Monday, October 26, 2009

Estrella Mountain Practice Run

Just got back from a really nice weekend spent in Goodyear. Stayed at a friend's house close to the Estrella Mountain competitive loops. I miss living there, it's very spread out, and scenic, and way less ghetto than Mesa. The Estrella Mtn competitive loops are located right behind Phoenix International Raceway.

There were only a few people staging, maybe 8-10 cars tops. I was warned ahead of time about the trail conditions and technicality, they apparently do not maintain these loops very well, and they receive quite a bit of horse traffic. So I need to update the bike specs in the side bar, since I swapped out a whole bunch of parts between the bikes to make the full suspension bike race ready. This course would be hell on a hardtail.

I decided to practice the entire race course, which consists of one long loop, and one short loop. Starting out on the long loop, it's a short climb over the east end lower saddle of the mountain, somewhat fast, swoopy, though somewhat rocky. Once you get behind the mountain comes the motherload of chunky rocks and deep washes. This part of the trail I did not like very much, it doesn't flow very well, because there really isn't a line through the rockiness that won't bog you down as much as another one. The deep sand makes it really hard to commit to a line climbing out of the sandwash, and I can see this becoming a major deal in next weekend's race. With all the traffic that would be out there, these areas will most certainly be trashed.

Once you are done with the rockgardens, there are a few steep and loose dips into more sandwashes, with steep, loose and rocky climbs out of them (comparable to the front side of Pass Mtn). One of these I can't seem to clean, I gave it a few tries, and tried different lines, but no luck. After this part there is a fairly steep climb over the next saddle with some moderately tight switchbacks, and this is where the fun starts. On the back side of the climb there is a gnarly descent with rocks and boulders where there really isn't much room for error.

It gradually flattens out, but the big rocks stay, and there's a few more dips into washes with steep climbs out, then it becomes a little 'smoother'. The dips become shallower, and you actually gain some speed here, all the way to the foot of the climb up to the last saddle, where there is one more very large descent into a sandwash. This descent is a sandwash in itself, and once again I can see this area getting completely trashed after receiving some traffic from a race. From here on you start a steady gravelly climb up to the last saddle, this part is mostly doubletrack.

On top of the saddle you get a really good view of PIR:

From this point on it's an absolutely awesome downhill all the way back to the parking lot. Extremely fast with some spots to catch some big air.

There was some sort of practice going on at PIR as well, throughout the whole course I was accompanied by the sound of roaring V8's, which I don't really mind. I know there's some environmentalist mountainbikers out there who would probably bitch about the race cars, but they're just a bunch of hipsters who really are no better than anybody else. The kind that gives you stinkeye for driving a normal car, deep down inside they know how ridiculous they look in those weird style hybrids. I am convinced that those things really are not the answer, and in the end pollute as much as any other car. End of rant.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday Sedona Ride Part 1

Stage at Bike & Bean at the trail head. Covered Bell Rock loops, Big Park loops, Llama loops, Little Horse trail, H.T. trail, and Templeton.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hawes Luna Group Ride

This morning a fun ride with the Luna group. We dropped in at Power road, took Pig Trail, then up Hawes Trail, to Disneyland (or Candyland, whatever you want to call it), to Hidden trail, then back to Ridge trail to the four way intersection, and back Pig trail.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dust Devil Series Race #1

What a weird race that was. I got to the McDowell Mountain Park fairly early, around 6:30ish, when my start time was not until 9:24AM. That gave me plenty of time to buy this year's year pass, and get all my stuff ready. It also gave me a chance to check out all the other racers, and their rides. I thought my choice of the hardrock was pretty cheesy already, but I was amazed at the range of bikes out there. People were riding everything from Wal-Mart bikes to this year's long travel Kona full squishes. The most interesting one would probably be a belt-driven single speed 29er.

As for the race, the bike performed outstanding, no chain falling off, the shifting was crisp, clean, and fast, and it held up great through the rockgardens. Didn't have any flats, or anything break on the bike. At 9:24AM the CAT3 women lined up for the start, and I took a good look at my competition, and wasn't really sure what to think. The girl behind me was on a Wal-Mart bike, so I was pretty sure she wasn't going to make it through the rockgardens. The other girl was a girl I rode with on a Luna ride, she rode with me in the expert group, so she was good competition. And there was some college girls that could or could not be serious competition. One of them had a fairly serious weight issue, and I felt bad for her that she had to pedal all of it around, up some serious nasty hills too.

The start-'horn' then sounded, and off we went. Somehow the big girl ended up in front of me, and bogged down on the first hill, right in the middle of the trail so I could barely pass her. Wasted a lot of energy spinning my back tire trying to get past her up a sandy uphill. Way to go. One of the college girls and the other one managed to stay in front and were gone, and I decided just to do my laps and call it good. The other girls I left behind, and never saw them again (literally).

Doing my laps I passed a lot of CAT3 guys, and actually, on the first lap I passed almost all of the 'rockcrusher' guys, that started about 15 minutes ahead of my category. Some of them seemed like total beginners, and I wonder if they had any idea what they had started, or if they had ever even rode the course.

The first lap went fairly easy, and was very fun. It was very swoopy and fast. The second lap I had to do the perimeter of the park, and it takes you through a neverending rock collection. It beat me up pretty bad on my hardtail with too rigid front suspension, and I lost the girls that were in front of me (who were both on full suspension bikes, darn!). Overall I felt pretty good throughout the race, and I could have pushed myself harder, but I was out there for my own entertainment and race experience. Overall I got a pretty good time of about 1:42:00 ish, the Dust Devil server is running overtime currently so I can't check right now. Anyway, it was good for 3rd place, YAY!

Friday, October 9, 2009

RD Cage Spring Repair Guide

Yay! My chain tension problems are now officially a thing of the past. Hopefully. Anyway with the help of this website I figured out how to fix the cage spring tension in my SRAM XO derailleur. And all you need to fix it is a 2.5mm allen wrench, and if you plan on servicing the derailleur while you're at it, also have some cleaner and grease ready. I like using the cheap autozone engine degreaser for cleaning.

Step 1:
Disassemble the cage by removing the two pulley screws. Make sure you keep all the bearing parts of the pulley together. At this point you can clean and regrease the pulley bearings.

Step 2:
Remove the little stopper screw (the one that the cage rests against when not in use, it prevents it from rotating back too far).

Step 3:
Let the cage rotate all the way back, it is pressed on, with a little wiggling at some point it will come off. When it pops off, make sure you don't lose the cage spring. This is a good point to clean the inside out and regrease.

Step 4:
Now you need to determine what the spring tension needs to be. Take a look at the below picture:

There are three holes, the one located on the far counterclockwise end in the picture will create the most spring tension, the middle one is the default/stock hole the spring is inserted in, the one on the far clockwise end will decrease spring tension.

At first I inserted the spring in the far counterclockwise to up the tension in the cage spring. I reassembled the derailleur and the tension still was very weak. So then I disassembled it again, insterted the spring in the weakest spring tension hole, and assembled it by rotating the cage an extra rotation before popping it back in place, essentially adding an extra rotation to the spring. Keep reading for assembly instructions.

Step 5:
The spring fits into a slot on the derailleur side, wiggle the cage into position, making sure the spring is inserted into the right slot/hole, then rotating until the D-fitting on the stub snaps in place. If you want to add the extra rotation, rotate the cage when the spring is snapped in place, but before the D-fitting snaps in place. Press the cage firmly back on.

Step 6:
Rotate the cage past the stopper point, and put the stopper back on.

Step 7:
Re-assemble the rest of the cage and pulleys.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Test Ride

I finished putting together the 'race' rig. I was a little concerned about the chain tension, since the cage spring of the rear derailleur is pretty weak, but it works awesome. As can be seen in the pictures, it sags a little bit. I did a test ride / time trial out at MMP, and the drive train performs really good: shifting is fast, smooth, and precise. The only thing I noticed was that it is very noisy on rough terrain. Other than that I timed myself on the S-T-L loop at McDowell Mountain Park, with getting bucked off the bike once (shame on me), the chain falling off twice, accidentally getting unclipped once, and pulling over a few times to stretch my back (not used to riding the hardtail anymore), I came out at about an hour. Not sure what to think of that really, it's not superfast, and it's not superslow. I just hope the race will be less eventful.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Canal Ride

This morning I just did a training ride along the canal. I had the whole road to myself :)

Went past the 'monkey farm', really didn't see anything exciting, just hammered along in a taller gear than comfortable. I rode for about an hour.

Today I will get the rest of my parts in to finish building up the race bike, I certainly hope it was worth it. Very excited about trying the new drivetrain.....

SoMo - Mormon/National/Telegraph/DC

What was going to be a fun, gnar, and technical Saturday morning ride turned into an epic adventure as usual. We met up with one of the Luna girls at South Mountain, who was going to show us some lines on National. Instead of our usual 'up Mormon - down National', we went 'up Mormon - up National', meaning at the intersection we went to the right instead of left.

This part of National was new to me, and I have been missing out big time!!! What a fun trail, and the obstacles are challenging but most of them are within my skills range. Obviously we had to walk up the waterfall, and I'm not sure if I can even ride down it, it would definately take some sessioning. We took a break up on the middle section of the waterfall, and ended up hanging with some people from the MTBR group.

It was a shame that I wasn't riding too well that morning, I wish I was a little more balanced, I would have wanted to try and session some of the obstacles.

We ended up riding to the Buena Vista parking lot, where we were blinded by a brand spanking new, bright orange 2010 El Guapo. Extremely nice bike, but I was kind of disappointed with the weight: 33-36 lbs range, even though it was only about a 5" travel bike.

So from there we kept on going on National, and went past the towers. This is where the trail gets extremely fun! Mucho exposure, stair steps, rocks, boulders, and very loose conditions! Even though some of it was way over my head, I had a lot of fun riding what I was able to ride. After that comes a section called the 'catwalk', which is a somewhat narrow trail that runs along a ridge, elevated high along the road. Which meant on your right there was a very steep, and rocky cliff with the road right next to it, you would probably fall to your death, or at least get badly hurt if you happen to crash over the edge.

The catwalk ends with some fairly extreme switchbacks, leading you to the Telegraph Pass trailhead. From that point we hike-a-biked down Telegraph Pass, mostly due to extreme conditions of monster step downs and crowds of hikers. We reached the intersection with Desert Classic, and rode Desert Classic back to the Pima Canyon parking lot. It was after noon at this point, and it started heating up, and what saved us was probably that there was somewhat of a cool breeze. I did not have fun on that stretch of Desert Classic, especially not after that section of National. It seemed extremely boring to me, and it didn't help that I was all geared up with armor and a full face. I pulled over at some point and took the armor and helmet off to strap it to the camelback. My heavy built black stallion is not built for speeding through light XC singletrack, and I wasn't too excited about pedaling along a set of knobby and balloony tires on a flat trail. Yes, I consider Desert Classic 'flat'.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I was so tired of the below mentioned drivetrain, that I went shopping for replacements same day. Score! Ordered an X7 front derailleur, 11-26 9spd cassette, and picked up XO shifters + rear derailleur. Now I just need to go get a chain, and I need to figure out what I'm going to do about housing. Right now it is set up for full housing, but I'm having some issues with routing it all, I can't accomplish a nice radius everywhere, which might cause some trouble with shifting. I am really trying to get it all done in time, and working right. I am also putting the third chainring back on there, though I am worried about running the longer chain for that. I hope it doesn't affect the tension or shifting performance.

Other than that I am looking forward to tomorrow morning's ride. Another girl is going to show me some tips and tricks on riding UP National trail at SoMo.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Battery Died

Sorry no pictures of this morning's ride. There wasn't much time, so we rode out at Usery, and did a short loop of the Levee trail, Moon Rock Trail, Blevins, the front side of Pass Mtn, Cat's Peak and then back. I hate to say that I didn't really have a good time, I went to bed too late the night before, was unprepared, dehydrated before I even started, and had a massive headache. About 90% of the trails are fast and flowy, nothing technical, and most important I got to test ride my race setup. Conclusion: it sucks balls.

Now I'm scavenging for parts like mad, I hate the Shimano drivetrain with a passion. Why can't they just make products that are 'plug and play'??? Even their high end components need weekly adjusting, and the crappy parts that I'm running right now don't work at all. Ghost shifting, and the front derailleur doesn't know what to think of my two-speed front setup. Most of all, it is SLOW. You click, and the gears change a few seconds later, TOO LATE. Aarrggh!!!

Worst case scenario I will temporarily switch the parts off of the trail bike to the race bike. The Sram components from that bike have been on there for forever, and I have only had to adjust the rear derailleur twice, and never touched the front after installing. It was well worth my money (bought brand new), and still paid a lot less than what I would have paid for XT/XTR bullcrap. Take that Shimano....