Gear Review, Race Report

Crackin’ ribs, riding drops, hammering bikes I don’t own

Pretty much sums up what I’ve been up to!  😀

Turns out my little flying superman wreck during the Gowdy Grinder was worse than I imagined.  I woke up Monday morning after the race and instantly knew what was wrong.  Breathing hurt, moving hurt, lifting hurt, coughing hurt… Needless to say, my tumble rearranged some infrastructure in my rib cage on the right side.  So what’s a girl to do… except go race mountain bikes?!

Ascent Cycling Series Race #1 in Colorado Springs, CO
Ascent Cycling Series Race #1 in Colorado Springs, CO

I had preregistered for the first race in the Ascent Cycling Series down in Colorado Springs, so I decided to cowboy up and still go race.  It’s USAC sanctioned so I was hoping maybe it’d give me more clout to my cat 1 upgrade request later this summer since USAC races are far and few between in this region.  I arrived at Palmer Park and it was HOT.  About 85 degrees hot.  I got my number plate and set out to ride the course, which was about a 2 mile circuit on the sandstone rocks of Palmer Park.  Immediately I knew I had a challenge for me.  It’s decently technical riding, which is always hard when you’ve never ridden before in your life, let alone with cracked ribs.  I did one loop and almost considered heading home, then I realized I did a total of 6 hours of drive time, so dammit, I had to race.  Second pre-ride loop went a little better, so I hesitantly lined up with 9 other women in the Cat 2 division (whoa, big field!!).

Race started out with a dirt road climb to some rain-eroded trails back to the start finish area, and then out on the “single track” trails.  I was third at the end of the climb and was feeling alright.  Deep breathing was hard, no doubt.  Over the course of 4 laps I moved back to end up in 6th place.  Every drop felt like I was getting stabbed in my right lung, and the dust and heat were not doing me any favors as well.  I was just happy to finish in one piece and to know the fact I stayed upright on my bike.  There were some technical descents that I would normally get a little sketched out by, but I handled them quite well, and even cleared some technical climbs as I got a final burst of power the last lap.  Sure, I didn’t really end up where I wanted to, but I don’t think any of the other girls were riding injured, and there’s fast girls in Colorado Springs who would kick my ass on a good day for me.  Either way, fun to ride some different trails, but I wish I had known about the rocks and sucked it up and rode my Epic because a hard tail with a full firm front fork did not do my body any good.

After that race on Wednesday I took a shocking 3 days off the bike.  I had grown accustomed to riding 5-6 days a week over the past few weeks, so it was weird.  I panicked that I’d lose all my fitness, but I knew my body needed rest.  Which left me rested and rearing to go for the Specialized demo at Curt Gowdy State Park today.  Yay for riding super expensive bikes that aren’t mine!  That’s the best part of a demo day, right?  😀

2014 Specialized S-Works Epic chasing tornado warnings at the top of Rock N Roller

First thing I grabbed was the $10,500 2014 Specialized S-Works Epic.  I mean, go for the Ferrari, right?  I have been pretty disillusioned by full suspension since getting my hard tail Fate, hating the squish on climbs (because I never set my auto sag…) and the fact my Epic seems to weigh a ton (due to my own fault of heavy tires and a granny seat).  I decided to do the Stone Temple-Ignouramus-Rock N Roller loop.  Surprisingly, I felt like I was hauling some major butt!  I aimed for near-to-complete race pace as much as I could – luckily the trails were not crowded.  The S-Works Epic performed great but lacked something… lacked whatever I felt when I first rode my S-Works Fate.  I didn’t feel connected with it, and didn’t feel anything special.  It was strange!  I ended up setting several PRs (and taking two QOMs on Strava), including knocking something like 30 seconds off a portion of the climb up to the “Temple.”  So… full suspension doesn’t make me slow.  Full suspension bikes not set up properly and that need a tire diet just make me feel slow.

So when the 2014 Epics came out, I was pleased to hear that they could run two bottle cages.  That’s the flaw that bothered me the most… two bottle cages… for SMALL bottles.  I had a hard time shoving my 24oz Purist bottle in that space.  Guess things can’t be perfect, eh?  Really otherwise it is indeed an excellent bike, I think I just had some sort of bias against the bike from the get-go.

I hung out for a bit and grabbed a burger from Patrick at the Bicycle Station (Wyoming’s only and best Specialized Concept Store!) and chatted up the Specialized guys.  Also tried to direct some girls into trying some 29ers and Fates and gave my opinion on things.  Kinda fun to do!  Then I realized I wanted to try out a bike with a 1×11 drivetrain, so onto another bike I hopped!

Blurry photo… 2014 Specialized Epic Expert World Cup

This time I gave a 2014 Specialized Epic Expert World Cup a spin.  I ride a 2013 Epic Expert, so I was interesting in feeling the differences.  Holy… crap!!!!  I decided to do the Stone Temple Circuit counterclockwise to put the suspension and drivetrain through some climbing paces, and wow… maybe an 1/8 mile into it I was shocked.  It was climbing like my Fate, but smoothing out those rib irritating rocks!  I knew I was flying up the climb, which always tends to be a nemesis of mine.  I felt connected to the bike, the opposite of what I felt on the S-Works Epic just an hour before.  The descended side of Stone Temple went awesome, and I ended up tying a pro lady on Strava for QOM on the final descent… how I judge how well I connect with a bike is how well I descend on it, because descending is my weakness.  Even on the wet rocks and roots, I felt comfortable and in control.  I rolled up to Patrick and told him I had a problem – I wanted this bike BADLY!!!

1×11 is definitely a cool set up, but I know if it was a year earlier I’d have a problem pushing the granny gear on climbs.  It’s definitely not set up for long sustained/steep climbs.  I also noticed that there appears to be a big difference in all the gears, so there were a few occasions I came into a kicker or a short tech section in a hard gear and would stall out or struggle to maintain speed whereas I don’t normally have that issue with my 2×10 Epic or Fate.  You have to be on top of your shifting, which I’m sure is something that would come with practice.  I quite liked the feel of the shift levers… they just felt solid!  I wasn’t a fan of the brakes, mostly because I have gotten use to my XTR brakes on the Fate, and are not use to the larger brake levers of Maguras since I rarely ride my Epic.

I ended up heading around Crow Creek and up Pinball for a bit of more riding.  I rode the part where I tumbled damn near into the reservoir wayyyyy back in June 2012 for the first time ever.  OK, this Epic WC and I were best of pals, clearly!  Unfortunately about a mile or so in my ribs started to smart on me and I got a decent side cramp so I was a bit clumsier on the Pinball climb.  I tried to bargain with the guys to let me take the bike, offering them the chance to keep my drivers license and debit card.  Sadly, they didn’t go for it 😛  I told Patrick I could even compromise on owning a red bike (I hate red on bikes) for this bike!  I asked if I could get a refund on my current Epic after 1.5 years… still no, haha.  It was that amazing.  I just felt like I was at home on it… which rarely happens to me with bikes.

Sadly I bid farewell to the awesome bike and headed back home to Cheyenne to see what all these tornado warning alerts I was receiving on my phone were about (luckily all the funnels were east of town, whew!  My Sammie-cat was home alone, so I was a nervous pet parent for a bit).  One of the Specialized guys ran over and gave me a Specialized Racing Cyclocross beanie to “wear on your Crux!” which was super duper awesome!  Definitely fun times with Bicycle Station and Specialized at Gowdy today… even if it made me want to be financially irresponsible and buy a new bike 🙂  (No worries, my plan is to wait until next year and hopefully get a discounted one like I did with my Fate… no credit cards were harmed today!)

Yay for awesome beanie!

We got a LOT of rain today so that kind of foiled my plans to finally get up to Happy Jack to ride what trails were rideable tomorrow.  Looks like I’ll have to give it until next weekend.  So a road ride will be in order I think to ease back into higher miles and more time on the bike.  The crappy weather caused the Wyoming State Games’ mountain bike portion to be delayed until next Sunday, so I’m super excited that now I’ll be able to travel to Casper next Sunday and race in my state’s games!  Then the big series starts – the Laramie Mountain Bike Series!  So I have a busy week coming up… just hoping I can play nice with my ribs and get some riding in before I hit the final month of prep for Nationals.

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