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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.

Tuesday, October 26

'21 Pisgah 55.5K

If nothing unfortunate happens at a bike race, did it even happen?  I haven't been this "ready" for an event since... I can't remember.

A trick I learned from Wirun at Shenandoah Mountain 100 this year.  Make coffee the night before, not stumbling around in the dark and staring in anticipation on the morning of.  I had hot coffee in my hands about a minute after my alarm went off.

While not ideal, I still say it's better than having to mess around with a wet tent.  Just enough room to get everything where it needs to be and that's that.

Race gear ready in the front seat.  I was up at 6:15AM and dressed to go by 6:48AM... which meant I crawled back into my cot and stayed warm until the start.

Sweet race write up so far, emmaright?

I line up at the front and the only other single speeder I see up there with me is Jarz. 

I can't see back too far into the field, but if you wanna chance to stay on a single speed as much as possible going up Black Mountain, you best be up here.  Once the race got underway, Jarz was off the front with four or so other riders, the "haves" if you will.  I was leading the group of "have nots."

Up Black and "down" Turkey Pen and I'm not feeling so alone anymore.  I'm in good company with Pat and Eric going after the 50+ class, Stephen whom I get to ride with occasionally in the Pisgah, and unfortunately, along came Gordong and Nick doing the 111K which shared parts of the course... and I hoped they wouldn't go by until much later.  They all left me behind in good order, and while I was regretting having the squish fork going up Black, I was relieved once we started leaf surfing down the not-so-ridden Turkey Pen.  Still... they all dropped me.

Down to the Turkey Pen aid station, top off my short bottle with whatever Greg put in it, and stash as many tater tots in my maw that would fit before rolling away.  I managed to make up some ground at the bottom of Bradley Creek (thanks to my pro level stomping across the creeks), and once I got on Bradley Creek Road, I started to finally feel like I could give 'er.

Pass Pat, Eric, and Stephen, up to Yellow Gap, eat some trail magic cookies, head up Laurel...

If I made a "mistake," it was here.  I was having such a good time going up, but I kinda got lost in my head with happiness.  I saw the LEDs lighting up on my Wahoo data acquisition device with greens and orange... but whatever instinct I should have to "try" wasn't lizard braining itself into action.  It wasn't until I got to the Thousand Dollar Climb towards the end of Laurel when I looked back and saw that Stephen and Pat were both catching me while I was daydreaming.  They passed me and left me for ded going down Pilot Rock.  Oh well.

Get to the final aid station where I see Pat messing with something or eating something else, but Stephen is long gone.  Pound two cups of Coke and make chase up the Wheelchair Ramp.  I finally see Stephen about three pitches away from the top of the climb and decide to get at the business of getting this over.  Pass him, keep moving, make the left onto the climb (mostly hike-a-bike) to the top of Black Mountain.  

I pass by like a gazillion randos looking to get (what they think is ) a run on "full" Black.  A few of them said I was the first number plate they saw go by... which means either a bunch of people took a wrong turn... or the riders in front of me came through a long, long time ago.

I'd bet on the latter.

The whole trip down Black was all about keeping Stephen behind me... if only so I could take King of the Queen City honors.

Which I managed to do.

Results?

Buenos and also strange.

2nd place SS and 7th in the overall.  That's the buenos.

The strange?

Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever had this race sold out.  Over 220 people signed up for the 111K/55.5K (MTB and running) only to have over a hundred no-shows.  Can you blame Covid, or the delay to fall meaning lodging would be scarce thanks to leaf peepers, or folks who were gung ho many months ago losing motivation late in the year, or cyclocross, or... dunno.

Either way, when I crossed the line, Jarz and I asked how many single speeders were out there still because each class kinda has to get their own podium assembled so Eric doesn't have to spend his time in the parking lot herding cats....

"Five... mebbe six."

...

"Oh, there are no more single speeders out on course.  You're it."

So, second place but also last place single speeder... and once again, I coulda/shoulda/woulda picked another class if I wanted a top step.  Coulda been first place 40+, and I didn't even realize that Eric had added a 50+ class... oh, way back in 2016?  Duh.  Also dammit.  Even Pat beat the dicks off the forty year olds.  Woulda been a lot more interesting going head-to-head with Pat all day in the same class.  Coulda felt like a "real" bike race full of excite.  A nail biter win versus being chased by nothing more than ghosts of single speed past all day long.

Still, it was a great way to finish out the "season."  Eighteen minutes slower than in 2019 but with a three mile increase in distance with the reroute of Black Mountain (which probably made things faster but slower but still faster).  So nice to do a bike race in the Pisgah that doesn't take almost twelve hours...

I guess 2021 is over?

Now what?

Wednesday, October 20

Natural Born Filler

FWIW: I got the Pisgah 55.5k on the brain and not much else.

Not so much in an "athletic goal' kinda way, but just wanting to finish the "season" with generally warm feelings.  After the shit-tastic, wreck-riddled summer I had, it feels particularly nice to string together something closer to anything that's not a series of total abject failures.  

Speaking of...

I wrecked the other day at the USNWC trails... and I was happy about that.  There's a section of the Needle Trail that I like to try to take from end to end without touching the brakes.  I succeeded at that but not so much by keeping the bike upright.  I went down in the final left hander when my front wheel lost traction in the dense pine needles... at speed.

When I hit the ground, it wasn't so bad.  You know, like 99% of almost every time you might wreck your mountain bike.  A skinned knee, a bruised shin, an abraded forearm... not every time you touch the floor has to end up with weeks off the bike and a potential trip to an urgent care.  It's sorta nice to be reminded of that, even if my knee warmer ended up stuck my scab on the way to work on Monday.

I'd say my mojo is just about at 90-95% max-mojo at this point (mojo ≠ fitness tho).  I'm focusing on riding and not just avoiding the next wreck more and more with every outing.  I'm feeling super comfortable on this bike already, and I'm only five or so rides into the relationship.

This is how it's going into the Pisgah 55.5k.  Unfortunately, I do not have my Oddity Lowrizer bars, so I'll have to avoid staring at the 120mm of headset spacers whilst sadly pedaling up Bradley Creek Rd (for the second time in three weeks).  I went with the Rekon 2.6/Aspen 2.4 tire combo based on... dunno.  I found the 120 TPI Rekon I didn't know I had in the closet, and it seemed to be calling my name.  I guess the 2.4 Aspen for its added girth, being that I don't wanna "race" with the CushCore installed. 

(note to self: do not let the 140mm fork write checks that my back tire can not cash)

I would like to do "well" but I also don't wanna be plugging and CO2'ing on Pilot Rock either.  

So quite possibly the last hurrah of the 2021 "season."  After this, I'm thinking about taking the Wahoo data acquisition device mounts off my mountain bikes until it's time to commence with the 2022 making of great bike races.  Soon enough, I'll have all three bikes rolling and loads of time for Pisgah adventures and local rides followed by local beers.

I'm ready.