Monday, August 26, 2013

The Chanute Report

The Forward Motion series continued yesterday with round #8 - Chanute, KS.   This event marked Christopher's first hare scrambles last year.  How much has he improved over one year of riding? 

This just might be my favorite race.  Great course with a good mix of everything.  Some technical rocks, fast open areas, slow tight sections with slick rocks that really tested your balance, enough mud to put a smile on your face but still not cause you to have to worry too much about getting stuck, creek crossings (some did get stuck coming out of these), and no dust for the most part. Trail conditions were near perfect which was a surprise to me because it was so hot and had not rained in a couple of weeks.

Carolynn took some pictures while out on her Walk in the Woods - 2013 Chanute Hare Scrambles Pics.  The pictures are from the first race of the day. 
Christopher lined up with 28 riders in the 900 class.  At the 1/2 point of the series he has had results all over the place.  Some good (2nd place) some very poor (14th place).   Hopefully some maturity and training has paid off with more consistent results.
Because it was so hot they let the Starter girl do her thing on top of a roll of hay
I liked how they had the start at Chanute.  A nice wide starting area with a couple hundred yards before you hit the woods.  Safe and fair.  I got off to a good start.  A little delay in my reaction time and I tried to make up for it with a hand full of throttle and not enough clutch slip.  Still was able to get 2nd off the start. 
Christopher took it easy on the practice lap since he had to break in his engine after Doug's rebuild last week.  
He got off the line well, but was still afraid to over rev the motor and ended close to the top 5 by the woods.
By the end of the first lap Christopher was holding his own in 4th place.
The trails were in great shape and flowed really well.  No dust at all in the woods and even a little mud to keep things interesting.  I got by the early leader Russell Armstrong when he went the wrong way on a trail.  Trail was marked well he just went down the wrong path.  Christopher did the same thing in his event and had to do a quick 180.  Fortunately we practiced this and he performed it flawlessly.
Christopher fell back to 6th place on the 2nd lap when he stopped to help a fallen rider.  They were working their way around another rider who was stuck in the mud. The route they took caused him to fall and he got stuck under his bike.  He screamed to Christopher to help.  He knows all too well what it feels like to have a 250 lb bike on top of you and stopped to help. 

Back on the gas Christopher worked his way up to 3rd place at the finish. His Stone Works tuned/rebuilt motor was running strong.  Race winner Matt Williams and runner up Chad Janeczko had great rides and were way out front.   Christopher's finish earned enough points to move into 1st place in the series.  I think he has improved a lot over the last year.  Still looking for that first race win but it will come if he puts in a little more seat time and gains some upper body/core strength.   
I had a good ride and finished up with the win over Joe Lederhouse and fast improving Randy Wade.  The last two laps I started hearing some strange noises coming from my rear hub area.  I did not know how much of a lead I had so I kept riding.  It turns out I had a long vine that had somehow attached itself to my wheel.   
Another fun weekend for us.  Yes it was darn hot but we had fun.  Carolynn got another great hike in the woods while out taking some pictures.  She got some good ones of other riders and I will post them up tonight. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Valves Gone Bad

After a short summer break the Forward Motion Hare Scrambles Series starts back up this weekend.   Luckily for us I started checking the bikes out last week and I could not get Christopher's bike to start.  Just what I needed.  Another problem to fix.  This summer has sure been full of them.

I used to work on all my MX bikes which were 2-strokes.  They are easy to work on and can be rebuilt for very little money and in a short amount of time.  I remember back in around 1986 I blew up my CR250 during practice for the Florida Winter Am Series.  A good thing with racing a big series back then was the manufactures had support vehicles. My brother Joey and I were able to talk them into giving us the parts (piston, rings, wrist pin, top end bears, circle clips, gaskets).  We rebuilt that bike before the first moto. 
These darn 4-strokes are a different story.  I like riding the 4 bangers, but trying to figure out a problem is very, very hard.  Christopher and I checked everything we could and based on the evidence we found the valves were gone. I called on Doug Stone to help me out.  He has a wealth of knowledge and was able to take on the task of rebuilding Christopher's CR 250X in time for this weekends Chanute, KS round.  Thanks to Donnell's Motorcycles for helping us out with parts and Larry for doing our cylinder head. You guys ROCK!
Not much to the pistons on these bikes.  The intake valves were done and had to be replaced along with a new piston and rings.

The results from all of Doug's hard work.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fitness by Force

This summer I again took a different approach to training.  Nothing organized except for my PT and core training.  Everything else was basically to workout when I have the time and feel like it.  Main goal is to stay healthy (and happy).  As you would expect, a person's form would not be the best using this approach.

I think sometimes events in life occur for reasons that are at first not realized.  This summer Christopher was involved in a crash while driving Carolynn's car.  Result was not good - Matrix was totaled leaving us with only one vehicle to drive.  Nearly two months and over 30 test drives later we still have not found a replacement.   I am currently thinking "it was just meant to be". 
Several years ago I used to commuted to work by bike.  I enjoyed it and got in a lot of training by choice.  Many close calls and the rapid growth of smart phones put an end to that.   It really upsets me when I see people texting and using  their phones while driving.  When you are riding along the road and you hear a vehicle hitting the rumble strips (thank goodness for them on 9 Hwy in the Northland) behind you it really makes you think about cycling on the road.  That is one reason we have been doing the majority of our rides off-road.

With us being down to one vehicle I decided to give commuting another chance.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the new bike lanes and signs up on my ride to work (down by UMKC).  The rides in have been without incident for the most part.  I do have a few close calls like the one this morning when a car failed to stop at a stop sign and just pulled out in front of me.  If I would not have taken evasive action (jumping up on the sidewalk) they would have hit me.  This at 5:30 am in the morning and I have several lights and plenty of reflective gear on.  If they were looking they would have seen me which make me believe they had their eyes on something else besides the road.

All this additional riding has had two effects.  My form is improving quickly which is a good thing because Cross is just around the corner.  The other effect is my appetite has been greatly increased.   You would think that cycling in to work would save you money but for me it has not.  Any money savings in gas is only used to purchase the breakfast special of the day.  Today was a delicious combination of biscuits, gravy, sausage and an egg.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Hall Ranch Report

Hall Ranch located in Lyons, Colorado.  A trail we had read about and always wanted to ride.  On the way back from Estes Park we decided today would be the day.  Only catch we need to get up early and get the ride in before the rains came.

There are three trails that make up the Hall Ranch.  The main trail is Bitterbrush - single track that has a little bit of everything including this nasty Rock Garden section.  If you are good and in shape you can clear this section but only after you learn the lines.  The Antelope Trail begins at the second trailhead and is only a mile long.   We started Antelope at the top and rode down to this second trailhead.  One of the best one mile sections of trail I ever rode.  I had a blast bombing down and did not even care that we would have to be climbing back up the same trail in a few minutes.  The final trail is the Nelson loop.   A fun loop which can be ridden in either direction with equal amounts of joy.  I vote for the Nelson loop as the best part of Hall Ranch.  Do a couple of laps each way when you make the trip up.  The descent down Bitterbrush is also a blast.  You will be testing the traction of your tires for sure as you really pick up a lot of speed.
 Carolynn and Christopher before we begin our little ride.
 Hall Ranch was Christopher's favorite trail in Colorado.  He was really flying on the day, especially downhill. 
 The first miles of Bitterbrush are a blast to ride.
 Once you find the lines, riding the Rock Garden section was not that bad.  It is a climb so you really have to be in good shape (and used to the high altitude) to enjoy it. 
 Christopher climbing up Bitterbrush.  He had a scary moment at the end of the Rock Garden section.  His heart rate got so high and he just stopped breathing for a few sections.  He had to stop for a few minutes and was actually really scared because he could not breathe.  I think this happened because he was trying to climb all the big rocks in the "Rock Garden" section and really had to attack each section to clear them.  His effort level was a little too high considering he still wasn't used to the high altitude.
 The historic Nelson Ranch Farmhouse.  Some great views when you make it up to the Nelson Loop.  You can see Twin Sisters and Longs Peak.
Carolynn riding up the first section of Bitterbrush from the parking area.  She enjoyed the trail except for the short Rock Garden section.  Next time she will take the gravel road on the way up and down.

The trail was very fun and we had a great experience but the one the thing I will remember most about riding at Hall Ranch is the thunderstorm that came rolling in towards the end of the ride.
Christopher bombed the last few miles of Bitterbrush Trail (which is very, very technical) and made it back to the car before the real rain came.  I told Carolynn to take the gravel road (which is only for hikers) to bypass the really technical parts and I would meet her where Bitterbrush crosses the hiking trail.  I foolishly tried to ride down those slick rocks which comprise the last few miles of the trail.   The rain made them super slick and unrideable - at least in my mind they were unrideable and I got off and walked.  It was starting to thunder and I was getting worried about Carolynn.  Just as I got to the gravel road I see her coming down and felt  relieved.   With only about a mile of trail left I told her to get off the hiking trail and ride the single track back to the car.  The last mile was a little tricky as the rain started to fall harder but we both made it back to the car.  Christopher was already cooled down and resting under the shelter house talking to some riders who had just arrived to go riding.  Once I get back to the car I called to Christopher to hurry up and get changed before we get struck by lightening.   Carolynn arrives shortly after and starts to change.   The rain is really coming down now and we are all trying to change as quickly as possible.  Keep in mind that our car is completely packed and we have gear and clothes all over the place.  I get changed and start loading up all our gear and clothing.  Carolynn is the last to get changed and is in fact running around half naked in the rain.  She gets her top on but has lost her skirt and is butt naked.  I yell to her to jump in the car and she can find them in safety.  She jumps in the front seat and realizes her skirt is in the back and then reaches over the front seat to grab it and put it on before Christopher catches a glimpse of her naked ass.  When it was all said and done she just laughed and said well the full moon came out early today after mooning all the riders under the shelter.  We all laughed and talked about what a great ride we all had.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Climb to the Heavens

 I will confess that one of my current fears in life is heights.  I was not always fearful and as a child you would most likely find me climbing up the tallest trees with ease and without trepidation.  When I used to race motocross I would be the one jumping the biggest jumps and entering jumping contests.  Heck, I once won this long jump contest in West Palm Beach, Florida against a young Tim Ferry.

That was many, many years ago. Now I seem to get dizzy and experience Vertigo when I try to balance on obstacles (there really is a reason I do not ride the Skinny's out on the trail) or when I get more than a few feet off the ground.  Roller coasters are also off my list of fun things to ride.   I personally think it has to do with my inner ear and some old head injuries (I have had more than a couple of skull fractures in my day...). 

I bring his up because while out in Colorado I had an opportunity to climb a 14er with Ben Reeves and Christopher.  While at the time I would have much rather gone riding I decided to attempt climbing Bierstadt Mountain.  Ben said it was one of the easier 14ers and I knew I would most likely not ever climb one by myself.  Climbing a 14er has been on my "Bucket List" for years and it was time to put a check mark next to it.
 The view from the trailhead on the route up to Guanella Pass. I know it does not look that high, but trust me it is. The first mile is kind of easy and very enjoyable.  Soon the green trees and grass that surrounded us would turn to dirt and rocks.
 Youth and experience lead the way.  Ben and Christopher set the pace.  When we arrived at the trailhead the parking lot was full.  By the time we reached 1/2 way up I could swear we passed everyone.
 Ben is training for the Leadville 100 mile trail run so he is in superb shape right now.  He spent the majority of the morning waiting for my fat ass to make it up the climb.  Next time I am going to make him carry my water and food. This way it will slow him down some.
 "It is an easy hike, you do not need any special equipment or clothing" - this what Ben told me the night before we departed for the climb.  I get near the summit and all I find is a bunch of huge boulders and jagged rocks that looked impassable.  Plus it is very cold and I was just wearing shorts as I was told to do.  Luckily we did bring our cycling jackets and were able to keep from freezing to death. At this point of the climb I would have gladly called it a day and turned around.  But seeing Ben and Christopher making the climb over those boulders gave me some motivation. 
 Christopher on top.  14,060 feet.  He enjoyed the day much more than I.  I was glad I was there doing the climb with him, but I did have a rough time.
 After about 30 minutes of slowly climbing up the final 1/4 mile I was able to join Christopher on top.  The views are magnificent and just Heavenly.
 On a clear day you can see Kansas from the top of Bierstadt.  There was some haze today so views were not that far away.  Still awesome to be on top of the mountain.
I am very glad I did not turn back early and continued on my climb to the heavens.  A 14er is now off my list. I may do another one when Carolynn is ready to attempt one.