January 05, 2008

mud tested, kid approved

It’s the mud that makes the rare opportunity in sunny SoCal a priority to get on the trail . . . but it is the kid in me that makes the cold and wet so much fun, it is worth the price of bike clean up or risking a cold. It is raining, the day before our half marathon and we cannot resist the urge to get out into the rain and have some fun on the trails. Most of the riding areas are closed today not only from the recent fires but the lightest drizzle and tickets are all you risk heading into El Moro, O’Neil, Aliso or any other high profile trails. Our idea was to head out to the south end of Tijeras Creek for a mid day ride. Let the mud slingin’ begin!

We parked at our old apartments where we first moved after we got married… funny that we were just surfing then and never even knew these trails were right out our window! The Tijeras creek area is one of our favorite little valleys already because of the “out of this country” type of feel through the jungle parts of the trail. The tight turns around the loose earth and falling branches just made for a more interesting ride and much to our surprise, we were not alone. Glad to find others enjoying the mud. Here is a snap of part of the trail.


video


Although the sun was hiding around the clouds and we were wet it was surprisingly warm. Maybe the clouds were keeping in the warmth? Getting back to carrying our bikes over logs and finding new ways through the trees made me miss adventure racing. It adds so much to being on the trail when you have to negotiate creek crossings and look beyond the 20 feet in front of you.


(Monique practices her "AR" river crossing)

The mud was only really bad in a few spots but it was enough to give our bikes and our abilities a good test. This was the first ride on the 29er in the mud and testing was in progress. Not that I needed to test the Alma at this point. . . my last four rides have ended in something going wrong with my bike!! Last Wednesday on our night group ride I heard a loud grinding from the rear… I have been having trouble with my rear hub getting all loose so I just thought I was losing the bearings. It got louder and stranger as the night went on but it was dark (that is my excuse) so I didn’t really look into it. After we rode down “Oh Yeah” and I came to a sliding stop. Uh, sorry guys. My bolts from my rear disc brake were all gone except for one that stopped me on its way out by wedging itself between the frame and the rotor. Nice marks on the carbon frame. How did I grind all of the other bolts away so fast? After a short stop, a pair of pliers and some help, I finished the ride with no back break but was happy I didn’t have a crash on the way. Last weekend I “barrel rolled” my chain heading down Toads Wild Ride when I swung my rear derailleur into a rock. What’s a “barrel rolled” chain? Something I didn’t know could happen until I did it and someone enlightened me to the term. My chain fully rolled inside out kind of… Basically broken. That day ended with Monique’s extended workout of towing me back to the car with a couple of tubes for a towline. Good training!


(the good, the bad and the mud)

So how did the Alma do in the mud? Well, I consider it kind of like a race car now. It’s fast and looks pretty but is probably best saved for the race track. I did a lot of research before I jumped from the Epic (which was proficient performance for everything) and I realize that the Alma is for cross country and Xterra type racing. That is why I went with the hardtail and carbon bling too. I read online about the rear end being tight (2.1 is the widest clearance wheel) but most races would not need much more room. However, today’s ride and this blog are all about learning so here we go. Mud pile up is expected on any frame but due to the tight end and cross bar for V-brakes my pile up was exceptional. It was so bad a few times I was stopped in my tracks…Other times because of fear from the noise and fear from that pretty carbon getting grinded away. How about Monique’s ride? . . . the Yeti ASR SL pink machine with a sexy engine? It was flinging mud like a water buffalo jumping from the clutches of a crocodile! Okay, I have been watching the Planet Earth DVD's around the clock, but her frame rocks. . . beautiful design and I am continuously impressed by the thought behind the frame. 

Although the Alma performance was not set back too much by the mud that pretty carbon will never look the same. Shifting was decent until my rear got so clogged on a climb that I stomped on it and SNAP! goes my rear derailleur hanger FOR THE SECOND TIME! Dang… Walking in the mud is not as fun as riding but we were almost back at the apartments and there was just enough light and downhill to coast to the car safety.


(the Alma after a second defeated derailleur hanger...)

Luckily, I have another derailleur hanger that Marius got for me but I am ordering a few more for backup and next time it will be me on the single speed when the mud is calling. Lesson learned. Now it’s time to put the bike aside and get ready to run our buns off tomorrow morning at the OC Marathon… rain or shine.

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