Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tecumseh's Revenge - OMBC Season Opener

Suddenly, the 2019 race season is here. I realized last week that the OMBC opener at Scioto Trails SP south of Chillicothe was happening on Saturday. Then I also realized that I could make the race. I miss out on a lot of racing since so many of them are multi-hour drives or they are on Sunday. This one however, was on a Saturday and only an hour away. I preregistered for the Expert Masters class. I hardly consider myself either an Expert or a Master, but since I can ride 20+ miles, am over 40, and 3 laps is the same price as one, that is where I end up.

I have raced here before, back when the start/finish was on the old air strip. Last time I was on my rigid single speed and almost quit riding bikes forever because of it. The race is around 4k ft in climbing, and the ups average 9% with sections over 20%. There are water bars everywhere except for the road sections on the ridge top. Two major climbs that are not really ride-able, at least not by me knowing that once I get to the top, I have to ride the same hill 2 more times. The road sections became recovery sections after pushing my bike up steep grade. Stiff MTB shoes aren't the best hiking shoes and hike-a-bike sure made by calves burn ending in major cramps.

This time was to be different. I brought my lightweight XC hardtail (Redline d660) with gears and 100 mm front suspension. I used all 100 mm, bottoming it out down one of the fast descents over a water bar, and used all 20 gears at one time or another. The masters class had 9 riders and to be honest, I had no idea how fast I would be. I have hardly been on a trail or ridden a bike outside all winter but figured worst case would be a nice 3 hour supported ride. I was shooting for 2:30 for the 23 mile course.

The weather was great. It was sunny and started out around 40 degrees. Cool enough to wear arm warmers and a wind vest. The race starts with some pavement then a gravel road climb. It was perfect for warming up the muscles that were cold from standing at the start. It also helps stretch out the field so all 9 of us weren't diving in to the single track together. The single track at Scioto Trails is generally wide, no issues getting stuck behind slower riders or slowing others down as may be the case. I quickly settled in to a manageable effort level and by the time we were to the first descent I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. Then we hiked. Well not all of us. The guy that won the expert class didn't hike. But normal people like me, we hiked. Hike the first third of the climb, pedaled the middle third, hike to the top. Gravel road at the top to another downhill followed by another uphill. This one I hiked the first half and could ride the second. Then turn and do it all two more times.

On the final descent towards the finish line I was just behind another masters rider, James Knott. I passed and thought I could keep ahead of him, especially once we hit the road at the bottom. We both flew down that hill, passing him gave him the boost he needed I guess. Oh, and no road section at the bottom killed my boost. The course crossed the road and ended up on completely muddy trail section. We both had to dismount to get through it and once to the other side, he dropped me. Just didn't have it in me to pass him after 23 miles of racing, and really, its expert masters and we were racing for 7th. Still it was fun to compete.

Finish time 2:27:16, 15 seconds behind James and about 3 minutes ahead of my goal. As I was about to make the turn for lap 3 when I got passed by the would be winner of the expert class. He (Brian Schworm) apparently set the race record finishing at 1:47:49. That's nuts. The top 4 were all under 2 hours. Maybe they actually "train".

Even better, there were two 8 year olds racing. They did one lap but the same climbs with the same water bars and the same descents. Brock (also 8) still can't ride in the dirt.

You know what tastes really good, especially after a race? Take a cold thermos of chocolate milk (in this case it was the high protein stuff from Horizon) and dump in a packet of Starbucks instant.

Sorry, no photos of the race. I did get this photo of an all white squirrel at home though. Really neat. Not an albino, but a white morph.  Though I wonder if the other grey squirrels make fun of him.

What's spinning - over the winter we made a trip to the record shop in Chillicothe (Apollo Records) where I found a used copy of the 1969 "Live Dead". Interesting set because side 1 and 4 are on the same record, with 2 and 3 on the second disc. Includes a 23:15 long version of Dark Star.

Friday, November 9, 2018


The calendar says it is fall. Fall sure didn't happen this year in any sort of spectacular fashion. The golden and orange/red hues were hard to find. The weather: hot, rain then cold and storms. I guess it makes the moments of what we love about fall more precious when it is hard to find? Maybe, if we can manage to take or get the time to do so.

We have been slowly building a hearth for our wood stove while it is down. Getting closer with the base welded up. The floor of the heart is elevated above the regular floor and a heavy porcelain tile laid. The walls are field stone veneer starting on concrete board attached to the walls. The veneer in held in place with heavy tile thin set mortar. Tedious. We laid out the stoned before hand to get them to fit together. Like a puzzle that never fits together. Then, once on the wall the joints needs filled with pointing mortar. The first shot at this yielded a red clay colored mortar which I had to chisel out and start over since we were trying for buff. Did I mention that it was tedious?

Puzzle pieces
Finished. Or at least the stone work is finished.
Time to ride has been hard to find. Same story, work, weather, family. I did get an afternoon off from work and rode most of the trails at Lake Hope on my monocog. Some of the storms had left the trails littered with limbs and several large blow downs. A cool mix of sun and clouds still, a great day to be out.

A birthday blast under grey and cold skies.
The sun came out for soccer though.
A little more gold before it disappeared.
Found a cool bit of nostalgia when cleaning up the basement, a cycling cap from the Athens Brick Criterium. This may be from the same year I watched Greg LeMond race?

Bring back the Brick!
Ah, election day. That one day where we say "just go vote"! Well, I am a proponent of fulfilling your civil duty and voting. But, please do so as a well informed and educated voter. Don't just vote the party line. Don't just follow your gut. Get informed with real facts. Learn how government works and how things are funded. Be responsible. Have intelligent conversations with those whom you respect. Listen to those whom you disagree with. Share your perspective with thoughtfulness and humility. Let's have a resurrection of civility.

I drink good coffee and I vote.
Final thought: look for the art around you.

A rusted electrical box or art. All about perspective.
What's spinning: U2's Zooropa. Released in July 1993 and recently remastered and pressed on vinyl. One of my favorites and underrated albums.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Solitude - an unpaved tour of Vinton Co.

I managed a Friday off of work after wrapping up a couple projects that needed out the door in September, making up for the Monday that wasn't off. Remarkably the weather looked fantastic. Cool morning starting out in the low 50's to a high of maybe 70. I decided to get up and take care of rotating the tires on Shelly's car while the fog burned off before heading out on a big ride.

Goals for the ride: just pedal, as far away from people and things as possible, for as long as possible. No training plan, not shooting for a Strava PR/KOM. No particular distance, time constraint, or pace. Just pedal.

I set up my Redline d440 for long day. A quick side note, I fixed the air leak in the fork. There are two o-rings that contain the air, one on the cap and the other on the piston. Both can be changed easily and thanks to MRP's customer support, I got the correct o-rings.

I started out the day with arm and knee warmers plus my Cadence Diablo vest. By the end of the day, the warmers were packed away. The vest is super light weight and the back is vented. As the temps came up, the zipper just came down.

The ride just meandered around picking as many dirt roads as I could with a plan or riding around Lake Hope. So many forest service roads and minimally maintained and rarely used roads, the kind where grass grows up the middle and the grades can hit over 20%. I saw very few people all day. The handful of cars were on pavement as I transferred from one B road to another.

A little about the bike. It is a 2008 Redline d440, steel XC 29er with Origin-8 Gary dirt drop bars, Gevenalle  CX levers and shifter for a 1x10 drive train setup. Wheels are Sun Ringle Black Flag Experts with Maxxis Pace 29x2.1 TR/EXO tires. The brakes are Avid BB7, 180 front, 160 rear. The front fork is a White Brothers Magic 80 with IMV damper. For big rides I also use a Revelate Tangle frame bag to hold things like food/pump and shed arm warmers. I mentioned in a previous post that this bike is no light weight. And while that is true, it sure is comfortable and stable on these rides. I rarely notice the weight until I have to pick up the bike anyway.

More on that fork: I have had this fork for years and I am the second owner. I have completed a full service on it twice and it still looks like new. Comparing it to a Reba or the X-Fusion Slide isn't fair. I would never call this fork plush. The IMV damper takes a hit to get it moving. I kind of liked that when I used it on my SS since it wouldn't pedal bob, but honestly, for off road a lockout works so much better and keeps the fork soft for when you want it. For a back road/adventure bike this fork rocks. It takes the hits of potholes and washboards without bobbing when you are mashing up that 20% grade without me ever flipping a lockout. Travel is "only" 80 mm, another bonus for this kind of riding.

The ride hit the parts of the Gravel Rouser classic with roads like King Hollow and Irish Ridge. But I also added in the loop through Waterloo State forest. Near Zaleski check out Bolster and Webb Hollow. East Raccoon, a minimally maintained road along the Raccoon creek that still had a couple of flooded spots from the rains recently, before climbing straight up to Atkinson ridge. Once at the top, hang a right and roll to the fire tower for a 360° view before rolling the ridge on Baptist Church Road and dropping to Wheelabout.

Madison Free Will Baptist Church in Zaleski State Forest

Be prepared to climb. This route was 64 miles with 6444 feet of climbing. So worth it though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Up for Air

Coming up for air for a quick post.

We had planned a trip to Davis WV for the weekend of the Revenge of the Rattlesnake. This is historically a XXC (ultra cross country) race and the collective had forgotten how hard the riding is there and decided to give it a go. Fives days before we leave the NWS predicts heavy rain due to hurricane Florence. Predictions were for four inches on race day with the rain starting as early as Friday. We scratched the trip. One, turns out the race is no longer a XXC, just a regular old XC and is now the series final/championship race. Two, who wants to camp for three days in the pouring rain.

The bright side was that it freed me up to "race" the Team Athens Tour of Athens Gravel Edition. (Sidebar, they solicited names but apparently didn't like my suggestion of "The Crusher Run"). This is the first year for what they plan to be an annual event. Low attendance this time though due to short notice, conflicts with other nearby and far away races, and cost of entry. Two distances were offered, 30 and 50 miles, with lots of unpaved roads and lots of climbing.

I jumped on the 50 miler, put my new Maxxis Pace 29x2.1 tires on my Redline d440 and headed to the Eclipse Co Store for the start. Low attendance meant that they were dropping the aid station, plus it was hot, in the mid-upper 80's and humid. No rain from Florence yet (more on that in a bit) but the humidity had made it in. I had two bottles, some food/gel/snacks and felt good.

On the first big climb after hitting the unpavement (and the first of the Strava segments of the day) the first group of four riders just disappeared in front of me. I rode to the 30/50 mile split with a fairly fast couple of guys until they turned left. Solo is no big deal for me and being self supported is nothing either. But my initial plan had been to refill bottles at the aid station. Instead, I rationed my water intake to make what I had last the entire 50 miles.

The d440 is a super comfortable and stable bike for riding back roads. Deep/graded stone and washboards are no big deal. But it comes at a price of being 10 pounds heavier than everyone else. After turning near Amesville and hitting another big climb, I started cramping in my hamstring and lost the air out of my front fork. I had to ease up to keep the muscle working and keep the bike going as the front had bottomed out and as a result also got passed dropping me to 6th place. I limped back to the finish, drank a thermos of chocolate milk, a pint of water with a nuun tablet and ordered my complementary burger from Eclipse.

It was a fun event with potential. Be sure to watch for it next year.

About that rain. Florence was delayed and the rain held off in Davis until after we would have already been back home. We moved this trip to the following weekend. Drove down Friday morning with a packed van after breakfast at Casa and picking up donuts in Buckhannon. I took my Redline Monocog Flight on this trip. With the new fork (see Squishy-geometry) and a drop of gearing to 32-20 from 34 the bike seemed as dialed as a classic XC can be for riding in that type of terrain. We got a nice ride in on Friday afternoon in the old CVI area before Shelly and the boys got to town to have a burger at Tip Top in Thomas. Fed and tired we headed back to camp to watch lightning on the horizon.

It poured overnight.

We all stayed dry, E in the tent with the rest of us in my truck. The trails however did not. Most of the riding on Saturday felt like we were in a creek. It was still fantastic riding, albeit a bit sketchy.

After getting back to camp and cleaning up to go to Hellbender's for burritos and Blackwater Bikes for drooling I called it a day while a few others went back out for a another loop of trails. Shelly, B and I got some coffee and went to the Davis rock climbing park for a while. Really sweet little park with some various levels of difficulty walls. Brock climbed all over them. Even Shelly and I took a turn.

Meeting up back at camp and a check of the weather indicated that we would be in rain from about 2am Sunday morning until about Friday. The group decided to pull the plug and head home early. Stopped at Tip Top on the way out of town one last time and drove on.

Rushed trip. Didn't get all the riding I wanted. Brock and Shelly didn't get all the hiking they wanted. Brock didn't get to roast marshmallows. Still, it was good. Better than sitting in the office.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday pieday

Did you notice that Redline dropped a cropped photo of the 29er Monocog on their social media feed? That's right, the steel singlespeed is back.

Yeah, it has been humid here. Dew points in the 70's can mean wet windows or soaked motorcycle rides to work. At least even the humidity can be art.

The kids are back to school including E starting at Ohio University. He wouldn't stop for a photo though.

A couple weeks back the neighbors dog literally ran in to the side of my truck. It is not uncommon for them to run down to the road and sprint alongside me, especially if I am on two wheels. This time however, it leaped right into the middle of my back door from the raised roadside, continuing down the side, leaving a dent in my bed and ripping the mud guard off. Then, just turned around and ran home. All this while I am driving about 20 mph. Honestly, going even 25 makes me feel like a rally car driver. And then somebody nailed our mailbox, again a couple nights later. Jokes on them, our mailbox is already a turn from the last 7 times it has been hit, dragged, thrown in to the ditch or otherwise vandalized. Sadly, they also hit our new neighbors new mailbox too.

Last weekend, after missing out on a ride, I decided to do a long run. I would not consider myself a runner, but just that I run. Been trying to get out a couple times a week, sometimes more, some less. Sometimes a run is 2 miles, or maybe 5. But, I have never actually run a 10k. I am not particularly fast, but set myself a reasonable goal of 10k in 1 hour. Managed in in 58 minutes with around 400 feet of elevation gain. I was tired but pleased. Shelly says "well, you were gone a long time". Thanks for the encouragement babe. Personal podiums. Oh, and ran across a green tree snake on the cool down.

Phones and cars are making us dumb. We don't have to remember anything or learn anything. Cars gets "smarter" so that we don't have to do those awful, mundane things like turn on our lights. PSA, when there is 1/4 mile visibility and early morning, you may just need to turn your headlights on. Honestly, like a fourth of the cars I passed this morning didn't. And tonight, that same 1/4 of drivers will probably be going down the road with their brights on.

I am ready to go back to the mountains.

Get outside.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fast when it doesn't matter

Drew Carey: Welcome to "Whose Line Is It Anyway?," the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter. That's right, the points don't matter, just like if *Nsync and The Backstreet Boys traded guys.

A couple weeks ago E and I headed down to Rio Grande, OH to ride in the inaugural Flying Chicken MTB TT that takes place on parts of the old Farmhand Classic XC course. The derecho of 2012 left the course littered with trees and subsequently cancelled the event for the year. Then Bob Evan's farm was sold, trails were in limbo, and the race disappeared from the calendar. Fast forward to now and the mayor of Rio is an avid dirtbag mountin biker. The trails are now part of the town or college, I can't remember right off, and Matt and the gang are trying to get folks riding them again. The race was about a 6 mile loop and was self timed (via Strava). Entry money was to benefit the local veterans association.

Rio Grande is only a half hour from our house. Our plan was to head down around 9 am. I don't set alarms on the weekend and am usually up by 7:30ish anyway. But this was just a few days after getting back from vacation where our flight was delayed due to a hail storm and we got home at 6am followed by a couple hours of sleep and then off to work I go. So when I woke on that Saturday morning at 9 am, it was a rush to get some food and coffee, the bikes loaded up, and out the door. Then we ran in to a road closure and had to find a detour. We basically got out of the car, paid fees, signed waivers, put on shoes/helmets and hit the course. Warm up? Nope. Just pin it.

Time trials are fun. The biggest hurdle for me racing MTB has always been traffic. Time trials limit that so I can go my pace. They started us 2 minutes apart. By the end I had passed 6 riders. I rode my carbon fiber XC race bike. (That thing is so fast, see Review: Redline d660). I ended up with the fastest time of the day, "winning" the event. Ethan surprised me and ended up 3rd for the day. No podiums, no payouts, no bragging. Just ride really hard. My kind of race, the kind where the points don't matter.

A side note:
Bombtrack dropped photos of their newest adventure bike, the Hook ADV. Looks remarkably similar to my Redline D440. Guess I am ahead of my time, a trendsetter if you will. Feel free to send royalties my way 😁.

What's spinning:
Death Cab For Cutie dropped a new album. Did you know that Ben Gibbard is an ultra marathon runner?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Full Stache

I recently had the opportunity to rent and ride the new full suspension, 29+ Trek Full Stache while on a family vacation to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The 29+ platform really interests me, though I personally think the sweet spot may be in the 2.6-2.8" range rather than full 3". Even more, I was interested in riding a full suspension one. I have been on hardtails for as long as I have been on dirt and the last full sus bike I rode 20 years ago left me jaded about them as I bounced and squished all over. I realize that the technology has grown exponentially since that one ride but honestly, considering I have been on a full rigid SS 29er for the last 8'ish years I really didn't see them as necessary.  That is, unless I am in WV and they seem like a great idea riding through Blackwater Falls or over Moon Rocks.

So, based on all my lack of experience and expertise on full suspension trail bikes I offer you my review of a full suspension trail bike.

I found the Full Stache surprisingly agile.  Not to say that it handles like my carbon fiber XC hardtail, but it certainly felt smaller and lighter than it is (it is not light at over 34 pounds as ridden, 10 pounds heavier than my race bike). The extra stability was welcomed over the rocky terrain of the mountains and the suspension seems excellent set right out of the box based on my weight. I had a difficult time on a couple of tight switchbacks getting it to make the turn but the rest of the ride was a joy as I looked for things to ride over. Slow speed handling was excellent considering the thing is a monster truck. Only weirdness handling wise is that when you get up to speed the gyro effect of the massive tires can really be felt.

The build kit worked very well. Last set of SRAM hydraulic brakes I used left a lot to be desired. These new units (SRAM Guide R) worked just fine, at least for the 25 miles that I rode them. Now, I will say that the rear cassette looks almost comically huge. The SRAM Eagle GX 12 speed goes all the way to 50T! Funny how I recall that when we first started to ride 29ers we were warned that a 36T was too big and created so much torque that we would rip the rear hubs apart. I found the shifting to be effortless. Really, I was surprised how well it shifted (easier than my Shimano SLX 2x10). A flip of the lever on the rear shock locked it out and made climbing less squishy.

So, do I want one. Heck yeh. It could never replace my single speed, nor would it make a great race bike except for maybe Plantation Trail in Blackwater Falls, but for fun, ride anywhere and over anything, I'd take it any day.