Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Link Drop

This showed up on the front cover of the Strib Monday morning...The print story includes a photo and wouldn't you know it there's a shot of my "backside" in it along with several other riders of course.

Speaking of courses the Ragnarok was a great one, just shy of 7000' of climbing over the 105 miles. The climbs may not have been long, but they were steep glacial hills winding up gullies through the trees and topping out in the fields. Easily the most scenic gravel ride I have done to date. I'm guessing that will be cracked this summer. Link

Friday, April 24, 2009

Flat Bar Fargo Update

Last night as I was pondering our route on the Friday Morning Ride I decided the Flat Bar Fargo would be my bike of choice. The drop bar Fargo is fully loaded with gear and while fun, is somewhat unnecessary for the commute. This was the first time that I've ridden the Flat Bar Fargo any distance since building it early this spring. Honestly, I just haven't been interested in it.

Call me old fashioned, call me a traditionalist, but I believe that a bike rides best when configured that way it was intended. For the Salsa Cycles Fargo, that includes drop bars. Fitting flat bars on a bike intended for drop bars is always a challenge. I can't think of an instance when fitting flat bars to a drop bar bike where compromises aren't made to the fit. This rings true for the Fargo. If I were to fit a Fargo with Flat Bars I would have to ride two sizes larger than what I currently ride to get the cockpit position to match that of my El Mariachi or Big Mama.

For this exercise, riding what would be an XXL Fargo wasn't an option. So I pulled out my trusty 150mm Titec Ti Stem and coupled it with an 11 degree bar. This is the first time in the history of my bicycles that I haven't had to run a large number of stack spacers under the stem. The Fargo headtube is tall for flat bar fit.

So how did it ride? Well, as you would expect, like a bike. Our route took us through the suburbs to the Minnesota River Trail. On the road, the bike felt short, not so comfortable. On the trail, things felt better. The bike handled predictably and much like an El Mariachi without a suspension fork on it. Overall, it rode well.

Will I ride it again? Nope, in fact the front end is disassembled and a Drop Bar is slated to go on this weekend possibly. I just don't see the point in riding the Fargo with Flat Bars. If you want a rigid MTB, there are plenty of Suspension corrected rigid 29ers out there that can be used for multi-purposes.

You may choose to disagree, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ragnarok Shakedown!

The weeks are winding down as I prep for the Great Divide. There's plenty to do... I've yet to decide which event to start in or make travel arrangements. I'm working on my cue sheets and reflecting on solitude for the days on the trail. The more important things are coming together. Bike, check; Gear, check; Riding, check!

Since spring has sprung I've been getting out on more early, long rides than previous years. There was an 80+ ride with Horkey on the cross bike, Saturday Suffering, a Double Grinder Friday followed by a relatively high tempo 80+ saturday, and then this weekend. The Ragnarok did not disappoint. In fact, of the 100+ mile gravel grinders I have ridden the Ragnarok is easily the most scenic and most challenging of them all.

Here's my Ragnarok Ride Report: Photos from the weekend follow.

My weekend started a couple of hours early this past Friday. I packed up at 3- after stashing oatmeal from my desk in a zip-lock for Saturday's breakfast. The weather was absolutely perfect, high 70's and perfectly sunny. A quick route check and I was on my fully loaded Fargo heading southeast towards RedWing. The Plan: Ride to Red Wing fully loaded, Race Ragnarok fully loaded, test myself and my gear.

I crossed the Bloomington Ferry Bridge over the Minnesota River and headed south through the outer ring suburbs. With few through streets, except main feeders I was forced onto some 7 lane hell until I was near Murphy Hanrehan, where I hit my first gravel of the weekend. From there on the roads were wide open. I stopped for Beef & Turkey Jerky somewhere along the way, it all just blends together sometimes.

Most noteable along the route to Redwing was a
  • Buddhist temple on Cedar Ave. (way south of the cities)
  • The sounds of spring as I rode through the small town of Randolph and by a game of highschool baseball
  • Hitting a Turkey on the Cannon Valley Trail
Yeah that really did happen! The bird lived to tell about it and so did I. There was no crash and no noise from the bird, just a thud, like if you kicked a medicine ball. Ridiculous... I still can't believe it happened.

After a dinner of Lasagna at the Staghead and dessert from the DQ, I set up camp in J. Huot's backyard up on the bluff. I was much appreciative of his willingness to give me a spot to camp. It was incredibly warm out so I slept with my bag on top of the bivy, leaving the air mattress inside. I slept fairly well, awakened only by nature's call, a couple of dogs barking, and a slight chill about 5am. I though I'd test out the warmth the bivy adds, so I slipped the bag in it and slept for another hour, until J. came out and gave me a wake up call.

The morning was cool, but comfortable. I layered up with my jerseys, jacket, and knickers while I boiled water for coffee and oatmeal. Coffee felt good, the oatmeal did not. I don't know why I continue to try and eat it, every time I do it elicits a gag reflex. I've got to find something better for breakfast, perhaps some noodles. J. had given me directions to the start. I packed up leisurely and made it by 7- giving myself plenty of time to organize cue sheets and pin on numbers.

Sometime around 7:15 the pre-race meeting happened and we rolled out at 7:30. My strategy was to take it easy, relax, treat this as a training ride. I need to follow through on taking it easy and relaxing. My alter ego wanted to be in the lead group and when it saw the split happen I went with lead, riding with a couple dozen riders on their sub-20 pound cross bikes while I pushed 50 lbs. on my Fargo. I was happy that I'd gone with the lead. Their pace was manageable. I was working, getting dropped on the climbs, but closing back in on the flats.

All was well until I ejected my water bottle on a 40+ mile an hour decent floating over a water bar, grinning ear to ear. Note to self, use the bottle tether! It was one of two bottles that I had and I couldn't leave it behind. I'd left my Wingnut pack at home Friday morning and left myself with two Klean Kanteens for water. This was not ideal for staying well hydrated.

By the end of the day I became adept at the art of grabbing the bottles off the fork, unscrewing them, drinking, and reversing the process. Never once did I stick a finger on the tire, or put the tether in either. The process reminded me of being an alter boy at St. John's, holding the bible during the Gospel reading. I remember Father Kerner moving the Red Ribbon marking the day's gospel to the side when he opened the book. It was a very intentional motion, much like removing the tether, moving it to the side and grabbing my bottle.

After being separated from the lead group, on a downhill of all places, I was relieved. I could relax and go my own pace, not having to worry about sticking on. I rode with B-Rad for awhile. With him on an SS and myself on gears, our paces didn't mesh well. At some point we split, not sure if I went forward or back.

As I was struggling up gravel climbs aboard my fat tired Fargo, using all available gears a bit of vindication happened. Big, Sharp, Rocks. I hope that TI hasn't anything like this. There must have been 1/2 a dozed skinny tired flats at the top. Pinch flats likely. I savored the downhill, happy for fat tires and low pressures.

I rolled into the check point and immediately went for food. A Snickers, Gummy Bears, 2 packs of Cashews, and a Coke. All I'd eaten the first half of the race was a pack of Clif Bloks. I exchanged small talk with the cashier, talking about the "Flood Run" motorcycle ride happening on the same day. She wished me well, I thanked her, relieved myself behind a barn, met up with D. Larson who had come in, and we were on our way.

Dave was riding strong on Saturday. It's strange to see him on Drop Bars, but he seems to be liking them. Someday he might even ditch the baggy shorts for a ride like this. We rode together and worked together for about 30 miles. The scenery was incredible. There wasn't much of a need to say anything. I had to stop for one last water re-fill about 25 miles out. Dave and I parted ways, Dave saying "Come and get me!". To which I replied "See you at the finish line".

Much of the rest of the ride I rode alone and enjoyed the solitude. I was passed by Hurl, making up time from a flat tire early in the race, and a rider from MPLS riding a SS cross bike. The final three climbs over the bluffs and into town were a challenge. I was grinding away in the saddle and watching the SS rider passing me and then hiking the hills. Never caught his name, I'm sure we'll meet again.

The last few miles were a blur, riding through the city, pass Memorial park and back into Covill Park. All in all an incredible ride, sub 8 hours, fully loaded.

What an incredible Friday and Saturday 200 miles between the two in absolutely perfect weather. While I didn't get to spend time with Anni Friday evening and sleep in Saturday, it was a great way to spend my Birthday.