Tuesday, March 28

Triple Dip '23: Beyond Blunderdome

I'm usually five minutes away from my house when I start remembering the things I meant to bring with me but didn't.  I know I have my shoes, helmet, gloves, and socks because I've looked at them and touched them at least six times since the night before.  It's the little things like a hand towel to wipe the anticipated mud off my legs, a rear blinkie to keep me safe on the roads in the morning haze, a Super 8 strap for my top tube that I removed back during Shart Tarck "season..."

Semi-important things, but not enough so that I'm gonna turn the Honda Fit of Rage around, even though I'm gonna be there an hour early.

Normally, the rolling dad joke booze parade known as the Triple Dip rolls out exactly on time, but 9:30 AM comes and goes, and just as the rain starts a few minutes later, we roll out.  Meh.  Scattered rain doesn't feel so scattered when it's right over you.

We ride about seven miles to the first stage.  I'd sorta seen a preview on one of the party pace test rides a month or two ago.  Short gravel climb to flat gravel to bombing down a rutted out section... something in the woods that I didn't see and then right back up the steep, rutted-out portion to where we started.  I wasn't even sure if it would be climbable with a 32X18.  

Line up at the front and there's an e-bike piloted by a guy who can ride it (Keith) to my left and a kid on a Haibike e-bike with a kickstand on my right.  This should be good.

The e-biker to my left gets a jump by going on 2 of a 3 count (rules are a loose concept at the Triple Dip), and I make after him.  I hold my place until we get to the flat section, and then another e-bike (not the kid) and a few geared riders get past me as well.  Flying down the gravel, avoiding ruts, and keeping my elbows out to dissuade anyone from making a risky pass in the shit.  Get to the bottom, ninety degree right turn... I guess we're going to do some single track?


It's essentially a double track roundabout and then we're heading back up the gravel headlong into the traffic of the back of the field.  Time to put the holes in the donuts.


I pour it all out and get back all of the geared riders that has passed me earlier with only the two e-bikes staying too far outta my reach.

Roll about six miles to the next stage, and we're at the Rock Hill Velodrome, home of the Winter Shart Tarck Series.  I listen closely to the directions, because while they're using Sharpied paper plate arrows this year, there's plenty of things that can go wrong at the Triple Dip (as history has shown).  The start is on a flat gravel road, and more than one e-bike and a few geared guys get away.  We come to a construction barrel with an ↑ paper plate taped to it... and the front of the field dives to the right'ish.  Huh?

I'm pretty sure I heard the directions correctly, but the only one out of all the riders that were bunching up and scratching their heads that would go with me was former Faster Mustache teammate Jason.  He gets around me and when we see it, we see it.  There's a → paper plate on the post ahead, and we know we're going the right way.  Just us.  The rest of the entire field was going to miss about a third of the stage.

I get around Jason on a climb, and while we looked like we were last as we rode up through the spectator pit, we were first'esque.  I inform the glorious "promoters" of how things shook our, but since the playing cards had been distributed already, Jason and I were awarded Joker cards (they use a slightly perverted version the now infamous playing card scoring system, Ace = eleven points, face cards down to 10 = ten points, and all other cards their exact value, and yeth, 2nd - 5th all get the same ten points).  I wrongly assume the Joker must be better than an Ace, but will find out later at the final tally it's just one point.  


Someone took a nasty spill right at the start, so we stay in place long enough to drink a beer, fix a flat, and wait until he gets Ubered off to the hospital. 

The extended break means that we might have to have a stage nixed.  That's okay with me.

It's an eight mile haul to the next stage, interrupted by hot dog and beer (and tequila) lunch.

Oh yeah, the sun came out.

Dammit.  I was hoping this stage we're rolling in to (which I've done twice in opposite directions in the past two years) would be the one to get cut.  It's pancake flat with a wide open section for passing, so geared riders usually crush me.  I end up in a decent place on lap one, and in an attempt to foul up the riders behind me, I mebbe did that trick where I hop over the logs that the spectators have placed across the trail, get my back tire on top of them, and drag them forward a foot or two hoping to screw anyone close behind me (member, "rules"). 

I don't lose any places on the second lap, and I'm pretty sure I was second place in the analog bike class.

It's only a couple miles to the final shirts-off stage.  We line up three'ish wide on a tight trail.  The fastest e-bike in the east to my left, someone to my right, and then Ryan with his beer vest full of mostly empties backs it in front of us.  I get the jump this time as soon as I hear the hard "t" in "two," and take an early lead.  Behind me, I hear the e-biker yell, "DICKY, SOMEONE TURNED MY BIKE OFF."


As soon as he could get his bike rebooted (no, he did not want to update to Windows 11), he comes around hard like a hippo jumping out of a lake.  I get to an extremely hard left up some roots with the shortcut blocked by a log and a course marshal standing there.  I forget that the only rule is that rules are dumb, and the geared guy behind me makes the smart play riding over the log bypassing the hairpin while I'm off the bike and running.  Dammit.  He's got a good twenty yards on me before I can get back on, and being that it's only one lap of whatever distance, I give up what little hope I had.

Come into the finish line, "hear one more to go," stop to make sure they're not fucking with me, and dammit, of course they're not.  On this, the longest, most technical, dare I say "mountain bike intense" course, we're doubling up.  It's an honest to gob 25+ minute stage?  I mighta had a chance to bring it back.  Poop.  Finish, I guess, third overall and second analog.

It's a chaotic "party pace" back to the finish.  The points are tallied when we get back to Hobo's, and as cards have been randomly handed out out for various trickery, lack of clothing, bravery, and whatever else seemed worth rewarding, the results are more chaotic than the entire day.

I end up being awarded with the high honor of the "Fastest Man"...

and a handmade trophy I get to keep this time.  For those that are curious, the e-bike rider award went to whoever had the highest battery % at the finish... and no, nobody knew about that ahead of time.

Thankfully, Ryan won the giant trophy that I didn't wanna take back home, I'm assuming because he wore his beer vest on every race stage?

I'm happy for him because I didn't spend all that time making the trophy pretty for myself.

I hope he can add to the "legacy."

Functional replacement DUB cap and a functional Oi bell under the alligator man.

Functional bottle opener courtesy of a former angry single speeder.

Functional chain ring above the hopping peen.

Gawdamm, I love me some Triple Dip.  They've already announced the dates for next year, so on March 29th of next year, why pay good money to go to that "other event" in the Carolinas when you can get bad results and a poorly marked course for free... and hot dogs too? 

The remnants of the group that sat through the entire awards show and all the shitty speeches.

Wednesday, March 22

I still believe

Hopefully you didn't come here for my hot take on SRAM's new Transmission™, because I don't have one.

This weekend, it's time for the...

Huh.  Already?

I'll be back for the third time.  Granted, I should be preparing my body for the Pisgah Stage Race in less (fewer?) than three weeks, but alas, I'm weak.  Last weekend, I thought I'd be getting to the big hills of WNC twice while The Pie was outta town, but all the usually suspect frands of mine were busy.  I don't like driving all that way listening to podcasts and dwelling on the futility of existence in order to entertain myself with bike cycling, so I spent the weekend in a much more low key manner.  A local twenty mile ride that somehow had 2,500 feet of climbing followed by an in-town poker ride (where I won a tiny hat playing some basketball game... which is a skill I guess I gave up by not touching a basketball more than five times since the '90s?).  The next day I spent my morning almost balls deep in the Little Sugar Creek in a pair of waders doing a creek cleanup with Ales and Trails, followed by another twenty mile ride with only 1,700 feet of climbing. 

Some riding > no riding, I guess.

The Triple Dip is "some riding."  I'm anticipating 25-30 miles at either a snail's pace or a mad spin to stay with the back of the group on my single speed broken up by four, five, or six short'ish stages at nearly maximal effort.  We'll be out there the better part of the day.  I expect to consume one entire cold pizza, one hot dog, and a few beers to get through the entire event (I think you lose points if you get caught eating something nutritious).

I'll be returning with my slightly modified champion's trophy from last year.

There are other modifications, but I'd like there to be some surprise this weekend.

I don't expect to bring it back home with me.  Whilst I will put on a moderate show of strength, I don't wanna get injured getting all argy bargy with the "tryers" this close to the stage race... but I will be on the lookout for the bonus monkeys in the woods and taking as many points as I can in the tops-off last stage.


Wednesday, March 15

Pisgah's Calling

Yeth, I'm bringing three single speeds with me to the Pisgah Stage Race

Five stages, three bikes... because... ummm...

It makes sense.  To me.  I'm the one who counts because I'm the one who has to pedal, steer, and push my a bike cycle over 140 miles of Pisgah.  It's just that I can see one bike being better than the others in the different scenarios presented by the semi-unique courses.

What's admittedly a myopically structured train of thought (or lack thereof) is that I just feel like certain terrain would be better with such-and-such bike based on trying to discern where each bike shines between the blurred lines.

Vertigo Meatplow V.7 - a nine year old hardtail with 2014 geometry and a 100mm Fox Stepcast 32

Vassago Meatplow V.9 - a modern geometry hardtail with 140mm Fox 34 and a rear tire insert to make party

Epic EVO SSquish - a Frankensteined full suspension SS with 120/116 mm of travel and full lockout capabilities to make great bike race

On Watts's latest visit to my grumble abode, he saw the two ti hardtails hanging on the rack in the living room, one above the other, and he pointed out the obvious redundancy.

This from a guy who owns many garvel bikes, so...

A man who has to operate his kitchen sink faucet with a screwdriver can afford to have a slew of garvel bikes... apparently.

Looking for a more quantifiable set of data points with which to figure out why I think what I thunk, I weighed the bikes.  The weights listed below are as the bikes were hanging on the wall, flat repair, tools and data acquisition device mounts attached, as well as pedals because you should weigh bikes as they can actually be ridden.

Vertigo Meatplow V.7 - 23.28lbs
Vassago Meatplow V.9 - 25.66lbs
Epic EVO SSquish - 24.27lbs

Now I know a thing I didn't know.  While I'm slightly surprised that the Vassago is almost a pound and a half heavier than my Epic EVO SSquish, I'm flabbergasted that the latter is slightly less than a pound heavier than the Vertigo.  The SSquish bike has heavier rims, a bunch more moving parts, a longer travel/larger diameter fork, a tensioner...

And that doesn't add up to a whole pound?

Granted, tires aren't same same... I mean, same same... but different.

They're all made of  black goop and threads, blown up with earth air, and have a giant yellow logo on them.

The under-biked rig is over-tired and the over-biked jawn is under-tired (or mebbe almost apropos-tired for Pisgah).  To complicate matters further, I'm looking at piles of other tire options, considering taking the liner outta the Vassago (and risking my biscuits) because its current rubber is worn TF out and needs replaced so... and all other manners of mucking about.  

And the Epic EVO SSquish doesn't have a bell, and that's a whole 'nother dilemma IMHOMO.  How am I supposed to "race" without a bell but also how can I justify buying another Spurcycle bell?

Also and the place we're staying in doesn't have a washing machine, so I'll need to pick out five different bike cycle race costumes still.

Less (or is it fewer?) than four weeks to go.

Tuesday, March 7

"We were going down Farlow this one time, and there was this super old guy...

musta been like fifty or something." ~ Nick (not that Nick)

"ouch." ~ me

Because it's the only way I can exact revenge, here's forty something year young Nick showing "super old" me how the work gets done:

I really, really needed to get back to Pisgah.  I don't remember a real mountain ride drought ever lasting this long since my first day trip to Western NC in '97.  It's imperative for me to get this kinda riding back in my wheelhouse as I've decided to do the Pisgah Stage Race for the first time starting in a little under five weeks from today. 


Yeth, I've never done it before.  I've had my "reasons."  Now I'm at the point where I'm going to do more things for the last time with greater frequency than I find myself doing things for the first time.  As far as stage races in the Americas, I've already done:

One X Moab Stage Race
One X Crank the Shield 
Two X Trans-Rockies
Two X La Ruta de la Conquistadores
Two X BC Bike Race 
Nine X Breck Epic (one DNF, dammit)
Ten X Trans-Sylvania Epic (one DNF, dammit)

All of them on a single speed, most of them stupidly rigid.  

So obviously it's time to put my "reasons" to the side and toss my hat in the ring for a new to me experience.

But good lorb, what a baptism of fire Saturday's ride was.  I've been riding far too much on smooth'ish trails and racing shart tarck and Sad Dads™ around Charlotte... because of weather and shart tarck commitments and other excuses.  My thousand yard stare was down about nine hundred yards from top form.  I was mega-butt-puckered for the first descent from the top of Daniel Ridge, but mebbe it wasn't the best place for me to dip my toe back in the water.

The following images are out of order and context.

I plan on racing the Epic EVO in SS mode for most or all of the stages.  I don't wanna expose it to any really nasty Pisgah gristle conditions, and I'll pull the Vassago out if it's wet and gnarly or even the Vertigo if it's not so gnarly (like mebbe day one).  Yeth, there used to be a luddite self-flagellator in me that wanted to do all the things on a rigid SS (like I did Moab last year, trbl), but I've accepted all manner of technology in my life since I started riding single speed in 2003.  Tubeless tires, 29" wheels, disc brakes, drooper posts, drivetrains that don't drop chains (that was a thing?), data acquisition devices, and whatnot.  What difference does it make if I add one more thing at this point, and also I'm old and running outta time to embrace new shit.  I've already done a buttload of Pisgah races on a rigid fork, and will continue to do so if Watts (new blerhg, who dis?) stubbornly says we do PMBAR thusly, so the need to prove things to myself isn't something I really have here.

Also, it's f____ fun.

I had to keep my internal voice running most of the day. 

"Let this bike do what it can do."

Especially in the thunder chunk and droppy root sections.  It's so ridonkulously capable, a true grip 'er and rip 'er.  I'd say by the end of the day, we were very much bosom buds again, and trust has once again been reestablished.

Bryan doing that huck we all do because it's mandatory.

Türd rolling the sketch-looking-but-not-really rock into the creek crossing on Butter Gap.

Stephen also doing that huck we all do on the ever-popular seasonal hatchery route.

Doing the Pisgah stage race is going to push me into getting on my game much sooner than I'm used to this year (with not quite enough notice, my bad).  I'm gonna drop some weight, clean up my act, and get up to Pisgah (proper or "the other") as much as possible.  This is less in the interest of making great bike race and more about reducing my potential suffering.

Türd showing off his ability to not tag the root stub with his left pedal like a couple of us did on the most technical move on Cove Creek... which I almost didn't ride down but then decided I need it back in my repertoire.

I've really let myself get uncomfortably rusty in the technical stuff... dammit.

Stephen is too young to rust.

And Nick redeemed his "young" self many times that day, riding the sketch-looking-but-not-really rock into the creek blind and trusting me when I said "it's fine, just ride it."  

The only potential downside to this plan is finances, I guess.  With a planned trip to (insert some place out west Bill Nye and I are going) this August and the tax man knocking on my door right as this stage race wraps up, I'm not sure if it's fiscally responsible to do the Trans-Sylvania Epic this year (sometimes money is an object)... but it's hard to imagine not participating in an event I've gone to every single year that it's existed.  I know there will eventually be a time when I do my last TSE, but I'm not so sure I ready for that yet.


Mebbe time to sell a bike part or something.  How many kidneys do I need to survive?


Wednesday, March 1

Shit fappens

You know how you won't answer the phone when you don't recognize the number?  Well, three breweries, two hours and five minutes into the Watts Fappening, I had to.


Boppit (my dog frand) was in boarding under Double Secret Probation.  He now has huge kennel anxiety, due in large part (IMHOMO) to the fact that whilst The Pie and I were in New York, he got put into quarantine when he came down with RSV... while boarding... and he didn't much like it.  Drool, destruction, chaos.  This was to be his trial run back in boarding.

So, I had to dip out for a moment, head towards my house to get the Honda Fit of Rage, remember that Watts has my car blocked in, four miles later and I get Boppit.  Run/walk/ride with my bike in one hand and the leash in the other back to my house.  Drop my drool-soaked dog and ride another seven or eight miles to Birdsong.  I expected things to go off the rails... just not this soon... or for the second time.

I was going to start the day riding a Sad Dad™ on the greenway with Watts, but he was running late... and it was drizzling... so I hopped on Zwift.  Pick a ride that was supposedly shorter than sixty minutes but with an amount of elevation that didn't seem possible in that time/distance... but then Watts texts me and he's gonna be even later... so stay on for the duration which was way longer than I wanted... and finally Everest my way into owning my own virtual Trek.  An hour long, not energy-sapping Sad Dad™ was swapped for an hour and forty five minutes of effort I would not be recovering from any time soon.

Watts did show up, the drizzle continued to dampen our initial enthusiasm, and we made our way to Lower Left by ourselves to meet no one.  Eventually, our numbers grew as Dr Mike and Bill Nye showed up.  Then Daily.  Burke.  Jeremy.  Others.  It's Fappening.

To Triple C, which was loud inside and moist outside.  Wooden Robot which was packed with soccer fans and the associated cacophony, which pushed us outside again.  Obviously, this is where I had to temporarily bail with urgency, much to the confusion of Putter and Donald who saw me riding away from Wooden Robot in the wrong direction as they were trying to catch up to us.

I missed out on the long ride through uptown's major league soccer circus to Fonta Flora, and by the time I got to Birdsong, my fake rage and twelve mile sprint had all but wiped out 90% of a decent buzz.  That's where things went slightly more than just off-plan.  Two beers to play catch up, over to Spoke Easy for Miller High Life palate cleansing, across the street to the British Pub... Devil's Logic for closers... sorta.

And then there were four.

Dr Mike and Judge Burke joined Watts and I to make the long haul back to Lucky Lou's to put the final nail in the coffin.  At least we didn't close it down this year.  That woulda made for a long night.

And somehow, after sleeping in and eating sunny side up eggs, Watts dragged me outta my funk by forcing me outta the house to ride gravel bikes in their intended manner in South Carolina.

It was a gooder than most recent weekends, and one that I'll be getting over for awhile.  That was the last short term goal/event/thing to look forward to for awhile, so... now what?


Or fap?

BTW: I'm terrible at documenting these kinda things in the moment.  You shoulda saw Watts's post on Instagram tho.

Wednesday, February 22

Winter Shart Tarck '23: Race Five

Pre-dumbling.  Don't know when I started doing it.  Don't even know why.  Just do.

Can't stop, won't stop.  Mess life and all.

I lost a portion of my life on Friday and Saturday to my mom's washing machine and a few other issues that come along with the care of an individual her age.  I like working on bikes to some degree.  Working on appliances is up there with doing taxes or cleaning gutters.  Working on someone else's appliance is more on the level of getting dental work done.

Suffice to say, a few hours of squatting on my haunches and crawling around made me a wee bit sore when I woke up Sunday morning, more so than the thirty mile dirty urban ride I joined in on in Fort Mill/Rock Hill the day before.  I'm getting to the point where I'm going to need to do more physical training in order to do pain-free manual labor in awkward positions.

As I mentioned last week, there was no way I was going to move up in the overall standings, lest someone be met with calamity or illness or they got caught with an expired driver's license at the South Carolina State Trooper "safety check" on the Exit 83 off ramp.  

I guess there's that part of me that still wanted to best the guys that had finished hot on my six the past four weeks and mebbe, just mebbe snatch a small victory by defeating those that have consistently just been outta reach.

I spent the better part of forty minutes just trying to soak in the experience while only bleeding slightly out of my eyeballs. 

photo cred: Pisgah Paparazzi
The heckle pit was on point, and on lap two, the opening chords of Voodoo Child being blasted into my good ear brought me so much joy I wanted to put in a request for more on each and every single lap.  Hard to acquiesce said request when I'm struggling to get enough oxygen for my legs to continue moving forward (but still in Bullwinkle shaped circles).

It was a good day.  8th outta 31 (jeebus, 31 single speeders... many of them cosplaying as "single speeders" with jorts, fake mustaches, and sleeveless shorts). 

6th overall for the series, so one place off the wide angle podium... dammit.  Am I even here for the podium tho or is this just what we do in February?  Prolly the latter.  At least I went three for five sleeveless, so that's something.

photo cred; Mary Kaye Zugelder
Looking forward to 2024 already... I think.

Tuesday, February 21

It's coming...

I'll get to the final race of the Winter Shart Tarck later, but for now, just a reminder that this is fhappening Saturday:

Starting at 3:00PM at Lower Left Brewing (or 2:30PM from my house), we'll be doing a similar sordid affair as we have in the past.  If all goes as planned (it won't), we'll be headed to Triple C next, Weathered Souls (or Resident Culture if that can't work for "reasons"... strange things are afoot at the Circle K), then to the north to Fonta Flora and Birdsong, on to the east for Spoke Easy and Devil's Logic (if we can make it by closing)... and then if anyone is interested in going deep into the night and eating fried pickles, we'll be diving into Lucky Lou's to catch some karaoke.  

To be honest, we've put the least amount of effort into this one, because for the most part, it's just a chance for some frands to hang out and mebbe some others to join.  It will also serve as a brain storming session with Watts for PMBAR '23.  I might use this as an opportunity to finally convince him (while his brain is going mushy) to let us use front suspension parts on our single speeds to mebbe go a little faster?  

I'm hoping for the best.  I'm prepared for the worst.*

After this, life gets to finally go back to my normal, and I can focus on getting back to Pisgah on the more regular, squeezing in some longer rides, and preparing this aging physical mass of mine for the "season."

There is currently a chance of rain.  We've done this in the drizzle before.  Don't know what we'll do this year.  Hopefully you're my FB frand, and I can post an update there is we get rained out.