Monday, October 22, 2012

Candy Store

This weekend saw a trip to the largest bike swap meet in the country, Denver’s VeloSwap.  It is a dangerous place.  Among other things it is a test in temptation and self control.  I passed the test, just barely.  Hey, I could’ve easily emptied my bank account and still left desiring more.  Instead I happened to pick up some much needed essentials at good deals.

I had never seen anything like VeloSwap, and left feeling like I had just taken a 3-hour Calculus final exam.  My brain hurt.  My neck hurt from constant head turning.  My eyes hurt from trying to take in a thousand shiny objects at once. It is nothing more than a candy store for bike nerds.  Didn’t bring enough cash with you?  No worries, there’s two ATM’s in the convention center.  I didn’t know I had attention deficit disorder until going there.  It’s a good thing I went alone, because I would’ve lost any accompaniment in the first five minutes.  It took me about 3 hours to peruse the venue, which consisted of maybe 200 or more vendor tables, each stocked to the max with goodies new and old, from $5000 bike frames to that old Campy piece you’ve never been able to find.  Anything and everything your bike fetish ever desired could be found there. 

I spent more mullah than previously intended, but made a conscious effort to buy what I needed, instead of all that I wanted.  I got some winter lobster finger gloves with Thinsulate, windbreaker fabric and leather palms, for about ¼ the cost of other competitors’ offerings.  

I scored the elusive Cannondale Save carbon fiber seatpost.  Save, as in “save” your tender bits.  Cannondale doesn’t sell these posts separately.  All you have to do to get one is buy a $6000 mountain bike, or go to VeloSwap.  And I got it for about half the price they go for on the Bay.  Now I don’t have to continue to switch my one seatpost between two bikes.  I’m stoked to try it out and see if it flexes as much as advertised.

A few other items were haggled down in price and bought.  That is the beauty of VeloSwap; nothing is set in stone.  No prices are firm.  Want to buy the vendors whole table?  Make him or her an offer.  I didn’t pay the “listed” price for anything.  The big score of the day was a new set of high quality hydraulic brakes.  As my new build gets going, I knew that one of my biggest expenses would be the brakes.  I was planning on having to spend in the territory of $600 on a set.  That was, until I came across these babies:

Finally, a real set of brakes.  Out of the dark ages.
A brand new set of Magura Marta SL brakes in fancy red, with their fancy self-cooling two-piece rotors as well as the standard rotors.  They were sort of hiding on the guys table when I saw them, and no price was listed.  Upon inquiring about the price, my eyes lit up and certain juices started flowing.  Juice can also double as the flowing of cash out of the ATM machine into my hand.  I then went back and haggled the guy down another $20 on his previously too-low price.  Score.  They are a couple of years old, but still brand new and proven to be a great set of high quality super-lightweight hydraulics.  I can’t wait to give ‘em a try.  They will be much lighter and way more powerful than the Avid BB7 mechanicals I’ve been using since the olden days.  I was planning on putting them on the Niner until my new Generic comes in.  Then the Niner decided to take a break.  More on that later. Review to come.

Friday, October 19, 2012

All Kris Crossed Up

Damn, it’s like summer vacation after your first year in college, when you leave the dorms and all those cool people you thought you knew, all the parties, all the girls, all the fun, and return back to your moms house and that pathetic fast-food job for the summer.  One day the sky is the limit, opportunity abounds, new faces and new places are a daily ritual, spring is in the air, girls wear less clothes, excuses for skipping class become easier to come by; the next you’re flipping burgers and wondering where all you’re high school girlfriends ran off to (or with).   

Well these days have been feeling eerily similar.  The mountain bike race season is over – that is, if you insist on living next to mountains that receive copious amounts of snow – and I’ve been having some withdrawal.  Other people, with more talent or money or sponsors or a combination thereof, are still racing, and happy to fill my Facebook and twitter feeds with their wonderful experiences.  I crave the sport now more than ever, and am getting anxious and weary about the prospect of it all being over until late next spring.  Luckily, there seems to be a saving grace: cyclocross season.  Like that motorcycle you bought just to get you through the doldrums of a hot summer at home, which gave life a new meaning, and freedom a new home with you, cyclocross might just be that new drug I’ve been looking for.  Or, I could just be horribly jumping the gun here.  They call it Cross.  

Not to be confused with my heroes of old:

 I’ve never done a cyclocross race.  I don’t own a cyclocross bike.  In fact, I don’t own anything with skinny tires that actually fits me or I enjoy riding that much.  I’ll tell you what I know about cyclocross:  You race a road bike with knobby tires in the grass, pavement, dirt, sand, and mud.  Make sense? I didn’t think so.  But somehow this awkward mix of mountain biking and road biking has grown into one of the biggest racing scenes and niche equipment markets in the world.  So as part of my recovery from race addiction I think I’ll give it a shot.  The goods: there are races on the Front Range every weekend until January or so, the support network for these events is huge, it should keep me in good shape, everyone agrees at how much fun they are, and there will be beer.  The bads: I don’t own a CX bike, and in doing so my mountain bike budget, hence building a race-worthy bike for next year, will dwindle drastically.  There is also the prospect that I will suck at it.  Sounds like the goods outweigh the bads.  Count me in.  Next step, find a bike.

Last weeks race in Fort Collins.  Ok, that looks like more fun than road riding.
Oh, my buddy at Virtuous Cycles sells Kona, who make the Jake the Snake cross bike?  Hmmm, sounds tasty.

Monday, October 8, 2012

High Alpine OBTBDMB Epic (for short): Stage 3

The High Alpine On Borrowed Time Bonus Days Mountain Bike Epic resumed this week with stages 3 & 4.   Riders came out in big numbers in support of the greatest mountain bike event the world has ever seen.  Stages 3 & 4 encompassed everything that mountain biking is and isn’t; everything that it could be and doesn’t want to be.  Actually, mountain biking couldn’t give a shit.  That’s why I’m here.  The overarching theme of these stages was “It’s not mountain biking unless _____.”

Stage 3 started off on Sunday morning, way too early for normal (intoxicated-the-night-before-I-enjoy-my-sleep-but-still-insist-on-going-to-bed-way-too-late-and-getting-4-hours-of-sleep) people.  It was actually a co-stage, sharing the prestige with Redstone Cyclery’s annual Big Fall Ride. The early start was actually a blessing in some regards.  As the fog still rolled around in my and others’ heads, the never-before-mentioned co-race director Death March Dave was formulating his evil concoction of pain and suffering, with just enough fun thrown in to thwart your second-guessing.  It’s not mountain biking unless you don’t know where you’re going. 

Dave giving pre-epic directions.  Nobody listened.

We took the early drive up to Allens Park, a small mountain town west of St. Vrain canyon on the Peak to Peak Highway.  There were no less than 30 riders ready to see how the day would unfold.  An epic stage with this many riders of varying abilities on extremely rugged backcountry terrain could be a recipe for disaster.  I adopted the mindset of “fend for yourself, chumps” early on.  It’s not mountain biking unless people get lost. The ride started with a grueling gravel road turned jeep road turned ATV trail climb.  Then we hit the first singletrack of the day.  After this point specifics get a little hazey.  It was rocky.  Really rocky.  There was a lot of hiking. Then more hiking.  We finally came to the summit, regrouped (or so we thought), and began a monstrous descent that included more and more rocks, and overall technical trail.  
  I crashed, more than once.  It’s not mountain biking unless you crash.   
Mine wasn't caught on camera.
Lilly Pond

We came to the bottom of this descent, counted bodies, realized we were missing 5, waited, waited, sent a search party, left said search party, and continued our ride.  We continued on to the Sourdough Trail, known for its rugged and rocky nature, and presumed to climb for a while until we hit a high mountain meadow, with amazing views of the snow-capped Indian Peaks and golden aspens.  It’s not mountain biking without epic views.   
Sourdough.  Why does it look like she is smiling?

Then we descended down the most technical section of trail of the day.  I believe we were on the lower South St. Vrain trail, but again, it’s not mountain biking unless you’re lost, and hiking.  At this point our group split.  Death March Dave and a few others went the fast and easy route to the Peak to Peak highway to catch up and corral the rest of the group, while I and 4 or 5 others descended down some sweet, moderately technical singletrack.  Just as I was getting in my first really good groove of the day, really feeling the trail, rock-surfing and bouncing around with reckless abandon, the rider ahead, Cristina Begy, stopped to take a look at her bike.  What she saw was a brake rotor, minus all 6 brake rotor bolts.  Well, I guess it’s not mountain biking unless, for fucking Christ, this is getting a bit ridiculous; unless your brake rotor bolts disappear all at the same time.  I still have absolutely no way of explaining this phenomenon.  I’ve had one loose rotor bolt before, and I could tell.  To lose a couple, and maybe not notice?  Somewhat believable.  For all six to fall out and not notice until they’re gone is insanity.  She was in fact rocking a single speed REEB all day and smiling, so to this end I’m attributing this magical mishap to her having other-worldly powers, simply deciding not to use the brakes, and just being a bad-ass chick.  She stole 3 bolts from the front wheel and put them on the rear, and rode the rest of the day (mostly downhill)!  Then we were on to a nice road climb up the Peak to Peak highway.  

 Upon peeling off to head down a dirt road the skies decided to suddenly open up.  By the time I could put my rain shell on it was an all out hail storm.  We were flying down this dirt road at 30+ mph getting smacked in the face with hail.  It’s not mountain biking unless you get hailed on.  The dirt road led us to maybe the most fun descent of the day.  It was a secret moto trail somewhere west of Jamestown that only Death March Dave would know about.  The first part was super tight and steep and slick, barely squeezing between trees and clumsily dancing over wet roots and rocks.  I passed one of the guys in our group, standing on the side of the trail.  He was holding his arm and looked like he had just seen a ghost.  I think what he saw was the ground approaching his face at a very high rate of speed.  I passed, asked the courteous “are you alright” with no intention of stopping, and continued on my glorious way.  One of the chicks riding with us apparently decided to Superman over a log.  Only Superman would not have dove head first into the ground, so it was a poor impression.  Maybe she was doing her post-Superman Chris Reeves impression.  It’s not mountain biking unless there are bad superhero references and swollen faces.  We made our way into Jamestown after a ripping descent.  I forgot to bring beer.  Mistake.  Then we rolled down the road for a bit, hopped onto an OHV trail that subsequently passed through a firing range – an inhabited very active firing range - and headed toward Heil Ranch.  It’s not mountain biking unless you encounter gun-wielding hillbilly’s that are more than happy to blast off thirty rounds in your presence.  We finished the ride through Heil; about 8 miles of fast flowing tended singletrack as tacky as your tires could take, and were dumped out right in Lyons where cold OB beers were waiting for us.  It's not mountain biking without a wet happy ending; serviced by Dale's.  It was a sweet way to end the day, after having spent most of it maneuvering over and around rocks of various sizes and ego-destroying capabilities.  Almost 50 miles on the dot, 5500ft of climbing, and over 8k of descent.  Thanks Redstone Cyclery, Oskar Blues & REEB.
At some point a keg of OB showed up.  I indulged.