Friday, February 28, 2014

Games Loop/UWF Pensacola Florida

If you are ever near Pensacola, and need to get in a ride, check these trails out.  Don't let the No Trespassing signs throw you.  The sandy Trailhead parking lot is to the right, with it's entrance right before the first No Trespassing sign, this is the UWF side, the Games side is directly across from that entrance with a closed gate.  It was not obvious, there were no TH parking signs.  Nor were there trail markers pointing to the Games side, until you get past the gate.  The directions from were spot on though.

The trails are marked well with really nicely carved and painted wooden posts. The posts are Supplemented with the original arrows and blazes.  There are a lot of cross trails that lead into the pits and stunts on the Games Side.  The UWF has less of that, but there is an unmarked turn, that probably goes to the 10 mile TH and once you get to the far end, you get a red arrow to turn you on to a power line or fire road for a short bit.  But the wooded posts keep you on the the fun stuff for the most part, just don't overthink it, like I tend to do the first time out.  Just don't turn unless there is something pointing you in that direction.  The one exception is in the Bayou on the Whiskey trail.  The trails old flow is the the left, but there is a right turn at a piece of orange tape.  You don't want to miss the WTF section, more on that later.  If you hit the Dogs trail, you just missed WTF!

Both sides handle water/rain very well.  It is said that they are actually better after a good rain.  The first time I rode these trails, was the day after a good couple days of rain.  The Games side hardly had a wet spot on the single track.  There were some big puddles on the fire road and the clay in the pits looked wet in places.  The UWF side was similar, but the elevation change actually had runs that flowed the water to low spots, that still had standing water even two days after the rain.  Both sides had a enough pine needles laid down to keep you on your toes!  The UWF side seemed to roll faster the Games loop, that first ride after the previous days rain.  The 2nd time, two days after rain, the Games loop rolled faster than the first time.

At about 11 miles, Orange marks the outer Games Loop, it is mostly easy, with some intermediate sections.  Mainly big V-gulches, some with bridges at various heights, some at the top, some almost at the bottom, this section is aptly named Donkey Kong.  The Blue trail is about 6 miles with milder intermediate sections and the Pink trail is 3 miles of the easier single track.  The XC trail loops around a pit like in Santos.  This pit is mostly drop ins, dirt jumps and wooden stunts, including a one story tall start ramp, leading down to bridge like drop into a set of dirt and wood ramps jumps.  The pit area seems to be in a constant state of evolution, with new features among the old, as well as discarded stunts scattered about.  Unlike Santos that is constantly changing but always seems complete!  I saw enough rotted bridges and stunts on old decommissioned trails (often right next to or criss crossing the active trails), that made me pay special attention every time I rode over any wood structure!  All active bridges on the XC trails were solid though.  I rode the XC trails mostly, but dabbled in the Twister section a bit.  There was a center ridge with barely enough room for the the trail tread.  Several drops fell from either side of the ridge.  It was pretty cool.  Outside the pit there are some mild climbs that fuel some of the twisty single track downward slants.  The Games loop is a good warm up for the UWF trails across the street at the Trailhead.

The University of West Florida trails has four loops, Red, Blue, Green and White.  The longest loop is all of Blue at about 12 miles.  At over 1000 feet UWF has more than double the elevation change of the full Orange Games loop and more than you would expect in Florida.  The trails seem to always be going up or down and rarely a straight section.  Plenty of rooty stepped climbs and descents.  One local wished it was cut with more flow, but I like the raw, rugged natural old school feel to much of the system.  he also clued me in on the Whiskey/Tango/Foxtrot or WTF section.  Very twisty with a couple good change up surprises, such as a flow into a short steep climb that fades away to the left and drops immediately into a 10 foot V-gulch, completely boarded.  You'll want to do it again.  Except for probably the most drastic change up on Foxtrot near the fence line.  After a few short moderate to steep rooted climbs, you drop down say 10 feet into the bottom of a steep 15-20 foot wall, with a big cement block semi-protruding from the dirt, with a hard left at the top.  I made it all 3 times that I did it and am not sure quite how, especially on the SS with a 34x19 gear.  Keep your speed up and get around or over that cement block and you got it!

There are 2 mile(Yellow), 5 mile(Green), 9 mile(White) and 10.5mile(Red) options as well.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

6 hours of Santos Single Speed Race Report

I was so concerned about what direction the Red trail in the Vortex pit went, I did not even consider that they would run the Roller Coaster section in reverse.  Twister and Dog Bone were run in the other direction as well, which was less of an issue, due to their less technical nature.  Also the traffic jam, that was the first lap, gave ample time for recon.  Through in a few key hike-a-bikes around bottlenecks and crashes I avoided.  Avoiding getting caught up and getting around crashes is a skill in itself.

Le Mans starts are always a treat.  I just jogged along the best I could.  It felt like half a mile but was probably only a block.  I made sure my bike was in a memorable place, that made the jog as short as possible and would not get tangled with another bike.  Then about a tenth or three on the wide dirt road before the hard left into the singletrack making a huge bottleneck.  It looked like a traffic study in Fort Lee New Jersey.  Then later on Twister, two different nasty roots put someone down.  After getting around the 2nd crash, I had to close down a pretty sizable gap.  Closed the gap just in time to do the Roller Coaster section of Vortex in reverse and the mayhem that it laid down on the unsuspecting riders.  This is where some riders first realized what was in store for them.  Things were clogged and passing was tough, although some riders did start to allow passes graciously, a trend that continued as the race progressed.  OMBA had reworked the end of the Red trail, but ran a short section backwards to get to the field pass-through.  That short section was one of 2 places that was steep enough that I planned to pre dismount and hike up.  The other was in the Vortex as well, a rooted, stepped, steep up to the big drop in for the dirt jumps.  No we did not do the drop!  I got around more than one rider that either tried to ride it or had that, WTF look, when they saw it.  On one lap, someone called track just before the steep hill that just preceded that walk up.  I was on a womans wheel and said not here.  She got off before the roots and I did my hike-a-bike thing, I did not hear anyone call track for a while after that.  I would catch riders and pass many on the tech of the Red trail.  Being shortly after the transition area, many times a new team rider with fresh legs and all full of piss and vinegar, would roll up on me early on the Red trail, call track only succomb to the next steep climb or obstacle.  There was little passing on Red, so at some point each lap, you just played follow the leader, until someone slipped up or let you by.  Dogbone was another thing altogether.  Gearies could usually outpace me and while still limited, opportunities to allow a pass without losing momentum were more available.  On Twister those opportunities were less, but I could carve the corners better than most, so the slightly low gear that was good for 7 laps in the Vortex, allowed me to go fast enough, that few asked to pass.  It was interesting that some Gearie team riders just would catch up somewhere on DogBone, then just follow my wheel.
I switched CamelBaks at 2:45, I packed too much ice in it, so it was too cold and sweet.  It gave me stomach cramps.  Luckily I left a bottle of water on the bike from the start.  I had intended to ditch it.  Glad that I did not.  But lap 4 was a bit slow.  I was on the rivet on lap 5, cause I was moving on Dog Bone, with a pretty fast rider on my wheel.  I would usually rested a bit on Dog Bone, but the cramps were gone, the Powerbar Perform was diluting and oddly enough I was rested from that slower lap.  I continued into Twister and stayed on the gas.  I paid for it on lap 6 and finally got caught by a single speed rider on Dog Bone.  He had a higher gear and pulled away a bit, putting me into what would later prove to be 4th place.  I had one of those team riders pacing off of me at the time.  I could still see 3rd place as we got into Twister.  I knew I could reel him in.  When I did we chatted a bit.  That is when I found out that only laps under 6 hours counted (could not hear the pre race instructions over the chatter) Hmmm.  I knew I was running 47-49 minute laps and that would put the end of lap 6 at about 5 hours 10 minutes, give or take the the Le Mans start, I was going to be tight.  I did some quick math and with Twister winding down, I had to make my move.  I asked to pass and put the burners on.  The announcer seemed surprised, that I was going out for another lap, later another rider went out with 35 to go!  I don't think he made it.  4th place finished his 6th lap a couple minutes after me and called it a day.  But it was a 6 hour race not a 5 hour and 10 minute race.  I thought I could make it, but the math was a little fuzzy after 5 hours of racing, "How long was that Le Mans start?".  I looked at the actual time of day and it seemed like my chances were fleeting.  A guy comes flying by, on a Single Speed.  "It was not that 4th place guy, no couldn't be, he was too fast.  Must be a fresh team guy or elite guy running his back up bike, like I saw earlier, was his bike orange, no it was black I think", I thought to myself.  Back to my math. With my legs threatening to cramp, my thoughts turn to my wife Tammy, "This can't be as bad as she feels almost all the time, you can buck up and work through these measly cramps!"  I refocused and just went for it.  I was back to the pit and onto Roller Coaster, coming up on some slow tired riders.  "He's not pulling over" It would have been so easy to settle on that pace, "I probably missed the cut off anyway.  No, No, ask him to let you pass."  "OK go, up the last hike-a-bike, hold it together through those last two tight switchbacks, now press to the the finish line!"

I never noticed where the big clock was, so I had to ask if I made the cut off?  The announcer said yes by a couple minutes. Yeah!  Sweet!

Sorry this was so long, but it was a 6 hour race after all.

I was 3rd of a small field of 6 Single speeders.
29th out of 115 over all
29th out of 101 men
last to make 7 laps
Only 3 riders made 8 laps

Big Bling

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Santos IMBA Epic mostly Plus

I wanted to get in the whole thing and rode the trails out to where the orange flagged trail ends, near the  Marion County-Dunnellon Airport.  The trail out that way is very rough in places and dug up by wild pigs in others, it was just not that fun.  So when I got to the end I took the limestone road back to route 200.  It is called the Tricycle trail.  Except for the pigs, it does seem more ridden in than last March, but it could use a few hundred wheels on it.  I chose Paisley Woods and San Felasco as my other long days, to keep this fresh, as I did a good chunk of the Santos Epict a few weeks ago.  Ern N Burn and Nayles trail are worth the trip for sure.  Lots of rollers of all sizes, with lots of tight twists and turns over rooty terrain, with the occasional moon rock thrown in for ambience.  For shear distance and variety, the Santos epic ride is tough to beat!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Caught in the Vortex

Lynskey SS shake down run and gear selection run.  Comment below if you want to know what gear I settled on for 6 hours of Santos this weekend.

Uncharacteristic of me, I have not ridden a SS, from when we got to Brevard in October till just a couple weeks ago when we got to Ocala. The Ferrous was still apart, from when I put the drive train on the Lynskey to race Swank now both are Single speeds (the ferrous just needs a chain adjustment to play back up at the race, if allowed)

Geckos in the Bathroom

Monday, February 10, 2014

Two Single Speeds are better than One

I am racing the 6 hours of Santos. But my Ti race bike still had gears since racing Swank.  Stripped the shifters, derailleurs and cassette off. I set a third handlebar with just brake levers, so both bikes can be SS at the same time.  If the rules allow, I will keep the Ferrous as a pit bike, in case the Lynskey gets a mechanical that would take too long to fix or for spare parts.

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Paisley Woods Kwik Stats

After three days of rain, where to go? Mark Huff, one of the local riders, told me that Paisley is actually better after rain, as it makes the sugar sand hold together.  The last time I rode Paisley was after a rain, albeit less, and it seemed a little faster, but my times say otherwise.  But, this time I did know the trails better and was making a concerted effort to get in some threshold work.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Get More out of Strava with Single Tracks .com

If you are a mountain biker and you are on Strava, connect it to Single Tracks .com.

You can find great trails to ride and some of the segments in each one. See photos, videos and reviews for thousand of trails.  Get points and earn your way to directions and GPS files or subscribe to get them immediately.

You can share your own trails, list bike shops, post your own photos, videos and GPS files!

Find product reviews, MTB blogs, join the forum. They keep adding features all the time.  Very cool site!

From the Settings page it looks like you can link Garmin Connect, Endomondo, Map My Ride and Runtastic as well.

Make a wish list for that next Mountain bike adventure.

List your bikes and gear.

Friday, February 7, 2014

San Felasco Hammock Preserve, Gainesville

Do you like riding for hours of curvy, natural feeling single track, in old growth pines with great visibility of what is coming around the next curve? Well I do.  Heck I even the first loop, Cellon Creek, had me grinning. With 8 miles,Tung Nuts is the anchor of the system. Need some hill repeats without repeating a hill? Then hit Conquistador.

If you're looking for gravity feed, feature rich, jumping and hard tech, look elsewhere.

Cruisin through an Endor like forest of tall pines, with hardly a palm frond or scrub to be block  your view around corners, really lets lets you open it up and let her rip.  Unlike most of Florida, where it is either flat or pit, there are enough hills to work climbing and use gravity to work your corners faster than pedaling speed.

My favorite was the Hidden hills Loop, I kept expecting a mountain to emerge from what seemed like foothills. But wait I am in Florida, right?!

Any downside? My personal compulsion to make everything a big loop is not possible here, most loops lollipop off of another.

Considering how well the far end of the park is marked, I had a little trouble following the core trail, Tung Nut.  I think that some of the signs need to be replaced. Particularly where feeder trails come in. Likewise, I kind of had to hunt and peck and look at the map intently, for the two feeders to Conquistador.

I believe they are working on a new map, as the current map looks kind of like a flow chart.  Which might be for the best as an exact rendering my might be hard to follow. See my Strava file below. The map does put loops in their relative location to each other, pretty well though.

I feel like this system is between Paisley and Santo (excluding the pits) in terms of ripping twisty trail. Paisley was more steady state, Santos was as twisty, but you can see others coming form the other way much better at San Felasco. Plus you got some non-pit hill climbing to boot.

A small note on flow. I really enjoyed the flow of these trails.  I have read reviews that said they did not. These trails have a very natural feel to them.  The trail builders really put these trails together well. You won't find a man made berm, although a couple natural berms have been incorporated into the system.  If you have read some of my other articles, you will know that I prefer more natural trails. Berms can be fun, but I had to unlearn how to take a corner, as the berm does the work for you. Being able to flow natural trails at blasting speed is where it is at. Learn to corner and fly.

I found out about San Felasco Hammock Preserve, Gainesville, in an article on Single Tracks.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Paisley Woods Florida

Santos is plenty fun, but I needed a change of venue, to switch things up for my long ride. Even the green trails at Santos are fairly twisty, which is more fun in general, but makes it harder to do sustained endurance riding, when you are accelerating out of turn after turn.  Most riders are not concerned with this. But if you are and would rather not get your long ride on the road, Paisley Woods certainly fits the bill. The main loop is about 19 miles with a half a mile feeder. There is a cut off to make a half loop.  I was running about hour and a half laps, so multiple laps are need to get the higher durations. The Paisley Woods trail has a different feel in each direction, so between that and the half loop you can put most any duration rides together without getting bored. Don't get me wrong this trail is like 90% flowy singletrack.
Wider tires, such as 2.35 or 2.4s work best in the occasional sugar sand. I got to try out a 2.35 Maxxis Ikon up front for the first time. I have had it for a while, but was waiting for a tire to wear out. I switched back to the 2.2 for the half lap at the end to compare. Even at the same 20 psi the 2.35 felt less harsh and I should be able to run even softer.