This year I’ll be headed out on my 3rd AZT 300.  Not quite sure why other than I love those trails a whole bunch and I need a really good shake down ride before the Divide.  I also have a teammate hitting it for a rookie attempt.  So I figured I’d treat myself to a new toy or two and go rally some of the most awesome singletrack in the country.  Oracle Ridge definitely ranks in the top 10 of bikepacking trail gnar.  Lots of people crack in lots of really difficult sections on the AZT.  Mainly due to the high level of gnar.  I get lucky since I spend most of my time riding trail that difficult if not more.  So it’s not a big deal.  I’ve been riding a bit more this year than last….not really training, but I think I’ll got a bit faster if I can get good sleep from April 1 until the start.  I’m limiting the time on the sewing machine.  Customers will just have to wait.

I’ve been wanting to do some reviews and sneak peak some stuff to my readers, and now I have a little bit of time to do so.

I think I have the dyno dialed.  I wasn’t able to get any charge on my AyUp battery and I think that’s because I used an extension cable and it’s made for running the lights, not charging the batteries.  Tonight I removed the unit from Fargazmo, shortened a few wires, reversed polarity on the AyUp charging line, and mounted up pretty much everything to the Dirty Girl.  I’m way ahead of last year.

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Things are looking pretty clean.  I just added the quick link on the Camelbak mainly for the Fargazmo as the frame bag on it has a hose port.  This bag was one of my first  so I just run the hose out the zipper.

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The AyUps are mainly backup lights….or in case I find myself headed down Oracle Ridge in the dark.  I’ll run the Exposure on the helmet and charge it on the bar saving some room in the Titan tank.

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Oh.  That’s a new harness/stuff sack combo or some sorts that I’m going to be a bit coy about.  I’m going to give it a thorough testing on AZT before I decide what I want to do with it.  Basically it combines the harness panel with the stuff sack so it’s quite a bit lighter.  The straps run through some interesting hardware.  The stuff sack comes out easily leaving the straps on the bars.  I find this helps facilitate stuffing everything in and you can more easily use your stuff sack for a pillow/storage bag when you are sleeping.

I taped and zip tied the dyno wire to my fork since I thought I’d better run some sort of slack take-up system to keep the wire from getting caught in my tire.  I didn’t want the take-up system to pull the wire through the electrical tape and pull the wire off the hub.  Totally ghetto, but I think it will be perfect.  I’ll test it this weekend.  I put a grommet in the tank bag and have the main wire running out of there.  Pretty clean.

I also got a new fork!  A TS 6 Magura with through axle!  It rocks.  I can’t really tell that much difference in stiffness/lateral control….well…maybe there is a bit of a difference….but the thing is super plush.  I love it.  Very simple.  I thought it had about 120mm travel when I first rode it, but it’s only 100mm.  I should note that I purchased this fork through Magura Direct which is a form of sponsorship for grassroots riders and wannabe industry insiders like myself.

I may find the time to make a new pouch.

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This one is my second one ever made.  I don’t use those shitty so-called “waterproof” zippers anymore.  Total waste of money.  This one is super faded.  It faded so fast I almost refused to buy anymore red fabric.  People kept asking for red, I’d warn them, and they said they didn’t care.  So I ordered more.  I think my first order had really poor UV coatings or something.  This bag still works great, but not having the storm flapped zipper and the standard reflective tabs I include now sometimes confuses potential customers.  I had to add attachments at a wider point for this new harness system.  The attachments on the inside are for the Superfortress and Stealth harnesses.  I may be on to something here.  We’ll see.

 

On Sunday we packed up the Kia and picked up a friend to go down to Mexico for a women’s only mountain bike event.  Jen was invited by the Director of the Chupacabras Organization.  It was a fund raiser for a girls’ orphanage so Jen was more than happy to pay the $15 registration fee.  That’s right.  $15.  No license required.  There seemed to be around 100 women at the start line.  It may have been closer to 80 or so, but that’s a hell of a lot more women than we get at MOST races in the US.  The Puzzler had 4 women contest the 50 miler and maybe 10 in the other categories.

After getting off course twice and putting in some 2+ miles of bonus single track, Jen finally finished with a flat and another win.  It was very windy and pretty cold out so Connor and I hung out in the car most of the time.   The ladies looked to be having a blast.  All sizes and ages.  When I say all sizes, I mean it.  There were some bikes out that were put to their limit.  That was great to see as those women need mountain biking more than anything.

You count 'em.  Seems like a lot to me.

You count ‘em. Seems like a lot to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm the worst action photographer ever....a 6 year old camera doesn't help much.

I’m the worst action photographer ever….a 6 year old camera doesn’t help much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Jen finished, I kitted up and rode Fargazmo back across the border.  I rode the descent to the now white Jesus statue (it used to be black) and then took the new’ish road to Anapra then west to the Santa Theresa crossing.  Anapra is the poorest area of Juarez.  Since they recently got pavement, the weekend street mercado was NUTS!

It was like this for about a mile.  Jen took this from inside the car.

It was like this for about a mile. Jen took this from inside the car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I continued along the highway and was passed by only 4 vehicles.  After crossing and having a pleasant conversation with a very cocky DHS officer, I waited inside the gate for Jen so I could give her my hoodie.  I had no room for a XL cotton hoodie in my bike bags.  I was there for about 5 minutes and then some DHS guys got out of the truck that was about 30 feet from me and asked if I needed any help.  I told them I was waiting for someone who drove and he told me I couldn’t be there and had to leave the fenced area.  Seriously?  It took him over 5 minutes to figure that out?

After Jen got through, I handed off my hoodie and proceeded to put in about 55 more miles.  I hopped on the Rio levee and rode up to Berino and then over 404 back to the house.  I put my new dyno to use and took my phone from about 35% to almost 100%.  I also had an Ayup battery plugged in with it, but it didn’t seem to take a charge.  I’m not sure I can charge two things at once.  The electronics class at my high school built the unit for me, but didn’t really listen or read what spec’s I provided them.  I ended up reworking it and installing a USB female connection and the Ayup port myself.

Android, USB, and Ayup connectors.

Android, USB, and Ayup connectors.

 

Used a spare Ayup charger for the case.

Used a spare Ayup charger for the case.

Hub unit laced to a Blunt SL.  It feels rough when you turn the axle with your hand but it spins smoothly when you roll it attached to the bike.  Niner RDO fork is pretty sweet too.

Hub unit laced to a Blunt SL. It feels rough when you turn the axle with your hand but it spins smoothly when you roll it attached to the bike. Niner RDO TA fork is pretty sweet too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ended up spending most of the afternoon building the tank bag for Fargazmo.  It turned out okay.  I had an idea what I wanted and sketched out the dimensions and just kind of winged it from there.

Storm flapped zippers.

Storm flapped zippers.

The window vinyl was kind of an after-thought, but it works great.

The window vinyl was kind of an after-thought, but it works great.

More than enough room inside and I may put in another divider or move the one I put in there.

More than enough room inside and I may put in another divider or move the one I put in there.

Nice little cable port.  Might fill that with glue or something to keep it from leaking.

Nice little cable port. Might fill that with glue or something to keep it from leaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is on straight.   Remember that I had Walt put water bottle bolts on top so I could mount this on there.  I’m pretty stoked that it works.  Now I need to widen up the frame bag a bit as I built it too narrow.  I didn’t use velcro partitions either and my customers seem to be digging the ability to widen or narrow the bag with a velcro partition.  Plus, it’s much easier to make a multi-compartment frame bag with velcro for the partition.

If you are regular reader of my blog, you will notice that my most recent entries are gone.  Apparently I really did hurt some people with my words.  Maybe my comments towards the overweight crowd were a bit much.   Instead of trying to edit those entries, I took them down.  Consider it a form of an apology.  I’m sorry I offended some people.

I have always had difficulty expressing myself in regards to the issues of obesity.  Living in El Paso hasn’t helped.  Being a graduate student under a “fat racist” (one who is discriminatory towards obese people) didn’t help much either.  I should be more sympathetic, especially after watching a season of Biggest Loser a few years back.  Jillian would pry and pry until she made a contestant crack.  By crack, I mean that she would continue either antagonizing or interrogating the person until some horrible life experience came pouring out of the person.  After the moment of clarity from the contestant, the pounds melted away.  15 pounds the next week, 11 the week after, 13 another week.  Ridiculous.  One little instance of childhood misunderstanding,  one poorly communicated issue, one accident….usually something related to a really bad episode in that person’s life (a death of a relative, sexual abuse, getting dumped, loss of a job) was the cause for obesity.  Not genetics.  Not laziness.  Not even a lack of education.  I truly hope that the reason for most of the obese people I come into contact on a daily basis is not something like that.  Horrible.  And by hoping that, I go back to my standard thinking of…well, those people’s lifestyles suck ass and they need to get off their gigantic ass, stop eating junk food, get out of their four wheel coffin, and ride a damn bike!  While that could solve the problem, it takes a lot more than just thinking that way hoping that telepathically that person is going to hear me and actually do something.  It requires education, motivation, a little bit of money (bikes aren’t cheap and the cheap ones ain’t gonna cut it under a 350 pounder), and a lot of support from friends and family.

My attitude may be similar in regards to mountain biking.  I sometimes forget that I’ve been riding mountain bikes for 31 years.  I was in my early 20′s when I got into mountain bike advocacy.  Mountain biking at a high level (at least technically) came early.  After moving west from the technical slime stone, roots, logs, and boulders of the Appalachians, I sought out more gnar.  Out west this was either provided via massive increases in speed or through insane trails in locations in southern Utah, Arizona, or Colorado.  A trip to Whistler definitely didn’t do anything to satiate my desire for more gnar.  Singletrack that demands skill, strength, and endurance to enjoy is what I thrive on.  But not everyone is into that kind of stuff.  My inability (or reluctance) to accept that hasn’t helped me in the past couple of years in regards to moving forward with the scene here in El Paso.

Six years at the helm of the BMBA.  That’s a long time.  Why anyone would want to be the president of anything for that long?  I think my timing was off.  Brent Sanders and I brought out of the ashes a club that had turned into a Thursday night social club…..ride then drink.  We turned it into an advocacy group at the right time.  I don’t really think anybody in the group knew what the hell we were doing and I know that we all felt like we were maneuvering in waist deep mud when it came to getting things done.  Puzzler…..piece of cake.  Kind of.  A bit of stress and race weekend event management left us more exhausted than racing the 50.  Guaranteed.  I raced it this year.  I know.  New trails…..thanks to Robert Newman and a bit of money from Stanley Jobe….piece of cake.  Well….maybe a bunch of callouses and a few sore backs, but pretty cut and dry.  Get your ass out to the trail with a trail tool and a buddy, work your ass off and don’t quit until it’s finished.  Parking lot/trailhead.  Whoa.  Did any of us do any hard labor out there?  I think we had someone else do everything including installation of the kiosk.  The hard part was dealing with the city and finding people willing to do all the other crap.  Without Dr. Rick Bonart, that thing would have never happened.  Would it be a big loss if it hadn’t happened?  Hell no.  We’d still be parking on the street somewhere, cutting new trail through whatever new development, and continue bitching about all the houses that get built out there.  That project was a pain in the ass.  Lots of frustrating email exchanges, lots of trips to city offices by Steve Ainsa and others, and finally, it was completed.  I don’t want to know how Dr. Bonart got it done, it just seemed like too much of a pain in the ass to me…..and I don’t like driving to the trails when I’m perfectly capable of riding there.

I personally think that we made a mistake putting in that trailhead.  I think that by doing so, we set a precedence for our city planners/doers that they don’t have to do anything since we’ll do it for them.  We need trailheads more than anything else….well….except maybe signage at Redd Rd.

My vision was mostly for better trails.  The Lower Sunset reroute and the northern pass to Hitt Canyon are just slight scratches to the surface of my big ideas.  I was super stoked about those routes coming to fruition and I think most mountain bikers (at least those capable of riding that far) feel the same way.  They are incredible routes.  And this is where my bad timing comes in.

I now see that maybe we need to focus on the other riders.  Those just getting into the sport.  Those who don’t know how to read a map, load a gps or smartphone with a route, or are willing to risk doubling their outing time due to a wrong turn.  Maybe it’s time we focus on them more.  I can’t say it’s never been in the club’s master plan.  I can’t say that I’ve never mentioned those things a million times…..well maybe only a thousand times.   I think that my timing isn’t right.  I think that maybe in 10 years, if I’m still living here and all those other things get done, then it will be time to move forward on my vision of mountain biking in El Paso.

So you may be asking yourself, “What’s the problem Big Dave?  Why aren’t you willing to guide the club in that direction?  Why aren’t you willing to push for those things that are less visionary?”   I could care less about trail signs and parking lots.  To me, that takes away from what I like about mountain biking.  “But Big Dave, you even said that we need those things…trailheads, signage, skills park, etc.  Why don’t you continue forward with those plans?”

My question for you is, “Why don’t YOU move forward and do that?”  I had a guy tell me recently, “We need a Saturday race series here.”  I said, “Hell yeah we do! Why don’t you start one?”  He didn’t like that response.  Lots of people have lots of really good ideas.  When it comes down to it, only a few have the time, or are willing to make the time to do the things that make our community a better place.  I probably could squeeze in the time to keep this club rolling.  Hell, I’ve done very little in regards to anything club related in the last couple of years anyway, so why get out now?  That’s just it.  I’ve done very little and I know so much more can be done.  I need out for a while.  We need someone else to motivate the mountain bikers of El Paso to go to city council meetings (with a 90% chance that you will totally be wasting your time), show up for trail building and maintenance, lead ride clinics, volunteer for races, draw up plans for parking lots, apply for city permits, manage emails, communicate with IMBA, and so on.  I feel like I’m not doing it effectively and with my attitude over the past few months, I need to step out for an undetermined amount of time.

Hopefully someone will step in.  I’m hoping that someone shows up to our club meeting Tuesday night at 6 at Ardovino’s on Sean Haggerty.  FYI, for all you Redd Rd. riders out there, that’s in the Northeast.  Even if you aren’t a paid member, if you love mountain biking half as much as I do, please come to the meeting.  It might motivate you to do more.

This past weekend I chose to skip our local 12 hour race to join the freaks in AZ for Dejay Birtch’s birthday party ride, AKA SSAZ.  This was my third and by far the best one yet.  Dejay surprised us all with a shuttle partway up Mt. Lemon so we could ride Bug Springs.  After instructions, a hundred or so riders took off up the road for a couple of miles before linking up with the trailhead.  I hung out in the top 5 or so and then we hit dirt….which went up…which meant everyone was walking…..or running in the case of some little guy with a 99% carbon full rigid rig with really narrow bars.  AZT honch Dr. Kurt Refsnider was hot on his heals and I sat back in 10th or so, waiting to warm up.  Bugs was awesome and I only dabbed in a couple of spots.  Not bad for never having been on that little beast.

After Bugs we crossed the Catalina Hwy to hit the AZT down to Prison Camp.  That section was fun and still had plenty of gnar.  When I reached the parking area at Prison Camp, I shed some clothes and tried to eat something.  Crossing the highway again we headed up to Molino Basin.  As soon as the trail got a bit techy, I saw a dropped Luna bar…nuts over chocolate…opened up but not bitten into with no dirt or ants on it.  Score!  Turns out it belonged to my buddy Mark who I eventually caught on the climb.  Thanks buddy.  It was delicious.  The decent down Molino was tougher than I remember and Mark got around me there and proceeded to school everyone in the vicinity.  After that, there was a bit of climbing mixed with techy mixed with 2-track.  I stomped a couple of climbs and found myself around 3 or 4 other riders.  I grabbed a cookie in the comfort station and headed up Bolletello Rd. to hook up with Reddington Rd.  While climbing the Bolletello, the flyweight on the 99% carbon bike came around me.  He must have gotten lost somewhere.  Eventually I made it to Reddington Rd and headed down to Chivas.  I didn’t see many tracks and doubted my route finding, but I got to Chivas without being run over or shot.

Chivas was hammered with recent rains and of course anyone with a lift kit and 4×4 thrashes the hell out of that section.  I caught flyweight again who claimed he was fixing a flat and then he passed me when I stopped for a bottle that flew out of my King Ti Cage.  The route eventually took us to the secret stash and I soon found myself looping through the woods with Robin from Grand Junction.  Headed up the sandy wash, I only saw two or three tracks in front of me.  Seriously?  Dudes must have dropped or taken wrong turns…..or stopped for bowls in the woods somewhere.

Back on the AZT, I eventually crossed Reddington again with Robin not far behind.  I was far enough ahead of him that I did solo gate duty as I didn’t see him after I got them opened.  Eventually he caught me on some descending and we rolled into the comfort station again where I made myself a nice mixer with Hornitos and 7Up.  It warmed me nicely.  I had to walk/jog about 50 yards down the wash to my bike where it had been transported by a helpful party goer.  Apparently there were only two riders ahead of us…Kurt and the flyweight.  Pleased as punch to be kind of at the front, I made my way into La Milagrosa….where my slight buzz from the tequila did not help my flow at all.  I walked more than the other two times I had been down it.  I tried to take in some of the views and not think about how tired my arms were.  At just over 4.5 hours and 42 miles, I rolled into the party/finish as the fourth finisher, signed in, and grabbed pizza.

The rest of the evening consisted of  catching up with friends, watching finishers try to find the sign in sheet, eating lots of pizza, checking out the grounds of the host’s estate, playing with the kiddo and the dog, eating more pizza, checking out some seriously amazing bikes, enviously staring at a titanium bong whose owner had a huge canister of medicinal marijuana, and trying to find something in the prize stash that would fit me.

Once again Dejay hosted an amazing ride with the raddest crew of riders around…..some who finished well after sunset.  This course had the most gnarly descending of any event I’ve ever done in the least amount of mileage.  I’d almost say it was too much gnar per mile, but then that might make me seem like a pussy….which I kind of categorized myself as since I ran a 32×21 and was kicking myself for not running at least a 21….or as the Back of the Pack Racing crew says…32xFU or 32xYM….or something like that.  I carried too much food and water and wished I had run a full sus rig like I did the last time I rode this thing.

Sorry for no pics.  If you want to see pics, go to Facebook.  I didn’t take any and I don’t feel like stealing pics and trying to credit the correct folks.

If you are wondering why I chose this over the 12 Hours of Old El Paso, I have several reasons.  1.  I’ve won the overall solo (on a SS) twice and took 2nd the first time I did it when Adam Hoppe beat me on a geared bike.  2.  The 12 Hour was never officially announced until several months after Dejay announced SSAZ.  3.  I just couldn’t bring myself to ride laps around Lazy Cow and Mad Cow when I knew a record 13 or 14 laps on that stuff wouldn’t come close to providing the amount of gnar the SSAZ course dished out in less than 45 miles.  4.  It’s SSAZ.  I got another patch and a few lessons on how to ride the gnar! ….and there were stacks of really good pizza.

Back in 2008 I thought I was going to attempt Tour Divide.  I figured I’d kit up the Racer X and hit it, but I had never done any bikepacking and I was still ripping fast in XC races, so I put that idea behind me and never really thought about it again until a couple of years ago when I did the AZT 300 and CTR.  I thought, “No way in hell would I do TD…..too much road.  Yuck.”  Then I started Nuke Sunrise and I started thinking about things I’ve accomplished….and haven’t.  TD was back on top of the list.

At the start of last summer, I made the decision that 2014 would be my year for TD…..northbound as it would be stupid to fly my ass up to O’Canada just to ride back home to a place I prefer to escape every summer.  Soon after making the commitment, I contemplated a new ride.  I really wanted to do it on a Fargo style rig since JP’s last attempt was done on one and he mentioned that he had no hand issues during or after…..something I’ve been battling for a couple years.  So I looked up some of my favorite frame builders….and saw that Walt Wehner of Walt Works had moved to Salt Lake City where I was visiting at the time.  I made arrangements to meet up with him and I gave him a deposit….a whopping $200.  Just before my Christmas break, he started building my frame….a severely upsized Fargo.

bb fargasmo almost finishedheadtube  main triangle ???????????????????????????????  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

orange frameSo all these build shots made their way into email and I was really hoping to have this beast ready to roll by the time I left for South Carolina, but that didn’t happen.  It  didn’t show up until a couple weeks ago.  I got it built that night (despite over an hour spent rummaging for all the parts I needed) and rode it the next day to Mundy’s Gap….a burly rock fest of  a climb.  I cleaned everything up and down and was thoroughly impressed with the short stays and general fit.   The ride down was a hoot on running a Knard 3.0 up front on the fat bike fork.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ditched the Knard after one commute.  Those things are tanks and I really am thinking speed.  I think I can achieve plenty of comfort with a carbon fork and maybe 2.3′s front and rear.  I think I may even ditch the Moxey post…..mainly so I can more easily run a seatbag.  This bike is so comfy that I really don’t think I’m going to need it.  I’ve got a Thomson on the way.  I’ll put some miles on it to make sure.  The Selle Anatomica is pretty sweet.

Eventually I got this thing made.  What a freakin’ puzzle.  Now I need to start working on the tanks that will bolt on to the top tube….and ride more.

frame bag

 

 

 

 

 

I also bought this bad boy.

dyno wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s a Shutter Precision thru-axle dynamo hub.  I had it laced up in less than an hour to a Velocity Blunt SL (420 grams).  This will be the first blunt I’ve ever rolled…..seriously.  I’ll be charging batteries with this bad boy so the only batteries I’ll have to purchase will be AAA Energizer Lithiums to power my Spot….which I don’t plan on using 24/7 like other racers.

So here’s a run down of the build:

Walt Works frame

Salsa Enabler Fork (will upgrade to Niner RDO carbon TA fork)

Chris King headseat

DT Swiss 240 S rear hub w/ Stan’s ZTR355 rim

WTB SS rear hub w/ Stan’s 355 rim on the fat bike fork (will upgrade to SP Dynamo TA on Blunt SL rim)

Shimano Ultegra front shifter/brake lever

Shimano 105 10 speed rear shifter/brake lever

TRP Spyre cable discs w/ Yokazuma cables

Shimano XT 9 speed rear derailleur (new 10 speed dynasys won’t work with 10 speed road shifters)

Shimano XTR front derailleur

Truvativ X9 180mm cranks (28/42 rings)

Crank Bro’s Candy SL pedals

Sram 1050 10 speed cassette

105mm generic stem (upgrading to Syntace 100mm stem)

Salsa Woodchipper bars

Lizard Skins 2.5mm thick bar tape on with one layer of fake cork foam tape under the “tops”

KMC chain

Moxey Pro seat post

Selle Anatomica X seat

As for tires….right now I’m using some old WTB semi-slicks.  For TD, I’ll use something like the 2.35 Kenda Slant 6 or the 2.3 Maxxis Ikon.  Those are a bit bigger than what most guys run, but I do want some comfort on all that washboard.

Currently, my during the week training consists of riding it like this.

loaded with racksSome days it’s well over 50 lbs.  This pic was taken when I was at a text book fair.  I took home a crapload of books ($$$) and I could really feel it back there.  Good training for sure.

I’ll post more after I get the new fork.  I ordered an orange one, but when I pulled it out of the box, I saw it wasn’t even close to matching and Jen thought it was pretty lucky.  So I’m sending it back for a black one.  It will drop some weight for sure.  I’m more curious as to how it will feel.  I’ve never ridden a carbon mountain fork and my road bike fork is 14 years old so I really have no idea how it’s going to feel.

 

 

I just took a look at my comments and one from September 2013 noted that my CTR ride report ended at day 2.  Whoa!  I’m pretty sure I wrote the entire thing.  Computers suck.  Or else I just didn’t notice that it didn’t post.  Funny (maybe a little sad) that nobody said anything until over a year after.

So…..go back to the Colorado Trail…..WOW! for the rest of the story.

 

 

A few years ago, my mom told me about the Palmetto Trail, a trail route stretching across the state of South Carolina.  Over the past few years, the Palmetto Trail Conservation has worked to put in as much trail as possible, link it up as best as possible, and present it as a traverse of the Palmetto State.  For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in SC….1st grade through high school.  I grew up in the Lowcountry where it is pancake flat, swampy, marshy, and the roads are heavily traveled by people who aren’t necessarily in a rush, but they drive like maniacs.  Owning a mountain bike in 1983 meant hitting up defunct rail lines and woodsy play areas where the BMX’ers hung out.  I did make it to the Upstate a couple of times to ride, and even up into North Carolina where I rode in the Smokey Mountain National Park before it was illegal to do so.  My first visit to the Nantahala Outdoor Center was so early in the sport, there was one Stumpjumper parked outside the shop, and one inside.  The shop was closed….for lunch or something.

Here I am 30 years later.  A few emails and forum posts and I’ve got a full gps track of the Palmetto Trail.  I never heard back from these guys (college people tend to come and go).  A bit of nervous fretting began to occur as I first acquired a SPOT recorded track from this guy in Asheville.  SPOTs only send out a signal every 10 minutes or so.  Needless to say, this track was almost worthless.  I sold a seat bag to a guy in Greenville….Mark Sackett the current Trans North Georgia SS honch.  He emailed me with a phone number and said he had info on the PT.  He also emailed me a gps track of his ride from this past summer (’13).  UGLY.  Apparently he and a buddy gave the route a go starting in Spartanburg during some pretty massive rain storms.  His track had probably 25 spots where he went into the trail, but then had to back out and detour.  Not pretty at all.  He also had to bypass most of the passages in the Lowcountry.  Finally, I got a call from Steve Collum (he was a Vulcan operator with Air Defense here at Ft. Bliss) who is the lead cartographer for the PT Conservation.  YAY!  He had delayed contacting me because he was connecting all the trail passages with road and working up suitable bypasses for me around passages closed to bikes and around areas that are exceptionally swampy right now…just for me!  This came in the form of a Google kml file which I had to put into Topofusion, fiddle with a little more, contact Topofusion developer/owner Scott Morris, fiddle with even more, then finally…I had a complete .gpx file for my gps. I will be traveling in the opposite direction indicated by the arrows.

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Now I don’t have to carry all of these….and that doesn’t include the other sheets, one for each map, that give other details to the passage.

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I do have a small bit of paper….the cue sheet you see to the side in the picture above and the weight weenie’d state map shown below….with all chances of a side trip to visit Dicky cut out of the picture.

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I was hoping this bad boy would be here by now.

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I’m kind of glad it’s not here yet as I’m sure I would have pulled several all-nighters making bags for it and getting it all dialed.  Instead, I just stayed up late a couple of nights getting Dirty Girl packed up and also packing up Jen’s road bike to send back to SC for the 10 days we’ll be there.  Dirty Girl got some new brakes, smaller rotors, new tires, and some extra parts to help with all the flatness.

So here are the plans:

Plan A – If weather is good (no snow or rain in the Upcountry), I will ride the first 3 miles of open trail at the western terminus of the PT starting on the 27th.  I’ll then take the Cherokee Scenic Parkway for close to 70 miles or so to more trail near Spartanburg and hopefully complete the route by the 30th.

Plan B – If weather isn’t looking so good in the Upstate, I’ll start on the 28th (maybe the 27th still if the weather looks better that day) closer to Spartanburg….skipping that huge road section that bypasses the Wilderness.

If things start to look too sloppy in the Lowcountry, I’ll see how long I can tolerate the roads before I call one of my parents to aid in my abortion of the ride (that sounds so wrong).  I’m hoping things stay sunny and dry and I’ll see nothing but rainbows and unicorns (more likely to be Texas wheel chairs and Phil wannabes) in route to Buck Hall Landing on the coast just a few miles north of my Dad’s place.  My mom is pretty pissed that I won’t stop back at her place on the way down as she only lives about 5 miles off route.  She doesn’t get it.  I am trying to put down a fairly fast time and I want to give the PT Conservation feedback on their route as seen from a very jaded mountain biker with a little bit of experience under his belt.

Wish me luck.

Some of you may know that I started a little garage business making bikepacking bags, odds and ends, and doing gear repair.  It’s been a lot of fun and after cranking out some batches of the smaller tank bags, I’ve decided to back off and focus on the custom frame bags.  I’ll still make everything else, but I won’t be killing myself to keep an on-hand inventory.  I love making the frame bags.  The features I put into them are pretty cool.  My competitor(s) don’t know what the hell they are doing in regards to the most important part, so I’ll capitalize on that aspect and build my reputation one customer at a time.

If you’ve been following my Nuke Sunrise Facebook page, then you’ve been seeing much of what I do.  You’ll start to see more stuff here.   I’ve got something really big planned for this summer.  The shop will definitely be closed for the first half of the summer…..maybe the entire summer again.  I feel the need to blog a little more in order to keep track of some thoughts/ideas and to kind of “put it out there” so I’m more motivated to reach success in my endeavor(s).

Stay tuned here to see what’s up.  It includes a new bike, new bags, big miles, east coast, big views…yadda yadda yadda.

The weekend before AZT, Jen and I decided to give the 12 Hours of the Wild West a second go ’round.  The inaugural year was pretty fun with a fast course, despite a nasty head wind on the final descent.  We had a babysitter that year with my mom joining us for some help with the C-man.  We took the win in the coed category that year and we were third overall.

This year Jen was pretty motivated to do this race again.  I figured it would be a good, albeit late, tune up for AZT.  With no babysitter and Connor in a pretty new cast on his lower leg, we were a bit nervous as to how this race was going to end up.  When Jen registered us, she mentioned that she wanted to win the whole thing.  I figured it would be possible as long as no 4 person male teams were too stacked and Connor understood that he wasn’t going to get much attention.

We got to the venue near Ft. Stanton, NM and set up in the gravel parking lot right near the timing tent.  Jen got out for a pre-ride and I just chilled with the C-man checking out some of the other rigs at the race.  The weather was perfect with only a slight wind/breeze.  The course was much longer than the first year and we were looking forward to getting in a few miles.family photo 12 hour wild west 2013

Since there was no Lemans start, I went first.  I put it in cruise control and let Paul Pacillas lead things out.  I kept it rolling on the second lap and put in a chase for Paul’s teammate Jay.  I was reeling Jay in when my chain started skipping on my cogs.  Uggh.  That’s what I get for thinking all my wheels/cassettes are worn about the same.

I held my position in the race and handed off to Jen.  Jen came back with a pretty substantial gap on the leading team and I switched over to my Superfly 100 which was set up with a 32×21.  It was a bit easy for the course, but I made it work.  What sucked was that the brakes on that bike have been getting louder and louder.  I cleaned them, lubed them, did a bleed on them, put factory pads in, tried different rotors….no difference.  Howled like a wolf who had just smoked a pack of camels.  Oh well….brakes only slow you down.

jen finish 12 hour wild west 2013

Our lead grew throughout the day and we ended up finishing up in less than 11 hours with the overall win.  Jen put in lap times that were equal to mine….and where much faster than the slowest members of our opposing teams.  The longer laps were definitely beneficial to us with lap times of 1:10 or so.  Some riders took almost 2 hours to get in a lap.  My suggestion to the race promoter was to stick with a slightly shorter lap in order to allow teams to put in more laps.

12 wild west podium

Connor did quite well and stayed occupied with all of his trucks.  He even noticed when one of my tires went flat and immediately let me know.  I had punctured through the rim strip.  Luckily we both brought two bikes each so we were never stressed about bike related issues.  Other than my howling brakes that frightened the bajeezus out of more than one rider, and my skipping gears, no major issues slowed us down.  Notubes….NO FLATS!

Click here to see the official results.

I always get asked about what I take with me on the big rides.  I’ve covered my packing list in the past with my CTR equipment list.  This year’s AZT was MUCH warmer than last year’s and the CTR, so a few things were different.

On my back I carried my Osprey hydration pack with a 100 oz. Camelbak bladder, my non-functioning SPOT, multi-tool, arm and knee warmers, an empty 1.5 liter platypus bladder (I used this once), spare shorts, a spare pair of socks, sunscreen, spare AAA and AA batteries, and PI rain jacket (packed more for warmth than rain protection).  I later found out that at the bottom of the pack I had an extra pair of arm warmers.

On the top tube, I carried as many snacks as I could as well as my cell phone and my gopro HD3….The Black!  I took more pics this year, but they weren’t all that.  On the bars I carried my full length neo air pro pad, tyvek bivy, and my 30 deg bag…..which I could have gone without.  In the bar pouch….extra glasses with clear lenses in a hard case, and my hygiene kit.

In the top frame bag I had another 100 oz. camelbak bladder in a fabric sleeve to prevent punctures.  Also in that compartment were 3 MRE meals and heaters with some MRE crackers, cheese, and bread.  I packed a wool tee and a light weight beanie cap.

In the bottom compartment….2 bottles of Stan’s sealant, one tube, 2 Big Air cans, 6 lipo Ayup batteries (24 hours total), Pur Hiker (now Katadyn) water filter, and my Fenix LD 20 flashlight, a micro LED blinky light, and my tire repair box with Leatherman micro, Crank Bros mini pump, needle and thread, plug tool, spare brake pads, chain master link and spare links, super glue, and patch kit.

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That’s it.

Each day I’d start off with a small snack and a bunch of water and walk a short distance before jumping on the bike.  Sometimes I’d remember to lube the chain….but using ProGold Extreme usually meant I could go a day and a half before lubing.  Eventually I’d stop for a more substantial snack and brush my teeth.  When the sun started coming up I’d apply sunscreen.  I tried to eat as much as I could when riding, but after the first store stop, I seemed to be out of bars and other items that are easy to eat while riding, so I seemed to stop a lot to eat.

Before going to sleep, I always made sure my belly was full, my ass and crotch were clean, and my teeth were brushed.  My second night was tough because I had downed 3 big glasses of Coke so it took me a while to go to sleep.  I should have ridden longer to get that stuff out of my system, but the camp spot I found was just too awesome to pass up.

On the bike I ran my favorite tire of all time….the WTB Weirwolf LT 2.55… on the front.  This tire is now about 5 years old and had 750 miles on it.  It held up great and still shows little wear.  On the rear, I ran a brand new WTB Exiwolf.  I had run one of these for 750 miles on the CTR and the Coco 250 with ZERO issues.  For this effort it got cut early in the ride.  Aaron Boatman gave me a tough time about using WTB tires as their quality has been hit or miss for the past few years.  Some tires made in Taiwan, others in China.  Some in different factories in China.  Some with sidewalls so thin they started showing thread immediately after installation.  Some with 60 tpi, others with 120, and others with 31 tpi…???  Whatever.  I’d love to be able to afford EXO Maxxis tires, but I even saw one of those with a stitched up sidewall.  I honestly believe that getting a cut sidewall is just pure lack of luck…..and sometimes lack of skill.  Looking at past AZT’s and this year’s AZT, the best riders get cut sidewalls.  How you deal with it is what makes the difference.  Having some mad stitching skills will pay off.  I had some practice before via a Stan’s clinic I gave in El Paso.  I gave a clinic the weekend after AZT and took a knife to the rear tire I used.  I was able to stitch it up and it held air at 40 psi (in pic below).  I rode it around my neighborhood a little and it still held air.  Practice is important so you know what you’re doing when crunch time comes.

slashed sidewall stitch repairI was super amazed at how well my feet, butt, and hands held up.  My hands started getting numb as I approached the Gila, but nothing compared to last year when I had blisters on my palms.  My feet did real well also, but three days after finishing, both my big toes went numb and I’m still having some issues there.  My butt didn’t bother me much at all and I only applied Okole Stuff once.  I got a bit nervous when I went to apply as it was the same container I had used for CTR and Coco 250 and I’d yet to replenish it.  It was almost empty.

The biggest equipment mistake I made was on the last evening when I stuffed my sunglasses into my top tube bag instead of in a sunglass case.  The fabric inside the bag wore off the mirror coating in a couple of spots.  I’m horrible with sunglasses.  Someday I’ll figure out how to make those things last.

I have no secrets to hide, so if you have any questions, ask and I’ll do my best to give you an honest answer.

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