Thursday, October 29, 2009

End of the Month, End Of DST

It's the end of the month and that means one thing; time to deliver some sinks so I can get paid!

It works out well that things slow down just a touch in the last week of the month, probably because everyone is starting to think about paying their rent or mortgage, so I can carve large hunks of time out of the afternoon to make super-sized delivery loops.

It's most important to have your delivery loop end near somewhere good to ride, today for instance my last stop was scheduled for 3:30 PM on the West side of West Hartford, which just so happens to be where my home away from home is.

3:30 PM should work out perfect I thought. Unload the vanity top, polite chit-chat while the lady of the house pays me (cash, thank you), and be at the Res. by 3:45 PM.

Unfortunately her sense of time wasn't as acute as mine. Doesn't she realize this is going to be one of my last after work rides without lights? What's wrong with her! Didn't she notice how the weatherman screwed the pooch again and messed up my whole weekly riding schedule? The nerve!

Screw it! It's 3:47 PM, and the sun is sinking fast, I'll try again tomorrow.

Pull out of her driveway only to be stopped by housewives talking in the middle of the street. They keep looking at me, gesturing that they are going to get out of the road, yet the don't do it? Finally the seas of estrogen part and I'm on my way.

To riding my bike that is. That's what this is supposed to be about.

I'm a little concerned of something wicked coming my way beneath the blanket of leaves so I'm running my tires on the hard side for me (25 PSI).

Leaves don't only hide rocks and roots, but puddles. More like ponds in some cases. Remember that part about the weatherman? I've go to wonder if I'm bouncing around so much due to what's under the leaves or my over inflated tires?

The sun is getting low as I hit the Western ridge. The abstract beauty of the leaves and light is breathtaking. I'd illustrate this with a picture, but of course in the rush to get to the trails I don't have anything to take a picture with. Close your eyes and use your imagination. Isn't that pretty?

I was contemplating putting the"not race wheels" on the Fun Machine and hitting the road tomorrow, but now I don't know. How many more days like this will I have on the trails this year?

Bee's Knees or Dog's Dinner

Back it he day looking like I'm going to wet my pants

Back in the day I dated an Irish girl who would use colorful colloquialisms such as "the bee's knees" or "the dog's dinner". If your unfamiliar with theses phrases, I'll use them in a sentence for you, a sentence much like Martina would say to me back then: "That party last night was great, the bee's knees, but Charles look at you, you look like the dog's dinner, you drank so much".
So I was thinking of forming a rating system with these two phrases on either end of the spectrum when it comes to rating bicycle parts.
The problem is I need to fill in the space between the two extremes.
For instance, Conti Race Kings might be the bee's knees on hardpack and fast trails, but although there performance is lacking on real sloppy trails, I wouldn't call them the dog's dinner.
I need something of a lesser extreme.
I could just explain this in a descriptive sentence like "Although fast as hell on hardpack, when the trail is sloppy it's like last call on St. Patrick's Day", but I'd rather have a 5 phrase system to cover the bases of product rating.
Any clever verse will be gladly plagiarized for my own entertainment, with no credit what so ever to the author.
So what do ya got?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Too Many MTB Blogs

I was at a bookstore the other day borrowing a copy of Mountain Bike while I drank a coffee. At the back there was a graph of what's hot and what's not. Their presumption was there are way too many mtb blogs.
I disagree; I don't think there are enough.
Maybe the percentage of readable to self absorbed babble is a little skewed, but I could use a few more good reads.
Whether it's Monday and I want to see how everyone's race went, sometimes comparing my race experience with theirs, other times living vicariously through them.
Sometimes I want to try and get the lowdown on a course I haven't ridden so I have a clue as to how to gear or what tires to run. Or read about place I've never been, or foods I'll never eat (ever).
Sometimes I just want a good laugh, or commiserate with my fellow riders experiences.
So help me out here; keep 'em coming!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sorry Guys

I really wanted to come down and support you guys racing in Hartford. I really, really did.

It was the plan.
Go to Church, watch bike racing, get pumpkins, go to soccer.

Except I woke up really early and watch a violent, sexually explicit Danish film.

So when it was time to get the ball rolling with our daily game plan, I dropped the ball. Kim didn't pick it up either. When she touched based with our recently displaced friends Jacky & Miss Thea in N. Granby about maybe getting together the gears began turning.

"What if I rode out there and met you guys for pumpkin picking" I pondered. "What if Tommy and Mark are riding this morning, and if so which way are they headed"?

Hmm. Things are beginning to click together.

A quick shout to Tommy confirmed he and Mark were in fact just about to leave on a mtb ride, and they were heading my way. Perfect. I'd meet them on the trail and ride with them on the return trip of their out and back to Pennwood as I headed along the ridge to North Granby.

What a perfect day to be riding. Comfortably cool and clear.

Should I watch other people ride or ride myself?
That's like asking if should I watch porn or make sweet... well, you get the idea.

I was amazed at how much of a difference there was in the leaves in the 30 miles I travel along the ridge. In WH the leaves were at their peak, Pennwood, just past prime, Tariffville, a little long in the tooth, and from Roncari North, that's all she wrote.

Had to ride maybe 10 miles on the road total, but that still gave me 18 of trails.

So, sorry I didn't come down to watch, but what would you do?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

4 Days

The phone rings at lunch, its my wife. "Did Lillian tell you she is performing in a play tonight?" she asks. Why no she didn't and thank you for the 4 hours notice.
Usually the chance to see my children display their gifts for the arts is something I relish, but on 4 hours notice after not riding the previous 3 days due to work and weather put a damper on my enthusiasm. Lillian is quite dramatic, and this would be her debut as a thespian (I said thespian you jerk!) but why tonight?
That got me thinking, to most people not being able to ride a bike for 4 days probably isn't that big a deal. A lot of people are probably happy to get out one day on the weekend, and if really lucky sneak in a second.
But for us it's almost like a drug. Our mood is effected by it, and we can physically feel the lethargy in our bodies. The most important part of the news is the weather and how it will effect our riding. For me the most important thing W did when in office was declare as a nation we should exercise an hour a day.
I don't know about you, but I have rides plotted out in my head a week in advance, calculating the time and mileage I'll be able to get in and even a estimated weekly total / goal.
Maybe a few days off is good thing. I can't remember the last time I took more than two consecutive days off in like the last 4 years.
Maybe I'll feel refreshed riding tonight? Rest days are good, right? But oh yes I will ride tonight, hill or high water I will ride.

For the record, Lillian was wonderful in her portrayal of "Pat the stage hand" in "After Ever After". Glad I went.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back Burner

Well the gears are back in the box... for now at least. Maybe mostly so I can stop "racing" myself and just enjoy riding for awhile.
I'd have my eye glued to the computer, checking splits, doing math; "How fast will I have to ride this next mile to bring my average up to X?". Which is totally redundant.
My shock needs rebuilding too I think, which didn't exactly enhance my hardtail experience either. It would ride way down half in its travel, not bottoming but riding harshly.
I have to ask myself "what's the point?", and I really can't come up with a good answer.
Maybe with my race season over, I'm just bored and floundering around without velo-specificity or direction or something like that.
I think if I had two bikes having one set up as a geared HT, and one a rigid SS would be the way to go. But with only one, it's gotta be SS. I think.
In related news, I'm typing this after work because for a change my work schedule actually interfered with my ride schedule this week. Usually this would be something of a bummer, but I'll take it where I can get it.
In secret news, I was clued me in on a trail. Great potential for loop enhancement. Word on the street is this enhanced loop might be enhanced as well.
In not so related news, when did Green Day begin to suck so bad? My daughter pointed them out in the car the other day saying how their song 21 Guns is popular at her school.
Just so you know, I've installed high tech software to track if you clicked on the link to Green Day's song. If you did, I'll be over to beat you with Black Flag lps until you see the error of your ways.
Now go ride your bike.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nassahegan; I Heart This Place

I finally laced together a decent loop in Burlington. It still needs some tweaks, but I basically hit everything I wanted to hit.
What I wanted to do was hook my regular loop with the loop behind the trout hatchery, and the stuff on the other side of E. Chippenhill Rd in as seamless a manor as possible. Other than riding about 1/4 mile on Punch Brook Rd, and following the tracks of a logging truck, I'd say it was a success. I know there is away to cut out the tarmac entirely, and I'll keep working on that, but yesterday was quite satisfying.
The first mile of Nassahegan has got to be one of the most fun sections of singletrack know to man. It is so tight and twisty, in some places I have to lean right than left to get my 24" handlebars through the trees.
When I got behind the hatchery, I thought I had made a happy accident with a wrong turn and was going to avoid the sick, ass behind the seat, please don't endo descents, but all my wrong turn netted me was a little extra climbing. All the techy stuff was waiting for me when I got back on track.
Having the luxury of a 34fx32r gear was nice there too. I could climb all but the steepest hills, getting at least 50% further than on the singlespeed, and that was with the extra challenge of downed leaves and pine needles. The technical rock hill/piles were just pedaled up.
Still slower than the last time I rode there on the singlespeed, but I didn't have Brian to chase either.
The logging between Scoville Rd, and E. Chippenhill has progressed to wher they are pulling the logs out. Beautiful, twisty singletrack still has been decimated, but at least you can get through to the good stuff on the other side without hiking.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just Right

I skipped riding on Friday because I wanted it to be "just right". It was lightly raining and I wanted to give the 1x8 the best chance to impress me as possible. Like when you plan a special date you want things to be perfect. Candlelight, champagne, the works...

But a man only can hold out for so long and when I woke to dreary damp Saturday, Mary Jane got the equivilant to a quickie out behind the shed.

This geared thing is terribly frustrating at this point. Right now at best I can equal my speed on the singlespeed, and that's all due to making up time on descents with a bigger gear. You'd think I'd be able to make up time on the flats and singletrack, but as of yet that hasn't been the case.
Climbing I'm loosing huge chunks of time with this "efficiency".
On the other hand, I'm not disliking the ride. For the most part, I'm having fun riding my bike, and since race season is over that should be good enough. But somehow this competition within me is getting the best of me, and race season starts a short 5 1/2 months from now...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What the F am I Doing?

Went riding after work last night. About 40 minutes in I realized I wasn't having any fun.


Not having fun riding a bike?

This new obsession with seeing if I can go faster with a 1x8 than a singlespeed has whacked everything out of perspective. Instead of enjoying the ride I was looking at splits, trying to figure where I could make up time. It's not even race season anymore!

Is it no fun because of how I'm riding or what I'm riding?

I'm going to try and step back from it and get back to just riding. It's only been a week with gears, so maybe I should just remember racing doesn't start until April and I should just enjoy the ride.

On the geared note, I realized the MRP X.1 chain guide would not work with my BB. It's designed for external cups, and although the tech at MRP said it should work with an ISIS BB "as long as the cups have a lip", I think he's wrong.

But I found a longer bolt with the same thread pitch as my front derailleur's limit screw, so I can ditch the cable and shifter.

So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alex showed me something neat

Above are google earth views of two rides.
One was SS, one was geared.
The SS ride was a tiny bit faster, .2 miles longer, and w/ 500' more of climbing according to Garmin.
They look pretty identical to me so I'm wondering where those 1060' linear, and 500' vertical are?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bummed Out

I kept on banging my pedals on the ground (my pedals that I don't like as much as ATACs; too much float) as my fork compressed, and I didn't make a couple of ledge "ride ups" I was really looking forward to cleaning. It was bumming me out.
Then this song came into my head:

From there I got something of a flow going. Would have been close to a route record if I didn't get caught behind some German hikers, and that was after 8 days straight of riding. But it was cool seeing people actually hiking in the woods.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where Will it End

Since MT Snow, there has been a gnawing at me. I led the race from the halfway point, only to be passed on the last gentle fireroad decent to the finish. Maybe if I had more gas in the tank and had a bigger lead, or maybe if I was able to just shift into a bigger gear.
I love riding the singlespeed, and can't be any happier with my results, but there is always that "what if" in the back of my head.
Hence the 1x8.
The maiden ride of the 1x8 was a success. A success in that I enjoyed riding it. It was fun shifting to a larger gear and cranking downhills. Spinning uphill seated was nice too. I was surprised that I made some technical spots; somehow I was in the right gear. That was always my problem before with gears; always in the wrong gear for the situation. I even rode up the "chute" on the powerlines; a feat I never would accomplish SS.

But efficiently sitting and spinning highlighted a rigid's shortcomings. Seated your not as "prone" to deal with trail clutter as out of the saddle attacking. How can I make this some how more efficient?

I dusted off the Reba and slapped it on.

Knowing that the suspension fork was going to add 2 pounds to a bike I just added a couple of pounds to brought out the weight weenie in me. Well the cheapskate WW that is; dug around and put the lightest stuff I had onto the bike

I put the hydros back on, that saved 70 grams.

Regular grips saved 100 grams.

I even swapped the rear skewer to save 10 grams.

When I put gears on I decided to tempt fate and run a Kenda Karma 1.9 on the rear to save 100 grams or so as well.

Total weight 26.1 lbs.

Not exactly a light weight, but it's what I got.

Slime Time

Saturday got out in the AM after the rain stopped. When it stops raining and starts drying out is when things get the most slippery. When it's raining it's just wet, but once the rain stops the slime begins to form on roots and rocks.

Being wrapped up in sitting and spinning I was riding too passively. That, the slime, and my tire choice shattered my confidence. Once you loose your nerve, your done. Everything is compounded. I was sliding all over the place and the fork wasn't improving control at all. I did enjoy it when I was able to hammer up to speed. Which showed me riding more aggressively gave me more control.

Sunday was a little better. Armed with the knowledge that pussyfooting around would have me sliding on my ass, I rode more assertively. This helped. I also learned when it's slimey, ride a bigger gear in technical spots. You need the torque and the gear inches to get over slippery rocks and roots. Especially small ledges.
I've got to hone when to sit and when to stand. Long climbs; sit. Short technical climbs; stand or "hover".
For all but the steepest courses the 1x8 is going to be perfect. My smallest gear is a 34f x 32r, which seems to be plenty spinny around here. Any lower and it would probably be faster walking. I'm going to order this guide so I can ditch the derailleur and front shifter and save a few more grams.

Last night I swapped my beloved Time ATAC's out for Crank Brother SL's. Saves another 16o grams of rotating weight. I swore off eggbeaters after a set exploded on me, leaving me to pedal out of the woods on a pedal spindle with the body in my pocket. I'll just have to be more vigilant in my service of them.

Finally, the weight. When all is said and done, it's going to weigh about 25.7 lbs. By XC standards that's a tank, and it's a scary big number. Yet riding it, it doesn't seem heavy at all. Actually rides pretty light. If I decide I really like this "variable gear" fad I might have to pick up a bargain frame so I can keep a singlespeed and a gearie. Performance has frames that can be had on special for $99, which would not only provide me with a platform for a geared bike, but shed another 1 1/2 pounds of the weight.

But can it possible ride as nice as the Monkey?
For a race bike does it matter?

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Horror!

A Tangled web indeed!