Archive for the 1 Category

A Little Death on the Right

Posted in 1 on April 7, 2010 by bencycles

Over 15 years riding mountain bikes and last weekend was my first time riding Moab, which makes me think one thing:

Why the f*@k did I wait so long?

Well I was usually too broke/too busy/too racing/too schooling/too working… always too something. But also a tad too habitual about where I ride sometimes, I think. Especially nowadays with such limited time.  How in the world was I ever “too busy” before I had a family/job/mortgage…? wuss.

I’m protective of my “on the bike” time and once I’ve found a route which fits the intensity and time requirements I want, I tend to stick with it. I find 3 or 4 routes I like and am very content.  I think that’s good for efficient training when time is minimized.

But don’t underestimate the power of adventure.

The Monday night before Easter weekend, my buddy J who works in Moab emailed to see if we wanted to come out for the weekend. I told him I’d have to check with the Prof, thinking there’s no way in hell this is gonna happen. Besides, I’d barely gotten over being sick the week before and wrote it off. “Oh well, someday…” So when Prof texted back “hell yeah”… well, I didn’t believe her, but it was game on!

Packed the Prius with: 3 bikes, blankets, food, hiking gear, biking gear, sleeping gear, clothes, cameras….
0331001804 How did that fit? Could I do it again on the other side?

We pulled out Wednesday night. The plan was to take turns driving the 12 hours to Moab through the night while Sprout slept. It was a great plan except for two little problems: 1) Giant blizzard through Utah and 2) Sprout didn’t sleep.  And mixing number 1 with number 2 made our plan less than ideal.

But at last we made it to J’s place, though about 4 hours later than expected.

He’s a Ranger at Arches…

…and has a cool place in the park which he shares with a nice selection of bikes…

… a motorcycle…

…and a dog, Choco.

We unpacked the car, grabbed some food in Moab, and went off for a hike in Arches, at which point the sprout promptly fell asleep.

Took her back to the pad.

Working with little more than sleepless lunacy, it was time to do the thing I came to do: Slickrock!

Jacob rock’n the slickrock:

It lived up to the hype. That trail is amazing. I felt like I was in the movie Tread. It’s like a skate park. Oh wait, it is a skate park…

Actually, it was kind of a park for anything with wheels.


cars, motorcycles, bikes, skateboards. And even stuff without wheels like…kites!

Besides the kite flying, Sprout seemed to enjoy exploring the moonscape immensely.

The next day was time for a little double whammy action of the Amasa Back trail followed by the Sovereign trail.

Turned out it was the same weekend as the Jeep Jamboree…


…and there were plenty to be had on Amasa Back. But contrary to what I’d heard, we had no problem getting on the trail and the drivers were really friendly as we passed them, stopping and waving us through. Plus, I kind of enjoyed watching them on a couple of the tricky parts.


The drivers seemed just as interested in what we could ride over as I was of what they could drive over. Plus, check these bad boys out:

I feel so manly

I felt like more of a man just standing there!

Oh yeah, the trail…



Amasa Back is an out and back with some good climbing and amazing views at the top.



Best of all, you get to come back down. It’s a pretty technical trail (at least for a skinny xc guy like me) with some nice steps sections where I made the save of my life right in front of some family out for a ride. Cool points. I hit the 2nd step with too much forward weight and started going over. The slow motion kind where you know the tax man is coming. I unclipped the left foot to bail but that was just gonna land me in a big rock garden 10 feet down. Hell no I wasn’t gonna do that. I opted for the skin-of-my-teeth-noway-it’s-gonna-work method. I nose wheeled down the last 3 steps, ass in the air, holding on for deer life, left foot flailing around to counterbalance. If I wasn’t on those 29″ wheels, there’s no way I would have pulled that off.

It’s a great feeling when you pick up your cards and find aces.

Got to the bottom, played it off all cool like, and counted my blessings. I could ride another day. In fact, I could ride again the same day. Sweet! Time to hit up the Sovereign trail. Most of the trails around Moab were originally made by jeeps and motorcycles and this trail was no different. And while the other trails I rode had better views and were also awesome, I have to say in terms of just riding, the Sovereign trail was one of my favorites. Fun flowing singletrack with a good mix of rock gardens and short steep ups/downs. Just fast fun and exciting.

Hmmm, I don’t seem to have any pics, guess I was enjoying myself too much.

The final day of riding was a shuttle day on the Porcupine Rim trail, another amazing trail. We started with 3 miles of continuous climbing up to I think around 7000 feet (chilly!)…


…with some amazing views at the top…

…followed by some crazy amount of good times going downhill. A couple sections of the trail skirt pretty closely to the edge of the cliff. Just ride smart, know when to get off and walk, and all is good. Otherwise, as the guidebook says: “…go ahead, ride it all. I believe in natural selection.”

With a bucket-load of fun trails fresh in my skull, it was time for some good food and drink, relaxing, and a little sleep. I hung with the Sprout so the the Prof could ride a couple times, too. I was stoked to hear that the Prof had a super duper time on the Moab slickrock and wished I could have ridden with her to share the fun. But alas, tag-teaming appears to be the way of the parent when one wants a bit of adventure.

It was time to reload the car and make the drive home.


At home by midnight and back to work at 8am. That was a good adventure.

But next time, I’m not bringing freeze dried strawberries:




Ill Timed Week

Posted in 1 on March 28, 2010 by bencycles

Todays race at Fontana was quite the disastrous bummer. I positioned myself well during the start and had good positioning going up the climb but only managed one lap before DNFing and spent the next hour violently coughing and cramping in my throat, which is very uncomfortable, I must say.

It all started last week, when I had to go to a 6 day science conference in San Francisco.

I saw some interesting presentations, checked out a few cool pubs/restaurants/sights and caught up with some colleagues I’d worked with back in England last summer. I was really enjoying the first few days but the last two days I was miserably sick. To whomever I was sitting near on the plane home: I offer my most sincere apologies for infecting you.

So on top of not riding all week (tapering…?) and messing up my sleep/diet routine (drinking…) and being sick, let’s just say I wasn’t feeling the A-game. Better to cut my losses now than have it linger into the next race.

In the meantime, here is stuff I’ve been up to.

Gotta work up some reactions before I can go ride, but it looks like I’m ready to pull off the coat and hit the trails.Trail conditions have been stellar.Gordon at B & L set up a cool Frankenstein shifter set up for me using some spare parts one of the other mechs had. So now I am running a trigger 9-speed rear and a gripshift front so I can run a XX front derailleur with my XX chainrings until I can get my hands on a proper trigger. So I’m running a 2X9 system with XX front rings and front Der. It works great, but it does feel strange twisting on the left and shooting on the right. But then again, I hear that’s the best way to twist…

I set up our baby trailer onto the back of the bike I bought for the Professor whilst I was in England. And with the Sprout’s bike in tow behind, the thing looks super dope.

I was tempted to move to San Francisco just for the food and the coffee…

But in the end, I’m still pretty happy right here in Encinitas…

Oh, and I’ve gotten a couple comments about my toolbox that I bring to the races. So I end it with this. The picture doesn’t do the fuzzy top and teddy bears justice.


Sagebrush Safari

Posted in 1 on February 28, 2010 by bencycles

Just did the first race of the Kenda Cup West series and Im really happy with how it went. On the podium with a 2nd place finish in the cat 1 35-39 bracket! sweet. I was really nervous coming into this race for a few reasons. I’d done well at a couple races before this one but they were smaller and shorter. Sagebrush Safari, the name of the event, is a long oldschool format with a lot of climbing and a big crowd. Plus I was sick this week and hadn’t been riding. I figured I would either do really well from all the rest or just die withing the first 30 minutes. The only way to know was to do the damn thing. With a big field, I really just wanted to make the top 60% so I’d lock in an invite to the invitational Unification race and get that monkey off my back.

The course starts on a paved road with a long steep climb. I stayed mellow and just spun in the top 10 trying to warm up since I got there late and couldn’t warm up before the race. Feeling good, but not confident it would last, I kept in the top 5 ’till we hit the climb and a guy took off. No one responded so I figured I’d better throw down… Grabbed a gap on the group and kept the guy in sight. For a little while.

The race was game on the entire time after that. No rest. It was hard to know who was in my division since there were so many guys and gals out there. I just raced ’em all.

Which brings up a couple observations: First, it was rad to see so many people out racing mountain bikes! I really hope that enthusiasm for mountain biking sticks around. Second, I could tell it was a lot of peoples first race of the season with their new bikes. Lots of people making adjustments on new gear along the trail. You think you have your bike dialed until you race it and that’s where you find the details. I was glad to have done a couple “B” races to sort my new bike out before Sagebrush so I could go into that race knowing at least my gear was gonna be dialed even if I wasn’t.

My bike worked really well with the new 39×26 front double. It felt just right and worked really well under those muddy conditions.

Also, now that the Sprout is getting older (3 in may!?), traveling to and being at races is getting a little easier on us (er, mostly my wife…Thanks!). The Sprout is so interactive now and independent. It’s a huge help, plus it’s amazing to see this little person becoming more and more of a person. Now if we can just find the secret recipe to avoid the hour of meltdown we get upon our return from a long day of racing. I think the combination of playing with a bunch of new kids, being out in the sun and weather all day, not getting a good nap in the car, and not eating enough (she is such a distracted bird about eating) contribute to her just completely unwinding in the known environment of home via total disintegration. With all 3 of us exhausted from the long day, that hour can be tough until we all get some food in our stomachs. After she eats and we chill on the couch together for a bit watching Elmo, things are right as rain again.

Also, I brewed a new batch of beer the night before the race.

Sweet! Except I came home from the race to see the yeast had really gone wild and was shooting up a fine misty geyser of sticky fermenting beer all over the walls and ceiling! Oops. I removed the bubbler and replace it with a large tube to allow the kraeusen to drain into a separate container rather than spray all over my walls. I’ll rack it into a secondary fermenter tomorrow and load it with a handful of oak chips and dry hop it with some more cascade hops for aroma. The house smells really good!

More Changes

Posted in 1 on February 24, 2010 by bencycles

Besides trying to find a blog theme I like, I’ve been tinkering with my bike some more. I spend way too much time thinking about my gear. I’m such a gear dork. And I’m listening to Bauhaus which means I’m beyond hope…

Anyways… Gordon at B&L Bikes had replaced the stock triple on my new bike for the Sworks mtb double:
Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

It was a big improvement from the wider stance of a triple because I find the narrower width to be more comfortable on longer rides. Plus I think doubles perform better in races and if the middle ring were just a little smaller I’d never need the…. blah blah blah.

The double is my holly grail, apparently.

The stock double set up on the crank was a 42 x 26. During the last couple races I found the 42 a little big for my skinny legs and I was spending the majority of the time in the last 3 gears of the cassette but then when I’d drop to the 26, I was loosing too much gear and would have to upshift a couple times to get my rhythm back.  I wanted to tighten up the range by reducing the size of my big ring. So I just got this put on:

Because the spider is replaceable on the Specialized crank,  Gordon was able to swap out the spider/ring assembly and set me up with XX rings in the 26X39 combo I crave. I’m running them on a 9spd drivetrain with a shifter/derailleur designed for a triple and, at least riding around the neighborhood, they shift really really well. Much smoother transition compared to the 26X42 combo. Can’t wait to try it out this weekend.

Posted in 1 on February 21, 2010 by bencycles

This is from Racers and Chasers at Cahuilla Creek last week. Me and Brent at the front of the Pro/Expert start. I think I was ahead of Brent for a good 30 seconds…

Is it 2010 yet?

Posted in 1 on December 13, 2009 by bencycles

I still remember when people were hording duct tape and bottled water for the y2k doomsday that never was. That’s OK, I knew I was old when I was the one chasing kids down the street for knocking over MY mailbox. Full circle, eh? Ever since my return to the states, it seems like my cross form has been shit but the surf has been off the hook! Just good consistent swell each week. Been making it hard to train I guess…

Actually, I was pretty surprised at how bad my cross form was when I got back.  I guess grinding pedals through the alps for 10 hours at a time is a little different from 45 minutes of explosive bursts of speed every 10 seconds. Shoulda saw that coming, but I kinda thought I would just show up with my Euro Aura and dominate that shit. Heh heh, right.

The first couple races were kinda embarrassing. Like getting completely dropped by the entire field in the 1st half a lap sort of embarrassing. By the 3rd or 4th race, my head was starting to get back in, and then it was just a matter of retraining the legs to where now, I can at least scratch into the top 5 again if I’m feeling good. I really wanted to win one (well, more than one) this season, but 2nd was the best I could pull out.  Not quite the thunder I’d expected to show up with upon my return, but frankly I wouldn’t trade my experiences of the other side of the world in a heartbeat. That was a hell of a summer: )

One race left in the series and I’m just counting my blessings as I recall what it felt like this time last year with my broken arm (knocking on wood now). And I’m getting pretty excited about the 2010 season. Looks to be a lot of good mountain bike racing this summer, plus I’m registered for the Breck Epic in August, definitely a major goal for the year. I’m a bit nervous about how I’ll prep for the amount of saddle time this race represents, plus the altitude as I live at sea level now. But hey, I’ve got all those 10 hour rides from Europe in my legs. I’ll be just fine.

With thoughts of warm nights in Italy still fresh in my skull, I leave you with this:

Wrap it Up…

Posted in 1 on November 13, 2009 by bencycles

This video might not be for the epileptics among you. 6 months worth of photos in 3 and a half minutes. I think it’s around 5000 shots… Pretty well tells the whole story, in a nutshell.

Anyway, it’s time to wrap up the Euro stuff ’cause there’s been plenty of goings on along the home front. Hmmm, where to begin?

I made a really fun trip to Wales with Malcolm.

We lucked out with some great weather, at least on Saturday.

I really like road trips with Malcolm.

He’s pretty fun to sit in a car with, plus he always has a great stash of music. And to top it off, he can usually spot a good pub…

We camped in a field on someone’s farm, which is kind of normal in England. You just have to be careful where to park.
The first day we scrambled up Tryfan.
and then around the backside.
Which was a bit of a scramble. Very fun, but you didn’t want to let go.
Cantilever rock

Then we drove to Coed y Brenin for some fun mtb trails.
Coed Y Brenin

Great stuff.

…The very next weekend…

I was off for a whirlwind trip through Italy and Switzerland.
I stayed in a hostel in Sta Maria in Switzerland.
My hostel
Better keep your head downbike room
The rooms were pretty basic
Inside my hostel dorm.
but I think that was really part of the fun. Drinking wine I bought in Italy outside with Swiss and Austrian tourists, eating local cheese and eggs, and drinking the local beer. All fantastic.
All from the villageall made in the Swiss valley
I could sure go for a Bun Tschlin about nowBun Tschling

But geeze, I haven’t even mentioned the riding…

Garmin Connect – Activity Details for Stelvio loop.

Garmin Connect – Activity Details for Mortirolo and Gavia loop..

I guess I’ll just have to make this two parts so I can go into a little more detail about those two routes…

Until next time.