Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuff I like...

I have been meaning to do a somewhat random honest list of bike stuff I like independent of sponsorships and obligations.

I like:
  • Technical trails - why I started mountain biking a lot more than road biking
  • Technical races - makes racing way more fun
  • Road biking in Wisconsin - best roads I have ridden, period
  • Road biking for recovery - nothing finer than an easy'ish spin on a nice hot day
  • Really sweet road bikes - My new Madone 6.9 ssl is off the charts awesome.
  • Off road time trials - super painful but just you vs. trail
  • Technical climbs - sometimes I can even forget that I am climbing (like Stairway at Red Wing)
  • Moab, Utah - the town, the people... oh, and the trails.
  • Trying new kinds tires - most important part of a mountain bike and so many great options
  • Bell Helmets - the Volt just fits me... I forget I am wearing it
  • 1 by 10 (or 9) - less is more...simpler is better
  • Reliable hubs - in my experience, DT Swiss are the best out there
  • Stiff and light wheels - Of course right? But at least there are options out there now (see my last post)
  • Dual suspension - why would you want to get kicked around by a hardtail? I stand by the Top Fuel as being the best I have ridden.
  • Disc brakes - have you tried a bike with canti's lately? How did we ever survive on those
  • 6" trail bikes - if you haven't ridden the latest generation of 6" bikes, you are missing out. They pedal well and are a joy to ride. Every brand has one now, but I prefer the Trek Remedy.
  • 24 hour team races - yeah they hurt, but it is fun to experience a team competition with the mountain biking world
  • Tacky trails - not dusty dry, just that perfect tack (some in MN call this wet) that you get about 8 hours after a light rain.
  • Riding with my son - so fun now that he is on 2 wheels. He keeps asking when he gets his first dual suspension...
  • Camping and Riding vacations - I don't fit them in often, but vaca's don't get any better than that
  • Bontrager shoes - For my feet they are the best I have tried.
  • UST Tubeless system - I burped the stans rims, a lot, the UST is just safer and more reliable
  • Sram XX cassette - awesome engineering and craftsmanship
  • XTR brakes (the new ones) - tiny little levers with so much power
  • XTR shifters (all of them) - they are just buttery smooth
  • Aluminum cranksets - Shimano has this down...this is a place on the bike where Al just makes more sense than carbon
  • Carbon frames - this is a place where carbon makes more sense than Al
  • Fat bikes - snow bikes are so fun...I heard Surly is making an even fatter 4.5" tire (vs current 3.8"), WOW!
  • Riser bars - better than a skinny flat bar w/ bar ends for most types of trails and riding
  • Gu and Gu Brew - about the only thing my stomach can take no matter the conditions
  • Tray mount hitch rack - I have a Cycle On Pro and LOVE it.
  • Craftsman C3 Pump - Not intended to be a bike tool but fills tires up fast and reads out to the nearest .1 PSI
  • Egg Beater pedals - been on em for a long time..the lightest and easiest to clip in. The new ones have better shoe lug engagement too.
  • Fox RP23 shock and RLC fork - set it and forget it....none of that lockout stuff
  • Carbon fiber rims - I used to think it was silly until I tried them. They are more durable than Al (downside is that if you do break them, they are more expensive to replace).
  • Gadget free mountain bike handlebars - no computers, just a front brake rear brake, and rear shifter
  • Compact road bars - I am not super flexible so the compact reach makes the drops more comfortable.
  • Trunk and rack for bike commuting - gets everything off my back
  • Commuting on a mtbk - when road construction season hits I am ready, when snow hits I am ready. For the other 3 days of the year, road bikes are better for commuting.
  • Clear or white water bottles in the summer, black ones in teh winter - if you don't know why buy the dummy's guide to basic physics
  • White or mostly white helmets - again, the physics thing
  • Oakley Jaw Bones - Jen hates em, I love em. We have agreed to disagree.
  • Watching downhillers - they have bigger ones that me
  • Watching trials riders - looks like so much fun...I wish I could do that. They too have bigger ones.
  • Bike shops run by people who ride bikes - those that ride and ride hard really know what you need
  • Bike shops with mechanics who mountain bike - mountain bikes need a special kind of love
  • Bontrager Saddles - I switched from Selle after I was encouraged to try them...I won't go back
  • Mt. Borah pro bibs - they make our team gear, but my family members buy their standard bibs too because they are reasonably priced, very comfortable and last a long time
  • MNMBS vibe - good competition, dedicated series officials, tough courses, and just the right level of intensity...everyone is having a good time
  • Weekday races - keeps me fit and makes summer a race and recover (on casual rides) cycle
  • Having a timing chip on the back of the number plate - no ankle bracelet but still automated timing
  • Good quality unbiased comparative bike and component testing - gotta have the Gage R&R, test setup/equipement, and test procedure (including sample size) listed though... I almost never find this stuff.
Hmm... that is all for now. Have a great 4th!

Monday, June 27, 2011


MNMBS visited the nice river town of Red Wing Sunday. This may be my favorite MNMBS course, and even if you don't race it should be at the top of your list for a weekend mtbking visit! The singletrack is twisty with plenty of technical stuff to keep you on your toes. That got topped off with running us on the a downhill course (SO SWEET!) and the gnarl of the Stairway to Heaven climb.

As an aside, I missed out on the Pro XCT over in Wisco due to the required Friday registration requirement (Pros had to be present by 5:30 Fri, which wasn't in the cards this year work and family wise). I likely would have raced if I could have cruised over there Sat AM, done the race, and headed home. It sounded like a good time other than the token bottle necks at the start. I have fond memories of that course for sure!

Back to Red Wing...I fought "it" (my body) for the first 2 laps but was able to pull a gap despite laying the bike over once and a bobble on the Stairway climb. The course was mostly super grippy tack, but the first lap had a few surprise slick corners along w/ the aforementioned downhill course that needed exploring. By the 3rd lap I got in my groove and even felt like I was going good for a while. I didn't cramp, which in the high humidity is always key to success. By the end I pulled a pretty good gap for the win.

Equipment wise, I had a new secret weapon...EC90 XC wheels. Thanks Easton and Freewheel! The dang things are slightly less than 1300 grams but w/ out the compromises in stiffeness and durability that you get w/ other lightweight wheels. They are made to be ridden hard every day not just raced on occasionally and delicately!
Also, the top fuel was awesome. I have the suspension fully dialed at this point. I use very close to the Trek recommended air pressure. I run the new Kashima RP23 on full platform, then I lockout out the Fox RLC fork but turn the compression damping and lockout threshold as low as they go. This provides for a firm and balanced (front to rear) racing platform but allows for sufficient bump compliance when the trail gets rough.

While there is no racing planned for me this weekend, my family is collecting at my parents house. Ben will be there so I will probably come out of the weekend w/ enhanced fitness.

To that end, Ben raced this past weekend up at Crested Butte. The course, part of the MSC series, was a 1 lap 38 mile beast...mountain bike racing in its most raw form. I think they should do a world cup on a course like that!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Steam Room

The course and terrain at Afton Alps, site of MNMBS #3, is tough. Throw in 80 degrees with STEAMY conditions - not just humid, straight up water evaporating out of the ground into your face steamy - and you have a tough day in the saddle. Usually at Afton I enter the pain cave at the start and don't come out for a couple days.
From what I hear, our course was right on about 5000 feet of climbing in 4 laps, and the rain the day before left the course slower but not muddy other than a few puddles. TJ Woodruff showed up and really rocked it from the start. Not only is he looking fit, but he is riding very fast. With a good starting position and home course advantage, he should have a strong result at next weekends ProXCT/Subaru Cup. I know he has been priming for it.
Given the warmth, I set my own pace, and for once, didn't pay attention to where anyone was in the race. I just rode the speed that was comfortably hard, and it made the race more fun for me. Jesse and I trade spots a couple times on the first lap, but he too settled into his own pace quickly. The fact that I only had a 42 tooth chain ring up front (I run a 1x10 gearing setup) kept me honest on the hills. Given a smaller chainring, I probably would have dogged it a little more.
Anyway, I held the gap up to TJ at a solid 20-30 seconds for 3 laps, but I faded the last lap with some cramping and lost about a minute I think. Almost 1/4 of the Elite field DNF'd, so that is an indication of how hard it was out there for all of us.
My legs weren't great yesterday, but they certainly weren't horrible. I was pleased with my performance given some lack of motivation (that I mentioned last post) and the difficult nature of the course. As noted above, I did cramped a little but Gu Brew is amazing stuff. I would feel the cramps coming on, down a couple big mouth fulls, and less than 5min later the pings would dissipate.

Equipment note: I ran the Bonti XR3 tires and they hooked up like velcro. The XR3 not a great hard pack tire mind you (taller knobs lay over a little kind of like a Rocket Ron), but in soft conditions they rock! Sara KJ ran the XR2s and TJ was on the XDX. They both said that they were hooking up well too.

We followed up the race with a father's day neighborhood bonfire at my house last night. I managed to drink half a beer before my stomach decide it didn't want any more. Next I tried a light mixed drink. That worked ok...

Thanks to my dad for the hand-ups and never ending support, Jay Richards for the bone chilling water on my back, skinny ski for the pic shown and cool video, and the spectators around the course for all the words of encouragement. Oh, and how could I forget the dude at the water hand up station that kept throwing water in my face rather than on my back, thanks man;)

Now, back to crawling out of that pain cave. I just ate a huge burrito and I am still hungry...

P.S. did any of your see Kevin Ishaug's thumb after the race? What a mangled mess. I think that was harder on my stomach than the race.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rough 1

I made the decision to take a 10 day break from racing with my return being last night at Buck. Basically, it came down to the facts that I had a lightly strained back from playing with my kids after Mankato (they won that wrestling match) and that I did something like 7 mtbk races in 30 days to start the season. It was the right decision, but comes at a cost, which is the very high end fitness.
I slipped a pedal at the start last night but recovered to get a quick gap on the field. The start hurt like more than it should have. I should have taken it easier, and starting in lap 2 Jack, Jeff (yeah, the Hall one, he is still fast and could probably win most any Midwest race he wanted if he put his mind to it) and Jesse were slipping away. I sat up a little to recover and lost some time, probably 30-40s, but before I knew it we were going into the last lap and I caught Jesse with Jeff and Jack only 15 s up on the top pavement climb. I knew that with lapped traffic we would never close it down so I just followed Jesse hoping to do a fun sprint for 3rd. Well, about 1 min from the finish, a lapped rider did a yard sale in front of me. So I stopped, let him get up, and told him it was no big deal. I cruised in softly from there.
So, the fitness is not all gone but some of the high end is, I felt stronger as the race when on. The motivation to suffer, well that is lacking for sure right now. There is never a day I don't want to ride, but many that I would rather not race. Going into Afton, it feels good not to be the favorite. I can mark Jesse, TJ, and Jack and just see how it goes.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mid week bike demo

I just got word on this:

They have top of the line stuff you can reserve and try on the trails out at Murphy each week. I would suggest calling and reserving the Fuel Ex or Top Fuel... but I am partial to 26" wheels=)

And ouch! Apparently they got a few chuckles over me and my Salem-mud-modified bike. Thanks for documenting things Tyson and thanks for the weight reduction tips Chris.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


The MNMBS race at Mt Kato, Mankato, is always hot...sometimes muddy, but always hot. More on that later.

Leading up to the 2nd MNMBS I did the Thrus Night Buck race. The Penn team pulled of the amazing feat of a last minute reroute around a new 8 foot irrigation ditch that appeared on the hill that day. The race was short at only 40 min but still had 1000 feet of climbing in that period...OUCH!

Saturday was a warm day and I kind of forgot to take it easy. Between washing cars, chasing kids, laying sod, taking Tegan mountain biking (yeah, on 2 wheels=), and a brief 40 min spin alone, I was anything but rested for the impending warmest race (heck, even ride) of the year by far the next day. Oh well, so it goes.
Tegan's first 2 wheeled mountain biking ...we hit up Murphy Hanrehan on Saturday

Sunday I felt lethargic going down to Kato, but once I started pedaling I could tell that I didn't totally waste myself the previous day. The warm weather suits me and my legs always feel better. It was just about 90 Sunday in Mankato, so there was plenty of suffering to go around. I just put my head down at the start and set a high tempo. The start was the least painful one this season, and I kept it below my threshold but was still able to gap the field. Kato is a near perfect race course with a long ski hill starting climb to sort things out followed by fast singletrack, twisty singletrack, switch backs, a couple places to launch, and some gnarly rooty chutes. I kept on it for 4 out of 5 laps growing my lead the whole time. I sat up a bit on the last lap, as cramps started to ping. Overall, I was pleased with my fitness, which seems to be coming along but more pleased that I had limited cramping in the hot weather. Usually the first hot weather race puts me in the hurt bucket more than this one did.
Its a race AND I get to launch a little? How can I pass that up? Sweet!
Still not down=) I am no downhiller so this is plenty of air time for me.

With over 400 racers (lots of them staying for much of the afternoon), families, friends, food, and a beautiful day, we couldn't have asked for a better race and venue. Saying we were due for weather like this, well, that is stating the obvious=)
The only time I spend without at least one of my 2 shadows is on the bike or after 8:30 pm....I like that though=)

Equipment note: I continue to be blown away by the XR0 Bonti tires for hard pack racing (race day only tire and not good for sharp rocks or mud/wet). Looking at them, they simply should NOT grip like they do, but they are like Velcro! I was really able to lay the bike over on Sunday w/o loosing grip. I wish I would have converted to these sooner...

All these pics are just screenshots from Dana's gallery. She does an amazing job photographing the MNMBS!