2013 Arizona Trail 300

Even with some downtime and reduced riding, my knees are still in a very questionable state. So bad that I had another bike fitting on Monday to hopefully come up with a last-minute fix for them. Knee problems have forced me to be sidelined for much of my riding and training time this year. I think that if I reduced the load or took time off, they would fix themselves, but passive recovery wasn’t working. I’ve started doing pilates and yoga to remedy any muscular imbalance, core strength, and flexibility issues. I am trying to stay optimistic about the race. I have forged ahead with all the planning, fine tuning of the kit, and getting stoked. I want to have an unreal experience on the trail and hope my body is up for (or will at least be dragged along) what my mind wants.

I will be lining up, trying to stay positive, but am ready to bail at the first signs of sad knees. I’d rather get back to actively recovering them than just DNF-ing later and being sidelined for a whole summer. I also have to train for some other very exciting events following the 300.

You can follow the race at: http://trackleaders.com/aztr13

There is usually quite a bit of commentary and discussion here: http://www.bikepacking.net/forum/index.php/board,2.0.html

Info about the race here, GPX files, waypoints, queue sheets, everything you need to get startedhttp://www.topofusion.com/azt/race.php

Mojo HD

TLDR; Over time, I will be able to fully capture what this bike is all about, but here is a decent start.

Along with Arizona Cyclist, I’ve set out on an adventure to build my fantasy super D, all-mountain crushing, enduro smashing, cliff-sending, mail-hauling, gnar-shredding, do-it-all machine…

I ended up choosing the Ibis Mojo HD as my platform. The suspension performance, strength, reviews, weight, bling-bling factor, and color were all deciding factors. For the fork, I decided go big or go home and went for the Fox Float 36 x 160mm travel (I said all-mountain, right). Propelling and stopping the bike is controlled by a 3×10 XT drivetrain (24/32/bash), SLX shadow+ clutch rear derailleur (so quiet), and XT brakes (so powerful). For pointing the bike, I put my carbon easton havoc bars on a thomson 0deg 70mm stem and set up the cockpit with ODI ruffian grips. For seating, I am using my freshly rebuilt Kind Shock i900-R, “never before has five inches been so impressive” and a WTB rocket V saddle. I’ve had the seatpost for over two years now and it has been a very reliable post. The Kind Shock’s remote lever replaces the inner clamp on ODI ruffian grips which makes for a super-clean setup. All of this rolls on my Bontrager duster hoops laced to Chris King hubs with DT Swiss comp spokes. For rubber, I’m rolling on a Bontrager XR4  so-called 2.35″ in the front and a Specialized 2.4″ purgatory with grid casing in the rear. As my pedal of choice I am rolling some Shimano XT SPDs. For alerting fellow trail users, I am ding-dinging with an incredibell brass duet. For bragging about my 4.5 miles in 1.5 hours, tracking times on sections, guidance on adventures, and following that-trusty-line-I-drew-on-google-earth or making my way along some nonsense monster route I linked together in topofusion, my trusty garmin edge 750 is mounted cleanly to my thomson stem.

Ultimately who cares about a component list? What really matters is how the bike rides! Of course it descends insanely, but how does it climb? More importantly, how does it climb in extremely technical conditions? This bike has the best traction of any bike I have ever ridden, the rear is always hooked up and ready to go. I had some difficulty adapting to a bit harder granny gear ratio ( 0.667 vs 0.647 ), but then again I haven’t been doing much high-intensity technical climbing for a few weeks so that may just be a lack of fitness. The thing I did notice is that even when I have almost come to a standstill during climbing, the bike seems to continue taking a bite. In some very loose conditions, I had the wheel slip about an 1/8th turn and then hook back up, I’ve never had that happen on any other bike. The front end and rear end are well-balanced and I’m confident I can pedal this bike up anything.

I find in all-mountain type riding a shorter stem (70mm in my case) actually helps with technical climbing since A) You allow the front wheel to float up and over obstacles B) The front end is easier to lift up to get the bike up large steps C) You end up with more weight in the rear of the bike putting more weight on the rear during pedaling and therefore more traction. Long-stem-is-better-for-climbing myth debunked (insofar as the AM realm is concerned).

I’ve taken the bike out to jump off cliffs around my hood, a night ride on some local flowy XC trails, a technical climbing and DH ripping fest, and a few shuttle runs of a great local enduro-esque trail. The bike has pushed me to go bigger, faster, and harder. I’ve cleaned some uphill lines that used to give me problems with a bit more ease (this bike has insane traction), sent it off some bigger hits with more confidence, and have been loving every moment on it. Enough words, enjoy the pictures:

Re-Base Training

I should be training for the AZT300, but am being forced to take it easy. I do feel some recovery coming and benefits of yoga and this knee pain website are helping me move along. In short, I am suffering from an overuse injury from severe hamstring tightness and muscular imbalance (there must be something to all that so-called “base training” and “stretching”). I am also following some of pinkbike’s MTB strength training videos to improve riding position too–kill two birds with one stone. I guess I should start from scratch with some good base training (I’ve already taken a few weeks of rest) and lots of shuttling to keep my technical trail riding chops up?

No one wants to see pictures of yoga mats, foam rollers, rubber straps, me doing a bazillion leg lifts, side kicks, pigeon poses, downward dogs, etc. So here are some of the riding photos from late. Oh, and a tiny bit of new bike stoke, still working on material and thoughts to properly showcase the new steed.

Fresh Tracks

With some busted knees from the Tor de 50 I’ve been taking a bit easy and focusing on repairing myself. It has been nearly impossible to take the needed time off for tendonitis recovery with a new bike on the way and a desire to train for the AZT300.

When I saw the forecast for some good snowfall in Tucson, I immediately thought to go ride some local trails in the snow. I bundled up early in the morning and pushed out from my house. As soon as I hit the trails, I was greeted with silence. There was no dirt crunching under my tires, just the muffled white noise of floating over fresh power. Occasionally, I would see bunny and coyote tracks crisscrossing and following the trail for brief segments. Bushes and trees leaned into the trail burdened by the snow. At times I would have to lower my head and use my helmet to charge through the branches. Each time, I was hit with a cold sting that was so alien to me. It was a magical experience riding in such a familiar land in unfamiliar conditions.

This was a new experience for me, but for something totally wild, read my friend Scott’s experiences on his recent Iditarod travels.

Slacker

I am a slacker. I should train. I should ride. I should write. I have tons of excuses, but none of those will matter when I am in the middle of the Canelo Hills pushing a 50lb bike up and over mountains. I didn’t have a bike to ride as one was being fixed and I sold my other bike (to fund building another, of course). I am currently sick, nothing serious, just a painful sore throat, general fatigue, and overwhelming weakness. Blah, blah, blah. Shut up and pedal.

A week ago, I participated in Chad’s Tor de 50, it was an amazing ride for me and I ended up treating it as more of an adventure than a race. I was out there with no confidence in my fitness since the only riding I did a few weeks prior to the race was my weekly sub-five mile ride by Agua Caliente (at least TWO extremely-high-quality, high-intensity miles). The only real preparation that I did for the race, was make tomatillo salsa for the post-ride feast.

Riding in the Tor de 50′s snowy conditions ended up being a real treat and I strangely enjoyed my time in the white land and the orange slop on C-Gap. I had to detour to the hardware store in Catalina to get some chain lube to resurrect my drivetrain after the snow-and-mud-induced chain-suck. This ended up being a great move since I ran into Krista who was heading out to start on the less messy side of the loop in the Torts. She joined me on my quick spin to the store and watched my bike while I ran inside. I found some triflow, paid with a gritty credit card, and headed outside to lube up. Krista helped me push hard on the fast stretch to the Torts. I had to stop and drop some layers, start up some music, and water some cactus while she pressed on. Excuses aside, she dropped me pretty hard and I wanted to save something for the Torts. In the Torts it was sleeting hard and I was shredding singletrack, pumping corners, and jumping everything in sight. The music was great and the flow was even better. Nothing can match that.

I finished the race with some killer pain in my knees, but this was soon forgotten during the great post-ride party with a ton of great riders.

Also, speaking of being a slacker, I am building a slacker bike.

I must train. I must ride. I must write.