Written Jan. 1, 2009
First off let me apologize for going so long without an update of any sort. Lots has been happening with the holidays and such and it seems like I just haven’t had a good little chunk of time to sit down and make this thing happen. So, sorry. It’s all good though, with things settling down and so much time having gone by since the last post, I’ve got a stock pile of good stuff to talk about.
First off though, I had a comment asking me to reveal all my my dark racing secrets. Well… Okay, why not? So let’s talk about wheels. I have recently put together a 29 inch wheeled MTB and the initial rides upon the new steed were pretty impressive. I took her out to Auburn for my normal Wednesday afternoon ride and at one point during the ride I actually caught myself thinking, “I can’t race this bike. I won’t get any satisfaction out of winning if I’m riding this thing. It’s like Cheating!”. Yeah, no joke.
I’m going to jump off topic real quick here as Wednesdays are worth mentioning in greater detail. So just about every Wednesday after school (school’s over now, so all bets are off) I jump in my little Subaru and floor it up to Russel Rd. just off 80 and go for a little spin in the dirt. The normal route goes something like this: descend stagecoach or manzanita to confluence, cross the bridge, stay right and ride up the rocky trail by the river that most everyone descends, cross the road to mammoth bar, cruise up the fire road to the big turn out by the road, ride up the road about a 1/4 mile and hop over a fence to get on some cool moto trails, stay right and keep following the roads and trails until you eventually pop out on the forest hill divide loop. Do three laps of the divide loop, I usually do two one direction and then one the opposite way. Then, take connector back over to the three boulders, ride the tunnel trail back down to mammoth bar and hop back on the confluence trail. Ride your tired ass back up stagecoach to your car and fall over. Depending on the timing, I’ll add pieces of trail here and there, or do stagecoach a couple of times for a little longer ride. All depends on the day and the legs… So that’s the Wednesday “Loop”
Okay, back to 29ers. The first time I rode the 29er in Auburn, I was so stoked that I was sure I would never ever ride a 26 inch wheeled bike again. Ever. However, I have started to pick up on some of the disadvantages of big wheeled riding since that first magical voyage. First off, it’s a huge bike! There is just a lot of bike going on with a 29er, perhaps more than little Dezzi can handle? I do see the advantages of a 29er in terms of it’s momentum carrying capabilities as far out weighing it’s sluggish slow speed handling disadvantage but I’ve definitely begun to feel as though the bike is taking me for a ride rather than the other way around and I’m not sure if I like that feeling.
Having ridden the 29er quite a few times now, I’m starting to miss the snappy responsiveness of my trusty 26 inch bike. It’s unlikely that you’ll see me on big wheels this season…. I feel like my particular distate for 29 inch wheels is a matter of circumstance though. My bars are basically level with my saddle even with a -20 degree stem. What this means is that when I stand up to climb a hill, my arms are already bent at the elbow so far that I can’t get any leverage by pullng on the handlebars, I feel like I’m on a comfort bike! Here’s the break down
Rolls over everything!
Super stable, you never feel like you’re going to tip over or wash out while cornering
Feels sluggish as hell on steep climbs
High bars put you in an awkward position for out of the saddle climbing
Weight (mine’s respectable at 21.7 w/ a 1×9)
I don’t know, as I said before, I think there are a couple of circumstances preventing me from taking advantage of big wheels. It’s a rider vs particular bike issue. A 29er would destroy Prairie City. It would be pretty killer on a course like Downieville XC too since the climb is steady and gradual. Anything with uber steep pitches is going to work you super quick though. Once that momentum leaves you, you’re not getting it back while going up hill.
As far as air pressure was concerned, I was told that running lower psi was the way to go. Seems to be true. I was using different tires than what I normally run on my 26 inch though and the 29er tires were not UST, so they rode much softer to begin with. As this was the case, I found that I only ran about 2-3psi less in my big wheels than in my standard wheels. It takes some playing around.
Overall, I feel like if you’re 6′+ a 29er will probably feel pretty natural to you. If you’re shorter than about 5′9″ or so, It may just feel like a little more bike than you can handle. Does for me anyway. I was also asked about a 29er hardtail vs a 26 FS. Hardtail all the way. Most of the descending capabilities without the same type of power loss. If you can keep the wheels rolling, you’re not going any slower up most hills on a 29er, but there’s always lost power on a FS. Depends on your riding style too. If you can spin a super smooth seated cadence, then there are some suspension designs which will climb like mountain goats. I suck at that sort of climbing, so I’ll always lean towards a solid rear end that doesn’t move when I’m clawing my way up a climb out of the saddle. So many things to consider!
So those are my latest thoughts on wheel size.
Now for the secrets…
Q:What sort of tires did I run at Cool/Tahoe Sierra? Did I flat?
A:I ran Michelin XCR Dry2 26×2.0 UST tires at Cool, front and rear. I always run the rear tire in reverse direction for added traction. I ran the same tire on the back at Tahoe Sierra, but ran a Michelin XCR AT UST 26×2.0 on the front. This tire became my go to for a front tire midway through the season, it’s a little more aggressive and you can notice the difference while cornering. I try my best not to flat, lucked out and didn’t flat at either race. It’s all about tire sealant and UST tires.
Q:Tubeless or tubed tires? Do you use sealant? Why?
A: See above.
Q:How do you do so many laps at a 24hr race? What do you eat & drink? What type of lights do you use, and how do they work? Handlebar & helmet? How long do your batteries last? What do you wear? How do you keep warm? What are the things on your checkoff list to bring. Chain lube?
A: I don’t think about the laps. I break a 24 hour race down into smaller peices. I can’t think about the whole thing, the idea of riding your bike for that long is crazy. It’s too big, too daunting. I just try to ride until dark, then until midnight(when I allow myself to put on music), then focus on riding until sunrise when things don’t seem so bad any more, and then I just try to have some fun and let it all hang out until noon. As crazy as it may sound, I look forward to the way I feel after a 24 hour race. I enjoy the exhaustion beyond comprehension, that feeling of pushing myself further than I should. I’m a creature of habit too, and by racing laps, I can make a little routine out of things. Eat at this stump, always drink here, switch bottles at the top of this climb, always stop to pee on that bush, etc. I guess it helps.
I eat food and drink water. Real food mostly, cereal, bread, fig newtons, granola bars, soup, pb&j, and some gus and candy bars towards the end when my system is saying ‘no’ to eating anything more. I have started using some salene stuff in my water too for hot races. Not sure if I notice the difference, but I’m sure it doesn’t hurt. I would say eat whatever you can, really doesn’t matter what it is after a certain point, just so long as food is coming into the system. My food has come a long way since my first Coolest in 2007(I can’t believe my first solo 24 was only that long ago!); I kid you not, I ate half a loaf of bread, 10oz baked tofu, half a jar of Peanut Butter(the big one), an entire jar of jelly, three bananas, 4 cups pasta, 2 cup o noodles, 20 clif bars, 4 packs of oatmeal, seems like some eggs for breakfast, a bag and a half of fun size snickers candy bars, and downed about seven gallons of water. Nutty.
I use a Niterider Trinewt handlebar light.(Please note that that I have since made the switch to Lupine Lighting systems and I couldn't be happier! The Betty system is far brighter [1500 lumens!] than a Trinewt and far more reliable. Extremely lightweight and did I mention it's super bright?!) I can’t see for beans in the dark and it’s very bright and the battery lasts up to seven hours on low. Pretty dang good. I usually have two batteries, I don’t run them till near dead, I switch every three or four hours and charge them up so that I don’t go dark. I think Coolest this year was the only 24 I’ve ever done where I didn’t have a light go out on me during a lap. I always carry a little cateye light so I can limp back to the pit if things go dark.
I don’t stay warm. In fact I get very, very, very cold. I find that after about twelve hours on a bike that everything else hurts so bad that I don’t seem to notice the cold as much as I would otherwise though. I suspect that something similar to a fever is going on by the middle of the night too, nothing is working quite normally after so long with all systems set to ‘kill’. Still, I count on my hands and feet being numb for hours and hours and hours during a race. Just makes sunrise all that much more enjoyable.
Packing for a 24 is easy. I just bring everything. Anything can happen, so I’d rather pack everything and have the perfect pair of gloves or booties for the unexpected sub freezing night time temps(24 hours of adrenalin Hurkey Creek 2008) than listen to the weather report and pack for the conditions called for. You need something to heat food with. That’s super important. Hot food makes you feel good in the middle of the night. Bring stuff to fix your bike too. Figure out how many hours you ride your mtb in a month and think about the normal amount of work you do to your bike in a month. Say you ride your mtb 30hours in a month, give or take. So, bring enough stuff for a month’s worth of mainainance for just this race. Extra chain, chainrings, cogs, pedals, saddles, seatpost, handlebars, grips, tires, wheels, spokes, so on and so forth. Oh, and I bring a spare bike most of the time too…
Dumonde Tech is the only lube on the market worth purchasing. Period.
Q:Training in the rain - doesn’t it wreak your bikes with all the road and trail grit - Do you have a beater bike just for rain training?
A: Yep. Rain sucks. It makes your bikes work like total butt and it makes you hate riding. Oh, and it’s dangerous and cold. It’s pretty much all bad. Much to the frustration of the guy who keeps my bikes tuned up, I don’t have a rain bike. I can’t train and race on different bikes. My body picks up on the slightest little changes and differences and doesn’t adapt quickly to new crap so I just ride the heck out of my race bike, which is why the thing always looks a little hagard. It’s like your favorite pair of jeans. Ugly, beat down, threadbare and a little worn out with patches on the knees and a finicky zipper, but the world is just so right when you wear those beat up old denims. Same thing with my ridden through the rain beat down well worn in mtb. It just fits so right.
Phew! I’m all typed out. I’ve got more exciting epic rides to tell y’all about soon though. Keep your eyes out.