2017 Dirty Spokes 3 hours of Fort Yargo Race Report

How was the race?

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Amazing. This is dumb but I’ve been watching MTB eliminator races on youtube and seeing expert riders and how they ride and race has really helped me internalize the body position and bike position for racing. Especially racing when it’s wet. I had a really good race, riding super fast with just enough water and food to make it to the end. It was also super helpful to just ride 2-3 minutes of the course as fast as possible to get my brain into racing mode. I came in a solid fourth, not sure I could have done much to improve. I didn’t crash and got a good starting position but I bet there I could have made up 2-3 minutes and moved to second with some more aggressive riding and a better nutrition strategy, I think clif bars take to long to get into my system.

How was the course?

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It had rained the day/night before and the drive to the venue was foggy and cool so I was a little apprehensive as the slant six tires on my bike aren’t really cut-out for mud. Thank fully Fort Yargo is well developed so it was only slick in a few sports while the rest of the course was actually pretty firm and tacky. It got better over the course of the race as it dried out and the looser, wetter top sections were burned away by riders. I did have a pretty surprising two wheel drift in the first five minutes or so, kept it level but spiked my heartrate pretty good. But really Fort Yargo is a great course, just enough elevation to keep it interesting, lost of twisty-turnys with good traction and a nice flat speedway section.

What did you ride?

2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp. The bike was perfect, no complaints. It’s so fast. I had only the most minor back pain. Otherwise the bike fit exactly how I wanted, reach, position just felt like everything was set exactly perfect for this race.

Gearing?

Stock gearing, 36/22 in the front and 11-36 in the rear. I never shifted out of the big ring.

Tires?

Stock Kenda Slant Six 29×2.2 they handled the damp conditions really well.

What’d you eat?

Regular breakfast but 3 pretzels now instead of 4. Had the clif bar 30 minutes  before the start and then during the race I had one pack if shot blocks,  and one (two?) clif bar(s). This race is flatter with less roots and almost no rocks so there were a few eating sections. I do think I need a quicker digesting food for shorter races. Clif bars feel like they don’t start burning for 10-15 maybe 20 minutes and that’s too long in a race.

Hydration?

The cooler weather and lack of sun at the start saved me. I only took one big bottle and one baby bottle. 50 ounces or so of water. I had just enough to finish, like starting to panic and get dry mouth but still making good power.

How was the week leading up to the race?

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Tired. The season was getting long so I didn’t do too much. Went for a few hikes and was walking every day but my riding was pretty hard. Just worn down from racing I think. The week after Big Frog I could only muster two rides for like 4 hours. But I rode my monstercross bike once and then just on the race bike. I’ve been really working on technique and I think it shows. My pace this year in the damp was significantly faster than last year on the same course in the dry.

Where’d you start?


Third row, I went right to the start once the 6 hour racers left. I had a good position but lost a few spots on the pavement sprint but once on the singletrack I was in a good spot and had fast, competent racers right ahead of me that were taking good lines and were easy to follow.

How’d you do?

4/13, 1 minute out of 3rd, 3 minutes out of 2nd and 9 minutes out of 1st. So I was pretty happy with that result.

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2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp Review for Publication

I spend most of my day reading things written but very poor writers so a lot of (all of?) the time my writing here is pretty shitty. Here’s a better review of the bike.

The massive discounts brought by widespread internet retailers have finally hit the cycling world in full force. Raleigh and Diamondback; two brands owned, among others, by conglomerate Accell Group have begun direct-to-consumer sales of boxed bikes ready to assemble at enormous price discounts from the previous retail and street prices.

5 years ago this bike would have been $2500, easy. Today it’s $549, shipped to your door with free returns if you’re not happy.

Now, it lacks the cachet and bullshit marketing of the bigger brands. There’s no trendy graphic designer spamming Instagram shots of the bike conquering Moab, just some bike designer in Taiwan or China who’s been doing this sort of thing for decades and is focused on making a good, reliable bike that meets price points and timing requirements. The bike is spec’d to fit the widest amount of people through the smallest number of sizes. It’s engineered to incorporate every available technical development that will still allow it to meet it’s price point.

32mm wide rims ready for tubless install? Check

2×10 gearing? Check

Tuk’t chainstay for short wheelbase? Check

Air fork? Check

142×12 and 15mm thru-axles? Check

Hydroformed tubing? Check

Hydraulic brakes? Check

The bike is the end result of 29er 2×10 evolution. From here we springboard into multi-degree head tube angle changes, 1x systems and “boost” spacing – whatever that is.

As the bike was out of stock on the website (since replenished) I spent the better part of a work-from-home day driving to Chattanooga to buy the bike from a craigslist seller in the parking lot of Hamilton Place mall. The $20 in gas was a fair exchange for an essentially unridden but already assembled bike.

In person the bike is impressive, the frame is well formed and looks exactly like a mountain bike should look. Fat tires, sharp tubes and fun color scheme bring everything into focus. This is a bike for shredding as much as showing off.

I decided to ride the bike with everything stock except the saddle. The limp pancake was banished immediately to my pollen-coated balcony storage area for ugly and unwanted bike parts.

The bike, my preferred saddle and myself headed to the trails after a thorough inspection – trust but verify those craigslist sellers. My first ride is a blur of high speed corners, shoving the bike left and right as the forest melts beside me. Descents taken at a speed I’d never before attempted, my vision blurred from the rocks, roots and ruts; bike bucking wildly as the terrain rejects us but still tracking straight and holding a good line.

What was expected to be a half-hour, maybe an hour turned into almost 3 hours. The first section of Sope Creek went so fast and so well that I did the thing everyone who ever has a new bike they love instantly does – take the bike around and show it off to all the trails. Introduce it to the rooty run-up I can only clear half the time and see how it goes. Can it handle the rock garden at speed? How well will it track through the snake rock rise? The off-chamber downhill root section that always bucks my rear wheel 1-2 inches off it’s line?

The Tekoa handles everything as if it is old hat, the bike has been around and done enough that there is no surprises. Reliable consistent geometry, like the favorite bike I didn’t know I was missing. I am faster on this bike than expected, almost a dozen personal records fall on a ride where I was holding back and still getting to know the bike. The times broken were hard won, set on gritty summer days where I’d hit a loop so hard at the end I would spend minutes coughing and trying to get my heartrate down. Douse myself in cool water to come back to the earth. Leg-shatteringly hard efforts on the climbs, full race pressure for 19 minutes and 3 seconds, 19 minutes and 24 seconds, 20 minutes and 8 seconds. I remember the mental and physical focus that makes a third of an hour feel like eternity as my heart is rent from my chest. Legs full of fire, air thick and hard to exhale.

First ride, new bike.

18 minutes and 3 seconds.

Part 2:

As the glow of a fast and technically correct ride fades I think more and more about how the bike rode and what I didn’t like. The fat tires and wide rims make the bike slightly hesitant to lean and dive into corners. I am slightly too far forward and too crunched up out on the stock seatpost and stem. The seatpost clamp looks like it is straining with all it’s might to hold on. I think the bottom bracket it creaking.

So I change the stem (+5mm reach) I change the bars (+20mm width) I change the grips (+5 padding) I move the brakes and shifters (+10mm outboard). The bottom bracket, like all mail order bikes, has been installed by with an air-tool and takes a monumental effort to remove. After which I find it completely dry, I grease the threads reinstalled and the bike is creak free. I mess with the pressure in the fork, a little (+5 psi) more seems good. I get the bike close to perfect

I ride and then I race.

Blankets Creek is everything mountain biking in Georgia has to offer. 

The race leaves me suitably impressed with the bike’s acumen for extremely high speed riding. As we all know, as fast as you can possibly go when riding alone is not nearly as fast as you can go riding with others, in a race. Speed is a drug, blasting through my veins, infused in each pedal stroke. The bike wants to be raced, feedback from pedaling is strong – pedal hard and it asks you to pedal harder. I have no problems moderating my line, I find the smooth line dozens of times a minute as my responses are translated instantly to the wheels, tires and pedals. Everything seems to slow down as rocks and roots appear with plenty of time to maneuver or power over – there aren’t any surprises, the bike handles everything, a well-oiled machine.

2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp; Second Look

Let’s get up to speed.

Here’s the first look with some thoughts after my first ride.

Here’s a look at the tires.

And here’s a link to the Raleigh page for the bike.

So I’ve been riding this bike a lot more in preparation for the 3 hour Fort Yargo race this weekend and I’ve really been able to experience it at high speed and get to know the bike.

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I rode the bike last month at the Dirty 30 Blankets Creek race and was really impressed at how much better/faster it was than the Thunder Comp I rode the year before.

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The more I ride it the more I like it. I was blown away on my first ride and it’s just gotten better. So I’ve got 15 hours on the bike and here’s what I like:

The price, this bike has a regular price, from the Raleigh website, of $999 but is always on sale for $679. It’s even better with the discount code at $549. It’s a pretty good deal at the full price, it’s an awesome deal at the sale price and just ridiculous at the discounted price. Really, when I was shopping for a hardtail in late 2014/early 2015 I couldn’t get close to a 29er with air-fork at that price.  Never mind one with thru-axles, 32mm wide rims, 2×10 or hydraulic discs. I mean really I paid $800 for a 5 year old 26er with Deore, regular quick release wheels and a Fox F100 air fork and this was a great deal at the time! Today, the Tekoa is the best deal in mountain biking. It’s crazy how good and how cheap bikes have gotten in the past 1-2 years.

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The stock tires and wheels really great. Good quality, lots of traction and they roll really well. Paired with the 32mm wide wheels the bike handles roots, rocks and chatter with aplomb.

All the other component choices are solid and reliable picks. Shimano shifters and derailleurs, Tektro Hydraulic brakes and Suntour Raidon fork. I’ve been very impressed with the fork, at the recommended pressure it comfortably handles all the straight-line bumps really well but it’s stiff enough that when I start playing in the really high speed corners I don’t get significant fork compression – especially under front braking. Being able to alternate front and rear braking before and into a corner is a great thing to have.

What I don’t like, which are all really minor and mostly fit issues I see with any bike.

Stock tires are not the tubeless model. Which is not unexpected but it’d be nice.

Stock bars were too narrow and the stock grips push the brake/shifter levers too far in. The bike felt a little sluggish in the really twisty stuff during my first ride and it took me a second to realize it was a combination of the slightly narrower bars (700 to my normal 720) and the narrower hand position due to the width of the grips. I’ve since changed bars and grips so it’s better now.

Tire clearance is…interesting.

2.25 is pretty much the max that will fit. The stock tires are 2.28 and they’re probably a little too large for anything but dry riding.

The seatpost clamp is not very confidence inspiring. It’s held the seatpost fine, it just feels weak and looks like it’s straining to keep things together.

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Stock saddle is 😦 but I mean duh right?

I’m still getting to know the bike but right now I feel like I can’t get the bars low enough for my comfortable racing position. I’m not sure if this reality or not but it sure feels like the bars are too high. I’ve got a -17 stem that I’m going to try and may look into thinner bearing covers – either way it’s ok now but so close to perfect I may as well try to push it over the line.

Anyway, bike is great and I’m really excited to continue riding and racing it.