Deflated for a Moment, But Moving ONWARD

It was that slow motion, Project X vibe where the monkeys are jacked with radiation.  The moment when I looked at my Kuat 4 banger bike rack and realized the unthinkable was in fact, fact.  Where there were three bikes, there was now only one.  My kryptonite cable and padlock on the ground next to my car.

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Never trust a big butt and a smile. 

Slowly, you start to process the loss.  The violation.  Anger meets sadness, and it takes you to your knees.  In a daze.  Call police.  Call insurance.  Beat yourself up for being stupid enough to leave the bikes on the back of the car.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Boo hoo.  Wasted energy.  Pull yourself together.  Angela’s sweet Niner Air 9 was gone.  My sweet Salsa Cutthroat was gone.

For about 5 seconds, ok maybe 10 – I actually pondered “pulling out” from the Tour Divide.  I’d been dialing in the Cutty and my Tour Divide “rig” for months (as the blogs leading to this one can attest).   I’d just been riding the Tour De Los Padres with that bike and kit, and now it was gone.  In a blink, lot’s of $$ and time and prep were gone.  For 5-10 seconds, so were my hopes and dreams of completing the Tour Divide this Summer.  Maybe it’s just not meant to be?

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The last photo I took of the Cutty before it was stolen.  17-Mile Drive.

No way.  Screw that.  I hate that “meant to be” line of bullshit, and thank gosh the 10 seconds were up.  Nothing is meant to be.  We choose our path and make it be.  In under three minutes (that’s how long it took according to the surveillance footage), two douchebags walked away with our bikes and my complete bikepacking kit.  I have my wife and my kids and my family and my friends and my health and some decent fitness and NOTHING is gonna keep me from fulfilling this goal and this dream.  This is but a minor setback.  Mental training.  Nobody can steal your resolve or motivation or your heart or your soul.  So that’s good.

I feel sorry for the lost souls that took our bikes.  They are forever cursed.  I’m surrounded by blessings.  So much goodness that I often feel I don’t deserve.  Two amazing children and an amazing wife that remind me every morning when I wake up and I’m reborn that I must not waste this life.

So, here we are.  I’ve got six weeks to get a new steed and re-build my kit from scratch.  Unfortunately, Salsa Cutthroat’s are very popular and are sold through.  My awesome Salsa and QBP reps already started scouring the dealer network, trying to find one for me when I got the best text EVER.  My friend Brahm, who’s family owns CycleQuest in San Diego hit me up.  “My dad’s got a medium Apex 1 build on the floor.  Do you want it?”  YES!!  “Ok.  I’m in San Diego, and will be coming back to Mammoth on Wednesday, I’ll bring it up”.  Are you fricking kiddding me?  Not only did Brahm stoke me with the bike, but he’s bringing it up to Mammoth as well?  Cloud Nine!!

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The girls like how KC named his bike, Sushi.  So, we decided to name this bike.  Meet “Sunny”, short for “Sunrise”.  My new companion for the Tour Divide.

My dynamo hub is sold out everywhere.  Shey, from kLite USA, graciously offered up the one he uses to test his lights/harnesses… tomorrow he’ll be sending me out my new wiring/harness/power supply/switch and the hub!! Score.  Brian / Siren Bikes had one Fred Bar left – he’s shipping it out!!  Everything’s coming together!!  I’ve already begun ordering the rest of the parts and bits, and so far the only thing that’s troublesome is my Syntace C3 Aerobars.  No longer available at any distributors, and I’m having trouble finding them anywhere online.  I really love those aerobars, they fit me perfectly… I’ll keep looking before I give in to replacing them with different ones.

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You can always count on Panda Express to lift the spirits!

Anyhoo.  Life is good.  I drink champagne with kings and queens.  I’ve got other bikes to ride in the mean time.  All the Facebook and Instagram comments from friends and family have been fantastic – motivating and hilarious.  I’ll be putting in an insurance claim today.  I have a high $5k deductible on my homeowners policy.  I’ve added it up, and our losses are around $13k.  Crazy, right?  The bikes account for about 1/2 and the other half is my bikepacking kit.  I never took the time to add it all up before, but when you see it laid out in a spreadsheet, it’s pretty crazy… to see how every little thing adds up… a tent here, a sleeping bag there, a pump, a spot tracker, a puffy jacket, waterproof gloves, blah blah.  Oh well.  I’ll just have to work hard and earn more money.  Beats going the millenial route and trying to get everyone else to pay for my mistakes/setbacks.  GoFundMeNOT. 

Here’s the list of stuff that was stolen, in case you’re curious:

Bikes
Complete Bike: 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Silver Fade / Force 1 Medium
Complete Bike: 2018 Niner Air 9 1 Star Build 27.5+ Black/Blue Small
Bike Components/Upgrades to Salsa Cutthroat
Crankset : Sram XX1 Eagle GXP 170mm (order from Hawley)
Chainring: Absolute Black 32T Oval GXP Direct Mount
Stem: Niner RDO 90mm
Handlebars: Easton EC70 AX 44cm
Aerobars: Syntace C3 Medium
Rims: Nox Teocalli Carbon (26mm int width)
Front Hub: SP 8x Dynamo 15×100
Rear Hub: Industry Nine 12×142 XD Driver
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition 2.0/1.8 Black
Nipples: DT Swiss Alloy Blue and Purple
Cassette: Sram 10-42T 11spd XG-1195
Cassette Modification: Wolftooth GCX 46T Cog
Tubeless Sealant for Tires: Orange Seal
Tubeles Tape for Tires: Stans 25mm
Tubeless Valve Stems: Origin8 Gray (2)
Tires: Continental Trail King 29×2.4 w/ ProTection Apex
Bar End Plugs: Hope Grip Doctor Blue
Bar Tape: Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm (2)
Bar Gel: Fizik
Saddle: Fizik Gobi M3 K:ium Rails
Seatpost: Syntace P6 Carbon Hi Flex 27.2x400mm
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3
Bottle Cages: Salsa Nickless (3)
Bags / Storage / Mounts:
Accessory Mount: Siren Fred Bar
Accessory Mount: Bar Fly Universal Mount (for Garmin eTrex) x 2
Handlebar: Salsa EXP Cradle – 460g
Dry Bag: Outdoor Research UltraLite Dry Sack 10L Blue
Seat Bag: Revelate Vischacha
Frame Bag: Salsa EXP Cutthroat
Top Tube: Salsa EXP
Top Tube: Revelate Jerry Can
Accessory: Revelate Mountain Feed Bag (2)
Accessory: Revelate Spocket (Pack for Spot Tracker)
Accessory: Specialized KEG Storage Bottle
Accessory: Backcountry Research Tulbag
Electronics/Lighting:
Light Mount: TwoFish Flashlight Mount for LD22
Light – Handlebar: Fenix LD22
Light – Handlebar: Exposure Revo Dynamo – custom kLite cable
Light Mount: Exposure Handlebar Bracket
Light – Helmet: Exposure Joystick MK12 Purple
Light – Rear Blinky: PDW Aether Demon USB
Dynamo Charger: Sinewave Revolution (custom wired by K-Lite)
Dynamo Top Cap Charging Switch: K-Lite
GPS Tracker: Spot Gen 3
Cable: iPhone charging cable
Cable: USB Splitter
MP3 Player: iPod Shuffle
Leash: Garmin eTrex 30x Quick Release Lanyard
Tools / Maintenance
Chain Tool: Park CT-5 Chain Tool
Multi-Tool: Crank Brothers Multi 10
Tire Levers: Park Tire TL-4 (2)
Chain Lube: Dumonde Tech Regular 4oz
Multi-Tool: Leatherman Squirt PS-4
Pump: Lezyne HV Micro Floor Pump
Sealant: 2oz Stans Liquid
Spoke Wrench: Park SW-0
Valve Core Tool: Stans
Valve Adaptor: Presta to Schrader
Genuine Innovations Elite CO2 Chuck
C02 Cartridge: GI 20g Threaded
Valve Stem w/ Removable Core: Stans
Removable Valve Core: Stans (2)
Cleats: Crank Bros. Set
Chain Master Link: Sram 11spd (2)
Brake Pads: Sram HRD Metal (2)
Tire Plug Tool: GI
Tire Plugs: GI “Side of Bacon”
Patch Kit: Park Vulcanizing
Patch Kit: Park Glueless
Tire Boots: Park Kit (3)
Derailleur Hanger: Salsa #687
Spare Tube: 29″ Presta w/ Rem Core
Clothing
Short Sleeve Baselayer: Smartwool Merino 150 SS
Gloves: Pearl Izumi PRO WXB
Socks: Swiftwick Pursuit Four
Arm Warmers: Pearl Izumi
Sleep Kit
Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Platinum Tent
Ground Sheet: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV1 Footprint
Bivy: Montbell UL Sleeping Bag Cover
Sleeping Bag: MontBell Spiral Down Thermal Blanket 50 deg
Inflatable Pillow – Sea To Summit Aeros Premium Regular
Misc
First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight 0.9
Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze Mini
Water Bladder: Playpus 1L Soft Bottle
Kryptonite 7’x10mm Cable (broken)
Kuat NV Core – Rear wheel strap (broken in theft)
Chamois Cream: Chamois Butt’r 9ml Packet (2)
Sunscreen: Dermatone 1oz Tube
Lip Balm: Dermatone 0.15oz Tube
Fire Starter: AMK Fire Lite
Fire Starter: AMK Tinder Quick

 

 

 

 

 

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Iron Stomach, Not So Much – TDLP 1, Alan 0

I’m sitting here in bed.  Holiday Inn Express.  State St.  Santa Barbara.  My old college stompin grounds.  Goucho pride.  Around 2am.  2 days after pulling the plug on riding the gorgeous, albeit brutal, Tour De Los Padres route.  Tis was to be my last “formal” multi-day shakedown as the 2018 Tour Divide looms closer and closer (man, it’s only like 7 weeks out now – yikes!!).

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I ordered a Club Sandwich to go (which I let fester in my jersey for a day before eating) and filled up water from the hose/spigot in the back without filtering.  My so called “iron stomach” will not be cocky again.

I finished the Stagecoach a few weeks ago, and was feeling great going into this one.  Body and bike and mind pretty dialed.  As I lie here, I feel my bike and mind are still smiling, and my body is about ready to rejoin the party.  So, what happened?

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Climbing into the beautiful abyss…

I needed a reality check, that’s what.  Or at least that’s how I wanna see this and take all the positive away I can.  My iron stomach has been penetrated like never before.  I’ve always eaten pretty much whatever, and rarely get sick.  Not this time.  Let’s start with the good:

  • This route is fantastic and tough and beautiful and rewarding and I will come back to summit Big Pines Mountain and descend to the ocean and drink a beer at the Brewhouse in SB.
  • The singletrack descent through slushy snow on Mt. Pinos was epic.
  • Meeting new people and riding with a bunch of them was super fun – especially Art, Tony, and Phil – who all went on to finish top 3 this year!  Great work fellas!!
  • The romp through Carrizo Plains National Monument, second to none.
  • The climb out of Selby Campground, majestic.
  • The roller coaster between Gilliam, Gifford, and Highway 166 a brutal ass-kicker, but worth every sunblock drenched teardrop that stung my eye.  I dabbed multiple times in this area, HAB’d more than I’d like to admit, almost fell into a muddy lake, and got scared crapless by a Cali Rattler shakin and gyratin on the side of the trail.

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    Cruisin through Carrizo Plains National Monument.  A definite highlight. The little dot riding by is Phil.

Yeah, bikepacking at it’s best.  Highs and lows.  So now the lows:

  • During the 40ish mile section from Selby to Highway 166/Miranda Pines climb, my body was not wanting to eat or drink water.  Of course, I forced it, as I needed the calories and hydration to deal with the 8k of taxing climbing included with those miles.
  • After 6+ hours of improper fueling, my body was getting less and less responsive, and during the 3k climb up to Miranda Pines, it finally told me to piss off completely.  Instead of merely not accepting bribes in the form of food or water, it flipped me the bird and started throwing back (or should I say “up” )everything from earlier that day and current efforts.  Including peanut butter cups, nuts, bars, a club sandwich, salami, cheese, you name it.
  • Ok.  Adversity.  No sweat.  Let’s wait it out.  Hung out at Miranda Pines Campground for a bit.  Ready to spend the night, sleep it off.  See what the morning holds.  Just one problem.  This route has no proper food resupply for the last 220 miles.  Zero.  I had approx 120 miles and 10k climbing to go without any options to pick up food on the way.  I’d thrown up most of my rations, and even in perfect health, would not have nearly enough food to make it to the end.  If I continued past Miranda Pines, it would be into no-mans-land.  So the decision was made to descend 3k and 10 miles back down to the highway, where I crawled in a ball and waited for the fam to come grab me.

Now, that might sound like a big old bummer.  Actually, it was a great reminder and fantastic training for the TD.  Back to the positive take away:

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Sunrise after camping on my first night.  Near Selby Campground.

  • I’m pretty sure I got sick in one of two ways:  Bacteria from a day old BLT or salami or cheese that had been festering in my jersey pocket or water from a hose behind “The Place” in Ventucopa that I didn’t filter.  Either way, I will make sure to do neither ever again!!  No more mayo on sandwiches, and no more day old sandy’s re-heating in my jersey pockets!!
  • I will include a couple charcoal tabs and other “sickness” meds in my kit.
  • My tent is fantastic.  Love it.  Still gotta practice staking a little more.  Can’t forego a sleeping pad (I tried this ride with no pad, and I missed the insulation and comfort on a cold night, so yeah)
  • My arse felt great for 150 miles… no chamois, but I used cream… that’s still up in the air.
  • My new wind vest is fantastic.  Stoked to add it to the kit. PS – thanks for finding it Gregg and giving it back – what a miracle!
  • No knee pain at all.  I think the yoga and stretching has been doing wonders for me.
  • No hot spots in my shoes.  I’m diggin the Superfeet insoles.
  • After trying not to, I’m considering riding the TD with a small hydration pack.  I feel I’m not drinking enough from water bottles and bladder alone.  Just not “easy” enough to take sips here and there on techy terrain.  Next thing you know, an hour has passed, and you’re behind the hydration curve.  Something to try out in the weeks to come.

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    Taking a break, trying to eat – Climbing up Gifford Springs

Moral?  This is what training and prep is all about.  To get all the kinks out, right?  Better now, on day 2 of a 3 day ride with my family nearby than day 2 of a 20 something ride.  Glad that’s out of my system (no pun intended) and thank you TDLP for the bikepacking clinic!  Now it’s time to enjoy this family vacation of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey!!  Yahoo!!

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My daughter keeps telling me to take more pics.  I do enough camera work at work, but I’m trying.  Don’t think I’ll ever get used to selfies, but Lucy, this one’s for you 🙂

 

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Notes from the 2018 Stagecoach 400

Oh, the Stagecoach 400.  I did it back in 2015 on the SS… when Brendan ran it clockwise.  The diversity of terrain, scenery and vibe of the route are hard to beat.  Mountains, deserts, oceans, farms, singletrack, urban bike paths, college campuses, breweries, bourgeoisie, hobos, rednecks, no necks all cleverly crammed into 385 miles and 32k climbing.  Highly rewarding.  No small task.

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Fantastic singletrack climbing out of San Diego towards Alpine, Day 2.  Bike performed flawlessly.  No mechanicals, and the Conti Trail Kings were the perfect tire overall.

Round two.  Why, again?  Not as an end, but a means to – training for the Tour Divide.  Stoked that it’s now run counter-clock, so I still had some course knowledge, but it felt fresh going the opposite direction, and dare I say, easier?

Goals?  Mostly mental prep for the TD.  Balance highs and lows.  Work through setbacks.  Practice positive.  Way more important to exercise the mind – face the sleep monsters, weather monsters, and the deep, dark low spots that only show up on a true bikepacking event.  So yeah – kind of a TD warmup.  Also great multi-day  Raoring practice.  Ride hard, but stop and smell the roses.  Gauge fitness, continue shaking down gear/packing/hydration/fueling for the TD.

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Quick snack break.  Anza, Day 1.

I rode at what I perceive to be my “TD pace” – not “Stagecoach Race Pace”.  I wanted to put in 100 miles/10k climbing a day, but also sleep well, enjoy the route, meet cool peeps, eat well, and not feel like I was racing.  Success!  I finished in 3.5 days, with mind and body completely great at the end.  This gives me some encouragement for the TD – knowing I can potentially hold this pace for many days.  That being said, here are some thoughts/memories I jotted down during this adventure:

  • Heavy mud climbing Thomas Mtn out of Idyllwild from recent rains – but nothing too bad
  • Nippy dogs yelling and running at me as I was leaving Anza, then a trail runner came up and they went for him – haha, the decoy!  I pedaled past and left them.  Yes, I looked back and he was fine.
  • I didn’t realize my bladder leaked until I started climbing Chihuahua.  I’d finished my water bottles already, and was counting on the 2L in my bladder to get me through the next 25 miles of hot weather / slow going riding.  4 hours without water was a great mental test for me.  Composed and calm.  I did find a spigot about half way through which pushed out brown water.  I filled my bottles with it, and was ready to filter it in an emergency, but only if it came to that.  I was dehydrated by the time I hit Warner Springs, but nothing too bad.

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    The spigot I found that spit out brown water.  Luckily, I never had to drink it 🙂

  • Met Sarah and Lauren and rode with them for the next few hours.  (I should’ve taken some pics with them!)  The slower pace helped me to re-hydrate and it was great having company, as I never get much on these ITT’s.  After they decided to camp, I kept on towards San Diego.
  • Took a 15 minute siesta at the weird old building at the top of Black Canyon Rd.  Just what the doctor ordered before a magical descent.
  • Ate a fresh orange off a tree before reaching Escondido
  • Rode by a homeless lady who was using a bigger iPhone than mine.  Ummm….
  • Right knee hurt day one, stale legs morning of second day, but then they came around and knee pain stopped as I was climbing towards Alpine.  Thank gosh!
  • Had a left over fat boy pita from the greek place in Alpine for brekky in Descanso post office to get out of the rain/wind

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    Shelter from the wind/rain.  Eating my leftover half of a “Fat Boy Pita” for brekky at the post office in Descanso.  So quiet.  I could hear the time clock punch every minute.

  • Rain and gale force winds continued up Cuyamaca, Indian Creek, and Noble, and headwinds almost unbearable on Sunrise Highway.  Took cover in pit toilet at Lucky 7 to warm up a bit before descending Oriflamme.  My headlight was in a feed bag pouch and must have bounced out during the rocky descent.  Bummer.  Didn’t notice it was gone for another 60 miles or so.
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    Can’t tell from the photo – but rain, wind, and mud made very slow going through Cuyamaca and up Noble.  Great mental practice!!

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    Last time, I climbed Oriflamme in the dark.  So happy to descend it this time, as the sun started to poke out and reveal magical views after getting pelted by rain for 5 hours.

  • Yahoo, reached the desert, sun popped, temps raised, dried out at Agua Caliente with Mark before cutting through sand and washboards of Fish Creek Wash to Split Mountain.  Headwinds turned to tailwinds and helped me through that junk show.

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    So good to make it to Agua Caliente and thaw out / let my clothes dry out for a bit.  The desert can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

  • Once back on the pavement, nothing but headwinds all the way to the Iron Door Saloon.  Cookie brought me a pizza, some wings, and a couple hot dogs, which I washed down with a couple of Budweisers (yes, I know).  That’s as craft as it was gonna get.
  • Chatted with Dave, Biker Jim, and Steve and learned that Stephen Hawking passed away.  That was sad.  Steve lived 300′ from the bar, and invited me to camp in his front yard.  I said yes.  We chatted til the wee hours by firelight.

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    Hangin with Steve, so stoked he let me camp in his front yard.  You meet some great peeps on these adventures.

  • The Greatest Showman soundtrack replayed dozens of times and got me through the headwinds into Borrego Springs and up Coyote Canyon through shin deep water in the Willows and eventually to the snack shop at the RV Park.

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    Found this bighorn by the Willows in Coyote Canyon.

  • Problems with right foot getting hot spots and going numb.  I’ll try playing with cleat placement.
  • Rode the rest of the way into Idyllwild with no music, just enjoying the quiet.  Ordered a burrito to go from La Casita, took a warm bath at the Idyllwild Inn, watched some mindless TV and settled into sleep.
  • Next time, I’ll pack a few stakes for my tent which flopped around in the wind.
  • I rode sans chamois.  I made it through, but it was tough on the nethers.  I think I’m gonna give in and try a chamois on the Tour De Los Padres next month.
  • Might try a different dry bag with loops in it, as mine kept sliding out sideways over techy/bumpy terrain.

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    Trail magic.  I was face down in the aerobars, zoned out, when Jon yelled my name.  An ice cold beer and some good conversation were exactly what I needed before climbing to Alpine.  Life is good! 

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
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Tour Divide 2018 – To Chone or not to Chone: Are Chamois really the answer?

Many a debate have been had over frosty hoppy beverages.  What’s best for the nether region?  Chamois?  Bibs?  Freeball?  Baggies?  Mandex?  Chonies?  Macaronis?

So, yeah.  I’ve been “training” my arse area for the last year or so to ride without chamois.  In the past, I got myself used to “living” in my chamois liner shorts, and never had a much trouble with saddle sores.  I just don’t love the idea of soaking in a moist, abrasive, diaper/sponge if I don’t have to.  It just feels so much cleaner and easier to go without, if possible.  I know, I know… it’s not for everyone.  It might not even be for me.  I know a few people that have done extensive bike touring for months on end, with no chamois, and no issues.   I’ve done plenty of big rides/days in the saddle, with no issues.  I’m still not 100% sold on it.  There’s a difference between 6-8 hours in the saddle/day and 16 hours in the saddle/day, every day for 3+ weeks.

I’m gonna ride the Stagecoach 400 with no chamois and see how it goes.  That should be 3-4 days of riding 12-14 hour/day.  It everything goes well, I’ll give the Divide a go with just some lightweight, wicking boxer briefs.  But, knowing me, I’ll travel with a pair of chamois to Banff and decide then.

I’m a baggy shorts kinda guy… started riding late in life and fell in love with riding the moutain bike resort here in town which has an “enduro” vibe… I never got into the mandex xc race kit deal or the roadie gear either.  I know that baggy shorts have the tendancy to move around and rub on long rides, etc – but after the initial “break in period” of going sans chamois, I haven’t had one saddle sore.  I’ve been trying a few different boxer briefs – mainly Patagonia, REI and Ex Officio, and just ordered some Smartwool seamless to try out as well.  They are all comfy, but are sewn together slightly different with seams running slightly different.  So far, the REI units are winning.  Super light and packable (I’ll bring an extra pair), dry quickly, don’t bunch up, and with baggy shorts, my “area” breathes pretty well.  As of late, my arse has been fine after multiple 6 hour rides, and a 10 hour ride around the White Rim… but that’s nothing compared to the hours we’ll be in the saddle on the TD.  To be continued…

Curious to hear any comments…

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
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White Rim Loop in a Day : Gear Testing for the Tour Divide 2018

2/4/18

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Sun is waking up – let’s ride! – Parked at the lot on Mineral Bottom Rd

The White Rim Loop in Moab, UT at least on paper, seemed like the perfect ride to test out some new TD bits on the Cutthroat, and my body.  I hit up my buddy Adrian, and the trip came together quickly.

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Shedding layers with the low sun rising and warming the soul.

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Riding down Shafer in the shade.  Simply magical.

After some interweb recon, we decided it would be totally feasible to do in a day (although most people camp for a night or two along the route).  The loop is about 96 miles with 6,500′ climbing according to my gps and Adrian’s (a little more than bikepacking.com led me to believe – great planning resource, btw).  I read a blog from the Petervary’s and Grizzly Adams that confirmed the choice to do it in a day.  I spoke to a Ranger from Canyonlands NP about the plans – he tried to discourage it at this time of year – park is closed until March, it’s cold, nobody around if crap goes sideways, ice/snow/mud in parts, etc.  Adrian and I kept an eye on the weather, which has been abnormally warm.  We saw a nice window, and decided to give it a go.  Got our day use passes and paid for park entry online to be legit.  And we were off!

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Waiting for Adrian to drop a deucer!

Logistics and Geeky Stuff:  We camped on BLM land the night before, and then drove to the start/finish around sunrise.  There are no resupplies along the route.  I tried out my new 4L Dromlite water bladder, and carried about 6L water total – roughly the max I’ll  ever carry on the TD.  The bike was fully loaded except for a sleep kit (that’s the next bit I’ll be dialing in – stay tuned).  For a little peace of mind, we each had emergency bivy’s and I carried a Spot Tracker.  I wore the merino wool baselayer I hope to use on the TD and was trying out some glove options and new shoes.  Most importantly, I rode with no chamois/no cream – to see how my backside would handle approximately 12 hours in the saddle completely bare-assed.

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Views for days!!  Adrian!!

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Lunch break #1

New gear and stuff to try for TD Prep: This was my first ride since adding a Fred Bar and tweaking aerobar positioning.  I also just got a Garmin eTrex 30x GPS, Sinewave Revolution USB Charger, and Exposure Revo Dynamo light.  Couldn’t wait to try powering my GPS and charging my iPhone simulaneously, and using the kLite steerer mounted switch to swap between charging and powering my light.  Geek mode explode.

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Fred Bar.

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Geeky electronics stuff – dynamo light, usb charger, and switch with some custom wiring

It seems most people start/finish at Islands of the Sky Visitors Center.  We decided to follow Jay P and Grizzly Adams recommendation for doing it in a day, based on their experience – and that is to start at the dirt parking lot by Mineral Bottom Rd and Mineral Springs Rd.  This turned out to be perfect.  We started around 7:15am, a little after sunrise.  You get the most boring 15ish miles of the route done first (a subtle dirt road climb up Mineral Bottom Rd to warmup, and then a fast pavement flat/descent to the park entrance).  This also set us up to ride the last portion of the loop along the river with beautiful light at the end of the day, and you finish with a grunt of a climb up from the river back to your car at last light.  Perfect way to cap off the ride, and the way I’d recommend it to anybody going for it in a day.

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Yes, that’s me.

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Lunch break #2 – we found some bikes, but never the owners… Spooooky…

Here’s some notes / thoughts about the day:

  • All in all, it took us about 10.5 hours total with just over 9 hours of ride time.  Even with the short winter days, we made it back in plenty of time before dark.  A little bummed I never got a chance to test out my new dynamo light – oh well 🙂
  • Adrian was on a plus bike and we each had areas where our bikes were better suited.  A plus bike with squishy fork is definitely a good choice for this one, but my Cutty held up fine.  I was having an easier time in some sections, but the slickrock pounding and sandy bits were better for the plus.  The mix of dirt, slickrock, punchy climbs and fast descents keep you on your toes the whole time.
  • No mechanicals for either of us – yahoo!
  • Perfect amount of water.  We each had a couple liters left (better safe than sorry).  Temps were cool (50’s mostly) so we didn’t sweat a ton either.
  • Packed the perfect amount of food too (3 bananas, an apple, 3 picky bars, salami, cheese, cashews, macademia nuts, sour patch kids, pb&honey sandwich)
  • Other than a few short sandy spots, some mud/ice on Schaffer and around the river, conditions were super awesome.
  • We saw no living souls in the park.  We found 3 Surly bikes (2 krampuses and a karate monkey) parked by White Crack, but never saw the owners.  Figured they had a support vehicle and were off driving somewhere.
  • The views were rediculous.  90+ miles on insane 360 degree beauty, with the La Sals looming for much of it.  My favorite was coming along the river towards the end.  So beautiful.  And that ass-kicker of a climb up from the valley floor to finish was the icing on the cake!
  • The “White Rim” reminded me of salt on margarita glasses and had me jonsin for Fiestas! (we ate there the night before)
  • Lots of out houses all along the route – Adrian made good use of one 🙂
  • Burger at the Brewery after to celebrate with a Root Beer float.  Camped again, and jammed home!!  Highly recommended ride!!  Do it in a day or get an overnight permit and camp – either way, super dooper memorable!!

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    Are you frickin kidding me???!!  The views along the river were insane!!!

Gear Notes:

  • Absolutely love the Fred Bar.  Gets my aerobars to a super comfy position.  Gives more cockpit mounting room for gps, light, etc and opens up access to the top of my handlebars for more hand positions, mounting feed bags, etc.  I found myself riding in the “Mary Poppins” position too – back straight up and down, with hands in the elbow pads of my aerobars for a nice resting position while still pedaling… will definitely come in handy on the TD!!
  • Learned some stuff with electronics.  If you power the Garmin eTrex directly through Dynamo power, it will constantly (and annoyingly so) warn you that you’ve “lost external power” and ask if you’d like to keep it turned on with batteries (and gives you 30 seconds to decide before it shuts down.  So when you’re pedaling around 5mph on climbs, etc it’s constantly wanting to shut down and start back up as the dynamo makes enough power / goes to battery power.  Two fixes – first, turn off the annoying beep alarm.  Second, which was on my list anyway – get a USB cache battery.  Charge the battery via dynamo, and then use the battery to power the Garmin so it’s getting “clean” power.  Good to have a cache battery anyway so you can charge stuff when not moving, etc.
  • Also realized it was super easy to bump my charging switch the way I had my wires routed.  On technical terrain, the wires would hit the switch and I wouldn’t notice my light was on, but nothing was charging.  Easy fix.
  • The MSR Dromlite is a great bladder.  Realized I need to order the drinking hose for it.  Initially I thought I’d just use it as storage and refill my bottles as necessary – but that’s too much of a pain… I need to be able to drink straight from it so I don’t have to stop and refill bottles as often.  I also decided to order the 2L version, and mess around with some Platypus soft bottles for more modular water packing options, best use of my frame bag space, etc.
  • My arse – no chamois.  no cream.  no saddle sores at all.  Score one for the gipper.
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    Finished the last grueling climb out from the river / back to the car right at Magic Hour.  Couldn’t have dreamt up a better way to finish this adventure!!

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

 

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Shakedown Ride #1 – Salsa Cutthroat Tour Divide 2018 Rig

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Lucy approved! My freshly built rear wheel

1/23/2018

Alright.  It’s been super hectic with family, holidays, the bike shop, and all that jazz.  That’s a good thing.  I’ve been riding a decent amount – splitting time between my gravel bike and fat bike, getting some base miles in and trying slowly gain my fitness back.  Crazy that when I left Seal Team just before Christmas I weighed 167lbs.  Now I’m back to a respectable 157lbs.  The difference between eating at home vs. catering and craft services, and getting some exercise.   I’ve pretty much cut out processed sugar, and back to healthy eating habits and an active outdoor lifestyle.

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At work.

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All put together, perfect and new. Time to get her dirty like my teeth!!

So, yesterday – I finally had time to put on the bar tape, slap on some eggbeater pedals, give the bike a once over, and head down to Lower Rock Creek to do some laps and start seeing what this bike is all about!!

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Possibly my favorite part of the bike. Yoda vibes from Visibilia headset caps

I know I’m gonna try a bunch of stuff and probably tweak on every little thing for the next 5+ months before leaving on the Tour Divide, but I’m very happy after the first ride.  I know this bike is going to be fun and comfy, and a fantastic partner to ride down the spine of North America with.

INITIAL SETUP:

I won’t get into specifics too much here, as I’ll make a detailed “specs” post once the rig is completely dialed for how I’ll take it to Banff.  Once I’m set on the final components/gear/pack list, I’ll also include naked weight, loaded weight without food/water, and simulated weight filled with the max amount of water and food I’ll likely ever have on the bike.  But for now, here’s how I set her up on the Maiden Voyage:

  • 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Force 1 Build – Silver Fade – stock build except for:
  • Nox Composites Teocalli Carbon Rims (26mm ID) laced to Industry Nine Rear Hub and SP Dynamo Front Hub
  • Continental Race King 2.2 Tires / tubeless – 25psi (but will play with pressure more as I get the bike loaded with weight)
  • Sram XX1 Eagle Cranks (170mm arms) with an Absolute Black 36T oval chainring
  • Wolftooth GCX 46T Cog mated to an X01 11-42t Cassette (it replaces the 42 with a 46 granny gear)
  • Easton EC70 AX Handlebars (44cm)
  • Syntace C3 Aerobars (MD)
  •  Fizik Gobi Saddle mated to a Syntace P6 Hi Flex Carbon Seatpost
  • I used some Lizard Skins DSP 2.5 bar tape over Fizik Gel Inserts
  • Crank Brothers Eggbeater Pedals
  • Salsa Nickless stainless steel bottle cage on bottom of downtube.
  • * No electronics hooked up yet – Shey / KLite has my Revolution USB charger and is wiring it for a a top cap switch / the USB charger / and an Exposure Revo light
  • **For now, I only have the Salsa EXP frame bag and top tube bag mounted to the bike – will get into more packing options as I continue to shakedown the bike.  I use Lizard Skins silicone tape at all contact points to keep my frame from getting marred and bags from slipping around.

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INITIAL THOUGHTS AFTER FIRST RIDE:

I took the bike to Lower Rock Creek.  It’s a trail I know very well, and it’s clear of snow right now.  I’ve ridden it zillions of times, so I can really “feel” out a bike here.  Fast flowing singletrack and I can either ride back up on the dirt or on the paved road to make a few laps.  I also spent some time on the fire roads above LRC just to get some more miles in.  I rode about 20 miles with 2,500′ of mixed terrain climbing.

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My wife loves purple. It makes me think of her.

  • The bike is light and nimble.  I haven’t weighed it, but with the carbon wheelset and handlebars, it’s probably coming in just under 20lbs naked.  I’ll weight it for fun, soon. Sure it’ll get loaded down a bunch, but the bones are light and solid.  The wheelset, cranks, and rigid fork make pedaling super responsive and efficient.
  • For now, I have plenty of granny gear with the 36T oval ring up front and -46T WolfTooth GCX in the rear.  Top end wasn’t bad either.  We’ll learn more as I load the bike up and take bigger rides – but happy with gearing for now.
  • Sram hydro disc brakes, stellar – powerful with great modulation.
  • Digging the Lizard Skin dsp bar tape (I’ve used this many times) and Fizik gel.  It’s my first time using the gel inserts, but I like the squishy feel, and my hands were very comfy with zero numbness or tingling – I need to try out some gel gloves too, once I get to doing longer rides and overnight shakedown rides – I’ve always had hand problems, so wanna sort that out.
  • 170mm crank arms felt great on the knees – I decided to go a little shorter than what I normally ride (175mm) so my pedal stroke is shorter / knees don’t go up as high – to alleviate some strain on the knees over long rides.  I’ve never had knee problems, even with all my singlespeeding, but I dont’ wanna start either!!
  • One bummer, which I kinda already knew about – I could not fit a normal 24oz water bottle in the low cage, and barely got a 20oz to fit (it was hitting the “hairs” on my brand new tire, which is way too close for comfort).  I remember Josh Kato saying he had to modify the lower cage to get a bottle to fit.  I’m thinking about using the Wolftooth B-Rad system , but for now, I’ve got a Specialized KEG loaded down there… filled with tools, spares, etc that weight a bunch, but I hopefully wont need to get to often.  Depending on how my packing works out, this might be better than a bottle covered in cow crap anyway.  If I do wind up using a bottle down there, I’ll surly have to cover it with a ziploc and a rubberband to keep it from getting grotty to the max.
  • I like the Salsa EXP top tube bag.  It’s huge!!  Much bigger than the Revelate Gas Tank and Mag Tank I currently use.  I still like the ease of the Mag Tank, but for this adventure, I like the extra volume and the zipper down the middle is pretty sweet too.  Also nice how it bolts on to the Cutthroat – steezy.
  • I love the zippers on the Salsa EXP frame bag.  Silky smooth.  But not super stoked on the volume of the bag itself.  It’s very “skinny” and doesn’t seem to lend itself to “shoving a ton of crap in it” like I’m used to with more the Porcelain Rocket and Revelate Frame Bags I have on other bikes.  Either way, I’m gonna stick with it for now, and see how it goes when I start to load it up.

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    Taking a break during the maiden voyage.

STUFF TO CHANGE:

  • The biggest change, that I kinda already I knew I’d need, is adding a Siren Bikes Fred Bar to the cockpit. I was waiting to see, but I just ordered it.  The aerobars take up too much valuable real estate over the handlebars including one of my favorite “upright” hand positions.  I know I’ll also need more cockpit room for mounting crap too (gpx, dynamo light, etc).  I think moving the aerobars up some will be more comfy and easier on my lower back as well.  Hey, at least that’s what the website says as well!  We’ll soon see.
  • As I mentioned, I wasn’t super stoked on aerobar placement.  However, I am stoked on the aerobars themselves.  I’ve used them plenty before, especially on my singlespeed for routes with a lot of flat sections.   The Syntace’s are very comfy for me.  I can’t wait to get them dialed in on the Fred Bar, put some bar tape on them (hmmm… what color?  I’m thinkin pink or blue??  Yeah, blue!!) and start dialing in the rest of the cockpit (gps and light placement, and handlebar bag/sleep kit placement)
  • My seatpost was a tad to high, will drop 1/4″ and see if that feels better.
  • My saddle also needs some tweaking, will move forward and mess with angle slightly.  I’ve done well with Fizik Gobi’s over the years, but I measured my sit bones, and I’ll try a narrower saddle and see if it’s more comfy – we’ll see.
  • My stem height might need some tweaking as well, and I might have to go with a different length, but ok for now.  Will wait until Fred Bar arrives and top cap electronics switch to mess with that, as they both take up stack height on the steerer tube.
  • I need to tilt the handlebars down slightly as my wrists were slightly too bent in the drops when braking/shifting – but the angle of the hoods was nice on the bars.  IMG_8750

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll address the small tweaks mentioned above.  Keep putting in “shakedown” miles.  Add the seatbag (most likely gonna go with my Revelate Vischacha (the roomier the better is my motto for the Tour Divide – never know how many Subway sandwiches you’re gonna have to cram in there).  Try some different mounting options for sleep setup in the cockpit area.  I’m really leaning towards the Salsa EXP after messing with Hunter’s a little.  My electronics (usb charger, dynamo light and charging harness/switch will be in soon) – looking forward to getting that dialed along with the Fred Bar and the rest of the cockpit…

Lots to do… get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
Posted in Gear Reviews, MTB Racing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Committed to “Raoring” the Tour Divide 2018

1/5/18

Oh boy.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I sent Matthew Lee my letter of intent to “do” the 2018 Tour Divide.  What is the Tour Divide?  If you don’t know, click here for Wikipedia’s explanation.  Feelings of excitement, fear, anticipation, and apprehension have been swirling for sure.  This little adventure’s consuming a big chunk of my brain and wallet, so I guess I’ll start journaling – sometimes it’s helps me with clarity and anxiety.

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My letter of intent – sent in on 12/23/17 – the start of the reality

Angie Baker was hanging out in the bike shop the other day.  She asked me what my plan was for the TD.  “Are you racing?  Touring?”  Hmmm.  I though for a sec – and replied, yes.

It really got me thinking.  My dad always taught me the necessity of goal setting, writing things down, and making lists.  Conceive and achieve.  So…. my goal for the Tour Divide is a combo platter.  I guess you could call it “Race Touring” – or as Angie coined, “Raoring.”  — I definitely wanna enjoy the vibe, “live in the moment”, meet people, see places, and immerse myself in the adventure.  I definitely don’t wanna be stressed out by letting the “race aspect” consume me.  If I feel like a beer, I’m gonna hang out.  If I wanna sleep in, I will.  A big part of the draw is the FREEDOM of the open road… not feeling pressured by a bunch of blue dots on Trackleaders.   That being said,  I also want to push myself.  Move at a fast pace for me and my fitness level.  Find some limits.  Push some limits.  Break some limits.  Cherish the lows and the highs and remind myself constantly that this adventure is a blessing not a sentence.  I like to make goals finite by writing them.  So here we go… My goals for the Tour Divide 2018:

  • HAVE FUN.  STAY HEALTHY.  STAY POSITIVE.  CHERISH THIS FLEETING MOMENT IN TIME.  MOST OF ALL – FINISH.
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A little bit of light studying 🙂

As of late, I’ve gotten much joy, insight, and information by reading other people’s TD blogs, so maybe some poor saps like me will gain something from reading this too??… Probably not, but years from now, my great-grand kids can get a sense of what a kook great grampa Alan really was.  You kids don’t know me, because I’ll be long gone by the time you read this – but I love you and you’re my flesh and blood and I wish for you a happy, healthy life of doing good stuff and achieving lofty goals.

So here we are, January 5th.  The Grand Depart is June 8th.  Six months should be plenty of time to prep, right?  We’ll see… All I know is right now, the reality of riding 2700+ miles across the spine of our continent on my bicycle will be the most daunting, liberating, mentally and physically challenging endeavor I’ve ever set out to accomplish.  I read a good quote the other day, from Ty Domin, a 2017 TD Singlespeeder: “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”

1/16/18 — UPDATE

It’s even more real now. I ordered a Salsa Cutthroat.  Although singlespeeding the TD was my initial goal 7 years ago, I’ve chosen against it.  I smashed my left knee up pretty well on Longmire, and it’s never been the same since.  Although it feels pretty good these days, it tends to scream at me randomly on long rides on the SS, so it’s gears for me.

  • Booked a one-way flight from Reno, NV to Banff, AB on June 6th $$.
  • Renewed my passport (just lapsed after 10 years, wow)! $$
  • Booked a shuttle from Calgary Airport to Banff $$
  • Booked a room at the YWCA $$.

Super stoked to learn my buddy Kevin Hinton is gonna do the TD too – he just texted me a picture of his plane ticket!!  We’ve been talking about it since the first Caldera 500 – and now it’ll be a reality for both of us!!  Each step solidifies the reality of the endeavor, and scares the crap out of me at the same time.  I’m starting to pedal into better shape on my gravel bike and fat bike.  I just finished lacing my custom wheels $$ yesterday, and pretty much all the parts are in to get the Cutthroat built to how I “think” I want it… at least enough for me to start riding it and deciding what I like and don’t like.  I’ll devote a blog to the bike build later…

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Nox Teocalli Rims with some purple and blue bling for fun

  • Bought a new rain jacket $$ and an ultralight puffy $$.
  • Bought a new Garmin $$ to replace my slightly antiquated eTrex Vista HCX.  I’ll devote a blog to gear later.

Getting stoked.  A dream that started seven years ago, when I first heard about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.  I watched Ride the Divide and started reading books.  The fire was ignited.  But the timing wasn’t right.  The stars did not align.  I started Longmire, which shoots from March – July.  The exact window I’d need to be prepping and training for this ride of a lifetime.  Longmire lasted 6 wonderful years, and we were blessed by that job.  Longmire is over.  I started Seal Team.  But I quit just before Christmas.  Need to be home.  Family.  Gotta grab it now.

I’ve been re-watching the Mike Dion movies (Ride the Divide, Reveal the Path, Inspired to Ride, etc).  I’ve been re-reading all the Tour Divide books in my library… and finding tons of literature and blogs on the web.  Immersing myself in the maps and cue sheets.  Immersing in mental prep.  Lot’s of time on the mental.  Every time I take a ride, I focus on my attitude, and how I respond to different situations.  Maybe I’m a schmuck?  Either way, you can’t go wrong staying positive and happy and friendly… I really need to practice the friendly part…

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.

 

Posted in Favorite Rides, MTB Racing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Daddy Style Moab Enchilada with a side of Fruita

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Good times with good friends! – 18 Road, Fruita

Way too long since I’ve taken the time to journal.  Working too much this year.  After Longmire ended, I jumped straight on to Seal Team and we opened a bike shop.   Go figure.

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Working with the brothers on Seal Team.

The last time I took a “guys trip” to Moab, was in 2007.  Sure, I’ve been back plenty since then (24 Hours of Moab, and lots of visits going to/from Longmire, with and without the fam).  But never with “just the guys”.  Back in May of 2007, we got skunked out of the top portion of the Whole Enchilada due to snow, and we had to start at Hazard County.  Dem dukes, dem dukes.  The ride was still epic, but it’s always nagged at me, being the ocd weirdo that I am – we never did the “whole” enchilada.  I knew I’d get back to it… just didn’t think it would take this long!

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All aboard!  — To the top of the La Sals, no waiting!

Fast-forward 10 years to 2017.  I now have 2 kids (9 and 4).  Half of the homies I used to go to Moab with moved away, or I lost touch with… probably because I’m a dad now, and dude time has dwindled heavily in favor of family time and daddy date nights.  Luckily, Stu (the mastermind behind our old Moab trips) decided to commit to Moab in early October.  He’s now a daddy too, and finding the time to get away is rare.  So he booked our old camp spot 178, told us all the dates, and said show up if you want.  Boom.

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The three amigos, somewhere on the Navajo Rocks trail system.

I NEEDED this getaway, and Angela gave me the hall pass!!  Next thing I knew, John  (another daddy who needed a getaway) and I were carpooling out to Moab to meet with Stu.  I grabbed a Niner RIP9 RDO from our demo fleet (perk of owning a bike shop) – and was stoked to have a full squishy for the trip – Our posse of three was ready for shreddy.

Rain.  The shuttles were not going all the way to the top yet.  So we kept pushing back our shuttle dates, in hopes that it would dry out enough.  In the meantime, we hit some other prime riding spots:

1st up – Sovereign / Klonzo Loop – Sovereign is one of the older trail areas in Moab, and is shared with motos.  Surprisingly, I’d never ridden there before, and honestly, I’ll probably never go back.  It was ok, but there’s so many better singletrack/bike specific options these days.  Sure there were great views, but it was soft and sandy and much more enjoyable for motos than human powered units.  Klonzo, on the other hand, exceeded my expectations.  Right next to Sovereign, bike specific mix of singletrack and slickrock – mellow climbs, with fun flowy descents – now we know to skip Sovereign and head straight to Klonzo 🙂

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Stopping for a much needed break on Mag 7

2nd up: Navajo rocks – It rained more on day two… and everyone at the bike shops recommended Navajo Rocks as it’s the first to dry out, and doesn’t get as effected as other areas.  One of the newest trail systems in town, it’s still not too well known.  It’s “hidden gem” status is no longer and we saw Ryan Leech / Norco posse, so we knew we were in the right spot.  Now we’re talking.  This system was fantastic.  We finished with just enough light to get back to our cars.  So good.
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Posers.

3rd up – Mag 7 – the “other” sweet shuttle ride in town that some people like more than the Whole Enchilada.  I’d call it a close 2nd, but definitely doesn’t have the magnitute of starting at the top of the La Sals.  Still, it’s a blast, 100% worth doing.  Some tough climbs sprinkled in, great views, etc – somehow got on a jeep trail and missed a small section of Golden Rim Singletrack – so yeah… now we’ve gotta go back and hit that!  The views on Portal lived up to the hype, and so did the exposure.  It’s legit.  DH skills tested after a grueling day and fatigue.

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Unloading at the top – after our van broke down for 1/2 hour!

Ok.  Now to the highlights of the trip – this fat dude rockin a GoPro in the jacuzzi at the campgrounds giving John the stink eye.  Maybe he wanted us to jump in and make some Albondigas soup??  All the ladies in Active wear (inside joke)… Rainy day fossil shopping, a Fiesta margarita with carne asada at the mexican joint… pissing off our waitress at the Blu Pig (she mistook my sarcasm and got offended that I called her out for making us wait 2 minutes)… eating at Sweet Cravings for brekky every day.  Getting a chicken sandwich and root beer float at the brewing company… the bike wash at Poison Spider, the far right shower at the campsite, busting air drops, building Stu’s new bike from scratch on morning one, cramming 17 euros in with us on the Coyote shuttle and fuel pump goin out 2 miles from the top.IMG_8481
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View looking back from the Burro Pass high point of the enchilada

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In the end, we got it.  The whole enchilada.  Other than the long techy rocky crappy doubletrack section of porcupine rim, nothing holds a candle to the whole enchilada – 10 years we waited- and for icing on the cake, we hit a little Fruita action, got some Hot Tomato pizza love and capped off a sick trip.  Let’s make another one soon yo.

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The fruits of our labors

Posted in Favorite Rides | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First Ride: Niner RLT 9 RDO – ABQ Century

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The new Niner RLT 9 RDO, fresh after being built up

With the plethora of gravel roads and doubletrack in the Eastern Sierra (hundreds and hundreds of miles), and the rise in popularity of “gravel grinder” rides and races all over the place, I’ve been thinking about a gravel bike for a while.  My main criteria:
  • Comfy for long days in the saddle on exploratory “b-road” journeys.
  • Can handle singletrack if I wanna sprinkle some in.
  • I could use for overnight touring/bikepacking missions.
  • Lightweight with a “racey” feel.
  • I don’t own a road bike, so I’d also want the option to use it for local Eastside Velo road rides (hopefully without getting dropped 🙂

I chose the Niner RLT 9 RDO with the 3 Star (mid-level) build.  You can check out the specs on their site.  I’ve loved Niner Bikes since the company started (I’ve owned countless Niners over the years). So I was confident with the purchase.  I’m 5’9″ which always falls between sizes with Niner, and I always choose the smaller option, as they always “ride bigger” for me.  In this case, I went with the 53cm.  I liked the quiet and clean Black/Silver/Red color scheme.  After a call to my longtime friend and Niner Sales Rep, George Wisell, the new steed was waiting for me at the Longmire Stages a couple days later.

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My new steed waiting for me in the Red Pony!!

The Build:

I don’t have my workshop here in Santa Fe.  So it was a little bit of a mish mosh to get the bike built.  I had to borrow a workstand, bearing press, saw guide and saw from Kevin Hinton.  I borrowed a hydraulic cable cutter, and some other bits from Frankie Flats.  I took the fork by Broken Spoke and they smashed on the crown race for me.  IMG_6224

Other than that, it built up super simps.  Niner includes a cheat sheet for installing the full-length internal housing runs, which made that very easy.  There’s a removable port under the BB that further simplifies the routing process.  Stans Grail wheels came taped for tubeless, and the Schwalbe G-One tires set up with my floor pump.  No compressor needed!!

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The cool BB port for internal cable/housing routing

I pressed in the PF30 bottom bracket, and the Sram Rival 22 cranks and drivetrain went on without a hiccup. *One note – the clamp band on the Yaw front derailleur barely gets low enough without hitting the bottle cage braze-on to allow the derailleur to get to the recommended height above the 46T front chainring.  I would’ve liked a little more adjustability here – works fine, but just noting it – I’d like to have the derailleur another mm or two closer to the ring…

The Sram Rival HRD shifters/levers and hydraulic brakes also went on great.  The rear hydraulic brake line was a little tricky. I ran a piece of shift housing through the chainstay to the BB port.  Then I cut and ran the hydraulic line through the downtube port to the BB port.  Normally, I’d use a Rockshox Reverb internal cable routing tool to connect the two lines together and then fish the hydraulic line out the chainstay.  But since that tool is back home, I used electrical tape to join the lines.  After a few tries, with some delicate pushing/pulling and the aid of a pick, I got the brake housing to pop out of the chainstay – woohoo.  I had the bike turned vertically in the stand for this, with the hopes I wouldn’t lose much fluid – and as luck would have it, after cutting it to the proper length and installing the new olive/barb and nipping it up, I did not need to bleed it.  Score!!  Cutting the front brake line was simps – but of course, since it’s my bike and not a client’s… I didn’t really “measure” – and cut it a little too short.  Perfectly functional (bars turn all the way, etc) but my OCD mechanic brain is annoyed – so I’ll change out the line when I get back to the shop.

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Nice little touch – in case you didn’t know, RLT = Road Less Traveled

Indexed the shifting, pumped 45psi into the tires, slapped on a frame pump, a couple bottle cages, and a saddle bag… rode it around the block, adjusted the saddle a bit and it was ready for the maiden voyage:
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Figured a nice, hundred mile road ride with my buddy Kevin would be a great “shakedown” to see how this bike rides.  Gotta say, the century route was not amazing.  The loop start/finish was at the Sandia Casino & Resort.  For the most part, no views.  Mostly urban sprawl, depressed reservations, and modern casinos.  I almost got hit by a driver who was oblivious, and it was super windy.

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Albuquerque Century – official route

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Representing SEMBA in New Mexico, yo

That being said, it was still a day spent on a bike, so it was still a blast.  There were a few nice sections.  My favorites were passing the Blunt Mobile and waiting at a signal with a dude on the corner swinging a sign for “Papa Johns” who was rockin out to his tunes.  Also, the peaceful bike path along the home stretch of Tramway Road definitely did not suck.

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Bike path along Tramway Road – technically not part of the route, but I’ll take a path over a street any day.

So How Is The Bike?
Fantastic!!  Other than me not setting the high limit correctly (which I’ve since fixed and is shifting brilliantly) on the yaw front derailleur, the bike was 100% spot on.  I know it’s only been one ride, and it was mainly on pavement.  But I’ve since ridden it another 30 miles on gravel and singletrack, and this bike is the real deal.  The Sram groupo shifts crispy and the hydraulic disc brakes are a game changer.  Lots of stopping power, great modulation, and super easy to engage – very important for a “non-roadie” like me who still gets gripped on high speed descents.  Most importantly, was how comfy the bike was.  After 6+ hours in the saddle, I felt fresh as a daisy.  The bike eats up chatter and vibration so much more than I ever imagined.  Even on singletrack and washboard gravel, I’m amazed at how smooth it feels.  After initially setting my saddle, I haven’t touched it once.  I’ll start playing with lower tire pressure now, which will only make it better.  I don’t have a scale with me, but assuming it’s around 20-21lbs right now.  Could get down to 18-19 pretty easily I bet.
Changes / Upgrades?
The one part of the bike that is not “stock” is the saddle.  I put on a Fizik Gobi right away.  Other than that, I’ll probably leave it bone stock for a while.  That being said, there are a few things I’d do right now if money were no object.  The most sluggish bit of the bike is the heavy Rival crankset.  It works fine, but the first thing I’d do is upgrade to Red cranks.  They are .65 lbs lighter and much stiffer.  The stock cranks are 46x36T which seems fine for most gravel rides.  I did find myself spinning out once in a while on pavement.  I intend to keep this bike mostly on dirt, but would consider switching to a 50×34 or 52×36 compact if racing/higher top end is a factor. I would also go with a carbon RDO seatpost to further lighten it up/ soak up more chatter and swap to Easton’s new EC70 ACX carbon gravel bars (very light, with a 16 degree flare in the drops for added comfort on long gravel rides).  I’d also switch out the cassette to a Red, which would further lighten up the rotational weight.  Throw on a carbon wheelset, and this bike could be an absolute race rocket.  The stock 35c tires seem fine for now, but knowing my terrain back home and riding style, I’ll probably switch to 40c tires with a little more aggressive tread when I get home to Mammoth.  I love that the fork has bosses for bottle cages or everything cages… and it can fit a Revelate Tangle Bag in the triangle with two bottles… so for big rides, or overnighters, I’ll be ready to go 🙂
Anyhoo… all this writing is killing me… this bike is begging to be ridden – time to pedal 🙂
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Singletrack Deja Vu – Some Old, Some New

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This is it.  One last hoorah to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Netflix has officially announced this will be the Final Season of Longmire.  When I took a gig for an unknown TV show six years ago, I figured “cool… I’ll hit Santa Fe for three months, make some cash, ride some new singletrack, and be on to the next…”  Clueless that my kids would grow up on the set (Lucy was 3 when it began and Molly was born just after Season 3 wrapped).

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Throwback to 2012 – Lucy, age 3 – making my day brighter on a set visit

 

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Angela, prego with Molly during Season 3 in 2014

So here we are.  I know that come end of June, there will be a lot of teary-eyed hugs as I wish my surrogate family one last farewell.  But before the long days of shooting devour my time, energy and fitness… I had 3 days to ride my bike and get my mind right.

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Mindblowing.  Singletrack.  Zippity.  18 Road.  Fruita, Co.

Woke up at 2am.  Insomnia.  The thought of an 11 hour drive to Fruita the ensuing 3.5 months weighed heavily.  Screw it.  I’m awake.  Might as well put some miles behind me.  Warm up the trusty old Tacoma.  Throw my last luggage in.  Wake the girls.  Kiss them up.  Family hug.  Tell Miko to watch over my angels while I’m gone.  Hardest part always. Never gets easier.  Luckily, they’ll be visiting in 3 weeks.  But still.  Facetime is no substitute for family.  I miss them so much.

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Mammoth > Fruita > Grand Junction > Moab > Cortez > Santa Fe = 1238 miles

The wee hours passed quickly – somber thoughts interrupted by short breaks for nature and petrol .  Poof, it was 2:30p after the time change, and I was rolling into City Market in Fruita.  I’d only eaten a Noosa yogurt and a couple of turkey jerky sticks.  Grocery time.  A pear, two bananas, raspberries, crackers, hummus, water, peanuts, and pickles should do it.  Wasn’t planning on riding til the next am, but I couldn’t stay away from 18 Road.  I’d ridden there a few years back, and it’s never left my “best singletrack” list.

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Making my way up Western Zippity, spinning the drive out of my legs.

Did a sweet loop of Western Zippity, Zip Off, Frontside, and Zippity Do.  Strava link here. The temps were high 70’s/low 80’s.  After leaving the snowy cold of Mammoth, working up a nice sweat under the beating sun was just the ticket.  The trail conditions were fantastic.  It’s just one gigantic velco rollercoaster out there.  Even better than I remembered.  After 15 miles of ups and downs, ins and outs, and feeling like a Star Wars TIE Fighter, it was time for beer.
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Copper Club Brewing.  Fruita, Co

 I treated myself to an 18 Road IPA (and took a bottle to go) at Copper Club Brewing.  When in Rome, right?  Paired it with a couple slices from Hot Tomato (YUM!!) and I was pretty much ready for beddy bye.  Back to the Balanced Rock Motel, chatted with the fam, cought up on some UFC fight news, and dozed off while watching Gangs of New York on the laptop.
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Finally got to ride the Lunch Loops #stokeyface

Got an early start.  Oooh, chilly!  With heater full blast, I drove 20 minutes north to Grand Junction.  Only one reason to do that, right?  LUNCH LOOPS!!  Don’t know why, but that’s gotta be my favorite name for a trail system- and the trail names are even better.  Heard so much about it.  Been on my radar and bucket list for years.  I’ve even driven right past the trailhead before, but never able to squeeze it in.  Until now 🙂  Did.  Not.  Disappoint.
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Climbing up Eagle’s Tail

Being a nube, I consulted MTB Project to determine how best to enjoy area.  The 12 mile loop was a fantastic blend of everything I love about mountain biking, and a departure from the perfectly manicured trails at 18 Road the day before.  Nutshell:  Tabeguache > Eagle’s Tail > Pet-e-Kes > Holy Cross > Prenup > Gunny Loop > Holy Bucket > Coyote Ridge > Ali Alley > Curt’s Lane.  Strava link here. Nice gradual climbs, with techy punchy bits to get the heart rate up and keep your “A-game” on point.
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Memorial for Pete Larson along the Pet-e-Kes Trail

Sprinkle in some well-placed grade reversals to catch your breath.  Right when you’re tiring of the slow goin and rock garden step ups, boom – fast flowy singletrack takes over, etc, etc… I’d love to come back and do the whole Tabaguache Trail, so now that’s on my list.  P.S. – If you do come to this area, take the time to drive through the Colorado National Monument.  You’re basically there already.  Totally worth it, especially when you learn the history and what it took to build the road.
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Heading towards Prenup.  Would be nice to see a sign like this on Lower Rock Creek Trail, huh?

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Taking a break to admire the splendor

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Awesome rock features everywhere

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About to drop in on one of the fastests sections of the Gunny Loop

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You guessed it.  Holy Bucket.

After waving bye to GJ, and thinking about how much I’d love to come back for the Grand Junction Off-Road, it was off to Moab.  Time to cross Klondike Bluffs off the list.  Another spot that’s been on the radar for quite some time, but just never got around to it.  Probably because it’s 20 miles out of Moab, and Ive been too lazy to hit it when there’s so much goodness closer to town.  Not this time.
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Taking a minute to soak up all that Klondike Bluffs has to offer

So cool to ride in “Dinosaur Land”.  I kept pretending it was pre-historic times, and my imagination mixed with endorphins and adrenaline made for a supreme experience.  My own little Jurassic Park.  Klondike quickly worked it’s way into my favorites.  Why?  The blend of singletrack and slickrock.  My only gripe is that the slickrock is “too well marked”.  I feel it’s a bit overpainted.  Some of the best fun of slickrock riding is freeballing your own line.  I know you need some markers to stay on course,  but it’s a little overkill.  Otherwise, this network is impeccable.  Like the Lunch Loops, the climbs are totally manageable, with a few steep punchy bits here and there to keep you on check.  The rest is stick icky grippy slickrock with swoopy singletrack tying it all together.
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Super fast section of Little Salty to UFO ahead

I did what’s called the “Outer Loop”.  About about 15 miles, with 1,400′ of mostly slickrock climbing.  Bummer, my Strava failed on this one.  But it goes kinda like this.  Megasteps > Baby Steps > Little Salty > UFO > EKG > Dino Flow
After hitting Lunch Loops and Klondike Bluffs on the same day, I rewarded myself with a smoothie at Peace Tree before heading off to Cortez, CO.  Let’s call a spade a spade.  Cortez is pretty much an armpit.  I was there simply to eat and sleep, so I could go to the Disneyland of mountain biking the next day.  Phil’s World.
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Ready for shreddy down the famed “Rib Cage” – Phil’s World

What’s there to say about Phil’s World that hasn’t already been said?  Check out my first adventure to Phil’s World for more words and pics.  Simply one of the most magical trail systems out there.  Another example of a trail system that has “everything”.  From rediculous fast and grippy flow, to some techy up’s and downs with rock gardens, to the highlight “Rib Cage” – there isn’t a moment where you’re not grinning.  I’m still smiling just thinking about it.  It was the perfect “last ride” of this quickie road trip.  Strava link here.
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Phil’s World is known more for it’s perfectly crafted flow trails – but there’s still nice views to be had

Afterwards, I passed through Durango for a well deserved brekky.  My friend Michele recommended the “Verde Breakfast” at the 35 year-old, Oscar’s Cafe.   Score!!  As she called it, “So much yum”.
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Then it was 4 hours of driving.  Just like that, I arrived in Santa Fe.  My home for the next 3.5 months.  Gonna try and ride as much as I can.  I’ve even got a new bike coming my way (can you say Niner RLT9 RDO?).  More on that soon…  But inevitably, no matter how much I try to bike commute and ride on weekends, I always lose fitness during filming.  But the memories and money earned make up for it and fund future adventure.  Just a few weeks until my ladies join me.  Longmire Season 6, here I come.
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