Monday, February 19

Quality Packaging

A weekend that turned out (mostly) how I planned it?


I was up unfortunately early on Saturday... oh yeah. The Pie had an early eye appointment on her birthday.  The unexpected premature start gave me the opportunity to get out and mebbe do more than I expected, given the threat of rain that afternoon.  Dressed and out the door for some assploring.

I wanted to ride the entire proposed Tour duh Charlotte route, mebbe check out the race stage that I'm "in charge" of, and look for some possible neighborhood chut-thrus.  Everything was going pretty well... previously muddy spots were dry, connectivity full buenos... get out to my stage.

Some of it isn't entirely Tour ready.

Mebbe we need to do some (a lot) of clearing pretty soon.  Yeth, that's a trail.

I decided to make one run-thru of the entire course, despite the fact that there would be some pushing and shoving through the brush, limbs, briers, etc. strewn about certain parts of the "trail."  I got mebbe a quarter mile in and...

Yeth, that's my brand new Forekaster that's mebbe four rides old.  Shit.  Since the trail has a certain "bum quality," I'm pretty sure I ran over a good chunk of glass that was hidden in the tall weeds.  I never got over 5mph at that point, so I really doubt I smashed it on a rock or something.

Lonely but peacefully tranquil flat repair and then resume the ride-thru.  Finish riding the rest of the proposed Tour route, check for the chut-thrus, get home and try to document all the stuff I saw for posterity before I forgot it all.

Out that evening for The Pie's birthday.  Up the next day to a slight headache at 6:40AM to head to the mountains.

We headed up to ride Heartbreak Ridge and Kitsuma.  In the interest of time and energy, we decided to push directly up Heartbreak to ensure a Kitsuma loop.  Too many times in the past, Kitsuma has been lost because people ended up feeling like a can of busted biscuits going the long (but much more rideable) way around up Old Toll Road to the top of Heartbreak.

I felt pretty weak pushing up Heartbreak and had to stop well before we got to the top so I could eat.  I'd been saving this fruitcake since Christmas for a mountain ride.

I wish I could say it did not disappoint.  I can't.

Once we got turned around at the top, I could tell it had been too long since I'd been to the mountains.  My ability to read trail at speed and keep a thousand yard stare was just not there.  A whole lotta pants shatten moments and reminders of how much I hate exposed trail riding.

At some point, whilst reminiscing with Bill Nye, he mentioned out last trip to the mountains... which was both our last.  I had thought it was back in late November, but I was wrong.  It was late October.

Good dog.  I almost went four months without getting to the mountains WITH THE BIKE I BOUGHT TO RIDE IN THE MOUNTAINS.

I must say, getting to this point on Kitsuma with twelve gears is much easier than with one, even after a push up Heartbreak in my legs.  Cleaned it, but I really leaned hard on my friend Eagle.


photo cred: Bill Nye
I should mention that The Dude is hucking the tracks at the bottom of Heartbreak on a 26" wheeled steel Surly hardtail with a 2X drive train, Marzocchi Bomber fork, high post, and many other period correct components.

It was a bluebird day.  Suns out, guns out.  Trail conditions was almost perfect.  The bike and I being much better friends as the ride was ending.  We were all feeling a bit wasted, but after consulting Bill Nye's slightly flawed data collection, I didn't feel so bad.  Close to 5,000 feet of elevation gain in less than 25 miles.


Just ouch.

Friday, February 16

West Feels

Rolling into the weekend like...

photo cred: Dread
I might actually get my JaBronson back to The Pisgah.  This is much cause for excite.  Sure, I've planned a Tour duh Charlotte related ride in the rain tomorrow to keep my riding streak alive, but Sunday could be the SECOND TIME my squish bike gets ridden in its intended environment. 

I woulda never thought I'd go almost three months with no Pisgah.  Trbl.

So, no short track shenanigans but good times and mebbe I'll finally eat that tiny fruit cake that I've been holding onto since Christmas.  On top of a mountain somewhere.

Short.  Sweet.  Not ded.

Tuesday, February 13

Don't believe the gripe: Part duh

I wake up Sunday in my most favorite manner.  No alarm.  No dead set agenda.  Just eyes open and roll out of bed when I feel like sleep isn't happening any more.

Very nice.

Check the weather.  They've backed up the rain a bit but are still calling for a decent chance at midday.  At least I'd get the chance to test my new tire setup in shit conditions.  Pack my big roll top Ortlieb backpack for every possible scenario I can think of and roll out the door at 11:00AM or so.

Get to the short track, head straight to registration so I can register before I start second guessing the fact that I'm paying $30 to ride in circles for 45 minutes, head into the woods to check on the A-line climb.  Get there and the word from the spectators is that it's barely being used.  Grab the shovel, chuck some more crusher run on it, test if four or five times... I can do it.  Why doesn't someone else?

Head over to the Bike Source tent to ditch my bag, eat a couple pop tarts, wash it down with a PBR, head over to the parking lot where everyone who doesn't have a trainer spins around pointlessly trying to "warm up."  I make my pointless circles with them.

Line up for the start.  Twelve single speeders.  My goals are now 6th place and mebbe not get lapped by uber strong Rich Tsui.

If those can be called "goals."

Word at the start is that the first 1/3 to 2/3 of the trail is mud.  I don't understand, as I've seen riders coming out fairly clean earlier.  WTF? 

We start, and instead of drilling it to get into the woods towards the front like I mighta done years ago, I dive in mebbe in 10th or so place.  If find out what "mud" is pretty quickly.

It's not the slick-as-snot sluice that flies everywhere.  No, it's the inches thick peanut butter that saps all momentum and requires a certain amount of power to get through.  Core strength.  Not my game, really.

Big 'n Buttery bobbles a bit ahead of me and some positions change.  I'm now on my teammate Colin's wheel, he's right on Bryan from Bike Source's ass.  We get over to the A-line climb, and although everyone in front of us skips it, we go for it. 

We all three fail... miserably.

Lap two and I'm still following Colin.  I run into his him on the rock ledge climb when a rider in front of him stalls, my front wheel eating his right pedal.  I hear my spoke argue with me over the logic of ramming him.  We get over to the A-line climb, Colin takes the longer go-around, I slam into the hard line... and fail again.  Dammit.  Colin pulls away when he hits the gravel while I wait for my heart to get back in my chest where it belongs.

I start to close things down on Colin again on the climbs of lap three, but once again, I try the A-line, blow it, watch Colin pull away.  I think I hear the announcer call us in 6th and 7th position as we finish the lap.  Dammit.  I still want 6th... for no real reason.

Everything is an Instagram story nowadays.

Colin and I get around another single speeder, so now I think I'm where I want to be.  It enters my head part that Colin is probably in the running for overall in the series, and because this was announced as a double points race, any efforts I made to beat him would only hurt us both (in different ways tho).  On the next lap, I stop for the beer hand up... after glancing over my shoulder to make sure I had time for it.


I all but give up on the A-line climb.  I'm not getting any stronger, and I'd rather waste time taking beer hand ups than struggling with my inner demons.  A few more laps, a few more quick chugs, and I finish about 38 seconds behind Colin... but in what ends up to be 7th place.  Dammit.  I heard wrong earlier, I guess.  I dunno if I coulda closed that gap if I blew myself apart trying to chase him down.  I doubt if I'd caught him, he woulda just rolled over and played ded.

So, did I get what I wanted?

Well, I did get in some fitness or something more than I woulda have if I'd just ridden over there and stood around drinking beer all day.

As far as where I stack up in the 50+ field?  Ironically, 7th place outta 12 total.  I guess 13 total, if you add me into the equation.  Granted, I plan actually "trying" and being "fit" in '19, but my work is definitely cut out for me.  It ain't gonna be easy.

The Rekon 2.6/Forekaster 2.2 tire combo?  Was much buenos.  I kinda figured the Forekaster would hook up better than an Ardent Race when things got slick, but I was delightedly surprised that the Rekon didn't go all donut on me.  I thought mebbe the knobs wouldn't be tall enough or the tread pattern "sheddy" enough... but I was wrong.  Plenty of confidence and grip.  I'm sticking with this for the rest of the "season," which isn't much of a "season," but whatever.

Monday, February 12

Don't believe the gripe

Since the weekend was predicted to be a washout, I kept my ride aspirations low.  Saturday, I had some mid-day Tour duh Charlotte related assploring to do. I wanted more miles than that would offer, so I headed out early and went over to the short track to see how last week's deluge had affected the course.  The early morning rains I had anticipated were nothing but a drizzle when I left the house. 

I got over to the short track, started a lap... wondered how bad the A-line climb outta the woods would be.  As I got closer to it, I saw a shovel just off the trail leaning against a tree.

Dog spoke to me.

I grabbed the shovel and went directly to the A-line.  It was truly a hot mess.  Wet, mooshy clay.  Not very rideable and certainly slower than the B-line.  I spent 30-40 minutes "borrowing" unused crusher run from other parts of the trail, filling in the soft spots... one shovel load at a time. 

When I was done, I was able to clean the two optional routes up A-line rather confidently. It was still a punch in the dick, but at least mebbe someone would be able to use it on Sunday to get an advantage (what it was intended to do before it got dumped on for days and days and days).

I left out of the park, did some neighborhood connectivity assploring, met up with Paw and Jack to check out a possible Tour stage, and then headed home. I needed to get my bike ready for the short track race.

Yeth, I decided to do at least one race this year, and this one was gonna serve multiple purposes:

* Get me outta the house on a miserable day and on the bike (when I went to bed Saturday, they were predicting thundershowers).

* I'd be able to see time-wise how I'd stack up against the 50+ field (research for the '19 "season").

* I'd get to test out the Rekon 2.6/Forekaster 2.2 tire combo in slick conditions, something I can't normally do on local trails, since they're closed if they're actually muddy.

So, I fendered my bike up, put my custom number plate holder on the bars, cut back on my evening's lubrication, and went to bed only slightly late for an elderly single speeder.

Friday, February 9

The Tour... again?

Sorry.  I'm back in my Tour duh Charlotte haze state.  I'm staring at maps and satellite images and thinking about how to make the most out of every weekend between now and March 24th to halp make great bike race (for others).

We decided to make it happen again a little later than we have in the past.  There is still a ton of commitment to make it a quality event, one worthy of the cost of entry.  We've lost some key players from the past due to life changes that have put physical distance between them and the Queen City, but we continue to have some deranged passion about this event and an enthusiastic core...

So the urban dirt bonanza that I always hope will be our last ever becomes the all-consuming thought once again.  All the details are here and most of them are correct.  Registration is up and running, and you might notice one significant change.  This year, it will be the same price for racers and spectators/party pacers.  It simplifies things on our end, and mebbe it will push some people over the edge to give racing a try.  Everyone still gets a nice ride around Charlotte, some beer, food to stick in their face parts, and an overall good time for most of the day.  Racers just get to ride their brains out on some trail trying to beat each others' dicks off (figuratively speaking, esp for the women racers).

More than likely, we will sell out AGAIN.


And that's a big "but" (I can not lie).

There will be no exceptions made if you don't get registered.  If we've learned one thing from the last five years (and I'd like to think we've learned at least ten things), it's that there's a certain amount of people that are manageable when guiding folks through the city.  There's no reason to go beyond that amount.

That said, get in now if you wanna play with us and get dirty in the woods.  There may not be any more getting to be had as we approach to the day of the event.

Six weeks to go.

Expect content to continue to be spotty here at best.

Especially with this weather. I might have to "race" this Sunday just to give a ride in the rain a sense of purpose.

Tuesday, February 6

Worst for where?

Saturday.  I'm old now.  I like sleeping in.  Not gonna get to do it.  I promised Leaf Life I'd go Tour duh Charlotte assploring with him at 9:00am.  Squinty eyes looking at the alarm clock, attempting to will time to slow down.

Doesn't work.

Up, breakfast, coffee... look at the weather.

22° but slightly warmer later.  Tomorrow, huge rain.  This will be my "bike ride" for the weekend.

We assplore for an hour and a half, and it's fruitful.  Had to cut it short, because we needed to do "trail" work in some sketchball swampland. 

10:45AM, we're loaded up and rolling out with Courtney and Noelle.  Four people to piece together old trail and build new trail... that hasn't really been planned yet.  On the way there, mud.

The kinda mud that stops tires from rolling.  The kinda mud that gets all up in the shifty bits.  The kinda mud that really makes me wish I'd brought my single speed, but I was still holding on to possible short track aspirations the next day and didn't wanna be bringing a muddy race bike home today.


Almost as soon as we get into the woods, I stop to roll a big log out of the trail... and drop it on my ankle.  Gonna be one of those days.

We get out there, Leaf just asks us to start clearing old corridors so he can get a better idea of what's out there.  Chop, chop, lop, lop, dig, dig...

and establish proper signage for the local amenities.

Courtney has to leave early, and then we are three.  The rest of us work until 5:30PM or so, and I'm beat.  We think we got something done tho.  Ride home, hose the bike off, it's 6:10PM. 

Enough of that.

Wake up Sunday.  Rain.  Then more rain.  Even more.  It's in the 30s.  I'm not short track racing or spectating.  I don't know what I'm doing.  I'm on day number seventy or something in a row of riding a bike in some manner.  The rain lets up in the early afternoon, and so I ride over to Bike Source (one point something miles) to keep the streak alive.

Leaf sent me a text asking if I wanted to ride over to Unknown Brewery to watch CX Worlds.  I'm bored.  Why not?

Roll over there on the tarck bike close to 6:00PM, intend to watch grass racing on the big screen... ended up in more Tour duh Charlotte discussions.

Leaf and I leave sometime after 8:00PM, and I randomly decide to lie down on the road with my bike in a somewhat innocuous and semi-laughable manner.

I didn't realize there was any damage until I pulled my knee warmer off and saw the flesh and blood inside.  What else did I miss?

Torn shoulder in my Windstopper Urban Hoodie and Yazoo wool sweater, cracked helmet, scratched glasses frame, boogered up ESI grip...

My face (ignore the shaving cream).

Dammit.  At least I didn't screw up my beard.

Viva la tour and whatnot.

Friday, February 2

Comfort Levels

I've mentioned it before.  I like riding my mountain bike cycle with TOGS.  I wanted to not like them, but they made life better.  I got over myself.

Anyways, the folks at TOGS asked me if I wanted to try the new Flex TOGS.

I had to think about it.  I mean, I love the crabon ones that I already have, so why try something new?


The new Flex version has rubber tips for "comfort and shock absorption."  Being a stupid (part time) rigid single speeder, the ideas of "comfort and shock absorption" appeal to me.  Not that I noticed an overwhelming amount of "discomfort" or "shock dispersion" with my crabon versions.


In order to stay on board with the TOG train, they only asked that we rock something OTHER THAN BLACK for the purposes of visibility.


I like a certain amount of flair, but I do have a tipping point... but "comfort and shock absorption?"

I pondered for a few days, letting the email stew in my inbox for a few days.  I looked at the different colorways they had available.

Okay, what's the harm with just a bit more flair?  Sign me up.

I did have to scrub my somewhat used but not used-up ESI grips to bring back their glowing pink luster, but the pink meshes well enough that I can deal with the little bit more flair.

I've also been missing the TOGS on my JaBronson, but... effort.  A certain lack of desire to make changes.  But installation is hardly a problem tho.

So, effort was made and desires overcome.

At least it keeps with the orange thing I got going on, which almost makes me want to bring my flair levels up to 95% with these:

I've had a few rides on both bikes with the new Flex TOGS.  I'm glad to have the extra hand position on the JaBronson that I've grown so used to using on the Vertigo Meatplow V.7.  It's a bit more cluttered because of the longer grips (SC Palmdale VS ESI), but I do eventually plan on swapping them out (again, effort).  The Flex bit does actually feel better to my thumb part, and that little bit of give is actually noticeable.

Dare I say "comfortable?"

Why not?

Good job on making something that I didn't really think could be improved up on a little better.  If you're like me and have dealt with some hand/wrist issues in the past, these things really are worth a try.

And if your flair levels are lacking, you know what to do.