Today On A Bike

I went out for a quick ride around the Southern loop of Northshore yesterday. The weather has been really nice this week. It was 80º and 70º the last couple of days, I think that’s above the norm down here but I’m still acclimatizing to Texas winters.

Looking ahead to the winter, I hope to ride once a week and explore a few locations via two-day (or so) car camping trips around TX and OK. I’m planning on going to Big Bend TX MTB festival in February with a good buddy. That should be a fun trip.

I hope you’re having a safe and relaxing fall. Thanks for reading.

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2017 Moab Utah Trip

Incredible times, amazing views, exceptionally great people…

I’m writing this above the clouds flying home to Texas thinking about how fortunate I am to have my life’s path intersect with this amazing group of people. People who share genuine and incredible times in beautiful places all centered around a simple two-wheel thing with pedals.

Five days ago I set off to Moab Utah for a riding trip. Now, five days later, I’m a little sore in the legs from big rides and in the face from smiling so much. The trip was centered on a bucket list and hard ride, WRIAD. White Rim In A Day is a 100 mile mountain bike ride around White Rim that has 7,000 feet of climbing. I was nervous about it.

Our first ride of the trip was to ride as much of Porcupine Rim as possible. Our group split into two, with the folks who had not done The Whole Enchilada before going all the way up to Burro Pass and the rest of us starting one section below that at Hazard County to avoid the snow and ice. I’m super happy anytime I’m on a ride where someone checks off a bucket list trail. Seeing the tired smiles after someone’s first The Whole Enchilada is great in its own right.

My Ibis HD3 felt the best it ever has as we started down Hazard County. Dialed, plush, and stable.  Photo by Randy

Porcupine Rim has so many great sections of terrain and endless levels of drops and tech from moderate to high. I was riding drops between three or four feet pretty comfortably but skipped bigger than that. The biggest stuff I rode I didn’t get pictures of because it comes up quick, manage the terrain, and then continue to rocket down the 20 plus miles of rocky down.

Moments like this are not lost on me. Incredible.

I opted out of the second ride day of the trip to rest up and prepare for the big ride the following day. I relaxed in downtown Moab at our lodging, Purple Sage. It’s the kind of place that makes you stop and appreciate all of the thought out execution and care that went into making it special. USB chargers on night stands, really comfortable, secure bike locker and bike stand, on site laundry, peaceful outdoor seating to talk about the beauty of Moab or exaggerate the height of the drop you rode down earlier, all appreciated. I highly recommend both Moab Flats and Purple Sage for your Moab lodging needs. Both are excellent!

The third riding day was WRIAD. We aimed to start the ride at 6:30, before sunrise. We all shuffled in cold dark morning mountain air, double checking our mental notes and attending to our own pre big ride rituals. Eight people set off on the adventure. Five WRIAD first timers.

In the special moments when the sun rose over the La Sal mountains it set the canvas for a perfect and big day.

We rode the route backwards compared to how it’s often ridden. We rode down Mineral Bottom road and ended our 100 miles with a soul checking climb up Shafer road.

The early ride to get to the winding mountain side Mineral Bottom road was flat and open. Time to think about the ride and scope of what was ahead.

After descending down into the canyons, the views for the rest of the day were utterly beautiful. Awe inspiring. Ever expanding. Special.

WRIAD is a big ride, I think most people take 10 plus hours to finish it in one day. It can be extra challenging to manage carrying that much water, food, extra clothing options for when the temperatures and weather shift. We had amazing friends provide the SAG truck and drive it behind us all day at distance. Not a small feat considering single lane passes more than a thousand feet above death with no guard rails, some serious other off-road terrain, taking a weekend away from life to help a bunch of semi crazy people do something they set their mind to. If anything went wrong, needed food or water, or if you had to call it and early day for any reason, you could stop and the truck full of supplies and smiling people were there. Beth and Nick, thank you for largely making our WRIAD ride possible. Really.

White Rim itself was great. Riding along it for largely the whole day was special. I think it’s more beautiful than the Grand Canyon based on the variety in colors and both negative and positive elevation terrain.

Mile after mile…

100 miles on a mountain bike is a long ride, much more than riding a century on the road. I felt pretty good all day. I was very active in my hydration and food intake. I started to tire around mile 85 but had legs to finish.

Checking off miles one at a time…

Around mile 95 the sun set. A special thing to ride during twilight in beautiful scenery and also to have for the fist time ever, seen both a sunrise and a sunset in the same ride.

The trouble is we had five miles left, and three of which are a brutal thousand foot climb out up switchbacks with lots of exposure. The type of falls where if it happen, it wouldn’t send you to the hospital but rather the grave.

With about two miles and 800 plus feet left in the climb it was pitch black to my eyes. Only the moon and stars to light the way. The kind of dark where you can put your hand six inches in front of your face and not see it. Scary to be honest, knowing a fall to your death was less than 15 feet away and you can’t see. I don’t think I was ever in any real danger but I wasn’t prepared to take any extra chances.

My phone, typically tasked to take these pictures shifted to a more serious task, keep me safe. I pushed and rode up the last two miles with my phone in my hand using it as a flashlight. We didn’t plan to be out there as long as it took us or we would have brought proper riding lights. WRIAD being a big ride with eight people is hard to have all possible events planned and accounted for.

When I saw the vehicles we pedaled away from 13 hours and 33 minutes before I was happy to have completed the ride. It was dark, 41º F. We were tired and soaking in the achievement realized. I couldn’t have done it without the SAG vehicle and people around me all day.

A great trip, truly special. WRIAD, my number one bucket list ride checked off, another ride down Porcupine Rim possibly the best trail on Earth in the books, great memories, great people.

Related: 2015 Moab Utah Trip

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Today On A Bike

I’ve found my favorite weekly road ride so far in Dallas with the Wednesday McKinney Velo Ride. It’s an all country route that winds and twists the whole time. No real miles of straight boring. Not a lot of traffic. It’s a roller coaster through the beautiful McKinney Texas country. It’s lined with ranches and nice views for Texas. Look to your right a you may see a field with 50 long horn bulls or a field of painted horses. Mile after mile of tree covered roadside with picture perfect white ranch fences lining the route.

In addition to the rad route, the group of people seem like a better fit for me. Less crazy moves, more of an unspoken we all need to get home safe than the Pop Ride’s I rode earlier this year. Less bonehead moves, no people with headphones in, less passing in the gutter, still more riding more than two abreast than I’d like but overall much safer. It’s still plenty fast. I rarely hang on in the last moves climbing the last hills before the cool down into town. It’s between 46 miles and 38 miles depending on the available daylight.

I’m about a month away from a planned trip to ride White Rim in a Day. A mountain biking trip centered around a 100 mile ride in Moab Utah with friends in what I’m told is amazingly beautiful views. I’m nervous about fitness, but that’s normal. I’m a worrier :)

Ride data from yesterdays ride if you’re into that.

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Today On A Bike

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After returning from our Moab cycling trip, I still wanted to ride more rock and tech. The closest rock I knew about was in St. Louis at Chubb and Greensfelder. Group adventures on trips like this are more fun I think. I posted a feeler on my local MTB club’s Facebook and was happy to find ten or so others wanted to join in. The trip was great, and I think a few of us really needed a day of fall awesomeness in the woods with others.2015-11-07 12.35.26

The trails were fun. The fallen leaves slowed the pace as the rocks were hidden and corners were a mystery of grip.2015-11-07 12.43.27

Chubb trail’s staircase or whatever you want to call it was still cool to look at and mess around on. I really wanted to do the drop, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe next year. I did roll the feature on the side a few times.2015-11-07 12.02.43

After we finished both rides we smiled, soaked in the warm November sunshine, and enjoyed a beer before leaving to get food and head home.2015-11-07 16.26.51 2015-11-07 16.24.24

My first road trip with my (new to me) STI. It did well, more fun to drive than Element but not as functional.2015-11-07 16.51.13

Another great fall trip complete. Another memory in what has been an interesting year for me and bikes. Group adventures like this are good for my soul, a reset of perspective and energy. They are what I tend to remember most fondly. Good times with amazing people not focused on work or troubles, but rather enjoying the moment, the opportunity to get away and enjoy the outdoors with like-minded people.

I’m looking forward to watching Mother Nature’s color palette change from burnt oranges of fall sunsets and fall leaves to the cool and still blues of winter. Lots of winter snowy riding ahead.

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2015 Moab Utah Trip

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What an amazing trip… My family and I joined some great friends for just over a week in Moab, Utah. The company, trails, and weather were terrific. I checked off The Whole Enchilada and Slickrock, two of my bucket list trails in addition to others. The terrain was unlike anything I’ve ever ridden before.

The trip started with my luck of never losing any luggage on trips coming to an end…

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All of my riding gear was in the bag so I was in bad shape for the planned week of riding. Relief came in the middle of the night when the powers that be located my bag and had it delivered to our good friends lovely home.

Day One, Moab Brand Trails – Garmin Data

We drove into Moab with about an hour and a half of sun burning through the ridges on the range. The perfect setting for my first ride in Moab.

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Looking across the desert to the La Sal Mountains where The Whole Enchilada lays waiting for us later in the trip.

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I have a handful of rides that rise above the rest to be my favorite memories. That first ride in Moab made the list, and I knew it pretty early into the ride. The warm glow of the sun setting on the desert range, the great friends I was sharing the experience with, and my long waited first ride in Moab. It was great.

After our first ride, we made our way to Moab Flats, our sleeping arrangements for the trip.

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Photo from moabflats.com

I was blown away at how nice everything was here. Everything was excellent from the beautiful flats, to the small details that made it feel like you were staying at someone’s really nice home. There was a locked storage setup for bikes including a bicycle stand and hose for cleaning. There was a secure patio area with hot tub, grill, and very nice outdoor seating. It was one of the nicest places I’ve ever spent time in. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend staying here.

Day Two, The Whole Enchilada – Garmin Data

This was the it, the trail that has been at the top of my want to ride list since I’ve had a list. I’ve waited years, heard a lot of hype, and was finally ready to clip in and discover it for myself. We finished the hour-long shuttle up to the Burro Pass trailhead before sunrise and prepared for the ride in the brisk fall high elevation temperatures. The warmer desert temps were very nice as we descended. The trailhead is at 10,300 feet elevation and you then climb Burro Pass at 11,200 feet elevation. At the top of Burro Pass, you have 8,000 feet of descent to look forward to.

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Climbing Burro Pass2015-10-17 07.59.30 2015-10-17 08.28.08 2015-10-17 08.00.36

The descent off of Burro Pass was great single track filled with steep rocky sections and lots of switchbacks. One of the neatest things I took away from riding The Whole Enchilada was how great it was to experience the different kinds of environment. We started in the Pine trees, transitioned into Aspen trees, and then into the desert.

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My talented friend riding the entrance to LPS from UPS.

Overall The Whole Enchilada was really great. I underestimated the difficulty of the ride, and came home pretty tired that day. I’m not as fit as I was earlier in the season. The constant rocks, drops, and moves you have to make took their toll on me by the end of our almost five-hour ride. It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed it immensely.

Day Three, Amasa Back, Hymasa, Pothole, Rock Stacker, Captain Ahab – Garmin Data

The Amasa Back, Hymasa, Pothole, Rock Stacker, Captain Ahab loop we did was a lot of fun. It had great vistas, flowy sections, great downhills, and features that ranged from small to much bigger than anything I’d ride.

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My talented friend riding the qualifier for Rockstacker and a drop towards the end of the Captain Ahab descent.

Day Four, Slickrock – Garmin Data

Moab was tough on bikes, lots of rocks that would like to leave a character building mark or slowly eat your tires with the sandpaper like surface. I needed to have a rotor trued after a few days of riding. I know a guy that is an avid rider and works at Moab Cyclery, so I swung by. They had my bike back to perfect in no time with their walk up service.

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Slickrock was the other check box for me on the trip. It’s such a famous trail that seems to make so many of the “Must Ride Trail” lists. My experience was different from I thought it would be. I expected to find trail that involved up and down moves, like ledges. What I found was none of that, but steep rock faces, both up and down. I was shocked at how steep some of the faces you climb and go down were. I swear some of the angles the trail goes up are beyond 60%. My fear of heights stopped me from trying some of the longer climbs where if you didn’t make the whole climb you’d be rolling down rock for a while. Overall, it was great, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

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Day Five, Family Zoo Time

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Day Six, 7-Up – Garmin Data

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7-Up was a fun trail with equal parts sand and rock. We ran into a pretty decent weather front and bailed to head back to the truck.

We ended the week with a return trip to Amasa Back, Hymasa, and Captain Ahab. That ride was sans camera, just to take it all in with no distractions. We rode up through the canyon a little after sunrise, La Sal mountain range in the background looking back at us. A fitting end to the trip. A great time with great people. I’m really glad I have the opportunity to do these trips with my friends and family.

And just like that, another great trip transitioning into great memories.

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2015 Sufferfest Colorado Trip

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This past weekend I joined some good friends on a yearly gathering for high elevation mountain biking in Crested Butte and surrounding areas. The trip is jokingly named Sufferfest because of the long climbs at high elevation, normally between 9,000 feet and 12,000 feet. The rides get bigger as the trip goes on ending in the Kenosha to Breckenridge ride which covers about 5,000 feet of climbing in just over 30 miles. We spend four days riding famous trails over the holiday weekend. Spending time with great people, lots of climbing, lots of technical fun descents, and the beauty of Colorado.

My freshly reassembled Ibis HD3 out of the bike bag ready to hit some Colorado trails

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Day One, Dr. Park Trail – Garmin Data

The climb to the top of Dr. Park starts on a dirt road evolving into double track, and lastly single track. The creek crossing at about the half way point is cold from the melting snow but such a great aspect of the ride for me, it’s just part of the experience.

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The descent of Dr. Park starts with some technical rocks, moving on to a flow and pump section that begs for you to let go of any brakes and feel the wind in your face. The last section of the down is more arid and has larger rocks. There are some great switchbacks to drop you the last few hundred feet of the ride.

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Day Two, Hartman Rocks Trail – Garmin Data

The Hartman Rocks trail was a day of change to ride dry trail as Crested Butte had a lot of rainfall on day one. The terrain was exposed to the sky, full of smaller climbs and descents, usually with exposed large rock structures.

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Day Three, Monarch Crest Trail – Garmin Data

Riding Monarch Crest is a big day. The ride starts above 11,000 feet elevation climbs up from there. This ride beat me up last year, and I was nervous about it going into this trip. This year there were clouds on the mountain that we climbed up and through. It was a pretty neat experience.

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As the day went on the sky’s cleared and we were treated to the great views that Monarch has to offer. The trail’s climbs, descents, and views make it an all time favorite which I was able to enjoy this year without bonking. To be fair, we did bail out before the Rainbows section this year.

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In between all of these great rides were good times spent around a campfire or eating at a local restaurant. At night, we were often treated to endless stars.

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Day Four, Kenosha To Breckenridge Trail – Garmin Data

The big ride, this one had me nervous. We cross three mountain passes climbing almost 5,000 feet over the course of the 32 mile ride. The first pass we climb is Georgia Pass, a 12,000 foot peak. The climb is filled to the brim with rocks and roots making every foot of the climb work. You get above tree line at around 11,300 feet on this ride, a rewarding experience.

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The descent on the backside of Georgia Pass is filled with technical rock sections and switchbacks.

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The second climb is steep and mean, but once crested, the hardest parts of the ride were conquered. I was in a happy place once I started down the second descent. I knew I was going to finish the ride, and my goal for the trip, to ride every mile.

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The ride ends with a handful of tight switchbacks arriving in Breckenridge. Last year when I watched friends from the sideline make that final descent, I had big aspirations of being able to finish the ride in the future. This year, I did. I ended the weekend with 12,500 feet climbed at high elevation. Every switchback of the last descent felt like a victory lap of personal accomplishment. I was in a happy, but tired place.

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And with that last switchback, the trip was over. Bikes packed, planes boarded, and headed back to Illinois as I type this. Colorado is a special place and I feel privileged to have experienced a small piece of it with such good people. Another great cycling trip transitioned from great times to great memories.

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Today On A Bike

2014-09-24 17.11.48-2The fall is always a weird time for me and cycling. I am usually a little burnt out from the MTB and road season that started back in January. After racing the Chequamegon fat 40 a few weeks ago, I’ve spent less time on a bike in an effort to not burn myself out. Today’s cross practice was a lot of fun and re-energized me a bit for the season!

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