Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Boulder night life

Got out again last night on the Niner for another night ride with the single scene. "The Punisher" bailed, but his roommate Clint picked up the slack for him. Clint is a 25 year old predominately unemployed vagabond that doesn't seem to have a pain threshold. We'd both be sporting one gear, but he'd be having some wheel envy with his puny 26" wheels.

We hit the newly formed trail head at Marshall Mesa and headed out under a 1/2 moon. Clint was sporting a brighter than the sun HID light that totally washed my puny lights anytime he got behind me. We rolled through some fun twisty singletrack and then started to feel the burn as the trail suddenly starts climbing without much warning. On the first real climb of the night, I slowly started opening up a gap on Clint, much to my surprise.

Upon reaching the top, I felt surprisingly good and it was apparent that Clint was suffering a bit. Upon hitting the top of the climb, I spun out to a pace that I deemed pretty moderate, but quickly dropped Clint again. I backed off and settled the pace down.

Damn it feels good to be strong.
(disclaimer: strong is a very relative term, and I was only strong is relation to the one guy I was riding with last night).

We went up and down every trail we could find, covering about 13 miles and getting around 1000 feet of elevation gain. Pace was a pretty reasonable 9 mph average, which I was pretty happy with especially considering a majority of the ride was an easy pace where we were chatting as we rolled along.

And the bike? Gets better every time I ride it. Clint, who was riding a 26" aluminum framed bike, remarked about how he was "bouncing all over the place and how I "looked smooth and comfy" on my Niner. The bike really does ride amazingly soft for a full rigid bike. I have no idea if its the Reynolds 853 steel, frame design, the 29" wheels or some combination of all of those but whatever it is I love it. The one gear aspect also seems to be working really well for me. I find that on climbs I sit and spin until my heart rate escalates then I can get out of the saddle and mash, and doing so actually helps me recover strangely enough.

The riding is on temporary hiatus due to some more snow that moved in just as the ground was finally clearing. The mountains have been getting dumped on, so this weekend its two days of skiing. More on that (and my new addition to the snow sport family) coming soon.

The funny part was that "The Punisher" himself called me this morning, accusing me of being a "shark". "The Punisher" accusing someone else of being a shark is amusing in itself, but I do have to admit it feels good. I told him it was a overestimate of my form by Clint, but then he told me thats exactly what he says when he's on good form. Sure makes it easier to do trainer time when you can quantify it to success like I've been able to lately.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Good to get out

Well it wasn't a marathon trek across a national park, and it wasn't a singletrack filled epic ride but it was still good to get out. Jill and I took the pooches for a hike at a very snowy Lion's Gulch and then came home for a bike ride around Longmont.

Lion's Gulch has more snow than I've ever seen it before, which made for some interesting ascents and descents. At one point we just decided it easier to sit down and slide on our rears down a steep section of trail. After doing so, we decided it to be so much fun that we both went and did it again. Its been too long since we were able to get the pups out, and they were quite excited to get to go. We just did a 3 mile hike, nothing too long but definitely enough to wear them out.

Upon getting back home, we grabbed some lunch and then decided it was nice enough out so we'd go for a quick road/bike path ride to scout out some potential routes around town. I broke out the freshly cleaned SS (man this bike is fun to ride) so I could see how my gearing would work in townie mode.

Jill hadn't been on the bike in quite some time, so it worked well for me to be spinning my trail gear along. The plan was to do a 5-6 mile spin, but that plan was quickly obliterated as I meandered along with no real direction. We tried a new route to get to the newly expanded bike paths, but quickly decided it wasn't the best route.

On our way back home, I got adventurous to avoid riding a mile of highway shoulder. It proved to be a bit of a mess as the new path ran out leaving us to trek through a snowy/muddy dirt road unsure of where we'd ultimately end up. The 29" wheels smashed through the mud really well, allowing me to ride the whole section. The mud clearance on the Niner is really good as well. Jill's 26" wheels packed up with so much mud that she actually had to stop and scrape out the mud to get her wheel to turn.

The muddy section ended and we made short work of the small climbs back up to our house. Another quick wash of the bikes (I love the simplicity of cleaning a rigid SS) and we called it a day. A bit chilly, a bit longer than Jill wanted and definitely a bit muddy but good nonetheless.

Pete Yorn Live, again.

Friday night with Pete Yorn at the Ogden. What? You can tell who that is in the amazingly detailed shot from my crappy camera in my Razr? Yeah that blurry thing in the center is Pete Yorn, who is really becoming one of my favorites these days. If you still don't know who he is, go to ITunes and give a listen. "Life on a Chain", "Crystal Village", and "Strange Condition" are among his best songs, but he has a lot of great songs. This is the 2nd time in about 6 months that we've seen him live, but the two performances couldn't have been any more different.

The first show was an acoustic performance with only a drummer and bass player for part of the show, where Friday's performance was a full electric setup with a backing band (4 guitars on stage at once). While I prefer the acoustic setting, this was still a great show. I've become more familiar with his music catalog, which helps enjoy the show even more.

Aqualung was the opener (well one of the openers I should say), and they were very impressive. In a similar manner as Coldplay, Aqualung live is a much more intense and upbeat show than one would expect. Their album releases are pretty mellow, and laid back but their music live is pretty impressive. They played 8 or 9 songs, including their radio releases. The lead singer looks more like your companies IT guy (hey wait a minute!) than a rock star, but regardless he has a good stage presence and sounds remarkably good live.

We were very close to the stage, which was cool. The Ogden Theater is a small, intimate venue which added to the show. I snapped another amazingly bad camera phone picture during "Brighter Than Sunshine".

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Single Life

Last night I made my trail debut on my 29er singlespeed. Redstone Cyclery in Lyons does a Tuesday night shop ride every week that I try to catch from time to time, but this week the ride got bumped back to Wednesday night. The ride was taking place at the Boulder Res, which is one of very few trails that are currently rideable. Dave at Redstone is an ex-semi pro racer, and while he doesn't race anymore, he's still got some serious go in his legs. The Redstone rides tend to be lycra clad hammer fests that have my blown up before the first climbs. So sounds like the perfect situation to make your maiden SS voyage on right?

"The Punisher" had been planning to make the ride, but ultimately bailed at the last minute. So I showed up solo at the trail head and saw 2 other vehicles and 4 other bikes. After a quick scan of the parking lot I was at least pleased to see that all of us were rocking the singles, and 4 of the 5 bikes were fully rigid singles. The lone suspension fork belonged to the lone female of the group, which made me suspicious immediately. In Boulder you quickly learn to assume that every single person you meet is so much fast than you that they will ride you off their wheel without getting above Zone 2. I've been dropped by more 60 year old men (and a couple of 60 year old women) on bikes since moving to Boulder than my ego ever believed would be possible. So after a quick scan of the other riders, I knew I was about to get hammered.

As expected, we hit the trail and the pace was wicked up in a hurry. I sat on the back, but held on and was doing so without hurting too bad thus far. The trail was remarkably dry, but oh so rough, and was actually a bit dusty under the lights on the back of the 5 bike train. We hit random patches of mud in the low areas, but for the most part it was dry trail that had serious ruts from cows and hiker traffic over the last couple months. Despite being fully rigid, the Niner felt pretty good on the trail. My arms got a workout and the trail feedback (i.e. vibration) was making my arms itch in a strange fashion.

As we stopped to open a gate I chatted with the lone female, and I asked her about the Old Pueblo 24 hour race she had mentioned earlier. She then informed me that she had won the solo womens field two years in a row (she didn't race it this year). I picked my jaw up off the ground and then felt suddenly better about my conditioning and the past 3 months of trainer torture I've been enduring.

The ride went on, and we encountered a couple of climbs that felt a lot tougher on the SS then on a geared bike. I made it up them all, but it hurt at times. Getting used to the style of SS riding and needing to stand and hammer on climbs took some getting used to, but by the end of the night it felt pretty natural. I never once reached for the shifter last night, I wished for it once or twice but for the most part I didn't miss the gears. I definitely think you have to ride a SS to understand the attraction, as the idea of it just sounds like a step backwards, but the application of it is a really fun experience.

As we reached the turnaround point for the ride, I felt like I was getting stronger. As we headed back to the parking lot, I was moving up from back of the pack to middle of the pack and still not killing myself to do so. I guess base miles and time do pay off. Last year at approximately the same time, I took the maiden trail voyage on my Yeti on a Redstone Tuesday night ride and found myself limping back to the parking lot far off the back of the pack wondering. This year I debuted a bike and found myself charging at the end of the night. Progress is good.

So Nancy the Niner got christened in a dirty, muddy way. That's the great thing about this bike though, is I don't have to worry about pivots, suspension seals, shifting, etc, there just isn't much to worry about but turning the cranks. I'll give her a bath to knock some of the big chunks of mud off as I'm sure there are a couple extra pounds of mud on the bike right now, but I won't get too worried about it.

We rode about 13 miles (forgot to turn the GPS on for the first .5 mile or so) and climbed around 1,000 feet. I can't seem to find the numbers from my Yeti debut, but I'd be shocked if the speed/time/distance numbers for last night's ride weren't significantly better than the Yeti debut ride.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Break on through

liberate - grant freedom to; free from confinement

Tonight was liberating for sure. Finally the snow is starting to disappear (after 60+ days of measurable snow pack here) and I finally was able to get out, albeit just around the neighborhood and brake the ball and chain that is the trainer.

Nothing fancy, nothing too long, but it was outside and it was spontaneous. I dug out my lights, which hadn't been charged in many months but they held charge and lit up the night admirably. I cruised around, meandering with no real path or goal but I spun for 6+ miles on the SS regardless. Would have stayed out longer, but I neglected to put on my toe covers and my shoes vent WAY too well for 40 degree temps and my toes were freezing quickly.

The big and exciting news is that tomorrow night Nancy the Niner gets to taste real trail. Yes that's right, even though I had previously nixed Nancy for a name for the new bike, I've since reconsidered. Brandt made a valid point when I told him that "Nancy the Niner was too predictable" to which he countered with "Yeah Ruby the Roubaix is really unpredictable."

Touche Senor Brandt.

So tomorrow night I'll be huffing and puffing around the Boulder Res making my 29er SS trail debut and try to keep the uber fast Redstone crowd in sight. It will undoubtedly be painful and punishing, but it will be splendid to be back on a trail at last.

Trail at last, trail at last. I thank God I'm on a trail at last.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Winter blues cured by NEW BIKE!

Ah yes....The glorious feeling of a new bike. Its not easily matched, and it can sure go a long way towards curing the winter doldrums. I decided I wanted to build up a "budget" bike that would serve a couple of purposes:

1. Ride on the lower trails, less technical trails like Boulder Res., Rabbit Mountain, and Heil Ranch.
2. A bike with no pivots or suspension to worry about during the early season when you find the muddy patches
3. A "townie" bike that wasn't so "blingy" and I could ride to a restaurant instead of driving and not have to worry about it locked up outside.
4. Something that would split the difference between my 30lb 6" travel bike and my 18lb carbon road bike

So given those parameters, I decided I wanted a 29er SS bike. From there I narrowed it down to a steel frame, and wanted an Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) for ease. That left a couple of choices, which ultimately led to the Niner SIR9 frame.

So without further ado I present the currently unnamed Niner SIR9...

Words of encouragement right on the top tube.

Another bike with a cool metal head badge

The 29" wheels are definitely a noticeable difference.

Obviously with all the snow, the trails are a mucky mess right now so I can't get in any real rides. I pounded out a couple laps around the neighborhood path smashing through the snow and hopping off curbs and the like. The bike is surprisingly smooth for a rigid frame and fork. I did catch myself pushing for the phantom thumb lever once or twice, but I'm sure I'll get over that. The 32/20 gearing feels pretty good with the big wheels, but I definitely pedal out of it pretty quick on the flats.

I'm struggling with a name, but I feel this bike should be named since I've got Betty the Yeti and Ruby the Roubaix. I've tossed around Nancy to Niner, but didn't really like that. There's Sally the Singlespeed, but that didn't stick. I even thought about Eddie, as a tribute to Eddie Sutton since this bike is old school, rigid and bleeds orange but Jill told me that was a bit of a stretch. So feel free to toss out some names if you've got them.

Catching up with some old friends

Its a typical Wednesday night at our house last week. I'm downstairs doing intervals on my road bike on the trainer while watching OState vs OU in the 2nd edition of bedlam, while Jill is upstairs watching TV and reading a book. I hear my cell phone beep, meaning I have a new text. Since I'm Tivo time-shifted, I chose to ignore it until after the game.

I hop off the trainer, grab the phone and its a message from Blake, a friend of mine from Solarc. It simply states:

"In Breckenridge for the next few days"

Well that's random, but not too out of character for Blake, the guy who missed 4 consecutive flights in a single day once. So I call Blake and he's at DIA and is heading to Summit County with some college buds on an impromptu ski trip. We talk for a bit and I get the details, but won't be able to shake work due to meetings so I tell him I'll call when I get some details about when we could make it out.

Friday night, Jill & I decided against buying $78/day lift tickets to ski with the guys, who were learning to snowboard (i.e. slow!). We slept in, I worked on my bikes, ran some errands and then we loaded up and headed to Summit County.

We met up with Blake and Doug Wick, another displaced Solarcer, on Main St. in Breckenridge early Saturday evening. They were there with a group of 7 guys, who had fragmented since the ski day was over. So the four of us grabbed a beer and talked about old times while we waited for a table at the nearby pizzeria. After a short wait, we had our table for 9 and we were catching up and reminiscing. We shoveled down slice after slice of pizza, then decided that we should head back to the Front Range.

A great surprise to have a couple of old friends pass through town, we don't get to see those guys enough. The great part is even though it has been nearly a year since seeing Blake, and at least 3.5 years since seeing Doug, it was like we'd never gone our separate ways.

Its a magic trick..."Tada!" (you had to be there...)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I heart Puxatony Phil

Every since the world's most famous rodent made his appearance and failed to see his shadow, things have been improving. This weekend wasn't exactly balmy, but it was sunny and above freezing, two things which have been few and far between this winter.

Yesterday was gorgeous, today looks even better:

Couple super nice weather with the fact that I might be able to get away early and go pick up my new bike, and things are looking up. No chance that I'll be able to ride trails anytime soon, as it would take at least a week of 50-60 degree temps to melt out even the lower elevation trails but maybe I can at least get out on the road for a couple hours this weekend.

Thanks for restoring hope Phil.