Sunday, December 14, 2014

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Had a chance the other day to ride Gold Camp Road—it’s a local favorite with access to single track, interesting tunnels and depending on the section, little or zero traffic. Time to the 2015 TDR is marching on and I continue to test and evaluate gear choices. 

More on Saddles:

I tried the noseless Spiderflex saddle but have discarded it as it simply puts too much weight on my feet, hands and forearms.  In short there is no real ‘rest’ position; you always have to brace your arms or legs.  And it’s more difficult to grab & eat or other one-hand or no-handed actions with a noseless saddle

As part of my testing I have been riding without chamois padding.  Like everything else going combat has some pluses and minuses. Also along this line I will be trying some heavily padded, elastomer sprung “comfort saddles”.  These type saddles are aimed at the recreation/bike path crowd but my thinking is that if I remove the padding from my bike shorts but add padding to the saddle it might be a workable TDR combo.  In addition these type saddles are wider for a more upright position.  If I cannot find a clear winner I will simply buy a new Selle Italia Turbomatic.  That was my choice for 2014 and overall it’s the best saddle I have found for multi day.

Carbon ‘no-name’ fork is now on the bike.  Bike weight with aero bars is now 20.8lbs.  Once I put on the carbon rims with Nano’s I suspect I will be close to 20lbs.  So as mentioned in earlier posts with a 30lbs target this leaves 10lbs for bags, lights/electronics, sleep system, water system, tools, extra/rain clothing and miscellaneous gear. 

Sleep System:
As part of my quest to reach 30lbs I am going to test one of these as my TDR sleep system: Blizzard Survival Bag

From my web research these all-in-one bivy/bag are light, warm and waterproof.  On the other hand they are noisy, not very packable after 1st use and non-breathable.  But only some real testing will tell me if I want to use one on the TDR. 
My current sleep system, as seen above, is a SOL Escape™ Bivvy, old 1lb Montbell down bag and a couple of pieces of Therm-a-Rest foam.  I think with dry bag and straps it weighs in at 2 or so lbs. At the end of the day I know I will be in hotel rooms more than I think I will-- so who knows, a sub-1 lb sleep system may be just the ticket.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sharing my Tour Divide with Bears and Lions

There has been some lively discussion on (starting on pg 5, )about bear spray.

Naturally I chipped in with my 2 cents about mounting your spray on the bike so you could access, arm and shoot your spray before coming to a stop.  Ha-but it was brought up what if you were knocked off your bike before you grabbed your spray?  Well if a bear knocks you off your bike it would probably be too late to use your spray, but if you have it on 'you' at least you ‘might’ get a chance.

And I should have thought of this myself as the one time I used my SPOT to call in SAR the darn thing was still attached to my bike, 15 rocky yards above me, while I franticly dealt with a 8 inch bone deep gash. 

And my one heart stopping mountain bike ‘close encounter’ with a scared momma bear took place at less than 20 yards.  She had heard me coming down the trail at a high rate of speed--and had tried to scoot up a tree, just  like her cub had, but fell from about 15 feet on her butt-- and was then scared, embarrassed and pissed—all at me, gulp!!

Well I survived both situations but it got me to thinking.  (And unlike some fellow TDR racers I believe in being efficient rather than stylish, blasé, trendy or whatever)  So my thinking got me to order one of these to be tested and played with.

It’s a light weight running vest that looks prefect to carry bear spray in a secure yet quick draw location.  Also I plan to load it up with ID, money, toilet paper, phone, chap stick, sun screen etc. etc.  In the back I can occasionally add some extra water or food as needed.   Basically in addition to a bear emergency and extra/occasional carriage space, I want to have handy all the little things that one uses over and over and many times misplaces or forgets on the bike and have to walk back to retrieve.
Yes yes, I could have just used/modified one of my many backpacks but this one looks so trendy and cool…and as you know I try so hard to always be in vogue.....
Ha-and for sneaky mtn lions who like to attack from the rear-- I will just tape two of these eyes to the back of my helmet.

In all seriousness I do carry and regularly use a whistle, avoidance really is best.  But wild animals could care less what one's philosophical quasi-religion outdoor experience leanings are.  Just because one seeks to avoid an encounter is irrelevant to an animal.  Hopefully I will never need to use bear spray but if I am going to lug it around I will try to do so in the most efficient manner possible.

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Backyard and some other drifiting

I live in the foothills next to the mountains.  My home is 8300 feet in elevation, but here it’s more dry than snow much of the winter. My local, out the front door, riding areas consist of 4x4 roads, doubletrack, ATV track, singletrack, no track, bike paths, gravel and rarely a bit of pave.

My personal temperature cutoff is 40 deg F.  Above 40 I am always up for a ride, below 40 and it’s a big maybe.  IE: below 40 deg and I have to break out true winter clothing.  But anything at or above 40 and I can just add knee or leg warmers, arm warmers or a long sleeve jersey and carry in my pockets a thin balaclava, wind breaker and maybe shoe covers.  So during daylight I can ride almost year round with very minor accommodations.  I like riding at night but in the winter I rarely do, rather I go to the fitness center and spin for an hour.   
I think I might do a winter overnight'er here, cant you just picture the fire and reflected heat?
So in my backyard it would be pretty easy to get in some extended/focused training.  If I actually had a 9-5 job, but as I spend about 100+ nights per year in hotel rooms there is nothing focused about my training.  A main training stable is to pretend to train on beat up, ½ broke hotel exercise bikes.  Ha, but I am not going to let that stop me from hitting my body weight target for 2015 TDR!

And speaking of weight my bike is 33lbs (as shown) with my old bags, most of my old gear and suspension fork.  I can now see my 30 pound bike target is going to happen (give or take 1 pound).

Saddle Testing:
I have spent about 9 hours and 3 rides so far on the new Spiderflex. To soon to make a definitive decision but to summarize my three test rides:

Ride 1) 2 hrs, Stop and adjust, stop and adjust over and over.  No comfort, no power, as awkward as could be.

Ride 2) 3 hrs, Adjust 1 time, Some comfort some power in certain gears/grades, aero bars, one hand riding to eat and drink all very awkward. Very sore in new places, like one’s 1st ride.  Side bar—Ha, I was trashed talked by a 77 year old—he laughed at how slow I was going.  We chatted for a bit, he rides 12 mile loops around town, had a new hip put in 2 years ago—I told him I hope to be a fit as he is when I hit 77.  He said to never stop and I will be.

Ride 3) 4 hrs, Adjust 1 time, Starting to feel like I might be getting the hang of this saddle.  Today I rode and rode hard and fast.  Adjusted a cleat position which I was not willing to do till I saw some overall progress.  Some things I really liked (aero position fell into a happy place big time), some not so much, but a bit more yay than nay today.  And I am even more sore, but over all I am encouraged, at least enough to want to continue testing.  More when I get back from overseas.
Yah we have rednecks in my backyard. ( I do not drink, but if I did this Fireball Whisky has just got to be the cure for a sore bum?)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sometimes life’s a beach (or at least some tide pools)

Got in some sun & fun down in San Diego with family.  And got word today that my vacation will be approved, so barring unexpected work or personal issues I am in for 2015.

The other day I stumbled across Scott’s review of his Spiderflex saddle.
Scott mentioned that Kurt Sandiforth used one for his Triple Crown (Kurt is the TC record holder bty) rides.

My interest was perked so I ordered one for trial.  Went for my 1st ride today, spent a lot of time fine tuning its position. 
To be honest I have no clue how to really set it up properly.  It’s really different.  Anyway I will do some rides/hours before I comment yea or nay.  

Also got a new $80 ebay carbon handlebar that has just enough mounting real estate for my $14 ebay aero bars but still offers rise. 
Perfect fit for aero bars, ideal overall width & rise—ding ding I seem to have an ebay winner!! 
Also ordered up a $90 carbon fork.  Waiting for a spare race crown and then testing will commence on it. 
Sort of scary testing an off brand but I suspect it’s the same manufacture as the $400 ones.

All in all, my TDR bike is coming along quite nicely.  I will keep chipping away at it over the winter, testing this and that item, GPS mount, bear spray storage location, cable routing etc etc.  But the only major items left are a set of light weight bags.  I will most likely go custom front to back as I have some specific ideas that I want to incorporate for my small daily items, tools, electronics and water bladder etc.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

22.8 as shown
I have been slowly piecing together my 2015 TDR ride. Almost done with a few parts yet on order, carbon fork, bars and tires being the main items.  Current weight (as shown with suspension fork and aero bars) is 22.8lbs.  Projected/final weight of bike (minus bags, lights etc) will be right at 20lbs, +/- a few oz’s.

Saved a little weight with some road SPD pedals.  I can see where I might miss the double side ease of clipping in here and there but considering the non-technical nature of the TDR route they should be fine. Plus all the contact area will help minimize hot spots on the ol feet.

Anyway just counting the unencumbered bike, in 2015 looks like I can be running 4 lbs less than 2010, .  My goal is to have total weight (minus food/water and daily clothing) at or just under 30lbs. 

So with a bike that weighs in at 20lbs I will have 10lbs for everything else.

But now I have a minor dilemma.  I have been running the Fox fork, and well I don’t want to give it up.  It has been so fun to bomb down some modest rocky sections, flow over the small drops etc etc.  Not that I am going to be doing much if any of that in the TDR.  On the other hand there is a lot of high speed descending where 100mm would speed things up.   And also there are some sections, like Lima to Red Mountain Pass, that literally beat beat beat you to death. 

Ah, so do I go full rigid or lug around 2 additional lbs but luxuriate in 100mm of squishy goodness?


I have some other “Should I or Shouldn’t I” questions.  The biggest so far is South Bound or North Bound.  Some days I am all set to do a NB attempt, but then I truly question if I wouldn’t be more motivated chasing the pack with a SB run.  Really got to think about this one………………..lots and lots of thinking on this one....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Weight Control Program



I have always put on to much weight thru the winter.  Other than securing vacation authorization the most important factor to my 2015 TDR attempt is to NOT gain excess weight this winter. 
The following photo dump shows how I have been fighting back. 
Still waiting for the ‘real’ snow to show up, in the mean time I have been crunching my share of fallen aspen leaves as often and in as many locations as I can..


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall in the Rockies

he he--- so much fun when the dirt is damp from day-before-rain
I seem to keep sneaking in one more fall ride—but soon it will just be hotel cardio workouts and the occasional warm finger glove ride

Woke up to fresh snow on Pikes Peak.  

But the lower elevations were perfect for 3 hrs on the KTM followed by 3 more on the new 29er. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Last big ride before snow & rain

Tidied up some Friday type work stuff and then rode away at 5pm, pushed hard till 11:30pm.  Set the alarm for 4:30 in anticipation of a TDR type day/effort. Rode steady all of 2nd day and camped up at 10:30. Slept in till dawn and rolled home around 9am

So--my last big ride of the year went something like this:
Warm to cool to cold.   Sun and blue blue sky to mountains against fading silver horizons to a sliver of moon and black all-around with bright stars.  Elk bugling in the distant dark.  Sunrise creeping up on me along a remote, lonely dirt road. 

Colorful balloons breaking free in the crisp morning air.
Strangers at resupply points telling me what a perfect day for a ride, wishing they were out with me.  Huge flock of wild turkeys scampering out of my path. 
Softly who hooting owls and shiny scary eyes in the dark sharing my camp.

  Frosty breath, crunchy yellow leaves and crackling ice in some puddles.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Moving Forward

Dropping out itself doesn’t bother me per say, it was the right call given the circumstances. However not accomplishing my 2014 goals has been a huge and ongoing mental burden.  I have lost most of my interest in what other TDR racers did in 2014 and what 2015 racers are currently doing to preparer.  (I did finally find the time to read through the 2014 race thread and sort of get caught up on our little ultra-race world.  Quite interesting to read TDR's Matthew Lee finally come clean on all the behind the scenes crap he has had to deal with over the years.  Mat's one of the few multi-day guys who almost always gets it right....he truly has found some balance in the wacko underground race world we all thrive in...... )
Anyway, rest assured I am working along at a low, simmering boil preparing for 2015.  Pacing my training and bike/gear prep efforts and obsessions so as not to burn out, yet do all I can to meet my 2015 goals………..

As soon as I scratched, literally the next day, I was planning my re-do. And before the dust had fully settled I decided I needed to consider a new frame.  My Ti Carver frame is close to perfect but when I ordered it back in 2009 I spec’ed it with a BB30 BB.  Well the non-MTB style BB30 design finally caught up with me in 2014.  The BB deep water crossings on day 2 washed out all the bearing grease and by Helena the bearings were trashed, by Wise River the crank was toast.

The solution you ask?  Well nothing is guaranteed during a TDR.  But for 2015 I will be rocking a Carbon 29er Scott Scale HT with a wide & stiff BB92 bottom bracket with a press fit Sram GXP.  Is this the best, most reliable BB combo?  Heck I don’t know but it’s got to be better than the BB30 set up.  I don’t plan on doing any submarine rides to test its reliability but I can attest to its stiffness.  During ‘stand & pound the pedals’ climbing the carbon Scott frame with its BB92 seems much stiffer and more efficient.  I can also attest to how flattened seat stays smooth out the washboards and small rocks.  Like butter on a biscuit …….

I have not decided on a rear wheel/hub combo just yet.  I was extremely disappointed in my 240 DT Swiss bearing failure. I suspect it was the new/rebuild bearings more than the hub. Still thinking about it but leaning towards a light carbon rim with DT style hub internals--

So, sense I am spending all that money on a new frame/build I guess its time to happily play that bike racer's favorite "weight weenie game". 
It’s been years sense I truly played the weight weenie game but what the heck, why not….when finished I anticipate a sub 20 lbs naked bike and a sub 30 lb TDR ride.

Will the lighter weight approach solve all my 2014 “issues”?  Ha, not hardly, but losing about 10-14 lbs in bike and body weight should help alleviate a bit of stress and effort.  And besides, I really need the mental distraction………………..

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Small things add up…..

I really hate writing this one, but here goes………

Eventually I would up using these fancy gloves under plastic baggies to replace my fancy high end but worthless waterproof over-gloves

So where did it all go wrong?  Several have asked what happened, why did I drop, what gear did or did not work etc etc.  Good questions, ones that I have pondered deeply over for the last month or so.   

I am going to break down what went wrong into sections; they are not necessarily in order of magnitude. 

Rain Gear, clothing:

1: ¾ length rain pants—Fail

May seem minor but this was actually a big deal.  With all the rain (and even a bit of snow) on day 1 within 2 hours of the start I was stopping and pouring cold icy water out of my water proof socks.  Why?  Well the rain would run off my ¾ length rain pants down my calf and right into the tops of my waterproof sock.  Then the sock would soon fill up with water.  ‘Best’ would have been full length rain pants.  I bought some trash bags at Elkford and with some trial and error learned how to make them work quite well.  But the damage was done by the end of day one.  Such a simple thing but it lead directly to a late arrival into a now much needed hotel room, 20 miles short of plan.  Note: the Gore-Tex brand pants worked fine—the problem was simply my choice of ¾ length vs full length  

2: Light weight arm and knee warmers--Fail.

I ran with very light weight arm and knee warmers.  Again minor items but the constant rain on my extended arms made them cold.  My rain jacket worked fine and kept the rain off but with a bit of perspiration on the inside and cold constant rain on the outside my arms were noticeably cold. The legs were not so noticeably cold but I am sure warmer legs would have meant better overall body temps. For this particular year ‘best’ would have been thicker wool arm warmers and probably full length leg warmers.

3: Mountain Hardware waterproof gloves using OutDry®---Fail

Not only did these overgloves wet out before the end of day one, by day 4 the inner liner had literally ripped apart.  In the end I was using convenience store work gloves and plastic baggies to keep my hands in the game.  ‘Best’ would have been simple trash bag pogies and a spare set of ‘camp’ gloves.

 Wrong pacing:

Scott, day 3
I rode the first 3 days with Scott Williams--Fail.  In the end trying to ride with Scott was a major mistake on my part.  Our individual, natural paces-comfort zones were just not compatible.   I kept trying to force a workable solution to an unsolvable dilemma.  By the end of 3 days, accommodating each other’s non compatible paces has cost us both massive amounts of lost time, sleep and significant mental stress.  In the end ‘best’ would have been to just go ahead and naturally drift apart the first time we deviated in pace.  My heart felt apologies Scott, I feel I screwed up both of our attempts big time…………..


By Basin my rear hub was shot from all the submersion/water and my crank and bottom bracket had also failed.  I tried to have them repaired in Butte, but without the proper parts the Outdoorsman bike shop was helpless.  They tried to rebuild one of the bearings but in the end, without parts, there was little they could do.  By Wise River my crank was wobbling so badly I was concerned it would totally fail on the way to Steamboat.  Note: The crank shaft was so worn I wound up throwing it away when I got home.
Yes yes I could have spent several hundred dollars and had parts sent in, but why?  Just to ride the rest to the route again, just to finish again? 

Frankly a mediocre finish time was not enough to keep me going.  And on top of that negative mental state an open and growing saddle sore (been there done that thank you very much) was the last straw.  

 So to summarize, between wet feet, hands and cold arms and legs I found it difficult to just ride.  For 4 long days, in the back of my mind, I was constantly worried about hypothermia and twice got to the point where I dug out my down jacket while riding.  As most know using down as a under layer in cold wet sweaty conditions is a very short term ‘stop-gap/emergency’ way to add body warmth.   The mere fact I felt the need to do so tells all one needs to know about my mental state and how close to the edge of hypothermia I was those two times.
But in the end the real damage was not the wet and cold so much; I dealt with it as needed.  No the real damage was what all the lost time did to my mental outlook.  I couldn’t stand how much time I saw slipping away each day.  And how much recovery time I gave up trying to get back on a legitimate race pace.  And later on the mechanicals added on top of a now open saddle sore were too much. 
At Wise River I gladly tossed in the towel.  I could clearly see I was not going to accomplish my goals and I would be better off scratching.
And---towel picked up off the floor for 2015. Yup, before I was home I was planning for 2015.  Have ordered a new frame, just about new everything bike wise etc etc (pictures will be coming) 

So, work/vacation request permitting I will be back in 2015.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

FAIL Fail fail

One of several time eating snow slides on day 3. 
Fail, fail,fail

Still working my way through all the screw ups that led to my scratch in Wise River. 
Grrrr--fail by flailing around instead of focused racing…………….ahh, no one to blame but myself…………..

In a nut shell I made a few incorrect choices regarding some of my gear and bike set up.  But more importantly I spent precious time and effort focusing on things that did not move me forward in an efficient manner.  Basically I squandered any prospect for a good result early on and could not keep my head, body and bike in the game. 

I believe I know what I did wrong, how to correct things--and yes, work & personal circumstance’s permitting, I plan to try again in 2015.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


This is a picture from the first day taken off of the forum from ABfolder.
Yesterday was another long day.  I received a text from him around 2 am this morning when they made it to Eureka.

Here are some pictures he sent this morning from yesterday's ride.

 Marshal's words about this first one were, "This is about the only sun we saw all day."

Marshal has been riding off and on with the man below, named Scott.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

TDR Day 1

While Marshal is gone I am going to try to update his blog.  He sent a picture this morning, 2 am, from a hotel room, trying to dry out his gear.  From his text last night he said, "We got so wet and cold it's not even funny."   The day started out in the rain, then they had snow and rain off and on all day long.

 He is already up and moving this morning.  He is hoping to make the border and beyond today.  Hopefully the weather will be a little more cooperative today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pending Departure


Tomorrow I will wrap up a few work items and hop a plane to Banff.  Bike is packed and ready; hopefully there will not be any airport/travel related snafus.


Some final statistics:

  • Bike weight (no food/water) 42 lbs (about 2 lbs more that I wanted but I am sticking to my main strategy of long smooth hours coupled with lots of robust camping capability)
  • My weight 157 lbs (so my total weight, me + clothing + bike/gear will be about 5lbs less than 2010)
  • Training miles logged, who knows but enough to lose 30 lbs which is what matters most in my particular case
  • 2010 Finish Time—21 days, 18 hours (6th place)
  • 2014 Finish Goal---19 days, 23 hours, 59 min (top 20)(considering my capabilities, the snow conditions and how perfect each day will need to go this is a true long shot but still my main race goal is sub 20 days.)

Main concerns—reconstructed knee or left Achilles going   south



Marshal Bird