Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gear Modification

I always fret over my gear before an especially long trip. Even more so if I am exploring new territory. And with the warmer temps we are having lately, I was hoping to get a lightweight, sleeping bag set up. I have pondered this design over the past few years. I don't recall ever seeing something similar, and I'm not sure why. It is simple, compact-able, lightweight etc.

I took an old down sleeping bag that has been in the shed, unused for years, and proceeded to empty it of it's contents. I'm glad the weather was nice and I chose to do this outside, although now, it looks like there was a goose gang fight out there. I wonder what that will do for my grass when it bio degrades? So, I stripped the bag, and tore out the baffles leaving me with 4 layers of nylon and a zipper. Then I cut out one of the bottom layers of nylon, leaving one on the bottom and two on the top.

Next, my awesome wife, whose last day of clinicals is today, sewed in my Sea To Summit sleeping bag liner. The finished product looks great and it packs half as big as my 30 degree bag. I'm going to have to go shopping to find a smaller compression sack.

The temps last night were around 45 and I slept outside, comfortably in shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt. I came in around midnite when the neighbors dogs woke me up with their barking, but went back out this morning, before the sun came up and after the dew had settled and crawled back in the bag. After a few minutes I warmed up nicely, and could have gone back to sleep.

My only concern in using this in the spring time would be the sudden spring snowstorm that sometimes creeps up. But if that happens, I'll likely be calling home for a rescue anyway.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foundry Cycles: Tradesmen and Women Wanted

Foundry Cycles is hosting a contest to find 5 tradesmen and women to represent the brand (click here for details) . Basically, Foundry is selecting 3 entries per region and will post them by April 5th, on the Foundry website with voting buttons. Then the public has the chance to vote until the end of April. The person in each region with the most votes wins.

I have been considering entering the contest but wanted to make sure that I would be a good representation of the company before I entered. I had the opportunity to test ride some of the bikes when Jason Grantz brought them to town. I was impressed with the rides and the builds.

I am passionate about bikes, and even more passionate about getting people on bikes. Bikes are not simply something that I hang on the wall to look at (although I do often stand and look at my bikes). Bikes are a tool that can be used for so many different purposes. That is one reason that I started the local chapter of Trips For Kids (WNC) . Once a person, young or old, gets on a bike, and learns how to ride, the possibilities become limitless.

So, with the encouragement of friends and family, I wrote a short essay that I hope portrays my passion: Enjoy!

The cowboy stepped up onto the porch, took off his hat and beat it gently against his leg. Dust puffed off with each hit revealing the darker black compared to the brown film of prairie dust that had accumulated throughout the day. The man turned and took in the view, gazing past the corral that held his horses, watching the cattle on the far hill then finally letting his gaze fall on the colorful clouds lit up by the sunset.

He turned again to head inside, spurs clinking on the rough hewn lumber that made up the porch that wraps around the meager house he had built with his own hands. Putting his hand on the doorknob he opened the door, stepped inside and let his eyes adjust to the dim light of the lantern. He turned and hung his hat on the peg just inside the door, the peg his grandfather had carved for him and given him as a wedding gift long ago.

The hat hung there, just as it had for years, day after day, after doing it’s job. The hat had done a lot for the man and he was thankful for it. He was a cattleman by trade, and the hat was a very important tool. It had protected him from the blazing sun, kept the rain off during the sudden summer thunderstorms. It kept the falling snow off of his head in the dead of winter, all while he was moving his cattle from range to range. Without the hat, survival would have been nearly impossible. He took care of it, cleaned it, replaced the head band when needed, but he never left home without it. Just like his grandpa had taught him so long ago. He used it to collect wild herbs when making stew for dinner over a campfire. Occasionally it came in handy to brush the flies off his horse’s neck, one Easter he even let the little girl at the church use it to collect eggs when she forgot her easter basket back at the ranch.

His hat was a tool, a tool of the trade. The only cowboys who did not have a hat, were ones who didn’t have a use for one anymore, if you know what I mean.

And so, like a the “Boss Of The Plains” or better known as a Stetson, a bike is my tool. When I look for a bike, I look for one that is functional, one that might have multiple uses. I use my bike for training, for commuting to and from work, for riding with friends, for racing. I also like a bike that is tough enough for multi day, self supported trips. I clean my bike, take care of it, dust it off after a long day on the road, and then put it to use the next day. If it gets scratched and the color fades, so be it. That merely signifies that the bike has been somewhere, and done something. Some of the stories will be told, some I'll keep to myself, but at the end of the day, as I turn to admire the beauty of the setting sun, then hang the bike proudly on my wall, I will smile a contented smile, knowing that the bike is being used for what it was created to be. "IT'S A TOOL, NOT A TROPHY".

Friday, March 23, 2012


About a dozen guys showed up for the ride Thursday night (still no women. why?) The Moots rep, Corey, was in town and several people saddled up on some nice Ti bikes. I opted to ride my trusty old Bianchi, because.... well just because.

We are attempting to keep this ride a friendly, re grouping ride, still plan on going fast and sprinting but regrouping and keeping the paceline steady. Last year things heated up and got a little crazy with less regroups happening. Those types of ride are fine and I am all for it.

For instance, the bakery ride on Saturday mornings. It is billed as "race pace, you better know your way home, or at least know how to find your way home". I like that too, it gives me incentive to hang on if I want help getting back up the river!

But Thursday nights are for a different kind of workout. And last night was a perfect example of that.

See you on Saturday!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saturday's Bakery Ride was a blast. I rode from home and met a larger group at Fudruckers. We rolled out and headed down to the river. The pace was friendly until a small group broke away. Will took over and picked up the pace, I followed and the rest did the same. We caught the group within seconds as someone had flatted.

Taking a left on the bridge to cross the river, I peeled off my arm warmers, knowing that the ride was about to heat up. Then came the right turn and Chris, who was doing his hill climb intervals took off. This meant that in order to hang on, I was doing Chris' hill climb intervals as well. And so went the first part of the ride: hang on, get dropped, pull back. I was able to hold on until the attack on the downhill with the steep uphill grunt, and I knew I could not hold on any longer.

So, I settled into a steady pace, rolling along, enjoying the solitude and the sunshine, waiting for the next group to reel me in.
I rode with them the rest of the way to the bakery, a nice steady pace, pushing a little on the hills, enough to get some good training, but not enough to blow up. After a little while, we picked up Jon Stang for some extra horse power and we cruised along, cracking jokes and enjoying the country side.

We pushed the pace up and over the last climb into Marshal and rolled down into town. I parked my bike in front of the bakery, walked into the cool room with high ceilings and bellied up for a cookie and shot of espresso. Good choice. Back outside, I savored, everything: sunshine, dudes talking about bikes and sprinting.... until the next group rolled in. After re-grouping and filling water bottles we headed up the river. A nice steady pace, with a little bit of small talk, we rolled. The sun shining down, the slight breeze, the muddy brown French Broad river on out right.

We passed Monticello Rd, and I overheard someone behind me saying " watch out for Allison, she likes to attack on this climb, it is one of her favorites". Hmmm, cool, I would not mind trying to catch a wheel and see if I could hold the pace up the climb. I decided not to attack the group solo, but if someone else went, I would go with them. And almost immediately, things started to get fun.

Allison rolled up beside me and slowly passed, I waited a couple of seconds and no one followed, she held her pace and I jumped on her wheel, it seems like someone followed me and said something, but I can't remember what. We kept the pace a couple hundred yards and she barely let up, I figured we were already out there so we should keep on. I pulled around and applied pressure to the pedals, my heart pounding, my breathing steady. I focused on my cadence, keeping a smooth pedal stroke, I flicked my elbow and she didn't come around, it was quiet, a quick look told me Allison was still there and no one else in sight. Up and over the hill, down the next grade, the quick right turn into the grunt, and we were over the top.

We pedaled towards home and chatted a bit. I showed her how to get back to the parking lot and headed downtown to see the crowd gathered for Bike O' The Irish.

Sunday involved more riding. Motion Makers invited me out for the Specialized Women's ride, and the ladies who showed, convinced me that I should ride along. (it didn't take much arm twisting, it was a bike ride after all). I road a Specialized Epic 29er on flat pedals shorts, t-shirt and running shoes, and had a blast.When we got back, I was stoked to see the 4 Specialized Hardrocks and helmets that Specialized donated through Motion Makers!!!

Then I went home and the family wanted to ride!! I Aeropressed a couple of shots of espresso and headed out to Bent Creek with them.
Another day of living life!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday Night Road Ride

The thursday night road ride went off for the first time this year. About 8-10 guys assembled (why no women? skeerd?) and rolled out just after 5:30pm. We will be moving the time to 6pm in a few weeks when it is light closer to 8pm.

We ride a 30 mile loop, which takes roughly 2 hrs after quick stops to regroup.

We rolled down the parkway and out into the country side. The ride was advertised as 18-19 mph and that is what we stuck to. For the first half hour, the ride was strangely quiet. It seemed as though everybody was nervous, of what I'm not sure. Maybe wondering if they had the fitness? Planning when they would attack? Missing the Thursday Night Gravel Grinder?

We rotated through the paceline, some taking long pulls, and some shorter. Everybody was working together as we neared one of the unofficial sprints, then Alan Brookshire took off up the hill like a lighting bolt.

Later in the ride, Kevin Hessler, Mike Squires and the rest of the Brookshire boys would all have their time off the front. And then there was the other Mike, who took his turn of steady pulls. Sam was absent, he said he had kid's soccer games to go to, I think he is in secret training and is going to come out this summer and lay the hammer down.

Through the fields and over the hills, dodging thunderstorms, riding in slight rain, cruising back on Hendersonville rd, a little mishap at a red light, and then bidding goodbye and hanging a right on the parkway. It felt good to be back riding with the group again. I look forward to many more.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rhonda Rides Again

It has been a long time since the wife got on a bike. She has a history of severe headaches caused by a sensitive area between her shoulder blades, and riding a bike has irritated the pressure point resulting in headaches and a dislike for riding. That's understandable.

After a lot of research, and some adjustments to her fit on the bike, I convinced her to try it again. So, we headed out to Bent Creek in the early morning chill, while the sun was still rising over the trees. We parked and got geared up for a gravel grinder. Out of the parking lot and pedaled up the first climb. She was feeling good and relaxed. I shared some tips on keeping shoulders relaxed and some on the bike stretches that could be done.

Someone put a sign in the middle of the trail..... (above)

We got to the turn, she felt good and wanted to keep going. We ended up riding for close to an hour, might have been a little more, I don't know. It was very exciting, and rather than a headache for the rest of the day, there was the glow that results from the excitement of riding a bike. Maybe we'll start a once a week morning group ride....

As the sun climbed higher, we packed our jackets and enjoyed the ride. The gravel crunching under the tires, cool morning air blowing on our faces, this was much better than an easy ride to the coffee shop.

We rounded out the ride by "bombing" down Boyd Branch, and then past the lake. The chirping frogs were loud, the sky bright, and the goose unsure of why I was taking it's picture.

I can't wait to go again!

If you have not heard, Trips For Kids WNC has a new jersey for 2012, get your pre-order by Monday, March 19th for the ridiculously low price of $65 each.

Contact me: stephen@tripsforkidswnc.com.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gravel Grinder

After a long day of interesting meetings, early release, and giving bikes to kids, I decided to roll out on the cx bike for a dose of gravel. In shorts and short sleeves, I packed my arm warmers and vest just in case, as well as a headlight. I didn't need any of them.

I felt great, just cruising around. I'm not sure if was the stellar weather, my state of mind or what, but I just rolled. Stress level was super low, so I was able to really enjoy my surroundings. It was cool to see quite a few beginners out there, as well as some old friends like Jamie Pittman.

Following Kevin's advice, I replaced the plastic rim strips on my wheels with better cloth ones, an pumped my tires up to 65psi. There was no way I was going to flat today. My heart skipped a beat once when a leaf got stuck between the fork and tire, making a hissing sound that sounded a lot like a tube losing air quickly...

I'm glad to say that is looks like my mojo is back, and I made it home without any flats. Although, I have been thinking about it, and it seems that most of the time I flat, Kevin is with me. Probably not a factor, but worth looking into, sabotage? hmmm.

It was another great day on the bike in a great place that we live!!

Thursday night is the ABRC/ Liberty road ride, 5:30pm, let's ride.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fletcher Flyer: The First 22

We started at Fletcher Park and rode the first 22 miles of the Fletcher Flyer route. A small group of 7 started out, in stark contrast to the "small" group of more than 1000 friends we hope to see on June 3rd.

We rolled out, taking a right out of the park, crossing the tracks and then a right at the light on Hendersonville road. We immediately ride up a gentle grade before turning right on Cane Creek Road. Cane Creek Rd takes us past the legendary headset manufacturer. This company actually exports it's product to Asia. CC rd also takes us on the fast route into the country. We head down and turn right on Mills Gap Rd then left on Hoopers Creek Rd. Up until the point the terrain has been mellow rolling hills. Taking a right on Lindsay Loop will bring the first challenge for all skill levels, and will make sure that you are awake. The road winds around a scenic horse farm and provides the first big climb of the day.

Back down to Hoopers Creek, Souther, then onto Jackeon, the road levels out a little with some fast down hills, before almost completing the loop to Fletcher Park and mile 14.8.

We headed on out on the route with a goal of following the route to Rest Stop #2.

Down Brickyard Rd, crossing the tracks and then left on Hendersonville road. Following the cue sheet and the faded arrows from last year, we managed to only get off course 1 time. Hendersonville road is a great place to take in some calories and continue hydrating. After passing Smiley's Flea Market, we turned right on Butler Bridge Rd, and a left on N Rugby which eventually turns into S Rubgy before dead ending on Hwy 64 and Rest Stop #2, 22 miles from the start.

This section is comprised of some fast descents interspersed with some climbs of varying degree. If you are here and find yourself struggling, simply slow down and enjoy the scenery while your heart rate slows down and you can breathe normally again (that's what all those gears are for).

The first 22 miles is definitely more rolling hills that flats, after this section, there are still quite a few rolling hills, but there are also some flats to look forward to.

More details to come!!


On Saturday I met up with Kevin and a bunch of other dudes for the bakery ride. The name of the ride is a misnomer, because folks rarely stop and enjoy the awesome cookies from Zuma. I hope to change that trend.

The ride started out sort of mellow and friendly with lots of chit chat going on, and then we got to the first climb. I don't think the pace picked up, but it didn't really slow down, which meant that we were going uphill at a good clip. Most of the rest is a blur of trying to hold wheels and not explode. I felt pretty good and was able to keep the lead guys in sight. This was the first time this year that I had ridden in a group, so my body was not used to the quick speed changes.

I definitely need to work on my descending though, I think this will always be a weakness for me. While I kept the guys in sight on the climbs, this is where I got dropped.... hmm.

After a quick regroup in Marshall, some of the guys looked around and took off. I got off my bike, went in the bakery, filled my water bottle, bought a cookie and a coffee, then went outside to enjoy the sunshine. It was then that I decided that from now on, if it was sunny and warm, I would plan on slowing down and enjoying the ride back. Who wants to join me?

Sunday, I met up with a fine group of folks from the Fletcher Flyer Training program. We had a couple of guests, checking out the program, hopefully they will sign up. Elizabeth and Sandra are signed up and doing a stellar job of training and raising funds for the program.

The program is a fundraiser for Trips For Kids WNC. We provide a training plan, coaching by Sparks Coaching, organized- no drop group rides, and more. All a person has to do is sign up and commit to raising $250 by June 3rd, the day of the Fletcher Flyer. Liberty Bikes is offering discounts and hopefully others will offer something similar.

It is not too late to sign up. If 100 miles sounds like too much to you, there are some shorter options. Check out the info here: Fletcher Flyer Training Program

Friday, March 09, 2012


That's right, another flat. But wait, there's more......another flat. 2 flats. Grr.

The evening started fine enough. I put a little extra air in my tires just to be sure. The weather was warm but I expected it to cool down some. I met Kevin at Liberty and we rolled down the Parkway together. We tried to cut through the Arboretum again but seeing the patrol/security dude at the front gate, we knew it was hopeless. We asked anyway, and the answer was no. The front gate guy, was super friendly but sorry that he had to turn us around... thanks patrol/security guy.

We turned around and plodded up the 9-10% grade on the parkway. Before turning onto Hardtimes rd, we found a suitcase. Kevin groaned as I got a stick to open it, he warned me that there could be a head in there. There were some rags and an empty jar....

Rolling down the gravel I joked that since this was the last thursday night gravel grinder, we should take some time to reminisce, like on Survivor. I was joking but we ended up remembering Matt Dinsmore flatting, and then spotting the owl, Tom Devender flatting and walking out of the woods by himself. We thought about Thea and Sarah who started the ride, and we thank them for it. Then there was Christ Strout who showed up on his Salsa Spearfish and railed it, thanks for holding back Chris! It seems there was someone else, but he was usually way up ahead.... oh yeah, Eric White. If you ever ride with Eric, make sure you get him talking, he will slow down.

So, as we skittered along the gravel we remembered the good times, the cold times, the colder times, and the bone chilling times. Tonight was warm though and I almost ran over a toad. And then I got a flat.

Kevin commented on how quiet it was in the woods tonight. I guess all the creatures were hiding from the oncoming storm.

We cruised around the north end of the loop and onto Bent Creek Gap road again. The rear of the bike seemed a little soft and then phsssst. Flat, again. No! Yes, again.

And so, frustrated and tired of changing tubes, I called for back up. I chalked up a DNF on a thursday night ride. I wanted to take Kevin's spare tube and keep riding, but there is obviously something wrong with my tire/rim so I declined and sent him on his way. I called Rhonda for a ride, and she and the kid were excited to come get me. They are cool like that.

And then I was home, eating fish, brussel sprouts and mashed sweet potatoes... that helped me feel better.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


I got out for a quick ride around some of the flatter roads on the Swannanoa Valley. My legs were empty, and my heartrate was low. I figured that I could either turn around and go home or just spin. I'm sure I am hurting due to lack of riding which I will need to do something about. So, I just spun around the country side and enjoyed the views.

It was a cloudy day, with a bit of wind. It was warm enough for once to ride without a windvest and by the end of the ride, I had my arm warmers pulled down.

Today is Thursday, the last Thursday night Gravel Grinder is tonight:Leave Liberty Bikes at 5:45 or Rice Pinnacle at 6:30, wanna go, leave us a message on Facebook.

The time change is on Sunday...wahoo, which means that the Thursday Night Liberty Road Rides resume. I'm kind of burned out on going anaerobic for 2 hours so, I'm thinking I'll be falling off the back pretty frequently, I'm not worried about it.

Let's ride!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Food is Good

About 2.5 weeks ago I posted about improving my eating habits. I was feeling sluggish, tired, worn out, and probably a little grumpy.

I contacted Namrita for advice on a multi vitamin. Her advice for me was to skip the vitamin, for now, and focus on more fresh fruits and veggies, and to consider some Quinoa and salmon for added protein in my diet. There were a few other recommendations but that was the gist of it.

So, I went shopping. Bananas, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, tangerines, etc. All sorts of raw foods. And I started eating them. Carrots instead of chips for lunch, a tangerine first thing in the morning...well, second after coffee. Banana for a snack. ( on a side note, bananas make me gag, they are mushy and smell stanky, but if it will help me feel better, I'll give it a shot).

2.5 weeks later, I am excited to say that I feel really good. I have more energy. The mid afternoon slump is gone- except when I spend all of Sunday cutting through the forest with a chainsaw.

Another thing I have noticed is that I feel better on the bike. My energy is more sustained and when my body starts to run out of fuel, the sudden bonk that I have gotten used to experiencing, has become more of a mellow and slow onset of hunger. And this is quickly remedied by eating, or avoided by remembering to eat regularly.

My advice, eat more fresh fruits and veggies, simple.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Bracken Mtn

For the past several weekends, I have had the privilege of helping out with the Bracken Mtn Project. This project has been fun for several reasons. The ease of actually working is great.

I am excited to leave something that others can enjoy. Something new. It will help the economy, community, and most importantly, provide a place for people to get outside and stay healthy.

While it is rewarding work, it is very difficult and tiring. Mondays are pretty much shot and it usually messes up any thoughts of riding a bike. We load our chainsaws and gear into our backpacks and hike, sometimes close to 1 hr to get where we left off from last time. Then we put on all of our safety gear, and spread out along the proposed corridor, following little orange flags.
Bushwacking with chainsaw, and full gear is difficult. Once we are spread out, we "make some noise" and start cutting a swath through the forest, making every attempt to cut the branches small enough for the swampers to scatter neatly into the woods. The swampers are the ones who come behind us and clear the cuttings from the trail. They have a hard job as well, sometimes the mountain laurel thickets are so dense that it is very difficult to spread the cuttings.
After wielding the chainsaw for hours, pausing occasionally to eat, drink and soak in the surroundings, we load up and head out. Muscles sore and tired, the downhill hike is tough, but knowing focusing on what was accomplished feels great. Free food in town makes us feel even better!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Thursday Night Gravel

Thursday night rolled around and I left the house in shorts and short sleeves. I packed a vest, arm and knee warmers just in case. I was glad I did because is cooled off, and was a bit chilly down by the creeks and river.

Eric, Kevin and I rolled out. Eric rode with us to the Arboretum and bailed. Kevin and I continued through the closed gate at the Arboretum and asked permission to continue through. The gate keeper tried to give us a hard time, but the guy is just a nice guy, and let us go through. We rolled up the gravel road, up and over Hardtimes connector, where we passed a hoard of mountain bikers including Jay Middleton, and Kelly Baisley.

Up through Rice Pinnacle parking lot where we chatted with some bike bum, and then onto the gravel again. It was 6:30pm and still light. We left our lights off until the first long decent. I expected to see more people out with the warm weather and all, but did not mind the solitude.
As we pedaled smooth strong circles, we chatted about whatever it is that cyclists chat about. Our kids, our families, bikes (of course), the Foundry Launch Party etc.

As we were cruising down the first long decent, we came around a corner and if the 4 deer had gone right instead of left, I would have t-boned at least two of them. They were standing 10-20 feet from the center of the road, and seemed to be as surprised as we were because they kind of stood there.
the darkness closed in and the moon got a little brighter, the woods were alive with noise, the nocturnal animals out and about. We later stopped to listen to the frogs in the giant puddle, when Kevin looked down and saw these two toads. We almost ran over them.
Farther down South Ridge Rd, we were dive bombed by a couple of bats and then as we made our way down the Parkway and across the French Broad River, the noise of the frogs was loud. Spring is in the air and officially just around the corner. Snow in the forecast? yup.

It was a good ride, one of those rides where everything felt right. And getting home to homemade roasted red pepper pasta, kale, and garlic bread, topped it off!!