Tailwind Endurance Fuel… seriously, it’s all I need!

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I’ve been using Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel for about 1.5 years now, and decided it was about time to share my experience!

I happened upon this product in the summer of 2015 when I had several endurance mountain bike races looming ahead of me.  I’ve always been horrible about eating while on the bike, so I had to come up with a solution, and fast.

  • Gels – end up everywhere except in my mouth.  Gloves, handlebars, jersey pocket, shoe, top tube, hair… just not very practical.  Plus I found that certain brands and flavors soured my stomach, and most don’t go down easily without a bunch of water
  • Waffles – I loved Honey Stinger waffles, but they were horrid to try to eat during a race situation.  Hard to open packaging, and trying to chew/swallow with your heart is 185 is not ideal
  • Chews – Fun, like fruit snacks!  But some are awfully chewy (see the part above about high heart rate and trying to chew).  Plus you have to eat the whole package to get the amount of advertise calories, and whose got time for that sometimes?!
  • Dense bars – I love me a PB&J Bonk Breaker bar… as long as I’m standing completely still so I can chew through the denseness and calorie laden thing that it is.

This was everything I had tried, along with items like English muffins with peanut butter and honey (so so so delicious, but impractical during racing), Larabars, and just hoping whatever measly calories was found in Osmo mix was enough.  Tailwind was to be the solution to all of this:  easy to use, easy on the stomach, and provides the adequate calories.

The #1 thing to remember about starting to use Tailwind is that it takes some finesse and time to get right.  You simply do not open up the package and simply use it like you would a gel.  You need to experiment to see what works for YOU – how it works for YOU, how much works for YOU, what flavors/combos work for YOU, etc.  You also have to let go of the solid food idea.  When I started with Tailwind I treated it more like the standard electrolyte drink mix (like Osmo, Nuun, etc).  I would drink it, and then still be eating my chews and waffles and gels.  I think this is a common issue with people who try Tailwind is that they calorie overload their stomachs because they’re also consuming all the standard amounts of gels and what have you.

Before I go further, I want to discuss the myths I hear about Tailwind:

  • “It’s a runner product.”  This was told to me by a cycling coaching company.  So apparently it means that if the Tailwind powder senses a bicycle nearby, it doesn’t work?!  I don’t know, that is just bizarre to me.  Runners and cyclists alike have been sharing products for decades, and I’ve never seen a gel or package of chews marked “For Cyclists Only” or “For Runners Only.”  Yes, runners love the every loving heck out of Tailwind – BECAUSE IT’S AN AWESOME PRODUCT.  Not because it can sense there’s a pair of running shoes involved.  (Tailwind was born out of a gut bomb during the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, to boot.)
  • “It has too many calories.” Another thing that makes me scratch my head.  This isn’t an electrolyte drink mix intended to be used alongside other food products.  It IS your food product, and that is why there are calories in it.  Each scoop contains 100 calories.  You are free to mix it as low or as high calorie as you desire.  And when a several hour long road ride can burn 2000-3000 calories, I’m sure the calories in Tailwind will get used appropriately!

So I began my Tailwind journey, and discovered I did love the product.  Went down well and my stomach liked it, and most importantly so did my tastebuds (especially when the product got hot, which often happens in the summer).  When the Leadville 100 rolled around I still had not perfected my methods, but I filled my Camelback up with it and set out.  I did fine through the first aid station.  But that little demon in the back of my mind went, “Oh, you haven’t eaten any solid food, don’t you think it’s time for a waffle?”  So I had a waffle, and proceeded to puke my stomach contents out while riding my bike.  That started the beginning of the end of my LT100 journey.  I did the two hour long climb up to Columbine Mine not eating or drinking a thing, only to be saved by a cup of lukewarm ramen noodles, Coke, and watermelon at the summit.  But I had taken an irreversible nutrition detour.

That experience convinced me to ditch the need to constantly intake solid or accessory calories along with my Tailwind.

I went into my 2016 race season with a set nutrition plan, and this led to me rocking two of my endurance mountain bike races with a happy tummy and fueled legs!

I have come to use Tailwind for everything from short road rides through many-hour mountain bike endurance races.  After all, it’s as much of a road cycling product as an endurance mountain bike racing product (as much as a running product, whatever that still is)!

My formulas:

  • For typical, run of the mill short rides, maybe 1-2 hours in length I will use 2 scoops (200 calories) into a 24 ounce bottle.
  • For longer road rides with potential for extended climbing or rare stopping moments, or during road races, I will use 2-3 scoops (300 calories) into a 24 ounce bottle, x2.  I use to always run a bottle with plain water, but as I’ve grown accustomed to Tailwind, I have started to use Tailwind in both of my bottles.
  • Mountain bike training rides, maybe a couple of hours, I will use a Camelback with plain water, and run a 24 ounce bottle with Tailwind
  • Epically long days on the mountain bike (3+ hours, remote, hard training) I will mix Tailwind in my Camelback. One of the things I love about Tailwind is it rinses clean out of any hydration reservoir and bottle you use with it.  I have 2 and 3 liter reservoirs.  I will do the math on how many 24 ounce bottles that equals, and run about 2-2.5 scoops per “bottle” in the reservoir.
  • For XC mountain bike races averaging 1.5-2 hours long I run one 24 ounce bottle with 2-3 scoops (my mountain bikes can only hold one bottle)
  • For endurance mountain bike races exceeding the 3 hour mark I run a 2 liter Camelback with 2.5 scoops per “bottle” in the reservoir.  I place a bottle of plain water on the bike.  This is because sometimes during hot summer races I “crave” plain water.  It is also much easier to refill at aid stations, and sometimes you need to use the plain water in a futile attempt to remove mud from your drivetrain!

Pretty much it can be summed up as 2-3 scoops of Tailwind in a bottle, regardless of situation!

So what about additional food?  If I racing XC mountain bike or on the road bike, I do not consume anything besides my Tailwind bottle(s).  For endurance mountain bike races I will often start craving a “real food taste.”  I have found that Clif Organic Energy Food pouches in banana/mango are amazing.  It pretty much contains mashed up banana with a hint of mango, and added electrolytes, all at 100 calories per pouch.  If I’m eating food while on a bicycle, 90% of the time you find me with one of these pouches!  Other than that, I am guilty of taking a can of Coke at aid stations, and for rare events like the Dakota 5-O I will participate in the bacon and beer hand-ups by the Bacon Angels.  But I’ve learned to listen to my body and ignore any of the other temptations (like the bacon during the Gunnison Growler).

What, I thought you said no additional food earlier in this post?!

Moderation.  A banana pouch or half can of Coke over a 4.5 hour time period seems sane to me, and my stomach has handled it fine.  It’s breaking the thought process of “consume a gel every hour,” or whatever it might be for a particular person.  Let Tailwind be your food source for your body, and the half can of Coke the food source for your mental cravings!  (Fun factoid:  I only ever drink cola soda products during endurance mountain bike races!  I dislike it otherwise!)

For training rides or other adventures, I do partake in eating other food.  Simply because it’s a whole different dynamic when not in a race situation.  First off, my body isn’t freaking out from the stress of a race situation.  Second off, I often can end up in pretty remote areas, and I want to be well fed.   This is where the Larabars, Bonk Breaker bars, gummy bears, and heck, a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich (squished and mashed from being shoved in a pack) come in.  Often I will just bring a single bottle of Tailwind and run water in my Camelback on anything I deem super adventurous, as I know food breaks will occur.

It’s complicated, I know.  That’s the intimidating factor of Tailwind is that it’s not just a “open it up, use it.”  You have to be willing to experiment with scoop amounts, timing, and what works for what.  But once it all falls into place… oh man!  The glory!

On the subject of flavors… I’ve tried all 7 flavors that are available, and I like them all… even the orange, and I typically hate orange flavored stuff!  Three are available with caffeine.  I tend to use my caffeine flavors for endurance races (though I will admit that drinking 2 liters of caffeinated mix makes you get a wee bit loopy after about 3 hours), and sometimes if it’s early morning and I need to wake up.

So that’s a little about my journey with Tailwind!

Disclaimer:  I am a sponsored Tailwind Trailblazer.  However, the company did not encourage me to write this review, nor tell me what to say, positive or negative.  This is my honest recount of using a product that I truly love and believe in!

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The Grip Dilemma & ESI Grips Love

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Over the years I’ve been sporting all sorts of looks on the ends of my handlebars… usually several different ones a season!  Grips are, well, a VERY important part of your bike, but I think sometimes we can all overlook them in the grand scheme of things.

It shouldn’t be a surprise anymore that I choose bike stuff based on color.  Hell, that’s why I bought my first mountain bike – it was pink!  If I’m suffering on something, I at least want it to be visually appealing 😀 So usually my grips were chosen based on color.  OK, that worked… except as I progressed and refined my riding style and learned that color aside, the shape of a grip can determine how comfortable it is.  I started out with ergonomically shaped grips.  Which are great… but I rolled my wrists under while climbing.  Yes, I know, it’s “bad.”  I’ve had a spectator at the XC National Championships even comment on it during my race.  But it’s how I ride.  It’s how I climb.  Have you tried doing that on ergo grips?  Yep, doesn’t work so well, and I ended up in wrestling matches with my grips instead of focusing on climbs.

Climbing up Middle Aspen like it was nothing at LMBS #4 (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)

My typical wrist rolling on steep climbs (Photo by Dewey Gallegos)

OK, next step after I ditched the ergo grips for stock grips, which I promptly wore out in months.  Normal round grips that are colorful for 2015.  Purple and teal, my faves!  Until I rode in wet conditions, mud, or sweaty hands.  Slip would go my hands, even with gloves on.  Hmmm.  Also in 2015 I stepped up my hours on the bikes (road and mountain), which lead to some pretty bad ulnar nerve damage.  When I would sleep my ring and pinky fingers were curl up and I couldn’t straighten them, that’s how bad!  Though a combination of factors were at play (increased hours, switching to non-padded gloves), the hard plastic grips I were using had to go, especially before some of the longer endurance MTB races came up.  I had seen ESI Grips while watching World Cup replays, and was curious about these squishy colorful grips.  My “super awesome pro” friend Suzie had a pair on her single speed that I stole for a test ride, and instantly I was hooked on ESI!

And so began the love affair with these colorful silicone tubes made right here in the good ol’ US of A.  The ESI Chunky silicone grips conform to your hand enough to provide some extra padding and also comfort, and is also grippy when wet or sweaty.  I won’t lie, it took me days to slid a pair on my hardtail millimeter by millimeter (single speed and full suspension bikes went much easier… alloy vs. carbon bars maybe?), but the effort was worth all the grunting in the bike room with Windex!  Soon my Epic was rocking the bright pink, my Fate the aqua blue, and the single speed Superfly neon green.  Finally I was styling AND comfortable!  I finished out 2015 riding in style, and finally learned the importance of not overlooking the small, but important details on my mountain bike that affect handling and comfort.

Pink on my bars, pink on my head... just how it should be!

Pink on my bars, pink on my head… just how it should be!

The discarded grip pile will not be added to anymore, and I couldn’t be happier!  I’m also super excited to announce that ESI Grips will be supporting my 2016 mountain bike race season.  But that doesn’t mean I’m just saying nice things for the sake of the sponsorship – I was using, and was going to continue using, ESI Grips regardless!  There’s a reason why you find them on handlebars everywhere from World Cup podiums to local weeknight “world championships” – they’re a great product that simply works!

What’s in My Gear Bag: Rudy Project Transition 46 Review

Rudy Project Transition 46 Bag

Rudy Project Transition 46 Bag

I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for awhile, but put it off and off and off… until my new bag came today!  For the past few years I’ve been using a duffle bag that I received as the entry gift for the Cheyenne Sprint Tri in 2013.  It worked awesome, but I soon outgrew it as I realized it’s better to always be prepared and carry stuff like knee/arm warmers, buffs, etc.  I took to attached bags to it for additional stuff.  I decided finally to bite the bullet and get a Rudy Project Transition 46 bag.

This bag was designed for triathlons and multisport events and has 46 liters of storage room.  Not my desired sport of choice… but all the pockets, zippered compartments, shoe, and helmet storage sold me, along with the ability to wear it as a backpack, which will add ease to carrying my bike gear bag into hotels/my house when I have other bags to carry as well.

Fresh out of the box!

Fresh out of the box!

The bag comes with a padded helmet attacher to use on the outside (good for aero helmets, which I think was their intent), and several stuff sacks and a waterproof bag.  Definitely designed for triathlon!

The bag comes with a padded helmet attacher to use on the outside (good for aero helmets, which I think was their intent), and several stuff sacks and a waterproof bag. Definitely designed for triathlon!

So we’ll start with one of the front zippered pockets…

Front zippered pocket with 3 storage compartments

Front zippered pocket with 3 storage compartments

I used the long pocket for my Chamois Butt’r, and then just some chapstick and hand sanitizer in the other pockets.  Not really filled out, which means I have extra room to stash stuff I decide I need later!

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Top storage pocket

Then there’s a pocket right on top.  I used this to slide in my baby wipes and healthcare bath wipes, which are amazing for cleaning up after races and rides.

Helmet compartment

Helmet compartment

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Helmet attached outside bag with special attachment thingy 🙂

Next up is the helmet compartment.  It’s padded and fits my Rudy Project helmet just fine.  There’s a zippered padded and lined sunglasses compartment on the outside of the helmet “door.”  I’m not sure I’d just throw glasses in there, as I like to use my protective cases, so I think it’ll end up being used for my Garmin.  I like the idea of being able to attach my helmet to the outside of the bag, which means I can use the compartment for other storage.  Plus I like my sweaty helmets to dry out, so I’m not sold at sticking it back in a bag where it can’t “breathe.”

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The side zippered pocket (opposite the first one) has a checklist of necessary items for a triathlon, some elastic holders for CO2 tubes, clear ID pocket, and a long zippered compartment.

In the second zippered pocket I put my USAC cycling license and some CO2 cartridges.

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Looking inside the long compartment

In the long zippered compartment I put a spare road and cyclocross tube, and some basic things like extra cleat bolts and the tool to tighten/loosen my cyclocross toe spikes.  *Once I find them* I’ll add my spare MTB rear derailleur hangers.

Next up is the shoe compartment on the opposite end of the helmet compartment.  This compartment is designed to carry two pairs of shoes (naturally cycling and running, sticking with the tri theme).

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Shoe compartment!

I don’t foresee me putting MTB shoes in the bag as my MTB shoes are always so nasty!  Muddy, dusty, dirty, smelly, and sweaty!  Plus they (all 4+ pairs) tend to just live in my car 😀  But I do feel like my road shoes are worthy, and have decided to use the space for some extra things.

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On one side I have one shoe, a MTB tube, and my Endura Pak-A-Jak windbreaker

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On the other side is the other shoe, Smith sunglasses case with my clear lensed glasses,  and a baggie with lubes and single shots of Stans stashed in one of the stuff sacks.

I could easily put both shoes on one side and use the other side for all the other spare stuff… which is probably what I’ll end up doing for ease of use.

Now onto the bottom… yes the bottom even has storage!  It is a waterproof compartment meant to store 1 or 2 wetsuits and other swim stuff.  I decided to make the bottom my “First Aid and OH CRAP!” storage!

Bottom waterproof storage

Bottom waterproof storage

Since it’s the bottom of the bag, it’s a huge storage space, and the “door” is padded to protect everything.  I have my first aid kit, which is stuff full of speciality bandages, and ice pack, ointment, cleansers, etc.  In the same pocket I have some vet wrap and KT tape.  The pocket next to it I have some bug spray, generic Tums, a small thing of Vaseline jelly, glasses cleaner, and hand sanitizer.  In one of the top pockets i have single servings of Chamois Butt’r, packets of sunscreen, bug stuff, etc.  The other pocket is empty.. couldn’t think of what to put in it!  I might put in some wound wash, as that’s the one thing I’m missing!  Also a hair pick, not that we have cholla here, but always good to have, plus I can fix my hair after a ride.  Everything I need to do some nursing in the backwoods 😀

Last up is the main storage area.

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Main storage area opens up wide for easy access, and has two zippered pockets.

The helmet and shoe compartments do go into the main compartment and take up considerable space, but I still fit in the stuff that I couldn’t fit in my old bag, so it’s a win situation for me!

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Zippered pockets

I used the zippered pockets for easy access food storage.  I fit a decent amount of Honey Stinger waffles, chews, gels, and Larabars in these compartments.  I mostly use the food in my gear bag for just before races, as when I go on long road rides or MTB rides I tend to take food from my pantry and stuff jersey pockets.

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What I stuffed into the main storage area.

In the main area I have two Smith sunglasses cases, a stuff sack filled with warmers and thermal stuff, a stuff sack full of gloves of all varieties, and the mesh bag that came with the Transition bag that I threw my Endurolytes and ibuprofen in, along with a used grocery sack, as you never know when a plastic sack will come in handy!  I probably will put those items somewhere else once I decide what’s a good spot.

Whew, that’s my gear bag!  Though it looks stuff full (see first photo), it all zips nicely, and I still have several pockets empty for random things I might decide I need.  I also still have plenty of room for vests, jackets, thermal tights, etc that I might want to carry along.  Without putting the the helmet in the bag I also will have a large storage area.  When I travel I tend to pack my kits in with my normal clothes, so I was not concerned with room for that in this bag.  I still have a few things I need to put in the bag, such as my derailleur hangers and some tools.  For normal use I plan on using the shoulder strap, but like I wrote earlier, I do plan on using the backpack straps more when traveling for ease of carrying several bags.  I’m glad that feature exists!

So even though it is designed for triathlon, I found it really works well for a cycling only gear bag.  All the little pockets and compartment are great for getting organized and finding stuff quickly.

This bag retails for $199.99.  As part of full disclose, my cycling team is sponsored by Rudy Project, and I received a discount on this item.  However, all opinions and thoughts are my own 😀

My little old bag!  I wish I took a photo of it overstuff full of all my gear!  Still a great bag, I'll probably clean it up and find some sort of use for it!

My little old bag! I wish I took a photo of it overstuff full of all my gear! Still a great bag, I’ll probably clean it up and find some sort of use for it!

Gear Review: Fitbit One

My employer provided Fitbit Ones to every employee that is participating in the wellness program for our health insurance.  I’ve looked at this and similar products before, but resisted buying one because I didn’t see the use for the cost.  But hey, when you get something for free, why not use it, right?!

The basics:

If you want to turn fitness into a lifestyle, the One™ is for you. For starters, it never rests. During the day, it tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed. Come nightfall, it measures your sleep quality, helps you learn how to sleep better, and wakes you in the morning. The One™ motivates you to reach your goals by bringing greater fitness into your life – seamlessly, socially, 24 hours a day.

Powered by Fitbit’s leading-edge accelerometer and altimeter, the One™ accurately captures all-day activity that old-school pedometers can’t handle. It bases calculations like calories burned on your personal profile – reflecting your stats, not any average Joe’s.

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Cost: $99.95

What you get in the box: the One device, clip holder, wristband, USB dongle, booklets, charging cord

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All the bits you get with the Fitbit One (Photo: fitbit.com)

 

Calculates:

  • Steps taken
  • Stairs climbed
  • Calories burned
  • Hours slept
  • Distance traveled
  • Quality of sleep

My thoughts:

  • Ease of use:  The Fitbit One is pretty darn easy to use!  The clip just slides onto wherever you put it – I usually clip it on my waistband when I wear pants, and on my sports bra when I’m on the bike.  There’s only one button which adds to the ease of use.  It synced with my iPhone 5s easily with the Fitbit app, and it’ll give me an alert when the battery is low.  The One charges pretty quickly, maybe 30 minutes, if that.  My battery has lasted over two weeks at time, to boot!
  • Sleep Mode: This is probably the most intriguing feature for me.  It’s really interesting how restless I can be when sleeping, and how that correlates with how I slept.  Sometimes I feel the more restless I am (without actually being awake), the better I sleep, whereas the nights where I look like I’m dead for 8 hours I wake up more groggy!  But anyways, it’s quite easy, you just slip the One into the wristband and press and hold the only button it has and it goes into sleep mode.
    • The wristband is a big let down.  Within a week the velcro-type closure wasn’t grippy anymore and it falls off my wrist quite easily in my sleep, which leads to me finding it stuck to my pajama pants or blankets.  This is the biggest flaw I have found with the Fitbit One.
  • Steps: This is a tricky one.  I literally have no idea how accurate it really is (as I’m not going to literally count my steps!).  A coworker wears both the One and another brand’s step counter that is a wrist model, and she showed me how they varied by 5000 steps at that particular moment of the day.  I could assume that a wrist style one would count more steps due to arm movement, but I’m not sure.  So maybe the number isn’t totally true, but it does at least show activity and the amount of it!
    • So while on a bike… well, it counts “steps,” but in no correlation to actual pedal strokes.  I have no idea what it’s counting.  I can ride 40 miles, and the One will register 14 miles.
  • Stairs: I have found this to be pretty accurate, though sometimes I’ve had an elevator ride register as stairs.
    • On the bike… haha, oh this makes me look like a rockstar!  During one cyclocross race that had a lot of punchy climbing the One said I climbed 351 flights of stairs!
  • I use the Fitbit app quite a lot on my phone.  I use it to track my food intake, and you can scan quite a few mainstream brands labels in, and also has some restaurant data.  I also enter my weight into Fitbit for tracking (though I also do it on Training Peaks… I’m all about redundancy!).  I don’t have enough USB ports on my laptop in between my ANT+ for TrainerRoad and Garmin code, etc, so I don’t use the dongle, and instead sync the One through Bluetooth to my iPhone.

 

Is it worth it?  It’s an interesting device.  Would I have spent nearly $100 for it?  No.  The app is available regardless of owning a Fitbit device, and can actually use the accelerators inside your phone to count steps if you so desire (and constantly carry your phone), so the food log would still have been available to me.  Nonetheless, I still wear it nearly every night when I sleep, and every day.  Every once in awhile I forget to clip it on when I change into bike clothes, but otherwise I have been pretty faithful.  I think this is one of those things that you have to weigh the cost and how much you want it and will use it.  I can see it being a great motivator for getting people active and moving.  The majority of my physical activity is related to cycling, so it has limitations in that department.  I own fitness GPS units, so if I really needed accurate measurement of miles ran/walked/hiked, I would use that device, but for people without that option this could be a great solution.

 

Disclaimer: I received this product as part of my employer’s wellness program for our health insurance at no cost.  However, all comments and opinions are my own and I was in no way compensated for the review.

Race Report: Boulder UCI Weekend

US Open of Cyclocross

Biggest... number... ever...

Biggest… number… ever…

Last year I swore I would not do the Colorado Cross Classic, or what it’s called this year – the US Open of Cyclocross – again.  Last year I was pulled pretty early (prematurely I’d say by the officials) and I was getting sick and the course kinda (well, actually DOES) suck.  Funny enough, the alarm went off at 4:30am and on the road to Boulder Reservoir I went.  I don’t seem to learn sometimes.

It was a chilly morning, but I resisted the urge to pile on the clothes.  People were flatting just walking their bikes to the pits, and yep, there were a few goat heads stuck in my pit bike’s tires, though they were green and soft.  By this time I wasn’t quite amused and debated pre-riding or not.  Ended up doing a lap.  Yeah, this is my least favorite venue and course.  The grassy/goathead stuff is ok, except super rough, and then half the course was sand.  Literally sand everywhere!  Last year had some sand, but holy crap they decided to go overboard this year.  No barriers, just tons and tons and tons and tons of sand.  Ugh.  I realized I should’ve brought the Fate as a pit bike, or hell, even my main bike.  Tubeless and the front suspension would help on the rough stuff.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?

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Some of the awesome ladies in my “cross family!” Terri is very excited about Noosa Yogurt, as you can see!  (Photo by Shawn Curry / greencurry.smugmug.com)

I had the second to last call up, no surprise.  Cat 3 has been a rough overall learning curve for me.  But I actually had an awesome start!  Woohoo, Heidi’s Holeshot to Dead Last streak has returned!  I was 3rd coming off the pavement onto the grass, and slowly/rapidly worked my way back from there.  Felt good to have a nice start, but I just don’t get how all those girls continue to go faster?!  Oh wait, my 2013 self would’ve been saying that about my 2014 self so…

I knew this wouldn’t be the race for me so I just concentrated on smooth cornering and trying to keep my tires inflated.  The sand was hopeless.  Maureen had to change bikes a few times so there were brief moments of me not being in last, but otherwise it was me off the back.  No prancing or singing though this week.  Also due to the muddy wet sand, my cleats and pedals weren’t agreeing and I spent a lot of time trying to get clipped in (I’m a noob who can’t pedal unless I’m clipped in it seems).  I was actually hoping I’d get pulled and not have to do the full 5 laps.  Funny, last year I was pissed about them pulling people and now I was wishing for it!  Wouldn’t you know, I was the last one through before they started pulling people, so I was in for the long haul!

I ended up in 14th out of 16 (2 DNF’s in my class) in a time of 48:12.90.  No flats, and the goat heads I discovered at home pulled out and the tires are still inflated so we’ll see what the morning will bring.  As for my “method” of making me feel like it’s okay to be finishing last in cat 3, I would’ve been 6th in cat 4.  Ugh, I know I did the right thing by upgrading instead of being “one of those girls” that seem to have the upgrade points but still hang out in their current category or hold a high license in another discipline, but not sure how comforting it is to know I could’ve been rocking cat 4 this year.

So yeah, Boulder Reservoir… I am not a fan and never will be.  A sand pit is one thing, an entire beach is another.  My poor bike is so crunchy!  But let’s be positive – I did 5 laps and didn’t get pulled!

Got wet sand that is in every nook and cranny possible?

Got wet sand that is in every nook and cranny possible?

Boulder Cup
I was super excited going into Sunday’s Boulder Cup because it’s at Valmont Bike Park, and I love Valmont!  My pre-ride went well once I actually got both bikes down to the course – it involved some hiking down hills and carrying two bikes through a field of cactus.  I get that Boulder hates cars, but having a parking lot for Valmont would be a good idea… just sayin’.  The course had a lot of steep climbs and descents, which tickled my mountain biker heart like Valmont always does.  Sadly the Belgian Steps were omitted, which is the only run up of stairs I can ever run up.

22 gals in the SW3 field, and I didn’t have the last call up surprisingly.  That was about the high point of the day… at the start I couldn’t clip in (Gowdy Grinder all over again), and was last place from the get go.  I got gapped considerably on the first climb, which is something I haven’t historically struggled on at Valmont.  On the first big steep descent I passed two girls with my rad “mountain biker who’s out of control on canti brakes” skills, but they caught me again.  And that was kind of the end of it… I’d get kind of close to Katie and Elizabeth, and then the gap would get huge.  I got really dejected.  I wasn’t smiling, and I almost cried at one point.  I knew I looked miserable, I felt miserable.  This is not how cyclocross was suppose to go this year.

It was the moment I started hating bike racing.  Not the fleeting feeling we all feel during a race – this had some lasting permanence for the rest of the day.

Needless to say, I finished 22nd.  I NEED to stop seeing where I would’ve been in SW 4 (cough8thmaybecough).  It’s not helping.  I guess I’m struggling with the fact that I never had a “good” season of cyclocross before I upgraded.  Aside from good results in December & January, I went from a bottom half cat 4 to dead effing last in cat 3.  So I’m getting discouraged knowing that I could be having some good races if I was in a lower category, but wait, isn’t that a given?!  I’m being whiny, I know.  I’m just feeling so discouraged.  My fitness feels so off from what I remember my “cross fitness” being last year, I can’t help to blame the fact I built my fitness around cross country mountain biking, which requires a 1.5-2 hour pace, not 40 minutes of sprinting.  But I can’t be mad about that, mountain biking is my main discipline and I made huge strides this year (and I don’t feel dejected finishing last in open/pro/expert MTB races).

I tried to find a perk, and I decided on the fact that Katie Clouse never lapped me is good enough.  Damn spry teenagers, LOL.  I’m 3 for 3 on completing full races, too.  No pulling.  I also enjoyed chatting with Maureen on the long walk back to the car with our combined 4 bikes.  She’s a recent SW3 upgrade (and current 60-64 cyclocross national champion!), and has been feeling some of the similar pains as me.  She reinforced that we would get better throughout the season, and that I did EARN my upgrade, as much as I want to justify that I didn’t earn it (and that it was just a “moral decision”).  It helped to talk to her, but I still felt a bit gloomy the rest of the day.

Put your big girl panties on, Heidi…

But alas… the skinsuit comes out to play next Saturday at Cyclo X Xilinx, which is another course I liked last year, even if I fell on my face because I tripped on a barrier 😀  (Speaking of barriers, there were NO barriers this entire weekend, wtf is up with that, UCI?)  Here’s getting back in the saddle, and pedaling to DFL!

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.

On-The-Bike Nutrition: My Faves

Oh, the so hard to figure out topic of bike nutrition… I’ve been at this almost 2 years now, and I think I’ve finally whittled down the countless products available out there to ones that work for me

Hydration
In my Camelbak, when I use one (usually on training rides, normal rides, and select races), I just use plain water.  I’m the world’s worst person when it comes to cleaning my bladders, so the last thing I want to add to the bladder is hydration mix when I already usually have a questionable microbiologic mess on my hands.  For my bottles I either run plain water (on the trainer, short rides outdoors, or if on my road bike, which has two bottle cages, one bottle as backup) or a bottle with Osmo Nutrtion Active Hydration mix.

Osmo is one of those brands that is making its rounds getting hyped up so I was nervous to try it (because my experiences with Hammer Heed were awful and I don’t like Skratch Labs’ taste at all), but did the smart thing and got some sample packets before throwing down the money on a whole container.  Because I couldn’t buy the women’s flavors locally, I settled for the “men’s” (or is it really unisex?) blackberry to try on a few long gravel grinder rides.  I found the taste to be very natural, not sugary or overly fake.  In a way, it almost had to grow on me.  I did go buy a container of it, and I think it took finding the right amount to add to the water, which for me is two scoops in my 24oz bottles.  During my last two road races I drank that stuff like it was going out of style, and it agreed with my digestive system under the stress of a race and let my mouth feeling refreshed (whereas sometimes with plain water all I can taste is plastic from the water being in the sun for a few hours in the bottle).  Now I can guzzle the stuff down, and I feel it works for me.

I still have not tried the women’s mix.  I really like the blackberry flavor and since I still have half a tub left, I am in no rush to jump on the women’s mix.  Yes, I know, I’m “not a small man,” but I like the men’s mix.  I also ride a boy bike sometimes, oh no!

Chews
There’s nothing more awesome than having an excuse to eat gummy candy like things!  What I really love about chews is that they are not messy like gels.  Even when I lick them and stick them on my top tubes the mess is a fraction of what I would have if I tried to eat a gel.

Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews are my go-to chew product.  Pink Lemonade is my favorite flavor, but also found the Lime-Aid and Fruit Smoothie flavors to be good as well.  I just tend to buy mine in bulk so I end up with tons of Pink Lemonade.  I use to use Clif Shot Bloks exclusively, but I find the Honey Stinger Chews to be not as chewy and easier to chew up and get down in my belly.  I think this is important in a race situation where I don’t necessarily have the energy to gnaw on a tough chewy chew and breathe and pedal at the same time.

I’m not sure how much energy I necessarily get from these, but they are mostly sugar from multiple sources, so they give me some oomph to keep on going.  They settle well on my stomach, and are convenient and easy to eat, like I mentioned, I stick them to my top tube during road races.

Gels
This is the one area I kind of stray from Honey Stinger.  My gels of choice are Clif Shot Energy Gels in strawberry.  And solely in strawberry.  I have tried a lot of gels, and personally I find them all to be rather disgusting and hard to choke down, but I find these Clif Shot gels easier to choke down than others.  The strawberry flavor has 25mg of caffeine.  I’m not a huge caffeine drinker – I rarely drink coffee and do not like caffeinated sodas.  Ice tea is my only source of caffeine regularly, so I feel like that at least gives these gels a fighting chance at doing something for me.  How I tend to use them is one right before I race for some last minute nutrition and boost.  I’m pretty much hopeless when it comes to eating them while actually riding a bike, as more ends up in my hair, on my face, and all over the bike instead of in my mouth.  I still always try to tuck one in my jersey pocket or under the band of my bibs during longer races, however.  Eventually I’ll learn how to eat one like an adult instead of a messy toddler.

Other Stuff
Not much really falls into the other stuff category.  I have an anaphylactic-level allergy to all nuts except peanuts, so I really struggle when it comes to energy bars and other fitness products because they all seem to have some sort of nut ingredient in them.  I have a pantry shelf full of stuff I’ve either won at races or received in swag bags that I cannot eat for this reason!  So chews and gels is what I have stuck to, until recently when I discovered Honey Stinger Organic Waffles.  What tasty little treats these are, and fairly easy to eat on the bike as well!  I mean, who doesn’t like waffles?!  Stinger Waffles are two super thin waffles with honey sandwiched in the middle, and come in 5 flavors.  The downfall is the packaging probably isn’t quite as easy to open while on the bike, but that’s why we have teeth!  The second downfall is I have to hide them from myself so I just don’t sit around home eating them, because they’re tasty like that!  I have a 30 mile XC race coming up, and I’m looking forward to testing out the waffles in a longer race setting.

Other than that, nothing can be as delicious as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!  The century ride I did last summer had boxes full of PB&J’s at the aid stations, and I couldn’t get enough of them!  Sometimes it’s absolute bliss knowing I have a sandwich waiting for me in my Camelbak when it’s time for a snack!  Another item I have started to like is dried mango.  I did a group ride a few weeks back on the mountain bike, and one of the guys brought a bunch of dried mango.  Sweet, chewy, and gave some calories to keep on pedaling.  I’m not sure I’d chow down on dried mango during a race, but I can see having a baggy of these in my jersey for some of my longer non-race adventures I have planned for this year!

Final Thoughts…
I am really just now getting into good habits while on the bike.  I guess that’s because it took me almost this long to finally be able to pedal, grab my bottle, drink, and put it back safely, hahahaha.  But seriously, it’s something I’m not good at.  The CSU Circuit Race was the first time I’ve really tried eating during a race, and I accomplished that by lining up chews on my top tube.  Every lap I would have one.  I find it is a lot easier to drink and eat on the road, for obvious reasons.  Mountain biking is inherently more bumpy and rough and you need to have two hands on the bars usually.  I don’t like racing with a Camelbak on, so that usually translates into me not drinking anything even though I’ll carry a bottle.  I also fail miserable at bottle hand ups!  So I have a lot of work cut out for me but I think I am slowly figuring everything out!

Gear Review: Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch Convertible Pants

Whoa… I’m interrupting you from the regularly schedule program of cycling, cycling, and more cycling that this blog has morphed into to bring you a review on something that doesn’t involve cycling!  That is how excited I am about this product!

Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pants in Gravel (Photo from REI.com)

So the story goes that I had a coupon from REI and I wanted some pants that I could wear hiking, out and about, or for “outdoorsy” things (something that this blog started out as something to documented and veered off course when I became a cycling nut).  Mostly I have jeans, some cheapy cotton shorts from Walmart, yoga pants and tights, and cycling gear… but nothing water repellant and super comfy or with pockets (boo to the yoga tights).  So while browsing REI the Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch Convt Pants caught my eye, and caught it well enough it I brought a pair home (and a new bike helmet which I used the coupon on, doh!)!

To get started… The details from Columbia:

These durable, sun-and-stain-repelling pants will keep you comfortable and protected during active outdoor adventures of all kinds and zip-off legs provide valuable versatility in changing conditions.

Construction:

  • Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
  • Omni-Shield advanced repellency
  • 2-way comfort stretch
  • Gusset detail
  • Zip-closed security pocket
  • Pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Zip-off legs convert pant to 10” inseam short
  • Mesh pocket bags
  • Vented
  • Active, straight leg, mid rise
  • Inseam: 30” SHORT, 32” REGULAR, 34” LONG
  • Imported
Fabric:

  • 96% nylon/4% elastane Summiteer lite

Retail Price: $60

My Thoughts:

  • Comfort: SO COMFORTABLE!!!!  Both in the shorts and pants form they’re just damn comfy.  Last time I wore them I wore them all day lounging around the house because they’re just about as comfy as my normal yoga pants that I wear for lounging!  The fabric is stretchy and has a lot of give when sitting cross legged, crouching, etc.  The only complaint really would be that the part where the legs zip on around my thigh can be a little tight since it can’t stretch.  Then again, I think that’s just going to be a factor with convertible pants like these.  The inside of the waistband is lined with a fleece type material to keep down on chaffing which is a nice feature as well.
  • Fit: I bought a pair in 10 Regular.  I usually wear 9 Long for my jeans, for reference (and 5’9″ and 150-155 pounds).  I hate my pants being short, but found the 10 Regular were a good length where they aren’t dragging on the ground, but aren’t showing my socks.  Since the fabric is thin, I didn’t want them to be too tight as I find that rather unflattering – the 8 Regular were just too thigh on my thighs.  The waist is just right that I don’t need a belt.
  • Omni-Shield:  I dropped a water bottle and cracked it down the side, but didn’t notice it until I went to take a drink of water and ended up covered in water.  All the water rolled right off the pants!  I’m sold!  If only my tee shirt that day had those properties…
  • Shorts Conversion:  A pair of shorts and pants in one!  I loved this, and was actually a big reason why I purchased this product.  I love stuff that can do double duty!  I find that the legs zip on and off easily while being worn or not being worn.  I can see how the legs wouldn’t fit over hiking boots, though.  That’s something I have yet to try out.
  • Pockets:  Oh the glorious pockets!  Two on the back with velcro, two on the front with velcro, and one on the side with a zipper.  Absolute magic to me since I’m use to hiking and stuff in yoga pants and tights which have no pockets.
  • Possible Cycling Use:  I mountain bike in spandex, I’m not shy or scared of that.  But on a trip to and from the trails I did wear these in shorts style over my bibs and got to thinking they could be a form of baggies for anyone who doesn’t like the spandexed look out on the trails.  They’re not too baggy, not too tight, and have pockets!
  • Colors: They are offered in 4 colors: black, gravel, grill, and fossil.  I got mine in gravel, which is a gray color.  I was really limited since I bought mine at an REI and they don’t offer the color and size range that Columbia does directly, but I like gravel and find it’s a good neutral that goes with a lot of my tops.
  • Pricing: For $60, I think these are reasonably priced.  With people paying $100 for jeans nowadays (or $100+ for pieces of spandex for cycling), $60 seems like a bargain and there is a nice balance of features and usability.

Needless to say, I love these pants… so much so that I just ordered the capri style ones (Columbia Saturday Trail II Knee Pants)!

Disclaimer: I purchased this item at retail price for my own personal use.  All comments and opinions are my own and I was in no way compensated for the review.

Some may say it was Fate…

There’s been two bikes that have really come along and put a smile on my face since I first got into cycling.  First was my Specialized Crux (maybe I should make this plural since the first one morphed into the second one, but I digress).  It literally saved me from wanting to get rid of every bike I own last summer and calling it a day.  The rough, harsh, honest ride brought back the rawness of otherwise dampened trails smoothed out by technology and suspension.  It also opened me up to cyclocross, which became my favorite ass-kicking, cycling discipline.

Warning labels… the S-Works Fate has them!

Today I brought home my ’13 Specialized S-Works Fate, and on my first short maiden voyage at the North Cheyenne Community Trails, I felt the same thing that the Crux ignited in me start again.  I flicked the light, agile bike off the jumps and flew up and down the trails.  The same raw quality I grown to love in the Crux was there, and I felt more connected to the trails than I have been on a mountain bike in a long time.  Even riding into the 30mph headwinds I felt the speed and agility.  The XTR drivetrain shifted smoothly under me, and the Roval Control SL carbon wheels spun up quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my ’13 Specialized Epic Expert and everything it has given me the confidence to do over the last year and a half.  But I was seeing the bad habits developing, like monster trucking over everything instead of thinking of line selection.  And the months of cyclocross gave me a yearning to feel the bumpiness, nastiness of the trails instead of having everything always smoothed out, even though I ran the rear shock at full firm.  So why not have a hard tail also in the stable of bikes?!

Aside of from my S-Works Crux frame, this is my first S-Works level bike I’ve owned.  And it’s a work of art.  Yeah yeah yeah, it’s not about the bike (but if that was true, we’d all ride Walmart bikes…)… but there’s something about riding the bike that Rebecca Rusch rides, or the same bike Lea Davidson rode in the Olympics.  This is THE female race bike offered by Specialized, and I still can’t believe I lucked into owning one!

Hey, that looks like my bike!

Before bringing it home the guys at Bicycle Station weighed the bike out to be 20.5 pounds with the test pedals (size Large).  I added Shimano XT pedals, Specialized BG Contour grips, and a bottle cage (and peeled off the excessive amount of warning labels… that must’ve dropped some weight!).  I’m guessing the bike still comes in at around 20 pounds, which is a good 4-6 pounds lighter than my Epic, and I surely notice this both while riding the bike and carrying it to and from my bike room in my basement and putting it on my roof rack.

Maiden voyage

I only rode 3.5 miles before calling it good due to the wind, but the bike felt amazing.  I have some big rides planned for next week and the following weekend to try out the bike more.  I think the hardest thing will be confidence on technical stuff.  I did one of the drop lines today and I could feel the difference when I came off the drop in lack of suspension and the 80mm vs 100mm travel.  I’ll have to rethink some of my riding skills and habits, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The bike is clearly capable of some very nasty terrain (see European World Cup courses…), so now it’s all about making myself capable!  The Fate will also make it’s race debut at Rumble at 18 Road in a few weeks.

So that’s that for my short little review… you’ll be seeing lots more of this bike, that’s for sure!

Ode to ye old Motodivas

In October 2012 I decided to step up to “big girl” mountain bike shoes from my Pearl Izumi hiking shoe styled ones.  A quick look around my local bike shop left me leaving with a pair of Specialized Motodiva shoes, and I quickly fell in love.  I wore them on the bike, I wore them to dinner, I wore them to the store, I played hacky sack in them.  They became one of my most comfortable pairs of shoes, and I was never in a hurry to take them off after a ride.

Through mud, dirt, dust, stagnant swamp water, snow, rain, cow poop, cactus, and rocks they went.  I ripped a chunk of the upper off the right toe.  I smashed the left toe against a rock at 20mph.  A week of Midwest/Eastern humidity let the perma-stink set in.  Cross season left the black shoes a familiar color of brown.  And yesterday I finally did them in… the ratchet handle on the left shoe snapped off as I was tightening it for my gravel grinder ride.  I knew it was coming, but when it finally happened I was sad.  I could still yank the strap through the mechanism to tighten it down, which made me realize how stubborn I am about giving up these shoes.

The ’14 models of Motodivas now have a  BOA dial and come in black/pink, which tickles my heart.  My feet are two different girths, so ratchets are a bit different for me as one foot is loose and one is tight.  I could go with fancier (aka wimpier) carbon fiber shoes, but I like the fact I’ve put my current Motodivas through the wringer and they’ve survived quite well (and so have my toes after 20mph strikes).

So now a photo memorial to the shoes that have treated me oh so well!

Ready to ride yesterday after a week of snow snow snow

Cyclocross gave them a new paint job every weekend

Grass and dirty water just added to the mix!

 

The week the perma-stink set in thanks to humidity and nastiness

Sunbathing awaiting an awards ceremony

 

Enjoying a 60 degree day in January ’13

Brand spankin’ new!

And the debilitating injury to the ratchet…

photo-6

So the good news?  Specialized sells replacement ratchet mechanisms for a fairly cheap price, so I can revive these shoes!  Still getting new ones, but at least I’ll have a back up pair 😀