For the first time ever, I participated in a sponsored trip.  Local mountain bike guide (Geobetty Tours) and publicity honch Don Baumgardt brought together El Paso riders along with the Ride For Reading crew and film makers to ride 70 miles across the high plains east of El Paso to Dell City, TX to deliver books to their school.  Hot shot photographer Devon Balet and his numerous connections for sponsorship had us sleeping in some Big Agnes products which I feel very compelled to review.  Note that we did not get to keep these products.  I think we were all given the same sleeping bag…the Cross Mountain 45 with synthetic fill.  We had a variety of sleeping pads and a couple different tents.  I chose to not sleep in a tent.  It was just too nice outside.  I did help set some up and I can tell you that they are extremely light and easy to set up. They came with really nice stakes and lots of reflective cord.


The sleeping bags were perfect for our cool nights and I heard few complaints.  These are the bags with the sleeve for the sleeping pad.  They don’t have insulation on the bottom relying on the pad to provide an insulating barrier between your body and the ground.  I’ve always wanted to check one of these out and was excited to destroy the inside of one with my sweaty, dirty, and sunscreen caked naked body for two nights.


I was given the Green Ridge sleeping pad which I believe is their lightest pad….and weirdest.  Weird in color and texture…like a dry condom.  I didn’t slip it into the sleeping bag sleeve the first night, and being a restless sleeper, I found myself struggling to roll over and move around since my body was sticking to the rubber material.  At only 20″ wide, the pad did not provide enough width for me.  From the comments from the other party goers, none of the pads were wide enough for them either.  All the provided pads were 20″ wide, but varied in material, weight, style, thickness, and length.  A perfect rectangle, mine was 78″ long and 3.75″ thick….totally sufficient in those dimensions but barely wide enough for my shoulders.   The pad was a bit noisy as well.  Not as noisy as the Mylar lined Thermarest NeoAir Xlite, but quite squeaky when you moved around on it….even when it was in the sleeping bag sleeve.



In the middle of our first night, I decided to stuff the pad into the sleeve of the sleeping bag. This made things a bit quieter, but I noticed some air pockets.  On the edges of the pad, the bag did not insulate well and at the top opening, there was no way to cover your head and shoulders since the opening was flat with no mummy hood or tapered closure.  Air snuck in around my head and onto my shoulders.  As a naked sleeper, this was no good.  There was plenty of room at the foot of the bag and it extended off the end of the pad making it perfect for my size 15 feet.

In the morning I left the pad in the sleeve, unscrewed the valve on the pad, and compressed it into the stuff sack of sleeping bag.  There was plenty of room for everything including my 7′ long Cuben fiber bivy.  The next evening, inflating the pad took a couple of minutes and everything was ready for sleeping…no fighting the pad to get it into the bag’s sleeve.  This could prove a time advantage for someone racing the clock.

Would I buy either of these products?  Even with a discount, I would not buy these.  The pad is not wide enough at all.  The bag is a clever idea and someone who sleeps in a t-shirt may like the bag.  I’m more of a mummy guy and like to be able to roll over with the bag staying with me when I move.   I am impressed with the compressed size of the kit and the weight isn’t terrible.  I think this would be a great bag for someone who regularly uses a tent since the tent would cut down on drafts experienced through the neck opening.

In the heat, I suffer.  At 6’5″ and almost 200 pounds, I’ve got a lot of surface area and my heart has to work harder than an average 5’8″ rider in order to get blood to all my appendages.  I’ve found myself suffering in the heat to the point where I thought that if someone were to hand me a gun, I’d blow my head off.  My first AZT 300 was like that.  My final day found me in the hot box between the Gila and Picket Post.  Temps were in the 90’s.  I know because I use one of these.  I remember running low on water with about 18 miles left (at least 2 hours), and passing a Polish guy who was out of water.  I just stared at him as I kept moving by.  No way was I going to risk running out of water in that desert.

In grad school I was the only test subject to complete all three trials of a heat study.  Ride in a small room filled with heaters and hot plates with boiling water for 3 hours at 50% max VO2.  Esophageal  temp probed shoved up my nose and down my throat, blood draws every hour, and 5 minutes in the mask every 20 minutes.  The seat killed my prostate and if I had to pee, I had to do it on the bike into a graduated cylinder….once with a boner…very difficult and a tad bit embarrassing with more than a few coeds checking things out.  The fridge holding the blood samples lost electricity for a weekend and all the samples were lost.

My third AZT 300 found me early into day 1 with a missing chainring bolt.  I rode really fast trying to catch up to people who were a good 20 to 30 minutes ahead of me after that.  I blew up in the heat a couple of hours before Kentucky Camp.  Hiding under a tree trying to escape the heat, I quickly realized my attempt at a 3rd consecutive finish was done.  Day 2 found me going through so much water there was no way I’d make it to the next water source before running out.  I turned around on Reddington Rd., spent an hour at a Safeway, then took the road to Oracle eventually being swept up by my ride.

Tour Divide found me in some heat too.  I went north opting to take the heat early.  Near the end of Day 1 I rolled out of Silver City with a full bag of ice on my back.  I really didn’t see heat like that again until Canada.  Yeah.  92 degrees just north of Butts Cabin.  Luckily there were clean water sources everywhere.  Since my 2014 Divide Ride, I haven’t done much serious riding other than the Puzzler 50.

I have a neighbor that is into hot yoga.  She convinced me to do a Bikram class with her….in her little yoga room with a enough heaters to keep a public housing complex comfortable during the worst El Paso winter day.  An hour and a half listening to some Indian dickhead that calls(ed) himself a Yogi bark instructions and insults putting me into positions I’d never been in before.  I was pretty sore the next day despite doing many of those poses on a daily basis under my own terms for several years.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  I later attempted an Ashtanga class….normal temps….but the video instruction we watched just went on and on with the guy basically showing off how awesome he was at doing handstands.

Still not a fan of a structured yoga class and much less a fan of doing it in a room that is 100 degrees, I was convinced to go to a real hot yoga class as part of my neighbor’s yoga training certification process.  It was pretty good…only an hour.  It wasn’t that hot, but hot enough to get me really loose and into some good poses.  The scenery was really good so I decided to tag along with her to some other classes eventually winding up in a studio in Las Cruces for a hot flow class (some call it Bikyasa) that lasted 2 hours.  The temp hit 102 and the humidity was at 57%.  I would have made it all the way through if I didn’t have to pee.  It was by far the hottest thing I’ve ever done.  Kuwait in full battle rattle had nothing on this.  Sweat dripped onto my towel covered mat sounding like the rain in that section of Forrest Gump when he was in Vietnam.

forrest gump rain in vietnam

I was getting most of the poses and trying not to pass out every time I stood up and reached upward…..toward the heater just above my head.  Seeing the rock bodied and tattooed Meg to my right and the creamy skinned Maria to my left kept me motivated.  I thought about my hottest bike races and they didn’t come close to this horror.  People were dropping out left and right.  Child’s pose was being practiced by more than a couple folks as the rest plowed on.  Warrior 1 to warrior 2, eagle, warrior 2, warrior 1, foward fold, flow high to low, downward dog, yada yada yada, more flows, sweat, drink water, wipe sweat off of hands, focus man.  Focus!

The next day I injured myself doing a not so heavy lift of an empty shelf and my weekend went to shit after that.  Three days later I was still guzzling water, hitting the foam roller, and doing several drugs.  I started thinking about why so many people are doing this crazy shit.  I remember when Willow Koerber (Rockwell)….damn she’s still so fucking hot… was trying to continue racing after having her first baby (I think she has 2 kids now) and she blogged a bit about doing Bikram.  It sounded like a surreal experience for her.  Kind of like going into an opium den and participating in whatever craziness happens in an opium den.  I also thought she was a wack job searching for answers. Recently I started to wonder if maybe there was something more to this.  Maybe there was something that could be applied to my competitive mindset.  Maybe there is a physiological training advantage happening.

I won’t get nerdy with Aldosterone, but it’s the “sweat hormone”.  It controls internal temps by causing you to sweat.  It’s affected by hydration status and whether or not you are “heat trained”.   I can tell you right now, I sweat more than anyone in those classes.  You can hear my mat…it sounds like a rain storm.   You don’t hear it from the others.  They don’t have the surface area I have.  Maybe this is a “fun(ner)” way to build that tolerance to heat – lots of hot girls sweating and bending their bodies into all kinds of fascinating positions.  Maybe the mental aspect of pushing your body to complete all the flows is a great form of mental training.  Maybe it can translate to someone’s ability to make it through the hot parts of the day during a race. Maybe hot yoga stimulates the production of Aldosterone.  I really hated doing research when I was in grad school, so I’ll just speculate and let you do whatever research you want to do.  If nobody has done any research on this stuff, here you go.

I do know that anything that flips a switch in your brain causing you to push yourself harder, focus more intently, and drive yourself to complete a difficult task is something that will help you be a better athlete.  I’m still not convinced that hot yoga is safe or even that awesome, but it is surreal and it does weird things to your brain.  I’m always down for stuff like that.


Wider is better

This year’s Puzzler was in my mind since April when Brent asked me to loop the new direction for GPS verification and provide him with affirmation.  Running it counter clockwise was definitely going to make things a bit different for everyone, especially me on the single speed.  Climbing up Mundy’s from the west side is MUCH steeper, yet the rest of the course had much gentler overall climbing and more descending….at least in my view.  I never looked at any gps data.  I stopped doing that long ago.

I tried to ride this new loop as much as I could without wearing myself completely down.  I dropped a bit of weight after the Chupacabras and kept myself under 195 through the holidays.  I didn’t ride as much as I would have liked to, but I still got in some fun days of riding leading up to the race.  Spending time exploring new places with my son has taken priority over killing myself on the bike.

I must admit there was a bit of pressure leading up to this year’s race.  Last year’s 3rd overall was a bit of a fluke.  Not a lot of fast guys showed up.  Mo Frias, who cracked on the last 15 mile stretch, was just figuring out the long stuff and Jerry Garcia had crashed his road bike a few days before the race.  I was definitely hoping to be in the top 5 again, but top 10 would be more realistic considering I don’t train anymore.

I made a few changes to my ride.  Dirty Girl, the Titus Ti frame got put away after last year’s when I noticed a crack in it.  The Spot BE Trophy Bike handles a bit better since I can run a shorter stem on it, so I stuck with it for most of the year’s single speed duties.  With the main climb being steeper this year, I went with a taller gear since I knew I’d be walking up it and the rest of the course would need something slightly bigger.  I ran a 30×19 and it kicked my butt on the lower part of the Mundy’s climb which caused me to lose touch with 6-8th place.  I ran MUCH wider bars this year.  Crank Brother’s 780’s.  They were incredibly perfect.  Combined with an 80mm stem, this bike is insane on the descents.  I also have wider rims…30mm inside width Light Bicycle carbon rims.  They’ve been awesome.  I mounted up a new Maxxis Icon 2.35 on the front and a Kenda Nevegal X Pro on the rear.  However, I completely failed in regards to setting good tire pressure.  Somewhere in the race, I let a little out of the front.  It wasn’t enough and was bouncing off rocks way more than I wanted to and I felt like I was riding very poorly on the technical stuff.  Then I let out too much and rode from somewhere around Mule Shoe to the finish with about 10 psi in the front tire.  It made Sotol super fun, but it was still just a bit too low for me.

I also finally used a “finish” bottle.  I haven’t really used one since my shorter XC days and back then they’d make my heart do funky stuff so I was afraid to use one again.  This year I filled a bottle with dark green tea, a scoop of Cytomax, 2 Sportslegs, and 2 Traumeel’s.  Traumeel is an herbal anti-inflammatory.  This was nice to have since my knees were bugging me most of the race.  I stayed quite hydrated the entire race.  I had to pee around mile 25….a lot.  I didn’t lose a place but I was in 8th at the time and 9th almost caught me.  At the end of the race, I had to rush off to the porto toilet to pee again.  That never happens.  I drank about 3 bottles with one scoop Gatorade and one scoop Cytomax and ate a 2 bags of Honey Stinger Chews as well as a Clif Z bar, a regular Clif bar, and 4 organic newtons from Costco.  I also carried a full 100 oz bladder of water in my frame bag and that was about 1/3 full when I finished.

I went into the last 13 miles nervous about the finish bottle.  When I finally took a swig, I was reassured with a desirable flavor and a couple of minutes later, no leg and knee pain.  I made sure it was all gone about half way through Sotol Forest for the last climb.  That was an amazing stretch.  I have never finished a race that long with that little cramping.  Usually I’m fighting for my life at that point.  I held my position and ended up 8th since the guy ahead of me took a wrong turn on the last 13 miles.

Overall I was just kind of meh about the result.  I knew it would be tough to get up Mundy’s, but I totally cracked there.  The rest of the race was really fun and it was great to go back and forth with some people in the first half.

Big thanks to Greg at for keeping me rolling with Tire Cream and making sure I can stop with new finned pads for the XO brakes.  I also use alloy Speed Evolution valve stems and ESI grips which he distributes.

I’d also like to mention the movie night we had before the race…..which only 22 people attended.  I worked really hard with my buddy Victor from Velo Paso and George from Geo Geske’s to set up a great venue.  We had a TON of prizes from Truckerco, Magura,, Geobetty, and  The movies were great and we actually went through about half a keg of Lagunitas IPA.


The weekend before school started back, I raced a team race in Juarez with my buddy DJ and another El Paso rider, Avyell Lo.  Avyell has been getting fast and asked me to be on his team even though he had to have me recruit the other member.  DJ was fresh off the Breck Epic so I new we’d have fun no matter what.  I figured I’d give myself a bit of a handicap and decided to race the Ice Cream Truck 29+ Super Beast.  OMG!!!  That bike is so much fun.  It will ride over ANYTHING. Even better, this course had about a mile of SAND!!!!  Braaaap Braaaaaaaaap Braaaaaaappppp.  I passed so many riders in the sand, but had to wait on my teammates.  Oh well.  That was fun.

The course was about 25 miles long and consisted of a bunch of the Chupa trails and there are a lot of new sections.  Chupa is supposed to go over King Kong, a beast of a climb which I’m glad the team race didn’t

go over because hauling the ICT29+SB up that thing would have sucked.  Although, I probably could have pedaled it all considering how much MAD traction that bike has.

Our team finished 4th or 5th…depending on how you look at the results.  We had a blast and I got a good workout in taking good pulls and pushing DJ on some of the climbs.  I will definitely have to get down there again to ride King Kong before the Chupa.

It was overcast most of the morning.  Then it got after we finished.  Perfect timing.

It was overcast most of the morning. Then it got after we finished. Perfect timing.

Results.  You had to be with your team at all the check points.

Results. You had to be with your team at all the check points.

Avyell in the bottom left corner.

Avyell in the bottom left corner.

Pic stolen from Facebook.  I rode with no hands a bunch.  The ICT29+SB is ridiculously stable.

Pic stolen from Facebook. I rode with no hands a bunch. The ICT29+SB is ridiculously stable.

Yeah.  It’s been a while.   It’s been well over a year since I’ve blogged.  I actually have a write up of my thoughts on my 2014 Tour Divide ride, but I really don’t want to subject people to that.  I think it is quite opposite of what most people want to hear about the Divide and I don’t want to come off as more of an asshole than I already am.  This past weekend I did something that I think is blog worthy, positive, uplifting, and hopefully a bit humorous for my 10 readers.  I finally traveled deep into Mexico for a mountain bike race.  Over the years I’ve been invited more than a few times.  Sometimes we (back when Jen and I were together) weren’t invited….just told about some really cool race after the fact.  When I found out about this race, the Reto Cusi in Cusihuriachi, I decided to take advantage of some new friendships and get my ass down there.

Cusihuriachi is just south of Cuauhtemoc.

Cusihuriachi is just south of Cuauhtemoc.


To travel into Mexico you need a few things.  A traveling partner that speaks the language is a bonus.  My friend Luisa is from Chihuahua City.  She is getting into running (not managing) events and found the Reto Cusi on one of the many Mexican sports facebook pages.  You need a passport (I have the ID card), a vehicle permit, and a travel permit (free since I was going to be there less than a week).  The vehicle permit cost me $460 USD, but I had $400 refunded upon my return. An older model vehicle would result in a much lower deposit.  We snagged the permits the morning we crossed into Mexico at the Santa Theresa/Jeronimo crossing.  It took about an hour to get everything we needed.  The race promoter sent us a toll booth exemption permit so we wouldn’t have to pay tolls.  That saved us about $60 USD.  I felt like Wayne and Garth with the back stage passes.  The last thing you need is enough money for gas and food.  Gas is a bit more expensive, especially if you get convinced to buy premium gas since “that low grade stuff is so bad for your car.”  One last thing….make sure your  car is in tip top shape.  The roads are rough and people drive WAY faster than the speed limit.


Driving down was fairly uneventful.  We passed Samalayuca where I will definitely be returning for some fat bike adventures on their dunes.  We passed through some smaller villages where guys were trying to make you think you were being pulled over for some traffic violation, guiding you into their burrito place.  We navigated that successfully.  No burritos or quesadillas were harmed in the process.  Rolling into Chihuahua City felt like a return to Korea with fewer high rises.  We had tacos at Tacos Orientales with Luisa’s mom.  The tacos did not have an Asian twist.  The family that owned the place was originally from a neighborhood outside of Mexico City called Orientales.  Turns out that there are lots of places with Orientales in the name.

After Chi City, we cruised into the hills flanked by mountains towards Cuahtemoc.  One last toll check and suddenly there was the Walmart on the edge of town.  Registration was at a pizza joint next to the Walmart.  We got some bad directions to Cusi and wound up about 20 minutes past town after battling traffic through town (I got a great window wash from a guy who had a brand new scrubber….5 pesos).  We reoriented ourselves by getting confirmation on our location from a very short farmer selling the worst elotes (roasted corn on the cob) in the world.  10 pesos in the trash….well…we got confirmation that we were in the wrong place.

Chihuahua City traffic.

Chihuahua City traffic.

Toll booth.  Decent restrooms at all of these.

Toll booth. Decent restrooms at all of these. the same parking lot with Walmart.

Applebees…in the same parking lot with Walmart.

We eventually got on the most horrible road of the trip that guided us through huge apple orchards owned and operated by white Menonites.  I felt like I was in Colorado.  Then we dropped into a canyon that took us to Cusi.  We took a little tour of the town and then found a good campsite on a neat spot of land owned by the family of the race promoters. Then  it rained….and hailed…and rained…..and hailed…and rained some more.  Some of our fellow campers got completely hosed and ended up getting a cabin in the little mining town.

Really old church with scary Jesus statue inside.  After 2.5 years in Catholic school, this still made me wonder what's up with Catholics.

Really old church with scary Jesus statue inside. After 2.5 years in Catholic school, this still made me wonder what’s up with Catholics.

The main street at the end of Cusi just before the venue.

The main street at the end of Cusi just before the venue.



Dropping into the canyon where Cusi is located.

Dropping into the canyon where Cusi is located.


I could have spent an hour trying to do a bank transfer to register for the race, but since only a few people from the states attended this thing, the promoters were willing to save us a spot and let us pay when we got there.  The entry was 250  Pesos….about $18 USD….yeah.  Awesome!  They were capping entries at 500 and they closed registration in the middle of the week.  I got zero riding in the day before because the rain started right when I got my bike out of the van.  We sat out the storm, ate dinner, then finally crashed out.

A brief walk up the course didn't really help me get oriented.

A brief walk up the course didn’t really help me get oriented.

The morning of the race before the venue got completely packed.

The morning of the race before the venue got completely packed.

The outskirts of the village.

The outskirts of the village.

Not a bad camp spot at all.

Not a bad camp spot at all.

There was no need for an alarm the next morning because 500 cars were making their way into the tiny canyon.  We had a prime spot near the finish and across the creek from the start.  I got a good warm up in and made my way to the line.  I chose to ride my Racer X since it has gears and I was unsure of the course.  I tried getting details but they were limited.  The profile seemed like a few long climbs.  It turns out, there was only one place a single speed would have struggled…about 3 km of flat road (dirt and pave).  The rest was a lot of fast double track descending and climbing  with most of the climbing fairly short and punchy relative to what I’m used to riding in Colorado or in El Paso with Mundy’s Gap.

Sort of near the front.  Start protocol doesn't really exist in Mexico.

Sort of near the front. Start protocol doesn’t really exist in Mexico.

I got a bad start but stayed patient and worked my way up to 14th.  Then I bridged up to a group and at the front of that group, I only saw a couple of tracks.  The mud was pretty bad in spots, but overall, the course was pretty fast.  Most of it was between 6 and 7,000 feet.  That kind of caught me off guard.  Being about 15 pounds overweight and choosing to do a bit of “promotional” work by running a frame bag with a bladder and bottle in it, I was having to do a little work on those climbs, but I was comfortable where I was.  Then my front tire went really soft.  I hit it with an air cartridge, but it only lasted about 500 yards before going way too soft again.  Sealant wasn’t spewing out, so maybe that wasn’t sealant I heard shaking around inside when I checked the wheel before the race.  I had to use my mini Leatherman to unscrew the valve core so I could put some sealant in, then hit it with my last cartridge.  It didn’t hold air.  Hmmm.  I kept riding on it.  This is my chinacarbon rim so I’m was not overly concerned about completely destroying it.  With only about 8 or 9 psi in it, the Ikon 2.35 did a great job in all the mud at that low pressure.  However, the descents on this course were very rocky and stuff would come up on you pretty fast and I banged the rim a bunch and came close to rolling the tire off.  I stopped two more times to use the hand pump and eventually made it to the end of the lap in about 15th.  I didn’t see my friend Luisa near the finish area, so I rode off course to my van, injected some sealant, and pumped it up pretty hard….like 30 psi.  I grabbed a cartridge (2 more were in feed bag with Luisa), and got back on course.  Just at the creek crossing after the start/finish, Luisa was there with my bag.  I grabbed a bottle and the 2 cartridges in my bag and proceeded to work my way back up through the field.  The course had dried out quite a bit and was much faster.  About 8 miles in I started passing single lap racers, but I was starting to feel my efforts.  I’m pretty sure I caught one of the guys that was in the teens, but he pulled away on one of the longer climbs.  Then the main descending started.  I was catching and passing people like crazy.  I felt super smooth and under control, floating and bunny hopping stuff while probably going too fast for my own good.  Just past the 10k to go sign, I pinched the rear.  I was running a brand new Ikon 2.2 on my Spank (tank) Subrosa rim which slammed a rock pretty hard.  The air and sealant hissed out in less than a couple of seconds.  I immediately went for my tube, inserted it, but couldn’t find the head to my inflater.  I tried the hand pump, but apparently, my tube was not good despite being sealed in Tyvek.  A rider being toted out on an ATV let me borrow his inflater head, but that only confirmed that the tube wouldn’t hold air.  So I ran and rode the last 8k or so to the finish on the flat tire.  I was still passing the single lap riders and I was actually able to stay with some guys in the long race as long as the climb was fairly smooth.  I ended up 20th.  I only had to do some minor truing to the rear wheel and my front wheel with the carbon rim was still perfect.


Finishing on a flat.

Finishing on a flat.

The organizers where extremely welcoming and super cool.  Their entire family worked together doing everything.  They had a really great start finish area, plenty of fencing, good course markings, and feed zones every 5k.  The top 200 finishers in the 70km race got a long sleeve  jersey with pockets.  How they’re able to pull that off in Mexico is beyond me.  A Tarahumara won the overall and walked home with about $180 USD.  I heard no bitching or whining but I could tell the mud took it’s toll on people and they would have preferred it to be dry.  Trophies were given as well as big blocks of cheese.


I was a bit concerned about getting home at a decent hour.  I didn’t want to be driving the crazy highways in the dark.  They don’t have much of a shoulder and some even have a gnarly concrete ditch maybe a foot outside the line.  We were a bit delayed in exiting the venue, but they moved some fencing and we went right under the finish banner to leave the venue.  The organizers wanted photos so we got out one last time and gathered for photos and a bit of q and a.  You could tell these guys were in their second year for this event and you could feel their enthusiasm.  They asked if I returned.  If things stay cool down there, I’ll definitely be back.

It was tough getting out with all the people trying to get in to have a picnic.

It was tough getting out with all the people trying to get in to have a picnic.

Fueled by a half liter Coke, a small ice cream cone, and all the fruits and veggies left in our cooler, we rolled into the military checkpoint south of the Salamayuca dunes about the time it started getting really dark.  The guy searching our vehicle asked where we had been and he said, “Ah.  Los montanas!”.  I told him it was awesome.  He smiled and sent us on our way.

The highway before Santa Theresa actually got better so driving in the dark wasn’t that nerve racking.  South of the last toll station, the road has an excellent shoulder.  The entire evening we were flanked on both sides by huge thunderstorms that were putting on quite the show for us.  Eventually we rolled into the border where the Mexican official processed the refund for our deposit and finally got through our customs person to head home.


European made Ford Transit van.  No ground clearance, cool windows.

European made Ford Transit van. No ground clearance, cool windows.

Dude at car show throwing down burnouts in his ultra dope Plymouth (duster hatchback??)

Dude at car show throwing down burnouts in his ultra dope Plymouth (duster hatchback??)

Not much different than Colorado.

Not much different than Colorado.

Farm land.

Farm land.

God rays!!!

God rays!!!

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.











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.











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.











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.











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.



















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.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.