January 5, 2011

Looking Ahead

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:32 am

It’s less than 2 months until the first race of 2011 (Southern Cross). I’ve had a personal vendetta for that race ever since the 2009 edition where I experienced one of the biggest failures of my racing career by losing 1st place to Carey Lowery in the last seconds of the race (a combination of bad pacing, bad nutrition, bad motivation, and bad bike handling). Last year, I was able to pull off a win, but Carey was not there, and she then proceeded to have one of the most prolific race seasons of her life. Would I have beaten her? I’m sure you could find people that would argue either way, but mostly you’d find people that would ask, “Who the Hell are Andrea and Carey, and what is Southern Cross?”

I digress.

As of late, I’ve been focusing on building aerobic endurance- a quality that I’ve not spent much time on in the past other than the occasional long ride (which would inevitably contain large chunks of time NOT focusing on an endurance pace). It’s the classical “base building” that I conveniently skipped in the past because before mountain bike racing, I was racing for 2-3 hours at the most. I could go into the physiology of it, but I’ve kind of enjoyed NOT getting into the physiology of anything lately. It’s driven me a little crazy at times, but I’m hoping for payoff in the upcoming months.

The season starts off a little slow- Spa City 6 hour in March, then the Ouachita Challenge April 3rd, then nothing on the calendar until April 30th, when the NUE Series kicks up with the Cohutta 100 (after that- destruction!) I’m still on the fence about racing the Ouachita course Singlespeed. Only one other female singlespeed competitior is registered, and there’s a slew of “women’s open” competitors. On one hand, I want to support singlespeed racing, but on the other, Ouachita isn’t that great of a singlespeed course because of several miles of flat/rolling forest road. If I want to “chase” the fast women, it would be advantageous to have gears in order to play to my strengths. What does the studio audience think?

I’m hoping that other NUE races besides Cohutta and Breck add the women’s singlespeed (hereby referred to WSS) category. It’d be a dream for WSS to be its own category in the NUE Series. My recommendation to the NUE gods- make WSS a category. Being the only woman dedicated enough to chase points on a singlespeed, I’ll win by default, then other, faster women will be all like, “oh, she just won by chasing points, no one fast raced that category,” and I’ll be all like, “yeah, then maybe you should race singlespeed and beat me,” and then they’ll be all like, “maybe I will,” and I’ll be all like, “bring it on, gearie!” and then… well, you get the point.

With Cohutta, Syllamo, Mohican, Breck, Fool’s Gold, and Shennandoah,  I’ve got plenty of races to get NUE points (only the 4 best are counted). April/May/June will be pretty packed, but after that, there will be larger gaps between the A races, and I’m not yet sure if I want to fill those with training or more racing. I originally wanted to go to the Breck Epic, but I likely won’t find the disposible income for it, and I feel I should be a lot faster before I hit sponsors up for that type of cash. It’ll probably be last minute additions as I get bored with weekends in Memphis.

Speaking of geared bikes, I received something black and white and carbon all over in the mail yesterday. Now I’m just waiting on other hardware from the likes of SRAM in order to start putting it all together. This one will take a little more parts-gathering time than the previous build, but I’ll post it once it’s up & ripping.

January 4, 2011

2011 Sponsorship Rundown

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 9:39 am

I’ve been relatively quiet on the sponsor front because I’ve had a couple of things in the works. As you may (or may not) know, my 2009/2010 road team was Marx-Bensdorf (local elite team). The ladies were great. If I were to road race again in 2011, I’d would have loved to race with them. However, the team management was not willing to sponsor my mountain bike pursuits (don’t get me wrong- they’re on top of the road game, and adding MTB to the mix would likely complicate things. No hard feelings towards them at all). That being my main focus and top priority, I had to look elsewhere.

Luckily, about the time I went searching, I also found my awesome job at Outdoors, Inc. This is an excellent on two fronts- I get a lot of products at a discount very similar to what I’d get if I’d propositioned each individual company,  and the store has also had a USA Cycling registered team for about as long as I’ve been alive. A couple of phone calls and breakfasts later, and I’ve got myself additional backing from the shop I love. So- new, big sponsor #1- Outdoors, Inc.

You might also have noticed that I’m a big fan of Niner bikes. It just so happens that they’ve got an amazing grassroots program, which they are graciously allowing me to partake in. Hell. Yes. So- new, big sponsor #2- Niner Bikes grassroots racing program.

There might be a little shuffling around of the individual companies you see on the right. Some of them are products that kick ass (like Trail LED, Raxter, and Stuffits) that Outdoors doesn’t carry (and that I generally like better than comparable products that Outdoors does carry). Others are covered under the Outdoors “umbrella,” so they’ll get absorbed by the benefits of working in a bike shop. As always, stay tuned…

January 3, 2011

New Year’s Weekend at Syllamo

Filed under: Trails,Training — Andrea @ 7:23 am

Getting tired of reading about Syllamo yet? It’s prettymuch a way of life in the wintertime- the creek is low, the leaves are getting packed in, and the rock gardens are always prime. I had set my alarm for 5am New Year’s Day so I could get moving to meet up with Ryan & Matt, who’d left the previous morning since they hadn’t had to work. However, I ended up awake at 3am, so I decided to get out of bed and go early.

The non-existence of traffic at 4am is wonderful.

I arrived at the cabin sometime around 7:30, had 2nd breakfast, and we were on the trail around 10. We started out on the yellow trail (hadn’t done that one in a while), and moved on to the blue trail. We were all on singlespeeds (32×21 is a good gear out there. Matt brought a 32×20, but was willing to “compromise his sexual integrity” for a 21t) Ryan destroyed climb after climb (and had a flat or two) while Matt killed the rock gardens. I was somewhere in the middle.

Ride time was somewhere around 4 hours. Matt and I (both on rigid forks) were feeling pretty beat up by the time we reached the final climb up from highway 5. Back at the cabin, it was a battle for hot water when everyone hit the shower at the same time. The remainder of the evening was spent eating pasta, grazing on Oreos, and drinking beer (though, I didn’t partake of the Natural Light). Matt pretended that he was Burt Reynolds (you’ll have to find that one in the gallery below)

Sunday morning, everyone was moving slowly. The mood was vaguely reminiscent of the long-ago Metro Volkswagen training camp where we’d all wake up exhausted, but no one would admit that he or she didn’t feel like getting on the bike and riding like hell. The guys weren’t feeling anything epic, so we stuck to the green and orange trails, which took a little less than 2 hours. I decided somewhere on the green trail that I was going to ignore all pain from the previous day and channel the Honey Badger. I bombed down a couple of the Orange trail descents, which was good for figuring out what was possible with the rigid fork (though possibly not so good for the wheels I just built. The damage gets surveyed today). The moved earned me exhaustion and a random nosebleed.

There are still parts of the trails that kick my butt, and sections that make me walk, but those are getting fewer and further between.

December 29, 2010

2010 Stuff that Sucked

Filed under: Product Reviews,Trail Riding — Andrea @ 7:29 pm

This is actually a kinda hard list to make, because I generally have a good handle on what I like as far as equipment goes. However, disappointments do happen…

Sidi Shoes: Ok, this should really be last year, but it’s worth mentioning that the tread on SIDI shoes is much akin to plastic. Sure, they are high quality, rebuildable, etc, but if you ride on rocky stuff like Syllamo, then these shoes fail the hike-a-bike test. Unless you’re a baller who never walks (like Dicky), look elsewhere.

Quarq Powermeter: I hate to bash on a company with great customer service, but this thing has done nothing but bother me since I got it. The calibration is really sensitive to temperature, so any time you’re riding in a rapidly changing environment (spring/fall/trainer room), you have to stop and re-calibrate often. And yes, I tried the auto-cal feature in that situation, and it wasn’t effective. I sent it back twice (both times, the turnaround was SUPER fast- like I said… great customer service), and it seems to generally work OK now (outside of the aforementioned temp swings), but I just don’t feel like I can trust it like I did my SRM. This is confirmed by the computrainer that we just got. Its readings are always right on with Ryan’s SRM, but always 10-30 watts over what the Quarq readings are.

Hayes Brakes: I haven’t used these, but Ryan has a pair that came on his Felt 9Solo. The brake pads fall out when the wheel isn’t on the bike. Also, I’ve talked to a pro (who shall remain nameless) that had a major problem with Hers at one of the last big, humongous races of the year. Luckily, when you’re that much of a badass, you don’t have to rely on little things like brakes to still destroy everyone.

Giordana Shorts: I blew the seams out in 2 pair this season. Nothing like riding 72 miles of the Breck 100 with your inner thighs hanging out and rubbing your saddle.

VALIC Investment company: Yeah, it seems random, but it’s who was “in charge” of my retirement account from the University of Memphis. Apparently, once you get over a certain amount of money in your account, you can’t withdraw it to move it to another investment company. I’m trying to move my retirement funds to Vanguard. VALIC has some of my money invested in a Vanguard fund, but since it’s not a company that’s “approved” by U of M/VALIC, I can only get half of it. The remainder will be moved in small monthly installments so that VALIC can keep making money off if it. It’s a bunch of bureaucratic bullsh*t, and I let them know that the last time I talked to them, and I’m telling everyone I know… including the internets.

The iPad: Ryan is obsessed with it, and it probably gets handled by him more than I do.

Chamois Butt’r: It dissolves within half an hour of riding. Sure, it’s nice to be able to wash it out of a chamois, but let’s take a look at basic chemistry here- chamois butt’r (as well as a lot of other “chamois” products) is water soluble. Sweat is made out of water. When you ride, you sweat… hopefully you can figure out the rest.

Motobecane Bikes: Once again, I haven’t ridden one, but I’ve worked on them. Just a word of advice if you’re thinking about buying one- when you unbox one, there will be missing parts, parts that are incredible heavy/sketchy, wheels that aren’t true… you get the idea. Go to a bike shop and get a real bike that wasn’t assembled in a sweatshop.

Trek Madone: Too light for its own good. Scott and Cannondale can make super-light rides that are stiff and lively… what happened to the Madone?? After riding it and the BH back-to-back, I realized that it had no soul (even moreso than I).

This is all I can think of right now… I generally focus on the things I love, so trying to remember the ones I don’t is kinda difficult. I’ll keep adding, though.

December 26, 2010

Air 9 Carbon- Day 2

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 7:38 pm

Today’s terrain was much more challenging (in both surface and elevation). For those of you that know the trails, I started at the Blue (Scrappy Mountain) trailhead and rode a counter-clockwise loop of the Blue, Orange (Bald Scrappy), Green (White River Bluff), Orange (again), and Blue (again).

It gave me an opportunity to get a real idea of what it’s like to ride a rigid bike on some pretty technical stuff. The verdict?

Nice. Very Nice.

A lot of people have asked for my thoughts on the rigid fork and how it compares to a suspension fork. Well, the best way I can describe it is to compare it to the difference between a surgeon’s scalpel and a chef’s knife. Both are sharp objects designed for precision cutting. If you want to carve your Christmas turkey, the knife cuts straight through the skin, grain of the meat, and joints. The scalpel, on the other hand, is not so good at “straight through” as it is at disecting the meat from the bones in a very precise manner (ok, so I know that’s an odd situation, but humor me here). In either case, the end product is the same- you get your turkey meat off of the bone.

Same with the rigid fork- rather than unweighting the front wheel and letting suspension absorb most of a bump from a rock or other solid object, the rigid fork is so light and fast handling that it skirts over/around the rock with very little effort. The result for me? After I figured this out (it took a good hour of riding on some tech-y stuff), I found that I was actually cleaning MORE of the tough sections of trail- including (near the end of the ride) the entire length of the Blue trail from the Stairway to Heaven (pictured in the gallery below) to the logging road (steep and rocky- I don’t think I’ve ever managed the entire thing before because of some tricky switchbacks and steep kickers with small rock ledges.

How much will I ride/race it? I’m honestly not sure yet. I’m definitely not as fast going downhill without suspension. However, I definitely climb better… which edges itself out in “importance” when racing. Then again, the trail chatter can get tiring to the upper body. I’ll likely switch depending on the situation.

The frame itself is still amazing. It’s so damn stiff- you get the sense that every ounce of effort that you’re putting into pedaling is being transferred directly into moving you forward. I’m in love.

So, here are some photos from the journey:

December 25, 2010

Air 9 Carbon

Filed under: Trail Riding — Andrea @ 5:14 pm

I received a shipping notice early last week, and, to my surprise, it said that the A9C would arrive Christmas Eve. So, I bribed Matt with French toast and a computrainer to get him to sit around my house & wait for the frame delivery while I was at work. However, just after we polished off the French toast, the FedEx truck miraculously appeared… OMG!!! I was giddy.

I packed the carbon goodies into the Element & headed to work. When I arrived, my suspicion that I have the best job and co-workers in the world was confirmed. The office was packed full of coffee, food, and alcohol, including a keg of homebrew that one of the managers had brought. At lunch time, the owner of Outdoors, Joe Royer, delivered lunch for all of the employees. I worked on building my bike in between helping last minute shoppers pick out random stocking stuffers (if you recieved a set of Swiftwick socks under the tree, you’re welcome ;)

Today, I packed up and headed to Mountain View to test the new ride. I figured since I’d switched to a rigid fork that I’d go easy and try the red trail first (which you could essentially ride on a CX bike). I really can’t describe how awesome the ride of this bike is. You just have to ride it yourself. It’s incredibly stiff, and the handling is what you expect from the likes of Niner (they aren’t a “bandwagon” company that’s started producing a line of 29ers just to cash in on the 29er’s popularity, and it shows). Like I thought, the carbon fork is going to take some getting used to. So far it seems like a good choice- I like to stand a lot when I ride SS. The rigid fork makes that method of climbing feel much more efficient than a suspension fork.

Anyway… I only rode the red trial. I planned on adding a green loop to the end of my ride, but when I arrived back to the parking lot after the red, I realized that my car had a flat tire. By the time I changed it, I was frozen, and headed back to the shower. Tomorrow, I’m planning on an epic blue/green/orange loop. It will involve much more climbing and rocks, so I should have an even better idea of the capabilities of the bike. So far, though, I’m incredibly impressed…

December 21, 2010

My Grandmother…

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 10:16 pm

is in town for the holidays. She’s from Drew, Mississippi, and I just saw her put a quantity of Sriracha Sauce on a slice of pizza that I am reasonably sure would kill a small child.


December 20, 2010

Top Stuff of 2010

Filed under: Product Reviews — Andrea @ 7:56 am

Here’s a compilation of stuff I’ve used this year that’s made life easier, performed above and beyond my expectations, and generally kicked ass. Some of it is sponsor stuff (links to the right of the page). Not all of it is, though… Of course, this list is a work in progress. It also doesn’t include all of the stuff I use- There’s a lot of stuff that “performs as expected” that I just don’t have time to list, so I’ve reserved this for the “meets and exceeds expectations” category of bike-related goods… In random order:

Raxter- I’m still enjoying the Tarsus. Auto Nesting (fancy talk for “you can stagger the bike positions”) has eliminated the need to keep a multi-tool in the glovebox or remove the seatposts from the bikes in order to prevent bar/post interference. It’s also flat enough that I can completely drop the tailgate of the Element to load it, and is one of the lightest hitch racks available.

Stuffitts- Magically dry and freshen your shoes with the power of cedar. I put them through their paces on many occasions, and they work amazingly (trust me- much better than wadded-up newspaper) Though, I do recommend buying a size up from the chart on the website in order to get maximum “stuffing” action.

Trail LED Darkstar- I’ve only used it a handful of times, and DAMN it’s bright! My favorite thing, though, is how small and light it is. All the other lights I’ve used are relatively large and plastic with an obnoxiously large battery. The Trail LED is tiny, and the lights themselves are in a light, aluminum (GOLD!) body. I opted for a 4 hour battery, too, and it’ smaller than some of the shorter-running ones I’ve dealt with. 1200 lumens of F*CK YEAH!

Ibex Wool- If you’ve been reading at all lately, you’d have to know that my favorite wool would be on this list. I’ve got bib shorts & knickers, a jersey, base layers, arm/knee warmers, a jacket… all of them are my “go to” clothes any time the temp is below 70 (they do make summer-weight stuff for warmer temps, too- I just don’t have any of it).

Mavic Shoes- Bought a pair of the Mavic Chasm MTB shoes last year, and they’ve held up really well. When you have to walk (maybe more important for the SS crowd), they’ve got a lot more grip than the SIDIs I used to ride, and I think the footbed is a bit more comfortable. I would have gone for the Fury, but I don’t like black, and I’m not fast enough to wear yellow (yet).

Swiftwick Wool Socks- Got a pair of the “fours” at 2009 DSG, and actually changed into them during the race. Since then, they’ve been the socks I wear when I know it’s going to be absolutely foul (well, on nice days, too, but it’s in the wet/mud/destruction where they really shine). That original pair still looks brand new (except for a couple of mud stains).

Crank Brothers Pedals- Hands down, clears mud better than any other pedal on the market. I’ve had them in all breeds of mud, and they just won’t clog. Ever. Even the infamous Dirt Sweat and Gears mud is no match. I’ve got a pair of candy 11s on order for the Bling Bike (they match the gold Hope hubs perfectly).

Stan’s Rims- The rims will hold a tubeless bead without burps at PSIs lower than 20. Be realistic when making your rim selection, though. The Arches that I had built for my original Jet are a little heavy, but stiff and strong. The Crests I had built up as race wheels, well, aren’t. They’re very light, and definitely a “race only” rim for me (if you’re lighter/ride buff trails/have more finesse, they’d likely be perfect for you). I’m building my next SS wheels with some 355 rims, which are a little sturdier, but not as heavy as the Arches.

Hope Hubs- As far as I can tell, these things are bombproof. They’re easy to service, and the bearings in my original set spin just as well today as they do when I first bought them. They aren’t the lightest or the noisiest around (though they definitely aren’t the heaviest, either), but they cost a lot less than a King or I9. As you may notice, I have both QR and 20mm Maxle forks in the stable. Swapping the front hub between the two is literally a 2-3 minute process. It’s incredibly simple.

Niner Bikes- How could I make a list of awesome things and NOT mention Niner? All of my off-road adventures are on their bikes. I love them. They have top-notch customer service, too. I’m looking forward to riding them for years to come.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll add more in the next few days, so check back.

December 17, 2010

Happy Birthday/Graduation Breakfast

Filed under: non-bike — Andrea @ 7:15 am

(for dinner)

Since I like to multi-task, I decided to combine birthday dinner with graduation brunch for the ultimate birthuation celebration for Ryan (35 yesterday) and Matt (no longer an undergrad in college). Menu: french toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese), and organic sausage…



Matt handled the meat:


…and Ryan guarded the iPad


and it turned out to be highly delicious



Indy helped clean the plates


Of course, afterward, there was the requisite “ride a wheelie through the kitchen” time.


However, the “can’t stop won’t stop” brakes on the Surly proved to be problematic…



The Jet9 got a turn, too. Probably for the last time (unless whoever buys it decides to build it up and ride it thorugh my kitchen)


I forgot to mention- now that’s he’s graduated, Matt has decided to moonlight as a Rentboy…


December 15, 2010

Singlespeed- Memphis Style

Filed under: Trail Riding — Andrea @ 7:41 am

Looks like the A9C singlespeed is finally happening…

Unlike fellow blogger Dicky, (who is keeping his current level 4 classified top secret project, well, secret) I’m horrible at keeping these types of things a secret.

This time, I’m taking a break from the usual red anodized parts and giving my ride a touch of Memphis style with some gold touches (still needs fake diamonds… working on it): hubs (Hope, of course), chain, brake lines, seatpost collar, and headset spacers (maybe a headset in the future, but the frame comes with one, so I’ll stick with that for now). I’ve even got half a mind to find a local hotrod shop that will anodize my Thompson goodies. Bling bling, indeed…

Of course, I know it’s possible to get gold nipples (snicker) and chainring bolts, but those are two places where I’m sticking to brass and steel (respectively). I’ve learned the hard way that those are parts where saving weight/looking fresh aren’t worth the loss of reliability/durability. Trust me… it’s been incredibly tempting to click “add to cart” every time I’ve seen the box of gold DT swiss alloy nipples. Just typing that makes me feel bling-greedy. I keep reverting back to the mental image I’ve got of my current wheelsets, sitting on the truing stand with worn out-looking red nipples, and how I have to use the “tight” spoke wrench on them to keep from stripping anything out.

Trust me, stripped nipples are no fun.

I’m expecting parts to arrive next week. Hopefully my X-Mas Syllamo adventures will be on a blinged-out carbon monster.

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