Weekend at Syllamo & Industry 9 Trail 24 initial review

First- the riding.

It was awesome, as always. I’ve visited a lot of trails in my short-ish time as a mountain biker, but the Syllamo trails are still some of the most beautiful and challenging I’ve encountered. I did my usual Friday afternoon warmup on the green & orange trails- it’s a good start to a weekend there because you can knock out the loops in ~1.5 hours, and they leave from the closest trailhead, which means the drive there is easy. Those particular trails also give you a nice sampling of what Syllamo has to offer- climbs, descents, flowy stuff, overlooks, and, of course, what’re probably the two “best” rock gardens of the entire system.

Somewhere, in the midst of cyclocross training, I improved my ability to negotiate rock gardens. I’m not 100% sure how (improvement in my equipment is a contributing factor for sure, but more on that in a minute), because I was generally glued to a ‘cross bike since Christmas. Friday afternoon, I managed to clean the rock gardens on both the green and orange trails, first time through- something that, until Friday afternoon, I’ve never managed to pull off, even individually. There’s always been at least one dab or do-over every time I’ve ridden them. I went back to the cabin basking in the awesomeness of rock garden domination and enjoyed the sunset with a glass of wine on the back porch.


Saturday morning, I met up with some people for a quick trailwork party. We cut a corridor through a logged-off section (essentially, that means that if you can stand in the trail with your arms out, you cut anything between your fingertips that’s not a grown-up tree). In the logged areas like this one, it’s lots of lopper and line trimmer work. It’ll pay off big time once spring hits by keeping the angry plants off the trail for an extra month or two before mother nature takes over completely for the summer.



After that, we got on our bikes and went tree hunting. First, to a downed one on the yellow trail. Then, we split up, and Wes and I went to the blue and orange trails. Before splitting, we stopped back at the cars, which were parked at a campsite down a logging road. While we were there, the campers occupying the site drove up. They were two college students who were researching stress hormones in wood frogs. Apparently, that was the Southern end of the frogs’ territory, and they were hoping that the incoming rain (which ended my trip a day early) would bring about successful trapping. We also encountered a group of guys in ATVs who were looking for an ATV-legal path to the yellow trail overlook. They were camping elsewhere for one guy’s bachelor party (too bad all guys can’t be classy enough to go enjoy beer and nature for their bachelor parties).



We removed 3 more trees from the blue and orange trails before finishing up the orange loop and riding back up the forest road to our cars. The trail is nice and clear for now, but the hog damage is getting out of control in some areas. They root along the side of the trail and turn over dirt, rocks, and leaves. The fluffy leaves hide the rocks, making for a dangerous riding condition in some sections where you can’t see what’s hiding under the leaves. Other than a bounty or hunting season, I’m not sure what we can do before they tear everything up.

Enough about the battle with hogs. On to the good stuff…

It’s not often that I’m wrong, but, I have to admit, here and now, that, for the last 3 years, I’ve led many people down the wrong path when it comes to hubs. Before this weekend, if you asked me, “should I get a hub with uber-fast engagement?” I would have answered you with something along the lines of, “you won’t notice a fast-engaging hub as much as you’ll notice if your hub engages slowly.”

Well, I was mistaken.

I didn’t think that a fraction of a second of faster engagement could make a difference in clearing a spot or not clearing it. Actually, it makes a huge difference. Granted, my fitness is great right now, and that helps with the tech-riding success I had this weekend. However, I can’t discount the impact that my new wheels had on my ability to put the fitness to good use. I was amazed over and over again at how much of a blast I had riding them.

Also, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the I9 stiffness vs. the carbon ENVE wheels I rode last season. No, they’re not as stiff. But, if I put everything I’ve owned on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being American Classic Race wheels and 10 being ENVE carbon, I’d give the Trail 24s about an 8.5 (for further reference, a Stan’s Crest/DT Swiss aerolite/hope would be a “5” in my head).

My totally subjective judgement on stiffness is based on a couple of things- one being how much the wheels make you notice “other” stuff about your bike setup- i.e. you have to pay much more attention to things like suspension and tire pressure adjustments when your wheels are super-stiff. The ENVE wheels beat the hell out of me the first time I rode them in Arkansas because I needed to make major changes in my front fork setup (lighter weight oil in the damper/less air pressure). The I9s made me realize that I needed less air pressure in my tires as well (previously not a problem with the ENVEs since the rim was sooooo narrow; previously not a problem on the AMClassics because they were superflexy). My other (totally subjective, possibly untrue) measure is more of a feeling of flex under load. I’ve noticed that some wheels (both mountain and road) seem to have a weird vibration (almost like a groan) that resonates through the drivetrain when I’m putting down a good bit of power. On a mountain bike, it’s just annoying. On a road bike, it will make me think I have a flat tire.

So, initial reports for the I9 trail 24 wheels- Wow. Just, wow. Sure, it’s just been one weekend, but Syllamo is not a place that suffers lesser equipment lightly. I’m absolutely itching to get some more time on these as the season continues.

Rest Week

Saturday morning, Ryan was tired from his Friday race, and I was tired of being cold and muddy (the Power Washers were frozen/broken on Friday, so I spent the duration of his race scraping and chipping mud-ice off/out of his bikes 2x every lap). So, in lieu of sticking around to watch Saturday’s Elite races, Ryan and I packed up and headed back to Memphis.

Another driving factor was Sunday’s festivities- our roommate Matt’s birthday ride,  AKA “Poolboy Matt’s Birthday Death March.” We rode a couple of hours with a big group, drank some beer and whiskey, and a good time was had by all. Unlike 100 mile MTB races, a 40 minute CX race will leave you tired, kinda sore, but not fully destroyed. So, a rest week after a hard race is more of a mental break than a physical one.

Actually, I’m still feeling pretty tapered and awesome right now, so my plan for today is to go out to Herb Parson’s Lake and ride a couple of laps on my new Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels. I’d tell you all about them myself, but it just so happens that someone else just posted a really good rundown on them this morning. So, chances are, you’ve read it already. Unlike his, which are straight up pink, I tortured a wheelbuilder with my color scheme. I decided on a combination of purple, gold, and black spokes with a purple hub. The purple & gold are just bright enough to be flashy, and the black ties everything together to keep it classy. Win-win:

(excuse the sloppy chain tension)
Close-up of front hub


I’m very stoked to get wheels this nice. I’m even MORE stoked that, in the 18 hours that they’ve been in my possession, I’ve seen a tremendous response from local people who want to get a set. It makes me feel warm/fuzzy/happy inside when my sponsors get a return on their investment. If you enjoy reading my adventures in bike racing, click those links on the right and tell them you saw it here. I swear it makes a difference… the more you buy their stuff, the more I get to show their stuff off to the “world” via bike racing/blogging. It’s a beautiful feedback cycle.

This weekend, I’ll really get to put the wheels through their paces at Syllamo. The guys are going to their team camp somewhere in Middle Tennessee, so I’m going on a solo mountain bike retreat to the cabin for a few days. While I’m there, I’m going to get a little more focused on what exactly I’d like to do this summer for a race season. Amanda Carey summed up my feelings very well in her recent interview with MTBRacenews. I’ve got a basic framework started with Whiskey Off-road, TSE, some SS National Championship racing, and Breck Epic, but now it’s time to fill in the gaps.


Master’s Worlds Race Report

It’s been a hot minute since the race, and anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook already knows at least the important part of the story- I finished 3rd place. The combination of rain from a Wednesday morning thunderstorm/deluge, a little extra rain/snow Wednesday night, and the hundreds of people who raced on the course immediately following that, turned it into a total mud bog.

Ryan and I pre-rode on Wednesday at lunch before his heat race. At that point, it was sloppy, but less damaged, so it was nicely difficult- some deep, power-sucking mud, and a lot of slick, tricky mud. I felt great about it. However, between that time and my race, the course conditions deteriorated dramatically. The grass, mud, and water was so churned together that the course turned incredibly slow, and pedaling felt like trying to run and fight off an axe murderer in the throes of a nightmare- the type where you can neither run nor fight because your body feels like it’s moving in slow motion, no matter how much effort you extend.

This year’s field was a little more serious than last year- not that last year’s competition wasn’t tough, but this year, the field size doubled, and included the current National Champion. The stripes made it easy to pick out who to follow when we were given the signal to GO, important since I hadn’t done any e-stalking ahead of time, so I had no idea who was “fast” (other than myself, of course… hehehe)

The start was fast as usual for any very competitive cross race. That was about the only thing that was fast, though. As soon as we were off of the solid start/finish area, everyone dumped to the small ring, and we were racing our asses off… at an average speed of 6.5 miles per hour. Going that slow means that bike handling won’t be a determining factor in the outcome of the race. So, it boiled down to a 3 lap, 40 minute power test with 2x per lap bike exchanges thrown in for good measure. Ryan, who was working the pit for me, had his work cut out for him, repeatedly running the mud/grass-caked bikes to the powerwasher for the big stuff, then finishing the drivetrain cleaning off with most of a can of ProGold Blast Off that Bruce Dickman gave me just before the race. If it weren’t the good pit work, I would have been dead in the mud.

Off the line, I was on the wheel of Kari Studley, the National Champion. I didn’t look back, so I had no idea how the race was unfolding behind me. Kari would periodically pull away then come back, and I decided that, along with her, I’d pass the pits the first time. I stayed behind her like a slinky until finally imploding somewhere after the 2nd time past the pit- during which we both took a clean bike (I exchanged bikes 2x per lap following that). She began to pull away, and I worked on recovering enough to minimize the damage.

(photo courtesy of Debbie Baker)

In the meantime, Brianne Marshall of NoTubes was creeping up behind me. She passed me somewhere during the 2nd lap and seemed to dangle just out of my reach by about 10-15 seconds before pulling away in the 3rd and final lap. She tended to run more of the worst mud sections. I decided not to run- I made the switch from Crank Brothers to SPD pedals a while back, and they were NOT the best pedal in the deep mud because they clogged up every time I got off of the bike. I don’t really consider it to be a deciding factor in my situation, but Crank Brothers pedals would have been one less thing to worry about being affected by mud.
Kari, Brianne and myself finished spaced out about a minute or so of each other, but well ahead of the spots off the podium.

So, this third place was a lot better than last year’s third place, where a stupid mechanical for which I take full responsibility (rear skewer rattled loose) took me out of the 1/2 contention. I think that Thursday’s race through the mud bog could have been contested as a 40 minute power test on trainers with the same outcome. Not as fun as a high-speed, running/jumping/sliding race, but it’s the hand that all of us were dealt, and we made the best of it.


Settled In

We arrived in Louisville yesterday afternoon, dumped everything into the hotel room, and went out for a quick spin to look at the course (it was closed, so we really did just go and look at it) then stop by registration and get back to the hotel before dark.

(insert obligatory “blurry phone photo from the riverfront”)

Once we’d cleaned up and had dinner at a nearby brewery (OMG @ the local/grassfed burger, gluten free when served minus bun), we went to Whole Foods to stock up on groceries so we wouldn’t constantly be in search of a healthy place to eat meals (actually not too hard in LV, but the kitchenette is a sure thing).
When we arrived back, I took half an hour or so to unpack my clothes into drawers and re-arrange the kitchen cabinets to hold the groceries and other food I’d brought. It can get a little tedious, but settling in and nesting in such a way makes the remainder of the stay a lot more “normal,” something that can be hard to maintain when you’re living in a 250 square foot space for 4 nights. Getting a room organized and making yourself at home is some of the best advice I can give to anyone aspiring to make more than 1-night road trips to bike races. It also keeps you from searching through luggage/grocery bags looking for an apple or arm warmers.




This morning, a giant storm front passed through (it went through Memphis last night, and I nearly worried Poolboy Matt to death doting over the fate of him and the dogs if there were a tornado). We slept through most of it, but it ended up flooding and blowing down parts of the race course, so the start of everything was delayed. Luckily, the schedule is staying the same from afternoon pre-ride on to Ryan’s heat race.

I was super happy with our choice in groceries yesterday, because when we went down to the complimentary hot breakfast, my food snobishness came out in full force when I got grossed out by the slimy-looking “scrambled” (powdered) eggs. I got a spoonful of the baked potato wedges and went up to the room to make my own bacon/potato/cheddar/egg hash. It was one of the most delicious things, ever.



Now, we’re just hanging around until the noon open course time, when we’ll go get covered in mud then scramble around to get Ryan’s bike back to “perfect” for his 3:30(ish) heat race.


You’ll notice the hipster/instagram flair on that one. Yesterday, on the 6ish hour drive here, I got bored and started a social media side project. Based off of richkidsofinstagram.tumblr.com, I started uppermiddleclasskidsofinstagram.tumblr.com. Hopefully, it’ll catch a little traction with the target audience and get some good submissions of the fun, occasionally expensive hobbies of people with a little disposable income. You can tag photos on Instagram or Twitter with #umckoi.


One more week

Suddenly, it’s just a few days until we leave for Louisville. Not only am I tired of preparing physically for the race, I’m also a little tired of typing about it. I’m stronger than last year, the competition will be deeper than last year. All I have to do now is race outside myself in 6 days. Let’s just leave it at that.

In more exciting news, I sold the Air9 Carbon!!! I’m extra happy because a woman bought it. Not to sound “reverse sexist,” or anything, but it always makes me super excited to see other women on really nice bikes. The replacement for that frame is another Air9 Carbon CYA frame, but in moondust. I am going to make it a little more sexy than before with the Niner RDO bar, stem, and Ti Cog (I got a 20t in case I’m riding someplace where the Endless 21t kickass cog isn’t appropriate) as well as an MRP Bling Ring. Now all I need is for my Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels to show up, and I’ll be worthy of a spot on the Sick Whips page of Dirtwire.tv.

Hopefully it’ll all arrive while I’m in Kentucky next week, and I can do some building on Monday and/or Tuesday. That won’t be the only thing I’ll have to build- my warranty replacement Cannondale Super6 EVO frame should be here next week as well. I realized soon after I built it that the drag I was feeling on the crank wasn’t “new bearing” drag. Turns out, the bottom bracket shell was out of spec, and when Cannondale tried to fix the problem by sending me a new bottom bracket, the replacement got stuck inside my frame. Not just like “hard to get out” stuck, more like, “large men laid it on the ground and hammered on a stuck driveside bearing and it’s still in there” stuck. So, the replacement frame ships out on the 28th. I’m excited to have my road bike back.

Here are some random pictures from the last week:






SOLD! Air9 Carbon for sale, Round 2

Too slow! It’s outta here!

There was a little interest in the A9C frame/fork, but no solid bites, so here’s another offer:





Parts include:
Hayes Stroker Trail brakes
Truvativ Stylo Crank (32×17 gearing)
Hope Hubs (SS Rear)
Stan’s Crest/355 rims
Thomson Seatpost
Easton EA50 stem (100mm/6deg)
Truvativ Stylo Alloy bar
WTB Grips
The front tire will NOT be the Michelin in the picture. It will be a matching (to the rear) Hutchinson Python


The original deal still stands if you’re looking to purchase a frame & fork only.

Nostalgia and Pride

Those of you that have been reading for a hot minute may remember my brief but life-altering stint with the Metro Volkswagen Elite team out of Dallas. We had a 10 day training camp during which I redefined “physical limits,” and I met some very talented riders who shared my drive to rule the bike world. I only made it to a couple of races for the team, where I worked outside myself as a domestique before having the cycling equivalent to a nervous breakdown.
The team manager, Nathan, wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. When I’d first met him at the Tour of Arkansas, he had his hand in a cast… because he’d gotten mad and punched the metal team trailer, denting it and breaking his hand (you may also remember his punching through the back window of a Suburban during team camp). Anger management issues aside, he knew his shit when it came to race tactics, and, he’s one of the only people who has ever genuinely believed in my ability to ride a bike at a lever higher than what I’d even expect of myself. Not that any of my other friends/family doesn’t think I’m good, it’s just that their expectations don’t exceed my own, but his were, “you have the potential to be better than you think you can be.”

I still channel that expectation on a regular basis when I’m out training alone.

The riders I met while on the Metro team have generally scattered across the U.S. since the team exodus during the remainder of the 2009-2010 seasons. Though not all of them still bike race, through various social media outlets, I’ve watched them all be successful in whatever it is they’re doing. I’m not going to go through all of them and their achievements (that sort of post would take all day), but here’s the latest:


Christian Helmig wins Luxembourg National Cyclocross Championship


It’s not an uncommon occurrence for any of my former teammates to win a national title or make it onto a pro team roster. Some have abandoned the pro ranks and gone on to do other things with a similar drive for success- everything from art to rock climbing to baby making. I’ve felt proud of them all at one point or another.

Move on…

I wasn’t going to post anything because I’ve tried to avoid the whole Lance/Oprah thing as much as possible. I’m not really going to talk about it. I just wanted to rant a little (surprise surprise) about the whole “sensation” stirred up on news and social media.

I don’t want to watch anyone’s downfall. I can’t relish in it. No matter how “bad” a person is, I’m not happy to see anyone fail, get thrown under a bus, be executed (figuratively or literally- talking all levels of bad here), or fall from any sort of grace. It doesn’t make me happy to see Lance Armstrong get any sort of comeuppance for actions or lies of his past. I feel uncomfortable when I see/hear people celebrating societal and/or physical revenge on someone.

Right now, I’m more concerned with the war on little black ants in my kitchen that’s now spilling over to my computer desk (before you say anything, yes, I feel bad when ants die, too, but I feel worse when I find one crawling on my arm while I’m typing). I’m more concerned with finding a suitable partner for PMBAR and Double Dare so I can enter the series for a chance to vie for the title of Queen of Pisgah. I am concerned with the two more days of hard training I need to complete before my WCCX taper starts- both a relief, because I’m exhausted, and a stress, because after Sunday, I’ve built what I can, and I can’t build any more. I have way too many things to keep me busy to mess with celebrating a confession that was pointlessly obvious in the first place.

Hey, everyone, I’m real sorry to have to tell you this, but I have a mohawk and more than one tattoo. I tried to cover it up forever, but I’m ready to come clean and admit my propensity towards bad hairstyles and permanent body art.

If you want to quit re-hashing the past and talk about something current, follow @lauren1717 on Twitter. She’s posted a lot of great links to articles about the current plight of women’s pro cycling.

Pisgah Calling

My experience with Pisgah riding is minimal- aside from 1.5 ORAMM races, I’ve never gone there. I’ve always had a few friends in the area, though, and I get to read all about their adventures via Facebook, blog, and oral history. It sounds like a fun place to ride- very much like Syllamo, except on a more grand scale.

I’d mulled over the idea of going to the Pisgah 111k instead of Syllamo’s Revenge. All of my Memphis friends go to Syllamo, and it’s my “home court.” However so, I feel drawn to the idea of a new race on unfamiliar trails. Then, to sweeten the pot…


A series of Pisgah Productions races that includes Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race,  Pisgah 111K M, Pisgah 55.5K, Pisgah Monster Cross Challenge, and Pisgah Double Dare (dates, etc. are on the Registration Page). It sounds like a bunch of fun, and the races fit into my schedule well.

The big thing that’s keeping my finger off of the registration button at the moment is lack of a partner for the two “Adventure Race” events (PMBAR and Double Dare). I would love to partner up with a local(ish) person for those two races so I could complete the entire series. I don’t have a preference of male vs. female partner as long as it’s a tough person. Tough can make up for a healthy dose of speed (though a combination of both would be nice).

If you (or anyone you know) would be interested, click on one of those social media links over in the right sidebar and let me know.

Bike for Sale/Training in the Rain

First off, I’ve posted it on Facebook, but I’ll put it here, too. I’m selling my Air9 Carbon CYA frame and RDO rigid fork. It’s out of total vanity- I want a Moondust color frame.

Air9 Carbon CYA Frame- I got this particular frame back in September of 2011, and I’ve had it set up singlespeed since then. The frame is a small, and includes headset bearings, eccentric bottom bracket, a PF90 insert (new in box), and shift upgrade kit. I included a pic of a scuff on the top tube where my brake lever hit it. Other than that, any other scratches are very minor.
Carbon RDO Fork- The fork is very lightly used. I trained on it a little over last winter (not much since I was getting ready for Worlds 2012 and mostly riding my CX bike), used it at Cohutta 100, then took it off. It probably has less than 200 miles on it (104 of those being Cohutta). The RDO fork has a tapered steertube and 15mm thru-axle.

Asking price $1100 for the set. If you’re just interested in one or the other, you’re welcome to make an offer, but I’m not quite as keen to make such a sweet deal on one as I am for both. How sweet is this deal? Well, retail on all of these things new is $2650 (frame/frame parts/fork). If you’re local, I’ll even drive it over to your house. Not local? We’ll work something out on the shipping…

DSC_5861 DSC_5860 DSC_5859 DSC_5858 DSC_5857



Over the weekend, the weather turned foul again, with more rain moving in and temperatures plummeting overnight Saturday. I found myself doing “hour of power” workouts in a downpour both days (in addition to some extra trainer time Sunday morning). The 40/raining ride wasn’t as bad as you’d think. It was a combination of not being out for an incredibly long time (1.5 hours) as well as having a good rain jacket and fenders. It was also the maiden voyage on my kickass Industry Nine tubeless road wheels, which automatically made everything at least 5% more awesome.


The wheels really do kick ass. With tubeless valves and rim strips, they are exactly 1500g. If you’re looking for a reference, my Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels were 1490g with valves. The most noticeable difference between the two? The I9 rim is HUGE. They make my CX tires ride more like a MTB tire, which is great for sliding around in the mud. I can’t wait to put them on my road bike once ‘cross season is over.

Sunday’s training in and of itself wasn’t the most fatiguing workout possible. However, the accumulation of all of the training I’ve been doing up until Sunday made me feel pretty exhausted. My legs were on fire inside my compression tights, and when I tried to use the foam roller, I felt almost nauseous. So, in lieu of rolling, I emptied everything ice-related from the freezer into my tub and took a 15 minute ice bath.


The first 3 minutes is the worst. After that, it’s actually pretty relieving.

Today, the recovery efforts continue. I’m going to yoga in a little bit, going for a short, easy ride, then follow it up with food, rest, and another attempt at rolling the muscles out. If all goes as planned, tomorrow is another hard two-a-day. This week will be the hardest before training backs off into tapering the following two. I’m eager to get it done and get to racing.