Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Slow Burn

Time to put the white bibs and shoes away. No more seersucker jerseys until next spring. School's open, drive carefully. That must mean I'm finally in shape.

After Saturday's 80 mile can of whoop-ass, we went out for a jaunt around Fountainhead on Sunday. Andrew was at it again, stomping on the accelerator from the get go. It takes my legs a bit longer to wake up, but I got there, and rode just fine. I was pretty happy with a couple of things.

First, I feel like I've gotten my gear dialed in pretty well. The UST tubeless front tire I started using this summer (Bontrager Jones ACX (?) 2.1) has been good all along. The first time I used it, I felt like I was washing it out all the time. That went away when I dropped a couple of pounds of pressure from it, which was coincident with me finally learning to keep my weight off the front of the bike, and to keep my fingers off the front brake. You can possibly imagine the benefits that this confluence would provide. The rear tire that Paul hooked me with a few weeks ago (Bontrager XC (?) Tubeless Ready 2.0) is now firmly in its element. If you run it with too much pressure, it's okay to fairly unimpressive. It's adequate, you just wind up walking up a lot of stuff that you shouldn't because the small knobs do NOT hook up with dry dirt when the tire is overinflated. Taken down to 28 psi, the thing is a champ. It's a fairly skinny tire, so there isn't a whole ass bag of volume there. Translation: you're going to bottom out on your rim every once in a while. Perhaps because it's a narrowish tire and I am using narrowish rims, there is ZERO squirm from this tire. I hate squirm, it freaks me out and saps my confidence in what the bike's going to do. The tire/rim interface still isn't 100% ideal, I definitely burped a few PSI out of the thing during the course of the ride, but apart from that I'm all good with this setup.

Second, I feel like I might have grown a pair of balls in terms of taking bouncier and twistier sections at pace. Jim had a pretty good experience doing the bull dance, feeling the flow this weekend, and uses a skiing analogy that occurs to me as well. When I first got bump skiing, I'd do a section really well but then reach a point where my weight would gradually, inexorably start drifting back, which is a cycle that accelerates at blinding speed and inevitably ends with you shot off your line and needing to regroup. When I learned whatever it was that I learned to keep my weight forward, everything came together. Same thing in mountain biking, only in reverse: now that I'm keeping my weight back, a whole lot of good things are happening with my turns and control. On a lot of sections, I'm going way faster but feeling a lot less haired out. Being relaxed on those sections allows me to recover a little bit, which lets me go harder on the uphill and grinding flat sections. Happy happy joy joy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still marginal at best at this shit, I've just gotten onto a new ladder rung, from which I can see the fruited plains of really not sucking. I'm going to ride the bejeesus out of my current setup until either it gives evidence of slowing me down (and yes, I would be some increment faster/better/whatever on different gear, but I'd still suck and that would be the big problem) or it all just falls apart and wholesale replacement is the logical option.

Three outings into using the Garmin, and I like it. The display flexibility is great, its functionality on both bikes is great (not that I ever looked at it on the mountain bike), and some of the route stuff is neat. It automatically starts a new lap for you when you're doing circuits, which is kind of cool. The lap display is pretty neat. The rubric under which I'm judging this thing is that a head unit would have cost me the same whether I got the Garmin one or the regular PowerTap one, and I'm glad I got this one. I'm a tiny bit concerned about the security of the mount while on the mountain bike. There are ways around that.

So maybe Turkey Day this coming weekend, and then a race in NJ the weekend after. The race in NJ is a cool one, an odd duck of a course but a fun one. I tried really hard to win it last year as a 4, and came pretty f-ing close. My game is such that trying hard to win something is more of a get rich or die trying proposition, and that's what I tried. Unfortunately, I got caught within sniffing distance of the line. Oh well it made a good show for the crowds and it was a good move.

Very cool to read on VeloNews.com about Rugg spending time off the front in the crit at Green Mountain. That's a race I'd maybe like to try next year, but it seems to me that unless you go there with exceptional condition, it's just going to be kind of a painful experience, mentally as much as physically. Being on the back side of the bell curve at an event like that is pretty punishing. But plenty of people from around here rode well and distinguished themselves (and for the person for whom we were rooting the hardest that meant making it through the event, which he did, and which we cheered) and that's really cool. We live in a place where people are pretty fast.

Mark your calendar for 10/23. Something different than the other thing is happening on that date. It's going to be really fun.


Jim said...

You on 29" tires or baby tires? If you're on 29'ers the most planted feeling in the world comes from putting a 700x35 rim on your front end. The Velocity P-35 has totally changed how my rigid single handles, and it makes the front end look like a clown bike, which is wicked cool. (Realizing you'd have to go with the tape & gu Stan's solution rather than sano UST rims if you rolled that way. Looking forward to trying it on the geared Lead Sled at some point. Glad you waited until after Greenbriar to change over to this wheelset based on your discussion about its unnerving tendencies at the wrong air pressure levels. I talk out the ass a lot but one thing I generally speak from experience on is how to screw things up.

FWIW, 28 PSI for somebody your size is *high* particularly if you're running tubless. Don't know how you're getting it to burp at that PSI... I run 28-30 *max* with a tubed setup and usually run closer to 24-25, and have gone as low as 20-22 on really fat 29'er tires. You might want to bring a pump to the parking lot one day, and do a bunch of short loops somewhere until you find out how low you can go without jeopardizing rim integrity and bad burping. Wakefield would be a good place to try this since the dragon shell sections test a tire to its limits and it'd be a short walk back to the car if you misjudged.

Chuck Wagon said...

DAMN! That's good info. I'm still on mini wheels, although THE LUST has set in - bad - for big boy wheels. Just going to ride the current rig into the ground first. Everyone I talk to one 29ers is kind of like "umm, yeah, I guess my bike has tires." Apparently they're a less critical application than 26" tires, where everyone seems to be wicked specific about every little thing when it comes to tires.

Re: burping, I think my non-UST setup is a little tweaked. With this rear tire (rear tire is "tubeless ready," rim is a non-UST Mavic - the front is UST rim & tire), I've never heard that nice "POP" with the tire seating. I've taken it up to 60 PSI, and it airs right the heck up with a floor pump, but it's never seated audibly like other tires have.

How do we get on the list for all of these super secret Patapsco sessions? I never go there because I'm sure I'll wind up in an episode of "Land of the Lost." It's a fooking jungle in there.

Good suggestion on Wakefield as a test track.