strange area. Hmmm.
Bottom of Bennett, climb up Clawhammer to either do a shortened ride just like last time I was here settling for Middle/Lower Black and Sycamore. We get to the decision point at Maxwell, and decide to go up and over Black Mountain.
Two weeks ago, Kyle told us that the "locals" were saying upper Black was blown out.
"Impossibru," I said.
I had just been down upper Black on June 18th (day after my birthday, that's how I know). It was nothing I woulda called "blown out"... any more than it normally is.
I'm feeling like pooh on the hike up. I fall over on a short riding technical section, and I have this strange stomach muscle cramp/pulled thing that has a pretty embarrassing back story. We get to the viewpoint and hang out.
Coming down. The locals were right. Amazing how much this trail can change in less than two months. I walk a short section... something I don't know if I've ever done on upper Black. Jeebus. It's bad. That and it's slick and this fjork isn't doing what I think it should and I'm thinking about this tiny tire and holy shit. It's just the opposite experience I had last time, railing the whole thing with Colin, Phil and Kürdt with conditions that were... perfect.
We get down to Hot Dog Gap. Regroup. Dark clouds in the distance. Roll on, regroup, Captain Morgan is dirty in places normally wouldn't be if one were to stay upright on the way down. I tell everyone that this fjork and tiny tire are coming off for Shenandoah 100. I'll try and figure it out later this year. Scott puts his dibs in on the resale. I also admit that I'm partially glad McKeegan isn't here to say "I told you so."
Back when I first mentioned getting this fjork, he told me that anything less then 120mm isn't worth it. Meh.
Down to the bottom, rain hits us as we ride down the bike path, make it to the shop. Happy. Exhausted (at least me). Soaked in sweat and rain.
Go in, beer, Sam shows me a picture of a brake that came into the shop with an SAE carriage bolt holding the caliper in place. I assume the person might have used a mallet to install it. That tool does everything.
Get home, eat three dinners, drink three beers and decide that maybe
it's time to look at that fjork manual a little more closely (past page 3 at least).