What a difference a week makes!

I'm pleased to say the humidity was a lot more agreeable this week and although dry and dusty the course was pretty pleasant to ride.  Having raced the week before I felt like I was an old hat at this racing lark and after my warm up lined up with the pack ready for the start of the race.  As usual the Expert Men headed off first followed by a lone Expert Female, a brief few minute gap and then the Sport Male.

I made a good start at the foot of the hill this week and managed to gain a spot or two, however, my efforts were short lived as one of the first riders to the foot of the start hill crashed the the ground, bringing two or three riders behind down with him.  Thankfully I was just out of the mess but had to slow to an abrupt standstill, regain my balance and cycle around the crash and into the climb without the momentum that I'd anticipated in getting up the hill.  Regardless I still made it to the top of the start hill and into the single track much further up the pack than the week before.  I managed to hang close to the main group for almost all of lap one and then started to drop off a little  into lap two.

Lap two I was pretty consistent and pushed on however at this point I was pretty much riding alone, I knew however that there were a few riders behind me so I was conscious I didn't start to slack off.  I got through it feeling pretty good with lots of distance between myself and the nearest rider behind.

Into Lap 3 I was pushing to keep the pace as I knew at this point I had a shot at significantly bettering my race time from the week before and possibly even breaking the 1 hour mark!  Hopes were dashed however as black clouds started to circulate and the wooded sections became increasingly dark, making it incredibly difficult to see.  A misjudged tree route caused me to hit the deck and get tangled in the bike, thankfully no serious damage was suffered by me or the bike, but by the time I managed to get going again i was being caught and overtaken.  I regained my composure, relaxed on pushed on as hard I could to finish the race,

The Results:
Week 1
Week 2
Although I finished towards the back of the pack in both races I'm pleased to see that I've managed to finish both races and in week 2 shaved over 5 minutes from my week 1 time.

I hope to keep improving and will post back next week with my results.

After entering my first ever race as a beginner last fall one of my New Year's resolutions was to try and enter more races in 2014.  In that first race last fall I'd entered in the beginner class and made the podium for my age category, however, I knew that if I wanted to improve I'd need to step up and push myself to the extra distance and competitive level of the sport class.

The Potomac Velo Club runs an annual 4 race series at Wakefield Park Annandale, VA.  With classes from Junior right through to Expert it has something for all skill levels and abilities, its a Cross-Country (XC) multi-lap course (that borders on being a super-sized short track).  It's fast and flowy, without any outrageous climbs or downhill sections.

The sport race was due to start at 6.55pm, I arrived around 6.15pm allowing myself time to get set up, and find my way around.  After registering, I hung around for a few minutes to watch riders from the 6.00pm race head off to start their final laps and then headed off down to the start line.

Just registered, looking fresh and ready to go
The thing that hit me hard as I made my way to the start line was the heat and humidity, I checked my cell phone and the temperature was showing almost 99 °F (37 °C), bearing in mind the hottest day on record in the UK is 101.3 °F (38.5 °C) this heat was uncharted territory for me.  Never the less I'd trained and knew that as long as I didn't go crazy I'd be able to complete 3 laps.

The start line was at the bottom of a short and steep gravel covered climb to allow the field to separate out, this was actually one of the harder parts of the race as halfway up the hill it was difficult to get traction whilst jostling for position.  I managed to make it to the top towards the back of the pack but definitely not last which I was pretty pleased about.  The course then runs along a gravel road before diving into the singletrack.  At this point everyone was pretty much set although the first few tight corners were a rather slow affair as the field had not had time to separate out fully.  I started to find my groove and despite smashing my pedal on a rock and coming unclipped, I managed to hold my position fairly well as the singletrack headed into the woods.  It was a this point I knew it would be a tough race for me as the humidity and lack of breeze hit hard.  I kept pushing on and knew that if I kept a brisk pace I'd be able to get through it.  As we came out of the woods the field had now spaced out and I was pretty much set in my spot for the rest of the race.

Crossing the line and heading out for lap 2
Each lap is approximately 3.3 miles long and the top finishers in the expert category lap at around 15 minutes, Strava shows my first lap as 19.10 so I still have a way to go.  The experts complete 4 laps of the race and shortly into my 3rd lap I started getting passed but most gave a clear signal they were coming by and were gone before I knew it.  Although no one likes getting lapped, seeing how fast the experts can ride and the endurance they have to do so gave me great insight into how I need to improve.

The sun starting to drop as I head out for lap 3
I was grateful of the fact that my jersey could unzip to just above my navel and let some air in as I started the 3rd lap however the relief was short lived as the humidity hit again as I dived back in to the woods.  I have to say the 3rd lap was a struggle but I made it round and got to the end in one piece.  I'll definitely be back next week but I'll certainly be hoping for cooler weather next time.  In terms of my finishing spot I'll post back with results once they are available online, however I saw a few drop out and believe there were one possibly two others behind me so I'm hoping I didn't come in last spot.  Either way I really enjoyed my first race in the Sport class against some clearly experienced racers and its given me the hunger to improve, train a little more and come back stronger for next time.

I had previously used a set of Avid Elixr R brakes and although they served me fairly well, I'd found they were prone to rubbing the rotors (despite adjustment) a little noisy and a bit of a nuisance to bleed.  The time came with the Avids, where both sets of pads needed replacing.  At this point having always wanted to give Shimano hydraulics a go after reading great reviews it made sense for me to save the expense of the new pads, sell the Avid Elixrs and use those funds to buy new.

There's a lot of love out there for the Shimano XT and Shimano SLX brakesets however I could not find a bad review about the Shimano Deore brakes, but they cost significantly less.  There are some subtle differences between Shimano's mid range Deore brakes and the higher end versions however, most notably the lever reach adjustment which requires a tool on the Deore but the higher end models are tool less.  Also the calipers aren't as attractive being a plain black unit and to my surprise the pads are held in with a split pin rather than a pad bolt in the higher end versions.  This aside though they function similarly and I am extremely pleased that so far these have been a set and forget function pair of hydraulics, with solid stopping power.

Key features:
  • Opposed 2-piston design reduces leading effect and optimal pad wear increases braking control
  • Two piece calliper design is both ridged and durable
  • Hinged clamp design
  • Ergonomic alloy brake lever for optimum comfort and performance
  • Mineral oil brake fluid is non-corrosive and less hazardous than conventional hydraulic brake fluid
  • Shim-less mounting system allows for quick installation and setting up
  • Brake lever features reach adjustment for perfect custom fit

I've not yet had to bleed the brakes even after a DIY hose shortening completed by fooling this great guide from Epic Bleed Solutions: How to shorten Shimano brake hoses

Here's to many more miles!

My seatpost was a lot less of a considered purchase and more of an impulse.  When purchasing the Crankbrothers Bars, I saw that there was also a promotion on their Cobalt 2 seatposts, and they had them in my size, 400mm, 31.6 with a 20mm set back.

This is a solid seatpost aimed more at the AM side of the market, what is great about this particular post is that it has a one bolt clamp meaning its a cinch to work on and use.  Along the front of the post there's a series of spaced dots which make it easy to find the correct length and remember it, a nice little touch.

One of my favorite sites to check out cycling content is NSMB.com who first drew my attention through their very funny paradoy videos on How to be a mountain biker and How to be a road biker.  Their latest video features a rap battle between a Mountain Biker and Road Biker....enjoy!

With the new bars, it was only fair to match them up with some new grips.  I'd had some success previously with lock on grips but had heard a lot of good things about silicon grips and their performance, in particular the fact that the grips have a 'memory' which forms to your hand over time was great.  They were simple to install requiring little more than a wipe of the bars with a damp cloth and they have not moved or slipped in 100s of miles.  I have to say it will be hard to go back to rubber grips after using the silicone ESIs for a period of time.

After increasing the length of my bars I wanted to shorten up the stem to give me a slightly more upright riding position and a little bit more of a snappy feel when turning the big 29" wheels.

Purely experimental I wanted a cost effective option that I knew would be a solid performer.  Having used Race Face stems before I settled on their trail oriented 'Ride' stem.  I have to say I've been extremely impressed by this and the Race Face logo looks great on any bike.

If you are looking at a value orientated stem with all the performance you need this is one I'd be happy to recommend.

Having switched everything across from my Airborne Goblin frame, it got me thinking about all of the components making up my bike and its current spec.  I though it would be a good idea to post a little bit of info on each along with my thoughts on why I selected each component along with how they are holding up.

The bars I'm running are Crankbrothers Iodine 2 Risers at 720mm.  I've found the wider bars increase the control I have and are a lot more comfortable as they suit my shoulder width more than the narrow 660mm bars I was running before.  The bars themselves have marks if you want to cut them down and also marks to help you make sure the are correctly aligned with your stem.  I'm definitely a wide bar convert, if anything my next set of bars will do away with the rise and be completely flat as pretty much all the riding I do here in NOVA is XC orientated and these bars as described by Crankbrothers are a little more on the AM side:

"In Crankbrothers' line, Iodine does battle in the all-mountain arena, and the Iodine 2 bar is a worthy contender. Constructed from 6061-series aluminum with a 30-millimeter rise."

You may recall my recent post talking about my cousin snapping the chainstays on his Specialized FSR.  After a brief search he sent me a note to say he'd settled up on the Yeti 575 as a direct replacement sticking to 26" wheels, so all of his parts could swap right across.

The Yeti 575 frame has custom butted hydro-formed 7005 alloy tubes and true modified single pivot suspension design, combined with the high grade sealed bearing offers a pretty maintenance free set up. 

The badly broken Specialized had served him well

All stripped and ready for the parts bin

575 in all its glory

Mid point

The finished article
Final spec:
2011 Yeti 575 Carbon Frame
Rockshox Pike 150mm Fork
Shimano XT 1x10 drivetrain
Shimano Saint BB
Gamut p30s Chain Guide
E Thirteen 36t Chainring
V8 DMR Pedals
ZTR Flow ex Front Wheel
Mavic en521 Rear Wheel
Maxxis High Roller Tires
Shimano XT Brakes
WTB Saddle
DMR Stem
Sunline bars

Having had the Niner EMD frame sitting in my garage for a few days, I couldn't wait to get it built up and all the parts from the Airborne Goblin swapped over.

It started out with a well earned clean for the Goblin, the last thing you want when working on a bike is to be handling dirty parts and everything that goes on the new frame should be as clean as possible in order to do it justice.

I picked a sunny afternoon to start the project and moved the work stand out of the garage to make the most of the weather.  The first part of the work is always the easiest as taking things off and stripping down a frame is much easier than building it up.  I start from the back of the bike, removing brake caliper derailleur and then moving onto the crankset leaving the last pieces to remove being the forks and cockpit.  I've found doing it this way can often mean that you can leave everything connected up to the bars allowing for an easy transition in reverse when they are on the new frame.

Assembly this time is the reverse of dis-assembly, again I chose to work from the front, connecting the fork and the bars and then working back over to mount the derailleur and rear brake caliper while giving thought to the cable routing.

The final steps were to put the wheels back on and get things dialed in, including checking the cable length for the rear derailleur and shortening the brake hoses where necessary.  I also chose to reuse the inner tube wrapped around the chainstay and will replace the blue tape when I manage to source some black electrical tape.

All told the total amount of time was just under 4 hours, including the initial clean of the Goblin, final adjustments, brake hose shortening etc.  I am now super excited to get out there, hit the trail and put this thing through its paces!