Monday, November 21, 2011

Gone Rigid

It's probably best I start by giving you my background in regards to riding a rigid mountain bike before I state my point. This is also just my experience, and you can take it how you will...

My first 29er was a Jamis Exile steel singlespeed. It replaced the first bike I raced on, a Specialized Hardrock. The Hardrock had seen a hard year of riding and racing, and I was intrigued by the big wheel movement. This was in 07 I believe. I bought the Jamis because it was fairly inexpensive, it had big hoops, and it was sweet looking. Little did I know it was a piece of shit. No offense, but Jamis did not have their stuff together when they launched their first 29ers, the Exile and Dakota. The Exile was steel like I mentioned, and the rigid fork wasn't even that bad. The problem was their welds sucked, and I snapped the downtube off the headtube not once, but twice on seperate bikes. That wasn't as bad as the Dakota though. The headtube snapped clean off the top and downtube, which convienently happend as I was coming down from manualing a creek crossing. The result was my face eating my front wheel, and an otherwise nasty crash that left me licking my wounds for almost a month after. Needless to say I was done with Jamis. (*Note- Jamis seems to have their crap together better now days, and I'm sure they're very nice bikes that hopefully didn't inherit their predessors problems.)

After the Dakota accident, I sold my replacement frame they sent me, and purchased a Surly Karate Monkey. That bike was a blast... minus the fork. Anyone who has ridden the old generation Karate Monkey fork will tell you it was rough. I believe they've redesigned the forks as of late, and I've heard they are worlds better. It was a rough ride, but it rode like a dream. I rode and raced it rigid for awhile, before slapping a White Brothers Magic fork on it. I really liked that fork.

I stayed suspended up front for awhile, then purchased a Specialized Stumpjumper in Fall of 08. I raced the Stumpy for the first half of 09, but in early Fall of 09 I blew out the gears and fork, and decided to keep it simple and ride it single speed and rigid. I bought a Origin 8 carbon fork, and from Fall of 09 all through 2010 I rode the hell out of it. This was also my first real year racing Expert, and I did fairly well given my lack of gears and suspension.

In February of this year, I snapped the chainstay on the Stumpy in the first hour of a three day training block down in Arkansas. I was bummed. Luckily this was about the same time my Epic came in, so I wasn't too worried. Specialized came through with a new 2011 Stumpy frame for my replacement, and it too went single speed and rigid. It, however, only got rode twice due to the Epic. I couldn't not ride the piss out of the Epic. It was a drug I couldn't get enough of. So the Stumpy sat unridden all through this year.

So there's my history. My history with rigid came to a head this last weekend. In a flux without the Epic, or a suspension fork, I decided to take out the Stumpy rigid in all it's glory. I rode Binder Lake in Jeff, which to me always seemed like a good course for a singlespeed and even rigid. I rode a hard sprint interval ride Friday night, and a 3 hour ride on Saturday...

What resulted was my final conclusion on riding a rigid mountain bike...


I'm sorry, but in now way was it enjoyable. I understand the persona behind it. It makes you look tough, and hell you almost have to be to ride one. But bottom line is I ride to enjoy the ride, not to get the hell beat out of me and my wrists snapped. Maybe I'm just a pussy... or maybe I'm now spoiled. I'm so used to being glued to the ground. So used to blasting through rock gardens with high speed and big smiles. Used to riding for hours with no back pain or hand numbness. Sure, the hardtail has it's pluses, with it's flickablity, direct power transfer, and bit lighter overall weight. That being said, the Epic is damn near on even playing feild on the stiffness, weight, and power transfer, but it blows the doors off everything else. It makes riding so much more enjoyable, and overall makes me way faster.

So what's the point of this post? I'm not sure... I guess to say I'm done with rigid forever. With the newest technology in full suspension 29ers, I can't see myself ever going back. I'll keep the hardtail for awhile, but I'll likely buy a Camber for my "other" mountain bike. I just enjoy riding so much more when I'm not trying to fight my bike. We live in a place that's never short on rocks and other bone jarring obstacles. I don't need a bike that makes me feel every one of them.

Maybe I'm just getting old... Maybe I'm just getting smarter. Who knows.

Rant over.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Other Things I Enjoy

I sure do enjoy riding bicycles. That's no suprise. I do, however, enjoy other things in life too. One of those things is hunting. Most wouldn't know it, but I'm a true hick at heart. I grew up on a farm, and my summers as a kid were filled with riding my four wheeler, fishing, hunting, and otherwise enjoying the outdoors.

I never pass up a chance to hunt on opening weekend of deer season. Especially when its with my family. This year is the second year that my pops, brother, and I were able to join forces to hunt our bosses farm in Blairstown, MO. There's some monster deer in these parts, and tonight I took a pretty good one.
It was an extremely exciting hunt. The rut seems to still be in effect, and this boss hog was chasing a doe something serious. I saw him skirt by in the thick woods, and then the doe proceeded to bust me. I threw in a few snort weezes, and about 10 minutes later I had a shot at that dude. It was so fast, and I barely remember even taking the shot. I had a window open that lasted just a few short seconds, but the shot was clean and he dropped in his tracks.

Afterwards is the real work. Skinning and chunking up a deer is always tough, and for some reason there's no place to hang deer here, so that made it even harder. No worries, a dozen Bud Lights, a sharp knife, and a little time is all it took...
Here's a few from my stand. I actually shot him on the back side of my stand in the thick thicket. Pretty sweet land none the less.

Pretty stoked to take down the biggest deer of my hunting career. Now if I can only get my bro to get his first deer tommorow!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Into the Dark

There's something satisying about riding into the dark. Or riding out of the dark, either way. Lately, I've had the pleasure of donning the lights, and getting in some good sunset to darkness rides.

Wednesday night I grabbed my recently overhualed Kona Jake, now with fancy gears and a new stealth black paint job, and headed out for some much needed gravel time. It's that time of the year where my percentage of gravel to overall ride time increases dramatically. However, as long as trails are dry, they eat up the majority of the time. Wednesday's night right was my 45 mile loop I do, with roughly 2600 feet of climbing. It's a good mix of flats and hills, and I enjoyed having gears to be able to push a faster pace on all the flat stuff. About an hour into the ride, I had to switch the head gear on, and illuminate the night with my blasting beam of white light. I felt good, the air was crisp, and the pedals were turning nicely after Tuesday's trainer trashing.

Last night I again got to do some day/night riding up at SMP. I arrived to Burnsey's place early to go out and scout the trails to see if they were dry enough. Luckily for us there were, and I was able to hit some rogue trails out to the mountain bike trails, railed all of those, and headed back to Seans. They were gracious enough to let me stuff my face with some tasty turkey soft tacos, and then it was off to the backyard skills park. Neither one of us had very much skillz, so we played around for a thirty minutes or so, and then decided it was just us two for the Thursday night ride. Fast forward 3 hours later and we had completed the night ride in fashion. Tons of trail, lots of deer, and plenty of goofing off on unique trail obstacles.
I saw at least a hundred deer.
Playing on logs. Pic courtesy of Burnsey.

Two nights, two great rides. I'm pretty wore after yesterday so today I'll be hitting a nice easy 45 minute cross bike ride around some parks, and then another 45 minutes of some heavy hitting core and upper body workouts. Then it's off to deer camp. Yes sir, time to restock the freezer with some wild venison. Hopefully that is.

I'll sneak out tommorow for some three hours of gravel, and then hopefully Sunday have some of the boys down to my neck of the woods for a long day in the saddle hitting up all of Knob in it's full glory. I can't wait to scout some trail I've never ridden.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I think the biggest challenge most riders who are wanting vast improvement have, is sticking to a plan. I'm no different. Life is a wonderfull thing, but it often gets in the way. Family, work, weather, and our bodies can sometimes get in the way of doing a specific workout we had planned for a particular day. My biggest advice would be to be flexible but yet steady in your course. Sure, you may not get the 3 hour ride in today that you planned, or the power hour yesterday in my case. The biggest difference between the top end guys, and the others, is that even in the face of those things that get in the way, they still push on and get solid workouts in regardless. To me, getting in 5 rides a week is my goal. How I go about that sometimes changes. But out of those 5 I know I want 3 to be good solid, hard workouts. The other two being long slower fun rides.

Yesterday I hooked the bike up to the trainer and set out for what was to be an hour of power. I haven't done this workout since late last spring, and there's no doubt it's a very challenging workout. I choose a 43x12 gear to push, with my mediocre trainer set on the hardest setting. 15 minutes in and I knew that I wasn't going to be accomplishing my hour. I guess I overestimated the gear choice, and so with that in mind, and knowing I would do no good by dumbing down the hour, I choose to do a 2x20 minute workout.

This is another great workout that helps you work on your sustained power output. For me my goal this off season is to build a very solid hour and a half base. That's my typical race length. If I can come into February with being able to ride hard for an hour and a half, then all I have to do is fine tune and sharpen that hour and a half. I need to be able to sprint over, and over, and over, and over again for an hour and a half to be competitive in my level. For most though, just having a solid hour and half fast pace base is plenty to be competitive on the local level. Ideally, I'd like to race an hour and a half on any given course at 12.5+ mph come February. I'll then need to fine tune that and push it to 13.5+. Yes, that's how fast the big boys run. Hopefully I can be a big boy too...

So back to the 2x20. 15 minutes in I decided to take my workout and break it into two longer sets. At minute 18 I was really feeling it. These are called walls. I wanted to quit and call it good. Problem is that's not what you want to do. NEVER SHORTCHANGE YOURSELF! Rule number 1. Walls are meant to come down. You'll never get faster if you're not willing to break down fitness walls and push past them. So even though those last two minutes hurt, I pushed even harder. I sprinted the last minute and ended up hunched over my bike with little air left in my lungs, and legs that felt like burnt toast. If you don't push through walls in your training, then come race day, you'll suffer by not knowing what to do when the the going gets tough. Pain management is huge in mountain bike racing. We all hit walls during racing, but being able to push through those walls, and continue racing at high speed is what will nab you the finish you're after.

I took 5 mintues to recover, and then began the second set, same gear. It was tough to get going, even thougher to get past the 10 minute mark. Another wall, another push. Minutes 10-15 were easier, and then begins the 5 minute countdown. Same as the first set, I sprinted the last 2 minutes and put everything I had into the pedals. I was offically spent afterwards.

To make a good workout even better I capped it all off with a 400 rep core workout circuit. Basically I did a series of core and back workouts, in sets of 20, until I hit 400 reps. All in all I finished right at 15 minutes. As the weeks progress I'll increase each workouts by 60-100 reps.

So no, I didn't do the workout I had planned. I did however adjust to my body, and in the end accomplished a solid workout that will benefit me on my overall goal. That's what you have to do. Find out what your goal is, have a good solid plan to accomplish that goal, and learn to adjust as neccessary.

Some days you won't have it, other days the weather will get in the way. Bottom line is if you train smart, and train to your weaknesses, you'll be far better off than those that mindlessly train just to train. Riding 3 hours when you feel like crap, and having that 3 hour ride be less than stellar most likely won't help you. Take the day off and train the core or upperbody. Take a easy spin. Then go out and hit it hard and get a good ride in the next day.

I'd rather have 3 rides a week that were solid, then try to get 5 in that were half ass. Don't forget the most important part of training though, rest and recovery. That's were the body mends and rebuilds. Sleep, proper diet, and good living will go a long way.

I'm going to document my training this off season so that you can see exactly what I'm doing, and how it's going. I don't recommend following my plan to a T, as it is my plan that's I've put together to accomplish my goal. Your goal might be different, and your weaknesses different than mine. Either way, it's sort of for my own record keeping, and partly so you can hopefully get something out of it.

2012 will be won in the off season. Don't forget the most important time of the year...


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dirty Goodness

Last week marked the fist week of base training for me. I know most of you might find that way to early, but my "real" season runs March-July. Anything after that is just for fun. So basically, I have to be in race shape by March 4th for my first Pro race ever, Mellow Johnny's. I'm pretty stoked about that being my first real pro race, especially after the major win there this year as a Cat 1. I know that my success probably won't be equal next year, but alas, it will be a sweet race and a great course to pop my pro cherry.

So last week I hit the bike, core, and upper body pretty hard again. I took pretty much the whole month of October off, minus a few rides, and Burnin and BT. I ended up getting sick the week of BT but thought I had it cleaned out of my system the day before the race. Turns out I didn't, and the following week pretty much followed a similiar sick fashion. Starting my training block last week was a little tough, and the legs weren't feeling the best, but by Saturday I had what I felt like decent legs again.

Friday night was a good time. Cam Chambers was in town for a wedding, and he was looking to do some dirt ripping with the old Ethos crew. We were happy to make plans to ride with him. Friday night we hit up Swope for an hour and a half of dark awesomeness. Swope was in great shape, and we knew that the next day it would be even better. Trav and Cam worked me over pretty well that night, even though our pace wasn't blistering. It was just fast enough in a few spots though that I got the HR up there. It felt good to push it again for the first time since BT.

Friday night we hit up Nara's for some reverse happy hour sake, sushi, and a half naked model who was having free sushi served off of her. Eating sushi off a half naked chic wasn't something I had planned for, but still we enjoyed the free sushi off of the pretty model anyways. We consumed just enough Tank 7 and wonderful sake, that I was positive Saturday's ride would be chill.

Early rising on Saturday had us at Swope by 8:30. The three of us hit up a short lap at Swope, and then hit Blue River Parkway over to Burp where we procedded to rip dirt up for an hour or so. Burp was definently a little more tacky than Swope, and you could tell the traffic was much less by the excess leaves as opposed to Swope's almost clear trail. Either way, we had a pretty awesome time riding Burp, and then proceeded back to Swope.

We met up with the Pirate for what would finish off our morning of riding. We hit one more full lap of Swope, had some pretty sweet wrecks, and Cam and I took our bikes off of the Whales Tail. Cam had more steez than I, as I haven't hucked a bike in what seems like years. I pulled the drop off, but barely. My suspension gave me a kick, and I had to ride it off one foot unclipped, and off the back of my bike.
The Whales Tail

Sunday rolled around and a quick check of my shock sag told me that Saturdays rear shock problem I noticed was due to a lower than normal PSI. I forgot to grab my shock pump, but luckily Walt's Bike Shop in Columbia was open on a Sunday. Walt's is my go to place when I'm in CoMo. Good guys, and they're always willing to help. Help they did, and my suspicions were correct, I was way low on air. After getting the front and rear dialed, it was off to my buddies house and then a short ride to Cosmo Park. I was hoping for about three hours at Rockbridge but the guys at Walts called, and the trails were closed. Oh well...

The commute over was good, just enough time to warm up and open the legs for what is always a fun but hilly Cosmo. I like that trail alot, but it's not a very long one. What it lacks in miles, it makes up for in steep, tough hills. After 4 laps, I was about worked, and decided to hit the road for the 20 minute ride back.

Three trails, one night ride, and good buddies. The trails were by far in the best shape they've been in in months. It was hero dirt almost all around. I've never ridden Cosmo when it was in such amazing shape. Basically it was perfect hookup, and overall amazing riding. The trails were in need of some moisture, and last week they got them. Yesterday and today was probably a bit much rain wise, but I predict another perfect weekend of trail riding. Like perfect as in the best riding of the year. Don't miss it folks.

I'm liking the comments below on what we could do better with our Missouri race scene. Some good points were brought up, but keep em coming. I'll be posting up a similar forum/poll in the next few days on Earthriders and STLBiking. I got all of the numbers compiled for the most part. If you'd like to see them, feel free to email me. My contact info is on my profile page. I'm not sure how to translate them from Word to a blog post without it all being jumbled.

More riding and such this week. Tonight is the power hour! Welcome back my old friend. It's time to visit the pain cave again. I'm loving it...


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crunched Numbers

That's UFD East and West, MWFTS, Oklahoma, and Arkansas' total race numbers for the year. Got the first round knocked out, and some interesting things popped up.

I'll compile the numbers soon. Basically we have way more overall racers, however a lower races per racer average, but also well over twice as many XC races. The objective of this search is to find out ways to increase our total racers per race average, to create a better overall race experience for all. Well that and some other stuff.

I'm not short on ideas... I'm interested in what you all have to comment. What changes would you recommend or like to see?


Sent from my HTC on the Now Network from Sprint!