Monday, December 31, 2012

A Fat Year's End

Well it's gone - another year of fun on the bike. Due to all my "new home" projects that needed to be done this past year the quantity of riding time was hugely less (love putting terms like that together). I suffered plenty of mental anguish dreaming of bike riding while working on those projects, but the work needed to be done and such is the price you pay for moving into a new place.

I love where I live...I have 360-degree views, lots of my favorite back-road rides at my door step, the forest is only 10-miles away (my favorite place to be) and best of all is the snow. I love snow and can not believe I spent so many years in that dreary snowless valley. After living up here last winter, I rediscovered that love of snow and winter activities which set in motion my fatbike obsession.

Actually the discovery of snow biking escalated my obsessive-compulsive need to buy-and-ride-every-bike-possible. It's a shameless disease, I try to control it, but I admit I am weak when it comes to new bikes and parts to test in my evil fun bike laboratory.

The first fatbike was a 9:Zero:7 (appropriately named the Baconator, due to it's amazing fatness that I'd never seen before). Then, mysteriously, a forest green Fatback showed up (aka Mr Gump)...yeah, I'm weird for naming my bikes, but I've found that I tend to keep them longer when I name them - one of my self-treatments for my obsession. I've been swapping back and forth between the two trying to find a weakness so that I can sell one, however I've discovered nothing except each frame has it's own strengths in the snow. Now I'm starting to think that my boy may inherit (steal) one before long.

Before fatbikes I rode to the snow, then turned around and went home simply because I couldn't ride far in the snow. With fatbikes I'm riding over huge snowdrift rollers that are stupidly deep, plus fatbike riding on the snow has simply reignited my biking passion in a big way. Back country riding and exploring in winter on a bike is unbelievable and I can not understand why it took me so long to discover it...sometimes we need to take the blinders off and be a bit more open minded I guess. My interest grew only after I moved up a few thousand feet higher in elevation, where winter's beauty can not only be seen, but lived.

2012 was a great year, it was my 50th year on this earth, my 22nd year of marriage to the best gal ever and my best friend ever, a year of becoming a parent again with the adoption of my daughter, a year of rediscovery that snow is a gift that brings out the childish nature in me, and my 1st year of riding fatbikes. WhooHooo!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Comparing Fatness

This past week I was both elated that more snow had arrived and I was singing the blues because it was sooooooo hard to pedal through all that wonderful white fluffy stuff. You have to realize though that my version of the blues involves a huge, continuous smile. I love deep snow, but after this week I am praying for snowmobiles to pack it down some. Hmmmm, knee deep here...

I did a little tire experimentation this week...I was not so happy with the so called "velcro" grip of the Surly Bud tire up front so I had to prove it was worthy. I put on my Surly Larry tires (aka no-traction-in-soft-snow) and flailed around having a great time improving my bike handling skills. Then I put back on the Surly Bud up front (aka serious fatness with squirrel eating knobs) and my Surly Nate out back (aka kung-fu grip).  Both the Fatback (Mr Gump) and the 9:Zero:7 (the Baconator)were used in this little tire's so sad that I had to ride so much to do this.

Was there any comparison? If there was it was laughable to say the least. I think the Larry tires are far superior considering speed aspects on packed roads, but are fairly useless in deep snow for forward momentum and steering control.  The Bud and Nate combo proved that, although not perfect, were far superior in floating through deeper snow as well as in steering and forward propulsion. I went miles (yes miles) further in the deep snow with what seemed to be less effort with Bud/Nate than than Larry/Larry. However the Bud/Nate combo were much slower on hard packed snow...must take a little more POWer to motivate those big lugs over the hardpack.

The velcro grip of the Bud still does not exist in my opinion since it slides around a lot more than I would expect with such a deep lugged monster tire. No worry though since it is also improving my bike handling skills.

Really though, who cares about all this technical crap? The underlying moral here is that I'm having too much fun riding fat bikes. But all this play did result in the Bud/Nate combo being Mr Bacon approved for superior fatness in loose, deep snow!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hard to Beat (It's all about the Fatness)

There are those days that just can not be beat...Those days where you're all alone in the backcountry overlooking unbelievably awesome views that you can not possibly share with anyone ever because a photo will never show what you saw and how you felt and no words can possibly describe the immense beauty you saw.

This past week I've been blessed some incredible events and views that were only possible by riding a fatbike into the snowy world beyond where a normal bike could possibly get me. I've experienced many jaw dropping views, I watched a wolf searching the mountain side for a few rodent morsels under the snow, I listened to my heart pound as I climbed quitely up a forest road of deep snow on a bike with super fat tires, I could hear no sound but the pound elk hooves at the herd I was in the middle ran past on their way to a new feeding area....yep it's hard to beat any of these.

It's too bad I am slow to get a camera out to document most of these times, but then again I've learned that wasting time trying to get a phote takes everything away from the moment I'm experiencing. I've learned to just live these moments and take pictures at times much less breath taking.

I love my fatbike! I love winter riding more than ever! It's now my way of getting fat during the winter!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fat, Fatter, Fattest...

Fat, Fatter, and Fattest - The Surly Bud 4.8 super fattie tire is stupidly fat and definitly among the fattest bike tires available, over an inch fatter than the Surly Larry 3.8 tires I've been running on the Baconator. When I first saw the Bud I instantly knew that I must test this yesterday!

For some strange coicidence my backyard playground has had copious amounts of rather heavy snow while I was working this past weekend. Concidentally I just so happened to have completed the Mr Gump build (a forest green Fatback - run Forest run!). Coicidentally I'm on days off. Coicidentally a Surly Bud showed up at my house. Coicidentally it got mounted up on the front of my Fatback build...there's just too much coicidence here.

There's nothing like testing new on new on new...I'm also testing out some flat pedals on the Fatback. I've never liked flat pedals, but in snow they make sense since cleats often pack up with snow and warm cycling shoes are a real paradox and there's plenty of on/off bike and some hiking with snow bike riding and...So I'm testing some 45NRTH flat pedals and riding in warms winter boots with gaitors.

After riding flat pedals yesterday and clipless today I must say that I'm done with clipless and cleat on the snow bikes. Maybe in a snow bike race clipless would be something I'd consider, but then again I doubt it. The experience of my cleats icing up and packing in snow just soured me on further use on the snow bike. So flat pedals it is.

I've discovered plenty of things riding in heavy snow on a fat bike: 1) Like single speed, momentum uphill and in technical stuff is everything - loose it and it's time to walk. 2) Floatation is very important, which is related to tire width and air pressure. 3) Run the lowest tire pressure possible for better traction and flotation - there it a fine line between optimal tire pressure and steering control (which flounders with too low of a pressure). 4) It's an unbelievably awesome workout. 5) If you're lacking in bike handling skill then you will learn or else you either walk more or crash more.

I'm sure I have plenty more to learn, but so far I totally love where I can go in the snow. It's openned a whole new world to me and expanded my adventure to another dimension that was not possible without the fat snowbike tires. 

Can you say Lobo?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Fat Season

Cyclocross season is done for me (whaaaaa!!!) at this time. There are a few more local races, but I unfortunately have to work those weekends. There is alway a struggle between having to work every other weekend and weekend race events. Such is life though and I like what I do for work (ER-Nurse) so I do not complain much about it.

With CX season gone I'm looking more towards riding my fatbikes in the snow...need more snow though. So far snow has come and gone 3-times this year which is rather unusual, but I am patient. The Baconator has been getting abused at every chance and I've been on it exploring areas in my "back yard" that I've been eyeing as potential riding areas for some time.

Truly I have never had so much fun on a bike as on a fatbike in the snow. For some reason I just can not seem to convince others that this is the best biking. I know fatbikes are new to me this year, but it has opened up a whole new adventure that I can not see ending anytime soon. I've even been oogling over some "local" fatbike races coming up this winter...hmmm racing in the snow on super fatties, what a fun idea!

My weakness for needing to buy-and-ride-every-bike has also been expanded with fatbikes. It seems that Mr Gump has joined the Baconator in the winter fatness that has settled in here.

Mr Gump is a Fatback, USA made and sold out of Alaska (as one would expect). Mr Gump is forest green in color (run Forest run!) and I'm not really sure why the name popped into my head, but it did. There is also a shrimp named Bubba Gump, which is a nice paradox for a fat bike - a fat shrimp?

Anyway, there will be more to come on Mr. Gump I'm the mean time the Baconator is in action. Welcome to the Fat Season! Whoohoo!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Totally Nuts!!!

Trial-by-fire, racing-into-shape, self-torturous-fun, it what you want, but 5-cyclocross races in a 7-day period is a true test of one's idea of the so-called fun-factor in "racing" bikes, truly a test of your endurance. Which by the way I have none to speak of right now. In my 3rd race during the 1st weekend I was more like just riding along vs. racing. This was after having a rotten 1st race that day and an awesome 2nd race, until I got a flat that is (which never stopped me from having some fun heckling the hecklers and taking a beer handup to celebrate racing on a flat tire).

The 7-days later I was back at it doing 2-races in cold, rainy, wet, muddy conditions...perfect for cyclocross. I did well in my 1st race (2nd place), but had a major mechanical in my 2nd race (the mechanical was that my legs were toasted and not wanting to work anymore). So once again I settled for the fun factor of "racing" cyclocross. 

It was beyond awesome to do these races.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Baconator - Chapter 3: First Snow

The Baconator Saga continues...We started quite a while back with the Baconator build then a few "test" rides (totally trash testing). The Baconator has been quitely resting in it's cave waiting for some snow to ride on. While doing some of my normal cyclocross training (hand digging a trench in my back yard) I noticed white stuff on the mountains that was not there the day previous....SNOW!!! Whoohooo!!!

It did not take me more than a fraction of a microsecond to decide I needed to take a day off from my normal cyclocross "training" to explore some of this new white stuff.

Somehow the Baconator ended up in the snow on the mountain. I had one of the funnest rides ever. It took me several stops to let air pressure out to those monster truck tires until I felt it was finally right (which was an incredibly low air pressure). I started out with 15 psi and I'm not sure where I ended, but I'm quite sure is was close to 5-8 psi, which made for one soft ride with unbelievable traction on the snow. I climbed steep hills like they weren't even there and raced around everywhere with a huge grin on. I can not wait for more snow!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CX Training?

Yeah, I know it's so totally unlike me to post sooooooo much in a single month, but I really want you to know that I take cyclocross training seriously. Since April 1st I've officially ridden one of my to-many-to-count bikes (that seem to need dusting all the time) exactly 22-times (+/- 5-10 rides that I neglected to record because of some sort of disbelieving euphoria that I actually rode a bike). Let's see now, I typically ride 5-6 days a week normally which would equate to one heck of a lot more rides than 22 or 32! Just so show you that I actually train I'm provide photo evidence of my CX training (which is rather unorthodoxed by any normal bike training standards) it is:

Yep that's the extend of my CX training this past 6-months, projects like this - hand digging a water line (my house main line is under there some where and I really do not want to rupture it with an excavator and to further my delemia there is no map or way of finding it's exact path - I know it's down there somewhere...). Fun huh!

This kind of intense labor certainly aids my ability to carry my bike on steep run-ups in a CX race...I've certainly noticed a difference. So grab a shovel and start digging!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

All-City SS - Race Proven

Well it finally happened - I did my first cyclocross (CX) race this year. Whew, I feel much better now. I just can not seem to make people understand that I am a CX junkie at heart and need a fix now and then. Unfortunately my employer does not understand my cycle-logically, obsessive need to feel pain when pedalling a bike at the hardest possible rate my totally out-of-shape, non-trained body will take. Not only do I punish myself in one race, I almost always do 2 races in the same day. I call it racing into shape. (photos by Hank Greer and Bryan MacDonald - awesome)

At any rate the newish All-City single-speed (SS) was raced in both a SS only race and a race with many poor souls that still think 20+ gears are necessary to ride a bike.

The dirty orange rattle-can paint job was truly inspiring and I'm sure it made me go faster.

The couse was in Sandpoint, Idaho and was their 1st time putting on a CX race for the INWCX-Series. I must say that I was impressed with the course and I hope they do it again next year. The course was fun to say the least and the fall color was perfect.

My boy, Alejandro, has really taken over my On-One CX disc bike (supposedly it's my commuter bike, but I have not had much opportunity to steal it away from him). I'm totally encouraging him to ride CX and he seems to enjoy it - enough that he actually wants to train (not sure what training is these days beyond hard work on my property). Alejandro was happy to take 2nd in the Jr. division.

My results? Hmmm...3rd in the SS (Whoohoo!!!) and 5th in the large 50+ division (double Whoohoo!!!). I was 3rd in the 50+ until the end of the last lap when I started running out of steam (I'm sure some kind of bike specific training may have helped me here, but I've barely ridden my bikes the whole past summer). I am super stoked that I did so well and loved my day with friends and my boy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CX SS Color Morph (again)

Something happened to the world's fastest cyclocross single speed (well it's the fastest CX SS in my world)...the lime green morphed into an ultra cool dirty orange color (thanks to some strange skill I have using rattle can paints).

The real story is that I simply could not help my self - Orange has some kind of power over me and orange makes me feel like the Force is with me, none of this has anything to do with the power zapping ability lime green has on me. Now this bike really is the fastest CX SS in the world...color has a lot of power...I love orange so much that I'm thinking of painting my Gunnar orange also, specifically flat orange with lots of black (my other favorite color).

Too bad I'm terribly out of shape and I've had to work every weekend there's been a CX race. It seems that my employer does not yet understand my absolute need to suffer so intently riding a bike every fall on weekends. Instead what I am hearing is, "We need you to work"...not sure what kind of life this is where I can't have time off when requested. Hopefully they will figure it out, I know I already have it figured out quite well.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Cyclocross - Single Speed vs. Geared

My mouth is still gaping in the shocked, open position after seeing the results of timed runs on Cyclocross bikes (Single Speed vs. Geared) at the Sky Ranch Cyclocross course in Moscow, ID. Yes, I'm mentally insane and totally obsessed with things like this.

The bikes in the test were:
  1. On-One Dirty Disco CX disc carbon geared bike that I have been using as a commuter on the road mostly - Geared 2x10.
  2. Gunnar Crosshairs CX steel geared bike - Geared 1x10.
  3. All-City Nature Boy CX SS with an ugly rattle can paint job (which I'm sure will change soon since I have no love for lime green) - Geared 1x1.
The lightest bike is the Gunnar, followed by the On-One, and All City is definitely the heaviest of the bunch. All riding positions are set up very similar since I am very sensitive to my riding position.

I timed myself on diffent weekends riding many, many loops at the CX track on each bike on the same day. The results are not what I expected. The Gunnar has a more comfortable feel to me and also "feels" the fastest. The All City feels great, but "felt" the slowest. The On-One is just another piece of crap carbon (plastic) bike and it feels unforgiving on bumpy CX courses as most plastic bikes do to me.  After numerous runs the results were consistent every time (in order of fastest to slowest):
  1. All City SS
  2. Gunnar Geared
  3. On-One Geared

The time difference was consistently 10-15 seconds between the All-City and the Gunnar and 25-30 seconds between the All-City and the On-One. In a CX race doing 6-7 laps this could be a big difference. I was in such disbelief about the time diffences and the SS being faster that I rode many extra loops on each bike confirming my times. Then I set out to prove the geared Gunnar was faster (because it felt faster) but as hard as I tried I could not make it go any faster that my All-City on this course.

On a CX course designed with more long runouts (i.e. a road toad designed course) there would most likely be a different result. For example I have a 23-mile loop near home that has 10-miles of pave and 13-miles of gravel in which the Gunnar is the champion by a whopping 2-3 minutes typically. I'm anal enough to time both the gravel and paved sections though and I have found that I can make my SS go just as fast as a geared bike on the gravel, but on the pave there is no way the SS can keep up with the geared which accounts for my loss.

Oddly enough though the On-One is stupidly slow on this same loop. Maybe everytime I ride the On-One I'm having a bad bike day...maybe it's just not an efficient riding bike - wouldn't be the first time I've been on a bike that sucks your pedal efficiency from your riding soul. I wish I could explain some of this to my mentally derranged mind and out of shape body because I'm having a hard time coming to terms with my timed results. 


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Cyclocross Bike Crazed - Will this ever end?

Hmmm...What the heck happened??? I turned 50 in June (did a great bike ride on my 50th) then it's suddenly October! I'm not sure what happened to summer...well that's not entirely seems I spent my entire summer working on and around our new place (you know building fence, horse pens, horse barns, hay barn, wood shed). All I know is that there was very little bike riding in between all those projects. I still have a few more urgent-before-winter chores to get done. So needless to say my bike riding has greatly suffered, but it seems that my need to test new stuff has not stopped.

Oh yeah, just when I thought I was somewhat over the-need-to-test-and-ride-everything obsession here I am again mildly thrash testing some new stuff. All this is possible only by riding which means I'm back riding again, insanely out of shape, but nonetheless riding until I feel a need to puke on every ride (which these days doesn't take much). First up is my new carbon communter bike, an On-One Dirty Disco disc cyclocross bike. For some reason it looked like a fun commuter bike - and it is...

It's nothing fancy and it is fun to ride to work and on the back roads here. I've become a big fan of cyclocross bikes as the best ride for the gravel rides I like to do. I thought I would like to "try" a cyclocross disc bike since I roast my rim brakes all the time on the steep hills around here. Fortunately or not, my boy seems to have taken a fancy to this bike and he jets around the "farm" on it as if he were in a CX race all the time. Hmmm...not sure about that kid sometimes.

Next up is an All-City steel single speed cyclocross bike. I'm not sure what got into me, but once again I had a desire to ditch my plastic SS-CX bikes and get back on a heavy steel bike. I have no regrets in getting rid of the stupid light carbon bikes since the ride of the steel is soooooo much better. I accidentally gave it a custom paint job (rattle can) since I did not find the original lime green very eye pleasing. A black bike seem to be my thing, Love this bike.

Finally, after repairing or being profoundly unhappy with combo shift/brake levers I decided take a risk (oh sure twist my arm) to try a very unconventional unit that is incredibly simple, not to best looking to some people (I love it), but works flawlessly. Meet the Retroshifter...

I tried it out on my Gunnar as a 1x10 drivetrain and totally love how well it works and I like the cost and the crash replacement deal they have. I am now such a fan of these that I'm thinking of using Retroshifters on my other geared CX commuter bike (the On-One).

I am also testing the E-Thirteen XCX chain keeper up front and have had zero issues with losing a chain since I started using it a few months back.

I wish I could say the same thing about the Pauls Chain Keeper, but I had nothing but problems using the Pauls unit with their extension (which I needed to place the chain keeper properly on my Gunnar due to tubing flare at the bottom bracket). Using the Pauls chain keeper with the extension I lost my chain in several CX races last (using it on 2-different bikes) and I lost chain numerous times just riding or commuting to work. So far I've not had any issues with the Pauls unit (without the extension) on my Stong Frame running a 1x9 drivetrain. Both the Pauls and the E-thirteen are not cheap but at this time I think I have found what works and what does not.

My summer is gone, I'm out of shape (for me), and I guess I'm just normal otherwise in my need to ride and test everything bike related. I wonder what's coming next from my bike obsessed brain and test laboratory? I can't wait to see.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Road to 50

Well I've been on the road to 50 for 50-years now. Yep that's right I'm 50-years young. There are the rotten butts in this world that track you down somehow and try hard to make you feel like an old geezer...I don't buy into their crap.

I'm not sure why the age of 50 means you need to be a member of AARP, I'm thinking that AARP is for those people that make it to 90, which by the way is my next goal in life. Maybe I should clarify, that means I intend to be riding my bike at 90 anywhere I want to go...can you imagine a 90-year old smokin past you on a bike? I can and that is where I'm aiming. AARP is going to have to wait awhile for my membership to say the least. To celebrate by 50th anniversary in this world, I decided to ride my bike on a torturous ride (no surprise there) up National Forest Rd 050. The ride started with a 2700-ft decent, followed by 5400-ft of total climbing. Ride time was a short 3.5hrs over the 53-miles of awesome self torture. I chose a geared bike (gasp!), yeah I know it is totally abnormal for me to do such a thing, but don't say anything about it until you have ventured up the road to 50.

Along the road to 50 I've had ups and downs, but the overall experience has been totally awesome and the views of my life are the better than pictures could ever show. My ride on June 12th up Road 50 was just another chapter in my life quest for fun adventures on a bike.

There's so much to see along this road and climb that one can not possibly show all the memories of just this one day here. The road had ups, downs and was rocky and difficult in places just like everyday life...

I typically choose the harder path, the rougher road, since that is where my soul seems to benefit the most...

I can't wait for what comes on the road to 90!