Friday, May 31, 2013

Gowdy is so Green

Good to see Gowdy so green.

My first race - Gowdy Grinder Recap

I really didn't know what to expect.  In the past I've read in articles about races.  I watched almost all the UCI Redbull XC and DH coverage last year.  So add all that up and I don't know much about racing.  I researched several topics few days before the race about what to eat, what to wear and how to warm up before hand.  I knew I wasn't going to put on a super performance.  I haven't put as much time in on the bike as I should have.  I just wanted to pass on a little knowledge on to Joab.  Because we were in the same boat.  Our first bike race ever.  The only difference is that I had waited 27 years to do it. 

Joab found the race.  He had mentioned wanting to race many times.  Like a good father I ignored him till I couldn't take it anymore.  I told him that if he wanted to race, he needed to find us a race that was close we could go to.  With in the next couple hours his want for racing had been replaced with the desire to compete in the Gowdy Grinder.  It was close, the date was open, and not to expensive.  How could i say no.  What's another race when I was already planning two this summer.  Sure it's a XC endurance race instead of a long gravel race...what does that matter.  Turns out more then you might think.

Just like the name implies the Gowdy Grinder is in Curt Gowdy state park.  One of our favorite Mtn.biking destinations.  It's close and has great trails.  Having the race here was a huge plus.  We knew where to camp, where to get water, how to get there...etc.  Took a lot of guess work out of the planning.  Joab's soccer games that were scheduled for Saturday before the race were canceled.  That let us go up the day before and try to acclimatize a little bit.  It also allowed us to pre-ride the course.  It was windy and cool.  Not ideal camping conditions but we've seen worse.  We did more then just pre-ride the course.  We added on some climbing and a few runs around the skills park.  I knew I should be taking it easy but It was our first time out on the bikes this year and I couldn't help myself.  I was done for the day, but Joab was still chomping at the bit.  Wanting to go more.  We settled in, had a nap in the warm car, just kind of hung out at camp for awhile.  I was hoping the wind would let up so I could cook dinner.  After many hours of waiting it was evident that the wind wasn't going down.  On top of everything else it looked like it might actually rain.  Knowing it wasn't going to get any better I started making supper.  Just a little heads up.  Cooking spaghetti noodles in a Jet boil isn't easy.  Finding a low enough setting is next to imposable.  So I had to "feather" the gas knob on the Jet Boil to get it to boil water with out boiling every all over.  It turned out very good.  Joab and I had a wonderful spaghetti dinner and then got to bed early.

Morning of the race and the wind still hadn't subsided.  I reminded myself it was Wyoming and the wind does tend to blow a lot here.  We ate a decent breakfast, packed up camp and moved over to Aspen Groove.  Picked up our number plates and warmed up a bit.  Intermediate men started at 10am.  So we lined up at about 5 till.  We were toward the back of the pack.  Which I didn't have a problem with.  I wish I could have gotten Joab a little closer to the front of the pack.  He might have placed a little better.  The race started and we waited for the room to pedal in the crowd.  First thing we start climbing up a hill into the 20mph wind.  Joab's legs evidently were in much better shape then mine.  My legs just didn't see like they wanted to work.  There was just nothing there.  I could spin but there just wasn't any power.  Most of the pack had moved well away from me by the time we hit the single track.  My one saving grace was that I had five inches of suspension and could fly over most of the rocky technical parts.  No well picked line for me.  Just fly over it and let the travel eat.  I just told myself to keep going.  Don't stop.  Even if I'm at a snails pace.  Just keep moving forward.

Joab ended up finishing a good ten minutes before me.  I didn't finish last.  I'll just say that.  It should be noted that there is however much room for improvement.  I had a great time and it was a experience.  I'll be doing another race of a different kind in a month or so.  If I even finish that one, I'll be so proud.  Stay tuned....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why you don't buy a super store bike...

Full Squish Disc brake equip 29er

Hard Tail vbrake using std 26er
This is the story I always tell my non-cycling friends when they ask for advice on buying a bike. Once I give them a little advice and then tell them what it's going to cost they tell me they just want to pick up a cheap new one at Walmart/Target/Kmart.  I've heard all the excuses before and for the better part I understand them.  It's hard to part with money on something you might not use that much.  Comparatively looking at what you get for $200 in Walmart and then seeing what you get in a bike store for $450 is puzzling for a untrained eye.  If you just look at a bike from a distance.  Far enough away that you can't see the brand or level of components on the bike.  You'll gaze at the sparkly superstore bike and see that it has disc brakes, a big shock in the back and a hefty bump eating fork up front.  Look at the the local bike store and what you might see is a plain bike.  Still new but where's the shock in the back?  It doesn't even have disc brakes!  Why in the world is it so much more?

Please understand that when I say "good" bike I mean $450-800(at least) at your local bike store for a good name brand bike.  I also like to steer friends towards good deals on Craigslist.  Some very very good bikes can be had for almost the same price as the superstore bikes.  There not as shiny and some might have a few miles on them.  However there good solid bikes.  A bike is an investment.  Treat it as such.  On with my story....

True story - It was my second year of college in Kearney Nebraska. Myself and two friends rented are own apartment off campus. I'd had a couple of nice Mt.bikes since 1988. My father bless his soul, saw the value in a good bike and helped me buy mine. When I brought it to college that year my friends laughed at how much I'd paid for my bike. One was literally rolling on the ground laughing. After he got back up and dusted off, he said "I can get a bike just like yours for $100bucks at Kmart up on the hill. It'll do anything yours can". So I said "Fine, get one and lets go on a ride". I rode shotgun with him to Kmart where he picked out a Huffy off the rack. Some of you might remember it. It was 1991 and bright neon was all the rage. I don't think you could find a bike with out some sort of neon part on it. It was the Huffy that was mostly black with neon green bars, seat post(I think) and neon green splatter all over the frame. He grinned from ear to ear as he put it in the back of his pickup. We got back to our apt. and I grabbed my bike so we could take a quick spin. He unloaded his prized Huffy and threw a leg over it proudly. I just shook my head side to side slowly and we headed down the back alley. The first block we went pretty slow. He was shifting thru gears and making sure the brakes did actually work. We crossed the street and headed down the next alley. I stood up out of the seat and jumped on the pedals, shooting ahead of him slightly. My friend who's rather competitive, saw this as a challenge. He promptly stood up out of the seat also and romped on the Huffys pedals. I don't think the chain even held for one full turn. Once his weight was on the pedals and his left foot over the crank, the chain snapped. My friends left calf dropped straight on to the front chain ring. The chain ring being nice and shiny and new, did it's job and took a good hunk out of his calf. His foot then came in contact with the ground and threw him over the bars on to his hands. This in combination with the course gravel opened up deep gashes in both his hands. I turned around quickly and made sure he was alright. I suppressed a laugh, I didn't even chuckle. A smile had found it's way across my face, but that's it. I knew his temper and thought it better to just savor this moment quietly. He stood up bleeding nicely from all his new wounds. Picked up his bike and inspected the broken chain which was a few steps back in the dirt. He said nothing. Grabbed the chain and the bike, headed calmly back to his truck and slammed the bike into the bed of the truck. I hurried around to the passenger side and hopped in. He got in still bleeding and started the truck. Nothing was said on the way to back to Kmart. He knew he'd been beat and just wanted to get a little satisfaction from returning the bike. He walked back into Kmart some blood now starting to clot on his hands, yet still flowing freely from his calf. The customer service rep a young lady didn't even question the reason for his return. She just refunded the money. On the way back to the apt. my friend simply said "you were right". A few days later we visited the better of the two bike stores that were in Kearney Nebraska. My friend picked out a nice Trek or was it a Giant, anyhow he bought a decent bike. Our other roommate did the same.

 While this wasn't the last time we would come home bloodied and bruised it wasn't totally the fault of the bike now. It was more our bad judgement.