Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Colorado Trail Durango Segment 28

Well the description on MTBProject.com says "Drive (or ride) approximately 18 miles up Junction Creek Road to the junction with FS 171N. This intersection is well marked with a sign to the Colorado Trail."  Well challenge accepted!  I had been going a little further up FS 204 (Junction Creek Rd) each week or so, at least up to where the snow hadn't melted yet.  Then I put it off another week, as a visitor from Thailand, of all places, came to Durango to ride Kenebec pass, which he was told was still snowed in.  Looking at the map, I was not sure which section of the Colorado trail that was on.  I did some killer rides up at Hermosa creek in the mean time.

I hit the Forest Service road for a little threshold training at the beginning of the couple hour HC climb.  I keep riding up past the upper trail crossing of Log Chutes 2, (last ride this is all I had), gaining 2000 feet in about an hour, past the Animas overlook, ( a common drop into unnamed single track for me).  I continued up past Log Chutes 3 and Downhill trail head, past Rand's Point and Cape Horn.  I caught a glimpse of Kenebec pass, (as pointed out bu a local I meat on the Extended ridge trail over looking Durango) and if I understood him correctly, it still looked snow locked to me.  But I never seemed to get above it and actually started to descend a fair ways to 171,

which climbed a little to the Colorado trail Crossing.

While the Strava file shows mainly a descent (Lower Kenebec, not the pass) for some time it seemed like there was a lot of up and down even before the last brutal climb to high point.

There is a beautiful waterfall about 2 miles down:

Followed by a smaller falls that you rode right along, about 3 miles down:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

one by eleven

While I have original flavor SRAM Red on my road bike now, I am mainly a Shimano guy.  XT is my "Go To" on a mountain bike, I have used 105 on a road bike and drool over DI2 for either.  Even so I covet that SRAM 10 to 42 tooth cog.  My 9 speed is getting a little long in the tooth sic, the last chain I put on had to be "Ridden in" some before all the gears worked.  I recently tried to repeat this feat and she was just not having it.  Well it has been two years (I have ridden my single speed and road bike a fair amount of that time).  I have ridden my 9 speed straight through the existence of 10 speed.  The last chain that rode in was around when XTR released 11 speed and SRAM was introducing a second level, all boo koo bucks.  Fast forward to today,,, Finally durable, affordable, raceable XT was came along and now that I need it, it is high demand of course.

I am concerned that 32/42 will not be low enough in the the long High mountains of Durango,  I have been practicing using a similar low gear, which showed promise.  On the flip side I am wondering if I will miss that high gear inch that the 42/11 rolled out.  I am from the old school when the standard CR was 48-38-28 with at 12-28 6 speed cassette, but I never road that in the actual mountains.

I finally sourced all the parts, but had to get an XTR shifter, due to availability.  I hope the pretty carbon parts hold up to my abuse.  First ride tomorrow, here are some pics of the parts old and new.

Out with the Old

In with the New and Uncluttered
Trio of Shimano goodies
Add in the Ablolute Black Oval Chain Ring
Derailleur, Good in a clutch!
Big as my 160 brake rotor
The Oval Office
Hope it makes up for that low gear I will not have
All Shiny and ready to Rock

Doing this on the cheap meant using my perfectly good old 104 BCD XT 175mm crank.
I am running a SRAM 1190 chain, until it wares out, then will probably switch to KMC as they seem to take for ever to stretch out.

Dialed in the chain length and B tension and everything seems ready for a real world test.

I like the threaded chain ring bosses on the Absolute Black, time will tell if it holds up.  But I got to go back to steel bolts.  I used the long ones from the old granny ring.  I was using aluminum CR bolts and nuts so I could use an Allen wrench on both sides.  Mute point now.

The Derailleur cage is stiff with that clutch on, I have been drooling over that since I got my 9 speed shadow derailleur just before the clutch came out.  We will see if the clutch and the Narrow Wide CR actually keep the chain and reduce chain stay slap, on in the conditions that I ride in, rough and rigid.  That 11t is still really close to the chain stay.

I am so looking forward to not having a front derailleur.  I can not move up my rear wheel in the sliders and not drag rocks across a derailleur.  And of course you loose the weight, the shifting and the shifter. 

I took this opportunity to use a lock in to limit the inward movement of my grips.  Even wire tied they migrate in, I hope this solves this problem.  Lock ons are to thin in the cushion department and not work on my bars anyway.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gudy's Rest Durango Colorado

Pretty cool Lolly pop, the handle starts from the Colorado trail TH just inside the San Juam National Forest with Dry Fork and Hoffheins as the loop.  Very nice, single track follows Junction Creek for a few miles and then up some serious switchbacks to Gudy's rest(which you get to go down on the way back).  Mostly climbing until you either go down Hoffheins to  an up Dry Fork or visa versa.  I did the former and the Dry forks descent was pretty fun and the climb back up Hoffheins was not to bad.  The description from Singletraks.com described it going other way and I saw several riders going that direction.  I will have to try it that way, but I like getting most of the climbing done in one chunk.  So climbing Dry Fork last would give a break in the climbing.  Judging form the going down Dry Fork, the climb up would be a doozy and the DH on Colorado Trail would have a lot of root drops that would feel like stairs.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sandia Park Cibola National Forest.. Snow!

Albuquerque New Mexico was the last place I rode on our journey from Pisgah Forest North Carolina to Mesa Arizona, which had terrible WiFi, making uploading video impossible. 
A lot was going on with travel, new digs and job and all, so I am just getting to this now on a rainy day in Durango Colorado.

10,250 feet was, by far the highest elevation that I had ever ridden to.  The ride up was mostly in the sun and warmer than the 50 degree temps suggested.  Nice stiff climbing with some technical features that were a challenge as the climbing added up and the air thinned out, There were some spectacular view on the way up and at the top in the Scandia Peak Ski Area.  The descent was the polar opposite, pun intended, as I plunged, so did the temps, down to almost 28 degrees by the end as I chased the light.  As I started, I could see the shadow of the mountain meet the sunlit valley, but at each and every chance I got a glimpse of that line, it was receding, faster and faster.  I was descending in the snow shadow and at times the snow riding was tough or even required a little hike a bike.  Needless to say, my descent was not nearly as swift as anticipated, but my Bulldog fleece bib knickers and long sleeve jersey and jacket (carried to the top in anticipation of chilly descent) kept me warm until time ran out.  I exited the ski area and bombed the road back to the trail head, quickly exceeding my kit's insulating rating!  Nearing hypothermia, i made it back to the car with little light to spare, started the car and shed my wet clothes for dry ones, making it back alive one more time.

Route description:
Climbing; Sulfur Springs, Faulty, Oso Corredor, Tree Spring, 10k, Golden Eagle. There was some snow before Golden Eagle, but it was sparse. Golden Eagle had alternating sections of snow and melt, both slowed me down. All of KOM was in the snow shadow and there was plenty of powering  through/walking on the uphill parts of the mostly DH,  down KOM and then it was getting dark, so finished on the road.

 View from the Top
Full Frontal for the Pups

Different angles

On the way up
Zoom Zoom

Thursday, March 31, 2016

McDowell Mountain Park, McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Fountain HillsPreserve

This is McDowell Mountain Park, McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Fountain Hills Preserve, just east of Scottsdale, AZ. And there is plenty more to the north that I have not seen yet, This place is ginormous! This is my go to long ride area. Along with at least a few killer mountain passes there are miles of rolling desert trails and even a mile long trail that was mainly rock garden techy. Just found Paradise, that is the name of that tech trail. Been missing true tech, Although there is a tech climb at another park, but that is a killer. Killer views abound as well. Come on down I will show you around.
One of my favorite parts is this swooping section of the Sonoran trail, in the Fountain Hills Preserve. The entire trail is great, nice climbs and descents.  There are several tight switch backs that I have not mastered yet.

Shorter version with the hardest climb at the beginning instead of the end.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Core Work is a Waste of Time!

Endless crunches are worse than a waste of time, they can even create an imbalance and dysfunction!

When I was a barely an adult, I gained a bunch of weight and just tried to suck in my gut all the time, trying to hide it.  This really messed with my breathing and my mind, due to the breath connecting the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems (Fight or Flight and Rest and Digest respectively).  I found yoga and the science behind it and stopped sucking in my gut for a few decades.  I did have nice abs from time to time with a lot of work and strict dieting, usually burning out shortly afterward.  I developed dysfunction in my back and the pain that comes with it. I have friends with killer washboard abs and terrible back problems.  I think that everyone, at one point or another, wanted washboard abs. The road racing greats said to let the belly hang to get a more complete filling of the lower lungs, where there is more O2 and CO2 transfer, due to more capillaries, which seemed to fit in with the teaching from yoga.

Contrary to my title, I do believe that a strong functional core is vital to riding and most other life activities.  The key word is functional!  And I don't mean doing back extensions to balance the abs or even regular planks, the position between many of the named poses in the yoga sun salute.

Yoga teaches you how to breath as you move.  I may have missed it in all my years of study, but that was one key piece of information that eluded me.  Years ago, I got a clue.  When getting certified as a personal trainer, I learned about lordosis or sway back.  It seemed kind of mundane to a young guy wanting to get big and strong; how wrong I was!

Fast forward many years and I was mostly keeping my back in check, mostly.  I tried chiropractic for some time.  I would get put back in place, but without strengthening the weak muscles and loosening the tight muscles, I was doomed to fall out of alignment sooner or later, hence having to go back and get cracked one to three times a week.  That is when I restarted my yoga and it helped.  I stopped getting adjusted after a doctor blamed my neck degeneration on the repetitive adjustments.  Not sure if it is true, but it scared me off of chiropractic, except for an emergency.  I know this is not their business model.  I went along pretty well for years, as long as I got in at least one yoga session a week.  My body would usually let me know, gently, in a timely matter if I missed a session.  Well, there was a time that I seemed fine and I went a few weeks without yoga, everything was going swimmingly and then the worse pain that I have had in a very long time occurred,  if not the very worse ever.  I went in for an emergency chiropractic adjustment and the chiropractor put me on a machine that checked your alignment.  After it lit up like a Christmas tree, he said I was pretty messed up and would need weeks or months of follow ups, and of course he had a plan.  After the adjustment I did a light yoga session and then every day until the next visit the following week. The chiropractor put me on the machine and was astonished that hardly any lights on his machine came on.  I learned my lesson and never went a week without yoga, until I learned and practiced proper form on certain kettle bell drills and stretches.  More on that later.

Again, I thought I had it figured out.  Last year I had a pretty good Single Speed riding, foam roller and Kettle Bell training plan for Cohutta 100.  I was short on time, but I came along really well and did great for a metric century. Unfortunately, I signed up for the hundred miler not a hundred kilometers!  I was geared too high, got cocky from the training, my standing riding was mostly exhausted and my right lower back started screaming at me, pushing the big gear mostly seated.

Some time afterward, I was cleaning out old photos from my phone and had one of me bending over, marking a road race course with paint.  From the angle I could see that there had been a problem for some time. There was a stiff part that forced the spine above it to bend more than it should.  I looked at my program with this lens and removed any suspect movements.  It did not help that I had a crash over a year before that was still affecting the movement pattern of my left shoulder, forcing some compensation in the right lower back, particularly overhead, but that is yet another story.

I was developing a program for an athlete of mine.  As I would hardly ever see her, I looked for videos of the drills I wanted her to do on line.  She was going to be doing mostly body weight or low weight drills, due to time and access to equipment.  I wanted to make sure she was getting the form correct.  Some of the best I have found that are mountain bike specific are from James Wilson.  But during my Youtube search, videos from Strength Side kept popping up.  Strength Side is mainly about the core power lifting moves, at least from the videos I have seen, squats and dead lifts, etc.  He talked about Lordosis and what struck me was the concept of bracing to keep your hips aligned deep in a squat.  I had gotten good, maybe too good at the hip hinge that is associated with the dead lift and swing and seated riding and all the sitting that life throws at you makes your hip flexors tight. I knew about the hip flexors, but keeping them loose was only part of the puzzle.

Tight hip flexors tip your pelvis forward, by slightly flexing the femur/pelvis joint and slack lower abs let this happen.  So it comes back to that mundane Lordosis, Strength Side says it best, that it just comes down to basics that people would rather skip.

But what about the breathing? Luckily, I recently came across James Wilson explaining Crocodile Breathing.  Crocodile breathing is still diaphragmatic breathing, but you remain braced and let the sides and the back expand more than the front, no more hanging belly.

So ironically, it seems that I come full circle to sucking in my gut.  To quote the band Cake's song Comanche;  "You need to straighten your posture and suck in your gut. You need to pull back your shoulders and tighten your butt.", but with proper breathing.

I should have listened to my mother and straightened my posture, but no one ever explained how to me or I was not ready to hear it.

Great, you may say, but what the hell does this have to do with mountain biking?

Many mountain bikers just want to ride their bikes and have fun and fitness seems to be a four letter word, read an article that puts it in perspective here.

But really it comes down to bracing to keep the hips and spine aligned.  One of the coaching cues on the Heel Tap drill is not to suck in the gut, but to press the small of the back into the ground using your abs to tilt your hips back, or down in this case.  I was very weak in this movement pattern.  My back would actually click if I did not practically cramp my abs to hold my spine down!  Now I was on to something!  Along with Strength Sides; Staying Tight in the bottom of a Squat, I came to understand, train and change my bad habits and "You need to straighten your posture and suck in your gut. You need to pull back your shoulders and tighten your butt."  When you pull the front of your pelvis up with your abs, your glutes reflexively contract, and both stabilize your spine

I started applying this on the bike and found to my amazement that it really helped.  Particularly toward the end of a climb when I normally would be gassed, I felt an extra kick.  Or when my back was acting up, bracing would keep it in check.  Bracing also helps you keep from bobbing on the saddle at a high cadence seated spin.  I started to explain this to a friend, who among other things, is a bike fitter and he immediately thought I was going to say "rock your hips forward", which is the common wisdom of bike fit.  I said no, even though, I have described it the same way before also, leaving out the bracing to let the belly hang for breathing of course.  There are times that you rock your hips forward, the key is to keep the abs braced to stabilize your platform.

It is easier to understand it from a squat perspective.  James Wilson advocates standing up as the primary power position and not the pseudo standing/quasi hovering seated position.  He suggests literally a squat, one leg at a time (you push away the pedals instead of the ground).  You need to brace your abs while you apply force to the pedals.

Bracing your abs also helps, in the seated position and even more important in the quasi standing hovering over the saddle position.  Unlike Bike James, I will not argue the value of each, because I think each is an important weapon to have in your arsenal.  It is easy to let the let the abs slack off and be over powered by the rectus femoris (part of the quadriceps) and a tight psoas. Both flex the pelvis, leaving the pelvis unstable, wasting energy and causing a problem in the lower back.

I have a friend that told me to squeeze my abs when I lift heavy objects. Now I know how!  When I lift a heavy object, I visualize scooping it up, with my pelvis as the scoop.
Just apply these principles to pedaling a bike.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Just WOMBLEing along

We left NC in the rain and the rain followed us most of the way to Arkansas.  It was gray and gloomy, but the there was a break in the rain.  I took advantage of the day and rode the 27 miles the point to point of the WOMBLE trail, early November of 2015.  The WOMBLE is leaf covered this time of year and it is still humid, but cool enough, not to be oppressive.  The trail WOMBLE rolls along,, mostly, with the occasional steep climb, of short to moderate duration.  Mostly small rocks under the leaves, like big gravel, which made for a rough slower ride.  There were a few sections, though, of smooth and flowy trail too and a really cool knife edge ridge that looked down on the river and out across the valley to other mountains.
Plenty of roots and exposure, not the fall off a cliff kind,but in places it could be dozens of feet before a tree stops your fall. That really keeps you focused, there is some tech and switch backs as well.  Plenty of creek crossings, most of which were pretty dry, due to lower than normal rain fall this past October.  Even though it rained the 2 days prior to our arrival..

For the most part the trail is pretty easy to moderate, with it's moments of challenge, far and few between as were the roads, you really felt miles from anywhere!  The length does bring up the challenge aspect some and not being a loop means either a shuttle or out and back, which would double the length.

Note:  The Singletracks.com phone app does not show the section north of the lake.  Cross the bridge and the trail is on the left, just after it.  I missed because I had to go from memory and there was construction on the bridge at the time.  The north section is just over the bridge on the left or west side of the bridge.

Trail blaze white and all the major road crossings have a big WOMBLE trail sign.  Until you get to mile marker 27, coming from the SW, that is.  I am not entirely sure that the section north of the lake is still part of the WOMBLE.   I think my Garmin shorted it about 2 miles, due to the twistyness of some sections of the trail.  I finally did find the trail head, but had already called my shuttle (Wife) and she was already on her way.  By the way thanks Tammy!