Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tryon with Dustin

I went to Tryon with Dustin today.  It was too hot and humid so we took lots of breaks.  Tryon is more fun when it's cooler out, but we still had a good time.

Although I had easy access to my camera (phone), thanks to my new holster, I didn't use it very much.  But when I did use it, it was not a big hassle, so that was cool.  Since it stayed in place and didn't bother me, I'd say the holster is a success.

I took a quick video of Dustin coming across a boardwalk.  He's a pro!

I also took a picture of this downed tree. A skilled chainsaw operator could make it into a real nice skinny, as I clearly outlined.  I think I'll ask the local trail crew to consider it.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hold the Phone

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been wanting to take more photos on my rides.  But I keep my phone in a pocket of my CamelBak that I can't access without stopping and taking it off.  The inconvenience outweighs the benefits of a photo... at least that's how I feel when I'm riding.  Later when I'm back home I sometimes regret not getting the shot. I don't want to put the phone in my short's pocket because I think it might fall out or I'll fall on it, or it will just move around and be annoying while I ride. Wearing my phone on the front of me, just like I do with my gel flask, seems like a solution to me.  As far as I could find, no such accessory with this purpose is manufactured for my CamelBak.

So I bought a phone holster on Ebay that has a belt clip, belt loop, and a lanyard ring.  Cheap and free shipping!  I figured I'd find some way to use these features to secure the holster to the right strap of my CamelBak.

The case is compatible with my phone and fit quite nicely. Technically I don't use my phone (Samsung Victory) as a phone, but just for GPS tracking and photos/video. For now I have a cheaper pay-as-you-go plan on a cheap $15 phone that also lives in my CamelBak when I ride.  Anyway, the only concern I had with the holster was that its flap wraps over the top of the phone and the flap's Velcro came down a bit too far, so it didn't align perfectly.  The phone came with a piece of foam filler in it, so I cut a small strip off and put it in holster before my phone, giving it the extra height.  Now it has a lot of Velcro holding it closed and won't likely open unintentionally.

Only after receiving it did I learn the holster also has a vertical sleeve which I suspect is a side-effect of how the belt loop and clip are attached in manufacturing.  Bonus!  I removed the metal clip and then worked my CamelBak strap through the vertical sleeve for a dry fit before I found a way to attach it permanently.  The sleeve is tight enough to keep the holster in place when jumping up and down like a crazy person.  So for now I have no need to secure it.  It doesn't seem to be in the way of any movements I make while riding. The real test will be my next ride.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tryon Sessions

I've had mixed feelings about Tryon Park.  It's one of the harder parks with a combination of steeper hills and rooty, rocky terrain.  On tougher trails, I'm often already winded or fatigued as I approach the next challenge.  When this causes me to dismount, I think "Eh, maybe in time I'll have the endurance and skill to clean this trail, but not today", and I continue on.  I'm usually more focused on continuously moving, like in a race, and not so much on stopping to session difficult sections.

But at last weekend's muni festival, sessioning was often the priority.   Between that, and Dustin telling me he rode at Tryon a few days ago, I was inspired to head to Tryon for some fun.  Unfortunately Dustin wasn't able to ride today, but I hope we can session Tryon together soon.

The munifest also inspired me to find a way to take more photos and videos on the trail.  I ride with my camera phone in my CamelBak but I rarely want to stop and take it out.  I'm working on a way to have it accessible; probably a holster of sorts.  I also want a way to set my camera on the ground for videoing.  I have a small Joby tripod and today I rigged up a way to mount my phone using an L-bracket and a suction cup.  It seemed to work well and hold the phone securely.

So this afternoon I headed to Tryon.  I had the most fun I've ever had there by sessioning the hard parts.  Maybe right now I can't get through everything on the first try, or when I'm fatigued, but practicing is going to help with that.  I still had to stop to access my camera, but I wanted to test my tripod so I did a few times.  I'd have to stop about 30 times to get all the footage I'd want, but for now this was cool.  I'm extremely happy with my tripod phone mount.
a wooden jump on the Purple trail

I noticed more rock obstacles and general trail improvements have been made since my last visits.  The GROC crew is awesome!  I need to help out some more.

I'm looking forward to heading back to Tryon soon.

Here are two clips I edited together:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Empire State Muni Festival 2014

This weekend I attended the Empire State Muni Festival at Beebe Hill State Forest in Austerlitz, NY, brought to us by the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the Hell on Wheel Unicycle Gang.  Unlike a race in which we basically ride separately, this was a munifest in which we stick together as a group, socialize, and stop to session difficult sections of trail.

My family made the 4+ hour drive on Friday afternoon and camped nearby Beebe Hill at the Fox Hill campground.  My wife actually blogged about it.  The first ride was supposed to be on Friday evening, but thunderstorms were predicted so that got canceled. We got the torrential rain in our last hour of driving, but thankfully saw no rain while we set up camp.  Robi and Liz also camped at Fox Hill for the weekend.  My family and I enjoy their company.

Saturday and Sunday were a lot of fun.  I believe we had about 20 riders on both days.  Riders varied in skill level but we all rode together on the same trails.  We moved a lot slower than I would normally because we had to wait for less experienced riders.  The trails were generally intermediate to advanced making it possible to session challenging sections and obstacles while waiting for slower riders to catch up.

Saturday night many more riders camped at Fox Hill and more joined us for a preplanned bonfire and party.  Paradox Brewery provided the beer!

Here is a photo album of the weekend:
Empire State Muni Festival 2014

I liked how the trails were sprinkled with cool obstacles to keep things interesting:  rocks, drops, logs, and one awesome skinny.  The skinny was especially awesome because it was fairly long and had some elevation off the side of the trail.  I was proud of myself for completing it on my second try.  I wish I had some video of it.
On both days we climbed a winding fire road up to a fire tower.  It was a long lung burning, leg burning climb.  Steveyo and I were especially fighting to climb it with no dismounts.  On Sunday Steveyo made only one dismount with a short walk to get to a less steep grade to mount again.  I managed that steep section but dismounted twice in other places.  The camaraderie and view at the fire tower made the climb all worth it, but the downhill trail was the icing on the cake.  It had roots, rocks, drops, descents, and flowy sections.  A great trail.

My wife had fun with the kids throughout the weekend while I rode.  One thing they did was hiked the same trail we rode down from the fire tower.  She also blogged about that and has some great pictures.

The weekend was awesome.  Seeing other riders' abilities to learn from, and having other riders praise mine has me psyched up for more riding.  I wish I could ride those particular trails and keep trying to conquer the parts that I couldn't.

Here are the five rides I did:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Abraham Lincoln Park

Regarding my consideration of the Camp Arrowhead races, I decided not to for the reasons I expressed.

It's been four years since I last rode at East Bay.  When I blogged about it, I said, "I probably won't go back for a long time."  The hills were too frequent and too steep.

Today I went back, for several reasons.  It's now renamed Abraham Lincoln Park and actually has an official parking lot on Empire Blvd, which has a family friendly park and a trail head .  In the past I started at the BayView YMCA and explored my way into the trails.  Now the county published a map of the trails.  With a more established park I thought I might have a better experience.  I also assume I'm a better rider than four years so maybe the hills wouldn't be so bad.
Trail Map
The hills were in fact so bad.  The park is like West Bay was before GROC made new trails.  For hiking it might be ok, but for muni, and I suspect most mountain bikers, it would take a good number of reroutes to avoid epic or impossible hill climbs.  That being said, there was still a lot of riding to be had.

Riding my ungeared 24, I worked my way north staying on the main White trail and passing occasional trail signs for other colored trails.  White was hilly and at the end I climbed Smith Rd, still in the park, up to the YMCA.  It started as gravel and changed to paved.  At the Y,  there is a network of mowed grass paths, a few of which I rode.  The Blue trail-heads weren't easy to find because this rail was somewhat overgrown and could use a good pruning.   It's an advanced-beginner trail with no crazy climbs so I rather enjoyed the break from the hills.  There were loads of cottonwood seeds covering this trail, reminding me of snow.  Kinda cool.

The only reasonable way to continue was to go back was down Smith Rd.  I did so with the plan to hit all the colored trails as I could.  Red was hilly with some unrideable climbs.  It had a nice lookout point over the bay.  Green might be rideable in the counterclockwise direction, but I went clockwise.  It was an easy descent down the the water and the bay bridge could be seen in the distance.  The climb out was a bit too much, but would have been a rideable descent.  I rode the Yellow trail clockwise.  It had a leg burning climb that I came close to completing, and then a steeper descent that I'm sure I couldn't climb.  So clockwise is my best hope in the future.

The map has dozens of unlabeled trails.  The ones I tried were more overgrown and more steep.  Some that branched from the main trails were blazed with that trail's color, but with two blazes.

I probably won't wait another four years to try this park again.  There aren't many options to create a great route for muni through this park, but I might be able do something riding the White, then the Green loop, and then backtrack through Yellow, and repeat or just keep it a short ride.

Unfortunately something when haywire with my gps and I lost the last 25% of my ride.