Notes for the Big Frog 65

3 miles or so paved climb right at the start.

16 miles of single track on the way out

38.5 miles of gravel roads

10 miles of single track on the way back

2-3 miles of pavement to the finish

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BF is approximately 15 miles of trail at the beginning and end with a 30 mile hilly gravel grinder in the middle. I did it 2 years ago when the weather was perfect. Might try again this year.

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Michelin Wild Race’r Review – 29 x 2.25

I liked this tire in the 26″ circumferenceway. I do not like it in the 29″ size – during dry conditions.

For some reason the 29″ size was extremely difficult to mount and remove from my WTB i19 rims. I had to use a tire jack and/or a special tire lever to complete the install. So that kind of set a negative tone going into using the tire.

Overall the tire rolls fine and is well made. Runs true laterally and radially and has consistent bead, knobs and sidewall thickness. Seems like it’s about average as far as suppleness goes – my normal PSI set it to a normal amount of sag and the sidewalls seemed well supported during hard cornering and off-chamber root/rock strikes.

However I think the tread design is just too aggressive in the 29er size when riding dry trails.

Well, actually, it’s the wrong kind of aggressive. It has well-spaced diamond knobs in the center that are mid-height and grip well without impeding rolling resistance. But the outside knobs are significantly more aggressive and do not interact well as the bike leans into a turn. The tires, especially in the front, tend to turn in like this.

No lean – normal rolling ok traction

Mid lean – less traction normal rolling

Hard lean – EXTREME TRACTION

As the center knobs hand off to the side knobs the tire bites hard and causes significant oversteer. It’s hard to track and hard to adjust to since the increased traction pulls your front wheel into the turn but it’s dependent on the dirt surface/composure. I can sort of account of it by counter-steering and leaning the bike but it’s harder to do this when I’m tired or have a high mental load like during the start of a race or very fast technical sections.

For some reason (maybe I’m crazy?) this oversteer is less pronounced in the 26″ size? I never had an issue and liked the way the 26″ tire handled but for some reason the 29″ just doesn’t perform as well during high speed and aggressive riding on dry singletrack.

Now, I think the tire is probably great in more muddy conditions when some of the trail is dry and some is muddy and it’s pretty good for gravel with mixed pavement too. I’ve replaced it with a tire that has more consist tread from center to sidewall but do plan to bring it back once the gravel season if over and just use it as a regular every day tire.

2017 Shake ‘n’ Brake Race Report

https://www.strava.com/activities/953430681

How was the course?

I ride up a hill, I ride down a hill…wait a sec I’ve been here before! I always forget how much climbing there is here. It’s just a constant up and down. The course is exhausting, lots of small loose gravel with some very fast downhills. A few leg-breaking uphills that feature large and loose chunky gravel or bermy dirt. They’re short but steep. The first loop section of the course is a killer, this is where all the bumps and rocks and puddles are and it’s always hard and fast.

What did you ride?


Same ol’ Charge Cooker Hi 29er. Worked fine, I think I like it better as a flat-bar mountain bike but I dunno really.

Gearing?

39/26 with 11-34 9 speed. Some of the gravel was large and loose enough that I was really working the 26/34 – made me kind of nervous for the Big Frog 65 next week but we’ll see.

Tires?

Continental Race King 2.2 in the rear and a brand new WTB Nine Line 2.25 in the front. I changed the front tire the day before because I really don’t like the Wild Race’r’ that was on there. It was too aggressive and just not what I wanted. The Nine Line is really great, rolls fast and is slightly smaller and less aggressive – good gravel tire. I didn’t have any tire issues, especially because the course was entirely gravel or pavement, no singletrack this year.

What’d you eat?

Same breakfast, same clif bar half hour before the start and then only 2.5 clif bars during the ride. I though I didn’t bring enough food but the race was shorter than I expected so I was fine. I did have a whole bottle of Torq after the third aid station which was so great even if a weird flavor – strawberry/mint?

Hydration?

Fine, I had two bottles and stopped to refill at the first and third aid stations. Now the question is, did I lose more time (~1 minute) stopping to fill up versus just riding with a camelbak? The start of the race was very hot but by the halfway point clouds and a breeze had moved in so I was ok overall. Had it stayed sunny I think I would have been in a little trouble and need another bottle.

How was the week leading up to the race?

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Too much hiking. Like an idiot I hiked almost an hour and a half the day before the race. I felt ok just couldn’t sustain the knife-edge efforts like I usually can if really well rested. Note to self, walking the day before needs to be flat and easy. Not hiking downhill for 20-30 minutes! I also rode four days in a row from my last race – this is too much. Need to take the day after a race (or two) off and then pick up before the next race.

Where’d you start?

At the back with the old southern couple that rolled up in a golf cart with their dog to watch the start. It didn’t affect me at all but I got all caught up in the spirit of back of the pack racing and went out way too hard. Blew my legs for most of the climbs on the first loop.

How’d you do?

In the money! Which means 5/7 in the male open! Same as usual, fastest slow guy. Overall I felt like I had a good race but was just not as sharp as normal, kinda tired and felt like wearing a hat is making me overheat on the climbs. The first hard climb during the top loop was a killer, felt like I was on fire. What’s got me really interested is that I was a little slower on most of the gravel sections (too hot cuz hat) but way faster on the last paved section. Hmm.

 

2017 Blankets Creek Dirty 30 Race Report

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How was the course?

You know Blankets Creek. It’s steep and bermy and sandy and rocky and rooty with creek crossings and drop-ins and technical rock barriers and twisty-turny with pine straw and logs and narrows and even some flats. I’d say this course doesn’t suit my strengths but no shit it doesn’t suit anyone’s strengths. It’s just hard and fast and usually hot and sunny. All in all it’s pretty great, I always leave a little bit of myself in those woods.

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What did you ride?

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2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp 29er stock except for the Crankbros Cobalt 2 720mm bars and Crankbros Cobalt 70mm stem. I like the bike a lot and it really handled the rocks and roots and elevation changes much better than the bike I rode last year but really this was only my fourth ride on the bike and I just haven’t ridden it enough to be really fast. I’m also just not as comfortable riding berms so I would bet I gave up anywhere from 3-7 minutes a lap just not being familiar with the bike and the berms. Oh well that’s what I get for not pre-riding the course, like ever.

Gearing?

Stock gearing, 36/22 in the front and 11-36 in the rear.

Tires?

Stock Kenda Slant Six. Worked ok but I just didn’t handle the berms very well as they are hard and packed and the tires want to self-steer at high speeds. This is obviously corrected by training and familiarity but I wasn’t ready for it so I lost a lot of speed on each berm fighting the unfamiliar sensation. The tires/rim combo did take some serious rim strikes with no issues. Last year I pinch flatted and this year I had similar strikes with no issue.

What’d you eat?

Regular breakfast but 4 pretzels now instead of 5. Had the clif bar 30 minutes (actually 45 due to delay) before the start and then during the race I had one clif bar, one gel and one clif bar. It was super hard to eat – I think liquid nutrition might be something to try next time.

Hydration?

Not enough. It was hard to drink from my bottles since there are only a few straight, flat sections without roots or rocks. I also spent an hour standing in the sun training for a new job from 9-10 so I kinda came in a little drier than I liked.

How was the week leading up to the race?

Good, I walked a lot and hiked the trails near my apartment. Stretched a bunch, tried to eat ok but mostly didn’t and played a lot of Metal Gear Solid 5. I feel like I’m getting stronger but worried about getting enough volume. The ride I did on Tuesday was an absolute soul crusher, I’ve rarely ridden so hard for so long at Sope. I was blown on Tuesday so just chilled and hiked the rest of the week. Warmed up for a bike on Saturday before the race and was fine. I think once I get my racing legs riding the day before a race is not strictly necessary.

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Where’d you start?

Like near the middle end, I didn’t do very well in the parking lot sprint.

How’d you do?

8 out of 21, better than last year! What’s funny is that for all the working and passing and getting passed I was the same place for both laps based on time. I spent the first lap and a half with anywhere from 3-6 riders trading places and following lines as the race was pretty packed. I did re-learn that aero is important even in mountain bike racing. On the mild downhills I would drop over my bars, tuck in and it was like hitting one of those yellow arrows in F-Zero – instant speed boost right to the rider ahead of me.

I knocked myself into solo riding after I biffed one of the rocky, rooty sections and had to unclip. I was the lead rider so it was pretty embarrassing but that’s fine. The three riders behind me took off and I was mostly solo from then on. I crashed again a little later on some roots as I just lost my brain for a bit. My left calf cramped like crazy but it ended up ok. Sometime after the first lap it was like my skin caught on fire. I was super-hot and felt like I ran out of oxygen and was just riding like shit. I think I blew-up the first lap and just didn’t realize it. The second lap was hard and I spent a lot of time in my baby ring just spinning up the climbs.

My back complained a little but I managed to stretch and keep it ok the whole time. Really by the end of the race my hands and shoulders were in way worse shape. Riding the whole of Blankets Creek is an intense full body experience.

 

Race Report – 2017 Skyway Epic 60

Strava

How was the course?

Oh man. Amazing. This is the premiere gravel race for the southeast (I know it’s really at MTB race but whatever). The course has everything. The beginning single track section is smooth and flowy with just enough rocks, roots and elevation to make it interesting. After that it’s well groomed forest service roads – gravel with some nice elevation – very fast. Hit Husky Mt Road/607 and the elevation really starts. This section had some very loose fresh gravel so climbing standing was very difficult and generally a waste of energy as my rear wheel kept slipping. Some very nice views and then I’m at the aid station. From here the Skyway starts and it is mind-blowing. Rocky, rutted and with sections of huge lane-wide mud puddles at the top. And the rocks, rocks are everywhere. Loose rocks, embedded rocks, rocks flying around from my tires. Tiny pea sized rocks to rocks the size of a car tire. The worst are the softball sized ones that pop up at the bottom of a deep rut. I’ve never seen anything like this road  – it was really cool.

I guess if I was going to sum it up, fast single track, fast gravel roads, super technical climbing rocky dirt road, super technical descending rocky dirt road, fast gravel, fast single track. It was a little wet as the area had 2-3 inches of rain in the span of a few hours 3 days before the ride but overall it was dry.

What did you ride?

Charge Cooker Hi 29er converted to 9 speed and drop bars. The bike was great but my seatpost slipped at somepoint descending the Skyway and I came back almost 1.5cm lower – it didn’t cause any problems I guess.

Tires?

I’m not happy with my current tire choice. Continental Race King 2.2 in the rear and Michelin Wild Race’r in the front. The rear is ok but a little too narrow for the rocks and the front is too aggressive under hard cornering. It’s a classic MTB tire in that it was designed for 17mm wide rims and when mounted on a wider rim and ridden aggressively tends to give moderate traction until the side knobs hit and then it’s instant grab that makes the front dive into a hard decreasing radius turn. Oh well the tires were fine, just not ideal. Next year I want to go tubeless with at least 2.3 width.

Gearing?

Worked so well I hardly thought about it. Ran the 26 ring exclusively on the single track and switched as needed on the gravel. 39/26 with 11-34 9 speed. Had more than enough gear for the climbing.

What’d you eat?

So much caffeine. In order:

  • chocolate brownie clif bar
  • 7.5 ounce coke at aid station
  • power bar
  • 2 fun size snickers at aid station
  • mint clif bar with caffeine
  • 7.5 ounce coke at aid station

I had a lot of caffeine but not enough food – could defnitely tell at the end as I was getting frustrated. I should have eaten another clif bar as I rode the entire singletrack (45 minutes) without eating. I didn’t have an appetite but I need to power through that and put something into my stomach.

How was the week leading up to the race?

Boring – but I’ve been having lower back issues so I’ve been aggressive resting, stretching and monitoring my back. It seemed to work ok. During the race whenever the course was clear and open I would stretch my calves, my shoulders and arms and move around a bit. My back was borderline hurting for the first half but after that it was fine. The last section of singletrack I had no pain. Part was probably the accidental lower saddle height and part was the stretching.

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Where’d you start?

I was really nervous about getting stuck behind someone on the single track as well as being the slow one in front of fast people on the single track since I was the only person on a drop-bar MTB. So I equivocated and just kind of fell in at the start – at the middle-end. This was a dumb choice as I got stuck behind two riders wearing peachtree bikes kit that lacked the technical skills to ride the single track at a fast speed. Braking for every corner, no flow, won’t pass etc. It sucked but I guess it was a good 20-25 minute warm-up. I blasted by them at the first dam, passed another rider and then I’m ok. The other people I passed during the race I would have passed no matter when I started, the people ahead of me I would never have caught. So I guess my start position didn’t really matter. I’m like the fastest slow guy or the slowest fast guy – always.

How’d you do?

Uh…like 5th or 6th open male, 10th or 11th overall? I think this is one of those races where if you didn’t come in top 3 you don’t really get a result. My time was 6:01 something, I was pretty happy. 7/11 open men, so not bad I guess.

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I did think this was interesting.

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Skyway Epic Prep

Edit: Here’s the actual race report. I had a good time.

Just some links I’m looking at to prep for the Skyway Epic 60.

https://www.strava.com/activities/142869759

http://toone2015.com/2015/04/skyway-epic-2015/

http://www.fastermustache.org/home/2014/6/2/skyway-epic

  • There’s about an hour of singletrack at the start
    • Looks fast and flowy but possible roots?
  • Skyway is jeep trail and forest road with potential for large puddles and/or mudpits
    • Some sections of easy gravel, some rocky/rooty tech
  • Talladega Alabama received almost 3.5 inches of rain on Wednesday 4/5/17
  • 20-25 minutes singletrack on the way back  An hour of singletrack on the way back.
  • Course goes rollers->big climb->rollers->medium climb->rollers->big descent->rollers
  • Take max water at the aid station