Psycowpath #8 Swanson State Championship report...

Dang my legs hurt! But what a fun race over in Bellevue for the Nebraska State Championship. We all had an extra lap tacked on for the championship making this final race a quality challenge. Weather was beautiful and the course was in perfect racing shape with very little - if any - mud.

My legs are in in the hurt bag because during the race I got out of the saddle and muscled up too many short and steep hills in the wrong gear causing me to gut it out until the climb was over. This "technique" caught up to me in the last 15 minutes of the final lap where the cramping above the knees hit me hard. That was on Saturday. Now here it is Monday evening, and I feel like I did a bunch of squats and lunges over the weekend for the first time. These old chicken legs aren't built for that kind of brutality...and I didn't anticipate the proper gearing well enough. But I had fun!

Reminder to myself for future races: Self - pop another dose of SportLegs at the 1 hour point in these longer races to stave off the cramping.

Can I read?

I must have a reading comprehension problem as I swear I read this about the Swanson XC course in the Psycowpath 2007 Race Bible - and I quote:

Swanson Park; Bellevue, NE

THE COURSE: This “flat” course was built a few years ago for bikers and equestrians and it’s the perfect place to introduce you to mountain bike racing. It’s a fast, flowing course of mostly single track with some really nice technical sections including log crossings, g-outs and triple bowls.

Flat? Ha!!! Let me tell you, whoever wrote that in the Psycowpath Bible must be one of the last standing members of the Flat Earth Society. It's a great course for sure, but it ain't flat. Lake Manawa - now that's flat. Sylvan Island - now that's flat. Swanson? She ain't flat. If I wasn't going up, I was going down. I think I remember only 2 flat sections on the course where I could safely reach for the water bottle.

Hats off to the trail crew for allowing the extra drying time for a delayed start. And hats off to the trail crew for getting the course ready. Talk about perfect conditions. Tacky, only a little bit of mud and it didn't alter our riding at all. It was a great XC race course and a real joy to ride. I've never been to Swanson Park before, so it didn't matter what direction we were riding it in - this course was a fun one. Talk about a blast being able to go through all those carving corners!

Okay, on to the race day report:

I arrived about an hour before the 3pm start, registered, warmed up and rode the upper 1/2 of the course. The trail seemed in perfect shape for my tubeless Nanoraptors which were ready to go after my DIY tinkering. I got lined up with the Sport Open group at the rider's meeting. Each category started with 30 seconds between groups.

After the whistle blew for Sport Open, I settled into the last part of my group as we entered the singletrack. I passed a few right off the bat who misjudged corners or were having mechanicals. I saw a lot of mechanicals out there today. I must have passed at least 6 or 7 throughout the race who were pulled over and tinkering with their bikes. Anyway, lap one was moving right along with a lot of us bunched up throughout the lap negotiating all of the twists, turns, logs, roots and climbs. There were some really nice climbs with roots, oodles of fun carving corners, multiple log crossings and one short - in particular - steep killer climb that had most of us dismounting and running up by our 4th lap. I was way in the wrong gear on the first lap on this climb and made it only about 3/4's of the way up. At that point, I needed about 100 pounds more weight in each leg to push the pedals down and clear the climb. No go for my chicken legs. I had to do an ugly dismount and get going again. I think that climb got the better of a lot of us throughout the day.

Aaron Grady's family was out in force again cheering us on and ringing their bells. The first time I saw/heard them this year I was like "what the heck", but now I've come to enjoy their enthusiasm and participation. In fact, they always bring a smile to my face when I pass them and hear the cheers and ringing bells. It doesn't matter if you are in 33rd or 87th place, they cheer for you just as vociferously as if you were in 1st place. That's the cool thing about having them there.

I came through the finish line area to start lap two and had a few guys fly by me as I took a big drink of much needed energy.

Coming throug for the 2nd lap
Photo by Tom Winfield

I, along with a few other guys, got "chicked" in the middle of lap two (I guess that's the term when the first female Sport racer passes you). There were a couple of us that traded places back and forth with this gal on the top 1/2 of the loop up in the climbing section. After toying with us on those climbs, she shifted gears and absolutely dusted us. We never saw her again. Not even a glimpse. She was a great rider and having an excellent race.

I stopped in the finish line area at the end of lap two to grab my 2nd water bottle. Took off and blew a snot rocket over my left shoulder. Some 8 year old who was watching the race yelled out "Gross!". Hey, ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. I settled in behind the wheel of a guy entering the singletrack and 2 guys settled in right behind me. This little group of 4 rode all of lap 3 in this formation together. We got "experted" as Kent and Cam flew by. Cam was right on the wheel of Kent biding his time and waiting to pounce. Congratulations to Cam for winning the expert open race and winning the overall series title.

As usual, the comments from our group of four as to how we appeared to be standing still next to the pace Cam and Kent were riding were uttered. Back to the reality of our own pace.....we mid and low pack guys still enjoy racing against each other. Maybe I am speaking for myself, but battling it out for 7th or 8th place can be rewarding as we have to find rewards where we can find them. Whether it be out-climbing another mid-packer or getting him on a sprint at the line. Coming into the finish line area, the leader of our lap 3 group of four sat up to stretch his back and the other three of us went around him.

We headed into the singletrack for lap four, our final lap, and I moved back to the end of this group as the pace picked up a notch or two. We didn't stay together too long as I got dropped after about 5 minutes. I was hydrating well, but started to feel the twinges of cramps in my legs right above the knees thanks to all the mashing I had been doing on climbs. I spent a lot of time out of saddle on climbs over the roots because my Dos was bouncing all over on these climbs. It made my back feel better to get out of the saddle, but now my legs were paying the hefty price. So I did some recovery speed off and on in sections that I could to keep the cramps at bay.

Grinding it out
Photo by Tom Winfield

Finishing off the final climbs in the top 1/2 of the course, Matt came flying by on his Orange Peelz Dos riding a good race in 3rd Place for Expert Open. It took a while before any other experts passed me, so I knew Matt had a podium spot all wrapped up. Congrats buddy! Coming into the final section, two guys I had passed earlier were starting to reel me back in, so I pulled up the bootstraps and found a little extra to fend them off. I think I heard one crash behind me on a tough twisty corner, but I couldn't turn around to see as my own fate was in peril at this speed with some more turns just ahead of me.

I came out of the singletrack and into the grassy sprint to the finish line and jumped into the big ring for the finish which was enough to keep the one guy still on my heels 100 yards back.

Crossing the line with a grimace...

Starting the 4th Lap
Photo by Tom Winfield

I felt like I raced a lot better than the previous Psycowpath #7 where the heat got the better of me and I was in survival mode for most of the race. This race felt much better with the interval work paying off for me. I was able to finish strong and maintain my pace throughout. Small improvements from race to race keep me going this season. I need to get another dose of SportLegs in me at the one hour point to fight off the cramps. Too many of the XC races this year have been in the 1:10 - 1:30 duration (rain shortened or just short races) so I am used to being finished before any cramping kicks in at the end of the race. The races that close in on 2 hours are the ones that need the second dose of SportLegs.

Anyway, at the end of this race my legs were burning and I headed right to the Element to load up the bike and hit the road back to Indianola. The wife had promised wild salmon for dinner and even though we had a 3 hour delayed start, I saw that I could make it back by 7:15 - 7:30 to enjoy it. Of course I had to drive 80mph to make it back in time, but I made it. And man was I hungry!

Update on my placing: I ended up in 6th place in Sport Open for the race and finished the 2007 Psycowpath Series in the point standings for Sport Open in 8th place. I only did 3 races in Sport Open this year for the Nebraska Psycowpath Series, so there is room for improvement in points if I would just show up to more races. I haven't read the rules, but evidently no points transfer over from one category to the next if you switch in the middle of the season. So my Tranquility race (Psycowpath #1) in Sport 45+ was the only race in that category for the year. After that, I switched to Sport Open for the IMBCS races, so I made the change in Nebraska as well.

Regardless, I enjoyed doing 4 of the Psycowpath races this year (1 in Sport 45+ before I switched categories and then I did 3 in Sport Open). I had a lot of fun riding this Swanson Park course and hope to get back there to ride it again at some point in the future.

But it ain't flat! ;-)


Black Ooze....

I'm worried about the front tire in my conversion. The rear seems to be golden as it was a brand new Nano. The front tire is a couple years old and ever since the conversion is oozing. I cannot get it to stop.

Here are the picks of the ooze:

This one shows what accumulates and drips out on the floor during the night...


After rotating the portion of the tire that was leaking to the top to take a picture of it, I used Photochop to circle an example of an area where it is leaking along the bead - rim interface. The wet spot you see on top of the tire is the pool of ooze that has come out of the rim/bead interface area overnight. However, whichever part of the wheel/tire is down and the bottom - this overnight oozing takes place.


It doesn't look good to me. Since the rear tire which is brand new is fine and I was able to get this oozing to stop on day one with it, I think I better go buy a brand new Nanoraptor for the front wheel and start over as I want to rule out an old tire as the culprit.

Before I do that, however, I took the front tire off. I totally cleaned the bead, added a wrap of Velox, and I added one more wrap of electrical tape as it looked like a couple of places the rimstrip was not reaching the side of the rim wall. I put the sealant back in the tire and aired up. I did the shake and dance, lay flat routine. We'll see what is on the floor tomorrow morning before buying another tire...

UPDATE: I'm ooze free this morning, baby. Adding the Velox wrap, cleaning the beads and remounting seems to have done the trick last night. No ooze anywhere this morning after the tire stood all night in the garage. I'm good to go!


Tubeless Conversion #3 and training...

I took on the challenge of converting a pair of Salsa Delgado disc rims and a pair of WTB Nanoraptor kevlar bead tires to tubeless this week. Both the rims and the tires are on the "taboo" list for converting as they require some DIY problem solving to get it to work and neither company wants to support their products used in this endeavor. So I was totally on my own and knew the risks/rewards involved.


I began with my Delgado Disc/DT-Hügi 240 hubs/DT Supercomp spokes...

Delgado Disc Specimens

Bought some Frost King weatherstripping to fill the deep center channel of the rims...


I weighed the gram damage of using weatherstripping (not too bad)...

Frosted Grams

Covered the Frost King weatherstripping with black electrical tape...

Frost King and Electrical Tape

Installed the Stans NoTubes Freeride rimstrip...

Freeride Rimtrip

Mounted the tires, added sealant, sealed the tires...

Nanoraptors Sealing

It did not go as smooth as I would have liked for it to go, but this was a challenging proposition for a rookie (I've only done 2 other wheelsets) to take on taboo, non-supported products by all the companies to convert. I read plenty of tips from others who have converted wide rims (27-29mm) with deep center channels. And plenty of tips from those who had converted the taboo, non-supported WTB Nanoraptors. The Nano's are a great mountain biking tire for Iowa and Nebraska terrain (except when it has been raining a lot). I love the volume and weight of these tires for the big wheels and wanted to get a good set converted to tubeless now that thorn season has kicked in and there are a few races left where I will run these.

Blew the front tire off the rim with a loud explosion in the back of my Element. I realized I had rushed the process and needed to do a more precise job. Cleaned up the mess and bought a new Nano from Sterling up at Rassy's. The new one weighed over 100 grams less than the one I blew up. The Frost King weatherstripping was a step I tried to skip on the initial set up, but the explosion was a blessing in disguise as it brought me to my senses.

Anyway, the process is done and I am testing the wheels every day to make sure these wheels are good to go at speed out on the trail.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will not stop Saturday's Psycowpath State Championships, but the rain nailed Sugar Bottom and the Decorah Sizzler last weekend - so who knows. In the meantime, I train as if the race will take place.

Ah...time to go. My life at Simpson begins in 9 minutes with the first faculty gathering for the year.....

W e all got thenews that Team 14 Productions is folding. I was a brand new member of the team this year, so I didn't have as much invested in the team up to this point, but I understand the reasoning behind the move. Back to "unattached rider status" I go.

P.S. I'm still trying to figure out what foursome I will be riding with at Boone on Labor Day weekend.


State Fair

We made our annual pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair yesterday to take advantage of the excellent weather. It was cool considering the past 2 weeks of weather and the temps were in the low 80's and low humidity. Yippie!

We were not alone in our choice of day and weather as the crowds were full. In fact, we parked at South East Polk High School and took the shuttle to the fairgrounds. When we pulled in to the parking lot at 10:15am, we were one of the last 50 cars that were allowed in before they closed the lot due to it being full.

Main Street crowds:


We started the day off as a family of 4 sampling food items and splitting them. First up was a smoked turkey leg and an order of sweet potato fries. 2nd up was the traditional chop on a stick:


We went to see some livestock next. Saw Corndog and Big Red (the 2 big Boars), saw the World Super Bull "Voigt Limousin" and since we love to eat lamb, headed over to check the sheep out and split some grilled lamb. Yummmy.

Here's a sheep during one of the contest, but we were confused (as is often the case for us here in Iowa) as to which one of these 2 was the real "livestock" (owner or sheep?):


We headed over to see the produce, butter cow, butter Harry Potter, etc... and ended up with the gals standing in line to use the bathroom for about 20 minutes.

More wandering around and a run in with Fred Thompson and television cameras in the Varied Industry Building. We finally got through that mess and found that the big item to show at the Iowa State Fair must be hot tubs. Hot tubs everywhere. Inside the building. Outside the building. What's up with all these hot tubs? Finally wandered outside where son and daughter had to have a pile of this glop:


I didn't sample any of that stuff. But I did step out of bounds with my diet at the fair, figuring that I would die some day in the future anyway and had my first deep fried Twinkie at a stand just outside of the Grand Stand. They didn't quite cook it all the way as there was still some raw batter next to the Twinkie itself. Wife, son and daughter all took one bite and left me to handle the rest. My heart clogged and nearly stopped beating before I tossed the remainder in the garbage can. Okay, that was a total waste of $3.50. Water $2. Turkey Leg $7. Sweet Potato Fries $3. Chips and cheese $4. Beer $6. Caramel Apple $3.50. It all adds up quickly.

Having to get back on the shuttle to get our son back for football practice, we wandered back to the shuttle stop, but not before we stopped for ribs, chops, beer, beans and finished off the day with attending the Clydesdale and buggy show. These animals remain the most majestic beasts in my opinion and to see them all fancied up is quite a sight. I guess they are all Clydes, I don't know as I'm not too much of a horse guy. But these are big, majestic animals with amazing strength and beauty.


And back home we went. Hearts clogged. Legs tired. And another State Fair under our belts. We thought about the Joe Walsh concert, but one has to spend their money wisely and Joe Walsh at 60 may not be the best use of my hard earned cash.

Obviously, today was a day off the bike. I did my interval and training session on Thursday on the Summerset Trail after a morning rain. Leadout and SMSP intervals to get the kind of race training in the legs for tomorrow's Sugar Bottom race. I'll do about 30 minutes today somewhere. It would be nice to drive over to Sugar Bottom and pre-ride, but with the price of gas where it is - I'll have to skip that kind of luxury.

I'm watching the weather like everyone else to see if Sugar Bottom can remain dry enough for the race to be held. Fingers crossed...


I want a "do over day"...

Let's see, in golf they call it a mulligan on the first tee. A chance to do your opening drive again if you mess up your first shot. It's not legal for real golf, but you might see it done every now and then with recreational hackers.

I want a do over for Wednesday, August 15th!!!

If I could do today over - I'd take it. It was one of those days. It began with me forgetting about an arranged meeting with a prospective student and her parents that we had set up way back in May. Somehow, I forgot to transfer the date and time from my email to my datebook.

I was at home on the computer this morning with my 12 year old daughter who had decided she needed her own email account that very minute (so she claimed). I was messing around at MSN trying to get her signed up and cursing at the process when the phone rang from Simpson to inform me there were people in my office waiting for me. Okay, quick shower and a mad dash over to campus to make the horrible first impression of being 25 minutes late. I left my daughter hanging in mid air...(until I got back later and got her signed up at Google). I apologized to the prospective student and the meeting went as well as could be expected after my faux pas. I think I can pretty much forget about winning this prospective student with such a great first impression!

I see that my two dogs have been getting the incorrect amount of supplements which keeps their urine at the right pH level to not burn brown spots in our grass. I get home from Simpson and see 11 new burn spots in the front yard which were not there yesterday when I mowed the lawn. What the heck? More transplanting and yard work to fix the spots (plus any others that crop up until the supplements kick back in). It's a fine balance to keep green grass and a nice lawn with 2 labs around, but things had been going really well. Somehow, they didn't get the right amount the past few days and BAM - the lawn goes to heck just like that with a few squirts here and there.

Then a trip with the family up to Costco and Jordan Creek turned into a yelling fest on the way home with one teenage son in the car claiming he knew everything and the rest of us were all wrong. Not to mention he is on a testosterone high now that football practice has begun. You know, all that macho male bonding and chest pounding at practice where the warriors are preparing to go into battle. He marches in the house yelling after we get back from Costco and we - the parents - yell back. He picks up a tomato on the kitchen table we had just picked from our garden and slams it down as hard as he can on the kitchen floor. Of course, it sprays everywhere and all over everything (window blinds, chairs, walls, table, clothes, dogs, floor, etc...). In frustration and saying things that would be considered horrible to my son by anyone within ear shot, I threw a chair across the room and it hit the couch and broke into pieces. Whew! At least I didn't throw it at him. What a textbook case of a family in need of help. Okay, we got the tomato cleaned up. We opened up the discussion into a more positive light (which is where things are trying to remain this evening). Hopefully time will heal all the wounds that were opened up by yelling (so they say).

Ah....if I could just have a do over of today. But we don't get a do over, so I'll just have to learn from it all and respect the joy of life.

Today was a rest day, but I hit the bike yesterday in the heat for a training ride on the road.

20 minutes warm-up
1 15 minute MSP interval
3 minutes recovery
8 lead out intervals of 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off
2 minutes recovery
1 15 minute low cadence (50 rpm), high power power building interval
2 minutes recovery
5 lead out intervals of 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off
3 minutes recovery
3 X 1 minute on, 1 minute off SMSP hill climb intervals
10 minutes cool down

I was pumped at the end of the training ride. I saw the clouds and storm moving in, so I quickly mowed our lawn to prepare it to receive nature's moisture. It never rained here. Rats. Oh well....at least the lawn is mowed and it was a nice workout for the legs pushing the Toro up and down the slope of the lawn.

Tomorrow will be another training ride to prepare for Sunday's XC Scramble. I may have some additional vim and vigor to burn off.


Psycowpath #7 Race Report...

I drove out to northeast Nebraska to Maskenthine Lake for the Psycowpath Series #7 race today. Fellow team member Sean Meyers also made the trip over to Nebraska. It was a long drive from Indianola and took me about 4 hours to get there this morning. After driving across miles of prairie and rolling fields of corn and soybeans from the Missouri river to just outside of Norfolk, I think Cam Kirkpatrick said it best when he got out of his SUV in the parking lot to register for the race and asked "Where the hell are we?".

We were in the middle of what appeared to be nowhere on a very hot and humid day. I think the heat index was either 105 or 108 at race time and staying hydrated as well as avoiding cramps while racing in survival mode was the modus operandi for many of us today. I can probably speak for both Sean and myself - the heat cooked our goose inside and out. I remember doing a race in the IMBCS last year at Fort Dodge that was similar in heat - 98 degrees and humid that ate my lunch as well. Today felt a lot like that race at Fort Dodge last summer - only today we had less shade to hide in and the 5 mile race course loop spent more time in the sun than in the shade.

Okay, so a pre-ride of the loop pretty much informed me that it was going to be bumpy. The trail is new and most of it at this point looks like somebody set the mower on the lowest setting and pretty much mowed a path all over the hills. I'm sure time will allow the singletrack to turn more buff, but for now it is like riding on a Cross Country running course for the High School Cross Country Team. Grassy and lots of bumps and mounds to deal with which I found to be momentum zapping. It reminded me a lot of the Tranquility Park course in Omaha, but it just isn't as broken in yet as that course is. Tranquility actually has a dirt trail worn in and is buff. Maskenthine is still mostly grass and has not yet cut through the grass all around the course. I'm sure with time and more riding on it, the trail will cut and mature. Kudos to the trail builders for starting this trail and for the work everyone did getting it ready for the race. There is a nice section through the woods that is dirt. Plenty of logs, trees and challenge in that section. After a pre-ride of the loop, I got my water bottles filled and situated at the finish line to swap bottles after the 2nd loop. Headed back down the hill to the starting area and lined up for the high noon start in the oppressing heat.

I lined up with the Sport Open Category and was feeling rather stiff and wiped out from 2 consecutive days of landscaping out in the heat thanks to a major front yard project the wife had on the "honey do" list for the summer. I had lifted about 1200 pounds of rocks (30 pounds at a time) a grand total of 4 times on Thursday and Friday which pretty much had my arms, back, legs and neck reminding me that I am no longer as youthful as I thought. I also dug a trench about 50 feet long which is always good for the legs and back. But the legs felt pretty good on the pre-ride, so I was ready to pace myself and hang tough. At the very least, this race would be a good training ride.

At the start, our group hammered up the gravel road climb to the singletrack and I entered the trail in 5th position. The first 3 guys shot off like rockets in the singletrack (as any 145 pound racer should), but I rode the wheel of the guy in 4th place content with his pacing and saw that we were opening up a good gap. During lap 1 I felt pretty good considering each lap had 800 feet of climbing. Legs were responding to the demands I put on them during most of the lap until the final climb of the loop as we passed the finish line to begin lap 2. That's when I first noticed that the lights were about to be turned off on me.

Not long after the start of lap 2, the heat hit me and hit me hard within a matter of 200 yards. I was forced to back off the pace so much that I was laughing at how slow I was going. Yet, that is about all I could maintain throughout lap 2. I lost the wheel of the guy in 4th place and was floundering. I would recover every now and then - only to be zapped by the sun and heat again. I started to get passed by guys behind me and was seriously thinking of DNF'ing because the tank was on empty. I didn't do a classic bonk, but the heat zapped me. It was a different kind of "lights out" than a bonk. I wasn't dizzy. I wasn't disoriented. I just had nothing in the legs, lungs or body to propel me forward. My stomach felt a little upset like one does in the heat. I kept searching for a rhythm that would take me up each hill. Then I was searching for the line to keep all the stinkin' bumps from destroying any momentum I had left. Wow it was bumpy. Sweat was pouring off of my head and I was drenched. I was in the house of pain big time.

Somehow, I eeked it out to the end of lap 2. I stopped to grab a new water bottle filled with energy drink and headed off into the final lap. Now I was really in survival mode and had all but shut down. Gel and energy drink did not help at all. There were no matches left in the box to burn. Cam (who won the Expert Category by minutes) came flying by. A few minutes later, a few more Experts passed me. Matt Gersib passed me and gave me a pat on the back and some words of encouragement to grind it out. I didn't drop into granny ring, but I was barely turning over the middle ring on some of the climbs. Good grief, I ride faster than this during my commute in a suit to work. Amazing how the heat can zap some people more than others. I was hosed. Spent. Done. Again, thoughts of tossing in the towel filled my head. But I kept on chugging along encouraged by all the cowbells being rung around the course. And along came the Sport Class guy in 6th place to pass me. So I said my good-byes to 5th place and totally was in survival and "let's just finish" mode.

I think I finally rolled over the finish line in 6th place and the timing was perfect as my left leg cramped up big time just as I crossed the line.

Edit: Final results say I rolled over the line in 5th place.

Stopped for a photo with fellow 29"er rider Matt Gersib who rides for Team Salsa. He got on the podium with his excellent 3rd Place finish in Expert Open. His Dos Niner is the 2007 model in a spiffy Orange Peelz color. My Dos is the 2006 model in Very Verde Green. Matt's a great guy and it was nice chatting with him before and after the race.

Here I am trying to smile after the race with all the pain I was feeling. Matt looks fresh and ready to party....


Post race I got cleaned up and climbed back in the Element for the 4 hour trip back home. There were still oodles of Sturgis Rally folks headed home on I-29 and I-80. That made the drive more interesting. Got home and enjoyed some nice grilled salmon, green beans from the garden and some tomato salad from the garden. Took my first jacuzzi bath in our new tub and that was like a slice of heaven. Once it got dark, we went out to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. I think Sunday night will be the climax, but tonight was pretty good as well. If you're not busy on Sunday night between 10pm and 2am, grab a lawn chair and some bug spray. Park yourself out in the yard and look up at the sky. We did this one year with a bunch of friends high up in the Alps on the 11th and 12th of August and drank ourselves silly while watching.

I don't know what one can do to handle the heat in an XC race. I was hydrated, well fed and paced myself. But at the end of lap one, it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.

Here's hoping to a recovery and chance of less heat next Sunday for Sugar Bottom...


Back from the Hills...

Quick and efficient are the words I will use to describe this mini-vacation to the Black Hills. We buzzed out to the Black Hills in the van on Friday (along with thousands of Harley Davidsons on I-80, I-29 and I-90).

It's hard to see in this picture, but the roads were pretty much filled with bikers headed away from, headed to, and headed through the Black Hills...

HawgingtheRoad during Sturgis Rally

The good news was the flow of traffic on the way out to the Hills was in the 80 - 85mph range which allowed us to make good time. It was 80 on the way home.

Rather than re-write about all the riding in the Black Hills I like to do, I'll just show a few pictures of some of the rocks.

I decided not to take the Sugar 293 on this trip due to using the rear bike rack on the van being hit and miss with a FS frame. So I was dealing with my Dos Niner running the 1.9 Kenda Karma tires tubeless. I think my favorite tire for the Black Hills is the Kenda Nevegal, but I wanted to test the skinny tubeless tires to see what the shale, granite and quartz would do to them. Although the Dos was a champ and the tires took it all in stride, I still suggest meaty tires like the Nevegals or Rampages for Black Hills rocky terrain. My set up with the 1.9's gave me lots of pedal strikes and should have been done with a bash ring instead of a 42T ring on my triple crankset. There are just too many big rocks, logs and ledges to be riding around out there on an XC race rig.

Here's an example of a rocky climb:

Rocky going up

I had to pick my line more carefully on the Dos with skinny tubeless tires than if I had been bashing through on my Sugar 293 with the Nev's. I was surprised I wasn't sucking air as bad as usual in the higher altitudes. Maybe I am in better shape this year, so I didn't notice the altitude. Hmmmm....

Here's a gnarly descent with some rock challenge:

Rocky going down

It never really shows up well in the pictures that I take, but the rocks in the Black Hills are sharp. Sometimes it looks and feels like you are riding over knives and razor blades. How my iddy-biddy Karma 1.9's did it - I don't know. Somehow they managed and kept me busy searching for lines every second of every ride while I was out there.

I rode in several of my usual spots on this trip, but somehow did not do any riding on M Hill in Rapid City. It had rained about an inch and a half in short amount of time on Friday in Rapid City and I figured the trails would be too muddy at M Hill so I avoided them on this trip.

The big event for my son while we were there was to have Grandpa teach him how to drive a stick shift. Zack, who is 14, managed to pass his instructional permit test on Thursday just in time for the trip. Grandpa took him out in his Miata every day to some parking lots for instruction. Imagine a 80 year old man teaching a 14 year old how to drive a stick shift in a Miata!

Here is a shot when I stopped by to monitor his progress in one of the parking lots. He did quite well and managed to buzz it up to 45 mph in the parking lot...

Zack learns to shift the Miata

I brought the dogs along with me for a section of the Centennial Trail on Sunday. They seemed to be enjoying themselves in spite of the heat and humidity:


On Monday morning for my last XC ride of the trip, I headed out to Storm Mountain for the loop (which is much improved with the new section). Here's the Dos on the van where I parked at the trailhead:


Actually, the trailhead for Storm Mountain is on the other side of the car in that photograph as those trailheads in the picture are for the Flume Trail (no bikes allowed on the Flume Trail). If any of you are ever headed out to the Black Hills - you have to ride the trail at Storm Mountain. The trailhead is right next to Rockerville at the Silver Mountain turn off and is now marked with orange and black arrows (new since my last trip out there). Lots of rocks and wicked singletrack to challenge everyone. As I said, large volume tires and a bash ring are recommended.

The trip was primarily to visit my father and my sister. We had to squeeze it in between my son's football practice schedule. We didn't do too much except visit, eat, learn to drive a stick shift, ride bikes, walk dogs, visit my mother's grave, eat ice cream and attend the lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore. I've been to the lighting ceremony umpteen times in my life having grown up in Rapid City, but Sunday night was a special one with all of the Harley bikers in attendance. They had all the Veterans in attendance come down and do the flag ceremony. There were about 30+ Veterans that went down and my Dad was by far the oldest one at age 80. He got a big round of applause as he climbed up on the stage after walking down all those stairs to get to the stage. Regardless, it was a highlight of the trip to see him down there. Both for my wife and I as well as the kids.

The drive back to Iowa involved lots of Harley Davidsons and lots of rain, thunderstorms, 18 wheelers and the usual heavy traffic once one gets on I-80. It looks like we have had more rain in the last 5 days than all summer combined. I wonder if the Psycowpath race in NE will be held this Saturday?


Off to the Black Hills for some riding...

Yippie! My son has a break between summer football camp and the start of official football practice for the high school teams next week.

We are going to use this mini-window of family vacation opportunity and put it to good use. I am taking the family and dogs out to the Black Hills today for 5 days of hiking, mountain biking, golf and we'll get some kayaking in as well. My father lives there, so the housing part is not a problem and the dogs just love it out there. We'll be in the middle of all the Harley Davidson rally festivities, but that usually doesn't get in the way of our recreational activities out in the Hills.

I did a one hour gravel ride last night to get the legs jump started and then put the bike rack and Yakima Rocket Box on top of the van for our stuff. There's nothing like eating dust on Iowa gravel that has not been rained on in weeks to make one appreciate riding off road on singletrack in the mountains...

Pictures and reports once we get back next week.

Loading up the car now....


American Autobahn!

I just got back from a trip to Chicago and back. My son and I hooked up with our friends from Vienna, Austria in Chicago to visit, see a Cubs game, eat some Chicago eats, and dip our toes in Lake Michigan.

We drove out on Monday morning and once we got on I 80, I just started going with the flow of traffic. I think the map said Indianola to Chicago was 347 miles. A normal trip of that length on the Autobahn over in Europe would not take too long with speed limits at 130 kilometers per hour (80.77 mph). Of course, that is the posted limit, but most in the far left lane flow along at 140 kph (86.99 mph). Give or take stopping for gas and a restroom break, that's about a 4 to 4 hours and 20 minute driving time trip using Autobahn speeds. The posted speed limit of 70mph in Iowa and 65mph on the interstate in Illinois seems dreadfully slow in comparison due to it requiring at least another hour of drive time. Of course, with the needed stops of gas, food and the restroom - the real trip time to Chicago also includes heavy traffic starting about an hour out of Chicago which all added together easily makes it a 6 - 7 hour trip in each direction.

Having lived and driven in Europe for a decade, suffice it to say that I do have a European lead foot at times now that I am back in the states. I unleashed that lead foot on this trip. Although it is impossible to maintain the 130 - 140 kph speed due to truck traffic, police speed traps, etc... along the way - I managed to do a pretty good job of it. And I was not alone. Sure, I did my share of pulling the pace line, but it was easy to find wheels to latch onto and follow. We averaged 5 1/2 hours total trip time both to Chicago and on the way home. I enjoyed the Autobahn speeds of 80 - 87 mph again. Not environmentally friendly, but it is too bad our Interstate speeds for cars are not 80 mph in more locations. 65 and 70 mph seems so slow compared to other states that have limits of 75 and 80 mph on their Interstates.

The good news is that we will be driving on an Interstate marked 75 mph all day Saturday on the way to the Black Hills and I'm sure my speedometer will be 82+ most of the way...

I will be hitting the mountain bike trails in the Black Hills for a few days of riding. I always think I am in shape and ready for it, but riding at higher altitudes and steeper terrain always informs me that I could be in better shape.