August 2009 Archives

Manitowoc Tour - Day 3

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Hiles, WI to Shawano, WI - 106 miles

Woke up to some beautiful weather and got started on some great roads, the miles were just flying by today.   Didn't stop much, but there were a few interesting sights along the way. 

Every railroad tie along these tracks was just covered in taconite pellets. 

I'm probably one of the few bicycle tourists who was really excited to go by the Crandon Offroad Raceway.

Part of my super top secret mission as an operative of the People's Front of Superior was inspecting Wisconsin's defenses against a possible invasion from the north.

South of Crandon, just after crossing the Wolf River, you go through one of the few really hilly sections of this route. Actually, it's just one big hill.  Taking a picture of this sign part way up was a good excuse to stop and take a break. 

The UP is dotted with tons of small local ski hills, most of which are no longer used, get tracked up by snowmobilers, or are converted to sledding hills that skiers aren't allowed on anymore. Still, on a moderately light powder day (a frequent occurence in the UP), these hills are just awesome, awesome fun on a pair of heavy duty cross country skis.  I'd like to hit as many as I can before they're gone forever.  Once I got to the top of the hill, I was at the top of the ski hill. Looks like I'm going to have to come back and vist, if not for the hill itself, but also the surrounding wooded hills probably offer some great tree skiing. 

Pulled into Mattoon and stopped to sample the local cuisine.

Funny thing is, Mattoon looked damn familiar.  I knew I had been there before. As I progressed down the route through Leopolis, that feeling just got stronger.  Later that night, after digging through some old emails, I realized I passed within maybe a mile of buddy's farm that I had visited by motorcycle back in 2006. 

Someplace in the area, shortly after a nice officer flashed his lights at me for passing a minivan on a double yellow in front of him.  I didn't actually get pulled over. I just stopped to kneel in prayer to whatever deity was responsible for letting me off.  (And yes, that's the same tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag I'm hauling around on this trip)

In my defense, fast driving would seem to be a popular thing in this area. I passed by two garages containing seriously built Miatas- roll bars, sticky tires, agressive suspension, the whole nine yards.  Not exactly easy Sunday driving material. I wonder what cool finds might be sleeping in all the old barns in the area.   

The defenses seem to get weaker the further south I get.

Got to Shawano later that evening and I was done for.  Well past the 100 mile mark for the day. The problem was all my camping gear was still a little soggy and the campgrounds were another 5 miles out of town.  But hey, look at that, a Comfort Inn & Suites, right on the route. With a hut tub!  I sort of knew maybe 25 miles back that I was going to end up in a hotel that night, so I tried to set some price limits in my head. I should know better. Once I'm standing in the lobby after a hard couple days on the road, mere feet from the hot tub and cold beer, you can pretty much take me for everything I'm worth. They let me off easy for $104.  


A couple of these, a good soak in the hottub, and I was feeling no pain.

Later, I would learn this hotel is regularly used for swinger parties.  I never would have known. Well, maybe all the naked people wandering about the pool area should have been a warning, but I didn't want to question any local customs. Or interrupt my hot, bubbly, beer buzzed bliss in the hot tub.   

Manitowoc Tour - Day 2

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Somewhere north of Trout Creek, MI to Hiles, WI - 100 miles

Woke up to a nice morning, got the bike loaded up and had myself a nice cruise into the picnic area at Trout Creek for breakfast (see previous post).   After that, I rode down 28,  and  took shortcut past Bond Falls over to US-45.  Little bit of headwind heading down 45, but not bad. I was out touring! Only problem was, I was hungry. Really hungry.  Really, really hungry. Even some snacks on top of my morning oatmeal/walnut/apple/maple syrup orgy wasn't doing the trick. 

No problem though, I was almost to Watersmeet, MI, and the WI border is like right after that, and then Eagle River is just a short distance past that. I can get some lunch in Eagle River. 

I need to look at maps more closely.   

After crossing US-2 in Watersmeet, I saw a sign saying that Eagle River was still 28 miles out. Just a teeny bit farther than I thought.  OK, a hell of a lot farther than I figured.

But hey, what's that? 

Big HONKIN' sandwiches? Sign me up for that! (Fun fact: After being mentioned on the David Letterman show, Nimrod merchandise briefly surpassed Finlandia University 'FU' merchandise as the leading UP export)

Do I want onion rings with my philly cheesesteak? Oh hell yeah.  With a side of ranch dressing of course. 

Urf.   OK. I wasn't hungry anymore. 

Time to start pedaling south again. 


My, what big potholes they have in Watersmeet. 

A couple miles later....

My front tire feels a little weird, I should try and slow down... AND JESUS MOTHER OF GOD I'M GOING TO DIE!!! I THINK MY FRONT WHEEL JUST FELL OFF. 

OK, must have been a pinch flat, but when a 35c tire on a loaded touring bike loses most of it's air in a hurry things get a little entertaining in the handling department.

I managed to wrestle it to a stop and set about changing out the tube- thankfully there was a clearly identifiable hole, and no weird tire drama involved.  But while I was sitting on the side of US-45 changing a tire, it started to rain.  And frankly, a big honkin' sandwich with onion rings was turning out to be not the greatest eating decision ever on my part.  

Start pedaling again.  US-45 between US-2 and Eagle River is busy.  And under construction, with a narrow unmarked shoulder.  With the headwind, it really started to suck.  Thank god the people of WI saw fit to build a really gigantic welcome sign.  Hitting that milestone was a big turn around point in the day for me.  If that sign was just a few miles down the road or any less extravagant, I might have bailed on this trip.   I still had time to bike back home, get in my car and drive down.

A couple miles after that and I was finally on the ACA route. And all of a sudden, the riding went from hellish traffic on 45 in the rain to a downright pleasent cruise through the woods. Rain didn't bother me at all. This was no longer a chore, it was fun.

I really only had to make Eagle River that day, but the roads were so nice and the rain stopped, I just kept going- an additional 36 miles to Hiles, WI. 

One of those "Only in Wisconsin" things, I guess.

I did miss a turn that added about 6 extra miles that day, but I came across this, so it didn't really bother me. 

And yes, I peed on both sides of the sign. 

Finally found the right turn onto Military Rd, and came across this sign. Especially ammusing as it's pretty much the route I was following.


Had a nice ride down Military Rd, but by the time I hit Highway 32, I was pretty much done for.  Found a really nice private campground just outside of Hiles. Although just after setting up my tent, I looked up and saw this huge hornet nest maybe 50 yards from my site.

They didn't bother me though and I had another great night of sleep.  

Cooking With Bad Decision Bicyclist

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Riding a touring bike all day take a lot of energy.  And you can't eat all day if you don't get started first thing in the morning. 

Up until a month ago, I was a solid pancakes kind of guy. Never been a huge fan of eggs, and oatmeal never left me all that satisfied.  

Until, that is, I learned how to properly do oatmeal from one of my teammates.  I was sitting there, munching on my hippie bars, grieving my lack of pancakes that morning while my fellow teammate tackled a bowl of oatmeal at least twice the size of his head, filled with nuts and fruit and god knows what else. 

Ooooohhhh.... So that's how it's done. I can do that. 

I'm now one of those oatmeal people.  Here's how I do it. 

Step 1: Get hot water going for oatmeal and coffee.  
Step 2: You need a huge mound of instant oatmeal. Don't hold back here.  This is the glue that holds it all together.  I usually make it a little on the dry side, but do what you like.  Use milk if you can. 

Step 3: Cinnamon. Again, go crazy with it. I've never had too much cinnamon in my oatmeal.

Step 4: Dried Apples.  I usually add just enough to get some apple flavor. Raisins work in a pinch.

Step 5: Walnuts.  At least 1/4 lb.  This is the long haul food for the morning.

Step 6. Drench that fucker in maple syrup.  REAL maple syrup.

Bone Appetite!


Manitowoc Tour - Day 1

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Askel, MI to someplace north of Trout Creek, MI - 45 miles

Dammit. I still have to pack. 

I piled up everything I was going to take and proceeded to start cramming it into the panniers on the bike. 

Shit.  It doesn't all fit.   

Time to make some gear calls.  

Ditched a lot of extra food and and some clothing.  Thankfully, none of these decisions came back to bite me.   

Out the door by 5pm. 

Holy crap it's hot.  

Really hot.  

I've ridden this route before.  Boring.

Just keep pedaling.  

I could just go back and get my car and drive to Manitowoc.  

No, I'll stick it out for tonight. I can do that tomorrow. 

I had a "must do" goal of a national forest campground about 25 miles south of my house. For some crazy reason I pressed on an additional 20 miles to a nice quiet spot I knew deep in the Ottawa national forest.  

In bed by 9pm. Despite the heat, I don't think I've ever slept that well in a tent before.


Manitowoc Tour- Day 0.5

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Calumet, MI to Calumet, MI - 28 miles. 

Hey, touring is tough, that's why I ease into it with a nice little 28 mile bike race. In ninety something degree weather. On a rigid single speed.  

I was going to take it easy, honest.  The Great Deer Chase is one of my favorite races and on a course almost perfectly suited to a rigid single speed.   Fast, rolling, and all the climbs are quick and steep.  But hey, I had a tour to do, so I signed up for shorter 17 mile option. 

A few weeks out, I find out this race was going to be The Official Unofficial UP State Single Speed Championship event. But only in the longer 28 mile race.  Well shoot.  I had to move to the longer race.  Not because I had any delusions of becoming the Official Unofficial UP State Single Speed Champion, but mainly because I wanted to leave immediately after the race and get started on my tour. If I did the short race, there was a very real possibility I'd get to stand on the podium just for showing up because everybody did the long race. 

And if I had to stick around for an award, I'd stick around for beers afterward to celebrate, and then probably sleep off the hangover the next morning. And BAM!  All of a sudden I have two days to pedal 370 miles to Manitowoc to get my ass on the ferry. 

So I did the long race.

While the course is fun on a single speed, the roll out is not.  Lots and lots of flat two track that I'm completely spun out on.  The 29er thing gives me some advantage on the turf, but I knew I'd be nose to tail once I hit the single track.   So my strategy for this race was to hammer as best I could on the open two track and recover on the single track when stuck in the pack.

So that's what I did. I got a respectable start, but well out of winning any single speed championships and ended up in the single track with 3-4 people in front of me and god knows how many poor souls stuck in the rain of sweat pouring off behind me.  

And just a couple hundred yards in, some dude behind me starts yelling out that he wants to pass.

Um, NO. 

Look, usually I'm a really nice guy about passing.  I've put it into the weeds numerous times to let people by.  But I just busted my ass to get into this pack, if you wanted to get in front of me so bad, where were you on the last couple miles of double track?  Letting this dude by would require pretty much pulling off the trail and stopping and letting him and who knows how many people behind him by.

I think I did a very polite job of telling him to piss off.  

At the very least, when we got to the next double track section, I had a hell of a lot of incentive to dust those four people in front of me and not let anybody beat me to the next section of single track.  So much for taking it easy.  

Still, the inevitable happened and we came to a long slight downhill and I got dropped. So there I was, pretty much alone for the next lap and a half until the end of the race.   Like I've said before, ending up by myself out on the trail is pretty much the death blow to a good showing on my part- I slow way down.  Probably not a bad thing, I saw one person passed out in the weeds on the side of the trail and on the second lap, I was starting to feel chills- the heat was really getting to me.   I purposely dialed it back even more. No sense in killing myself on this. 

Besides, I sort of looked like warmed over death already. 

More pictures of heat exhausted racers by Chris Schmidt can be found here.

Anyway, I still pulled a respectable finish out of the race- about 2 minutes slower than last year. But given the heat, the supposedly slightly longer course, and running it on an undergeared rigid single speed, I was quite content with the results.  

But it was now 2pm on Saturday, I was dirty and exhausted, yet still had to get home and pack, and get started on the 370 miles I had to do before mdnight on wednesday.  

I'm Back!

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Touring by bicycle is awesome.  I'm sold. I need to do more.  

Bear with me, I'll get to the stories here shortly. I've got all weekend since I bailed on heading to the Ojibwe Forest Rally.

In the meantime, here's a bit of a gear review. This is mostly for my benefit, but I know I would have read through something like this when I was prepping for the trip.  

The Bike
My Kona Jake is one hell of a bike. This trip was just further proof of what a great "do it all" bike this is.  A couple key features really proved their worth these past few weeks. For starters, aluminum frames are the way to go for touring. Me and all my gear are probably pushing 300lbs at least, so a nice stout frame is a necessity.  One shortfall of the Jake is there's no room for a traditional kickstand, so I'm constantly leaning the bike against stuff and laying it down in the dirt.  No worries about paint damage and rust like on a steel bike though, battle scars just give this bike more character. 

The 32 spoke wheels are heavy mothers, but they held up for the whole trip. About part way through I noticed all the drive side spoke holes on the rear rim were cracked, but it held fine for 400 miles and didn't seem to get any worse.  I'll gladly take warnings like this over a sudden catastrophic failure any day of the week.  Still, a proper 36 spoke touring wheel is probably in the cards sometime soon.  

I know it's horribly, horribly uncool, but low end shimano 8 speed drivetrain components are all I need for touring.   Never missed a beat the whole trip, and although it has a voracious appetite for chain lube, it never needed any adjustment.   I'm running a standard road triple and probably a 12-27 cassette in the rear- it got the job done no problem, but I think a MTB style cassette would be a good upgrade, especially if I ever ride in real mountains.

In touring mode, I'm running 35c Panaracer Passellas. Awesome, awesome tires.  I'm upgrading to the fancy folding bead "Tour Guard" model on the next go round.    

On the rear, I'm using an axiom rack with my old malamute's dog pack as panniers. This worked surprisingly well. As long as I stick with panniers, I see no reason to change this setup. 

On the front, I'm using some axiom low rider racks and axiom "Seymour Transit" bags.  This worked well, but slightly less so than the back. The stout steel tubing on the Jake's front fork made it easier to mount the racks backwards and at a little bit of an angle. It seemed to work, so I ran with it. On this trip though, I found out just how much of a beating front panniers can take. The slightly awkward mounting position subjected the rear of the bag to even more abuse. 

Given that I've got a couple of different bikes I want to use for touring, I'm giving the trailer idea some more thought. I've seen trailers that are nothing more than a third wheel that follows behind the bike with bags strapped to it.  It looks appealing for a number of reasons in that I can hook it to different bikes and if it has 132.5 axle spacing, I could put a spare rear wheel in there for my inevitable wheel issues.

My Eureka Timberline 2 is one heck of a fucking  trooper.  That tent has been through a hell of a lot in the 10 years or so I've owned it.  But when I take a look at places to cut my touring load, it's tops on my list. It's the heaviest and bulkiest thing I carry.   I had been sort of checking out lightweight one man tents prior to this trip, but a friend recently turned me on to hammocks- apparently they've come a long way from the thing you set up in the backyard and try to avoid falling out of after too many beers.  They now come with integrated bug nets, rain flys, down cocoons, and are probably still really hard to stay in after too many beers. 

Another reason to check out this hammock thing is that, well- I must be getting old or something.  The old 1/4" foam sleeping pad just doesn't do the trick anymore.  At the very least, I'm going to need to get one of those fancy thermarests or something. 

And I can't help but get a plug in for my trusty synthetic north face sleeping bag. It's probably 20 years old now- old enough that it was actually made in the USA.  Still truckin' along. And it actually got cold enough a couple of nights to need it. 

I like coffee in the morning.  This sets in motion a cascade of events that ends up in a whole lot of baggage I'm not really sure I need to carry. 

Nonetheless, let me point out that my new MSR pocket rocket makes my list of damn cool gear.  A long time ago, when I first got into backpacking with my dad, he brought home this butane stove for us to use. How. Un. Cool.  Some expedition model that could burn 47 fuels, including yak fur was the way to go as far as I was concerned.  Well, after messing with several models of stoves that could do that sort of thing, give me a goddam butane stove. I just want some coffee, dammit- no stove lighting drama.  

But hey, now that I'm making coffee, might as well make some oatmeal at breakfast...

..and why not pack some stuff for handling dinner as well?

..and now I've got a solid panniers worth of stuff to deal with something that any of the 47 million diners I passed could have done for me. 

I like the reassurance of having a solid handle on what I'm going to eat for breakfast and dinner, but I'm not sure it's worth carrying all that crap.   Next weekend I may try a quick trip without it and see how well I survive.

When I left, it was ninety something degrees and very humid, so in a panic, I grabbed my camelbak in addition to the three waterbottles I carried.  I usually don't ride on the road much with a camelbak, but it worked out pretty well- it's a nice place to stash my wallet and other valuables as I don't typically wear anything with pockets while riding. After the first night of backcountry camping, I usually ran with most of the water bottles empty.  A camelbak full of water was usually enough to get me through most of a day.  

If I'm going to contine to backcountry camp, I should probably look into carrying a water purifier and some kind of large water bladder to haul water back to camp.  Cooking usually rips through a fair amount.  Although, if I go light and ditch all that cooking stuff....    

I carried a bike multitool, a leatherman, duct tape, 8 and 10mm wrenches, chain lube, spare presta valves, presta/schrader adapter, 2 spare tubes, 1 spare tire, and a couple spare chain links. I used them all, even if all some things like the spare tire and second tube did was provide some emotional reassurance that I was prepared.  I'm not messing with this setup.

One thing that I might invest in is a better pump. I had a cheap frame mounted hand pump. It did the job, but man- when adjusting air pressures and dealing with flats day to day, you live and die by your bike pump. I'm not going cheap on this any more. I'm buying the fancy one with an actual hose on it, a pressure guage, a nice comfy grip.  It's gotta look cool too. Annodized titanium? Sign me up for that as well. This is one place it's not worth going "value oriented". 

This is an area that will always be subject to some tweaks depending on the weather, but I found the "one to wear, one to wash" philosophy worked well.  It  was also handy to have a set of non-bicycling clothes to wear when doing non bicycling related things in public.  

I do need to figure out a better sock strategy- I find traditional bicycling socks a little thin for touring. Cotton is comfy, but has its well known downfalls.  Might have to look into wool or other hiking style socks.

Like I said, I was using a map from the Adventure Cycling Association for most of my trip. Very, very well done route with a very nice map. Camping, grocery store, hotel info is all in there, great road choices, easy to navigate. Any time I tour by bicycle, I'll stick with their routes if at all possible. The only possible shortcoming to their maps is they lack a lot of detail if you venture off route at all.  

I kept my trusty Garmin eTrex Legend strapped to my handlebars for the trip. The ACA publishes GPS waypoints for all the turns on that map, so I'd just keep an eye on the GPS and any time I got near a waypoint, I'd pull out the map and see what I was supposed to do.  Worked pretty well, and now I've got a pile of GPS data for the trip I'll probably geek out on in a future post.  

In the future, I might consider a more advanced GPS that can hold more detailed maps for when I go offroute.  But I hate carrying expensive electronics, and I really love paper maps for some reason.  Don't really know what I'm going to do in the future here. 

Other Crap
Fenders- always a good idea, doubly so in the dairy state.  

AM/FM Radio-  I found this cool little radio at my favorite outfitter- "St. Vincent de Paul's"  (I think he was a famous mountain climber or something). I figured I could use it to get some weather info, maybe listen to some tunes if I got bored. Never got bored, worked great the first night I tried to get weather info- first station I tuned to had a weather report in the first minute.  The next time I tried it- I must have listened to every damn Aerosmith song there was and still no weather.  I'd rather ride through a tornado than try to fall asleep listening to "Love In An Elevator" again. 

Blinkie Lights- they seemed to do the job when I was riding down us-45 in the rain, but man- if I get a helmet mirror, please stage an intervention, OK?   I'm likely just one step away from duct taping a radio to my handlebars and spending my days picking up cans alongside the highway.

Money- all in, including extravagant hotels, partying with the family for a few days, and ferry tickets, the whole trip was about $655.  That covered almost two weeks on the road.  Considering I can rip through $500 in two weeks of my usual day to day existence, that's a damn good deal. 


Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye! Everybody!

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I should really, really go to bed.  

Tomorrow is the UP State Single Speed Championships- unofficially hosted by The Great Deer Chase in the 27 mile race.

It's going to hit a high of 92 tomorrow. 

As if this wasn't crazy enough by itself, I'm heading home immediately after the race, jumping on my cyclocross bike and heading for Manitowoc, WI.  I've got until 12:30am Thursday morning to catch the ferry that'll take me to a family shindig in Ludington, MI.  

I'll mostly be following the "Manitowoc Alternate" portion of Section 2 of the Adventure Cycling Association North Lakes Route. Not sure what I'm going to do on the way back. That's a long way off still.   

Anyway, in the meantime, let me introduce my sister Kate's blog: A Thinner Katie.  I'm doing my best to help her by suggesting several $5000+ tri bikes that she might need.  I'm an awesome brother like that. :) 

Back in two weeks. Hopefully with no horror stories to tell. 

RIP Kona Hoss (2004-2009)

Hang on a sec, no- I didn't wreck another bike.   My Hoss is just fine, and it better stay that way, because as of 2010- Kona no longer offers it.  

"So what, you already have one- what's the big deal?"  

It's just kind of sad to see it go.  I might not even be a mountain biker right now if it weren't for that bike. 

See, once upon a time, I was even fatter than I am now. When I got back into bicycling in 2007, I weighed in at about 260.   At the time, I was pretty intent on getting a road bike.  Getting lost all day out on the road really appealed to me and hey- my hero Mike Magnuson used road biking to pedal off eighty plus pounds in his book "Heft On Wheels".   So I got a road bike.   And I jumped into the whole bicycling lifestyle thing.  As a result, I found myself in bike shops a lot finding new and creative ways to hand them my money as often as possible.  Living where I do, it's hard to ignore mountain bikes. We've got awesome trails, everybody rides them, and there's a ton of great races nearby.  

Only problem was, every time I test rode a mountain bike- it did a great job of reminding me I was a fat guy on a bicycle.  They just didn't inspire any confidence. However, I kept reading about this goofy company called "Kona" that offered a bike specifically for 200+ lb riders.  Only problem was, nobody had one locally. 

So early in 2007, I found myself hanging out at a bike shop in downstate Michigan. And look at that, a leftover 2006 Kona Hoss. In my size even.  Test ride time!  

For whatever reason, this bike immediately did what all good bikes should- it dissapeared under me. I was able to ride hard, have fun, and not constantly feel like something was going to fall apart on me. 


A couple months after that, I was entering my first mountain bike race.    

It's been a great, great bicycle. It's taken me 2 years to even consider riding something else and that new bike is a Kona too.  

Although I'll probably never buy another one and sure- there's lots of similar bikes out there, I wonder how many big dudes might decide not to mountain bike without a bike specifically marketed towards them?  


Ore To Shore

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With only two more races left to go, my mountain bike season is finally coming together.  I've been generally crashing, sandbagging, and posting piss-poor performances through this whole season so far.   Finally, I've managed to eek out something I'm proud of.   

Last year, I had myself a bit of a religious experience on the Ore To Shore in which I saw the single speed light. It was at that point that I was a strong enough rider that I no longer really needed the low gears to survive, but not quite strong enough to really take advantage of the taller gears on a geared bike.   I'd go on "Single Speeds Are Awesome!" tirade here, but the internet is already full of people waxing poetic about the merits of single speed mountain bikes, I'll try and refrain from adding more here.

Anyway, we started Ore To Shore this year in nearly the exact same conditions as last year- a light rain at the start. Perfect for me and my newly repaired Unit.   The start, is well... the start. It sucks on a single speed. You get passed by everybody, including their grandmothers who are just out for the exercise. Then you get to  a long climb still thick with packed up traffic.  Still, that's the beauty of one gear. It is what it is. Nothing you can do about it.  No nagging self doubt about "Am I pushing too big a gear, will I blow up?"  or "Am I in too small a gear, can I go faster?".  You just ride.   

And ride I did. First past the spot where I crashed last year. Then I charged through the puddle that caused the worst of last years chain suck. I found myself doing not just well, but really well- and not on the edge of blowing up either.  I know I'm doing well when I start telling lame jokes to other riders, whooping and hollering in the fun stuff, and yelling like a mad man to psych myself up for big hills ("I LOVE THIS HILL. IT'S SO MUCH FUN.")    I like breaking up the monotony of a sport dominated by cooler than thou hippies and the steely eyed nature of the super competitive back of the thirtysomething pack XC racer.   

The high point of the race was the powerline section.  It's constantly up and down on really rough, grass covered terrain punctuated by occasional exposed bedrock, some quick steep climbs covered in loose rock and sand, and a couple of killer hills that pretty much require carrying the bike.   Everything came together for me here and I was just nailing it.

Then well.... Hey, at least it was a great race up until then.  See, half way through there's this paved section- part of which is composed of a series of somewhat long climbs with brief downhills and flats thrown in.  I got dropped here, hard.  See, I can sort of power my way through the steep and quick stuff and even the occasional long grinder.  But hill after hill after hill just did me in.  By the time we hit the dirt again, I was alone on the trail.  This is never a good thing, first because I tend to slow down without anybody near me to race against, and also because the Ore To Shore is basically a road race on dirt- you need to ride in packs to get the benefits of drafting.

It took me probably 10 miles to get my legs back and get back in some traffic I could chase. The last 10 miles or so of the course starts to resemble a mountain bike race a little more with tighter, twistier trails and some challenging sandy downhills.  I was back in my element, feeling strong, and gave a respectable pull to the finish.  

Last year, I finished in something like 3:55.  I figured at least 15 minutes of that was screwing around with technical problems on the side of the trail.  Since this was my first real race on the single speed with no option to bail for a geared bike part way through, I wasn't certain what to expect.  I knew I'd be happy with anything under 3:45. I was positively ecstatic to finish at 3:14. The cool thing is- looking at how I placed amongst my fellow competitors- I don't think a single speed makes me any slower.  And given how poorly suited a single speed bike can be on this course, it might actually be making me faster.   

Next weekend is the big challenge though.  There's an unofficial single speed throwdown in the 27 mile Deer Chase.  The trails in this race are perfectly suited to a single speed- and as a result, very, very fast.  It's going to be fun as long as I can keep from bending another fork.