Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I finally beat someone....


It was rainy on Wednesday nearly a week ago. It has been raining off and on all day and as "ride time" was drawing closer I began to have my doubts. I heard it was downpouring. I heard it rained all day. Then, right before heading out the door I got a post that read "I rode Merrell an hour ago and it was great. I am currently a block from the trail and it hasn't rained much...also not raining now". So, off I went to Rockford. 


Once I got to the trail I was pleased with what I saw. The parking lot was damp, but no puddles...and the skies were parting. Still some dark clouds, but none too concerning. I was joined by a few members of the wolf pack and one other guy. This guy in particular was on the ride at Cannonsburg SGA a while go where I got dropped by everyone a few miles in. I led into the woods. It was Wednesday so the direction is Counter-clockwise which isn't my favorite direction at Merrell. At any rate I was pushing a bit because the conditions merited the harder pace. I wanted to ride fast because it had been a while. I realized I was pressuring this guy. We got to Sawtooth and the 3 guys turned in there. I had no interest so I went ahead to where the trails rejoined and waited for them, see pic above. It was a short breather before they joined back in and off we went to the Wynalda loop. For the record, I dislike this loop on Red day. It feels like it is uphill the whole freaking loop....which it isn't...but still. I pressed on slogging away on the climbs, still putting a bit of pressure on the other guy (not on Mike or Nate, just the other guy). 


As I hit the end of Wynalda I started to ratchet up the pace for the last few sections. I was riding about as hard as I have this year while still being in control. It felt awesome....it felt like I was "back". I was riding fast. I pressed until I got back to the parking lot where Mike and Nate were waiting. They asked where the other guy was. He was a long way back. He was just cruising, but I still got back before him...much like he did to me the last time we rode together. So, crushing a guy that didn't know it was a race.....still a win. lol.

And it has now been a week since I rode. ugh. Life ya know. It happens. Might try to sneak out tomorrow. We shall see.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2nd Ride on the Ardents

After a busy couple of days full of garage sales and roofing I loaded up the D.U.F.F. and headed to Custer. I was planning on Yankee with some of the Wolf Pack, but thankfully they were not able to make it and I headed to the flat land instead.

As I hit Augusta the roads were steaming after a surprising rain. It was partly cloudy but it appeared it had rained quite a bit just before I hit town. That was very helpful on the trails. Everything in southwest Michigan has been crazy dry. 

I was stocked when I saw a just barely wet trail. The rocks were already drying and the trail was perfect. I wasn't pushing hard. I was just riding. I was making sure that I was getting traction before I decided to push a bit. Still not the fastest, but I was feeling pretty comfortable. 

I am really starting to like the new tires. Granted, it is only 2 rides but I had a lot more trust on these tires. So much so that I actually power slid a corner and kept control. It was on the Green at Custer. I have been trying to learn how to corner faster by leaning forward vs. leaning back. Might sound strange but have you ever heard the saying "drive the bike into the corner"? I alway have heard that, but I have always been a "float into the corner" kind of rider. Meaning, I tend to sit back on the bike and let the front wheel float around the corners. Floating is much slower than driving. By simply keeping my weight forward on the bike I have learned to corner faster. This comes with some semblance of trust to the traction of the tires. I was trying to learn on my last set of tires and was gaining speed. Then I switched tires. lol.

Anyway, because these new tires are 2.35 I am even more confident in the traction I get. I was pushing pretty hard and found myself leaning forward on a downhill corner. It has a sharp turn at the bottom and as I went thru the corner I had the urge to kick the bike to the left. When I did, the rear tire slid and then connected, rocketing me out of the corner. It was a whole new thing for me. I was fairly surprised with myself.

Overall, a solid 15 miles on tacky and still dry trails at Fort Custer. Had a solid gym session tonight and I am feeling pretty good. Gotta keep it rolling. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Back at it

I am feeling quite a bit better. And since I was feeling better I wanted to burn off some stress. There is no better way to do that than to ride my bike. I finally got picked up my wheels and actually loaded my bike up on Friday morning. After a productive morning I headed to lunch with my manager. Once we got back the department was told we could leave after 8 hours. That meant I was able to bail out of work at 2:30. Since it was so early Mike was able to ride with me. 

Photo credit: stolen from internet.

Mike and I made the trek to Luton Park. I was shocked at the amount of traffic on the streets at 2:30 in the afternoon. Because we were riding Luton we took the East Beltline all the way to Rockford. Why not the highway? Well, there were 3 accidents between 28th street and the s-curve. We chose the lesser of 2 evils. Knowing that Nate and Karl were heading up we planned to ride a loop and then meet up with them for a second loop.

Mike and I headed out to find a very dry and dusty Luton. We need rain. We hit the yellow and the orange and the black before I got a text that the other guys were getting close. We skipped the red and then took the short green back to the lot. I was feeling ok, but lacking any semblance of power. The climbs were sluggish and I was simply trying to survive them. Yes, survive the climbs at Luton....did I mention I am heavy. lol.

We picked up the other guys and headed out again. To my surprise they took off like bats out of hell on the first section. Riding new tires I was trying to get comfortable on them. Add the new tires to the lack of shape and I was dumped pretty quick. They would ride ahead and wait for me then ride ahead and wait for me. That is fine, I was riding.  We did all the loops and it was a solid ride. Not super fast, but any type of mileage is good mileage right now.


Now, about the new tires. Rocket Rons have been my tire choice for nearly for years. I like them, but I wondered if there was a better option. I poked around and looked at some other brands like Kenda, Maxxis, Specialized, and ended up looking at 45Nrth tires for my fatbike (got sidetracked). What I found was the Maxxis Ardent Race tires. These tires, much like other brands, offer a thicker more durable sidewall. Schwable has the snake skin, Maxxis calls their version EXO.


As you can see from the pic above the tread pattern is interesting. Having ridden Specialized fast tracks before making the Schwable switch I immediately loved the tread pattern. This was the first ride on them so I was interested to see how they worked. They sounded different. As odd as that sounds these tires sound different than the Rocket Rons did in the corners. Here are my initial thoughts on these tires:

Straights
I didn't notice any difference. 

Climbing
The traction seemed more reliable on the Ardents than I had with the Rons. I noticed when standing and mashing that I didn't have as much chatter on the loose areas. Not as much slipping. Pretty good and constant grip over rocks, roots, sand and gravel (all the Luton surfaces)

Cornering
Here is where I cannot give an opinion yet. My thoughts are that they will be just as good, if not better, than the Rons. My issue is that I didn't trust them and was fairly tentative in pushing the corners hard. Once I get a few rides on them I will elaborate a bit more.

Overall
The tires roll pretty good. The traction is solid climbing and in the corners. They are easy to get up to speed. I had a few times where I pushed pretty hard and the tires were the least of my concerns. They responded how I thought they would. So far, I like them.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

You done messed up A A ron....

So once again it is my weekly update. 

My last ride was at Fort Custer a week ago. Then I found excuses for the rest of the week. Little did I know that my fake excuses would then lead to a legitimate excuse. On Wednesday I had a very stressful day with one of my teenagers. No details, but lets just say that this child should be thankful murder is illegal. Add that on top of my already high stress level and will little surprise...I believe my ulcer is back.

So what does that mean exactly? It means nothing good. Essentially I took a half day on Friday and went home...climbed directly in bed...and slept until the evening. I was up for 2 hours and slept until noon the next day. So sleep, along with some rather uncomfortable intestinal distress. That leads to not being able to ride...but only since Thursday. But, like I said....excuses precluded the ulcer symptoms.

So, I am hoping that by Wednesday or Thursday I will be ok physically and will be able to ride again. That is ok considering the way the weather looks the next few days. In the mean time I have been thinking about 2018 and what my plans will be. While I don't think LJ100 will be realistic I do plan on racing again. 

Not that 2017 is even over yet, as there are still plenty of events left that people will be racing. These events will be anywhere from mountain bike races to cross races to winter fat bike races. While I do plan on riding in the winter I won't be ready for any semblance of racing this winter.  So, my plan for 2018 is....

The Lowell 50
I have been signed up for this race twice and never done it. One time I was stupid sick and the other I was simply a pussy and didn't want to ride in the rain. Since there are 2 episodes of this race every year, I would really like to attempt it.

Barry Roubaix
Again. I have done Barry and I love the course, love the atmosphere, and the event as a whole. It has been a few years since I have been able to race due to my oldest daughter and her awesome dancing competitions on that same weekend. She is graduated now. There might be a chance she will be dancing again, but with BR being early this year....I should be good.

That is a good place to start. I know I have 32 weeks to get ready. I have 32 weeks, but it starts now. Put the list of excuses down along with the unhealthy food. I stopped drinking pop, so that is a start. Been nearly a week now. Now I need to get my nutrition under control. Those 30ish weeks will be gone before we know it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weekly update

The weeks keep ticking by, and the days are getting shorter. Seems like less than a week ago it was 9:30, now it is dark closer to 9. Pretty soon I will be driving to work in the dark (which I already do) and driving home in the dark. ugh.

Not a real good week for riding. I did a road ride Tuesday night, and that was about it. I was in the gym on Monday and then headed there Friday since nobody was home. I did ride on Saturday too, so let me recap the 2 rides I did.

Road ride.
The funny thing about the road bike is how twitchy it is...until I get used to it. Once I get settled in I really do like the bike. It rides smooth. I do a short sub 18 mile loop around my town here. It is low traffic and the road surfaces are decent, especially for Michigan. My legs felt like concrete though. I had zero power at all. My sustained efforts were slow, and hard. (thats what she said ;) 

Anyway, my ride was pretty good all things considered. The interesting thing about this ride? My time was exactly 1 second different than the last time I rode this route. 1 second over 18 miles. I have never had 2 times that close in all of the journeys over this route. As awful as my legs felt, I figured it would be a slow ride, but it was "consistent". 

Didn't do anything but order tires the other days. Those will be here next week, more to come on those. Saturday I loaded up Albert and headed to Fort Custer. Because I was at the gym the night before I wasn't sure how my legs would respond. The first mile wasn't bad. lol. I rode into Custer and took a shortcut to the green loop. I finished up the Green loop and headed to the Red loop. I was actually getting comfortable on Albert until I remembered the brakes are weak and nearly blew a corner. After that caught my attention I was able to settle in and get comfortable again. Not a fast ride, but the bike sticks to the ground because the tires are so freaking big. I don't care for the tread on my current tires, but those will be getting replaced in the winter anyway. 

So that is about it....other than I need to buckle down and eat healthier. 


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Updating again

Every time I remember to post it has been weeks since my last post. For those that read, my apologies. Life has been hectic still and I am doing my best to survive day to day.  Alas, onto the last few weeks.


I have been getting out. Rode Merrell a few weeks ago. Made it about 4 miles before I chirped a rock and gashed a sidewall. So, I took a nice hike in the woods before finding my way out. 


Having to wait a while to get a new tire I remembered that I actually have a fat bike. So I loaded that up and rode to the Allegan trail here in town. I wanted to see what progress had been made...and it wasn't much. I just tooled around checking things out before heading home. The main takeaway...the fatty is a way different bike than the DUFF.


Wanting to really test out the fatty (Albert) I headed to the Maple Hill trail at Markin Glen in Kalamazoo. This is a new trail that hasn't even had it grand opening yet. This will be an interesting trail for sure when it is done. It was fairly short yet, but there was a screaming fast downhill line that has table tops. Stupid fast. being on a 40 pound bike I wasn't about to fly...not that I like to fly anyway. I was just riding and checking out the terrain. Hilly. The fist section is uphill to an opening where you can choose the "downhill only" line or the other section of trail. I missed the other section the first time thru. I just went to the downhill run and really enjoyed it. After that run there is a section of trail that is fairly flat and winds around the south side of the park. This is where the trail construction is continuing so you take the road back to the lot and go uphill again. This time I took the trail towards the right. it wraps around and ends up back at the trailhead. Overall, a fun trail and a nice change of pace when compared to the other trails in the area.



I headed to Hammond Hill the next week with Albert (fatbike) to see how the new trail system is doing. It is interesting for sure. This is another new trail system that is about 6 miles long. The kicker here....it is bi-directional all the time...meaning you can find someone head-on....while bombing down a hill....or they could be...so it was farily nerve racking riding here. Other than that, it is a pretty cool trail system. There are connectors all over and you can just sorta keep riding and turning left or right and generally end up back at the car. 



Once I got the tire fixed on the Anthem (D.U.F.F.) I had to go try out Merrell again. This time I rode with Nate and we did 2 full laps and got all the spurs. The major thing I noticed....after riding Albert for a few rides I was super twitchy on the D.U.F.F., super twitchy. It took me at least a mile before I was getting comfortable again. Because Merrell is such a blast (in the yellow direction) it didn't feel like we rode as far as we did. Solid ride, slow....but solid.


Today I headed to Fort Custer. I turned in a solid lap on the red loop. The dirt was "hero". the trail was in amazing shape all around and I was just pushing everywhere I could. I felt "good" for the first time in a long time. I have been feeling ok, but not good. Today was good. I headed out on the green loop to complete my ride and it was cut short by another torn sidewall. This tire had about 25 miles on it. I didnt hear a big twinge or anything, but I must have hit a rock just right to cut the wall.  Oh well, just need to get it replaced again...for the second time in less than a month. Going to look into the snake skin version next time.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Finally an OK week

This was one of my best riding weeks of the year, and I will take it.

Monday I dusted off the road bike and headed out for a familiar loop. My so called "Little John Loop" where I ride from home and make a circle to Chicora before heading back home. My ride was hot and a bit twitchy. Having pulled the road bike off the shelf for the first time in 2017 and going from 2.3's to 22mm tires, well...there is your difference. My ride was not fast, but it was mileage that I desperately needed.

Tuesday was the group ride turned solo ride at Cannonsburg State Game area. Solid two laps. Look at the previous post HERE for more info on this ride. 

Wednesday I took the day off. My legs were out of gas. I went and had a nice dinner with my oldest daughter instead.....you know...recovery ;).  I took Thursday off as well. It was one of those days were I probably should have gone to ride, but instead of taking care of the odds and ends of daily life.

Friday, I had to do some electrical work for my sister-n-law. I was also expecting my wife home from her trip so I voted against riding. Instead, after finding out the wife was going to be late, I geared up and headed out on the road again. I was actually noticing some zip in my pedal force. I was holding a pretty solid average. Then I caught a guy that was on a similar route. We rode together for a mile or so and chatted. Then I turned back towards home and he went on the rest of his journey. The rest of my ride was pretty good. Held a constant speed and just enjoyed being on the bike.

After taking Saturday off, it was time to go again today. I loaded up and stopped at the gas station, still not 100% sure where I wanted to go. A quick look at the weather map gave me my direction. There was a bit of rain to the south so I headed up to Luton Park. To my surprise it has rained there some time that morning. Still, I was there and figured if it was muddy I would just ride the interior loop. It wasn't. There was 4-5 small puddles and the rest of the trail was in great shape. 

First lap it did take me a bit to settle in because the rocks and roots were a bit slick. Because I am still heavy I am just riding to be riding....not setting any records. My main notice, it was humid out. I was dripping sweat into my glasses in the first 10 minutes. As it always seems at Luton, I felt like I had the trail to myself. First lap in, I stopped at the parking lot. Refilled my bottle and headed out for another lap. It was only about 11 o'clock but I was pouring sweat still. Not hot, humid. 

On this lap I decided to work more on handling and cornering. Trying to avoid the brakes....because...that is how you get faster right? It went pretty good as I was taking corners a bit faster that I did on the first lap. Overall it was a good ride.

My average speed on the road was nearly .5 mph faster on my second ride.
My average speed at Luton was almost a full mph faster that the previous time I rode it a few weeks ago. So, progress is happening.