Saturday, May 13, 2017

VIR (Alton, VA)

The last time I went to VIR was one of the first trips with the bus. In a sort of commemoration of that trip, Scott, his son Alec, and I decided to make the trip to Alton, VA for the MotoAmerica race. Scott and Alec rode from Roanoke, while I drove my Vstrom from Richmond.

I arrived just as the national anthem played to begin the day's races. I unloaded my mountain bike from the new rack and began pedaling the perimeter of the spectator area as the 600cc class raced around the course.

Near the halfway point of the 1000cc class, Scott and Alec arrived. We watched that class finish their race and then made our way around the facility, exploring the pits and enjoying the sunny day that emerged from a gloomy forecast.

After the award ceremony, the place emptied out except for overnight campers. We rode into Milton, NC for dinner at Milton Tap & Dye, returning to a ghost town of sorts. We kept the good times rolling, though, kicking back a few cold ones and catching up on lost time. At one point a torrential rain fell from the sky, so we sprinted to my two-man tent and crammed in to wait it out. After that surprise, Scott and Alec decided to sleep under one of the event shelters instead of their original plan of sleeping under the stars.

In the morning, they woke me with the revving of their engines just outside the tent. I emerged and began packing up the bike to head out. Once on the road, we parted ways near Danville as I took 29N to Lynchburg.

The main attraction in Lynchburg was the series of mountain bike trails on the campus of Liberty University. Although I only scratched the surface, I was fairly impressed with the trails - especially one called Playground which offered wooden features, tabletops, and berms.

They organized their trails on the south face of the ridge which houses the Liberty SnowFlex Center. Once you've reached the bottom, the climb back up is relatively arduous, so I only made one loop before continuing east to Richmond.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Moto Bike Rack!

Last year I rode my motorcycle to the Dirt Rag Dirt Fest since I was able to demo a bicycle at the event. I've also had the luck of friends transporting my mountain bike to different destinations while I rode the moto. All along, though, I've wanted to develop a way to carry my mountain bike on the motorcycle in order to be 100% self-sufficient in these moto/mountain bike trips.

After considering several variations of the standard "bike tray" I eventually settled on a different design - the "trunk rack" adapted to a motorcycle. It ended up being extremely simple, especially since I was able to mount bars to the existing frame of my SW Motech luggage system. The only real fabrication needed was bending the two tubes to tuck within the profile of the bicycle. Other than that, I welded nuts in the ends of the bars in case I wanted to bolt anything to them. Four holes and longer hardware allowed them to bolt in place.

While I was at it, I installed the Enduro Guardian 1" lift dog bones to give the rear of the bike a slightly better stance. I had the rear wheel off anyway, since I needed to balance the new tire. With it out of the way, the dog bone install was a breeze.

During the week, I tested the arrangement - but found out quickly the consequences of mounting the bike in the path of the exhaust. In no time, the exhaust fumes had roasted the hydraulic brake hose and charred the decals on my downtube.

Luckily I was able to find another hose and had it bled before the weekend's trip to VIR. This time, I welded together two exhaust adapters which LUCKILY fit snugly around the inner pipe. I heated the adapters with an oxy-acytalene torch and bent them at a 45 degree angle. I also mounted the bike higher on the rack and am glad to say that it was a success!

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Moto Offroad (Buena Vista, VA)

My buddy Whit has an innate ability to find and remember alternate routes all over the state (and country, for that matter). He was responsible for leading our group on the trip to Bear Creek Lake, which was a phenomenal half-day trip. With this in mind, I was looking forward to a weekend trip with him to explore the roads and trails near Buena Vista, VA.

On Friday afternoon we loaded up his trailer and headed west on Route 60. Our destination that night was the Long Mountain Wayside. This is a parking area located at the crossing of 60 and the Appalachian Trail.

We hiked along the AT for just a moment before finding a suitable area to hang our hammocks for the cold, windy night. Despite our best efforts to combat the wind with tightly hung tarps, neither Whit nor I were able to get much rest in the cold. The next morning Whit convinced me (without much effort) to concede to a night's stay at a motel in order to catch up on the sleep we lost. He's a new father, so this trip was as much about getting a full night's sleep for him as it was about adventuring offroad for me ;-)

That day we rode around Oronoco, basically just wandering along fire roads in every which direction along the Pedlar River. The roads were a mix of loose gravel, dirt, and rocks with the occasional creek crossing.

I was pleased with the traction I found after installing some knobbies on my V-Strom. The only two limitations I noticed were the lack of ground clearance (scraping my skid pan several times) and the over-activity of my rear ABS. Perhaps I'll find a way to disable this function when offroad as it basically limits the use of my rear brake in loose situations.

That afternoon we rode into Lexington for dinner and crashed at Motel 6 earlier than I'd like to admit. The next morning, however, we were full of energy and ready to hit the trails hard!

This time around we were in search of something more challenging than the gravel roads. We found it in a logging road that had probably only been traveled by a bulldozer. The dirt was soft, rutted, and littered with limbs, logs, and rocks - just what we'd hoped for!

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

DHSE #3, Windrock (Oliver Springs, TN)

The final round of this year's DHSE Series was a scorcher! A fast course under phenomenal conditions.

The week before I hurried to rebuild my rear wheel which had developed several cracks from past beatings and the airless run at TTC. The wheel held true and I felt confident riding the grippier Maxxis DHF's.

I had one off, but otherwise felt great on the track. I also decided to simply enjoy myself instead of focusing on going fast. I suppose that mindset worked - placing 6th in the field of 36 amateur riders.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

DHSE #2, Trials Training Center (Sequatchie, TN)

My participation in the Downhill Southeast Series began last season with my first trip to the Trials Training Center (TTC). It was a great introduction to the venue and I've been looking forward to returning ever since.

The drive to Sequatchie takes about eight and a half hours, so I decided to break it up with a visit to Starlight Bicycles in Roanoke, VA to see an old friend. I surprised Scott with an unannounced stop and we quickly began discussing our upcoming motorcycle ride to VIR for the MotoAmerica Superbike Challenge in May. The trip is especially exciting since his son, Alec, just purchased a moto and will be joining us on our ride.

After the stop in Roanoke, I was back on the road, heading southwest. Around midnight I decided to call it quits, camping in the car with Ruprecht about an hour shy of the final destination. In the morning I finished the drive and was ready to ride an hour before shuttles began - perhaps a result of the time zone change after driving so far west ;-)

Conditions during the practice day were phenomenal. The course had plenty of traction and we continually improved upon our times each time down the mountain.

That afternoon, however, the rain rolled in and continued throughout the night and next day. That night, I slept in my hammock while I let Ruprecht enjoy the warm, dry interior of the Fiesta. In the morning I cleaned & repacked my front hub before swapping my worn Kenda Excavator tires for new Maxxis Minion DHF's in the hope of finding some traction in the wet.

After two practice runs, I felt relatively confident that I'd stay on the bike as long as my pace was tempered. As for the run itself, well, it didn't go exactly as planned. I felt relatively loose right out of the gate, then a flat in the rear exasperated that feeling until I slowed to a crawl, just hoping to make it to the finish line with my rear wheel intact.

These things happen, but the final race is NEXT WEEKEND - perhaps I'll have better luck then. Either way, it was tons of fun and I walked away unscathed!

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Zion National Park (Utah)

Ever since our trip to Vegas last year, Rebecca and I have planned on returning for an extended trip to Zion National Park. This year we were fortunate enough to score free airfare from my job to attend Conexpo in Las Vegas. I flew out for the show on Monday and Rebecca arrived on Wednesday night after I'd toured the event for two days.

The next morning we headed North on Interstate 15, arriving at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center around 10am. After grabbing our backcountry permit, we drove to the Weeping Rock parking lot to organize our backpacks and set off toward the East Mesa Trail.

The hike was roughly 2000 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles - through a series of switchbacks winding up the sides of the Echo Canyon. Once we'd reached the top of the mesa, we began searching for a suitable site to pitch our tent. Eventually we'd established a site and were heating our dinner while we watched the sun set over the spines of distant ridgelines.

The next day's hike was a breeze, although Rebecca had a sizable blister to deal with as we stomped down the trails we'd trudged up previously.

Since our progress was so quick, we took the opportunity to take in the sights during our descent, even stopping to filter some water to refill our canteens.

We celebrated our hike at the car before heading to The Park House Cafe in Springdale for our compensatory coffee.

That afternoon we checked into our AirBnb in Hurricane, UT before returning to the park to explore the Riverside Walk, which approaches the beginning of the Narrows "trail." The Narrows are not an actual trail, but a hike along the North Fork Virgin River. We terminated our exploration at the point that dry land ends, choosing not to dunk our boots in the cold water.

The next day we drove to the Kolob Canyon to check out the other side of the park.

We drove until snow covered the road, then turned around and headed to the Taylor Creek Trail. The 5-mile roundtrip hike terminates at the Double Arch Alcove. It is also a trail created by the flow of water, zigg-zagging along the middle fork of the Taylor Creek. By my count, the trail crosses the shallow creek 59 times.

Satisfied with our exploration of the park (given the time of year), we said goodbye to the rocky cliffs and drove back to Las Vegas for our second AirBnb reservation just south of downtown. In the morning we packed up and headed into the city for food and last-minute relaxation at Sunset Park before returning the rental car and flying home overnight.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

DHSE #1, Bailey Mountain (Marshall, NC)

Neko Mullaly's Downhill Southeast (DHSE) series has been a great kickstart to the season. This year's course was a an improvement upon an already ripping track, with berms and jumps added throughout.

Ruprecht and I left Richmond on Friday afternoon to find the gate closed at the entrance to our camping spot from last season. With Bailey Mountain slated as the third stop of the series last year, I suppose the entrance was closed until the first day of Spring - which was coincidentally that weekend. Despite the closure, I found a suitable lot to park for the night and sleep in the car.

The next morning I woke early and headed to Bailey to walk the course with Angelo before shuttles began. The ground was frozen, but Angelo and I knew it would quickly thaw into a layer of mud. For most of the amateur practice that was the case, but eventually the sun dried the ground and traction began to improve. After watching the pros slay the dry course, I formulated a few line changes in the case of suitable conditions the next day.

As luck would have it, the trails maintained their traction for race day and two practice runs cemented those strategies. As far as my run was concerned, I was happy with my performance aside from one line choice that led me to stop and reset on one of the berms. The short course suited my [lack of] fitness level, and I made it to the finish line with a time of 2:36 - enough to place 11th (of 65 riders) in the amateur category.

I intended to film some of the pros from above (with the Phantom), but I was distracted by a dead battery in my Fiesta and missed my opportunity. To add insult to injury, I loaded footage from pro practice only to realize I'd been shooting in the time-lapse mode by accident!

Arriving home later that night, I quickly unpacked from the race and repacked for the next trip - backpacking in Zion National Park!

As luck would have it, Pinkbike chose a photo of me in their race recap - purple pants and all!

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