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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!