Challenge Gravel Grinders

I was so impressed with the Challenge Gravel Grinders on my Volagi that I fitted a pair on my wifes bike too. I hope she like them as much.

jake_challenge

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Power Pod for 2017

I have planned to do the majority of racing in 2017 on my fixed gear Wabi but was a little down on not having any sort of power monitoring. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a power solution (many of which don’t work on fixed gear) and I had read a good review on the “Powerpod” on DCRainmaker so I decided to give it a go. It comes with it’s own software but I plan to use it with the Garmin and Strava.

newtonx2

 

 

I have to be honest in that I am very skeptical that the system can work but It should be ideal for comparative work on the fixed gear Merckx style TT  bike. My first riding impressions was that the numbers were all wrong but after about 15 minutes the device seemed to settle down. I did a few efforts and the numbers seemed to be correct by the seat of my pants. It still seemed to under read compared  to my other power meters on tailwind sections as I saw some very low numbers.

I put in a proper TT effort on the Dagnino Dead End Strava segment and did 311W. This number felt just about right but only got me my 86th best effort for this segment. My pulse average was 164bpm which shows I was at race pace (based on my new 10bpm lower maximum pulse).  I am shocked just how slow I got.

 

 

 

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2017 Cycling Season

I didn’t think I would ever race again after my stroke but I have found the urge to do something competitive in 2017. I don’t feel up to competing in road races but I have a plan to have a go at a few TT’s.  My other issue is my balance and as such I don’t think I will be able to ride on tri-bars so I will TT on my Merckx style fixed gear bike

dunlap_20141

A goal would be to try to beat the hour for a 25 Mile TT in this 1970’s style setup.  This is very much a stretch goal as I am probably only 2/3 fitness nowadays and my previous best on the Wabi for 25 miles was 1:02:36.  I think beating 1h10 would be a major achievement. I am planning to have some sort of power meter setup on the fixed for next season.  I had an FTP of around 340W when I did that time but no power meter so no way of knowing exactly what the power was.  I estimate my current FTP is approx 240W so I have a lot of work to do.

My max pulse has also dropped by 10bpm so I will need to adjust my TT pacing.  I  plan on attempting the hour on the Loyalton TT course which is pretty flat but I dont think it is as fast as Putah Creek. I have only ridden the course once on my TT bike and found it was horrible but I think it suits fixed (providing the wind isn’t too strong).

Next year I will be back riding for IC3.

There are hardly any suitable events in California anymore but here is my provisional list:

March 26th: Tempus Fugit Individual TT (Spring)

 http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/rko5-tempus-fugit-individual-tt-spring

 May 29th : RKO#7 – Memorial Day Classic Stage Race and Omnium – Calaveras Time Trial

 http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/rko7-memorial-day-classic-stage-race-and-omnium-calaveras-time-trial-pb-team-fremont-frem

 June 11th : Loyalton Time Trial (State Champs ???????)

 http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/loyalton-time-trial

 July 22 : RKO#11 – Crossfire Hurricane Hill Climb Challenge

http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/rko11-crossfire-hurricane-hill-climb-challenge

 Aug 20 : RKO#15 – Tempus Fugit Individual TT 

 http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/rko15-tempus-fugit-individual-tt-summer

 Sep 9th : Mt Diablo Hill Climb TT

 http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/mt-diablo-hill-climb-tt-0

 Sep 16th : Esparto Time Trial – VP#20 CC#9

 http://www.ncnca.org/ncncaevent/esparto-time-trial-vp20-cc9

 

 

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New Tire Impressions

pear_tree1

And a Marky in a pear Tree (Prickly)…..

I have about 100 miles on the Challenge Gravel Grinders now (80% road/ 20% dirt) and I have to say I am impressed.  The tires roll very fast on roads and hard packed dirt and they give a silky smooth ride.  I am running them at 45psi and that doesn’t give a hint of sluggishness but it smooths out road imperfections extremely well.  Their performance on hard packed dirt is also really good.  The Vijae feels like it was built for these tires and it does wonders at taming the overly stiff front end.

From the seat of the pants I would say these tires roll as fast as a 23-25 road tire but I have noticed that my wife pulls away from me on every down hill on her road bike.  There must be some drag but when riding you really don’t notice it.

It has not all been good news as I got a flat after only 60 miles from a darn goats head. One of the dangers at riding off piste at this time of the year.

Review of the Tires on “Riding The Gravel”

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New Tires For The Volagi and Stroke

Since I last posted here over a year a go I have not been a well man.  I had a stroke after the Mt Tam hill climb and ended up in hospital for 7 months.  I  am back riding now but I am very slow and don’t push myself too hard.  I am doing around 150 miles per week but I am riding rather than training and take a massive kicking whenever the road points up. My wife has been a treasure and for that I forgive her for all the half wheeling since I got back on the bike. I don’t know if I ever will race again and I have vowed not to shave my legs until I can hang on on the climb on the IC3 Sunday morning run.

Looking at my power meter data since I got back on the bike for the last 3 months I have lost over 100W of ftp.  It feels worse that that and I really suffer on hills although I never feel well enough to give it 10/10.

I decided to try some challenge tires out on the Volagi. They were on awesome sale online so how could I resist.  I have been running Vittoria Open Pave for the last 1000 miles and they are looking pretty cut up so it is time for a change. I have’nt ridden them yet but hope they wont be too sluggish on the road. Riding Impressions to follow.

challenge1

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EROICA California April 8th-10th 2016

Registration has opened up for the Eroica California and I plan to sign up for the 123mile route which I believe is supposed to be very difficult (I love a challenge). I have already started searching for a suitable mount for the event but I know exactly what I am looking for. I want to ride the event on a 1930’s pathracer style machine and for a suitable donor bike I have been scouring Craigs List for a Raleigh Tourist DL-1. This bike has exactly the long laid back look I am after. It seems to me that most of the DL-1’s that appear on CL get bought by restoration shops that buy them cheap, tart them up and sell them for 2 to 3 times the original price. Considering I am planning on gutting the bike to make it into a pathracer this seems an awful waste to me. In the last 3 weeks I haven’t seen a single suitable donor bike for sale for a reasonable price.

Challenges for the DL-1 build would include how to integrate the rod style brakes with some Major Taylor bars and the Cottered cranks that I absolutely hated as a child but are period correct.  The other problem i have with the rod brakes is how they would cope with the very hilly 123 mile course.  I don’t expect to have modern braking performance but they have to be good enough that the bike can actually stop on some steep gravel descent.

Option 2 is to go out and buy a Pashley Guvnor where all the hard work has already been done for me and I would have a bike that is much more suitable for the 123mile route. It has better brakes and a much nicer frame in glorious 531. They are rare as hens teeth in Northern California but I am keeping my eyes open for a 22.5″ 3 spd model coming up for sale. Downsides to the Guvnor is the steep price and a few items that are not so period correct. I think the stock crankset looks particularly out of place and I would want to run Major Taylor bars which would create it’s own challenge in terms of brake lever and shifter setup. The bike below has a different crankset and the major Taylor bars which would be absolutely spot on for me.

Looking to create something like this but with hub brakes and 3 speeds.

My final challenge is to go back to having a brooks saddle.  In my teens I rode Brooks saddles and found them to be the most uncomfortable things ever created. After switching to a San Marco Turbo saddle I vowed never to let my cheeks touch a Brooks ever again. I hope the saddles have improved as they are essential for the period correct look.  Another thing I cant understand with Brooks saddles is why so many people run them with the nose pointing upwards which must surely be absolute hell on your family allowance. As I said earlier in this blog post….I like a challenge.

If anyone out there has a Guvnor or DL-1 for sale please let me know.

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Low Key Hill Climbs 2015

The events have been announced for the 2015 Low Key Hill climb season and there is an unprecedented number of them that I have never ridden before.

  1. 3rd October – Montebello
  2. 10th October – Page Mill (Never Ridden Before)
  3. 17th October – Alba Road (Never Ridden Before)
  4. 24th October – Mill Creek (Never Ridden Before)
  5. 31st October – Purisima Creek Trail (Never Ridden Before)
  6. 7th November – Bohlman (Never Ridden Before)
  7. 14th November – OLH (Never Ridden Before)
  8. 21st November – Mount Charlie
  9. 26th November – Mount Hamilton

I plan on racing 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 on my Wabi Classic All Steel Single Speed. I also plan on pre-riding all the “Never Ridden” climbs just to figure out an appropriate gear,

Some New Wheels From Wabi have shed some weight from the Classic

Round 5 is off road and i may ride it on my single speed CX commute bike but I am undecided on this. Also thinking I could convert an old MTB to single speed.

Picture from Low Key Website

Round 9 is totally unsuitable for single speed and I would be so slow that my time would be a joke. There are some significant flat and fast sections and two big down hills. If i geared up for the flats I would destroy me knees on the final 6 miles of 6.0%. Undecided about this one.

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23rd August Tempus Fugit TT with and without gears and aero

It was a touch of madness that made me decide to ride two time trials the day after an MTB race in Bodie. It wasn’t just the MTB race but also the 4-5 hour drive home and lack of sleep (I never sleep well in hotels).  In the end I couldn’t miss out on the chance to ride a local time trial after so many have been cancelled this year. I entered the Masters 45+ 3/4 and the Merckx categories which presented a bit of a problem of its own.  My first race was at 10:36 a.m. and my second was at 11:18 a.m. which gave me 42 minutes between events. If I could do close to my personal best I would expect to finish in around 27 minutes which meant that I would have only 15 minutes to get back to the parking lot, have a drink, change helmet, change numbers and of course change my bike. I did not have enough time to change out of my skinsuit so I would have to race the Merckx in it (people were using a lot more aero kit than me)

Race#1:  Masters 45+ 

Masters 45+ 3/4

I got a pretty decent warmup but over the the first few miles i could definitely feel the Bodie trip in my legs and was a bit worried at how slow I felt.  I decided to just relax and not push myself too deep on the steeper sections on the outward leg and gradually increase my pace.  It felt like there was a bit of a headwind on the way out so i was hoping for a super fast return.  I was a little concerned that my pulse was a bit down on normal but my power looked good.

The return leg was fast but there were still areas where the wind was quite difficult and I had a few pucker moments with unexpected gusts of wind at over 35MPH. This course seems to be getting rougher every year and you really need to keep your eyes focused on road hazards.  The final fast and twisty section was spoiled a little bit by me encountering two leisure cyclists riding two abreast on the last fast corner.  This forced me to have to brake and then try to get back up to speed for the last slightly uphill 200m sprint. I reckon this cost me the three seconds I needed for second place.

Thanks to Katie for the picture

I was pleased with my third place and ended up with a new personal record by 3 seconds and a new best power by 4w.

Results:

  1. Lanier BENKARD – 00:26:26
  2. Jeff DALE = 00:26:47
  3.  Mark KING – 00:26:49

Race#2

It was a huge challenge getting ready for the second event but fortunately my wife was there to help me. By the time I got sorted and onto the Wabi Fixed Gear i had just five minutes before my next race began. I was definitely not properly recovered and a bit stressed when I got to the line.  I had opted to ride on my usual 48 x 15 gearing which works out as a reasonable compromise between grinding up the hills on the way out and spinning like a mad thing on the way back.

I love it when a fixed gear bike is on full song. Thanks for the picture Katie

On the Way out the wind seemed to have got up a bit and I felt really over geared on the 48×15 . I have never felt this to be such an issue before but I put it down to the headwind and general fatigue.  It felt very fast on the the way back and i was spinning out in several places (around 140 rpm max). I ended up finishing 23 seconds down on my p.r. and in 6th place which I was a bit disappointed with. I was also very tired.

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2015 Bodie Bowl on the fat bike

Bodie is a Ghost Town nestled at 8000 ft up in the Sierra mountains roughly between the Town of Bridgeport and Mono lake. I have visited it a few times but not since my Sam Angus (The Mad Dog in my Blog title) passed away. As soon as I saw the announcement for an MTB race up there I knew I had to do it in memory of my old friend.

Angus the Samoyed at Bodie Ghost Town back in 2004. RIP my friend.

Bodie Bowl – August 22, 2015
A Mountain Bike Event through the Historic Ghost/Mining Town of Bodie, CA and the surrounding Bodie Bowl. This course will work it’s way through town and then out into BLM lands and a private Cattle Ranch. Great views of the White Mountains, Mono Lake, Mammoth Mountain and the Eastern Sierras.

This event will take place at Bodie State Park on August 22, 2015. Start times will be 8:10 am (Expert), 8:25 am (Sport) and 8:40 am (Recreational). There will be two courses. “Expert/Sport” course will be 50 Kilometers (31 miles) and approximately 2500 feet of climbing. The “Recreational” course will be 30 Kilometers (18.6 miles). The courses will be at an elevation of 8000 – 9000 feet. There is just “The right amount” of climbing on this course with the elevation to make it challenging. Both courses are all on dirt and primarily one loop with a few “out and backs”. Most of the ride will be on soft “Double Track” making it a fast course with easy passing access. You’ll love it!

In my mind the perfect bike for the Bodie Bowl  was a  drop bar fatbike and it was this race that was the genesis of the idea for “Fatty Lumpkin”.

“Fatty Lumpkin” About to get his first proper taste of sand

The race turned out to be a very low key affair with only around 50 entrants and a very friendly atmosphere.  I was also surprised to see 34f temperatures at the start which was a shock to the system after baking in the Bay Area all week.

Pretty Cold !!

I went for a warm up dressed with woolly gloves, arm warmers and a wind vest but the temperature rose very quickly so I ditched the wind vest and gloves for the race.  I wish I had ditched the arm warmers too as it got pretty warm on the climbs.

My plan for the race was to hang on to the only other fatbike in the expert group and hopefully out-sprint him on the uphill run in to the finish. Unfortunately the other fatbike rider turned out to be faster than me.

The race started off pretty mellow with a single speeder dictating the pace round the first of the town center loops. I was glad of the steady start as I had only done 1.6 miles of warm-up. Straight away I noticed  that the other fatbike rider was strong on the short climb.  On the second loop of the town center he opened up a bit of a gap but made a wrong turn on the downhill so the group came back together.

The first three miles were downhill on a bumpy and sandy road so I ended up on the front but I was riding well within myself as I knew we had a long way to go. I wasn’t on the front for long before the other fat bike rider came flying past so I had no choice but to go with him. Pretty soon we had opened up a decent gap over the rest of our group.  When we hit the first climb the fat bike rider started to gap me but I suspected he was pushing too hard so I kept to a pace I was more comfortable with. I felt sure I could bring him back on the longer faster sections (how wrong I was).  I was very impressed at how good the fatbike handled on the loose and sandy trails and was really enjoying myself.  On the first downhill I had to temper my enthusiasm a bit as there were a lot of rocks and I didn’t want to crash or break off a derailleur.

It turns out that we had taken a wrong turn and should not have gone up the climb spur at the start of the race but rather at the end. When I got to the junction I followed the arrows but they took me back to nearly the start.  A few people shouted at me that I was going the wrong way but the arrows seemed to confirm I was on the right course.  Eventually it dawned on me that there was no-one else around and I was only about a mile away from where we started.  I dawned on me that the race was over for me so I turned round and just rode to finish.

Out on Course – Picture Courtesy of Leigh

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful and due to the out and back nature of the course I got to see the lead group quite regularly (I think a lot of them went wrong too but not as bad as I did).  I was really impressed at how well the fatbike handled the terrain and any sluggishness that I normally feel on hard packed trails completely disappeared once I hit the sand. The ride was nothing short of magical.  I think I should have gone quite a bit lower in pressure for this event as I was bouncing about a bit too much on the rocky bits.  On sandy or loose rock climbs the fatbike was amazing.  I felt really sorry for the few people who had turned up on CX bikes as they were having a terrible time digging in and fishtailing in the sand. The course was 100% rideable on a fatbike.

I finished in a time of around 2h30m with 30.1 miles and 2269ft of climbing on the clock.  I really enjoyed this event and plan to be back again next year with some better navigation skills.

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First 200 Miles on “Fatty Lumpkin”

“Fatty Lumpkin”  the drop bar Framed Alaskan Fat Bike and me had a bit of a baptism of fire. My first proper ride was the 100 mile Lost and Found Gravel race where I suffered rather badly and we parted not the best of friends.  Fatty sat unloved in a corner of the garage throughout the months of June and July whilst I concentrated on getting my Time Trial mojo back. August however, brings with it Fatty’s second race (the Bodie Bowl) so it was time to sort out the problems that made me unhappy way back in May.

My biggest issue with my setup was the Salsa Woodchipper bars which I simply could not get along with at all. I went to my local shop and borrowed a set of “Cowtipper” bars to see if these would work any better for me but before I could install them I spotted the new Salsa Bikes launch which had several drop bar MTB’s.  I quickly realized that my bar position was way different to what they had so I tried to mimic what I saw in the pictures.  This involved tipping the bars down to what appeared to be a ridiculous angle but it made all the difference in the world.  The new position allowed me to run the brifters in a  much more conventional position and the result was far more comfortable  and much less cramped.  I also raised the bars about an inch which actually made riding on the newly positioned drops even more comfortable.

New Bar Setup

I also discovered that I had somehow ended up with my saddle too high which was limiting my power and giving me sore knees. I expect when we were trying to sort out the tire issues on the night before the “Lost and Found” the height got adjusted in the work stand and I never noticed. I have also been experimenting with tire pressures and have found my best compromise to be 13psi front and 14psi rear (at least by what my pumps says).  This gives me good predictable handling along with acceptable bump absorption in the front. I still find a little waywardness on very fast downhill corners where i am really cranked over and can feel a bit of side wall deformation.

The first ride out on my local testing ground was a revelation and I felt right at home blasting up and down trails.  After only a few rides I found myself getting close to and even beating some of my 29er times on the trails.  The more I rode, the faster I got on the downhills as I learned to trust the incredible cornering grip.  Rocky down hills are still a bit of a challenge as the fat tires can only soak up so much trail chatter but anything with loose dirt is a blast.  This Tuesday I actually got within 10 seconds of getting my KOM back on a particular local dirt climb on the fatbike and was beginning to think that the fatbike was quite a trail weapon.  I decided to ride my CX bike on that same trail this morning for comparison and reality set back in when I was over a minute faster.

The fat tires and 10 pound weight difference are just too much of a disadvantage for the Fatbike to overcome on this trail. I would have expected to see the Fatbike to claw some time back on the loose dirt section but as can be seen from the trace below the fatbike loses time every foot of the way (fatbike was more fun though)

Comparison of CX bike vs Fatbike (purple) on “Dyer Up” climb.

The only thing I cant really do anything about that I find a little annoying is the Q factor which always feels odd after hopping off one of my other bikes. I know this is a tradeoff for the 197mm rear end and relatively tight chainstays but I wish it was better.

Despite not being as quick as a CX bike I am looking forward to Bodie Bowl where I will be entered into the fatbike category.  It will be interesting to see how I do against other fatbikes. The “Expert/Sport” course will be 50 Kilometers (31 miles) and approximately 2500 feet of climbing. All of the course is at 8000ft plus and the temperatures could be as low a just above freezing early in the morning.

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