Dirt Rag Magazine

Race Report: The Whole Enchilada Enduro, Moab

By Matt Kaspryzk

Moab is an odd place. There are a lot of mountain bikers, ATVs, 4x4s, and hikers for obvious reasons, but there are also a lot of folks who look like extras from "Cocoon" walking around town. It makes for a strange dichotomy.

In addition to having some of the most sought-after trails, bus tours through Arches National Park and buying Native American lawn decorations must be an equal draw for this southern Utah oasis. People certainly don’t come to Moab for the nightlife, but The Whole Enchilada Enduro race weekend had a bit of a festival atmosphere regardless.

There wasn’t much of an expo area, but there were parties and group rides to keep spirits high. I was happy to run into some industry friends that I haven’t seen in awhile, let alone get to ride with. It was also a good opportunity to meet new riders from around the country.

Loading up the shuttles for the 6 a.m. roll out.

The event brought in riders from several corners of North America. Pros and amateurs mingled waiting for early morning shuttles or while enjoying PBRs at The Chile Pepper bike shop party on Friday night. Shuttles were prompt, the organizers were organized, and sponsors like Fox, Shimano, POC, DT Swiss and The North Face provided some fantastic raffle prizes. The field was capped at 150 racers because of restrictions with land management, so the event seemed almost like invite only.

Even organizers Bigfoot Productions hopes to increase that number by appealing to park officials with well-executed events and responsible riders. So if you didn’t get in this year, there could be a better chance in 2013.

The final push to the top of Burrow Pass.

The ride from the top of Burrow Pass down to the Colorado River is a bucket-list ride. Many mountain bikers who have done it believe that it was the best ride they have ever done, or will ever do. So an enduro race on the Mecca of all trails is a good idea, right? Time will tell, but a lot went well for the first official race down to Moab.

 

Zach White, at right, practicing his lines for the winning Amateur Men’s time.

The course sounds great on paper: more than 7,000 feet of descending along more than 25 miles. However, it’s incredibly punishing on body and bike. There were significant climbs at high elevation. Sections of the course are very technical, fast, and rough with lots of potential for serious injuries. It’s the quintessential mountain biking that most of us dream of. I just hope racing this course doesn’t ruin a fantasy epic. A group ride where you can drink in the scenery and appreciate where you are is much different than being blurry-eyed staring at your front wheel while hoping your fingers will work when they need to.

The finish doesn’t look like much here, but on race day it was the best sight ever.

If you need another reason to make your pilgrimage to Moab, this event could be it. Hats off to the promoters, sponsors, volunteers and racers. I hope to see everyone next year.

See full results here. 


Book review: ‘Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross’ by Molly Hurford

By Adam Newman

There’s no doubt author and racer Molly Hurford is passionate about cyclocross—after all, this is the woman who permanently inked it into her skin, an act made famous by her column known as “The Girl With the Cowbell Tattoo” that appears in "Cyclocross Magazine." 

She has recently turned that passion into her first book, “Mud, Snow, and Cyclcross,” where she traces the history of ‘cross in North America as it spread from humble beginnings in the 1960’s and ‘70s to the rabid, nation-wide passion it garners today. She tracked down and interviewed anyone and everyone who has had a hand in shaping the sport and collected it into an oral history, letting the subjects themselves tell the story.

Like most ruminations on the sport of cyclocross, this book—published by Deeds Publishing—begins with an explanation of the racing and its rules. Rather than rehash the expected “cross between mountain and road biking,” Hurford lets the racers and race promoters share their own thoughts on the matter: “It’s one of those things you just have to see to understand,” says one quote from elite racer and two-time National Champion Ryan Trebon. “Its like a road race and a mountain bike race, combined… without the crappy parts.”

Trebon is just one of dozens of elite-level racers, both past and present, as well as men, women, and juniors, that makes an appearance in the book, with each sharing their first-hand thoughts on why they love the sport. Katie Compton dishes in on her “Best Worst Day,” and racer-turned-race promoter Adam Myerson traces his career from winning collegiate Nationals in 1997 to winning the Verge Series overall title in 2010.

Women play a key role in the story as well, as female American racers have had far more success on an international level than their male counterparts. Mo Bruno Roy, a native New Englander who spends a large chunk of her season racing in Europe, recalls, “In my first race, there was a women’s category—Women’s Open—and there were 10 to 15 women, so now to see a Cat 3/4 field with over 100 riders in a phenomenal difference in a short amount of time.”

Recounting the drama of the racing and elite racers is to be expected, but Hurford goes beyond the course tape to share the spotlight with the race promoters in the early days that put in a massive effort to attract national sponsors and grow the sport beyond isolated, regional scenes. For example, Paul Curley helped organize the National Championship races in 1992 when, for the first time in the U.S., courses were designed, marked, and maintained by professionals with professional-level amenities for riders and spectators. “It’s the first time we had pro and amateur fields, locker room facilities, and hot showers. We charged admission. It took it to a slightly higher level,” he said.

While one chapter focuses on the individual race series’ and their key venues, one of my favorite sections is the contrast of East Coast vs. West Coast racing and their very different styles. The East Coast scene has a long-held reputation as being very serious and very aggressive, while out west the races are often more laid-back with a greater emphasis on spectator fun.

The spectators are as big a part of the sport as the racers, and Hurford gives credit to the hecklers—both at the races and online—for helping expand the popularity of the sport. After all, cyclocross is perhaps the most spectator-friendly type of bicycle racing. Jeremy Powers discusses being the subject of an online reality show, “Behind the Barriers”, and Hurford shares her advice for choosing the right spectating location: “Just visit any major race… and look for where the crowd is cheering the loudest. Congratulations, you just found the beer garden.”

Like the sport itself—and its often rowdy participants—the book is a little rough around the edges. One bummer was that despite the attention paid to the importance of women and equality, there is also no listing of the Women’s National Champions alongside the Men’s in the appendix. Hurford told me it would be added in the next printing.

Bumps and bruises aside, I thoroughly enjoyed “Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross.” Already a huge fan of the sport, I was glad that Hurford kept the introductory and beginners sections short. Most of the books I’ve read about cycling are written with a beginner rider in mind, and I never understood why some authors write books designed to introduce readers to a sport, despite the fact that most of the actual readers will already be well versed. Thankfully, Hurford avoids this trap well and presents a novel account of a sport I love. This is a rare book that can appeal to newbies and experts alike.

So what’s next for cyclocross in the U.S.? This winter, Louisville, Kentucky, will host the 2012-2013 UCI Elite World Championships, an event that is sure to boost the visibility of the sport and expand its American audience. “Most of the elite racers think that Worlds in the U.S. will be game-changer,” Hurford writes. “For one thing, there’s a mandatory clause that it needs to be televised, presenting the first chance to make a push for races to be watched and popularized… And that’s when the shift from a fringe sport to a major American pastime begins to happen.”  


Race Report: Chomolungma Challenge at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, WV

By Justin Steiner and Eric McKeegan. Photos by Emily Walley and Philip Duncan.

This past weekend more than 100 racers lined up to test their mettle at Snowshoe Mountain Resort’s Chomolungma Challenge. This endurance downhill event challenged riders to race down nearly 30,000 vertical feet of elevation loss, which amounted to 20 runs down Snowshoe’s Western Territory—1,500 feet of loss with each run.

Racers could choose to tackle this event solo or as a member of a duo or four-person team. Race promoter Mike Baker was wise to segregate solo and team riders on two separate courses. Upon race start, solo riders tore down the natural terrain Pro DH trail, while team racers ripped the mostly flowly, bermed jump line consisting of Judi Chop, Ninja Bob, Ball ‘n Jack, and finally Powerline. At Noon, racers switched tracks to keep things interesting.

Dirt Rag staffers Jon, Eric, and myself rolled down to represent in the Solo category. We arrived Friday afternoon and rode a few practice runs in between weather holds due to storms in the vicinity. Fortunately for us, very little rain fell in the Snowshoe area to spoil the absolutely perfect trail conditions.

For Saturday’s race start, riders were organized in Snowshoe’s Village area at the top of the mountain via random number generation. With a shotgun start, we were off, ripping down through the village, and down the road to the trails. Despite the road section, things piled up quickly on trail, resulting in a somewhat frustrating first lap—that’s racing, however.

Everyone from the middle of the pack and back had to deal with pile-ups on trail, as there were simply too many people on trail to make passing productive. This first lap was the only time all day I experienced a line at the lift. Even then, I wasn’t waiting too long. That said, the race leaders were completing their second lap just as I was starting up the lift for the first time. Lesson learned; next year I’ll be hammering as far to the front as possible. Better start working on my sprint training…

By my second lap down the mountain, the pack had spread out far enough to allow for quite a bit of flow before catching other riders. Despite an amateurish crash on my third lap, it was easier than expected to tick off laps over on the Pro DH track, which offers nice flow through a variety of terrain. For the most part, the course held up amazingly well to the abuse, though some of the more flowy sections sprouted gnarly braking bumps after a few laps.

Going into this race we were uncertain how our bodies would hold up during 20 laps of abuse. For me the first 13 laps on the Pro DH course went well, with just some hand and wrist fatigue/pain creeping in around the 10-lap mark. After switching tracks to the longer and more pedaling intensive flow track, I started to fatigue quickly and my pace dropped significantly. Who knew you ride every berm from top to bottom by sitting your inside thigh on the seat? I didn’t, but quickly found it to be the easiest way down the mountain. There’s a relatively straight, blisteringly fast section of Ball ‘n Jack that’s littered with baby head rocks which was simply torturing my hands on the last handful of laps.

I have to admit to being mighty happy to finish my 20th lap, both because I could stop riding and because I came away nearly unscathed. I wish the same could be said for your intrepid Subscription Guy, Jon. Unfortunately, subscription customer service may be running just a bit slow for a few weeks while Jon’s arm heals. Check it out below. Yikes! Here’s to a speedy recovery, Jon!

With mostly cloudy skies and moderate temperatures, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions for this race. Everyone I spoke with was thrilled by how well organized and executed this entire event was. Many thanks go out to Baker and the rest of the Snowshoe crew for putting on such a wonderful event. As the pain of my sore muscles fades away, I’m pretty certain I’ll be back for next year’s race, which will certainly be bigger and better than this year.

Racing aside, the opportunity to spend that much quality time in the saddle was great for my riding. This race pushed me to become a better rider, and that’s all I can ask for from any event, really.

Tech Editor Eric McKeegan’s race report:

I thought I’d sworn off DH racing, I really only ride downhill for fun, a timed run usually takes the fun part out of it for me. The Chomolungma Challenge and its focus on endurance rather than outright speed changed my mind.

Considering the broken bones, hard crashes, and mechanicals I saw and heard about, my race was pretty uneventful. Other than loosing some skin off my knuckles in low speed collision with a tree I was crash-free, and a broken shift cable was the worst of my mechanical issues.

I probably lost a few places bandaging up my fingers and adjusting the derailleur limit screws to get my bike out of its hardest gear, but I wasn’t really there to race other riders, I was there to see if I could finish 20 laps.

After our three run practice session on Friday I was worried I’d be a mess by lap 15, but I ended up feeling great for most of the race. My hands started to cramp on the Pro DH side, but once we switched to the course with more flow I started to recover.

At this point my XC fitness (thanks Trans-Sylvania Epic!) came into play, allowing me to pedal, pump and jump my way past some obviously flagging competitors, moving up from my first lap second-from-last position.

The Dirt Rag pit area was well-equipped with food, tools, and spare parts, but other than a few bottles of water, a banana and a 3mm allen wrench I had little use for it. This was mostly because the neutral aid provided as we got on the lifts was awesome. Two pleasant ladies stationed there provided fluid and food hand-ups, and the 10-minute ride to the top was plenty of time to eat and drink.

After a few days my hands are still a little weak feeling, but over-all I feel great, both physically and mentally. I had fun and bumped my DH skills up a few notches. This may be the best 1st year event I’ve ever attended.

There aren’t many events like this in the country, and none that I’m aware of on the east coast. Trestle Bike Park is hosting the Red Bull Final Descent 12-hour race on Sept. 8th and Mountain Village Bike Park will be hosting the Fall Tilt Telluride 12-hour race on Oct. 6th.

Across the pond, there’s the Fort William Downhill Endurance 6-hour race, which went off in July this year—you’ll have to wait for the 2013 event. So, the Chomolungma is nicely positioned to become the go-to event for east coaster downhillers looking to go long. Don’t dally to register for next year, I’m guessing this race will fill up quickly.

 

 


Reader’s Rides: Custom-fabricated full-suspension fatbike

Editor’s note: Chris saw our short video about the Salsa full-suspension fatbike prototype and wrote in with the story of his own build. Thanks Chris! Got an interesting or unusual bike you’d like to share? Send some details to web@dirtragmag.com

By Chris Willsey,

Ever since I started riding full-suspension bikes in 1994 I’ve been trying to mimic the experience of riding a motocross or enduro motorcycle, in that the suspension absorbs the terrain so you are in control all the time rather than trying to overcome a machine that only works really well when on smooth trails. I haven’t bought a hard tail since 1984.

About three years ago I started investigating the new “fat” or “snow bike” phenomena and got the idea that running fat tires with lots of volume and a bigger diameter might allow a bicycle to perform more like I wanted it to on rough terrain. However from off-roading with four wheels over the years I had seen that high volume fat tires are basically non-dampened springs that bounce uncontrollably if you hit something too fast or hard. I assumed that a rigid fat bike would work great on snow or sand but it might bounce on rocks and roots. So that is when I began designing a full suspension fat bike to get the benefits of the big tires but still keep them in control.

I had been building up longer and longer travel bikes over the years and each step was an improvement in performance so I wanted to have pretty long travel on this bike too. The most logical platform to start with was an old Intense Uzzi DH that I had built into a 7-inch all-mountain bike years ago when 4-inch was the longest travel any XC bike could put out and before "all-mountain" was even a category.

After thinking for a while about how to do it, then waiting some six months gathering up the parts, which included several Intense rear ends, I started the fabrication. The main part of the transformation entailed cutting up the rear end parts, machining, gusseting, welding them back together then heat treating the finished product, all to make room for wider and taller tires.

I built the wheels using 47mm trials rims. I wanted a more round tire profile for cornering and less width because I didn’t need the flotation provided by an 80mm or 100mm rim that works well for snow. Plus I wanted to save weight where I could. To avoid tire chain clearance issues I built around a 170mm rear Hadley rear hub provided by Fatback out of Alaska. Then I had to get the chainrings in the right place, but I only had a 68mm BB shell rather than the 100mm width that has become the norm on current Fatbikes. After some experimenting I ended up with the widest Ti spindle that Profile Racing makes, which allowed for the chainline I needed. With chromoly cranks it probably adds at least a pound to the overall weight but for a prototype it works fine.

As far as gearing, I had been riding a 26-inch downhill frame as an all-mountain bike for a while and since that had no provision for a front derailleur I was running a 24 front ring only which provided me with low gears for really steep technical climbs and the 24/11 is high enough that I don’t spin out around here with our short downhills.

But when I tried that on the new FS Fat bike I found that since the bike rolled over things so much easier I was up at least 3 gears basically everywhere compared to the 26-inch. Unfortunately with the chainrings hanging out it space so far from the seat tube, any normal front derailleur setup was not going to work. After several other attempts I ended up fabricating an E-type hanger that lowered and spaced out the derailleur to just the right spot and it’s been working ever since with 22-32 front rings.

My theory was right about the fat tires and long travel suspension combination. I roll over rough terrain so much easier and faster that I can keep up with guys who would usually be much faster than me. They only catch up when it gets smooth. I am pushing a 37lb bike after all. I run 9psi front and 14psi rear. That seems to be a good compromise offering compliance but good rolling resistance and rim protection. The rigid Fat guys run considerably lower pressures.

There is one really rocky trail that I always ride when I build up a new bike or modification to test for bump compliance. There are several technical rocky climbs where I have to be pretty on to get up and sometimes I don’t. There is also one section that I have never gotten up, even once, despite trying since the mid ‘80s. Yeah the mid ‘80s!

When I took this bike on that trail two things happened. One was that I cleaned the "can’t be ridden" section and after getting to the end of the trail I was thinking "What happened to those hard climbs?" Turns out in my enthusiasm I had just ridden right up them like they were hardly there. To prove that it wasn’t a fluke I’ve been back a couple of times to that trail and had the same results.

I just built up a long travel DH/AM 29er bike out of a newer Uzzi with VPP to see if it was just the big tire diameter that was giving me all the advantage sine I had yet to own a 29er prior to this one. I’ve been riding it for about three weeks now and while it is better than normal 26ers it’s still not on par with the full-suspension fat bike, even though travel is about the same and tire diameter is slightly larger, plus the bike weighs about 5lbs. less in all-mountain trim. I have several cool 26ers and I really don’t want to ride them any more, except for novelty sake. I know I’ll go slower and use more energy to get there and probably go shorter too.

I’m sure it’s not for everyone. The rigid SS guys will probably put up the greatest resistance. Many will think "Yeah whatever. It can’t be that much different." and "Aren’t those big heavy fat tires slow?" Well, since there are almost no full-suspension fat bikes in the world for them to try, I guess they will just have to wait until someone starts producing frames so they can experience the revolution for themselves. Hopefully I can get the motivation to make more myself to help push that along.

 


Breck Epic – Stages 4-6: Bourbon and powdered donuts

By Montana Miller

Stage 4 — Aqueduct Loop — 41 miles

I’m hiking up the same hill that I’ve walked up a few times earlier this week. It’s not getting any easier. Across the top, then down a super fast descent that’s covered in baby heads. I get off the front brake and bounce down the trail.

At the bottom, I catch my friend the Bradley the Birdman of Charleston. I cup my hand over my mouth and fire the customary greeting birdcall at him. “Kah-Kaw!”

“Dude, I’m gonna have to quit. My knee,” he says, rubbing his boney leg. He pulls into the first aid station and stops. Bummer. I keep riding.

On to the Colorado Trail. It’s a beautiful piece of dirt. Winding through the pines, short rises, buff corners. After a few miles, I turn on the Aqueduct Trail. It’s as hardpacked as concrete, with a gentle grade down. I tuck in behind a few geared guys and draft.

The first guy slams on his brakes and slides sideways. Then the second. They skid out of the way and reveal a corrugated metal pipe running at a weird angle across the trial. I tap the pipe with my front tire then hop over. Damn. That was close.

Ride across a wobbly log bridge, then through the second aid station. I’m on the big eight-mile climb out of Keystone Resort now. Two years ago, this thing crushed me. But I’m mentally ready for it this time. It’s a nice smooth climb the whole way up. Just settle in.

Pedal up three miles of smooth fireroad. There’s an arrow. I turn and splash through a stream. Shit. The course switches to a loose, rocky Jeep track. Totally forgot about that part.

Thirty minutes later, I’m still climbing. The end has to be around this switchback. No. Then it has to be the next one. I’m level with the top of the mountain beside me. No. Maybe the next turn. No. It’s endless.

The Jeep trail ends. And the climb keeps going, on single track now. Damn this is a long climb.

I finally hit flat ground. I look around. No land higher than me. The top. I relieve myself real quick, then jump back on my bike.

The single track drops steeply. I’m flying through the trees, lifting a thin trail of dust with my tires. Brake cables clank softly against my frame. Around a tight corner, through a sharp rock garden. Down and down. Pop over a root, land, push through another turn. This makes all the climbing worth it.

The single track ends on a dirt road. Such a rad descent. My dad is helping at the last aid station. “Seven miles to the end, all uphill?” I ask. He nods.

And it is all uphill. Steeper than anything else we’ve gone up. I’m leaned so far forward pushing my bike, I feel like I could lick the ground.

After the top, I drop down a steep single track descent and pass an abandoned snowmobile. I can hear the loudspeaker at the finish. But the arrows turn me away. Damnit. Another few miles of bonus trail. I don’t really enjoy it. I just want to be done.

Then I’m headed back to the finish. My tires skip down a rocky patch, then roll across the line. I order a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich from the guy working the snack table. Two more days.

Stage 5 – Wheeler Pass — 27 miles

I’ve had mediocre finishes in the single speed class all week – ninth or tenth out of 20. I haven’t been able to breathe enough to actually race. Today is a shorter stage. Doesn’t matter if I blow up. I just want to land a top five.

We’re staged by class. The Open Men’s class sprints away. We move up to the line.

“One minute!” says the announcer. I try to convince myself that I have some energy.

“Go!” he says. I sprint up the hill behind the guy in third. We start passing geared guys immediately. The trail is super rocky, and pitches up steeply. I beat through the rocks. I’m moving fast to be in a good position for the hike on top of the pass.

On to fire road. One guy passes me. Fifth now. That’s fine. Just keep him in sight. Twenty minutes later, I jump off my bike and start the hike. We’re above treeline. There’s no air. I’m pushing my bike as fast as I can, gasping. There’s a big string of riders in front of me going over the pass. The fastest guys are just little dots of color on the huge mountainside.

“Montahnah!” my friend Don Powers yells. His voice echoes through the mountains. I don’t even have to look back to know who’s yelling. Bastard.

Hit the first saddle on the pass. Breckenridge is on the right, looking like a little doll village. I look back. Powers is a few seconds back. Stupid caveman walks so fast. I jump on my bike.

It’s hard to ride up here. I don’t know if it’s the wide-open space, or the lack of air, but I can’t keep my bike going in a straight line. I hit a rock. My tire hisses. Son of a bitch. It goes flat.

Powers passes me. This is the worst thing ever. I throw my Co2 inflator in frustration, put the tube in, and look for my inflator. I can’t find it, because I just threw the damn thing in the grass. Such an idiot move. I curse loudly. The wind blows across the desolate pass.

 

I finally find the inflator and blow up the tire. Hike across the top. Somebody is cooking bacon. Awesome. I grab a strip, and start down.

Big loose rocks. A ditch. Thousand foot drop to the left. I blink and see stars. Dry bacon taste in my mouth. So dizzy. I bounce and skid down the mountain. My head is spinning. Back to tree line. The rocks are bigger, with ledges and roots. Just don’t crash. The rocks pound my bike.

My hands start to lock up. Can’t do much more. Then I hit the bottom. And onto a paved bike trail. I tuck and coast, passing roller bladders, a woman with a stroller, and a guy towing a trailer.

Back into chattery single track. It climbs slowly back to Breck. I’m pretty toasted. Trying to go fast, but I can’t. I don’t catch Powers. He smiles smugly at the finish line.

“Congratulations meatbag, you finally beat me,” I say. I hate loosing to that guy. I need to go back to the condo and drown myself in the hot tub.

 

Stage 6 – Boreas Pass – The Leisure Ride

 

Back at the condo after Stage 5, we’re sitting in the living room. There’s one day of racing left.

“So who wants to go on a leisure ride tomorrow?” someone asks. Everybody in the room raises their hand. Except one.

“No way. I’m racing tomorrow,” says Don Powers.

“Why? For what reason?” I demand. He’s behind me in the overall, and I’m barely in the top ten.

“To beat you Montana, I’ll make myself hurt to make your day miserable,” he says.

That dick. I immediately start trying to think of ways to make his day miserable. There’s a jar of maple syrup in front of me. I could fill his shoes with maple syrup. Cover his saddle in maple syrup. Fill his gloves with maple syrup. No, forget the syrup.

There’s an hour long climb over Boreas Pass tomorrow. It’s so gradual that you can’t stand up to climb it on a single speed with a low gear. I’ll lower his saddle an inch. That’ll make his knees explode.

The next morning, I go out to the garage and lower Don’s saddle. I let a touch of air out of his fork, so that it sucks down when he sits on his bike. I fill one bottle with 114 proof bourbon, and the other bottle with powdered donuts.

 

Photo by Brad Schmalzer

When he needs some water after that whiskey, he’ll get a spray of powdered sugar in the face. We’ll see who’s miserable today.

We leave the house to ride to the start. When he hits the first bump, Don’s fork sucks down. He stops his bike and looks at it sadly. I ride away.

Fifteen minutes later, he rolls into the start line with a fork pump.

“Well, I guess I can’t race today. My forks blown up,” he says.

“Oh man, that’s a bummer,” I say sympathetically. “Did you bring a pump down?”

He hands me the shock pump. I start fiddling with his fork. There are only a few minutes until the start. I hurriedly pump up one side, then the other.

“Here, see if this works,” I say. He cycles the fork.

“Great. Thanks. Well, I guess since you’ve been so nice I can’t screw with you today,” Don says.

“Yeah Don, Montana is such a good friend,” says another guy who knew about my sabotage.

The announcer talks into the mic, then we start up the road.

“Dammit, did you fuck with my saddle?” says Don. I start laughing. “This is gonna make my knees blow up,” he stops to fix it, and we ride away.

Climb up some single track, up some Jeep road, then up more single track. We have a couple backpacks full of beer, and stop to take a lot of pictures. Only two of the single speeders from the West are riding with our east side group.

 

When Don takes a drink, he’s actually excited to have the disgusting whiskey-Gu Roctain mix.

We cross the top of the pass, hang out at the un-official beer stop for a while. Don enthusiastically dumps more whiskey into his bottle. We ride onto the Gold Dust Trail.

 

Photo by Rob Lochner

It’s an awesome trail. Almost all flat, winding single track in a big shoulder height ditch. Every turn is banked, every decent has a rollers to pump.

Back up the other side of Boreas Pass. It’s a long climb back to the aid station. Don finally gets tired of drinking booze, and reaches for his other bottle. He squeezes it. The powdered donuts get crushed.

“Dammit! You emptied my other bottle too! I hate you!” he says.

“No man, it’s full,” I say.

“What’s in there? And I wish I had some water you dick,” he says. I decline to tell him. I’m having a fun day. Looks like I won the misery contest.

At the aid station, he opens the bottle, and whips the donuts at me. We hang out at the beer stop for a few more minutes, then start the last descent of the Breck Epic.

The Birdman and I sprint down the mountain, launch over big rock piles, and whip around tight corners. He cuts me off to pass on a switchback before the finish, but I surge around him at the line.

He grabs a can of coke, and sprays everybody with it as they finish the race. We stand around for a while with big smiles. That was a great week of riding. Then we head back to the condo to get clean for the after party.

 

 


Riders Write: Butte 100 race report

By Miguel Arias, Bikeparts.com / Waltworks,

The sweat started developing on my palms as I looked down the trail. It sure was steep, and right at the bottom there was a big rock on the left hand side. My bare sweaty hands tightly clutched the grips, making them feel extra squishy. The nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach only became worse as two older riders pulled up on their new bikes, contemplated the descent, and between them decided to "wait for another time to try and ride it". They pedaled away as I decided to stare at it for just a little longer.

It had been a while since I had gotten my first mountain bike and I tried to ride it alone as much as possible so that no one could see how terrible I was at it. A humble bike it was, heavy by any standard with low-end components and no suspension. Mountain biking had become popular overnight in Queens, where I had noticed Thule and Yakima racks appearing as status symbols on cars before I ever owned a mountain bike. I recall sitting in my friends VW as he handed me a Specialized bike magazine of that model years’ bikes. When showed the one that he was going to buy I wondered to myself how I would get the money to afford something similar. Other kids in the neighborhood already owned expensive bikes; and of particular envy was one Team Edition Volvo-Cannondale bike.

* * *

I had already begun cursing my luck the day before I flew out to race the Butte 100 in Montana. It had been a priority to get new seals for my suspension fork since it had been pouring oil since the last race, but the parts had not arrived in time. Unfortunately the race would have to be ridden on a fully rigid bike. From what I knew of the race besides it being 100 miles was that it would climb and descend almost 18,000 feet, far more than any race or ride I had ever done. This elevation gain was so absurd to me I questioned if it could be fit into 100 miles. Tinker Juarez, who once rode for the Volvo-Cannondale Team, called it his favorite and the hardest race he had ever done. These words carried weight since they came from an accomplished racer.

In the pre-sunrise light of the early morning I lined up at the start of the Butte 100. Trying not to think of the 100 miles before me, my gloves that had somehow disappeared (I later found out our friend’s two year old had taken them) and the lack of suspension on my bike I looked around and saw Tinker. A smile came across my face as the thought came across my mind. "Never did I imagine that I would one day line up against the mountain bike racers in the magazines of my youth."

The smile turned to focus as the call came out; "15 seconds till start". I checked to make sure that I was in the right gear, and that both water bottles were there. "10 seconds" I felt my heart start going a little faster, took a deep breath and swallowed. "3, 2, 1, Go!" the early morning spectators clapped and cheered and we rolled through the start line.

I worked myself into fifth position going at a comfortable pace, knowing that no one wins a 100 mile race in the first couple of miles. Dead ahead was Tinker, flanked by two other riders surely trying to test the defending champion. We entered the first downhill section and I followed the fourth place rider. Thinking he was going too slowly so I went for the pass. Soon after going for the pass I realized the reason for the reduced speed. I washed out full speed in 6 inches of sand trying to make a right hand turn. As I slid across the sand dragging my leg and knuckles I was relieved that there were no rocks and that it really didn’t hurt that much. A couple of thoughts went through my mind 1.) bad way to start a 100 and 2.) this is really going to hurt. A rider passed me from behind as I tried wiping the sand off my hands. I was now in 6th place and my hands already hurt.

It took me about 20 minutes of descending to figure out how to corner, but after trading positions on the uphill and downhill I realized that the rigid bike was naturally slower on the descents, despite my efforts to the contrary. Not helping the situation was that I had never seen any part of the course.

It was early in the race, where the first rays of the sun were beginning to peek through the trees. Feeling the comfortable temperature I knew we would be in for a hot one. I reached down to drink and saw that I lost a water bottle during the crash – I had one left but it was half empty. "Stick it out till the next aid station", I thought to myself, emptying the contents of the water bottle into my mouth.

Passing the next checkpoint I was between two Montana riders on the same team, sitting in 5th place. My bottle was now full, and I fished into my pocket to eat some food. As I did the guy behind me sped around and bridged up to the rider in front. I let them go, deciding that eating was more important at this moment. I am still not sure if it was a mistake, but I only realized after I rode them that the next 20 miles or so were perfect terrain to trade turns drafting and conserving energy. I would ride the rest of the race alone.

Somewhere around mile 60 I saw our blue rental car with Melissa in it. This was the first time I had seen her all race as she had been looking for gloves for the past 5 hours. She drove ahead up the road and waited for me. Once outside the car she pulled out gloves and filled my water bottles. My hands felt instant relief from the beating that they had taken over the previous miles. I sped to the next checkpoint with renewed energy. "I’ll see you at mile 70!" she yelled after me.

Going into the checkpoint at mile 70 I was 30 minutes down on Tinker. Melissa was waiting there to fill my empty water bottles. Right after leaving the checkpoint I encountered a steep uphill section. No big deal I thought, just pace it like you have been. Yet the single track continued on and on, as did the steep climbing. What I encountered for the next twenty miles was the most difficult ride or race I have ever been a part of. I still don’t know how I didn’t cramp, because fluids and food were becoming less and less palatable. I was so focused on finishing I had to place the worries of a bike mechanical or crashing out of my mind. There was a very good possibility that if I did either I would have to walk out, or more likely, someone would have to carry me out.

As the miles dragged on my speed dropped significantly; and the climb continued with pain and mental fatigue slowly letting itself in. More than once did I look down at the soggy bottom headset cap on my bike; last years’ 100 miler trophy and 1.) wished my friend were there and 2.) reminded myself that everyone else was suffering the same as me. Strange what goes through one’s mind during epically long races, mostly to soothe the despair of late miles when the body begins to protest the mind’s commands.

Mile marker 90 came around and it was the last checkpoint. I was on my last legs – dehydrated with no desire to drink and hungry without any desire to eat. The end of my rope had come. Yet the final climb was still ahead and somehow the first two miles felt relatively easy. Maybe it was the feel that the finish was so close or more likely it was the last desperate effort from a body that could no longer go. Whatever it was, as the climb continued the energy began to ebb from my body. I no longer had any power behind the pedal strokes; 90 plus miles and over 17,000 feet of vertical had taken their toll. Cresting over the last hill I somehow rolled to the finish line holding onto sixth place.

It was difficult to get into the car following the race; my body felt cold and my extremities began to tingle. I could see the muscles twitching in my legs, but I couldn’t feel their movements. I was trying to ingest fluids but the nausea kept protesting. I knew that if I threw up it would be a hospital visit for IV fluids. Rolling down the window to get some fresh air gave me temporary relief.

Somehow holding onto the contents of my stomach we arrived back at the cabin we were staying at. I needed to be flanked on either side to exit the car into the house. Like one with broken legs I was helped into the bathtub. My body temperature had dropped; I needed heat, food and fluid. Pouring Epsom salt into the running bath I stepped in. Maybe after some minutes or maybe an hour the salt and water began to hydrate my skin and life began to return to my body. I ate a Graham cracker and washed it down with water. I was going to be ok.

* * *

Somehow around mile 80 I remembered what it was like to be scared of descending on a mountain bike; looking down the trail with my palms pouring sweat and my heart racing. It had been hidden away in memory for 15 years, locked up with life’s other awkward moments we would sometimes rather forget.

Memories come up that retroactively act like barometers of our own life’s weather patterns. They are tools of measurement, to see how far winds and weather have carried you and just maybe, during a moment of clarity you realize how far you have come with the work you have put in. Sometimes taking a step back and eliminating noise makes one realize how good they have become at something, not just in cycling but anything in life. It is easiest for me to think of such things when I have the menial task of pedaling in little circles and getting up that next hill.

I wish that only words could share the elation and pride that I felt at mile 80; yet as is often the case during any long excursion I had the most beautiful thought come to mind only to have it leave as easily as it came in. As I write these words realizing they are unjust to the thoughts I was having, as I have butchered them once again. Like trying to make a moment last forever I still clutch for it as it rapidly slips away.

Somewhere there at mile 80 a boy finally rode down the steep trail, even if it was only in my mind. We had come a long way together, growing and learning. It was the old me and the young me, meeting again for the first time on some dusty trail high on the Montana continental divide, embracing the past, present and future, knowing that our road together had come too far to let those last 20 miles stop us.

 


Breck Epic Stage 3: Survival turns to sunshine

By Montana Miller,

“Can you imagine shooting a kangaroo with a bow? The things have hands. It’d rip that arrow out and stab you,” my friend Brad says. We’re sitting at the dining room table in the condo. Just finished the stage.

Today’s race was way better than yesterday’s.

The sun was out from the start. We left town on the neutral roll out and started the first climb. Riding up the first hill, I take a hard pedal stroke. The chain pops and falls off. Crap. That’s not supposed to happen on a single speed.

“Get off the trail hippy!” yells my friend Don Powers.

“Blow me meathead,” I say. I put the chain back on and start riding again. A few minutes later, it pops off again. Damn it. I look at it a little more closely. Busted link. I push the pin back in with my multi-tool. Pedal a few more feet. It explodes again.

Last place duo-open team Rich Dillen and Peter Keiller pass me. That’s not good. I’m way in the back now. I stand by the side of the trail begging for a quick-link. A guy finally rides by and gives me one.

Get the chain going again, then start walking as fast as I can. The trail is too steep for riding. But I have to make time. I have to catch back up to Don Powers. If he beats me in a stage, he’ll shout and stamp his feet like a happy caveman for the rest of the week.

I rip down Little French, chunks of shale spitting out from under my tires, through the first aid station and onto the climb up French Pass.

The jeep road narrows to single track. Climbing higher, the trees get stubbier, then disappear. Just grass, and a narrow strip of rocky dirt. I can see people strung out along the pass a mile away. There’s a grey and black jersey. Powers.

I slowly reel him in, then make a hiking pass. We walk the rest of the way to the top of the pass. A guy is handing out Skittles. I grab a handful and start descending the other side.

I choke on the Skittles. Spit out a big chewed up ball of them. The trail is super fast, wide open. My front tire catches an edge. Oh shit. I unclip a foot and drag it in the dirt. My bike stays upright. Behind me, I hear a pop. Look back, Don Powers is standing over his bike, waving his arms. Nice. Don’t have to worry about him anymore.

Down a fast single-track descent, then through the second aid station. I start the dirt road climb up Georgia Pass. Half an hour later, I hit the top. Finally. All the climbs out here are so damn long.

Onto the Colorado Trail. The top section is fast and flowing, cut into the side of the ridge. Around a few switchbacks. The trail gets rougher, until I’m slamming through a huge rock garden. Slide down a steep rock chute, and across a stream.

A few more miles of fast double track, then into the finish. Excellent day.

Back at the condo, we still aren’t talking about anything bike related. “All animals are rats. Even my dog. She’s actually just a big rat,” Brad says. This week is starting to get fun.

Results

Brady Kappius took the single speed win, beating Macky Franklin (who was racing with a broken cleat) by five minutes. Jenifer Wilson continued her dominance in the single speed women’s race.

Benmelt Swanepoel beat Ben Sontag by one minute in the Open Men’s Race, and Amanda Carey outsprinted Yolondi Du Toit for the women’s win.

 


Breck Epic Stage 2 – High mountains and low temperatures

By Montana Miller,

“Alright, Stage 2 of the Breck Epic! Go!” the announcer says over the loudspeaker. 

A drop of rain hits my arm. We follow the police car out of town. Up the first climb. I get off my bike and start to walk. The rain is coming down steadily.

“Don’t worry guys, there’s blue sky right over there!” a volunteer yells. I hope it makes over here.

Up some more double track, a few miles across a section of road. I start the walk up Little French Gulch. The thing is way too steep to ride on a single speed, and covered in sharp chunks of shale. The rocks crackle and roll around under my ankles.

A guy on a single speed rides past me. Dammit. This is supposed to be too steep. He can’t be riding. But he is. I hate how well the guys that live here deal with the thin air.

It’s raining harder now, and I’m starting to get cold. I stop at the top of the hour-long switchback climb on the Colorado Trail. Pull on a long sleeve jersey. I start the sweet descent down the other side. Ripping across the mountain, grabbing brakes, dropping over a wet root, turning on a tight switchback. And again. Half an hour of fast descending until I hit the bottom. I love that trail.

My jersey is soaked the whole way through now. Still sort of having fun though. I’m just trying to pretend that it’s a spring race in West Virginia. And the rain has to stop soon. It never rains all day in Colorado.

Two hours later, it’s still raining. I’m shivering badly. But it’s cool. Just keep it together. I roll through the last aid station. Only 12 miles to go.

Six miles later, I’m not keeping it together very well. I’m yelling into the woods, shouting about the climbs, and squeezing my grips as hard as I can. I’m starting to lose the feelings in my hands.

A few miles to the finish, I’m totally numb. I cross the line. My girlfriend is standing at the finish with a dry shirt and some coffee. I can barely grip the mug.

My friends Don and John finish. We start the ride back to town. John’s chain sucks, bends, and breaks. We stop with him. He can’t fix it.

“Just get out of here. Leave me,” he says. It’s still raining and not much more that 40 degrees. We don’t argue, and ride away without him. I’ve never been so cold. My chest is starting to cramp.

Don wails like a stabbed howler monkey. His teeth are chattering so much that he can’t form sentences. I make it back to the condo 20 minutes later. I’m covered in freezing mud. Dive into the hot tub. I start to warm up a little. People start rolling back into the house. They’re discouraged, angry, and hypothermic.

After we warm up, we spend the rest of the night fixing our bikes. I hope it stops raining. I don’t think I could race another day in that shit.

Results

In the Single Speed Stage Race World Championships Race, Brady Kappius took the stage win by beating

Macky Franklin. Jenifer Wilson took the Single Speed Women’s win again.

Amanda Carey beat out Yolandi Du Toit in the Opens Women’s Race, and Friberg Calle was the fastest Open Man.

In Men’s Open Duo, Rich Dillen and Peter Keiller are still in last place.
 


24 tips for racing your first Leadville Trail 100

By Ellen Hall

If you’re one of the lucky ones who will be at the starting line this year, there are less than two weeks to finish preparing for the Leadville Trail 100. I attempted the race in 2009, pulled out and called it a day as it started to thunder storm on my ride up the Powerline climb.

After the attempt I wrote up some tips to share with other friends headed to LT100 for the first time. I need to take my own advice and go back for another more successful follow up ride… perhaps next year. 

  1. Have everything you’ll need for race day morning packed up and ready to go on Thursday afternoon. (So that you don’t have to think and can sit w/ your legs up on Friday evening.)
  2. Drive to all of the aid stations with your staff to organize WHERE you will feed. These will be VERY CROWDED and confusing on race day. See if you can get a tall flag or banner to help quickly identify your staff.
  3. Make sure that your staff knows each feed that they are responsible for meeting you. It is a HARD job to have them meet you at every feed, so choose which ones are most important (IE the one at the base of the Columbine climb up to the turn around)
  4. Have a rain jacket (w/ sleeves cut off) in your pack for riding up Columbine – it may storm while you are up there or on the way down. It is also very cold descending so put the jacket on up at the top – the aid workers will zip/ Velcro jackets for you too – so get them to help!
  5. Write down all of the aid station mile markers and cutoff times so you know where you are and if you are on schedule. Use the 12 hour cutoff times so that you don’t feel rushed. Tape this list to your top tube so you can see it while you ride.
  6. Run semi slick tires, I had good luck w/ some super low profile Ritchey Speedmax tires w/ pretty high pressure.
  7. It is helpful to have a computer w/ countdown distance so you know how far you have left to ride, run the ride timer on manual start/stop so you know your total time vs. ride time (which doesn’t include your stops/ breaks).
  8. Arrive at race check in around 4 a.m. – you will have to sign in with your helmet number, wrist band, etc. to be officially “counted” as a starter
  9. Take your bike and line up several waves faster than you expect to finish. Do this asap – get a friend or support staff to stand with you bike at the start line while you relax, go to the bathroom, or  hang out.
  10. Start on the LEFT side of the road, it will keep you out of trouble through the start of the race and sweeping turns
  11. Wear warm clothes before the start – leg warmers, down jacket, warm hat, gloves, etc.
  12. Use “embrocation” cream on your knees so they stay warm at the start without need for knee warmers. Use LOTS of chamois cream.
  13. The beginning two or more hours will be on double track climbing w/ hundreds of people ahead and behind you. Leave plenty of space between your front wheel and the next rider ahead of you. This way you don’t crash or have to put a foot down if somebody does something weird ahead of you – super smooth and efficient the whole way.
  14. Eat and drink before you need to, prepare a food/ drink schedule so you stick to it – drink one bottle an hour, eat something every 30 minutes, etc. – whatever works for you – but get the food and drink in EARLY so you don’t pay for it later. Have some salty foods, snacks that are not “power food” and some peppermint candy or mints if your stomach feels upset.
  15. Be careful on the descent down Powerline. It can be really steep and can be loose, just maintain control and follow the dark (hardest pack dirt) line down it. There will be a good line worked in or ask the spectators if you should go right/left/etc. – they’ll help you if you need it.
  16. You can ride the water crossing at the bottom, just commit and keep your speed up. Much faster than the bridge/ walking. You may need to yell at people to get out of your way!
  17. As with all of the race, keep your cadence high, heart rate low, especially climbing up Columbine. It is a loooonnnngggg climb.
  18. Once you get up towards the top you’ll see people walking, keep riding the sections that you can don’t get upset about walking if you need a break. Just keep moving and telling yourself positive things – think up some good positive mantras AHEAD of time because you’ll be feeling it at this point!
  19. At the top turn around of Columbine get some of the noodle soup, have the aid staff help refill bottles, put food in your pockets, help you get your jacket on and get back on down the mountain. USE the staff, they are there to help keep you moving quickly and see that you are doing ok.
  20. Cheer for people who are still going uphill, it will make you both feel better!
  21. Be careful on the climb back up the Powerline – it can get stormy in the afternoon. It is steep so just ride what you can comfortably, and walk the rest and know that even Lance walked some of it too.
  22. Keep your head together and just keep turning the pedals over.
  23. There is a section of babyhead rocks near the finish, it is short (less than a mile), gut it out… you just have to power over it and you’ll be home.
  24. Have a great time! 

Read more of Ellen’s tips or follow her adventures on Twitter at @ellensadventure.

Have you raced Leadville? Got any tips to share? Let us know in the comments.
 

 


Gravity Nationals weekend recap

By Justin Steiner,

USA Cycling’s Gravity Nationals weekend wrapped up Sunday at Beech Mountain, N.C., culminating in the men’s and women’s Pro downhill races to crown new national champions. Racers of all ages and ability levels traveled from all over the country to participate in four days of dual slalom and downhill racing. Even before on-sight registration closed Saturday afternoon, attendance was said to be up around 14 percent over last year with roughly 470 race registrations for the weekend. Here’s a day-by-day recap of the highlights.

Thursday

The weekend’s festivities kicked off Thursday with registration and practice on the dual slalom and downhill tracks. Check out our Pro course walk video as well as a few photos here.

Friday

Overnight storms dropped a fair bit of rain on Beech Mountain, making for moist course conditions for Cat 2 and 3 racers that morning. Not only that, but Beech Mountain’s 5,500 feet of elevation meant we were solidly within the low-slung clouds.

Beech’s starting gate is perched right at the tippy top of the mountain. Visibility here wasn’t great—we’ll call it pea soup. Here Joaquin Canizales, from Little Falls, N.J., rolls down the starting gate.

Just down course, Michael Lemon, from Pottstown, Pa., rolls over the hump below the lift house.

Here we spied our first glimpse of Green Man for the weekend. Little did we know, this would not be our only sighting of this character. 

Beech Mountain’s soil is soft and loamy in the wooded sections. Fortunately, the sandy soil mix doesn’t stick to tires like a clay-heavy soil might.

Joe Olivas, from Columbus, Ohio, negotiates a tricky and slippery rock section. Olivas works to promote the Gravity East Series DH races, so it’s awesome to see him walking the walk.

Clealan Watts, from Fairview, N.C., rips through one of the many greasy grass sections on the amateur course.

Blake Bass, from Asheville, N.C., was lucky to have the clouds roll out as the day progressed, allowing for much better visibility.

It’s always nice to see a sense of humor thrown into such a serious event. William Miller, from Ocala, Fla., brought out his neon green onesie and a wig to do just that. Are costumes legal at USAC events?

See all final results here.

Saturday

In a familiar theme, storms rolled through the area again Friday night, making for damp and cloudy conditions Saturday morning. Surprisingly, both the dual slalom and downhill courses hold up beautifully thanks to primo course design by Beech Mountain’s Christopher Herndon.

Saturday’s main feature event was the Pro dual slalom. Fans turned out in droves to see how the men and women would stack up.

Stars and stripes flying proud above Beech Mountain’s dual slalom course. 

Pro womens riders Jacqueline Harmony, from Sedona, Ariz., and Katelyn Parhiala, from Arlington, Mass., duke it out for third. Harmony came out on top.

Brian Buell, from Jamestown, Colo., and Ben Calhoun, from Pittsboro, N.C., crank out of one the tight berms on the upper portion of the dual slalom course.

Cody Kelley, from Riverton, Utah, sprints out of the gate against Buell.

It all came down to Neko Mulally, from Reading, Pa., and Blake Carney, from Camarillo, Calif., in the finals. Mulally edged Carney out for the National Championship title. Their finals runs were epically tight, check out the final gate below.

See all final results here.

Sunday

Sunday is the big day for Pro downhill racers and spectators alike. As we had come to expect, rain fell overnight, making for the most damp track conditions of the weekend for the final Cat 1 and Pro practice sessions this morning. Cat 1 racers bore the brunt of wet track as conditions dried out rapidly for the Cat 1 Junior 17-18 (Junior Expert) riders, Pro Women, and Pro Men. 

Amber Price, from Westminster, Colo., started the Pro Women down the mountain.

Melissa Buhl, from Chandler, Ariz., rolls through the upper woods section. Buhl finished second overall.

Pro Women’s champion Jacqueline Harmony, from Sedona, Ariz., claimed the title with over nine seconds to spare. 

The Cat 1 Junior 17-18 riders always put on a good show. Here Bas Van Steenbergen rails a berm in the upper section of woods.

Here Cat 1 Junior 17-18 rider Cody Kelley slips and slides his way through the rock garden to a third place finish. 

Watching the Pro Men dance through the rock garden is simultaneously inspiring and disheartening as they make it look so easy you’re left wondering why you’re just so damn slow through the same section. Here Bradley Benedict, from Morgan Hill, Calif., makes it look so easy.

Eliot Jackson, from Westlake Village, Calif., makes the same section look even easier. Jackson was flying to a third place finish. 

It’s not all roses, however. There was no shortage of Pro riders going down or getting off in the rocks making the rest of us feel human too.

And, of course, Aaron Gwin was on hand to show everyone how it was done. Gwin bounded so effortlessly through the rocks I wondered if he was even riding the same course as the rest of us. I guess you can’t expect anything less from someone who is so thoroughly dominating the World Cup.

Juniors, left to right: Ray Syron, Cole Picchiottino, Alexander Willie, Cody Kelley, Lucas Cowan.

Pro women, left to right: Lauren Daney, Melissa Buhl, Jacqueline Harmony, Jaime Rees, Katie Holden.

Pro Men, left to right: Logan Binggeli, Neko Mulally, Aaron Gwin, Eliot Jackson, Kevin Littlefield.

See all final results here.

Recap

All said and done, I’m impressed with everything about this weekend’s racing. Beach Mountain is a beautiful venue with two wonderfully designed downhill tracks and what appeared to be an equally nice dual slalom course. Watching, and riding with, some of the best riders in the country was a truly humbling and inspiring experience.

From a personal perspective, my riding game was elevated simply by participating at the national level and being pushed by the stellar athletes surrounding me. If you’re looking to take the next step in your career, it’s high time you purchase a USA Cycling license to work toward qualifying for the national competition. What better excuse to travel someplace new to race your bicycle?

USA Cycling runs a pretty tight ship and they certainly seemed to have everything pretty well organized. If you plan to race a national level event, be sure you understand the rules and regulations prior to your arrival. See all final results here.

The 2013 and 2014 Gravity Nationals Championships will be held at Angel Fire Resort and Bike Park in New Mexico.


Gallery: Massanutten Hoo-Ha! Triple Crown XC race

Below is a gallery from the 24th-annual Massanutten HOO-HA! Triple Crown XC races at Massanutten Resort near Harrisonburg, Virginia. More than 150 racers turned out for the Saturday Super D and Short Track events while even more people (250+) came out to race their bikes for the full race on Sunday.

These photos are by Ian McAlexander. See more photos at ITMexposures.com.

Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring on his way to 3rd place in Pro/Ex Super D.

Joseph Dabbs on his Super D run racing for Team Momentum.

Angie Sokorai on her way to 6th in Pro Super D. She also took 3rd in Ladies Pro/Ex Short Track.

Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing)and Victor Alber (Super Cool Bike Shop) battling for victory in the Men’s Pro/Ex Short Track. Jeremiah went on to win Pro/Ex Short Track while Victor came in 2nd in Short Track after taking 1st in Men’s Pro/Ex Super D.

Aaron Snyder and Jeff Dickey of Scott Pro Mountain Bike Team in the Men’s Pro/Ex Short Track. Dickey took 4th in Pro/Ex after taking 5th in Pro/Ex Super D while Snyder came in 8th in Pro/Ex Short Track.

Jordan Kahlenberg of Giant’s Mid-Atlantic Off-Road team leading Ryan Fawley in the Pro/Ex Short Track. Kahlenberg took 7th in Short Track while Fawley took 6th in Short Track, 4th in Pro/Ex Super D.

How we all feel on the bike with a friend.

Colin Vento (747) leading the way for the XXC class that raced 32 miles. Vento maintained the lead and won the XXC class with the blistering time of 3:24.

Bradley Schmalzer climbing a technical section of trail before taking 6th in the XXC class.

Donald Campanelli climbing his way to victory in the XXC 45+ class.

Jeremiah Bishop setting the pace as he lead the field and won in the Men’s Pro/Ex race on Sunday.

Joseph Dabbs showing that he still has energy to strike a pose while climbing.

Thomas Jenkins of the Shenandoah Bicycle Company on his way to 3rd place in Pro/Ex 35+. Jenkins and the SVBC are responsible for the amazing trail work shown in the photos. Thomas Jenkins and Tim Richardson have been integral in maintaining Harrisonburg’s position as a cycling hotbed.


Recommendo: Burger King bacon caramel sundae

By Adam Newman

You read that right. My productivity for the day stopped dead in its tracks when I found out about this brilliantly mad concoction. If you’ve ever dipped your french fries in your Frosty (and who hasn’t?) you already know the delicious combination of salty and sweet that Burger King is going for here. 

Construction isn’t difficult: it’s essentially a fudge and caramel sundae with bacon added. I was worried it would just be sprinkled on top but I was happy to find bits mixed in all the way to the bottom. The bacon itself isn’t anything to write home about – a little dry and brittle – but it was suffiently salty to counteract the sweetness of the fudge and caramel and satisfy my sweet tooth. 

The bacon sundae is available for a limited time only – though it’s not clear how limited – so I suggest you ride on over to your nearest Burger King and check one out. 

What? You think we only write about bikes?

Got something you’d like to recommend? Send it to editor@dirtragmag.com.

Vital stats

  • MSRP: $2.66 with tax
  • Calories: 510
  • Protein: 15g
  • Carbohydrates: 75g
  • Sugar: 61g
  • Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 40mg
  • Sodium: 670mg 

 


Riders Write: The Fire of Dirty Kanza

By Tim Ek,

This race just won’t leave me alone. I poured over its details beforehand and now that it’s done I can’t stop replaying the scenes in my mind. I close my eyes at night and there I am back on Battle Creek Road, trying to remain calm as I scan the flint rock under my feet for a lost tool. When I do fall asleep, the dreams I have are visions of leaders slipping away from me as I succumb to another flat tire. 


 
The 2012 Dirty Kanza was a beauty and a beast to me. She seemed to grab me by the shoulders and look me square in the eye to say, “This ain’t gonna be easy.” I felt her test me as I struggled to find sense in a confusing situation of failure. In fact, at one point I thrust my head back and yelled to the bright blue sky, “WHY??!!” as I contemplated my third flat tire.  It wasn’t until 200 miles had passed that I felt I really had an answer to that question.


 
It turns out the Dirty Kanza doesn’t care if you’re a bike racer or not. It turns out the Dirty Kanza wants you to know that she may or may not allow you to pass over her gravel. It turns out the Dirty Kanza needs to know you really understand her before you’ll be allowed to know her beauty.


 
I may have been a two-time veteran of this race, but it seems I didn’t take enough care to respect all that it is, not this time anyway, a mistake I won’t make again. The D.K. ate my tires, forced me to kneel in her flint, cut my finger open, and even sent a bumble bee to sting me. It wasn’t until I had been through these hardships that she (and I) realized I was still looking for her beauty.

Sure, I could see it with my eyes, but I wanted to feel it, I wanted to know it. It wasn’t until I decided to stop racing the riders around me that she allowed me to continue. It was when I chose to race the sun that my problems abated.  Not until I began looking over my shoulder at the arc of the sun’s descent did I began to feel the grace of the prairie.

It seemed the tighter the race between me reaching the finish line and the sun reaching the horizon, the more stunning the Dirty Kanza became. The colors began to take on a heavenly, yellowish tint as the open expanses seemed to dance with fire where grass met sky.

The “Dirty” was no longer a part of the “Kanza”. In fact, the race was no longer a race to me, but more of an adventure. An adventure that I needed to prove I was up to.

Please believe me when I tell you that as I came to the finish line sadness came over me. I had been a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than any race could ever be. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to ride right back out into the prairie and hold her fire for those final fleeting moments before darkness took her into its nightly grasp.


 
The Dirty Kanza was hard on me, yet gentle with me. She reminded me why I ride my bicycle great distances and more importantly she reminded me that I can stare adversity in the face and say, “I will not quit.”
 


200 miles of bad roads – Dirty Kanza 200 race report

By Josh Patterson, photos by Josh Patterson and Corey Godfrey 

At the Dirty Kanza 200, the volatile Kansas weather shapes the outcome as much as the racers’ fitness and preparation. Scorching heat, soul-crushing headwinds, and high humidity often upset the best-laid plans. Last year an afternoon outbreak of severe thunderstorms forced many racers to seek shelter in barns and ditches, but this year mild temperatures and light winds created ideal conditions for 200 miles of gravel road racing.

Here’s the winning video from last year’s DK200 video contest. (Ben Thornton was not lucky enough to find refuge in a barn.)

This year unseasonably mild temperatures, light and variable winds, and rain showers several days prior—just enough to pack down the gravel—conspired to make this year’s race one that would see previous records broken.

At Friday night’s pre-race meeting many riders talked in hushed voices about who would break the 12-hour barrier, and best former 24-hour National Champion Cameron Chamber’s four-year-old record of 11 hours and 58 minutes. Would it be DK200 stalwart Dan “the diesel” Hughes, owner of Sunflower Outdoor and Bike in Lawrence, Kansas; Lincoln Nebraska’s Corey “Cornbread” Godfrey; or would the Queen of Pain, three-time World Champion Rebecca Rusch chick everyone?

The next morning more than 420 racers lined up in downtown Emporia, Kansas, for the start. It appears that 2012 will go down as the breakout year for this race. It has reached a critical mass, having made the transition from a popular regional event to one that draws participants from across the nation and beyond; riders from 38 states, Canada and Great Britain journeyed to the Flint Hills of central Kansas for this year’s race. Paying money and traveling long distances to ride 200 miles of Great Plains gravel—who would have thought?

As the depth of the field increases, so too does the pace. From the start, the in-it-to-win-it group set a tempo that left the in-it-to-survive-it riders like myself strung out over miles of rough gravel roads.

It came as quite a surprise when, two hours into the race, riders from the lead group began passing the pack fodder. The course is well marked, but navigation is still a critical element of the Dirty Kanza; in their haste the lead pack missed a turn and went several miles off course before realizing their error. Some of these racers blew past at breakneck speed, frantic to regain lead while other, more seasoned racers slowly ratcheted up the pace.

As the clock ticked towards the 12-hour mark two riders rolled onto Emporia’s main street: Dan Hughes and Rusty Folger of Golden, Colorado, crossed the finish line, arm in arm, tying for the win and setting a new course record in of in 11 hours and 56 minutes. This was Folger’s first attempt at the race, and Hughes third win.

Soon afterward Rebecca Rusch rode across the line, finishing in 12 hours and two minutes, finishing third overall and setting a new women’s course record by over an hour.

Stay tuned for a breakdown of the gear I used that didn’t, well, break down. 


TSE: The hardest part of racing is not racing, by Vicki Barclay

By Vicki Barclay,

May – a beautiful month for bike racing and bike riding. People are signing up for events left, right and center. Me? I’m starting to think of May as my bike-crashing month.

I recently finished the Cohutta 100. I earned a respectable placing, but it motivated to get more speed in my legs for my favorite race of the season – The Stan’s NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic. I pressed my recovery to be quick with special attention to my nutrition – it seemed to be working. I felt great on my mountain bike a couple of days later, darting through the forest with Rich, Mike Stanley (Niner) and Mike Bush (NoTubes). I headed to the local speed ride the following day, ready for some bike jockeying with the local fast cats.

A series of unfortunate events sent me to the ground at a ridiculous speed. I jumped to my feet immediately protesting I was fine, ignoring the fact that half of my thumb was mangled, and my arms and legs had turned to hamburger meat. Sure, I can ride home. Your bars are broken. Oh blimey. On the positive side, I thought, at least I am not getting married this year and will not be a bandaged bride.

The hospital trip was no less exciting. Rich chauffeured me around. We tried to make lightness of the situation, until it was my head that started to feel light and I began passing out. A wheelchair was provided to take me for a CT-scan. Perhaps they removed my wheelie privilege because I was smiling too much; they made me walk for my X-rays. Standing in the X-ray room alone after the pictures had been taken, the room went black, and everything started to feel, well, quite wonderful really, until I heard a crash in said lovely dream. That crash was my head whacking a tall cabinet.

Lying in my room recovering from my series of unfortunate events, I remembered a great quote an old work colleague used to have hanging above her lab bench “Less haste, More speed”. How true when it comes to bike training. Sometimes when we push for results too hard, we are quickly reined back in and down to earth.

I plucked up the courage to look at my Garmin a couple of days later to see what speed I was traveling when I hit the deck; I got dizzy when I saw 33mph! The road we were on was flat, which demonstrates the speed and quality of training you can get hanging on to that ride. So, I am down for a few days, but certainly not out. Today, I can bend my knees and thumb; surely this means I can pedal and I can shift! Training will resume in (semi) earnest.

This year’s Trans-Epic is reported to have a stacked women’s field once again. I can vouch for the stacked-ness, as I am proud to be lining up with my NoTubes teammates – Sarah Kauffman, Jenny Smith, Sue Haywood and Shannon Gibson. Will we use tactics and work as a team to raise one of our riders to the top step? You’ll just have to wait and find out.

With backing from a group of top-notch sponsors (Stan’s NoTubes, Elete, Adidas, Lazer, Cannondale, ProGold, Gu Energy, Genuine Innovations, Ergon, Crankbrothers, Kenda, Verge and fi’zik and Alpine Orthopaedics), I’m sure one of us will be driving the overall GC. Hopefully this year I will preserve my body a little more than I did during last year’s May crashing’s, as I battle through the local rocks once again, tick-tock…..


Preparing for the Dirty Kanza: Holding the Fire

By Tim Ek, Photos by Imaginegnat.com,

The phrase, “Dirty Kanza 200” causes an involuntary physiological response within me. I wish I could control the butterflies’ fluttering wings in my belly, but I can’t. I even call on race experience in an effort to quell the quiet storm that’s gathering deep inside me, but it’s quickly trumped by memories.

These memories of what is affectionately known as the “D.K.” are not entirely wrapped in glorious moments that can be found racing a bicycle, but in an array of images that include desperate moments which seemed to hinge on the brink of survival.

As a Salsa Cycles sponsored rider I’ve had the privilege of traveling to the open prairies of Kansas twice. In 2010 I hit the road with the Salsa crew to compete in a gravel race I had only heard about. I held my head high as I rested on several solid finishes, which included being a two time veteran of the Trans Iowa.

“What could be harder than the Trans Iowa?” I thought. I mean, the D.K. wasn’t 330 miles of unsupported, nonstop gravel racing. I brimmed with confidence as I felt I had evolved into somewhat of a cagey veteran of this discipline. I would soon learn that the Dirty Kanza not only had a personality all its own, but came to be a living, breathing entity, bent on destroying me.

I was once asked, “What are you training for?” I replied flatly, “All of it.” As soon as the words left my lips an image of me laying on the side of some gravel road in Kansas with a blanket of searing heat pressing hard down on my broken body flashed through my mind. Silently I said to myself, “Kansas”. What started as a rest stop in the 2010 D.K. turned into a situation of surrender as I began to succumb to the heat … “letting go” if you will.

Preparing the body for this race is the easy part, I just ride and ride. However, prepping the mind is another matter. I start thinking about what I’ve been through, the highs and lows that the breadth of the range gave me. I plan for the moments when the sun is shining the brightest, yet I am cloaked in darkness.

The “dark times” always pass; it’s just a matter of traveling through them. I now view the D.K. as a beast of a race, one capable of delivering blow after blow, but in my mind I’m prepared to keep getting back up. No matter what, I have to get back up.

My first dance with the race found me calm and controlled emotionally. In other words, I didn’t know what to expect. In many ways I wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then. Currently, I have a set of expectations surrounding the event, some good … even great, and some down right scary.

The things I can’t wait for are these; breath-taking beauty, a connection to nature that I have yet to find in any other race, and that exquisite feeling of being small … a bit player in a much larger picture.

While I crested a small rise this larger picture was pointed out to me by a small herd of wild horses. As their hooves tore at the prairie they showed me that I was in their world. There were no words for that moment and there still aren’t.

On the other side, I expect HEAT! I’ve experienced hot summer days in Northern Minnesota, but they seem laughable now that I’ve been a part of soaring Kansas temperatures. The heat can be so oppressive that it takes control of the mind, everything becomes about managing the fire. My plan is simple, find a balance among these factors, one that allows me to exist some where that contains a smile, a grimace, and every thing in between.

One must not forget the obvious fact that this is a bicycle race, therefore the choice of machinery is critical. I have always chosen a cyclocross bike for gravel racing. In 2010 I slipped onto the saddle of a Salsa Chili Con Crosso and found overall success as it proved flawless. Last year I boarded a Salsa La Cruz Ti and enjoyed its supple ride from start to finish. This year I’ll find myself working with a Salsa prototype that is currently in development. The spirit of this bike is sure to find its home underneath any rider willing to create the bond that most cyclists seek in their rides.

As I contemplate this year’s Dirty Kanza 200 I’ll take care to respect its beauty as well as its brutality. I’ll work to find that delicate balance that is well represented by its expansive views. I’ll long for that pristine and sometimes fleeting moment when I feel so small within its vastness. I’ll work to hold its fire, even if just for a second.

Stay tuned: Our own Josh Patterson is racing the 200-mile Dirt Kanza this weekend. Watch this space for exclusive coverage of the race. 

 


Preparing to battle the gravel – Dirty Kanza 200 preview

By Emily Brock,

Kansas is stranger country than most of us are willing to admit. In 1541 the Spanish conquistador Coronado marched a small army across its scorching midsummer plains, searching for gold in the Land of Quivira. He found nothing. On the dusty plains of central Kansas, Coronado finally lost hope of ever discovering cities of gold. He turned his men around and trudged back again, retreating across that dry indifferent landscape.

We like to think we’ve outwitted that vast lonely place of the past, but it hasn’t gone anywhere. Dropped off the back of a paceline, pedaling alone, thirsty, tired, and facing into a hot wind, the Plains are just as they always were. Illusions shatter. Those distances can’t be compressed. The turns are rectilinear as the gravel road hugs the lines of the patchwork: precise squares of open range, wild prairie, and yellow wheat. The plain truths of geography, physics, and physiology become evident: the only way to get to point B to keep on pedaling.

Kanza, the Kaw Nation, have inhabited the plains and understood their austere beauty longer than any. Waves of people have hurried across this landscape since Coronado, cursing its vastness, but Dirty Kanza is about loving this place. Look at the immense sky, and the people patient and brave enough to live under it. 200 miles is just far enough to feel how strange and fierce this nation once was, and still is. I come back to Kanza because I want to be present in the wild center of America.

 

Stay tuned for more coverage of Dirty Kanza this weekend! 


Keith Bontrager on preparing for the Trans-Sylvania Epic

By Keith Bontrager,

Mike Kuhn sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago and asked if I was interested in riding the TSE this year. I’d been thinking about it for a while but hadn’t been able to get there due to scheduling conflicts. After thinking about it (very briefly) and realizing that there weren’t any this year…

“Yeah. I’m in.”

It seemed so simple.

It’s not that simple of course.

I’ve been riding a bit, but not that much so far this year. Not nearly enough in fact to race hard for a week. So this is going to be a fun week, enjoying the great outdoors from my saddle. It will not a bared teeth, race to the death week. That’s fine with me.

And all of my riding has been on the road, testing this and that. As I recall, the trails around State College are a bit rocky. Some are on the technical side. And some are on the technical side of technical. So I might not be very well prepared for that, not at first anyway. But this jazzy Trek Top Fuel I’ve got should help make up for some of my shortcomings. At least I’ll be getting some cyclocross practice in along the way.

I’ve done a handful of these events over the years. A couple handfuls and at least one foot full in fact. The best part is often the people you get to ride with and hang out with. I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks to Mike and his crew. See you there!

Cheers,

KB

Follow all our coverage from the Trans-Sylvania Epic here!
 


Readers Write: Massanutten race recap and photo gallery

Editor’s note: From time to time we get submissions from readers about their bikes, their rides, or any other type of cycling-related stories. Some we chose to share with other readers online or in the magazine. Got a story you’d like to share? Send it to editor@dirtragmag.com.

By Robert Lewis, photos by Ian McAlexander / ITMexposures.com,

The 2012 Massanutten Yee-Ha was held April 27-29 at the Massanutten Resort in Virginia. This year, Massanutten cut out the gnarly root section above the last rock garden, which I think was a really great addition to the track. Added were some rollers and sharp cornered berms that took some extra strength to pull through by the end of the race run.

The weather was much different than it had been in the past years, it was cooler and rainy, which personally I think beats 80 and humid any day. So with some rain on the track for Saturday practice, it caused some mud to track on the top rock slabs early in the morning. They seemed to be okay for some people if you just did your braking early, and lay of it once on the rocks.Beside that, the rain just allowed the track to give more traction, and a long freezing lift ride to the top.

The day continued to pan out with some rain, and well into the night. Once Sunday morning rolled around, the sky was clear, and the sun was on its way out. Even with some thunderstorms the night before, the track seemed to be untouched. The dirt was tacky, the rocks were clean, and the sand seemed to be hard packed.

Massanutten really seems to bring every bit of a rider’s skill into play when racing it. It contains rocks, roots, corners, sand, uphill and speed. The only thing it really lacked is jumps. It seemed the biggest problem for racers was flat tires from the square edge rocks scattered throughout the track. But as the day came to an end, it seemed that everyone from every age group and skill level had a blast.

More races

With a lot of downhill races scattered throughout the bike season, one might ask which races are worth going to. I think some races that should be on everyone schedule this year are listed below.

Duryea Downhill, Reading, Pa., May 12-13. A unique downhill track that runs through the city of Reading, PA, and supposedly suppose to be an extremely fun and creative track. Being a great pick for riders of all ages and skill levels.

Mountain Creek Gravity East Series #1. Vernon, N.J., June 2-3. Mountain Creek is the new name for Diablo Bike Park. Which means nothing has changed but the name and the amount of new trails that are opening. Vernon is not the cheapest place venue to travel to, but it is worth it if you love to ride and get your money’s worth. Mountain Creek is a huge bike park, and will not disappoint any rider or racer of any skill level. 

Snowshoe Gravity East Series #5.Snowshoe, W.V., September 8-9. Snowshoe holds three other races throughout the bike season than this GES date, which is great if you cannot make it to the September 8-9 event. Snowshoe has a Whistler feel in the town, and something fun is always going on. The track is on the longer side with runs into the 6-7 minute length if you are quick. Also it rains in Snowshoe most of the time making for for a wet and wild race. It also has a great trail system to ride before or after practices allowing everything from flow runs to breath takers. It may be a little tough for some beginner racers because of the length, but if you’re up for the challenge you will take so much skill home from the gnarly descent down Snowshoe Mountain.

7Springs Bike Park Gravity East Series #6. Somerset, Pa. September 29-30. 7Springs has something for everyone. It has the beginner trails, expert trails and everything in-between. The race is split up into two different tracks so the beginners and sport riders can have it a little easier, and the pros and experts can have a bit more of a challenge. With a high-speed lift and about a 2-3 minute run, you can spend an hour and already have double the amount of runs you could have taken at any other bike park. 7Springs definitely has one of the more famous rock sections at the bottom of the hill, due to massive amounts of wrecks one year when it rained extremely hard. 

Hopefully some of these races are on your list of a must do this season, and I hope to see you there!

 


Riders Write: The story of Black Lightning

Editor’s note: We love to hear from readers who want to share their story with others. Got something you think Dirt Rag readers would be into? Send it to editor@dirtragmag.com.

By John Frachella

Your single speed issue (DR #163) was great. In fact, it might have been one of your best issues ever. Although I liked it, I found it very amusing, especially since the whole issue was largely dedicated to singlespeed 29’ers. What amused me in Dirt Rag #163 has to do with a bike I own – an older bike whose importance in time seems to have only just arrived.

In 2004, I wrote a Dirt Rag interview of frame builder Don McLung of Salida, Colo., (DR #106). Things haven’t changed much in eight years. Don still builds frames, just like he used to. His small company, Backyard Bicycles, is still located in the same humble shop on the banks of the Arkansas River. Don still doesn’t have a web site and he isn’t (nor has he ever been) in the yellow pages. He continues to build “purpose-built 29er single speeds” (as quoted from DR #163). However, Don’s not really into that kind of language. He simply says he builds “cruiser 29’s” and he refers to them as “one-speed’s.

Ten years ago, Don built me a 29-inch one-speed cruiser. I call it “Old #7” because it’s the seventh cruiser he ever built. It has a bent seat tube, short chain stays and a slack head angle – things that are popular today, but weren’t when #7 was built. Today’s hot singlespeed 29’ers, (like Kona’s Honzo, Santa Cruz’ Highball, Canfield’s Nimble 9, Sam Whittingham’s Naked Looney, and Todd Ingermanson’s Black Cat Bicycles, to name just a few) have short chainstays somewhere between 16.2 and 16.9 inches. That’s cool, but the chainstays on Old #7 are 16”. That’s pretty hard to match, even by today’s standards.

Actually, Old #7 was supposed to be Don’s personal ride. As he was making it, a customer called unexpectedly to order a custom cruiser. Turns out, Don didn’t have enough money to purchase the frame tubes for this guy’s bike. Don needed cash so he asked me if I wanted to buy his seventh frame. The whole deal seemed perfect. This was a frame that Don had built for himself. Seven’s my lucky number. Integers of seven define the date of my birth (7-28-49). How could I refuse?

Over the phone and from over two thousand miles away, Don asked what color I wanted. I said black, powder coat, if possible. He wasn’t working with a paint shop in those days so he asked Wes Williams of Willits Bicycles (then in Crested Butte, now in Austin, Texas) to do the honors. Wes had this modified pizza oven to which he’d adapted a swing arm that threaded into bottom brackets. That’s how Wes centered and suspended freshly powder-coated frames for baking, at least back then. And that’s how the paint on Old #7 got baked. According to Don, while my frame was cooking in the oven, all the fuses in Wes’ shop blew, sparks a-flying. Everyone figured that the paint (and possibly the entire frame) had been ruined, but luckily everything came out just fine. After that, Wes dubbed my bike “Black Lightning”.

A few months later, I drove my van from Maine to Salida, where Don had my bike frame hanging from twine that was tied to rafters above homemade jigs in his totally Spartan shop. When I walked through the door, instead of greeting me, Don sauntered up to the frame and pinged it with his fingernail. It rang out like a bell. It; vibrated like a tuning fork. It was alive, a spring, kinetic energy just waiting to be released. My heart skipped a beat, maybe two. Don just stood there and grinned.

I wrote a different piece for Dirt Rag in 2004, an interview with the then U-24 US Champ, Mr. Adam Craig (DR #108). In the interview, I asked Adam how many bikes he’d own when he decided to eventually retire from racing. First on his list was “ A rigid 29-inch single speed, sealed against the elements and designed for zero-maintenance so I can go kayaking or skiing with the thing on the roof all winter without giving a shit about it.”

When he won the World Single Speed Championships in 2007 in Scotland, he scored a custom Black Sheep titanium frame of his choice. Adam, faced with the prospect of custom designing a timeless bike, had to look no further than Don, who Adam respected as someone who’d figured out how to make 29ers ride properly. Adam came out to my place for a ride on Old #7 with a tape measure and a plumb bob in hand so he could quantify the magic of a Don bike and transfer that magic to his SSWC memoirs. A definitive nod of the head for Don’s one-speed design.

Then my wife wanted a Don bike – but Don wouldn’t make her one. My wife is 5’0” (with her shoes on) and Don said he couldn’t build a 29’er for someone that small. He said it wouldn’t ride well. Then, after mulling it over for a few years, he came up with the idea of making her a small, triple triangle frame. Her bike is Don’s 22nd. By then, Don had found a professional painter, so her frame escaped the pizza oven torture test. The Duce Duce (#22) looks like a 29’er for a little kid but it still has Don’s magical geometry as well as his signature bent seat tube, a short wheel base, ultra short chain stays, and his custom box crown fork.

My wife doesn’t sit “on” the Duce Duce as much as “in” it, but she’s never ridden as well on any other bike. Unfortunately, when we moved from Maine to a very hilly part of Oregon, she couldn’t muscle up the big climbs with only one gear. I was conflicted: should I have someone scab on a derailleur hanger and ruin a one-of-a-kind Don frame? Enter Jeff Jones, Ashland, Oregon frame builder extraordinaire. We ran into each other at a mountain bike gathering in Oakridge. He recalled that I’d written the Don McLung interview in Dirt Rag. I told him about my wife’s Duce Duce and he suggested a Shimano Alfine internal 8-speed hub. Presto, now my wife rides the hell out of her Don Bike and I didn’t have to desecrate a Don frame.

So, does my 8 year-old interview with Don still hold water? You be the judge:

Why do you only build 29-inch frames and forks?

Well, bigger wheels are clearly a better choice. Actually, before mountain biking became an industry, 26-inch wheeled frames weren’t even a consideration for adult use. If 29-inch tires had been available, 26-inch mountain bikes would never have happened.

Why do you bend your seat tubes?

Curving the seat tube tucks the rear wheel under the rider and keeps the chainstays short. If you don’t bend the seat tube on a 29, the shortest you can make the chainstays is 17 inches, and to get that you have to steepen the seat tube angle to 73 degrees. I’m not a real fan of a high up in the air seating position. I’ve always liked to sit lower and further back. I keep my chainstays at 16 inches because the bike takes on a more instinctive kind of handling. It turns more on your center of gravity and you have much more traction both climbing and breaking.

How do you design your forks?

I like to build a fork with the rake in the blade as low down as I can get it, so it flexes at the bottom and gets stiffer as it comes up to the top. The front end starts with my own two-plate fork crown, which lowers the stack height by over an inch compared to a unicrown. This is important because of the 29-inch wheel. It helps to make my bikes quick and stable like a road bike, not floppy and slow like a chopper.

Today, ten years later, Old #7 still inspires. The fork struts provide stiffness without sacrificing spring. The struts cleverly mounted to the steer tube with a clean, circumferential, hand-forged ring while, at the bottom, they’re threaded and bolted underneath, to the fork legs. Very, very clean. The pump peg and the raised diamond water bottle bosses add even more class. Don’s fillet welds, painstakingly hand-filed, are pure art. And the non-driveside dropout seconds as a bottle opener. Essential stuff.

To me, Old #7 is the 29’er against which all other 29’ers will always be judged. It’s not that other people have “copied” Don, because they haven’t – they just discovered the same truths that Don discovered, all on their own. Thus, their designs, however similar to Don’s, have singular merit. I strongly believe that no one really “invents” anything, ever. Things that we believe we’ve discovered were already inherent in nature in the first place. Don’s just an older dude, so he discovered inherent stuff in nature earlier.

Bottom line: Don’s bikes ride like a dream, are pure ‘butta’ and are timeless – simply because Don is a man with true vision.

Don started building 29’ers in 1999. So far, he’s built fifty-eight frames. He charges $2,500 for a custom cruiser frame with a box-crown fork with struts. Don says his waiting list “depends on how hard I want to make myself work”. He’ll give you disk brake tabs, an eccentric bottom bracket and he’ll even adjust your geometry for a suspension fork if you want (however none of that is available on his cruiser style, double top tube frames – Don wants his cruiser design to remain old-school). Generally, Don’s head tube and seat tube angles are 72 degrees and recently he’s figured out a way to make his chainstays even shorter than 16”. What a guy!

For old guys like Don and me, the more things change, the more they stay the same, from Dirt Rag #106 to Dirt Rag #163 and from long before 2004 to long after 2012. In reality, there’s not much new under the sun – except for a change in our collective awareness as bicyclists of what makes a good 29’er.


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