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Friday, March 31, 2017

No Facebook Weekend... gonna be a thing, mine anyways, starting now.  I just don't wanna hear the gossip, sad tales and lamenting Mike Hall's death anymore.  LOTS of people take news like that harder than I do.  Some have to turn into being about them.  Some have to make sure others know it affected them.  I don't care about how those people feel.  All I know is Mike is dead, his wife, mom and family are all a bit empty today....and the endurance cycling world lost a hero.

Yea, I'm being callous to other people's emotions.  I always have been that person who mourns and moves on quicker than others.  The fact of the matter is life goes on.  That's just the way I see it.  I've felt the intense rush of sorrow as you see a person die in front of your eyes.  I don't block it out -  just know that dragging it along much further is pointless.  Unless you want to share your sorrow.  And I usually don't.

I still remember when Tom C was 07' maybe.  We, a group of 8 riders attending a relay race in northwestern NC along with our support crew, had been racing pretty hard (for amateurs) all day.  I finished my solo stage, a rolling almost-mountain-bike-trail-esque batch of roads and now Kyle and I were shuttling to the endpoint of the next stage.  Tom and Tim J were duo-ing this stage.  There may have been one in between...can't remember.

Anyways, we top a knoll and there is Tim in the middle of the road, red-faced and crying.  He blurts out something and I know it's bad.  Tom is dead.  He'd overcooked a FAST 50+ mph corner, hit the guardrail....and the gory details aren't relevant.

I didn't cry in earnest til I had to tell my Mom.  I had called to tell em' what happened and I fell the fuck apart.  She didn't recognize my voice at all I was blubbering so hard.  I did gain some composure as I paced up and and down that side street in Blowing Rock.  I remember Tom's wife's screams when they broke the news.  I was standing a few hundred yards away.

After my breakdown, I was done.  It was business.  We had vehicles to get back to King, NC.  There were funerals.  There were friends who needed attention...but I'll admit I wasn't the most compassionate.

At the funeral, Deborah wanted to be the "ringleader" and had her husband come tell me to not go in to meet the family until everyone else was there.  Like most orders she blurted it didn't make sense and I ignored it really.  I wa there with my parents and they didn't want to wait any longer.  Besides I knew the others wouldn't show up until much later.  Punctuality was not their strong suit.  Deborah was thinking of Tom's wife (supposedly) and wanted "the group" to go in together.  Well, I didn't see the point so we stayed in line.  Tom's wife could have cared less, group or solo.  She thanked me, we spoke to the crew that had just rolled in...and left.

Tom and I weren't close - we'd talked....and we'd also butted heads.  He coddled Deborah whereas I was blunt and honest when she asked questions of me.  I was the one who told her to try mountain biking if she wanted to improve her handling skills.  Tom disagreed.  He and I had an argument during a ride one day when he decided to bark orders contrary to the route I had planned.  When I called him out, he was embarassed and pissed.  I never apologized.  I can't say I felt (or feel) any remorse even after his death.  I wasn't in the wrong....but I had hurt his pride.

The group of riders that took on that event disbanded eventually.  Deborah went on to find other mentors in the local area, began racing and spent her time elsewhere.  Kyle was freaked out....he really just stopped shortly after.  Tim was freaked out as well, rightfully so.  He tried to ride but mentally didn't have the motivation.  Jerry was having health issues anyway and he just kinda disappeared.  Alan split, too.  He had family matters to handle, work became too much.

Me....I moved on.  I had just became friends with Mike B.  I remember calling him on the way to King from Blowing Rock.  The conversation went kinda like this:

"What's up man?  How was the race?"
"Well, Tom crashed and died...went into a corner too fast, clipped a guardrail.  Pretty rotten."
"Damn.  You okay?"
"Yea.  What did you ride today?"

I was well on my way to blocking it out.  Or just moving on.  Call me stoic.  Call me callous or heartless.  Whatever.  It's not that I don't feel the emotions.  I do.  But I don't relish in them....and I sure as fuck don't relish the attention of misery. 

I prefer balance in life.  Tom's death upset the balance that day.  I guess part of my lack of compassion was fueled by being pissed that the race was over, the entry fee was gone.  And all because he wanted to prove he could hit the highest top speed.  He'd already made two attempts on the same while, both at 50+....and exclaimed he wanted to see 55 mph.  He didn't.

Anyways, as much sadness as I feel for Mike Hall and his family, I don't want to "hear" or read the tales of "how he affected me".  If that is YOU, keep it to yourself, cherish that gift...but most of all, give it more than lip service....or a status update.  Ride your bike long.  Say, "fuck the cars....I'm riding" and take the chance.  Or not.  Hug your wife, mom, kids, dogs.  I'm going to.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why I don't ride early...

...has become clear lately.  I enjoy the other stuff in the morning more, like:

  1. Not being in PHX traffic.  My plan this AM was to head to Apache Wash to ride the Juice once more before it gets the teardown/rebuild it's needed for....6 months maybe?  The fork hasn't been touched in over 2 years.  The chain has stretched WELL past acceptable...but considering all my favorite cogs are worn to match, I'm reluctant (still) to replace it....'cause a new chain may be cheap, more cogs will be expensiver.  Anyways, after driving to Nawth Scottdell y'day to meet our potential new pups, I realized why I ride so often from home.  A drive that would have been over in 20 minutes any other time of the day took 50 minutes 'cause....PHX.  I'm putting off the drive 'cause I can.
  2. Coffee.  I like coffee.  I like drinking my coffee while walking my dog.  I like what coffee does to me inside so that (sometimes) my insides say, "all clear" before I ever leave.
  3. Artwork...or work.  I like to "take care of business" early usually.  That's how I was half the time when I was all-professional back in the day.  Either 100% of the work got done first....or 100% of the work got done last.  I don't like starting and stopping in the middle of something....and most of my work doesn't work well with that.
Don't get me wrong - I know that soon if I want to ride, I gotta get up early.  PHX is hotter than Mesa is hotter than Tucson is hotter than Stokes County.  I miss (sometimes) the late afternoon rides that were easy to get in in NC.  The Lewisville rides from the Square at 5 or 6 (can't recall right now) were something to look forward to.  It's kinda the opposite here with the PM swapped for an AM.

I did do one of my first early EARLY AM rides in awhile y'day.  Meghan has more time now that the sun is up before 6.  We jumped out, did a few in a good hour of pedaling.  If struggling along is good.

My left IT band was barking.  My HR wouldn't climb for shit.  I think my max the whole ride was 138 bpm.  I was just tired but I pushed through and by the end, I felt much better....and the IT band issue kinda took care of itself.

So, yep...I'll put in some "work" later on the bike, hopefully about 2 1/2 hours on the Juice, kicking and stomping at Apache Wash.  Tomorrow, Meghan and I will do another early ride....just flat spinning.  Saturday, I'll check over the Diverge at McDowell. the Prescott Premier Gravel Loop Ride.  Organized by the same folks who put on Chino, it should be fun.  A few folks are coming up from Tucson so it'll be a fun crowd.

Another weekend, another batch of rides.  Later.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


...has been my best friend for the last two rides.  The pollen here in AZ is THICK right now, so thick I barely sleep some nights.  For a week or more, the histamines made my muscles feel horrible, aching all the time and just not want to perform.  I limped through training rides.  Then the other morning I took a shot of Afrin.

Sweet Baby Breathing Jesus in a Bottle.

Sunday I felt great.  We rode horses in all the yellow pollen from the brittlebushes for over an hour.  I was fine.  Monday I put off riding 'cause of the way I'd been feeling but I knew I wanted a LONG ride on Tuesday.  However, bugged by the weird spring tension in the rear derailleur, I knew it was smart to test-ride the R3.  I took off down the greenway, bumbled through Fashion Square and finally just detoured through lower Paradise Valley when the tourists became too much.

I felt good.  Zone 1, zone 2...I was cruising pretty smoothly even into the headwind.  Miss my turn to head for Dreamy Draw which meant a 4 mile detour.  No big deal.

So the headwind becomes a crosswind/ couldn't make up it's mind.  I'm rolling up Dreamy Draw Road(?) at a good clip.  At the top I was breathing harder but nothing deep...still Zone 2 but higher.

Hit Dreamy Draw Pathway, stop for water.  Keep motoring.  Dig a little harder.  My legs are feeling good.  The bike is doing great.  Roll into the area north of PMP and I can tell the tailwind is with me.  I'm hauling ass, railing corners and still feeling pretty strong.

So strong I start to doubt myself.  Am I gonna do this 60+ mile ride tomorrow, roll out all confident only to find that without a tailwind, I'm just a bigger, fatter version of the same self who was kickin' out 20+ on Mockingbird?  I figure some hills will help.

At the start I swore off the hills.  I wanted to "save" all my energy for yesterday.  The way I had been feeling lately had me worried.  When I turned on Mojave, I gave in a bit....figured I'd roll smoothly.  But the pedals were turning so easy.

There was no wind.  It's guarded by trees for the most part so no tailwind, no crosswind.  Everything I was kicking out had to be me.  And I was hauling alot of ass pretty quick.

Turn through the Foothills portions, onto Hummingbird to Cheney.  This is where I usually break....and looking at the Strava, I didn't break but I did match my best time from 2015 (the PR).  When I get to Hummingbird, I attack.  I stand and stomp over the flat, punch hard on the downhill and roll as quick as comfortable (ever since I bought hit that Malibu going too wide).  Punch up the last quick and done.

On the Strava, there were tons of medals when I got home.  I PR'ed every segment except the 2015 one (which I tied).  I felt confident in my legs and breathing....and Afrin.

Yesterday morning the plan was to drop the truck at the dealership for some work, hop on the R3 and do a modified/reverse Tour de Mesa(ish) loop.  Not that I wanted to mimic the Tour de Mesa but it was brought to my attention later.  Mine had some extra thrown in.

Anyways, the plan was set - I loaded everything up and by 7:15 I was on the road.  I weaved til I settled on Brown Road and just mashed out a Zone 1 tempo.  Nothing hard, just steady....16 mph for 45 minutes with a load of lights, traffic and cool air blowing.

When I turned left to climb Usery, I felt like I didn't have that "kick".  I was chilly.  I felt good but not interval-kicking good.  This was fine 'cause it was still a good pace for a long morning...but I couldn't help wanting a bit more.

Stop for water at the visitor center, stash that diluted bottle for later and start sipping on the 2nd full bottle of CarboRocket.  Finish the climb, pass a really nice guy....and then proceed to (I think maybe) snot-rocket the guy when he was drafting me down the backside.  Sorry, man.

This was the first time I started to worry.  Trucks with trailers, SUVs struggling with trailers were all buzzing me.  Then I saw the construction signs.  Was I gonna get caught up in a mess with these assholes?  I thought about turning right and taking the less climbing way home....then said, whatthehell.  I turned right.

Down to the river, I learned they're apparently repaving and maybe reworking the bridge.  When I started up the climb to Butcher Jones, I felt good....too good.  I eased myself down a bit, picking an easier gear than what felt good.  Passing the old gal who looked really wobbly, I was anxious to get over the first pitch.  People get stupid around here when there's no bike lane, no line of sight and a self-important agenda.  I hammered.  I dug deep but tried to be as cool as possible.  When I crested it seemed I was bombarded with a few nice folks and a bevy of assholes in Kia Souls.  Three or four of those little toasters passed and all of em' wanted to be next to me.

Up the long stretch, it took to Butcher Jones to recover but then it was steady mashing to the Beeline.  I felt good.  My legs were fine, spinning quick circles.  I reach the highway, text Meghan that I'm 2/3 of the way through the hills and 1/2 way home. Eat some dates, suck down some fluids and take off.

I hate riding Beeline.  I hate any road that's just straight and boring...but I just don't like Beeline at all.  The surface is okay.  There's not as much trash as I thought there would be.  Still don't like it.  I especially didn't like it when my gut felt weird.  I needed to fart.

Turn right on Fort McDowell, pedal to Mojave and turn left.  I'm about 1/2 mile in, past a nice house when I KNOW I HAVE TO STOP.  Wheel off the road, lay the bike down and head for the trees.

Let's just say I donated a pair of nice Specialized gloves to cleanliness in the desert.

With new found relief, I find I also have a bit of fatigue.  That episode has taken something outta me and I have maybe one of the worst climbs to go yet.  I sip, I pedal easy and soon I'm on Palisades.

Weave past the shopping, past the school and I'm on the climb in earnest.  I reach that spot where it kicks up the hardest and spy walkers.  My god, I hope they're not IN the bike lane.  I stand and start mashing.  I want it over with, damn my sensitive gut.  Damn my affection for Zone 2 riding, I want this over with!

I crest the top.  I pedal smooth and I'm actually feeling good.  When I pass Suncrest, I get all excited thinking, "one more roller".  Nope.  Three more.

When I drop down to Shea, I stop at the red light.  I wait on traffic before I turn right and HAMMER!  There is no bike lane and it's a 50 or 55 mph zone.  No one does 55....except maybe that Lincoln from Minnesota.  I hammer straight into a headwind.  Pissed I resign myself to possibly get run over....or find another way.  Then I remember the greenway.

I look back, see a hole and turn HARD left.  I'm safe and solo...but I still have some weaving to do.  Up 136th to Via Linda, push that section out....down Mountain View, past the pro-seniors.  Catch the path, weave through the tourists/idiots.  Soon I'm home.  I'm done.

It was a good ride, almost exactly what I expected and wanted.  I rode well but more importantly, I rode faster.  At this point (I think), it's a matter of fine-tuning my performance before Whiskey & Chino.  I don't necessarily need the long, long hours (and debilitating fatigue) as much as I need to make the most of the strength I slightly shorter and slightly faster is good.  I think.

I still have work to do.  I want to get in a few more hard mountain bike rides, the ones with punchy hard and long grinding climbs over rougher terrain.  I want a handful of hard road/gravel climbs to push myself harder on, dig deeper but for a short period.  I don't have confidence in my ability to attack and I need the work.

I'd like to get in a couple more gravel rides with long sketch descents....just so I can fine-tune my braking and handling.  I'll def'ly pre-ride Whiskey this year...practice new skills.  Josh has made noise about riding the MBAA course up maybe I'll go for that.

Am I back to being excited?  Kinda...but no.  I'm still anxious to finish the "racing season" and get back to work, actually focus on work for a change....unlike the last three years when I've focused on riding as much as work.  Riding needs to become fun again, a break from work.


Brown's Ranch

...ended up being my "Whiskey" for Friday last week.  I wanted to play on the FrankenEpic, what with it's new tires and my new shoes and all.  I guess it was late afternoon I loaded up and headed out there with three bottles, a handful of dates and a fun-looking route.

I started down Hackamore after setting the bike up.  The tires felt loose and while I was hauling pretty good, I didn't have the utmost confidence yet.  The big knobs are a bit squirmy on hardpack...but I soon found myself adapting.  I was reeling in a guy in front of me, even closer after he was slowed by two horses.

We're in the roller section when I see him glance back.  I'm closing in....and I guess that pissed him off enough to dig deep...'cause he dropped me on the next long climb.  How badly, I don't know.  I can only assume he kept going up when I turned towards Corral Trail.

Up Corral to High Desert.  All the north side trails at Brown's are "fun" but they do get a bit boring.  They are to Brown's what the Loma Alta portion of AZT is to Tucson - winding, twisty, easy.  Soon I was on Hawk's Nest...a bit better trail-wise.  It was here (I think) I started playing the games.

I've always heard/read that to go faster and be smoother, you have to FOCUS further down the trail.  Don't constantly read what is in FRONT of you, read what's coming up.  So I tried it - I would scan the trail til the next corner.  I'd look through the next corner to see where I was going.  All the while I'm relying on my peripheral vision to react to what's under me.  Kinda like developing instincts....or relying on them.

Soon I was at CowPoke...which leads up the backside of Granite Mountain.  I've hit this hard a few times, mostly on the Juice...probably with a 32x18 or 32x20 gear.  I told myself, "self, go hard...but keep it within 'race-pace', something sustainable."

I felt good.  I pushed the pedals harder.  I looked forward.  I passed the gal on the Pivot and kept mashing.  Soon I was at the top, feeling I had done something.  (later I found out I set a PR on the segment!)

Down by Cathedral Rock, past two old guys who weren't happy sharing the trail.  Out by Balanced Rock where some folks seem to be happier than normal (which was really cool!)  Down the twisties, yield to climbing rider, pass the same gal on Pivot again.  Botch 1/3 of the 3 switchbacks (like always).  Now I'm on Turpentine.

More focus practice.  Set a PR.  Rest before climbing Frasfield Mountain...but when I do, I dig deep.  I had told myself, "no diggin'" but....shit, it's a fun climb with a great descent.  Didn't PR that one, I think.

By now, I'm tired.  I've not been going ALL OUT but I have been riding pretty hard....say maybe a 7 or 8 on a scale 1-10.  I stick to Whiskey Bottle Trail though 'cause....I've never ridden it all.  Glad I did.  Hit Maverick...regret it 'cause it's a BMX pump track but 1/2 way in, I'm loving ''s a BMX pump track.  Hit the main dirt road and I go home.

Tired but not beat down.  The tires are working out great.  Not as fast as te Vittoria's on the thin & loose over hardpack...but throw em' into something a bit chunky and they just bite onto anything and everything.

The ride was enough to make me realize a few things:

  1. My fitness has improved significantly.  Partly because of Melissa, partly 'cause I've been hammering it over the past few weeks since dropping her.  Despite the allergies, I was steady-motoring up those climbs faster than ever.  I wasn't as fatigued at the end and I wasn't killing myself to stay motivated.  Sure, I wanted to quit a few times when the trail got boring but I pushed through.
  2. I am SO close to being burnt out.  I didn't throw a leg over a bike in anger all weekend.  I bled the brakes on the DiVerge (and improved them a good bit) and took it around the 'hood.  That was all.  Saddling up for a ride y'day was a chore....but I'm glad I did.
  3. I really dig the mountain bike again....which means I'll lose some of the kick to ride the gravel.  The DiVerge is like the faster cousin of the FrankenEpic.  It handles SO fuckin' well - rough or smooth....but can only take so much before it loses all control.  When I descended that fire road on Lost Dog with the FrankenEpic, I couldn't help but think, "holy shit, I'm glad I turned around when I did."  Looking back, I coulda hike-a-biked to the top and rode most of Lost Dog to the trailhead though.  The DiVerge has it's place....but I think "my" place for it isn't typical....and yet to be clearly, fully defined.
  4. I only have to push through five more weeks then I get a break (of sorts).  Whiskey 50 is first and Chino is after that.  The Belgian Waffle Ride....well, is already pared down for me, in my mind.  I've de-committed to the 140 mile romp.  Just no interest in that much time on the bike.  But Whiskey and Chino....they are "monuments" in this area.  Mountain bike folks look at Whiskey like Belgians look at Flanders or Roubaix.  Gravel folks in AZ look at Chino in a similar fashion.  They're tough, they're hard...but they're popular.  And well-supported (to a point).   BWR, I can limp through on the after-effects of all I've done to be ready in five weeks.  After that, there IS Tushar....and it's gonna hurt but I'll need to adapt a different training plan and style 'cause gettin' in the long hours and miles come May is gonna be a bit more difficult.
I know I'll stick it out, be ready for Whiskey and Chino. The money is motivating factor, for one, but I don't want to NOT have a good time.  Just suffering won't be a good time SO I'll train to ride well.  What comes after the commitments are gone is up in the air....


Friday, March 24, 2017

No Whiskey... and I'm okay with it.  Last night was rather rough for us after meeting with a potential new puppy only to realize we weren't ready.  Compound that with I really, REALLY need to meet with the pool guy so I know what to do when everything clogs up like it did after Weds' storms. 

Yea, priorities.  They get in the way of good riding.

I did get out yesterday to play...on both the FrankenEpic and the DiVerge.  I actually DROVE to the 40th St trailhead to ride.  Haven't done that since we first moved to Phoenix and lived in that tiny apartment with two dogs...and a wife.  I also made a good friend while we lived there.  Go figure.

I headed in with a short timeframe and a clogged head of ideas, plans and appointments.  10 minutes later, I was clearer-thinking and hunting good lines.  I fuckin' love PMP.

The bike was feeling good.  The new tires, this year's versions of Specialized Ground Controls, felt really good.  The bigger knobs do tend to "roll" off the edge of loose rocks, making the bike feel a bit loose....kinda like a flat tire.  But....throw power down and they DIG.  I cleaned some STEEP punches that  wouldn't have attempted with the Vittoria's or even the older Ground Controls. 

Me, I was riding okay.  I rode more of the Chutes than I have in the past...and still walked the ending.  I'm at the point now where I just now I'm only going so far....but I did get farther.  Soon....I'll drop the whole thing on the bike.  I also found the extension which leads to a ledge...that's totally rideable.  It just wasn't y'day.  Hikers all around, nervous 'cause I didn't wanna fuck up before today (which didn't happen anyway)...and that whole solo/self preservation thing. 

I still think if I were following the line of someone better than me, I'd drop some of these lines like a cakewalk.

Climbed a rocky climb I've been wanting to do ever since I went down it.  Missed a turn to the better stuff.  Ended up finding a small loop of rockiness that didn't disappoint.  Back to the truck.  Just threw the FrankenEpic in the mounting it to the racks ('cause who has time to remove wheels).

Drive home and on the way I'm thinking, "I should just do a short rip on the DiVerge, test the wheel and the brakes and the shifting."

I also swapped out the Superfeet insoles in my new Giro shoes.  They made it home on Weds, so I immediately thought to put in the new insoles.  Well, 20 minutes into the ride at PMP, I had numb(ish) toes.  Get home, swap out the thicker insoles for the thinner factory ones.

Head out on the DiVerge....the bike always feels so comfortable and quick.  Out the path heading for the canal.  I hit the straighter portion and DIG HARD!  Sprinting up to close to 30 mph, the wheel felt smooth and tight.  I slow to a crawl....keeping it in the big ring, maybe 9th or 10th down on the cassette.  STAND AND DIG....the wheel makes NO noise and just goes!  The front brake has a spot rubbing but otherwise, the shifting is good and the wheel is doing a better job.

The shoes....felt better, too.

More later.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Drivetrain Overhauling...

...came about y'day afternoon after I finished my chores of building all the new IKEA furniture (new sofa to match the chairs we bought two years ago...and my new office).  The noise, the poor shifting bugged the SHIT outta me so I yanked EVERYTHING off.  Here's what I found:

The crankset was in good shape.  The bottom bracket bearings were still as smooth as the day I bought the crankset.  Cleaned it all, regreased it with Slick Honey and re-installed it all.

The chain isn't fact, I'd say it's barely at 50%.  Cleaned it....

The front derailleur just needed cleaning - road grime mostly.

The rear derailleur was the culprit.  My jockey wheels were CAKED in I pulled each one, cleaned it, greased the bearings with more Slick Honey and reassembled it.  It was then that I noticed the mounting bolt was in not turning.  With some effort, I turned it but something between the bolt and tension spring was TIGHT.  When it did let go, everything felt "smooth".

Reinstalled both derailleurs.  Laced the chain through and right away noticed the slack.  Now the chain at it's original length was it was a link too long.  Spin it and it sounds like shit - noisy like usual.  Pull a link and install a KMC quick-link.  Much better.  The "pull" at big chainring-biggest cog is Tight (note the upper-case and remaining lower-case....'cause it wasn't bad...just tighter than I usually like).  Shift through the gears....and wah-to-the-fucking-la, the bike sounds like a typical Campy bike - lotsa chain noise but not irritatingly loud.  Like before.

So it all came down to neglect.  I chalk it up to using that crappy lube from the UK I bought when I found a deal on some tires.  I'm still disturbed by that tension spring...and may look into that more.  At $200+ for another, I don't want to buy another just for shits and giggles.  Warranty?  Enh, it's not broken...yet.

After it all together, I adjusted the cable tension.  I also realigned the front derailleur to be straighter.  It still shifts great up front but I seem to have more range.  I was hoping to eliminate a bit more of the cross-chaining noise...but, no.  Used some Dumonde lube and that quieted some of the noise.

Test ride and all was good.  We'll see next week...or Saturday.

Tomorrow I'm heading up to Prescott to pre-ride some of the Whiskey 50 course.  More or less, I'll do the Whiskey 30 without the dirt road climb in the 50.  The start is different than it was in main reason to go.  I'll still have to hit the section where the Epic was turned into the FrankenEpic.

I'll likely walk that.

It's a remote ride...and I'll have the Spot.  I invited two different people, both of which either chose to keep working or got caught up in family matters.  I thought of a few more folks...but reconsidered the idea of sharing 4 hours in the car and 4 hours on the bike.  I'm just not THAT tolerant of some personalities.

The fact I ride alone alot is a conversation Meghan and I have often.  She worries a bit when I ride in these remote places.  She knows I tend to ride even more cautious when solo...and it's not like I tend to ride over my head when others are around.  I know what I feel confident doing and what I don't.  There's a lot more don't.

The issue that I still have a hard time with is...unless the situation is dire, I could likely get hung out in the middle of nowhere for a LONG time.  For example:

Last Friday when I rode Mt. Peeley the rear wheel of the DiVerge was creaking - detensioned spokes (I guess) had me worrying about what would/could happen if I tagged a rock/hole too fast.  Would the 33c tire protect the rim?  How far will I have to walk to the truck?  It's not hot....but I'm down to 1/2 a bottle and I'm in crappy shoes for hike-a-biking.

Anyone I could call was more than a hour away.  Joe, if he's even in town, would be the closest in East Mesa and then describing my location to him would be a challenge.  If I have cell phone service.

So would having someone along be helpful?  Yes...but only marginally better.  Think about it - let's say I was with Josh.  He would be tasked with riding back to the truck, hopefully safely, loading up his stuff then coming back for me.  Still gonna take time.

Not that I haven't "made the call" before.  I sliced a tire on the road bike once in Tucson so badly, I had to call Meghan to come find me.  When I crashed the Epic at the Whiskey 35 in 2015, I called Meghan to come pick me up since the aid station folks operated on their own schedule with little regard for anyone wanting out.  I called my Dad MANY, MANY times in NC when I'd have issues - flats, stomach problems (that was a ROUGH one!).  The worst was when I was in southern Virginia on some remote dirt road with barely any cell service.  It was all my own fault - poor choice in tires, not enough spares and BAD line choice.

Then there was the time I walked on hot pavement with just socks after flatting....'cause my ankles were dying a slow death trying to walk in road shoes.  It was kinda (sick) fun peeling off the dried blisters a week later.  Exfoliating....the hard way.

It's just a matter of being smart....and THAT is why so many do these gravel races (and mountain bike races).  The anxiety caused by not knowing if you're truly safe or not is reduced when you know someone is there to help you.  Of course, all I really had at Whiskey 50 was someone to tell the story, too.  All else (except for maybe some bandages) was up to me.

All that being said, I'll go tomorrow.  I'll take a map.  I'll load in extra files for bailouts.  I might be adventurous but I'm not dumb.  Bailouts are not for wussies....bailouts are for those who know their limits.

And wussies.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

PV Hills...

...are one of my favorite places to roam when I really don't have a clue what I want to do...but I want to get in something more than bumble-fuckin' about.  This morning was one of those....but I knew my knee was still not 100%.  I figured "whatthehell" and rolled out on the R3.

Issue#1 - the Cervelo has been noisy lately.  Annoyingly noisy.  I've done everything short of taking it apart.  Chain noise?  It's not showing to be worn out.  Bent hanger?  Nope...lines up perfect.  Bent derailleur cage? Maybe....but it looks pretty good.  Cassette?  Torn apart, cleaned, change.  Chainrings?  Look good.  Wheel?  Inspected, all good.  Compound all that on top of a bad cable adjustment and halfway in I was frustrated.  I got it close but not perfect.   Thing is, with Campy, less than perfect means you don't know whatthehell it'll do reliably.  By the time I reached Desert Fairways, I wasn't done riding....but I was done riding this bike.  I went home.

Issue#2 - my knee never "hurt" but I could feel the weakness.  Enough to make me avoid a few steep ones (Castle & 36th).  When I did hit it, I felt I have more power.  All the work is coming around.

Issue#3 - People.  People are clueless...especially on this ride.  At least people on the path expect bikes to be around.  When I buzzed the 3rd woman of 3 walkers taking up the WHOLE lane on one of the roads, she was shocked, muttered something but I just pedaled on.  Never mind they were not walking against traffic, there was no reason to take the WHOLE road pushing me into oncoming traffic.  People do not understand what to do about cyclists.  They wave us through stop signs.  They expect us to cross in front of em' even if we're completely stopped.  One gal in a Mercedes looked peeved when I waved her into a driveway 'cause I was not even crossing her path yet she was stopped in the lane of a busy Camelback Road.  Then the idiot in the red Daewoo....or Kia....some foreign shitbox who tried to squeeze me outta the lane at Indian Bend and Scottsdale.  It's either idiocy, lack of respect or a strong mix of both.

So....good ride?  It still was.  I climbed well.  The views were great.  The roads were fun.  The high point of the ride?

My "new" tires:  so like I said in one of the other posts, the Vittoria Rubino Pro Control in the rear was gone.  Y'day I sorted through all my tires and decided to air up the Specialized Turbo's, 700x26. 

Holy. Shit.  I didn't realize how poorly those Rubinos handled until I put these on.  See, I took em' on recommendation from the guys when I worked at TWJ.  They loved em' - "they last forever"...."they roll FAST"..."they're tough,t oo".

But they always felt skittish.  Roll straight down the road and they ARE fast.  Turn a corner and that center strip transitions to seeping lines that just don't feel tacky.  I remember descending SoMo almost slower than I did on the CxChunk with fat file-treads.

So today when I was railing corners faster....and FASTER....I was shocked.  Was I feeling that good?  No, but my tires felt that good.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


...was all i had on tap for Saturday.  No ride....thank God!  My knees were shot and just walking across to the kitchen made em' feel wonky.  I overdid it.  I know it.  I see lotsa rest...til Sunday.

Meet with some frosted tip, wifebeater-wearing gym dude about some home stuff.  Ya really think ya leave a good impression showing up in gym clothes to a semi-professional meeting...just 'cause ya roll up in a Range Rover (...the Ford Explorer of Scottsdale)? 

Anyways....the day ends in Tempe where we spent a chunk on more furniture...'cause we actually like this house enough to invest in it.  Not that we didn't like Tucson...but we know (really hope!) we're gonna be here awhile.

Sunday, up soon-ish.  Out the door by 8, on the road by 8:40-ish.  Lots of -ish's 'cause it's Sunday and neither one of us is moving swift.  And the drinking hasn't even started.

The route is the same route as last Saturday with Cyclologic....just with fewer people who have no idea how to behave in a group.  Still...they come.  Unexpectedly.  At lights mostly.  Otherwise everyone on a bike was nice.

Up Thompson Peak, past Pima.  Up Hayden, into the 'hood.  Jomax, then Scottsdale, stop at the gas station.  I feel good.  Meghan does not.  Doesn't matter how much ya invest in techno-sessions, they can't really predict which piece of plastic and leather will match up to your ass.

Up Carefree Highway with the boat haulers and Beemers, neither of which really like sharing the road.  Right into some 'hood, down Legends, down Pima back to the truck.  Head back home....and that was when I went to work on my bikes - the DiVerge got a bath....and a semi-teardown to sort through the brake issues.  I picked up....blah blah blah.

Yesterday I fooled with the Diverge more.  The brakes feel "good", just not as firm as I like em'.  I swapped pads around just to's defl'y the fluid pressure.  The new batch of fluid will be here Thursday.

I also saw I need a new tire on the rear of the R3.  I usually try to inspect my tires every other ride or so.  I'm gawking at it when I notice a spot....and then I notice LOTS of places where the threads appear to be beginning to show.  Look at the front - it's not supposed to look that way!

I dig around, find three good tires to swap over....later.  A Specialized Turbo 700x26....two Vittoria Rubino Pro (non-Control like I'm running) 700x25.  I'll figure that out later today.

Otherwise, I'll head to the gym shortly.  I can find way to put ANYTHING in front of going to the gym....but I need to go.  Maybe.  I could also do a home strength drill.  Don't have to leave.  Don't have to be annoyed by dudes with milk jugs full of water or chicks with intense stares and three layers of tank tops.

But we pay for it...and when I do settle in I like the gym.  It's just the people.  Enh.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Mt. Peeley... just across the highway from Mt. Ord.  I rode Mt. Ord last year on the FrankenEpic, had a BLAST going up and down.  I figured the old dirt road to Mt. Peeley would be similar. 

No.  No, it wasn't.

On the map, it's longer with less elevation.  It even looks shallower.  What I didn't account for was the different surface.  Mt. Ord's road is primarily used by trucks heading to the fire tower and whatever else is up there.  It's used quite a bit.  Mt. Peeley's road is primarily used by the public to get to the AZT trailhead.  Mt. Ord's is better maintained.  Mt. Peeley's....not so much.

The lead in was fine aside from the ever-present washboards.  I'm not feeling "great" - allergies and such - but I figure I'll adapt.  I went from riding kinda like shit to just feeling like full-on hammered dog shit. 

But at least it wasn't all washboard!

It just got STEEPER.  It seemed to always float between 10 and 18 percent.  Good or bad, it felt like I would climb for 15-20 minutes only to lose (what felt like) half the elevation I gained on the next descent bridging over to the next climb.

This went on for 90 minutes or so.  Factor in elevation starting at 4200 feet, I was surprised I felt better at 6000.  I guess it was about 5000 or so I made the realization that the jump of about 3000 feet might be having an effect to.

Enh, what doesn't kill ya....

Reach the top, consider blowing off the AZT trailhead stop and just turn around NOW....but curiousity is killing me so I plunge the 500 feet down to the end.  Get there, take pictures and eat dates.  All is good.

Well, not really.  So ever since I bought the Diverge I have only taken it on abusive rides and some flaws were rearing their heads:

Rear wheel: it's a problem I've found with almost every Roval wheel I own.  The spokes are tensioned from the factory a bit low for my fat ass.  As I would climb the steepest portions, I could head the spokes giving up a bit.  Only on the steepest stuff....but it was enough to rattle my confidence.

The brakes:  I'm a big fan of Shimano brakes....have been since I purchased my first set....but they don't have the road set-up perfected.  Not for a 220-lb blubber bomb on a 17% grade with skinny tires.  I had the front brake screaming halfway down.  The pistons were sticking anytime I held the brakes longer than a 3 seconds.  By the end the rear brake lever was touching the bar.

The cassette:  Now this is not a mechanical's just my weakness.  About 1/3 of the way in, I hit a STEEP nasty, loose climb that I refused to walk.  I may have stopped twice to gather myself but I didn't walk a DAMN bit of it!  I also felt something tweak in my left knee.  The next morning it didn't feel good at all....even if I was getting up to walk a charity 5k.   Anyways, I ordered a SRAM 11-36 and a new chain.  Yea, that's only 4 teeth....but I refuse to run those lil' doo-dads that drop your derailleur but allow you to run these popular HUGE cassettes.

Other than those....the bike is AWESOME still.  It handles great - get in something REALLY shitty where a typical 'cross bike would scare me, it just goes where you point it.  It also helps that I've been riding this one ALOT.

So....I'll fix the brakes, recharge the fluid and see what happens.  The pads, front and rear, are's either the fluid or something bigger than my tiny brain can decipher.

I've already retensioned the wheel.  It may get one more going-over but it's bumped up a good bit.

The cassette is coming, too....along with the chain, new brake pads (anyway) and more fluid.

I really should post soon as I figure out the new phone.


All the posts...

...that I intended to write didn't get written.  Here's a quick breakdown:

Saturday CycloBlogic Ride:   I jumped into the Cyclologic B-ride ' sounded like it might be fun.  The route was fun, the company was sketchy from the start...and the ride only got scary when ones up front just felt it was okay to BLAST around the pack, swerve all over the damn road or just choke up regardless of position in the pack.  I took the DiVerge 'cause I hadn't ridden it in awhile and I knew a big ride was coming.  That bike is so fun...

Didn't really ride for two days...

Sunday Wheel-Slinging:  a friend I worked with at Sabino Cycles puts on the road race portion of the Southern AZ Omnium.  He's always grasping for volunteers so Meghan and I head down to help.  Being I have a big truck, I offered to drive it around slingin' wheels at people who didn't have the brains to air up properly.  Get there, the direction of where to go and what to do is minimal....but it's not long my co-pilot is absconded to drive another car.  For three hours, I followed the Pro 1/2 race.  Nary a flat in the pack.

After 7 hours in the truck I was wasted come Monday.  Ended up swappin' on new treads to the FrankenEpic.  I finally just decided to go with the new Specialized Ground Controls, 2.3 all the way around.  As much as I say, "I want this to be a gravel-oriented mountain bike....for those harder days...for those..." blah blah blah....I'm falling back in love with riding trails.

While down in Tucson, I asked Darien, another co-worker from Sabino Cycles, how he deals with the long rides in the extreme heat.  His advice, "just ride easy in it" was heeded so I started on...

Tuesday Hot SingleSpeeds in the PMP:  this was gonna be one of those easy-ish romps through the rocks on the Juice.  I had started painting some new graphics on the FrankenEpic plus I really wanted to go rip on something different.  The Juice still had the 19 tooth on the rear, so "easy" for the heat and the warm-up before Weds.  I roll over, climb from Tatum up T100 pretty well....and then proceed to just ride the trails my vague memory has always thought, "that might be fun" but I'm usually on a mission to ride something else so I don't.

There's so much good trail out there....

Wednesday Pollen Puffin' & Happy Valley Climbin':  so intervals...and I know I need to do em'.  I also realized after it felt like my legs were shit on Tuesday that the pollen is floating and the air is histamine-inducing.  Which means there are unnecessary aches all over my body.  I set out, do a few sprint intervals that get lost in traffic.  I weave over to Thompson Peak and start my Z3 intervals - 12 minutes with Z4 surges every 1:30.  I'm doing okay up Thompson Peak...hit another batch up Pima...then turn on Happy Valley.  Just pedaling hurts - hard effort, no effort, slow, fast.  I finally recover as much as I'm going to time-wise and hit it again.  When I finally force my head to realize that it's just an allergic reaction and not my body falling apart, I pick up some momentum and good feelings.  I'm gonna be okay.

Post ride, I rest, eat and avoid the gym.  I knew Friday was gonna be tough....but I didn't know HOW tough.

Tough enough to get it's on post.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Friday's Hills...

...were rougher than I expected.  I'll admit, I figured Fountain Hills is full of old people so the roads can't be that rough, can they?


The route I had laid out had some serious numbers but I figured I had it in me.  Two or three hard passes up some climbs then hit the Palisades Loop, taggin' in the Dixie Mine trailhead.


I felt okay but not awesome.  Like I said in the last post - beer, late night, general bullshittery with Josh.  I roll down my MMC and when I get to the last street named for a golfer (...yep, it's that white up there), I turn right...but not before some old dude on a Roubaix chops me off.

This is my first interval so...I hit it.  I won't see Capt. Roubaix again.  The road kicks up STEEP and I power through.  The idea was to sit in Zone 4 for 3 or 4 minutes.  And I did....recovery couldn't come soon enough.  I was so slow trying to calm down, I was able to get in the 2nd interval on the same road.

Turn right at the top, weave down to the next road I had marked and get lost.  Soon I find myself facing a 15-18% WALL.  I mash and just stay in it 'cause....why not do the last interval?

Up to the light, figure I'll go ahead and do the Palisades Loop.  I wanted to do a few 8 minute Zone 3 intervals....and I got em'.  Zone 3 was so easy to hit and blow past, I was creeping on anything up.  First one was done before I ever got to the HUGE 18% downhill.

Last one, I hit the button on Palisades Street (road? whatever...)  I was doing okay - HR was steady, legs were spinning good quick circles.  Finish it, turn around and all I wanna do is find the car.

So that was 6 days ago....and today after 3 more kinda "whatthehellisgoingon" rides, I realized - the pollen has been DUMPED on the desert!  Pollen stirs up histamines in me.  Histamines make me ache and think something BIG is wrong.  That makes me ride slower.  Riding slower pisses me off 'cause I've worked to get to this point.

Today...on ride #4, I realized the deal.  Only took 15 years to figure this out!!

Anyways, there were more rides.....worthy of separate posts: 

More to come.


Friday, March 10, 2017

I'm not up early....

...and it was/was not intentional.  I had this plan to get up at 5:30 or 6 (the "standard" ride time for 95% of Arizona cyclists under 70).  The route was mapped - 30-something miles in Fountain Hills with a buttload of climbing.  Hill intervals.  I was going to do hill intervals.  I may still do em'.

I just stayed up too late....watching "Avalanche Sharks".  Aside from helping Josh learn that a 1.5" crown race won't work with 1.25" head tube....and polishing off a few Torpedoes, I accomplished very little last night.  Might have aggravated the neighbors by leaving Trunk-dog outside where he barked incessantly at the strange voice in the garage.  All he wanted to do was greet Josh...with more loud barks and possibly peeing.

I did nothing far as riding.  Rest day.  I did get out Wednesday.  I have found my perfect winter time ride - the Geezer Ride.  A bunch of guys, mostly ALL way older than me, way more retired...and for the most part, more fitter.  They gather about 3 miles away at a round-a-boot (...that's Canadian for "roundabout") and then head for a 30+ mile ride up Via Linda and back.

It's the same ride I did Saturday...for the most part.  They switched up part of the route, all new to me.  This time, with no hangover, I held on up Mountain View just fine....actually cruising in Zone 2 for a lot of it.  Through the twisties, up 128th to Via Linda.  When we made the right, I told my newly-made friend Dave that after Tuesday I wanted to "rest a bit" I was capping myself at Zone 4.5. 

I held on for about half the climb.

Crest the top, circle like vultures, head down.  Left and up Desert Cove, where I felt my alcohol content drop considerably on Saturday.  This time I fall in behind the guy who long-stared me on the way to the meet-up.  I'd already heard him talk and talk about all his climbing exploits since he got here from Florida.  I hold on to the top, feeling good...but I know I'm close to empty(ish).

Down and onto Via Linda, a train forms...but the lack of energy has me sitting more comfortable on the back, tail-gunning.  Well, tail-gunning is good for one thing - losing (unless you're sandbagging).  I wasn't paying attention.  A light changes.  I'm stuck with no train.

Edward and ???? are with me, we paceline to the bagel shop.  I learn world politics from the Jewish point-of-view (wrong or right) then we roll out.  Everyone else says goodbye, I go climb Hummingbird to get that extra little bit.  I feel good.

I'm kinda excited to ride.  Kinda not.  I'll put in a longer ride tomorrow...not sure what yet but I will.  Sunday will be spent in the Tucson slinging wheels at racers who don't know how to inflate their tires or dodge shit in the road.  Monday, I won't be in the mood to drive...but I will be in the mood to swap tires on the FrankenEpic.

The Vittoria Barzo's are gone.  The rear would be great for a road bike...although I'll admit it still does quite well.  While I'm down in Tucson, I'll swing by Sabino and grab up....something.  I'm still leaning towards narrower 2.1's.  However I know myself - when I see a 2.3 for the front, I'll want a 2.3.  The new Ground Control looks NICE - smaller knobs in the center, BIGGER on the edges.  The Fast Trak still looks like a tire to skate across ice....but so did the Barzo when I put em' on. 

Why not find more Barzos?  They wear out the rear anyway.  I'm running 28 psi consistently and less than a year later (??? how many hours or miles), it's near treadless.  The knobs are shredded up.  The front however looks pretty good.  I just want newer, better rubber before Whiskey, hopefully before I go up and pre-ride (at least) the 35 mile course next week.

I just looked at other Vittoria options...interesting.  Not sure what I want to do but I know I still have a bit of time, too. Enh.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Gateway Trailhead... only 20 minutes away from here yet in the past 16 (+?) months I've lived in PHX, I've been there twice.  Once to trail run/hike/whine...another time to ride with Melissa the Coach.  She was the one that turned me onto the idea that maybe hikers will share the trail (...they do) so long as you're 1) nice, 2) not a douchebag flying down the trail outta control. other words, don't act like 90% of the mountain bikers in this town.  (And that's a rant for another day.)

That doesn't mean ALL the hikers are nice & receptive.  Many of em' never responded when I said, "hi".  Many seemed put-off when I asked for some room to squeeze by, breaking up their party that covered the ENTIRE trail.  Most of em' were older.  Most of em' were snowbirds....who have this sense of entitlement regardless of age.  They're on vacation - they have exclusive rights to EVERYTHING, right??

I rolled in @ 8:30 or so, was on the trail by 8:42 (according to the Strava) with the FrankenEpic.  Everything was set - 22/28 psi in the tires, 135 psi in the fork and autosaggin' in the rear.  I was loaded, too - Camelbak with 1.5 liters of water, 2x bottles of CarboRocket, 3 scoops.  Plenty of dates.  I was pretty light on the clothes really - Endura knickers, base layer & short sleeve jersey, no headsock, open gloves, regular ole' socks and the Giro shoes.

Heading out on Desert Park trail was fun - chunky enough to be attention-holding, never so big that it gets scary.  I did walk a few places I didn't before when it was me and Melissa.  Riding solo usually means I am way more cautious....and I don't have an experienced guide showing me the line.

It was somewhere through here I began thinking about how to ride a bike "smart".  I was observing the difference in riding the bike and riding "with" the bike.  If I ride a bike regularly, I sometimes feel like I know what the bike is going to do right away.  The FrankenEpic, after close to 2 years of steady use, is one of those bikes I feel like I "know".  I can usually tell what the front end will do, where the rear end will go.  I caught myself more than once, "bunny-lifting" the rear through obstacles that were only gonna catch that wheel in particular.  It was not planned - it just happened, like a reaction.

I get that same "feel" with the Diverge sometimes, too.  That bike just has that nimbleness and feedback that feeds those.... extra-sensory perceptions?  I sometimes get that feel with the Juice...but I've ridden that bike for close to 4 years now.  The CxChunk, which I've since 2009, is familiar as well...but as the bike gets older and the steel fatigues, it becomes less and less responsive.

The R3 is a fun bike, a great climbing bike...but it's kinda numb in areas.  The steering doesn't feel as predictable.  The acceleration is there but not "all" there.  As companies try to "tune" the feel of these bikes with their own theories in carbon lay-up, I think they overdo it a bit....especially on bikes for, ahem....larger riders. now I'm at Wingate.  Last time Melissa the Coach led me right but this time I turn left.  I know it's gonna be hike-a-bike....and that's okay.  I had went into this day with the attitude that I'm not training, I'm not practicing skills so much.  I am riding to explore.  Sure, there are bonuses to training by putting in the long hours but I wasn't gonna worry about heart rate (that much) or speed (at all).  I was riding to explore.

Melissa the Coach has told me that it's mostly hike-a-bike to the pass...and it was.  I barely did much riding at all.  When I did, it was great!  Tight, narrow, chunky but not unrideable.  I reach the Pass....and I was a bit overwhelmed.  I was well above Phoenix to my west, looking down on McDowell Park to my east.

I eat a few dates, take a lot of pictures and wait on a trail-runner to pass.  We chat a bit about the awesome weather and beautiful colors.  Everything is SO green right now...and there are TONS of poppies blooming on the mountain.

Yea, the desert sucks.  Tourists, go somewhere else!

Down the backside, somehow weave onto Bell Pass to Prospector.  Most of it was rideable....but if I was unsure, I walked.   Twice (that I remember) I would step off the bike...and see the line.  It was then I started thinking about "hike-a-biking".

For years....ever since I've been riding...there's been this ingrained ethos that if you can't ride over/through something, you're less of a rider.  Phoenix's bro/brah culture is much more aggressive about it.  Walk something around here and you're deemed a roadie.  Anymore, that moniker is no longer an insult.  It just means I know my limits and have no need to prove I can or cannot ride something.

Honestly, I value the ability to ride again tomorrow more than the memory of riding over an obstacle. now I'm hammering it down Prospector and LOVING this trail.  Don't get me wrong - it's not super-easy.  The past 15 years have supplied enough confidence in myself to handle some shitty surfaces....and 2 years of FrankenEpic'ing has given me plenty of confidence in what this bike will handle gracefully and what will be a bumble-fucked-up mess!

Reach the road, miss Dixie Mine, turn around and hike back up.  Dixie Mine, this section being much more butter smooth than the rest of the trail I've ridden in MMP proper, leads to Sonoran Trail.  Make the turn and trudge up.  Steady grind...for awhile.  I pass plenty of SUPER NICE hikers, one local(ish?) pro from Specialized I assume was preriding the area before this weekend's race....before the trail turns UP. 

Anytime I'd climb, I'd hit Zone 4 quick.  The grade wasn't killing me but navigating the super loose surface would.  ALOT of this trail was just good ole' hike-a-bike.  Even the descents didn't allow much riding (for me).  The switchbacks were tight I was using the front brake to swing the rear around....while hiking with the bike.  I remember one descent that I could have ridden....but knew it was gonna be bad if I went off the ONE line - left and you're down a raving into more rocks and cacti, right and you're into a HUGE cactus.  Even walking it was a close rub.

When Sonoran peaked out on Promenade, I was relieved for a bit.  I was tired, no doubt, but it was getting warm.  Thinking I'd be done in 3 hours or so, I didn't put on sunscreen.  It was now close to noon and I wasn't even on Sunrise yet, the trail that would signify I was "over" the mountain.]

I miss Western Loop, my connector.  Hike up, catch the trail and HIKE.  This trail was definitely a hiking trail....with no really good markers or treadpath.  Reach the intersection, try out the bike loop before deciding it's NOT going where I wanna go.  But not before slipping, falling and almost impaling myself with a small cactus.

But from here....the trail turned into something AWESOME!  Western picked up Andrews-Kinsey which led to Sunrise.  It was great - narrow, rolling grades....mostly up to the ridge but pretty rideable.  This was that defining moment when I remembered what I LOVED about mountain biking when Mike B and used to explore Pisgah.

Back then, we didn't care about heart rates or speeds.  Pisgah rides weren't measured in miles.  They were measured in hours.  You just knew you were committing to a long day in the woods.  There would be some great riding, from smooth fire roads that climbed for technical root-carpeted, rock-strewn paths.  You didn't care if you were meeting metrics - all that mattered was that you were exploring.

So....I top the saddle and start down.  Right away, I'm hiking.  Switchbacks were steep and loose enough, I wasn't taking the chance.  However it didn't take long to get on the fire road-esque portion where it was just a matter of balancing a sliding rear wheel with how much speed can you carry and not scare the bejeezus outta some tourist.

Left on Lost Dog....and I begin the final leg.  Lost Dog is basically just an old fire road, wide and loose.  There are narrow sections...the ones that tourists like to huddle over.  Not sure what was in that woman's head but when she shrieked as I passed, "THAT WAS CLOSE"...and I was at the far edge of the trail.

Ah.  Snowbirds.

Up and over, the descent down to Quartz was what I thought it would be - NASTY.  Almost as heinous as Farlow Gap, the notorious rocky descent in Pisgah....but much shorter.  The FrankenEpic has no issues....and soon I was on Quartz.

If there's one trail I will def'ly hit more often, it's Quartz.  The trail is semi-technical but well-worn....and FUN!  Even with tired legs and sunburnt arms, I was pushing it harder and harder....til I realized I needed to turn on Paradise.

Paradise....what a crap trail!  I'm sure it's fun for some.  It wasn't AT this moment in my ride.  Lotsa chunky, SLOW rock moves....and for someone close to 5 hours in and ready to be done, it SUCKED.  I turned tail, plotted out a return and bailed down Quartz.

Cut through a neighborhood over to Bell, catch 104th Street Trail....get to Gateway and head for the truck.  Stop to get water with the annoyed tourists.  Settle down to change clothes and it hits - that was some of the most fun I've had riding in a LONG TIME!

It was the exploring.  The reduced pressure of "just ride...but be smart enough to walk" helped.  The isolated feeling of being so far away from everyone....but knowing home was just a few miles away.  The bike did well.  I felt good.  I had good energy....and I didn't feel just completely wasted.

And I'm glad I got it in when I did.  The high that day was around 78.  Next week, we're gonna be in the 90's!  Yea, I need to acclimate to the spring/summer temps....but not on a 5 hour day.  yet.

Later.  (Pics to come later, too....once I figure out the new phone!)

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Geezer Ride...

...was a local group ride I learned about a couple weeks ago from Nick down at ReGroup.  He said it was fun, kinda fast, kinda slow....depending on what they were hitting....and pretty laid-back.  I found it online, signed up for the messages and forgot it.  Til Friday night when I remembered.  I had to be over to the meeting spot by 8:30....LATE by AZ standards.   Which are NOT my standards by the way.  7:30 to 8 is perfect for a town that most people want to roll by 5:30 AM year-round.  Maybe by summer, I'll be there.

Anyways, my wake-up call wasn't just my alarm but my gut telling me I had too much drunken fun the night before.  Two beers at Vines & Hops, a couple glasses of wine at Chelsea's with friends, a few more glasses (two bottles between the four of us) at LGO.  I ate as much as I could but I still woke up hurting.  I knew a good hard spin would clear the shit outta my blood...but how long would it take?

Well, it wasn't immediately.  I pedaled over and was SHOCKED at how many people rolled in.  Some were def'ly permanent residents, others just winter-time visitors.  We sat there for a bit but soon we were out and rolling.

Around the golf course, onto Doubletree.  It wasn't fast but it wasn't slow...or unpredictable so much.  Everyone rode with good space, made hand signals...seemed cool.

Through a ton of stoplights, I'm sitting mid-pack and doing "okay" - stomach wasn't making noise and my legs felt alright.  Somewhere after the 4th or 5th light, I'm on the far right, coming up through the faster than anyone else really....when the dude to my left, older fella...seemed to know everyone, decides to stand AND look left at the same time.  He's ON my shoulder now, I hear him exclaim, "OHHHH!" and his weight is pushing me right....towards the curb.  I stiffen and lean a bit myself to the left.  I can feel him wobbling a bit but he's not screaming anymore.  I stay on the pedals and soon he's gone.

I wouldn't see him again the ENTIRE ride.

I make my way further up, settle in and close gaps as I have to.  We're on Mountain View and the pace is ramping up.  The group has whittled down from about 40-50 to about 20 or so in the front.  I'll settle in and then have to bridge.  It's wearing me out, too....but I do it for a bit until I realize we are in a single-file paceline and going pretty hard....for me.  My heart rate is JACKED UP.  I can tell I don't have it yet.  I peel off, the gap closes quickly as I was only 4 or 5 from the back of a dwindling pack of 15 maybe.  I jump on and fall in behind Jeff Goldblum's doppleganger.  I rattle off, "I just don't have THAT"....but he is expressionless.  Enh.  Foreign?  Numb?  Whatever.

He falters a bit and I settle into motoring.  Still in Zone 4 but manageable.  We reach the left turn and he's beside me.  I fall onto his wheel....and I don't remember how it happened after.  I know when we passed 124th I was anxious to latch onto some group 'cause I didn't know this way.  I settle in with a scattered pack of about 8 riders, none of which seem to be trying too hard.  The road angles down and I motor.  I woulda bridged the gap too but when I come around a corner across from a yard sale, a car is sitting IN THE MIDDLE of the road.  Brake a little, go wide and I'm fine...but the momentum is GONE!

Now everyone is in sight so I'm less about bridging and just about surviving the Via Linda climb.  Soon I'm settled in with two older guys, one with a Wilier & Di2 in a Napa Valley jersey and another small guy in a Geezer's jersey.  We all kinda pace off each other...or close to each other.  Napa insists on riding in the lead...but unexpectedly just sits up twice maybe.  I go around, lead for a bit before he's coming around again.  He seems frustrated like he should be better on this day.  I feel his pain.  I'm pretty sure I must smell as much like a wine barrel as I look.

Hit Via Linda proper and I'm done.  I settle into a Zone 2 pace....and lumber up the hill.  Make the top just as the regulars (all 15-20 now) are rolling out.  The descent is quick but we weave over to Desert Cove.

And that was the moment the wine was gone!  From here on out, I had LEGS.  I don't ATTACK the climb but I let my legs do what they want.  I don't even glance at my erratic-acting heart rate and I just spin.  I'm at the top quicker than expected, feeling good.  Even still, one older fella would just stand and motor by two or three times as he checked on people.

Up to Via Linda again and the pace LIT UP!  It's a rolling downhill and Jeff Goldblum's doppleganger is HAMMERING the front with now 6-7 behind, me included.  As we pass one older guy just cruising, I "think" I recognize him from the earlier "bump".  I slow to apologize and he has NO clue what I'm talking about.

Old White People.  They all look the same.

I sprint and try to latch onto the ever-growing front group.  I get there....just in time to stop at the light.  From here it was semi- time trial from light to light back into the Gainey Ranch area.  I split off with about 4 more, figuring I'll go get some climbing in.

Feeling a bit dejected with myself, I wonder will I go back.  It was FUN, definitely a challenge but I wasn't sure how I fit with the crowd.  I definitely wasn't the fastest but I wasn't always at my limit either (after my bloodstream cleared).  As we make our way, the Jeff Goldblum doppleganger comes up and thanks me for the long pull we shared.  Really cool.  As I peel off on Mockingbird, the older guy who kept passing me on Desert Cove hollars, "Nice riding, young man!"  I thank him....and go in search of climbs feeling good about this group.


Friday, March 3, 2017

All the things I did wrong...

...on Monday have had time to fester in my head.  And linger in the ways of sore muscles, a lack of energy and just a lack of motivation to do much more than eat Nutella.  It wasn't like I BOTCHED the ride...'cause I had fun, rode well and felt good about being on the bike for a little over 7 hours and not hating the last 4.  There were things I coulda done better though:

Food: I shoulda ate more.  I shoulda figured out a way to have better access to my dates, gels...and maybe even brought something substantial for that halfway point.  But I didn't....just my own fault.  The last two rides (Wednesday's MTB ride and y'days' intervals on the road) made me realize I depleted my energy much so I have re-thought my plans to ride long this Monday.  The upside of the Monday ride's eating was proving to myself I can indeed make it on CarbRocket.  I'll finished FAMISHED....but I finished pretty strong.

Water: Not enough.  I started with a Camelbak with 2 liters.  At Canyon Lake, I still had 1.5 liters.  I dumped .5 a liter before we left...and I still had plenty when we got to the truck.  I did empty almost two bottles of CarboRocket on the way out....maybe 1.5 total.  On the way back, I had 2 more scoops in one bottle and the remnants of that .5 bottle filled with water.  Even still it was NOWHERE near enough - my pee told the story at home.

Looking ahead, I'm ditching the Camelbak on all but the longest rides.  If I do the Redington-San Pedro Tag route this month, I'll HAVE to carry it....and a full 3 liters of water.  I drink more when I'm relying on bottles. I despise the weight of that Camelbak.  The only other perk of it is extra storage....and with the impending rain that hovered nearby, an extra jacket was good. 

I could also buy one of those ever-popular amateur homeless person bags the bikepackers love.

I can stuff a shit-ton of dates in pocket #1, an extra bottle with CR in pocket #2, and my phone & various other small items in pocket #3. 

The bike did GREAT!  Running 60 front, 65 rear psi seemed to be a good balance.  My shoulders hurt less than they did at the Chino Recon.  I can't imagine changing a thing about the DiVerge.  I've stashed all the necessary stuff - SWAT box with tube, CO2, small lever & inflator....a saddle pack with another tube, tire boot, CO2, multi-tool, chain tool & quick link.  Some kinda pouch would be nice....but I've never been big on em'.

Pacing: I rode a cautious pace all day.  I wasn't sure if I had enough in me to complete the ride with a good pace but I knew I HAD to if I wanted to feel good about myself.  I climbed smooth....never really diggin' too deep except on the paved grunt from the marina.  I descended smart.  I knew the surface on this road could hide things under silt and the illusion of washboards. 

Will I go faster next time?  Oh hell yea!  I'm sure, with better eating habits, I could dig a little deeper on the climbs...maybe even ride harder on the descents.  I really wanna go back before Chino, even Whiskey, and shoot for a quicker ride, out AND back....maybe 1:45 out, 2:00 back?  Figure in 30 minutes at the marina...1 hour from Tortilla Flats...45 minutes back.  It should be a 6 hour day still...probably less.

Fitness:  I had ONE bad moment.  Fish Creek Hill was so steep for so the end of the day....that my back gave out.  It ached pretty bad, limiting my ability to dig any deeper.  I'll head for the gym more - more crunches and ab work.  More shoulder work, lower back and hips.  I could tell a big difference after what little work I did with my hips lately.

So what's next?  I had a BLAST riding PMP on the Epic I'm jonesing for more time on that bike.  I also enjoyed the technical trails, the steep nasty climbs and feel of a more capable bike.  So I'll likely do a long loop at Gateway.  As much as I wanna be ready for Chino, BWR & Tushar, I also have Whiskey 50 on my list. 

That ride Wednesday was good even if it started out poorly.  I pedaled the six miles from home to get there and I was NOT feeling too good.  I was queasy like I really needed more food, likely more food AFTER Apache Trail and the day after.  Anyways, I took my time and settled into a good pace.  Soon I found my legs were responding WELL and I was riding the chunky, loose stuff way better than I remember.  I ended up doing some climbs that I had only been down once before.  I cleaned one no problem.  The next one, I was held up by a hiker who seemed SO I made sure to talk to him as much as possible.  There was an abundance of folks with STINKING body spray - overpowering perfume that is worse than any body odor they could naturally produce.

Down to the flatter portions, weave through the switchback section....clean most of it but not all.  Hit Green Hill thinking I'd never been here before, get so excited to clean it all only to realize I'd done it quicker the first time out.  Enh.

Down the chunk trail across the wash from T100, have a BLAST....then head home.  I powered down so much food when I got home, I was sure I'd ruined dinner.

I didn't.

Yesterday I left out...and thoguht I'd turn around before I got too far.  I'd taken a pretty good fall while playing with the dog.  Flew through the air, landed on my chest and elbows.  I was pretty sore...but okay.  I pedaled the path to Mountain View and started the first of three Zone 3 intervals.

The first one went well.  It took 5 minutes to get into Zone 3, a sign of fatigue, but once there I was hammering well.  Up to Via Linda the wrong way, the second interval was firmly in Zone 3 & 4.  Rest after, climb Via Linda in a SMOOOTHHHH Zone 2 effort, spinning a high cadence (for me).  When the third interval chimed in, I HAMMERED back down Via Linda, mostly trying to catch a rider ahead of me....that I didn't catch.

Weaving back I felt good.  I motored on Mountain View just flowing with traffic.  I was stopped behind an SUV when I heard carbon wheels being stopped.  Some douchebag in a Carlos O'Briens kit was rolling through the turning intention of stopping til he glanced and saw I was GLARING at him.  He slowed and faked a piss-poor trackstand.

Light turns green, he lumbers off....and I roll beside him.  "How's it going" was all I muttered before digging hard.  Still maintaining a "smooth" pedal, I was soon in Zone 4 making sure this douche didn't draft or pass.  He didn't...but he did catch up at the next light.  Again, I lit it up!  I wouldn't see him again til I had turned off the main route.

So....yea.  Roadies.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Apache Trail...

...has been on my "Want-To" list of rides since before I moved up to Phoenix.  After I learned that I would be moving from Tucson up here permanently, the guys at the shop started spouting off all kinds of rides to do.  I also heard many, many times how the riding up here is nowhere near as good as Tucson....but that's a different story.

I had planned to jump in the AZ Gravel version of the ride at the end of January but then I crashed at Estrella, gouged up my knee....then crashed at PMP, tweaking my shoulder.  So the ride didn't happen for me.  I knew I had to get it in sooner than later 'cause the car/boat/truck traffic gets thicker as it gets warmer.  I wasn't sure when I'd do it...but after a good ride up in Chino Valley, I figured what the hell!

I asked Josh, a guy I rode with on that first AZG ride I did, and he was interested, too.  So we had two weeks to sort it out.  I mapped it out (it has NO turns so it wasn't hard) and planned for water stops.  By Sunday afternoon, all the pieces were in place.

Monday morning, I get up and look at the weather - the rain wasn't coming in til 5pm.  We had plenty of time!  I leave @ 7:30, get to Tortilla Flats and get a parking spot in the upper lot.  Tortilla Flats was where I'd planned on parking all along....but apparently it had changed.

During the week, Josh brought up the ride to Craig, head dude of AZG.  He asked Josh to post the ride to the group....but change the start to Canyon Lake.  I never looked at that part.  Folks floundered about all weekend, whether to ride....would it rain....whatever.  So when 9am ticked off Monday morning, I wondered where Josh was and texted him.  He was at Canyon Lake.

By this time, I'd already ridden up the westbound hill outta Tortilla Flats once....turned around, came back down and sent a text.  Now I was going up and over again to Canyon Lake.  Feeling pretty good, I didn't mind - just a few more miles and bit more climbing.  Roll up, meet Josh and we hit the road.

The road climb isn't horrible.  We steady chugged up to the dirt....and I made mental notes to come back on the road bike, just to ride to EOP.  It's just a fun road....shitty surface but the rolling hills are awesome.

Hit the dirt and immediately the tone is set - washboards for DAYS!  I'm excited and pushing harder gears than I should.  Reach the vista, take time to empty bladders and push off!

Going DOWN Fish Creek Hill wasn't as scary as I anticipated...wasn't much to it all.  The surface has very little washboard and hardly any ruts - easy.  But then began the climb outta there.  The washboards were HEAVY....with no escape to a shoulder.  Ya just had to suck it up and ride.  Stop for pics of Apache Lake and keep motoring.

Then the climbs began - there are basically 6 of em'...all varying in size and length but it is downhill by average.  I settled in, churned a good steady gear...never pushing too hard but not waiting around much.  The descents bordered on SUPER fun and kinda scary.  Coming into washboarded corners at speed was a bit unnerving....but I survived.  On the third time, the brakes did start howling(!!) as I had to ride em' more following a Hyundai down the mountain.

Close to 2 1/2 hours in, we round the corner and THERE is the dam!  It was one of those "oh, shit" moments when ya roll up on something SO large.  We churn up the pavement, head for the marina.  Roll in after asking directions and luckily the chain-smoking attendant took a break from solitaire to let me pay for the Gatorade, water and Coke.

Josh and I eat, drink and prepare to head back....but it's getting a bit ugly out there.  It's 1:30 and it looks like the 5:00 pm storms are heading in early.  Saddle back up and head out, I began thinking of bailout plans as I watch the rain DUMP not more than 10 miles away.  It's coming, I know it....and I finally relent, say "fuck it" and pedal on.  We're gonna finish this today.

It's not long before both of us are commenting on how the climbs are LONGER now. Looking back at Strava data, they weren't....we were just tired.  Even still, I feel pretty good.  I can tell I'm not gonna sprint up any of these but I'm still able to grind away.  All the while rain is spitting on us.  Nothing heavy, nothing "wet"....just drizzle.  That is until we hit the last one.

It was short but it was enough to know that we might finish drenched.  There was still 1 1/2 hours to go before we made it to my car, at least.  I found a little extra kick and popped over.  That led to the washboard section, all descending now.  I loosened up as much as I could and motored.  The sand wasn't deep but it was bumpy.  All the while, cars are coming through.  I pass one on the single-lane bridge causing them to get pretty wide-eyed....but I was ready to get to Fish Creek.

We get to the bridge and stop to take in the last views.  No doubt the edge of this canyon is one of most awe-inspiring places I'll ever be in my life.  You are tucked DEEP in the world and you quickly realize how small you are.

After a few pictures for Josh's Facebook recount, we start climbing.  Josh is using up his last bit of energy....and I am nursing my back up the mountain.  I stand a few times to ease the pressure but it's aching.  I'm not climbing fast but pushing the 32-32 gear was enough.  Every switchback makes you think you're closer....but you're not.  Until I see Josh snapping shots at the vista, I just trudge along.

Take a break, recover and now it's time to finish.  More washboard until we hit the tarmac....and this rough-ass road now feels like butter.  So smooth, my confidence grows and I'm pushing the Diverge a bit harder in corners than I would otherwise.  The bike just feels THAT good....after 7 hours, I'm pretty used to it, I guess. 

Back in Tortilla Flats, Josh and I bid each other adieu and I head for the truck.  It takes a few moments to collect myself but now I realize I'm STARVING!  Load up, head for Del Taco in Mesa....and I'm done.

Apache Trail is least my first trip is.

Analysis of all the rights and wrongs will come later.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

No brownies....

...were found Saturday.  Not 'cause they weren't available but because we just sopped looking.  Meghan and I went out on aloop I laid out, me on a loaner Spooky from ReGroup Coffee and Bikes, she on her Trek Silque.  A friend of ours is part-owner in the shop and in an effort to get more out on the local roads, he asked if I'd like to try their 'cross/gravel ride.

The route was simple - weave through some hills, hit some canal paths...MAYBE pop on some singletrack - and ended at a local bakery.  I was doing okay considering I was on a bike I wasn't really set-up for.  I'd measured some pieces but in a hurry, all I did was set the saddle height and didn't really look at much else.  The bike felt tight like the cockpit was too short.  I adjusted the saddle back but that was all I could do really.  The handlebars were too narrow for my shoulders but I couldn't fix that.  Still I pedaled on.

Long and short on the bike, it is a great all-around 'cross bike.  If I were in the market for a full-on 'cross bike right now, I would definitely throw a leg permanently over one of the bikes I've lusted after ever since I saw them first at 'cross races on the East Coast.  It has really quick steering even with a 120mm stem.  The cornering agility was better than my Cervelo.  It feels like they took a great cross bike geometry, lowered the bottom bracket and made it fall somewhere between QUICK 'cross bike and FAST road bike.

My only complaints (other than the 60cm having a cockpit geometry of the early 2000's 'cross bikes) were the same things everyone feels with aluminum - it's STIFF when you gas it HARD but becomes a bit muted over long hauls. If I was feeling sluggish, all I had to do was man up, mash HARD and the bike was lively.

So....the brownies.  We are pedaling down some 'hood street, stopped and fixing to cross.  I see the sign at the church north of us, "Bake Sale".  "Wonder if they have brownies?!?!"....and i turn left.  Meghan follows and we wonder if these gals are nuns with their head garb.

I roll up and I'm greeted with smiles and nods.  I ask about brownies and the lady tells me that there are no brownies but ALL these treats are handmade by these Syrian women, refugees who have only been here a few months and are trying to settle into life at their new home. 

Kinda taken back, I congratulate and welcome them to America...and their new found safety.  They begin to explain what they have - LOTS of cookies and sweetbreads with dates & nuts.  Meghan and I spend $10 (at least) picking out everything with dates....and some with nuts.  We sit in the grass and chomp down as much as we can hold. 

Verdict - any cookie with dates made by these ladies are AWESOME!  Turns out, you can find out when to attend the next bake sale at

Go get some cookies!