Friday, February 20, 2015

The Tour Divide Rig Arrives !

I got the phone call today. My tour divide rig was ready to be picked up! So despite almost no sleep and torrential rain associated with cyclone (hurricane for you septics) Marcia, in my sleep deprived state, I braved the canals er roads of Brisbane to pick her up from River City Cycles this afternoon.

"Her" being a Muru cycles B.N.T

The BNT is basically an Aussie version of the Titanium Salsa Fargo that is made in China and in the best badge engineering fashion, called an Aussie bike. (I kid, I kid. We all know how hard it is to compete with Chinese manufacturing).

Troy procured the frame for me back in December then waited patiently while I dithered around sourcing some parts such as the fork, headset, seat post and saddle to name a few bits. He was on a personal deadline, jetting out to Alaska on the 18th of February for the Iditarod Fatbike Race. This left him with 7 bikes to build in 5 days. No pressure....!

To his credit he got them all built up, including my BNT and his workmanship style? Perfection. It is so immaculately put together that I am almost loath to get it dirty by riding it.

The build I decided on was to mirror Troy's own Salsa Fargo which he has put innumerable hours into fine tuning into a bikepacking race bike. The running gear is all low end SRAM X9 product as it is robust and easily repairable. BB7 mechanical brakes handle stopping duties. Again, simple yet robust compared to hydraulic brakes.

I differed in the fork department when the Ti forks became unavailable and went with a Niner Carbon fork. The Niner fork weighs a measly 565g(1.2lb) and I think looks sexier than the Ti fork. Sexiness is a factor in racing as you have to look the part........however, if you look closely you will notice that the steerer tube is a very unsexy 16 feet long! Well, almost. 

We have not cut the steerer tube yet as I need to have my bike "fitted" to me, then we need to fit my charging switch under the top cap when it arrives from K Lite (stop press- the Shutter Precision dynamo hub and lighting kit turned up this afternoon).

Woodchipper bars give multiple hand positions as well as extra leverage off road when compared, in the first instance, to a mtb handlebar and in the second, to regular road drop bars. They are super clean with no cables to get in the way of my harness that will hold my tent and sleep kit.

All I need now is to build up the front wheel with the recently landed dynamo hub, get myself fitted to the bike, then ride, eat, sleep, repeat..........


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Break Out The Snorkel

No, dear reader, it is not time to hit "the reef". It is time to batten down the hatches as we have the remenants of Tropical Cyclone Marcia drop her bundle on us. 

When I say remanents, I sort of mean it in a future tense as she is still a full blown Cat 3 cyclone that will  intensify into a Cat 4 as she makes landfall at about 5am tomorrow(Friday). That is about the same time I land, or try to land, in Brisbane.

With rain predictions of between 300 and 500mm (12 and 20in) it looks like a wash out for mountain biking this weekend and well into next week. That is fine as there are plenty of bike paths, sealed roads and heaven forbid, the wind trainer.

So, pack your snorkel and stay off the trails. For those at the coalface around Mackay and Gladstone, stay safe out there and best of luck!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

And The Penny Drops......

While researching for the Tour Divide race this past week I came across an interesting blog by a German bloke, Michael Gruenert, who did the race in 2013. The thing that really struck me about his blog was (apart from the stunning photos) the elevation profiles from each day of his race.

We all know that there is over 200 000ft of climbing in this race...blah,blah, have heard it all before. But seeing it broken down, day by day in this way with the actual elevation of the ride evident has sort of blown me out of my double pluggers!

Here is the profile for day one out of Banff. You will note that it tops out a 6600ft at one point. On day 1 !

About a week into the race, if all is going to plan one will find themselves riding through Atlantic City. Now there are two points of interest on that sign. One being the population, the other being the elevation. Yep, 7675ft above sea level !

Michael Gruenert photo

Why is this significant I hear you ask? Well, Atlantic City is the gateway to The Great Basin. The Basin is a vast, mostly flat, 200+km stretch of nothingness. At approximately 7500ft, give or take.

Exhibit "A" is a photo of my daughter and I from a few years ago, standing right at the TOP of the highest point in Australia. This is a far up as one can go and it is only 7307ft above sea level.

That, dear reader, is the moment the penny dropped. I will have to ride, no, race at an average elevation equal to the highest mountain in our country. How do I train for that?

This is the Gold Dust Trail in Colorado. It is a required alternate for South Bound riders. Single track, cool. 

Michael Gruenert photo

But looking at the elevation profile below, that "cool" single track is at 10 700ft ! Just after you have crested Boreas Pass at 11 500ft!

Michael Gruenert photo

Even day 20 in New Mexico has one cresting passes at 11 900ft. It may be the last state on the race route but clearly New Mexico is no lay down mazeire'. 

Michael Gruenert photo

So, how does one prepare for such an endeavour? No, really?

Well, first up you need to really enjoy riding a bike. A LOT. Check

Then you need to train. Train hard but also smart. Check.

You need to research the route. Know it's ins and outs. (Working on that one.)

Michael Gruenert photo

You need to have your kit sorted. Figure out what works and what doesn't. (Working on that one as well)

My training has me doing an assortment of bike and gym work. I normally hate being indoors at the gym. However, having a "plan" and a reason to be there sort of breaks the training up and keeps me fresh on the bike. If all I did was ride my bike I think it might get old, all too soon and frankly, I need the strength training.

Yesterday was the first "ride all day at TD pace" training ride in my plan. After pulling an all night shift at work, then working in the garden all day with only 1.5 hours sleep the preceding day I went to bed, setting the alarm for the crack of dawn. When it went of lets just say I "considered my position" for 5 or 10 minutes before bouncing out of bed.

I was soon glad I had got on with it as it was shaping to be a great day for riding.

I don't have my TD bike yet. it is still being built by Troy from River City Cycles here in Brisbane. He is a bit busy right now, jetting out for Alaska in 4 days for the Iditarod and I did say to him not to let my build get in the way of his preparation.

So, I was riding the Lynskey Ridgeline today. My custom Revelate frame bag doesn't quite fill the frame as it did on the old Giant but it still does the job.

What better way to start an all day ride but to climb up the new Birdwing track? I swear, it is the best trail on the southside.

So, I rolled through Daisy Hill, hitting up Jumping Ant on the way through then rolled into the city on bike paths. A quick coffee stop was needed to shake the drowsiness.

Through the city to Gap Creek and there was a Giant demo day on with bikes and riders everywhere. I stopped for a quick photo, filled the water bag then climbed the hill toward South Boundary Rd.

Sth Boundary is where the pain begins. While there are plenty of undulations, the theme of the day was onward and upward. Somewhere here I discovered that my front mech wouldn't shift into the smallest chainring. Not ideal, just time to harden up!

I decided to take the road less travelled today. I had not been down Creek track for 5-6 years and I had never done Lightline Rd so that was the route for today.

The trail went down, then down and then down some more. It was going to be a mighty big climb back to the top of Lightline Rd! 

Lightline Link would soon provide me with my first hike-a-bike section and within 5 minutes my ahchilles were starting to twinge from the steepness of the push.

Below, I stopped on a shallower section of the hill for a quick photo.

Just prior, I feel it had looked like this......

Micheal Gruenert photo

.....just without the greenery. Now I see how guys and girls screw their achilles...

Once I got onto Lightline Rd proper, it was a pleasant if somewhat long climb. I did bump into two guys who were taking a breather on the climb. We exchanged pleasantries as I ground onward.

I stopped for a minute at the bush camp to take a photo and was caught by the two riders.

They were two South African expats, out on a training ride for the Cape Epic in March. We chatted as we climbed and I was pleased to see that I could easily keep with them despite already having 80km (50mi) in the legs and 5kg(10lb) strapped to my bike.

We parted company at Mt Nebo when I stopped in at J.M. Jones Tearooms for some lunch. Here I was served a hamburger the size of my head ! I almost struggled to eat it and wash it down with a couple of cokes. Hmmm, maybe I was a bit hungry?

One of my favourite parts of any Sth Boundary rd ride is the descent. It isn't all descent but if you can hold your speed then put in some big ones in a tall gear you get the most awesome feeling as you crest the climbs at high speed. Get it wrong, with not enough speed and you will grovel up each climb.

I was starting to get in "go home mode" now with a hotspot on the sole of my right foot and some slight hand soreness. My legs felt great though!

That hamburger kept me powering for about 50km before I felt like a cool drink, downing an ice cold chocolate milk about 25km from home.

I was rocking my new Spot tracker today and it seemed to work well in the more open areas but struggled a bit under thick tree cover. Clearly it was working well enough because when I made it to the the top of the descent into home, my kids were waiting for me on their bikes having ridden up the Birdwing track to meet me! So, I got to roll down the last 2km with them and marvel at how fast they are becoming. 

That really capped my day.

Stats for the day? 155km(97mi) and 3330m(10 922ft) climbing. (according to Garmin)

Not a bad roll for my first big training day. The bike handled it well as did the body. Now, just to string 24 or 25 of those together, day after day, at an elevation of 7-12 000ft................