Saturday, August 25, 2012

Old Fashioned Racing.

It seems to be a sort of tradition for me.

I plan months in advance on riding in the Taylor House Century every year. Maybe even a year in advance, since I'm planning on riding it again next year.

Yup, a year in advance.

The St. Mary's Food Bank Mountain Bike Race? Not so much. Not a couple months, not even a month. Heck, not even a week in advance.

I signed up for it Wednesday night. Captain Procrastination, that's me.

That left me Thursday and Friday to prepare, make sure the bike was in order, laundry, and all that stuff, Which meant that I put it off until Friday. Go me.

And of course, rather than go straight home after work on Friday, I took a detour, because I'd never ridden next to the Rio de Flag when it was actually flowing, and we had gotten a pretty good storm right before I left work.
And flowing it was.

So much green...
  Upon getting home, I started laundry, and proceeded with bike work. I signed up for the singlespeed class, which meant I'd be riding Tri. Tri's fork was getting stiff, and the chain was dry, so a fork service and chain lubing were in order.

How well did that go over?

Well, let's Tarantino this up a bit.

Here is a picture of Tri on the wall, having completed the race earlier today:
That's my bike, 29 inches, single, and rigid.
 That is not a suspension fork. 

Where is Tri's suspension fork?
Here is part of it, the lowers in the oil drain pan on the garage floor...

...And the uppers on the workbench
 Fork carnage all over the garage! What happened?
Well, in order to service the fork, I need to separate the uppers from the lowers, in order to wipe the dirt from the dust seals in the lower casting, which causes the fork to stiffen up, known as "stiction." In doing this, there is a bolt on the compression side to undo, at the bottom of the lower casting, just a regular old bolt.

On the damping side, however, it's a bit different. I take an allen key, of the 8mm breed, and use it to screw the damping rod INTO the lower casting, not out the bottom. This means I have to turn it the opposite direction of the bolt I just took out of the compression side. This is something I knew, as I'd done it before.

Apparently my hand had other ideas, and went with business as usual, turning the damping rod to the left, effectively over-torquing it against the lower casting, while my brain was going "Wow, that's really tight." This continued until I heard a pop, which flipped a switch in my hand, which started turning it the proper way while saying "I didn't do it!"

The end result of all this? I broke the threaded end of the damping rod off, essentially making the fork useless.
Well, fork you.
 Enter in a hasty fork swap to the Karate Monkey's original rigid fork, and a quick test ride up the street before calling it quits for the night. A 20 minute fork service ended up being a couple hour ordeal.

All that on the night before the race today.

Exegete was kind enough to give me a ride in and hang out during the race waiting for me to finish again. After getting my number plate and shwag, I hopped on Tri and did a quick warm up ride up Lower Moto, partly to, y'know, warm up, but also to see if I still knew how to ride technical stuff with a rigid fork.

Fortunately, my skills in riding a jackhammer have not diminished.

The general agreement with folks I talked to at the start was "Rigid? Oof, you're gonna be feeling it." This I already knew. Let's face it, I rode Tri as full rigid for a couple years before I got the suspension fork.

A fair amount of time and breeze-shooting with other folks passed, and the race started.

Now. How far did I make it before I started missing front suspension? Well, here is a map of the race course. I've marked the approximate spot where I admitted it to myself.
There. I'll admit it, I've been spoiled.
Overall, the race was pretty uneventful. I didn't crash, I didn't flat, I didn't even break anything. But I pushed hard. I'd never passed so many people, and I even conquered a climb on Pipeline that I've never been able to before. Ever. A lot of people that went by me later in the race had the same question for me, though: "Hey, man, how's that rigid fork treatin' ya?"

By the fourth or fifth person, my answer had evolved into the simple, "Like a red-headed step-child."

The best exchange of the day came on the last lap, when as I was passing a group on the side of the trail, one of the guys let out a "Singlespeeds rule!" As I rode past him, I slurred "I wish I could agree with you right now." Much laughter and a smattering of applause. (He had done this on the previous lap, too, and I responded with a hearty "Indeed they do!")

All said and done, it was a great day at the races. No crashes, no flats, no broken parts (during the actual race...) and I felt good, with the exception of my arms, which had been pummeled and pulverized into overcooked spaghetti by the end of the race. The soreness has moved up into my shoulders too, and I'm sure I'll be worse tomorrow.

But, I'll take solace in four things.

1: I had a blast! Seriously, it was fun, and I like how Anthony summed it up for me: "Kevin's riding the  Old Fashioned on an old fashioned bike!"

2: I finished twelfth out of 18 singlespeeders. I was surprised at how far up from the bottom of the list I was!

C: Had there been a full rigid category, I would have finished first in it!

And the best quote of the day, from the owner of Absolute Bikes: "Man, just looking at that fork makes me hurt."
Mileage: 33.9 warmup and race, plus 7 to and from the awards ceremony.


DH said...

(Damn, these spambot catching images are getting weirder and weirder!)

Thats a really , really long way to go for one race without very much suspension. Could you even walk, afterwards? I don't know much about bikes, but I have a feeling you may have had a sore butt after everything was said and done. I wasn't 100% clear what parts were put back onto your bike before the race, but hopefully enough that it wasnt too hard on you. Sounds like this race when a lot easier on you! Bet you got legs that would crack walnuts!

Polar bear said...

Oh I could walk, but I was sore. I spent most of the race out of the saddle, especially on the rough parts, letting my arms and legs absorb the hits.

Now, to go find some walnuts. >.>