Monday, January 19, 2015

The year for Gravel biking?

Growing up, we all rode our bikes on gravel roads.  That is what we had.  I can't even count how many times I got a flat tire after getting a real road bike and still putting miles of back roads on those skinny, sketchy tires.  Little has changed really.  I still have to drive unpaved roads to get anywhere and still those skinny tires are sketchy.  However, I really like riding around on those back roads.  Aside from a occasional dog (or even coyote), there is little to worry about besides the road.  I had been putting miles on my old Redline d440, truly my first ever real mountain bike, rigid and steel 29er.  After switching to a Redline Monocog Flight 29 years ago, the geared d440 was dropped as my mountain bike and just used for those back roads.  It is slow as the bike weighs 27 lbs and has 2.3" wide tires, but it is very stable on any kind of road I hit, which sometimes can be mud, freshly graded 57's, loose 8's, or chip and seal.  Over last fall I changed the bike up a bit to be a more dedicated back road tourer, bikepacker, gravel rouser.

It is now setup with tubeless wheels (Sun Ringle Black Flag Expert), dirt drop bars (Origin 8 Gary bars), 1x10 Shimano drivetrain (SLX 11-36 cassette, SLX 9 speed rear der).  For shifting, I am using Retroshift CX1V (now Gevenalle).  I like this setup a lot.  Shifting is easy and I have 5 hand positions.  I could still use a good set of mechanical brakes.  These are low end stuff and they squeal, a lot.  I also want to narrow the tires down.  2.3 is super comfy, but a 1.9 or even 2.0 tire could drop a pound and perhaps be faster.

Since gravel biking is suddenly "in", it means there are some good events to be had for this style riding.  Athens Bicycle hosts the Grvael Rouser each year, set for March, it is an early event to burn the legs after a long winter.  After that, there are a couple of Roubaixs within a couple hours drive, the Amish Country Roubaix and the Hilly Billy Roubaix.  The Hilly Billy has replaced the Wayne Ultra on my list of try to get to events this year (since the Ultra was also dropped from the schedule).

I managed a few miles over the weekend of some frozen, some thawing back roads after the temps got above freezing and we even saw the sunshine.

Photos from the Garmin Virb, mounted on my bars.  Fun little camera to play with.  #getoutside

Monday, January 5, 2015

Birthdays, holidays, the year past, and the one ahead.

I realize I haven't posted for a considerable time.  Various factors I suppose.  A little bit of lack of motivation, a lack of time, and the thought that maybe I shouldn't share everything I think on the Internet.  To quote U2's Bono from  LITTLE BOOK OF A BIG YEAR: Bono's A to Z of 2014:

"B IS FOR BLOGOSPHERE It's enough to put a fella off free speech... the problem about finding out what people think find out what they think." 

A funny thing my father-in-law said also comes to mind.  After mentioning that a mutual friend had posted something on Facebook, he commented that he had gone to Lake Hope Lodge for dinner and didn't even text anyone about it.  All that said, I thought it good to write down a few things about 2014 and start planning for the next year.

As an adult, your birthday becomes less and less of a thing.  Perhaps an excuse to go out for a nice dinner, coffee, or some other self indulgence.  We are still young enough that the kids aren't going to do anything special but yet we are old enough that our parents don't make much to do about it either.  Shelly's birthday was nestled in between high school soccer and my mountain biking trip to WVa.  We tried out best to do Casa for dinner with some friends, but Brock was crawling on the floor and I had to leave early to pick up Ethan from a soccer event.

Between birthdays we filled the time with the high school soccer tournament, a wedding, OU homecoming, and a severely sprained right ankle from lunch time soccer at work. 

Four weeks later, it was my turn.  However, this was the big 40 for me.  I planned to take a few days off of work and spend some time on two wheels.  While I did get to ride both my bike and motorcycle, it was a cool, rainy few days that ended with a viral respiratory infection as a final gift.  No grand, mid-life crisis adventure, just a ride on my motorcycle to Grayson lake and back, plus a bit of a road bike ride the day after.  No parties, no gifts, just one day I was 39 and the next I was 40.  Even my mom, aside from a birthday card, seemed like it was a forgotten day.  We had just a couple years before celebrated what would have been Eric's 40th with a party, cake, and 40 helium filled balloons that we released while singing happy birthday.  Shelly would ask me days after my birthday if I would like to have a surprise party and who I would like to invite.  I guess the one mid-life crisis thing I did do was get another tattoo.  I had been thinking about it for years but more worried about getting a bad one than anything.  I got a cog on my right forearm, specifically, a Chris King single speed cog.  I did a play on words with it and had the artist (though Aaron would call himself more of a craftsman than an artist) change the words to read CHRIST KING.  I can see it while riding.  It is my subtle reminder to keep things in perspective.

From there, it was a race through the holidays.  First up would be Veteran's day. This happens to also be the anniversary of Eric's death.  A tough day.  I took the afternoon off work and took the KTM out around the unpaved roads to St. John's cemetery.  It was good to ride for the afternoon and be in my own thoughts.  Ended up running in to my mom and dad at the cemetery and we chatted a bit.

November was also tough as a good friend was dealing with an unexpected relationship problem.  What can a guy that has been married for 20 years offer a guy that is dating and dealing with what seems like high school drama? Not much but a supportive shoulder and a listening ear.  We did some riding, some drinking coffee, and he did lots of talking.

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving.  Something about the idea that we look around and feel grateful for where we are and what/who we have.  The food and afternoon of shooting shotguns isn't bad either.

Then it is a mad rush to Christmas.  We just finished thinking about all we have only to about face and want everything we don't have.  Our families are getting better about trimming down the materialism of Christmas, but we still do multiple parties, over short a amount of time.  While Brock wants to play with his new toy, we have to tell him to put it away for now, we have another house to go to.  By the end Christmas day, Brock lost it when my mom gave him a yellow spoon rather than a purple one.  Dad was surprised.  I had to remind dad what Christmas must be like for Brock after 4 parties in less than 24 hours.  On top of that, I started to get sick on Christmas eve.  By the end of Christmas day, I was losing my voice and feeling pretty worn down.  Friday brought on the fever and a sinus headache with lots of coughing.  I finally got in to my doctor on the following Tuesday where I received antibiotics and the diagnosis of a sinus infection.  No wonder it felt like I had been punched in the face.  After 4 days of fevers and so much coughing my muscles were sore, I was glad to finally get on the mend.  Not much of a Christmas break though.  I spent a lot of time on the couch, reading or watching soccer on TV.  While that sounds great, it isn't me, I like to be out!  No riding except for a couple of trainer sessions over the whole break.  No cutting firewood which I had also planned to do.  Brock and I did take a couple of hikes in the woods.  Something about boys and creeks.

Not a lot to report on the bicycling front for the year.  I only competed in one race.  I did earn a Wolfman award at the Gravel Rouser though. According to my records, I only did 1596 miles for the year (combined road and trail riding) and climbed over 96,000 feet.

I am starting to give up doing too much planning since as Alison Krauss sings, "the planes I had my plans in never got off the ground".  Shelly and I hit the 20 year mark this year.  We never got to go on a honeymoon, so we have been stashing money away to go on a real vacation, just the two of us.  I also hope to get away for a motorcycle camping trip.  Other than that, I have been putting together a list of races and other events I want to consider hitting:

  • The Gravel Rouser - March 19-22
  • OSRS #2 Lake Hope P/B Team Athens - March 29
  • Amish Country Roubaix - April 19
  • Middle Mountain Momma XXC - May 3
  • Mohican 100 - May 30
  • Hilly Billy Roubaix - June 27
  • Race to the Hills XC - August 2
  • Slatyfork Ultra XXC - August 22
  • Revenge of the Rattlesnake XXC - September 19
I probably won't race the Revenge of the Rattlesnake, not on a rigid bike.  That course beats me up.  But we will likely ride it anyway.  The Mohican 100 is a long shot too.  OSRS #2 is a road race that is organized by Team Athens.  I am not much of a road racer, but will probably be there to drive SAG.

Happy new year all.