Evolutionary Theory

When I was in training-zombie mode the other day on the Outdoors Inc. ride, I was spacing out and thinking about the absurdity of “hammerfest” group rides. We gather up socially, dress in costumes of our respective tribes, then proceed to thrash the hell out of each other on bicycles. Watching (and participating in) this ritual reminds me of territorial and mate battles between animals. Is it some sort of evolutionary thing? Am I supposed to choose a mate based on who gets to the city limits sign first? I sure as hell love watching it.

Jet9- First impressions on a “real” ride

Matt McCulley and I headed out Monday night for a quick road trip to Syllamo. Since the Shelby Farms ride was so crappy, I wanted to get the Jet9 out on some decent singletrack before I wrote up anything resembling a review.

Since Syllamo’s Revenge is gone until next year, I figured I’d try some clockwise riding (the whole race course is counter-clockwise, so I’ve been riding that way for months in order to practice). I must say, the Blue & Orange loops (at least the parts on the East side of Green Mountain Rd.) ride much better going clockwise.

The Jet is a different animal than the Air. The best way I can compare it is going back to when I used to train/show horses- you can have two equally awesome horses, but the way you ride the two can be significantly different. The Jet is all business. I’d become very accustomed to the manner in which the Air deflected off of rocks and off-camber roots. I just didn’t realize it until I started really going at some of the tech-y, rocky stuff at Syllamo.

The Jet is very, very precise. You point it towards something and pedal, it’s going to generally track in a straight line up and over; it’s a combination of several things- the 20mm Maxle, the tapered steertube/stiffness of the frame, and, of course, the rear suspension. The result was me screwing up through the rocks a few times at first. I’d be expecting the bike to zig or zag when it would just keep rolling like the rocks didn’t exist.
For whatever reason, the bike also feels “light” in front. Going up rocky, steep climbs, there were several instances where I’d accidentally unweight my front wheel enough that I’d lose the ability to steer and end up in the bushes on the side of the trail. Once I dropped the stem down under the 10mm spacer I’d had between it & the headtube, this was not as bad, and I was able to use the “lightness” more to my advantage to get over the same sort of rocks that had been stalling me out. I started really liking the rocky climbs- the rear suspension on that bike is really, really nice, and the pedal bob is minimal.
It is going to take a few more rides on the more difficult trails to really get used to the handling, but I don’t consider that a bad thing at all, just something I will eventually grow accustomed to. I’m looking forward to getting it back out sometime soon!

Unfortunately, our ride was cut short by thunderstorms. We ended up riding in the downpour/lightning up Green Mountain Rd from the White River Bluff trailhead to the car at the Bald Scrappy trailhead. We’d both gotten our share of mud and slippery, wet rocks back at Syllamo’s Revenge, so we headed back to the cabin to dry out before heading back to Memphis.

Maiden Voyage

After riding a somewhat sedate Trinity ride this morning, Ryan and I decided to head out for pizza at Newk’s. Too bad this photo is from a place in Galloway where we stopped during our ride, because I’ve got some food stamps burning a hole in my pocket right now…


Afterward, I cleaned the BH up and put some new cables on him. He looks pretty darn spiffy now. I’ll post pics when I find some suitable red bar tape. For now, he’s wearing black. Yuck.

I finally got the Jet9 out on the trails this afternoon. By the way, the trails at Shelby Farms are pretty eff’d up right now, though they’d be totally unridable if it weren’t for the heroic clearing efforts of the local MSTA guys. There are a lot of re-routes around large downed trees as well as sections of trail that fell into the Wolf River during the flooding. We managed to get in nearly 2 hours of riding, and the only thing that made it bearable was how FREAKING AWESOME the Jet9 is! I really want to get out to Syllamo early this week & try it on some real singletrack…


Jet9 has Landed

I finally finished the Jet9 build last night (minus one IS mount for the rear brake). I was ecstatic when I hung it on the scale with no pedals and saw 24 pounds, 7 oz, though with pedals on it came in at a hair over 25 pounds


No worries, though- today or tomorrow, FedEx will be delivering a set of Eggbeater 2ti pedals, which I’ll immediately rebuild with a set of Wade Industries ti spindles. So, hopefully that will drop the weight back down under 25. Fingers crossed ;)

Of course, I haven’t been able to ride it other than up & down the street a couple of times because the local trails are soaked right now. I might try to swing an early week trip to Syllamo next weekend, though.





Cable Housing: Alligator I-Link vs. Nokon

I put Alligator I-link housing on my Air9 last year, and I’ve been really happy with it. Ryan’s Titus needed new derailleur housing/cables, and I got a deal on some Nokon (which is normally much more expensive than I-Links), so I figured I’d give it a shot. Here’s the rundown:

Looks. If you’re interested in looks, then Nokon wins. That is, if you have enough of the segments to house your entire bike. On a mountain or CX bike, you’re going to need extras. I ended up using a standard piece of housing for the aft front derailleur section. Nothing like cursing your way through an entire install (more on that later) only to find you can’t finish it up right unless you purchase more parts. Here are some photo comparisons:



Installation: Alligator wins, hands-down. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You run the cable through the liner, then run the whole thing through the sections of links that you size to match the length of your old housing. The links snap together and slide on/off of the cable/liner very easily, so it’s a quick insallation.

Nokon, on the other hand, is a total pain. The sections do not snap together, so you have to thread them on to the liner in order to test-fit the housing length. They don’t thread on easily (their fit on the liner is really tight). It’s difficult to keep the liner flush with the hole where the cable exits the shifter, and the kit isn’t actually made to run the liner continuously (though I did it, anyway). Like I said before, if you’re installing it on to anything other than a road bike, you’re likely going to need extra Nokon links. The cables are fat and uncoated as well.

Performance: I’ve been using the I-links for several months now- ocassionally in some horrible conditions. They’ve never let me down. The Nokons seem to be ok for now, and I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t do just as well. Time will tell on that one.The I-link system is reported to be lighter, also. I have not weighed them myself, but that’s the general consensus on various internet forums.

So, there you have it. My verdict is, unless you are wanting the “prettiest” housing system out there, go with Alligator. It’s cheaper, lighter, and 11ty billion times easier to install.

Dirt, Sweat, and Gears Race Report (round 2, FIGHT!)

Yeah, I know, it’s been a few days, but I’ve been busy! (mostly working on bikes and trying to re-assemble the house since we arrived home Sunday afternoon and dumped everything either in the garage or the floor of the bedroom)

Anyway- this is how it all went down…

Saturday morning, we got up and started trying to figure out Ryan’s shifting issues. Turns out, the cage of his derailleur was bent. Knock on my carbon X.0 stuff all you want, but I like the honesty of it. There’s no middle ground. No bending, denting, tweaking, etc. It’s either broken or not broken. Nothing to guess about. Luckily, he’d brought a spare and was able to replace it.

Next we went to the pancake breakfast at the tent near the start/finish. It was run by a church group, and they told everyone in line near me that if they ate their ration of 2 pancakes & 2 pieces of sausage and were still hungry, that they could come back for more. I did just that. Or, atleast I tried to. They turned me away because not everyone had been rationed 2 pancakes yet. Apparently, they’d left that part out of their previous instructions. We had more food at the tent, anyway. Ryan also gave me a really cute birthday card.

Eventually, we headed over to stage our bikes for the shotgun LeMans start. As everyone lined up, I only saw a few faces/kits that I knew, so I wasn’t really sure who all I was up against. The countdown started… as they neared “go,” a large man dressed head to toe in camo (mask included) came running out from the direction of the woods yelling, “HEY, WHAT’RE Y’ALL DOIN HERE?!” and shooting his rifle into the air several times. Hands down, best start to a race, ever.

We were off. The first two laps were pretty uneventful. I rode my own pace. Ryan and I ended up riding some of the course together. I could out-tech him and he generally out-climbed me. Since the end of the course featured several non-technical doubletrack climbs, he finished each lap a few minutes ahead. At the end of the 2nd lap, he stuck around the start/finish area and had the announcer wish me a happy birthday as I rode through. Awwwww… warm & fuzzy, I know.

At this point, it had started to get kinda cloudy. A few sprinkles of rain fell, but nothing major. That is, until I was about 2 miles in to the 3rd lap. I heard a loud noise in the trees that sounded like a downpour, but it wasn’t raining. Until I turned a corner, where I saw literally a wall of downpour on the trail ahead of me. Insanity!!!! The wet part of the trail was like ice. I got pretty proficient at unclipping and hanging a foot out in order to catch myself as I slid through the turns. The next mile or so was horrible. Then, suddenly, I was on perfectly dry trail. Then wet, horrible, sticking mud (like last year!) that forced me to hike. Then dry trail. Apparently, only one side of the ridge that the trail wound back & forth across had been rained on! I was mentally prepared for it this time. I knew that I had to carry my bike if I wanted to move quickly, so I did. That lap took all of 2 hours. The promoter ended up shortening the course to take a lot of the mud out, though since the two other women ahead of me (OMG! I was in 3rd place!) has started their 4th full lap, I had to as well.

Lap 4 was hard. For some reason, the chamois in my shorts had decided that it was a good day to attempt to give me labiaplasty. I changed shorts before going back out, but was still in a lot of pain. On top of that, a couple of miles in, I felt like I was bonking a little. My fault- I hadn’t been eating the mid-lap gel that I should have been eating. I had to eat more and back off the pace a bit and let my food digest. Then, about 2/3rds of the way through, the muscle in my right leg that I’d severely bruised the day before cramped up while I was negotiating a steep pitch of trail. I jumped off my bike in horrible pain and tried to stretch/massage it out as best I could. That one spot gave me issues the rest of the day (though the rest of my muscles seemed to behave themselves). About 3 miles from the end of the lap, Amanda Carey (who would go on to win) passed me on her 5th lap (first of the shortened version of the course). We chatted for a minute before she rode on.

Even though there was still a pretty bad portion of trail included in the shortened version of the course, it was drying out quickly. I was feeling a bit in laps 5 and 6 (though I’d been passed while I was in the pit and was down to 4th place). Then, somewhere near mile 4 or 5 of the loop, I was muscling over some rocks when my chain popped. I cursed and pulled off the trail to see what happened. Apparently, it had come apart at the quick link! No problem, I thought. I’ve got a spare in my seat pack.

Wait. Where the ***k is my seat pack?!?! No idea except that it wasn’t on my bike. I was screwed. I had to go back down to the pit to repair it. When I got to the pit, there were NO 9 speed chain repairing parts in the tool box. WHAT.THE.HELL. I was livid and throwing tools out hoping to find something buried in the dirt in the bottom corner of the box. No luck. I started walking around to other pits looking for a link or pin or anything and finally found someone with a spare quicklink. I installed it and hurried back up to the trail. My leg cramped on the way up, so I had to walk some of the hill. Once I was back on the trail, I realized that my drivetrain was all boogered up. The chain was making noises like it was ready to explode at any second. I channeled Emily Brock’s Honey Badger, gritted my teeth, and just kept going (mmm… delicious snake).

At the end of 6, I wasn’t in great shape- the cramps had hit my leg hard enough that the entire muscle was feeling like I’d pulled something, my unfortunate chafing from earlier was hurting like hell, and my drivetrain sounded like it was on death’s door. I couldn’t have quit for anything, though. After a little break, I went back out (leaving Ryan in the tent with his pulled pork sandwich). The next lap was a blur. All I remember was eating gel, occasionally cramping, and hallucinating a little bit. When I came back in from my 7th lap, it was about 7 o’clock. I stopped.

Sure, I could have attempted a night lap, and, with 2 hours to go, there is a chance I would have finished it. I was done, though. My right inner thigh was almost a permanent knot, and I was worried that I might be causing some sort of damage in the form of pulling or spraining the muscle. I looked at the running tally of laps for my category, and it turns out that the woman in 3rd was out on her 9th lap, so an 8th one for me would not change the standings.

It was time to clean up and start the recovery process. After a water-jug shower and nearly passing out in the tent, we headed over to the finish area for food and drinks. My brain was only half functioning, but the food brought me around a little. Hamilton Creek brewery makes some excellent recovery beverages. After watching some of the podium presentations, we turned in for the night.

At midnight, something horrible happened. I was awoken by music- loud techno music- coming from the Union College tent right next to us. I yelled at them to turn it down, but it was so loud that they couldn’t hear me. I took several deep breaths and repeated to myself, “murder is illegal, even if it’s justified” before getting out of the tent and walking over to them and politely reminding them that it was midnight, and a lot of people were probably trying to sleep, including myself. They seemed annoyed, but lucky for them, they turned it down.

It rained on & off all night, so when we got up in the morning, we tossed everything in the car (in the rain) and went to Shoney’s, where were promptly consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 calories apiece in breakfast buffet. That was followed up with Mama Mia’s pizza once we arrived back in Memphis (we got a medium & munched on it for the remainder of the day) and belated birthday dinner at New Asia with my parents. We were like bottomless pits. It was awesome.

So, my April/May overload draws to a close. I took a couple of days off to let my leg & ladyparts heal up, and now I’m ready to get back to training for my midsummer peak at Marathon Nationals.