Friday, March 31, 2006

A few more pics from AR

I offer a few more pictures from the trip:

Dan rides the stairs.

Nate and Joe on a tricky slope. I bit it hard here on Day 1.

Check out my new bike! It weighs nothing! An such a low Q-factor!

And we finish with the Money Shot. This has "Dirt Rag" written all over it, don't you think? :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Feelin' Pretty Good

I spent Saturday and Sunday in Chicago. Ate some good food and walked all over the place. My neck and shoulders were pretty sore from Friday's Mini-Epic, but my legs felt good.

Didn't ride Monday, but I did get the backup bike squared away. At least until the disk brakes get here. It looks pretty good-much more color-coordinated than my main bike. And it doesn't have those fancy Hbars, so it looks more like a normal bike. Not for long! ;)

Rode for an hour tonight. Faster pace with one nice hillclimb at the midway point and a gentle climb all the way back. My legs felt very good. The weather is also getting better, with highs in the 60's forcast for this weekend. Some rain as well, but I can deal with that.

Planning a good ride on Saturday. I hope to get down to Yankee Springs for five or six laps on the backup bike. Sunday should be three or four hours on the road. Gotta put some miles in before TI!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mini Epic

I planned to get in six hours of mostly night riding. I started out at 5:30PM. It was about 37F with light rain. I don't like riding in the rain when the temps are south of 40F, but them's the breaks. I'm going to be in Chicago this weekend, so if I want to ride, its in the cold rain or not at all.

The ride went fine for the first hour and 45 minues. The rain had stopped, and I even saw a few breaks in the clouds before the sun set. Then the snow started.

Riding in Michigan, I have a bit of experience with the White Stuff. I am familiar with all the types of snow; granular, fluffy, wet, sand-like, etc. They all add a certain level of difficulty to a ride. They type I hate the most is the Heavy Wet MegaFlake. This is snow that falls to earth in large clumps. It is very wet, and it is great for obscuring vision.

This is the snow that started to fall one hour and 45 minutes into my ride.

I pushed on for fifteen minutes. I couldn't see. The snow was all over my glasses and diffusing my lights. Not "It was hard to see". Not "I had trouble seeing". I COULD NOT SEE! It was time to turn around.

I rode blind in the snow for about an hour. It cleared up a bit after that, but by that time I was soaked. I time-trialed back home and made good time. It was good Iowa training, but I do hope it's not snowy...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Easy Week

Not much to report for this week. I spent last weekend cleaning and repairing my bikes after the AR trip. I had to order a few new parts, get wheels trued, etc. The main bike is ready to go; I gave it a test-ride last night. The back-up should be ready to go by Friday when the last of the new parts get here.

With my MTB's in a state of disrepair, I took my road bike out several times. What a difference! It is light, has skinny tires, and gears. Hardly a challenge at all! I guess that is why they call it recovery.

I did a 5k last Friday. I haven't run much this winter, so I guess 22:30 isn't horrible. Of course, I was sore for two days after...

I plan to do a night training ride the Friday. Six hours, 6pm to midnight. I am leaving for a day trip to Chicago early Saturday afternoon, so I have to get the miles in when I can. The next few weeks will see me racking up the miles. Gotta be ready for TI!

I'll post some new pics of the bikes when all the pieces get here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Epic Day 3

Compared to Day 1 and Day2, Day 3 was pretty calm. I rained overnight, so we expected that the trails would be a bit damp. They were, but not bad enough to cause problems. Day 3 was the Day of Flats, as we suffered a total of three of them. We rode the big loop twice, and everything else at least once, if memory serves. We saw a few more riders on the trail and in the parking lot, but it was never an inconvenience.

The weather held out all day. Sunshine and light winds made for a very pleasant experience. My legs were very cooked, and I ended up riding slowly up nearly all the hills. Nate and Dan were still putting it down pretty good, and they had the class to nate make me feel too bad about bringing up the rear.

We did between 6 and 7 hours that day. I didn't ride the last short loop, and I drove the car back to the lodge while the guys rode back from the trailhead.

All in all, it was a great trip! If you get a chance, head on out to Syllamo Trail. Bring some spare tubes, a rain jacket, and some beefy tires and you will have a good time!

The rest of my pictures will follow. I hope to have a few pictures from Dan soon as well.

Nate and Dan finish the ride.

Nate looks like he could do another 7 hours!

Dan looks like he's had enough. I never thought I'd see the day... :)

My backup bike, ready for a few days rest.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Epic Day 2

Day 2

Day 2 was the best day of the trip. It didn’t rain much overnight, and the day broke with sunshine streaming over the hills. I burned, er, cooked some pancakes for breakfast and we loaded up the car and headed out.

That’s right, loaded up the car. After our adventure with the storm on Day 1, we decided to take the car to the trailhead. We also planned to ride all day, and having tools and food handy seemed like a good idea.

I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking, but here are a few anecdotes. I had a dramatic crash on Day 1, during which I lost the end plug for the front extension on my Jones H-Bar. This did not please me. We stopped at the site of the crash on Day 2 to take some pictures, and I joked that Nate should look around for the end plug. Nate looks around for a minute, and sure enough, he finds it! A one-in-a-million chance, for sure!

We had three flat tires on Day 2, all on the same type of tire. Kenda is sponsor, and I love their tires, but I won’t run Karma DTC Lites at Syllamo anymore. Not the 26” which I ran in the rear and flatted once. Not the 29”, which Dan ran and flatted twice in the rear. I do plan to use these tires in Michigan, but the square-edged rocks in AR were too much for the Karma Lites.

A bit about the bikes. I brought both my singlespeeds set up with 2:1 drivetrains. They are built on Airborne Lucky Strike frames with WI ENO eccentric hubs.

I rode my full-rigid bike on Day 1. That was not the best choice, as the trail was very rocky and I ended the day stiff and sore. I did appreciate the light weight of that bike on the climbs, and I was able to hang with Dan and Nate pretty much all day. After riding that bike in horrible conditions on Day 1, it sat in the corner for the rest of the trip. The brakes were shot, the headset (a 10+ year old King!) was starting to grind, the wheels were knocked out of true and it looked like a hurt puppy! The bike with the front suspension worked great, but I hated the extra weight on the climbs. By the end of the ride on Day 2, my legs were cooked. But the 2001 Marzocchi Z-2 kept taking the hits. I did decide that the Candy pedals will have to go. They are fine for winter training, but I had trouble with my foot sliding all over the pedal body as I tried to get clipped in on steep, rocky inclines. I love the Eggbeaters, and will get another pair to replace the Candys.

I really missed the Jones H-Bars on Day 2 and Day 3! I had very sore forearms at the end of each ride, and I ended up with some lingering wrist soreness that persists to this day. As much as my wife won’t like it, I think I am gonna have to bite the bullet and get another set of H-Bars for the backup bike.

Dan also brought a pair of singlespeeds. His main bike was a Niner with a White Brothers fork. His backup was a Salsa Juan Solo. He says the Niner was the way to go on this course; it rolled over stuff that brough his 26er to a dead stop. I can attest that he dabbed and crashed more often on the 26er.

Nate rode a full-rigid Cannondale 1FG on Day 1, and a Trek fancy geared bike with front suspension on Day 2 and Day 3.

My new WI cranks, hubs and freewheels worked great! The cranks were at least as stiff as my splined LX cranks, and a ton stiffer than the old square-taper XT cranks they replaced, even with the same XT bottom bracket. I did manage to loosen the lockring on the cranks by the end of Day 3. I recently received the Hozan lockring tool, and I suspect using that and some loctite should resolve that issue.

Now, on to the pictures!

Me in the parking lot.

Me going down a wicked set of stone stairs.

Nate and Dan crossing a steam.

Nate on the staircase.

Dan stylin' in the parking lot. Dan, how did you get that jersey? I know that guy who won that race, and if he catches you wearing his jersey, he'll kick your butt! He is a mean SOB.

Nate stylin' in the parking lot. You would never guess that his new favorite singer is 50 Cent. What you gonna do with all that junk inside your trunk, Nate?

Day 3 report will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Epic Ride

At long last, here is the ride report:

Day 0 (driving day)

Nate and I left Grand Rapids at 1 PM on Wednesday. The weather was cool but sunny. The drive down to Arkansas was mostly uneventful. We did see a semi blocking the entire width of I-80 south of Chicago. That caused a 90 minute delay. The last 20 miles to Mountain View, AR were through some twisty and steep roads. It was foggy and raining, so that was interesting. We also had some trouble with our directions at the end. As a result, we got in at about 4 AM and woke up Dan who had arrived earlier in the day. Time to hit the sack!

Day 1

We woke up after a few hours of sleep to a heavy downpour. The rain was coming down in sheets, and thunder and lighting were in evidence. We decided to go into town and get food for the rest of our stay. The roads were all half-flooded, and we got soaked in the parking lot of the WalMart Supercenter. Riding was not looking good.

At last, the rain stopped. We put on our riding gear and got ready to head out. Just as we were leaving the lodge to ride the 5 miles to the trailhead, I noticed that I only had half a master link in my chain! Recall that this is the same bike I rode for 1.5 hours on Sunday... So I grabbed a spare master-link, and promptly dropped half of it between the boards of the porch! Now I was looking like a rookie and getting pissed. I decided to just ride the back-up bike and fix the main bike later. So we push off again, and notice that Nate has water streaming down his back! He had failed to close the top on his new hydration bladder. Rookie mistake #2. A quick twist and we were, at last, on the road.

At the trailhead, we decided to do the easiest loop first. Dan had ridden these trails before, so he acted as out guide. Everything was wet from the morning rain, and this turned the 'easy' trail into a suffer-fest! Water was running down the trail in streams, and the rocks (of which there were MANY) were very slick. It reminded me of Whistler--fun when dry, awful when wet. We suffered through the easy lap and decided try the intermediate lap. This went ok. The ground was actually starting to dry out, and the sun made an appearance. There were still tons of rocks, and many slick spots. We finished this loop without too much trouble.

The final loop of the day was interesting. We had been on the trail for about 2.5 or 3 hours, and Nate and I were beat. Dan really wanted to ride, so we set out for the Big Loop. This was about 12 miles long. There were three "stream" crossings, if you call a 3'-4' of white water a stream! Dan said that he could ride across these streams without getting wet only a few days before. The water was moving so fast that a front wheel dipped into the flow was likely to get yanked away.

But we managed! And we had fun. There were some crazy climbs and wicked descents. We were all on the ground at least once. The sun was out and were were loving life.

At the last stream crossing, I noticed a few dark clouds. A few soon became a bunch which soon became a jet-black sky. The winds shifted and picked up. This was not looking good. On the last long climb of the day, the rain started. At the top of the climb, all hell broke loose! 50 mph wind gusts and driving rain. And we still had a wicked dirt road decent and a road ride back to the lodge.

I made the decent in record time. We time-trialed back to the lodge in some nasty rain. Here is a pic of us on the front porch of the lodge:

As you can see, I (the guy on the right with the beer) look like death warmed over. (Nate is on the left and Dan is in the middle.) We had been out for 6 hours! Notice that the sun is coming out again behind us. Also note the hills behind us--that is what we were riding over all day.

As if that wasn't enough, we returned to a lodge without electrical power! That's right, the storm had left us in the dark. We had to take quick showers so as not to use up all the hot water. All the food we bought that morning had to sit uneaten, as our stove was electric. We headed into town for a bite. The power came back on just as we returned, so the rest of the evening was uneventful. The weather channel did indicate more storms overnight, however.

Day Two will follow in the next post.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Quick Update

I made it back from Arkansas last night around 11 PM after 13 hours in the car. No time to post details right now, but I can say this:

Stop what you are doing. Book a room at the Sylamore Lodges. Drive to Arkansas and ride the Sylamore Trail. Ride it a bunch. You will smile from ear to ear. Bring your "A" game, because this trail is no joke.

Also, bring a spare bike because you will trash parts. And tires. And various limbs and organs.

A full report, *with pictures*, will follow later this week.

Now it's time to sleep, and try to heal my bruses, cuts, scrapes, contusions... :)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dirty, Dirty Kanza

I made it in to Dirty Kanza. So did the Canuck.

I bet there are a few other TI names on that list, but I have yet to scrutinize it closely.

Another 200 miles of grinding gravel. And as a bonus, it's only two weeks after TI!

Why do I do these things to myself? Why?

Can anyone stop the madness?!?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

All systems are "go"!

The bikes are ready. The rack is in place. The food has arrived. The clothes are packed and the chains are lubed. I am ready for Arkansas.

I did a two-hour hike on Thursday, but didn't work out Friday or Saturday. I was able to get both bikes ready, so I don't feel too much like a slacker.

I test-rode both bikes today. The bikes are set up with 2:1 ratios for the hills of the Ozarks. I tested them over the same course, and to my surprise the bike with the heavier tires and the suspention fork was 2 minutes faster over the 90 minute course.

I plan to ride easy tomorrow and run a bit on Tuesday. I'll be in the car all day on Wednesday. Anybody from the Arkansas area that want to put some miles in at Sylamore this week, drop me a line!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Medium Intensity

I did a nice one hour ride on the trainer last night. No intervals, but I did keep up a high cadence.

Tonight I went for a 5k run at a nice easy pace.

Not much to report. I'll start packing for the Arkansas trip tomorrow. Time to get the bikes cleaned up, switch the gearing from TI to mountain climbing, and grab some sunscreen. I guess it was in the 70's down there today.