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Tuesday, November 19

Squid Bro Bro

This is life right now:

Not mine own trail chicken biscuit but definitely a fair representation of my now.  Navel gazing.  Hiding from the outside world inside my cocoon waiting for the coming weekends and the eventual prospect of warmer weather.

Rain, cold, dark... weekdays.  The promised respite of Peanut M&M's left hung up on the vending machine trap door.

Thinking about the passage of time in the smallest of chunks.  Rubbing my imaginary rabbit's foot hoping for a sun-blessed weekend.  Clinging to the dream like Todd clung to his chicken biscuit until we got to the view overlooking the valley from Pleasure Rock.

So fortunate to get out to ride Weed Patch for the second time in my life.

Those stats don't lie.  4,600+ feet of climbing on a 21 mile ride.  It's downright silly.

The last time I rode Weed Patch, the trail surface was fresh and soft.  There were downed trees.  Multiple flats.  So much titty-dicking around.  This time the conditions were perfect... but still some of the latter tho.

I don't know how to convince someone that despite the stats, it's totally worth doing.  The miles on the way out to Eagle Rock are hard fought, but the trip back to the car is all the (well, mostly) buenos.  The views, which can be found on the internet if that's all you want from Weed Patch, are insane. 

I don't wanna think about next year yet, the 2020 "season" as we'd refer to it.  I'm having too much fun packing my weekends full, even though these ding dongs that I've been riding with all think that waking up at 5:30 AM on a Saturday makes sense... when you're not even racing.

Expect less content here and more living IRL in the upcoming future.  I'll try to post up at least once a week to let you know I'm still not ded.

Thursday, November 14

You will not read all this.

Mebbe I should enjoy working on my bikes.  It's not like I have some other handyman hobby, like woodwork, making duct tape wallets, or...

Just like that, I've exhausted my entire knowledge base of being handy.

I know I was thinking I had my tire situation all figured out recently, but after considering every tire I have mounted, in the laundry room hanging on the wall, mounted on spare wheels, and stashed away in the bench, I decided I needed to change some things.

Like all the things.

But as I thought about the whole mess, it was becoming quite the process.  This tire on this bike off and replaced with this tire from that bike and that bike gets the tire from this storage location and the wheels hanging in The Pie's office get...

If I let myself dive into the rabbit hole of the sequence of moves, I would find myself staring into the darkness while lying in bed instead of getting some broken up by dog activity sleep.  So I avoided doing anything until last night while The Pie was at yoga, so I could have the whole place to myself to make messes and run the compressor every five minutes, much to the annoyance of my neighbors.

What did I end up with?

The Vassago Meatplow V.8 now has .75 lbs less rotating weight while still having some girthy meats.  I'm a tiny man, and spinning those super aggressive tires up a mountain and re-accelerating them constantly on local trails was making me feel like not firing ze missiles.  It's not like I'm in shape right now, unless you consider round as a shape.

The Hydra wheels came off the Vertigo Meatplow V.7, tires replaced with shart tarck appropriate rubber... even tho it's months away, and I don't even know if I'm racing.  I just don't like the way wheels look hanging on hooks without tires on them.

The Torch/NOX wheels went back on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 with a Minion DHR 3.0 up front and a 2.6 Rekon on the rear... mebbe.  The clearance is pretty tight with a 32 X 19 gear, but since I don't have a crunk on the bike, I can't go spin it around and see if it rubs... so there's that.

All that really matters here is that when I went to bed last night, I was no longer thinking about tires.

Now, on to the next pointless distraction.

Tuesday, November 12

Oh bloody hell.

There's been a lot of attention at an international level regarding the mountain biking opportunities in Pisgah for a decent amount of time now. I'm not sure if any place on the East Coast of the (semi) United States has had the same (un?)healthy dose of media hype in the last decade. If you think you know of of one, fill me in with your wealth of knowledge.  Please don't go telling me about a place that deserves it more, but a destination that is actually getting it.  I've been to places on the East Coast that I'd dare say are better, but that's just IMHOMO (In My Humble Obtuse Myopic Opinion).

I've been riding in Pisgah since 1997. That's long before MTB Project, Trail Forks, STRAVA existed, and even before the Pisgah Map Company released a decent map that made the OG Nat Geo map look like the user-unfriendly piece of pooh that it is/was. In order to get a decent ride in without having to flip flop the Nat Geo map over seventeen times while also analyzing the contour lines and blazes or being brow beaten by a bunch of "locals only" folks on the MTBR NC forum when asking for advice, a lot of us got by with this:

Don't bust my balls if that isn't the exact book we used in 1997.  You try google image searching for a limited print paperback book cover from the mid-90s.

I used to check the book out of the library mid-week, and our assembled group of weekend warriors would all agree on a loop to follow.  Yes, I'd actually carry the book in my hydration pack.  Yes, I actually wore a hydration pack.

Anyways, the book became known to us as the Book of Lies.  Using our wheel sensor equipped old school computers, we'd often find ourselves at the suggested mileage looking for some intersection, gated road, trail head or landmark... and be very disappoint.  It was inaccurate so often, it defied all logic and reason.

But it's what we had and Pisgah seemed so big and no one wanted to spend the night in the wilderness or perhaps live there forever as "settlers."  Credit where credit is due, thank you Jim Parham for making the great unknown that is (well, actually was) Pisgah more accessible to a bunch of flatlander noobs.

Being that I've ridden in Pisgah for over two decades now, I've seen so many changes, for better and for worse.  Some through natural erosion (it is a temperate rain forest after all) and overwhelming storm damage, and some from a serious uptick in users.  As of most recently, a lot of trails have seen some attention.  Some general maintenance, some work to divert water, and some total realignment (moving the trail elsewhere) to create a sustainable trail that doesn't wash out and end up dumping tons of sediment into our creeks and rivers.

I'm gonna stop myself right there. 

This post started writing itself in my head on the lower half of Bennett Gap this past Saturday.  I'd just ran into some friends and strangers doing heavy work on a technical, highly eroded section of trail I probably haven't attempted to ride in over a decade.  BTW: My much younger daughter would tell you that a stranger is just a person you haven't met yet.

I digress.

I started thinking about how some are gonna love the work being done here.  Others are going to hate it.  Some will be more vocal than others (your guess as to which group is probably correct).  I started going down the rabbit hole of ranting about the ranters, pounding the keyboard with furor, but then deleted a few paragraphs after some further thought.  As I get older, I find myself making a conscionable effort to not add more negativity to the world, so complaining about complainers does little to further the dialogue.

I just wanted to take the time to truly thank those thick-skinned individuals who put all their hard work and effort out there just to be judged by all the "experts" and found guilty of the highest crimes in the public court of social media.  You're the ones with blistered hands, smashed fingers, and sweaty ass cracks trying to make our world a better place, and I wanna reach out and virtually shake your hands.  Also, I'll just take this opportunity to remind everyone that before you chastise our paid workers and volunteers over how they ruined your favorite trail, mebbe wait a year or two... or five before you go passing judgment.  You might be pleasantly (eventually) surprised.

*ahem*

Spencer Gap

*ahem*

Thank and blessed.

Wednesday, November 6

I wouldn't call it love...

I have a bad tendency to write things off based on an early bad experience.  This is especially true for tires.  When I first got on the Rekon 2.6 tires, I went with the 120 TPI with the Maxx Terra rubber compound.  I didn't even get a few months in before I flatted on a rock chundered descent on the first timed section at the Giro d'Ville, and I automatically swapped over to the 60 TPI version with only a dual compound.  Essentially, I gave up this technological marvel of earth grabbiness (and took an 80 gram penalty) in the name of increased durability:

And I stayed that way for a very, very long time.

Well, until I started getting super psyched on the grippy 2.5 Minion DHF with Maxx Terra that I ran on the Vassago Meatplow V.8 in the Fall of 2018.  It was just hot glue on felt.  It got me to thinking...

When I flatted the Rekon at the Giro '18, I wasn't alone.  I'd seen scads of riders at the side of the trail fixing flats before I completely bottomed out my tire in the thunder chunder.  What truly had scarred me was the semi-catastrophic, multiple issue fix that took me forever to address, seeing me down to the finish long after everyone else. 

Never again.

That certainly was some short-sighted thinking.  Flats happen, and when they're happening to loads of other riders, it might be more the trail's fault and less the blame on poor tire selection (see the Ledges Trail at the OZ Off-Road for example).

So upon further reflection, I went back to the 120 TPI version in 2019, and thousands of miles and tons of bike cycle racing later, I've not had one flat since swapping back to the lighter and waaaaaaaaay grippier version of the Rekon.

What we'll refer to as the "meat" of the "season" of 2019.  Everything there aside from the Bootlegger and the Pisgah Enduro™ on the Rekon, and a whole lotta other riding in between.

Da doi.

I've made the same sorta mistake before.  Back in even earlier 2018, I was trying out new rear tires.  I was interested in the Forekaster 2.2 for something a little knobbier to handle shite conditions.  I got four rides in before this happened:

Dumb me blamed it on the open spaces between the knobs making the casing more exposed to damage. 

Smart me, who took a long time to realize it, remembered back to when we had cut the fresh trail through a swampy scab of land for that year's Tour duh Charlotte.  Some of the ubiquitous bamboo had been cut off at a perfect, tire-spearing length.  Once again, it might be more the trail's fault and less blamed on tire selection.

So flash back to way earlier this year and the Forekaster was made available in a 2.6 size with a 3C Maxx Speed compound.

I mounted it up, used it for a slimy Whole Enchilada, took it off for some short track racing, put it back on for an even slimier Ride and Seek... and then took it off because it was time for "serious" racing. The venerable Rekon was put back on, and that was that...

until I headed to Greensboro for the JA King and Queen of the Watershed race.  I was still running the Rekon, but Watts had Forekasters on front and rear (2.6 and 2.2).  Trading notes after the race, he mentioned how confident they felt in the slick conditions, the exact opposite of how I was feeling.  It's worth noting that Watts didn't actually make a conscientious decision to run these tires on this given day.  They were just the tires that were on there the last time he touched his mountain bike...  weeks ago?  Months?  One never knows, especially not Watts.

Not knowing exactly what we'd get into on our trip out to Arkansas, but with some certainty that we'd eventually see some moist trails, I dug the Forekaster outta the laundry closet and put it back on the front of the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.

I was never disappoint.

We rode totally dry and clear trails.  We "raced" fifty something miles in Bentonville in the soaking wet, over sharp rocks, through gritty mud and just about anything else you can imagine... unless you imagine something like cactus or snow.  There was none of that.  Our ride in Eureka Springs was a splatter fest.  Since getting back from our trip, I raced the Fonta Flora Barnburner 50k when the trails were still slick from a previous day's rain, and I had a pretty mega day at DuPont this past weekend on trails that were wet, leaf covered, dry, drifty, sendy, rocky... pretty much all the things... except cactus and snow.

Wait... did I have a point when I started writing all this?

Mebbe.

I guess I'm saying that I'm not only stoked on how well the Forekaster has done when things get loosey goosey moist, but I'm also not noticing any more rolling resistance on hard pack, gravel, or pavement.  All that information means I'll probably default to the Forekaster up front next year UNLESS I know I'm heading into a bone dry, predictable conditions race.

And none of this matters now anyways, as slow and low is the tempo as I slide into the grips of winter.  I'll be mounting up a 3.0 Minion DHR on my spare wheels and riding chubby until the time comes to pretend to be an "athlete" comes around once again.

But when I do...

Monday, November 4

The Human Condition

What a mixed bag of a weekend...

I mean, when it starts with diarrhea, it can always go either way.  Either your body was purging something it didn't want from the day before, or you might not want to get too far from your personal toilet for the rest of the day.

Up at 5:50 AM to go for a ride, I was in some kinda sad place as I was driving to the rendezvous point.  I got caught up in a circle of negative thoughts regarding the meaning of life and why exactly I'm up so early and behind the wheel of a car in pursuit of cycling related happiness.  Of course once I met up with my compatriots, things turned around... and the sun came up.

We roll into the parking lot at DuPont, and then the Mowerys drive in (we're riding with them?) and then Luther (him too?)  What a happy little group of people the seven of us are.

I mean, I'm sorta happy.

It's in the low thirties outside, and the sun is still kinda low in the sky.  I can't stop thinking about the better/warmer clothing options that I left at home.

Actually, my mind gets some relief from thinking about how cold I am every time I need to use my brakes.  I'd done a lazy person's gravity bleed that I saw in a YouTube video, and the rear brake was complete and utter shit.  Dammit.  It was fine in the driveway... sorta... after a couple additonal bubbly cup fixes...

It was very exciting pulling back on the lever and finding out if it's going to bottom out on the grip... or not... dammit dammit dammit.

The temperatures eventually ended up becoming more suitable for my attire, and the miles rolled easily by after that magical occurrence.

Although Big 'n Buttery chose a route that seemed to go up all my favorite descents, it was still an awesome thirty plus mile day in the woods with friends.

Big loops in DuPont almost always means wet feet. 

Afterwards, we headed into Brevard for beers at Squatch Bikes and Brews (I'd never been) and then here for the best burrito I've had in a very long time:

$13 for a huge, delicious chicken burrito and a can of craft beer... because... burrito.

Sunday, I thought I'd knock out the chores I'd ignored the day before and then mebbe squeeze in a ride at the Backyard Trails.  Gutters, mow the grass, fix the leak in my roof, etc.  So much etc.  Wash the DuPont grit off the Vertigo Meatplow V.7 and bleed the brakes the proper way.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I'd wrapped up my choring.  I was just finishing going over the Meatplow V.7 and thinking about heading out the door with the V.8 when I noticed some wiggle in the left pedal...

or not.

Dammit.

The cranks I bought when my Next SL shit the bed on day one in Bend 382 days (and $400) ago...

were now experiencing the dreaded pedal insert wobble that killed the first set of cranks.

*sigh*

Pull the cranks off, head over to Bike Source, stopping at Total Wine first to get some grease for the wheels of warranty.  I hate asking any place to help me with a warranty when I didn't buy the item from them, but I doubt I'm gonna be back in Oregon any time soon.  Leave my cranks on the counter, stick the beer in the fridge, ride home...

and run into the Charlotte Urban Adventure riders heading into Brawley's Beverage... and decide to join them for a beer in the sunshine.

After that, I just decided to relax.  I'd had a full enough day.

Woke up this morning with zero regrets about missing out on a bonus ride because I forgot how much my glutes hurt after squatting my way around my roof line cleaning out gutters.  Fall asleep early on the couch because this whole changing the clocks thing is bullshit...

Wake up when the blind diabetic dog is moaning, look at the alarm clock on the floor... 6:28 AM.

Good enough.  Get outta bed, let the dog out, coffee, write this post in front of the TV....

Catch the weather man talking about sunrise... and finally notice the time on the TV...

5:50 AM.

Daylight savings is bullshit.  I know it.  You know it.  My dog's bladder knows it.

Also, member when we learned the metric system in primary school because they said by the time we were adults, we'd all be using it?

Dammit.

Thursday, October 31

Badmotorfinger

Before I embarked on the Van of Constant Sorrow Tour, I thought I noticed some slight bruising about halfway down (or up?) my left middle finger. I was left scratching my head trying to figure out when I might have absent-mindedly injured myself. I do plenty of yard and house stuff where I'm not really thinking things through, and it's quite possible it happened raking or tossing rocks or pulling on something too hard. Mebbe it occurred while riding, a total heat of the moment kinda thing. Coulda been trying to pop the top off a beer bottle while holding a bag of chips in my teeth and a TV remote in my arm pit.

Who knows?

Anyways, I'd been ignoring the discomfort assuming like most of my physical ailments, it will solve itself.

On the final push back from Knoxville, I felt a lump at the base of my middle finger. Bigger than a raisin, more like a sliced section of grape. Huh. On top of all the anxiety we had both been receiving in the last twenty four hours VIA texts and all the other manners the real world uses to creep into our pleasure times, I now have this to fixate on until I get back to my real life issues.

Being an "old," I'm a collection of bumps, scars, aches, blurry vision, and limited mobility. Whenever something new pops up, I tend to assume the worst.

Cancer, AIDS, stroke, heart attack, diabeetus, complete organ failure... you know. The usual stuff.

So I tell Watts that I think I have finger cancer.

Given that knowledge, I do what I think is best. I ignore it, at least for now.

Back at work the next day, I have time to google my symptoms in an attempt to assuage my finger cancer related sadness or perhaps push me into finally writing my last will and testament.

Retinacular flexor sheath ganglion cyst... sounds about right.

Obviously, I look at potential treatment options.

1. Ignore it and hope it goes away.  Sounds tempting.

2. Surgery... ewwww.  Google image search that... wait, put down your hoagies and fries and then google it. I think I'd just go all Four Rooms on it myself.

There's a third option that's terribly old school.

3. Find a big book. Remember books? Anyways, something heavy that's probably collecting dust... like a Bible. Get a friend, give him the Bible, put your hand on a table (cyst upwards), and then let your friend slam the Bible down as hard as he can on the cyst. If it pops, you win. If it doesn't you can go back and re-examine your options, 1, 2, and 3 (again).

The stupid little lump was the source of some pain and irritation. I had to be careful about how I opened doors, got dressed, rode my bike... basically just about anything I needed to do with my left hand. It was getting inconvenient, but honestly, after several days, muscle memory had formed a solid grasp of the situation (grasp... har har). I was grabbing and holding things in an entirely different manner, and it was solid buenos.

Then this past Saturday, I decided to go riding. I'd learned how to kinda keep the lump from being under pressure on the grip, but just as I might sometimes forget my that work bike doesn't coast after a week away from the job, I'd forgot about my lump for a split second. I pulled up on the bars to pop over something in the parking lot, and...

Stars. Bright lights. Instant pain and then a sense of relief.

I followed my friends into the woods, but the first time we popped outta the trail I hollered out, "Hey, I need to check something stupid."

Stop, take my gloves off, palpate the offensive digit with my right hand.

The lump. It's gone. Just like that. Fortunately, I was riding with Dr Mike at the time.

"Oh yeah. Ganglion cysts. They can do that."

So here I am, pain free and hoping that's the last of that, although recurrence can be an issue. Keeping that in mind, I'm on the lookout for a used Bible or encyclopedia or phone book... or I'll just rely on my shitty wheelie form to do the trick again.

Pretty sure there's absolutely no moral to this story.

Tuesday, October 29

Grumpy (small) Old Man

Generally speaking, I don't understand the concept of taking selfies.  I mean, I guess I get the self-edification of one's outward image, but wouldn't life be easier if we all just traveled with selfless, professional photographers?

Case in point:

As a GORE Wear ambassador, I'm sort of expected to do more than make public appearances sporting their apparel.  Pretty sure hash tags are important, but that's probably the number two thing on the list of things that I'm terrible at doing.  Honestly, they're not entirely clear about what I'm supposed to do, but I keep doing it, and things keep showing up.  It certainly seems like a positive feedback loop that I'm in currently.

So there I am delivering an envelope to the RNC the other day, and I realize this is possibly one of the only times I'm going to feel good about snapping a picture of me wearing my GORE® R7 GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY™ Trail Hooded Jacket.  I've lost two personal iPhones to rain-related damages, so the idea of whipping my current functioning phone out to get selfie of me riding in the pouring rain isn't even a half bueno.  The best I can muster is this reflection in an elevator door waiting for my ride up to the 17th floor on a rainy morning.  It would be so much easier to be this guy (who obvs has his own selfless, professional photographer):

I've written about the Shake Dry™ technology before.  Over the year and a half, I've been relying on a Shake Dry™ full-zip jacket...

and a hooded half-zip jacket.

I don't know how to say anything short of the fact that they've been life-savers.  I've experienced some absolute dismal conditions at Breck Epic, PMBAR, Bootlegger, etc.  They both pack down super small and are waterproof and windproof.  The cut is oh-so athletic, saving me from all the flappy arm business in the wind.  That said, when I'm wearing these jackets at work, they have a little trouble accommodating the many layers I'd be wearing if the temperature drops below 40°.  Seriously, rain at those temperatures is miserable, and I'll put as many layers on as I reasonably can.  Only problem being that my arms and torso start looking like over-stuffed, GORE-TEX encased sausages.

This jacket tho...

The GORE TEX membrane on the OUTSIDE of the jacket means water will always bead and run off, like forever.

My other Shake Dry™ jackets are as minimalist as possible, making them extremely packable, but less versatile.  This jacket has a more ample fit (that lets me look like a normal person at work), and has a few more features.

* The other jackets are not recommended for use with backpacks, but the R7 Trail is abrasion and tear resistant, so it can be used with a pack... which is great considering that I'm making a living wearing one.

* The hood still fits under my helmet (like the lighter jacket), but it also has a drawcord to adjust the fit and a visor to help keep the rain off my glasses.

* There's a drawcord at the waist to keep the fit snug when it's cold, and the main zipper can be unzipped from the bottom to allow for some extra airflow when it's not so cold (but still sadly moist).

* The slightly bulkier jacket still fits in its own Napoleon zippered chest pocket for storage.  "Bulkier" than the minimalist jackets while being way less of a $12 sized burrito shape of a traditional three layer rain jacket.

In short, its more versatile than the previous jackets I've tried.   I still feel like they all have their place in my "jacket quiver."  Full-zip/no hood for warm and moist, half-zip/hooded for "shit goes down, better be ready" race/epic ride conditions or the R7 Trail for work, commuting, or just standing around in the rain possibly staring up at my gutters to make sure they're guttering or mebbe tossing rip rap around in my backyard trying to save it from being washed away.

That is my backyard washing through my side yard down the driveway and into the street.  That is also my HVAC unit trying to not be a canoe.

Tell me that I'm spoiled, and I'll take it.  I've been bike commuting since the late '80s and making my living on a bike since '96, so I've paid my dues.  I can remember riding to class at Youngstown State University wearing a Baja as a rain coat because it took awhile in a decent rain for it to soak all the way through (and even longer for it to dry out).  I've endured generations of bulky rain jackets that did little more than postpone the inevitable soakening, and also the cycling specific, non-breathable jackets that resembled cut up and pieced back together bits of shower curtains.

I've been soaked to the bone, shivering uncontrollably with hands that feel like blocks of ice.  I've also been coated in freezing rain.  I've put in my time, and now I truly am blessed.

I'm also old.  I'm also also grumpy.

These jackets make me less so.

Still here?

Watch this video on Global Mountain Bike Network and see how the sausage is made.