Friday, September 18, 2015

My next bike?

I really like my hardtail, but on some rides I have been wishing for a little more suspension and slacker angles, without going full enduro. A few weeks ago we did a really huge ride up two mountains (sheep and mineral) over some very rough terrain and on the descents I was basically just trying to survive. Once they got to the top, the people on the big bikes were bombing down and having a blast, but the two of us on xc hardtails spent a lot of time waiting on the climbs. I think the right bike is something in between, so I've been checking out the full suspension XC rides like the Cannondale Scalpel and Orbea OIZ. I'm basically limited to Kona, Cannondale, and Orbea bikes if I want a discount, and the old Kona hei hei is pretty goofy looking so I had ruled that out.

This year, Kona came out with a new Hei Hei:

The Cycling House Hell Ride Series

Sometime last year, or maybe before that, the guys at TCH had an idea to do a really hard one day ride on mixed surfaces. Kind of like speedwagon, or rocky mountain roubaix, but bigger.  What they came up with was 126mi with 46 on dirt and 8100 vertical feet. starting in Hamilton, MT, climbing over Skalkaho pass, doing the state championship road race course past Phillipsburg, and then back over the pass.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tour of Montana

Toward the end of last year, the Missoula bike community started hearing talk of a pro race coming to town. Locals shops and riders were contacted, routes were planned, and then, well, no one heard anything about it for awhile.

The dates got closer and finally some details started to trickle out. There was to be a team time trial thursday night with downtown tonight, road race friday, and crits through downtown on Saturday.  Cool! Who's coming? what teams? anyone famous?

Unfortunately, not too many people. 13 P/1/2 men. 17 P/1/2/3 women. TT and road race were cancelled. Instead of categorized criteriums all day Saturday, there ended up being a Pro 1/2 mens race, an everyone else men's race, and a women's race. Plus a short kids race.

Not being a P/1/2 racer I was in the first race of the day, which consisted of 35+ cat 1/2/3 and mens 3/4/5. 12 total and only two other cat 4s (Austin and Cam from the UM team). Only racing against two other people definitely takes a lot of the fun out of it.

So where was everybody? I guess when the idea is a multi-day pro stage race the locals get left out. Some people I talked to didn't even realize the race was happening, or that there were amateur categories. Plus I don't know how much this was promoted outside of Missoula. It's not huge, but there is a road racing community in the state, plus Idaho and EWA are not far.

There was still a race at least. Main, front, the higgins bridge were all closed to traffic, and the course started at front/higgins, went down main to the u-turn thing, down front, over the bridge, onto 3rd and around the block, back over the bridge. Pretty fun and fast course, although lots of bumps and manholes to watch out for.

Our race stayed together for a few laps and then two of the masters racers made a break for it when I finished a long pull and went toward the back to hang out for a bit. I assume they timed it that way on purpose. Then I was back to working hard chasing right away again, and ended up in a group of four somewhere behind the two leaders. The reason I ended up on the front the first time was because I felt things were going a little too slow. I've heard the strategy of never doing any work in a crit, but that doesn't really work when there are only 12 people. Racing smart is one thing, but who wants to coast along at 18mph with 15 laps to go? I ended up doing a good portion of the work in our group of four along with Josh Martell who was in the masters race, and then got beat out at the end by the guy who sucked wheel the whole time.

Lesson learned? If someone isn't doing any work, drop their ass.

I guess I still ended up on the podium (we all did), but was pretty upset with myself for awhile. You'd also think that with the low turnout the prizes might be better. Nope, got a "destination Missoula" bottle opener. Doesn't even mention the tour of mt.

What I did like was racing downtown on closed streets. The course was blocked off and marshalled a little better than the UM crit so there was less worry of plowing into a pedestrian. People were out watching, and the announcers (Dave Towlie and Alex Gallego) were calling out our names as we went by. That definitely adds a bit over just riding down a road somewhere with no one watching. Then you finish and family and friends are there saying nice things.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Recent happenings on the MTB

My last post was about an XC race in Canada and since then I've done a couple more. I also got some more new parts on the bike. During my course recon for that first race my front brake lever suddenly was going to the bar with zero braking force. I assumed that some air had migrated somewhere it shouldn't have because of sitting sideways in the back of my car. This is about a week after I had the rear brake bled for being soft and inconsistent, but had left the front alone because it was working fine. Screwing the contact adjust all the way out, pumping the brakes, and dialing it back in got them working again for the race, but then they gradually got worse in the next few weeks.

I brought them into Missoula Bicycle Works for another bleed (making it the third per caliper in only a few months of riding), and asked them to contact avid/sram to see if they would do anything about it. Even though my Elixir 9s were out of warranty, Sram sent me brand new Guide RSC brakes, and MBW took care of the installation. They're fancy:

I got the bike back, plus put on a fresh rear tire and new chain, just in time for the start of the Missoula XC Kettlehouse beer league races, which are Wednesday nights leading up to the main event.

Unfortunately, my fitness had slipped a little bit due to a reduction in my riding and an increase in my beer drinking, so I didn't do quite as well as I would have liked. I missed week 2 because I was on the smith river, doing more drinking and no riding, and then crashed on week 3 when I was in a fairly respectable position. Here are a few pictures from that one:

Also I don't have that beard anymore. Just a greasy moustache.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Coulee cruiser race report

May 1st is my sister's birthday, and she lives up in Canada where we are from. From riding around there when I visit, I noticed there is an XC race course in town and, given the race was on the 3rd it seemed like a good idea to go up for the weekend and bring my mountain bike.

I got my frame back from repairs a few days earlier and it's looking good as new, so there's that, plus I bought a new front tire.

Instead of the Ikons I've been using I thought I would try something with a little more tread up front. I'm thinking a little more grip will make the bike even more fun to ride, and also faster on the downhill sections. It's still a light and fast rolling tire but has a little bigger knobs, especially on the sides. Ikons have been great and roll fast, and have plenty of grip on hardpack, but when you get into looser stuff there isn't a lot of traction. Will keep an ikon in the rear but so far this new thing up front is pretty good.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Wide handlebars, a cracked frame, plus a ride on a Kona Precept

Yeah, this is a post about mountain bikes. They're fun- you go out in the forest and get to see cool things and the ride back is usually downhill and fun. Also your chances of getting hit by a car are low. Eaten by bears, slightly higher though.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

UM downtown crit

Last weekend the University hosted a collegiate criterium downtown, and I figured I should get into the open race. The UM team had managed to get a bunch of downtown streets closed for most of the day and created a 1 mile circuit that went around the xxxxes at the end of Higgins, up a few blocks to Pine, down Higgins in front of Charlie's and Wardens, down Spruce, and back around. Since the college races started at 8am, and the open mens wasn't until two, I decided to get all my stuff together and go down there at about 10 to watch. This is the Women's A group:

I was out of cereal at home so I went into the break to get a pastry and some coffee. That place really needs to re-work the payment and ordering system because it took way too long to just pay for a cup of coffee I poured myself. Anyhow, I was down there and noticed the course wasn't entirely blocked off from pedestrians so I went and stood on a corner to prevent people from wandering into the path of a bike race. Still had some close calls with the men's college A group. I had originally been nervous about the racing and cornering part of doing a crit (I've never raced one before), but after seeing there were only a few people signed up my concern turned towards the course control aspect. People coming out of Charlie's and the Ox (on Sunday morning...) tended not to be very aware of their surroundings and kept just walking into and across the street without looking. Luckily, no one crashed into anyone all day.

After men's A, the college kids were done racing and it was time for women's open. Unfortunately only Tamara plus two juniors showed up, so Tam did a few laps with them and it was cut short. I ate half a sandwich then went to my car to change and warm up, and realized I'd left my shoes at home. No worries, had a good 40min before the 2:15 start time. I get back just before two and some guys are like "hey, you'd better get over there, race is starting early." I ride around the corner to the start where everyone is lined up and we go immediately. So much for warming up and getting some laps around the course. Here's a picture John Seiber took during one of the first laps:

Monday, April 6, 2015

2015 Rocky Mountain Roubaix report

Last weekend was my third trip to the Rocky Mountain Roubaix, a road race out in Frenchtown, MT that covers a mix of paved roads and dirt. You never know what a dirt road is going to be like in the spring in Montana, so Friday before the race I headed out to the course with my cross bike and did a pre-ride on the rougher sections. The dirt was very hard packed and smooth, so I opted to bring my road bike again, with 23mm continental GP4ks. Since it ends on pavement with a tailwind I was more concerned about speed on the fast sections than about flat protection.

Only about 6 riders turned up for cat 4, so our race was shortened by one lap (10mi for a total of 41) and combined with the 5 field. I was ok with it because it meant a bigger field and riding with my teammates Jesse and Luke, plus a few other friends. Leaving frenchtown the pace was really relaxed and chatty, so on the climb up ninemile road I found myself on the front next to Jesse and we picked things up. I could here people grunting and breathing heavy, and cresting the hill I looked back to see a slightly smaller group. A good sign, I though, that my spring training had paid off. Then we started heading down toward the ranger station on dirt, and I felt a big rock bang off my rear rim. Sure enough, it went flat. I pulled off for the wheel car, swapped on a replacement, and was back rolling. Then I saw Jesse on the side of the road with a front flat. I waited for him to change wheels and we started rolling again. It was less than 10mi into the race and I figured we'd be able to catch back up as long as the group didn't really pick up the pace, which I wasn't expecting to happen until the second lap around.

Then, just as we started rolling again my front tire went flat. Jesse waited, I swapped on a new wheel, and then right as we get to the ranger station my rear goes flat again. I tell Jesse I'm done and he takes off on his own, now probably too far back after stopping for 3 wheel changes. Josh Tack is sitting at the intersection after double flatting, waiting for a ride back. I considered joining him, but had a tube and co2 in my back pocket so I fixed the flat and got moving. I still had a glimmer of hope of catching back up and started cranking down toward ninemile house. Along the way I noticed Myke Hermsmeyer taking pictures and found this one on facebook:

It sums up my race pretty well.

Catching the main group didn't happen, as it turns out I had lost about 6 minutes with all the flats. I did make up about 4 min so with one more lap I might have been close. I went by a few stragglers from our and other groups, and then spotted some familiar colors near the top of the last climb past the ranger station. It turns out Luke had also flatted, so not a good day for team MBW. We rode in together, at least finishing the race. I believe I ended up 4th in the cat 4 field due to two dnfs, with one of them taking a wrong turn somewhere (note to racers: learn the course ahead of time). Jesse managed to catch back up to the main field and ended up 3rd in cat 5.

So I'm pretty disappointed I didn't get to actually race against the other guys. I've gotten some good training in this spring and my legs were feeling fresh. I'm considering headed out to a similar race in eastern WA in a few weeks called Ronde Van Palouse but it is a pretty long drive. Then I have a few MTB races, then I will probably go out to Wolf Creek for the Cow Country Classic, a race I had a hard time at two years ago. Also, the UM cycling team is putting on a downtown crit Sunday 4/11, which I will be at but might not race.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Polson Speedwagon

Went to my first race of the year last weekend and it was a tough one. Every year, Matt Seeley and Wayne Sicz put on the Speedwagon Classic race outside of Polson. It covers 50 miles of dirt and gravel roads with a few sections of pavement. This was my very first race when I went two years ago, and my trusty caad9 did not cut it in the loose gravel. I skipped it last year, but now that I have a sweet cross bike I had to go again.

From my limited experience, I've discovered that tire selection is pretty important. If the gravel is fresh and things are muddy, you're going to want some pretty chunky tires. On the other hand, if it's dry and hard packed, you can get away with a faster tire. To keep things rolling quickly without completely sacrificing control and flat protection, I stuck a 28mm Maxxis refuse slick on the back, and then put a Clement LAS 33mm file tread up front. It's meant for cross racing on grass, but the high volume, low rolling resistance, and moderate side knobs seemed perfect for the speedwagon course. Most of the other riders had the same idea, although there were a number of road bikes and skinnier tires.

Friday, the weather was fantastic. 70f, sunny, no wind. But it's spring in Montana, so obviously that didn't hold out for long. Saturday brought scattered showers, with my weather app telling me Polson was experiencing 20mph winds with gusts to 40. I'm not sure they were that strong, but it definitely wasn't pleasant. That, plus a training race in Drummond thinned out the field a bit, with just under 30 riders turning up for the start. Two years ago it was closer to 60. It didn't stop most of the fastest guys in MT from showing up however, most of them in the same Cycling House van.

It looks pretty nice, but it was only 45f and I could could barely keep my hat on:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring rides and races

It's not even April, and I've been riding outside in Montana for about two months now. Even a lot of the mountain bike trails are clear. The only downside is that I didn't ski very much this year. So yeah, first real outdoor ride of the year? Jan 27th. Last year I didn't get out until Mar 12th. I've been getting my ass kicked on the weekend rides by guys like Toby, Elliot, Stinky, Josh and Sam, I've already lost a few pounds of "winter weight," and am starting to feel a little quick, which is good because I have two races coming up.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hello new bike season

Race season is about to start here in Montana so I figured I might as well write some stuff on here. I have mixed feelings about 2014, mostly because I feel like I could have done better. For my second season of racing I guess it wasn't bad though.

I got in a full season of racing across three disciplines, won two, had a 2nd place, and finished the butte 100 mountain bike race. I upgraded my race licenses across the board, got cool new bike (which I took racing the next day) and did more miles and elevation compared to the year before. I also got to travel more and rode in new places.