Race Report: 2017 Big Ring Challenge


I had an ok race. Mostly motivation issues and poor recovery the week leading to the race. However, the drive up to the race is an absolute blast – state route 75 turns into state route 17 the Unicoi Turnpike and it’s just switchbacks and full throttle up and over the mountain. A lot of fun and a nice surprise on the way to the race.

Anyway, the race was a lot of fun, I came in 4/5 and rode with the same sandbaggers as most of the other mountain bike races I did. I had some issues with my crank arm loosening up as I had a bad landing crossing the log-filled rut near the start finish but it didn’t matter as really I was just under-rested and didn’t have a good race.

Still, always glad I went.


Dropbar Hardtail Thoughts

There’s no point in doing it to run “thin tires” and try to make it a road bike. If you want a road bike get a road bike or a cross bike, if you want a drop-bar MTB with fat tires that can handle anything and feels fast and fun to ride go for it. I think you want to figure out what you’re trying to do before you start. How much gravel do you ride? Or plan to ride? Is it rough? Unless you’re riding very rough gravel or a lot of singletrack a cross bike with 40-45mm tires would probably be more fun and a lot cheaper.

I converted a 2013 Charge 29er hardtail. Used mechanical discs and 9-speed to keep the cost down. Total cost was something like $160-ish but only so low since I got the shifters used and got the rest of the parts on winter-sales or from the UK. If I had to buy new shifters it would be closer to $225, new parts or US parts closer to $300. Here’s what I replaced:

  • Stem ($20)
  • Bars ($20)
  • Brake Calipers ($35)
  • Shifters ($30)
  • Shifter Cables ($3)
  • Shifter Housing (7)
  • Brake Cables ($3)
  • Brake Housing ($14)
  • Rear Cassette ($13)
  • Rear Derailleur ($18)

It’s a total blast to ride, I’ve been riding and racing it since early April and it’s my favorite bike. Works great on everything from smooth gravel to the roughest singletrack. It can be a handful to ride at times as the short stem and relatively narrow bars make the steering very quick. The flip side is that riding a fast, clean run is very rewarding.

I also converted a 26″ hardtail and although that was a better overall ride the 29er is better on singletrack so I kept it and took the 26″ back to flat bars and MTB parts.

Race Report: 2017 Fools Gold 60


I ate too much before the race, didn’t eat enough during the race. Didn’t drink enough water or caffeine. The singletrack was amazing – so many rocks and roots and tech. Blew up heading back over the mountain but pulled it together to catch and then fend off 3-4 other riders. Next year I’m bringing better tires, flared handlebars and paying attention to my front fork pressure.


Gravel and learning to love a bike


An hour in and I feel totally alone, the shimmering glow of impending sunrise off to my left creates a warm sensation as I pedal along the narrow road near Ben Hill. The far west side of Atlanta is marked by dense housing spaced by huge swaths of featureless rolling Kudzu covering empty lots.

I stop for a photo and as I get back up to speed a paceline of three roars by with a cheery “good morning” I am startled and let out a laugh as they quickly disappear into the distance. It’s so easy to forget that solitude on the road is almost always an illusion. With a smile I continue heading southwest, passing the suburban tracts with their smaller 1980s style housing stock before entering the more recent developments where the housing appears enormous on tiny lots, barely enough grass for a mower I suppose.

Before long I have left any semblance of urbanity behind and come to the first of many gravel segments. The road is filled with chatter and I bounce around for a bit before I settle in and starting actively riding my bike. It’s so easy to sit on my bike and spin my legs around, lazy riding even if it’s fast. Once the terrain gets rough I need to ride the bike. Lean forward as I encounter a rut heading uphill, counter-steer into the loose gravel turns and raise up ever so slightly with the larger bumps to cushion the impact with my legs.

It’s spirited riding and I make good time through a sampling of the sections of the Dirty Sheets route – a seminal off-road route for Atlanta area riders. The roads here are just chunky enough to make a road rider feel accomplished while at the same time attracting mountain and cross riders with their sweeping curves and short sections of technical terrain.

The roughest section is Upper Wooten Road – a cyclist and pedestrian only section that serves as an entrance into Cochran Mill Park. The gravel gets a little larger and looser with a few steep climbs but I make good time and don’t need to adjust the pressure in my tires, still set for road riding.

Once I near Cochran Mills I see huge swarms of road cyclists, it takes a few times of seeing the pavement marked heart and arrow to recall this is the One Love Century – an event put on by the Metro Atlanta Cycling Club. I ride a fair portion of the route and note the relaxed pace and cheery attitudes of the riders. I have obviously missed the more competitive groups. A relaxing stream of greetings and encouragement flow by as I work my way through the groups here and there on the road back northeast.

Soon enough I turn off onto my own route and head back into the city. I take a short detour to investigate what appears to be a connecting bike path just north of Camp Creek Parkway but it ends after less than a mile with no connection to anything else.

Oh well I think, at least it was a change of pace. Back on track I pass through familiar areas of the far west side. The economic depression of this area is obvious but the passing traffic is courteous and I make good time. Soon enough I am close to home but I feel very good so I add a few more miles before concluding my ride. It feels nice to be on familiar roads for a change so I totter over, around and just like that I am back at the door to my apartment, smile still on my face.