Monday, September 26, 2011

Big Ride Sunday - September 25th Edition

After spending two full days working on the cross course, setting up for the race, running the race, tearing down the race, and then unpacking race supplies, I needed to get my mojo back. I headed out Sunday on a solo mission to ride some of my favorite singletrack and maximize my pedaling time.

Ride Stats:
- 49 Miles
- 5,407' of climbing
- 5:40:42 Moving Time
- 267 TSS

Parked at Phillips Canyon Parking area
- Descend Jimmy's Mom
- Descend Candyland
- Descend Old Pass Rd to Wilson
- Take Fish Creed Rd
- Climb Ridge Trail
- Descend Snow Tel Trail
- Turn Right on Arrow Trail, ride to end
- Flip it around and ride Arrow Trail back to Phillips parking area

Do it all over again.

The colors are close to peaking on top of the Ridge Trail

Crater Lake in the morning light

The trail beavers have built a cool new bridge (with high consequences if you fall) at the end of the Arrow Trail

My little camera didn't quite capture the intense reds on the section of trail but it was quite stunning in person

Lots of variety on this ride

Monday, September 19, 2011

New and Improved Local Ride

It feels a little like Christmas when I discover a so-so local trail has been re-worked and now deserves to be added back into the rotation.

Spooky Trail was one of the first "real" mountain bike rides I ever tackled. My buddy Rick introduced me to Spooky Trail and was patient as I lost weight, became more fit, and learned how to ride a mountain bike. He used to wait for me...a lot. We used to do out and back rides on Spooky Trail and back then I thought we were "gettin' epic"! I chuckle now when I think about where we used to turn around during our after work out-and-back rides.

To go beyond Spooky & Corral Creek used to mean encountering increasingly rugged trail and guaranteed hike-a-bike due to loose, steep, and rutted trails. The Forest Service has rebuilt the trail beyond Spooky (Trail 077) into an ATV super-highway but I am not complaining. They added switchbacks, huge water bars, bridges in key spots, and turned a slog into a cool out-and-back ride. I don't mind a wide trail when the scenery is as gorgeous as it is in the Big Holes.

The final climb to Piney Pass

This ride used to be a slog with great views as the reward. Now it is a fun ride with great views as a bonus.

Michelle shredding the wide track

Rick and Michelle on Trail 077

We had perma-grin the whole ride

The Corral Creek singletrack is a great descent early in the ride and a moderate climb on the way out.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Giant AnthemX 29er Long Term Review

Back in May I posted a Short Term Review of the Anthem X 29er and since then I have raced and ridden this bike a bunch. Most recently I raced it at the Pierre’s Hole 100 and I rode it exclusively while training for the Park City Point to Point.

My initial impressions of the bike have held true and I find myself liking this bike more as I ride it in different conditions. Since May I have been able to experiment with suspension setups to dial-in the ride to suit my preferences and course conditions.

Race ready, it weighs just a fuzz over 24 lbs

SRAM 2 x 10 drivetrain

The ENVE wheels are nice and stiff and the IKONS with EXO sidewall have held up well

A little more ENVE bling for the cockpit

My general thoughts on suspension
If I have a bike with 100mm of travel, I feel that I should be using all 100mm of travel on any given off-road ride. I also want my bike to ride high in its travel while pedaling but become active on medium to large bumps.

Fox RP23 Rear Shock Setup
I have settled on 5 PSI over my nekkid body weight (166 lbs + 5 = 171 PSI) as the best combination of efficiency and comfort. I run the RP23 on ProPedal #2 almost all of the time unless I know that I have a long rough descent ahead of me. For the Pierre’s Hole 100, I ran 5 PSI more than normal because of the long pavement climbs but this would be too firm for everyday riding in my opinion. However, at Pierre’s Hole I also made it a point to flip the ProPedal lever to “open” for the Mill Creek & Bustle Creek descents and it was smooth like butter! Lastly, if you ride with a loaded Camelbak most of the time, I would recommend 10 PSI plus your nekkid body weight to compensate for the additional weight on your body.

RP23 Shock with ProPedal set to "2"

Fork Setup
I am running a 2011 Fox F29 FIT RLC on my Anthem X 29er. I have found that Fox’s factory PSI recommendations are on the high side. In other words, if I run Fox’s recommended 80 PSI (155 – 170 lb rider weight), I don’t get full travel and the ride feels harsh. I am running 70 PSI and I set the Low Speed Compression knob on +1 or +2 clicks which is not much at all.

Anthem X 29er vs. Hardtail
Will I ever race a hardtail again? Of course I will…I think…maybe. I find myself gravitating to 100-milers, 12 Hour, and 24 Hour races (and maybe longer) and therefore comfort will always be part of the equation. I felt less beat up after the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde and Pierre’s Hole 100 races this year than I felt last year after riding my hardtail and I have to believe this reduces my recovery time. While pre-riding the Park City Point to Point course I was confident that I would be faster on my AnthemX 29er than a hardtail…and I knew I would enjoy myself a lot more.

But which is truly faster overall? Fat Cyclist did an interesting pre-Leadville test-run on two very nice bikes. (Superfly 100 Vs. Stumpjumper: Fight!) I thought his test was excellent and his results did not surprise me as I have suspected a FS would be as fast as a hardtail on most courses. The Anthem X 29er has the right balance of snappiness and comfort and I feel as if I am faster on this bike than any other bike in my garage currently.

Other Stuff
I hate a noisy bike. I am happy to say that my Anthem X 29er is quiet and I haven’t had any issues with the pivots or the bottom bracket.

It’s not carbon. The aluminum Anthem X 29er is competing with a trio of carbon FS 29ers in the endurance race bike market: The Specialized Epic 29er, the Santa Cruz Tallboy, and the Trek Superfly 100. As I mentioned in my Short Term Review post, the AnthemX 29er frame was only .09 lbs heavier than my carbon Santa Cruz Tallboy frame. I don’t have frame weights for the Epic or Superfly 100. Retail price of the AnthemX 29er frame is a $1000 less than a Santa Cruz Tallboy frame. Having said this, if Giant were to release a carbon AnthemX 29er with the same geometry and suspension design that also saved ½ – ¾ lb I would be all over it.

I really like having the open front triangle. The main advantage is that it is super easy to get to a water bottle. Another advantage is that I can use the front triangle for storage if/when I want to run a second water bottle cage on my seatpost as I did in the Pierre’s Hole race. I strapped a tube, lever, and CO2 inside the front triangle and it was out of the way and secure.

One criticism I have read about the AnthemX 29er is that the chainstays are too long. Personally, I don’t think that short chainstays are the absolute “key” to a good 29er. This myth gets perpetuated too often in my opinion. The plus side of longer chainstays is that the bike is very stable at speed. I love hauling ass down long fire road descents (think Laramie Enduro) and therefore I like a longer wheelbase. Riding a bike with short chainstays and a short wheelbase recently (Giant XTC Composite) has proven this to me.

Final thoughts
In a nutshell, this bike is simply fun to ride. Weighing in at 24 lbs, I don’t feel as if I am taking a big weight penalty to race the Anthem X 29er instead of a 29er hardtail. In fact, my old Niner Air 9 hardtail weighed almost 24 lbs as well. The combination of good geometry, low weight, a solid suspension design, and proper shock setup make this bike feel fast. I believe that the AnthemX 29er leaves my body feeling more fresh at the end of an 8, 12, or 24 hour race and this can make a big difference in how quickly I recovery. With my recent decision to extend my season and race the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, Solo, this bike is going to see more race action this year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grand Targhee DH Race

Grand Targhee Downhill Race.
September 10, 2011.
Upper + Middle + Lower Sticks & Stones Trail.

I am a downhill racer! Note, I did not say that I was a fast downhill racer. I had visions of sneaking up to Targhee several times during the week prior and dialing in my lines so that I could unleash my fury on the 40+ Sport Class come race day...yeah, that didn't happen. I did one practice run in on Friday afternoon and then one practice run on Saturday morning before the race. Two DH runs since last summer is not quite enough time to be "race ready" but what the hell. My main goal was to have fun and not bust myself up in the process. I got spanked but had a blast.

A couple of random post-race thoughts:
- Ergon GP1 grips work for DH too. My hands were cramping after one run on Friday so I put my favorite endurance race grips on the DH bike and no more hand cramps. Sweet.
- Being clipped into the pedals is for me.
- A 10+ minute downhill run with some pedaling at the end is hard! I was cross-eyed at the end of my runs.
- Smooth is fast...I need to work on that.
- Lower Sticks & Stones is a GREAT trail.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Park City Point to Point Race Report

DNF. Major Bummer. I raced hard on adrenaline for about two hours and then all the energy simply left my body. I felt like I was going in reverse and was wobbling all over the trail. I pulled out at Silver Lake, Deer Valley 3 hours into the race.

At the start with my fast homies Adam Meyer (1st, 20-29), Mark Hershberger (1st, 50+), Trever Bushnell, and Fiddee Cent (2nd 20-29). Nice work fellas!

I don't recommend trying to race immediately following a week with the flu. On Wednesday I almost pulled the plug based on how I felt and in hindsight that would have been the "smart" thing to do. Another lesson learned.

On a positive note, I did get to see a lot of friends and witness some incredible performances. Lastly, I got a sideline view of the finely-tuned machine that is the Park City Point to Point. This race seems to step it up a notch each year.