Friday, June 29, 2012

Riding Laconia

**UPDATE** and a clarification for my friends at DRED:
It has come to my attention that this post is being used to draw a direct connection between NEMBA and the creation of trails on state land at Salt Marsh pond.  In my opinion that connection is being made in error.  This ride report is describing a tour I was given by locals of trails in and around Laconia, NH.  This was not a NEMBA led ride. If you look closely at the GPS data at no point was I riding on state land around Salt Marsh Pond.  I reference the pond as the closest most prominent landmark to where I was at the time.  I was not aware of the extent of the trails in that area.  The small loop we rode was very close to an office park and it was my impression that permission had been granted by the owner of those buildings for that trail to exist.  To imply that my riding of one trail in the vicinity (but not on) state owned land makes NEMBA complicit in the building of trails on that land is somewhat of a leap in my opinion.  I am saddened that this post has created a rift between two organizations that I believe are very important and I hope that this clarification can help in bringing them back together and on common ground so we can continue to move in a positive direction.

Most two wheeled traffic in and around Laconia have fairly large engines and are really loud but I have a feeling in the next 3-5 years that might be changing.  Since moving to Sanbornton and hooking up with CNH NEMBA and riding more in Central NH as opposed to the Plymouth area I have learned about all kinds of new ride spots.

I was particularly impressed by the stuff in and around Laconia that small bands of locals have been building and maintaining.  Very challenging technical stuff usually with a lean towards free-ridey fun (probably influenced a bit by the proximity of Highland and lots of local riders preferring that style of riding, no complaint here).  They have a knack for finding all the interesting stuff in the woods and incorporating them into their trails.  Its like they've read the NEMBA/IMBA manual on control points or something...

Unfortunately I was still just sort of getting into MTB during the mid 90's 'heyday' but these trails feel like they hark back to a 'shreddin what we can with what we got' mentality.  I feel like folks would ride anything and everything back then.  Many of the trails squeezed into small parcels of land here and there linked together with locals only connectors that can be hard to find.  The stuff in and around Laconia is a bit like that but things are getting more cohesive and some key players are doing great advocacy work and have exciting visions of 'what could be'.

Last night our CNH group hooked up with the Chainline Cycles ride and got a tour of some of the work they've been doing in the area of Saltmarsh Pond (AKA The Degoba System) and Ramblin' Vewe (not a typo) Farm. We rode a small fun loop at Saltmarsh before crossing the road to get up and over the 'Hill of Doom' (which I almost cleaned, and then almost threw up) to check out some of the new stuff at Ramblin' Vewe Farm.  There was already a great network of existing multi-use doubletrack through the area and tons of great vert/terrain just screaming for some singletrack to fill in the gaps.  Luckily there are folks who know how to go about these things the right way and after building relationships with the board at RVF they've been able to get some areas approved for work with chances for more if we're lucky.

The newest trail is already riding awesome and has some great rock features.  Top it off with a descent back into town on Trail X and you've got one hell of a ride.  15 miles and we didn't even do everything on that side of town.  Add Ahern into the mix and you can easily ride 20-30 miles of singletrack in and around Laconia with possibly much more in the works.  So put yourself about 5-10 years into the future...Local advocates have been working hard with local landowners building relationships (hopefully those landowners are receptive and realize some of the benefits of increased recreation in the area).  There are plenty of hotels and amenities in the area.  Lakes and recreation abound, Ski hill (Gunstock) just down the road with adventure courses / longest zipline in North America or the US or something (its long) and more of their own singletrack in the works (according to some rumors and their 5 year plan).  Is this starting to sound like something?  Yeah it is.

Monday, June 25, 2012

NEMBAfest 2012

Well Mark beat me to it and already did a pretty bang up job of recapping the event and our team ride and its a good thing too because I did a pretty crappy job of documenting much of anything.  He got great pictures and some video be sure to check it out.  My phone wasn't getting good service up there and the battery was dying too fast to be able to use it for pictures/tweeting.  I brought my GoPro but never took it out of the bag once (I've been using that less and less lately and I'm wondering if subconsciously I have decided my edits don't warrant the time it takes to make them...more on that later I guess).

My two cents on this years NEMBAfest is that this event has 'grown up'.  The times I've been prior have been great but this year was bigger, better, well organized and with seemingly no new venue kinks that needed to be worked out.  The town of East Burke, Burke Mountain and the Kingdom Trails did a great job of accommodating almost 1500(?) mountain bikers without even breaking a sweat.  I heard rumors (from the Burke Mtn Campground caretaker) that the 'fest is on the books for KT for the next two years and that couldn't make me happier.  I think this has a real chance of turning into something huge.  All the folks who missed out this year will be hearing and reading all the great stories and I think the growth could be exponential over the next two years.  Great for NEMBA, great for the industry and great for the Northeast Kingdom. Win-Win-Win.

All told we rode about 55mi with roughly 7000ft of climbing over the three days with awesome rides Fri/Sat/Sun.  My studying of the map has paid off and after Mark's tour on Saturday I feel like I have most of the great stuff figured out.  Sunday I was able to lead about a 15mi ride mostly from memory only needing to check the map a few times.  My memory works well with stuff like that and especially well with things I enjoy as much as mountain biking.  One more trip and I bet I have the lay of the land almost as well as a local.

mission control

My gear soap opera of the last few weeks continues.  This past weekends rounds of long/hard riding put my rear wheel back in question as things got a bit squirrely back there again.  Several spokes kept coming loose and I could always get the wheel back to basically true without much issue but the problem kept coming back each day.

I needed to pick up a small adapter for my new air compressor and chat a bit about this weeks CNH ride in/around Laconia so I figured I would also bring my wheel in and see if Eric from Chainline Cycles could diagnose / work some magic.  He planned on detensioning everything and starting from scratch...long story short he sent me an email a few hours later asking me to call him...not good.

Turns out one section of the rim was knocked well enough out of whack that when you tensioned those spokes up it would detension the other side too much to really be able to balance the wheel out properly.  He said he could get it close but those same issues would probably keep coming back.  Oh well, Eric was able to order me a slightly beefier Arch EX rim at a great price and might even be able to get it built back up before this weeks Thurs ride.  It'll be nice to be clear of this well in front of Moody Park.  I'm thinking my riding style might be a bit too much for Crests and after poking around there are quite a few people who use Crests in the front but the Arch EX in the rear, so I'm going to see how that mix of lightweight performance and durability works out for me.

In other wheel / tubeless news my new air compressor set up is now completely good to go and working great.  My new front tire arrived while I was up at KT and I was able to get it set back up tubeless with no issues (so far) with high levels of ease.

can't wait to use compressed air for all kinds of weird things...

Tire snapped right in, added sealant and as of several hours later things are holding just fine at 30+ PSI so I'm fairly confident things are good to go.  Zero mess, zero hassle.  Kevin is pleased.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Pinnacle EFTA NECS 2012 #3

I think my fitness and my level of disappointment are at an all time high right now.  In the words of Lazlo and Chris Knight I have succeeded and failed & I am happy and sad for myself.  This is one of the first times I've had to deal with a let down like this...kinda sucks.  Sure I've DNF'd before (although rarely) but it was never as big of a deal back then because I typically wasn't doing all that well when it happened anyway.

It seems as if I have cracked my own personal fitness puzzle this year to a certain extent and I have punched through to my next level.  My fitness has been feeling really good this year and its continuing to come around even now.  I'm feeling stronger later into races, power is better and today felt like a culmination of sorts, until it all wobbled away.

NEMBA tent was the place to be again this week.  Us Experts got a front row seat for some great results for our Sport and Novice riders.  Our shenanigans got going at high Noon first with the Elites and then the SSer's.  I think we had our typical field size of about 9-10 or so.  First lap hurt like hell (per usual) and I was sitting 3/4 with Mark through most of it.  Pete M. got away early, cause hes silly fast, and Brad B. always has a strong start and had gotten out ahead of me and Mark.  There was another rider stalking a bit in there who passed us just up at the top but he wasn't the best descender and we were right back on him and by never to see him again.

 so excited to start suffering

Mark and I hauled through the Plummet together on lap 1 and caught back up to Brad just past the water tower.  We were now sitting 2/3 and we had Carl and the Bully for company.  Finally a 4 man NEMBA pace line!  I was feeling really good at that point and climbing a tad in front of Mark (probably because he was pushing a gear I couldn't even shake a stick at on that course) and Brad was still in there as well.  I topped out just in front of Bully with Carl up the trail a bit and disappearing.

 chasing Mark

I was really feeling the additional PSI up front with the tube (how did I ride like that all the time before?) and riding a bit on the cautious side.  Probably a mistake because Brad caught me bombing on his Wraith FS singlespeed rig when I bobbled in a techy spot so now I'm racing in 3rd.  I was back on quick and chasing hard through the 'pump track in the sky' and somewhere in the next 5-10mins of racing something happened that ruined my day.  Frustrating point is I have no idea where or how, for all I know it could have been a cumulative beating that did it in or a somewhat silent tweak that did the deed but I don't remember ever taking one solid shot.

Mark caught me towards the end of the 'pump track' section (damn you guys and your suspension!) and we were hammering along with a small group heading into the descent.  Not long after that I started hearing my tire rubbing on my frame going through corners.  It slowly was getting worse and worse so I finally tried to steal a peak while riding to see what I could see.  I looked down to see my wheel wobbling all over the place.  Then I looked up to see my right hand heading right for a tree...whoops.  Went heavy on the brakes and piled everyone up behind me.  Your welcome guys!

I pulled over to see if maybe the wheel had wiggled partially out of the dropouts again based on my issues last week...but nope locked in tight.  Checked the sliding dropouts next to see if one had loosened up... nope solid.  Start checking spokes to see if a few had all loosened up...nope all felt fairly solid. ????? I'm very confused at this point, I try popping the wheel out and reseating it just to see if it helps and it does a tad but there is still a mean wobble.  I hop back on and try riding gingerly but the more I ride the worse it gets.

I slowly start to realize I was working on the result of my career at that point and I was probably done for the day unless I wanted to ride the wheel into the ground and out myself a few hundred $$.  So I got really pissed/frustrated for about 20secs and then started walking down one of my favorite descents in New England.  Mark ended up catching and passing Brad for second and Brad held on for 3rd.  Brad was riding strong and descending great but I felt great too and I'm fairly certain I could have put enough time into him on lap 3's climb to secure at least 3rd.  But who knows.

I'm just hoping my wheel isn't toast, that would really add insult to injury.  I'll probably bring it into the shop tomorrow, my truing skills are probably not up to this task.  The biggest positive I think I can take from this whole fiasco is I am now HUNGRY.  My motivation for the next few weeks is sky high right now.  I've had a podium (a real podium, not a gimme) in my grasp, so close I could taste it.  I'll be guns blazing at Moody for sure and working hard between now and then to stay sharp.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Glocester Grind EFTA NECS 2012 #2

Oh the Grind.  This race can't quite seem to catch a break weather wise, although I get this feeling that this course is perpetually wet.  It probably isn't but my perception is reality and all I perceive at the Grind is wet.  Sopping wet...and mud...and rocks, lots of rocks.

Weather conditions day of were actually great surprisingly, unfortunately it rained for about 20hrs straight the day before.  My day started off to driving down the hill from the house only to find our road completely washed out and impassable.  Immediately had the classic "Here we goooooooooooo" thought in my head and threw it in reverse and went around the long way.  Passed two National Guard convoys on 93 on the way down south.  Probably headed to some even bigger washout somewhere.

Arrived at the venue shortly before the Novices were heading out and chatted it up a bit before suiting up for business time.  Lined up with about 10(?) singlespeeder's or so.  Fields were fairly light with another Root66 race on the same day not that far away and weather conditions probably kept some of the folks who sit on the fence until the last second at home.  Got off the line decent enough, no one was really hammering because there is a giant mudhole about 5ft into the woods after the little parade loop they send you on.  I was sitting fourth as we all immediately got covered in shit.  Things were going fairly well early.  I was feeling good and riding well enough and keeping 3rd, although not super close, at least in sight.

I got stuck in a bit of traffic and was joined by Taylor Clark (who will probably be this years 'nemesis').  I bested him at Willowdale by a little over a minute but hes built a bit more like someone who would like a course like the Grind a bit more than me.  He got by me after I dabbed in a tricky spot and I spent rest of lap 1 stalking him.  He was riding most of the techy stuff just a tad smoother than I was.  I was forced to chase back on several times after some of the technical mud bogs and as some of the Expert traffic started to catch us it got a bit more complicated.  We were caught by a group of 4 Vet I's, Bully included and I was able to hang amongst their wheels until the end of the first lap.  At that point I was feeling great.  Fairly certain I could hang with those guys at least through the first half of the second lap...hopefully they would drag me back to Taylor and then we could slug it out the second half of the race.

 I believe this is near the lap point when I was still with the Vet I's
(many thanks to teammate Chris Taylor for sticking around after his race to take some pics and cheer us on)

Unfortunately about a mile or so into the second lap things started coming unglued or I guess unskewered would be more accurate.  Riding through one of the many puzzle-like rock gardens I heard a god awful sound come from the back of my bike.  Started with the rotor screeching/grinding, followed by a really loud thunk and then rattling as the chain came off.  Luckily I wasn't really moving all that fast when it happened because I hoped off to take a look and my rear wheel had pulled completely out of the dropouts and was just kind of flopping there in between my stays.  I did a quick inspection, fully expecting there to be something bent or screwed sounded horrible when it happened.  Luckily everything seemed fine and I spent a minute or two trying to get it back seated but eventually had to flip the bike over to get it in and clamped down.  No idea how I pulled that off.  I guess it just loosened up and took one last final shot from a rock or something and popped out.

That 3-4min setback couldn't have come at a worse time though because I lost my wheels I was chasing and Taylor now had a nice cushion.  I tried to push the pace the rest of that lap but I think in the back of my head I was worried the wheel was gonna fall off again and I was holding back.  That and when you are riding really technical terrain at a frantic pace you just end up messing up more and I was loosing my rhythm a bit.  The mud was also starting to dry out a bit in spots with the nice weather which made it stickier and heavier which didn't help things.  There were a few spots where shortly after a particularly muddy bog you are dumped out onto short fire road sections where the increased speed would throw hamburger patty sized chunks of mud off your tires right into your face.  I LOVE THAT.

 see how much I love it!? 

Coming into lap 3 I was hoping I was making ground and trying to just continue with the forward momentum.  At the very least I was still in 5th so I at least wanted to seal that up.  But the day had decided it was going to challenge me and shortly into the third lap while I was running through a mud bog I slipped on a root and planted my foot hard.  I felt my shoe get really loose all of a sudden and upon looking down I realized the top two velcro straps on my shoe had snapped off and were now useless.  Well, this worked for Run DMC through most of the 80's and 90's so its gonna have to work for me for the rest of this lap.  Trying to keep my shoe on running through deep muck was pretty funny, I was really worried I was gonna lose it and have to finish in a sock (which I totally would have done).  There was really hardly anything holding my foot in the shoe so getting a full power stroke with that foot was out of the question.  So lap 3 was basically clipped in with the left foot, flat pedal with the right foot.  Made for some interesting riding.  A few times when trying to actually click out my right pedal I just twisted my foot out of my shoe.

I somehow managed to avoid complete catastrophe and actually put together a lap only about 6-7mins slower than my first lap.  Fitness wise I still felt great, a lot of the mud and tech had kept me from pushing full bore so I still had some gas late.  I think I ended up about 3-4mins behind Taylor so the wheel drop was crucial.  No one caught me one footed so I held on for 5th.  Happy with that but bummed I missed out on some great racing and a chance for 4th.  Ready to get after it at the new shoes on order already (Mavic Rush) and gave the rear wheel/dropouts a thorough inspection and its all good, ready to slay.