About Matt

I am a thirty-two year pretty normal guy who loves a girl, good friends, and bicycles. I live in Normal Illinois. I work for an IT shop and I do a fair bit of cycling year round which includes commuting, road riding, cross-country racing, and winter riding. I aim to do some product reviews, detail some of my favorite rides, and my thoughts on cycling in today’s world.

Singletrack in Sin City – Cottonwood Trails in Las Vegas

I’ve been to Vegas a number of times over the last ten years and I always left wishing I would have ridden in the mountains outside of town. This weekend my wife and I celebrated six wonderful years of marriage. My wife wanted me to get out to the singletrack for a ride this trip to check off that wish list item. I’m a lucky man.

While in Bloomington Cycle & Fitness last weekend talking about our plans for Vegas and mentioning I wanted to ride mountain bikes one day I was pleasantly surprised with a hand written plan for a great time. Turns out one of the mechanics that’s started since I moved was a mechanic in Vegas and knows the lay of the land. I contacted McGhies bike shop and rentals for a guided tour through Cottonwood Trails. We rode twenty miles of the 100 miles available in Vegas.

The folks at McGhies and Rich who was my tour guide were great. Rich turns out is one of the local fast guys. I was looking over Strava time as we drove back to the Vegas strip and I started talking to Rich about the quickest times through some sections and he smiled and nodded his head. Turns out the KOM’s in question are his.

The trails were loose covered hard rock for the most part. Good fun stuff. The tech at Cottonwood was fun and it sounds like there are options for much bigger tech if you’re looking for that.

The Trek Fuel EX7 29er I rode was nice. It pedaled well and the geometry was pretty solid. It’s hard to gauge a bike from one ride but it seemed solid. The KS dropper post was much appreciated. I wouldn’t want to ride for the day without one.

I underestimated the heat. I thought coming from Dallas, Texas I’d be just fine. The biggest difference out here was the sun and heat are unescapable. There’s not a tree around every corner providing shade. We lucked out with some cloud cover for the last hour of the ride which was much appreciated. The lesson I was reminded of is listen to the locals. I requested a later start time of 8:00 am and was kindly informed that starting earlier was recommended. I looked at Rich about an hour and a half into the ride and said he was right about starting earlier.

After we finished the ride at the McGhies bike shop trailside, we chatted for a bit. Neat little rental shop in a great location.

Overall, I’d highly recommend Cottonwood trails for a place to ride while in Las Vegas. McGhies bike shop and guided tours were great, the accommodation from the guided tour was top-notch. The guided tour was money very well spent over just renting a bike. They picked me up and dropped me off at the hotel on the strip. No questioning which way to take at a trail intersection. Just mile after mile of expertly navigated trails. It was a great experience and something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years.

Ride Data

Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to be notified of future posts via email by either clicking the Follow button at the bottom or the Subscribe section on the right!

Traveling Days Of Summer

We’re definitely traveling more so after moving to Texas. Mostly to and back from Illinois. Trips as a family are a fun new adventure. Last weekend we headed back to Bloomington Illinois to get our doggo checked up after her ACL tear surgery. All good news on that front. Tails wagging, smiles had.

I brought my road bike and caught a 50 mile charity ride with some of the best people I know – Bloomington Cycle folks.

Random pictures because socks make people happy and bikes in elevators feel picture worthy.

I’m writing this from a few moments in my office at home listing to the new Queens of the Stone Age single.

Later tonight my wife and I hop a plane to Vegas for our first non kiddo trip since Layla was born. Long fun relaxing weekend with some shows and dinners. I’m planning on riding some of the single track while I’m out there one afternoon so there should be some decent pictures and words to come out of that.

Enjoy your night, summer is here. Enjoy a popsicle, beer, or whatever is your thing. More to come soon.

Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to be notified of future posts via email by either clicking the Follow button at the bottom or the Subscribe section on the right!

Bikes Out & Bikes In

I’ve sold a few bikes in the past year or so and haven’t really talked about it here. I ordered a new mountain bike this month and thought I needed to lay out what bikes are hanging in my house, what’s been sold and why, and what new mountain bike that’s on the way has me excited.

Still Loved & On My Wall

My Ibis HD3. I’ve dialed this into a great trailbike and the time pedaling it on different mountains is as close to priceless as I it gets I think. It’s at home doing things that still scare me. It laughs at a rough line down the backside of the mountain. It pedals better than any trail bike has a right to thanks to DW Link suspension. It has more mountains in its future.

My 2014 Specialized Crux. A bike that’s been used on twisty singletrack, cyclocross seasons, country roads, and gravel. I’ve not ridden this much in 2017 but I plan to race it this year in the Dallas cyclocross series. I hear often about gravel options in Texas and Oklahoma so I may venture into some gravel in the next year as well. Cross bikes offer so much versatility it would be hard to get rid of it.

My Surly Straggler. A custom painted and built up by some of my favorite people on this rock we call Earth. I don’t ride it much lately but it’s not going anywhere. I want to get it to downtown Dallas for some city exploring this summer. For now, it’s the around the block bike with my three-year old while she learns to use her pedal-less bike.

My new 2017 S-Works Tarmac with eTap. The bike I’ve spent most of my time on in 2017. A superb ride and snappiness. I ride it weekly in different road group rides in Dallas.

Bikes Out

My 2013 S-Works Epic with XTR, this one hurt to sell. It was the instrument for all of my mountain bike racing. It was the bike I won the Illinois Cat 2 State Championship on after I broke my neck in 2012. My first S-Works. It meant a lot to me. I sold it when I my family and I decided to move to Dallas from Illinois. I didn’t think I’d do any cross-country mountain bike racing during my first year down here. I thought it made sense to sell it that year versus waiting another year to sell it. In hindsight, I should have kept this around a bit longer. I would have enjoyed having a cross-country race bike down here. I’ll circle back to this.

My 2012 Salsa Mukluk Ti. The bike that provided me the most smiles. The bike that doesn’t make much sense but makes so much sense. I loved snowy fatbike rides on the Mississippi and many other wintery snowy group rides on this bike. I sold it because after six months of living in Texas it’s pretty clear I won’t be riding it much down here. I tried it at North Shore but the trails are so technical and filled with rocks that I’d rather have some suspension and something lighter to pedal around on. It didn’t make sense to keep this hung on a wall for 99% of its life so I let it go to someone else that wanted it.

My 2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 with Dura-Ace Di2. Maybe the bike I’ve loved the most out of them all. My first S-Works road bike. My first electronic shifting bike. Many miles with good people in front and behind me with this bike. The bike was incredible. It snapped forward under power, climbed like a rabid chipmunk, and gave me no headaches over the years. I sold this to a team-mate who would take good care of it and would ride it often after my crash last year. It found the right home. I’ve since replaced this with my new 2017 S-Works Tarmac with eTap, and that relationship is off to a good start.

Bikes In

I’ve settled into life in Dallas and a routine weekly set of road bike rides. I have also found a great twenty-mile tech filled trail system at North Shore and many other trails left to explore. I’ve found myself wanting another cross-country race bike. I want to race some of the endurance and short track mountain bike racing in the Dallas area.

I was waiting to see what the 2018 Specialized Epic’s were after rumors of some redesign. After reading multiple reviews and seeing it do really well at the World Cup level I asked my favorite bike shop Bloomington Cycle & Fitness to order me one.

I went with a color I’ve been eyeing for a while. I’ve heard it called Burple and that sounds about right. It should be a rocket ship and the bike to provide so many smiles over the next four or so years. I can’t wait. I don’t know the exact date I’ll get it sounds like sometime in August. I hope it’s as good as my last Epic, I have a feeling it will be even better.

Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to be notified of future posts via email by either clicking the Follow button at the bottom or the Subscribe section on the right!

2017 S-Works Tarmac eTap Review

Earlier this year I replaced my previous Tarmac with a new 2017 S-Works Tarmac eTap. I’ve spent almost six months putting it through its paces. I’ve put just over a thousand miles on it and during that time I’ve been measuring it against my previous S-Works Tarmac and also what I want out of a road bike in general.

The frameset is great. I loved my previous S-Works Tarmac SL4 frame but this one takes all the best qualities of that and adds a vertical compliance that frankly I have a hard time believing is real most rides. Every bit of effort I put into the pedaled directly results in the bike driving forward. There is zero frame flex in the bottom bracket through the chainstays and the same holds true in the front end. The steerer tube is solid. The steering is sharp. It’s a race bike through and through here. I dig the hidden and integrated seatpost tightening mechanism. I love that the engineers at Specialized cleaned up the ports for the task at hand seeing as this bikes shifting is wireless. No drive side ports for braking or shifting here, just clean purposeful carbon construction.

The S-Works handlebar is great. I love the drop, width, and reach. It fits my build and hands perfectly.

My road bike fit needs are met with a straight S-Works seatpost again paired to a S-Works Romin saddle. My favorite combo.

The group is where my I’m a little more torn.

The eTap group gave me some trouble early on but it’s not given me any trouble for hundreds of the latest miles. While I’m painting the background for my feelings on groupsets it seems fitting to state again I loved my previous Tarmac’s Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

Sram’s eTap is not a bad group by any means, it’s a good group. It just falls a little short compared to Di2 in a few areas in my eyes.

The eTap front derailleur has worked perfectly for the past eight hundred miles, but early on it threw the front chainring while on the trainer this winter. I’m not sure if it was the trainer changing the chain alignment, being bumped in my bike bag flying it back home, or some other weirdness but the end result was ten or so dropped chains after shifting the front derailleur. Unfortunately that left several nicks and scratches on my brand new crankset. Since getting it looked at a few times and not riding the trainer it’s not thrown the chainring once.

The other nocks are less severe in my opinion. Sram’s eTap doesn’t shift as fast as Di2. It’s not an instantaneous shift. The delay was weird at first but my brain and everyone else I’ve talked to quickly adjusts. It’s second nature now. The battery also isn’t as long-lasting as the Di2 experience I’ve had. Where I would get months out of a Di2 internal seatpost battery, I’ve now got a new reminder on my Google Calendar to charge my batteries every three weeks.

It’s not all negative marks for Sram eTap though. I like the physical feedback when shifting, a great quality carried over from my previous experience with Sram’s Double Tap. The audible and tactical feedback from a shift is impossible to miss in the best way imaginable. That can make a big difference in colder months with thick gloves on. Furthermore, the simplicity of having only one button on the left shifter and one on the right removes the miss shift from thick gloves. The left shifter shifts the rear to a slower gear and the right shifter shifts the rear to a faster gear. To shift the front chainring, you press both at the same time. One great feature from my days on Di2 that carries over is you can hold a button for a sweep of gears, something I miss every time I ride a mechanical shifting bike.

Again, Sram’s eTap is not a bad group. It’s a damn impressive group. Several people I ride weekly with prefer it to all other groups, some even over Shimano’s Di2. Chevy vs. Ford. No bad choice right? I will say it feels good to support a group manufacturer who treats local bike shops right (context from Dean’s Riding Against the Grain). The fact that it’s wireless and doesn’t make any mistakes like my homes router or cell phone says something. I think Sram wants to avoid any recall nightmares so they double checked everything and then re-checked about ten more times on everything. Kudos.

Sram’s new DZero Quarq Power meter is great now. I had a little trouble with this at first too. In the end, Sram asked my local bike shop down here in Dallas to send it back to them so they could look it over and either fix it or send me a new one. Turns out something extra weird was going on with it so they kept it and sent a new one back to me. The replacement one’s been perfect since. Reliable and accurate data for power output helps me gauge efforts and to be honest, I’m a bit of a data nerd.

The brakes are good. They do their job in rain or shine with no complaining. A big part of that success is attributed to Specialized’s Roval CLX40 wheelset. The braking track is supurb here. In fact, I love everything about Roval’s wheel options. The combination of light weights, hub parts replacement availability, braking, and engagement are hard to beat and when costs are factored in, it’s a no brainer for me. I’d love to try a fancy set of Zipps or Enve’s but with how crashes can and will happen in racing I can’t justify it. I’m a big fan of Roval wheels. Kudos Specialized.

The Specialized Turbo Cotton tires are genuinely great. Saying they are smooth feels like an understatement. They do fine in wet and dry. They do wear but I’m over a thousand miles on my set and they are still going strong. I’m a big fan.

Overall I’m super happy. The bike is super light weight at 15.43 lbs. It climbs superbly (although Dallas is maybe the flattest place I’ve been to). It is very comfortable even after many hours into a ride. It hits all the marks I want in road bike and then some.

My heart won’t let me miss another thank you to Bloomington Cycle & Fitness for obtaining the bike for me and then spending time to get me fit on it and add some tid bits I wanted. Thanks for being a rad shop filled with rad people.

Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to be notified of future posts via email by either clicking the Follow button at the bottom or the Subscribe section on the right!

Acknowledging Change

Honest Retrospect

Time for some honest retrospect, not only for you but me too. Cycling for me has changed. When I lived in Bloomington I was introduced to cycling. I met some of the best people I’ve ran across in my life. When my family and I decided it was the right move for us to move to Dallas Texas we knew that change was a part of that decision but I didn’t know how that change would actually play out beyond planning and furthermore, I didn’t know how it would impact me.

At 33, I’m settling into the person I think I am. I’m finding what is important to me, what isn’t and still trying to learn how to balance life. I guess a little change like moving away from friends and across the country lead to more time being introspective.

Why I ride is the biggest change I think.

When I first started riding, I rode for exercise.

Pretty quickly I found a great friend at a local mountain biking weekly ride. Little did I know how much that random life encounter would influence the next ten years. Randy, you’re an amazing friend. I started riding in weekly group rides not really for exercise but more to hang out with chill people with zero hidden motives, no stress, and great experiences.

I was riding to spend time with new friends.

That snowballed into meeting more great local cyclist. I was exposed to different circles of cyclist. Some commuted to work for an escape from everything else, some commuted to work because it was their transportation. Some people were avid members of the local mountain biking club – CORBA who were working to further grow awareness and fun times. Some people were focused on bicycle racing. I was discovering a cycling community made up of many parts that added up to something rad.

I met Scott and Caryn from Bloomington Cycle & Fitness around this time. They built a shop and a culture that means a great deal to me and many others. Something genuinely special. Wanting to spend time around the shop and the people who raced for Bloomington Cycle lead me to a path of gradually getting into racing. It was around this time I broke my neck on what can only be described as foolish moment of building and trying to ride a mountain bike obstacle I had zero business trying to build or ride. When I was recovering for a full season I watched my friends on the race team seeing success and I wanted to prove to myself my fastest days were still ahead of me. I caught the bug to put in a serious year of riding and racing with the goal of being on the podium at the end of the Illinois category two mountain bike racing series.

I was riding to prove to myself I was still capable, see what I could accomplish, and spend time with great people.

I’m a mediocre amateur racer at best but I had a lot of fun and had some local success in the “I’m serious about racing but not for real serious about racing” category. Also known as “I’ll shave my legs but I’m not doing intervals every morning before work”. All good fun. I enjoyed these years. After winning Illinois’s category two mountain bike series I was full of smiles. I was also a little nervous about what was next. The following year I moved up to category one mountain bike racing. I put in more training than ever before and the results I found were both what I expected and also surprising. I knew I wasn’t going to do anything close to winning but I wasn’t expecting the majority of the season to be riding solo in the woods for long races. A result of small but very dedicated fields in category one at the time I think. I don’t want to take anything away from them. I wish I was that fast. Kudos.

I wasn’t finding what I wanted out of riding, at least in the mountain biking I was doing. During a trip to cheer on the roadies that raced for Bloomington Cycle in a Chicago crit I found myself really interested in the tactics and how different it was from all of the racing I’d done before that. I was hooked. Mountain bike racing, at least how I experienced it isn’t a team sport. While racing in the woods, it’s you versus everyone including yourself. Racing crits was a team sport. Success could be measured in so many more ways than just crossing the finish line first. I wanted to help teammates with leading them out, chasing down breaks, and more.

I was riding to play a role in team objective and enjoying something new.

I had a lot of fun racing crits. It was the most exciting racing I’ve ever done from the combination of beautiful chaos and team tactics aspect. Something happens every lap, every turn. Watching attacks, positioning, planning, making bets with matches in your legs and learning from positive and failed outcomes. The downside to crits for me was hearing that horrible sound bikes flipping and sliding on the road at speed. People all looking out for themselves and hoping their time wasn’t up. It felt like a matter of time before your number was up.

And them my number came up. It wasn’t fun but I’m alright. I still over worry about every time I think I feel a tire going flat. That happens about every half hour of riding on the road still.

Shortly after my family and I decided to move to Dallas Texas for many reasons including a work opportunity.

Since moving to Dallas I find myself riding for fitness again, a way to stay active and get out of my head.

Feels like I’ve come full circle in a way.

So, How Does A Changing Reason For Riding Effect Me?

I’m learning how to be honest with myself about all of this. Not racing this year has resulted in benefits and negatives. I’m spending more time with my awesome wife and daughter. That’s been a huge benefit.

The downside largely has been feeling guilty for not being in the shape I’ve been in from previous years. I’m learning to be honest that this is the reality of my current cycle in life and it’s alright. I don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed.

I have been enjoying a weekly group ride on the road and North Shore mountain bike trails.

Some of those feelings of unsure how to feel about my lack of race fitness were the catalyst for the lack of blogging in the past months.

What’s the latest?

This week my family and I drove up to Bloomington Illinois to get our dog an operation after she tore her ACL. She’s recovering pretty well after the surgery so far.

I also brought my Tarmac to catch a long overdue ride with some great friends. It was something that was good for my soul. I missed these people and these roads, although they feel narrower than I remember :)

Thanks for reading a rather long post from me. I hope you’re having a great holiday weekend!

P.S. I miss #RATG How are you? :)

Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to be notified of future posts via email by either clicking the Follow button at the bottom or the Subscribe section on the right!