Spring Break Delivers!!!

First off, let's recognize March Madness when it needs to be recognized....

Way to go UNI!!! That was a fun game to watch today as the #1 seed gave up the ghost to University of Northern Iowa. I watched most of the game against UNLV as well, but the Kansas game was a real eye opener.


Now, to earlier in the week. I took my daughter and her friend Jordan for spring break out to the Black Hills. Sights seen included Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Hill City, etc... . They were all enjoyed as was Rapid City.

In terms of my riding.....

.....switch to my fully warmed up baritone singing at the top of my lungs to a line in Jingle Bells:

"Oh what fun it is to ride on a well-equipped 5" sleigh...."

RIP with XT triple rings

The Black Hills was still in the spring snow melt-off phase up in the hills, so that left the new and wonderful IMBA designed and built playground in Rapid City - which is more commonly known as M-Hill - to ride. I could have hit Storm Mountain, but saw a lot of snow when driving by on the way to Mt. Rushmore with the girls and I didn't want to fight the mud and snow in an effort to salvage some sort of ride. I'll hit it my next trip. So M-Hill being a lot lower in altitude and having the benefit of more sun was perfectly dry except for about 4-5 spots on each climb with only a bit of snow/ice here and there. Maybe 1-2% of the trail was not dry. Not bad at all.

Although I had the camera along on the trip, no way I was lugging that thing along on M-Hill for my training rides. I had GU, water bottles, cell and my iPod. Nothing else. Plenty of photographs available of M-Hill. Here's a pair as IMBA blazed one of the trails...

Digging it:


Now the completed trail section from the photo above after the digging and work was completed (this one is a blue diamond color coded moderate trail):


Here's a video of M-Hill (before IMBA finished the initial trail work). Men's Journal named the Hanson-Larsen Memorial Park as the best mountain bike park in America in their September 2009 issue. Pretty cool and well worth the drive out across the prairie to experience it.

The "old days" had all the singletrack being very narrow on M-Hill. Pretty much deer path width of 4 - 10". Now, with the IMBA sustainable trail building, these things are beautiful. No such singletrack exists in Iowa in terms of the width. This year's Fat Tire Festival XC race will be a blast because you can now pass without any fear of falling over the side of a cliff like when it was only 4" wide. You had to pay so much attention to the front wheel's tracking on that older narrow singletrack which is hard to do when you are in the red zone. Now, you can hammer and let the front wheel wander a bit without fear of plunging down the side of the mountain.

The weather was perfect with temps in the 50's, 60's (actually up to 70) and allowed for a 3 day intense training block on M-Hill. I had the RIP 9 outfitted with Maxxis Ardent 2.4's front and rear figuring this bike with these tires would be about the best combination for Black Hills riding that I have ever owned. Was I right? Yes!!! Finally I own a bike that is designed to eat up the rocky terrain, jumps, and the tires only brought it to life flying down these DH descents (black diamonds and blues as well).

From Dad's house to the trail head, it's about a 15-20 minute warm-up ride on the paved bike path. Perfect warm-up length and it allowed me to get the blood flowing and do a few high efforts to get ready for that opening 25 minute climb. On the way home, it was a perfect 10 minute big ring interval to flush the legs of whatever I had left after spending some high efforts on the long climbs.

Tuesday's goal: 110 minutes of effort included some work through muddy sections that had me turning around looking for alternate routes, but the summit was reached twice and the reward was the high buzz one gets from descending on an IMBA bermed "slalom" like trail.

Wednesday's goal: 120 minutes of effort included different routes up and down M-Hill with a lot of middle ring grunt climbing. Temperatures were near 70 and the blue sky and views were spectacular!!! I hooked up with a pair of guys that did the climb without helmets. At the top, they said it was time to get "high" and I thought they were reaching in their backpacks for some doobies, but instead they pulled out full face helmets and arm gear. Dang! What was I about to go down with these guys? No problem as I went down the black diamond descents with them bashing through the rocks and catching a ton of air in my lycra. ;-)

Thursday's goal: Feeling the effects at age 48 of two consecutive days of riding, I awakened to find out that rain/snow was in the forecast (80% chance) with noon being the start time for precipitation. I had been riding in the afternoon and if I wanted a full 24 hours of recovery before Thursday's ride, I wouldn't be able to ride in the rain. So I decided to go early in the morning before I had recovered. Warm-up showed I was pooped, but I somehow managed to get it going. My plan was to leave whatever I had left in my legs on the trails. The first two 20 - 25 minute climbs were in the middle ring grinding it out just like I would on my 2 x 9 XC race drive train. I've raced M-Hill on my Dos using the 2 x 9 29T/42T rings, but the RIP was a much heavier bike and my middle ring is a 30T. I pushed it through with the lungs screaming, my legs on fire and my heart rate in no-man's land. It looked like quite a few others were out with the same battle plan as I had: "get some spring riding in before the next bout of winter weather hit". On the third climb, I went back to try the far eastern/northern route that was too muddy to ride on Tuesday. I figured it would have dried out more in the 70 degree temps of Wednesday. I got about 1/2 way up and hit what I call bike stopping/clogging mud. That's the problem when running a 2.4 in the rear. There is not much room for mud to collect before the chainstay and arch become built in brakes with the mud building up quickly on the them. So I turned around and went back to the dry trail eastern route climb. Legs were spent, so I went to granny ring. On I climbed and about 1/2 way up on the steepest section, the legs/lungs/heart said "enough". I was already at 120 minutes and had used up my glycogen stores. So I bagged it, turned around and bombed down my final descent. 140 minutes for the day and the legs were empty. Totally empty.

End result was a nice three day block at altitude and in the real mountains completed. It was a successful trip and following a crazy snowstorm drive home from Sioux City to Indianola with cars and trucks going in ditches, I earned a well deserved 2 days of rest on Friday/Saturday. That was an 8 hour training week (up from the previous week of 5 hours 20 minutes). The weeks are building now as XC race season rolls into view.

M-Hill is really an amazing marvel. I have ridden there for years when out visiting, but now that the IMBA trails are built it is really a new ball game for Rapid City and the Black Hills. M-Hill is a huge feather in Rapid City's cap and the Fat Tire Festival HQ's there each year. These trails are not to be missed. Whether you go out for the annual Black Hills Fat Tire Festival or are just out on vacation or passing through - they are a must. Bring your legs and lungs for the climbs and your DH and slalom skills for the descents. I leaned my 2.4 Ardents over on their edges at top speed relying on the grips, technique and berms to get me through the high speed turns. Sharp jagged rocks were hit head on with not even a scrape or scratch on the casings. The tires delivered big time along with the RIP. Talk about a sure footed sled! I took every jump except one on the descents and marveled at how different a 5" travel 29"er is with a 3" or 4" bike. I will be back in June for sure with the RIP for the sheer fun of it all, and hopefully in May to do the Fat Tire Festival XC race (where I will be sure to use a 27T granny ring!!!). My RIP is way too much bike for anything in Iowa or the midwest, but it is right at home in the Black Hills. I am blown away by it.

Many thanks to my Dad, sister, Troy, and Cody for a nice visit.

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