Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Championship Battles

Last weekend we visited Camp Galilee down in El Dorado Springs, MO.  A cool little place that is used for retreats and has a Summer Camp .  One other thing they have is some very rocky and technical off-road trails.  Several events are held there annually including this past weekends Forward Motion round.

This past year Christopher seemed to do better on trails with rocks and that are technical.  He was looking forward to round #13 of the series as it headed to the renowned Camp Galilee rocks.  I do not know what was in his head on Sunday, but it sure was not riding.  Maybe he was still in the ACT mindset (Saturday he took another ACT to try and improve his score).  I went out on a recon lap with him and it was like he had never ridden before. Poor kid was getting arm pump up, could not make it up any of the rocky climbs nor ride a rut and ended up crashing 4 times - see video below.

I almost suggested to him that he just sit out this race.  Sometimes it is just not your day. When it is not it is best to take it easy or you just might get yourself hurt.  We finished up the recon lap and I gave him some suggestions and told him to just treat this event like a personal challenge and be glad to just finish the event safely. I think the close points battle he is in is getting to him.  Some people can not take the added pressure and perform badly.  I have seen and been in many championship battles.  I remember back in 1984 when my brothers were racing.  Joey was in the Open B class and was in a tight battle all year long.  Sometimes pressure would get to him, but he ended up fighting hard and won the 1984 Florida State Championship. 
With a six point lead going into today's race Christopher needed a top finish to keep his lead.  The start is critical for him because he just has not gained the speed and confidence to pass well.  We practiced starts and tried to improve his reaction time.  He did improve and got his bike started very quickly. Only problem was his right foot was not working as fast.  A very slow shift resulted in him having to fight for position in the first turn.  I do not think he as come to terms with the fact that motorcycle racing can be a contact sport.  Christopher never did like contact sports and chose not to participate in them.  The truth is unless you are really faster than another rider you sometimes will have to come in contact with them when you are out racing in the woods.  It's all just part of racing.
I was really worried about how Christopher would get through the first rocky climb.  Riders were going down there a lot.  Luckily some volunteers were out on the trail to help.  After working his way into 6th place at the start Christopher had problem on this climb along with several other riders and fell way back in the pack.  He was outside the top 10 by the time he came around to the finish.
If you are on a good day starts are really not that important.  Take the Sunday's Trail rider winner for example. Tom Youngquist started behind Christopher and steadily worked his way up to race leader Tony Toman. The two had a great battle.  By the 4th lap he was in the lead and pulled out an impressive win.  Now Tom and Tony sit in a three way tie for first place with Christopher.

The Hare Scrambles racing season comes to a close this weekend.  It has been a fun year of racing.  Christopher has enjoyed it and I have also.  I was fortunate this year, stayed healthy and had consistent results which results in a top finish in the Senior division.  Speaking of ties, there is a nice battle in the Senior division.  Joe Lederhouse and Dennis Tschirhart are in a tie for 2nd with 179 pts.  Randy Wade is only 3 pts back.  Carbondale will decide the final championship standings.

Win or lose it has been a great year of racing with my son. He will need a little luck to take home the championship on Sunday.  Both Tom and Tony are faster than Christopher and both have taken home wins in the last two rounds.  Momentum is on their side for sure.  I hope he appreciates what is happening right now.  Some of my best memories in my life have been these points battles that take place when you get a chance to compete in championship events like the Forward Motion Hare Scrambles Championship. I have been fortunate to win more than my share of championships.  Some were won with true grit and some I just got lucky.  I remember them all however and feel very lucky to have won them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

El Dorado Springs Hare Scrambles Pictures

Carolynn and I were out on course yesterday taking some photos. The 600 - 1100 group were the only ones we got.  Check them out: Forward Motion Hare Scrambles - El Dorado Springs, MO

If you would like a full resolution photo let me know (chrisdlocke at gmail dot com)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2014 Giant Anthem 27.5 Review

This week the Giant demo trailer is in town getting ready for two big demo's this weekend.  The Wheel Cyclery is hosting the Saturday event at Wyco.  Shelter 9 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 
While the demo trailer was in town I had the opportunity to test out one of those new fancy 27.5 bikes from Giant. I have ridden Giant Anthem bikes since 2006.  I currently have a 2011 Giant Anthem 26er and a 2012 Giant Anthem 29er.  Both bikes I like a lot but each leaves me wanting more or less depending on the model.
Model tested was the Giant Anthem Advance 0 Team 27.5.  Size was Large.  Tires were tubeless ready Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo.  With my current weight and my unfamiliarity with Schwalbe tires I went with the following pressures.  I started with 28 Front / 30 rear.  Shock was a RockShox Monarch RL and the  forks were RockShox SID XX with Full Sprint remote.

First impressions during the first mile.  Suspension feels very plush and soaked up the first section of rocky trail that I hit.  The large OverDrive 2 steerer is very stiff and the steering is precise. I could not believe how precise it was.  I was carving turns like a mad man.  One other thing I noticed was how easy I could wheelie and lift the front end over obstacles when required.  I personally like to use a little riding technique and lift the front end which is not very easy (at least for me) on a 29er.  On my 26er I can wheelie up on anything.  The 27.5 felt really nimble and quick handling. 

My initial set-up of tire pressure, fork pressure and sag were very close to what I would run.  Usually test riders only last a short time, but I had all day and wanted to get the bike setup as close to what I would run if I owned it.  I rode about 10 miles then came back in to make a few adjustments.  I lowered the psi in the tires 3 pounds so for the remainder of the ride I ran 25 front and 27 rear. 
If you know me you know I am old fashioned and still a big fan of a triple chain ring up front.  There are plenty of days when I just want to ride easy and spin in an easy gear up the climbs.  I was a little apprehensive about riding with a 1 x 11 setup.  Check out that rear cassette - 10 x 42.  The ting looks like a dinner plate.  Front chain ring on the SRAM XX1 is a 34T.   During the test ride the XX1 system worked flawlessly.  On the single track I never found myself wanting a smaller or bigger gear.   The bike is super light so that might have had an effect.  Could of used a smaller gear on the climbs.  Around the Midwest this gearing would be just fine especially if I was racing.  If I was out for a tour and climbing a mountain pass in Colorado I would still like at least a double up front.  I hit some gravel and did find myself looking for the big chain ring.  I asked myself would this be an o.k. setup for an event like the Ouachita Challenge.  The answer was "you could get by".  That is coming from a rider with years of experience on a single speed so spinning high RPM is not a problem for me.
The frame, seat post, bars and stem are made of a Giant's Advanced composite T-700 carbon fiber.   Heck, even the wheel set was made of carbon fiber (only 1400 grams for the 27.5 wheel set).  This stuff is very light, stiff, but also compliant.   Giant has years of experience in carbon fiber engineering and it shows. I was totally blown away with the frame and how it handled.  The 27.5 inch hoops were very responsive and took all the abuse I could throw at them.

After a short break and a few adjustments I headed back out for another hour of riding.  With each mile I started to get more comfortable and confident.   I hit every technical section of Smithville Lake several times to get a good feel for the bike.  I purposely hit every rock and root that I could find.  The Maestro suspension handled everything with total control and predictability.  I ventured out to the logs at Smithville to see out the 27.5 would fair.  Since coming back from injury I have had problems rolling over big logs.  With my 29er I felt a lot more confident than my 26er.  The angle of contact on a 29er does make a difference especially compared to a 26er.  I was very happy with how the 27.5 handled the big logs.  Rolled right up over all thee sets of them including the large tree  before you hit Neal's.  On the downside the front end stayed straight and did not flex.      

When I am on I can really rail the turns at Smithville and today was a special day for me.  Above all else, the new Giant Anthem 27.5 really shined in the corners.  I felt like I could do no wrong today and felt like I was on rails.  Part of the great handling comes from a lower bottom bracket.  I was a little concerned and did hit a couple of rocks with my pedals, but once I got used to the bike and the speed I was able to carry I was able to time my pedal strokes to avoid hitting any further rocks/roots. 

I have been riding mountain bikes since the mid 80's.  My first MTB was an old steel Jamis.  Over the last 30 years I have ridden just about every type of bike - from fixed gear rigid, full suspension to single speeds, 8 inch downhill rocket ships and yes even a dozen or so 29er's. Heck I even owned a Slingshot back in the day.  With today's ride on this 27.5 I can honestly say I have tried just about all the technologies. 

What is the best wheel size?  It is all just marketing hype?   I can only speak from my experience.  While it may not roll over root and rocks like a 29er, it does just fine and maintains momentum very well.  The Anthem turns like no other bike I have ever ridden.  You can really whip the bike around, the 27.5 wheels spin up super fast and the Maestro rear suspension is so predictable and smooth that you hardly notice the rough stuff .  Bottom line is that size does mater and for me Anthem 27.5 is the best of all worlds.

Wyco's Revenge II Report

The 2nd Annual Wyco's Revenge is just about done.  Sure the event took place last weekend, but post event work like filing USA Cycling paperwork, paying for officials, insurance, storing equipment etc. still needs to be done.  

Overall I think this years event was a success and it was good so see some new faces.  We had good growth and reached 98 entries. Still not the numbers I would like to see but several factors are limiting the growth including a saturated cycling calendar, we got rain on Friday night which scares riders away because they think it will be muddy and the event finished up at night which in its self is a huge limiting factor.  

 I came home Thursday to the smell of something funny and at first I think Christopher is smoking pot. No such luck as he is just finishing up the awards. 

 One of the first task for the day is to get the course all set up.  Shane and Cliff got the single track all marked and Christopher and I worked on the crossings and open road sections. Sometimes I go over board
 Christopher's truck earning its keep.  It was nice having a truck for this event.  I sold my Ranger last year and missed it at this years events.
 Tim Greene came out early to help setup the course and work registration.  He make all the fancy number plates so if you did not like the way your number was written you can see Tim.
Early Saturday morning Cliff went out to check the course.  Thankfully these trails were will built by the Trail Masons and drain very well.  Above Cliff taking a much needed break after marking the course. 
 Kidd getting ready for the nights festivities.  MTB'er do it right.  Start drinking early and often.
 Gerard working hard at registration. Gerard and I have been working events for the past 12 years together.   This smaller events are fun as you can work them and still race.  Gerard finished up registration in time to line up for the Sprint division posting a 8th place finish overall.
Andrew Ellis helping out with registration prior to heading to the Peace corps.  Last year Andrew raced the Sprint division and won it overall.  This year he came out to help us and moved to the full event and did very well with a 5th place finish.
I signed up and raced myself.  Legs felt very heavy all day and I was thankful I was in the sprint division because I sure did not feel like riding hard for 25 miles. I usually can get a fast start and have to worry about fading at the end. Today I could hardly stay in the top 5.  No power at all on the climbs which are plentiful out at Wyco.  About 20 minutes into the race I started feeling a little better and worked my way up to 2nd.  Cherry picker Damian Almanza had checked out and I knew the best I could do was 2nd on the day.  I am happy with that because I could have easily soft peddled the last part of the race and settled for a top 5 finish but I picked up the pace and really pushed it the last 20 minutes.
For most of the event David Lafond (#18) and Tyler Whetstone (#9) were ahead of me.  David is an old MX/Hare Scrambles guy and was ripping the turns up.  Tyler battled with Damian up front until one of the many tight turns at Wyco got the best of him and he went down.

Yes I got beat by a guy wearing pink socks.  And so did everyone else....
Birthday girl Anita Bandy.  Happy Birthday Anita.  Thank you for coming out and spending your birthday with us.  And thank you to everyone else who also came out to support local mountain biking. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Motoring at Melvern

Round #11 of the Forward Motion Series was this past weekend.  It has been a long season, but I have truly enjoyed going to all the rounds, spending time with my family, riding new trails,  meeting new people and developing friendships.
The Melvern course is very fun, flows very well and is great for beginners.  One of the top reasons I like this course is it has an Endurocross course at the end that allows us to get some air time and also allows easy passing.  Hitting some of those jumps sure did bring back some fond memories.   We got rain on Saturday which made the course a little slick in the morning, but after a few laps the course was in awesome shape and you could really rail the corners - see below.
Jason Schupp got his new KX450 last week and joined in the fun at Melvern.  It is amazing how many of my friends (past and present) have raced or ridden dirt bikes.  Some never left and continued to ride while others are just now getting back into this great sport.
After we signed up we were all ready to get out and do a practice lap. If you are interested in how the course was, check out our recon lap.  I took an easy lap for the most part checking out any possible passing lines. It's truly a very fun course for beginners.

After our warmup lap we made fun of Jason for stalling, discussed the course and got ready to race.  The series has been going well so far.  If I won today I could wrap up the series title. Christopher is in a heated battle with Tom Younguist, Jeff Buckingham, Tony Toman and Steve Stickney. All have had good and bad days and the final rounds will decide the championship.  
Christopher and Jason lined up for the start of the Trailrider class.  35 riders in the class today.  Christopher said he had some great starting technique that he learned from some others in his class.  Hopefully it would work out for him.
I lined up with a straight shot at the first turn and used my patented starting technique.  Result was another clean holeshot. 
Christopher used his technique that some other rider taught him. Result was a terrible start near the back of the field.  I wonder who he needs to start listening to and getting his advice from?
I cruised out front and was able to run my own pace until I caught up with some 700 and 600 riders.  This little section above gave me fits all day long along with a few riders.  Most fellow riders allowed a quick pass, but there were a few that fought you like it was the Motocross of Nations and if they allowed me to pass their country would lose.  One guy actually stopped in a tight corner and leaned into me so I could not pass. Crap like that makes me want to walk away from racing all together. 
I feel the majority of the crashes happen when trying to overtake another rider.  That is sometimes hard and dangerous when on a trail.  It does not have to be dangerous however if riders would just listen to the race day instructions which state "move over when getting a 'gentle' hint from someone out of your class"  On the second lap I came up on a fallen rider who ended up needed medical attention.  When I see that stuff  it really makes me think hard about racing and end up really slowing down and riding totally within myself.  Now if only I could get by riders without them trying to take me down. 
I sure as heck do not want to end up having to wear a neck brace like Carl in the above picture.   I  hope Carl is just wearing a brace for protection and not because he is riding injured.
Christoper spent the day trying to work his way up through the pack.  He takes his time and only passes when it is safe which is a good thing.
Jason spent the day stalling and having to restart his big bore KX.  I had personal experience with this as I came up on Jason twice today and both times he was stalled.  With time I know Jason will be rolling along fine and doing great!
The Endurocross section was fun for me today.  The logs were not really that big and I now have the technique down.
The big tires are always tricky.  Again it is all about technique and respecting them.  Hit them too hard and off balance and you will pay big time.
The tires and whoops were the only sections of the Endurocross course that Christopher had down.  He has improved greatly from the first time he hit them over in Big Springs.  Each lap he would get better and move up in the field.
Like I mentioned above, the course was very fun.  Some cool features like riding through this old barn.
Christopher put his head down and really charged the last lap.  Actually setting the fastest lap of the day once he got a clear track in front of him.  A 21:41 lap which is just about my pace for the day.  Now if we could just get him to listen to his old man and get his starts down.

I was able to get a good start and ride out front all day.   In the end I got 1st on the day and it looks like I should be able to win the series championship with that this win.
When the checkered flag flew Christopher had worked his way up to 6th place. Jason took a 24th place.    Christopher is still in that heated battle in the Trailrider class.  Regardless of the outcome, I think he has had fun this year.  Hopefully he will remember all the experiences and learn from them.