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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.

 

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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.