Saturday, March 30, 2013

The S.O.B. Rides Gears!

Gears or Single Speed, Which is Faster?

Yes, it has happened. I rode gears, but unlike Katy Perry kissing a girl, I didn't like it.
Finally got the SIR9 somewhat tuned up with a new rear BB7 brake (still a Juicy Carbon front), a new front tire (RaRa 2.4 tubeless), bar ends, and a manual lockout Reba RL (formerly a pop-loc Reba RL..ooh, big change!).

Other than a different rear tire, rear brake, bar ends and a shorter steer tube and no pop-loc, this is how she looks.
Took it for a test ride from the house to Manzanita trail, then up Stagecoach and back home. The first thing I realize:. Steel is indeed Real...Real F'n Heavy! Still, I had gears and suspension so the extra weight comes with the territory.  As I expected, during the ride I was awkward with the gears, not shifting correctly and rarely in the correct gear. Then on the first steep up, one bar end failed causing me to crash. Fortunately I crashed into the mountainside rather than down the ravine. So ultimately I ended up with a sore shoulder instead of rigor mortis. The ride ended with the most difficult section, the steep climb up the street to my house (seriously, we're talking 15% grade here). In all, I ended up off the bike twice in areas I normally clear. So, imagine my surprise when I get home, check Strava, and find that I had PR'd on Manzanita.* What? That can't be right.

Alright, now I need to know how this Steel framed, front susp., geared (1x9) bike that weighs ~6lbs more than my SS would perform on a real ride so that night I took it to a 'Hammerin Wheels' group ride at Granite Bay. Though I was riding with the front group, dang, I felt slow. Had to walk up a climb I cleaned last week, due to being in the wrong gear (this happened twice), and on any incline, I was definitely slower. Oh, but those flowy flat sections...I was able to fly, and the few miles of fireroad? Fuhgetaboutit! I was hitting speeds over 20 mph...speeds not doable on my SS (unless pointed down hill). Ultimately, I ended up being much faster over most of the course with gears.

So, I learned a lesson most everyone already knew. Gears are faster...most of the time. I will still argue (based on evidence/personal experience) that on rides with long steep climbs, the SS is faster. It is lighter than many road bikes (at 19.4lbs) and I often can keep up on climbs with advanced riders...only to be dropped on the fast, flowy tech stuff, but the point is the SS is a crazy climber, just not crazy fast elswhere. Now if I could just get strong enough to drop a tooth or two in the cog I just might bridge that gap a bit with the gearies, but for now 32:20 will remain my endurance gear of choice.

Now I am off to bid on a rigid fork for the SIR9 so it can become my rigid winter SS bike. Booh-yah!

*Through sheer determination, I set a new PR on Manzanita two days later on the SS. Yeah baby! Steel might be Real, but Scandium is lighter and faster!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Preping For PMBAR

The case, circa 2004-2009?

            The Performance Cargo Case

Very soon the time will come for me to put my favorite toy into a small, dark place and hope that nothing bad happens to it. Naturally, I am talking about stripping my bike down and squeezing it into a bike box of course, and then shipping it across the country to NC. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on an old Performance Cargo Case. While the case is in good condition, it was meant for a 26er or a road bike...NOT a 29er. So, last night I did a dry run (not to be confused with a lubed run).

Wheels deflated. Should I be worried?

Since I already needed to replace the fork on the back up bike (a.k.a. the wife's bike), I chose to try and fit it into the case. This would be a good test because this bike is slightly larger being that it has a suspension fork, a shifter on the bar, a derailleur and a cassette. I quickly found that I had to deflate ALL the air from the tires to make the wheel set fit (hmm, some concern). Then in following the including packing directions, I should need to only loosen the fork and rotate it so. Not happening. With the 29" fork on the bike, it would not fit. Fortunately, removing the fork completely did work. *Note to self to carefully wrap and secure my carbon fork for the trip.
The Green Machine packed away.

In the end I was able to squeeze the entire bike in and close the case without applying excessive pressure. Much relief...though I was prepared to remove the cranks and anything else (even ship the wheel set separately) if that is what it took. As it now looks. I will pack the bike, pay the $50 fee (a Southwest Charge) and my bike will fly with me to NC. If everything arrives as it should; unbent, unbroken and in-true, then it sure will be nice to be ridin' and hike-a-bikin' with familiar faces in remote areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains once again. Thus far Jay and I are 3 for 3 in not getting (too) lost and being forced to squeal like a pig. Hoping this trip makes it 4 for 4.

Next time it will be the Single Silver Bullet's turn.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Auburn Trifector (aka The Whole Enchilada) -- Legs Destroyed

The group getting ready for a sufferfest!
This Sunday was a 'Hammerin' Wheels Meetup' ride called 'The Auburn Trifector'. The route was pretty much Starbucks (on Lincoln), down to the Confluence, up Clementine. Connector out to FHDL, loop around and back.  This is a good endurance route with 30+ miles and ~5000' of climbing. When doing this route (or any route longer than 20 miles) I *normally* like to take it easy on the downhills and rollers and save my energy for the climbs 'cause they are a plenty.
What made this ride different from all others was the company. A solid group of fast riders quickly established a lead group and I decided to stay with them. Also, there was another rigid SS in the lead group so I had to try and stay close, as I knew he'd a;so be working these climbs. Well, to make a long story short, this ride involved very little relaxing. There were a few short regroups, but to stay with the lead group, and Dave (the SS'er), I had to work harder than I have on any other Auburn ride. I was bombing downhills (yes, on a rigid SS). Maybe not as fast as a solid FS rider, but the lead-ups to the descents put plenty of room between the SS'ers and FS, so there was no need to look back. Thanks to working hard on every section of the trail, by the end of the ride I had set 24 Personal Best's (Strava). None of the PR's more meaningful than the final one, the 2 mile climb up Stagecoach. My previous best was over 18 minutes. But on this day, in-spite of tired legs, I had the benefit of always seeing a rider in front of me to chase down, and I knew that I had riders behind me. I gave it my all and ended up with a time of 15:25...over 3 minutes off my previous best (timed) climb. Don't know if my legs will have anything left for a mid-week ride, but it was worth it!

See Strava Results here, or see on the right column.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mount Hamilton Road Ride: Lesson(s) Learned

 The Short Version: After a beautiful climb up Mount Hamilton, on the way back on this 87 mile out-and-back ride, I flatted at the 55 mile mark. I went through two tubes and two CO2 cartridges, and ended up walking 5 miles to a bar/restaurant/store 25 miles from anywhere and waited until someone realized I was not at the finish and returned to find me. I had a patch kit...did no good without any air. A pump sure would have been handy.

The Long Version:

A view of the road leading up to the Lick Observatory
There were two 'Hammerin' Wheels' rides up  Mount Hamilton to choose from. Both were out-and-back rides going up to the Lick Observatory; one up front (starting near San Jose, 40 miles w/~5k of climbing) and the other up the backside (from Patterson, 87 miles w/~8k of climbing). I chose to HTFU and hit the Backside Lick ride (yes, there is a joke in there somewhere). I wanted to get my mileage and climbing up in preparation for PMBAR and other endurance events. The only problem, I suck at riding the road bike long distances unless I ride it like a mtb (slow and steady). Well, the group I was with HAMMERED! Or at least what I would consider hammering. I quickly fell back...and it did not help that I pulled my phone out ~mile 2, and a bunch of money also fell out, Doh! (so I had to stop and pick it up...good thing too). Still, I was able to keep the group in my sights and at one point, a couple guys fell back and tried to pull me up to the group, but they failed as they grossly overestimated my resolve to keep up. I was content riding a pace I felt I could manage knowing that the climb up to the observatory would be a 5 mile steady climb with some steep pitches and switchbacks. About a mile into that climb I started to cramp and lost sight of the others. The last three miles I was off the bike 3 different times due to cramps. Still, I lumbered on and by the time I reached the observatory, the group had snacked, refueled and was headed back down. I quickly purchased two cokes (glad I had that money) and poured them into my bottle, used the restroom and headed back down the mountain. I am a slow descender (don't want to get hurt, or in the case of these roads 'die'), so I rode the brakes and eventually made it to the bottom and started pedaling. I was amazed at how much better my legs felt with that little rest. I started pedaling a steady pace, standing on inclines and sure enough, I had some of our group in my sights. At one point, some guys pulled over for a quick break so I was able to pass them. I was feeling good!
Yeah, that was a short lived feeling as a few miles later (~55 miles into the ride) I flatted. No problem, I brought two tubes and two CO2 cartridges. First tube would not hold air, it was DOA with air leaking right out of the base of the valve stem. Ruh-roh! I took care with the next tube and was relieved that it was holding air. I was a bit stressed about falling back again so I guess I tried too quickly to get the tube set up. Within two minutes, it was flat (most likely pinched during my rush job). There I was, no more air, no pump. Thank God I was wearing my comfy mtb shoes. I walked ~5 miles until I reached the Junction (bar/restaurant/store in the middle of BFE). Thought a few times how if I would have joined the other ride, I would have been done by now! Only three vehicles passed me. A two seater convertible, a sherrif SUV and a Ford Truck. No one stopped, even though I tried to wave them down. I was now 25 miles from the end of the ride and no one at the Junction was heading to Patterson, so I waited, and waited for Kane (my ride) to realize I never made it back...and eventually he did return and get me. Dang, that was one long day.
Three Important Lesson(s) learned:
1. Use your hands to roll the tire on to the wheel. Using the tool you are likely to pinch the tube.
2. Carry a pump! It is already strapped to my bike and ready for the next flat.
3. Stick to the mtb for long tough rides. The road bike is for recovery or fun, scenic rides.

Meh, who am I kidding, I would so do that ride again!The climb was awesome and the views breathtaking (or is it the other way around?).