Assault on Currahee Mountain 2017 Race Report

9 miles of pavement on a 35 mile course.


But it’s still pretty fun.


What bike did you ride?

Slightly too large Breezer Thunder Comp 26″ hardtail with 36/26 chainrings and a 11-30 9 speed cassette. Tires were Michelin Wild Race’R 2.25. I was happy with how my bike rode – everything worked and the gearing was about perfect.



I need to ride more intelligently in the future. Use the 36 for the flats and mild climbs, the 26 for steeper climbs and all singletrack. The 36 is just too much with such a closely spaced cassette for singletrack – it really wore my back out pushing bigger gears on that terrain.


Impressive! The Michelins felt great on both the dirt and pavement. Solid connection with the ground,  a lot of grip and they handled bumps and oblique impacts really well. Felt fast on pavement, which was especially helpful as the last 5 miles was on pavement into a stiff headwind! I did notice the aggressive corner knobs had some serious flex on the downhill into Lake Russell, more an issue with cornering a mountain bike tire down a winding descent at 30 mph than anything else I suppose.


Breakfast was a Mocha starbucks double shot and 5 sourdough pretzels at about 8am. I lounged until around 9:15 then ate a clif bar and rode around until right before the start. Lined up at the back and just rolled out – seems to help to stay active, even if slowly until it’s time to start riding. On the ride I ate a pack of shot bloks, a power bar and a clif bar. I never felt hungry, fatigued or irritated. All signs I ate well. I only drank about a bottle and half of water even though it was pretty warm. I think this is a combination of being well hydrated before the start and creatine loading the day before. It seems to make my body retain some additional water which keeps me hydrated better.

What was the course like?

Fast, loose and dry. I’ve climbed currahee when it’s been a cold muddy mess, when it’s damp and tacky and now when it’s loose and dry. There was a lot of newer gravel on the course and overall everything was pretty dry and dusty. The two main climbs are very different.

  • Currahee Mountain is in your face from the start and just kicks your ass the whole time, you switchback up these steep climbs and then there is just this wall in the last 400 yards that destroys your motivation but if you keep spinning you’ll make it. Lots of walkers but lots of positive vibes from all the riders. There was a section of chunky loose gravel right about halfway that required some finesse but overall I was ok with my 26/30 gear.
  • Pumping Station Road is the real killer. It’s late in the race, no one is around to tell you good job and smile at you. The road goes up and down, the gravel is large and chunky and it comes after a creek crossing. I was a little bit more on edge here but still managed to get all the way up without walking. This is the climb where bigger tires and smaller gears really shine. You can brute force up Currahee with 700x40mm cross tires but that won’t fly on the 600. I made some serious late race gains here against the rigid cross/gravel bikes.

How’d you do overall?

My race was a wash, a racer crashed and smashed his face into the ground directly in front of me about 40 minutes in so I stopped to help. After about 25 minutes I was able to get back underway but I knew it was just for fun (I guess it always is?) from then on. Still it was fun to pass a bunch of people, attack the climbs and take pics when I felt like it. I certainly wouldn’t do anything differently. I had a lot of fun. The weather was great, my bike worked awesome and the post race meal was delicious.


The Freedom Matrix

Or; how I left the road race-industrial complex.

So much has happened in the past few months. Uh..well at least for my cycling life. If you live and ride a bike in the USA you’d be forgiven for thinking that riding fast and racing were the pinnacle of the experience. This has started changing in recent years but of all the pages printed and all the bandwidth used to discuss bicycle stuff, the majority is going to be about racing and “being fast.”

I got trapped into this myself. Started out innocuous enough; “riding a bike is fun and I see all these things about how racing is awesome so I should do that for the best cycling experience!”

This is wrong. Racing, especially road racing, is not the pinnacle of cycling and a lot of times is just a bunch of bullshit you don’t need. Now, I do like some racing but it’s important to know that being fast should be done sparingly. If you’re just riding around be sure to stop and take a picture or rest or turn off your route to investigate something cool. Sit down to eat your $2 stroopwafel.

For years it was so hard for me to do these things. I was so obsessed with being fast and riding hard so I could be a racer that I wasn’t actually doing things that made me happy. It seemed like I was, mainly because you punish yourself so hard that when you stop you immediately feel awesome and the cause/effect gets conflated. It feels the same as exploring a new route or seeing a beautiful vista or petting a stray cat but those things are not as hard as 195 beats a minute up a 11% grade trying not to get dropped so you can come in 50th our of 180 entrants.

So I’m still racing but now it’s more partici-racing. I’m more interested in the experience than the training or being fast. It’s fun to have an event to prepare for and attend on the weekend. Riding hard and then laying around and napping as the sun sets is such a wonderful experience. Legs sore and body pumping out drugs to make you feel good.

What’s really changed is how I ride now. I’ve abandoned any pretenses of riding fast or being fast on my regular rides. I just pedal along, ready to stop for anything interesting or to rest. It’s so liberating that I wonder how it was so easy to give up in the first place.

So what got me out and back into fun cycling?

  • A front rack – riding in regular clothes usually means you can’t carry much as pockets become unreliable. Having a front rack gives me my tools, food and other stuff right there. Also opens up the possibility of stopping to pick up something cool.
  • Street clothes – doesn’t feel as ridiculous to use a sidewalk to connect to a cool road I never rode before because there wasn’t a good way to get there. Also allows for easier stopping, don’t feel like a idiot sitting around in racing kit.
  • Just not being fast – my first few rides averaging less than 14 miles per hour were hard to deal with but now I don’t care. If I want to be fast I can pick a short segment and blow up there. My rides taken as a whole are for fun and exploration, not speed.

It’s not really much but just having a front rack is what opened up everything else. I can carry what I need so I’m never worried about being stranded and feel comfortable going pretty much anywhere.

I’m still waddling around on vestigial SPD-SL shoes but that’s the next item to change once spring hits.

Don’t pedal downhill road or mtb

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time. Looking in Veloviewer, my fastest bikes for average speed per ride have been my singlespeeds. There’s nothing special about them, I set them up as road single speed and just rode them like normal. Average ride length, time and elevation are all pretty consistent with my regular geared road bikes. Similar weight too although my State Warhawk was heavier than the others by about 5-7 pounds. SS gearing was 72 or 75 gear inches, 700cx25 tires and fenders.

Anyway, my geared bikes generally averaged 16.2 miles per hour, single speeds averaged 16.9 miles per hour. This is pretty crazy, I think the main thing is that single speeds force a total rest on most mild to steep downhills. It’s easy to spin out a 75 inch gear and be forced to coast to rest. This rest then allows for faster speeds on the flats and climbs. I think it’s the same for mtb, you don’t get stuck in that feedback loop of pedaling all the time where you go too fast on the flats and easy corners but then scrub all this wasted speed and wattage because you came in too hot. Better to just flow for most things and have a lower total entry speed but a higher overall speed.

Conversely, on the climbs the lower cadence allows your heart rate to drop and aerobic recovery to occur. So then when you get to the flats you can blast away pretty well rested.

It’s like how air resistance is logarithmic so you end up spending more watts per mph to try to go from 30 to 31 mph on a down hill in 50×11 or whatever than you would if you were trying to go from 16 to 17 mph on the flats.

Michelin Wild Race’r Review – 26 x 2.25

I got these tires because they were reasonably cheap ($24.99 from Wiggle), have a mildly aggressive tread that looks like it will roll well on pavement and were reasonably lightweight. Basically I plan to run these on my gravel hardtail for the 2-3 races I’m participating in this year. Last year I rode Forte Tsali 2.3s which were ok but seemed slow on pavement and smooth gravel. So these seemed like they would be a little faster option.

Here’s Michelin’s webpage for them:

Installation impressions: So far they seem ok. Lateral and radial runout is good, they weigh 600 grams each. First glance and they do appear undersized, right at 2 inches but this may be partially due to the narrow Mavic 317 rims which are only 17.4mm wide on the inside.

First ride impressions: Tires roll faster than the Forte Tsali/Pisgah I was riding previously. I ran 30 psi in the rear and 27 psi in the front. This seemed about perfect in the 70 degree weather. Probably going to need to go up a bit in the cold. They feel like they have less absolute grip in the center section, I slipped on a root I’ve never slipped on before. But more grip in the corners. Which is what I wanted, good characteristics for a gravel tire. Tires also expanded every so slightly from 50mm to 52mm.

So I like them, they roll well and handle cornering well. I was getting wheel flex before sidewall collapse so there’s a good combo of tire pressure and sidewall strength.

First Race Update: 2/25/2017: I just got done racing at the Assault on Currahee Mountain, a gravel/dirt road race in the Lake Russell WMA near Cornelia, GA. These tires performed awesome. They are fast on the road, fast and grippy on dirt and gravel and they seem nice and supple at my preferred pressure. Once these wear out I am going for the advance version which should roll a little faster and perhaps be a little grippier?


Notes from Slowtwitch

This is a pretty good thread:  Triathlon Training and Business School

Networking can easily turn into a massive BS useless time sink.

Networking is a sales process, except the currency you are measuring in is slightly different, but that’s it.

It’s not how much time you spend doing sales prospecting, its having a high impact funnel and having really high quality stuff fall out of the funnel and hitting your revenue targets. People network and do sales in completely stupid ways spending way too much time on useless connections/prospects.

Most of you guys have to treat your time like you money and not give it out and spend it on entirely useless things. The bulk of networking is useless (and I’ve done Semiconductor strategic marketing-product marketing-biz dev-alliance programs for 20ish years). Networks don’t last a lifetime no matter what some of you guys think. A network is only as good as how well you nurture it and keep it organic and alive with high impact contacts that can positively influence your path to success (or not in your company).

The bulk of people in your network are not today nor will ever be your friend. They are in your network because you can make them successful in their organization and you have them in your network because they can make you useful in yours. Some high impact ones, you “pay forward” and invest in, because they have the human qualities to be helpful to you in some future capacity. These are the the high impact network contacts that you keep alive like leaves at the end of your tree’s branches.

But just randomly wasting time with low impact stupid people is EXACTLY what most people get sucked into and then they wonder why they missed 7×1 hour of training this week. Well they wasted 7 hours with idiots instead of spending 7 hours at the pool, the track or on the bike. At the end of the week, they have no further impact in their network than having spent those 7 hours training. The trap people fall into is treating networking like a party/popularity thing. Networking is all about connections-follow ups and driving mutually successful outcomes. Follow ups are the key. Constant follow up and being in the face of the key people in the network, and not when you need them but when they need you as a path to when you need them because you know you will need the high impact ones at some point, so you are building towards that.

Guys who don’t have time wasting it on useless networking are basically stupid business school idiots not looking at the ROI of their own time while studying ROI and NPV’s in finance class……sheeeesh people they teach you all this shit in biz school and then you don’t even apply proper business strategy to your own personal brand/company and then you wonder why you can’t train? WTF are most of you learning in biz school if you don’t treat your own self as the ultimate business that you need to manage?

Sorry for the rant….replying in general to this thread. Pubes can take this rant up from here. I tried to do my best impersonation….he’s right though, biz school is not that tough and it actually does not take that much time if you are properly organized and use proper priority management (I say this as a squander time on ST on a Friday nite)

Second Post:

In my time I had some classmates that did some semesters full time and some part time (mine was 2 courses per semester, 3 semesters per year, 3 years, 2 courses advanced standing due to having an engineering degree coming in). It depend on the person you talked to. Some said the full time program was way harder, some said part time while working full time. To some degree it depended on what courses you had at a given time and which profs you had and how organized you could get with your group work.

I aligned myself with enough people who wanted to get the maximum marks with the minimum amount of input workload. We would divide and conquor wherever possible and if I could not get in with some of those people, I just took leadership of the group and said, “OK you guys want to get an A- with X amount or work or an A- with X/5 amount of work”. Most people were pretty open to getting the same mark with 1/5th of the work so they fell in line quickly and we had a no time squandering policy. But you really have to manage your groups with the no time squandering approach or group work grows to occupy every living hour of your day, evening and weekends. It’s the same in real world companies…..stupid people who have no clue how valuable their time is just give it away like it’s sunshine in Dubai in July!

In terms of networking etc, I’d really advise you to treat the entire thing like a sales funnel. Try to make sure you populate your funnel with high quality prospects. Don’t ignore low quality prospects, but don’t just give your time for free to people who have low influencer qualities in the world outside school.

My 2 cents is that networking is very temporal in nature. The guys who were useful for me in the aerospace industry, are largely useless to me in semiconductors and within that the wireless guys are kinds of useless in high performance computing who in turn are fairly useless in medical imaging….and so it goes. The most useful takeaway is your ability to build new networks fast and in an impactful way….and if you can do that without mortgaging your personal life, then to me, that’s the high bar that you’re trying to get to anyway.

I was just interviewing a guy and one of my peers asked the candidate who he knew in XYZ key target account companies. I jumped in and said, “I don’t care who he know, I want to hear his plan for how he will win over all these guy who we don’t know and he doesn’t either because that’s the holy grail we’re trying to get to”. Biz school is a low impact place to practice that for sure. Of course some may actually become useful in the near term!

In any case, sorry if I was being hard. Probably a bit over the top, but it really is not that hard to train for half IM’s….run 20-40 min every day all the time, do two really hard 40 min swims, bike for commuting if you can, and get a hard 3 hour bike ride in on the weekend one day and a hard 70 min run with 8×6 min hard 2 min easy as your bread and butter run and don’t get fat and you’re set. I think you can do it with focus.

Here is my plan for you to get the full MBA experience:

  1. Every morning wake up 40 min earlier than you would and cram in a 30 min run
  2. 2x per week at lunch time, hard 40 min swim. Don’t sit around having lunch with other people at least on those days. Just pick the days and make it non negotiable.
  3. Networking Events, take whatever time is the max time allocated and invent an excuse to cut in it half and bolt out early or arrive half way in….whatever works. Have a plan that you want to accomplish XYZ objectives in that 50% time. Cut your losses on bad conversations and move one. Free up that 50% of time and get more course work/studying done than peers squandering time doing nothing at the networking
  4. Group work and described above….take the leadership role on time allocation, objectives and work to be done. If you see the group squandering time on low impact stuff, get them on track. People hate it initially, but they love it afterwards, when they are all in the pub and everyone else is still stuck doing case study stuff they will love you. After a while people will be competing to get into your group. That’s really what you want to get to, when all the all stars in your class are striving to get on your team and then they are working with and for you with the same mindset.
  5. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every nite no matter what. Drop what ever you are doing 8 hours before you have to get up and leave it unfinished. It sounds short sighted at first, but if you set a deadline to get to sleep you will squander less time before that. Then the next day you are more rested and will get more done/asborbed in class on account of being alert. One of my classmates was an engineering physics student with top marks in our undergrad and a multiple time olympian and Commonwealth games champion in shooting. He needed sleep to perform at shooting, but he said only stupid people sacrifice sleep because they think they are getting more work done. I tried it for a semester at age 19 and was sold….carried it forward to grad school.
  6. No caffeine after 12 noon. This will help the sleep side too.
  7. Learn to read, synthesize and write really fast. The faster the better. This is your friend in biz school
  8. Practice your presentation skills. A great presentation can up your marks big time over a bad one for the same input work….this allows you to work less before and get the higher mark because you influenced the markers better by picking the influencing talking points
  9. Everything you do, ask yourself how you can do it faster for the same outcome

On the tri front, jog everywhere on campus! Free additional training. OK I spent too much time on that, but if it helps just a few people and allows you guys to train or have more time with families or girlfriend/boyfriend all the better

Third Post:

I think there are two types of networking. One is with prospective employers, one is with classmates. We can agree to disagree that both can be done more effectively with less time in. It’s not like I have never gotten a job before or closed big deals for my company or myself. People do networking with no plan, they waste time with the wrong network, and inside the network they are trying to build, they have no idea how to stand out in their network from others and most importantly get the message across on how they will make the other party successful. So yeah, no surprise, it’s a massive time sink for most with poor results. Even if you are working full time and going to a part time MBA you still need to network, either inside your company to keep your job and move ahead or outside your company to change careers and get a new job. Part time MBAers are constantly networking too. Just because they have a job at the moment has nothing to do with their need to network for the future. But like any endeavor in life where people are time crunched, there are always reasons/excuses why they are time crunched. In reality everyone gets 168 hours in a week. I told my employees at work to NOT WORK HARD because it is a stupid end game and both us and the competition have 168 hours in a week and eventually we both run out of hours. Working smarter as a team with priority management will defeat the competition. It’s the same thing in networking. Everyone has 168 hours. How can you get the most results with your time?

Maybe I had an advantage coming from engineering school into business school. Business school, everyone runs around with some badge of honor about how much time they put in because frankly the stuff is not that hard so if you just grind through more volume you get higher marks. Engineering school, you’re mainly either right or wrong. The volume is high, but the speed and accuracy with which you can go through the volume is dependent on how smartly you can grind through….not brute force grind like biz school. So in engineering school, the guy getting 90’s who is in the pub most nights and plays varsity sport is kind of glorified. And a lot of tech companies give glory to that. I think it was Netflix that said, “Oh, so you overachieved working only 20% of the time, congrats we give you a promotion and more responsibility….oh you, work 60 hours per week and are dropping the ball on multiple front, but generally do a good job….sorry, thanks for your work, but here is your severance package”.

Goodbye to the 650b

I really wanted to get to 10,000 miles riding 650b wheels/tires but I’m just tired of them so I’m going to be stuck at around 9,000 miles. Oh well.

Despite all the “testing” done in Bicycle Quarterly I have not found the large 650bx42 tires to roll, pedal or ride as fast as good 700c racing tires. There are a few reasons for this, the main one I think is the hysterisis losses from pedaling causing bounce in the tire that does not occur with narrower higher pressure tires. This has not been explored well at all as it will be almost invisible when a rider is pedaling around a velodrome at a consistent speed or on a smooth road – as a lot of the testing was performed.

Another is that the testing is always exclusive of real world riding. I know, I know “it’s too hard to control for variables” but really if your clean room laboratory shows one thing and my 570+ hours of outside riding show a significantly different result – which one is right?

Anyway, so about 570 hours evenly spread around three different bikes. What did I learn?

There is a lot of overlap in terms of speed for any given point. 700c is definitely faster in absolute terms but in some situations 650b will be as fast or faster. One thing that has only been addressed tangentially is the roll-over difference between 650bx42 and 700cx23. Even though the outer diameters are essentially the same there is a difference in roll-over due to the compression of the bigger tire as it moves in and out of bumps and road features. It’s exactly the same as the 26/29 wheelsize in the mountain bike world. 650b is great because the tires are wider but compared to 700c at the same width it’s going to ride much more poorly over bumps and obstacles.

Remember too that 650b is much closer to 26″ than 700c. Chart below:


650bx42 is a tire and wheel size that should be ridden by the majority of recreational cyclists. It’s just a better size for most people who do not race. It’s safer, less prone to flats and handles weight better than 700c racing tires.

It’s easy to get sucked into good marketing and believe things that aren’t true in my reality. I was enamored with 650b and totally ignored the massive decrease in average speed that occurred with the tire size switch. Mainly due to the effective marketing from BQ. I didn’t lose anything and it didn’t cost me any money – 650b tires are a good product and the things BQ promotes and sells are generally good idea – it was just shocking how easy I swallowed that hook. Good to double down on my resolve to have a critical eye for everything from now on. Really kinda miffed I spent money on 3 years of Bicycle Quarterly – they pretty much jumped the shark 2-3 issues after I subscribed.

Bicycle Quarterly has basically turned into Bicycling for people who like their marketing tinged with french flavor and randonneuring focus. Re-enactment old folks, snobs and wayward dirtbag tourers. Compare the tests prior to issue 53 with the ones after. The Specialized Diverge review makes a travesty of honest reporting. The stock tires, handlebar tape, handlebars and saddle were replaced by Compass parts – the bike had some major issues and even so was given a glowing review. Really sad to see. At least the first 52 issues are genuinely good stories, reviews and writing. Now it just seems like a way to sell stuff and fund Jan’s trips to Japan. Anyone want to buy out my remaining 2.5 years worth of issues?

So really, I guess this is goodbye to both the 650b wheelsize and Bicycle Quarterly. The former is still very much a good wheelsize and really a great thing for a lot of people. The latter probably not so much unless you want to know how great Compass parts are.

Front loads and high trail Part 2

So I have almost two months riding this set-up, about 70 hours. Here are some things I’ve noticed. Remember this bike is set-up with 650bx42 tires and has a trail of 75mm.

The more I ride the set-up the better it feels. I seem to be adapting to the way the load changes the handling. Feels like a normal bike now whereas before it felt a little weird.

It’s more akin to riding a mountain bike than a road bike. Turning at high speed requires body english, leaning the bike and paying attention to where my weight is. It feels totally natural to go from my 80ish-mm trail 29er mountain bike to this bike.

It’s slower. On a strict mile-per-hour basis it doesn’t seem like much; maybe .5-.7 miles per hour per 3-4 hours. But really that’s around 3%-7% speed decrease, not insignificant in those terms. I think this might have to do with a combination of the cornering and climbing changes due to how the front load moves up and down as the handlebars move left and right. In essence, I’m not just pedaling the bike forward I’m keeping the front wheel tracking straight and this requires more power than before. My current load is only 2-3 pounds heavier than what I was carrying in my saddle bag and on my person so I’m not convinced it’s weight related. Might be small aero losses as well or that could just be from wearing a loose cotton t-shirt. Oh well.


There’s an inspired confidence to being able to carry necessities in an easily accessible location. I roll around with a full my full winter complement of additional clothes and have no stress about being caught unaware by weather. If I decide to change my two hour ride to a four hour ride I have extra batteries and clothes to accommodate this.

Find a three pound 16-inch wrench in the middle of the road? Pick it up and strap it to your rack!

Lots of rain and 20 degree temperature variation? Strap all the clothes you own to your rack and go for a ride.

This needs a handlebar bag or basket or something. I’ve got a handlebar bag working but I’ve just been strapping stuff to the rack and each other like a bicycle hobo so it works ok but bags/baskets would be better.

I am deep into my imitation of Patrick Plaine, at least in style if not necessarily in substance.


Still above is from this short film: