Messing around with race blade fenders

“It’s not that I don’t wanna get wet, it’s that I don’t wanna get that wet.”

I’ve been pretty dissatisfied with my State Bicycle Warhawk as a rain bike so I’ve been thinking about putting fenders back on my GTR. When it had fenders earlier in the year and last year the clearances were really tight and since I just read an article in Bicycle Quarterly about fender safety I decided to maybe try something else. I was searching around on the internet and raceblades came up for sale on the REI website for $35 so I went ahead and bought them yesterday. They showed up today!

Installation was pretty fast, I ended up completely disassembling my front brake and cleaning it out so that added a significant amount of time. All told it took me 80 minutes, I know this because I had the movie “Devil” playing in the background. Not a great movie but it gave me something to glance at every now and again. I guess if I was just installing the fenders for the first time I could get them on and adjusted in about a half an hour. After that it’s like a 2-3 minute process to remove them via quick release.

I haven’t ridden them yet but first impressions are pretty good. The seem to mount well and come off pretty easily while still staying rigid when mounted. Time will tell if the quick release mounts hold up to use. I really only plan to remove them for the Marietta Crit and the odd time I need to put my bike in my trunk, maybe 8-10 times a year. I do wish the front fender was longer, as you can tell from the pictures it’s like 4-5 inches too short I’ll have to make a mud-flap to get the coverage I want. Although I’ll probably have to do that for the rear as well since the interior section stops about two inches above the derailleur hanger.

If you’re interested in some more comprehensive detail shots, here’s a link to a really nice review:http://www.bikecommuters.com/2014/01/15/review-sks-raceblade-long-fenders/
And here’s a link to a great installation guide:http://guides.wiggle.co.uk/fitting-guide-sks-raceblades/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=wiggle-social-media&utm_campaign=Review%2BTeam

IMG_0559

IMG_0560

IMG_0561

IMG_0562

Southern Cross 2015

These leg warmers were black four and half hours ago.

IMG_0535

Handlebar tape was a nice ivory as well.
IMG_0536

šŸ™‚
IMG_0537

Quick notes: I ran 60/65 PSI and this was way too high. Try 45/55 next time. Seat needs to go down 5mm or so when the terrain is rough.

2015-03-17_13-11-46

It makes the most sense to recollect this race into the following segements.

1. The beginning; pavement and rain: As is known, the first four miles are pavement, a neutral start with some rolling hills. I started right around the middle of the pack and spent this time moving up past the slower riders, fat bikes and SS MTBs. I probably should have beenĀ  a little more aggressive with my starting placement but some uncertainty with the weather caused me to lose my top 20 positioning to run back to the car for some additional gear. I didn’t use the items I retrieved but it was nice to have them.

2. Get in the pit; the shock of mud: Once the pack crossed the Etowah river there is a slight rise and then it’s straight onto the dirt/gravel roadway. This transition area was one of the most destroyed areas in the race. Huge puddles, deep mud and slippery conditions. I hit this section in a pack of four or five other riders and was blasted with muddy water instantly from both sides, it was pretty amazing. The rest of this section is rolling hills with slippery corners and medium depth mud. Sometime during this section my saddle bag come loose and hits the group with a loud thump. I stop and wracked with embarrassment, lose 10-11 places as I reattach. I get back underway and within a few miles we are delivered onto the first climb of the day. This is the intro section to Winding Stair and is fairly straight and only moderately steep. My heart explodes in my chest within the first thirty seconds. I am mentally prepared for this and take the climb steady and at the stop I immediately eat a gel with 50mg caffeine. I am also trying my best to drink as much as possible as often as possible. My bottles are covered with mud and I ingest quite a bit of mud, sand and road miscellany with each sip.

3. Death; climbing in purgatory: The most Sisyphean occurrence of my life thus far, the climb begins surrounded by a slight mist, though as I move with and eventually through the battlefield of broken riders our world becomes enshrouded in a thick blanket of gray nothingness. At some points I can barely see the riders a few yards ahead. All I can tell is that I am surrounded by the skeleton of forest and the road goes up, up,up for eternity. The road here is covered in the snakes of other rider’s tracks, each corner slick with mud but no hazard exists as we round the turns at less than 5 miles an hour. My heart is racing, but it is a steady, comforting pace. There is no reprieve from the relentless climb but all the same it does not choose to punish us more. It seems the climbing will not end but it will not become any more difficult. At one point earlier we had passed a runner, a man wrestling his own demons as he stomped through the Georgia Death Race. Near the mid point of the climb the man appears again, moving through the swaying train of riders like a lightning bolt. One foot in front of the other at a speed that seems incomprehensible to us as we grind away with our machines, barely turning the pedals over forty, fifty times a minute. He comes and goes so quickly there is murmuring of an apparition, no corporeal being could be so strong in the face of such a monster. Near the end of the climb the sound of human beings, unattached to two wheels, can be heard. The clanging of bells and the shouts of encouragement. It is here that the mountain tells the cruelest lie of all. The final section feels the steepest and most treacherous with slick rocks that jut from the road and rob our tires of traction, causing us to lurch forward like some mad half-man, half-machine horror. Just as soon as the road rears up and begins to crush our spirit in it’s maw it is beaten back and we are able to relent. Tents and men burst into view, the thick mist making them appear as if conjured from nothing. A man is reading the muddy number plates on each rider’s machine and shouting to his compatriot to retrieve our drop bags, ziplock bags containing the items we thought we might need to continue in the face of overwhelming adversity. I have none and the shouts of my number are met with a panicked look before I shake my head and quickly gasp that I have none, all the weapons I need are stowed on my person or strapped to my bike. Heavy as lead and covered in grit and mud. Several people dash around the aid station as I request a refill on one of my water bottles, gobble a small cup of soda and tumbler of chocolate covered peanuts. Riders are cresting the summit and pouring themselves left and right as they recover and perform the mental calculations needed to decide how to handle the next section.

4. Forgetfulness; false descents: In my nonchalance I had neglected to study the course map in any great detail and had thought the main descent came directly after the summit. This is not the case, there are more than seven miles of rolling ridgeline riding that will be done before we are required to blast downhill. I ride this section in a daze, my heartrate slowly lowers and I eat and drink as much as I dare, expecting the road to drop away around the next corner. I pass no one and am passed by no one during this section. The air is thick and gray and the passing trees and rain of mud from my front tire are the only indications of movement. I am no longer sure of my own existence.

5. Descending; down, down, down: After spending almost an hour expecting a hazardous descent I am stressed and exhausted when the road finally drops away and I accelerate with the ferocity that can only be caused by the weight of an entire planet. The actual descent lasts of less than a quarter of an hour but it feels like an eternity. The corners are filled with washboard ruts or off-camber mud puddles or rocks or automobiles. I am passed by four or five riders, each one blasting by at several times my speed. I want to be envious but my overactive sense of preservation locks down such emotion and I trudge down the mountain at a speed slightly better than walking. My hands cramp and grit fills my eyes but I do not crash and IĀ  feel my spirit rejuvenated and ready for the next section.

6. No longer red, now gray: The road levels off as we ride a short section of pavement. I rejoin the riders that passed me on the descent and we enter the next gravel section together. Here the road is gray and smooth, at least for a few miles. I eat another gel with 50mg caffeine and slowly take stock of my compatriots. The climbs here feel short and each time the road angles up I surge ahead of the other riders, I feel good so I do not dally and continue at my own pace, dropping the other riders and slowly catching and passing several riders as we wind through the forest. We pass several campsites and near the middle of the climb more runners appear, they are heading down the mountain and seem in good spirits as we pass. This climb is an interesting juxtaposition of the first climb, it is almost twice as long by mileage but about half as steep by grade. As such it feels relaxed and much less traumatic. The company of the runner and other riders combined with this ease of grade allow hope to return and some sections even feel pleasurable. This climb is manageable and that brings joy.

 

Southern Cross 2015 Links:

Snowy Mountain Photography Gallery: http://www.snowymountainphotography.com/Sports/Cyclocross/2015-Cyclocross/SouthernCX2015/
Lee Henson Facebook Gallery: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1586851278225436.1073741883.1434601693450396&type=1

WTB Nano and Monster Cross?

IMG_0545

After feeling under-gunned at the Assault on Mt Currahee I decided to get something a little bigger/more aggressive than the small block 8 tires I was running. There aren’t a lot of options in the 40c size so I ordered one of the cheaper options and went with the WTB Nano with wire bead. After I ordered the tires it occurred to me that I might want to measure the fork clearance and I found that it might be pretty tight with a large tire. I was a little stressed by this but one I got the tires and mounted them it was obvious I had more than enough room.

The tires are reasonably aggressive and mounted easily. They measured out to 37mm on my 24mm outside width rims. Not really having anywhere else to ride these I decided to take then onto the Sope Creek trails. These trails are fairly technical and rocky/rooty so I figured I would end up going pretty slow. Turns out I was mistaken, the bike and the tires performed really well and I was slower than my MTB but a lot less than I originally expected. My ride ended up be about 20 miles with a little bit less than 4 miles being on trails/gravel, the rest on pavement. I had the tires around 60 PSI and this is obviously way to high for MTB trails but it seemed to work fine, if a little jarring. Toe overlap is a major issue and apparently I love swinging around my front wheel as I had to constantly keep an eye on what I was doing to avoid crashing due to foot/tire interference.

Here’s an example of the lower loop at Sope Creek:IMG_0549

I guess this was technically a monster cross ride so that’s something. In the past I’ve been enamored with the concept, having a kick ass bike that you can take anywhere. In my mind I’d be blasting down the road, see a cool trail and just hop the curb and start shredding some serious gnar. In reality, you’re going have to adjust your tire pressure, run compromise tires that suck as both road and trails and deal with poor human/bicycle fit (toe overlap) or run some weird geometry. The main things I noticed were that the tires were really too small to be fun on the trails and the knobs were too aggressive to be fun on the road. Cornering felt like shit as the bike got all squirrelly due to the knob-flex. I also noted the center rib tended to grab the painted lines and any raised lines in the road. It wasn’t a major issue but it was kind of disconcerting when it happened. Maybe Atlanta area road paint is just exceptionally thick?

Monster cross is probably better for a different environment but after riding my road bikes on gravel and some short trails and then this cyclocross bike with monster cross tires, I’m not quite sure the latter is really needed. I mean, you’re not going to be tackling sick mud pits on road slicks but you can ride pretty much anything that would be fun on a 28c tire, I think.