Labor Day Weekend Mountain Biking

Pretty good sign the drivetrain is toast.

Pretty good sign the drivetrain is toast.

The Vassago Bandersnatch is back in action.  Now that my Dos Niner is junk  I replaced a few parts on the ‘Snatch and got it rolling again.  New chain, chain ring, 36-12 cassette, and rear derailuer got the drive train smooth as silk.  Sunday we got in a ride at One Horse Gap and Monday we ventured to Kentucky to ride at Land Between the Lakes.  

One Horse Gap is your typical Shawnee horse trail system with lots of rocks, ruts, and deadfall to ride over,  very technical and very fun.  There is a new section of benchcut that we’ve been riding, its 2.82 miles of climbing, but nice gradual climbing that lets you keep up your speed.  Luke was leading up the climb and I was right on his wheel.  I kept thinking, go faster Luke, go faster.  Eventually Luke did go faster and I found myself going slower.  Barry was riding behind me and while I was gasping for breath trying to keep my bike moving he was asking me about shoe and pedal systems.  I encouraged him to pass me since he obviously wasn’t too stressed, but he declined.  I tried to answer between gasps.  

Shiny new parts, won't last though.

Shiny new parts, won’t last though.

Loaded down and trucking

Loaded down and trucking

It was a fantastic ride, as Elam said, a solid group of Quality Riders.  There were no mechanicals, and the only thing that could have been better was the humidity.  90% humidity makes 85 degrees feel like a million in the forest.  

Monday would be a very different ride for me.  We drove over to Land Between the Lakes, which has dedicated mountain bike trails, no horses or ATVs allowed.  The trails at LBL are groomed, clear, and fast.  9-10 mph averages are the norm here for in shape riders.  Seven riders met up and attacked the North South trail, on the first climb I was off the back, way off the back.  I actually felt my arms going numb on the climbs like there wasn’t enough oxygen being delivered to them.  I couldn’t get enough to drink and my heart was throbbing after the short and easy climbs.  

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I tried to convince the guys to stop waiting for me but they were too nice to just totally abandon me in the woods.  I was averaging about 3 miles per hour slower then the group.  On the way back while the group was up ahead I started hearing enthusastic shouting from behind.  A group of kids on 20 inch bikes came rolling by and I stopped to get their picture.  It had everyone cracking up when I came out of the woods riding behind these kids.  They headed back to Hillman Ferry campground and we continued on to the most difficult part of the trail.  

The final few miles pretty much wiped me out, I finished off my 70 ounces of water.  I tried to figure out what was wrong with my body in these last few miles.  I felt pretty much zero pain or fatigue in my legs, they didn’t even feel stressed,  yet when I attempted to pedal with any kind of power I would find myself winded in seconds. and everything seemed weak.  It seems pretty obvious that I didn’t recover well from Sunday’s ride, probably didn’t eat or drink enough.  Just out of curiosity I bought some batteries for the scale and weighed myself, first time in long while.  As I suspected I’ve been gaining weight, driving around delivering mail all day doesn’t burn many calories but for some reason makes me extremely hungry for junk food. 

My new bike club.

My new bike club.

September, October and November are the best mountain bike months of the year.  I’d better start working on getting in shape for them.  

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Scorching the Dog Pen

Standard Pre ride pose

Standard Pre ride pose

After a July that could only be described as incredibly nice late August has reminded us that it’s summer in Southern Illinois.  The last few weeks have been defined by high humidity and high temperatures.  I’ve been working alot and haven’t had much time or motivation to ride, but yesterday when I got the day off I knew that I had to spend it in the woods.  Joe, Drew and Amanda were going to a trail head called the Dog Pen and I was in.

Typically while mountain biking in the heat and humidity I have some problems.  Often times with my stomach.  I was careful not to eat too much before the ride and our pace was just a bit relaxed.  I surprised myself by feeling good and riding well even as I became completely saturated in sweat.  Mountain biking in high heat and humidity puts a big strain on a person’s cooling systems.  Airflow is restricted in the woods and when averaging 6 miles per hour you’re not generating enough airflow to evaporate the sweat.  At the end of the ride I couldn’t have been any wetter if I’d jumped in a creek, which I did. 

Creek crossing.

Creek crossing.

I’ve been riding my Bandersnatch which has been surprisingly riding well, though  5 minutes into the ride I broke a front spoke, luckily it had no effect on the wheel.  Shifting became increasingly crappy throughout the ride and by the end it was almost impossible.  The only major problem occurred with my shoes.  A bolt holding my cleat in fell out which caused an embarrassing fall when I couldn’t clip out.  Luckily Drew carries an extra set of emergency flat peddles in his bag.  That bag is amazing.  

As the ride continued we kept choosing the longer options, I was expecting a 2 hour ride and we were out there for 4.  I didn’t bring nearly enough food and the huge gulps of water I was taking in weren’t cutting it.  Hunger was eventually replaced with a hypoglycemic stupor.  The final couple of miles are a very gentle climb back to the Dog Pen on good benchcut.  The kind of trail you could just rip up.  I had been riding in the front the whole day but I found myself in the back about halfway up the climb.  At one point I looked down for a moment and then looked back up and everyone was stopped in front of me.  There was a a brief moment where I couldn’t seem to get my fingers to find the brake levers and I nearly rolled into everyone.  

Resting at Jackson Hole

Resting at Jackson Hole

My hands pruned up from completely saturated gloves

My hands pruned up from completely saturated gloves

After that I was extra careful to stay focused on the trail.  As my body continued to weaken my bike began to degrade, several of the cogs on the rear refused to pull, and noises that reminded me of a rusty farm implements were  sounding from somewhere.  I think it needs an overhaul.  

It was an excellent ride, and I was so glad that it was over.  Can’t wait for the next.  

Post ride pose, just about to pass out.

Post ride pose, just about to pass out.

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Botanical Basilica St. Louis Sightseeing

Last Friday Shauna and I went to St. Louis to do some sightseeing.  I spent some time Thursday night reviewing the stories of unrest in nearby Ferguson, I have to admit I was a bit worried.  In reality I had nothing to be worried about since the Botanical Garden and Cathedral Basilica are not hotspots for a protest.  To our relief visiting the St. Louis area was no different from any of the other times we’ve been.  Though I wonder if that would be the case a week later.  Today a man armed with a knife decided to create a situation where he would be shot by St. Louis cops.  

While nut jobs and lunatics from around the country converge in Ferguson I think it’s important to put the story in context.  Negotiations between Hamas and Israel broke down today and they’re back to fighting, over 2000 people have died in that conflict.  Fighting continues between Ukraine and the Pro Russian separatists today, over 2000 people have died in that conflict.  In West Africa they have ran out of body bags as Ebola continues to spread, over 1200 people have died from the outbreak.  Chaos reigns across large portions of Syria and Iraq as the terrorist group  ISIS has run completely amok.  Millions of people have been driven from their homes and over 100,000 people have lost their lives in that conflict.  

Hard to comprehend that kind of madness while you’re sucking down a 44 ounce soda from a Quick Trip.  

Here’s some pictures from our sightseeing. 

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Back Nine at High Knob

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPretty much all the trail areas have a section we call the back nine.  The farthest section from the main trail head it tends to have less traffic.  On a good full day we’ll get the whole course but sometimes it’s just a back nine day.  Sunday we headed out to ride the Back Nine at High Knob.  It’s been reported that much of the front half of the trail system is blasted from heavy traffic when it was soaked.  The Back Nine trails are newer and graveled in some of the more heavier used areas.  They were fantastic.

I rode Luke’s old GT Peace single speed with a 21 tooth rear cog and the standard 32 chain wheel.  Most folks would be at least on 20 and as high as an 18, but I’m not much on single speeding.  Out of the gate things were pretty good, it was hot, but also mostly downhill so we kept moving pretty fast.  I was able to keep up with the guys ahead even though I always felt like I was in the wrong gear.  For the downhill sections I would spin out to fast, and for many of the climbs I was wishing I had a couple more clicks back there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce we reached Pounds Hollow Lake and began the longest toughest climb I was doing great and really enjoying standing on the Single Speed.  Then it hit me.  The heat combined with the slow speed climbing was making me sick.  I could feel my breakfast, my stomach felt like it was tied in knots.

For the rest of the ride I would dangle off the back.  I didn’t have the gears to catch up on the flats and downhills and any kind of hard effort would make me nauseous.  I was able to make most of the climbs but often had to kick out a foot when it got really steep to try and keep moving.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the bright side no one had a mechanical problem.  A ride without a mechanical problem is really a pretty big deal for me.  The trails were fantastic shape, almost no mud, very dry and open.    Also near the end I saw the brightest orange fungus I’ve ever seen.

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Cracked Mountain Bike Frames

My riding bud Tom, has been on a few Shawnee rides now, though he’s referred to them more as hike a bikes instead of rides.  He’s a past mountain bike racer and wants to go fast, which is often nearly impossible on our bombed out horse trails.  He is always commenting on the amount of gear we trash on our Shawnee rides.  I guess it’s just all part of the fun.

I posted awhile back that all my mountain bike rides were ending in failure, either bike failure or rider failure.  Last week I got two solid mountain bike rides in.  Our weather was phenomenally good for late July, temperatures in the 70s and dry.  It was the kind of weather you just can’t turn down.  When I completed my last ride and lifted my bike onto the roof rack I saw a dreaded rear dropout crack which means the frame is now a ticking time bomb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_0014The frame in question is my early 2000s Salsa Dos Niner.  I bought it at a swap meet a couple of years ago for a bit over 100 bucks.  My bike shop buddy told me if I got a year out of it I’d be money ahead and I managed to get nearly 2 years.  It has been my primary bike pretty much since I put it together.  Excellent handling and the 1 inch suspension design offered noticeably more comfort then a hard tail without the problems of full suspension.

Unfortunately this suspension design was known to eventually crack the rear dropouts.  The guy who sold it to me told me as much.  The frame has no pivots and relies on natural aluminum scandium flexable properties to provide an inch of flex.  Without a pivot to the allow the rear triangle to change geometry the drop out welds are considerably stressed.  In the last ten rides this bike has had it’s hanger broken hard, been crashed hard enough to break the saddle, and had the rear wheel pop out and jam.  I’d wager these events created the crack.

There is no fixing aluminum bike frames, at least officially, but this is in such a high stress area that I’m not even considering it.  So the Dos Niner will be decommissioned and moth balled, I’ll get a few dollars out of the frame at the recycling center.  It brings a tear to my eye.

Cracked Vassago Bandersnatch

Cracked Vassago Bandersnatch

Matt and his Bandersnatch

Matt and his Bandersnatch

A few months ago I noticed my Vassago Bandersnatch had cracked near the top of the seat tube.  I haven’t rode it since.  This is my first 29er and one of my all time favorite bikes.  Since it’s a steel frame it’s considered much more fixable, but considering the wear and tear it may not be worth messing with.  I think I’m going to grind off the paint and overlay the entire tube with a carbon and try to get some more life out of this frame.

Until then I can still ride the rock solid GT Peacer.

Oh and as if I didn’t have enough broken stuff problems my shoes started coming apart on the last ride.  Pfff!

Broken Bontrager Shoe

Broken Bontrager Shoe

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Evansville Museum Laser Light Madness and Movie Fun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve had the opportunity to do a couple of fun things recently.  Shaundo and I went to Evansville Indiana Museum last week.  The plan was to go to the museum then the Zoo, but we ended up spending all out time at the museum which has grown considerably since I we last visited.

The Evansville museum has a recreation of an old town which is the main thing I remember from visiting this place as a kid, but now it has an expanded science section, planetarium and greatly expanded art gallery.  The planetarium was featuring a laser light show and we’ve both always wanted to see one.  This was the first showing of the first laser light show the museum had ever displayed so despite being 2 PM on a Monday every seat was packed.

It's GODZILLA

It’s GODZILLA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe show was called Laser Magic and it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting.  The show was composed of two colorlasers, red and green, either showing line art images of characters, or visualizations of the songs.  The music was almost entirely from 1997 with such classic hits as the”Titanic Theme,” the “Men in Black Theme,” Chumba Wumba’s classic theme, “Tubthumping,” even a song by Bjork, “Hunter.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow don’t get me wrong, I was eighteen years old in 1997 so this was really cool, like taking a trip back in time.  I mean really it was weird.  This laser light show is 17 years old, most of the kids’s in the audience weren’t even alive when these songs were cool, but Shaundo and I were in out prime.  I can’t help but feel a bit let down by the actual lasers though, I thought there would be more than two colors.  Really the highlight for me was that they ran the star projector the entire time so we could continually watch the night sky go round and round.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe art was by far my favorite part of the museum, I could have spent far more time looking at it.  There are a few well known artists, there was a piece of Chagal, Wood, and Renior, all minor pieces but still.  Almost all the artwork on display is high quality objective art, you’re not going to see much abstract expressionism here, which is fine by me.  Looking at the fine work left me awestruck by the abilities of these artists.

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The second part of today’s double feature post is yesterday’s trip to see “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  Seeing this movie is kind of an accomplishment for us because the last several times we’ve deiced to see a movie we’ve balked.  We come to the sobering conclusion that we’d just as soon go home as to sit through a movie.  Well this time I was adamant, we are going to see this movie.  I had researched the movie times, there are 3 AMC movie theaters in Southern Illinois, and they offered viewings of “Guardians of the Galaxy” in an impressive array of times and options.  Seven showings at one multiplex on a Sunday in various configurations.  I chose the 1:45 screening.

My wife is not exactly the free spirit, come what may, type she likes to think she is, she’s a hard core worrier.  She wanted to get to the theater early, she was worried about lines, seating, lighting, ticket prices, and possible ninja attacks.  Turns out she had good reason to worry.  The 1:45 screeening turned out to be a 1:30 screening.  I had screwed up.

Imagine the look on her face when the only available seats were not in the plush stadium seating area but down in front in the nearly blind area.  We were one row from the front and we couldn’t take in even half the gigantic screen.  I have to admit I thought it was cool, it was like big time immersion, but Shaundo was not amused.

Now that would be more then enough, but get this, two ladies were sitting behind us, and they apparently thought they were watching the movie in their living room.  They discussed their notions of the plot, emotional feelings, and reminded us several times that we were watching an action/comedy by saying over and over again, “That was funny.”  Truly I was cracking up, but Shaundo wasn’t amused.

 

 

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Mountain Bike Failures Adding Up

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My current Alfine setup on the Dos Niner with chain tensioner.

My last three mountain bike rides have all been problematic.  A few weeks ago a errant log took me down and broke my saddle.  Last week my rear popped out of the drop out and I didn’t have a 15mm wrench to tighten it back down.  Yesterday my chain tensioner wouldn’t hold my chain on.

It was brutally hot yesterday, which is strange because it’s been unseasonably cool this July.  For instance, today, July 28th the high is 78.  Yesterday it was in the mid 90s with a heat index around 100.  Yesterday on this muggy day 8 folks met up at the Ruby trailhead for a mountain bike ride.  Luke drove his new van, which I think may be one of the best vehicles for travelling that I’ve ever seen.  Feels like you’re in a car, but has the cargo capacity of a van.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no clear cut veteran ride leader here.  Luke and I were probably the most knowledgeable about the trail system, which is never a good sign.  Luke asked me if it was two hours to the gravel pile.  He might as well asked me if it was two hours to the oak tree.  I was like, yeap and took off.  My chain feel off in 15 seconds of riding.  This is not how you want a big group ride to start.

I messed around with the chain tensioner for a minute and got it working and rode the next couple of miles with the group but then the chain started falling again.  I sent them on and started walking.  After about a mile I got the idea to try and keep the chain on the axle of the tensioner and the pulley.  That seemed to work.  It didn’t sound good but it worked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI started the route I thought Luke might be on backwards but never could connect up with them.  Luke proved that he was a capable ride leader, I ran into them coming out the woods around 11:57.  When I got off my bike it was noon exactly, the guys had said they needed to be back by noon.

As for my bike problem, don’t blame the chain tensioner, blame the mechanic. With the cool weather this week maybe I can actually take a succesful mountain bike ride.

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