Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Part 1: Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes
I just have to face facts. I am a mountain biker. I like the smell of a pine forest. I love the feeling of dropping like a rock down steep trail. I enjoy the challenge of switchbacks and the wonderful feeling of a flowing along winding single track.
Here is a photo of some fast easy single track:
This trail is at Elk Meadows in Evergreen, Colorado. This is a nice trail that is a favorite of hikers, bikers and trail runners.
Colorado has some very well-developed and nicely maintained trails.
This trail is at Meyer Ranch in Conifer, Colorado. At the start of this trail there is a long and steep climb. After the climb, the trail runs pretty flat and is quite scenic.
On these nice smooth trails any good mountain bike will do just fine. My ancient 2007 Specialized 26" Stumpjumper Pro Disc hardtail , called "Little Stumpy" flies along nice single track.
I love Little Stumpy but he has limitations. Little Stumpy gets downright skittish on rough and rocky trails.
I also have a blazing fast bike, which is a Specialized 29" Stumpjumper Carbon Expert . I call this bike "Ultra Stumpy". Ultra Stumpy is an endurance racing bike and is scary fast.
Ultra Stumpy's long wheelbase and slack steering makes the bike stable at high speed. Low speed handling is good but not great. High speed handling is superb.
I have a 2012 Specialized 26" Camber Comp named "Little Cam". Little Cam is a pure trail bike and is lightning quick but not fast. I completely updated Little Cam with a Fox Factory suspension, Shimano XT group, carbon handlebars and carbon seatpost.
Little Cam is really sensitive to tires. I have experimented a lot to find tires that work. I am still looking. Little Cam can turn so quickly that the tires tend to slide or skip sideways, which is not a good feeling.
Part 2: They Don't Call This Place the Rocky Mountains for Nothing
Fortunately, in Colorado there are mountain trails that are rocky, rough and steep!
This nasty trail is at Elk Meadows and is not too far from the nice single track shown in the first picture posted above.
This is a shot of a bad chunk of real estate called Bergen Peak,
This is actually more difficult than it looks. A trail bike with 120mm (4.7 inches) of suspension travel, such as Little Cam, will bottom-out on this rocky terrain, which results in a rough and jerky ride.
Ultra Stumpy has larger 29" wheels and 130mm (5.1") of suspension travel and rides better over rocky terrain than Little Cam. However, Ultra Stumpy wants to accelerate on a descent.
Using the brakes causes the bike to be slow in responding to steering input. Ultra Stumpy is a white-knuckle ride on steep and very rough terrain. The bike is just too fast.
Part 3: Enduro - The All Mountain Bike
A recent development in extreme mountain biking combines the long-travel of gravity racing bikes with the utility of a trail bike. The result is a bike that is designed to take on any and all terrain. An Enduro bike can take on smooth single track and nasty near-vertical trails strewn with rocks roots, loose gravel and fallen trees. Here is video on Enduro/All-Mountain riding:
I tried a few Enduro bikes at the Golden Bike Junkie Fest Demo Day. I was extremely impressed with the 26" Pivot Mach 5.7. This bike just flew over any and all obstacles. I tried the all-mountain Pivot Mach 6 with 27.5" wheels. The Mach 6 was great on the descent. But seemed to take a lot of effort during climbing.
A few weeks ago I went to Wheatridge Cyclery to pick up yet another set of tires for Little Cam. I wandered over to look at the new Santa Cruz and Yeti bikes. Both Santa Cruz and Yeti make high-end mountain bikes for serious riders with more money than good sense.
Santa Cruz and Yeti only build mountain bikes. I found out that the shop had a demo Santa Cruz Bronson available in my size. I plunked down $90 for a three day demo ride. I walked out the door with a sadly beat-up 2014 Black and Orange Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon XO.
Here is the demo Bronson in the bed of my truck. You may be able to see the new SRAM 1x11 XO drivetrain in the photo. This bike has Shimano XT brakes, Maxxis Tires and FOX suspension, which are my favorite components. The Bronson Carbon tips the scales at a bit over 26 pounds.
Here is the Demo Bronson propped against a bench at Elk Meadows.
This shows the 1x11 drivetrain.
There was a nice family riding on this trail. The mom was riding a 1980's Diamondback rigid "iron dog" that likely cost less than the tires on the high tech wonder I was riding. They passed me while I stopped to take in the view.
Many times I am so intent on riding that I don't do a lot of sight-seeing. Elk Meadows is designated open space and cannot be used for anything other than recreation.
I had a great time. The Santa Cruz Bronson handled beautifully and was fast. I took the bike into some very rocky and steep terrain. The long-travel 150mm+ suspension worked beautifully. The bike was stable through rock fields but still maneuverable. I really liked this bike.
I want one.
Part 4: Sticker Shock
I took the demo Bronson back to Wheatridge Cyclery. I talked to a salesman to see if they had a Bronson in my size for sale. The 2015 models had come out and they lacked some of the features of 2014 that I had demoed. I got sticker shock when I saw that they wanted $8,600 for the 2015 Bronson Carbon-C XO AM, which is the newer version of the bike I demoed.
I knew the Bronson was an expensive bike. But they had really cranked the price up for the 2015 bikes. I decided I would check out the bikes at my favorite bike shop. A few days later I went to the Golden Bike Shop. But that is a subject for another blog and this one is too long already.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Part 1: Football Officials Fitness Test
Although I am not sure why, I have been a high school football official for 16 years. For the first 14 of those 16 years, the Colorado Football Official Association ("CFOA") pretty much ignored physical fitness. I suspect that the Colorado High School Activities Association ("CHSAA"), which is the governing body for all high school sports in Colorado, decided that sports officials should be in some semblance of physical shape.
Yesterday, July 26th, was the first football officials meeting of the 2014 season. This meeting is called the "Master's Clinic'. At this meeting we are told about new rules and points-of-emphasis. For the past several years, points-of-emphasis have been on player safety.
We also have to pass a physical fitness test. We always have the Master's Clinic at a high school. Last year we all had to run a 1/4 mile in under 2 minutes and 30 seconds (2:30) and a 40 yard dash in under 12 seconds. A lot of officials did not pass this test. I ran the 1/4 mile in 1:24 and to 40 yard dash in a tad under 7 seconds. In other words, I passed with time to spare.
Part 2: New Test for 2014 - Agility and Flexibility
This year the directors of the CFOA decided to make the fitness test easier and concentrate on agility and flexibility. The directors decided on 130 yard shuttle run. Here is a diagram of the shuttle run.
Prior to starting, we placed one of our bean bags on the 15 yard line, and another bean bag on the 50 yard line. Bean bags are used as an aid for ball spotting during a game.
Here are the details of the fitness test:
(1) Start on the goal line;
(2) At the word "go", sprint to the 15 yard line and pick up the bean bag;
(3) Sprint back to the goal and place the bean bag on the line;
(4) Sprint to the 50 yard line and pick up the bean bag; and
(5) Sprint back to the goal line.
The clock starts at the work "go" and ends when the goal line is crossed while carrying the "50 yard line" bean bag. Any official that takes longer than 40 seconds to do the shuttle run is given a "failing" grade and is ineligible to work Varsity games.
There is a re-test in two weeks at the second meeting for those officials that failed this test.
I was worried that my right ankle could not take the strain of running and stopping. My right ankle went through reconstructive surgery on January, 31st. My ankle is okay but not 100%. I was wearing turf shoes so I wouldn't slide. I was concerned that my right ankle would give way.
As I stood on the line with 6 other officials I was worried. 130 yards seemed like a long distance. I was also concerned that the fitness test required stopping and reversing directions 4 times!
I was in the first heat. I was also the oldest guy standing on the goal line by a minimum of 20 years. I had no idea if I could pass the test. The Starter said, "Get ready - GO!"
I took off as fast as I could go. I ran to the 15 yard line. As I approached the bean bag, I pivoted on my left foot and quickly planted both feet sideways. I ended-up looking directly down the 15 yard line. My right foot was slightly beyond the line and my left foot was a few feet in front of the line. I timed this move so I could just reach the bean bag with my right hand. I scooped-up the bean bag, pushed off on my right foot. In a cat's eyeball blink, I was sprinting back toward the goal line.
I was in front of the pack when I got back to the goal line. I used the same quick sideways move to put the bean bag on the goal line. I then ran down to the 50 yard line to pick up the next bag. I used the quick sideways move at the 50 yard line and shot back toward the finish line. I got passed by one young guy at about the 20 yard line.
As I approached the finish line that timer was counting off the seconds since the start. I was amazed to hear the timer shout 21.. 22.. 23. I crossed the finish line at 24 seconds! I was just a second behind the fastest guy.
I was pretty happy. My right ankle held-up; I blazed trough the test; and I didn't pull any muscles!
Part 3: Plateau
After my initial 15 pound weigh loss, I hit a plateau. However, I am getting stronger and more fit. I did a long, and somewhat brutal, mountain bike ride yesterday. My clothes are fitting better so I am not going to get in a twist about stalling-out.
I forgot just how challenging dropping weight can be.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Monday, July 07, 2014
Part 1: A Bicycle is a Unicycle with a Training Wheel
When I was 14 years-old I decided I wanted to work on my balance. I bought a Schwinn unicycle with proceeds from my paper route. I had no idea how to ride a unicycle. I had even less of an idea on how to learn to ride a unicycle.
My older brother taught me how to ride a bike, which in retrospect, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment in any court in the land!
I was on my own trying to learn how to ride a unicycle. I spent many hours pedaling my unicycle back-and-forth across the driveway using the garage door for support. I fell off a lot!
Slowly, very slowly, I started to get the hang of it. At first I could do just a few peddle strokes without leaning against the garage door. Then all of a sudden I felt a surge of confidence and I took off down the driveway. It worked! I could ride a unicycle!
I learned how to pivot the unicycle, balance without moving, backup, hop sideways, and jump over stuff. I could stand up, move the seat out of the way, and pedal just standing on the wheel.
The coolest thing I could do was go up and down stairs! I used my unicycle to collect from my paper route customers. The tips rolled in! I could almost always get to the door on my unicycle, ring the doorbell, take the money, make change and give the customer a receipt, without getting off the unicycle!
In the last 40 years, unicycles have become really cool.
This is an Nimbus Oregon 26" Mountain Unicycle with a Surly Nate "Fat" tire. This bad boy has a hydraulic disk brake and downhill pedals. For the modest price of $830 you get an all-terrain unicycle that can take on any technical terrain.
But wait a minute - I already have seven really cool bikes. How much trail time is this killer unicycle going to see? It already takes me a week to ride all the bikes I have. I decided to pass on the ultimate unicycle.
Part 2: One of The Best Bike I Have Ever Been On
Earlier this year I attended the Bike Junkies Fest hosted by the Golden Bike Shop. Here is link to my blog about the event:
One bike I demoed really stood out. I fell in love with the 26" Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon XT/XTR PRO.
This bike is a rocket and has 150mm (6") of trail gobbling suspension travel. Although the Mach 5.7 climbed well, the descent was where it shined! When I hit the lower part of Chimney Gulch I just let the bike go!
Here is the lower part of Chimney Gulch. This trail segment consists of anti-erosion timbers, big rocks and steep drops. I hit this nightmare going over 20 mph. I just relaxed and let the bike do the work. The Mach 5.7 floated over the obstacles. Even to glance at the brakes during this rough segment was certain death! At the end of the bumps was a 90 degree corner. I threw the bike into the corner pretty much thinking I was dead meat. The bike tracked through the corner like it was on rails!
I was in love.
But the Pivot Mach 5.7 is really expensive. Even on sale this bike is $6,000. To afford this bike, I would have to part with my Specialized Camber "Little Cam", Specialized Allez road bike, Surly cross bike and my Honda CRF230 dirt motorcycle. I am already selling my Suzuki DL1000 street motorcycle to get a bigger down payment on a new car for my wife.
I already have plenty of great mountain bikes. I had to pass on the Pivot Mach 5.7.
My best bike is a 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. This bike is fast! I installed bigger disc brakes to help control speed. "Ultra-Stumpy" is an endurance racing bike. The Pivot is an all mountain bike. However, Ultra-Stumpy has 130mm of travel and can take on bad terrain. I think I am set.
Part 3: Better Ride Mountain Bike Training Camp
I decided to attend a three day mountain bike training camp that will be held in Evergreen, Colorado, on August 15th through August 17th.
I find mountain biking more strenuous than road biking. When I ride my road bike, I pretty much stay in the saddle and pedal. When I ride a mountain bike, I am rarely on the saddle. Mountain biking takes more upper body strength than road riding.
The uneven and loose surface can knock the front wheel all over the place. Even though mountain biking can result in some spectacular crashes.
I consider mountain biking safer than road riding since I regard careless drivers to be a lot greater hazard than a few rocks.
This is a mountain bike trail near Golden called Apex Trail. This trail has a few rocks here and there.
I have a month to get in a lot better shape before the camp. My ankle is healed and I am increasing my running and riding. I have a mountain biking specific strength workout that I have just started.
Even better news I am down 15 pounds!
Thanks for reading my blog.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Part 1: A Little History
On January 29th I had reconstructive ankle surgery that took a lot out of me. I was in a cast for 6 weeks, which seemed like an eternity. After the cast came off, I had 8 weeks of physical therapy. I finally got the okay from my doctor to run and ride.
I have always been very active. I found rest and recuperation like being in prison!
Part 2: Riding for Fitness
I have a lot of bikes. Each bike has is different. My all-purpose bike is a Surly Cross-Check. My Surly is decent pavement bike that can handle rough dirt roads and easy trails.
For my mountainous neighborhood, the Surly is a perfect fun and fitness bike.
I made a few changes to the Surly including lower gearing, knobby tires, better brakes and more comfortable saddle.
Part 3: High Meadow
Yesterday, June 22nd, I jumped on my Surly and took off for a long ride. Since it was likely to be dark by the time I got back home, I put my headlight and tail light on the bike. I wanted to ride a few miles on pavement then hit the dirt.
I decided to ride the High Meadow area. Fourteen years ago, on June 12, 2000, a carelessly discarded cigarette started a forest fire on High Meadow that burned 10,800 acres. We had to evacuate. On the ridges above my house was a 170 feet wall of flame.
This is a photo of the High Meadow fire. This condition is known as a "crowned-out" and reaches temperatures of over 2,200 °F.
The fire flared-up so quickly that many residents had to evacuate between walls of flame. We had less than 15 minutes to pack-up and leave. I was sure I had seen the last of my house.
As luck would have it, the fire burned directly away from my house. I was let through the police road blocks to get back to my house during the day. My house would shake when the slurry bombers would fly over. These planes came in very low.
The pilots that fly these planes are brave and skilled.
Part 4: High Meadow is Beautiful and Quiet Now
During the last 14 years the burned trees have fallen down and enriched the soil. The burn area is now a rich grassland that is full of berry bushes and wild flowers. I like riding through High Meadow because it is so beautiful.
As I rode along High Meadow the sun was starting to set.
I stopped to take a drink of water. There are very few houses in the burn area. There was no sound and it was a little spooky. I noticed I was near an overgrown driveway. For no good reason, I walked my bike down the driveway to the houseless foundation.
This house used to belong to a nice young couple that were our friends. Where the far end burnt log now sits, we had many dinners together and shared great conversation.
In the setting sun, I could remember what the house looked like. The house was nearly new and the view was spectacular.
There was a forest here once. The burned trees fell over as the years went by. This area provides great grazing and browsing for deer and elk.
If you have a good eye, you can see the burn area on the other side of the valley, which is slightly to the right of my bike.
Our friends never came back. They lost two dogs and cat in the fire. They were not allowed past the police roadblock to get their animals. My wife talked with them afterward. There was just too much pain and they did not want to rebuild.
I got back on my bike and rode home. I am not going to stop by the sad foundation again. I should not have stopped in the first place. The view is so pretty though.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Part 1: Fighting to Lose Weight and Get Back in Shape
I know exactly the time and date that I was last in great shape. On August 19th 2011 at 12:00pm I was standing at the starting line of the Leadville 10k. This race is billed as "The Highest 10K Race in America". The starting line was at 10,152 feet of elevation.
Unfortunately, the start was botched. The Starter was supposed to go "1-2-3 Bang". Instead, she went "1-2-3-4 Bang"! Expecting the gun after the count of three, the pack surged ahead. When the racers realized the gun had not gone off, they stopped. I put on the brakes to keep from clobbering the person in front of me. As I slammed my right foot forward to stop, I suffered a grade III muscle strain in my right calf. I had severely tore and ruptured the calf muscle.
It felt like someone took a knife and sliced through my calf muscle. The pain was intense. But I thought I just had a cramp. I ran about a 1/2 mile and managed to get to the side of the road. I stretched the calf and kept running.
I stopped a lot during the race and turned in a terrible 72:12 minute time. My wife was wondering where I was. She knew I could run 10k in at little over 50 minutes even at high altitude. She snapped the above shot as I attempted to sprint toward the finish.
I was on crutches for a long time. I have never raced since. While recuperating I gained 10 pounds. Before the Leadville 10K disaster I had lost over 85 pounds and was pretty fast.
This also marks the time that I started looking for lower impact exercise. I started doing more biking than running. Prior to Leadville I was primarily a runner. I biked for fun and cross-training. After Leadville I became primarily a mountain biker. I ran to get in better shape for biking.
Part 2: Becoming a Roadie - Big Mistake
My torn calf took a long time to heal. There is sill a visible gash in my right calf muscle. In May 2012 I bought a superb full-suspension mountain bike I call "Ultra-Stumpy".
Ultra-Stumpy is a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert model. This bike is made of carbon-fiber and titanium. Ultra-Stumpy is scary fast.
I live in the mountains of Colorado so good mountain biking terrain is at the end of my driveway. However, I work in downtown Denver, which is road bike country. I decided to buy a road bike. At first, I wisely had decided on a dual-purpose cross bike. But when I test rode a sport/racing road bike I changed my mind.
I bought a Specialized Allez. This bike is smooth and handles well. Compared to my mountain bikes, the Allez is wicked easy to pedal. My Allez is a pure road bike that can only be used on hard surfaces. Once the tires heat up, this bike rails through the sharpest corners. With modest pedaling effort, the Allez cruises at 30 mph on a level road.
I even bought a roadie outfit, including roadie shoes, roadie shorts and roadie jersey. I looked like a bona fide roadie. I was even temped to act like a bona fide roadie and sneer at lesser bikes, such as fat-tired cruisers, silly hybrids and, of course, those contemptible mountain bikes.
Then came May 22, 2013. At 6:05pm a woman in a Toyota Forerunner made a turn in front of me as I rode down Cherry Creek bike path. I had the green signal. I had the right-of-way. She saw me coming. She was talking on her cell phone. She had a chance to stop and let me by. She pulled directly in front of me when I was 12 feet away. I had less than 9/10ths of a seconds to react before impact. No human being on earth could have avoided the collision.
Right before the impact. I closed my eyes and relaxed. The noise and pain were amazing.
Besides many cuts and bruises, I suffered torn ligaments and tendons in my right foot, torn ligaments and a torn labrum in my right shoulder rotator cuff, a severe concussion, and compressed discs in my neck.
I thought I was okay. I did not have my cell phone. I really needed an ambulance. But because of the blow to my head, I was not thinking straight. I was in shock.
These injuries eventually put a stop to my exercise routines. My ankle has been rebuilt but my shoulder and neck still cause me some difficulties. I elected not to have neck surgery. I have another round of intensive neck rehab coming. I have put off shoulder surgery. I don't want to go through the 6 months of healing and rehab until the winter.
This is a photo of my ankle a few weeks after surgery. I snapped this shot while getting fitted for a new cast.
This is a shot of my first cast. My leg has lost most of this definition during the healing phase.
Part 3: Weight Gain and Strength Loss
Since the Leadville 10K in August of 2011, I have gained 30 pounds. What is worse than gaining weight is my loss of strength and cardio-vascular conditioning. It is hard to get motivated when normal activity hurts. I am struggling to ride my bikes just half the distance I used to. Running is also challenging.
I have difficulty controlling my appetite if I am not active.
Part 4: My Plan - Rehab, Run, Ride, Lift and Track
I got to get back on track. I have been putting off more rehab on my neck because it really hurts. I got a good recommendation for a rehab specialist from a coworker that had the same neck injury. I work in health care and the coworker is a neural therapist and certified fitness trainer.
I got to bite the bullet and workout frequently. Right now, I can muster about one or two bike rides a week. I have to start running, not just riding.
I need to get more strength. I can start out with light weights. I have also been hit-and-miss on nutrition. I have been drinking too much beer because it makes the pain more bearable.
I guess I am lucky I have only put on 30 pounds.
Thanks for reading my blog.
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