Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the cold, dark trail

Wow the winter season hit us quick, hopefully it's just a short blast and things will warm back up a bit once Sandy hits the road, at least that's what weather.com is telling me. I've never been a fan of the cold weather, my fingers & toes just can't stay warm enough, I think it's a circulation problem. I've got some of the warmest winter riding gloves, shoes & socks but sometimes I feel like I'm riding in flip flops. Nothing can ruin a ride more quickly for me than stinging fingers and toes on the bike.
With the daylight saving time change coming up next weekend, the night riding season will be in full swing as well. I thought we were ready for it with 3 separate lighting systems in the bike room but after Melinda and I both suffered dead batteries after maybe an hour of riding I quickly realized it's time to get rid of the cheap Chinese Magicshines.
Unfortunately we weren't the only ones who ran outta juice, 2 others with aging Niterider HID's walked out in the dark as well. What's bad is, our batteries were brand new with only a couple of rides on them. I sent off for the new batteries when Geoman had its recall and got 2 fresh new batteries which should have latest longer but these were worse than the ones that got recalled. Now with Geoman out of business I've got no other choice but to look elsewhere.
Over the last couple of years I've pretty much bought everything I could local and now I think it's time to do the same with my lights. I can understand buying something online if it can be bought locally but driving an hour and a half to buy at a big box store? I don't care what their return policy is, I would rather support my local guys, and it’s the right thing to do. When I bought the Magicshine's, they were selling LED's for under $100 when everyone else was $200-$300. Back then the LED market was just getting started and I couldn't bring myself to plunk down $600 just so Melinda and I could do the occasional night ride. Now things have changed, technology has gotten better and the prices have come down.
I've wanted to get away from lighting systems with a wire running down my back to the battery for a while but just couldn't justify it with 3 separate systems. Now the time has come to take the leap into the all in one unit LED's, that are all the rage right now. The technology is there and they just keep getting brighter & better.
Do the research though, I've been looking at 3 or 4 different models and it's the little details that make all the difference, like being able to swap batteries on the trail in the dark tool free. That right there is one factor that will decide which light I buy.
I'm not a huge night rider, with my shift schedule I'm able to ride during the day much more than most but there are times when everyone is doing a big night ride and I don't want to miss out on all the fun. I doubt I'll see any night racing anytime soon, I've pretty much been off the racing grid this year and the urge to pay $$$ and finish mid pack just hasn't been there this year. As far as training goes, I just can't bring myself to take the chance and ruin something I love to do. I would love to be fast and atop the podium but racing and training usually leads to missing out on the great things about mountain biking for me. Stopping and enjoying the scenery, pulling a can of craft brew outta my pack at the top of the mountain and toasting my buddies or spending weekends traveling to race venues I've already been to when I could be camping, and exploring new trails with Melinda and friends. Don't get me wrong racing can be fun and still is for me every once in a while but for now I'm just enjoying the ride.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

playing catch up

Long time no bloggy bloggy, slacking as usual, I just haven't felt the urge to spend time blogging. Call it a bust schedule, call it the need to get stuff done or spend time outside with this awesome weather we've been having, I don't know. This post is basically a photo dump with a bit of narration. Alot has been happening, winding down the camping season, the pup is growing like a freaking weed and rides galore.

A couple of week ago we hit Tsali for the weekend, the last group ride in the club schedule. It was a small affair, with a ton of other stuff going on in our region that's cycling related I wasn't surprised in the turnout. Some say "you shouldn't conflict" but really there is no way not to. I look at it as having several options for riding or racing every weekend is a good thing. Some folks I know would kill to have a busy cycling calendar in their area.

Sometimes a "smaller group" ride can be a blessing as coordinating everyone and trying to keep all the different ability levels happy can be tough. I think we do a pretty damn good job with what we have, we never really hear any complaints, mostly compliments.

Tsali couldn't have been better, the leaves were changing and the air was crisp and cool, a perfect couple of days for riding the trails.

Not really one of the more technically challenging places to ride but definitely a fun and relaxing ride, something most everyone can enjoy. We rode alot, drank a few beverages around the campfire at night and had a ton of fun. It was Ocho's 2nd camping trip and he's fitting in perfectly. I'm thinking he's going to make an excellent camping and trail dog, it's like he was made for it. He and Moonshine are like two peas in a pod, they get along like best friends and seem to have alot in common.

On the home front, I've been working at a more rounded roll in the cycling community. Not just in the events we do but our involvement with the local parks and land managers. Joe and I have managed to make our way onto the Board at Bays Mountain. I'll not deny our intentions are mountain bike trail related but it's been interesting to learn the other side of the park and it's needs.

Our second meeting of the year was held on the park's barge, we cruised around the lake and pulled into one of the coves while we enjoyed a catered dinner and discussed that month's agenda.

On one side of the cove was a huge beaver dam, roughly the size of a mid-sized car.

This Thursday a plan was laid down to do a bit of exploring in the local National forest on some old trails in Laurel Bloomery. Forgive me if a butcher some of the details as I was unfamiliar with the area and the proper names. I wasn't even 100% sure what state we were actually in during most of the ride. It had been years since our guide Rob had ridden these trails so before we even mounted up he stated we couldn't blame him if the ride sucked. Right off the bat the trail went up, up a steep rocky as hell, old jeep road that kept up from maintaining a decent pace. 

Basically if you got stopped which we all did, alot, getting back going was sometimes a feat in it's own. The trail was a momentum killer with enough rocks to make Boone's new trail, Rocky Knob look smooth. Cover that with a bunch of dead leaves and we were better off doing the hike-a-bike for the first mile and a half. Once we reached the top we came to a fork in the road and a gate with several "No Trespassing" signs.


Unsure as to which way to go we looked around and before we came to a decision, an SUV came down the road and through one of the gates. When they stopped we inquired about the area only to find out we were indeed no longer on national forest land but private property. The guy we were talking to ended up being the owner and a cocky one at that. Basically he told us our only option was to go back the way we came. Frustrated we hung out a bit while he drove off, as we sat there and discussed our options we noticed the owner didn't continue down the mountain but was waiting around the corner to make sure we left. Eventually he turned around and came back through, three times he did this trying to wait us out so we decided to just sit down and have a snack until he got tired of wasting his gas. After a few pass through he finally gave up on us and we continued on our now illegal ride.

The last time Rob had ridden here it was public land but now private and from the looks of the owner and his fancy clothes and cocky demeanor, we were looking at the future site of a mountain top golf course or swanky high end community.

We opted to make the most of our ride and a few wrong turns here and there we finally found our way back onto public land without going back the way we came.

Some of the view we saw were absolutely beautiful, unfortunately not everyone is welcome to share them. One day no doubt this will be someones front yard or the 18th hole, sad.

Once back onto legal trails we were treated to more hike-a-bike. Some required some bike shouldering that would have made any cyclocross race course look like a kids playground.

Some of the names of the ride aprticipants have been changed as most were supposed to be at home sick in bed instead of riding their bikes. Thank goodness for sick days, I'm a firm believer in using them.

After some ridiculous mountain b-hiking, we came across a double waterfall that made it all worth it.

Some frosty beverages were consumed trail/creek side as we took in the beauty of our surroundings. All the new canned craft beers were made for packing it in on a good back country ride. I can think of a better place to enjoy a good oat soda, not everything good comes in a bottle anymore.

As we cruised back down the other side of the mountain we must have crossed this stream 10-15 times, most of which were not rideable.

As hard as we tried to keep our feet dry, it was inevitable that we were going to get wet. By the time we reached the truck not a single one of us had a dry sock or shoe but we all had a blast.

Trail building opportunities have not been a problem in our area in the last few years, especially at Bays Mountain but trails signs have been. At Bays, so far the park has been the ones who have constructed all of the signs and as can be expected they're a little slow at getting them out there. A few trails in the park are lacking signs including our new trail Chestnut. About a year ago a group of boy scouts made a few, much needed signs mainly near the top and the backside of the park where people were getting lost. Unfortunately some a-hole who I'm sure is an anti-mountain biker pulled up our sign for the top of Bear Run and hid it. It had only been in place a couple of months when it disappeared. We suspected it hadn't gone too far due to it's hefty weight but no matter how much we looked we couldn't find it. Finally after a about a year it was located buried in the woods about 30 yards from it's original location. The fact that it was buried is proof someone is not happy with mountain bikers and the new trails we're building at the park.

In an effort to discourage anymore disappearances I replanted the sign with a bunch of concrete and rocks. It's sad that some folks will go that far to discourage us from using the park. The irony is that while these folks don't like our presence they do use the trails we build on a regular basis.

I'm not going to promise that I'll try to get back into the swing of blogging because I've just not felt the urge to spend the time. Hopefully that will change especially with all the cool events coming up on our calendar. Trail building season is upon us!

Friday, October 5, 2012

I finally got around to editing the footage from the Porcupine Rim trail, it took a while but that concludes all of my Utah/Colorado footage from this spring. I filmed every trail I rode with the exception of one, (dead battery) and produced a video for each one. It took a while but it was worth it for me. Watching the videos always brings back great memories of the ride and the things I'd forgotten.

There was a ton of footage that I edited out or, 26 miles down into just over 10 minutes doesn't leave room for much. It was an awesome ride, easily one of my favorites. I think I've said that a hundred times.

I'd hoped to have the JET back by this weekend with some new, much needed upgrades but it's not gonna happen. I'm really looking forward to giving it a test run to see how the Shadow Plus derailleur will work, I've heard good things. With a hectic work schedule next week it will be next weekend before I get to ride it. Thank goodness I'm a 2 bike kinda guy or I'd be sitting watching everyone else ride this weekend. I'm due for a good ride on the FROG.

As long as everything goes as planned I'll be testing out thee JET next weekend at Tsali, our last official camping trip of the season, in the ECO. There will be one more camping trip at the Knoxville Fall Festival. We've decided to truck camp this year vs. getting a hotel which makes things more fun and safer considering all the festivities going on late into the night. Last year we left earlier than we wanted, missing out on alot of late night mischievousness, 2 more bands and who knows what else. The truck camping was Melinda's idea surprisingly, I thought the ECO had spoiled her but I guess not so I'm jumping at the chance and running with it. We've never actually slept in the back of my truck, especially with 2 dogs all up in our business. I'll totally have to get back in there and do a good scrubbing. My truck bed has pretty much been a dog house on wheels since we bought it back in 2007. It gets hosed out about once or twice a year but it's never been scrubbed and I guess it's due.
This could be interesting.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

blah, blah, blah, blah

I wished I had a good video to share or an interesting story from a great ride this weekend but I don't. I spent most of my weekend at work and since it's pouring down the rain today it doesn't look good for a ride now either, maybe tomorrow.
Another great STC event in the book this weekend, with our annual Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day. Even though I missed the event due to work, I was living vicariously through my smarter than me iPhone. I requested pictures to be taken from those who did attend and soon enough my phone was being flooded with text messages full of photos of kids riding the trails. I did my part as best I could and began flooding the Facebox with the images. Despite the rainy start to the day we still had a good turnout, especially from all our great volunteers who made the event a success. Thanks everyone!

The two paragraphs above were written on Monday, I lost track on my topic or lack there of and gave up hoping I would come back and finish it later. It's now Tuesday and I'm still struggling. It's still raining and it looks as if I'll chock this day up as another no-ride day. I did some weight training yesterday but had to cut it short due to some back pain issues I've had recently. I would like to go for a run but that wouldn't help things either. I'm definitely stuck in a rut and I can't get out until the pain issue resolves. Since I injured my back a couple of years ago I've never been 100%, I don't know if I ever will but I definitely know it's time to start trying something new. What that is I'm not 100% sure yet but I'm working on it.
Speaking of aggravating issues, my bike is once again in the shop with chain drop issues. The JET that is, the one with the front derailleur. I've had it looked at a couple times and each time the problem is resolved temporarily but it usually comes back sooner or later. I've been running the 2x10 system for a while now and there are things I like about it but there are things I hate about it. Mostly the thing I hate is the lack of the ability to run a bash guard. The lower links on the JET won't allow the room for a taco style bash guard so I'm stuck bashing my $80 chainrings on rocks until I can get a different crank setup. My solution for the chain dropping issue? I going with the new shadow plus rear derailuer, I'm pretty sure this will help but only time will tell. Maybe in a couple of years when the new 1x11 system trickles down into the more affordable range for those of us folks who don't have a money tree in their back yard I try that avenue.
There is another upgrade coming to the JET but I'm gonna wait until I get the it back before I begin discussing that.

Yesterday I took Ocho in for his last round of puppy shots and his rabies vaccination. All the shots he got left him feeling a bit under the weather and he pretty much just laid around the house sleeping on and off yesterday. Now feeling much better and well rested, he's a fireball of energy all morning. I just caught him chewing a hole in Melinda's prized rug we just brought back into the living room. We had rolled it up when Ocho first came home with us not wanting it to get ruined while we house broke him but I guess it as too early. The pretty colors must have been too enticing for him to resist.
One more thing before I go, this weekend the 3rd Annual SORBA Tri-Cities Poker Ride will take place at Bays Mountain. It's our annual fundraiser for our trailbuilding program. It's a great ride that's all about fun and raising awareness for our trails. Come join us in the fun this Saturday, the ride begins at 10:00 at the picnic shelters so you'll want to arrive a few minutes early to get ready.
Coming soon, the Porcupine Rim video.........