2.05.2016

Everything's an Adventure

I've been wanting to get a professional bit fit done for some time. I just had a hard time with the typical $300-$400 price tag. Lately, a few friends have been getting fits performed by Kaolin up at Flat Tire Bike shop in Cave Creek. They all had glowing reviews and then I heard what he charged: $75. Sold.

I made an appointment for 9a on Friday, but got held up in the morning rush on the 101 in Scottsdale. That freeway blows, I don't know how people deal with that garbage on a daily basis. Anyway, I arrived around 9:30 and Kaolin was already giving his first fit of the day.

I had mentioned in an email that my seatpost was stuck for perhaps the past 2 years!! I know, I know, there's a simple bike maintenance lesson in there somewhere. I had kinda forgotten about it as my bike really doesn't bother me...most of the time. It's the long 8+ hour rides where some discomfort sneaks in. Hence the need for a fit. I knew my setup was close, but I couldn't seem to pinpoint exactly what was off.
Solid bike shop, complete with restaurant and jeweler under one roof.
We were ready to get going, but first the whole seatpost thing had to be taken care of. Some anti-seize penetrating fluid was applied for a bit. We swapped out seats, then slid a large diameter pipe over the nose of the seat for leverage. One of the mechanics, Mark, is a pretty big dude so he was in charge of applying the necessary force. Mark torqued on the pipe while Kaolin and I held the bike and watched it flex a bit, but no movement on the post.

Next we tried a blunt force option, by striking the top of the seat with a large rubber mallet, Nothing.

The jeweler, Scott, was kind enough to let us come over to his shop and try an acetylene torch to heat up the steel. We were going to use a CO2 cartridge to quickly cool down the post, but then opted to use the walk-in freezer at Local Johnny's restaurant for 30 minutes or so. Yep, the Voodoo went into a freezer. Before Kaolin could tell the owner we 'borrowed' the freezer, he came over and quizzically asked 'Why is there a bike in the walk-in?' Uh, oops. He was cool with it. (See what I did there?)

The bike was frigid when we wheeled it back over to the jewelers shop, hit it with the torch and applied some torque. Nothing. We whacked it with the mallet again, nothing. Hmmm.

This thing was really jammed up. Meanwhile, more customers were coming in for bike fits, including one of my buddies, Richard. I don't see him too often since he lives on the west side, so it was good to chat for a bit.

So far nothing was working. It was time to go 'all-in'. The hacksaw came out and the post cut down.
Either the post comes out, or I retire the Voodoo.
A few more whacks of the hammer on the flat surface had no effect. Next up was to wrap some gorilla tape around a hacksaw blade and slowly cut the post from the inside. This appeared to be working, but it was taking forever. Plus, we couldn't really see how far down the inside it was cutting.

There was some talk about finding a large drill bit to tap out the post, but I wasn't too confident in that approach. There's not a lot of margin for error. Instead, I took the bike down the street to a local metal worker, Jay, at Cave Creek Welding.
They saved the day!
I told him everything we tried while he stoically looked the bike over. He ran a hooked wire down the tube to see how far in it went. That's going to be a tough one, he mentioned. I started to think this was the end of the line for the Voodoo. How could something so silly kill this bike. It's been through it all...and survived!!

The first thing he tried was a huge pipe wrench. All that did was mangle what was left of the post. Then he asked me if I cared about the paint on the bike? I said 'Does it look like I care about the paint?' He proceeded to get the torch going. A quick blast of heat popped off my AZT color badge and disintegrated the green instantaneously. Another crack at it with the pipe wrench yielded no results. Thankfully, Jay had one more trick up his sleeve: Sawzall. He prepped the tool and went to work. He carefully checked the depth of cut and about 10 minutes later punched through the wall of the post. Another round of pipe wrench torquing and the post moved!! A few back and forth turns and it was free, essentially unscrewing itself from the frame. The Voodoo LIVES!! 
Yet another character layer to the Voodoo.
I took my new trophy back to Flat Tire where the guys were very excited to see it removed. Kaolin was certain that I had fled the scene!! Now let's get this bike fit going.

Kaolin locked the Voodoo onto the trainer and I hopped on. He took note, made some measurements, dropped a plumb-line, made some adjustments to the seat (back a bit & raised the post about a cm). He also rocked my handlebars forward just a tad as well. These were all seemingly minor changes, but I could instantly tell the difference out in the parking lot. Damn.
Pile of metal shavings from sawing through the seatpost!
I was anxious to hit the trails, but since I was at the shop for about 6 hours it would have to be a shorter ride. I paid for the fit, new seatpost and yes, some lube for future applications!! And since Local Johnny's was right next store, I grabbed some lunch too. Then I was off to Brown's Ranch for a couple hours to check out a few new trails.
Still plenty of snow on Four Peaks.
Since I was running a bit short on time, I parked at the seldom used 136th St. trailhead and made a beeline for Coyote Canyon. This would lead me over to Soapberry Wash and that's where the first of two new trails was cut in recently.
New dirt coming out of Soapberry Wash.
The new trails have a bit more up & down and even a rock slab to ride down. There's a bit more topography in this area for the trail designers to play around with. The system is beginning to gain some character. I like it.

What I didn't like were the excessive amounts of fresh hoof prints all over both of the new trails. Signs are posted all over to remind trail users to stay off the trails during wet times. I guess they also need to remind people that new dirt = soft dirt. While you may want to enjoy a new trail on that four legged steed, perhaps you should wait a couple months until the tread firms up and can handle the weight. By no means did it ruin or spoil my ride, but c'mon people use some common sense. It's not like there aren't 100 adjacent trail miles to enjoy. /rant.
This WAS an entrance to another new trail that was under construction back in Dec. I guess the don't want anyone on it until is's completed OR they are tying it into the existing trails elsewhere.
I walked up the hill to see the new trail with the old Pima/Dynamite signage still erected. This was the old junction of trails 22 & 5.
Instead of doing an out-n-back, I made a figure 8 using Hawknest to get back to the first new trail where a second new trail split off at the base of the rock roll. The second trail had a bit more climbing as it crested a small ridgeline. There was a nice switchback on the descent too - whoa!!
Up on the ridgeline.
Shiny new seatpost & torch'd frame, but at first feel it rode great.
Fatman's Pass. I barely made it through, scuffing my shoulders.
Go through Fatman's Pass or go around.
I had just enough daylight left to make a slight detour off 136th Express to finish the ride on Granite Mtn & Bootlegger. That's a really fun way to wrap things up.

I'm anxious to give the Voodoo a long test to see how the fit feels after 8+ hours of riding. This was a good warmup spin in spite of the near fiasco earlier. The Voodoo rides on...for now.
Alpinglow enveloping the Four Peaks.
Rippin' fast on Granite Mtn. trail.

1.30.2016

AES APC ITT

That's a lot of acronyms to a blog title, no? AES APC ITT = Arizona Endurance Series - Antelope Peak Challenge Individual Time Trial for those scoring at home. To be fair, I wasn't racing the course or riding solo, Shannon & Eszter let me tag along with them for a rerun of the official event a week earlier. All three of us had reasons for missing out: bee sting, sickness & dog sitting. However, we all wanted to do the route. I did have one small goal on the day: complete the full route before sunset!! In my previous two rides on the APC I wasn't really close.
The famous arch that greets riders prior to the 24 hour in the Old Pueblo race.
Our staging area near the arch. Mt. Lemmon towers nearby.
Junebug singletrack, part of the 24HitOP course.
The three of us met up just before 8a for a cool warmup on Willow Springs rd & the paved AZ77 into Oracle. I'm sure we gathered a few odd looks from the 24hr crowd as we pedaled away from the course. This was one of the last weekends for riders to pre-ride the route.
Shannon & EZ on Willow Springs rd.
The paved spin up the seemingly infinite horizon climb on AZ77 is a bit of a drag. At least it goes by relatively quickly when chattering about things like 'Why are so many people going to Biosphere2 this morning?' Where's Biosphere1? (hehe). Sixteen miles into our day we arrived at one of the iconic trailhead views along the entire length of the Arizona Trail: Tiger Mine TH.
3 bikes, 1 rad trail.
As soon as we dropped onto the trail I began having flashbacks to the Gila100 from last January. What a strange series of events that ride turned out to be. We made fairly quick work of the five drainages we had to traverse. Chatted with a father & son out segment hiking the AZT on an overnighter. So cool to see more folks out enjoying this great trail.
Antelope Peak way off in the distance. We'll ride around that later.
One of the many ups & downs.
Putting some distance on Mt. Lemmon. This gate marks the end of the drainages.
It was time to shed my jacket as things began to warm up. We all commented how much better the trail seemed to ride so far. A bit less rubble to surf on perhaps? I was surprised how easy the initial climbs were, sure I walked a bit, but nothing compared to prior rides.

We merged onto the gasline bypass section and I was curious to note the visibility of the trail in daylight. Wow, what a difference. I found it hard to believe I missed so many turns during the Gila100 fiasco, but I guess that's what happens when you don't have a GPS and your lights are on low!!
Strange to see Saguaros singled out like this.
It was that kind of day. Cheese!!
Shannon was always easy to find, EZ camouflaged well.
We zipped across a small dirt road following some tire tracks and the trail dead-ended into a tangle of branches & thorns. We took this opportunity for a quick snack and for me to shed another layer. I'm fairly certain I was being mocked for possibly overdressing when EZ asked if I had a prom dress in my pack!

It was about then when we noticed there were 4 other riders down the dirt road fixing a flat. Not the type of trail you expect to see others roaming about. They too missed the turn and soon the seven of us rolled north.
Traffic jam on the AZT!!
We all joined up at the gate leading into the Bloodsucker wash descent. They were on an out-n-back day ride. A couple of them turned around as we pointed our bikes downhill. Two fellas joined us for a bit of the downhill before heading back towards Tiger Mine.
Shannon riding off the Biosphere.
Some fun contouring lines here.
This downhill is guaranteed to put a grin on your face.
Took this one while riding, not bad.
Is Antelope Peak getting ANY closer?
The final turns down into Bloodsucker Wash.
This downhill is one of those that makes your arms grow tired and your hands cramp from braking. A couple of punchy climbs are thrown in for good measure, but it's mostly down for about 6 miles.

We found our way across Bloodsucker Wash and began the jeep road climb out of the basin. A snack stop was agreed on, but the trail boss declared 'no 45 minute Schilling breaks!!' But, those are so fun!! I think we kept it around 10-15 minutes, then motored on up the road.

The jeep road section climbs fairly easily and we reached the next landmark, Beehive Well, quickly.
The girls cruising by a lone water source at Beehive Well.
The sandy wash after the well was rideable, but I really wasn't looking forward to the next bit of trail. It's really steep, loose and off camber in bits. To my surprise the crappy section was really short. We kept gaining elevation and I was riding much more than I previously had. EZ was powering up everything out there, so impressive.
Postcard Saguaro.
There were a few bits of HAB scattered about, but again the trail was riding much better than I remembered.
Antelope Peak is finally within our grasp.
As the trail wraps around Antelope Peak it goes through a large cholla forest famously known for covering the trail in prickly chollaballs, yet, on this day the trail was clear of cacti!!

Our leisurely pace meant we'd have to skip a summit trek on the peak since we all didn't have lights. That was ok since the wind had picked up. We knew we had a stout headwind waiting for us at Freeman rd.
Freeman rd TH with a new shade structure.
We grabbed a splash of water from the cache and turned west into the wind. It wasn't horrible, but you had to pedal a bit on the downhills to keep your momentum up.

A few miles later we turned back onto Willow Springs rd giving us a reprieve from the wind. The girls weren't too excited about riding the final section of the route through the Painter Boy trail. It's a notoriously vague route to begin with often leading to multiple scratches/cuts from catclaw. So, when we reached the split in the route I was on my own. Post-ride meal plans were hatched and they took off down the road as my route finding was getting underway.

I've been through this area a few times so I knew what to look for. Follow the 2-track into the wash, turn hard left and follow the wash until it reaches a barbed wire fence. Lift you bike over the fence, then find the missing strand of barbed wire to crawl through and hike back to your bike. Easy!
The beginning of the 'vague' area.
 This is where having a GPS track comes in really handy. Trust the track. I did and then stumbled onto some nice singletrack parting the tangled mess of branches. It was short lived, but did cover some ground. A few HAB sections through washes and I popped onto the 2-track marking the end of the vague area. To my surprise, not one scratch!! The area was completely free of catclaw. Whatever. I'll take it.

I kept my eyes peeled for the singletrack split and found it after initially overshooting it a bit. From here it's all singletrack, the primitive adventurous type, all the way to where it meets the 24hr course.
Not everything makes it out of Painter Boy.
Love this type of trail.
A second barbed wire fence, this one requires a crawl under.
Golden Hour setting in.
I ran into Igor, who rode the APC the previous week, who was out to explore the other trails off of Painter Boy. We were both racing daylight and kept our chat short.

I'm always surprised at how long Painter Boy is, the miles kept ticking by and I was getting a little anxious to reach the 24hour course. I knew when I got there, it would be a quick finish on a dirt superhighway.

I finally reached the junction and made the last short climb up to a saddle where all the racers enjoy a nice fast downhill into the exchange tent on race day. I arrived at the famed rock drop only to find a small 24hour town had already sprung up!! Plenty of people out pre-riding the course and making a weekend of it. It's a super fun event, one I'll probably do again, but with my bikepacking gear.
Top of the rock drop.
In a couple of weeks this tree will become The Whiskey Tree.
Last bit of singletrack on His & Her trail, note the sun is still shining!
I rolled back into the staging area where Shannan & EZ were chilling. Ride goal accomplished, done right before sunset...by a minute or two!! We loaded up and found a great BBQ joint in Catalina, duly noted for next time.

As we departed Bubb's BBQ my left hamstring decided it would be a good time to turn itself into a knot. Damn, that was painful. I stood there helpless by the dumpster for almost 10 minutes waiting for it to release. Luckily, I had no further trouble with it on the drive home.

I definitely prefer this route in the CCW direction with the start/finish at the Willow Springs arch. It's a great ride on some remote AZT that not too many people get to experience. Check it out if you get the chance.

1.29.2016

AZT #18: Gauging the Sufferfest

Why would anyone ride UP Montana Mtn on the Arizona Trail? Good question, but I have an answer. In spite of the perceived hike-a-bike, HAB, that lie ahead on those upper 2 1/2 miles, I am determined to ride as much of the bike legal AZT that is feasible during this year's AZTR750. I figure if I'm going to do it in April, I might as well see how brutal it's going to be.

I opted to sleep in a bit on Friday and didn't start pedaling north out of Picketpost TH until 10:30a. There were plenty of other trail users milling about, a large group of equestrians were heading south along with a few hikers. I didn't expect to see much, if any, trail users going north.

Of course barely a half mile into the ride I came up on another group of equestrians riding northbound. I crossed under US60 and then Queen Creek making my way to Hewitt Station rd where the rest of the AZTR750 riders will turn left. More than likely my tires will turn right and head to Superior for a burrito before heading up the trail.
The 3 B's of the AZT: Bones, Barbed Wire & Bikes.
As I approached Hewitt Station rd, I noticed a fresh set of tire tracks in the dirt. How old were they? Couldn't have been more than a day old since they weren't trampled by hoof prints. The more I looked at them the more I became convinced the rider wasn't too far ahead.

The trail began a gentle ascent after crossing some railroad tracks and the rubble began to appear. Initially it wasn't a show stopper, but soon the pitch increased along with the number of baseball sized rocks. Time for a bit of HAB.
Beautiful morning to be out of the trail.
A few of these greeted me early on, only a couple minutes here & there.
I think I was cresting the second ridgeline when I noticed some hikers up ahead...and someone pushing their bike! I found the owner of those tire tracks. Five minutes later I caught up to him, out for a day ride. I motored on as the trail was getting pretty good, even mixed in some fun downhill.
Montana Mtn doesn't tower above anything, I think it's the rounded peak on the far left horizon.
Plenty of green in Whitford Canyon.
As soon as I dropped into Whitford Canyon I saw something I had never seen there before: flowing water!! It was a welcome change to the typically bone dry canyon. The water mostly stayed above ground as it made its way towards Queen Creek.

A large group of day hikers were just ahead finishing off their trek as I rode by. I reached the first crossing of FR650 without too much trouble. So far the ride was going well. I wasn't so sure how the next segment would ride as I recall most of it being downhill gong southbound. I'm glad my memory wasn't correct, this section was a blast to ride. Desert wildflowers even made an appearance!!
A splash of gold already on the hillside at this elevation?!? It's going to be a fantastic wildflower year.
Well contoured trail leading towards the larger mountains.
Your typical Arizona jeep road.
A short downhill led me to the second crossing of FR650 at the Reavis Canyon TH. There were only a couple of miles left before the big push up Montana Mtn.
Reavis Canyon TH.
Proof! Water!!
Spotted some trail flagging for a future re-route near a severely washed out section of trail.
There were two portions of the trail that were completely obliterated from last season's monsoon. At least it was only the portions that dipped into the wash, but it was a little difficult to see where the trail picked up again. That's one reason I always ride with a GPS with a loaded track when possible. You simply never know what type of conditions you may encounter on these remote outings.

The GPS now read 13.3 miles, time to get my HAB on. The lower flanks of Montana Mtn are narrow, steep & loose, but not to bad to walk. The elevation gain comes rapidly as you peer back down the canyon.
Typical photo, doesn't really convey the steepness.
Starting to rise out of Reavis Canyon.
Higher up, the trail surface has less rubble to navigate.
The Voodoo was getting tired, so we took a break.
Freshly manicured switchbacks all the way up. Should be real nice to ride down these.
There it is!! The gate just below the saddle signifying the end of the climb.
I love the views up here, so much to take in.
As I neared the top I could hear OHV's up on the ridgeline, it almost sounded like they would be coming down the trail!! I spotted them traversing eastward on FR650 as it wraps around the north side of Montana Mtn.

The GPS was now showing 15.8 miles, 1 1/2 hours in, I crested the saddle. Of the 2 1/2 miles of climbing I think I rode about 0.4 miles. It's a stout climb for sure, but I'd just as soon get in over with in one push in April. Climbing up on the forest roads isn't exactly a cake walk and even though the AZT trends downhill going south, it's still makes you work. Instead I'll enjoy 16 downhill miles on FR172.

On the north side of the saddle were patches of snow even though it was 60ยบ outside. This vantage point provides you with views of Pinal Peak, Mt. Lemmon, Picketpost Mtn, Superstition Mtns and some of Four Peaks. It's quite incredible.
I don't often find snow so close to home.
Part of the Four Peaks behind FR650.
The downhill began on FR650 as it continues north as the AZT to Roger's Trough TH. FR172 splits off about a half mile from Roger's Trough, but I opted to take the detour to the trailhead for a snack. There was plenty of running water crossing the road along with slushy sections!! Snowpack was melting fast, but sure made things interesting.
Popular trailhead for day hikers.
I may have a pic of my Voodoo next to every one of these along the trail.
End of the line for bikes.
The only concern I had riding down FR172 was whether or not my brakes would combust. The road isn't super steep, but speed comes easily and there are a handful of tight turns. I tried taking in the views all the way down, pausing a few times to snap some pics.
The ruggedness of the Superstition Mtns. guards its famed gold stash.
Layers & layers of foothills.
Thick stand of Saguaros.
Such an amazing place to ride.
Towering cliffs and cacti around every corner.
Exiting the canyon.
The entire ride down I only saw one vehicle, a truck that I caught and passed. I could see a wall of dust waiting for me as I approached Hewitt Station rd. The OHV crew was tearing it up, but they were headed the other direction and the dust settled quickly.

It was now late afternoon as Picketpost came back into sight. A few miles of graded dirt led me back to the first couple of AZT miles from the morning. Sure was a fine way to wind down the ride.
Finish line in sight.
It took me about 6 hours to complete the portion I'll ride in April. How long will it take then? Who knows, but hopefully not too much longer. 7 hours? 8?? We'll see.