Monday, January 26, 2015

Moose Brook Fatbike Race 2015

Mountain bike racing is tough.  I realize this every time I try it.  Sure there are plenty out on the course that make it look easy, but it's not.  Especially in the winter.  Your out there in below freezing temps, on heavy bikes, peddling through energy sapping snow, passing trees with inches to spare, potentially on ice, at speeds up to 20 miles-per-hour, pushing the limit of the 20" wide trail on flat tires.  Yup, that's fatbike racing.  And it sold out in about 24 hours too.  Of course I'm talking about this years Moose Brook Fatbike Race.
Whizzing Through Trees

This year was better than last year, let me count the ways.  First, I didn't have a broken clavicle.  This let me ride a closer to the limit than last year.  Second, it was a warm 17 degrees and while that may not seem that warm, it was tremendously warmer than last year.   Third, I've figured out the magic of tire pressure.  Actually, there is no magic, it's all a trade off between handling and excess power loss.  But I had it tuned in much better this year.  Fourth, there wasn't any ice.  And if there was I had enough studs to get over most of it.

Pre-Race Meditation

Race Time.  The pack was a little thinner than expected with 54 starters between the 2 races, 43 in the 16 mile race.  The conditions were very good for the race and the singletrack was well packed albeit fairly bumpy from walkers.  (Makes a not so subtle hint at a Bucksaw) The sections of snowmobile trail were softer but gave a great opportunity to pass.
On Your Mark, Get Set....
My strategy was the same as always, start slow, stay strong, and it worked.  I found a place near the back of the pack to warm up and worked my way up from there.  After much debate on whether to put the foul tasting water in the camel back under my coat or over it...I ended up with it over my coat...where it promptly froze despite trying to clear out the tube every sip.
( If you watch this video 8520 times and pretend 1/2 of it was uphill, that was the race.)

The 4 lap race format is nice both because it allows spectators a chance to see a lot of the race and you get to learn the course as you go.  The first lap is like a training mode for the subsequent trips around.  The narrow singletrack is tough for passing.  In places I was holding others back because my technical skill isn't up to par.  Not to mention that the original Surly Pigsley is not what you would call "Race Inspired".  But in other places those same people would be holding me back.  Overall people were very courteous and wouldn't let too much time pass before pulling to the side for a moment to let others get by.

Typical Single Track Section

Through the whole race I felt like I was holding my own.  Certainly not up with the top riders but riding with a group of very capable athletes.  I was riding along with the guy from Likin Bikin on his enviable full suspension (Bike Porn Alert) Foes Racing Muzt fatbike.  Fueled by envy alone I beat him by 20 seconds. :)
Bike Envy (Photo pilfered from Facebook)

Which brings me to the results.  I placed 20th out of 43 starters in the 16 mile race.  I had a laundry list of excuses in last years race where I thought I could make up 16 minutes of time.  It turns out I could make up 24 minutes.  Not too shabby, although some of that was the conditions.  Of course it left me thinking.  What could I do on a Bucksaw?  Either that or next year everybody has to ride 37.5lb Pigsleys. 
Stick a Fork In Me
The race itself was very well run just like last year.  There were enough pre and post race cookies to feed 200 riders.  I adjusted my cookie intake to make sure they didn't have too many leftovers.  The provided apr├Ęs race meal was an excellent chicken curry from The SAaLT Pub, Outstanding!  Check them out if you are ever in the area.

'Till Next Year...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Winterbike Shootout: Fat Vs 6er Vs 9er

Three winter bikes, three winter days, one route, constant conditions.  Which bike is the best, that's what I set out to find out.  I'm trying not to ride particular hard on any day to keep myself slightly fresh for the next day and save my legs for this weekend's Fatbike Race.

The Route:
  • The Road: 3 miles of road riding on a lightly traveled paved road with rolling hills.
  • The Lake: 1 mile of lake riding, currently lumpy, solid glare ice.
  • The Trails: 5 miles of trail riding, currently frozen hardpack snowmobile trails with many icy patches.  There is one fairly steep climb with some ice, one short fairly steep all ice climb and one fairly steep descent with a LOT of ice. With frozen rain over minimal well packed snow the trails are suitable for any studded bike.
The Bikes:
  • The Pigsley:  I give this bike a lot of grief because, well, it is obese.  It is an XL steel frame in one of the first model years of the Pugsley with Large Marge (not lite) wheels.  It weighs in at about 38lbs not including all the added winter gear.  It goes downhill well.  Running 45Nrth Dillinger tires with studded centers.
  • The GT Sensor 1.0: My first modern trail bike.  Not all that light, not all that heavy.  Running Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro Evo tires.  
  • The GT Sensor 9er Pro: My second trail bike purchased when my first trail bike had a blown shock.  Again, not a high end bike, not a low end bike.  Running Nokian Gazza Extreme 294 tires.  The winner in my last head to head contest.

The Rides:
  • Day 1: Wednesday, The day of the Pigsley. Before the start of this year I haven't found the joy in this bike that seems to be the claim of all fatbiking.  My attitude is starting to change.  I had "previewed" the route on the 26" Sensor the day before and the handling of the Pigsley was much better on the uneven terrain. The tires had enough studs and were compliant enough to grip the lumpy lake without slipping although adding power didn't add speed as fast as I'm use to.  The same goes for the icy climb.  Given it's weight it wasn't quick but it was sure footed and dependable.  Downhills were made with  confidence and speed.  I skipped the icy descent because I've crashed there more than once including broken bones and I didn't want to miss my race in 4 days. 

  • Day 2: Thursday, The day of the Sensor.  OK, the ride on the Pigsley was fun but the ride on the Sensor 1.0 approached awesome. The overall handling wasn't as sure footed as the studded fatbike but if you could accept that your wheels were going to slide a little here or there to find their happy little ice rut, that was minor.  I even braved part of the icy descent.  Where the Pigsley felt stable and confident, the Sensor felt nimble and quick like dancing through the trails.  The Sensor was also faster on every part of the route including the icy climb.  

  • Day 3: Friday, The day of the 9er. Today was good. Not in a good ride sort of day, although the ride wasn't bad.  No, it was good in that it confirmed my prior thoughts that the 9er is not my favorite winter bike. On the lake it was the fastest, which could have been somewhat circumstantial because of the wind, but it was also the squirreliest. Flat ice is fine but any bumps pushed the wheel from side to side.  It was also the only one of the 3 bikes not to make it up either icy climb.  I bypassed most of the icy descent too, no grip.  In general it felt like I was riding closer to the edge of control even though my speed was similar.  I mostly blame this on the fact that the tires have fewer studs and they are spread out over a much larger area.  In general, they're better than no studs but that's about it.   I may have gained a little comfort and grip by letting some air out since they are inflated to the high end or the range. 
The Results:
  • The Pugsley had the most control.  With less than half the studs of the other bikes it climbed every hill with minimal spin.  General rutted trail riding was confident and I did less braking than the other bikes. It was also the slowest which I attribute to it's massive weight.  And I must admit, I don't like a ridged frame anymore for mountain biking.  This 48 year old back prefers a little squish.  Overall, this bike was the most stable.
  • The Sensor 1.0. There's a reason I gave this bike the nickname "Trusty" (and it's not for it's impeccable service record).  This bike made it up all the climbs and through all the trails with confidence.  It was also the fastest bike out of the 3.  Overall, this bike was the most fun, and that's what it is all about.
  • The Sensor 9er.  For winter riding: "You Are The Weakest Link".  The combination of the higher center of gravity along with fewer studs/sq inch on the tire put this bike in last place for riding on trails where traction is questionable. I've never really liked it for the winter because when you do inevitably fall it's further to the ground. Overall, this bike was the scariest.
The Winner: Obviously, it is the Salsa Bucksaw Carbon. But since I don't have a spare $6500 that I want to dump into one bike right now it will have to be the studded 26er.  Not bad for the most senior bike in the shootout.
2010 GT Sensor 1.0

Friday, January 16, 2015

Early Morning Cyclist Inspiration

I have little to say about today.

The lake was a cross between Maxfield Parrish & Normal Rockwell (with out the kids and dogs)

The Past

The Future

The Present (actually I took this picture 2 days ago)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why is My Back Wheel Passing My Front Wheel...Shit

Was the thought I had just before bouncing off the ground.  OK, it was more of a thump and a slide.  It was my first chance to ride the trail all the way to work.  There was a beautiful dusting of falling powder gently blanketing the trails AND THE HUGE ICE FLOW.  I wasn't thinking that I should snap a picture of my bike 30 feet down the trail as I sat there trying to determine if I was damaged.  If I did grab a pic, and there was no snow, and I was on a different bike, and the bike ended uphill of me and not downhill of would have looked like this.
Stock Photo
Because that's the section of trail I was on.  A 1/2 inch of powder over glare ice on a hill isn't good, especially when you don't even know the ice is there.  When I realized that I was going down I did it as gracefully as possible.  Which at about 10mph over a nearly frictionless surface is moderate at best.  I don't think I broke anything this time.  Maybe a slightly bruised rib.  Coincidentally (or not) it was almost in the exact same section of trail as my collarbone calamity.  Maybe I should find a different route.  Nah.

Otherwise the trails were OK but not great.  The light snowmobile tracks were  generally good for the fatbike until the snow just stopped supporting the front wheel and it would submarine under the snow and washout for no particular reason.  I did have trails available all the way to the office door so that was nice.  But hey, who built a house in the middle of the trail over the summer.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Early Morning Cyclist Inspiration

It wasn't actually that inspirational but it was early.  The moon over the fresh show was pretty nice actually.  Today was my first lake crossing of the year.  I turned my lights off and was guided by the light of the full moon and morning's early light. 

But that was as good as it got.  

The lake had 5" of snow with a power sapping crust on it.  As Strava my witness, I was able to churn out a steady...3.5MPH over the lake. The trails had the same crust and going up any grade over 0.1% was nearly impossible so it was roads for the rest of the trip.
This is a picture of a white Pugsley

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year End Review - 2014

 I did it, as promised, I went a full year without buying (myself) any new bikes.  It actually wasn't that difficult because my bike collection is pretty complete.  That's not to say I wouldn't trade out a few for better bikes (bucksaw) but I'm fairly content with them.  SO, lets see what happened this year.

My total mileage was 5562, probably a little higher for some miles lost in the ether.  I dumped my usual spreadsheet and let Strava keep track of everything for me, Much easier but I do miss my notes like "First Lake Crossing"  Speaking of Strava I was surprised to see that I got all of my KOMs in 2014, and then I realized, I didn't use Strava before that.  It seems like it's been forever.

I seem to have a set number of miles that I ride per year and it is right around 5500.
2014 - 5562
2013 - 5452
2012 - 5853

Bike By Bike Breakdown

Bridgstone: 297 mi
The bad weather, go-to bike didn't get the miles it use to because there were so many other options but none the less it got used.  If there is the potential for ice and I'm not on the trails, this is the bike I ride.

Cross Check     586 mi
Oh, not the newest bike in the stable anymore.  This bike went from over 2000 miles in 2012 to over 1300 miles last year and now it's dropped to a mere 586.  I did just order some new parts to replace some aging components, maybe it will breath some new life into the old steed.

Felt    2138 mi
The current favorite.  It's also the bike with the highest retail price that I own, coincidence?  This year I substantially improved my standing in the Downeast Cyclocross race on this little pony.  Other than that it got used for pretty much everything including climbing mountains.  And climbing more mountains.

Pugsley     332 mi
The bike I love to hate or is that hate to love.  I want to ride this bike, this bike is fun to ride.  Yet, some days I come home feeling like I've been in a bar fight after riding it.  But I've already talked about that. I did race my first Fatbike Race on the Pigsley and am signed up to do it again.  Voted most likely to get replaced.

Scott     1,103.2 mi
This bike actually gained a few miles this year.  Mostly thanks to Strava.  It's the fastest and lightest bike I own so it's the go-to bike for attempting KOMs.  It also came out for the Loon Echo Trek, my longest ride to date.  Oh, and also my first full Triathlon.

Sensor 1.0     336 mi
Mountain biking seemed to take a hit this year.  I actually like it better than road biking but for some reason it didn't happen much.  The Sensor 1.0 did help me to take 1st place in this years Great Adventure Challenge.

Sensor 9er     297 mi
It looks like I did a good job splitting my time between the 9er and the 6er.  Does that mean it's time for a 650B?

Univega     471.8 mi 
Ah, the old steed.  This bike got to come out and play on some group rides including the Not Dead Yet ride if memory starves.   Not a lot of miles but not a little either.

We did add a few bikes to my wife's collection this year but she had quite a few gaps to fill.  I think I've successfully converted her into a full fledged cyclist since she's logged about 4000 miles of her own.
Here comes 2015...