Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seven degrees of triangulation: Prince and Me

Prince has a symbol, why can’t I?  Actually, Prince is a symbol.  I’m not sure I want to completely sell my soul to a work of art, or am qualified.  I don’t know 27-something instruments, or how to dress like a woman.  I guess I’m more of a simple creature.  So I’ve created the Dickhouse symbol.  It shall serve as a simple reminder of what is good in life.  Mountain biking, beer, and bed, in that order.   

What more could you want.  At some point something may intervene, and take the place of one of these.  A lady, a dog, a lady dog, learning 27 instruments, work, life, wine (no!), gambling on Greyhounds, croquet, out-of-control blogging, out-of-the-blue diarrheic episodes, monastic retreats, realizing my calling to be  ballet dancer?  All viable options, but for now I feel pretty fulfilled.  I’m a simple man.  Simple pleasures.  And what place will the prospective intervening priority take in my life triangle?  It could, perhaps, be extended into a square, but nobody likes a square except Huey Lewis.  

A triangle is so much more geometrically pleasing.  I would have to guess that rest would be the only replaceable factor in this love triangle.  You’d have to sever my legs for me to give up biking, at which point I’d probably pick up a recumbent hand cycle; beer is the angel that follows me around everywhere I go, and there is no way of getting rid of that bitch.

This week in Bikes:  Read last post.  I rode the high country, Colorado Trail, twice. Excellent riding.  A mountain biker’s wet dream.  Only this wet dream actually paid off in the end.  Also, I’ve been enjoying commuting on my baby since it showed up in the mail a few weeks ago from home:
Uno Pista circa 1988

It’s a custom, one-off, hand-built Japanese track (Keirin) frame from the 80’s.  It actually has the name of the racer stenciled on one chainstay, and the builder’s signature on the other.  Riding a fixed gear in the city is fun; something I missed for a while.

This week in Beer:  Living in Colorado, and working in the beer industry, I have the pleasure of trying fantastic beers almost daily.  My place of employment just entered 6 beers into the Great American Beer Festival.  I have particularly been enjoying our Saison D’Tesh, a traditional saison recipe brewed with a sour mash; and our wet-hopped Harvest Kind Ale, which is hop-backed with 70-pounds of fresh local hops!  From other breweries, Avery’s Kaiser, Dale’s Pale Ale (no duh!), and I stumbled into my house last night only to see this beauty:

Twisted Pine’s Hoppy Boy.  I promptly had my way with her.  This is one of my favorite IPA’s.  It’s the only one I’ve encountered that has the roasty malt-forward character, and similar overall taste, as my favorite IPA of all time, Upland Brewing Company’s Dragonfly.

This week in Bed: I slept, I think.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First Annual High Alpine On Borrowed Time Bonus Days Epic: Days 1 & 2

With all of these “Epic” stage races popping up like morning woods, I thought I should start my own.  Stage race that is; the morning wood is out of my control.  There’s the Trans-Sylvania Epic, Breck Epic, Ore 2 Shore, Pisgah Stage Race, BC Bike Race, La Ruta, TransAlp Challenge, etc.  With neither the money, time, nor most importantly, foresight to attend any of these, I decided to create the High Alpine On Borrowed Time Bonus Days Mountain Bike Epic, or HAOBTBDMBE for short.  It will have the prestige of longest title of any mountain bike epic race.  It will also be different from the rest, in that it has no time frame, entry fee, or support.  That’s right, it’s FREE!  In addition to these attractive features, there are no rules other than riding your bike.  The only race officials present will be grumpy Old Man Weather and his wife Mother Nature. The HAOBTBDMBE is currently going on, and will extend until grumpy Old Man Weather calls it.  What separates this “Epic” from the rest is that cheating is allowed, and encouraged.  You shall cheat winter as long as possible in the high country, as long as you evade the dubious race officials; patrons saints of the Church of the Frozen and Dead.  For this reason, there is an element of elusory freedom; a rush that you can’t get anywhere else.

This week the HAOBTBDMBE kicked off with bright sunny skies and warm temps. 

Days 1 & 2 both started at Kenosha Pass on 285, climbing up to Georgia Pass, then descending westward on the Colorado Trail to Tiger Road, up the West Ridge, then back.  Day 1 stopped at the top of the west ridge, turned around and went back.  Day 2 continued down almost to the bottom at Tiger Road, then turned around and headed back up to Georgia Pass, and back to Kenosha Pass.  About 95 miles in 2 days, 100% singletrack, all on the Colorado Trail, all above 10k feet. I won.  In fact, I saw a bunch of other winners out there as well. Both days were absolutely perfect fall days to be on a bike in the mountains.  

Cool mountain streams.

Epic views.

Georgia Pass.


There were golden runs through fiery shining aspen groves, singletrack descents so fast that your gonads run into hiding, so long that your hands will cramp and scream in arthritic fits, roots and rocks a plenty, lung-busting climbs, above tree-line views, thick nose-and-lung filling lush piney scents, and beautiful buff dirt singletrack.  Actually, I think Mother Nature was on hand, but she was disguised as a beautiful angel of color and light.  Actually, I’m pretty sure the bitch was riding on my back as I climbed the hour-long ascents up to Georgia pass.  So as it goes, I will be running for the mountains to continue the HAOBTBDMBE every chance I get until the Old Man calls it a year.  I suggest you and yours sign up and attend this “Epic” event. 

Note to self: Breakfast burritos of questionable bacterial content at 11k feet are trouble.

Although there are no entry fees, liquid donations are accepted.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Riding with a champion: Josh Tostado

We started in downtown Breckenridge on this cool and crispy bright sunny fall morning.  There were splashes of fluorescent yellow and gold dotting the mountains above us.  It is in that late summer/early fall stage here in the mountains at 9600ft, where the rainstorms, hail, snow, and sun are all as unpredictable as my day.  Before starting, Josh asked me “What do you want to ride today?”  I replied that I didn’t care, as he more or less owned the trails in and around Breck, and knew them all by heart.  I did mention my somewhat failed attempt at riding the Gold Dust trail the day before, when a rainstorm, turned hailstorm at 11,400ft Boreas Pass, numbed my extremities and sent me back down the mountain.  He said Gold Dust was one of his favorites, and so we were off. We hopped on sweet dirt singletrack not more than 40 feet from our cars, and wouldn’t encounter pavement for the next 4 ½ hours.    

We made our way through the rich piney forest on soft loamy soil, moistened by the previous day’s rain; trail conditions that mountain bikers dream of.  Already I could tell it was going to be a good day of riding.

You will be hard-pressed to find a champion of sport like the one I got the pleasure of riding with this past week.  He didn’t hesitate in agreeing to a ride with me, only days after winning the Vapor Trail 125; nor showed up with any pre-determined riding regiment.  In fact, regimented training isn’t what has made Josh Tostado into a 24-hour solo National Champion, and winner of the Breckenridge 100 7 times.  Rides like we would do are.  In the technologically-driven numbers game that has become cycling, where professional riders act more like objects of a computer program than real people, counting every mile, minute, calorie, gram, and watt, it is refreshing to meet a champion whose training consists of going on long bike rides in the woods.  He doesn’t go on road rides to get “distance miles” or do “interval training” for power.  He packs his Camelback full of essentials, and hits the trail.  

On our climb up to Boreas Pass, where the Gold Dust trail begins, he would show me some incredible trails, huge climbs, and epic high-mountain views.  At one point we were riding up doubletrack in a 100-year old burn zone that still hadn’t recovered, bare and sun-drenched, before stopping at a high point where you could see 50 or so miles in every direction.  During the climb I was able to keep up with Josh’s “I’m taking it easy today” pace, but once we hit the secret unforeseen moto trail that only someone who has been up here 100 times would know about, one that jumped off the side of the mountain in a downhill fury, twisting and snaking its way back into the thick pines, I quickly watched him disappear in joyful descending exuberance. 

In an ego-driven sport so rife with ultra-competitive racers who flock to the most popular events for their chance at glory, meeting a champion who says “I only do the races I want to do, the ones that are most fun” is inspiring.  He says he isn’t doing the 24-hour National Championships in Colorado Springs this year, an event he won last year, because he didn’t like the “vibe” last year.  For a defending national champion not to defend his title is unheard of, but respectable.  When asked why he isn’t interested in marathon nationals, in Bend, Oregon, or other “shorter” distance races, he readily admits that he doesn’t have the power, or speed for these races.  He even went as far to say that 100-mile races sometimes seem too short and fast for him; that he really finds his groove in 12- and 24-hour races.

We finally made our way up to Boreas Pass, chatting as we ascended to 11,400ft.  At this point the chatting would end, and the Gold Dust singletrack would begin.  This is a rock-and-roll descent, with short sections of climbing, that makes its way almost all of the way down to Como.  When I finally did catch up with him at the end of our fun-run I commented at how incredible that descent is, but how much I miss my full-suspension.  He responded, “A bike’s a bike,” and continues living out this sentiment day-to-day, race-to-race, on his 26-inch Santa Cruz Blur XC full-suspension, in a sport that has largely turned to 29-inch hardtails.  You’d be hard-pressed to even spot another 26-inch bike at any of the races Josh attends, but he says “It’s just what I like to ride.”

Here is a guy who waves competitiveness and ego to the wind in order to replace them with love and joy for the sport.  He doesn’t track his mileage or subscribe to the virtual racing world of Strava.  He simply wears a wristwatch to keep track of his time on the bike.  This isn’t to say that Josh isn’t competitive, as anyone who endures 24-hours in the saddle must be, but that he is more interested in feeling like he is “getting somewhere” when he rides or races, as opposed to simply competing against the man beside him.  When I asked him how hard he pushes during a race to keep up with the front runners, he responded, “If I see them go I’ll try to keep up, not let them get away.  And if I blow up, well, I blow up.  Not that big of a deal.” And what he takes away from his performance at races? “If I felt good, and feel good about how I raced, I don’t care whether I win or come in 15th place.” 

An unconventional champion. 

We descended back down from Boreas Pass, after a tough (I was bonking at this point) climb back up the Gold Dust trail, hitting some old washed-out steep moto trails and other sweet singletrack on the way.  The odorous pines never get old this time of year, when any day now a blanket of snow might show up and trap this treasure of trails for the next 9 months.  But on this 60-degree sunny September day in Breckenridge the treasure was all ours for the taking.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brown County - Nostalgia - Dirt Rag

Opening up the new Dirt Rag this week was more exciting than usual, for me.  Little did I know there would be an article showcasing my favorite trail system; a place that is near and dear to my heart.  If you live in Indiana, especially anywhere south of Indianapolis, and know anything about mountain biking (including that $59.99 Wal-Mart special you bought for your kid), you have heard about Brown County State Park.  It is truly an Epic trail system, and brings back so many good memories.  I didn’t exactly need the soul-crushing, heart-stabbing, nostalgia-inducing pictures that Dirt Rag included, but still I can’t stop looking.

Brown County was my first true love.  Oh how we danced in each other’s arms on countless sunny days, ran through the rain together, and frolicked in the sheer joy of being alive.  Actually, I’m not going to take credit for any of the frolicking; I’ll put that on you, B.C.  It introduced me to the real (good) fruit of mountain biking.  Then I wallowed in that sweet fruit juice, me and it fermenting maturing together, at which point I found myself heavily intoxicated, stumbling down the road of adventure.  In my quest for new adventures in the mountain biking realm, I find myself constantly comparing trail systems to Brown County.  I haven’t found one that stacks up yet.  Sure, I’ve had as many, if not more “epic” rides in my short time in Colorado, not to mention Moab and Sedona, than I would get at Brown County, but it’s still not the same.  

The article does a good job at showcasing why Brown County is so good.  The fact that you can ride every trail in the park in either direction, and get an equally awesome, and totally different experience, is one thing it mentions.  The fact that you can ride over 30 miles, and be on incredible flowing singletrack the entire time, in the beautiful dense woods of southern Indiana, is another.  The quality of the trails is also of note.  There are no garbage trails; connectors; fire road.  These are all professionally purpose-built mountain biking trails.  Every level of technical expertise is represented.  I also loved the articles opening statement, 

“When you think of epic trails, Indiana doesn’t immediately spring to mind.  So when the International Mountain Bicycling Association decided to bestow epic status on Brown County State Park in southern Indiana last year, a lot of people out west were left scratching their heads.  But folks who ride these trails on a regular basis had their own question, namely, “What took so long?””

My sentiment exactly.  Now living in Colorado, I struggle to open people’s eyes and minds to the quality of riding and trail-building in the Midwest. Talking with a bike shop friend the other day, he said “You don’t need mountains for good mountain biking.”  True that.

If you ever have the chance, the Brown County Breakdown is one of the most incredible days of epic mountain biking, bluegrass music, beer and good people that one can have.  Check it out.