Winter Ralleye Ride Series – Pennock Pass

Did a 90 mile grinder on the Fargo the other day. Since it started on pavement, and I was running tubeless mtb tires, I pumped them up to 40 lbs so they would roll a little better. I filled them in the dark, with the temps in the low 30’s. By the time I got to the top of the Rist canyon climb, the sun was shining and the air temp warmed up enough to blow my back tire off the rim. That meant I used up my only spare tube and totally lost the group right off the bat. IMG_1644

One of the downsides to running non-tubeIess tires, tubeless, is their sensitivity to tire pressure. If you keep the pressure low, things works pretty good but if the tire pressure goes too high, the bead just isn’t designed to hold the rim like a tubeless tire is and blow-offs can happen. The second downside came up later.

I rode by myself for the next 30 miles trying to catch back up. The route was brand new to me which made it even better. I love exploring new ground when you have no idea what’s ahead of you. I did wish I’d been a little better prepared because it was a pretty remote area. I rode by a bunch of cabins but they all looked closed up for the winter. 10847933_10106117350981411_5027318921095933899_n

I didn’t check but I knew I wouldn’t have any cell coverage either. I kept thinking about my lack of a spare tube and was careful on descents to not smack a rock. I had a patch kit but trying to get a patch to stick to tube slimy with Stan’s is not fun.

I finally caught a couple of guys at a ranger station. I stopped, grabbed something to eat and then rolled on for the final climb up to Pennock. I passed through the gate closing the road for the winter. The weather was great and there was no snow but I know there’s been previous years where the gate marked a four mile hike-a-bike through the snow! When I hit the top I saw a couple of other riders up ahead. Turned out to be Colin and John, things were looking up! colin

I bet we had not gone 200 yards when my rear when flat again. I yelled my lungs out to get Colin to stop. I figured he would have another tube which would spare me from dealing with the greasy mess in my back wheel. Ever prepared, Colin had two tubes so we got rolling again pretty quickly.

More cautious descending got us to the highway and then onto the Mishawaka for a beer and burrito. Man did I need some calories. The rest of the trip back was on pavement and uneventful. Door to door was 95 miles of fun.

A benny of moving to a new place are new races to sample and I tried another new one a couple of weeks ago. Most of the Enduro takes place on national forest land between Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming. My seat of the bike shorts  assessment was, about 1/2 my riding time was on gravel roads and 1/2 my riding time was on single track. You climb 8,600 feet over it’s 70+ mile length. Most of the climbing is fairly gradual so I didn’t really notice it like you do at Leadville or the mother of them all, Forty in the Fort.LE

Here’s how the whole thing went down for me. Packet pick-up was Friday night only, in Laramie. Since the race started at 7 am on Saturday, it’s about the only way to do it but that means of course, you got to be in Laramie on Friday. I thought about camping by the start but ended up driving up and back on Friday. When I got to the race area on Saturday, I could see that lots of people had camped and it was easy to do so I’ll tuck that away for next year. The whole thing is really well run and not too big, about 500 riders I believe, so everything went really smoothly.

Pre-race info said there were 5 well-stocked aid stations on the course. None of them were more than 15 miles apart and the list of supplies at each one was impressive. I debated about ditching the Camelback and going bottles only but I still remember getting to an aid station in the Breck 100 after they had run out of water! I started with one bottle of Perpeteum, about 70 ounces of water, three gels and an emergency Cliff bar in my pack. Since Perpeteum was one of the supplies listed for each aid station, my plan was to drain the bottle between each one and use a few gels to supplement. The aid stations were great, plenty of everything on the list with a bunch of volunteers at each one helping you resupply. The only hitch, they had Perpeteum solids, not powder. I’d never used them before so my first attempt was to put four of them in a bottle of water and dissolve them. I don’t know what they’re held together with but they will not dissolve in water so I dumped that con-concoction out at aid station two and stuck four of solid tabs under the leg gripper of my shorts.

Since I’d never ridden any of the course I had no idea what to expect. July had also been a rough month for training miles so I felt my base wasn’t ideal. I decided to not push the pace, stop at all the aid stations and try to save something for the end. That strategy worked really well and by paying attention to my hydration and nutrition, I think I felt better at the end of this one than I ever had. It also meant I got to talk to more people and savor a few aid station treats like Oreo’s and Peanut M&M’s! Getting back to the Perpeteum. Solids are probably a pretty good idea except for one thing. Eating one is sort of like taking a bite of a piece of chalk. The lady at aid station two read from the bottle that you should eat one about every 15 minutes. I got through 3 of them before the next aid station and recharged my shorts with 3 more. Things were getting hot by this time and my sweat was mixing with the dust to add a nice coating to the outside of the tabs. I ate another 2 or 3 of them as the race progressed, not pleasant but Perpeteum was my primary fuel so you do what you have to do, right? The next one turned out to be my last one. I’ve never come that close to barfing in a race. I was wondering if I should stop and throw up or just turn my head and let if fly when the nausea passed. No more Perpeteum for me on this day.

The course was great. The first 50 miles were pretty easy and tame. That’s where most of the gravel roads were and the single track was all super rideable. DSC_8568_windy_windy_enduroThe climbing was long and gradual and I kept my pace right were I planned. My biggest surprise was how many wrecks there were. I saw a taco’d front wheel and several bloody bodies. I also heard crash stories at the aid stations and saw an emergency crew tending to a guy’s bloody face. I guess race fever got them and they over-cooked the very loose fast gravel corners on the early parts of the course. I think race director’s all get together to see how hard they can make the last part of the course. The longest climbs and most technical trail were in the last 10 miles of the race.AdamW2

The end of the race surprises you. You’re cranking through a single track section, turn a corner and bam, there’s the road again and it’s all down hill to the finish area. Valet bike parking, New Belgium beer and a great food selection are waiting for you at the end!

Definitely doing this one again next year!

My first northern Colorado, NoCo, mountain bike race is in the record books.

I got a little nervous for this one because the course was so rocky, at least by Midwestern standards. I’ve been riding rocks since I got here last year. My skills have improved but a race has a way of exaggerating your weaknesses. I didn’t want to be the guy that crashed out with a broken collar bone,  who at this race turned out to be a girl with gashed elbow. I also didn’t want to be the guy who biffed in the first few minutes of the race, who I passed along with everyone else approximately 5 minutes into the battle.

I was also a little worried about the effort itself. The race was two trips around a 20 mile loop with 3,500 feet of climbing per lap. There was one nasty 3 mile climb on a fire road and about 4 miles of mellow single track along the bottom of the valley. The rest of the course was technical single track that kept you on your toes. Rock gardens, boulder drops, ledges and troughs. I’d pre-ridden the course twice and survived but I’d only done a single lap and wasn’t 100% sure I could crank out a second lap. Turns out I could, first goal met.  And I didn’t fall down, second goal met. Bam!

This race had three classes for geared riders, men’s open, men’s sport under 45 and men’s sport over 45. Of course I signed up for the men’s open class. I figured why not go for the top, make it to the podium, get cash!? When I checked in, the guy had a large question mark in his voice as he said, “men’s open?” I took that as a sign to drop down to sport, glad I did. The oldest open finisher was 45 I would have avoided DFL by one finisher and 5 DNF’s.


This guy was running the new Rockshox upside down carbon fork! I think it retails for a bazillion dollars.

We started on a stretch of gravel road. There were 27 starters in the sport class. We figured out who we wanted to be behind on the the first climb and started up. About 100 yards in, “that guy” wiped out. He was about 10 riders back from the leader so got to tell about 20 guys, he was ok. These NoCo guys are fearless descenders and I had to let a couple of them by me on the first downhill. No surprises the rest of the first lap until I got to the top of the long climb. My practice runs had cut off 4 miles of trail, crap! Each lap makes you climb the steepest part if the fire road twice, pure evil. The trip back down is intense and your shoulders and arms are cooked at the bottom.

One of the guys I had been trading places with on the first lap had his rear wheel come out of the dropouts close to the bottom of the Mill Creek descent. It looked like a mess with his derailleur in the spokes and his rotor jammed on top of the chain stay. I stopped, told him how to remove his derailleur, and wished him luck. A short time later I was at the finish swapping bottles and heading out on lap two.

Lap two took it’s toll. It was on the first descent I saw the girl with the gashed elbow. She had someone helping her down so nothing I could do. I found out later she’d lost the front wheel bombing down and taken a header into the rocks. I started cramping before the second trip up the fire road. They slowed me down but didn’t stop me. I saw several people off their bikes trying to stretch out, I started passing people and getting enough of a lead on them that they didn’t catch me on the downhills. 

I stopped to help a guy who turned out to be a Korean tourist, who just happened to be checking out our trails in the middle of a race. He kept asking me, “you racing?” He’d broken his chain and had nothing to fix it with. I’ve been there and didn’t see the podium in my future so was glad I could help him out. I had a chain tool and a master link so it was a pretty quick fix. My new friend kept telling me “I preciate you” and had to snap a picture of me before I rode off. The rest of the race was about survival. I wondered if my brakes would hold out, the levers were getting uncomfortably close to the bars. When I pulled the pads out of the rear caliper after the race, there was just a thin sliver of pad material remaining. This race ended just in time.

IMG_1333Famous Dave’s BBQ and a sweet blue grass band was at the finish so I cleaned up, stowed the bike and got something to eat. When I checked the results I was happy to find out I was 9th overall in sport and 2nd in 45+. I think there were 26 finishers with only 4 of us old guys. IMG_1334

What else? I dig my bike. The front end is slacker than my previous mtb with a longer 100 mm fork which works great on the descents as long as you keep up some speed. The cramps told me I definitely could have used some more saddle time. I like hydraulic brakes. I need to keep working on descent speed. Never thought I would race on such big tires. Bacon works pretty good as race food. The Overland Mountain Bike Club has the best race volunteers.

Two great rides this week sandwiched a chance to get some kids rolling again.

My buddy Colin organizes some of the best rides in the area. He calls his Wednesday night summer rides, Wednesday Night Lights. They typically involve riding out from Fort Collins, covering some great trails, hitting the Canyon Grill for a post ride beverage and some grub and then riding the highway home post sunset. This week we did something different and drove to Bobcat Ridge. We had rain right up to the start of the ride but it stopped as we unloaded the bikes. Not only did we have a great ride but the sky gave us some awesome views. Thanks for the nice shots, (1)photo (2)

On the weekend, I got to ride Lory and Horsetooth with my daughter, Sarah. We rode the 40 in the Fort course to help me get ready for the race next week. I am going to have my hands full! Highlights, Sarah took a spill early on and earned a bunch of scratches and scrapes to prove it. On a fast technical descent, I blasted about an inch away from a large snake on the trail. Fun and games!


In between, the bike co-op repaired bikes for a group of kids from north Fort Collins. Anne and her non-profit, Sproutin’ Up, set up neighborhood gardens. The kids in the neighborhood do the gardening and give away the produce to the residents. The kids from the north FoCo neighborhood have to travel a ways to get to their garden and do it via their bikes.




Life is very weird. All the things I grew to despise about the small farming town I grew up in, I now embrace and enjoy. The closeness and familiarity of everyone in the community so suffocating to me as a teenager feels warm and comforting to me as an adult. But much has changed there just like it has in most small towns and that change has not been for the better. Fewer people, fewer businesses and fewer resources, have made the rural midwest sparse and shabby. The people that remain are for the most part tied to the land somehow, either by profession or by heritage, are honest, hard working and real.

I was back last weekend celebrating a family milestone. It was a great weekend for me, I got to attend one of my favorite bike races and catch up with family and friends. I was sitting at a picnic table in the driveway of my mother-in-law’s house with some men from the community. A couple of farmers, a former farmer who had moved to town and my-brother-in-law. We talked about anything and everything; relatives, neighbors, crops, weather, all the usuals.

I’ve thought several times since that conversation about one topic we discussed, wind generators. They’re everywhere now but had kept their distance from my home town until recently. Generators are being installed around the farm my in-laws used to occupy and close to the farm of two of the men in our little group. It’s not what they said that’s had me thinking. They were generally against them from aesthetic reasons. The also worried about the long-term damage to the farm ground and sub-soil (all that concrete poured for the tower’s base). They thought the contracts were heavily weighted in favor of the generator’s owner and we all speculated about what would happen when the generator’s life-span was over and they were abandoned. One person wondered why, if they were good enough for rural America, they weren’t good enough to be put up in the cities.

Although we didn’t identify it at that moment, what we were really talking about was the impact of climate change. Those wind generators wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for our negative impact on the climate. This little rural village in the middle of the ag belt, as far away from the coast as you can get, is feeling the effects of climate change and based on the opinions of the people I talked to, they don’t like. It makes me thing of what’s ahead for all of us.

Change is coming for the entire planet and just like the changes that my little home town has gone through, I don’t think they will be for the better. I read one estimate predicting the homes of 5 million Americans will be under water by the end of this century. When I add it all up, massive debt, polarized government, rising health cost, deteriorating infrastructure, climate change cost, global wealth gap, my usually optimistic self is not very optimistic. I believe we’re headed into a correction, a time of sacrifice and change which will cause more fracturing and disruption. Change is challenging for everyone. Giving things up and making real sacrifice is nearly impossible.

Something to think about. I suggest prying your fingers from around your entitlement mentality, brace yourself and most importantly, ride a bike.

She sat in the garage glistening in her new bike awesomeness. Full of promises. Adventure, improved performance, great times with friends. And another darker promise. The first crash. Sooner or later it bites you and your new bike gets it first scratches, dings and dents. The first one’s painful but as they accumulate they become souvenirs that you revisit to remind you of the time you’ve spent together. Frequently your bike’s wounds are accompanied by your own.


I signed up for the Forty in the Fort mountain bike race. It’s right here in my backyard so I figured why not. Yesterday I pre-rode the course and today I’m saying, why?! Yea, I’m stiff and sore which was expected. It was 20 miles of single track with 4,500 feet of climbing, which I knew going in. What I didn’t know was how sadistically tough the entire course would be. Ok, to be fair, the entire course was not killer, only about half of it but that half is hard enough it made it feel like the entire thing was a monster.

I snapped a couple of pictures early on when I was feeling good on what turned out to be a wrong turn. IMG_1257 When I rode down these stairs I thought they were pretty challenging. After I finished my ride, I realized they were very tame. I also went bombing down a hill only to screech to a halt at this drop off.


The mountains in the background are where I was headed.

Everything was rocky which I’m not that good at yet. The climbs were super steep and the descents terrifying. After one lap, I was shot and ready to tuck tail. Race day will require a second lap, oh goodie!

I got some good news this week, I made it onto the board for the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. It’s a great organization with some very cool people. They work hard to keep everyone who wants to, or needs to, pedaling. Should be a lot of fun. I helped Rick, one of the Co-op’s long time volunteers, with a bearing repack last week and had to snap this shot. IMG_1253

He’s got the exact same bike as my Sarah although his is in much better shape! Sarah has almost used hers up.

I think it’s really cool that both my kids have the cycling bug. I take total and complete credit for everything positive in their lives and digging bikes certainly falls in that column. Here’s Sarah on a recent ride we did along the dam road outside FoCo. IMG_1236

My last bit is, I finished my monster cross, gravel machine. I took my old mountain bike and dug some pieces out of my parts bin to convert it. The last step was to ditch the suspension fork and replace it with a carbon fork from Carver. I’m really happy with how it turned out and it’s a blast to ride. I’m anxious to see how it fares at Almanzo this year.