Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

RSL Initial Impressions

The weather was pretty uncooperative last week, but I did get 2 brief rides in on the RSL.  With that time interval in mind I'll offer my thoughts so far.

First and foremost the bike fits really well, albeit slightly differently than I had anticipated.  I was between the 19" and 20" for the RSL.  My benchmark YBB is a 20" has a 24.25 top tube, and that is just about as big as I can handle.  On paper the 19" RSL has the same dimensions with an 80 mm fork.  I opted for the 100 mm travel setting on my Reba and the additional front end height has made the effective top tube length a little shorter. 

As soon as I got on the bike I was impressed with how stable and snappy it is.  The bike tracks well and goes where I point it- something that can't be said of all 29ers I've ridden recently.  Even at the 100 mm travel setting the bike felt stable and composed yet responsive enough for me to stay on track.

Although still a hardtail, the titanium frame and seatpost go a long way to passively absorb vibration.  The ti frame coupled with the 29" wheels enable the RSL to roll over trail irregularities like a short travel 26" wheeled bike without the rear wheel deflection.  The updated and more shapely tubeset helps to keep the bike stiff laterally- noticeably stiffer than my YBB in fact. 

More than anything I would say that the RSL has ensured titanium's relevance in the off road racing world.  It handled every bit as well as the carbon 29ers I've ridden with a comparable weight and a much smoother ride.  

This week I plan to get some more time on this bike including Wednesday Worlds at Catamount.  I'm interested to see how it handles familiar terrain at race pace and whether or not it has any impact on my performance.  

Most likely I'll finish in the same place, but it's fun to try out new gear.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

RSL Update- Build Complete!

I've completed the build on the Moots Mooto X RSL.  The plan is to ride it this weekend, and I'll post pictures of it shortly. 

Total weight complete with pedals is 22.6 lbs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Plan

This is my 2011 season plan.  It includes the buildup to my endurance races this summer: Pat's Peak, the Dark Horse 40, Hampshire 100 and Land Mine Classic.  

Can't read it?  That's the point.  I don't want anyone knowing my semi-secret training program, I just want you to know that I have a training program.  

Saturday is going to be a mountain bike ride at tempo effort for about 2.5-3 hours.  Sunday is going to be a long steady endurance ride in the 5 hour range.  I'll be riding in some semi-familiar terrain in Southern Vermont on Sunday so that will be a nice change of scenery.  

Unfortunately my new camera won't arrive before the weekend so there won't be any photo essay ride reports just yet, but I will be riding, and I hope you will, too.

Tonight is the first Wednesday Night Worlds at Catamount of 2011.  My form has been good over the last few months, and I'm feeling pretty lean so I'm hoping that will translate into a positive result.  The first race of the season is always brutally hard, so I just need to remind myself that it's going to hurt a lot and I need to pace myself if I'm going to finish.  And the goal is to finish, then worry about results.  

Ned Overend said that if you finish a race your legs will hurt for a few days, but if you pull out your head will hurt weeks.  Simple words, but true nonetheless.  

The next step in the plan is to follow's Ned's advice, and finish tonight's race. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Lair


This was really dumb, but I'm really proud of it.  

Over the weekend I put one of my Pro-35 decals on the door to the basement.  Nobody ever sees the basement door because it's below grade and under the metal bulkhead doors, but I felt compelled to do it.

As you can see the door is in rough shape.  Although it's structurally sound it could use a coat of paint and some new caulk around the window panes.  I'll get to those tasks, but it was easier to just put a sticker on it in the short term.

Is this one of those things that really matters?  Absolutely not.  Somehow it still makes me smile every time I see it on my way in or out for a ride.   

I think it boils down to a sense of pride.  Pro-35 is open for business.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Absalon, Part 3

In a country full of roadies how do you get to be the best mountain biker of your generation?  I'm not sure, but Julien Absalon could tell you, and I'm sure he spent a lot of time training on the road to get there.  Case in point is this picture from an early season road race in France. 

It'll be interesting to see if he runs a 29er hardtail at the World Cup this year, and I guarantee if he does that many others will follow.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Freeon 2.0

It's raining, and that's my excuse.  Actually it's been pouring for four straight days, and looks set to pour for four more.

With that in mind I'm not riding, so I feel like that gives me a little latitude for geekery like updating my Freeons with new temple wires and white ear socks.  Would anyone else care or notice?  Probably not, but I think it's cool and I'm just a little more excited to put these on next time I head into the woods.

When the rain stops I'll be ready.  Maybe the RSL will be, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Tungsten Electrode

What you are looking at is a ghost. 

The Tungsten Electrode was a highly touted and much anticipated full suspension rig from Indpendent Fabrication featuring a DW link rear end and an in-house titanium front triangle.  Keen eyed readers will notice that this particular specimen is most likely steel and not ti as evidenced by the downtube gusset.

If we can date the bike by the build I'd say it's probably about 2-3 years old as 970 series XTR ran from late fall 2007 to fall 2010.  I'm not normally a Manitou fan, but the color looks great against the green decals.  Also the white LeMond road saddle looks totally at home and adds a subtle sense that style and performance matter to the owner.

Jason said that this was the best mountain bike he'd ever ridden, but sadly it was never produced.  If you see one take a moment to appreciate it from afar, or better yet politely ask the owner if you can ride it.

Most likely this picture will be closest that many of us will ever get.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Step Closer

The weekend worked out in what has become the new normal standard, which is to say that my initial plan went completely out the window.  Still, I made some progress and think I made some good on-the-fly decisions.

The weather was pretty bad over the weekend, and bad enough for me to decide not to race on Sunday.  After Saturday's damp preride of the course at Catamount I decided that for a variety of factors the best call was to not race.  The track was rideable early, but with another inch of rain in the forecast for the next 24 hours it would only get much, much worse.  

Yesterday I got the wheels laced up for the RSL.  I went with my King ISO disc hubs with silver spokes, silver alloy nipples and Crest 29'er rims, which is basically a bigger version of the wheels currently on the YBB.

So here's a shot of the YBB post hosedown, pre clean, adjust & lube.  As I'm planning to get the RSL rolling this week I wanted to give this bike some attention as it is sure to get neglected. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Updated Pics- Elcyclista Kit

Here are some slightly better shots of the radiant Elcyclista kit.

Have you still not gotten one for yourself yet?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gear: Elcyclista Kit

This week my Elcyclista kit arrived.  It's an understated yet stylish Capo kit in black and white with just the right amount of pink.  So why the crappy cell phone pic?  My camera broke this week, although honestly my meager photographic skills are more to blame than the equipment.  

Elcyclsta is blog that blends cycling and style elements without being smug or self-righteous much like  Peloton Magazine.  It's on my short list of regularly visited blogs, and it should be on yours too.

Check it out at elcyclista.com.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


In case you were wondering, I'm a tire geek.  This is a selection of my active rotation of racing and training tires for the YBB.  The RSL is of course a 29er, so that will require another quiver. 

Each of these tires was weighed, then scrubbed to remove excess sealant and is drying before being weighed again.  Did that make them any lighter?  No, but I had to try. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review- Kenda Blue Groove

The Kenda Blue groove is one of the many tires options in Kenda's John Tomac signature series.  I really like the Small Block 8 and Nevegal, so I was eager to try out the Blue Groove.  I wasn't disappointed.

Reviews for wider tires abound the web, but I haven't found many focused on the 26 x 2.0 Stick-E version.  Although all sizes share similarities, a 2.3 all mountain tire does not necessarily translate well into a narrower, lightweight 2.0 for XC applications. 

My XC endurance racing needs usually dictate that I run tires that are 1.95" to 2.1", and the Blue Grooves fall squarely within that range.  The casing is square-ish like the ever popular Nevegal, but instead of having ramped knobs the main tread features a two-step leading edge.  These two attributes and moderate volume give the Blue Groove its unique characteristics, and foreshadow its on-trail performance.

As I've mentioned in other tire reviews casing shape has a lot to do with the way a tire performs.  A parabolic tire like the Small Block 8 only places the very center of the tread in contact with the ground until it's leaned over in a turn.  Round tires like the Karma put a little more rubber on the ground when riding in a straight line.  A square profile like the Nevegal makes a much wider contact patch that contributes to a very stable feeling with smooth transitions from outside edge to outside edge because of the amount of tire in contact with the ground. 

The square profile makes the tire stable, but the downside is that it can make the tire roll slowly because of the amount of rubber it's pushing along.  In cases where the terrain is soft or loamy, this profile does well because of its stability, and the square-edged two step knobs accentuate that.  Rounder tires may have less rolling resistance, but it's often so soft and slick that their lack of grip makes them irrelevant.    Those conditions are also muddy or sticky, and the open tread on the Blue Groove does well to stay clear.

With all of that in mind, the tire does well where I'd expect it to, and favors soft to muddy conditions.  It's not a full-on mud tire, and although it excels in mud it is much more versatile than many other mud-specific options.  

With the amount of rain we've gotten in Vermont I've been running these tires a lot.  Amazingly there are still some places where the trails are dry and rocky, and in those instances the Blue Groove was sufficient, but I could feel that it was rolling more slowly than a true hardpack tire like the SB8.  The square edged lugs didn't squirm, but the square leading edges tended to slip on rocks and exposed roots.  The volume was also fine but didn't offer the same confidence-inspiring centering bounce that comes with a wider casing. 

Overall these tires do very well in soft conditions, and offer great stability and traction.  In my mind these are a great addition to the quiver for days when you're sure to have mud but still need a reasonably fast rolling option.  They're also more versatile than a standard mud tire and won't let you down if the terrain is firmer than you'd expected.  When things dry out and firm up they can still run, but they're outpaced by faster rolling options with more volume.

In my race tire quiver the Blue Groove sits on the outside of the range covering moderately soft to full-on muddy conditions.  The round profiled and higher volume Karma with its slightly shorter knobs sits in the middle as the versatile all-rounder, and the Small Block 8 is the hardpack speed demon.  

On the scale both tires weigh in exactly at their claimed 460 grams, and their light weight belies their relative toughness and great climbing ability. 

The Blue Groove is a great tire, and damp trails are in the forecast it is my weapon of choice.  For more information visit www.kendausa.com. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011


The weather is not always cooperative.  A few weeks ago I got caught in the rain, and although my bike made it relatively unscathed, my shoes took a beating.

The shoes are a white, and anything white doesn't do well in the rain.  I've got a few seasons on these, but they're my favorites by a long shot.

Cycling shoes, like all components, are tools and tools are meant to be used.  I just still hate to get them dirty.

I've been quiet on the blog recently, but keep your eyes peeled- I've got quite a few things ready to drop this week, including some more tire reviews and more details on the RSL.  If the stars align the final parts should arrive this week and I'll be able to get it built by the weekend.