Monday, May 28, 2012

CamelBak Gel Flask

When I race or go on more serious rides I find energy gel is a great way to keep me going.
 I've used the single serving packets, but they have a problem.  First, after eating one, my only option for disposing of the sticky packet is to put it in my pocket.  That's messy and sometimes they fall out of my pockets.  Secondly, while my CamelBak does have a sleeve on the strap to hold a packet, it can only hold one.  During a long ride I've had two or even three energy gels and have had to dismount and take my CamelBak off to access a gel in one of the back compartments.

Online I've found a few containers and holsters marketed to solve these problems.  You can buy energy gel in a large bottle and refill your multiple-serving container for each ride.  Some people even make their own energy gel.  It sounded good but I couldn't find a container and holster that made sense to me. So I made my own.

Actually I bought an Ultimate Direction bottle and holster because it looked like a good start.

It's designed to clip onto a belt, I guess for runners, and I thought it might clip onto my CamelBak strap.  Unfortunately the clips wouldn't close around the straps well, and the angle for the holster wouldn't have been right.  So I made some modifications.

The shape was a bit odd, I guess because of the orientation of the clips and how it is supposed to attach to a belt.  I used a stitch ripper to take the edging off and cut the unnecessary flap away.  I removed the clips and strap that held them on, and then sewed it back together by hand.

To attach it to my CamelBak I used snaps.  I wanted it to be removable because I don't always need it, like on smaller rides and for trail work.  I used a Dritz brand snap tool I bought at JoAnn Fabrics with a 50% coupon to install some heavy duty metal snaps.

It looked good but I was afraid the flask might pop out of the holster when I was riding, especially during a fall.  I don't think I've been to a mountain bike race yet where I didn't see at least one water bottle on the side of the trail.  That's gotta suck to lose your water during a race.  So I added a strap to it too.  Actually, my wife was kind enough to help me with that part.  A square of Velcro keeps the strap closed.

The container holds about 5 servings of energy gel.  I probably won't ever fill it with that much gel, but I can use the extra space to add some water to make it go down a bit smoother.  For now I'll try a big bottle of store bought gel, but at some point I might make my own.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 Fat Tire Festival Test Run

The Fat Tire Festival is in July and I have registered in the Sport class.  This means I'll be doing three laps instead of last year's one.

Today I rode at Dryer Road Park, following the Fat Tire Festival course, which looks to be the same as last year.  My goal was to do three laps to make sure I'll be able to do it.  And I did it!

On my second lap I started to feel some lower back fatigue.  On my third lap I was definitely getting significantly tired, making more mistakes, and finding it hard to navigate cleanly.  I started to feel some cramping in my left "Vastis Medialis" when I was climbing significant hills.  When it starts to feel on the verge of exploding, I stop for fear of having a debilitating cramp like I've experienced in the past.

I ate an energy gel at the start of laps two and three, but I guess it wasn't enough.  Or maybe I didn't have enough water, though I drank all that I brought, finishing it as I was just starting to drive home.  I have a 3 liter CamelBak but I don't think I fill it anywhere close to that capacity.  I use a 12oz. cup to fill it, and after 4 of these, the CamelBak looks like it's getting close to capacity.  But that would be 48oz. which is 1.4 liters, far from 3.  I guess I'll be experimenting with trying to fit more.

On a side note, I just bought a new bladder for my CamelBak.  I bleached my old one and must have used too much bleach because it became discolored.  I was a little worried the plastic was damaged and might hurt me.  The new reservoir has been updated with some cool features too.

On my second lap I successfully climbed Elevator!  This is another hill climbing first for me.  I was hoping to repeat it on my third lap but my leg cramp prevented that attempt.

My GPS said my three laps totaled 9.8 miles, but my cycle computer was over 11.  With all the twists and turns at Dryer, it makes sense the GPS would cut corners.
It took me 2 hours 10 minutes.  Looking at last year's results (remember these are mountain bikers), that would put me dead last in Sport, but finishing ahead of a few Experts who do five laps.  So at least everyone wouldn't be waiting for me to finish.

Dryer Road Park - 2012-05-27

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Conquered the Yellow... Twice!

I used a few hours of vacation this afternoon to ride at Whiting and Webster Park.  It was something like 80°F today, but there was a breeze and the humidity was fine, so riding was good.

The ride was fairly typical aside from the fact that I successfully climbed the hill on Whiting's Yellow trail!  This was a first for me.  And I confirmed that once I'm past the middle, the rest is manageable.

Later, after coming out of Webster Park and back into the Whiting parking lot, I saw my wife Amy had stopped by with her camera.  She decided to drive over and take some pictures of me riding.  I figured the closest location with anything interesting was the Yellow trail hill, so we headed there.  I actually rode a bunch of laps until she was in position.  Kessa, my two year old daughter liked that she kept meeting up with me.

Pictures and video tend to flatten the hills, but Amy did get a few good pics.  And I once again climbed the Yellow hill!

To finish up my ride I rode the Red trail in the opposite direction knowing I has one last hill in Whiting to conquer.  I failed, but that's ok.  It's more fulfilling to slay the dragon after a long battle than in a single strike.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2012-05-24

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

South Tryon Clean-Up

This evening I helped a crew of about six to clean up some of Tryon Park.
We removed old broken rotting lumber that was left over from structures built and fallen long ago.

Here's an old picture of one of the stunts.
Some of the low sections look pretty fun, but the high stuff looks deadly.

What we removed didn't look anything like this.  The structures were broken apart long ago.  Over the years, parts of it have be thrown around and built and re-built into smaller structures.  Now it's mostly all rotten wood you can pull apart and break by hand.  It's ugly and dangerous, especially with all its old rusty nails.

We moved a large amount of this old lumber out to the edge of the wooded area.  It will be moved to a dumpster at a later date.  There are also a number of boards higher trees that will have to be removed later.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Getting Warmer

It's supposed to get past 80°F today, so I made sure to get my ride in this morning.

I went to Bay Park West and had another good ride.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2012-05-20

Saturday, May 19, 2012

FWT Trail Work at WRNP

This morning I joined the Friends of Webster Trails crew at Whiting Road Nature Preserve for some trail work.
We moved more stone to muddy trail sections, graded, pruned, and scouted out some future work.

I'm particularly happy with some of the work I did, removing a long stretch of berm on the side of a length of trail, and grading it nicely.  I like doing some of the more aggressive work that starts out looking like I'm making a total mess, but ends up looking great.  I also like to work on my own.  There's something therapeutic about working on the trail with just your own thoughts, plans, and execution.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mid-Week Ride

I took a few hours off from work and rode at Whiting and Webster.  I'd like to ride several times a week.

I tried to ride faster and rest less. I think I did well. But I encountered a Friend Of Webster Trails friend and stopped to talk a bit. Plus I got stuck behind a jogger for a short stretch, and stopped for an energy bar another time.

I continue to get better at shifting my geared hub. I'm more likely to shift to high gear even if I know I'll need to shift back down in just a moment. I'm also feeling way more comfortable in high gear than ever before.

Over a month ago I mentioned being saddle sore and figured it was just because I hadn't ridden in a while.  But there was one spot on my leg that was getting chaffed after every ride and I checked my saddle but found nothing.  But finally, last time I rode I looked closer and found a small pucker of fabric on my saddle.  I was able to adjust the seat fabric and since then it's all good.  I guess it makes sense that even a small deformation in the saddle could cause irritation when you count the number of revolutions I make over miles and miles.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2012-05-17

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Ride

I rode at Bay Park West today.  It was another strong ride at this hilly park.
I saw a number of GROC and Tryon guys out there.  One was even doing some trail work on his own.  Nice!  I also saw a number of hikers and other bikers.

One biker said he was interested in muni and had a cheap unicycle to learn on.  He knew my unicycle was a Kris Holm's and mentioned Terry Peterson (aka Unigeezer).  Wow!  It's pretty cool to encounter someone who has some interest in the sport. Dave, if you read this send me an email!

I climbed even better than my ride last week at BPW.  I typically find myself stopping to rest after big hill climbs because I'm out of breath, my heart rate is maxing out, and I'm a bit light-headed.  I usually stay on my uni but stop and hold on to a tree.  I'd like to push this a bit and keep riding.  Since I just climbed a hill, most likely I'll be descending for at least some time and hopefully this will be enough to catch my breath.  I'd like to keep pushing my limits and this will help me in racing where time matters.

Of course, since it's Mother's Day, after my ride I stopped at my mom's house for a visit.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2012-05-13

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back to BPW

Up until today I had only ridden at Whiting this year.  Today I rode at Bay Park West.
It really is a great trail system but man is it a workout.  I think I kind of forget just how much harder it is.
If you're not fighting your way up a hill then you're fighting to keep from rolling out of control on a downhill.  And when you're not on a hill there are plenty of turns, roots, rock gardens, and logs to keep you from relaxing.

I think I did well.  At BPW I often ride less than 5 miles, but I had energy to keep going and rode over 6 miles.  Aside from the challenging hill climbs, there are a good number of logs that trip me up at BPW.  I don't even attempt many of them.  I really need to find time to spend on improving my hopping abilities.

I encountered a bunch of mountain bikers I knew.  There was a GROC Mountain Bike Patrol meeting there today and a bunch of them rode afterwards. I also saw a few GROC board members riding, as well as a handful of riders I don't know.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2012-05-06

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fixing Wet Spots at WRNP

Today I led another trail work day for the Friends of Webster Trails. This time it was at Whiting Road Nature Preserve.  In the spring, the Blue trail typically has water problems because it is very flat with no elevation changes to the sides.  So for this trail the solution is typically to add material to make it higher that its surroundings.  There are similar conditions across the street on the connecting trail into Webster Park.

So most of our 20 volunteers worked on shoveling, wheelbarrowing, and raking stone to fill puddles and muddy spots.  We had a few nearby stone piles from similar efforts in the past, and the town also provided a new pile for today's work.  I'm not sure the stone is the best material, but it's what the town and FWT has been using.  I might try to see if we can get plain old dirt in the future.  I'll have to read up on the pros and cons.
The recent rain made it easy to seem the problem areas.  The crew worked hard and within a few hours the stone was gone and you could now walk the trail without worrying about water or mud.  It's always cool to walk a section of trail at the end of the work day to see how dramatically it changed.

As we were working, a hiker with white sneakers walked through.  If she had been there a few hours earlier I don't think she'd have made it a minute into the trail before turning back.  I bet there will be hundreds of trail users who'll walk over our fixes without even knowing how muddy they would have gotten.

I also worked on grading a section of trail that tends to hold water.  I'm hoping I fixed this spot once and for all.  A few others worked on cutting back encroaching vegetation from the trail and improving sight-lines.

We did good work today.