• Singletrail Chat

    Singletrail Chat

Originally dismissing Park City, UT as just another alpine ski area with pine forests and Colorado Front Range style riding, I am so glad that we decided to spend 2 nights in town and check out the local scene. Pinecone, Armstrong, and Mid-Mountain were straight up masters of flow right out of Bike Magazine with hardpack serpentining through Aspen forests and across grassy ski trails. Leaving the dropper post behind, Park City was a rare opportunity to just pedal, steer, lean big, and take in the scenery. Positive vibes from other riders, runners, and hikers created a perfect balance between bonding with nature and meeting like minded trail users.

Heading up Armstrong

 

Many first timers seemed to especially appreciate the lift served XC trails to avoid the 3+ mile grunt up Armstrong, while those with lungs turn the climb into a short warm-up before venturing off to the Canyons, Pinecone, or cruising Mid-Mountain as a daily workout. Unleashed trail dogs seemed right at home accompanying both seasoned power riders and families with younger riders.

Missing from the Park City scene was the colorful culture of bearded single-speeders, professional stoners, and odd ball artists, otherwise finding fault with Park City requires a some serious reaching. If I had to choose between Colorado and Utah, my heart would go with Colorado, but weekend trips to Park City would certainly dot my calendar. Besides the lack of colorful culture, the absence of technical riding, fast desert trails, and varied terrain might eventually grow old, but its hard to say for sure, as part of me could definitely get use to maximizing fitness training on Park’s smooth trails and finishing the day with some strength training at one of the perfectly maintained local gyms. I am looking forward to returning next year to check out Flying Dog and the Canyons.

Endless Hardpack Flow with a side of dust

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A magical kingdom on the edge of a great blue lake, Tahoe riding was the culmination of dreamy views swirled together in a cocktail of almost unreal flow that surpassed my wildest expectations of the perfect ride. The initial climb up the Tunnel Creek Road to reach the Flume Trail made a horrible first impression with shuttled riders flying down the 3 mile fire road climb often flirting with an almost Killington Ski Area on Presidents’ Day feeling where the hoards blend together in a steady stream of out of control overworked New Yorkers letting loose on a party weekend. With the strong sun sending my Garmin to read 118 F in the direct rays, struggling to keep spinning in the deep sand, and pedaling against the tide, those first 45 minutes were so discouraging, I almost gave up the ride. Once at the junction of the Flume Trail, the crowds disappeared and the awe inspiring view took hold with a burst of energy.

 

View from the Flume Trail

 

Feeling exhausted from driving 8 hours and the trip in general, I pedaled Flume out and back instead of looping around to the meadows. At mile 12, the fun factor of rolling the perfect flow without the rocks and roots of trails back east left me with legs to spare for another 10 miles, so I crossed Tunnel Creek and headed north on Incline Flume. A bit more woodsy, cooler, and winding through the pines, Incline Flume crossed the Diamond Peak Ski area before meeting up with one of the most fun downhills of the ride, the Tyrolean DH Trail.

Diamond Peak Ski Area

Being on a hardtail, the idea of a “DH Trail” might have raised enough skepticism or pucker factor to discourage me from even giving the trail a go, but the magic of Tahoe erased those trepidations that come with age and instead sent me flying down like a fearless teen. The black diamond rating and DH labeling on Trailforks were misnomers in the sense of technical requirements for what turn out to be a trail without surprises as continuous fast flow and berms guided outlined  the route right down to the lake without any pucker factor. Elsewhere in the country, the Tyrolean Trail would be a solid intermediate trail with the difficulty arising only from maintaining control at speed. Between the views on Flume, the alpine feel of Incline Flume, and the smile inducing flow of Tyrolean, my little Tahoe adventure satisfied a longing for picture perfect cross country.

While I was on an adventure in paradise, Nici explored Incline Village looking for scenic views and of course a beach opportunity. To her dismay, the Incline Village waterfront was a hodge podge of private beaches for residents, private beaches for resort guests, and private beeches for those who require an even more private beach. Driving around the lake to South Tahoe City unfortunately offered little improvement of finding a nice quiet secluded spot on the water as beach after beach was either private or closed due to capacity restrictions. Traffic jams of expensive sports cars and outrageously priced homes define the waterfront landscape with South Tahoe epitomizing honky tonk through an offering of burger joints, fast food culture, and casinos.

Driving over the Rose Mountain Pass and looking down at Lake Tahoe is as impressive as entering most national parks including the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake. Protecting the natural wonders of the lake and developing a waterfront befitting in grandeur was sadly a lost opportunity buried under greed and entitlement. For future adventures in Tahoe, I will simply plan my ride and when finished head back to the lodge, hotel, or campsite. Tahoe is truly Paradise Lost and a tragic lesson in the importance of preserving our natural wonders for future generations.

Ancient Pines

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After 24 hours of driving with a few hours sleep at a random casino in Black Hawk, the nearly 9000 ft of elevation, and the absolute worst hotel coffee imaginable, the first ride of the trip was more of a warm up than an epic. Clocking just under 12 miles, this was my first foray into the Nederland, CO trails, known as the West Magnolia Trail System. Through the years, I have managed to hit many of the front range riding spots such as Apex, Horsetooth, Betasso, Deer Park, and White Ranch, so the last areas left on my list were Magnolia, Centennial Cone, and Golden Gate.

Reachable directly from downtown Nederland, the Magnolia Trail System is just a short pedal up the Eldora Ski Mountain Access Rd and starts directly before the school. A nice short punchy climb up Clear Cut introduces the system with a rocky start that promises more technical to come, however once up top on the ridge, the trails turn incredibly fast with berms and the logical planning of a mountain bike specific system. Getting lost is nearly impossible as the system is rather small, well mapped on Trailforks, and features relatively clear signs posted at parking areas. My only complaint is the forest service trails are marked with numbers such as 9304 instead of names which correspond to trail names given on Trailforks or MTBProject. More than once, I picked a trail without looking at Trailforks thereby ending up on short grunty climbs with loose gravel. Unfortunately, the most well known trail, School Bus was left unexplored to ensure a timely return back at the truck before the towering thunderclouds let loose their afternoon deluge.

 

 

The plan to hit Fruita for an evening ride was also washed away by relentless showers and thunderstorms, but we did manage to check out Powderhorn Ski Area outside of Grand Junction along with the Colorado National Monument. Fortunately, Reno and Lake Tahoe promise perfect weather for the weekend.

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After a fantastic start to 2017 pounding out record mileage on my home trails in Cave Creek, AZ, I was sidelined by our business and the most annoying injury of my cycling days, IT-Band Friction Syndrome. Owning a business and working from home does have its perks such as midday rides, but for the most part, the business owns you and not the other way around. Father’s Day at NiciArt was a test of endurance as open orders eclipsed 3000 in just a matter of a few weeks. While there is little I can do to help Nici engrave, pressing guitar picks and clipping tabs became my assigned task for several long weeks.

Beautiful Spring in Arizona

The IT-Band friction syndrome began in the beginning of May just as the weather turned hot and my off season was just a few weeks away. To someone who hasn’t experienced the frustration of a snapping knee, an injury without pain might sound like just a minor nuisance, however the reality is that vicious pop with every pedal stroke or struggling with staircases grows old after a week. Thanks to a Kenalog Injection under the IT-Band at the epicondyle of the lateral femur head, the popping is now on summer vacation. An unfortunately reality of modern medicine is the patient having to take the lead in pursing treatment options for injuries. Doctors are often technicians with steady hands and experience in outcomes, but deciding on the actual path of treatment, requires the patient to study the options. A good physician such as my local sports and pain management doctor in New Jersey offers explanations, explores options, and discusses ideas with the patient. In medicine there is rarely one answer to solving problems as the human body can adapt to stress or compensate for mechanical imperfections. Besides crashes or traumatic injuries, overuse injuries and syndromes are the result of multiple deep rooted fundamental issues such as training errors, genetics, positioning on the bike, and strength training. In my case, lack of strength training at the gym and excessive saddle height to compensate for right knee chondromalacia probably caused the left IT-Band to be over tensioned with weak hip abductors and adductors to control the stabilizing forces. Of course, there’s also the inexplicable which often leads to over-thinking, over-analyzing, or adoption of pseudo-science such as Adrenal Fatigue or Gluten Intolerance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the internet turned out to be the leading cause of unnecessary doctor visits. Either way, this post is not intended to be a discussion of pseudo-science rather an announcement that a road trip to Colorado is a serious consideration.

On the Road between Ouray and Durango in 2012

On the Road with Old Silver 2012 packed to the ceiling and an A/C failure just outside of Louisville, KY in July. My lovely lady, Nici, was not exactly happy

Compared to 2012, the road trip has evolved from adventure to a managed production as we traded in the Acura TL S for Ram 3500 with a camper top and endless cargo capacity. That little Acura logged 200,000 miles in just a few short years carrying our dog, 1000 lbs of cargo, and bikes all over the country. Now relegated to the garage, I crack a smile when jumping from that beast of a truck to the 6 cylinder turbo with a manual 6 speed. Grabbing groceries in Old Silver feels like a day at the go-cart track. Sadly, our 16 yr old black lab is a bit less enthusiastic about long road trips and prefers to stay home to guard the trash and couch whenever possible although she did happily come along on our last road trip in June from Arizona to New Jersey to escape the scorching heat. Also amazing is how she is essentially deaf to the word “come’ yet can hear even the smallest crumb hit the ground at 9.81 m/s^2.

Our little girl all grown up in the Whole Foods Parking Lot, March 2017

As creativity is at an all time low under the drizzle and foggy humidity of Northern New Jersey, it’s hard to find any justification not to take a little road trip out to Colorado. A mixed combination of sleeping in the back and VBRO should keep the budget well in check. Surprisingly our beast manages 20 mpg diesel in most situations with responsible use of the gas pedal, so planning and packing is essentially a split second decision inspired by caffeine and the dream of escaping the wet humid Northeast for a little fresh mountain air. If we do manage this trip, it will mark the first real vacation since starting our business in 2011. To date, we have only managed extended weekend getaways or working on the road. Like I said at the beginning of this post, owning a business really means being owned by your business.

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Initially skeptical of embracing any shape besides round having suffered through knee pain in the age of Shimano Biopace, I have found myself ordering additional Absolute Black or should I say, Absolute Green and Absolute Red chainrings for multiple bikes. Spending considerable time in the saddle mashing up epic climbs such as Dr. Park in Crested Butte, Chimney Gulch to Apex, or the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff, my riding style finds little love with single front chainring configurations and their inherent lack of smaller incremental ratios, so my test bike was rocking out 2×10 (26t,36t).

After my initial 30 day test period, I’ve been impressed with the acceleration and increased torque in comparison with their circular cousins at slower RPMs where the ovular shape seems to minimize output force in my 3 o’clock dead spot to get my wagon wheels rolling. Pedaling on the road in the 36t or staying in the smaller 26t ring on faster segments induces choppy pedaling, albeit having an imbalance between my two legs following multiple knee scopes might be accentuating this perceived chop. My right knee with patellar cartilage defects is noticeably happier and less strained accelerating 29” wagon wheels through undulating technical terrain at lower RPMs using the Absolute Blacks. For riders entering the 75 RPM range and over on a consistent basis, any benefits from minimizing the forces required to muscle through the dead spots, may be insignificant. In my opinion, these rings deliver a unique performance touch for mashers and grinders that is far from subtle and might even offer an edge on technical climbs, rock gardens, or clearing a tricky log pile.

Mechanically minded riders might express immediate concerns regarding shifting, chain suck, chain tension, crank compatibility, and smooth meshing between the links and teeth. In my case, the 64/104 Absolute Rings mounted directly to my Lightning Cranks 64/104 BCD Spider without issue besides shortening the bolts for the large ring. My assumption is Absolute chose to drill deeper insets to ensure the bolts are tucked away thereby avoiding chain snag. The only important installation side note is to make extra certain the small imprinted circle on the small ring and triangle tab on the larger ring align with the crank arm otherwise the oval will not align to your dead spot.

Shifting was actually smoother and more precise than my previous ramped and pinned KCNC Chainrings and chain tension proved to be an unnecessary concern. Since Loctite and similar cyanoacrylate products tend to breakdown in the blazing heat of the desert Southwest, I am in the habit of using a bit of pipe joining compound to seal and lock threads. Whether these chainrings distribute force unevenly is a debate better left to mechanical engineers with the time to complete a Finite Element Analysis, but during the first week of testing, the outer bolts continually loosened regardless of initial torque. Eventually, I placed fine lock-washers under the bolt heads and added a drop of blue Loctite. 400 miles later, shifting is still spot on and the loosening bolt issue has been resolved without further tightening. The teeth are still free of burrs and perfectly intact even after clawing over logs.

 

While certainly not an innovation on par with tubeless tires, disc brakes, wider bars, shorter stems, thru-axles, or current suspension forks, oval chainrings complement mashing and muscling larger wheels through the ugliest terrains. Unfortunately to date, there appears to be few biomechanical studies establishing the degree of ovularization required to provide the best mechanical advantage, so keywords such as “optimized” should be dismissed in favor of “possibly improved” or “could offer an advantage.” Without evidence or double blind studies to back up adopting ovular rings, opinions and reviews are purely subjective and are sure to fall in-line with the endless marketing hype surrounding 29ers, 27.5+, fat bikes, boost, and other innovations touted as being the holy grail for launching weekend warriors to the podium, therefore I would not expect any concrete or final conclusions to hit the bike magazines anytime soon.

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