Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Happy New Year!

Ok, so...WHOOPS! It has been a minute since I blogged. So, let me see.....

Not much has been going on. I won't waste time, I will just give a snap shot.

New tires for Albert.
New Years Day......ride. Solid 6 miles in sub zero temps.
Trainer set up.

Sickness.....for a few days. ugh.

So 2018 started off good. I headed to Fort Custer and rode Albert in the snow for real. It was cold and a lot of fun. Then I had a nice trainer ride to get re-acclimated. Hit the gym, was feeling good. Then trainer again the next night. But then the wheels came off. Took Friday off as rest and got stupid sick over the weekend. So plan to jump on the bike again tonight. 

Plan it to head into race season by getting my ass kicked....and finishing the year competing. 

It happens one pedal stroke at a time.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A gravel ride and a crash

I have been wanting to do a gravel road ride for a while. It has been calling me. Especially since I signed up for the 36 mile Founders Fall Fondo on October 15th. I knew I should probably do at least one long gravel ride. It just so happens that Grand Rapids bicycle company was having a demo with Cannondale. GRBC also does a gravel ride every Thursday. It worked out that I was able to ride. I was also able to demo a Cannondale Slate for the ride. They normally have a 30ish mile loop, but because of the demo they had a shorter 18 mile loop set up as well. I was feeling froggy and was going to do the longer loop until I figured out they were leaving at different times. My plan was to make the decision of route based on how I was feeling. Instead, I opted for the shorter loop for a few reasons. First, I was on a demo bike. I didn't want to figure out it was uncomfortable and be miserable for 30 miles. Second, I haven't ridden that far this year...at all. So not a big deal, I opted for the shorter loop.

It was awesome to be out on gravel....on a gravel specific bike. The ride didn't start fast. Just cruising. It pretty much stayed there. The group was pretty diverse. While I would have been a weaker link in the longer group, I was one of the stronger in the shorter distance group. It was an interesting ride, especially when it got dark. A shockingly large amount of people in the group didn't have lights. At one point I let the group go an was hanging back with a few people. There ended up being 4 of us back. I was the only one with a light. I led them back to the group. It was a solid group ride and I will have another post about the bike. 

Today, I headed to Cannonsburg with Nate and Pears. With all the recent rain I was looking forward to a tacky trail. I was not disappointed. Trail was in great shape, just covered by some wet leaves. I do like this trail, but I am in no shape for climbing....which is why I went there. Not gonna get any faster by avoiding the misery...it is time to embrace it. I had a pretty good ride. We were just cruising. I was always last one up the hills, but it doesn't matter....I was out there. We were just back on the normal loop after riding the connector back from the West loop, and it happened. I let my front wheel drift high on a berm and the side knobs grabbed, pulling the bike out from under me. I was pulled to the ground, landing on my left shoulder and knee. Happened pretty quick. I tried to think back to the last time I crashed, and I cannot put my finger on how long it has been. At least 4 years ago was the last time I was on the ground. At least it wasn't a high speed, high injury type of crash. It was a slower speed slam to the ground. My days of riding without incident just got reset to "zero". 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tough Week

It was a weird and tough week for training. Having things to do on Monday and Tuesday meant no riding. Then Wednesday I did manage to get out. Thursday was training at the gym. Then I used excuses to not ride Saturday....or so far today on Sunday. But, lets get to it....

Wednesday I headed to Yankee, because...why not? Yankee is usually quiet and I just needed to clear my head. I headed there alone simply to ride. I was surprised how busy the parking lot was, especially for Yankee. Normally this trail is quiet this time of year. Regardless, I headed out for a long ride. I started on the short warm-up loop. I was feeling pretty good. I forgot that the trail has changed a bit and was really enjoying the flow again. Right away it was quiet, and then there was a huge sand pit. It was expected, but it was awful. I plodded along. I reached the parking lot and headed onto the long trail. One thing I do not like about the new Ardents I am riding is the way they react in the sand. They grab. Not in a good way. I am used to floating thru the sand and now I have to be careful where my weight is because I can get dumped in a hurry. The first section has a good sandy area and it grabbed me. I was leaning right and the bike went right. Thankfully I didn't go down, but I was on my toes already.

I was feeling ok. Right away my brain started wandering to thoughts of making it thru without dabbing a foot or walking any hills. Small accomplishments that I need to keep moving forward. It felt good to be out there, suffering, at Yankee. I was working my way up the ditch climb when I had to dab. Some sand and loose gravel sucked me in. Not a huge deal. Slowly I reached the next climb. At this point, I was still trying to make the climbs. It ended. Because of the loose gravel and sandy conditions at Yankee, I couldn't do it. I have to spin a lower gear (because I am weak right now) and was just spinning out. 

It turned into a trudging. Each mile was harder and harder. I knew it would, but it was still good to be out. Yankee has a way of smacking you around no matter how good you are feeling. I cannot believe I did triples and a quad there in 2015. Yikes.

I did sign up for the Founders Fall Fondo last night. Not a "race" just a ride on the infamous Barry Roubaix course. I signed up for the 36 miler. I might slide to the 22 miler, but I guess we will see what happens there. I will get out for a long ride, maybe Barry, next weekend. My focus will turn to training here real soon. RIght now, motivation is much needed. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Upper Mac and Luton...a mental battle

Riding has been pretty good lately. However, with more riding comes the mental side of this sport. Last week was one of those times where the mental battles were happening. Lets start at Upper Mac.

I had ridden Upper Mac two days in a row the previous week. Not my favorite trail, but something different for sure. So, Nate wanted test out the fatty, and his choice was Upper Mac. So, I loaded up and went to work. All day I sat there not wanting to ride Upper Mac. No desire. Once we got there we had a handful of issues. First, Mike had a flat. Then Nate was tweaking the brakes on Albert and it took me forever to get them adjusted. Not his fault, they needed to be adjusted. It did however take up a lot of time. It was hot. I didn't want to ride there. The ride finally started and it didn't take long to figure out that I really really wasn't in the mood. We took the first short cut and headed back. WHen we got back Mike had found a tube and was getting ready to head out. I wanted to ride more...for some reason...so I headed out again. I rode past the first shortcut to find Nate waiting. We collectively decided to turn back and take the shortcut, letting Mike continue on his full lap. I was done. We hit the short cut and I limped back to the car.

Mentally, I had defeated myself before I ever got on the bike. I was honest enough with myself to know that this just wasn't a day for me. I let my brain get the best of me. I lost this battle.

My next ride was at Luton with Mike, his wife Jessica, Nate, His girlfriend Perry-Ann, and Matt. We headed out and it was a solid pace. We would separate a bit then regroup. The ladies were doing excellent. At the Black trail we decided to roll ahead and then wait for the ladies. Right away I got dumped. No worries as I was riding my pace and was just enjoying being on the bike. After the first loop Mike, Matt and I headed out again. We were running out of daylight but we pressed on. Yellow, Black and then we skipped the Red. We rolled out of the woods and completed our ride. Nice.

These 2 rides were drastically different. Not by terrain. Simply by mentality. Much more of this sport is mental than what people realize. A few years ago I had pretty good mental toughness. Now, I need to rebuild. Lets get started.

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:

I didn't notice any difference. 

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)

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.

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.