Fool’s Gold Aftermath & Parts Reviews

Yesterday, I spent a solid 3 hours cleaning and overhauling the One9. It made me appreciate well-made bike parts, because otherwise I would have been making purchases instead of just cleaning/re-greasing.

The freehub was filled with a mud/oil sludge, as were the bottom bracket bearings (the same SRAM Blackbox ceramic bearings that have traveled t0 bottom bracket hell and back several times and just keep on going).

Seriously- that thing is the Jens Voigt of bottom brackets.

The steertube had channeled gritty mud/water down into the top headset bearing, but the seal seems to be tighter than… well, let’s just say it’s tight. I just rinsed it out & it looked/felt fine. Same for the hub bearings. BTW- the Hope hubs may not be the lightest or have the most pawls (eyeroll), but I don’t think you can beat them in durability or ease of care. They’re also really easy to swap back & fourth between the quick release for my SS and the 20mm Maxle Lite for the Jet.

My opinion is still a little mixed on the Formula brakes. They are sexy, lightweight, and feel awesome- a little more modulation than the Elixir CRs, but I had to bleed them again yesterday since the pistons had fully extended during the race and allowed air into the system. Judging by the microscopic coating of pad left on my front brake, if that hadn’t happened, my front brake would have been more usable during the race than it was (at least, until that pad had also worn through and fallen out like the rear). As far as I can tell, that doesn’t happen with Elixirs, and, IMHO, that’s a reliability issue with the Formulas if you’re going to race in the absolute worst conditions like the ones at Fool’s Gold. If you’re racing/riding in “normal” conditions, you may never have a problem. So, if SRAM ever answers my “Hey, could you please sponsor me?” email, I might be selling a very pretty set of Formulas!

The final bit of overhaul I did yesterday was a pedal re-build. I can’t begin to describe how much I love Crank Brothers pedals without you rolling your eyes at me sounding like a paid shill, but seriously- they never, ever clog. No matter what other parts get fouled by mud, the pedals will always clip/unclip. Always. I’ve had them in every possible breed of mud, too- including the Dirt, Sweat, and Gears mud (it lives on in infamy) and the Kansas City cobb (at CX Nationals).
The rebuild kits are cheap, and the process is easy. They feel good as new now.

This morning I’m going to have a go at replacing my fork seals. I’m worried I might have killed the uppers on my fork- it looks like the seals were fouled with the same gritty mud that tried to get into the headset, which resulted in some gouges and “polishing.” Hopefully when I replace the seals, it’ll still hold air.

Here’s a nice little gallery of grit damage- including the obligatory “Post-Fool’s Gold brake pads” shot…

Fool’s Gold 2010- Brakes are for suckaz!

I love mud, and I love disc brakes. Unfortunately, in the Appalachians around Dahlonega, GA, the two are mutually exclusive.

I’ll admit, I didn’t even look at a weather report. There were some scattered showers in the area at registration and some rumors that it might rain during the race, so I hurried up and got to Camp Wahsega for some pre-riding and prep.
When I arrived, I had a little bit of an FML moment. I propped my bike up against the porch of the cabin only to find it swarmed by a few hundred angry yellow jackets when I came back outside. WTF?!?! Seriously?!?!? The only solution the camp manager had was to give them an hour or so to calm down before easing in and removing the bike. Luckily, we were able to get it out, and no one was stung. Pre-riding the first few miles of the course (a nice little climb) went off without a hitch. I even got to ride with one of my awesome blog readers (Hi, Ray!)

The remainder of the day was uneventful- dinner at Caruso’s in Dahlonega with some of the other racers, then a little socializing before dozing off to the sounds of a massive thunderstorm. I was out cold & didn’t wake up again until the breakfast bell was ringing at 5:00am.

Race morning was dark & drizzly. It was a singlespeed sort of day (ok, nevermind- every day is a singlespeed sort of day). At breakfast, someone said it was going to rain more. Since it was warm, I really didn’t care- attrition is fun! By 7:00, I was prepped and ready to watch the 100 milers go off then line up for the 50. It looked like there were a good number of women on the line (results say that 20 started), and I didn’t really recognize anyone, so I figured I’d just pace myself up the first climb and see what happened.

Of course, a few minutes into the race, the drizzle turned into a downpour. Some women passed me, but I stuck to my usual SS hillclimb strategy of alternating sitting & standing while trying to keep my breathing nice & steady. It got steeper at the top (as most climbs tend to do), where more than a couple of guys were walking. Guess some people learn about pacing the hard way (myself included)!

Fast forward about 15 more miles. The course was on/off some really muddy singletrack (woohoo!). My brakes had started rubbing ferociously, and suddenly my rear lever bottomed out to my handlebar and totally stopped working- as in, I could squeeze it to the bar and spin my rear wheel. Uh-oh. My front brake felt like it was on the verge of bailing out, too- if I held the lever to the bar, it gave me about 10% of its normal stopping power.

At Aid 3 (about 27 miles in), I was ready to call it a day and head back in for beer. However, I’d just passed Laureen Coffelt (who was racing the 100), and she caught up to me during the discussion of how to bail off of the course. I told her I was leaving, and she gave me an earful, telling me I was sitting in 3rd place, it’s just 20 more miles, and that walking all the downhills was a better option than quitting. Of course, she was right. I refilled my bottles and headed back onto the course.

Side note- some of you might remember that at last year’s Fool’s Gold, I had a really, really bad wreck, and Laureen was the one who paced me through the worst of the singletrack and back into the race to finish in 2nd place. I owe her a Christmas ham or two!

The rest of the course was a lesson in how to ride with one barely functioning brake. I felt lucky, though, because most people didn’t have any brakes, and were using a foot on the ground to slow down. I called it front brake Hanukkah, because it should have only lasted a few more miles, but miraculously kept barely working for the next 20. I ended up staying in 3rd place behind Lisa Randall & Jamie Dinkins.

Post race beer was good.

By David
By David

Now, it’s out to the garage to find out what the mud has done to my brakes and bottom bracket. I’m taking the camera with me.

Wrapping up the trip

Sorry for the lack of updates, but the last few days have been somewhat mundane. Not a lot of action, but some pretty nice photos…

From the Downtown Marquette shoreline-

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statue

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Those were actually from the day before Ore to Shore. The Sunday after the race, we checked out some of the South Marquette trail system, which included some great scenery and some dilapidated downhill runs on the local ski hill.

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Later on that day, we made the drive down to Midland. We’ve ridden local trails the past couple of days. This area is really, really flat, and the trails are really, really twisty. A lot of people say that the Stanky Creek trails are the narrowest, twistiest they’ve ever ridden. The trails in Midland make Stank look like a hotdog down a hallway. No photos of those, so here’s a Tridge instead.

tridge

We’re finally getting back on the road back to Memphis tomorrow, where I’ll re-pack my bags and head down to Dahlonega, GA for Fool’s Gold. The Wizard says to do the 50 miler, which, honestly, after all of the racing & traveling I’ve done lately, is a nice thing to hear. For now, I’m just really, really ready to be home. Even if it is just for one night.

Will it make me faster?

Triathletes may be the most notorious for trying to “buy speed,” but I’m trying to break the stereotype by placing a bid on this gorgeous gem: Dave Weins Bagel from Leadville

Between the trading of a full-time teaching paycheck for a part-time bike-shop paycheck and employing someone to tell me how often and how hard I should ride my bike (a.k.a. “The Wizard”), I’m having to budget my funds wisely, so I only bid $25. If that wins, I’m planning on eating the bagel and posting multiple photos right here on my blog.

Supposedly, the bagel has magical power-increasing capabilities, so I’m guessing I’ll be out-bid by some triathlete or something (the money also goes to a local trail fund, so this auction would be very tempting to an x-terra triathlete) who wants to get the same magical FTP boost that this bagel promises to bring to its new owner.

EDIT: Damn, I went out for a 2 hr ride, and now it’s up to 10 bids and $45.44. Well, if any of you have spare money and want to see me eat Dave Weins’ bagel, feel free to put in a bid and send it my way.

Ore to Shore Race Report

Hold on, I need to go get another beer…

OK, I’m back.

Yesterday was “sedate” enough that it doesn’t get its own post. Let’s just say my normal pre-race massage routine was replaced by going on a family trip to an iron mine/processing tour. After inhaling iron ore dust for an hour or two, we headed to Presque Isle and did a few leg-opening intervals to prep for the race.

Ore to Shore is a 48 mile point-to point that winds its way from Negaunee, MI to Marquette on gravel, pavement, and doubletrack. Because it’s mostly non-technical, and is more downhill than up, it’s FAST… like a miniature Leadville. The lead men finish in around 2 hours and 30 minutes. It’s also a very popular race. Rightly so- the payout is NICE. The men go 20 deep, and the women are paid equally for their top 5 spots. Because of those things, the field is stacked with strong road & mountain riders… and a lot of other riders:

field

We got to the start area early so that we could get a spot near the front. I’d applied for a “preferred start” position, but was denied, so we put our bikes in the “under 3 hours” seeding area. It kinda sucked not being able to ride around and warm up, but it was also nice to have the option of “saving” a spot near the front with your bike (some people had brought a backup bike or trainer for that very reason). After we did what we could to warm up (bodyweight squats, lunges, and various other dynamic stretching routines), we headed back to the corral to wait for the start.

start

We’d planned on working together, but once the race started, it ended up not working out that way. After the first few hills, Ryan was waiting up for me, and finally decided to just keep going. I don’t blame him… I was feeling great other than the hills. I’d generally rock the flats & downhills, but then I’d lose a place on the longer inclines. It sucked.

At one point, I was riding up one of the short/steep spots on one of the many doubletrack/powerline sections- it was sandy, rocky, and steep- when a guy who was pushing his bike stumbled and accidentally knocked me over. I was laying in the middle of the track, still halfway clipped in, when a guy riding up from the bottom started yelling at me to get off of the trail. I untangled myself from my bike, pushed to the top, and asked him if I was holding him up from getting 150th place or something. He didn’t have an answer.

There was also “Misery” hill. It was a steep, rocky, sandy, kinda long hill that everyone walked (I won’t call it “impossible” to ride, but I don’t know if riding in a granny gear would have been any faster or saved any more energy than hiking). After hike-a-biking several of the mountains with my SS in the Breck 100, I really think they should rename that section “Mildly Inconvenient” Hill, because “Misery” is somewhat of a misnomer. I hooked my saddle over my shoulder and booked it up the hill, enjoying the lavish amounts of oxygen I was able to extract from sea-level air. The next half mile or so was the only part of the race course that was the least bit technical. There were some short, steep ascents and descents and some rocks thrown in for good measure. By far, my favorite part.

The rest of the course kind of went by in a blur. I felt fine- my pace was good, I found guys to draft on the flat/downhill parts, ate & drank right, no cramps… I just was getting pwnt on the hills.

So, I ended up finishing over my 3 hour goal in 3:13, and all the way back in 16th place.

finish

Side note- this is the 3rd time I’ve had this number this season. Yep.

I’m not sure how many women were entered, but there was a good dose of horsepower there- including the gal who has won the last few years in a row, a former world champion from Priority Health, and Danielle Musto (not sure what I’d said that was so funny- probably something about being fat)…

DMfinish

It was a little disappointing. I’m kinda thinking I might drop down to the 50 for Fool’s Gold so that I won’t be dead once it comes time to race the SM100. Dunno- we’ll see what The Wizard think is best

EDIT/UPDATE: I looked at the results in the local paper, and turns out, I was 1st place in my age group (actually, the only woman who finished ahead of me in my age goup was Jenna, the winner. All of the other ones were older, of course. Older women are tough.

Michigan Tech Trails

We left Copper Harbor on Thursday to head to Marquette. Along the way, we stopped at Michigan Tech (Ryan’s Alma Mater) to check out the trails. For those of you that aren’t “in the know” about Michigan Tech (fear not- I’m not sure if I’d even heard of it until I met Ryan), its specialty is engineering.

So, what do you get when you mix engineering and trail building?

Ramp-to-drop (I rode it! Ryan got video, but I still have to figure out how to get it on here)

steep

The long log ride (also rode that one a couple of times)

logon

logoff

Then there were some that we just kind of looked at in awe…

The Sine Wave:

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And, my personal favorite- The Dorkscrew:

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topout

After the section of trail with all of the cool stuff, there was another loop called the Hairy Toad loop. While it didn’t feature anything man-made, it was my absolute most favorite type of trail- rocky, rooty, and twisty. I call it ADD trail. I rode all of it except for a sizable rock garden that was wet and slimy. It looked like a swellbow waiting to happen.

On the way out, we found the pump track, which rode as if it had also been engineered over a few pints of beer. The berms on the downhill turns were the most perfectly angled piles of dirt you could possibly imagine. Scary fast, and really awesome.

I need to build some baby stuff in my back yard to keep practicing my skinny-stuff riding skills. As it stands, I’m too much of a chicken.

Copper Harbor Trails

Wednesday morning when we woke up, we weren’t sure if our ride would be rained out or not. We figured we’d get out and ride as much of the IMBA’s “Epic” loop that we could before it moved in.

What a great trail! It heads straight out from the middle of the town of Copper Harbor and winds around the ridges behind it. They generally aren’t too technical until you get to the ones labeled as “black diamond” trails. The Red trail baits you in to hauling ass before suddenly dumping you down a rocky, off-camber steep thing with a tree growing in the middle. We quickly figured out to expect anything around each corner…

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It wasn’t JUST a bridge, it was a nearly vertical drop followed by a bridge (photo really doesn’t do it justice)…

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They really love the plank bridges out here. So do I…

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We ended up cutting our ride a little short in order to preserve our legs for the Ore to Shore race this weekend. After a little lunch and rest, we decided to drive around and visit the Delaware Mine (AKA the “safety last” tour). Mines are pretty cool…

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The End of Michigan

Sort of, at least.

Yesterday when we got settled in at Copper Harbor, we decided to head out on some of the easier trails in the local trail system. However, I got sidetracked in thinking that maybe we could find the end of the Keweenaw out in Lake Superior. We passed a sign for the beginning of US Highway 41, but the road turned to gravel and kept going into the forest. Of course, I wanted to see where it went and what was at the end of it. It HAD to have an end, right?

Fast forward to half an hour and 600 feet of climbing later. We hadn’t found anything other than some nice forest roads. We figured we should turn back so we could get back to town before dark, so Ryan came up with a loop back based on his Garmin’s map. Though we ended up on at least one pretty sketchy section of “road,” we ended up having a great ride, and made it back in time to get to the last restaurant open before the town rolled up their sidewalks from the evening.

Photos…

Oh yeah, and, as you can see, I’m experimenting a bit with self-portrait type photos. Our motel also provides its guests with afro picks.

Fon du Lac Day 2

Despite the rain, our second day of riding was better than expected. Just to get a change of scenery, we decided to drive to the Kettle Moraine area for our road ride. Ryan knew a loop from the Tour of America’s Dairyland race, so we parked in the town of Greenbush and headed out on the roads in Kettle Moriane State Park.

Along the way, we passed the entrance to the trails. Hmmm… it rained last night… well, no harm in just looking, right?

Turns out, the ground in that area is incredibly hard packed sandy/rocky mix. It had drained like nobodys business! We ended up riding the various loops for nearly an hour. They were awesome trails- at first you’re like, “hey, this is easy, flowy stuff…” but then you hit a patch of little wet rocks pocked across the trail, and you start sliding somewhat unpredictably. At first I was taking it kinda slow- the rocks were about golfball to softball in size, so you’d roll into a patch of them, and if you were going straight, the loss of control felt a little like riding sand (ok, really lumpy sand). After getting used to them, though, it was a blast.

We eventually left the trails and finished our loop back to the car. Back at the house, Ryan and I ate and decided to go out fishing on Lake Winnebago with his brother. We caught up a mess of Perch, and had a good fish bake/fry that night. Somehow, some of my roasted green beans found their waay in to the Fry Daddy…

Rainy Fond du Lac

So, we’ve been in Fond du Lac since Saturday night, and both nights, it’s rained enough that we can’t (responsibly, at least) ride the Kettle Moraine trails that we were hoping to visit while we’re here. Yesterday, we headed out on the road, and along the way, we stopped by to check out a really small local system of trails. These are supposed to be multi-use, and the initial entrance to the different trails was marked with what uses are “OK” for what sections of trail, but we quickly found that if you took one trail marked for bikes, that it would dead end at another trail marked as “no bikes.” We rode in circles for about 45 minutes then got frustrated and hit the roads for another 15 miles or so.

dunno

road

windmill

After we were back and fed, we fished in the small canal behind the house. Surprisingly enough, remembering how to bait, cast, and un-fish a hook is kinda like remembering how to ride a bike…

fishin

bluegill

sadfish

We fished the rest of the day, had some dinner, and made preliminary plans to ride the trails since they “should” be dry. However, last night, another large patch of rain moved through the area and re-soaked the trail. So, if we want to ride, it’s out to the roads again. Normally, I wouldn’t mind that too much, but we only brought our mountain bikes, so it’s kinda boring. Ugh. Hopefully the rest of the trip isn’t so soggy.