Monday, May 26, 2008

A little ridin' fun

On Saturday, I went for a fun ride. Most of the trail in my neck of the woods is concrete, but there are a few stretches that are dirt road and/or single track. On this particular ride, I had about a mile or so of dirt road. It was out a bit in the country, and I thought of where I grew up. It was a relaxing ride. While driving south I saw two pheasants running within 20 feet of the trail, 10-15 cottontails hopping around, a bunch of prairie dogs, and water fowl whose name escapes me at the moment.

I had left about 6:30 am, and made it about 8 or 9 miles. It was getting close to the time when I needed to turn around when I saw my single track. I wish I could have had my camera there with me. The trail led off the path, had a little dip, and then climbed up and over a small hill. Time to go off the beaten path...As I headed down the little slope, cherry creek stood in the way of me and my single track. I was listening to U2's "In The Name Of Love." I geared down and started to plow through the sand and the six inches of water. However, the sand bogged me down and before I could clip out, I tipped over and shorted out all the elecronics I had with me. That was the last song my Ipod played. Sigh.

As that scenario played out in my head, I decided that I wasn't a professional biker, and I really valued my Ipod. I hit my brakes before my tires touched the water. The single track was still beckoning to me, so I pulled off my socks and shoes, and forged across. The water was a little chilly, and I think that scenario would have come true had I really tried to bike across Cherry Creek.

On the other side of the trail, I put my socks and shoes on, and headed toward that hill with the single track winding its way up the side of its face. There was a small bowl about 10 feet down, and then 10 feet back up again. It was a little steep, I lost momentup, coaasted backwards, and tipped over. Stupid clips....I am still learning how to clip out quickly.

I brushed myself off, and headed toward that enticing single track. Again, I am not too good at technical, and had to walk my way of the hill. After those couple of hiccups, I had a good ride up and down a few hills. Coming back, I came to the top of my hill again, and decided it would be fun to ride down. My best guess is that this hill had about a 30-45 degree slope and a length of about 100 feet. About 1/2 way down as I was fishtailing and trying to stay upright, I decided this was a very bad idea. And then suddenly I was down the hill.

Good ride. I need to get a camera. And take it a little slower... =)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wardsworth Creek

Riding Time: 1.25.01
Actual Time: 1.38.00
BPM Avg: 157
Miles: 5.7
MPH Avg: 4.6
Elevation Gain: ~1100 feet

Sometimes I wonder what in the schmack are we thinking attempting an epic?

I love the idea of an epic ride. I love to read about people doing the impossible. In my mind I see myself finishing the CT or, eventually, the GDR and totally bask in the idea. I want to be that person who fine-tunes their body, bike, and gear and then spends 5 days sleeping in the mud and eating twizzlers for breakfast. What could be cooler?

Then, my poor desk-jockey body slaps me back into reality and I seriously wonder what it will really take to do an epic ride. Certainly more than just dream about it.

Saturday afternoon I took a few hours and headed up towards Wardsworth for a ride. This was somewhat of a litmus test for me; I wanted to get an idea of where I was after years of riding a Herman Miller.

Here are the some of the findings:

  • I'm out of shape
  • After years of not riding, I'm still at a roughly intermediate level in my technical skills (it's kind of like riding a bike...)
  • My bike performed much better than expected. I'm getting the hang of the new geometry and the 29er effect
  • Having a heart rate monitor is both useful and distracting ("Okay, I'm coming up on my max BPM, better slow it down....Wait, that tiny hill caused my BPM to spike!?!)

Though it was a heavy dose of reality to find that an hour, 1100 feet, and 2.85 miles of uphill could be such a challenge, it wasn't all bad. If I had read the trail guide a little closer I would have made it to the top. I was only .75 miles and 300 feet from the finish. Though my BPM was a quite high, 157 isn't a bad average, right?. And while I did have to stop a lot more than I am proud to admit, was on my bike far more than I was off it.

It's a far cry from the 78,000 vertical feet of climbing the CT will demand, but let's just take this one step at a time.

All-in-all the trail was a lot of fun. It's intermediate-level rating, showed me that I need to work a little harder before I feel confident in placing myself in that range. I have to say that, fitness-wise, I'm on the lower end of intermediate; technical skills, somewhere in the middle.

The trail can be ridden as a loop or as an out and back. After an hour of granny gear and not knowing exactly where I was, I decided I'd better turn around. Before turning around I let my BPM return to ~100 before changing my mind and recommitting to finishing the ride.

Maybe I could go a little further.

I turned the bike uphill only to find that the trail had, again, turned into a stream. Nevermind, it was time to turn around.

The downhill was a lot of fun. Virtually all the creek crossings that had challenged me on the uphill were not a problem coming down. The single track was fast, but not too much for my disc brakes. I had ridden part of this trail last fall (beware of cow guacamole...) and found my rim brakes to be severely lacking.

At one point, I hit an unexpected uphill and lost momentum before I hit the top. I tipped over, rolled off my bike, and slid off a log into a bunch of sharp sticks. Without tearing my lycra, they scraped a chunk of flesh right off my bottom -- right on my sit bones. Consequently, sitting on my saddle was less than comfortable. I suspect in that crash, rather than at any other bone-jarring section of the downhill, is when I lost my brand-new $30 mini pump. Grrr.

With the exception of the small chunk of flesh I left at the crash-site, I came off the mountain none the worse for wear. I'm proud to say that my quads and calves aren't in the least bit sore. There are a few little-used muscles that are complaining (especially around my IT band, but other than that, I hope my body was reacting more to the altitude than the actual exercise.

Maybe I'll go back next week and see if I can find that stinkin' pump...

Springtime runoff would have made the first two crossings tricky had it not been for the "bridges."

A downhill section. It looses some threat in the photo. In real life those rocks loomed large.

Several small straight-aways made for a fun singletrack experience.

Too bad I didn't study the trail guide a little closer...

At times it got pretty technical on the uphill.

The "trail" to the left wasn't really the trail. The real trail was under the stream. The actual stream bed lies where the downed logs are. 

End of my uphill. A few meters up the trail was yet another trail-stream. Time to turn around. I found out later that I was very close to the top.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Letter to My Rockhopper

Last night my little brother came over and claimed my old Rockhopper as his own. After purchasing the Cobia, I really didn't have a need for the Rockhopper and, while it isn't in fantastic shape, it is still ridable.

Last week I swapped out some of the components that I wanted to keep, including seat, pedals, and other accessories, replacing them with new stuff from the Cobia. After I got it all fixed up, I took it out for a little spin. It was a short ride but the entire time I thought about all the fun times I had on that old bike. It's sad, in a way, to give up something that has been such a part of my life.

So, in the spirit of Jill Homer, I write you, beloved Rockhopper, a farewell letter.

Dear Rockhopper -

It was in the Spring of 1995 that I first laid eyes on you. Back then you were a lovely powder blue sitting on the floor of the Specialized dealer in Ephraim Utah. Having a front shock was such a gloriously indulgent idea that I almost felt guilty bottoming out your 60mm of elastomer goodness during our test rides.

As I am wont to do, I visited you often. I became obsessed. I swiped copies of the 1995 Specialized catalog from the dealer to pine after you until I could scrape up enough cash to purchase you. Eight-hundred dollars and change is an enormous amount of cash for a poor Snow College freshman to save. So to show the dealer that I was serious about my purchase and not just coming around for free test rides, I gave a few hundred here and a few hundred there to the dealer until, at last, I could bring you home.

I couldn't have been happier with you. You rode like a thorough-bred, flew like a bird, and climbed like a mountain goat. Others didn't share my enthusiasm and couldn't see how I justified my purchase. In a letter I received from my older brother after I shared with him the news of the purchase, he famously quipped, "An $800 bike!?!? Does it come with rockets?"

Nope, but I still have the letter, Mr. $1100 HKEK.

Our first real trail ride was in Log Canyon and it was there that I realized that my riding skills were sorely lacking. My efforts in developing them while riding my Mt Tek steed were in need of some serious help. It's nice to think that we never once endo'd while riding.

During that first year I took you on many-a-trail. Green Dirt, or Mill Road, being an oft-traveled favorite.

You took me on my first race where I lost. Painfully. But I still enjoyed the ride. I never raced again.

For two years, while I was in Germany, I stupidly hung you by your top tube in the attic. While there I received a letter that sent me into panic. It read, in part, "...Dad's fine after his fall. I guess he just wasn't used to riding your bike." Later I found that it was a joke at my expense and you were fine, still hanging in the attic. I was relieved, but only after the joke was explained a month later.

The two years spent in alternating extreme heat and extreme cold took a toll on your top tube and when I returned home I noticed you'd developed a crack. The subsequent swap-out of components to a new, and frankly uglier, 1998 frame lead to the question: Do old components on a new frame constitute a new bike or was it still the same old Rockhopper I've come to know and love? The latter tends to give me more comfort. For years I missed your beautiful powder-blue frame.

After Germany we rode many miles. I often found myself haunting the old Bonneville Shoreline trail. While it pales in comparison to Green Dirt in both rideability and accessibility, we made do.

As life changed, I turned to you less for fun and more for utility. Your sad whitewall tires began to show some serious wear and were soon replaced with a new pair of hybrids gave you less roll-resistance for the many, many hours we spent commuting but also allowed for some fun off road when time permitted.

Commuting began first to Winger's where I could eat as much as I wanted and never gain any weight, thanks to you. Later to UVSC as I worked toward my schooling. I bought you racks, panniers, and a more comfortable saddle for yet another commute—this time to a horrible job. One thing that I really appreciated about you was that after a long day of work dealing with a ridiculously stupid company and bosses, we could take a 10 mile ride home to blow off some steam. It was a liberating experience. It was therapeutic. It was good for me.

Slowly, commuting with you became less and less feasible; you began long stints hanging upside down from the garage ceiling—this time from your tires rather than your frame. I had less and less time to ride and a job that was an impossible 50 miles away instead of a doable 10.

A few years went by with very little riding.

Slowly, life began to stabilize and a renewed desire to get out and ride began creep in. After a conversation with my older brother about us finally training for our long-time dream of biking across Colorado, I realized that you, my beloved twelve year-old bike, wouldn't be able to make the trip. Though your frame is in fine shape, your once plush shocks are gone - victims of their own outdated technology, your drive-train has seen better days and often will gobble up chains if cranked too hard. In short, my friend, I'm afraid you're a bit long in the tooth. I need to put you out to pasture. You won't be making this ride.

So, I'm passing you onto my little brother. He's getting ready to start college. He needs a good commuting bike. He needs something he can ride and blow off some steam. And, every once in a while, he'll need to hit a trail or two and have a little fun. (Please make sure he wears a helmet—we may have never endo'd, but that's no guarantee for him!)

Last night, as he came by to pick you up, all shiny and clean from your recent tune-up and wash. He said you looked great. We snapped a few photos, commented on our good times together, and watched you walk out of my life forever.

Good luck, old buddy -


Monday, May 12, 2008

Riding the Cobia

I've never owned a 29er before. And while I like the bike, the geometry is something I need to get used to.

The first thing I noticed was the huge difference between the handlebar height. I swapped my seat and peddles out from my old Rockhopper because my Cobia didn't come with SPDs and the saddle was pretty solid. I prefer my posh gel-filled seat.

After I swapped out components, I took my Rockhopper for one last ride before I pass it onto my little brother.

As I said before, the geometry is very different. Both frames are 19", but the Cobia's down tube meets up with the top and head tubes much sooner than my Rockhopper. Additionally the top tube has an upangle (as many bikes do these days) which makes the stand-over height change as you move forward on the bike.

Because my Rockhopper's headset was much lower in comparison to the seat than the Cobia, my position was much more hunched over. This made for numb fingers after a long ride, but made for excellent climbing position because a lot of my weight was over the front tire.

During my ride on Saturday, I noticed that, because I was in more of an upright position, my technical climbing ability was limited. My front wheel tended to lose traction and sometimes lift off the ground. I maybe looking at adding some bar-ends before too long.

On the technical uphills, where my Rockhopper would climb, my Cobia would scramble.

This was somewhat disconcerting as I'd just dropped over a thousand bucks on the thing.

But, as I thought about it, I reminded myself that this bike wasn't purchased for technical climbing. It was purchased for steady climbing, cross country rides, and long hours in the saddle. The geometry, while not suited for mountain goat-like climbs, is perfect for the slow and steady sort of trails I intend it take it on. I imagine the tingling fingers so familiar when on the Rockhopper, will be gone with the Cobia.

I just need to accept that there will be some hike-a-bike episodes on the technical uphills.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Friday, May 9, 2008


It's amazing how much it takes to get a bike around here. Maybe I should specify. It's amazing how much effort it takes to get a 2008 Gary Fisher Cobia with a brake upgrade. Nobody around here seems to be able to hack it.

I had a quote from Trek of AF on a Cobia with a brake upgrade. They said they could do it for a reasonable price, but just to check it out, I gave Mad Dog Cycle of Orem a call. They had matched the price of a brake swap quote and threw in a year of service to sweeten the deal. I assumed that from that speedy response that their level of service was top-notch.

MDC said they had one in stock and brakes at another store. All I had to do was pick it up and they'd have it ready for me by Thursday.


Thursday rolls around and I go down to pick it up, but it wasn't ready. It was somewhere in the back of the store unbuilt. Nobody seemed to know what was going on. Nobody seemed to really care. "Come back tomorrow and we'll have it built."

Meaning: no bike on Thursday.

So, I came back Friday. I was a little put out by the day wait, but not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

When I arrived I noticed they'd already done the brake swap for me (without a down payment even). It was really ready to go—I decided to take it for a quick spin to make sure it was what I really wanted an to give it a good look over. Everything looked good; it rode well. At one point in my test ride, I stopped to really look it over.

I noticed there was a nice big dent in the top tube, hidden under the logo. When I brought it back and pointed it out to the sales guys, they tried to explain it off. It wasn't until we compared it to other Fisher bikes that they realized it had been damaged in shipping. "We'll need to claim a warranty return. We'll get another shipment from Trek (Fisher's parent company) and have it in for you — built and ready to go by Wednesday."

"No if, ands, or buts - built and ready to go by Wednesday?" I asked. "For certain," they responded.

Meaning: no bike on Thursday or Friday.

Alright, fine. I was a little put out by having the bike I'd finally settled on snatched out from under me, but I understand that these sort of things happen. And, based on their willingness to immediately match the brake upgrade quote from Trek of AF, I assumed the shenanigans were a bit of a fluke.

Wednesday dawns bright and clear. Excited to get my bike, I'd loaded up my carrier into my trunk and made arrangements to stop by after work that afternoon to pick it up. After not receiving the expected phone call during the day, I finally gave MDC a call later that afternoon to inquire after the Cobia. They said there was no sign of it. They'd received a shipment from Specialized but nothing from Trek. "But," they said, "it should be in Thursday.

All their promises to deliver on Wednesday - for sure - were for not.

Meaning: no bike on Thursday, Friday, or Wednesday.

I called again on Thursday and the kid who answered had no idea what I was talking about. Because nobody wears name tags in the store or gives their name when I call, I had no answer for the repeated question, "Who were you working with on this?"

He said they had no record of a warranty request and if he worked on it today they could have a bike to me by the next Tuesday.

At this point I went off on the kid. Why hasn't this been handled? I expected this a week ago. MDC initially attracted me with an impression of good customer service but have since dropped the ball every step of the way. How are you going to win my business back?

He retorted that they can't be held responsible for false expectations and that it wasn't their fault the bike was damaged in shipping.

I frankly don't care what the problem was - I just want the bike - not a bunch of half-baked promises and shoddy customer service. And if you can't get me the bike, as promised, hook me up with some sort of consolation prize. Tell me you really want my business and realize this has been a huge problem. Give me a case of Power Bars or a free cycling computer or tell me the brake upgrade is free. Don't give me your lame excuses - that's not how you win back a customer. I don't care who screwed up, just make it right.

He apologized for the inconvenience but said he owed me nothing. The bike would be in Tuesday.

Meaning: no bike from Mad Dog Cycles.

After that phone call I started combing both Salt Lake and Utah counties for other Fisher dealers. Most people I spoke with didn't have it in stock, responding to my inquiry that it was back ordered until July, or maybe August, or I'd have to wait for the '09 model to come out.

I had a couple of quotes in my inbox, the only two stores that actually had bikes in stock - neither of them could deliver the brake upgrade for another week. After a follow up call to Golsan Cycles in West Jordan, I finally found a shop who actually understood what I wanted: a bike. Now.

They kid over at Golsan said he'd be happy to have a bike ready for me by 3:30p that day (Friday) - but the brakes wouldn't be in for another week. But he understood that I wanted it for the weekend and was happy to swap out the brakes next week when they came in.

"Just bring the bike back and I'll put the new brakes on and you can keep the brake pads you used. Since the pads are interchangeable it's not a problem."

Finally, a bike company that understood my desire to finally get the stinkin' bike in my grubby little hands that weekend and was willing to make it happen, posthaste.

I picked it up at exactly 3:30p - and it was totally ready to go, as promised. Check out was rapid and they even installed a computer for free. No hassles, no problems, no trying to up-sell me.

Of course having the bike last Friday than this week means I have to go in and wait around for them to put new brakes on. But I don't mind. They got me what I wanted, when I wanted it, and acted like their efforts were not a problem. Quick, easy, affordable, and in-tune with the customer. That's what I'm talking about.

Update! The guys at MDC called to tell me my bike was ready. The conversation started out poorly with a "We don't have your bike ready....just kidding!" and went down hill from there. After I told them I'd already purchased a bike from another company the kid seemed pretty irritated.

Hello? Don't expect me to be loyal if you drop the ball and refuse to take responsibility!