3/31/11

Is today the day?

My wife has been fixated on the Eagle's nest in Decorah the past few weeks watching Ma and Pa sit on the eggs, continue to prepare the nest for the young ones and watching the changing of the guard when the eagles switch places.









Live TV : Ustream

It's either today or tomorrow that the expectation is for the eggs to hatch. So I'm sure I will get a call as soon as it happens from my wife to tune in and take a look. She is using the live video feed with her speech therapy kids every day as they all watch and talk about eagles.

Pretty cool to watch, I have to say.

We have our own birds in the gas fireplace air vent on the side of the house that nest there every spring. The pilot light is always on and since a bit of heat comes out of the air vent from the pilot light, the birds love to nest there. One year, not realizing this, I turned on the gas fireplace and heard all kinds of chirping. Before I figured it out and turned off the fireplace, I had killed all the young ones and have felt guilty ever since. This year and last year, I made sure to not use the gas fire place once the birds had nested in there. So we have a hatching coming up in our backyard very soon as well. I always remove the nest in the late summer so we can use the fireplace during the winter months. I should probably just install some wire cage to keep the birds out of there, but I don't mind providing a spot for new life to take place...

Racing is coming!!

I am officially registered for 2 Endurance Races this season. I'll do the Bone Bender in Kansas coming up in 2 weeks and the Dakota Five-0 in the Black Hills on Labor Day weekend. I did the Dakota Five-0 in 2005 and really enjoyed it even though I had a nasty fever/cold and tore a tire about 37 miles into it which I was able to boot, swap tubes and finish. Back then there were less than 300 racers, but this year there will be 600 racers as the event has grown (600 is this year's cap). You can bet I'll be running some worthy tubeless meat to handle the rocks. I'm really looking forward to heading out to do that race. It could be an epic weekend for sure.

First up is the Swanson River City Shootout XC Race this weekend which is part of the Psycowpath Series in Nebraska and Sylvan Island Stampede next weekend which is part of the Iowa Series.

3/28/11

What happened to the Weekend?

That was the fastest, most over-booked weekend I've had in a long time. I don't know where it went because I hardly had time to sit down and enjoy any calm and quiet.

Recital rehearsals, choir and band concerts, rehearsals with Zack, house cleaning, laundry, changing tires, show choir banquet, cooking, and two 2 hour bike rides crammed between things on Saturday and Sunday. And it feels like I didn't get anything done that I wanted to get done. When I finally got home Sunday night at 10:30 pm - I realized that I would not be starting this week all fresh and energetic like I had hoped. First race of the year coming up this weekend (actually the next three weekends in a row) which gives me something to look forward to after all of this off season and pre-season training. 5 pounds are shed, and I am willing myself to continue that weight loss going forward no matter how hungry and appetizing things look to me.

I got up at 6 am this morning and managed to read Bike Radar and locked my eyes onto a sweet new carbon full suspension frame that Santa Cruz is releasing (goes on sale with pre-orders next month). Now this seriously grabs my attention big time...

New Santa Cruz TRc

5" of travel front and rear and the carbon frame with rear shock weighs 5 pounds. That's 1 1/2 pounds less than my RIP. I'd have to sell the farm and a few bikes to negotiate this one, but I'm drooling at the prospects. Talk about a nice endurance/marathon race bike!!!! My anti-carbon stance may be snapped with things like this (and more to come I'm sure from other brands). Come on Niner - let's see you counter that with a carbon RIP that weighs around 5 pounds!

Monday starts with a bang for me as I go all day, have 2 recital run throughs this evening and get home a bit after 9 pm. Good thing today is a planned rest day from cycling...

3/26/11

Snow and Singlespeeding again...

Tornado sirens went off as at least three separate storms moved through the area on Tuesday night. Trust me, we took cover as soon as the siren sounded. I think we'll probably tend to do that for the rest of our lives after the tornado we experienced last July!!! I was actually at Simpson working with one of my students during dress rehearsal when the siren sounded. She was actually singing Mahler's "In diesem Wetter" from the Kindertotenlieder when the siren sounded!!! Perfect text for that... Anyway, I ran backstage of Lekberg to take cover along with some students where we stayed until about 8 pm.

We woke up 2 mornings later to find the white stuff all over the ground again. So, it was back to the snow bike and walking the dogs with this again...

Winter Monkey

Looks like we are due for more snow today and then again on Tuesday. The chain is all rusty on the SS thanks to the salt they dump on the streets and my lack of attention to the drivetrain during the winter. So I'll have to take it off, soak it and scrub it in my diesel fuel, treat it and oil it up again once the threat of snow has vanished. We're getting there, I know, as April is fast approaching and by mid-April we should be finished with the white stuff.

Some nice new bike parts and bits showed up this week to fine tune things for the start of racing season. They'll have to wait to be installed as I am swamped with attending student recitals, concerts and recital dress rehearsals. It's usually the time of year I lose 5 or so pounds because I don't have time to eat lunch or dinner. Not by choice, but simply by being on the run.

3/23/11

Memorial for Maria...

Tomorrow is the official memorial service for Maria DiPalma who passed away on Sunday, February 27th. We had an initial gathering/remembrance in the music department two days after she died, but tomorrow is the official memorial service for the greater community.

maria

I first met Maria way back in 1986-7 when I was an apprentice artist at Des Moines Metro Opera and a member of Opera Iowa. Maria's husband, Doug, had hired me to be in that ensemble. Doug hired me again in 1988 to be in Opera Iowa and to make my debut with Des Moines Metro Opera as Papageno in Mozart's Magic Flute. Doug passed away a few hours after I had seen him to sign my contract for the Magic Flute back in 1988.

Fast forward to many years later in 2003, Maria became my new "boss" as she was the Music Department Chair and hired me to take the job teaching voice at Simpson College. She had just been diagnosed with cancer and had begun treatments in the spring of 2003 when I traveled from Vienna to Indianola to interview for the job. She fought valiantly for 8 full years before losing the battle.

Maria was a wonderful colleague, and she gave me guidance for entering the world of academia after my career of singing opera for 20 years. She shared a passion for cooking and food with Tara and I and often exchanged epicurean ideas, food and lively discussion.

We will remember her tomorrow in the memorial service and celebrate her life. She has touched hundreds and hundreds of Simpson College students over the years as voice teacher, chair of the department, make-up artist, adviser, her guidance and through her singing voice - and her hearty laugh. She is sorely missed by all, but her memory and contributions will live on through those she has touched.

Rest in peace Maria...

dipalma

3/21/11

Dirt Days 3 and 4 and more...

I couldn't have asked for a better outcome in terms of weather and the trail conditions for my spring break. No travel required to hit dirt this year, it was all available right here at home - Center, Banner and Ahquabi.

I hit Banner hard on Friday for Dirt Day #3. I went over to Chuck and Gayla's on Friday night for the annual St. Patty's celebration. Chuck outdid himself this year with the best corned beef, cabbage, taters, gravy and fun was had by all. While we were there, WHO had a phone in interview with Gayla about her accident on the night of the tornado when she fell in our house and suffered a spinal cord injury. The interview was about the help she has received along the way and especially about the inspiration she received from a nurse at the Younker ward of the hospital named Rachel who was also on the phone in interview with the show's hostess. Gayla was upstairs on the phone being interviewed for 30 minutes while we were all downstairs listening to it on the radio. It was tearful and inspirational for all of us listening. Gayla is an amazing woman and fighting with her entire spirit to regain her ability to walk. It's been 8 months since the night of the accident and she has progressed to being able to walk with 2 canes. I think we are all hopeful that the next 8 months moves her mobility to new levels.

Saturday morning I got up early (for me) and joined up with the CITA gang to bust out some new trail at Banner Pits. We had over 20 show up to do the work. Those that had chainsaws, showed up with them. Best line of the day that I heard as we were trying to follow the sometimes vague outline of the orange flags for the new very twisty singletrack: "Watch out, I'm a roadie with a chainsaw!" I laughed hard at that and got the heck out of his way as I pointed him in the right direction of what to cut. I lopped and cleared for 3 hours and was rewarded with pizza and beer (and a new CITA bumper sticker that reads: Cheap. Dirty. Fun.) before heading home to shower. Next work day is scheduled for Saturday morning, April 2nd and if weather is favorable this crazy new section should be knocked out and ready in time for the May 22nd race. It's got one killer switchback climb with a sharp left turn in it that had me shaking my head 'no way'. Regardless, it's going to be quite layout and Banner when all is said and done. After some chores around the house, I headed to Lake Ahquabi for Dirt Day #4 in a row. I've got some work to do out there on the trails as well. When? That may have to wait for a bit.

Tara and Alexa got back from San Francisco on Saturday night and I had a home cooked meal all ready for everyone to eat and visit around the table.

Sunday started out with a nice thunderstorm which cleared by the time we got up. Sunny and warm - well, it was time to smoke the corned beef I purchased on sale. So I fired up the Big Green Egg, pulled the beef out of the water rinse, patted it off and used 2 rubs. One more traditional NYC deli-style for 1 chunk, and the hot and spicy rub for the other two chunks. The day turned out really nice weather wise with humidity high and temperatures around 70. Tara and pavement to Banner and back for a 90 minute recovery spin. I ended up with 15 1/2 hours on the bike for the week which is way more than I expected, but helped cut some weight and get the cobwebs out.

Just as I was about to eat some dinner and get ready to attend my student's senior recital, Alexa called and said the mini-van had died in the middle of the road. So I went to meet her and we pushed it to a side street and parked it over night. This morning I'll get it towed and see what's the matter with it. $$$$ is my fear...

Back to work today as spring break e finito..

3/17/11

Dirt Day 2!!!

Warm temps and winds have worked their magic. Banner Pits is officially okay to ride the entire loop (northside and Riverside). I did 2 full loops at race speed today on the muscle speed machine...

RIP with Ikons

Thinking out loud here for the rest of this blog entry...

Dang I love this bike. A year ago at this time I was out in the Black Hills eating up the dirt with it and wondering why, even with big meat Ardent 2.4's, the thing was so fast. Even on pavement to and from M Hill, I was flying on the RIP. That led me to experiment with it during the season last year for XC and Endurance racing. Now, I'm digging deeper and looking at what this bike can do.

I am running some tests and trying to figure out why I am so much faster on the RIP than my other bikes. I could care less about thoughts of suspension robbing one of energy, amount of watts needed on explosive bursts, etc... . All I care about is the final time for these 60-75 minute full out XC efforts. My highest placings last year occurred on the RIP. I can muscle this bike through just about anything and the suspension just eats it all up. Even if that means higher wattage spikes for the short bursts, I'm racing in the shorter duration category so I'm not going to run out of steam.

That's a wake up call to me and has me pondering how often to race it this year. The Bone Bender in April for sure as it was a champ last year for 3 1/2 hours and allowed me to finish fresh. No Raven 2.2's this year...

Front

I'll run the Ikons for the Bone Bender at the new venue which is going to be rockier and has several stream crossings. So some prototype IKONS (yes, yet another version in the making) will don my RIP this year.

Ripped

I went back to study this document entitled Which Is Faster: Hardtail or Full Suspension? In my case, it's not a question of HT vs. FS, but how much FS. The softail vs. 80mm vs. 100mm vs 120mm. That's what I need to know and find out for my own racing. Now that's not new to me. Last year, I opted to up my front suspension on the JET over the previous year by running 100mm vs. the prior year at 80mm. And I liked it. This year, I removed the spacer in my Dos Niner to up the front suspension from 80mm to 100mm - and so far, I like it - big improvement. So the theory of having more suspension for my needs is not new. I'm just trying to remove myself from the oft chanted mantra "80 - 100mm is plenty for XC racing". Hey, maybe it isn't - for me. My test times are showing me different data. And that's what I am basing this on - what gets me across the line quicker. I know it's not a 20 pound HT, that's for sure.

I am obviously well aware that being able to hammer through the rough stuff and not having to get off the saddle for every bump that I would on the hardtail (or softail in my case with the Dos Niner) keeps my speed up and keeps my body fresh. But what I am finding is that for a big guy like me, 120mm up front and rear is really a good amount for XC racing. I doubt there is any proportionality involved here, but I wonder if 120mm for a big and tall rider feels more in balance than less travel for a less tall rider? I've got 80mm and 100mm travel bikes as well so I am well aware of what they feel like to me. Maybe if I was 5' something or other and only weighed 135 - 160 lbs., a 100mm of squish front and rear would feel to me - at that size - like a 120mm feels to me at my actual size. I don't know. I'm probably just over-thinkering it all. If a bike is fast - just ride it and don't worry.

All I know is I'm going to stop treating the RIP like some trail bike and just ride the dang thing as another XC race bike that soaks up the terrain a bit better keeping me fresher and fast as a result. One that just happens to have more travel than my other bikes, but rides just as fast if not faster. Oh, and heavier. My RIP as outfitted is 28.26 pounds. There's room with a wheel swap and a couple of other components I have to get down below 27, but I don't think it matters. Oh, and I do have an Excel spreadsheet showing me how to get the RIP down to 25 lbs., but that would involve running the single speed 34T Rotor Q Ring and 9 or 10 gears out back. It's been surprising to me this week as I've tested it at several of my timed loops and routes that I track every year (28.6 mile, 4.2 mile, and 20 minute uphill TT on pavement). My times are actually faster in two of those critical tests - even with the heavy weight. That explains my good showing in the Bone Bender last year and at Mt. Kato.

Mt. Kato

To make this all work and dial in the big muscle bike, I've got to address a couple of performance enhancing things. I think I'll swap out the granny ring on the RIP to a Rotor Q Ring granny ring. I feel the Q's help best on climbing so that would have me with a 23T granny to work the gears for climbs, and the custom 30T middle and 40T outer ring for everything else. A 23T granny with a 30T rear cog (2nd largest on my 11-34 cassette) is the same gear gain ratio as my current 27T Rotor Q Ring and the 34T large cog out back. So I could mirror that, plus have one more bail out gear if need be for endurance races and steep grinders.

There are too many issues that have been solved with my Q Factor current triple set up I run to fit on the RIP without chain stuck to change the middle and outer rings. Russ Anderson made my 30/40T rings to rid me of clearance issues and they have to be mounted to each other to work, so I couldn't run the middle 33T Rotor Q Ring without dropping the outer 40T ring on my Shimano XT cranks as well. There isn't room for a larger outer ring unless I push the drivetrain side out to the ride and that would muck up my Q factor with my current 180mm cranks. I could go with just the 23/33 Rotor Q Rings as a duo and run a bash guard for a nice spiffy set up, but I use the 40T with the smallest two cogs too often on open sprints to ditch that gearing. I would lose the 40T/11T combo and the 33T/11T combo is not quite as tall as the 40/13T either, so the trade off wouldn't be worth it for me. I could work the climbs pretty well from the granny to benefit from the Q Ring's smoothed out dead spot. Now if the Q rings came in other sizes for the 104/64 BCD I could easily go to a Duo - but they don't. They only come in 44/33/23.

I may move to a 110mm from my 105mm length stem - or maybe all the way to 120mm to get a bit more XC stretched out on it. The weakness at the moment is uphill tight switchbacks. Bars are either too close, too high or a combination of the two for the slack headtube angle with 120mm up front on this bike. Maybe a Talas fork with the ability to drop down to 95mm for those tight climbs is where I need to venture as a permanent solution. If the rain stays away, I'll swap stems tomorrow and give it a go on the singletrack again tomorrow. If it rains, I'll have to wait until a dry day.

Edit: The stem change to a longer one did the trick and took care of tight switchback and uphill turns. I went 10mm longer and flipped it negative.

St. Patty's celebration at Chuck and Gayla's Friday night. If me lucky charms be workin', they won't make me wrap myself up in a kilt for dinner....

What's for lunch? Pastrami of course....

According to Zack, the pastrami I made is the best smoke I have ever done. Or so he claims. My opinion is that I want to try a different rub next time as this one was more on the BBQ spicy hot side of things. That's fine and boy is it good. However, I want to make a gentler version more akin to the New York City deli style pastrami. The good news is that those corned beef packets will be going on sale big time tomorrow once St. Patty's day is finished. I may buy three or four and do a big pastrami smoke tomorrow or Saturday.

Here is the lunch spread. Beautiful, pink pastrami, a loaf of Rye, swiss cheese and some German mustard. A little warm up of the meat portion and slice of swiss cheese in the microwave, pop it on some fresh bread and presto!! Pastrami lunch sandwiches to die for......YUM!

Pastrami Mania!!!

The chunk of meat was so small, Zack and I went through it in two days. That's why I need to do a big smoke to have some to slice up and freeze for sandwiches. Maybe 1/2 of them spicy and the other half more tame and NY deli style.

Dirt!!!

Two days of strong winds, warmer temperatures and sunshine helped dry out the singletrack enough that I actually took the Dos Niner up to Des Moines and rode dirt this afternoon!!! I got 80 minutes of fast swoopy trail in before my legs said enough for today. Most of the trail was nice and dry, and there was a fair amount of tacky with about 3 spots I pulled off, picked my bike up and walked around the mud bogs as not to damage the trail. Quite a few bikes had been through the area before it was dry enough and there is a lot of trail damage. A lot of deer tracks, so I did my part to mash those prints out of the trail with my tires as I was flying around the loops. My chain was either super dry, or I've got something else going on somewhere in the drivetrain.

Unfortunately there is rain in the forecast, so the next 2 days will have me back to my spring break ritual of pavement and gravel to Carlisle and back. Tomorrow's forecast is just for a little mist, but the warm temperature of 69 or 70 will be over by mid-afternoon as a cold front hits and takes us back down into the 30's, 40's and 50's.

I worked with Zack on his songs and the Music Man today, then went to Simpson for a recital run-through with a student. Laundry, cooking, dog walking, and some more garage cleaning and of course - watching American Idol - rounded out the vacation day.

Note to Tara: Zack's friend is okay. She came over tonight. Two of the four suffered concussions and all but one was wearing their seatbelts. The car is totaled as it rolled more than one revolution in the ditch. Thank goodness they are all okay!

3/14/11

Spring Break continues...

I think our freeze/thaw cycle is about to end as it only got down to a low of 26 last night and the forecast going forward is not to get below freezing during the night for the rest of the week. That means no more singletrack after this morning until things dry out a bit. At least the Summerset Trail is clear and ready to ride. I did the 28 mile round trip from the house yesterday afternoon. I will ride it quite a bit this week trying to boost my weekly hours from the 6 I hit this week and last on the bike to more like 8-10 to get ready for the Bone Bender race coming up in 5 weeks.

The tires I am testing are proving to be a very perfect fit for the JET 9. I've got the option to run a bit more bite up front with a Karma 1.9 or Bontrager XR, but with the tubeless pressures I use and the inner rim width of the Crest - the front tire is working. Sure, I can slide it out and off camber as well as ruts require full attention, but so what else is new for minimal tread, smaller volume race tires.

I took the JET through some singletrack yesterday morning and quickly realized the overnight freeze was melting too quickly. A bit of mud stuck on my tires and I was starting to leave tire marks in the trail. My bad. Good news is that I am doing trail work at Banner this weekend and will repair anything that I did.

Here's the JET with the prototypes and a bit of residual mud from the morning ride:

JET is ready to roll...

A bit more tread than the Crow and Raven 2.0 and a pretty exciting addition to the 29"er line up.

The bike is hopped up and ready to roll at 24.87 lbs. I've got to check the rear derailleur alignment, cable and limit screws. It was jumping between the two smallest cogs when I was in the big ring up front and hammering. Temperatures will be rising starting today and getting warmer all week, so a spring garage clean is due and then I can tinker with the JET while I am at it.

3/13/11

Meat me this weekend...

Pastrami weekend it is. I used to eat pastrami way too often from Mama Joy's Deli on Broadway in New York City. It had a good kick to it, so I found a recipe (in my previous post) that was destined to give me kick. I followed a couple of bloggers who smoke a lot of brisket, corned beef and pastrami to get ideas on how to tackle this challenge. One blog said to use multiple fresh water rinses to de-brine the corned beef that I bought for 48 hours while the other blog said to skip that step and go right to the rub. So I met them 1/2 way and fresh water rinsed the corned beef for 24 hours.

I go up this morning and maid the pastrami rub:

* 4 tablespoons kosher salt
* 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
* 3 tablespoons ground coriander
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoons ground mustard seed
* 1 tablespoon ground chipolte pepper
* 1 tablespoon onion powder

Man, that rub smelled good!!!!

Tara had purchased a big pork loin on sale that was in the fridge, so I decided to smoke it today as well using a different rub more oriented for the pork. 1/2 will be eaten by Zack and I starting tonight, and the other 1/2 I will slice up after smoking it and freeze it for a couple of meals when Tara and Alexa get home from their spring break in California. At least that's the plan.

Here's the meat for today's smoke, the 2 rubs and the selected chips for the smoke.

Got meat?

My heart skipped a few beats just looking at that photo!!

The time change threw me off a little bit this morning, but after I got up, I lit the fire, rubbed the meat, took the dogs for a walk, showered, had breakfast and then went to check on the fire. Sweet! The pre-smoking temp was up at 620 degrees which is just about where I want it before setting things up for indirect smoking:

Smokin' hot at 620 degrees...

On went the meat and yes, like Anne Burrell, I was talking to the meat and rub all morning in hopes that would help. ;-}

The challenge today was to keep things moist. Pork loin can dry out easily and require a lower temperature for the meat to get to before it is done that the pastrami. I like to use a spray every 45 minutes to keep things moist, so I mixed Brandy and Pomegranate Juice (you can use Apple Juice, Brandy, Wine - whatever) and sprayed everything on a timely basis to keep the meat moist. I wrapped the loins in foil at the 2 1/2 hour point after spraying them and lathering them up with Michigan Cherry BBQ rub:

Oooo...la....la....

Oooo.....look at that pastrami up front. Yummy.

One more spray and off I went on a 2 1/2 hour bike ride while things smoked on...

I came back and removed the pork loins. I couldn't believe how much juice was dripping everywhere. I kept the Green Egg at a bit lower temperature today to break down the tissue in the brisket and not to overcook the loin. Rather than up at 225, I kept things around 190 - 210 all day.

I took the loins into the kitchen to cool before cutting and freezing:

Double Pork Loins

I wrapped the pastrami in foil for the final hour of smoking. Then I doctored up some Bush's Beans and made cornbread for tonight's feast. I cut 1/2 of the loin into 2 meals, wrapped them in foil and then Cling Wrap (a la Tara's instructions via Chuck) to freeze. I snuck a bite of the loin. Wow!!! I couldn't believe how moist it was and hot - as in spice. Delicious.

I took the pastrami off the Egg and put it in the cooler wrapped in towels to keep the tissue break down process going. Once it cools, I will put it in the fridge over night to get it ready for pastrami sandwich slicing tomorrow (and I will freeze some for Tara and Alexa to experience when they get home).

Now, time to eat the loin, beans and cornbread with Zack!

Here's a plated serving of very moist pork loin. Success!!!

Pork Loin that is moist - imagine that?

A bit about the beans. Bush's bourbon & brown sugar canned beans was the base. I added a diced onion, some cherry BBQ sauce, onion powder, fresh garlic, the remaining pomegranate/brandy spray from the smoke and some black pepper. Slow cooked them for a good 40 minutes and voila! Tasty Bush's beans.

How did everything taste? Well, Zack started humming and then singing - so I guess he liked it. Me? I thought it was one of my top efforts. I can't wait until tomorrow to slice the pastrami, put it on some rye (I need to go buy some tomorrow morning), load it up with mustard and a bit of melted cheese for a New York Deli pastrami sandwich.

Here's tonight's meal being enjoyed...

Tasting great!!!

3/11/11

Pot Roast and Pastrami...

All the hours on the bike has stirred up my appetite. Combine that with favorable weather and temperatures to fire up the Big Green Egg I've decided to take advantage of all the brisket and corned beef being sold in the stores at the moment ('tis St. Pat's season and what not) and shoot for some pastrami this weekend. I did a pot roast last night to curb my hunger and used some nice cherry rub and sauce from Michigan (thumbs up from the family on the taste!!!).

Today, I'll start soaking the brine out of the corned beef package I bought to get as much of the salt out as possible to get ready for the pastrami smoke.

Here's the recipe for my first attempt at making pastrami:

* 4 tablespoons kosher salt
* 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
* 3 tablespoons ground coriander
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoons ground mustard seed
* 1 tablespoon ground chipolte pepper
* 1 tablespoon onion powder

It's supposed to look like this in the smoker...

Pastramify It!

Spring Break starts in 9 hours!!!

3/6/11

Frozen Tundra cycle continues...

I'm still taking advantage of the freeze-thaw cycle by riding in the morning on the cold days out at Lake Ahquabi and Banner Pits. Last year was a bust for outdoor training from January - March for me due to the record amount of snow. I missed the hill climbing on singletrack and doubletrack because of it and the winter was followed by such wet conditions with epic rain, that off road riding was almost slim to none by the time XC race season started. This year, thanks to not much snow and favorable weather, I've ridden in December, January, February and now March to keep me in a reality check for climbing on dirt. Big thumbs up on that as no amount of training in the basement can equal actual climbing on dirt.

I headed out today for 2 laps at Lake Ahquabi while temperatures were 24 - 27 degrees. Not frozen solid, but enough to make most of the lap excellent riding. By the end of the 2nd lap this morning, things were warming up and the bike slowed way down as the tires started to sink into the mud. There were a lot of sections that reminded me of riding on what I would imagine frozen Special K and milk would feel like if frozen. It just crumbled beneath my tires and made navigating the front wheel fun and exciting.

I took the spacer out of my old REBA to jack it up from 80mm of travel to 100mm of travel and loved the feel. I trimmed off 20mm's of steerer tube, but the bars still feel a tad high (can't flip the stem to get things down as it's a 0 degree stem).

REBA spacer removed

I'll wait a bit until some more off road rides, but I may trim some more off or take the fork apart and trim a spacer down to shoot for 90 - 94mm of travel. For now, the 100mm feels great and makes me wonder what I've been doing riding a Dos for 5 years at 80mm!!! Steering feels the same if not better and the extra cush was thanked by my arms, wrists and upper body.

A bit of post ride mud today from the 2 hours at Lake Ahquabi, but not too much...

Dos Niner with 100mm REBA

It looks like I might get 4 morning rides in this week using the freeze/thaw cycle according to the forecast. I know my days are numbered for that until we get too muddy for spring riding, but I'm enjoying it while I can.