Winter Training Mule- AKA Mountain Road Killer

I’ll be spending a large portion of my Winter Break from work in Mountain View, AR for a solo “training camp” of sorts, and I have been debating what bikes I want to take with me for the adventure. Of course, I’ll bring the MTB along for some Epic-worthy Syllamo Trails rides, but some training on the road will be integral. Problem is, a lot of the non-highway roads in the Stone County area are gravel (I’d wager that MOST of the non-highway roads in the area are gravel!)

This sounds like a job for the cyclocross bike! (Yes, I have been known to take the road bike on occasional gravel road adventures, but I am thinking long distance comfort here).

The only problem is that I really like having my SRM computer. Also, the current gearing on the CX bike is a 40t single ring and 11-26 in the back. Not quite what I want for steep (gravel) mountain roads!


  • Move the SRM from my road bike to the cross bike
  • Install a bar-end shifter for the front derailleur (I’ve got an extra SRAM Red one that was supposed to go on the Air9, but that didn’t work out because of chainstay clearance issues)
  • Put a 38t small ring on the SRM (it’s the smallest available for the 130bcd). Yeah, I know it’s just 1 tooth smaller than what I’ve got now, but I figure that every bit helps.
  • Swap the 11-26 for an 11-28
  • Throw in some Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires (size 700×32) for comfort on both pavement and gravel
  • Tie it all together with sealed cable housing, and you’ve got a machine ready for just about anything the Ozark Roads bring to the ride.

Keep watching…

It’s not a habit, I swear…

So… if you’ve been reading a while, you may remember this post back in April where I’d broken a derailleur hanger and cage exactly 1 week after getting the Jet9.

Well, today I managed to snap another hanger. The rear plate of the DR cage is bent in one spot, but I’m pretty confident that I can fix it. Ryan and I were almost 2 miles into the Bald Scrappy loop when a stick popped up and momentarily lodged back there. I heard it and stopped pedaling immediately, but the damage was already done…


I had chain repair stuff with me, so I removed the DR and attempted to convert to single speed…


However, even trying a few different combinations of chain length/gearing, the chain was always really loose or waaaaay too tight, so I ended up removing it and doing the walk of (mechanical) shame back to the car… which is a lot like writing “I will always bring a spare hanger” 1000x on the chalkboard during detention.

Ryan decided to finish the remaining 5.5 miles of the loop. I got back to the car, loaded up my disabled bike, and hiked up the other end of the trail about a 1/4 of a mile until I found a good spot to stop and wait for a photo opportunity.


Afterward, we went back to the cabin, changed, and headed back over to the trailhead to hike the White River Bluff trail (shortest & most scenic of the trail system). While we were out, we did a nice bit of trail clearing. We moved several low-hanging widowmakers as well as some large fallen branches and countless “spoke killer” sticks from the track. The last part of the loop (or first, if you’re going clockwise) features a gorgeous view from the bluffs high above the White River (hence the name of the trail) Oh yeah… and see the speck of a house near the top of the mountain just under where that branch is pointing down at the top of the photo? That’s the cabin! It’s freakin’ sweet!


Tomorrow Ryan is going to ride some more, and I’m going to hike/clear the Bald Scrappy loop much like I did to the White River Bluff loop today. Afterward, we’re going to head back to Memphis and ride on the road Sunday morning before the rain moves in.


What a great day!

Ryan and I drive over to my parents’ new place in Mountain View, AR on Wednesday. Since a lot of my family was staying in the cabin, we checked in to a little cabin on Sylamore Creek just down the road from their place.

This morning, we slept in until almost 7:00, then had some breakfast and headed out for our first ride on the Syllamo MTB Trails. Other than being slightly chilly, it was a perfect day- we climbed up Green Mountain Road to the Bad Branch Trailhead. This loop is the “easy” one (as well as the best maintained) out of the 50+ miles of trails in the system, so we figured that it’d be a good for the first time out. It was a gorgeous ride, and we made it back in time to get the car packed and head up the hill to my parents’ place for the tail end of Thanksgiving lunch. After laying around for a while, we helped my dad move a rock.

Yes. A rock. It was his favorite rock on the property because it is “shaped like a bench.”

It was an exercise in simple machines. Between the use of an antiquated pulley (I think my dad bought the pulley then started looking for something to do with it), a lever, and a tractor with several lengths of chain and cable, we moved a giant rock about 70 feet up a hill and into a spot near a random tree in the front yard.

Tomorrow, we’re heading out for more riding. Since we don’t have a checkout/lunch deadline, we’re going to check out the more difficult loops over the next couple of days. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll get a few extra photos :)

Home this Weekend… and other stuff

Can you believe it? After going to going to (mostly cyclocross) races every weekend for the past 6 weeks or so, Ryan and I are actually not going anywhere this weekend.

Ok, so I was mildly tempted to go to Hot Springs for a Sunday MTB race…

…but I’m not feeling another road trip right now when we’re about to head over to the cabin in Mountain View, AR for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I’m really looking forward to the trip.
In general, I’m pretty ready for this semester of school to be over so I can get into the meat of my off-season training. I plan on swapping my SRM over to my CX bike and taking it and my MTB over to the cabin and just staying there for most of XMas break (mid Dec-Jan). With those two bikes, I should be able to ride anywhere I please (paved road, gravel road, trail, etc). The goal is to build up to all-day MTB rides by the time the Spring semester starts up next year. This should be a huge step in readying myself for NUE and other races that start in the spring.

Low Back Help

I’m not fond of losing races due to things other than fitness, so I’ve been working on ways to make sure I don’t have low back issues again in the future.

#1: New hydration pack. Based on some internet testimonials from people that have had some pain similar to mine, I purchased a Wingnut Splitback hydration pack. It sits low on the back and distributes weight to the hips rather than the upper back. My chiropractor agrees that this seems like a much better way to carry weight on a bike.

#2: Bike fit adjustments. I visited Matt at Peddler Bike Shop the other day for a 3D fit on my road bike. I didn’t want to change anything dramatically on my MTB before the race, but I’ll likely adjust my cleat position and saddle to match the changes he made with my road setup. I decided I need a different MTB saddle, too. The one I have may be a bit on the narrow side and gave me some “unmentionable” chafing last Saturday.

#3: Kinesiotape. I’m going to try some Rocktape kinesiotape on my low back. Unlike standard tape, Rocktape was created for athletic therapeutic use- it’s more durable, stretchy, and water/sweat resistant than your standard tape. I’m looking forward to giving it a shot on my next long ride.

Bonus for all my loyal readers: if you want to try Rocktape yourself, use the discount code “brickhouse” when you make a purchase from their website, and get 20% off at checkout!

That’s about it… I’m hoping that with these changes and more hours in the saddle, I won’t have excuses when the next race rolls around.

Outdoors, Inc. Cyclocross Race

Getting out of bed Sunday morning, I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond to my requests to pedal, run, and jump as hard as possible. I generally ached all over from the day before, though I knew I’d done everything within my power to recover as much as possible (short of taking an ice bath… I hate those as much as they work).

The weather was perfect. In fact, since it stopped raining a couple of weeks ago, the weather has been 60-70 and sunny every day. Does anyone else find that somewhat scary? (in a bad, climate-change sort of way)

I digress…
Teammate Casey Malone and I lined up behind the Cat 4 and “B” Masters men. Unlike the TBRA races I’ve been in lately, this time we’d start a minute behind these guys (instead of at the same time as the cat3 or 1/2/3 guys). Lame!

I hadn’t really warmed up much- when I was pre-riding, I had a tire burp air, so I convinced Ryan to let me use his nice DuraAce wheels/Jett tires that were a better match to the course than my Bulldogs/heavy Zero AO28s. So, when the start tape was raised, I wasn’t too sure of how I’d feel.

Surprisingly, I felt really awesome. I was passing the tail end of the men’s race within the first part of the lap. Casey hung on for a while, but dropped off at some point. The course was a lot of fun- it turned & went up the river bluff a few times and had a few chicanes & even a tiny bit of mud. I wish that more ladies had shown up to race!

Ryan took a few photos of my race, and I photographed the A race as well. I’m hoping that more pop up since there seemed to be a lot of photographers around the course. Here’s a link to his gallery: Outdoors, Inc Cyclocross on

Lock Four 6 Hour Race

With a lingering head cold, I wasn’t sure until Thursday or Friday if I actually wanted to do this race. However, I figured as long as I wasn’t coughing or feverish that I’d be alright.

So, I woke up at 4am Saturday morning and got on the road to Gallatin, TN (on the NE side of Nashville) to go ride in a race that I hadn’t trained for much at all. If anything, it’d give me a good benchmark so I’d know where I stand fitness-wise before embarking on my epic training schedule this December at the Syllamo trails.

Thanks to Cyclocrunk, I can now nail a LeMans start to the WALL! Because of that, I had good placing going into the singletrack. I started out quick, but was sure to not burn too many matches on the first lap. The course was fun- it featured a few rocky sections, drops, jumps, some wide switchbacks up & down some hills, and a couple of short, screaming descents. It was a 29er dream course for sure.

Speaking of… the new Air9 frame was great! I forgot to write about it, but I sealed up some new Maxxis Ignitor tires on Thursday, and they prettymuch rocked. For a sub-600g 29er tire, they’re nice & knobby! Personally, I’ll take a hit on rolling resistance for better traction any day. Bonus- my bike now weighs in at 23 pounds, 7 ounces…

Laps 1-3 feel great. I could see going in to lap 4 that I’d put some time on Laureen Coffelt (super endurance chick, also from Memphis). At that point, she was just emerging from the woods as I was re-entering. However, about a mile in, my back started to hurt really bad. I’m not really sure why- bike fit, camelback, hardtail, fitness… combination of all those? Most likely.
I had to slow down because every bump was sending waves of pain through my muscles. Somehow, I finished that lap. When I arrived back to the pits, I grabbed some asprin and slammed a Redbull with part of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. While I was stopped, Laureen passed me. After a quick stretch, I was just glad to be able to continue.

My last two laps were good. Good enough for me to hold on to 2nd place (about 6 minutes behind Laureen). I was a little dissapointed in myself, but didn’t worry too much about it. I think Laureen’s been at this since before I knew how to ride a bike, so to finish just 6 minutes back from her without any specific training is not a bad spot.

After the awards ceremony, I packed up & headed back to Memphis. BTW- driving 3.5 hours after riding for nearly 6 is Hell.

McEwen Cyclocross #2

There’s not a ton to say about this race… only one woman from Saturday showed back up. I wasn’t feeling a hammerfest against the men, so I just rode somewhat hard for the 60 minute race. I won, but didn’t pay too much attention to the guys (only beat one of them). I didn’t feel too bad about it- the promoter used the average lap time of each category to calculate a handicap for the finale “Hoss of Cross” race in which entrants start slowest to fastest and race 2 laps of the course for a nice set of wheels (and a snuggie!)

I started 45 seconds after the junior racer (Max Gander) and 45 seconds before the Cat 4/SS men. Unfortunately, my race was over quite quickly… at the first log/runup (which I’d been able to ride over slowly during my race), I attempted to dismount & run. This would have been faster, except my chain bounced off and hung up on the chain watcher, pulling it sideways into the front chainring. By the time I’d fixed it, the group of men was at the runup. There was no way I’d be able to hang with a couple of them, so I rolled back down the hill and filled a cup from the keg of Yazoo beer instead…

So, day two was pretty “Meh” as far as racing, but I did get to hang out & talk with Mike Pace- owner of Pace’s Cog Farm where the race took place. I’ll definitely be making a trip or two back to McEwen for some mountain and road riding at some point in the future!