Saturday, May 26, 2007

NYC race

A mountain bike race in Manhattan? You don't say? It isn't true? Oh yes! It is true. The fine folks at the New York City Mountain Bike Association have worked very hard to obtain approvals and grants to create fine mountain bike trails within New York City. The first being the High Bridge Trails in upper Manhattan just off the George Washington Bridge. The weekend of May 19/20th marked the grand opening. What better way to kick off the grand opening then to host a mountain bike race?

The High Bridge Trails consist of a nice 2 to 3 mile cross country loop along with some dirt jumps, a wall drop and some downhill trails. You would never guess these photos were taken in Manhattan.

The cross country race course consisted of a start heading down the sidewalk on Dyckman Street. Then it turned onto a paved walkway that was nothing but climbing. At the top the course turned into some tight, technical singletrack (Rough Ryder trail). That trail traversed and meandered up to the top near the dirt jumps and BMX area. Then the course became what I'll refer to as one of the best spectactor courses. It wound back and forth on itself throughout the rest of the High Bridge Park. Eventually making its way down to the start/finish on the corner of Dyckman St. and Nagle Ave.
Anyway, Lots of sponsors helping support and make the weekend a success. One of which is our very own Vicious Cycles. I was there Saturday helping out, spreading the word, riding the course inbetween rain drops. Found out quickly that this course was a lot harder than I anticipated. Second time around I got the hang of the terrain and was almost back to the Vicious Cycles booth when psssssttt. Sliced my front tire on either a rock or piece of glass. Stan's wouldn't cut it so I had to throw a tube in there. At least this happened when I wasn't racing......

Sunday morning. The Germans, Zoltan and I climbed into the Avant and headed into the 'city. Met up with Dave, Tim D., Harlan and some of my teammates: Tim H., Justin, Aaron and Salem. Starts were delayed, the sun was out and it was getting hot. Tim H. decimated the Expert 40+ group on his singlespeed (he also would have won the SS group with his time). Dave showed 'em who's boss by winning the Clydesdale class. Harlan set a blistering pace to win the Pro/Semi Pro field. Aaron rode extremely well to take 2nd in the Sport 40-49 group. Justin ran into some troubles in the Expert 30-39 but went out fighting! Tim D. and I worked hard for top positions in the singlespeed class despite equipment issues (2nd and 4th respectively). Salem spent the afternoon educating fellow riders on technical skills through one of his clinics.

Right from the get-go the pace was fast. They started the singlespeeders in the back of the Pro/Semi-Pro and Expert fields. Tim D., Sean (Bethel Cycle rider) and I took off down the sidewalk and onto the paved climb wheel on wheel. Nearing the top where the pitch steepens Tim put the hammer down and dropped Sean and I. From that point on Sean and I yo-yo'd back and forth between 2nd and 3rd positions. During the 3rd lap (out of 8) Sean pulled away from me in search for Tim. He later caught Tim and went on for the win. Tim had issues with his Camelbag which prevented him from drinking so he wasn't 100%.

Nearing the top of the paved climb I could see that the guy in 4th was catching up to me. By the time we've gone through one hole lap (the singletrack) I've pulled away from him. This went on and on for a few laps until I came over the big rock face near the start/finish and heard pssssfft. Back tire flat. I rode out onto the sidewalk hoping that Stans' sealant would seal up my tire. Nope. Now I'm at the start/finish entering my 5th lap only to stand there changing a rear tire. Dave came over to take my rim strip and hand me a new water bottle (Thank You Dave). Within a few minutes I had a tube in the rear tire and was back in the game. Unfortunately I lost my 3rd place position.

I rode my ass off trying desperately to get back 3rd place. Couldn't quite bridge that gap and my legs were fatiguing fast. Lap 7 I noticed some hints of muscle cramps in my quads. Drank more Accelerade and at some more food. Harlan passed me and so did Tim H. on their final lap (and my 2nd to last lap). I felt like I was standing still relative to them but kept on trucking. I now knew 3rd place wasn't happening and I couldn't see anyone behind me so 4th place it was. The eighth and final lap was tough. My body wanted to shut down and just about ever muscle in my legs was on the verge of cramping. I eased up on the tempo to save the muscles (assumed, and hoped, I had a good gap on 5th since I never saw anyone behind me). Got up the climb and through the Rough Ryder trail. Now I'm up at the bmx track and knew it was mostly downhill and a fun trail to the finish. The tempo increased a bit which also increase excitement!

Next thing I know I'm at the finish line claiming 4th place (2hours 16minutes). Winning SS class time was 2hr 3mins so I wasn't that far back. My time would have won the Expert 19-29 class and I would have come in 10th in the Pro/Semi Pro class. Guess I'm riding at Semi-Pro level now after only racing Expert class for two seasons. Its been kind of hard for me to judge since I've been predominately racing 100milers on a rigid singlespeed (versus shorter 20something mile courses on a geared bike). We'll see how I do at Mount Snow this year and at a few of the Root 66 races.

Hanging out in NJ this fine Memorial Day weekend. Next weekend Tim D., Harlan and I are out in Ohio for the Mohican 100. Until then...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Michaux Maximus

This was a new one to me. Never ridden in Michaux State Forest, however I've heard nothing but good things about this place. The terrain is technical and epic, races are long, people are great and the competition is tough. Sign me up!

This year's Maximus was split into a few different course lengths and, naturally, I opted the longest (50miles). It is the first in a series of 3 races in Michaux.

Tim and I cruised out to PA Saturday afternoon. Found a cozy spot near the start/finish to set up the tent. Asleep by 10pm, awake around 7am for an 8am race start. It was a bit cold in the morning but I knew that would quickly change given the weather lately. Down went some cold oatmeal and an Ensure. Got my stuff together. Went with the Camelbag full of Accelerade, one bottle, two tubes, 5 or 6 10g C02s, spare chain, spare shoe buckle, multi-tool, zip ties and a pocket full of Mojo Bars, gels, jelly beans and Shot Bloks. Yeah, its going to be a long race!

Start was delayed half an hour for some last minute trail maintenance (those guys are awesome and put together a great course!). I figured a 6hour finish was a good goal. I'd like to do top 10 SS but knew I was in for a rude awakening with hearing that the majority of the singletrack is mostly rock gardens. Hmmm... rigid singlespeed with gloves that have no padding and 40miles of rock gardens? not easy. So, 6hours was a good goal.

The start went up this rocky fire road with a few metal gates we had to go around (great for bottlenecks). Tim was out front with Buck, Harlan, Elk, Topher and the usual suspects. I started somewhere in the top 30. We had around 100 racers with a very large singlespeed contingent. Not to mention many people were on 29ers.

Used the first couple miles to get a feel for the terrain and race. Was feeling pretty good so I turned it up a bit on the early singletrack. It was tough for the trails were tight but I found my way around people on the climbs. The early singletrack was mostly relatively new trail. Not too many rocks (at least not as many as I anticipated) but quite a bit of climbing. Out of that, down a couple hundred feet of fire road and into more singletrack.

All I can say is WOW. The rocks got bigger, course got tougher and we haven't even gotten to mile 10 yet! Somehow I got infront of Topher so I figured things were looking pretty good. Then I came across Elk running ala cyclocross style. Didn't think anything of it but that he was running through the rocks to gain some terrain. Later I found out he had a hefty mechanical that cost him the race. Such a shame but he's got it all under control and will be back with vengence! Shortly thereafter Topher caught up to me and I hung on his wheel for a bit... Until the rocks slowed me down while he kept pace thanks to his 69er.

I carried on in my usual style setting a good pace for a few other SSrs behind me. Eventually came up onto Grave Ridge. I don't know. maybe around mile 18/20? It was really cool. A very rocky ridgeline with rocks that would swallow you. Lots of hop turns and bunny hops up over the rocks.

By this point I'm feeling confident in my physical ability but my hands are taking a beating. It got to the point where it hurt A LOT to hold onto the handlebars. Again, usual style: ignore the pain and carry on. I still have yet to figure out my threshold for pain but I knew this wasn't it. It was coming close but not close enough. Once off Grave Ridge I could feel the blisters on my palms. And they were fairly large! Just get to the next aid station and you'll figure something out from there.

Only thing between myself and the aid station was a very LONG climb up this grassy doubletrack. I stuck pace with this singlespeeder infront of me and forced myself to ride the whole thing. Most of the climb wasn't that steep but there were sections that got fairly steep. Not to mention a few false sections that felt flat and you couldn't see futher up the trail (thinking you're at the top). This was very tough but I stuck with it.

After a while we finally crested the ridge and cruised into the halfway point and aid station. Needed a knife to pop these bli
sters but no one had any (mental note: carry a pocketknife). Last resort: teeth. Got some bandages, gauze and tape. Wrapped my hands up all boxer style and slipped the gloves back on. Filled my jersey up with bananas and took off.

Things felt a lot better with the gauze but I was still in pain. Couldn't grip the bars as much as I liked so I rode slightly slower than I wanted. Eventually got onto some fire roads. A good break from the rocky singletrack. Now we're around mile 30 and I'm fading and finding my quads on the verge of cramping. Not good! Guess I went a bit too hard on that grassy climb and never fully recovered. I slowed the pace down a bit to help conserve energy. I really wanted a top 10 SS finish (probably was holding top 10) but, more importantly, I wanted to finish the race without any cramps. Fell back a good 4 spots. Downed more liquids and food in hopes to help the cramping. I knew if I cramped I probably would never recover and finish. Not to mention the upcoming week would be a living hell recovering.

A little walking. More riding and I came across the next aid station. Say mile 35? Again, at the top of a long climb. Notice a trend? From here we had more rocky singletrack. I took it easy and kept trudging through. Stumbled upon Tim. This isn't good. He was on flat tire number 4 or 5 and was out of the running for 1st (after holding 1st SS for most of the race). Not a happy camper. Spoke to him for a bit. Traded gloves (he had nice padded gloves) and then took off. WOW. These gloves were so much better than mine. The pain was just about gone.

Rode the remainder of the race harder than the beginning. Caught and passed two singlespeeders that passed me when I was hanging out with Tim. Caught and passed the singlespeeder I was following for a better part of the race. Saw another one in my sights so I put the hammer down (while trying to keep my quads in check). Drank a lot to refuel the electrolytes and ward off cramping. The last climb was up this fire road and at a good pitch. I was able to stay in the saddle and pedal at quite a high cadence. Little by little I was catching up to the next singlespeeder. Awesome!

Before I knew it I saw cars parked on the left side of the trail (in a field behind the trees). We're close! Pedaled even harder only to realize I had about 50ft and a hard left turn into the finish line. I came across the finish line a mere seconds behind the SSr I was trying to catch. Damn. Not enough course to make up that last spot, but more importantly... I finished!

Super stoked! I met my goals of finishing in 6hours (6hours 4mins to be exact) and rolled across the finish line in 13th place SingleSpeed category. Just missed top 10. Warded off all cramps. No mechanicals (esp flats). Good to be riding tubeless again. Met some awesome new people (thanks for the ice cream!).

This race marked what I think a true mountain bike race should be. Very technical! You haven't experienced racing offroad until you've done a Michaux race. I'm already looking forward to the next one and will be better prepared. (After all, this is only my second race and its still early in the season.)

Harlan let me borrow some Ergon grips. I've got a few hours on them already and think this is it! These things are truely ergonomic and are super comfortable. Esp for riding a singlespeed. I highly recommend trying them.

Feeling good this week. Legs are sore but my knee is doing alright. Gonna get some light miles in on the road. Next up is the first ever mountain bike race in Manhattan. Vicious Cycles will also be there with bikes to demo. Should be a great time!

Friday, May 04, 2007


Messed around with tires this week. That's right. Maxxis finally had their 29rs available on their website late last week so I ordered up a set of Ignitors and scored two Stan's rim strips off of FleBay.

First off, I have to give props to Maxxis. I have never ridden a better tire. No matter the conditions they hook up when needed and corner SO well. I had some trouble cornering with the WTBs the past few months. They didn't hold their line and had a tendency to slide out. Got about 4 hours on my Ignitors this week and I now remember how much fun it is to lay into a turn brakeless and let the tires take you. They hold dead nuts on!

So, Tuesday night I pulled the WTBs off and along with.... my ghetto rim strip. Left the Velox tape and put the Stan's strips on. Watched his installation videos again for the proper way to install and seat a tire. Then installed the Ignitors. It took me a fraction of the time after watching Stan's videos. (Should have done that last week)

Wednesday night ride. South Glastonbury.... Front tire lost about 15psi over Tuesday night so I pumped it back up. Back tire was dead nuts on 38psi. Rode two hours. Did a lot of climbing and lots of tech trails. Felt good but wasn't really pushing hard. Didn't want to hurt the knee or kill myself prior to this weekend. Tires worked flawlessly.

Earlier this evening. West Harford Reservoir.... Both tires prior to the ride were still at 38psi from yesterday. Flipping awesome! Looks like I got the sealant all dispersed and we're now holding air. 30mins into my ride I hear a hissing sound. Damn. How did I pop the bead? Upon further inspection I had a pinhole in my front tire sidewall. Why isn't Stan's sealing? Took the tire off and spun it a bit off axis to recoat the sidewalls with the sealant inside the tire. Now I saw sealant coming through and she sealed all up in seconds. Sa-weet! Off to continue the ride.

My intention was to ride easy today but wound up pushing myself for about 20min stretch. On the West side of the reservoir there's some good climbing so I figured I'd do it but go easy (and I originally chose the direction around the reservoir that's harder. yeah. 'easy tonight'). This one trail I take goes across an underground natural gas line. It follows the gas line for about 100-200 ft and then ducks into the woods on the other side. This section has some fairly large 'crushed gravel'. Probably 1inch to 3 or 4 inch diameter. Pitch is mellow (can ride seated but standing is preferred) but kicks up pretty steep for the last 30ft (a real bear with near 2:1). Last month I couldn't ride the steep part. My goal tonight was to ride more of it. Here goes nothing. Pedal. Pedal. Pedal. Back tire loses traction a bit. Shift weight back. Still out of the saddle. Regain traction. Carry on. Couple more VERY slow pedal strokes and now its getting tough. Veins in my arms are bulging and my legs are throbbing. WoW. I'm a few short feet from the top. No way! Keep going! Almost there! Knee is okay so push it! Next thing I know I crested the steep part. Flipping Sa-weet! I can't believe I just did that. Where did all that strength come from? Dunno but I think its a good sign for Michaux this weekend. (mental note. get a photo of the trail next time I'm out)

Carried on the ride fairly mellow once my heart rate dropped and my arms felt better from that point on. Tires held up beautifully. I had a blast. Looks like the 29er is all set for this weekend.

Goodnight. I need some rest.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

29er myths

Myth of increased effort to get the larger wheels rolling:

I've found only one disadvantage of a 29er singlespeed over a 26r. Really steep terrain. Terrain where your cadence drops to almost non-existent and somehow you just push through it to get another pedal stroke.

On the 26r you don't really notice the point at which you can't turn the cranks until the terrain gets super steep. On the 29er I've found you notice this point much sooner than on the 26r. My thoughts are you've got more momentum to keep going with the larger wheels. Once this momentum is lost it is very difficult to regain. Throw in an uphill battle and things are magnified. Critics and riders alike say this phenomena is big deal, but under typical starting from a standstill (ie: somewhat flat terrain). I, on the other hand, haven't really noticed it much on flatter terrain. I have noticed it on the steep stuff, hence this post.

Conclusion thus far (after riding a 29er for a few short months):

Say what you will but I haven't found any reasons to go back to 26inches. The 29er rides very well and feels like a 26inch bike except it rolls over so much more terrain (easier).

Bottom line is I feel good and feel like I'm riding much faster than in years past on my 29er (even going to a rigid fork). I contribute it partially to the bike. Now go out and get yourself a 29er. You won't regret it.