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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.
So 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.
I also bought this bad boy.
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”
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.
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.
My second attempt at the AZT 300 snapped up on me much faster than last year’s. My fitness was WAY below what I had going into last year’s, and I spent the final week trying to figure out what bike to ride. I really wanted to ride my Superfly 100 set up as a SS, but I couldn’t get the brakes from sounding like a howling wolf with a tracheotomy. They chattered and howled and drove me nuts….not just with noise, but with inconsistent feel. Not a good thing. So I went back to the Dirty Girl which proved her worth on about 750 miles of the toughest single track routes known to humans on some of my adventures from last year.
So Dirty Girl got a new chain and the much more powerful Elixer brakes from my Superfly. I also switched over to my Fox fork which hadn’t been used since AZT 2012. The night before the race, I rushed to finish a new frame bag for it in order to highlight a new fabric I recently picked up, but my rush caused a poor fit that I wasn’t pleased with…at all. Oh well, there was nothing wrong with my old bags. I still got more sleep that week than the week previous to AZT 2012.
Our drive to Parker Lake was uneventful and we arrived to see Judd and Rhino setting up camp. Rhino was rocking one of my harness/pouch systems and it looked good on his bike. Later, others started to show up and sometime well after I had crawled into the warm covers, a large group rolled in. It was the shuttle from Picket Post (the 300 mile finish point) which was supposed to leave at 5:30 pm. It’s only a couple of hours driving from Picket Post to Parker Lake, so I secretly hoped they had hit the bar to begin the dehydration process early.
A bit of socializing and a briefing from Scott Morris, and we were on our way. This year I led it out. Aaron Gulley quickly moved past on his way to a record time. I never saw him again. A couple of other guys got around me as well, but knowing the trail and my fitness, I held back as much as possible. The first section of the Canelo Hills brought little drama except for the unnecessary hefting of Dirty Girl over a fence which was off-route. A re-heft found myself and the 3 others I caught up to at that time quickly back on course where I pulled away from them all. I drained my first bladder about a half mile from the end of the trail. I waited till I hit the pave to trade bladders and make a small adjustment to the front brake caliper. On the road I spun my giant legs and clown feet as fast as they could spin and actually caught up to Chad. Ross from Australia caught me and the three of us were soon at Sonoita where some early starters were exiting and Pete Bassinger was eating. After grabbing a bunch of crap food, I went outside to eat, top off my bladders, and finish a bottle of Gatorade. Pete was helping Neil with his fork which despite looking almost brand new, was not working at all. Pete grabbed his shock pump back and rolled out. Ezster rolled in and I rolled out after Pete and Chad.
The next section of dirt took us into the Kentucky Camp section. I forgot how difficult this section was, distracted by the fun sections of swoopy descending and flume singletrack, quickly catching and passing Pete and Chad both. Thinking I could make it all the way to Colossal Cave with the water I had, I passed on topping off at Kentucky Camp…..bonehead move #1. At this point in time I was well ahead of Pete and Chad and well ahead of my time from last year. I cruised on and eventually had to take a break where Chad, Pete, Aaron Boatman, and a guy from Tennessee came past me. I eventually got going again and caught up to the last two and put a little time on them.
Night started to come and the lights came out. I eventually passed the spot I camped the previous year and wasn’t near the level of tired I was the previous year, but I was starting to worry about water. About that time I heard the worst sound ever. The psssst of air quickly leaving my tire due to a cut sidewall. This of course was payback from Aaron B. as about an hour before he warned me to heed the rocks I was popping out from under me with “save those sidewalls”. The previous year I was shocked to see he did not have his GPS tethered to his bike, and sure enough, he ended up losing it….backtracking the next day to find it still on.
I quickly got off and tried to get my wits together. The cut was pretty big, but only about 3/4″ went through the threads of the sidewall. Stitching it up was the only desirable choice in my book. I removed the wheel, found my repair kit, and went searching for my needle and thread. Grabbing the thread, I pulled it out….sans needle. I searched the box for the needle and found it stuck in my Leatherman Micro. Crap. Threading the needle was going to suck. It was dark and my close up vision is long gone. I focused my lights on everything and after only two tries, I got it threaded and knotted. Leaving the tire seated on the rim, I stitched it up quickly. In the meantime, a bunch of people passed me….Eszter, Aaron, Tennessee, Chad, ??? They all asked if I was ok. I mumbled that I could use some water, but nobody wanted to lighten their load for me. After running the stitch up and then X’ing it back down, I tied it off, added a bottle of sealant, and hit it with an inflator. It held!!! I packed everything away and was back on the trail. I’m pretty sure it didn’t take me much over 5 minutes….but then again, time is weird on rides this long.
Back on the trail I passed a guy that had fallen in a cactus. (This may have been before I flatted.) There’s no other way to describe his predicament as other than being ‘effed. He knew it too. I was actually afraid he might go into shock. I asked him if he had duct tape….he which had wrapped not so neatly around his seatpost…..and told him to get to work with it. I asked him if he had a Leatherman…..which he did….and I told him to start digging. He eventually gave up and made his way to the highway flagging down a Border Patrol vehicle finally making it to a hospital. His saga is highlighted with a picture of all the thorns he removed on the bikepacking.net forum here.
I continued to cruise along towards I-10 in hopes of some trail magic in the form of a gallon jug full of water. I caught back up to Chad as we crossed the highway to the final section of trail to the I-10 tunnel. I mentioned that I was getting tired and that if I found water I’d put down for the night. As we entered the tunnel, I saw 3 jugs of water!….or what appeared to be water. They were not full, so I assumed that the intended user had already topped off and left behind what they didn’t need. I filled one of my bladders with fluid from two of them, and sure enough, one of them was not water. It was pretty weak tasting so I couldn’t pinpoint it. Fermented Vitamin Water? Fermented Gu2O? Zima? Bartles and James? I wasn’t sure, but it wasn’t burning my throat or making my stomach upset, so I cruised on soon catching back up to Chad…..soon followed by bonehead move #2.
Chad and I worked our way up the final climb that would have taken us over to Colossal Cave and on to a totally sweet picnic area with a water spigot, but we wimped out and camped in a flat spot where the train woke us up 4 times in about 5 1/2 hours. Cramping also woke me up. Most of it occurred in my feet and in my back/neck. I was hoping this was not due to dehydration, but it was most likely that combined with my poor fitness and the fact that I did a pretty stellar job hauling my big ass up and down a bunch of hills for 95 miles. Sleeping here was not the best choice. Chad didn’t snore, but that train was VERY loud. In hindsight, I’m sure I could have made it to the picnic area without much more suffering and had a much quieter sleep in cooler temps.
Strava file for the day here.
Early the next morning Chad and I wound up at the picnic area where we came across Neil.…the guy with the blown fork. He, Luke, and Casey got around us sometime in the night. Luke and Casey were not there. I emptied the suspect water from my bladder and topped off quickly chasing after Chad where we ripped some sweet singletrack that was added to the course since the previous edition. Soon we rolled into the Rincon Market where the bitchy owner told us about calling the Sheriff on a couple of riders who slept on her porch. I bought two Don Miguel breakfast burritos and a crapload of other crap and enjoyed a break on the porch with Chad and Max Morris who had put down early….I think I passed him before I flatted. I got reloaded and headed out alone realizing that I left my coffee cake on the table next to Ray’s bike. Ray was another singlespeeder who had his sweet Seven frame get crushed by a truck on Reddington Rd. during last year’s race. He looked pretty beat and also mentioned a cut tire on which he had stitched in a patch. I wasn’t too worried about him and took off wondering where some of the other racers might be….maybe at the Safeway? Maybe already to Prison Camp? Meh. I kept moving.
The cruise up Reddington was pretty uneventful and traffic was non-existent. Pretty awesome for a Saturday. I messaged Jen at the bottom of Reddington since my SPOT refused to work. It was 10 am local time and the heat was starting to come on.
I saw Max headed up the road a couple of switchbacks down, but he didn’t catch me until I stopped under some shade to eat a snack. We rode together all the way to the top of Milagrosa where we topped off with water. Max was pretty beat down, super skinny, and mentioned something about finding some shade. I took off to tackle the switchback hike-a-bike to the Molina Basin campground where I topped off with water again….both efforts were quick, but I chose to pump from the creek so it took more time than you’d think. The next water was more than 15 miles up the road and I did not want to go dry. Max said the nice restaurant at the top of the mountain closed at 9, but I wanted to be there before dark. I topped out on the climb just as it went dark….7:15ish?? I went into the restaurant surprised that it was almost empty on a Saturday night. I quickly ordered two meals….a pulled pork sandwich with soup and salad, and a turkey sandwich to go. Then came bonehead move #3. I ordered Coke. I’d yet to take on any caffeine, but I figured I’d ride until midnight or so and it would help keep me awake. In a few minutes, Casey, Luke, Max, and Ross all poured in followed by Neil. I was super stoked to see Max for I feared the worst for him after we parted ways at the top of Milagrosa. I spent over an hour inside taking care of hygiene and refueling.
When we left it was buttass cold and we were all layered up for the decent down Oracle Ridge. I couldn’t wait for this portion as it was one of my favorite portions from 2012. The road down was no fun as a dozer…. or a crew of idiots in crappy jeeps….WTF?…. had completely softened up the road surface. I struggled to get down safely and finally got to the singletrack where it seemed the temps went up quite a bit. I worked my way through the climbs and decents until I came to a really nice spot with soft sand and no wind. It was only about 9:30. Since I love sleeping outside, I put down for the night. A few more riders came by, but I wasn’t worried as I really wanted to get a great night’s sleep. I removed my shorts and wasn’t even all the way in my sleeping bag and passed out for almost 6 hours of sleep.
Day 2’s Strava file here.
With no alarm set, I got up around 3:30 (according to Strava…which may be reflecting MST instead of the wacky non-daylight savings AZT). I quickly got back on the trail and passed somebody tucked away on the side of a gnarly section of trail. Whoever it was kind of freaked out thinking I was going to hit him. No problems though and I was on my way. Then I passed the trio of Neil, Luke, and Casey. Neil was up and about, but I kept on rolling. The sun was coming up and I was dreading the passage across the desert to Kelvin.
It has some great trail, but it can get hot and seem endless out there. Not long after the sun rose, I was rolling into the Kanally Ranch house and quickly cleaned up at the hose. Luckily I did not top off my water here as it turned out it wasn’t so great, almost causing record setting finisher Aaron Gulley a disaster in the middle of the desert. I cut the top half off my home made tyvek bivy and threw it in the trash just to drop a half pound, and changed my socks. Bonehead move #4…..I didn’t reapply sunscreen after washing my face.
Rolling into Oracle I was pretty bummed that the grocery store wasn’t open yet but I plowed on to the Circle K. It had a surprisingly decent selection, but since I had just finished off the sandwich I ordered the night before, I didn’t grab anything substantial. They did have bananas!!! At this point I probably made the smartest move of the weekend. I filled my empty bladder with ICE! As I was rolling out, Neil was rolling in. He looked great and was super motivated. On my way back to the highway, I saw Luke and Casey killing time at the trailhead on the Oracle road. I waved and rolled on. I rode for another couple of hours on the awesome switchbacks up and down the washes until my tire finally gave up. Here came bonehead move #5. I removed the stitches from my tire and without removing the tire from the rim, I restitched it wrapping a tire plug under the stitch. This did not hold well so I attempted to patch it. My glue was unopened, but it had turned to a gel and it didn’t work. I then plastered a piece of Gorilla tape on it. At this time, Neil rolled up and hung out with me while I finished it up. This seemed to do the job and I punctured my last Big Air cartridge. We rolled on down the trail to see a pretty amazing sight for sore eyes. It was Jen Judge (Aaron Gulley’s girlfriend), Caroline Soong (Kurt Refsnider’s girlfriend) and another female. Was I hallucinating? We quickly exchanged pleasantries and rolled on. Caroline took this rad photo of me and Neil.
Neil and I wound up at the Beehive Well and took a break under the shade of the building there and I took off without him. Eventually I made it to the Freeman water cache to find Aaron from Wyoming taking all the shade under the Mesquite tree. I quickly topped everything off (both 100 oz bladders were dry) and rolled on. I noticed it was getting kind of late in the day so I stopped to eat an MRE. It was delicious and I was on my way.
Soon though, my tire went low and I pinched it crossing a wash. This time I wasted no time taking it off the rim so I could do something to the backside of the hole. I removed the flapping Gorilla tape (I couldn’t believe it was still clinging on) and balled up all the adhesive from on top of my stitch job. Then I dabbed some Gorilla brand super glue on there. I then put two layers of Gorilla tape on top and used the last of my Big Air to seat the tire. Yay! Still tubeless. Neil finally caught back up to me and we rolled on….into this very nice Crotalus atrox. It didn’t even rattle….pretty rare for a diamond back as they usually get all pissed off and let you know where they are.
Neil and made the goal of getting to Kelvin before dark. FAIL. At the bottom of Ripsey we saw this cheesy love note from Jenn to Aaron.
We got to the top of Ripsey as the sun went bye bye and we had to break out our lights. We did our best to rip the switch backs down to Kelvin where I ended up getting Cholla balled for the first time ever in my life. I pulled out the Leatherman micro where the ball promptly jumped from my leg to my hand.
Neil and I finally got to the large parking lot that’s about a half hour from Kelvin and it was DARK. We knew nothing would be open and I was pretty bummed at the thought of having to pump water from the Gila. Lucky for us some kind trail stewards were keeping the trailhead stocked with Kearny water. We at first thought it was reserved for a group calling themselves Kearny, but then we saw multiple dates on the jugs going back a couple of weeks and I remembered that there was a town called Kearny. Duh. Let’s top off!!! We then hitched our bikes to the hitching posts in the parking lot and ate dinner. It was 9 pm local time and my last MRE tasted like a million bucks. Beef ravioli!
On we went to the awesome singletrack that lasts forever. FOR EVAH!!! Sheez. 4 hours later (and we weren’t goofing around) we still weren’t climbing away from the Gila. So when we hit a nice gate in an even nicer sandy area, we decided to take a 30 minute nap. Alarms were set and I rolled out the bed roll and spent a couple minutes getting enough air into my pad to be comfortable. A nearby cow seemed a bit distressed at our presence and I shouted out, “Sing us to sleep Bessy!” The next thing I remember was waking to my alarm. Holy crap! That was the best nap ever. Just as we started packing back up, Ross rolled by. He said his knee was shot and he was quitting after 300.
Not long after the nap, we were finally climbing away from the Gila. I told Neil that I didn’t want to climb that last section in the daylight as 2012 put the hurt on me and it wasn’t even that hot. I was bummed to escort the young rookie through one of the most beautiful desert environments on the planet. Saguaros 50′ tall, grottoes, and huge barrel cacti, cliffs and rocks and tons of vegetation, and we couldn’t see any of it. What was really trippy is that every time we passed a Saguaro, it felt like we were riding in a dense forest. The temps were perfect for putting in a hard effort at the end of a 300 mile jaunt across one of the most unforgiving deserts anywhere. We hear frogs (saw a good sized toad on the trail) in some the cold side canyons indicating that water must be present. I ran up on a bobcat that trotted up the trail and then turned to stare at me for a while. I waited on Neil to proceed as I didn’t want to mistake what I thought was a bobbed tail for a full size one attached to a 200 lb super cat.
On we went eventually catching up to Ross who was taking a rest near the crux of the top of the inner canyon. I got a bit excited and turned up the heat a little as we began some descending. From this point on I never saw Neil again until the finish. As the sun came up I ripped the final descent to the sound of waking birds to the parking lot where Jen and Connor were still sleeping. I finished in 2 days, 21 hours, and 23 minutes. 11.5 hours faster than the previous year and on a single speed! 5th overall and no other single speeders nearby. It was an awesome ride!
No….that is not an ice pack on my crotch. It’s the leftover crust from an entire loaf of bread from which my family thought I’d enjoy. The butter was delicious.
Background – Last summer I made up my mind that I wanted to do the Colorado Trail Race on my singlespeed. Not having done any bikepacking or ultra racing, I was going to try to put together a 300 mile adventure east of El Paso through the Cornuda’s and the Guadalupe National Forest. I purchased a sewing machine and spent a lot of time making bags for my bike and buying a new GPS and Spot tracker. Time flew by and the Guadalupe trip never happened. I also needed a sleeping bag, pad, and puff jacket. More time whipped by and next thing I know it was mid-Spring and I needed to make a decision quick. I thought I’d try an individual time trial (ITT) on the AZT 300 course but figured I’d learn nothing doing it by myself. So I got permission for some vacation days and found myself able to line up with the big crew on April 13….a Friday!
I had just finished up some new bags for my Racer-X and had done a total of about 6 nights in the back country of the Franklins. I probably only put in about 300 miles of trail between Christmas and race day. My only other mileage would be from my short commute to school which I included a 40 to 50 pound bike with load. Needless to say I was a bit concerned about my fitness when the 13th rolled around. I was also having some really bad saddle sore issues as well but saw a doc the Monday before the race and finally got some meds that cleared things right up.
Our trip to Parker Lake, AZ would be our first trip in the Caribou. We battled a viscous head wind to AZ and arrived at the trail head well before dark. The weather was really nice and others were looking forward to cooler temps but concerned about a BIG storm rolling in Saturday.
My final packing list was much heavier than I wanted it to be, but I soon figured out that I was just being a safe old man…aka pussy. My main frame bag carried four 3 hour AyUp batteries, 2 CO2 containers, 2 MRE entrees with heaters, a pop tart, 2 packs of squeeze cheese, a spare pair of socks, a spare pair of shorts, PI leg warmers, a wool tee, fleece gloves, derailleur cable, and half of a camelbak bladder. In the gas tank I had chapstick, 8 clif bars, 4 mojo bars, 2 Z bars, and a few rolls of my mom’s fruit leather. On the bars I had all of my hygiene products, my GoPro camera, two 6 hour AyUp batts, and Smith hard case with glasses and lenses. I also had a set of laminated cue cards on the outside pocket. In the stuff sack I had my MontBell 30 degree sleeping bag, Thermarest NeoProXL pad, Tyvek bivy, and my MontBell UL down jacket. In the seat bag I carried 2 Stans’d tubes wrapped in tyvek, 2 bottles of Stan’s, Park Tool, Leatherman, small bottle of Progold Extreme, cotton rag, and a patch kit box containing spare chain links, brake pads, plug tool with plugs and rubber bands, a cleat bolt, needle and a full prewound bobbin of thread as well as patches and glue. On my back I carried a Camelbak blowfish with a full 100 oz bladder, PI rain jacket (XXL), Pur Hiker Pro water filter with some tablets, full size shock pump, Crank bro’s tire pump, cash and cards, Spot II, 2 spare AAA batts, 2 AA batts, and about a pound and a half of my mom’s fruit leather. I also had a full bottle under the frame. On me I wore a full zip jersey, SOS mid weight wool socks, Nema gloves, Rooly mirrored lens glasses, old Bell helmet with AyUp lights, Descent shorts, Spot wool arm warmers, and Shimano M087 shoes. My bike is a custom ti Titus 29er with a brand new drive train, 180 cranks, 3×9 sram rear setup with OLD Sram half pipe shifters, Magura Marta SL brakes, Stan’s 355 rims, DT 340 rear hub, WTB Laserdisc Lite front hub, 120tpi WTB Exiwolf 2.3 rear tire, and 2.55 WeirWolf LT 60tpi front tire. The frame is 4 years old and the oldest parts are 5 years old. I sat on a mid level WTB Silverado saddle and held on to a set of 4 year old Ergon grips with bar ends.
My GPS was a Garmin Etrex 20 with sweet topo maps from a free source via Scott Morris’ Topofusion forum and the official AZT gps track. I also put on about 30 waypoints indicating water sources and bailout points. On top of the headtube I used a Stem Captain thermometer.
The week before the start I spent some time making sure the bike was good to go.
DAY 1 – Since cooler weather was in store for the start, I decided I’d roll out at 9 with everyone else. I spent some time with Connor and did a surprisingly small amount of socializing. I was not one bit nervous but only concerned with the fact that I was carrying a lot of crap. I knew I wouldn’t need all the food I brought, but just felt more comfortable with it.
After the shuttle rolled up, I decided I’d better start getting stuff together and slabbed on the sunscreen. The crowd built and Scott Morris briefed us and sent us on our way.
I let all the fast guys go and started to head down the trail but realized I had not turned on my gps. Scott laughed at me as I mentioned something about hoping I could figure that thing out by the time I finished. Pretty much everyone with an Etrex 20 had some sort of complaint.
I rode a comfortable pace and passed lots of slower riders and riders already dealing with flats. After about the first 30 minutes I rolled up on Kurt Refsnider (ultra bike racing god) and Max Morris on a hike-a-bike. Aaron Gulley who had flatted caught me and we soon found the four of us riding pretty fast together. I stayed with them all the way to Patagonia where we rolled into town about 4 hours after the start. Their pace wasn’t exceptionally fast, but too fast for me to be doing with a 52 pound rig. I stopped at the Velvet Elvis for a pizza and ordered a Sassy…which had way too much sausage and cheese. I ate two pieces and wrapped the other two for the road. Stopping in the general store I picked up some snacks while I heard another rider (Pete?) asking for sunscreen.
Rolling up the road to Sonoita I had a great tailwind, but my gut was a rock and my legs kind of stiff from the hard 30 miles and the half hour sit down for lunch. I kept cruising and after turning into the headwind, Aaron G. came by me again after getting his tire patched at an auto shop. Kurt S. came around me as well and I soon found myself quite alone in the wind heading to Kentucky Camp. I took a good break at KC to eat a snack and fill up with water. I headed out with the goal of La Sevilla picnic area for the night. At about 9 pm or so, I passed Brad M. (started at 6 am) who had a dead light battery. He was walking and was not using his backup light. At 10, I was absolutely exhausted. My legs felt great, but I had no sleep the night before due to Connor being a bit excited about his first night in the truck camper. The first flat spot I found (about mile 80) I rolled out my bivy and was sacked out in less than 15 minutes. I was really close to the trail and did not put in my earplugs. Many riders passed me and shined their lights on me as I tried to ignore them. After most of them passed me, I slept quite well….about 6 hours….until the wind started to scare me a bit and the moon came out.
DAY 2 -I heard a lot of people complain about the wind that night, but my spot was pretty much immune to it. I heard it, but never got blasted. The storm was moving in quickly so I boogied on out of there with the goal of making it to La Sevilla for shelter. It was only misting, but quite cold and windy when I got there.
Some other riders were there but only Justin stuck around as he had minimal cold weather gear. I heated up an MRE and decided to crash in the covered picnic area. I was joined by Fred W. and Eric Lord. Others came and went, but I figured I’d better stay out of the rain and sleep some more. It rained and blew hard so I ended up with a 4 hour break. When I got up to get going again, I had a bunch of water from my camelbak in my bivy. Luckily it only got my pad wet and not my bag. I packed up and took off down the trail after Justin. We went off course about a mile, but quickly got back on and rolled out X9 to the pave. I had to stop to put on my jacket when a session of sleet hit me, but soon after I stopped at the Rincon gas station where I scored the last bean burrito and a Mexican Coke. I then continued on to the Safeway for some more hot food. I chilled in the Quiznos eating a bowl of chicken soup. At Safeway I picked up a loaf of whole wheat bread, an apple, some organic poptarts, a pack of tuna, and a small container of chocolate almond milk.
I connected with Dave Goldberg headed up to Reddington where I just chilled with him on our way to the top of La Milagrosa where I knew there would be a good camp spot and water not too far away. On one of the descents I felt something hit my leg and backtracked to find my Park multi-tool. Turns out my seat bag was WIDE effing open and gone was my patch kit box. I’ve had that box for about 15 years. Very bummed and a bit nervous after that since so many parts were in it.
A short distance from La Milagrosa we could smell a campfire. I was hoping to roll up on a few U of A coeds but it ended up being Brad M. who had made a glorious fire. I rolled up the road to find water and luckily there was a large puddle with crystal clear water in it about 200 yards from camp. I had to prime my filter but I soon had one and a half bladders full for the trip up Lemmon. Back at camp I pulled my stuff out to dry while I ate the bread, tuna, and apple. I sacked out with earplugs but was awoken by Fred W’s coughing. Poor guy ended up dropping out at Oracle. He was riding very steady, but not sleeping much. I got 7 hours that night and when I got up the next morning, decided I’d better get moving if I wanted to finish this thing in a respectable manner.
DAY 3 – After the hike-a-bike up to Molino, I took a pit stop at the Molino outhouse. I soon caught Fred on the trail, and rode alone up Lemmon to the restaurant where I sat with Aaron Boatman and ordered a breakfast burrito. On the way in to the restaurant I saw Les headed up to Oracle Ridge. After horrible service at the restaurant, I went to the general store for a complimentary cup of hot cocoa, a soda, and some snacks. I ended up riding with Aaron all the way down to the Kannally Ranch house. The trails were totally ripper on the way down despite a bit of snow we had to trudge through. Our bikes got a bit muddy, but nothing I was worried about. We passed Jill H. near the top and just said hello and kept moving. At Kannally, Aaron wanted to hang out a bit, but I wanted real food and left him for Oracle. I picked up two sandwiches, a Muscle Milk, and a small can of Pringels, exchanged pleasantries with Eric Foster, and rolled out.
After eating one of the sandwiches on the road, I felt great and decided to get to work. I was flying through some great singletrack with the goal of hitting the Freeman Water Cache at a decent hour. Just before it started getting dark, I took a header on a switchback and landed directly on my lights. I removed my helmet and immediately plugged in a battery to make sure they still worked. YES! I quickly got back up and got rolling again. The trails were incredible out there. Lots of blooms and it smelled great. The sun soon set and I was frequently checking my GPS as the route was becoming less used and more convoluted. I started seeing some lights and gave chase. I came up on Brad K. and Matt who were chilling in a wash. I talked to them for a few minutes. It’s always cool to meet guys from back east who are tough riders. I grew up riding back east in the Appalachians and always loved riding in the slop and roots. It’s fun to share with guys who can relate.
Soon after leaving them I passed Les. Sometime in there I rolled passed a big tank with the old windmill fan flat on the ground. There was a noisy owl there that was cracking me up. He calmed down after I passed, but then I heard him again and looked back to see a bunch of lights in the area. The singletrack seemed never ending and I was starting to get sleepy. My legs felt great, but I crashed again in a wash and was looking forward to getting some rest. I soon rolled up on Forrest who was just kind of standing around the junction with Freeman Rd. I knew that the cache was not on the road, so I rolled on and soon found Steve and Pete bivied right next to the trail by the cache. I found a spot a ways off the trail and threw my crap down. I filled my camelbak, ate my other sandwich and the pringles, and drank half the muscle milk. I crashed out hard until about 4 am.
Day 4 – The moon still was not out when I first woke up so I went back to sleep for a few more minutes. When the moon came out I finished the muscle milk, ate some cookies, and got dressed to ride. My helmet straps were almost completely chewed through by a rat and I think the rat threw dust down my snoring throat as I had a bitch of a cough. Little bastards also got a hold of my camelbak which I was using as my pillow. Nothing like having vermin hanging out around your head while you sleep.
I was out of the cache by 5 am. As soon as the sun came out, I put on my clean but still wet chamois and put my dirty chamois on top. Two layers was super comfy and after sunscreen, some more snacks, and changing glasses, I was rolling again on the powerline towards Ripsey. I cleaned about half of the Ripsey switchbacks and was soon flying down the ridge. I got slightly off course but was soon back in the wash and rolled up on an unopened bottle of 7UP! Yay! I cracked it open and drank about half of it saving the rest for Kelvin. I finally rolled into Kelvin just in time for an early lunch.
At the maintenance shed I topped off my camelbak and filled my water bottle. I heated up my last MRE and chit chatted with Bill from Del Rio. He was thru-hiking the entire trail. He was loading his pack with 10L of water. That’s 22 lbs for those of you who don’t know your conversions. The MRE treated my stomach well and I was rolling on the machine cut singletrack down the Gila.
Wow! I thought it would never end. It went on and on and on and on. Miles and miles of Sweco dozer action in terrain that would make the average dozer driver breakdown like a crying little bitch. The heat cranked up to around 90 and I was a bit worried about my water supply. I was soon down to the half bladder I’d been carrying in my frame pack for a couple of days. I passed Pawel with his 1×5 gearing. He’d stopped to snap a pic and I quickly caught him. It still took a long time to get to the finish as there seemed to be 9 or 10 inner canyons. I seriously thought it would never end. Eventually I passed a pair of horseback riders so I knew I couldn’t be far. Then I started seeing foot prints so I started pinning it again and drinking my water since most people don’t walk very far from the trailhead. Sure enough I soon saw the Caribou and other vehicles. I felt a bit dry, but my legs felt great. My hands were pretty cooked and I rode the last 10 miles or so without gloves as they were so crusty they were irritating my hands.
I finished in 3 days, 7 hours, and 50 minutes. Pretty good for a total of 22 hours of sleep during that time. No flats! No bonking. No major injuries. Only 2 encounters with cactus and only one close call with evil gnawing mammals.
My beautiful wife and son spent their weekend learning all about our truck camper. With minimal guidance she dumped the holding tanks, changed a propane tank, and had to deal with some tire issues…..that’s a whole different story. I must thank her for supporting me in this endeavor and spending our 12th anniversary (Sunday) watching my blue dot on Trackleaders. I spent many a late night on the sewing machine and several nights away from home testing out my gear….though I’m sure she slept sideways on our king size bed when I wasn’t there. Connor was a good boy the entire time I was gone thanks to some solid entertainment from Paula and Beto’s chickens and their new pup Parker. I also need to thank Scott Morris for all his help with my totally non-intuitive Garmin. He helped me find some really sweet maps and understand how to load the track.
My apologies to those who were hoping for some trail pics. I bet I spent a total of about 45 minutes stopping to take photos with my GoPro. The little bugger kept acting up and none of the picture I took were saved. I saw so much gorgeous green desert and I can only keep those in my memories.
I was going to pay someone to weld a metal deck to the hitch so everyone (dog, kid, wife, and myself) would have a larger platform to step on when entering and exiting the rig, but I really didn’t want to hassle with a last minute issue of driving around town and asking some busy welder to do an “I need it Wednesday” job. I got to thinking about all the crap I had around the house and got to work and came up with this.
The kid and the dog can get up the ramp. Connor has a bit of trouble coming down, but I’m sure he’ll figure it out. Luna already figured it all out and was super stoked to have a nice large floor area to relax. Not sure if the steps will ever be used again and I’m curious as to how I’ll rig all this up when we have a trailer on the hitch instead of the hitch rack.
So this rig just needs new hose and sprayer for the outside shower and it’s ready to roll. Generator starts with the push of a button and 30 seconds later the AC is blasting cold air! All gas appliances are finally cranking, and there’s a brand new water filter for drinking water at the sink. Inverter has been installed under the sink so Jen can grind her fresh coffee in the morning.
So now we’re soon to be AZ bound where the temps are looking to be ridiculously low and maybe even some rain. Too low and that means I have to carry more clothing. Too high and I have to carry too much water. No matter what, Jen and Connor are going to have a ton of fun in our new rig.
The big question will be whether or not I have a ton of fun on my rig. It’s kind of heavy.
Follow all the action a multi-day endurance race can give you here.
It’s been tough to blog lately. This past summer I made little effort to get to internet access. I spent most of the summer NOT riding due to an issue in my back/neck/shoulder/arm. I’m better now and after pretty much taking a full year off from doing anything hardcore on the bike, I’m prepping for a next summer starting today.
I spent 2 hours this evening cleaning out my toolbox. This was initiated by an oil spill of some sort in the top compartment. I ended up dumping half my tools into the wash bucket with lots of soap, water, and orange cleaner. I thought all the handles on my Park cone wrenches were black. Turns out they’re blue. I ended up resorting all my tools, picking out all the duplicates and tools I don’t use for bike repair, and removing all the non-tool items like cable housing and zip ties. I completely emptied the box and scrubbed it with a sponge and the hot, soapy water. After rearranging everything, I’m much happier. I placed all the tools I use a bunch like those large T-handled Park allen wrenches, the tape measure, the shock pump, and my torque wrench set in the top of the box instead of in a difficult to open drawer. I put all the chain lube, anti-sieze, and rarely used tools in the bottom drawer. Genius! Should have done that years ago.
Now I’ve got to sort out all the parts I pulled out along with the tubs of parts on my work bench. Once I get that done, I’ll be ready to do actual bike maintenance. And boy do my bikes need some love. So do Jen’s bikes. Her’s more than mine.
I’ll be ripping off the parts from her strange fitting 659’r that was supposed to be a 29’r two time national SS winning Titus to put on her On One Inbred which is currently draped with junk parts, commuter wheels, and a rack. She said she didn’t want to have a heavy SS, but why ride a light one with a strange geometry and a weird sized rear wheel that barely fits and handle like a Corvair convertible?
Did you hear about Jen’s attempt at a 3rd national SS title? I thought it was a valiant effort and I’m very proud of her….and myself. Why am I proud of myself? While I was hanging out with Connor and Jen was pre-riding the shitty national course in Idaho, I saw Rebecca Rusch on a hard-tail that was converted to a SS. I kept my mouth shut all week knowing that if I said anything Jen probably wouldn’t even start the race. Jen was WAY under geared for what turned out to be a running festival and Rusch plowed through the waves of geared riders that started ahead. Luckily Jen has been doing a bit of running herself and moved into 2nd place at the hike-a-bike short cut that was near the top of the course. Rusch put down the fastest women’s amateur course time of the day. Jen finished in 2nd more than 9 minutes down. I was proud of her because I knew she was under geared and she only did 4 mountain bike races previous since the end of Summer 2009 when I knocked her up with Connor. Of course, she was pretty disappointed, but it was Rusch’s home turf. And honestly, nobody really cares. She also beat last year’s champion by 3 minutes. Not bad for someone riding a wierd fitting/handling bike that’s 5 years old.
After I get her bikes all dialed (the Titus will become the Chariot dragging device), I’m going to do some major stuff with my bikes. More to come….I promise. Maybe I’ll even have some pictures.
Some of you may know that Titus closed their doors earlier this year. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve blogged, but this deserves a bit of attention as it’s one of the root causes of problems in our current economic situation.
Here’s my view on why Titus went down. It’s an outsider’s view with some internal information that had been gleaned over a few years of correspondence with Titus personnel back when they gave me a great deal on custom bikes.
Chris Cocalis was slow to innovate and change and had trouble managing a growing business. He sold out to investors who brought in Pat Huss who had previously run Cannondale into the ground. Pat brought with him Jeff Titone. Both are nice guys, but I’m not sure they really belong in the bicycle manufacturing business.
Failed efforts at fancy exogrid products and carbon stuff from overseas started the fall. Originally producers of HIGH quality custom frames, they tried to seek more profit by going overseas. This never made sense to me as they had to fly over there all the time to do quality control….which sucked if you ever owned a carbon chainstayed racer-x.
A couple years ago, they sold off their sweet jigs and took all ti production to Litespeed. Yuk. The aluminum stuff was still being made in Portland and the carbon stuff overseas. They shrank their operations in the states trying to become a marketing and design company. Customer service suffered and people started looking at other great bikes like the Trek/Fishers, Pivots, Tall Boys, and other fantastic bikes on the market that cost about the same or less.
Titus deserved to die. Hanging on to the Horst Link and giving up on in house production reduced their value.
Planet-X Bikes recently purchased Titus. I hope they didn’t pay much. Hopefully they will return to some custom in house production if they can ever get a hold of those sweet jigs they used to have. Good luck Planet-X Bikes. If you bring back Titus, keep ’em custom, keep ’em ti.
I won $30 for crushing both stages of the Socorro race this weekend in a SS field that had 17 riders. Socorro is notorious for not giving out much money. One year I finished about a minute down on Damien Calvert for second place and the race promoter gave me a folded up $20. Wow. I definitely don’t do this for the money.
What do I do it for? Socorro’s XC course got doused with rain all Friday night. Luckily we raced the hillclimb on Saturday which was shortened due to a nice layer of new snow up top. I smartly ran the 32X22 which I was supposed to run last year. With ridiculously light wheels and semi-slicks, I cruised through the slick sections and floated up the steeps. After putting a decent gap on my main competition, I backed out of the pain cave and hung out at the doorway. In less than an hour I was at the finish which was quite nice. Blue skies, fresh snow on the peaks, and kind of warm. The ride down was pretty interesting with the semi-slicks and Stan’s rotors.
A bunch of us camped out near the start of the of the XC race and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon and a perfect night of sleep. It’s pretty funny that so many people camp at this spot now. Our first time out there we were the only ones at this spot.
The XC course was sure to be fast after getting a good soaking. It’s amazing how much better some of the trails in the southwest get so much faster after a good rain. After winning the SS category, I went out for a third lap. I’m not sure where I would have placed in the pro or expert category, but I think I would have done ok. The pro category was stacked with the regulars plus Travis Brown and Trevor Downing. Trevor was getting really fast back when I first upgraded to semi-pro after winning the expert short track championship in ’06.
It was a super fun weekend with a great field of racers on a great course. Too bad the town of Socorro won’t pay out the fields better than they do.
This post is a response to JHK’s article in singletrack.com.
As a long time racer (first Norba sanctioned XC event in 1989), I’ve seen our race scene change quite a bit. While I’ve never been a “world cupper”, I have been the overall winner at many races over the years. I stay as a fit as I feel like staying in order to remain competitive and not make a fool of myself. Prior to the mountain bike, I raced ABA bmx. Over the past 10 years I’ve taken racing much more seriously competing in short tracks, xc’s, marathons, 100 milers, and even a stage race. I still do road races about once a year. I participated in the Mercury Tour and Team Big Bear’s King of the Hill way back in the 90’s, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of what our racing scene in America is and was all about.
Two years ago a buddy of mine and I decided to put on an endurance event, the El Paso Puzzler. We had 28 competitors in v.1, v.2 had 68. This year is v.3 and we are expecting around 125. Not bad for the middle of winter in a dirt town like El Paso, TX.
As a race promoter/director/organizer, my goals are simple: make sure everyone has a great racing experience (however difficult our event may be), raise awareness of the trails in El Paso, and raise some money for our bike club, the BMBA. While I strive to get better riders to our event, the last thing on my mind is helping world cuppers get UCI points.
The UCI charges an enormous amount of fees and requires that the promoter subsidize drug testing costs at any event that has UCI points. No thanks. Toke a blunt on the course and shoot up some amphetamines at our race if you want. We don’t really care about that stuff. If you can afford that stuff, you definitely shouldn’t be whining about prize money or UCI points.
American mountain bikers, at least the ones who have been in it for over 20 years, are looking for something more challenging than the 1.5 hour lapper at a ski resort or broken bottle riddled city park. They want adventure. They want to push themselves to a new level. They want to go beyond the bonk, sit down on course and eat 1000 calories, run out of water, crawl to a feed zone, finish refueling, and ride another 20 miles to the finish with a knog led lighting the way. They want cool venues where they can camp and gather around a bonfire while their teammates slog out more laps during a 24 hour race. They want to use the same bike in a multi-event race where pads and full face are worn one day and two camelbak bladders are packed the next. The demand for diversity is out there. However damaging this diversity may be to UCI point seekers, that demand far outweighs the benefit of hosting a UCI event. I’m sure the Angel Fire promoters will agree with me on that one.
American mountain bike racing has become incredibly diverse and promoters of these diverse events are not complaining. In fact, many of them are capping the number of participants. Entry fees range from nothing to thousands of dollars and people show up from all over to try out whatever new fangled adventure awaits over the next pass.
Big money competitive mountain biking in America has been dead for longer than most care to admit. Even the Chevy Truck days were weak compared to European world cups today. American world cuppers need to do just like the roadies did….nut up and spend A LOT of time in Europe. If you really want that front row start, prove that you deserve it with the best XC racers in the world. The list of American road racers that have done this is too long for me to publish on my pissant blog. They are doing it for a reason. Racing in Europe is a spectator sport. People pay to sit in grand stands and enter parks where the events take place. Do that in the US and you’ll be lucky if half the stands fill up. Try it at a city park mountain bike venue and the neighbors will be pissed that they won’t be able to walk their dog that day.
Keep the UCI out of American racing. American promoters should keep pushing the limits of the support with challenging events. Dare to be different. Make that feedzone just far enough into the race where a camelbak AND bottles have to be carried. Provide bacon and burgers in the feedzones. Serve beer and margaritas for free at the awards ceremony. Charge camping fees to raise money for a youth cycling program, not prize money or promoter profit. Utilize paydirt programs to get more trails.
American mountain biking has soul. That soul is getting better with age. The UCI has done little to promote the soul of mountain biking in the US. Let’s keep it that way.
Sorry it has taken me so long to update my blog. Things have been super busy with the scene here in El Paso. This past weekend’s 12 hour race confirmed that we have an awesome scene and it also helped further solidify my reasons for racing. It’s all about helping to put our scene on the national radar. Winning the Breck Epic was to legitimize the trails in El Paso as it was for my own personal goals. The fans at both the Epic and this 12 hour were awesome and I got huge cheers during awards and throughout the event. Mike, myself, and Brent have been putting in some serious time to make the mtb scene here in El Paso better for everyone. I just wish more people would get involved with the grunt work or volunteering with trail building or race marshalling.
I knew this weekend’s 12 hour race would be harder than most people thought it might be. Yes, it’s in my backyard and I know the trails quite well. I ran a 21 t on both bikes. I was hoping everything would go well, but damn…where that wind come from?
The 12 hours of old el paso was a hit! It’s gonna get big in couple more years. It’s gonna be big next year. This year’s event only cost $40 a person. They had food, music, beer, and fireworks. Lots of my buddies were out marshalling the course and the state park guys were making some laps to check everything out.
Here’s how it went down for me. Not wearing a costume…like Brent, I had settle for a longer run to the bike.
The run wasn’t bad, but I definitely need to run more if I plan on doing more LeMann’s starts. I started out on the FS with the YESS tensioner, 32×21, nanoraptors front and rear. The first lap was a bit faster due to a bypass of the first section of single track. I was sitting in about 5th or 6th and moved up to about 3rd or 4th at the end of the lap. I rode the first 2 and half laps with eventual solo winner Adam Hoppe. He was geared and had much more fun on the climbs than I did. First lap was 38 minutes. Second lap was just as fast considering the additional single track….42 minutes. On the third lap, I switched to the hard tail so Jen could let some air out of my tires. I pitted so fast she didn’t hear what I said and ended up adding air.
The hardtail was a bit slower feeling with a 2.55 Weirwolf up front and a 2.3 Exiwolf in the back. 3/4 way through the third lap on the hardtail, I stopped to pee and started to feel some cramping. 4th lap I was back on the FS. I was drinking 2 full bottles every lap. About half way into the 4th lap, my legs cramped so bad I had to get off the bike, which made it worse. I pitted a bit longer the next couple of times through and ate some solid food and took some more salt tabs and sportlegs. Eventually I was taking one or two of either salt tabs, sportlegs, or ibuprofin from lap 5 and on. My pits were still pretty quick with my longest at probably 5 minutes. My lap times stayed around 50 -55 minutes.
On my first “night” lap, I grabbed the hardtail with lights and a helmet with lights. I didn’t want to sit around putting on lights when Jen could do it for me. I ended up not needing the lights as I was able to finish it before it got too dark. Back on the FS I was lit up and rollin’. I love night riding and the laps seemed much faster though my fastest night lap was only 52 minutes. I kept rolling laps as hard as possible and finally stopped cramping on the climbs at about lap 10. Sometime in there I saw that Lenny, my challenger in the SS category, was done and hadn’t left his pit in a couple of laps. I decided to go for 13 laps and finished at 9:30.
My lap count was good for 2nd place solo overall. I won the SS by 3 laps, 2 if you count Karen Rishel who rode well after the 10 pm ending to complete 11 laps. She ran a huge gear on a sweet new Superfly. Props to the solo field. The sign in posters looked to have about 30 spots on them for all of us nutbags.
I had no flats and only came close to crashing once. That was on lap 5 or 6 when I was feeling absolutely stupid with my legs cramping on the descents. My pit spot was probably the best in the race and my pit bitch did a great job even though I rushed through way too many and could have slowed down just a little in order to think things through a bit more and communicate better.
After awards, I crawled back to the camper with my cool trophy and a check for $100. Hopefully this thing won’t rot away anytime soon.
The Catholic School girls (they’re really MILF’s in disquise) brought back memories of high school.
My pit area….you can barely see the trail between my 10×10 and the tent in the background.
I didn’t look nearly this good at 10 pm.
My dog had a field day checking out lots of new smells and being in her natural “race” environment.
As a 200 pounder, I am classified as a “seated climber”. In other words, it is much more effecient for me to remain seated when climbing than it is to lug my giant arse out of the saddle to grunt my way up the hill…thus the need for some sort of rear suspension.
Ever since I started single speeding, I’ve been using some sort of rear suspension. My first SS foray was on a K2 Razorback, but I couldn’t get the tensioner/cog combo to work for me. I gave it up quickly after a banged knee and a shot to the nuts from the top tube.
On my current hardtail SS, I use the Moxey Suspension Seatpost. Since these posts don’t exist anymore and parts are unavailable, I don’t like to spend lots of time on it…..especially since the Cane Creek sucks crack.
So I’ve begun my second foray into full suspension singledom. With the generosity of Renny at YESS Labs, I now have a full suspension specific chain tensioner. My second ride with it was the Horny Toad NMORS XC race which I crushed on a 32×17. I had some skipping, but I’m pretty sure it was related to the slightly worn aluminum cog with a new chain. I put on a steel 21 t for the weekend and rode over 6 hours with it. I got no skipping or popping! I also don’t have a front chain guide or tensioner other than the cateye chain watcher….which I probably don’t need as I’ve yet to throw the chain on it. I did drop it during a night ride when rolling a 20 t after the Horny Toad, but I think my chain alignment was off as I was popping excessively in the rear.
Setup is tedious with this device as there are 5 points of adjustment. The use of almost every allen size on your multi-tool is required. Once set up correctly, it works really well. I really like the fact that it works! I never had luck with the rear deraileur as a tensioner and the stupid little “singulators” don’t work with the lower swingarm being in the way. I have to use those as a push down tensioner which does not allow for any chain wrap on the cog.
The YESS ETR-D has a fixed upper bushing/roller/pulley/thingy that allows for maximum chain wrap. The lower pulley is a standard pulley that is spring loaded with a cantilever brake spring. I found that running the spring with max tension and as little chain as possible provides the best performance. There is a bunch of leeway for adjustment in pulley position and spring tension, so set up may take a bit of time.
You’ve already heard me complain about set up a couple of times. There are some other things that may bug you that kind of bug me. I don’t think this device was originally designed for epic SS rides. I think it was designed for dirt jumpers or park riders who want to forgo gears on their FS bikes. I say this because the thing is noisy. The upper pulley/bushing/roller/thingy is quite loud on the chain. I don’t think it really adds that much friction to the system, but it is definitely more than a sram XO with ceramic bushings. Not being able to remove the wheel hasn’t been a big issue as I’ve yet to flat while using it. But if I were to flat at hour 5 of an 8 hour adventure, it may cause some problems if I space off and lose a skewer spring or nut. I also have only done wheel changes on the work stand, so doing it off the stand may pose some additional challenges. These are the only gripes I have. I think that Renny has something pretty good here and if demand dictates it, some minor changes may help create a product that would work even better for us long haul SS’ers.
This thing will get a ton of use this fall and winter and I’ll be keeping Renny updated. If you are using one for SS XC use, let me and Renny know how it is treating you. Maybe we can help develop one that is quiet and allows for easier wheel changes.