Sunday, October 24, 2010

My little piece of paradise.

You pedal for 30 minutes. Not long, but it is up. Three little rollers to the start of the serious stuff. We've had a lot of rain and the trails are pretty rutted out but that just makes it interesting. Control the breathing, keep the legs spinning, keep the quit thoughts away. Yeah, I really didn't feel like climbing a hill.
When the screaming meanies keep me from wanting to ride (or do much of anything) I make sure I stop and smell the roses. Actually it is a weed but it adds perspective and is a study in survival. Hang on, keep taking the nourishment life hands you, and thrive. I didn't stop on the way up but took this at the top. My game I play in my mind is to not stop. If you stop there is no reward at the top, no reason to take a minute and take in the view. Eat a muesli bar. Seems like a lot of work for a muesli bar and a look around.
Camp Mountain back towards the city.
Not a bad view though. You can see the city and beyond to Stradbroke Island over Moreton Bay. Thirty minutes from my door. I have the ability to get up here. I just sometimes need the motivation.
This way down....
My final reward is the trip back down the mountain. It's fast and fun with a few butt clenching moments thanks to the rain. Sweet. Life feels like it has been constantly handing me lemons lately. I must admit to just turning up my nose at them with disdain without a second thought for the strong, sweet flavor that they can release. So I grabbed the lemons the hill threw at me, lack of motivation, a bit of pain from not riding enough. I squeezed them and cajoled myself up to the top and there it was. Life's lemonade. Sweet as.
Squeeze the lemons people.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Armchair Rocketship Pilot. Riding the Anthem X29.

Over the weekend I was able to spend time just riding the new bike and getting the settings dialed. I have also managed to get an accurate weight of the bike stock and as it will be for racing with my Stans 355 wheelset. I thought a good ride around Bunya and Gap Creek in the single track would help to get the shakedown started on familiar trails with no excuses on my behalf. I know these trails pretty well so it was all about the bike.
First to some long awaited numbers. My medium Anthem stock off the showroom floor weighed in at 12.17kg with Shimano XT pedals. Thats a little higher than some of the reported weights getting around and even more than the weight I got at the shop. I have changed the saddle and grips to my preferred units but the weights here made no discernible difference either way. I am a bit surprised by the difference in the weight I got in the shop of 11.9kg but that was a pretty quick weight while only holding the scales and not hanging them properly. Foolish me, I thought it wouldn't matter too much. With my Stans wheels the weight comes down to a respectable 11.7kg. Not too bad.
I won't go into the specifications as you can get them off the net. I'll also put it out there that I do have a great relationship with Cyc'd for Bikes and Giant and that obviously I am grateful for the support they have both given me. Having said that I will also try and be honest and true in my evaluation of the bike. 
First the negative. The wheels are heavy. Not stupidly heavy, but still pretty weighty for a bike designed for XC racing. The wheels are still considerably lighter than last years model and a DT Swiss rear hub is a very smooth and reliable addition. Nice, loud and positive. I am non committal about the Crossmarks on this bike. They were consistent but not confidence inspiring.
I have set the fork up the same as my XTC with 80psi and then I have messed around with the external adjustments. There are so many ways to tune the Fox RLC fork that I was bamboozled for a while until I just started making changes and riding and noting the differences and whether I liked it or not. Hardly scientific but I ended up with 90psi and the preload at about half on the dial. I like the rebound pretty snappy and thats  how I have it set now. So how was it? Bottomless travel and stiff. I enjoy the feel of the Fox F-29 on my XTC and the RLC version gives more adjustments and easier tuning. 
So some riding. I rode the single track in the Gap Creek reserve to check out the suspension and handling. My first test was on Death Adder. There are some really nice technical sections that I could open the shock up and test the bump eating abilities of the anthem. I hit the first rock garden and threw caution to the wind. I bashed through it and was up the other side after a little pinch without even drawing a breath. Pretty impressive.  The true test came later on Dingo though when I cleaned the climbs that are towards the top of the trail. Anyone who rides there will know the climbs I mean. They are tricky. I probably only clear the two climbs 1 in 3 times I ride them. I was able to carry more speed into the corner and punch it through the first pinch and then the rear wheel just stuck as the rock slab of the second pinch reared and was duly dispatched with just a little holler of triumph. I thought that was really fun, then I pointed the thing down. Holy shit.
The Maestro system.
I haven't owned a dually for a while and boy did it show. You don't feel trail chatter, you don't get bounced off line and you don't need to choose the smooth line and you can pick the fast line. I got to the bermed corners around half way down and got my mojo on. The rear compressed into the corners and lowered the centre of gravity which made the bike feel stable and let the tyres just drill in to the corner. A little more body english was required to get the bike over to take the next corner but the result was the same. In deep and fast. Well, fast for me.
There are a few things I should mention breifly that only when I went back to my XTC became apparent. The 3 x 10 XT gearing is smooth. Yep, the hype said so but even through all the muck and crud I threw at this bike it never even looked like missing the shift. The Avid Elixir CR brakes are great. You can adjust the pad clearance and lever reach. I like them a lot. They are a bit noisey when wet but hey, thats life. 
There are a lot of people with opinions about 29ers being slow in single track. I want to point out that just as there are a multitude of 26 inch bikes available and not all of them are awesome in single track, so it is now with 29ers. Some of them though are awesome. Pick the bike for the purpose. The Anthem is a capable cross country bike with comfort to spare. It handles single track beautifully and while there are quicker bikes out there, I think you will be hard pressed to find a bike that will see you doing it in more comfort especially for the price range. Spend some time, set the bike up right and enjoy a very capable bike with a great spec and price Win,win.
It's all just good dirty fun.
I can't wait to get it on a 24 hour race.......

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Silver Bullet.

Warning! To those people expecting some musing on how my life is at present or some philosophical comment then you will be sorely disappointed. The following contains extreme mountain bike geekery, technical content and descriptions that may or may not contain the word "rad".
On Wednesday my fantastic sponsors, Cyc'd for Bikes, presented me with my long awaited new bike. The Anthem X29. I have spent the last two days setting the bike up and waiting for the rain to stop! Today I was just starting to think there was no chance of testing it out when a little break in the weather presented itself and I jumped on it.
I headed out to Ironbark and Bunya to try and miss the worst of the muck and not trash the trails. My plan worked a treat as the trails around Ironbark were pretty dry up on the ridge lines and it gave the chance to test out the Propedal feature on the rear shock. It works. You'll hear that a lot. Everything works on this bike. It has been a long time since I have ridden a dually and the Anthem did not disappoint me one little bit. It was cool to just sit in the saddle and not suffer trail chatter and the fatigue that comes with it. I climbed up a technical trail and the rear wheel stuck to the ground and provided masses of traction on the slippery rocks and roots allowing me to put my energy into choosing a line and pointing the bike towards it. While this was all very nice, it was hardly surprising or earth shattering. When I got over to Bunya was when the real fun started.
Traction. That is the buzz I got from my singletrack blast. I hit corners hard as I normally would on my XTC but the difference was if the corner was broken or the trail a little loose the Anthem just stuck. Everything was smoothed out and I could just pedal and turn the damn bike. I liked it. My plan for this bike is for the longer enduros and 24 hour races next year and maybe some shorter races on the harder courses. I hope the ability to let the bike do some of the work for me may help keep my fatigue levels down a bit and let me go for a lot longer. Hopefully.
The other really nice feature of the bike is the brakes. The Avid Elixir CR's are a huge improvement over the Juicy 3's on my XTC. There are heaps of adjustments and I could really set the feel up perfectly for me. Nice. I guess my final comments should go to the bikes weight. It came out at 11.9kg stock. If I choose to put my race wheels on to the bike it will knock around a kilo off that weight. Thats really respectable.

  I still have a long way to go in the set up process. More messing with shock settings, bar heights and seat heights. All these little things make a huge difference when you intend to sit on the bike for a whole day. From my first short bash out on the bike in wet muddy conditions though, I reckon my Anthem will be a winner.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Short bursts.

There has been lots happening lately. Not really anything that would make a whole post on its own so here are some short bursts. They are most certainly listed in order of event, not of importance. All of them have affected me in some way.
Last weekend I did the Boonah Marathon. It was shortened to 75km instead of 85km and in the end I did a time somewhere around the 4 hour 15 minutes mark. I say "around" because my Garmin showed 4:04:53 as my time and the officila time showed it as a 5:18:00. Yep, A whole hour extra. Not sure what happened and still waiting on the reply from the race organisers. I had a good race though felt strong until I had to throw up. I felt better after that but couldn't eat or drink for the last 15km. Alison and Jack came out as support crew and it made me smile to see Jack changing my water bottles out for me and yelling "Hurry up Dad, here come some more riders! Now you are 37th, ohoh 38th! Quick!" Tops. Thanks to both of them being there.
My best mates mum passed away during the week. She had been battling a few serious health issues and had reached a pretty good age. I won't quote that age as I can't remember exactly what it was. Joyce was a darling and she always made me and my family welcome when we visited. She raised good kids and I am proud to say one of them is my mate. Joyce's funeral is tomorrow and Alison and I will be there to see her off. RIP Joyce.
The memorial for Pete (Big Turtle) McMillan was yesterday at his family home. There was an awesome turn out with people from the car club, his work and the mountain bike community all showing up and trying in vain to find bad things to say about him. It was a really fun afternoon of story telling, chatting and of course eating as befits Pete's great loves. The ride that followed was at a very relaxed pace in the rain with heaps of smiles and joking. Jen, Petes wife was on the ride and stoic as always. I could not be so graceful under the circumstances. We'll miss you Pete.
My cat of 17 years has to be put down. He has kidney failure and is rapidly deteriorating. I took him to the vet on Saturday for another matter and he suggested that I put him down before the pain gets really bad as that is the usual course of this disease. I took him home for the weekend so the boys can say goodbye. So tonight I took him back to the vet and ended his suffering. He was quiet and very relaxed through the whole thing, unlike me.
So there it is. Life is nuts sometimes.