Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wrenching is Fun!

It's been awhile since I've had a decent bike maintenance session, I haven't renovated a dumpster bike for a while (no time!) and luckily my stable of bikes has been running just fine so there really hasn't been a need.

If you've been in New England lately you are well aware that it has been WET. But I still gotta ride my bike and with Pat's Peak on the horizon I have to try and snag as many miles as I can to get myself ready. Monday night's group ride was a wet one indeed; rained hard at first but then let off and then poured at the end. 14 miles in the pouring rain and mud will take a nicely running bike and turn it into a pile of crap pretty fast.

What I thought was going to be a normal boring hour or so in the area, cleaning and dialing things back in got real interesting and ended with me having to take my X7 trigger shifter completely apart.

FYI if you need to get BB5 disc brakes lined up real nice this article is the easiest most succinct I have found. I have had my doubts about disc brakes lately because I could never get the feel I wanted. Part of this is probably due to me being so used to V and being semi resistant to change. I also think that I never really had the discs set up right. After getting the rotors properly aligned things feel a lot stronger...granted I haven't ridden it yet but I think I might start to like them better now.

Got the drivetrain cleaned up and I was ahead of schedule (I have to try and set a time that I am going to work in the manarea otherwise I end up in there for waaaay too long) so I decided I wanted to slide my rear wheel back a tad. My Kona has sliding dropouts so you can set it up as SS or geared. When I set the bike up geared I put the dropouts in the middle of its slide range figuring that made the most sense. I also ride a Redline Monocog and now that I have been riding both bikes for a while I have noticed that I really prefer the Redline's longer wheelbase. So might as well slide those dropouts back as far as they go to lengthen the Kona's wheelbase right? Easy enough, I had an extra derailleur cable and housing in case the distance of the slide was too much for the current cable (it was). So I slid things back, recabled and went to test the shifting. And all hell broke loose. Shifter was completely thrashed, made it half way through its range and then just locked up, levers froze, nothing.

This is getting wordy so I'll skip to the end...I had to completely take the shifter apart and get into the guts. I was pretty worried at this point that I was screwed. When I popped the casing off a spring flew out and I thought for sure that was it. Too many gear mechs, springs and moving parts for me to figure out. Then I remembered that I have two advanced degrees. Played with it for a bit got the ins and outs figured out and came to the conclusion that the thing that was screwed up was the little gear indicator that shows you which gear you are currently in. Weird huh?

All that thing is is a little piece of thin plastic that extendeds down into the ratcheting system in the body of the shifter. There are 'teeth' on the plastic of the indicator that also engage with the teeth of the shifter so that when you shift the teeth on the indicator move with the teeth of the shifter and the little orange piece of the indicator moves down a notch. Turns out that little piece of plastic was getting jammed up about halfway through for some reason and preventing it from actually shifting. Remove the indicator, problem solved (I never look at that thing anyway). And now I know how trigger shifters work (X7's at least, but I would imagine the principle is similar for all).

Not sure how it happened...whether it was caused by moisture in there somehow warping the plastic or if I screwed something up when I recabled it but it was a learning experience and fun in a way.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pre-Ride from Hell

I think I should have read my biking horoscope for today. I think it probably would have told me that my stars were very much not in line.

The day started off okay, some work I had intended to do around the house was better tackled with two people so I left that and got an early start on the ride portion of my day. I went down to Concord, stopped in the city to get a tux fitting for Jake and Tara's wedding. Got in and out fairly quick everything was running smoothly. Get to Pat's Peak with plenty of time to do two laps or so and still get home before Gina gets home from work...perfect. Until I actually got on my bike.

Right from the get go I could tell my energy levels were off. My heart spiked pretty early into the ride and I had a real hard time getting things regulated. The trails were still very wet from all the rain we've been having. I decided I would just ride the course slowly to avoid causing any damage just to get a feel for the terrain and then head out. For some reason riding slowly and me dont mix at all. I completely lose the ability to ride correctly. Tipped over a few times, got extremely muddy, every time the trail tilted up my heart rate would spike and take far too long to come back down. Not sure if it was the humidity or the sequence of things I had eaten for my last few meals or what, but my engine was not firing on all cylinders.

My troubles quickly spread to my brain and I was unable to follow the course, basically at all. I went off track at least 3-4 times. It's not excellently marked but I was definitely missing some obvious turns. Almost killed myself on a waterbar on the decent, for some reason I didn't even realize it was there until the last second and was barely able to absorb it. After the decent I lost the course again and ended up getting back on track on a previous portion of the course heading back the way I had come somehow. At this point I was so confused/frustrated that I just pointed the bike down the neareast ski slope and got back to the base area and packed it in.

I lasted about 30 minutes, didnt even make it 3 miles. Quite the waste. Didn't get a workout and didn't even get to see the whole course. But what I did see has assured me that this race is going to be tough and more than likely leave me quite battered after 6hrs.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pinnacle X NECS '09 #3

Apparently I love riding in slick conditions.

I almost called it when I woke up Sunday morning listening to a downpour come down on the skylight in the bedroom. Turns out it was raining much harder at home than it was in Newport and things were looking okay at the venue. Course was wet enough to be real slick but not wet enough to be really muddy and I can deal with that...more than deal actually, flat out ENJOY.

Things started off with a mass start, all experts at once, which I used to think I hated but I am starting to think I like mass starts better because the traffic issues that they create actually allow me to get warmed up a bit slower and I am able to keep pace better but at the same time there are tons of traffic issues and technically there were some spots where I was getting held up. I did manage to make 4-5 hilarious passes all at once though which was fun. I have ridden this course a few times and I have raced SS long enough now to know that there is no shame in running sometimes. There was a headwall of sorts on the first portion of the 1st lap where there is almost always a bottleneck and especially so with a mass start. I knew it was there and knew I wouldnt be able to sit and spin it and with no room to get up and hammer I planned on jumping off and running up the 'bad line'. Worked great, and I ran right past 4-5 guys spinning their grannys. I think one guy even got a little mad, like I was breaking the rules or something.

Sticking with the theme from last race...I am 90% sure I am the sliver of helmet and shoe behind the second guy in the pink jersey. Slipstream! Shake and Bake!

The singletrack was actually riding kinda nice. The roots and rocks were very slick but the dirt was actually a bit tacky. The rest of the climbing was how it usually is, leg breaking and slow especially with things as slick as they were. I was forced to try and stay in the saddle to keep weight over my rear wheel turning most of the climbs into the equivalent of a hardcore session of squats in the gym. Suffice it to say, there were a few times that my GPS unit thought I wasn't moving. I did manage to 'ride' most everything though minus a few techy spots on some climbs and the suffering was all worth it. I've said it before and I'll say it again...I would climb 15 miles straight up just to be able to ride the down at the Pinnacle. SO MUCH FUN. And I think I might even like it better when its slick.

1st time down kinda sucked because I had some less confident riders in front of me but laps 2 and 3 were perfect, no one immediately in front of me I had the lines pretty much figured out and the slickness added just enough to make it really interesting. Didn't crash once although I lost count of all the hail mary's.

Here is the hard data:

And results:

As you can see this is my first 'real' podium in the SS Class. In the past I have pulled some top 3's but that was usually due to there only being 3 people racing. This time around I actually put up a pretty strong time and was only 2 minutes out of 2nd place. I snagged a sweet bronze medal for my efforts as well that will be hanging in the manarea. I am pretty proud of how far I have progressed in about 3 years time and I'm looking forward to my coming endurance races. New challenges...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

California Common, AKA Steam Beer

WOW its been a long time since I've brewed a batch of beer!

Not really sure how that happened...just a combination of events with higher priority that made brewing not optimal. But we are basically settled in the new house, work on the furnace in the basement is done and brewing can commence.

I ordered two kits a LONG time ago and have been sitting on them waiting until I could find time to brew. At the time I thought I would get around to them much sooner. As such I am a tad worried about the yeast for this batch. It has been sitting dormant in the fridge for months and it didnt really come around when I busted the nutrient packet to wake it back up. Usually after a few hours the packet is swollen quite a bit as the yeast eats and expels gas....this time not so much. Not 100% sure the yeast is even viable at this point, but I went for it anyway. Worst case I will have to swing by Fermentation Station in Meredith and get the same strain or something similar and repitch if the fermentation doesnt kick off.

So yeah this batch is a 'California Common' or sometimes more commonly called a Steam Beer. Funny though, steam doesnt and never has had any thing to do with the brewing of this beer. It was concocted by some dudes in old San Fran who wanted lager but had no means of refrigeration, to hit the lower temps needed for fermentation of lager yeast. So they magically figured out a way to get lager yeast to ferment at more ale like temps and viola, Steam Beer (no steam).


Crotchville setup is very similar to the Squamy setup.
If it aint broke...

**UPDATE**: The first batch of Crotchville Beer has been bottled. Feels like it has been ages since I had homebrew bottled almost ready to drink hanging out in my basement. If I felt like it I could look back through the manarea archives and tell you exactly how long but I don't feel like it right now (bonus points for whoever does feel like it).

I may have taken an extended hiatus but I am back with a vengeance. I think this batch is going to get great reviews and will probably be up there with my best. I have been so busy lately that this batch has had plenty of time to figure itself out. And once again I have to sing the praises of my high capacity siphon. Saves me so much time. That and my new kitchen's island adds some much needed gravitational assistance.

Look Ma, No Hands!

Racked to my bottling bucket in around 4 minutes and the entire bottling process including clean up only took me 1hr and 19mins. Down from an average of about 2hrs in the past. Data Nerd? Perhaps. But that's EFFICIENT data nerd to you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

1 Part Showing Off, 1 Part Insurance Reasons

So I bought a house recently and some family and friends haven't seen it in all its glory yet and instead of trying to format all the pics and send them around in emails I figured I would just post them all up here in a photo essay of sorts.

So here is our 'Storybook Home' on a fine Spring day:

Thar she blows

Character with a capital 'C'


Old Skool

Lots of perennial landscaping (thanks Maureen!)

S.H.E.D (and pooch)

Entrance to Fern Gulley (aka my soon to be permaculture experiment)

not sure what happend to this picture but I like it

So there you have it. Our little slice of awesome.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bear Brook Blast Off NECS '09 #2

Struggling economy? Sunday's turnout would make you think otherwise. I haven't seen that many people at a NECS race since I started consistently racing the series 3 years ago or so. It was great to see, must have been hundreds of people there.

And man was it nice to only have to drive 30-40mins to the venue. I can get used to that. The start/finish area was already bumping when I arrived. Festival like atmosphere, with everyone suiting up and riding around sizing up the competition. I saw a few familiar faces from the SS class the last few years but also a lot of new faces.

When we finally lined up I would say there were in the area of 20 SS'ers. We set off after all the other Expert fields and things quickly split into 2 groups. A group of 10 or so 'mashers' got off the front within the first 100yds or so and I was leading the second group of 'spinners' maybe 10-20ft behind heading into the singletrack. The mashers slowly disappeared turning those big gears at full bore (not sure how they do it). I kept my position heading into the first technical singletrack climb, but that climb brought me to my limit and as I tried to recover after dumping out onto the first double track I lost a few places. I was probably sitting about 12-13th at this point and would remain there for most of the race.

Me lurking in the background as we caught some of the Expert Women, as you can see I'm really trying to get in her draft for the slingshot. Shake and Bake!

This was the first time in my experience racing SS bikes that I wish I had a bigger gear. I have never gotten into messing with my ratio based on a race course, I have always just run the 32-20. Usually that would work for me and my fitness would be the limiting factor before I would feel like a bigger gear would have been necesary. But I guess I am happy to say that I think I could have done much better at this race if I had been running a bigger gear maybe 32-18 or so. There were just one too many stretches of flat double track where I was spinning at 130rpm wanting to go faster but not having the gear to do so. All told I probably lost 5-10 mins on some of my competitors because they could get a few mph more on those sections and there weren't enough climbs where I could make up the difference.

Even though I was running my baby gear I still rode as hard as I could and I felt like I managed my nutrition well and I did catch up to a few of the SS'ers who passed me early on. I caught the first on a longer descent, he overcooked a turn and I stopped using my brakes to try and gain as much gap as I could (this was scary and pretty damn fun). I was starting to run into some traffic at this point as well. I never used to have to deal with traffic while racing, but as my fitness improves and I am in the thick of things I am going to have to get better at dealing with passing at speed.

After the final lap point there was a longish haul back to the finish. I got into a pace line of faster sport riders and just hit the gas and gave it everything I had, trying to keep the guy I passed at bay and I was pretty sure there was another SS'er not too far up ahead. I was digging really deep at this point, quads were starting to cramp, I thought the finish was a bit closer than what it ended up being. Unfortunately at my level of exertion all the blood was going to my legs and none was getting to my brain and I totally flew right past a hard left hander into the woods for the last little section of singletrack. I had to lock up the brakes, turn around and get back going. Just as I jumped into the woods after missing the turn I saw that other SS racer about 20-30ft up ahead...if I had made that turn I would no doubt have caught him with my momentum and probably been able to hold him off to the finish. But I had lost that momentum and with my legs on the border of cramping I couldn't close the gap and he ended up finishing 10secs ahead of me.

Finished the 24 mile course just under 2.5 hrs and results were prelim but it looks like I ended up with 12th out of 20 or so starters. No series points but I was pleased with my race, it actually felt like racing instead of a solid DFL 20 mins behind the rest of the SS'ers. I loved the course, even though it had a lot of double track hauls, the singletrack was in great shape and some of the descents were perfect...technical but fast. I'll post up official results once I get them...and here they are:
1 158 GREG BURBIDGE 2:06:18 200
2 155 GEORGE LAPIERRE 2:07:39 190
3 167 RYAN LITTLEFIELD 2:11:02 178
4 151 WILL CRISSMAN 2:13:17 164
5 164 NOLAN WATTS 2:15:50 148
6 159 COLLIN GALLOWAY 2:15:53 130
7 157 BRAD BEVERIDGE 2:19:53 110
8 165 SCOTT ROSENTHAL 2:19:54 88
9 166 CHRIS GENDRON 2:25:11 64
10 163 DAVE HARKLESS 2:26:13 38
11 168 ERIC MASSA 2:27:06 0
12 152 KEVIN ORLOWSKI 2:27:16 0
13 160 GRAHAM DINMOCK 2:27:48 0
14 156 ALAN FOREY 2:34:34 0
15 150 MATTEO MOLLER 2:39:32 0
16 153 PETER TAMPOSI 2:43:30 0
17 154 DAVID SHEDD 2:54:58 0
18 169 PAIGE ROWNTREE 3:07:16 0