Product Review: Raxter Tarsus

I’ve recently been lucky enough to pick Raxter up as a sponsor. Ryan’s old Yakima that he’s shared with me was getting rusted, and it didn’t agree with 29ers very well (both in wheel size and handlebar interference). So, I was really stoked when a Raxter Tarsus showed up on my doorstep on Friday.

I immediately tore open the box, camera in hand:



(The packaging is Chunky Monkey Ninja Kitty approved.)

I was in a little bit of a hurry to run some errands, but I figured I’d put it together anyway since there weren’t too many parts. It was a quick and easy assembly, although you MUST NOT PUT FINGER IN THE HOLE!



Immediately, I noticed that the Tarsus is a good deal lighter than the Yakima (thus less wrestling to get it in and out of the hitch on the Element), and rather than using a cotter pin to secure itself up/down, it uses a simple “pop in” button for both folding, and to attach into the hitch. (Though I opted to use a locking hitch pin that I picked up at Auto Zone. Last thing I need is for my shiny new rack to be sold for a crack rock on Lamar Avenue…)




Since then, I’ve used it a couple of times, and, I must say, I’m very impressed. While other manufacturers have been making their racks bigger, flashier, more expensive, and more complicated (kinda like THIS), Raxter has successfully created something that’s simple and adaptable to any bike you want to haul.


My favorite feature is “auto-nesting” (meaning, you can easily stagger your bikes to avoid handlebar/saddle interference). Now I can stop carrying a 4mm allen key around with me for times when I want to haul two mountain bikes. I also don’t have to wrestle with getting a swing arm over a knobby 29″ tire like I did with my old rack. To top it off, it’s got a slimmer profile than the Yakima, so I don’t have to pull as far into the garage or worry as much about what I’m going to hit when I’m backing up.

Yes, the Raxter falls in to the “Why TF has no one thought of this before?” category of simplicity and ease of use. The only potential “problem” I could see would be if you MUST haul your bike around with a disc wheel installed. In that case, you won’t be able to secure your rear wheel with the rack’s velcro straps. If that describes you, then you are probably a triathlete, and you probably wouldn’t like the Raxter anyway because it’s not big, flashy, expensive, and full of extra complicated moving parts to impress all of your other triathlete buddies.

(I kid, I kid… you know I love triathletes and their disdain for all things that include either sleeves or socks…)

Raxter Tarsus gets the Brickhouse Stamp of Approval!

Un-Lazy Sunday

I don’t remember the last time I worked this hard on a Sunday-

This morning, I drove out to Shelby Forest for a hellacious interval workout that I’ve dubbed “8 minutes in Heaven.” You essentially start out at a tempo effort and increase the effort every minute. By minute 8, you hit your max heart rate, and you have various strings of drool and snot plastered to the side of your face (that means you’re doin’ it right). Rest eight minutes and repeat two more times.
I’ve found a nice, perfectly flat stretch of road out in Shelby Forest State Park (a gorgeous old growth oak forest along the Mississippi River) that rides like a trainer, except without the boredom. I took a few photos, but since my camera had been in my pocket during the sweatfest, the lens was a bit foggy-





After getting home & having a bit of lunch, Matt and I met back up for the (not-so)Â top secret project (Eric stopped by after a while, too, bringing gifts of New Belgium beer). We arranged some dirt into neatly shaped piles until sunset, then called it a day. Mmm… Labor.



A Couple More

…Michigan Photos.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get the video of the Michigan Tech trail posted, but here’s a screen shot:


I also got my Ore to Shore trophy in the mail yesterday:


In other news, I’ve got a tough workout on the schedule for tomorrow. I’ve been mostly resting (and racing) lately, so it’s a welcome challenge. Time to fight with the powermeter.

Ground Breaking

Matt and I have been scheming up a fall/winter project that should provide both hours of back breaking labor as well as hours of fun and enjoyment. First, though, the property owner needs a drainage ditch dug. It just so happens we need extra dirt, so…



Forked Up

I took the fork apart to survey the damage… It’s not looking so good. The seals were probably a little worn out to begin with, and the gritty liquid mud soaked into the foam wipers underneath them and leaked further down into the lowers. This wreaked a bit of havoc on the uppers during the course of the race…




So, I cleaned everything out, replaced the old seals with some fresh ones, and added some fresh oil to the lowers before sliding them back in place and airing everything up (and played around with the timer on the camera)



Hopefully the damage isn’t so bad that they start leaking air, but it’ll be a few days before my replacement brake pads come in, and I can take it out for a test ride. Initial hopping around in the garage tests seem good. I just need it to last until December…

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-





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.




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.


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:


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.


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.


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)…


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.