MTB Life in Charlotte vs NJ.

Someone asked me this question yesterday:

How do you like the mtb life in Charlotte vs NJ?

I thought it was a loaded question and couldn’t be written down in a strava comment reply, so I figured I’d write it here.

The local riding in NJ is much more diverse than it is in the Charlotte area. We really only have two trails that reminded me of home, and they are not the Ringwood/Mooch trails of home. You can get to some world class mountain biking in Pisgah that is 2 hours away, but just like traveling the 1:30 for me when I was in NJ to Stewart or White Clay (which is actually close to 2 hours) it is something you rarely do. There is enough hills and techy terrain around to get your fix, but traveling out to the mountains here is just another game. I would say the one of local trails are a mix of Six Mile if it was rooty and a little elevation gain. The other has some steep climbs and feels more like a rocky Hartshorne. When we moved to this specific area I was worried about riding. I figured there wasn’t anything close enough to us, but now I realized I have the two most diverse trails. So that is awesome.

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This looks like a local trail in NJ. it’s a 10 minute drive from my house.

I do think that back home, if you ride bikes, you’re a cyclist. The mix of people who ride and race EVERYTHING is very high. Sure, you only see certain people at MTB races or CX races, but the overlap is like 75% of the people you see all season.

Down here, it seems that people stick to one discipline. Or that is what I’ve noticed. You have a road scene and road shops. The local shop to me is mainly service and he’s more enduro kinda guy than anything. I brought my CX bike in for some love and said he hasn’t worked on one in ages. Kind of interesting I thought. Back in NJ, the shops are much more diverse and while some have specialities, you will find every type of bike being sold and in the stands being repaired.

It also got me thinking of looking into how the cycling life in general is here versus home. My view on this will always be skewed based on my level of fitness/”expertise” than it was when I first started riding at home.

I think the fact that I started riding and got sucked into vortex of Halters, the Allaire beginner rides and meeting people at the same level of “I’m looking to ride my bike for fun” and a shop that was out building the trails and a cool place to hang out, it was sort of being adopted by a family.

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Used to meet Capers, Dustin and Walter to night ride. I think the bike that Walter is on, Capers owns now.

Meeting up with these fools and always pushing each other was a great gateway into cycling. As we grew in cycling and wanted to get faster, our friends grew with us. We all started racing cat 2. We all decided to do the Stewart 6 pack. We all started going to A rides. We all started training. Sometimes we lost parts of the crew along the way for various reasons, but found even more as we went along through the years. The amount of people I met through cycling is just staggering.

Now, flash back to last year (believe it or not we have been down here for a year), I have no one still like my original family. I tried to reach out on the local forum which sucks compared to the home of mtbnj, I’m this guy who is looking for fast people to ride with and find a new home at a bike shop. I don’t have time to do the beginner ride, and those aren’t the people I want to ride with anyway. Am I a dick? It’s strange, it’s almost like I need to fill out a dating application to find people.

I have met some local people and slowly over the past year started to infiltrate into cliques and crews of people. I’ve been given tours of the mountains and met awesome people who only race mountain bikes in Pisgah. The fact it isn’t as organic as back home feels weird. I’m some random guy from New Jersey who they’ve never met that is kind of fast enough to be interesting but not enough to really notice. I guess it is kind of like your first crush or something. Everything about the first time homies of cycling are always going to be the best. The stories are bigger, the feelings are awesome, that kind of thing. Kind of like when I was into cars. We always remember those OG times where it was the beginning of the crew and it was awesome. At some point we think it got shitty and always remember how much better it was back in the day. Then we fade out.

I just realized I was one of those people in the car scene that faded out. I have some friends who still play with cars and have gone from playing with hondas to racing NHRA All Motor Honda class and another buddy who has a big turbo Supra that is beautiful. I wonder if they think the old school days were better? Or maybe it’s so long ago, it’s totally forgotten about?

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Here are two photos from the H2H jungle race 2010. Where are some of these people now? I see Paul M in the back, Sturm in UT, I remember that guy with the flat pedals won that day. I remember Chris passing me that race and thinking man, I need to be fast like Chris. I think Joaquin still races fat bikes or something.

I wonder if the people who we have lost along the way and faded out from cycling still think about those days, 5-6 years ago and tell the tales about them. I was talking with Bill about our first trip to Kingdom Trails, before I ever had a Garmin.

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Kingdom Trails, 2009. I think I everyone was running tubes in this photo.

I feel like we rode SOOOOO many miles. Kingdom was epic, everything we expected. I have no idea how many miles we did but we rode 3 days and it felt like a HUGE trip. We went to Kingdom two years ago and in three days rode every single trail, and some more than once. It was awesome, but it wasn’t as awesome as that first time we did it. The same thing with Charm City, Nittany, all that stuff. Why is that?

Charlotte Winter Short Track #2 – Singlespeed

Another good week of lunch rides, granted slightly colder out, but the routine is building. I’m liking it. Free form style. Thursday I was able to try out 2:1 at the course and I must say, I liked it. The last third of the course hurt a little bit, but at race pace, everything hurts right? I’m going to roll with it. Falls under the, damned if you do, damned if you don’t kinda thing.
Todays race was missing the winner from last week, who ended up doing the Super Sport race with gears instead. I saw a couple of other names that I recognized from CX or XC racing, and apparently people love signing up day of and spending extra money… So it is really a crap shoot who is going to show up. This would also be Jacks first bike race, so I didn’t want to disappoint. The few people I know point out a few other people who are fast, a bunch of the “Liv-It” guys and some other 19 year old kid look to be super fast. Hopefully some good racing to go down!
Moving pictures over words? Or read along and watch? Your choice
Little more relaxed start this time, Rich takes a huge whole shot followed buy another kid, Dallas who looks legit. On my right I’m passed by one of the guys that was super fast in XC races on some ugly looking head shock 26″ Cannondale bike with v-brakes. Apparently he had a back injury and is just getting back around to racing hard again. We single file into the ST and it’s Rich, Alan with the 26″ bike and Justin. I know Justin is strong AF and crushes a lot of the local CX races in 40+ category, so he is one to watch.
The ground is completely dry now and the course is ripping. It’s so dry that the gravel is now marbles, which makes a turn hook up AWESOME become one that is instantly dangerous if you find some of them rocks. About halfway through the first lap, we hear a branch fall in front of us and somehow, some guy is in front of the race cleaning it up. You can see us fly by him in the video. What are the odds. Would have been a mess if that large face slapper was in the way on that downhill for sure.
The rock section with the bigger gear is a little awkward, but still simple enough to ride. My whole goal with running 2:1 was to push on the gravel/road sections, hard. I figured if I could spin that gear hard, and if anyone was on a smaller gear, it would hurt them a lot. I also wanted to really push hard the first two laps, not sit in, any of that crap. We chat on the gravel about rotating and it’s just a riot. You can only do so much. As we come through the S/F I see Rich pulling off to sit in and decide to punch it across the road, see what happens. I see that I pulled Justin across with me, leaving Rich and Alan a couple of bike lengths back. Justin comes around me with a huge effort and leads me into the ST.
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Chasing Rich. The berms are effortless on this course. Pretty awesome.
I stay within a bike length or so, but he slowly opens up a gap on me. I’m not sure if that effort hurt me more than I anticipated or if he was really just riding that section of trail that much better… Still can’t figure it out. I was within ear shot most of the second lap. I almost eat shit again on the rock over like last week, on the second lap. Need to calm down. The second lap only puts me 3 seconds behind Justin, but I just can’t close it down. I see Rich joined me on lap 2. During lap 3 I lose sight of Justin and realize he is out of touch. Rich and I here some dude hit the deck HARD. Sounded like a atomic bomb behind us. At the end of lap 3 we see it was the 19 year old kid Dallas who took a dirt nap and is on the side of the trail. Bummer. Well not really, now it’s just Rich.
Lap 1, 3:33, lap 2, 3:34, lap 3, 3:46. OOF. We are going way faster this time around and I do not have that engine to keep that up. Rich and I both realize we are racing our own second place race. We switch off leading laps back and forth and I do my best to make it hurt on the gravel for him. I got to hear my folks cheering for me (Rich is super popular and a positive dude, so everyone is cheering for him, so it was nice to hear my family cheering for me :))
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Rich can spin a gear pretty damn fast.
Each time on the gravel, Rich is able to sit in when I try to push 2:1 around him and it just becomes a game of wasting my matches for no reason. It will be a sprint, as always. I have no idea if I can cover his moves so the second to last lap is a big recovery stretch. We come into the flatter part of the gravel with Rich on my wheel and he says “Alright James, lets do this” and I can feel him coming around me. I’m ready to answer but by the time I go to get on his wheel, he stops pedaling. His chain dropped.
I match his speed and try and push him along to see if he can pedal it back on. I look down and see he was able to pedal it back on the chain ring and I think we are back in business. I peak back and see it’s off his rear cog. How does that happen? He falls behind me and I’m completely bummed. I know it is part of racing and at this same venue earlier this year in a CX race, I flatted a tire out of a good battle I was having. but it sucks. I’m not sure if the chain broke, or whatever. I look back and see him running, Unsure if he’s back together. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to race Rich. I keep on as normal, maybe slightly more reserved than normal. I run into some lapped traffic and they kindly move over. I still don’t hear or see Rich. I get into the last little section before we ramp up onto the gravel and I’m behind THREE lapped riders, just kind of taking their sweet time. I figure if Rich is here now, we have a race.
Sadly, no Rich. He did manage to get his chain back on and put in a huge effort to latch back on, but 20-30 seconds in a race where the laps are closer to 3:45 on average, it’s a huge ask. I was able to roll across for second place without any contest… Bummer. Justin ended up beating us by over a minute, which isn’t surprising at all. I find Rich after and share my sadness with him, I didn’t want to “beat” him like that. You cannot control other peoples equipment but man, what time to let your shit let you down. The new gear made the race almost 1 MPH faster than last week, which was insane. The SS lap times are on part with a lot of the faster dudes. They messed up the Expert first lap times, but 3:31 was the fastest sport lap, while we pushed 3:33. Interesting for sure. Seems that the fastest expert time may be under 3:30.
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pooped.
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I decided to be “that guy” and bring my kid onto the podium with me. Granted, both of these guys are older and have kids of their own, it’s very humorous.
Also having a 2 month old at a race in general is very stressful. Trying to manage when he needs to get fed, if he is cold, which way the wind is blowing, etc. It takes an army.
I’ve thought about racing with gears next week maybe, but I’m still not 100% sure. This 2:1 thing is kind of addicting.

Charlotte Winter Short Track Series #1 – Singlespeed

First weekend of Winter Short Track here in Charlotte. They were calling for storms all day Sunday, but somehow, they stopped at 10am and had a great window to race in some dry, slightly mucky 8/10ths of a mile ST course. Dicky was totally in love/hate with my single speed Scalpel, and the heckling area this go around is ten times better than it was last year. Tons of bells and shouting. Good. This feels better.

I only knew a couple of people in the field, and when I showed up in the parking lot, noticed more and more fast single speed people. When I last checked it was 9 people including me, but it ended up being 20 singlespeeders on the line. Granted not all are going for the win, but I would say half of them are.

No one wants to watch a 40 minute video, so here is lap 1 of the course:

The guy who took off like a rocket was Rich Tsui, does a lot of SSCX and SS MTB stuff. He also knows Ben, which is kind of funny. Just like in any SS race, it’s really hard to stay away and create any sort of gap unless you have some sort of elevation change or technical features. Which this course has almost none of. The first half of the course is all down hill, to that “rock garden”, then its mostly a slight uphill all the way to the finish. Which is the only part that really ends up hurting your legs/lungs.

Me and one other guy, Chase, on plus bike tire are in our own race. We pretty much roll around together for the next 8-9 laps. I take one stint at the front in the ST just because. Rich is much like me, very aware of his surroundings, says hi to his wife, his daughter gives him a bottle half way through, we chat. Chase laughs too. It’s a good group of good dudes pedaling together.

With one lap to go, sitting third wheel through the S/F, both Rich and I try and put in an effort to get away before the U turn into the ST. We were both running the same gear, so it’s really a moot point. Rich goes into the ST first, me second, Chase behind. The last couple laps have been plagued by lap traffic, and I must say it may have helped each of us each time. We could never get more than 4 seconds on each other anyway, and it was easily closed by the time you got into the gravel. We are coming into the climb and into the rock roll over. Rich is calling out that he’s coming up and is going to go left, but the lapped rider just keeps doing his thing. The rock roller is easily the fastest line, but there is a easier, slightly longer line that goes around the rock. I have a split second to decide to follow Rich and possibly watch him get hung up behind this guy, or take the long way, watch Rich bobble and roll into the finish line solo.

The idea of this is too strong to not attempt, so I go for it. I immediately see lapper clean the rock roller, move over, and watch Chase/Rich keep tons of momenteum and gap me. I’m still in it but farther back than I would like. I burn the last match I had to close the gap before we jump onto the gravel, but I’m clearly out of the slipstream and will have no way to close this gap. I have to roll into the finish in third place.

I must say, I was happy I was able to at least push the pace and keep in the game for this race. Rich and Chase are both super strong riders and while it was more a cat and mouse game than a full out effort, it felt good. The three of us also had the 8th fastest first lap (3:38 was the fastest, 3:42 was our first lap), which makes me feel better that we were drilling it.

Uninspired, but not Disinterested, Start to 2017

Trying to get back into the swing of cycling things since the holidays has been rough. Between a crappy two weeks of cold (was a low of 10 or so for the 4 days) snow, rain and Mandi going back to work, I was not in any rush to try and be outside. I easily talked myself out of it.

“The roads are wet.”

“I don’t know where my arm warmers are.”

I just didn’t have the urge to do it.

I was hoping I would never have to ride inside based on the weather down here. Last Monday, I broke. To make sure I wasn’t going to get too fat or go too long without pedaling, I dusted off the cobwebs on the trainer and set it up in the living room.

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Jack seemed to enjoy the sound it created, put him right to sleep after a nice warm bottle. He’s been sleeping through the night, which has been amazing. He’s smiling and in general is a happy, predictable boy. It’s awesome seeing him be happy and he’s almost at the point where he’s going to start to laugh.

Right now it’s easy to kind of let him be on his own or sit on the trainer while he isn’t interested in being held, or is due for a quick sleep. In the future, I can see this being harder and harder as he starts recognizes me more, calls for you, that kind of thing. It’s a feeling that, as weird as it sounds, seems to be replacing my desire for this peak cycling fitness.

Now I don’t want to be fat and shit stuffing my face with canolis for breakfast. I do still enjoy riding bikes and going fast on them. I would never say I’m going to quit bikes or anything like that, I don’t see that happening in that extreme at all. I would still like to show up to the 3 hour group ride and drill it with the boys. I still want to put a number on my handle bars or on my back and race. I’m sort of struggling with the idea of just being mediocre in my own eyes and being 100% okay with it at this moment. I need to not think about “what if I trained” or “I’m faster than this”. I’m just not sure how I’m going to feel in the next year or so about racing fitness. If you know me, I flip flop back and forth on everything, maybe this is just a phase at the time.

What’s on the calendar doe?

The cycling event schedule just never ends here. The last cross race of the year for NCCX is on Saturday, and then the weekend after that, the first MTB Short Track race is happening. It makes sense that you could ride your fitness into Short Track, but up north, it was always the “get the legs going for MTB” season race. Not the “ride your fitness from CX into MTB season”. It makes sense why people were freaking RIPPING this time last year. They just finished nationals and were raging. You almost need to pick a discipline to skip in order to not go completely mental. I’ve always been a fan up peaks and valleys of fitness and down time. Once I started training, it was all I knew and it made sense. You can’t be on your A game for 12 months out of the year. Here you can be on the gas all the time and race once a month. So instead of being 100% for 2 months out of the year, it seems you need to be 80%, all year round… I think. Strange.

I’ve been toying with the idea of unzipping my SSAP SS setup and throwing it on the Scalpel racing the SS category for Short Track. I would probably just do the sport category for my age group anyway based on how the riding schedule has been going, which is fine. I was looking at the times for the Super Sport and my age group and they are almost exactly the same, so why bother. The age group and SS start times are at 10ish instead of 2:40, which makes the whole afternoon open to do things. I don’t think I would win my age group… If I did that would be interesting.

While I have sworn off of singlespeeding year round, it’s funny how things come full circle. Before we moved down here, I thought that if I was going to stomp the Cat 3 races (we see how that worked out… HA!) I would just race the SS category if I was forced up graded. I would convert the SuperX to a singlespeed and have a fun time. I don’t know if I will be traveling as far as I have in the past to race cross, but the ~1 hour away races, it would be fun, I think. Maybe I’ll get myself some cut off shorts too?

The snow is melting, the days are getting longer, Spring is right around the corner.

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2016 to 2017

The holiday was a whirlwind between family staying with us and Jack being Jack. 2017 is here, which ends 2016 and this blog. It’s always fun to read the first couple pages of from this time last year. Glad to have recapped it. I’ve thought about the upcoming year and for the first time in a long time, I really have no idea what to expect. I’m sure it will be some sort of rollercoaster. I’m not a fan of roller coasters, but this one should be enjoyable. Planning to travel back north a family of three sometime in April, maybe wiggle out to some non-local cycling events, but really, we are just taking it one day at a time here at Casa de Peezy. One thing for sure, Being a parent is awesome. Watching little man grow and start to understand that we aren’t trying to kill him is insane. I didn’t leave the house yesterday (it was cool and rainy the last 2 days) and watched James Bond films all day with Jack. What could be more enjoyable than that? I haven’t gained any weight really, so I feel good about that. Hoping the lunch power hours can keep me in some sort of cycling shape.

Mandi has to head back to work next week sadly, so we get to do the whole “drop the kid off in the morning” routine. Thankfully one of our neighbors up the street has signed up for that duty and at a reasonable rate. I should be able to squeeze an hour lunch ride in to not feel like a complete slug thankfully. The people are actually originally from Woodbridge, if you can believe that.

The last couple weeks or so I’ve been toying with the idea of converting my scalpel to a SS for the upcoming short track races, selling my Nature Boy, Build a singlespeed 29er, converting my SuperX to be a super lightweight SSCX bike, Building/buying a bigger travel bike for fun rides in Pisgah, JRAing all year, training again (but for what), training myself based on what people on the internet say, taking up drinking, racing SS bikes in cut off jeans, all these combinations to make 2017 a more exciting year for me. If you know me my mind has an idea for a week and then moves on to another. Who knows what next week will bring and where my brain will be when I have cash in hand to start the next adventure.

We do know that 2017 will be super cool on and off the bike, but for the first time in a long time, I have no idea on the details.

That is it from me, Ride your bikes, post memes and j-whip all the jumps.

Holiday Hike and Mommas first ride back.

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Our newest family tradition, weather depending, the Christmas Eve Crowders Mountain hike. First time using the ergo carrier. Jack is heavy. Pretty awesome views for a 45 minute drive from Charlotte.

a3ab4082-a8cd-4622-abc6-f8e6571ac732_zpsrdlk0711Mommas first ride, and our first ride together in 10 months. Couldn’t imagine not riding 10 months and then jumping on a bike!