Devil on the Divide 22k

Wait, what?

A long time ago, I started my endurance racing life as a trail runner. I raced a handful of 50ks and trail marathons in Arkansas before my trail running friends (the Warthogs in Memphis) took me out on a bike one summer and I gradually left the sport of running for road racing. I still have a love for trail running, though.

So, when I started having a 45-60 minute one-way commute every day, I found that running is a good way to get in a quick workout prior to leaving the house for the day. I’ve been running around 3 miles 1-2x per week, depending on whether or not I’ve got a cross country race on the weekend.

You may remember a while back, I went on a hike-a-bike adventure with Jake. Look at the map so the rest of this makes sense:

bard

https://www.strava.com/activities/651266584

We traversed the Bard Creek Trail, which he’d seen on a website for a 50k running race called Devil on the Divide. He wanted to recon the trail as a way to “close the loop” for a popular mountain bike ride up Jones Pass to the Continental Divide Trail and Herman Gulch, which, if you close said loop using the road, looks like this:

jones

https://www.strava.com/activities/699535569

The 50k Devil on the Divide makes the loop on trails. Though, as Jake and I discovered, not very ride-able trails. Since the day he told me about the trail race, I was itching to do the 22k version of it, which is a point-to-point of the above map from the start/finish marker to the trailhead by I-70. However, with my lack of running volume, I’d sort of written it off.

Then, exactly one week ago today, I went and ran the Mount Falcon trail. The loop I made was probably somewhere close to four miles- almost two miles up, and almost two miles down. It felt awesome. So, I went home and entered the Devil on the Divide 22k.

Let me interject here some reasoning to make this sound less insane- I know that normally a 4 mile “long run” is not usually considered sufficient to do a half marathon on such extreme terrain. However, it did let me know that the previous overuse injuries I’ve been trying to avoid re-irritating were not going to be an issue in a half marathon. Also, this isn’t my first rodeo. I know how to dress, pace, and feed myself for such an effort. The rest of it is just putting my bike fitness and stubbornness to good use.

Friday morning before the race, I’d had to take little 16-year-old Indy to the vet because he had terrible diarrhea and vomiting the day/night before. He had to get some fluids and anti-vomiting drugs, and I almost decided not to go to the race because I was so worried about him. However, he slept most of the day and seemed a little better. So, Matt agreed to watch after him until I returned home on Saturday.

The race start was so early that I didn’t want to make the drive Saturday morning. Friday night after work, I loaded up the car and drove up to Empire to camp out at the race HQ area. It was cold up there. The Weather Channel had predicted an overnight low of 37, but my tent was covered in a thick layer of frost when I got up in the morning. I made some coffee, picked up my race packet, and changed in to my running clothes with a few extra layers to take off after the shuttle to the start area at Henderson Mine.

The 22k had a single aid station at the top of Jones Pass road- about a 4 mile climb. The remainder of the course was about 2 more miles rolling uphill on the CDT before turning downward towards the Herman Gulch trailhead. My fueling strategy was simple- I had a 16oz handheld water bottle and a gel flask full of Gu Roctane in the pocket of my tights. I carried a windbreaker in the pocket of the water bottle harness. I figured that the 16oz was enough to get me up to Aid #1, about a 1-1.25 hours (contrary to what a man at the start line thought when he looked at me and asked, “what do you think this is, a 5k fun run?”). Then another 16oz would get me up the CDT, and I wouldn’t have much opportunity to drink after that other than the brief uphill punches on the way down.

When the race started, I didn’t really pay attention to the other women around me. I had no idea if there was a method to the bib numbers to determine who was a 50k runner and who was a 22k runner. As I alternated running and fast walking (on the steep sections), I knew that I was pretty far up in the group, and passed a couple of ladies as I made my way up. I finished the last of my water just as I rounded the last switchback to the aid station. There, I refilled and struck out on the CDT. I passed another lady right there… again, not knowing if she was 50k or 22k.

Running the CDT is an amazing experience. I kept up my strategy of running/hiking depending on the grade. The lady I’d passed at the aid station was staying close until I went all mountain goat through a scree field. I don’t know if she had some sort of issue or just went slower than I had, but when I looked back at the high point of the trail soon after, she was a loooooong way back.

I started my way down to Herman Gulch. There was one out-and-back spur to Herman Lake about halfway down. It gave me the opportunity to see anyone ahead of me as well as anyone close behind me. It was on the out-and-back that I really started to feel some pain in my legs from my efforts. At the turn-around, the man punching bibs let me know that I was the 3rd woman he’d seen. I asked if he knew if the other two women ahead of me were 22k runners, and he had no idea. When I saw the woman I’d passed at Aid 1, she seemed close to catching me.

I knew it was almost all downhill (and very technical, even from a running standpoint) to the finish. I was hurting, but I managed to hold her off until I reached the 22k finish/50k Aid #2. The ladies at the finish area said I was the third woman overall. I was OK with that, considering the nature of my “preparation” for the race. The lady that I’d been holding off came through and ended up being a 50k competitor.

While I sat around, I couldn’t help but notice that there were no other 22k-looking women milling around as if they’d arrived ahead of me. There weren’t any on the shuttle bus back to Empire, either. I figured they’d just had a ride back that wasn’t the shuttle and already left. The crew was still working on results back in Empire, so I ate some post-race pasta and packed up the tent.

To my surprise, when they announced female and male overall 22k winners, they called my name. The other two women ahead of me were 50k runners. Hot Damn. I got a finisher mug, a bell, and a $110 gift card for Chaco sandals.

prizes

I’m hurting pretty badly today from the miles of downhill running, but all-in-all, I don’t feel terrible. Last night I had a little aching in my posterior tibial tendon, but nothing like the pain I felt there last time I tried to run and foolishly increased volume too quickly and nearly put myself on crutches. Otherwise, it’s just the joint and muscle pain one would expect to feel if one took a somewhat unconditioned body through such an ordeal.

My shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) were not so lucky. The tread on them was previously a bit low from their brief use in Memphis and as occasional work shoes, but after a couple of times on the trail here in Colorado, the aging tread now has chunks torn out of it like a well-used mountain bike tire. A new pair isn’t in my budget right this second, so I’ll likely keep them around for a while. I have a pair of Altra’s Olympus model that I use for road running, which is currently 99% of my runs right now. They’re the only brand of shoe that don’t give me blisters and that don’t make me feel like I need to constantly loosen my shoes as I’m running.

shoes

Also, more importantly than all of this… Indy is feeling better. He hasn’t had any more vomiting since he saw the vet, and, with the tiny amounts of food and pepto bismol he’s eaten, he hasn’t had any obvious diarrhea. He has two more days of eating bland can food and anti-vomiting pills and hopefully he’ll be back to normal.

Dis-Organized Training

You may have noticed that my race report was absent following the previous Winter Park race weekend (way back on the 9th). I went to bed the night before with a slightly sore throat and woke up the next morning feeling like five pounds of shit in a 10-pound sack. I still raced, and I still won singlespeed, but I didn’t have the punch to pull off another overall win, finishing 3rd out of the women’s starters.

The next day, I went to my second ever jujitsu tournament. It was pretty small compared to the previous one, meaning I only had one other person to compete against. My lone competitor was fierce, but I won the first match via armbar and the second via triangle, giving me the gold.

IMG_9711

I’m testing for another stripe on the belt Thursday night, and I’ll be racing again at Winter Park this weekend.

I have to admit, I’ve somewhat lost my drive to do any sort of organized training plan. The dis-organized riding here is so great that I basically hit up Valmont Bike part before work a couple of days a week and try to get out for some sort of longer adventure on my two days off and Sunday mornings before work. The result is a general tapering off in fitness gains, but a gradual onset of awesomeness everywhere else. So, I’m not too concerned about it.

Since the last time I posted, I’ve ridden a big loop at Buffalo Creek, including the new Little Scraggy trail (sorry, no pics), I’ve taken Brandon, the service manager at the shop who just moved from Chicago, up Mt. Falcon and down Lair of the Bear, explored the Bard Creek trail with Jake, and went on a pre-work trail hunt with Clayton (which also resulted in nabbing a Boulder Strava QOM as we were hammer-down descending back to the shop, trying not to be late).

If you have ever lived someplace else besides Colorado, and then you move here, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of appreciation for the fact that, in an hour and a half of either riding or driving from the house, you can be in some pretty amazing places.

The Bard Creek trail is one of those places. Jake and I made a shuttle out of it, parking a car in Empire, and driving another to the Herman Gulch trailhead. We found out rather quickly that, while the trail is 100% legal for cycling, it is 100% a hiking trail. Most of the trail was extremely narrow (that is, in the places where the trail actually existed as more than just a sight line between cairns) and extremely steep. It also runs mostly above treeline (from about mile 1.5 to mile 10.5), making it as awe-inspiring as it is aerobically challenging.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that we likely hike-a-biked for 7 of its 15 miles. Our average speed was 3.6 miles per hour. You can see the map on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/651266584/overview

That’s about as solid of a trail as you get up there. The rest was cairn-hunting and following a GPS track on Jake’s Garmin:

IMG_9765

IMG_9766

You know you’re way up there when the elevation makes your Gu packaging all puffy:

IMG_9774

A high Alpine lake… you almost can’t tell that there’s water in it because it’s so clear:

IMG_9773

Spot the cairns #1:

IMG_9772

Some hike-a-bike:

IMG_9771

Spot the cairn #2 (hint, it’s not the bush in the middle):

IMG_9770

IMG_9768

Eventually we made our way down through some thick aspens and a soggy creek bed

IMG_9776

The final big view of the day on Empire Pass. It’s pretty amazing that the entire time, we were so incredibly isolated, yet never too far from a major interstate:

IMG_9777

It’s hard to convey in pictures and words on the internet the feeling of being in such a remote and beautiful place so close to where I live. It’s like every day off is a single-day dream vacation.

Working doesn’t suck, either. I periodically get to be a bike wizard/hero and save someone’s vacation/race/charity ride…

IMG_9760

IMG_9761

…not trying to brag with the postcard pics…

I just know that posting them here will make my mom happy.

Every Ten Miles

With the extra horsepower I’ve felt on my singlespeed as of late, I’ve had a growing desire to buy a carbon hardtail. I like the Cysco and all, but I’m jonesing for something lighter and stiffer. I’ve got enough money saved up to buy something, but it’d involve some parts selling and maybe living close to paycheck-to-paycheck for a month or two. That’s not really my thing, so, even though the desire to make it happen is strong, I have been mulling over lots of purchasing options and not made any hard decisions yet.

Hold that thought for a few minutes.

Another strong desire I’ve felt for a long time is to get in to bikepacking. The pull I get from the mountains is almost magnetic. I feel physically drawn in to them. Good backpacking/bikepacking gear is expensive. That, along with Indy’s need for almost constant care, has been my barrier of entry in to the wilderness.

The other day, a man came in to the shop with a steel road bike and two flat tires. On his back, he carried a hacksaw and some hedge clippers. If I had to guess, I’d say he was somewhat homeless and did little odd jobs to feed himself. He was an incredibly interesting person. While I fixed his flats, he talked with my coworker Amanda about riding across the country and how free he felt doing it. As an avid bikepacker, she could relate.

He had a theory that every 10 miles, the landscape of the Earth changes. On a literal level, if you’ve ever ridden long distances by bike (or on foot), you might agree. When your mode of transportation is slow, you have time to notice subtle nuances in the terrain around you.

I thought about “every 10 miles” the whole way home that afternoon. Maybe it’s not the Earth’s terrain that changes every 10 miles of pedaling, but instead, your perception of the Earth around you. I’m drawn to the idea the same way I feel physically drawn into the belly of the mountains just to the West of my front door.

I went home and dropped a chunk of my carbon hardtail savings on a really nice sleeping bag and pad. The way I see it, it’s the difference between purchasing a “thing” versus purchasing an “experience.” I’m pretty good at riding the ti bike, anyway.

What about Indy?

I’ve found some very kind ladies at a doggie daycare called Rover’s Stay and Play. He gets to hang out behind the front desk and periodically go out make his right-hand circles in an outdoor kennel by himself. Between daycare and overnight help from Matt, I look forward to a couple of overnight trips this summer. I know Indy is somewhat of a burden to watch for anyone but myself, so I don’t have any current plans to go longer than that. Finding the daycare does open up a few more modest travel options than what I was limited to before, though, which is promising.

I don’t think most people would read so far in to a homeless dude’s theory of how the Earth’s formations exist. However, the more I think about the rate of personal transformation that can happen to you when you get on a bike and start pedaling, the more it fascinates me. I want to explore “every 10 miles” on both the literal and metaphorical levels.

Occasional Adventures

Obviously, my post frequency has taken quite the hit with the onset of a 40+ hour work week. I’m getting settled in to a routine, though, and likewise, getting settled in to a rental house after being somewhat “nomadic” for a couple of months when I had to make the transition from living/working in the mountains to living/working in Denver, then dealing with moving and working a lot. It’s getting better, though.

First off, don’t forget- I’m selling a small Jet9 RDO. In order to be competitive with eBay pricing, I’m pricing it at $1900, shipped anywhere in the lower 48. It’s still in the box. I’ve only taken it out enough to snap a couple of pics of the color (slate/black/yellow).

IMG_8663

As I alluded to in my last post, life now is days at Elevation Cycles in Highlands Ranch, riding when I can, and MMA classes a few days a week at the new (to me) gym. Weekend before last, the shop sponsored a work trip to Fruita. All three shops closed early on Saturday (and remained closed until Tuesday morning), and everyone rolled out to go west to the desert. Since I had Saturday off, I took full advantage and went to a jujitsu seminar with Andre Galvao.

IMG_8593

It was a great day of learning. Also, I had the privilege of watching two people get black belt promotions (the two dudes on the outside of the pic below). It was emotional… in a room full of really tough athletes, there was hardly a dry eye.

blackbelts

Afterwards, I loaded up the Subaru and started my trip west (somewhere along the way, I rolled over 100k). The desert scenery and riding never disappoints. We rode the Lunch Loops and Ribbon trails on Sunday then Kokopelli on Monday. Dave- the service manager/mechanic in at the bench next to mine, who could be mistaken for my older brother based on riding style, proximity to gingerness, and general surliness, rode the drop in to Horsetheif.

IMG_8614

IMG_8604

IMG_8616

IMG_8608

IMG_8605

IMG_8617

I am the only woman between the three Elevation shops (other than the lady who does all the important stuff like paychecks and whatnot). I definitely put some pressure on myself to prove that I could keep up with the guys. I feel as though I was mostly successful in that.

Work itself has its expected high and low points. Example-

High point- geeking out over rehabbing a classic old Pinarello with Capagnolo Nuovo Record-

IMG_8632

IMG_8629

IMG_8628

Low point- assembling a Speed Concept

IMG_8641

It’s like trying to assemble Ikea furniture without an instruction manual.

Saturday, on my day off, I went up to 92Fifty to get the rest of my stuff out of the bike shop. I took the opportunity to go explore the nearby James Peak Wilderness area at the end of Rollins Pass road.

IMG_8656

I’d passed the trailhead multiple times over the summer, and wanted to check out the snow and stuff. Hiking a trail in feet of packed-in snow was a lifetime first for me. I can’t wait to go back a little more prepared and hike up higher.

IMG_8648

IMG_8653

IMG_8651

IMG_8650

IMG_8649

That’s about all of my adventures for now. I’m posting pretty regularly on Twitter and Instagram if you’re in to those things (links over on the right of this page). I mostly stay off of my personal facebook page. Facebook has become a shining example of how terrible,  uncaring, and racist a lot of people are. I don’t want to waste my time confirming something I’ve suspected all along, so I quit really giving it much attention.

Indecisions (photo heavy)

I’m sitting around the RV right now wringing my hands about what to do this weekend. I’m entered in the Snowmass BME race. For whatever reason, my motivation to go to said race has fizzled out. I’m not really sure why- it’s sort of a combination of the thought of being in a ski village for a few days combined with the fact that the race is mostly lift-serviced. I’m not criticizing the organizers for that second one, but, personally speaking, it’s not nearly as appealing to me as non-lift serviced riding. I could race Singlespeed XC at Winter Park instead, and it’d be a cheaper day trip as opposed to a three day/two night stay in the land of $17 hamburgers.

On the other hand, it’s been ingrained into my psyche for as long as I remember that you don’t just back out of things because you’re feeling wishy-washy (see pic of Gerald in my previous post). That personality trait makes more sense for children and teenagers than it does for an adult making a financially and personal preference-based decision, but it still makes me feel superiorly guilty to consider backing out.

The last week of riding was such a beautiful mix of both styles that it doesn’t help me much. The day after the Beti Bike Bash, I met some new friends at Keystone. Along the way, I stopped for an impromptu hike up the mountain from Loveland Pass. I can’t get enough of being up that high. It’s one of the most beautiful experiences on earth.

IMG_7608

IMG_7606

IMG_7601

IMG_7597

There are tons of tiny wildflowers blooming. It boggles my mind to see something so delicate in such a harsh place.

IMG_7609

IMG_7612

IMG_7611

Keystone is gnar. Only the bottom half of the mountain was being serviced, and no one wanted to pedal up higher, so we stuck to the lower trails. They were chunky and steep. It’s the sort of stuff that, on the right day, I am pretty damn good at navigating… especially on the Mach 6, where I’m more limited by my nerve than by my machine.

IMG_7616

IMG_7617

Mid week, I took the singlespeed out for some gravel riding in the backcountry. I discovered some pretty nice “roads”

IMG_7646

IMG_7647

IMG_7651

IMG_7652

… including one that was basically a 1000ft descent on a blown-out chunk atv trail that I was sure would be gated off with a no trespassing sign between me and where I wanted to go. I was mentally prepped for a hour of hiking back up if that were the case, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the “use this road, but hurry T.F. up” sign.

IMG_7656

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the snow had melted off of Dakota Hill (the place where I’ve experienced my recent “lost in the snow” adventures).

IMG_7660

IMG_7659

IMG_7658

IMG_7657

Bookending my week, I went with Matt to Winter Park to do more lift riding. It was fun, though I wasn’t feeling the chunk that day like I had at Keystone (which isn’t too terrible, considering there isn’t as much chunk at Winter Park).

IMG_7670

There are a ton of tabletop jumps, which I’ve never actually learned to do (and actually wrecked on one at Keystone). I definitely improved while I was there. I can now leave the entry jump and land both wheels at the same time on the top part of the jump. I even made it smoothly across a couple of the smaller ones. Matt, on the other hand, was riding BMX before I learned how to ride a bike, so he’s pretty cozy with them.

IMG_7664

To balance the pre-packaged adventure of life-service riding, I ventured into the backcountry again yesterday. It’s been really warm here (in the low 80s!) so I wanted to see how far up I could go on Rollins Pass. Aside from a couple of snowy patches on the way up, it’s not totally covered until about 10,700ft.

IMG_7684

IMG_7686

IMG_7687

IMG_7688

IMG_7689

In the shop this week, I overhauled our Mach 6 Demo bike so it could be sold. It’s buttery smooth now. Anyone interested in purchase can email me andrea at 92fifty dot com. It’s a medium, 2×10, and in good shape other than the usual bumps and scratches. Asking price, $3800.

IMG_7635

We’ve also got a stack of MBR stickers

IMG_7640

And, your bike hates you…

IMG_7678

Now that I’ve typed it all out, I realize that what it boils down to is that Enduro seemed like an awesome idea until I realized that my fitness is decent again, and I can’t help but fall back in love with riding singlespeed. Don’t get me wrong- I really enjoy enduro racing… I just don’t have the motivation to spend the time and money traveling to do it right now. Other than feeling like I’m a giant disappointment of a human being for bailing on something I’d already committed to, I think I’m just going to bail on it, anyway, and go race SSXC in Winter Park on Saturday.

 

Rest, Explore, Race

In the absence of a structured training program (which I dropped last Fall when I found myself too freaked out by the thought of training on the road and limited by weather for consistent training on the trail), I’ve taken to riding hard for a block of time and laying off when the rides start to get arduous. Following the rides I posted about last time, I found myself needing a break from the epics when Matt and I went for a Golden Gate Canyon ride and I fell apart after the first hour.

IMG_7535

I will say, though, when you’re having a hard time, and you open up a 4-pack of Gu Chomps to find that it’s a magical 7-pack, it can lift your spirits a tiny bit.

So, I’ve been taking it a little easy. I make sure to go to yoga twice a week almost no matter what. I’ve dedicated my ride time to exploring little offshoots and mining roads that mostly end up being extended hike-a-bikes up scree fields. Sometimes, the hike-a-bikes end at nothing in particular. Other times, you find a an outcropping that over looks the entire valley in which you reside and you don’t want to leave.

IMG_7561

Pictures never do these things justice.

Other discoveries include a mining claim of some sort-

IMG_7560

As well as one of my favorite trail features of all time, the aspen tunnel-

IMG_7559

I still have some places to explore. I pushed/rode to this split the other day, and because of weather and time constraints, had to turn and go back-

IMG_7566

Then, when I went back out the next day to find that spot, I ended up on someone’s horse trail (more accurately, a path through the national forest land on which someone has repeatedly ridden their horse) and found this spot-

IMG_7573

I’ve borrowed a hand-held GPS from my dad so that I can go out for more adventures and be slightly less lost.

Now that I’m rested and relaxed, I think it may be time to test my legs out. Tomorrow is the Beti Bike Bash in Castle Rock. There’s a singlespeed category. If everything goes as planned, I’ll drive down in the morning and give it a go.

Cyclocross Bike for Sale and More Birthday Stuff

First off, my Cannondale SuperX is for sale. It’s been my super-awesome cyclocross bike for a few years, and, since I’m not all that in to cyclocross any more, I need to off-load it to offset the cost of the Mach 6. It’s a 52cm with SRAM Red shifters and rear derailleur, a Force front derailleur (works way better than the Red on CX rings), Rival Crank, Mavic Askium Wheels, TRP V-Brakes (way more power than Cantilevers), Zipp Alloy Bar, FSA Stem, Thompson Masterpiece Seatpost, Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tires (almost new), Blacburn Carbon Cages, full run rear cable housing (keeps the mud out), Custom Top Tube sticker.

$1800, shipped anywhere in the lower 48

IMG_7407

IMG_7408

IMG_7409

Speaking of the Mach 6, it’s every bit of fun and more than I was expecting. I rode some pretty burly trail on Sunday in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and it’s basically just point and go… as long as whatever you hit isn’t big enough to just totally stop you, the bike rolls over it like it’s a golf ball. This pic is from the Snowshoe Hare trail, which is steep and covered in rocks and roots. Everything is a line on the Mach 6.

IMG_7401

I got to ride it twice in Golden Gate before this happened:

IMG_7412

IMG_7413

IMG_7417

IMG_7419

According to locals, snow this late is pretty crazy. The forecast for this week is calling for more cold and rainy days, so, naturally, that means it’s time to pack up the 92Fifty Train and head to Moab.

Indy got a birthday present that he enjoys as much as I’m loving the Mach 6:

IMG_7411

In other birthday-related news, a couple of weeks ago, I went to a bank in Nederland to open an account. There was a display of paintings by an artist named Heather Taylor, and, while I sat there, I couldn’t stop looking at one of them. I found out the price for it and thought it was a little more than I should be spending at the time (not that it was overpriced… I can’t stand it when people complain about the price of art. I’m just saying I didn’t have the extra cash at the time). The painting stuck with me, though. I found myself thinking about the bright colors and the way she interpreted the scenery that I love out here in the mountains.

Then, my birthday rolled around. Not only did I have a nice birthday dinner, but I also got some birthday cash from my family. So, I went and picked up the painting I loved.

IMG_7402

It makes me smile a little whenever I look at it.

I know a lot of women dread getting older. That’s silly. I look at ladies like Sue Haywood, Selene Yeager, and Rebecca Rusch (just to name a few off the top of my head) who are all in their 40s and totally killing it, and I get excited for what’s to come.

Birthday Awesomeness

Friday was my 34th birthday. It’s been a pretty great birthday week. Tuesday, I got a tracking number for my Mach 6 that showed it arriving in Black Hawk on Thursday. So, Thursday morning, I set off on a “explore/kill some time” adventure so that I wouldn’t sit in the driveway watching for the FedEx truck. I ventured out on some gravel roads that were pretty amazing. They ranged from graded/maintained county roads to single-lane, rock-laden jeep road through old gold mine areas north of Idaho Springs. The views over the valley that I70 runs through are huge.

IMG_7377

IMG_7381

There are a lot of options to explore out there…

IMG_7383

My bike was at the shop when I arrived back at home. I cleaned up, ate, and went to go start the assembly while waiting for Matt to arrive for a little birthday dinner and JRA show recording. I got most of the parts hung. I was somewhat awestruck by the size of the fork. Funny “first big bike” moment… I went to bolt the front brake caliper on, and was like, “damnit, they didn’t send me a 180mm brake adapter.” Then, I realized that the fork’s posts are already sized for a 180mm rotor.

IMG_7385

Once the parts were somewhat assembled, I went back to the house to meet Matt and have birthday dinner. Jon and Kathy have really made me feel at home since I moved out here. Warm and fuzzy feels all around. After dinner, we recorded a JRA show that involved possibly the most technical difficulties of any of our shows.

Friday morning, I finished assembly of my bike, and yesterday I took it our for a first ride in Golden Gate State Park.

Initial thoughts?

I still dislike DT Swiss Hub’s engagement, and I can’t wait for my I9 wheels to arrive. The Mach 6 is made with a low bottom bracket, so you have to time your pedaling over rocks to avoid pedal strikes. The slow engagement of the DT Swiss hub makes ratchet-pedaling somewhat ineffective. However, the durability and ease of maintenance is preferable to the hub that require this box of proprietary uni-tasking crap to service:

IMG_7388

Side Note- If the going shop labor rate is $85 an hour, A DT Swiss freehub service costs $15, and Chris King service costs $40 labor.

Also, I’ve still got to tweak the front end fit a little and work on my own techy-climbing skill. It’s not easy keeping all that front end planted on the ground and moving in a straight line. I do like the 740mm bars, though today I’m going to try moving them down a spacer. My RaceFace 35 bar came in Friday, but I don’t have the 35 clamp stem yet. It’s slightly wider (760mm vs 740mm) and less rise (10mm vs 20mm), and I’ll also have both 50mm and 65mm Atlas 35 stems in the shop to test out (currently using a 60mm that came with the bike). It’s going to be a bit of a process figuring out the balance between the long/low-ish fit I’m used to and the short/high fit preferred by all who descend at a high rate of speed.

I am very glad I went with the medium frame, though. Even the 60mm stem feels like my bars are in my lap. A small would allow me to use a longer dropper post, but I can’t imagine ever being comfortable on something with a shorter reach. With stems coming in basically any size (including 0mm), I won’t ever run out of shorter options if I decide I need my bars even more in my lap.

Oh yeah, and, despite my feeling awkward climbing on my new bike, as soon as the trail is downhill… oh. my. GAWD. It fits my “pick any line” sort of style. Foot and bike traffic has created curves a foot or two each direction around beds of rocks, and it’s just like, “NOPE, I LIKE GOING IN A STRAIGHT LINE HERE.” It’s amazingly smooth and way more capable of going faster than my current skill allows.

I’m going to have a good time growing in to this bike.

The trails at Golden Gate Canyon are like Syllamo at 9-10k of altitude. Lots of rocks, steeps, and beautiful views… and it’s all basically in my back yard.

IMG_7393

IMG_7395

IMG_7397

Adventures in Snowab, Part 2

I had full intentions of typing this up way sooner, but, spoiler alert, my ride following the big Sand Flats Road adventure was not particularly interesting. I really wanted to go ride the Captain Ahab trail, but, being Monday morning and all, I didn’t feel like I’d be particularly safe riding some of the features on that trail by myself (Porc Rim on a Sunday is like a MTB Highway. If you fall and injure yourself, someone is bound to be by within a few minutes. Captain Ahab on a Monday? Not so much). So, I ventured out to try some new-ish, non-tech trails called Navajo Rocks.

I don’t regret avoiding the chunk & mild danger, but I quickly found myself bored with the pedal-y and non-tech Navajo Rocks… especially on a 6″ travel enduro bike. I took it as a nice recovery ride before hitting the road home.

IMG_7196

The Mountains are always watching.

IMG_7195

Later that afternoon, I was back in the land of green, white, and bluebird…

IMG_7204

I will say, my experience on Porcupine Rim was enough to confirm two things in my brain- 1) A long travel 27.5 bike is an amazing and capable beast that I will likely never outgrow, and 2) I feel much more confident about some of my downhilling skills that I wasn’t 100% sure about before.  In case you were wondering, 1+2 = selling my CX bike and purchasing one of these:

Pivot_Mach6_black1-900x600

I’ll have the CX bike listed in the next few days. Basically, I don’t care enough about racing cyclocross to have more than my Surly Crosscheck singlespeed. And, if you’ve been around for a while, you already know that it was my first CX bike. There have been at least three others in the middle, but things have gone full circle for me with cyclocross.

I’ll be racing the Moab Enduro in just over a week. Stoke level = high.

Adventures in Snowab

Holy bejesus. So much went on in the last week…

So, a week ago yesterday, there was a winter storm moving in to my area (remember in my last post how the man named Smith told me it was gonna be a big one?) I managed to squeeze in a ride at Centennial Cone before the temperature dropped and the clouds rolled in. It’s a nice trail. Exposure still kills my confidence, though.

IMG_7153

I fully planned to gtfo on Friday morning and spend some quality time in Moab enjoy not being in the snow. However, by Thursday afternoon, it was already snowing pretty hard.

IMG_7157

By Friday morning, there was about a foot on the ground, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. It just kept falling, and I sort of wanted to yell at the sky to stop sending the snow down. I’d never seen more than a few inches of snow, so it blew my mind just a little.

IMG_7163

IMG_7164

IMG_7167

I shoveled out around my car so that I could possibly pack it, but, alas, the snow piled right on back in there.

IMG_7165

According to experts, you can’t drive in snow that deep unless your car is actually a lifted truck. However, eventually, a snow plow came along, and I was able to get out and start the long weekend journey. The snowplow driver probably wondered wtf was wrong with me while I stood with my mouth somewhat agape taking pictures like a tourist.

IMG_7170

Lesson learned… if you want to get to the desert and avoid snow, you should leave for the desert ahead of said snow.

It wasn’t all bad that I started my trip a day late, because apparently there was a good bit of rain in Moab on my original arrival day. I got in Saturday afternoon and dropped Indy off at Karen’s Canine Campground (side note- if you have a dog and vacation in Moab, she’s wonderful. Indy got the special little old dog treatment, meaning he stayed in her house and got to sleep in the bed) I checked in to the hostel (side note #2- a dorm bed is $11 a night, and you’re getting exactly what you pay for) and went for a quick ride on the Pipe Dream trail that runs basically parallel to town.

IMG_7175 IMG_7176

Oh yeah… I forgot to mention. I took the shop’s Mach 6 demo bike. Spoiler alert- I’m shopping for one of my own already.

Sunday I wanted to ride all day. I’d never seen the iconic Slickrock Trail, and I noticed that it was on the way up to the top of the Porcupine Rim trail, which I’d ridden last time and wanted to try out on the Mach 6. So, I packed up and started my way up Sand Flats Road.

I don’t believe much that isn’t backed by peer-reviewed research. However, I do firmly believe in Trail Karma. I had no real trail karma in the bank for Moab, so, as I entered the Sand Flats Recreation Area, I paid my $2 day-use charge and also handed the attendant an extra two dollars and said it was for the next person who came through on a bike. He was a little confused at first, wondering if there was someone I knew coming through close behind me, but he quickly figured out that I was just being nice.

The Slickrock trail was cool. I highly suggest stopping in the parking lot and reading up on the history of the trail. It’s basically how mountain bikes came to Moab in the first place- people were attracted to the uniqueness of a trail that was almost all rock surface.

IMG_7180

IMG_7181

IMG_7183

Note the distance between me and the La Sal mountains in the background of that last photo…

After a lap of the Slickrock Trail, I headed up the miles of climbing on Sand Flats Road to get to Upper Porcupine. My chain was squeaking and tweeting at me. Everyone out here uses dry lube because of the dust. I’m not accustomed to having to re-apply chain lube more often than I wash my bike, so it came as a surprise that a cumulative 4 hours of riding had left my chain in such a state. Lucky for me, the trail passed through several campground areas, and I saw a guy with bikes close to the road. He let me use some of his chain lube, and I was on my way.

The timing of my ride couldn’t have been more perfect. All of the shop shuttles to Porcupine Rim had passed through already, so there was hardly any traffic. Also, the rain had knocked the dust down a good bit, too. There’s an open air vault toilet along the way.

IMG_7185

IMG_7184

Somewhere after about an hour of climbing, I was starting to get a little tired. A mile or two from the entrance to the Lower Porcupine trail, a truck passed me. They had bikes over the tailgate and had used a yoga mat for padding… only, the yoga mat slipped out just as they were passing me. I yelled and waved at them, but to no avail. So, I picked it up, rolled it tightly, and stuck it in my pack as best I could. I figured they were either parking and all riding down the trail, in which case, I’d toss the mat in their truck when I found it, OR, their shuttle guy would be driving back down at some point.

I reached the lower porcupine parking area and didn’t see the truck immediately. I stopped to eat a snack, and just a few seconds later, dude was rolling through and saw me waving his yoga mat at him. He stopped, we chatted for a minute, and he offered to give me a ride the last mile or so up to the Upper trail. I was tired, and it’d already been a little over 4 hours, so I was happy to take a break before hitting the long trail down (which is actually another 20 minutes or so of climbing on a steep, kinda muddy section of the Kokopelli trail). When you come over the last hump to the trail, the mountains are huge and looming.

IMG_7186

At first I was a little tentative on the technical trail features. One thing about this bike is that the bottom bracket is lower than what I’m used to. So, I had to really concentrate on not pedal striking. To complicate that issue, I’m used to Industry 9 wheels, which are way awesome for ratchet-pedaling over and through dicey spots. DT Swiss hubs may be great quality and all, but their engagement is junk once you’ve ridden I9s (don’t even talk to me about the star-ratchet upgrade… still not the same thing).

I eventually got the hang of the bigger travel bike and was confidently launching baby 1-2ft drops. Then, I happened upon this:

IMG_7187

Ok, so that’s huge (by my standards). I basically reached the point at which you either need to stop safely or maintain/increase speed and thought that it was not that tall and put in a couple of big pedal strokes before realizing near the edge that it was about a foot out of my comfort zone. At the spot where I realized how far down it was, if I’d hit the brakes, I basically would have fallen front wheel/head first down the ledge, so I committed as if I actually knew what I was doing.

expected

I landed and nearly rolled away giggling before realizing I needed to turn around and get a picture of that shit. The trail was amazing most of the way down. That’s the sort of singletrack that, every time you ride it, it gets a little more fun. Pretty soon, I was at the techy, exposed area that makes me walk out of fear of rolling off the cliff. I took the opportunity to get a picture of the Colorado River.

IMG_7188

To top off the greatness of my ride, the canyon was gorgeous and green from all the rain, and I was met with a nice tailwind most of the way back to the hostel.

IMG_7189

IMG_7190

That evening, I went to the Moab Brewery and impressed two locals with my ability to put down a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings.

Seeing as it’s close to my bedtime, I’ll save the remainder of the trip for my next post…