Saturday, December 1, 2012

ATX100k - Austin's new grassroots endurance series!

It's ON. Go signup now and support all the work the organizers are putting into this series. It's free, it's 6 races over the course of the year, it's designed to NOT conflict with any established race/series/whatever, it's totally grassroots and if you finish the 3 of the 6 including the 100k of Emma Long you get to wear the jersey!

First race is NEXT SUNDAY!!! Walnut creek, wheels down 8:30 for 6 laps of flow and fun. Rumor has it there will be a local shop with a top-flight mechanic on site to fix your busted ass bike between laps.

Twitter: @atx100k or

Head over to meetup to signup or just show up and pedal.

I'm doing it and I'm slow so you won't be last :)

love ya bitches

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stan's Fail

This is the slit in my rear tire that caused me so much grief on the Enchilada Buffet.  Stan's failed to seal this and I had to deal with tubes (suck). I'm going back to Orange Seal, it may be slower to seal a cut due to it's viscosity and those little bits of metal but at least it fricking seals the damn thing.

In the picture  I've placed a presta lock-nut for reference and I'm kinda pulling the slit apart so it's easier to see.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Enchilada Buffet 2012 - review

The Enchilada Buffet (EB) is an Austin grassroots ride that links together 5 of Austin's best mountain bike trails. It's not a race per se', but there are awards for fastest man and woman, slowest man and woman, and oldest finisher. I rode it this year on my Giant Anthem X, which wouldn't have happened without Steve at Texas Cycle Werks. I had worn out some parts on my rear shock and replacement parts wouldn't have been available by the EB so, on Thursday, Steve GAVE ME THE SHOCK OFF HIS PERSONAL BIKE. That, my friends, has got to be some of the best bike service in the state.
This year started off with 113 riders at Walnut Creek park. We headed out at 6:40 and took some gravel roads through WC to get to more bike friendly streets. We hit the Greenbelt around 8 am in a hilariously dangerous but very friendly drop down some limestone 'steps' from the Zilker parking lot - about 50 guys dropping into a narrow stair of natural un-cut limestone after riding for an hour with their shocks locked out. It was a new experience descending alongside that many guys, everyone being jovial and cool while trying to reach their shock lockout w/o endo'ing. It's a testament to how many actual mountain bikers were on the ride that, at least in my pack, nobody fell or got cross-ways.
I was out in front at this point, probably top 10 but I had to stop and relieve myself. At least 30 guys passed me which was a bit demoralizing but couldn't be helped. I spent the next hour or so gently working around all those people - it's a friendly ride so bellowing out ON YOUR RIGHT is a douche move. The corollary being not moving over when somebody is on your tail is also a douche move. Truthfully, everyone being friendly made the ride a much smoother and less frustrating experience than during an official race when calling out is expected but moving over doesn't always happen.
The EB passed right by my home and my wife and daughter were waiting at Pumphouse to cheer me on; I was grinning like an idiot for miles after seeing my kid with that "Go Daddy Go" sign. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is my home trail so I know the route really well. I picked up a few guys and drug them around for a bit, but they'd get dropped in the technical sections because they didn't know the lines. I actually got a personal record on the Western Fence section and passed a bunch of riders. I was feeling pretty good about my chances of catching up to the chase group until I hit the road.
On the bridge over bee caves I hit some glass or something and slashed my rear tire right down the center. I rode it for about a mile as it leaked hoping the sealant would do it's job. Unfortunately I had to stop and put in some air. My legs were feeling a bit fatigued and it was touchy bending over to use my hand pump. I was a bit worried about the fatigue I was showing after only ~30 miles, but those worries were unfounded. That was actually the most tired my legs would feel for the rest of the ride. The bit of air I pumped in on 360 held until just before the fire station, then I stopped at the fire station and put in another 2 oz of sealant hoping that would seal. It didn't. I was stopped on the side of the road putting in a tube about a mile later when the leaders (DeBoisinblac, Winkleman, Barkley, Uhl and about 4 other guys I don't know) passed by me after already having finished the City Park trail.
I rode a lot of City Park with 3 guys, which was nice after riding most of the EB solo. Got a PR on the City Park loop, so I was feeling pretty good at that point. I did see several guys cutting the course, I'm certain it was an honest mistake. They weren't from Austin and they were all stopped, looking around, lost. I called out to them to follow me but since I wasn't sure they were cutting (they could have just finished the section in question) and it's not a race I just let it slide. I've also been looking through some of the rider maps on Strava and it seems like several people missed that little bit, it ends with what I think people call the "Triple Bitch" or cheese something (?). Oh well, it's not more than a mile, although it starts and ends gnarly the middle bit is cake.
After City Park, the next challenge is Jester, I rode it and felt pretty good. Then down Beauford (yikes!), out to 360 and up Spicewood Springs. This is when I picked up my 2nd flat. A staple of some sort had punctured the tube and I was getting pretty fed up with the road. As my tire flatted yet again, I was passing Cody (one of the founders) and I started cussing a blue streak (sorry for that, lost my religion). I was on my last straw, and was trying to finding the puncture but I couldn't find it, even with the tube blown up to the size of a hula hoop.  I was about to crawl off into the bushes to take a nap when the guys I rode CP with caught up to me and asked if I was O.K. I asked if they had a spare tube and the guy from Dallas (Charles?) turns around and gives me his 2nd tube! I was so happy I could have kissed him.
Next up was St. Edwards, which is basically a hill and a series of rocky drops back down. Part of the trail follows right along the edge of a cliff and has a few bits with out-sloped roots just begging to toss you down the 100 ft drop. I saw 6-8 riders doing this trail backwards which is a pretty nasty 'long-cut' since riding up St. Eds backwards is considerably worse IMHO.
Yaupon was next, it's kind of a little slap in the face before Thumper. Normally, I really like Thumper, it's a challenging trail and will hone your handling skills, but after 60 miles it just feels abusive. I was feeling pretty good at this point, (with all the stopping and fixing flats, lol), so I grabbed some water from Cindy (THANKS!!!), got some info about how badly I was being beaten by the leaders (very badly), and dropped into Thumper. My triceps immediately cramped up but that subsided pretty quickly. After about 15 minutes of Thumper it started to rain on me. It was actually very relieving, the rain and the cool breezes it brought. The trail stayed pretty tacky for the next 30 minutes  but the final 15 minutes of Thumper were pretty dangerous. I slid out on a few of the bigger rocks and I was really glad to be getting out when I did. I ended up turning my 2nd best Thumper time (59:13) and a PR for the first half (37:35). I'd like to note that Nathan Winkleman KOM'd Thumper with 42:56 and he finished that lap almost an hour before I started mine. Uhl and Barkley were right there with him. Monsters.
At the top I grabbed a bit more water and hammered over to Walnut. I was feeling awesome after Thumper and averaged over 14mph. Hammered out Walnut and finished in 9 hours 29 minutes (27th place), 30 minutes off my goal and 2 hours 15 minutes behind 1st place. My moving time was 8 hours 18 minutes, so without the flats I'm pretty confident I could have finished under 9.
Grabbed a beer and some Rudy's BBQ turkey. Chatted for about an hour with the finishers and cheered several more riders as they finished up before I headed home.
It was an awesome event. I'm looking forward to doing it next year, hopefully I can keep some air in my tires and finish under 9 hours. Congrats to Matt, Nathan and Tristan. Huge thanks to the founders (ya crazy bastards), organizers, volunteers and Steve at TCW.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rain. Weekend. Again

See? It's not me being an alarmist - it's only raining on weekends! Damn you, filthy sky tears, DAMN YOU!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reveille Peak 100

For the ADHD crowd. I got 5th in Solo sport out of 46 racers. Got a trophy, won a giftcard...

I had actually decided to skip this race due to family scheduling issues, but when Lonnie was unable to use the ticket he'd already purchased I decided I had to go. I did some fancy scheduling with my mother to watch my daughter and it was off to the race.
I left the house at 4:20 am to register. When I arrived, all the event staff were in place but I was the first racer to show up for registration. I got a really sweet spot to park my truck - directly across from the start/finish line. Antonio happened to park next to me (pure coincidence) so I had someone to talk to to help with the nerves. 

My plan was to turn ~2 hour laps since last year only 1 sport guy finished in under 8 hours (Matt Barkley - Texas Cycle Werks/Orange Seal). I've ridden with Matt around Austin and he's much, much faster than I am. I was guessing that an 8 hour race would be an accomplishment.  I was factoring in last year's 106 degree day, but it's pretty obvious that I didn't weight the effect of that kind of heat heavily enough.  Hell, this year the top 11 sport guys beat Matt's time from last year (and I can tell you with 100% certainty that 5th place back are slower than he is).

The race started off at a really quick pace and after the initial shake up I was with the chase group. The leaders had pretty much separated themselves by the start of the 2nd bit of singletrack.  I was still under the delusion that a 2 hour lap would be tough so I wasn't into the chase at all. Since I'd never ridden the course I only had mile markers (6.5, 10) to go by. Considering the wide variation of terrain judging progress solely by miles was a pretty poor benchmark.I felt really good on my first lap and had to force myself to finish my Infinit.

After pitting to grab some more food and water and heading out I realized I'd turned a 1:30 including my pit time and felt great. Encouraged I turned up the pace a bit (mistake) and started to get some cramping in my quads. It was at that point I realized I'd forgotten my electrolytes in pit and knew that I'd be regretting that oversight for the rest of the day. Finished out that lap in 1:40, doubled down on the electrolytes and chased it with a supplemental 12oz of water. It helped kill the cramping for the 1st half of the 3rd lap but, once you've knotted a muscle you're gonna be dealing with it for the rest of the day. I slit my tire down the center about 1/2 through this lap as well. The Orange Seal took it's sweet time sealing this first (of 3) cut. I actually had to dismount, roll the cut to the bottom of the tire, grab the front brake to hold it there and jog with my front tire off the ground for ~50 yards. At that point I'd heard no hissing for a while and I mounted back up and rode very gingerly with my front at ~10lbs for a few miles. After I felt the cut had sealed I hit it with a CO2 and got back to race pace. I did lose some time with that incident. However, the next 2 cuts sealed up within 1 rotation so Orange Seal is 2/3 in my book. If the race was hotter in the chase group it could have been a bit disastrous  but as it was the slow seal on the first cut wasn't a big deal. 

The 4th lap was hard. Both quads and my hamstrings were cramping bad. At one point, it felt like I had pulled my groin, my hamstrings were pulling so hard. I just kept spinning my legs and drinking Infinit because I knew if I stopped my legs would pretzel and I'd be stuck wherever I fell for 10 minutes. I rode it out, only stopping to grab a cup of water at the aid station and pour it down my back. At the finish line, Scott took one look at me and said "he's cramping", I smiled and turned to walk to my truck. The med tech followed me, asking if she could help. I said I was fine but thanks, yet she still hovered asking if she could help. I realized I must look bad if she wasn't going back to her tent so I asked her "Do I really look that bad?". "Yes, you really do" she replied. Since I didn't really feel that bad but she wanted to help, I asked her if there was any cold water (I knew there was just behind her pavilion) and gave her a bottle with my recovery portion of Infinit to fill for me. Then I went to the showers (RPR has awesome facilities), cleaned up my truck and headed over to the results screen  I was shocked to learn that not only had I finished in 6:46 but that I was 5th overall with lap times of 1:24, 1:41, 1:47 and 1:52. 

Thanks mom for watching Ellie. Thanks Lonnie for hooking me up with the ticket. Thanks to Terra Firma Racing for (always) putting on such a great event. Thanks to Reveille Peak Ranch for maintaining such unique trails and keeping them in such great condition. Thanks to all the sponsors for taking the time to care about endurance racing. Thanks to all the other racers for being so chill. Everyone was super cool to me on the course and afterwards. Any call outs to anyone in front resulted in an immediate pull over so I could get by; that said I really didn't have to call out much. Most guys just hopped over so I could squeeze by. Pretty great experience - can't wait till next year

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rain on my weekends

I get it. Central Texas needs rain - we're in a stage 2 drought and have been for well over a year. But, WHY IN THE HELL does it always have to rain on the weekend?

Friday, August 24, 2012

2012 Enchilada Buffet. November 3rd. 6:30 am leaving Walnut Creek Parking lot. Be there.
80+ miles total, 33.5 miles of dirt.

Link to full route:

Segments in order. Ride starts at the Walnut parking lot and strings together 5 of Austin's premiere trails. [r] is a road segment, [d] is a dirt segment. Please be sure to know the dirt segments (either pre-ride by attending a Mojo ride call or bring a GPS device with these loaded) because dirt will NOT be marked.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Like Austin Powers said...

...  I gotta get my MOJO back, baby!

But seriously, WTF is going on with bikemojo? Somebody not paying the bill or was it all the cussing and lewd remarks?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Unofficial Queen's Stage numbers - Rapha Rising challenge

I threw up a webpage really quickly to let people fill in their own data. You can also fill in other people's but be sure your're not entering someone that is already entered.

After the form is a results spreadsheet you can sort by distance, names, etc.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Strava - Not applying rides to challenges

Strava hasn't been applying all my rides to the latest challenge. I figured out a fix that works for me. NOTE: This is not for flagged rides but rides that are just not being applied to the challenge for some reason. If your ride was flagged - immediately email STRAVA SUPPORT and include the link to the ride and any other details you can think of.



The process to get Strava to re-recognize the ride, note that this just uses tools that Strava supplies to us on their website.

  1. Go to ride that isn't being added to the challenge. 
  2. Go to the Actions pulldown. Export it somewhere you're gonna find it again. Go look there and be sure you can find it. Look again, just to be sure. If you can't find a .gpx file then stop what you are doing and just email support. I don't want you deleting your ride and then not being able to re-upload it.
  3. Go back to the Actions menu and delete the ride (Strava won't let you have a duplicate ride, so you have to delete it)
  4. Upload the ride by clicking the orange "Upload Activity" button at the top of the webpage.
  5. Choose the file you downloaded in step 2.
  6. Give it about 5 minutes so Strava will re-check your profile and load the ride into the challenge.
  7. Bask in the glory of your hard-earned climbing.

Please note that you are actually deleting the ride, from Strava so you need to be sure of where you are downloading it to and that you can find that place.  If not, you could be primed to panic...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rapha Rising Challenge - Strava Challenge

Since I made a goal sheet for the Nunn challenge, it was easy to mod it for a climbing challenge. This is simply a Microsoft Excel / Google Doc sheet that makes it easy to plan out your rides so you know you'll complete the challenge. It has a tab for miles and one for kilometers (tabs at the bottom).  I uploaded a Google document and an Excel sheet.
I also set a custom goal for the Queen's stage challenge at 14,000 feet (4,270 meters). It's just a guess on my part and you can change it to whatever you think will win that one-day event.

Google Drive Document (cloud document) - Rapha Rising Challenge Goal Sheet

     Click the above link to create a fresh copy in your Google Drive 

Excel Document (download) - Rapha Rising Challenge Goal Sheet

     Click the above link to download a Excel (.xls) spreadsheet

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chainlove - unsucked!

There is a new site that makes Chainlove (and all the friggin road bullshit) not suck. Called SAC alerts 

Sign up, go to keywords tab. Enter a keyword, I'll use "six six one' as an example (you should also click the help link on that page, dude does a really good job of explaining what you should do)

It'll dig up any references to "six six one" and show them to you. You can browse back (like to 2010!) and see what prices have been offered before.  I almost crapped my pants when I saw they were selling those elbow guards I like for FRICKING $1.99 on the first of this month. I'd have bought 10 (because mine now smell like the devil's butthole). It'll also send you an email/text/both when one of your keywords shows up on chainlove (or s&c or whisky). No more watching chainlove, just figure out what you want, pop in the keywords and wait for the text

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nunn Twice the Tour Challenge - Goal Sheet

Whipped this out to help me with my personal goals, figured that other people could use it as well. It has a tab for miles and one for kilometers (tabs at the bottom).  I uploaded a Google document and an Excel sheet.

Google Document (cloud document) - Nunn: Twice the Tour Goal Sheet
Excel Document (download) - Nunn: Twice the Tour Goal Sheet

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That's some Rocky Shizz

I just rode a section of trail that's 1 mile long.  Took me over 17 minutes, average speed 3.6 mph. I could tell by marks on the rock that somebody has ridden all those elephant's backs, huck-n-die grater sections and ledges, but I sure as hell can't.

Not yet 

The good news is that the cedars in there are tight enough that you can usually catch yourself before you crater. The bad news is that the cedars in there are tight enough to snag your bars, threatening to cause you to crater...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Goodwater Lake Trail

I'd read that the Goodwater Lake Trail was rocky as hell, and if you could maintain an average speed above 5mph you were doing good. I thought to myself, "well, THIS I gotta see...".

The Goodwater Lake Trail is ~27 miles long and threads through 6 parks (clockwise starting at the southern park); Cedar Brakes, Sawyer, Walnut Spring, Russell, Jim Hogg and Woodlake. 5 of these parks have really good technical single track sections, Walnut Spring was mostly double track.

I started at the Cedar Brakes entrance. A nice little old lady at the gate told me that since I was just riding my bike I only needed to sign in - there'd be no fee (awesome).The first turn to the left once you enter the park is a cul-de-sac with a big Texas star in the middle.  The trail head is on the northern edge of this parking area.

Starting off, it's pretty evident that this trail is going to be rough. It's rocky, for real. 18 of the 27 total miles are pretty similar to the Cheese Grater section of the Barton Creek Greenbelt (just not quite so momentum killing).  It's mostly the type of limestone that is pox marked with holes, making myriad sharp little edges that want nothing more than to slice up your sidewalls.

The Cedar Brakes section was the most technical of the ride. It starts off with a few ledge drops and has a number of limestone gardens that are the most difficult on whole loop.  It rolls along the cedars at the top of the lake's southern bluffs, occasionally swinging close enough to the lake to allow some really nice views (and high-consequence falls).

The next section, Sawyer, is almost as technical, with some really good rocky bits and a few good climbs.  Sawyer ends with two stair sections. The stairs are constructed of landscape timbers anchored on a pretty steep hill. You'll climb one, roll some nice single-track along the bluff and then descend the other.  Be careful descending b/c the stairs seemed to set at a distance to get you bouncing if you're trying to clip along too quickly.

After Sawyer is about 5 miles of double track. You'll hit a nice wide section, ride the road for a few feet then back to double track until you hit a big stone marker (~4 miles into the double track).  I think that's called Rustlers or Walnut Spring camp.  It's only about a mile long but you might as well ride it, helps break up the monotony of the double-track.

Next starts Russell's section.  It's GREAT after those windy roads. Starts with a nice loose limestone climb that tops out with some difficult ledges. Russell's has a decent amount of climbing, starting off climbing out of the lake, dropping towards the park proper and then climbing again to get to Jim Hogg.

Jim Hogg is a pretty diverse bit, similar to Sawyer but less technical. As you near Jim Hogg, the trail turns to crushed granite, DO NOT leave the trail and hit the road leading into the park, keep right and follow the trail all the way into the park. According to their website, they charge $1 for riders, you don't want them to nick you for a buck. You can also check my map, change it to satellite and go to the end of Russells to see where I'm talking about.  Once you get into the park, you'll pop out onto a road and you'll need to turn left, keeping the entrance gate on your left. On the other side of the main park road you'll see the trail, crushed granite, heading off north.

The final park, Woodlake, is mostly lake shore with some limestone ledges.  The trail ends by hitting a blacktop hiking trail (ADA accessible) and winding around until it reaches the dam.  The dam is a 1 mile wind-sprint back to the entrance.

My opinion of this ride?  Do it. Immediately. Do not wait, there were already some wuss lines forming, some switchbacks being cut and some cheater rocks in place. Ride it as it is now - awesome.

Don't get me wrong, this trail is a punishing ride but I averaged 8.4 mph over this trail (CB section=7mph, Sawyer=7.6mph, Russell 6.4mph, Hogg/Woodlake 8.6mph), so the claims of 5+ being difficult are pretty un-founded. It is technically challenging, but there is harder stuff at Barton Creek and City park. Goodlake's difficulty arises from the fact that you have to pay attention for (literally) 18 miles of rock or you'll end up endo'd. The other aspect is hydration, and even in 70 degree heat, I almost drank my entire 100oz camelback by the end of the ride. It's an endurance effort that, in my experience, is pretty unique.

This trail is pretty isolated, I saw maybe 2 other bikers, 2 runners and like 7 hikers over 27 miles. I also saw a rabbit, a roadrunner, several turkey vultures and what I think was a fox. Trail wise, there seems to be a lot of unrealized potential. Just glancing at the maps, it seems like there is enough unused forested area to make another 10 miles of awesome, brutal single track in the form of side-trails and little loops.

Note: I noticed that the 'preferred' lines (those with the most traffic as evidenced by rock wear and discoloration) would often weave between taller chunks of the limestone.  While this might be a bit easier to navigate (debatable) it is definitely not a better idea for your sidewalls.  Weaving between those tall boulders puts your trailing tire up against a lot of potentially sidewall-slashing edges. About 80% of the time I saw this phenomena, there was a pretty easy way up-and-over the rocks.

A shaky bit of video I made with a little spy camera mounted at the base of my right shock leg. Quality is low but it gives you a good idea of the terrain.

Strava GPS map:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mellow Johnnies Classic 2012 - Pre-Ride

We headed out for the pre-ride at Flat Creek Ranch on Saturday.  The ranch is only open for special events so it is a rare treat to get to do a few laps out there.  The trail was short (UCI pro ~4 miles, CAT 1,2,3 ~6 miles) but pretty fun.  There are a few too-new berms that need some water and compaction but overall the trail was in excellent shape.  You could tell where somebody had taken a prise bar to a few of the more technical sections and smoothed them out (on the back CAT section) but it seemed to me that they did a really good job of keeping the trail challenging while maintaining ride-ability. Imagine the BCGreenbelt but without anything that really made you clench up, definitely no ledges as high as those on the Hill of Life.  It can be a no-tap trail, but required some concentration to keep my back tire in the dirt on a few of the climbs out of the creeks. They were getting a bit slick by the end of the afternoon. You can see one of the creeks in this vid (~1:05); it is very rideable, this guy just wasn't expecting it. It's just after the UCI cutoff (both UCI and CAT will do this section).

If haven't got a chance to ride this trail you've still 2 opportunities without having to race it. March 1 and 2 non-racers can ride the course from 2-4pm for $5.  After 4 they're gonna boot you and the racers can pre-ride w/o the distraction of all us non-racing goobers fukering up their lines.  Saturday after the Pro and Cat 3 race, Cat 1 and 2 racers can do a pre-ride starting at 4:15. Sunday Cat 1 and 2 race at 8:45.

As an FYI, I had a several experiences of really fit riders who left me effortlessly on flat sections, but I'd run up behind them on any sort of rocky climb. If you're racing next week it might behoove you to get out in front of those kids early or risk being caught in the maw at the first series of ledgy climbs (in the first mile or so).

Friday, February 24, 2012

VIVA CHIHUAHUA! (Chihuahuan Desert Dirt Fest 2012)

This is a bit of a long post, but I think it's worth it.  For those of you cursed with a short attention span you can find Strava maps with distances in the Austin Greenbelt club widget on the right (check Lonnie or John for the full EPIC+). Also, check out the facebook page for more pics.

The Chihuahuan Desert Dirt Fest was awesome.  In large part because of the people of Terlingua and Lajitas, and the great work by Mike Long and crew of Desert Sports.  Both of these small desert towns have an incredible vibe and the residents rock.  As we rolled past Terlingua on the way to Lajitas, we were treated to an amazing rainbow. In fact, it was a double rainbow. All the way.  Oh. My.  God.    We were unsure what it actually meant.

When we got to the Maverick campground I was pleasantly surprised to see it has a nice set of showers, indoor couches & chairs and a pretty large 2 story open single room which held registration. It wasn't what I was expecting from a campground - it was way nicer. There was a keg of Fireman's Four and a bunch of bikers standing around drinking and telling stories.  Lonnie is very familiar with Terlingua and said we really should check out the store and Starlight.  We headed over to the Terlingua store and the Starlight restaurant/bar/music venue/dance hall. The vibe was super relaxed, locals and tourists, bikers and dogs, all chilling on a long porch drinking beer and playing guitars.  We got a table at the Starlight and had a really awesome meal - I got a wild boar burger and a few Lone Stars.  I gotta say, it was a pretty perfect arrival.

That night it rained and hailed, so instead of waking up early and heading out to the scheduled rides we slept in to give the white desert clay time to dry out. Regardless, on the way out our wheel-wells got packed with clay and we actually had to remove one of the wheels to get it all out.  It was on it's way to becoming pottery and we could smell burned rubber when the car hit a dip...

We grabbed a quick breakfast at the Fina station (pretty damn fine cuisine, even if I do say so myself) and headed into the national park to check out the sights. It was really beautiful, rising from flat desolation through a layer of clouds and breaking into a desert montaine environment with grey oak, madrone and pinyon pine. There was a mother doe with 2 fawns (one of which had decided his favorite pastime was standing in front of our vehicle and staring at us like there were monkeys issuing from our backsides)
We headed down, back through the clouds (mindful of any ptarmigans in the willows) and started towards the Lajitas airport trails.  We did a 16 mile loop (loop 4) and it was damn fun. The back side had some serious whoops and fast, loose singletrack.  The only real obstacles were sharp small little runoff gulleys, which were very prevalent.  Nothing technically difficult unless you're not comfortable with pulling a ton of mini-wheelies over V-shaped gulleys. I'd never ridden anything like that before and I really dug it. Here is a vid my buddy John took:

We made sure to get some good sleep that night because we were riding the 54 mile EPIC in the morning. Weather-wise, it drizzled steadily for a few hours that evening. We woke excited but a bit wary, imagining huge 20lb blobs of clay solidifying between our tires and shock legs and coating the undersides of our seats with stalactites of lovely desert pottery. Our fears about the trail turned out to be unfounded, though Mike Long (owner of Desert Sports and a truly stand-up guy) did have us skip the Dog Cholla section due to some wet spots. Mike also told us that this was going to be his 5th time around the EPIC in like 2 weeks or something. Crazy. The rules Mike laid out at the parking  lot were along these lines: 

"You need to be at checkpoint 'X' by time 'Y'. I'll be sweeping the course.  If I pass you, you're welcome to continue on the ride, turn back or try a different shorter loop but know if you continue you're no longer part of the supported ride".

When he said supported, he wasn't kidding. The trail was crawling with rangers, off road vehicles, stretcher bearing good-nics, water stops, etc (when I say 'crawling' please know that it was 'crawling' for a desolate desert wilderness - there were people about every 10-15 miles ). I definitely felt supported, which you will find in a minute turned out to be a really good thing. 

The Epic started out wonderfully, rolling through some really, REALLY vast country. Hell, the vistas have vistas and I'm pretty sure that behind every mountain was a higher mountain. The trail winds between canyon walls, along rocky river beds, over fields of bright white quartz and skirts the Solatario (an ancient volcanic formation).  There are a few high-consequence bits you ride over (narrow trail bits with a steep fall off one side) but all in all the trail is pretty mild.  The difficulty of this trail comes in when contending with the elements (heat, aridity, isolation), tons of climbing (both steep/short and gradual/long) and exploding drivetrains. 

Yeah, that's what I said: exploding drivetrains. At mile 27/54 I was riding in the middle of my 2 buddies. My buddy John was behind me and saw what he could only describe as "yer fuuuuuuuuuked...".  The chain somehow wrapped the derailleur around the dropout, twisting and snapping the chain, twisting and snapping the hanger, yanking a tooth off the 22t ring (check the pic) and splitting and exploding the rear derailleur to the point that a spring literally whizzed by John's head.  We had brought 6 master links, 4 tubes, 1 tire, a nice bike light, enough food and clothing to last overnight for sure, fire starting materials and several usb battery devices for cell phone emergencies. We found, however, it is not possible to prepare for every eventuality.

We started trying to set the bike up (a full suspension Giant Anthem X) as a single speed. That proved difficult since my shock doesn't have a lockout and we didn't bring a shock pump.  It was also made more difficult by the fact the the chain was super-twisted, requiring us to eyeball the chain, take out the un-twisted chunks and try to pin them all together. We tried, unsuccessfully, to make a chain tensioner out of duct tape and zip-ties.  Actually, it worked really well until the chain sawed through the zip-tie.

Without a rear derailleur to limit the chain, every time the suspension was weighted or un-weighted the bike would try to shift. This snapped the chain one more time before we go to the Sauceda ranger station. We were actually, crazily, still considering trying to ride the bike out until I discovered a missing spoke. That was the straw (spoke, whatever) that broke this camels back.  

At this point I feel I should mention Mike Long's amazing attitude about this situation. He'd swept us at the final chain snap so it was clear we were really falling behind. He rode with us to the ranger station and hung out with us there, listening to our (in retrospect) insane babble about riding out the remaining 25 miles on a destroyed drivetrain. He never told us 'no', never said 'I don't recommend it' or even gave us a double-barrel type 'Dudes, you've all obviously been infected with a brain eating bacteria of some sort because the shit you're talking is inane. May God have mercy on your souls'(which is exactly what I would have said, but just with more cuss words). He just calmly watched us, chimed in when we asked him for his opinion and trusted in us, as cyclists, to make the right choice. I'd also like to point out that it would have been on him, as the sweeper to deal with me when the scraps of my drivetrain inevitably re-exploded on down the trail.  I am still awed by his calmness in the face of that impending, unnecessary personal burden.  I have a feeling if we did end up deciding to try to finish out the EPIC, Mike might have voiced some concern, but the amazing part is that he trusted he wouldn't have to. I didn't get to ride with him much, but John said the guy is an A+ descender.  

I hitched a ride out of the park from some very happy, helpful rangers. I got to ride shotgun with Bud Coffee on the 40ish mile ride back to Lajitas.  Nice guy with some great stories about the area; not the finish I was hoping for, but a decent time for a consolation prize. 

That night we hung out at Maverick's for a while, had some keg beer but decided to hit Starlight one more time for dinner.  It was, once again, great.  Lonnie had brought some really nice beer which helped to take the sting off the unfinished EPIC and the $300+ in repairs I'd have to foot once I got back to Austin.

Next year, EPIC, next year...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The excitement builds!

We're heading out to the Chihuahuan Dirt Fest this weekend. We're gonna do one of the 20milers on Friday but on Saturday we'll be on the 54 mile EPIC.

We'll post pics when we get back.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Wrap-up

The end of 2011 got really busy for me and this blog took a backseat to real life. The good news is that real life placed me squarely in the center of mountain biking awesomeness in Austin Texas. We bought a home in the Travis Country subdivision, which is ringed and bisected by some of the best mountain biking trails in town. The Barton Creek greenbelt is arguably the best riding in Austin and definitely the most diverse. You can go from fast hard-pack to terrifying limestone ledge downhills and then hit a brutal class 4 climb all within the same mile.

Johnny, Rob and I raced the 24hrs of Rocky Hill this year. Johnny won solo open men with an unbelievable 22 laps in 24 hours - he also scored the fastest solo lap. I managed to squeeze into 7th place with 14 laps and Rob rounded out our group pedaling a fully RIGID single speed for 7 brutal laps. Check out the results here.

In December, I bought Johnny's frame and fork (2011 Giant Anthem X, Fox 32 RL) off him and built it up with 2012 SRAM X.O. I am literally unable to explain how much of a difference a full suspension 29er makes when compared to a front-suspended 26. I'll try:
  • riding a couch
  • being held securely in your mothers arms
  • those roller-coaster harnesses that swing down with pads, that kinda stability
  • more fun than should be legal
I've started using Strava (you can see it on the right) to keep track of my runs and rides and give me goals to attain.  It'll let you race against anyone who has traveled the trail before you so it provides a great idea of your skill compared to your peers.   I *THINK* this link will register you with Strava and pre-add me as your buddy.  Makes it easier to find people to follow etc. 

That's all for now, I'm going to try to keep updates coming but in lieu of that, keep an eye on my Strava rides on the right :)