Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One by Nine

This is just a short blurb to show my handy work from the summer when I converted my bike to a 1 x 9 setup. I had been thinking about it for a while and I had a worn out drive train and XT chainrings are expensive so it was the perfect opportunity.

The setup is based on an e-13 / mrp BB mount type with a guide like I saw on the Specialized website. It has a plate that clamps between the out board bearing cup of the bottom bracket and the bottom bracket shell of the frame. It allows for vertical adjustment of the actual guide to accommodate different size chainrings and a couple spacers to allow for different offsets of the chain line depending on the model of ring. Right now I am using either a 32 or 34 tooth Salsa ring for MTB and a 36 tooth Black Spire for 'cross. The whole thing weighs around 45 gms and allowed me to drop at least a pound of derailleur, shifter, and cable off my bike and I swear it is slightly noticeable.

It functions like a dream and I have never dropped my chain once so this would now definitely be my preferred setup. It cleans up the bar and simplifies shifting while still providing all the gearing range I need for 99% of my riding.

I made the whole thing with only a hack saw, drill, files, and a router. Not bad I dare say. I like to imagine what I could do with a milling machine. Actually I suppose I did use my lathe to get the spacers to an accurate size. Anyway there is not much I could think of changing other than to make it prettier and shorten the screws so they don't stick out the back so far.

The pictures below were taken at the end of my last bike race so there is a little mud but not too bad. The photos themselves are horrendously out of focus so I evidently need to learn how to manually focus my compact camera. The ground is in lovely sharp focus but the actual subject matter is at least 6 beers blurry. This was not identifiable on the camera's screen so I didn't realize when I took the shot. I will try to take another that looks better later.

One interesting thing to note about this setup is that now when I am on my road bike, I always forget to use my front shifter and regularly find myself cross chained from rings to cassette. This is of course not ideal but I imagine it is just an adjustment to ride two different ways.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Final MTB Event for 2011

The end of last week and the start of the weekend held a lot of precipitation for the Barrie area but Sunday dawned with some sun in the sky and a stout wind drying the trails.

It was the day for what would be the final competitive mountain bike event on the OCA calendar and it looked to be a good one. Despite a lousy sleep Saturday night due to wakeful children, I felt pretty awake myself once I got going. I left the house around 8:30am and the shot below shows the car loaded and heading up the road. Rechecking the straps on the bike rack afforded the opportunity for this shot as I don't typically stop on the side of the road to take pictures of the car.

When I got to Hardwood Hills it looked wet but drying, without any standing water in sight. I made my way up to the chalet and transition / start / finish area to see where I could stow my cooler with refreshments. The fall colours were looking good and there was lots of blue sky broken up with clouds being shredded in the the wind.

There was also a Specialized demo day on but my focus was on the race at hand instead of worrying about 29'ers and full suspension as earlier in the year.

While I was up there I was able to exchange the event shirt that I picked up with the race kit the day before. Apparently size small doesn't fit too well even if it IS in the pile that says 'large'. I headed back to the car with a good amount of time to prepare and got all the tire pressures sorted and adjusted the seat post and gears. These are a couple shots of the parking / pit area and the inside of my cooler with a bunch of pre-mixed bottles, 'food' and some emergency supplies - zip ties, 3-way, chain breaker, and a tube.

I got my cooler of stuff and a floor pump stashed just past the start / transition area so I could access it easily mid-race and did a bit of warm up just to make sure my shoes were adjusted and feeling good.

We lined up for the 10:00am start and then were off at a rather leisurely pace. 50 km is a long way to sort out the finishing order so there is no sense in tearing off the start and blowing up after 20 km or so. I took it really easy for the first course which is called 'Serious' and is about a 10 km loop with a bit of moderate climbing and no technical challenge. It is a fun track to race on and I passed when ever it was easy and didn't require any serious efforts. As I said there is a long way yet to go. The picture below was from the end of this lap as I ditched the arm warmers at the cooler before lap #2.

Next we were on to the trail called 'Radical' which is super challenging and technical for a race course. It is 15 km of short, steep ups and downs which are littered with slippery roots punctuated with deep erosion holes. It is very hard to carry any momentum and within the first 800m your heart is pounding. Remembering how I blew up on this trail last year in this event, I made a conscious effort to pace myself and save my legs as I knew it would matter later on in the race. I caught and passed a few people including one guy who fell at least three times while I was behind him. He was all over the place and while he was fit enough, his skills made him look like it was his first time on a mountain bike. The funny thing is how long it took me to go around him, as most of the time the trail was so constricted it was easier for me to dismount and run up behind him than try to ride some of the climbs. Anyway towards the end, he wiped out again and I jumped off my bike to save myself. I felt that familiar vice tighten on my one hamstring but it didn't result in a lasting cramp so that was good. I realized he was a serious detriment to my progress and passed by in a rare open bit and made it stick with a short effort. As I got to the end of that trail it was nice to realize that the hardest terrain and half the total distance were behind me.

Next we did a super easy trail called 'Cranked'. It is 8 km of flowing single track that people often ride on cross bikes. There is nothing hard or technical but it is amazing how the previous two trails can make it feel like there is. This course is pretty much just recovery and on my way through the transition I restocked my gels and bottle. This trail passed with out incident and it was interesting to note how few people I was seeing at this point. Right near the end another rider caught me and we finished the lap together. Here is a shot from near the end of the loop going down a fun little roller before the finish straight.

Onto the second last lap on the trail called 'Gnarly', and yes I pronounce that with an accentuated, hard 'G'. The course is 12 km with only a few modestly technical sections but some really extended climbing (for Hardwood anyway). I was feeling recovered a bit but this is where you learn how well you paced yourself on the previous challenging terrain. It can all go wrong quickly as I learned last year while spending numerous occasions at the side of the trail waiting for my legs to uncramp. I rode with that other guy for the first two thirds of the loop until I left him on a couple of the climbs. I think he was hurting worse than I now was but so far the legs were still working and I continued to try to stay out of the red. One other rider passed both of us but I was able to keep him mostly in sight towards the end of the lap.

One last one to go called 'Fun'. It is a short 5 km that is single track for sure but you might get through on a road bike on a dry day. Super fast when you are fresh and a fun trail to try to ride without using your brakes unless absolutely necessary. Despite the easy nature of the loop it can feel pretty deadly at the end of a 50 km race as I found out last year. This year I was feeling better so I tried to push the pace up the long gradual climb at the start. After a while I felt that adductor thing start to tighten so I backed off a bit. About this time the guy who had passed me previously and who I was now catching literally dove off his bike with a howl and landed bent over with his legs spread and his feet about 5 ft apart. As I got close I asked if he was okay and he just said "Cramping .... so much fun". He was okay so I carried on for the rest of the lap alone and put in a pretty good effort to finish it off. This is a shot right at the end of the lap in the same spot as the previous photo.

I ended up finishing one and a half minutes slower than last year but I actually did better as the conditions were a lot more challenging. My time was about 3 hours 35 minutes and I finished with 80 % of the leaders speed which was up from 77% last year. That put me at 17th of 51 starters in my age category. It was a decent race overall although I have felt sort of fat and slow this fall which may have something to do with no races for a 2 month stretch through the summer. Here is a shot of the finish area in front of the chalet. You can see the wind blowing the covers on the speakers in the foreground.

Here is one last shot showing how nice a day it turned out to be with some blue sky and that amazing clarity you sometimes get when there is not even a hint of haze. It is like you can see a new horizon when you stand somewhere high and the distances seem closer and clearer.

So that is it for MTB races and with only a hand full of 'cross engagements left it may be time to start thinking about skiing - (shiver).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hill Billy Photos

Here are a few photos I have scavenged off websites. It looks like I was riding in the name of Johnny Cash for the poor and down trodden. This photo is at the top of the first climb when I was near the back of the pack off the start.

The second is over the barriers during one of the first two laps, as on the third I nearly took out the course tape in a wild dismount and lift that almost went completely wrong.

This last one is on my way out of the tunnel on the last lap 'on the attack'. I actually kind of like this photo as usually photos of me show an exhausted, dragging cyclist who has their tongue lolling out while they gasp for breath.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let's See a Little Hustle Out There!!

Sunday October 2nd saw the day dawn damp and overcast which couldn't be better unless it had been pouring rain or even snowing like at this event last year.

I mounted up with the hard tail in 'cross trim and set out to Duntroon with a leisurely preparation period planned before the 10 am start time for my race. After picking up my numbers at the OCA table I meandered over to the Registration line and waited my turn. As I gave my name and number and held out my credit card the lady said something to the effect of "Cash only." I didn't really register until she had said it at least once more and then could only muster a "Really?" as I was totally dumbfounded at the lack of technology. Even in the backwoods of an O-Cup in Buck Wallow, Gravenhurst you can register with one of those manual credit card imprinters from days of yore. I then asked if they had a bank machine around and she looks both left and right before saying "I don't see one."

This sort of sucked as I figured my day was done. However, Jodi and the kids were coming to watch the race so I couldn't just leave. I decided to drive back towards Stayner (10 min's.) where I could catch Jodi as she was coming to the race. Then, while at top speed for a '06 Toyota Matrix, I decided that there was a slim chance of actually grabbing some cash at the convenience store in Stayner and still making it back before the rack started. The problem would be that if registration closed 30 min's before the race I was screwed. Anyway I blazed into the Mac's, grabbed $60 out of the machine beside some weirdo who was babbling to me about his Proline picks for the upcoming week, and launched back towards Highlands Nordic up on the escarpment in the distance.

I rocketed back into the race site, jumped on my bike and got to the chalet. As I re approached the registration table the lady looked genuinely surprised and said "Where did you find a cash machine?". I tried to stay calm and just asked if there was still time to sign up and luckily I made it onto the start list.

Back at the car, I now had less than 20 min's to get dressed, eat a bit, check tire pressures and get over to the start line and try to scope out a bit of the course. Right then Jodi pulled up so I also helped dress Mason and get them on their way to the spectator area.

It was a bit of a disaster and I forgot to each a gel that I had out to maintain maximum horsepower for the duration of the race. Finally I made it to the line with about 2 minutes to spare and was pretty much starting from the back like usual.

Off the start I passed a number of people into the first climb and continued to make good headway through the first two laps. During the third I backed it off a bit when they announced three laps to go but didn't lose any places. Then in the fourth lap I started working a bit harder and went with whatever was left for the final lap. I nearly caught one more guy at the end of the last lap and I think that I should have been able to if I had started going hard sooner but in the end he beat me by just under 2 seconds. I ended up finishing 10th out of 28 starters which was ok given the pre race prep. but I would have liked to get a couple more spots. I think that the course there suits my riding strengths so hopefully next year I will have a 'cross bike and better preparation and I can do a bit better.

If I can find any photos I will post them but I don't have any myself due to the harried start and then leaving immediately after the race as the babies and Jodi were freezing. Seems a little soft I know, so I 'm not sure if I have managed to sire any 'cross addicts. One may always hope.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dukes Epic 8-Hour *Solo*

At the end of September was the Epic 8 Hour Relay mountain bike race which I raced last year with Chris and Katherine Ivey. It was really fun and since they couldn't do it this year, and I had yet to do a good annual hard man challenge, I decided to enter it solo. My goal was to complete nine or ten 10 km laps in the allotted time and finish inside the top half. This would be a good challenge as the categories are only age divided and not with regards to ability so there would be pro/elite guys racing in my category.

The run up to the race was a bit questionable since I experienced a bit of recurring knee pain the weekend prior. So my preparation in the preceding week was only a single one hour ride to rest my knee. This was not ideal but I decided it was worth entering and seeing what happened anyway.

The day before the race it was pouring rain but the forecast was for clearing on the Saturday and Hardwood hills handles water pretty well. I got there early in the morning and made my way to the solo pits which were right beside the race course. This was handy as I was totally self supported. Below is a picture of my pit spot and the second is of my cooler of drinks and bag of food right on the side of the course.

You can see the red matrix in the pit just the other side of the trees. This made for nice easy access during the race.

Once I was finished setting up I made my way over to the finish line area to get ready for the pre-race meeting. This is a shot of the final chicane leading into the dismount area where you tapped your chip to record laps.

This is a shot of the start line filling up. I wasn't in a hurry to line up and I started near the back on account of having lots of time (8 hours) ahead of me to make up for a slow paced start.

The race started out slow for me in cool weather. You can see my arm warmers in the picture below which I took off after the first lap. The conditions were wet and a bit sticky with slick roots and there were a lot of people falling all over the place while it was packed together in the first couple laps.

My initial laps where all in the 40 minute range including a couple minutes off the bike each lap to try to eat and drink what I could. The pace was nice and moderate and I made sure that I was not over extending on climbs. The course started drying and speeding up too which made it a bit more fun. Below are a couple pics showing the sun coming out and drying out the nice black single track.

I had completed 6 laps inside the first four hours and it occurred to me that there was the possibility if I pushed it I might be able to get another five in the second four hour chunk. This became my goal although it became much harder to ride into the fifth and sixth hour and a weird cramping adductor in my left leg became an issue. This last riding shot must be in one of the last couple laps. My leg was cramping pretty badly as I was riding past the photog and you can sort of see me pressing the saddle into my left inner thigh to try to release the cramp.

I ended up just making the final five laps that I wanted with six minutes to spare and was super happy as I don't think that I could have performed any better given my fitness and preparation. So I finished with eleven 10 km laps in eight hours which put me in 15th place out of 36 starters which also really pleased me. I am in awe of the guys that punched out 14 laps solo on the day to take the win. The top teams only did two more for a total of 16 so that is crazy to think that people could do 14 solo.

The sad note of the day was that one guy passed away on course. I went by while they were administering CPR and it did not look too promising. I'm glad I wasn't the first one on that scene and that the medics were already on site. It seems strange to think that you are just heading out for a fun day of racing and then never making it back home.

One thing that I found totally amazing was the support that everyone voiced to those of us riding solo. I have never experienced anything like the positive comments garnered from having one little extra race plate hanging under your seat. I took a picture of it below attached to my bike.

The whole thing was overall a great challenge and experience and I'm really glad I made the effort. I think that I may try to do more of those event type races rather than just the O-cups just to keep the racing experience fresh. At the very end of the day I even walked away with a draw prize pictured below.

Ontario Provincials @ Highlands Nordic Duntroon

I finally got back to another mountain bike race after about a two month summer hiatus on a fine Sunday Sept. 11. The day was beautiful, the course was brand new, and my expectations were non-existent as it was so long since I'd turned a pedal in anger. Here is a view of the start line which leads out and up the hill in the background.

The course started out with a smooth grassy double track climb with a few steeps punctuated with short flats to get a bit of juice back. Then it transitioned to mostly single track back down which in theory sounds like the perfect ingredients for a really fun race. I found however that the fresh cut trails were very tight with lots of off camber sections where my tire choice proved sorely inadequate. It wound back around the chalet and through a tunnel which should probably be a part of all courses.

My actual race was a little weak with lack lustre legs but that was no surprise since I hadn't raced in so long. My tires were not really holding grip anywhere and the course was such that knowing the single track was super important and I hadn't pre-ridden at all. In fact each subsequent lap was quicker by a couple minutes than the one previous. That never happens to me in a race but it was still a fun day and I was glad I made it out. I finished 13th out of 26 starters and that was fine since top half was my goal. It was a bit of a bummer in the last lap as I was passed by two competitors but my arms were completely shot so that I could barely hold myself up off the bars. This was a function of pretty technical singletrack and the fact that I rode the final lap with my fork lock out on after forgetting to take it off after the last lap double track climb. Anyway next year I will definitely try to pre ride and go with a much more aggressive tire. Below are a couple pics that I found online. The first shows some of the rocky singletrack and the second is where the photog conveniently caught me putting a foot down over some rocks where I probable lost ten seconds on the last lap right before the finish. I was trying to get my leg to not cramp as I remounted and another rider got right up behind me and passed me on the final climb across the line.

This last shot is of a cool little bridge that was built over an old rotted out car chassis. Those four greyish black lumps are the tires and as you rode over it, the bridge would dip as you activated what was left of the suspension of the car. It was kind of a neat little feature.

Anyway I think that I would like another go at that course now that I have an idea what to expect but it will have to wait until next year.