Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Break

We decided to head up to the condo for New Year's. As anyone who lives in the area is well aware, there hasn't been much rain in Sacramento and little snow in the Sierras. This has the Tahoe locals a bit freaked out. Whereas there should have been plenty of skis and snowboards on the roof racks, instead I saw many cars still carrying bikes. Not good for the ski businesses and Tahoe in general. On the plus side, it was pretty darn quiet in Incline Village.

When I bought the Pugsley I had planned for the holiday weekend to be a snow biking trip. The lack of snow made me strongly consider taking the 29er instead, but in the end I decided to bring the Pugs anyway. I thought if I climbed up high enough I might put my tires in some kind of frozen substance.

I thought the Flume Trail might be tailor-made for the Pugs. The climbing might not favor this bike, but the amount of sand on the ride certainly would.

Tunnel Creek Road is a climb I generally avoid unless we have had some rain to firm things up. It's a steep, sandy, 1600-foot ascent that I have probably complained about before. The Pugs made the sandy nature of the climb a non-factor. Because of the beach riding I have done, I knew the fat tires would perform well on the sandy climb, but I did not anticipate how well; compared to a normal tire it was night and day. The only downside was the fact that the Pugs is a pig. Hauling a 36-pound beast up a long, steep climb isn't easy. Still, the floatation "outweighed" the Pugsley's weight.

On a normal mountain bike I usually bog down a couple times in the deeper sand, but on the Pugsley I cleaned the entire three-mile climb. This was shocking to me since I really expected to do some pushing. To look at the bike, one wouldn't think "climbing machine."

On the last third of the climb I encountered a number of sections featuring frozen snow and sheets of ice. I kept my spin smooth and even, and I motored right over these obstacles with minimal slippage.

Once I crested the top the bike really came alive. I have ridden the Flume so many times over the years that it's become a little boring--relegated to a once or twice a year trail. The Pugs made it all new and fun again. I actually caught myself making motorcycle noises once, which isn't normal behavior for me. Ever.

The Flume alternated between dry sand, snow and ice along its 5-mile length. The bike handled it all well. I rode with care on the way out, but on the way back I was confident enough to really open it up, and I stopped slowing down for ice and snow. Even frozen ice ruts, which can be treacherous on a normal bike, offered little to be worried about. I only had one instance when the back end came around a bit, but a quick dab was all it took to straighten back up.

The descent back down Tunnel Creek was awesome. I slowed down for the ice fields but otherwise blasted down the rest. The wheel-sucking sand simply wasn't an issue like it is on a normal bike. Even the hairpin with the really deep sand, a corner that usually causes me to slow way down, was a piece of cake.

I rolled up to my front door with a nice 22-mile ride under my belt. The bike performed better than expected. This ride blurred the line of what I originally thought the bike was made for. I can't wait to get this thing in some snow.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Fat

No, I'm not talking about myself. Really. Are you looking at my gut?

Some years back Surly released a bike called the Pugsley. It featured huge, four-inch tires. It's main purpose, at the time, was for riding in snow.  I looked at it and thought, "Meh." Not for me. I can't stand the cold.

Time went by, and we bought a place in Tahoe. I revisited acquiring one of these beasts, now referred to as fat bikes. In the end I just didn't think I would use it in the snow enough to warrant the purchase.

Then I saw a thread on the MTBR fat bike forum dedicated to beach riding pictures. I knew then that I wanted one. The thought of riding along a beautiful beach with the Pacific Ocean lapping at my feet sounded awesome.

After a little eBay and Craigslist liquidating for funds, I had the bike in hand. The maiden voyage would not be along the ocean, however, but along Folsom Lake.

I started on the far south side of Beal's Point near the Dyke. The water is getting low, so there was plenty of exposed lake bed to explore.

One of the weird things right off the bat was riding with flat pedals. After riding with clipless pedals for 18 years, it took some getting used to. I didn't know what the hell to wear, so I went with these Nikes. They worked fine.

I figured that the bike would do well, but I tried to temper my expectations. I didn't want to over-hype it in my head and be disappointed. Not an issue. The bike rolled over everything.

This was the only place I fumbled on the entire ride. After dropping the air pressure in the tires, I motored right through this deep sand. Like most people do, I started with too much pressure. It's just hard to wrap your head around 10 PSI when you see it on the pressure gauge.

At times it wasn't that hard to imagine myself on the ocean.

Some of the granite areas like this one were fun to navigate.

This point reminded me a bit of Monterey, complete with sea birds on the water.

Lunch time.

Enough said.

This section was challenging, but I made it through.

Red Solo Cup:

This is the basic route going from south to north. Probably about six miles of beach. The water is currently lower than when this Google Earth image was taken.

I was out for about three hours and I had a blast. It's pretty cool to ride wherever the heck you want and have a bike that handles it with ease. Without the need for an actual trail, a lot of new riding possibilities are now open to me. I am wondering if I can actually ride around the entire lake . . .


Friday, September 23, 2011

Rambling Man

My struggles with goathead thorns have been well chronicled. I have tried thicker tubes, tire liners and tubes filled with sealant. Nothing worked very well. Last year I simply quit riding around my local area in the late summer because I became so tired of fixing flats. This year I decided to do some research and see if I could find another alternative instead of driving somewhere to ride.

I stumbled upon the Continental tire site and looked around. I didn't see anything that looked promising in the road, cyclocross or touring tires. It wasn't until I explored "trekking tires" that I found this one:

It's described as a tire for "bramble rambling." Not knowing exactly what that meant, I read further. Taken directly from the site:

"The Country Plus is just the thing for blackberry-picking ramblers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Thorns lose their sting - at least as far as the tyres are concerned. And the tread is ideally patterned for field and forest excursions. The tough Plus Breaker effectively fends off thorns and stones."

Sweet. Sounded like just the ticket. I mean, how could they not work? There's yellow stuff inside. Yellow stuff! I don't know what it is, but it must work, right? It's yellow.

Unfortunately the yellow stuff comes with a hefty weight penalty—920 grams for the 700x42 size that I ordered. Yes, over two pounds each, which is heavier than many 29er tires.

I ordered a pair for $72 from Amazon. They showed up in two huge boxes. I thought perhaps they accidentally sent a complete bike, but no. Amazon apparently only knows how to ship books.

The tires were intended for my cyclocross bike that has sat partially built (due to laziness) for almost a year. Time went by. Bike sat unfinished. More time went by. As the thorns matured on the vine I decided I could wait no longer, so I opted to see if I could cram them onto my road bike. They fit fine even at the 42mm width.

I rode them for six weeks without a single flat. I still rode cautiously and avoided the really bad areas, but I have to say the tires were awesome. Until today.

The chewy nougat center did little to fend off the utility knife blade that I ran over today. I find myself saying "In all my years of riding, I've never" a lot lately. I've never cut a tire to this extent. I could probably ride over that paper-thin little blade another 500 times and not repeat this feat. How the damn thing flipped up on end and entered the tire at a 90 degree angle I'll never know.

I guess I'll order another tire because the last six weeks of flat-free riding have been great.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Joey's (Not So) OK

This video takes place at this past weekend's StarCrossed race in Washington. Joey goes into the single barrier a little hot and clips it. This is quite possibly one of the greatest cyclocross crashes ever.

I like how the chick in the background says "I think Joey's OK" while he's writhing around on the ground in pain. Nice diagnosis, doc.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Open Season

I was supposed to go out of town this weekend with friends, but I woke up sick on Friday. I should have seen this coming. Even though I was purposely going to miss the first cyclocross race of the year, my body still knows that I am supposed to get sick for races. Well done, lousy immune system!

Even though I didn't feel great, I thought I would go catch a couple races just to get psyched up for the first Sacramento Series race next weekend.

The course around the Folsom Rodeo grounds was pretty cool, and I was definitely wishing I could be out there. There was enough dirt and elevation change to give me half a chance.

I took the camera and played pro photographer for a few minutes. I got a few good shots. The first two are from the 35+ B and 45+ B race.  The third is from the Women's A race.

It was kind of weird going out to watch others race, but in a way it was also fun. I watched guys dismount and remount over and over again and watched for anything I could incorporate into my own technique. Mostly I saw things I don't want to do, like the guy who drilled a barrier with his shin. Ugh. Gotta get those knees up higher . . .

Hopefully things go smoothly this week and I'll be racing instead of spectating next weekend.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Waiting For Superman

Cyclocross season starts in two weeks, and once again I am not ready. The summer always seems to slip away so quickly. Lately I am riding more often, riding longer distances and putting in harder efforts here and there, but to call it training would be a stretch.

Every summer since the birth of my son in late 2003 begins with the best intentions, but the motivation often fades by fall. In 2004 I raced only twice, finishing mid-pack and frustrating me enough to quit racing. In 2007 I came back and raced once, placing fourth out of seven in the single speed class. Last year I raced once and was soundly crushed by younger and faster riders.

This year I will be racing as a 44-year-old. In cyclocross this is undoubtedly the cruelest year because the 35-44 age group is so varied. A male cyclist is at his fastest between 28 and 32 years of age, so at 35 you can still be pretty damn fast. At 44 you have slid really far down the backside of the mountain. That nine-year age difference is huge.

In the last seven years I have had very consistent but mediocre fitness. I still have my good days, the rides when I feel super, but for every one of those days there are three or four when I am merely mortal. It is completely normal to have good days and bad days on the bike regardless of fitness level. However, as fitness increases the ratio of good to bad days also increases. Being very fit makes it much more likely to have good legs come race day.

In 2003, at age 36, I was at my personal peak condition and a threat to win every 35+ B race. Although I never achieved that elusive win I piled up enough good finishes, including a second and third place, to lead the Sacramento Series for much of the year. I felt fast, confident, bulletproof—like Superman. My Kryptonite came in the form of a fat guy who stalled going up a steep hill. He fell on me as I attempted to pass, snapping some ribs with his elbow and ending my run at the title.

I go into this year knowing I will take my lumps, and my goals need to be more realistic than they have been in the past. I will not win a race. I will not even be near the podium. I think a top ten finish would be a tough but achievable goal if the planets align and I have a super day.

I am treating this season as preparation for next year, the lead-up to the season of hope. Until then I can only be a mere mortal battling young superheroes, waiting for next year, waiting for a 45-year-old to save me, waiting for the return of Superman.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Return of Single Speed Wednesdays

The single speed hung lonely and neglected in the garage all year. As summer draws to a close, and with the kids now back in school, it was time to dust off the big orange bike and resume my Wednesday rides.

I had not been out to do the Hazel-Granite Bay ride in a while, so I decided to do that. After a quick tune-up to the bike and dropping off the boy at school, I headed down.

After not riding a single speed for a while, the first thing that struck me was how light and fast the bike felt. Just a few pedal strokes and the bike was up to speed. I also enjoyed the quickness and precision that the rigid fork offered.

It's a ride I have written about numerous times, so I don't have anything new to say. I did have a little red fox run in front of me on a trail, which was cool. I also saw a really big turtle that wouldn't sit still for a picture.

The water is as high as I can ever remember this late in the year. Considering how long it took for the snow to melt in Tahoe, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

 I had to turn back at Doton's Point because the trail was under water.
I liked the reflection of the rock formation on the still water.

I ended up with a nice 35 mile ride. It was great to get out on the single speed and reacquaint myself with the kind of pain only riding a single gear can offer.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Test Flight

Since I had to go up to the condo to set up for some guests, I took the opportunity to swap out bikes. My Jamis 29er hardtail was performing well everywhere except when things became steep. On technical downhills I just didn't feel comfortable. I didn't know if it was just my rusty skills or whether another bike would be better suited to the Tahoe terrain. I took the On-One Inbred 456 thinking the long-travel fork would be perfect for the type of riding I wanted to do.

I only had time for a quick ride, so I did the Highway 431-Diamond Peak Flume-Tunnel Creek loop. It was a good ride to judge the bike.

On the climb up the bike was a little sluggish. The 26-inch wheels tend to be a little slower anyway, and the bike has big tires, wide bars and an upright riding position—all things that inhibit climbing. However, when I hit the flume trail, everything changed.

Once things flattened out, the bike came alive. My speed was greater than on the 29er, and I was riding with my old aggressive style again.

I mentioned in a previous post that long-fingered gloves were a necessity. The manzanita will let you know who's boss.

There is a narrow plank crossing a creek that I have walked over a number of times with the 29er, but with the Inbred I rode right over it. Same thing on a very steep downhill with stairstep dropoffs. On the 29er I chickened out halfway down, but on the 26-inch bike I rode it out without much effort.

I like these little areas near creek crossings where the ferns have enough moisture to grow.

After the flume trail I bombed down Tunnel Creek at speeds that were probably a bit reckless considering the number of trail users, but I wanted to push the bike a bit. Still, I kept it under control and slowed to a crawl as I encountered people. As fun as it is to fly, you can't be a complete idiot.

I rolled back to the condo after a nice 16-mile ride. The bike performed well in most situations. Every bike seems to have a weakness, so you have to decide what you can live with. I guess losing a little climbing ability is better than losing some teeth.

With a few adjustments, I think I can alleviate some of the climbing deficiency. A seatpost with some setback would definitely help with the climbing position. A drop in fork travel would help, too, but it's just so fun to have big travel when the trail tips down . . .

That's it for now. Later.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Is the Place

I am sitting in the Starbucks in Incline Village with my netbook, the morning cool, crisp, clear and clean. A window to my left reveals a picture not unlike something you would see in a magazine. Green pines reach up to a sky whose color defies description, deeper and more pure than the best day in Sacramento. Mountains all around me. A crystalline lake out of sight, but only a half-mile away. Cars and trucks loaded with mountain bikes roll by, preparing for a ride they'll complete today but may talk about for years to come.

I am only here for a quick overnight trip to bring supplies and clean, but I too will ride. It will be one of many rides, but something during this ride will surely end up etched in my memory. That's how it is here. The riding is that good, the place that special.

I am off. Time to ride.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Stretching It Out

Yesterday I completed my longest ride of the year so far in Tahoe at 30 miles. It had been many years since I used the traditional Flume Ride route, so I decided to give it a go. However, that ride would only get me about 21 miles, so I added a bit to it.

I started with the short but fun trail right across the street from the condo and then used various roads to climb up through Incline Village, eventually popping out on Highway 431. After four miles of climbing I turned onto the Trail With No Name.

This is the trail I spoke of in a previous post that is definitely an old flume. It is quickly becoming one of my favorites, although it appears on no map. I have scoured many maps and it doesn't seem to exist. When I first found this trail many years ago it was overgrown and about 25 trees had fallen across it. At one point there was a closed gate with a no trespassing sign. It took me about two hours to traverse the six miles. I marked it off my list.

Fast forward to this summer and I gave it another try. I'm glad I did, because it's an incredible trail. Someone has put a lot of love into it, and I am grateful. Until I figure out what the name is, I'll call it the Diamond Peak Flume.

Towards the beginning of the Diamond Peak Flume. Unfortunately this picture doesn't adequately capture all the colors I saw in person. (Click to enlarge.)

As is typical of most flume trails I have been on, there is little elevation change. Occasional deviations from the original route of the flume are evident, and in these places there are some climbs and descents.

A mistake on this sketchy, off-camber downhill corner would send you cartwheeling down the mountain.

The last time I rode the trail my arms and knuckles took a beating from the trees and shrubs. This time I wore long sleeves and full-fingered gloves and came out fine.

Chairlift down to the Diamond Peak ski area.

The trail ends about halfway up the Tunnel Creek climb, which is nice; you avoid the steep and sandy part at the bottom which isn't that enjoyable.

After finishing off the Tunnel Creek climb, you descend down a steep, loose hill made up of equal parts deep sand and chunky rocks. I didn't like it when I first did it in 1985 and I don't like it now.

After getting that out of the way, the Red House Flume starts. It includes both wide road and singletrack, and varies from OK to boring.

Red House Flume trail. I hopped over about 10 downed trees.

At the end of the Red House Flume you cross a dam and then the tough climb up Sunflower Hill starts.

Franktown Creek crossing. It's not that high or narrow, but I still don't like crossing it very much.

In 1985 my friends and I did the Great Flume Race. Up to that point I had experienced some extended climbing in a couple races, but nothing as steep as Sunflower Hill and not at high elevation. It hurt in 1985 and it still hurts now.

Taken from halfway up the climb where the flowers fade away and the forest begins. Again, the picture doesn't do justice to the scene.

The climb tops out overlooking Marlette Lake at about 8300 feet. Marlette Lake itself sits at 7800 feet and Lake Tahoe at 6200 feet. The three elevation differences make for a unique view.

Marlette Lake with Lake Tahoe in the background.

As I bombed down the hill I took a drink of water and realized my 100-ounce Camelbak had run dry a little over two-thirds of the way through the ride. Luckily all that was left was flat trail and a downhill to finish it off.

After descending down to lake level, you circle around Marlette toward the Flume Trail.

The west side of Marlette Lake.

Once on the Flume Trail it's clear why the trail is so famous and popular. Although it is relatively flat and straight, the view is simply spectacular.

Sand Harbor.

About halfway through the Flume Trail my legs started cramping. I put away the camera and got down to business. Without water, stopping all the time for photo opportunities would only make it worse.

Flume Trail

I fought through the cramps and finished off the Flume. The descent down Tunnel Creek was fun as always, and I especially enjoyed passing a number of guys on full suspension bikes.

I was glad I did the old Flume Ride. So many places along the route trigger powerful memories from years gone by, and it's great to relive them. Still, there are much better routes in the area, so I think it will be a few years before I do it again.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wood Shop and Home Economics

You may have gathered from my seemingly extravagant lifestyle that I sit around bathing in champagne while lighting Cuban cigars with hundred dollar bills. That I have 10 expensive bikes to choose from. That I have a mansion in the hills. That I have a plush vacation home on a lake. This is simply not the case. I only have NINE bikes.

Although I bought a vacation home, I am still one cheap SOB. In fact, in order to furnish it, I acquired a number of pieces off of Craigslist—in the free section.

One piece was an oak dining room table and chairs. The table had a leg that was falling off, and the chairs were a little grungy, but I thought we could work with it.

The legs look like the one below. This one only needed a new bolt, which the previous owner had stripped. I picked up a four-pack for a couple bucks.

The other leg was in far worse shape. The wedge shaped piece of wood had split along the bolt holes, so the legs could not be tightened to the table. The owner had tried spooging glue all over the place and screwing no less than EIGHT wood screws in the general area. None of this worked.

I pulled out all the screws and chiseled out the wood and glue, which was a bit of work. I then needed to replace the wedge. I wanted a piece of oak in order to have it match and because it's a fairly hard wood. It needed to be 2.25 inches square.

The local Home Depot had the piece of oak I needed, but it was 18 bucks. I looked around and found a 3/4 inch piece that was only four bucks. I quickly calculated that I could laminate three layers and get 2.25 inches.

I cut the 24" board into three pieces and glued them together. Here's the finished product:

It looks kind of messy, but after the end cut to produce a nice 90 degree angle, you can barely tell it's laminated.

Then a 45 degree cut and we're in business.

Glued in place:

I put the bolts in and the leg mounted right up. Then it was on to the chairs.

The chairs were white and, although not super dirty, were not quite clean enough for my liking.

We have a red theme going on in the condo, so we picked out some appropriate fabric. My mom sewed the backs and I took care of the rest. Here's the finished product:

After spending about $40 on raw materials, I am pretty happy with the end result. I'm not a huge fan of oak, but it will do for now.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


We drove up to Tahoe this past weekend for a little rest and relaxation. Sunday I went on a ride up to the top of Mount Rose hoping to ride the Rim Trail, but there was still too much snow. I decided to cross the highway and try the fire road up to the lookout tower, which I had never done before. With the southern exposure there appeared to be a bit less snow.

From the top there is a nice piece of Rim Trail that goes for about a mile before cyclists are dumped onto the fire road. (Hikers can continue on the Rim.)

Once on the road, the climbing begins and never really lets up. As I made it higher and higher, the snow became more and more of a hinderance.

I came upon this little pond. I sat down for a bit and had a granola bar while enjoying the sounds—the birds, the wind in the trees, the frogs around the pond. It was very relaxing. Until the lady with the dog showed up. She started throwing stones in the pond, and every time she did the dog went absolutely apeshit. I left.

After a while the snow became more and more irritating. After hiking through about 15 of these, I turned back.

I still made it up pretty high. According to Google Earth I was at 9656 feet. The lookout is around 10,000 feet, so I hope to make it all the way at some point after the snow melts.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Some Kind of Monster

It’s been a while since I have posted. Sorry for the monster post. A lot has transpired in that time. In an attempt not to bore everyone to death, I will hit the highlights of the last 60 days or so in abbreviated fashion.

In April I made a full-price offer on a bank-owned condominium in Incline Village, Nevada. So did someone else. I tacked on a few grand and resubmitted the offer, and it was eventually accepted, but only after a lot of haggling over terms.

For the record, I would not recommend buying a bank-owned home in another state.

In early June we closed escrow and I achieved a long-time goal of owning a place in Incline, a place I have been visiting regularly for 25 years.

We've been up a few times to visit and transport furniture, and it's been pretty fun.

During the first visit I was able to get in a couple rides, but I had to stay low due to the snow.

We went up again over the Fourth of July and again I got a few more rides in. I was able to ride at higher elevation, but there was still a lot of snow on top. One day I climbed to the top of Mount Rose on Highway 431. It's about 2700 feet from lake level.

The trail I wanted to ride, the Rim Trail, was somewhere under all this snow.

Still, there was plenty of prime singletrack down a little lower.

On my last ride I was bombing down this steep chute on a flume trail (not THE Flume Trail) and heard metal clanging.

I thought, What the hell is that? I stopped but I couldn't find anything wrong with my bike. I looked up the trail and found a bunch of these:

Nails from the old flume. A couple of them were very primitive and square, and they appeared to be quite old.

A couple doors down there are a number of friendly local kids. In this day and age of video games and virtual reality, it warmed my heart to see a wiffle ball game break out.

To finish up, see all those bikes? They're just over my back fence. Yes, a bike shop a stone's throw away. Nice.