Monday, February 28, 2011

pancakes and dirt for breakfast

Earlier in the week I was afraid that this weekend was going to be a washout. With standing water in the yard earlier in the week I thought even if the rains subside by Friday the trails would be a mess. Fortunately the skies did clear by Friday morning and Melinda and I rounded up the dogs to scout out the mud factor. We were not surprised to find everything saturated. I hoped for a semi dry day by Saturday at Bays so I could at least get some riding in.

Saturday morning I got fueled up with pancakes at the ETSU cycling's fundraiser breakfast. Actually I gorged myself on a ridiculous amount of pancakes and enjoyed the company of some the crew.
Determined to ride, we made a plan to meet at Bays Mountain and I wasn't surprised when only two other hardy souls showed up. Eric, Sean and myself did our best to pedal up Azeala which at the time looked more like a river rather than a trail. If you ever want to know how not to build a trail, look no further. The only thing that kept Azeala from being any worse was it's sand based soil.
Once we trudged up through the flowing creek we finally came out onto dry land. The rest was a great ride, the single track was almost perfectly tacky. There was of course the usual mud holes that are located at the bottom of the fireroads but we're used to that. This is mountain biking and to me if you're a true mountain biker you ride all the time, not just when the trails are dry, the skies are blue and the birds are chirping. If you can't handle getting your bike dirty every once in a while maybe you should stick to the pavement or find another sport.

Thursday was Melinda's birthday and when I asked her what she wanted to do for the weekend her answer was, take me mountain biking. Although the weather was crap in the Tri-Cities a few of us snuck over the mountain to Asheville and were awarded near perfect weather and riding conditions. I'm a firm believer that you should get out and ride when you can, you never know what the conditions will be. We drove through an absolute downpour coming over the mountain only to find beautiful weather on the other side. Mother nature was smiling down on us Sunday.

Although I'll probably never own a downhill rig, I love seeing things like this pop up. Trek is obviously testing prototype 29" downhill bikes. I've always heard there will never be a 29er downhill bike. I say that's crap, I love it when the old school none believers are proved wrong.

Don't forget this weekend the IMBA Trail Care Crew will be rolling in town to put on a trail building workshop at Bays Mountain. I'm stoked about the opportunity although it has been alot of work on the officers at NTMBA. I think it's well worth the effort, there will never be enough trails.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Go Pro product review

About once a month or so I get a question about what camera do I use when filming outdoors, mostly on the bike. This week alone I was asked about it by 3 separate people two of whom are thinking seriously about making the purchase. Not everyone I talk to realized which camera I use. I decided maybe it's time for me to do a product review on the Go Pro, my camera of choice. I've only done one or two product reviews before and I tend to steer clear of them mainly because I don't enjoy getting all technical about things especially when I don't feel 100% confident that I know what I'm talking about. I don't know much about the mechanics of bikes, I can't describe why I like the way a bike rides, I can't talk about the different types of tire treads and I sure as heck can't tell you the pros and cons of suspension designs. So that's why I tend to steer clear of this subject.
I do know a little about the Go Pro cameras, mainly from trial and error in the 2+ years I've owned one. Actually I'm on my 3rd camera, I guess you could say I'm rough on them. Don't get me wrong they are tough little cameras but I really use them, in all conditions. I tear up our normal point and shoot cameras on almost a yearly basis.

So with that said here's what I know, like and dislike about the Go Pro.

First off I will start off with what I own. I don't have the HD version, mine is the standard wide lens version that uses 2 AAA batteries. I love the wide angle lens as it allows me to mount the camera in various positions where determining if the view will work or not isn't always an option. With the wide lens you almost always have a good shot because the lens can capture so much more area. I wish mine had the rechargeable Lithium Ion battery pack but having extra AAA's in my pocket on longer rides has been a plus on several occasions. I bought the energizer NiMH batteries with a charger from Wal-Mart and they work pretty good but tend to fade faster in the cold temps. I'm satisfied with the non HD version as I think about it this way. The HD version costs almost double the price for a little bit crisper image. I will probably buy an HD version sooner or later but I'll wait till the price drops a bit. I have 3 flat screen 1080 dpi TV's in my house but I refuse to pay the extra $10 per TV just so I can watch in HD. Call me crazy but I just don't feel it's worth the extra dough.

Ok back to the Go Pro cameras, what I will spend my $$$ on is accessories, I have almost all of them and I've even started browsing Go Pro user forums looking for ideas on how to make homemade mounts. The unlimited mounting positions of the Go Pro is what I really like about the camera. Why limit just mounting it to your helmet?

My camera came with several mounts when I bought it.

The headstrap which basically just goes on your head but for non-helmet activities. This one probably sees the least use. I'm trying to think of other activities to use it for but I'm having a hard time staying off the bike.

These mounts are basically adhesive mounts, some are curved, some are flat. I've really only used a couple. I've got one on my kayak and one on my truck. I should really use them more but I tend to forget about them.

This little guy is the helmet strap, it works really well and gives a cool perspective on the trail but like tools in my jersey pocket the extra weight on my head bugs me. I do have a new idea for this guy but I've yet to test it out but I will soon I promise.

This mount was the first one I bought that didn't come with my camera. It will mount to all kinds of stuff, handlebars, seatposts, chainstays with a little help, rigid forks, the roof racks on my truck etc. I've used this one a ton and I'm actually kinda burned out on it but it does work well. One note I did have to add a washer as a spacer to the mounting screw that attaches it to the camera to get it a little extra tight. The camera would not always stay in place when the trail turned rough.

This mount, the chest harness is probably one of my favorites. The point of view is awesome as long as you wear it tight and keep it positioned high on your chest. From this point of view you can see the trail, bike and rider movements. I've even mounted it backwards to film the rider behind me. The only bad part about this was I had to have someone else turn it off and on.

This mount will probably be my next purchase. It's very similar in design to the handlebar mount but in a much larger scale. The handle bar mount is limited in how big of diameter of object you can mount it too. This mount would allow me to put it on the downtube of my frame and who knows where else.

There are a ton of different things I could tell you about this camera that I like. It's tough, it's small, it's waterproof and it's simple to turn off and on when mounted to your helmet. I could go on and on but I did say I would tell you my dislikes as well. Other than the spacer I had to add to the attachment screw there is really only one other thing I can think of. The one bad fault I've found with the Go Pro is that they tend to lock up on occasion. The only way to remedy this is to remove the batteries and reboot the camera. My first one did this from time to time and finally quit working all together. It was over a year old and out of warranty but I talked to Go Pro and they hooked me up with a 20% off coupon on another. My second cam started doing the same thing within a couple of months and I sent it back, Go Pro sent me another free of charge within a week. I've had this camera for a few months now and it just started locking up on me again. I've yet to contact Go Pro about the issue and I may do so but I think I've figured out what is causing the problem. I think as the batteries start to fade or get old this is what causes the problem. My trip to Iron Mountain I began experiencing this problem after about 2 hours, I swapped out the batteries and the problem went away. I'm not 100% sure that was the cause but I'm hopeful. Even though this has been an issue Go Pro has excellent customer service. A year ago I snapped a mounting bracket off the waterproof housing during a race and Go Pro sent me a new one, no questions asked.

As far as software to edit my videos, I've been using the free version of MS movie maker that came with my computer. No fancy editing software is necessary but then again I'm no pro when it comes to making movies.

Oh wait I do have one other complaint, probably my biggest gripe of all but it's not with Go Pro, it's with my fellow Go Pro users who I know several. I can count at least 10 people I know personally that own Go Pro cameras some even have the HD version and other than Alan I have not ever seen one single video. This I don't understand, why buy a camera especially an HD camera if you never put it into video form and share. I've been told that I have set the bar too high but I call BS on that. I've seen a ton of videos online that make mine look like a chump. Looking back over my first videos they lacked sound (music), creativity and editing. Over time I learned what looked cool and what doesn't, it takes practice. I'm currently trying to learn that the longer the video is not always the better. Short and sweet Greg, short and sweet.

I hope that this was not too boring and maybe halfway informative for those who are thinking about taking the plunge. For those who could care less you've probably already stopped reading and moved on to something more entertaining, sorry.

If you've not seen them all my videos are posted to the right of my blog enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

taking the week off

I'm taking the week off this week, actually I'm just taking Tues through Friday off. I got out and rode Bays Mountain on Monday and later that afternoon when Melinda came home we hit Warrior's. She's really been on a roll lately wanting to ride Warrior's, something she wasn't really feeling last year so of course I went out and did a second ride just to see her get out and run a lap. I can tell she's already getting stronger and it's still early in the year. It should be impressive to see how far she takes it once she's off for the summer. Maybe I'll talk her into racing once this summer.
Anyway after Monday's 20+ miles on the dirt I was feeling a little toasty so I decided to take a couple days off and save my legs for this weekend. Saturday after we gorge ourselves at the ETSU Pancake breakfast we're heading over to the ETSU trails for a ride. If you've got nothing going on Saturday morning head over to Texas Roadhouse in Johnson City and from 8 - 10 you can eat all the pancakes you can stuff down your pie hole for a measly $5. The proceeds go to helping out the ETSU cycling team.
Sunday I'm taking Melinda riding for her birthday, probably back to Bent Creek in Asheville, it's one of her favorite places. I think she really wanting to hit the Tupelo Honey Cafe afterwards for some grub.

I've still yet to solve my tool carrying dilemma for this year. With all the races and trips coming up I need to do something soon. I think I'm done with trying seatbags. I've torn up countless bags and had all of them fail me in one form or another. I don't know why none of them have worked for me, I guess I'm just too hard on them.

I've been looking really hard at the Awesome Straps by Backcountry Research. I'm all about carrying as little as possible which is why I think this might work for me. I really hate carrying a bunch of stuff in my jersey pockets and unless it's a really long all day ride I'm not gonna carry a Camelbak. One thing I like about the Awesome Strap is that it will work anywhere on your frame not just the seatpost. That could come in handy with light batteries and maybe GoPro cameras and who knows what else.
The really cool thing about these straps is all the colors and designs they come in.

Who doesn't like cool colors and designs?

I might wait until these baby's come out before I order anything. I kinda like this idea of mounting everything under my seat. The only thing that worries me about the strap idea is how well do they work without a tube in there? I don't normally carry a tube anymore, maybe I should but like I said I hate to carry much. Normally on a short ride under 10 miles I'll only take water, no tools, maybe a small pump but that's it.
If your not busy on Friday afternoon tune into WCYB's noon news show. Fat Tony and I will be on promoting the IMBA Trail Care Crew workshop that NTMBA is putting on at Bay's Mountain March the 5th. Get all the details and register here. You don't have to be a mountain biker to benefit from this workshop. We all use trails at one point in our life so why not give a little back. There are never enough trails whether your a hiker, biker or trail runner. Trails rock and they don't build themselves.

Friday, February 18, 2011

3rd time is a charm

I tried twice before to put a road trip together to Wilkesboro, NC to hit the Warrior Creek trails and the first two times the plans fell through for various reasons but yesterday all the stars finally aligned. I guess good things come to those who wait. The crew, 8 large descended on Wilkesboro yesterday morning and the weather couldn't have been better. It wasn't hot or cold, the trails were dry and hardpacked. The pace was a bit fast all day but it just couldn't be helped as good as it felt. At Warrior Creek the faster you ride the more fun the course is so it's hard to hold back and save gas for later in the day.
Fat Tony and his older bro Keith rolled over to my house early yesterday morning and we blew outta town as fast as we could to meet up with the rest of the crew. Our plan was to ride the Warrior Creek trails and in the back of my head I was hoping we would have time to squeeze in a run on the OVT to get in some extra miles.
Over the past few weeks I've been riding the JET9 but my last run at Warrior's Path it had me worried. My chain line is a bit off causing derailleur issues that have been plaguing me for a while. I decided too give it a rest until I had time to remedy the situation. I called upon the trusty AIR9 which would be better suited for the fast and flowing Warrior Creek trails. Riding the AIR9 yesterday reminded me how fast that bike is, it felt like an absolute rocket ship. If only I would have had a little more gas in the tank to keep up my end of the bargain. After mile 20 or so my legs were starting to feel the effects of the pace we had been keeping. It also let me know how much riding I need to do in order to be prepared for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek.
After we finished the Warrior Creek trails a couple of the guys decided they were done for the day and volunteered to drop us off at one end of the O.V.T. and meet us at the other end for pick up. We knocked out another 7+ miles before calling it a day.
Once everyone rolled in and loaded up we headed back towards Boone for some Black Cat Burrito action. Definitely a good way to end the ride.

If you've never ventured over to the Warrior Creek trails I suggest you do so. If you conquer that, hit the O.V.T. or the Dark Mountain Trails, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

I sensed a bit of nervousness the other day in my readings, it appears as if more and more folks are riding and building 29ers. I wonder what the ratio of carbon 26ers vs. 29ers coming out of China is? Actually the 26" numbers might be starting to fall as more and more people make the switch. Pretty soon a 26" wheeled bike will be in the same category as cantilever brakes or a purple anodized handlebar with matching bar ends, "the older guys who can't let go club".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

all week long son

Quick post today, I felt like I've been slacking but the weather is perfect, well for Febuary anyway and there is just too much riding to be done for me to be wasting my time sitting at my computer.
So Alan has been talking up this whole Bikeapalooza thing for a couple of days and it caught my attention. I kept waiting for an annoucement of a big road trip with multiple trailhead stops and rides of epic preportions. I checked his blog once I saw the post and went in search of a big trip post but all I saw was a few miles at our local trail system and a road ride. I was kinda let down when I saw this but I guess two rides in one weekend in Feburary, one being on the road is pretty nice considering it is still technically winter. Then I re-read the title and it was Bike Palooza not Bikeapalooza so I guess there is a difference.

Anyway in the spirit of Bike Palooza I am going to head out to the trails and ride today. My own little Bike Palooza has been in full effect all weekend despite being on graveyard. Saturady I was able to catch up with the crew at Warriors and get in some dirt miles and Sunday, Melinda and I had the first part of our Valentine's Day date with brunch followed by a ride at Bay's mtn.

Wednesday, Melinda and I are heading to Asheville NC for the 2nd half of our Valentine's Day date/ride and hit some singletrack followed by a nice dinner.

Thurday, the daytrips continue with Fat Tony, Andy "I'll punch you in your freakin' face" Mullins and a few other fellow crazies as we head off to Wilkesboro NC for a little Warrior Creek action.

Bike Palooza or Bikeapoolza, whatever you want to call it, there will be some riding going down that's for sure. So much riding that I almost feel bad for the other cats in this mileage contest as no skinny tires will be involved.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

do I take the red pill or the blue one?

There's a whole lot of planning going on, mainly in my head. Alot of it will probably never actually happen mostly because all the things I want to do greatly out weigh the time in which I have to do them. If only I didn't have to work for a living. Then again if I was handed everything I would probably be a lazy turd, isn't that how it usually works?

I was just looking over my schedule this afternoon and I realized that we do not have a free weekend between now and sometime late in April. I'm surprise at how fast our calendar filled up but I'm also glad that other than work it's all fun stuff and camping trips. I can remember when Melinda and I first got married, before we became heavily involved in the local mountain bike scene and how there were weekends where we would sit around trying to think of something fun to do because we were bored. To think back on those days seems odd, I guess that's why the days of watching entire NASCAR races on a Sunday afternoon are long gone. Now I can't imagine sitting on the couch all day watching TV when the sun is shining and there is so much fun to be had outdoors.

The other day Alan and Anthony made the trip up to Hungry Mother State Park to aid in the return of the Night Owl race. It almost slipped through the cracks this year and didn't happen at but but luckily the park agreed to give it another shot. Last year was it's first year and while the park is not new to putting on races they don't really seem to grasp what it takes to really draw a crowd. To me a good race doesn't have to have great prizes as long as the entry fee is low and the Night Owl definitely has got that going for them. Probably the most important thing for me personally is the people who are going. I race to have fun and that's all, if our friends aren't there with us then there is no sense in racing. Last year we had a huge crew show up for the Night Owl, in fact I was friends with 3/4 or more of the field in all categories. The only thing that hurt the Night Owl in my opinion was the race course, it was short and consisted of mostly doubletrack.
I had plans to return this year just because I enjoyed the time we had there last year and I like supporting the "little guy" events.

This year there is a dilemma, GRT Racing has somewhat of a plan in attempting to race in the TN Cup series. Those dates have been on my calendar in the "I hope to do these section" for a while. Last night the powers that be decided on a date for the Night Owl and as my luck would have it these two conflict each other.

Last year I ran into this same dilemma with the Night Owl and the 12 Hours of Tsali. Although I wanted to race Tsali it really was a no brainer, do the Night Owl. This year it's different, the plans to race the TN Cup were already being put in place, it's also a small local promoter and while the entry fee is bigger, the swag and after party benefits are better than most races I've been to. The big thing that's drawing me toward the TN Cup is the race courses, all singletrack.

Tomorrow I plan to ride the trails with some of the GRT crew so hopefully we can discuss the details and maybe come to some sort of a conclusion or at least bounce a few pros and cons off each other. If nothing else we'll at least get to ride trails, well everyone except Chris who for some reason is planning on doing laps around the parking lot. For some reason he thinks he can win the mileage contest that way. Mileage contest? I'll tell that story another time, it's generating some really good smack talk and I think Alan is close to tears already.

Just kidding Alan, see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

lucky you

Today I had to cancel my day trip ride plans, sucks for me but good for you, that is if you enjoy reading this blog. Semi sketchy weather, sick kids and tire issues forced all of my compadres to bail on me over the course of the last 12 hours so I instead of riding I will take this time to blog a bit. Fear not the ride will happened, not today but Thursday.

Slowly but surely my riding has started to pick back up. Not all of the trails are ready to roll on but the temps have risen a bit and the snow has stopped for the time being. It is still winter but I'll take it.
Saturday, Fat Tony put a ride on Iron Mtn together and luckily I was able to make this one. It's been a couple of years since my last ride on Iron so I was really pumped. I called on the JET9 for this trip as Iron is not a well groomed trail. It's a back country trail that doesn't see regular maintenance. Baby head rocks, downed trees, steep ups and downs, creek crossings and unpredictable weather are all part of a ride on Iron.
We shuttled up to Skulls Gap with the intention of riding somewhere around 20+ miles. Our first couple of miles were a very icy fireroad. After realizing we were going to be walking very slowly up the 2 miles of fireroad rather than riding we opted to cut a 5 mile section out and skip straight over to the Iron Mtn trail.
I was really surprised at the large crew that we had in tow, several newbies to Iron Mtn, were in attendance and I think once the trail pointed downhill they were hooked. Surprisingly the ride went mechanical free until the last mile when Fat Tony sliced the sidewall of a brand new tire. No matter what he tried the Stan's juice was just not up to the task of sealing this one forcing him to walk it out. I'd hate to think what he would have had to do had it been early on in the ride. For some odd reason I'm not sure we packed any tubes.

Since the War Party 10k run, the back of my knee has been bothering me a bit. It's been tight and the first couple of days it was swollen so I've not been running since. Thankfully it doesn't effect my riding or I might have gone off the deep end. Not really worrying much about personal records on runs I felt like the War Party 10k was a good run for me. I finished around the 55 minute mark and I felt surprisingly good. I'll probably give my knee a rest for another week or so before I try hitting the pavement again. Until then I guess I will have to suffer through riding my bike. Whoa is me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Iron Mountain - the video

Yeah I know is been a while since I posted something but you know what, I ain't gonna apologize for that. You see it's not that I haven't had anything cool to write about or that I've been taking kids to soccer practice, nope. I've been out doing stuff that makes for good videos. So crank up the volume and check this out.

I would love to tell you some funny stories about that ride on Iron Mountain but I've got a date with my AIR9 on Bays Mountain so maybe another time.

See ya