Friday, August 7, 2009

I am tired, my stomach hurts and its raining. Wah

Here I am again- 5:45 am. Only today, I am friggen tired. I only got about 5 hours of sleep, which normally is workable. However, last evening, I did a long (for me) mountain bike ride with Mike and Dom at Brandywine. I think I needed a bit more rest after that ride. My stomach is killing me as well. My running plans calls for 5 miles of speed work today. I think I am going to bag it and rest up.

Today is the rescheduled Wife’s Away 5k and guess what? It’s raining again, although the forecast says that the sun should be making an appearance later this afternoon.

Yesterday’s ride took us nearly an hour and a half. It marked the first time that I have ridden that long on the mountain bike in quite some time. The trails were a bit sloppy in some parts – leftovers from the deluge of rain from this weekend past, but overall, the trail conditions were good, but boy was it humid. I was absolutely drenched by the time I made it back to my car around 7:40.

When I ride the trails, I am a lunatic. It’s not that I do stupid sh*t on the bike, like riding the thing off massive drop offs. It’s more of the fact that I yell and scream like an idiot when I am climbing a really technical piece of trail that tests my physical limits, when I am bombing down a rocky descent and the bike is bouncing all over the place, and I am hanging on for dear life, trying to find the best line, floating the bike over rocks and roots… Asks Mike – he’ll you how annoying I get.

I may be a sh*tty roadie, but I can hold my own on the mountain, relative to Mike and Dom. Granted, near the end of the ride, I had the bright idea of riding one last hill, and by the time I got half way up, I was done. Kaput. I had nothing left. That’s the fundemental difference between me, and Mike & Dom. They have the ability to keep going because they have better cycling fitness than me, because they do so much road riding. Most if not all of the pro mountain bikers do the majority of their training on a road bike. Granted, they also do a fair amount of training on the trails, to hone their bike handling skills, but the fitness benefits of road biking are second to none. My road biking days are over anyway – I have to give the loaner road bike back to Tim tomorrow.

I have had some concerns about my mountain bike as of late, with respect to its condition. The bike is nearly 11 years old. Its a 3rd generation carbon fiber Trek Y bike. Back in the day, the Trek “Y” design – which is a monoque carbon fiber frame design – was revolutionary for full-suspension cross-country (“XC”) bikes, and to this day, there are still a lot of Trek “Y” bike devotees who swear by the design. I have come across websites strictly devoted to the Trek “Y” bike. The “Y” bike is also extremely lightweight compared to some of the full suspension bikes on the market. My bike weighs in at 25lbs. Most of the full sussers now are in the high 20’s/ low 30’s. That’s more of a function of the fact that the newer bikes sport more of a four-bar suspension linkage, which adds significant weight to the frame. There’s a line of full suspension bikes marketed as “all mountain” which sport beefier, gusseted frames. Those types of bikes are marketed to the riders who arent necessarily concerned about weight, but more concerned about beating the ever-living sh*t out of their bikes. The “all-mountain” bike is really a hybrid of a cross-country bike and a downhill bike. The amount of *travel on an all-mountain is significantly more than a standard XC full-suspension bike but less than a downhill bike. Quite frankly, I am an old-school guy who doesnt really see the need for a bike with 6 inches of front and rear travel. My “Y” setup is typical of older full-suspension XC designs – 2” of rear travel and 3 or 4” of front travel – enough to smooth out the bumps on most XC trails.

Disc brakes have also become the norm, whereas my bike still sports standard side-pull “V” brakes. The disc setup adds a bit of weight as well, although I will admit that I did upgrade the front wheel with a disc brake. Granted, there are exceptions to the rule. Most of the manufacturers produce a line of high-end, lightweight full suspension bikes that are starting to clock in at the low end of the 20lb weight range, which traditionally was the domain of the carbon fiber hardtail bikes. As a matter of fact, most of the pro’s – who had traditionally eschewed fully suspension bikes as too heavy to competitively race cross country – have adopted fully suspension bikes as their rig-of-choice.

Anyway, the point of all this is that my bike might be near the end of it’s useful life. My front fork is making this awful clanking noise. While its not so bad as to effect the quality of my riding, the clanking is disconcerting and I can feel some sort of movement in the fork that coincides with the clanking. It could be something wrong with the fork itself, or it could something wrong with the way the fork is mounted on the bike. I have had the bike looked at by my shop- specifically, the “headset” which is mechanism by which the fork moves attaches to and moves relative to the frame. They didnt appear to find anything wrong with the headset, which lends me to believe that its the fork. I am contemplating getting a seocnd opinion from a guy in Upper Darby who is more or less the “guru” of bike mechanics in Delaware County. I have been going to Frank for close to 15 years, although within the last five years or so, since I moved to Brookhaven, getting to his shop is difficult because of where he is located. However, if there is anything wrong with the fork, headset, etc, Frank will find it, and he wont charge me an arm and leg.

* The term “travel” is the measurement of the amount of vertical movement expressed in inches or millimeters for a suspension fork or rear shock. Most shocks and forks now sport some sort of mechanism to “lock out” the suspension – essentially, making the fork static or the rear shock “static” for climbing. Suspension designs by their nature tend to “bob” when a rider is climbing, and locking out suspension is a way to counteract this phenomenon, by transferring more of a rider’s power to the pedals and the drivetrain.

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