Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting Over It

Danger.  It's what was on my mind.  And that's dangerous.

With Durango just 15 days away my greatest fear is getting banged-up on a practice ride.  There's always that chance when mountain biking, but generally you're thinking about how to clear that log pile or rock garden or drop or whatever.  You're not thinking about what happens if you don't.  That may sound like a fine line but really it's a big fat one because the body tends to follow the mind.  Think about landing it and you land it.  Think about falling and you fall.

As of Friday, I had three crashes in as many days.  Not biggies but they could have been.  One I can blame on a dog that jumped in front of me as I was coming off the first Sole Trail bridge - nobody to blame there really.  But the next two were avoidable and only happened because I was thinking about not crashing.

Bad mojo that I have exorcised through technology.  I happened to watch this awesome 50 second video on the Contour web site.  Now let's be clear I am never riding anything as extreme as this trail.  Not even remotely close.  Ever.  Except in my dreams.  And while watching the video I am riding that stuff.  I am nailing it.  I think I watched the video 10x.  Next time out on the bike I hit it harder, had more fun, and most importantly thought about landing and not about crashing.  I was cured.

But there is another type of crashing that has nothing to do with mental state and has everything to do with equipment state.  And that's what happened to Sebastian today (video 0:27).  While my mental problem was cured, his equipment problem was about to bite him.  I think some fresh Stans tire sealant may have prevented his front tire from burping and instantly decompressing right when he needed it most - dropping down onto the Creative Playthings bridge.  I'd estimate he flew 15' horizontal and 6' vertical (down) before landing in a heap (still clipped in) by the side of the bridge.  I missed the crash but at least caught the aftermath on video.
Tangent: Speaking of falling while clipped in, there is also some amusing video (video 1:30) of another rider (don't know who) doing just that out near the bonus loop.  Classic and funny because it's happened to everyone who uses clipless pedals.  Which raises another question - why do they call it "clipped in" if they're clipless pedals?
Anyway I finished the ride with a rapid descent of the Blue Trail, letting the Turner eat up the roots and rock gardens of that sometimes gnarly descent.  It felt so good (I was 2.5 hours into the ride at this point) that I rode back to the top of the park just to bomb Blue again.  And I could have easily done it a third or fourth time except I was already overdue at home.

So I am clearly not thinking about crashing anymore.  I am just thinking about Durango.  Twenty-four-by-seven.


"Little hand says it's time to rock and roll."
     - Bodhi

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rough Start to a Banner Ride

Rolling into Skelp Level lot after
that miserable climb that
we all love to hate
Today's ride was all rain no shine.  A persistent drizzle, standing water, mud, wet roots and rocks.  A 7:30am start time.  On a Sunday.  Real Villa Fund Raiser Dinner Dance material.

Granted it was a rough start.  DC waiting in the parking lot sitting in his warm dry car looking out at the drizzle on the lake.  Was that disappointment on his face when he saw us ride in?  And MR who was still in bed (email snafu) and had to saddle up and ride in his PJs (almost).

But this group would not be dissuaded.  We rode for a solid 3+ hours.  MCSP and HH.

It was actually a banner ride.  We made good choices (avoiding slippery wooden bridges).  We saw joggers in unique and interesting poses.  And we saw what is probably the funniest thing a biker gets to see: a fellow rider rolling to a controlled stop at a busy intersection and then promptly falling over while clipped in to his pedals.  We've all done it, and we've all seen it, and it's funny every time. And this time was a bonus, because the cause was a missing cleat bolt, and I just happened to have a spare in my seat bag (MY and DC I think you owe me a beer for that one).

Oh and we saw SF's unbroken string of soap box derby wins broken by MY coming out of nowhere on a much too fast descent of the cinder road.  There's a new boy in town now...


"Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Take a man mountain biking and he realizes fishing is stupid."
     -- unknown

Saturday, May 14, 2011


The Giant factory trailer was parked at the Marsh Creek boat launch.  Under the tent were about 40 spanking new rides. 26ers and 29ers. Hard tails and full suspensions.  Cross country and trail.  Pick your ride, toss them your driver's license, and ride.

I've always wondered what happens when you combine big wheels with the handling of a full-suspension frame.  Five minutes later I was clipped in and spinning down the Lakeside Trail on a brand new Anthem X 29er. This was a unique opportunity to test ride a bike on familiar trails.

  • DT Swiss rear hub was way loud.  Probably a deal breaker for me.  I love silent hub on my GF Rig and the subtle sound of my wheels rolling over dirt.
  • Hydraulic brakes - modulation better than mechanical but if you grab too much brake you're going over.  Combined with maintenance issues (bleeding, etc) I just don't think they're worth it.
  • Pedal clearance - I caught a pedal a couple of times, would have to double check pedal clearance if I were considering the bike.
  • The weather (drizzling).


  • Rolls effortlessly through rock gardens
  • Nimble handling, suspension active even while braking
  • Pedaling platform, stand up with no bobbing
  • New bike, professionally maintained means crisp shifting
  • A free ride
Bottom line: This was a great marriage.  Seriously considering flipping a couple of my current bikes for a 29er full suspension.  


"It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." 
     --Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Big Questions

Lakeside on the New Bonus Loop
Solo ride this morning.  Time to ponder the BIG QUESTIONS.

Why it's fun to be first:
  • See wildlife before it scares off
  • Pick the line
  • Pick the pace
  • Navigate

Why it's fun to sweep:
  • No cobwebs in your face
  • Follow someone else's line
  • Focus on riding instead of navigating
  • See the action (close calls and crashes)

Did I miss anything??

"Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for one more ride."
  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On The Rocks

Close call today. Two actually.

But one was a downright scary.

Sunoco Property (new clubhouse?)
MY took a spill off the Creative Playthings bridge reportedly uttering "I'm OK" even before he hit the muddy ground. Somehow he emerged from the woods squeaky clean even after the roll in the mud. We'll call him "Teflon Mike" from now on.

SF hit hard on the rocks near the ruins at Harmony Hill. I was in front and it sounded bad.  The rider who was following SF later whispered by my ear "I don't think I would have gotten up from that one."

Urban art
These brushes with disaster are part of the game. The knowledge of what can happen focuses the mind, and that's a big part of the attraction of this sport. We just always hope the bumps and scrapes don't leave a permanent mark. So far so good.

The long grind up Skelp Level was sublime as always. JA led the way with AF on his tail the entire way. I on the other hand was avoiding the burn at all costs and felt perfectly content grinding it out in a low gear. That earned us the right (and the elevation) to bomb the awesome Black Trail downhill before tackling the Three Little Pigs (wet roots and all) and heading back to Marsh Creek State Park by way of the old Sunoco property (see pictures).

A trip around the Bonus Loop left me with 3.5 hours of pedaling.  Short of my 6 hour goal for this week, but I am feeling strong and after a two week taper will be itching for some Durango singletrack.


"To stop or not to stop, that is the question; the light is red, but my heart is green."
   -- unknown

Friday, May 6, 2011

Morning eXpresso

Sitting on a stationary bike while Watching POV bicycle videos seemed like it would be about as gratifying as SM's holiday blowup doll.  The one with the big belly button...

...but there it was in the hotel fitness center. An Expresso machine. Maybe it was the 5:00am stupor, but it called out to me.  It's a stationary bike with HRM, shifters, steerable handlebars, and a plasma video screen that displays an interactive computer generated cycling POV.

I chose Monkey Mountain from the list of 20 courses (level of difficulty 3 out of 4) and started pedalling. At the start it appeared I was in a strung-out breakaway with 5 other riders and so I found a comfortable gear and set my sights on the lead rider. After about 10 minutes I had fallen 2 positions back and I was actually getting PISSED OFF at myself and these computer generated cyclists.

Yes I was sucked in.

So I picked a monster gear and stood up. Within a minute my aggressive move had reeled in at least 5 riders, my heart rate was pegged in the 170s, and the crowd was going nuts. But to my astonishment another 5 riders came into view around the next bend.  So either the early hour and elevated heart rate were impacting my cognitive ability or this damn Expresso machine had an unlimited supply of lead riders to throw in my face. But this was shot at fame so I threw everything I had at this machine for 45 minutes and finished exhausted and drenched in sweat.

I never would have gotten that workout on a traditional stationary bike while watching ESPN or reading USA Today. The silly idea really worked. I'm still not sure if it would stand the test of time (2-3x per week over the course of a long winter), but I was impressed:
  • Variety of courses with varied scenery
  • Workload and shifting in response to the terrain is very cool
  • Ghost rider so you can race against yourself
Suggested improvements:
  • Mountain biking please!  Add some single track options.
  • Terrible seat.  Needs more traditional saddle, not that big squishy one.
  • Drafting. I tried it but didn't sense any improvement. Resistance should drop ~20% if you're in a draft, and if you hit the rider in front there should be a price to pay (1 minute penalty).
Can leg shaving be far behind?


"Beware of all enterprises that require a change into Lycra"
   -- unknown

Monday, May 2, 2011

Review - SPD Pedals - Shimano M520, Forte Carve, Ascent Terra

Shimano M520
ITEM: Shimano M520 SPD Pedal
PURCHASED: from Performance Bicycle in 2008
PRICE: About $35

ITEM: Forte Carve SPD Pedals
PURCHASED: from Performance Bicycle in 2010
Forte Carve
PRICE: $35

ITEM: Ascent Terra SPD Pedals
PURCHASED: from Performance Bycicle in 2010
PRICE: About $20 (clearance)

Ascent Terra
Both the M520 and the Terra make it impossible to use an adjustable wrench to loosen or tighten the axle bolt, because the pedal body does not leave enough room for the width of an adjustable wrench. You much use a crescent wrench or specialized pedal wrench. TSA recently confiscated my 15mm crescent wrench so this has been an aggravation recently, and seems like a silly design element.

Tension Adjuster on M520
Furthermore, the tension adjusters for the M520 are prone to coming loose because they rest in a small recess in the underside of the pedal clamp, instead of using a standard bolt through the pedal clamp as in the Carve and Terra. Once of these buggers did come loose on my M520s and it was a real pain getting it back together.

Tension Adjuster on Carve
I've also had issues with the pins than run through the pedal clamp and springs. These pins seem to work themselves loose on the M520s and if you don't fix them periodically, the pedal will basically come apart probably 1/2 way into a long ride. You can see they are working loose in the picture of my M520s.

Rust/Pitting on Terra
I purchased the Terras as an extra set for my rarely ridden road bike, so I can't really complain but I should point out the rust/pitting occurring on the pedal clamp surface. Probably related to cheaper materials.

Regarding the bearings, I have not had any problems with any of the pedals although all 3 seem to have a tiny bit of play.

Finally I'd like to point out that none of these designs is particularly good at clearing mud or snow, it is almost always an issue during snowy rides. I would like to try the Crank Brothers design but since it uses a different cleat type I'd have to use a different pair of shoes with those pedals, so I haven't made that change. I've also heard some concerns from fellow riders on durability with those pedals.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Last Laugh

Putting our heads together
on some trailside bike repairs
"He who laughs last laughs hardest." We laughed hard all morning (and  cried on some of the climbs) as we retraced the path of the infamous 2006 Blue Marsh Death March.  The Death March blog post puts a positive spin on a very long day when some young(er) riders learned what it means to bonk hard 17 miles into a hilly 23 mile loop ride with no bailout options.

Like 2006 we had a couple of mechanicals including a busted chain but the difference this time was better conditioning, fewer wrong turns thanks to Mike "Everything Sounds Like Katy Perry" Miller, and for me at least my bonk-proof provisioning.

Hoping this one doesn't stick...
In the end we shaved about 1.5 hours elapsed off our 2006 time and while nobody suggested we add the 7 mile ski slope bonus loop, it was a good tired when we cruised into the parking lot shortly after 12pm.  We finished at Ganly's with Guinness drafts and burgers.

This was no death march.

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet.  This is not done by jostling in the street"
     --William Blake