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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cohutta Prep

So on February 11th, I get a phone call from my good friend Tom Kruse, Spelled with a "K" not that other guy.  He is taking on the National Ultra Endurance Series this year.  His first one will be Cohutta, which just happens to be only three hours away from Brevard.  Does this sound familiar?  Well the same thing happened for Tatanka.  You guessed it; he asked me to consider doing Cohutta on April 25th, just a scant 11 weeks out.  I had hardly been on a bike since early December and my first MTB ride since November was just February 1st.  It was my first single speed ride since October.

I know, sounds like every racer on the start line right?

Single Speed is my favorite way to ride, but I went down pretty hard on my left shoulder back in early September.  It has taken several months to get it to 95% and I was not willing to risk most of Pisgah on a SS.  Up until early December, I was doing a ton of endurance work exploring the forest service roads and back country single track of Pisgah on my geared bike.  Still pretty harsh on a rigid, but I was learning the area and it was pretty cool.  And then...

With all that, I was pretty sure Cohutta was a non-starter.  I had already planned to refocus on my kettle belling and hikes with Tammy.  But I had until April 1st to decide, if registration did not fill by then.  Following TK's call, I did several endurance rides on the road through our few weeks of winter, but then I decided to try something completely different.  Just two rides a week (one long, one short), only on my single speed and only mountain biking, two kettle bell sessions, some yoga, a hike and /or the occasional walk per week and log it all on my special TSS spreadsheet.  TK noticed all the SSing I was doing and said, "You're not thinking about doing Cohutta on a SS are you?", like I was crazy or something.  I said if I was doing it, it would be on my favorite bike.  He said I could put gears on it.  I said "Uh Uh".

When I started, I was on a 34X22 and North Slope was darn tough,

I added Lower Sycamore for a little fun.  That first ride was 11 miles and it was rough.
Was I nuts even considering doing 10 times that much in 10 weeks?!  I added Upper Sycamore the next week.  In a month, I replaced Upper Sycamore with Thrift Cove and then switched out lower Sycamore for Upper. It was a good month and a half before I changed to the 21t cog.  10 more days I was on the 20.  Finally Thrift for an FTP two fer

I had been adding about half an hour each week to my long ride.  April 1st came along and we were hosting at Cascade Lake.  I had been thinking about riding up the 6.5 mile Cascade Lake Road to Dupont from camp for my long rides.  I was not relishing this on a SS.  Long and gradual and then the reverse coming back down with that steep last nut heading up Little River Road.  Tammy kept asking me geared or SS.  I said "I do not know".  At the last minute I decided to stick with the SS game plan.

Along with the kettle bell strength training, I had been working on standing a lot.  My average speed started just below 9 MPH.  11+ hours for Cohutta then!  My AVG MPH slowly climbed to 9.5 over the last few weeks.  Better but still 10+ hours for Cohutta, if I could hold it.  My rides did seem to have more climbing per mile than Cohutta, but still.  I had hoped to go to a 19t cog, each tooth meant more speed but harder to turn over on the steeps.  It was getting close to go time.  I had to switch wheels because a bearing went out on my older Powertap hub.

It meant a tire switch, so I put on the steeper cog as well and went for my last long ride.  Five hours, tapering down from six the week before.  I felt faster and slower all at the same time, it was weird.  I thought my wheel size setting might be different between hubs, but my AVG speed seemed up.  Later, the down load would confirm the 10 MPH AVG.  Now I have a shot at 10 hours.

Compared to the 20t the 19 gave me a little trouble on the steeps, but not much, and some steeps seemed easier.  I could pedal in more situations.  I could stand more effectively on lesser grades, 4% and up instead of 5% and up.  Seemingly contradictory, I could stay seated and maintain momentum, instead of coasting and then standing on rollers.  That is where I picked up half a mile per hour from the same ride (except in the wet, plus a bonus climb) as 2 weeks ago.  Even with some training effect and I had my Black Sheep titanium fork back in place of my Salsa steel fork, some of it has to be the 34X19.  Don't ask me which elevation is correct.  Just trust me there was more on the 4/17 ride than the 4/4 ride.

After the Little River Crossing

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fatty Fat Fat

Just when it seemed like the bike industry was moving towards standardization, Mountain bikes splintered into several specialized niches.

29ers, Single Speeds, DH, XC, Endurance, Enduro, 650b, each shines (or gets dirty) in a different aspect of Mountain Biking.

There is definitely nothing standard about a Fat Bike.  100mm Bottom brackets, offset forks, 4 to  5 inch tires.  Even though technically based on a 26 inch rim diameter(559 ISO), you can't call them  a 26 inch tire though, with those super swamper rubbers, they measure more like 29 to 30 inches!

I like most bikes and don't really hate on any type of bikes, even Road bikes and Penny Farthings!  The internet is full of "My bike is the best and yours S@#ks".  Sort of an, "If you don't ride like I do then you are not where it is at".  Now it is great to love the riding you do but don't knock it until you try it, is what I say!  I have more of an X+1 philosophy on bikes.  The only limits I have are financial and space.

My good friend and the "Terminus of the Buck" at Cycle Craft in New Jersey has a fleet of Salsa Mukluks and was generous enough to hook me and a teammate up for a trip to the New York/Vermont boarder.  The guys used my birthday as the excuse.  To get a feel for the fatties we rode the small town park of Pine Hill.  Three of us brought our 29ers.  Our Fat bike guy only rides Fat bikes.

I had to be careful not to whack trees with the wider handle bars (I am Really old school in the HB width department).  The wider bars help fight the extra turning friction, off center brake pull and greater gyroscopic effect of the bigger wheels.  Two of us were Fat virgins and were getting more pedal strikes than usual, even though the bottom bracket height was really not that low.  The pedals just needed an wider swath, due to that 100mm bottom bracket width.  You do have to adjust your lines, you know, 4 inches just won't fit between the same rocks that 2 inch tires do.  This is just the same learning curve I went through picking lines way back when with 2 inch knobbys anyway.  We had a concern of riding the wider Q factor for so many miles all in one weekend, because I had spoken to a rider that said he hurt is back hitting the Fat bike to hard and not getting acclimated a bit more slowly.  But neither of us neofats had a hint of a problem.

The most important thing was to get the tire pressure dialed in to your weight and riding style.  For my nearly 200 pounds 8 psi rear and 7 psi front worked well.  After that, learning just how much you can rock crawl with all that traction was really an eye opener.  It is pretty amazing!  They definitely did not seem slow either.  We really flew through some sections.  

Us neofats originally were going to ride our 29ers some, you know in case we hated the Fat bikes, but we soon changed our tune and stayed fat for the rest of the long weekend.  We took on Green mountain in Vermont the next day and Seneca Springs in New York the day after(ended in the rain).  All three destinations had very different terrain, from tight twisty fast, to big climbs and fast switch back descents to dry, then wet rock crawling. 

As someone that lamented the headset standard changing and all the new bottom bracket configuration, I am really glad that we are not still riding 30 pound 26 inch rigid bikes with a 3 by 6 drive trains, 28/28 low gear and cantilever brakes!  A fat bike is definitely on my X+1 list!

The Guys

Gnome Home 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Carvin's Cove Gamut Stage 2 Day 2

Wow, what a way to get in this trail system!  And was I mistaken that stage two was anything like stage 1.  I thought that I would finish stage 2 and get in more of stage 1.  Even without my detour, stage 2 would have been much longer, with more climbing.  I was so glad I chose the geared bike for stage 2.  Both stages together make up an endurance event called the Gamut, held back in July.

The Gauntlet was definitely better as a DH.  I loved old school feel of the Lakeside trail.  Araminta really needed to be ridden in.  Short and sweet, Comet started a little gnarly, but ended more flowy.  Both the old and new parts of the Gorges trail were fun and flowy, switch backing in and out of the coves.  A lot of work has been done to armor the trails against erosion and the newer section had some great berms built into it.

Basically, this system , has everything a mountain biker could want.  Bermy trails, flowy trails, blasting and/or gnarly DHs, plenty of climbing if you want and plenty in the valley, if you don't, put it all together for great endurance ride.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wilkes 100 at Kerr Scott 2014

Well I finally got all the video edited.  It was a busy video week with the Couch Potato and Swank the next weekend.  We got a late start, leaving New Jersey, but really wanted to get to Kerr Scott, to support our guys, being as it was in the direction we were heading. We did kind of compress our time in Roanoke (Carvin's Cove Trails).  But my Bulldog teammates and friends Tom Kruse and Ryan Heerschap were coming down to North Carolina for Wilkes 100k endurance event on October 25th.  Luckily, Bandit's Roost had one spot that could accommodate us and what  a great spot it was, allowing us to cheer on our guys and get some video.

I rode along for their pre-race tune up ride on friday evening and we went out to dinner for the prerequisite carbo loading.  I ordered the large calzone and was glad to have help finishing that monster, after all I was not the one doing this long event!  Along with the carbs, we strategerized, the start and where to jump to get good position going into the single track.  Mission accomplished as they came through 2nd and 3rd.  I got video of the first single track, the start of Lower Berry and sections after Dark Mountain, heading back through the Overmountain Victory trail to Bandit's roost, as well as a Post Race Interview and shenanigans with the guys.  Both made into the top 20 over all out of 140 finishers.  5:06:40 brought Ryan in at 6th place of 47 in the Open category and 11th over all.  With a time of 5:15:54 TK managed 3rd podium step out of 48 in the 40+ category and 19th over all.  Go Bulldogs!   You can see all the results and more info at the Bushy Mountain Cyclist Club web sight

I set out to ride the course the next day on my Lynskey Single Speed,  Proving I am not in race shape, I started close to 1 pm and did not quite do the entire course, before dark.  No neutral roll out and I skipped the last 2 miles of single track leading to the finish.  55 miles at 6:16 rolling, but 7:06 total time.  The Warrior Creek section seemed to go on for freaking ever!

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014 Swank

The Course changed from last year.  Turns out the well established short connector between FS225 and the top of Daniels ridge does not have the official blessing of the Forest Service.  The Forest Service also changed there mind, last minute on up to 200 riders going down Cove Creek twice, two days in a row.  Blue Ridge Adventures was forced to do two reroutes, very close to race day.  What they came up with was arguably even better.  Just enough fireroad to string out the pack, before the clockwise assault up Daniel Ridge.  The gradual old narrow FS road, still allowed plenty of opportunities for passing, until the right, where the bridge is gone.  From there the race is on, up a super gnarly climb, to the top of Daniel Ridge, past the connector, and down what was the timed enduro section of the previous days Couch Potato.  Completing the Daniel Ridge loop.  Taking a right back on 475, a long FS road climb up to Gloucester gap.  Then a left on to 471 for a little more climbing, before descending to the climb up to the Butter gap DH, up Long Branch, utilizing a little FS road to avoid the rutted part of Long Branch.  Where the Couch Potato. takes a right back on 475, the Swank, turns back up hill to the rest stop at Gloucester gap, before really pointing uphill on 229 towards the Farlow gap/Daniel Ridge enduro section, going down the initial climb of the event,  Left back on 475 (Couch Potato is the same from here), to the left up the Headwater rd (475B) climb to 225, and down Cove Creek to the finish.

I worked the gate so I started my video there, about a quarter mile from the start.  Then some video at the hairpin coming down Daniel the first time, Wes gives some cornering tips on that video.  Before heading to the finish, I got the top 9 descending the last of the gnar on the Enduro section on Daniels ridge and several others on my way back down.  They were so spread out I missed the top 5 at the finish, but got nearly everybody else.  Everybody that rode the Swank, is on the playlist somewhere, though, several times.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Couch Potato

I really dug last years event, so when I got into Brevard, I had to contact Blue Ridge Adventures, just the week before their final weekend of the year!  It started off with the Couch Potato.  Since my shoulder has only been amiable to mountain biking for a couple weeks, helping out the seemed wiser than racing.  Todd, Heather and crew, really foster a fun an festive atmosphere! From Tyler announcing every racer by name as they cross the line, furnished from BRA's crack timing staff and system, to the choice of either a pulled pork sandwich

 or chicken and rice, served with kale, along with recovery beverages, to Nightrider and Industry Nine showing there cool toys.

I arrived at 7:30 am to snow accumulating on the grassy slope, that serves as parking for the cars.  As you could imagine it made getting everyone parked safely, a little tricky at times, but we got it done without any mishaps.

I brought my GoPro, incase I had some opportunities to record.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Carvin's Cove SS Ride

It felt great to get back on the SingleSpeed again.  In regards to MTBing, I have had fits and starts after I damaged my shoulder.  So it felt great to get back on the SingleSpeed again.   After Sunday's ride at Stephen's, on my geared bike, I was stoked.  I was able to float through the rock gardens again and not want to cry when every my rear tire spun out on a climb.  My plan was to follow the Gamut course.  The Gamut has many loops that make it easy to get back the TH, making taking the SS a low risk situation.  If the shoulder wasn't having it, I could switch to my geared bike.  The first hour or so, was fine and I kept thinking I could have gone from the 22 to a 21 or 20t rear cog, mated up to my 34t Rotor ring and been a little bit happier on the inbetweens and still make the climbs.  That is until I started up Tuck-A-Way, still a 21t would be fine.  But Climbing Jacob's Drop was another story.  I had to get off and walk every so often.  Then once on Bushy MT you just keep climbing, but at a manageable grade.  Down the Trough and up the Gauntlet, led to a few short walks too.

Once you start going up or down, expect to be doing that for a while, here.

Carvin's is kind a like Douthat minus the Pisgah like portions.  I would have sworn that I was on the switchbacks of Buck Hollow in Douthat as I scampered down the switchbacks on Hi De Ho!

Being my first SS ride in a while, I figured that 21 miles was enough given the 3500 feet.  I will bring the geared bike back tomorrow.

Carter turned me on to VES website that has a great map and GPX files for the Gamut.