What's the weather like in Doug's neighborhood?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Almost October

and you know what that means...

Squirrel hunting season. Redneck jokes and all. I love this guy:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Okay, really slacking on the blog. Guess I don't get over here as much these days. Oh well, life goes on and the blog is obviously not much of a priority. NBD.

So what have we been up to? Check out Erin's blog. She has been very active in posting since she stopped working at the preschool.

Summer is coming to an end. We have had a taste of Fall weather and honestly I want more. It is nice to have the return of low humidity and temps in the 70-80*F range. We have had a couple of hot and humid days mixed in and the difference is major. Once you get a taste of the cooler weather the hot and muggy is not fun to revisit.

Riding is picking up as the weather waxes to cool. It is becoming enjoyable to get out and ride again. I haven't been too obsessive about riding, which I am sure is appreciated by the rest of the house. The ride log has just passed the 1 year mark and the verdict is in, just over 1,000mi in the saddle for the year. Meh, that's just how it rolls out when the typical ride is <10mi. Oddly I don't think that my ride times are much less than they have been over the last 5-6 years, just a bit more rugged terrain.

I have gone back and forth on wheels and tires over the last 3 years in AL. The terrain really does demand beefier tires, but on the flip side it sucks to push them back up the hill at the end of the ride. If you can handle pinging off the rocks on the downhills and getting a bit beat in the rough then the lighter tires/wheels help keep speed up in the flats while making the uphills a lot less work. In the end I run a wheelset that is heavier than a lot of peoples downhill race wheels with UST tubeless tires. I don't spend much time truing my wheels or fixing flats though, so I guess it all works out.

This weekend I managed to make it out to the rifle range in Madison. It was fun to get out and plink off a couple hundred rounds of .22cal, but also a bit frustrating. The scope on the Remington 552 is way off. It is going to take a bit more time and prep to get it shimmed in. The gun itself is nice, when working correctly. But it was having an issue with jamming/ejecting on missfire rounds, which were plentiful on the 2-3 year oxidized old ammunition I had. It was getting better with use, but I may need to disassemble the gun and clean/lube it for best results. By the end of the day I was pretty proficient at clearing it when it jammed. On the other hand the old bolt action single shot was performing like a champ. Matt and Mike plinked out nearly as many rounds as I did despite the speed handicap of having to chamber one round at a time. Guess messing with the scope settings and gun jams is more of a handicap. Needless to say there were no bullseyes fired with the Remington.

Around the house? Nothing much new. Erin went full-bore on the bathroom face lift. The aesthetic portion is covered in her blog, so I won't rehash it here. Biggest issue turned out to be changing out the faucet. First issue was that Erin neglected to pick up connecting hardware. Not a big deal. After a quick run to HD I fitted it up and turned the shutoff valves on. Crap! Water spraying everywhere from one of the new connectors and a drip out of the valve on the other. Back to HD to exchange the flex connector with the bad seal and to grab some new shutoff valves. Can of worms officially opened. So there I am with water all over the place, cursing and crammed under the sink trying to release 10-20 year corroded swage fittings. I hate this part since the water to the house has to be off until I get valves back on. Instead of cutting off the old swage and nuts I re-used them on the new valves. I ended up tightening the heck out of them and still had some very slow drips. But I was ready to call it a day and grab a beer.

Well about an hour and a half later I walk in to find water spraying out all over. F*%_(_*(&*(^%!! One of the nuts that I over-torqued cracked. This is not good. Basically I have only one option at hand. I can remove the valve and cut back the pipe 1/4-1/2in to get a swage on fresh tubing. Okay, I skipped the step where I cut off the old swage and tried to just swage with a new crush ring and nut. That didn't work due to the mangled nature of the pipe. Obviously I am not the first monkey to wrangle with this pipe. Right about here is where we called in backup. Fortunately Mike was available to come over and solder on a new section of pipe. So by around 9pm we were in good shape. He came back in the morning and extended the other pipe as well. Done deal.

Man, I do hate it when things go awry on home repair.

That's about all I got at the moment. Already a fairly lengthy post at any rate and no pictures or anything really exciting to show for it. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Working hard or hardly working

I started this posting a couple of weeks ago and never posted it up...

I have been thrown under the bus. Seriously, every thing I touch in my new position here at NASA is either behind or on a very tight schedule.

This week I have been fighting with my computer solid for over 40hrs. My current model loads up at over 10gb, so despite my machines best effort the pidly 8gb of RAM just wasn't cutting it. Now I am squatting over in another building on a 16gb machine. Only issue with it, only a quad core.

(yes, that is all 4 cores totally pegged)

Things are going better, but these huge models really to grind PC workstations to a snail pace.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nuther' One for Friday

First time on a surfboard. Who would have thought it would be in Alabama :-)

The family headed out at the end of July for the annual company lake party. Like most company functions, the more you participate the more fun it is. I was out swimming, surfing, and chaufering eveyone on the waverunner. Erin and Austin managed to snare a couple of tiny Brim, which is pretty good considering they really weren't biting much this year (maybe the higher temps drove most of the fish to deeper water).

Overall it was a great way to spend the afternoon and yet another reminder of how great of a company I work for. If you are ever heading my way, N. Alabama, let me know and I will forward your resume on to the boss for consideration.

Hey You!

This one is for all the engineers in the audience...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hot up in this joint

In case you are not catching this blog on the day it gets published I have copied the forecast down.

Basically what this boils down to is that by 5pm the temperature should be about 100 degrees and the humidity at 40-50%, which makes it feel about 110*F. Should be a nice day for a ride. Yep. Gonna need to pack some extra water and electrolytes along.

I rode on Sunday at 7am and actually enjoyed the temperature. We did a very manageable 9 miles mostly on the upper end of the park in about 2 hours. It was a nice change from the recent afternoon rides in the 90-100 degree weather.

In other bike related news, Erin has actually been making it out and getting some miles in on her bike. She seems fairly comfortable and content with it as I have built it up. That is a definite plus. Maybe I can get her out in Monte Sano this month.

My bike riding has definitely been pretty weak lately. It has been far easier to hide out at home in the AC or at the pool than to gear up and go out for a MTB ride. Looking at my ride log I went from low mileage to pathetic about the time summer started. The layoff was a good excuse, but I think the weather has a lot to do with it as well. Hopefully we will start to see the temps tapering down by mid-end of the month, then we will go into my favorite time of the year for riding here in the SE.

Nothing else too noteworthy around my neck of the woods. Little bit of mowing, little bike riding, bit of beer drinking, and the rest is family time and lazying around.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dang, stagnant on the blog

Sorry to the few who actually follow this blog.

So, what's new?
Laid off:
I got notified on June 21st that my contract with TBE was on the chopping block. After months of wondering when and if my job would be effected by all the doom and gloom surrounding NASA in the wake of Obama's administration. Answer: Yes, directly. June 30th was my last day on the job.
Looking for new work is never fun, but having to do so under duress just plain sucks. I hit the deck running and sent out updated resume to anything that was even partially applicable to my skill set.

Laid back:
After processing out of MSFC on Wednesday I had an interview Thursday morning that ran long. I got home in the afternoon cracked a couple of beers and received a call from my boss in the afternoon. Apparently he had found another TBE contractor spot in another branch and I was going back to work on Tuesday. So I ended up with a 5-day 4th of July holiday weekend that was much more relaxed.

Government inneficiency at its finest:
So the last 2 weeks I have been getting paid to just sit at work. I can't log onto a gov. computer without my badge. So turning in my badge on Wednesday and missing 2 days of work constitutes the need for a whole new background screening. Weird. Beets not getting paid any day though :-)

Home life:
Not much to report. Been hitting the pool up quite a bit lately. It is cheap, fun, and good exercise. Erin and I have used the whole layoff scare as a wake up call. We have figured out a budget that will hopefully have us much better prepared for the next time this sort of thing occurs.

In the garage:
Nothing news worthy to report. More outward than inward tools at the moment. Part of the budgeting and being better prepared meant that some of the lesser-used woodworking tools need to go to put money into savings. So last week I sold off several of my hand planes. More tools will follow. Life goes on.

Working on cars:
Yep, my newest hobby has been embarked upon begrudgingly. I have mentioned in the past that I am really not into working on cars. After spending most of my latter teen years working on them to one extent or another I lived quite happily paying someone else to do all maintenance on our cars. Well, sticking with the budget theme I am having to get out and do more myself. The other motivator is that most of the real issues with our vehicles seem to stump the mechanics. We took Erin's truck in for a full tuneup a couple of years ago figuring that would allow them to get in and really see what was causing power loss and making it run poorly. Not the case. We received a clean bill of health, a bill for about $1000, and a truck that ran no better than before.
Tuesday had me changing the fuel filter on the Tundra and swapping out the brake pads. For $62 in parts and a couple of hours of time I did 2 tasks that would have cost me $300-500 had I taken it in. Not my favorite way to spend time, but it is nice to take care of things myself and save money at the same time.
Today I will be putting in a new air filter, cleaning the MAF, and cleaning the throttle body. Should be fun.

Riding bicycles:
Been hot as hell here in the SE last month and a half. With humidity varying from 50-100% the heat index has had us somewhere in the 90-115F range pretty regularly with actual temps 85-100F. Riding around in a sauna is interesting. 100oz of water doesn't seem to go more than about 2-3 hours even keeping track of consumption. My saddle time has also suffered due to the job hunting and related stress. Thing are starting to settle in, but I am still only getting a couple of rides in each week. That will have to do for now.
I have been riding a set of 777mm wide bars and a 65mm stem. That is nearly 31in for the Americans in the audience. It is amazing the difference in DH stability/control. It rides like the bike did when I had the fork at 150mm, but I am still running it at 140mm. Only down-side I see is that it killed my tech/steep climbing stability. Guess it puts too much weight out over the back wheel. Always trade offs. For the Heckler there is a balance point, on the one side is xc/trail ride all-around stability and on the other is shredding DH stability. You can't get both.

I am diggin on the Hilltop Hoods lately, good music:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Worked over

Yep, feeling a bit worked over this morning. It is my own fault. Erin put the notion in my head that I could ride all I wanted on Sunday. Sounds good. After sleeping in and missing the 9am group ride, lazying around the house, procrastinating, putting the bike back together, and drinking a couple of beers I decided that I needed to punish myself with a massive ride.

The plan, or notion as it was, is to ride the big loop around the base of the mountain. That nets you a little over 20mi of undulating trail. Most of the hills are short, so it is mainly a sustained pace. The only real climb is about 600 vertical feet to get back up to Burrit trailhead at the end of the ride. No problem right?

So here is what I actually rode (green blaze)...

I started off with high hopes on completing the full loop, but by the third connector off of Flatrock I had to pull the plug (red X on map). But in all honesty I had been contemplating other routes since the first connector. The main problem turned out to be the temperature and not having enough water. It was in the low-mid 90's when I headed out with just under 100oz of water. At the red X I had about 20oz left so I decided the prudent thing to do would be to head straight up. I knew I would be running out of water, but the difference in this route and the planned route (blue blaze) is that I could stop at the park office to get enough water to finish the ride. It was only about 3mi to the water where as the car was still about 8mi away. Easy choice other than the 500 vertical feet up to O'Shaughnessy Point in a mile of trail. Most of that is hike. I ran out of water just after getting to the top, so at that point my choice of route was looking pretty good.

So in the end I think I came out around 18mi of ride, 4mi of that was pavement back to the truck. I am gonna have to write this loop off until the temperatures come back down in the fall. It is just too much time to be out on a 100oz of water in 90 degree plus weather. Total ride time was just over 4 hours. In the last 45 minutes my body went into shut down and really wasn't dealing with the food and water well. I think more electrolytes would have helped. Gonna have to figure that out for the summer rides here since you sweat so much.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This is just getting old now...

Here in Huntsville we have been blessed with rain just about daily for since my last entry. 10 days into the month and I have racked up only about 20mi on the bike. Fortunately rainfall has not really been all that much, so when you do make it out the trails aren't really all that soggy. Main thing is getting the timing right so you don't get caught in the rain. Of course you also have to fight off the mental block that thunderstorm weather puts on you. It is far easier to grab a beer and hangout than to brave the "potential" of bad weather.

So yesterday with the best of intentions I got off work early, grabbed my bike, and headed out for the Wednesday night group ride. A mile before my exit off the parkway it starts dumping rain. Doug scratches head for a minute and carries on. It was sunny and rain free most of the afternoon, even upon leaving home no 5 minutes before. I keep on driving and the rain lets up to a mist by the time I reach the mountain. It is dry up at the biker's lot. Go figure.

So we geared up and played around at the lot while the rest of the group dragged in. The skills course is always good to spend a few minutes on. It is roughly the same as it was at the FTF minus the teeter.

As we headed out thunderheads were starting to make some noise and were closing in fast. We headed out Family trail at a good clip and decided to make the most of things. Once we hit O'Shaunessey Pt. though we did change our plans and decided to stay closer to the top of the park by riding Mt. Mist. There was light rain and slippery conditions, but there was no downpour. So at the end of the trail we turned down and headed deeper into the park. Once on Goat Trail the rain had settled into a light sprinkle that was not really a bother. Lots of slick rocks, but the soil was still firm all the way up to the climb out where it did get a bit slick in the clay/mud. Overall more of the trail was rideable than not though.

Once we got back up to the point we hit South Plateau back to the lot. About 1/2mi into it the skies became black and within a few minutes the heavens opened. Rain dumped on us as we sprinted back to the cars. A hasty strip down in the lot and everyone headed for home. No hanging out or post ride BS with the rain pouring down.

So it sucked getting caught in the rain again, but again I am happy that I went for a ride instead of huddled up at home waiting for the bad weather to pass.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Return of the Cats and Dogs...

Yesterday started out as a nice Wednesday night ride. I got to the biker's lot early to check the tires and such. It was beautiful and about 80 degrees with sunny skies. So we decided to once again got top to bottom in the park and hit Flat Rock trail. It was looking to be the perfect day for a longer ride.

Well, the weather had other plans and the 20-30% chance of rain and thunderstorms rolled in on us about 6 mi into the 13mi ride. It was a blessing and a curse wrapped into one. The temperature dropped by 10-15 degrees which made it much easier for me to kick it up a notch and hammer out the remainder of the ride. But the rocks and roots became slick as snot, the puddles went from 6in to over 12in deep within minutes, and the soil turned to mush under our tires. I am still amazed when the skies open up here in the SE. It really is no laughing matter to get caught out in the weather as 1-3in of rainfall in an hour can really make a mess of things.

Fortunately the ride went smoothly for the most part and the only delays we had were waiting for people who didn't know where they were going. Usually when it rains it is every man for themselves. But with new riders on the trail there was a lot more consideration, maybe even too much. I found myself crouched under a tree for over 10 minutes waiting for the last straggler and really wanting to push on. But I would hope that if I were bringing up the back that someone would extend me the same courtessy. Call it putting a bit into the Karma bank for later if you will.

I have to say, as much as it is a pain to get caught out in the rain it is also a lot of fun. Sure you get soaked and traction goes to hell, but at some point along the way it turns from work into play. The whole tone of the ride stops being a training race and goes back to the days of splashing in puddles. It is nice to have that reminder of weather being fun. I can remember back in high school taking off with Rodney or Stuart to go puddle jumping on our BMX bicycles. So long as the temps stayed over 60*F it was always fun. Of course a full bike overhaul would follow. Last night I opted for a hose down and light lube. I think the Heckler can take a little water.

In the news:
Another factory video shot on home turf

Brendan Fairclough and Curtis Keene in Santa Cruz from Taylor Sage on Vimeo.

Sometimes I really do miss the trails off the side of UCSC. Good stuff.

In other news, I have started building up another bike for Erin. I know, I said I would never do it again. But she has been hinting that she would like to have a bike and the quickest/cheapest way to facilitate that is for me to build it up from new and borrowed parts. I have taken a few ques from past failure and am really trying to set this one up for success. So far so good. Initial fitting went well and component selection appears to be approved by the boss. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Some more of them photograph thingies

Yes, I did say thingies. What of it :-)

Some photos from Gary's camera on the Tsali trip.

You can always go to the album and view larger images if you like.

Heckler v6.0 for those who weren't paying attention.

Stripped the Home Wrecker down to raw aluminum for 2010. Figure I will be running it into the ground for at least another season, might as well give it a face lift so I look good. It is of utmost importance that bike bling is inversly proportional to your speed on the climbs. Since my speed isn't improving my bike better be looking sharp :-)

Little bit of Oak Mtn for you

More riding than taking photos. In retrospect we should have taken time to photo the log ride, jumps, BUMP, or even me actually on my bike ;-) Oh well, next time...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good weekend

Well, got rousted out of the house by the boys for a weekend of MTB in N Carolina, Tennessee, and N Georgia. Pictures to follow, gotta get them from everyone else as I forgot to grab ours.

Highlight of the weekend would definitely turn out to be Jackrabbit MB/Hiking Trails out by Hiawassee Georgia. Check out SABA cyclings website for the details, maps, and weather conditions.Tons of flow, equal up and down time, little bumps, jumps, and berms all over the place. A must ride trail system IMO. Like most of my favorite trails there are tons of small loops so it is easy to bail out once the legs have had enough abuse. We managed almost 16mi before bailing out. Clay and I were more than willing to just continue riding here and not move on to Tsali just yet.

We started out at Chilhowee for 10mi of near solid climbing. Not sure how that worked out, but in the end we all agreed that this was a trail system we weren't all that interested in riding again.

From there we headed on to a tried and true trail, Brush Creak Trail from Boyd Gap trail head. It is a bit farther down the road and a solid/fun 6-7mi out and back. We rode out and then pussed out for a road shortcut back to the cars in order to make sure to get checked-in and dinner under control. Probably a good thing. Clay snagged some video here, gonna have to see if it turns out. It is another great trail to hit so long as you are passing by.

Next morning we hit Jackrabbit. Just about everyone was all smiles on this trail system. But we packed up sooner than later in order to hit a loop at Tsali before dark.

At Tsali everyone was starting to slow down and feel the 3 previous rides. So getting geared up to go was lethargic. Normally we would start with the 7mi Thompson look, but Jeff and the endurance riders were arguing for a Left or Right loop since they are officially open to bikes on Friday. At any rate as that argument goes on Gary and I go back to the truck, lock it up, and put on our helmets. We look up to find that the lot has cleared out completely and there is no sign of our group. WTF! Not only did we not see them go, but the decision of what trail they were doing was also not made clear. Total group ride communication failure. So Gary and I debate a few minutes and slowly head out the Right Loop figuring that the Left Loop would be too much for the tired riders. After about 1/2mi we figure they would have realized our absence, so when we didn't catch them we called and then headed back to the lot where I promptly cracked a beer.

After a nice nap and conversation with some other nice folks we determined that the group wasn't comming back for us, so we had free reign on our ride choice. So we did a 5mi short loop on the Right Loop. This sent us down the heinous climbs we did last October. I must say, they are quite fun in the "suggested direction" that we were taking. Then a short climb up the Rt. Alt. connector to the fire road and back out. It was a great lite loop to cap the day. We had a couple of beers and about then the group popped out of the Left Loop looking pretty beat. In the end we dodged a bullit by being dropped off the group ride. Sometimes you get lucky.

Saturday morning everyone is moving a bit slow but we head out to Tsali once more to hit the Thompson loop and Mouse Loop. Both trails have fun downhill sections and a fair amount of climbing to earn them. There was some debate once done about doing another short loop, but in the end everyone had a beer and was happy to call it.

In the end:
4 trail systems were hit
~56mi were pedaled
36 beers and 2 half pitchers of Margaritas met their demise
very little blood was shed
I got to do on trail wheel straightening and brake fluid venting to make new pads fit

good times...

Monday, April 19, 2010

blog blog blog blog blog

Yeah, I got nothing. Weather here in N. AL has been awesome for over a week straight. Temps in the 70's to the 80's. Sunny skies. Beer drinking, mower riding, Spring cleaning, riding the bikes, and just enjoying the nice weather. That about sums it up.

This weekend I got in a couple of 10mi adventures with the local B-Team. Saturday was the 7am dawn patrol out on Monte Sano. Sunday was a slacker Wade Mountain run. Both rides had 4-5 people riding and a pretty well matched crew with respect to speed and endurance.

New parts for the bike? Yeah, I got a few odds and ends but for some strange reason I don't feel like geeking out on it. Maybe another day.

Other goodies? Went out this afternoon and picked up my super Stihl eletric hedge trimmer. Ended up with the HSE71 IIRC. Costs as much as 3 basic Home Depot disposable jobbers, but it has a 24in bar on it instead of a 16 or 18 that the cheap ones have. It also has parts available should it break, so I won't have to throw it away. Not sure if it is worth it, but if my Stihl weed wacker is any indication the brand makes good tools. Time will tell.

All right, I am out of here. Catch up on other stuff later...

Friday, April 9, 2010

heading into the weekend...

Spring has definitely sprung in the SE

Just try and say that trail doesn't look inviting :-)
In a month things will be looking like a jungle and the Banana Spiders will be dropping huge webs across it, but for now it is good.

Wednesday SORBA ride has been getting a good turnout. We had 11 on our ride. Only caught 8 on camera. It is hard to keep a group that size together. By the end of the ride we were down to 5. It was a great day. Weather was a bit cooler, in the low 70's, so it was very comfortable.

I broke out the Heckler for the first time in a few weeks. Boy, that thing is the magic carpet ride. Super smooth. I really think the effort saved over the course of the ride more than makes up for any pedaling inefficiencies or bobbing. The X-Fusion Vector HLR is still behaving itself. I am amazed at what I can slam the bike into with this shock. Miles of smiles for sure.

Other signs of spring arriving...
- the lawn looks like crap if I haven't mowed it in over a week
- the trees in the yard have bloomed, pink flowers everywhere
- the parking lot at work is empty by 5pm

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day pass

I have a couple of friends who have been taliking up the riding down at Lake Guntersville. With the recent rainfall it would be a safer bet than the local trails. We ended up riding 2 trails, both somewhat of a flop IMO :(

We started on an un-named trail that is in the process of being built up that flanks the edge of the lake. It has the potential to be a nice trail, but it is definitely a bit green still. Lots of off camber, IMBA would have a fit with the lack of shouldering. The crossings are mostly hike-a-bike.

Clay and Josh

A nice section of trail

Yours truly

the only bridge in the place

From here we jumped back in the car and headed up to higher ground to run the Golf Course Trail. Turned out to be a bummer as they have destroyed a good section of the loop clearing out trees.


Out walking our bikes in the woods

Used to be a trail in here

Nice little overview of the lake

Group photo-op

Last shot, my view for most of the morning...

Monday, March 22, 2010

...should get an update out

Blog has been a bit stagnant. Not really sure why. I have been riding a bit and things are busy as ever around the house. Guess it is just waiting out the Spring stretch that gets most bloggers a bit quiet, holding their breath for warm weather and dry trails. It has been a bit of a roller coaster this year. Every time the trails get to a stable, dry enough to ride, condition it has snowed or rained again. Pretty frustrating.

I got in 2 rides this weekend and another ride earlier in the week. With all of the weather dodging I am stacking in as many rides as I can when the trails are clear. So my riding is also on the roller coaster. Seems like I go a week or so without riding and then will get 2-4 days of back to back riding. Gotta say that sometimes I really miss the consistancy of riding in Northern California. But for now living in N.Alabama I have to take it any way I can get it. Fortunately there is some diversity in trails so that even when some trails are soaking wet others can be ridden, mainly because they are entirely made of rocks.

As of last week I received my X-Fusion Vector HLR back from the factory.

Looks like the new internals have fixed the obnoxious clunking during the hysteresis. I am happy to report that this shock is working great. My DH runs have been butter smooth and climbing traction is unstopable. As far as function this is the best shock I have run to date. There is definitely something to the Hi/Low speed compression control. It allows for good small bump sensitivity while still being able to take high speed and big impacts without spiking. Looks like Fox's new DHX RC4 has moved to this platform as well. But at this point companies like Avalanche, Elka, Cane Creek, and X-Fusion are already 2 steps ahead. Each with their own spin on the technology and tuning preferences. I am favoring the X-Fusion since the canister pressure and volume are externally adjustable by the rider. Elka and Avalanche are only tuneable by the factory. At any rate, time will tell if X-Fusion is durable enough to get 2 thumbsup.

Just over a week ago I got in the first night ride of the season. I got off work and the weather was warm, too nice to pass up. So I called up Matt and we headed out for a spin. Unfortunately the planning was lacking so my light wasn't charged up. I got by with an LED headband though and we had a nice ride. I do like the focus, intensity, and pace of a night ride. Nothing quite like it. Hopefully I will be able to set a more regular night ride up with Matt out on the Arsenal trails this summer.

This just in...
It snowed again this morning. Melted as soon as it touched anything, but snow none the less. It isn't really cold(about 36F, but feels warmer to me), but I guess up in the clouds it is cold enough. We are still trending up in temperature. Saturday afternoon was my first short sleave ride of the year. Things are looking up inspite of the snow this am.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Snow day?

Yes, here we are days after my "its warming up" post. And, yes, it is in fact snowing. It is warmer, so there is no fluffy powder on the ground. It either melts immediately or turns into slush. That's fine. It should clear up in a day or so. Then onto some more decent weather and continued warming trend.

Time flies...
How did it get to be March already? Weird. The older I get the more that the months seem to melt into each other.

I managed to get out for a nice group ride on Saturday morning. It was a bit nippy at the start. I think Gary mentioned 22 degrees on his thermometer at the trailhead. I was bundled up fairly good. My cold weather kit is something to this effect:
-Top: Hard shell windbreaker or thermal fleece with wind block, a long sleeve jersey, and a base layer (wool or other performance wicking material)
-Bottom: hard shell (shorts or pants depending), thermal tights, and a chamois short
-Shoes: wool socks, standard shoe, neoprene booty over that (next year I would like to invest in some real winter cycling shoes)
-Helmet: just the normal vented helmet with a thermal skull cap under it
With these items I am good for multiple hours down in the 20-30 degree range. Any colder than that and I don't consider it worth riding :-)

At any rate, riding was nice. We had 6 people in the group and were pretty well matched. It was a technical ride at the Land Trust, so despite near 4 hours on the bike we covered only 11-12mi total. There were lots of breaks and conversation. Whenever someone dropped back the group waited patiently and talked about biking. Honestly this is one of my favorite ways to ride. We went fast when we could and took a good steady pace the rest of the time. The Hutchinson Octopus tires proved to be a great tire for the conditions, which were frozen with muck under and thawing about mid-ride. The extra heft provided some good stability in the rocks and the sticky compound did great on the slick stuff. The tread pattern is nice and open, so it shed mud excellent. Wonder why Hutchinson stopped making this tire?

That's all I got for now. I'll check back later...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Now we are getting somewhere

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am seeing a trend. Warmer weather is on the horizon :-)

Yesterday's ride was cold and with windchill it dropped another 10 degrees. Hard not to run off and start snagging up base layers and thermal jerseys when things turn nippy. But from the look of it lows will only be down in the 30's and 40's for another month or so. And highs are already creaping up into the 50-60 range. All of the layers will come back off and it will be short sleeves once again.

Other news?
Not much, picked up a set of used tubeless tires for $7. They are Hutchinson Octopus 2.35 with a slow rebound sticky rubber. Out of production now, but I figured for the price they were worth picking up. It seems like several manufacturers were using a 40-50A durometer soft compound on 2.3 UST tires circa 2004-2006. Then about 2007 the well dried up. DH clincher tires, single ply clincher tires, and DH ust tires were the only ones that continued to be produced in soft compounds. The sticky compound 2.3 UST tire was left by the wayside. These octopus tires tipped the scale a bit portly at 1150g.

A few months back I snagged a set of 2.35 Maxxis High Roller UST in the sticky 42A rubber compound. The front tire hasn't been off my bike since I mounted it. Coming in at 900g they are a bit heavy. But they do work well even at pressures down to under 30psi, which is somewhat unheard of for me. Basically it indicates a fairly stiff sidewall, so it doesn't burp or come unseated even at lower pressure than I can typically get away with. I took off the rear since it was a bit slow rolling and didn't shed mud as well as the Continental Rubber Queen.

At any rate when I see these out of production gems on e-bay for dirt cheap I grab them. Most are 900-1100g. The casing is thick and strong. They work exceptionally well on the wet rocks and roots here in the Southeast during the winter. May be too heavy/slow for the summer, but I will post back when the time comes.

I think I have a rubber fettish...

...last season's tire testing

Caught our local SORBA club meeting last night. Not a whole lot going on right now. Looks like a section of Family Trail is going to get some TLC and the South Plateau is officially open to bikes. Another cool prospect, seems that the Land Trust is okay with the building and maintenance of a "freeride/DH" trail on their property. They just want it done right. Some kids have carved in a sketchy, unsustainable trail with no go around or warning of upcoming obstacles. I think the LT response is a great indication of the respect for the trail work and maintenance the SORBA club here does.

Another positive trail growth report. SORBA Huntsville will be launching a fundraising effort to extend and re-route McKay Hollow trail. Not sure how much additional mileage will be gained, but it should be cool. Only $75K. Wow, trails are expensive to build!

That's all I got for now. Ride, rinse, food, beer, sleep, repeat...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Life and other such ramblings...

Well, last Thursday marked the completion of my 32nd trip around the sun. It was uneventful. I like it that way. But I do believe that doing very little on my birthday really puts Erin on edge. She comes from a family where birthdays never go out of style. So it is hard for her to sit back and go with my flow. After about age 16 birthdays in my family involved a dinner out and maybe a basic gift. Again, I am good with that. I was able to sneak off for a short lunch ride (more on that in a second), got off work a touch early to pick up my mom at the airport, and had dinner out. It was a good birthday in my book.

Not a whole lot, mainly at my request. Mom flew out for the boy and my birthdays, the kids made a couple of cards, and Erin made a cake.

Amazingly I have been able to get out on the bike a bit. Mostly squeezed in rides here and there, but Saturday was a longer outing. The weather has warmed a bit, the trails dried out some, and I even got in 3 rides in the sunshine this last week. Crazy. My birthday lunch ride was a bit of a flop. I grabbed the Heckler for the first time in about a month. As I went to check the air pressure at the trailhead the valve core came loose and shot out into the loose leaves. After about 5 minutes I was able to locate it and get my tire reinflated. The arsenal trails were muck and slop. About 2mi in I hear my front tire hissing, so I stop to inspect the source of the issue. I pull out a good size piece of shale that went straight through the casing. Then I tried to get the sealant to fill the hole. I had given up and started to ready myself for a fun muddy tire repair when I gave the tire one last spin. Hmmm, no more hissing. Guess the Stan's finally decided to get to work. Surprisingly I only lost a few psi, so a bit of air from the hand pump and I was rolling again. Fortunately that was the brunt of my ride entertainment.

My other rides were far less eventful. Just good trail rides in Monte Sano. The trails were firming up nicely, but still have enough moisture to keep you on your toes. It is amazing how even a little mud in your tire will instantly combine with unseen moisture on the rocks/roots and send you sliding off course. But I am not complaining. I will take this any day over the weather and trail conditions of the last 2 months.

Forecast looks good to get in a bit of riding this week as well. We did get some rain last night, but by mid-week it should be back to rideable trails and partly cloudy weather.

In the garage...
Still a mess. Too many projects without much activity. Hopefully in the next couple of weekends I can finish clearing it out enough to begin work on the next woodworking project.

I was able to snatch another set of Saint M800 hubbed wheels off e-bay. Sun Ryhnolite/Saint wheelsets have been on clearance since 2006. The big OEM mfg must have made about 100X more of those wheelsets than they ended up actually selling. At any rate, I picked up the whole wheelset with 2 axles for $60. For perspective, the rear hub I got for Christmas was $60 by itself. I didn't hesitate too long at that price.

On Groundhog day I received the final piece of the hardtail puzzle. So as Phil declared 6 more weeks of winter my new frame arrived. Nice timing. This is war you overstuffed rodent!

So that was weeks ago, why wait until now to talk about it?
Well, I am a bit of an ass. What's new? Erin walked out as I was working on building up the bike and commented on it. Only the comment was a half question, and then a compliment on the bike. Either she really thought it was my other bike or she held her tongue. I am guessing the former. At any rate, I have been waiting for her to realize this is somewhat of a Parent Trap scenario.

I do have to admit that this

does look somewhat like this

So I can't give her too much what for. But it has been somewhat of an inside joke in the garage for the last few weeks.

Well, there it is. The Banshee Paradox as pictured above is the culmination of spare parts, online scavenging, and a couple of Christmas presents. It is an interesting 29er. It is very slack angled, designed for a long travel fork, and has very short chainstays (16.9"). Couple that with a fairly low bottom bracket and a short stem and you have a very stable yet nimble 29er hardtail. Check out how tight the rear wheel is stuffed in behind the seat tube.

About the only way to make a shorter rear end on a 29inch wheeled bike is to interrupt the seat tube and use a direct mount front derailleur.

It makes for a very fun riding bike. It carves trails well. Honestly it is the first 29er I have thrown a leg over that actually manuals with ease. At the same time, despite being easy to loft the front wheel, it climbs great too. I haven't ridden a bike that had this light of a front end that would still allow the front wheel to stay planted during climbing. It is still a hardtail though, so it is a bit bumpy in the rocks. But the playful and nimble ride characteristics make up for it. Color me smitten.

For more info on the Banshee Paradox check out the Banshee Bikes Blog or their website at bansheebikes.com. You can always check back here as I get more miles on it I am sure to have something to say about it.

That's about all I got this time around. Keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter, yup still ongoing...

With temps fluctuating between 25 and 40 degrees Winter is in full effect here in Huntsville. I have been getting it a little bit of trail time on the bike, but honestly the trails are either frozen or slushie at the moment. So riding really isn't that great.

New and exciting stuff in the garage. Hmm...
I did manage to get another set of wheels in. Back in 2007 Jenson was blowing out Saint hubs laced to Sun Rhynolite rims for about $150. It was a good deal. I ended up swaping out the rims and putting the hubs on my Sultan 29er. Well, in January there was a seller on e-bay tossing out the same wheelset for $60 and throwing in an additional axle. I bought a rear hub in December, *note* I did wrap it and put it under the tree, for the same $60. So a month later to score an entire wheelset for that price got me pretty stoked.

Otherwise not much. I rented a storage unit to try and clear enough room in the garage to function. We do actually have some woodworking projects coming up this year. Unfortunately there is still a sizeable amount of Erin's crap taking up space (she will likely give me crap for that comment since technically some of it is kid stuff, but since she won't let me dispose of it I am going to lump it all together as Erin Crap).

Yeah, wanna see my sweet winter beard? Yeah, didn't think so. That's why I didn't post it.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Technique Tuesday

Nice little video put together by the guys at TBC...

Here is a Bikeskills.com video featuring Greg Minnaar, looks to be filmed mostly in Nisene Marks. Funny, some of those run-ins looks flat on film. In person they are fairly steep though.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another good stretching video

Okay, gotta get past the guy in spandex. But otherwise some good stuff.

He addresses some of the upper back and arm areas that can become tight.

I haven't been stretching much lately, but I also haven't been riding much. At any rate I have been a bit stiff without the regular riding and stretching. Check out this and the Luke Wold video I posted previously if you are also getting a bit stiff on/off the bike.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Definitely giving in to the winter blues. Weather has been cold or wet. Or when I am lucky enough to get out for a ride it is usually both. Seasons are cool and all, but sometimes I do miss the CA year-round riding. There is year round riding here, but I definitely have to fight the elements a lot more.

Last week we had unseasonably warm weather culminating in odd skies. Living in the SE when the sky gets a weird color that pretty much means one thing, a tornado is brewing.

This is a shot Reggie took looking over the top of my favorite LBS here in Huntsville (borrowed w/o permission for my own vices). A few hundred yards behind the shop it touched down wreaking a bit of havoc on the neighborhood. Just crazy. No direct effect on my life though, just had to wait at work for the tornado warning to subside before heading home.

The bike has been creaking, squeaking, and clunking, so it got a tear down and lube. The clunk is in the new rear shock, so it is on the way back to the mfg for a rebuild on their dime. Hopefully that gets sorted quick as I was really enjoying the shock aside from the clunk. The Heckler had it's longest clean spell since I built it up last year due to weather and owner lethargy. The latter reason is a bit rediculous. I am just not feeling like fighting the weather this month, so I haven't. My mileage for the month is pathetic. I would need to put in about 25mi this weekend just to eclipse last months feeble mileage. With another storm coming in tomorrow that isn't very likely to happen.

My only solice is that I am not the only one getting demotivated by the weather. The other blogs I follow are about as stale as mine. That makes me feel a bit better, but at the same time the lack of appropriate lunch time reading is a bummer.

New parts? Not much love for the Heckler in that respect. I picked up a couple of wrenches so that I can work on the Saint hubs. I ran my M800 hubs a full year on the Sultan and never even needed to adjust them. Now I have 3 wheels built around the hubs, so I should get the tools to work on them. That includes 23mm & 24mm cone wrenches and a 12mm allen key. Still waiting on the local shop to order up the allen.

Playing Mr. FixIt
Yep, been doing a lot of this lately. Erin's truck has been going through a tough spell. The quarters that the kids put in the CD player finally shorted something out, so that the radio would create a deafening squeal without warning. I remedied that situation by yanking the radio. In process I managed to knacker up the hazzard light switch. So for a week I cludged together different methods of holding the switch down. Most failed, resulting in the hazzard lights going off until it killed the battery. During the week I went around to find a replacement switch. Turns out that the hazzard switch is not sold individually, but is packaged as an entire unit of almost every control on the column (hazzards, brights, turn signals, CC, etc). Dealership had one in stock for about $250. God only knows how much they would have charged to swap it out. Judging by my half day of work and complete disassembly of the dash to do so I am guessing it would have been $500-1000 in labor.

I was able to locate an replacement part online for under $100. So I was feeling a little better about things. Big improvement from $250 down to $100. Fact still remains that the broken part is only a $2 piece of plastic. It can be swapped individually, it was replaced under a recall in 2002. But outside of the recall the switch lever is not available individually. Lame. So there I was all morning on Saturday grunting and contorting to get all of the hidden fasteners off of the 5 dash panels that needed to be removed. Then there was the fun of figuring out how to unsnap the panels and release all the electrical plugs. Have I mentioned I don't really like working on cars yet??

At any rate, all things worked out and her truck is back to working as well as it had before the whole radio fiasco. That is, of course, running poorly and sounding like death.

Other fixit lately was our desk chair. I guess it wasn't designed for a 240lb ape to lean back on it. I snapped one of the arms clean through. After putting it in the corner for a week I decided to heck with it and fixxed it up. An evening in the garage, some scrap plywood, and a few fender washers and we are back in business. Not necessarily pretty, but functional. At least we don't need to go out and spend another $100-150 on another disposable chair.

Next up the heat pump decides to start acting up. $350 later it is supposedly fixed. Funny part is the fan that went out is the one that they replaced 13 months ago. At that time the repair only cost $250. Lame. Last night was the first real cold we have had since the service. Guess what, heat pump issues. The heat pump can keep up, but the blower is running continuously. I mentioned this to the tech last week and he blew it off (no pun intended). Well, time for round 2 with the heating and cooling guys. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 Retrospective

Seems like as good a time as any to throw up a year in review. I am gonna keep this to the bike side of the fence. Lots of pictures, click them if you want to see the larger version.

Well, March was the month riding and obsessing over bikes began this last year. Towards the end of the month a new steed joined me for the season. Up until then I had been without a bike and obsessing over woodworking tools, techniques, and plans. That came to a grinding halt with the arrival of the bike Erin has since crestened "the Home Wrecker"...
HW v1.1

March 29th I took it down to Birmingham's Oak Mountain park for a bit of mud

By mid April HW v2.0 was on the trails (shock, seatpost, rims,and handle bars swapped)

A fun group ride on the same day, rather a motley crew

By the end of April HW v2.1 comes around (another new shock, thanks Stu!)
Took it out for some air on Arrowhead

May came and with it HW v2.2 (new tires, new stem)

Took her for a spin in Chattanooga at the end of the month

June came and went with no pictures
weather may have had something to do with that

By midway through July weather was a bit better. Jim took this picture up on Warpath in Monte Sano.

August and September also slipped away with not so much as a snap shot.
This stupid tree may have had something to do with that...

Once the late summer rains have subsided the riding around this end of the US gets a lot better. Temperatures cool off, rain is more predictible and less of it, trails are great. October was a big month and the start of a somewhat uninterupted riding season.
HW v3.0 rolls into the picture (another shock, tires, fork, wheels, stem, and seatpost)

Monte Sano FTF, always a great weekend of riding

the company isn't too bad either...

Next weekend it was off to Tsali, NC
Great trails and agian a fantastic group of guys to hang out with for the weekend.

By November the leaves are falling and everything is brown, yellow, or red

enter HW v4.0 (different forks, r-derailleur)

self portrait from a ride I caught with Steve out in the Land Trust. Note, they don't name trails "High" in California...

Despite November being my biggest milage month of the year I took no more photos :-(

More of the Same in December. Milage down to about half of November due to the holidays.

enter HW v5.0 (warrantied swingarm, another shock to try out, tires, SRAM derailluer, 31.8mm bars and stem)

and the last ride of the year...
Clay took this picture of me as I showed him one of my favorite mini-DH lines on Warpath

Well, I hope you enjoyed the ride. A couple of things come to mind for next year:
1. More pictures (at least once a month)
2. Less bike part swapping (I aspire to stop playing the shell game with bike parts)
3. Lose some weight tubbie ;-)