Tag mountain biking

Honest First Thoughts on the Spark 900 SL



If you didn’t already know, I want to disclose that I am sponsored by Scott Bicycles. And there is good reason for that. They make great bikes. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t want to be sponsored by them. But because I truly believe in their stuff, the brand, and what we at The Adrenalin Project are trying to do in conjunction with Scott, I’m giving you my honest two cents.

Scott Spark 900 SL

I took my Scott Spark 900 SL out for it’s first spin this past weekend at White Ranch in Golden, CO. Right away I noticed several things about this bike.

  • Wow this thing is light! Scott’s website specs the bike at 21.34 lbs and they weren’t kidding. The Specialized I rode all last year was a bit over 27 lbs, and trust me, that 6 lbs makes a BIG difference.
  • The saddle on this thing is about as comfortable as a cinder block. Ouch! It’s light weight, but at the cost of comfort.
  • The Twin Loc system is smooth at butter and quite natural to use.
  • The 1×11 set up should be on every bike.
  • Even using the “low” setting for the geometry/BB height, the bottom bracket still had plenty of clearance.
  • Foam grips, though lightweight, left my hands pretty sore when I was descending for more that a few minutes.
  • XTR brakes are wicked pissa.

 

This bike has the best of the best when it comes to components and it truly does make a difference. If I had to pick just one of those as my recommended upgrade for all the riders out there, it would actually be a tie between the 1×11 and the Twin Loc system.

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Using the 1×11 drivetrain took a little getting used to. I reached for the front shifter a few times and just ended up playing with the lockout settings on the shocks instead. But once I got used to it, I felt like I always had the right gear. You don’t have to shift front and rear to find the sweet spot. Just one or two shifts with your right thumb and you had exactly what you wanted.

This kinda reminds me of cleaning out your closet. At first it’s hard to get rid of things. You don’t want to throw them out because you’re used to having them there. You don’t use them, but you have a hard time letting go. But once you do, all of a sudden a weight is lifted from your shoulders and you feel refreshed. Lighter. Less cluttered. Same thing goes for those 2 rings up front. Get rid of one and all of a sudden, the brainpower that was used to think about which ring to be in (yes I realize it’s not much), is now free to focus on other things. I went from taking “some effort” to find the right gear, to taking “almost no effort whatsoever.” And when you add up the hundreds and hundreds of shifts over the course of a ride, it really does make a difference.

 

Twin LocIf taking away the 2nd ring and shifter up front makes things simpler and less mentally taxing, then does putting on a dual locking system just add that clutter back? If you had asked me before the right I might have said yes. After about an hour of riding… no, nope, and triple nada. I have been riding Specialized Brain technology for the last 3 years (smart lockout technology) and I initally thought this might be a step backwards, but boy o boy was I wrong! The system has 3 settings. Climb, Trail, Descend (CTD). Climb mode fully locks out the front and rear (felt like I was on a fully rigid bike). Trail mode gives your some travel, but doesn’t leave you bobbing up and down when you sit and peddle. Descend mode opens it all up and lets you go brrrraaaaappppp! It really was completely natural to use, incredibly ergonomic, and perfectly built mechanically speaking. I felt like I could always have the exact amount of suspension that I wanted for that specific section of trail.

 

You push the upper lever once to move to Trail mode. Push it again to go to Climb mode. I’m still not quite sure how or why, but without even thinking about it, my brain knew that that is how the lever should work. Scott must have hired a psychologist or something. How did they know my brain knew even when I didn’t know that I knew… you know? To switch from Climb to Trail to Descend, you just touch the lower lever with your thumb. Again, I didn’t even really have to think about it. Somehow my brain already knew this.

Twin Loc 2nd View

I’ve used remote lockouts before, but with all the levers there, it’s hard to get it in the right spot. Well Scott figured it out with this one because it’s spot on. No moving your thumb above and below the bar trying to hit it. It’s in the perfect spot (even if there had been a front shifter there).

The amount of effort it took to activate each of the levers and move back and forth between modes was nearly non-existent.   Because they nailed the spring strengths and lever lengths, it was more like hitting a button on a video game controller than switching shock positions. Since these actuations aren’t part of the drive train, you can shift between settings all you want without peddling (funny how the “shifting” action became synonymous with peddling in my brain). If you come up to a little rise and have to stand, just pop the top lever and you’re transferring all your power straight to the ground. No wasted energy needlessly bobbing the suspension up and down.

 

Adjustable BB/GeometryAnother cool feature of note on this bike, that only Scott bikes have, is an adjustable BB/geometry setting. In the Low position, your bottom bracket is 7mm lower and head tube angle relaxes back half a degree. That gives a more “relaxed” ride. I was pleasantly surprised several times throughout my ride in the Low position that the BB was still plenty high to clear those surprise rock outcroppings around a blind turn. The bike still handled sharply in this “laid back” position. With a T-25 torque you can swap the position to High (took me about 3 minutes on the trail) and the BB comes up and the fork gets a sharper angle. It really went into “race mode” when I did this. Felt really fast and snappy but not quite as stable on the steep descents and super rocky stuff. I’ll definitely keep it in Low while out having fun on the technical trails, and save High for racing.

 

The next big step to make sure I’m getting the most out of this bike is the fit I have schedule at Retul. After getting that done and logging several more rides, I’m sure I’ll be able to share with you more goods and bads about this bike.

 

 

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2013 Check List



 

I got all the items on my 2013 checklist marked off. Did you?

 

 

 

 

Go for some amazing mountain trail runs in the Colorado Rockies…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accept the fact that I have enormous hands…check.

 

 

 

 

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Get support from a company that I love and truly believe in…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complete my collection of Ouachita Challenge wrist bands…check

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completely fill the freezer at home with all the fish from our family fishing trips…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race with lucky #13 and get my ass handed to me…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get mistaken for a fat cross dressing clown…on multiple occasions…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do free remodeling for fellow Boulderites after the 500 year flood caused feces to spray out of their toilet like a fountain…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put on a kids triathlon clinic with Boulder Tri Club and spend just as much time laughing as mentoring…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crash so hard, I get the wind knocked out of me and even the Caveman goes “Damn!”…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be a goofball as often as possible…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finish on the podium again at my favorite XTERRA in the USA (Richmond, VA)…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go for an 8 hour float trip in Montana and repeatedly tell the story about the big one that got away…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get artsy with an iPhone…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Train with the best…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be an Arkansas Princess…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate my birthday in Mexico for the 3rd year in a row…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run, run, run in some amazing shoes…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do a Lemond style start to my first 12 hour mountain bike race…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laugh at all the hilarious ways that Macey can sleep…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drive through FEET of flood water in a 500 year flood…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do an off-road super sprint triathlon and be right in the mix of it…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Train with more of the best…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn my lesson about proper recovery by riding 60 miles on Saturday on the mtb and then racing the same 60 miles on mtb the next day, only to build up a 4 minute lead and then lose it all during Sunday’s race…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy fresh made milk shakes at a small town diner after a solid day of training in Montana…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make some $$$$ at a race…check!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throw down on my favorite XTERRA course in the USA (in Richmond, VA)…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat an entire 3-layer red velvet birthday cake…by myself…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go on a hut trip with the fam…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally have a good race at XTERRA Indian Peaks (2nd place overall)…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See my favorite artist for the 3rd time live in concert…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit some new places that you didn’t even know about before the trip…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smile and have as much fun as possible while suffering like a dog…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go fishing with my dad and Lil and not tip over in the canoe because Lil won’t hold still…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run the Dirty 30 with my amazing girlfriend Jennifer…check.

 

 

 

 

 

Race a trithlon-switched-to-duathlon-because-of-flood-waters and be right in the front with the best…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a beer at a local dive bar and hope that we don’t get shot for being “city folk”…check.

 

 

 

 

 

Race so hard, I drool on myself while flying through Blood Rock and the other sweet trails in Birmingham, AL…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laugh at the hilarious names that they named the caves after going on a 3 hour caving adventure…check.

 

 

 

 

 

Be reminded of the brotherly love I share with my little bro Travis…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play announcer at a race…check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End my race season early (but not my career), by getting hit by a truck while riding my bike…check. (I would have rather not checked that one off the list).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ouachita Challenge Weekend



Two weekends ago was a whirlwind of amazing experiences, challenging rides, pleasant surprises, and minor disappointments. So much happened, but I’ll stick to the highlights and try to tell as much of the story with pictures.

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It all took place just outside Hot Springs, Arkansas.

TheOuachita Challenge Course Map Ouachita Challenge. The 1st day was a 60 mile mountain bike tour. The 2nd day was a race on the same kick ass trails. The plan was to ride easy and have a chill day with the guys from SweatBloodDirt.com for the tour on Saturday. Then throw down at Sunday’s race.

 

 Saturday

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Adam, Craig, and I ready for a long fun day in the saddle.

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I wanted to make sure everyone knew who I was.

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The Blues Brothers showing us the way. I had that song “Soul Man” stuck in my head for the next 2 hours.

All smile at aid station #2

All smiles at aid station #2

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Water crossing number… 6?7?8? of 20?21?

Just over 7 hours later, the 2 wheeled fun had come to and end for day 1. Made a bunch of new friends, rode some sweet trails, and set a new personal record for number of pickles consumed in one ride. A great raffle and pasta dinner kept us busy before we laid down to rest for another night of sleep in the school gymnasium. Holy cow, mountain bikers can snore loud!

Sunday

Ouachita Challenge

The race began with a neutral start (we roll out together, but don’t actually start racing until a few miles in), which was nice for me because the body was a little sore from the day before. Just before we had our first water crossing, it was go time. The lead vehicle pulled out of the way and the pace picked up.

As I have said in previous blogs, I know I’m not the strongest rider on straight, flat dirt roads. So for 3 miles or so, I sat in the pack and hung on. But once we turned off the road and onto the single track, I was pleasantly surprised. I slightly eased off the pace that we had going on the road (when I say eased off the pace, I mean we went from REALLY F*#KING HARD, to slightly less F*#KING HARD), but becuase of the rocks, roots, twists, and turns, that pace was somehow to fast for the rest of the riders I was with. I quickly moved up to 3rd and was bearing down on the 2 in front of me.

 Leading the Ouachita ChallengeBy the half way point, I had nearly a 4 minute lead over the rest of the field. I felt fantastic and if you had asked me if I could hold that effort and win the race I would have shouted back a big “HELL YES!” with a big smile on my face. I had followed my nutrition plan (Powerbar Gel’s and Perform sports drink) to the T, but around mile 40 all of that changed in the blink of an eye. As if someone had flipped a switch, the wheels completely feel off. In just a matter of minutes I went from king of the world, to drooling dunce. I struggled to the final aid station, and proceeded to down a couple of cokes and an entire package of cookies in about 5 minutes. With a woozie head, I hopped back on the bike, pushed when I could, and came across the line in 10th place in a time of 5:01:44.

Holding on for 10thWhy did that fantastic bonk happen? How could I hit the wall so hard? (And mind you, I see the following reason as a lesson learned the hard way, not an excuse). Well, as tough as I think I am, there is a limit to what my body can handle. 7 hours in the saddle the day before really drained my body of it’s precious fat stores and by not replenishing those properly after the race, when I emptied the tank on Sunday, IT WAS EMPTY! Nothing left to fall back on.

At the end of the day, I would actually say that I was very, very happy with my race. Why? Becuase like my coach says all the time “You can’t fake good.” Had I not ridden the day before, or actually eaten like I should have, the pace that I had early in the race would have continued and I would have picked up the W. You can’t fake that type of fitness. That has me quite excited for my next few mountain bike races coming up.

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Helping out with a little post ride announcing.

 

Huge HUGE thanks to Craig Roberson for setting all of this up for me. Adam and Kurt for transportation to and from the race and giving me a bed before and after the race. It’s trips like this that remind me that I’m doing what I love and that there is so much fun to be had out there.

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A Somewhat Surprising Finish



Going into a race, there are many feelings that flow through my body. Some races have me nearly wetting my pants I get so excited. New races bring the excitement and anxiousness of unknown possibilities. While others have me dreading the inevitable pain I will put myself through. The XTERRA USA Championship in Ogden, UT is mostly the latter. It can be hard to get motivated when you know the suffering that is to come, but finally by Friday morning before the race, I found it.

Hitting the trails that morning for the final pre ride with CraigBoobsLuke, and Branden must have done the trick. The colors were absolutely amazing at that time of year with orange, red, yellow, and a few green leaves creating a colorful kaleidoscope surrounding the smooth single track of Snow Basin. We laughed as much as we pedaled and by the end of it, I found the mental state I needed to be in to have a good race.

 

On race morning, I was super duper mega excited to finally get to race in my BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit. So many of the races have been non wetsuit swims for the pros this year, that my speed suit saw way more action than my wettie. I figured if this suit was good enough for theCaveman, it’s good enough for me. I’ve never owned a suit quite like this and I was so excited to finally see it in action.

Despite the fact that I got absolutely pounded during the first couple hundred meters (Those Brits are rough), I kept my mind focused and had my best swim to date. How do I know it was my best? I’ll tell you. I base all of my race swims off of the lead swimmers. That way there is no wondering if the course was short or long. I was either slow or not. And that day, I was not.

As I sped through transition and hopped onto my bike, I was a little confused. “What are you doing back here?!?” I thought to myself as I surveyed my competition. Then I realized “Holy crap! They aren’t back here. I’m up there!”

I wish I could say that my bike performance made me just as happy as my swim, but it just wasn’t my day. I wasn’t slow, but I wasn’t stellar either. The legs weren’t feeling it on the bike, so I settled into a comfortable groove on the uphills and tried to absolutely rip the descents. I’m still not sure exactly how they knew, but my legs told me that they could run fast that day. With that in mind, I kept calm and collected as I was caught by a few guys and passed a few on the bike.

Then came my moment to shine. As we hit T2 and blasted through, the field was completely stacked on top of each other. 12th place through 6th exited T2 about 1 minute apart from each other. I felt comfortable and more importantly confident in my abilities as we dashed off into the woods. I started picking them off one by one and with less than 2 miles of straight downhill to go, I caught the last two guys I knew were catchable (Ryan Ignatz and Cody Waite). I surged and the smile on my face grew.

I fought off the cramps in every leg muscle I had (and a few I didn’t know about until later) and was able to keep my lead on those two and crossed the line in 7th place. I was a bit surprised I was able to do that! My coach, my girlfriend, and fellow racers had all said they knew I could do it, but I didn’t quite believe it until I did it. What an amazing feeling! And with that finish I was able to maintain my 6th place ranking in the USA Pro Points Series for 2012. Yippie!

It was time to celebrate! So what did we do? Learn to surf sounds like a fun idea!?! I’d never surfed behind a boat before, so it seemed like time to try it out.

Surfing that afternoon and a giant piece of chocolate cake that night was about the craziest celebration you can expect in Utah, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. All and all, what a great way to end the off-road season.

A huge thanks to TimexRudy ProjectPowerBarHoly Crapmix1, and my newest sponsor Peak Performance Acupuncture for all the support that helped to make the culmination of my XTERRA season a huge success!

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It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than That…



If I don’t ride my mountain bike often enough during the winter, I sometimes forget this…


38 minutes to the top of the climb. This is a 1 hour ride, so I’m gonna have to rip it to get back! Just as the song changes, the gears change. Pop it up to the big blade, click the remote lockout to set the fork to active, and zip up the jersey. Let’s do this! Stand up and blast out 500 watts or so to set the rig into motion. Wonder if my tire pressure is right? Guess I’ll find out. Hit the little kicker just to the side of the trail and catch a little bit of air. Immediately stand back up out of the saddle and hammer into the first 180 degree turn. Back tire slides a little, but holds as another 500 or so watts are slammed into the peddles. Time to really rip up this descent!

Heart starts really pumping with a tight right, quick left, hop off a little riser, and another sharp right. Music thumping in the ears, the bike flows over and around the jagged rocks cemented into the dry Colorado dirt. Thread the needle, thread the needle, thread the needle. The tiniest error would result in a busted peddle or god forbid, scratched rim, as the bike darts through the catawampus pile of stones. In a smooth flowing rise from the saddle, the peddles continue to transfer power to the ground  as the trail becomes almost smooth looking with the unstoppable 29er wheels. Faster and faster the trees fly by. Closer and closer they get to the handle bars, but the thought of clipping one doesn’t even exist.

Another tight 180 degree turn. Hit the brakes just enough to slow down to a perfectly ludicrous cornering speed, while dropping through an off-camber washed out section. Release the front break and look 15 feet down the trail to the small drop into a rock garden and mishmash of roots. No need to think. The bike knows. The body knows. The reactions are so natural, the potentially wheel taco-ing obstacles pass in mere seconds as the eyes focus on the next challenge ahead. The heart thumps louder as the senses scream WOOHOO!

Advancing on another banked left turn, the left shoulder dips, the outside foot drops, and the gaze is on the exit of the corner. Both tires slide ever so slightly as another chain snapping acceleration is set into motion. Down into the saddle and time to flow. Right, left, right, left. The bike flicks side to side faster than the blink of an eye. Inches from stead fast trees, the bars continue to snap side to side as the peddle stroke is coordinated to just barely miss sharp rocks. Everything is flowing as one. Smooth and connected. Body, mind, bike, tires, terrain. It all flows together.

Now for the fun part! The horizon drops away to reveal a mine field of tire slicing, ear-to-ear smile-producing rocks, with multiple routes to descend through. No time to stop and pick the best line, momentum has the upper hand. Out of the saddle, weight shifted back over the rear tire, and fingers balanced above the break levers, the 29er relishes the gnarly landscape as it soaks up the bumps. Fear is running as fast as it can to catch up, but there it has no hope of it keeping pace. Exhilaration courses through the veins as the speed increases, the reactions become quicker, and the effort becomes… well… effortless. This is it. I am in my element.

Picking the line is so inherent that the focus goes to the song on the iPod, rather than the hazards ahead. Fitting as Born This Way by Lady Gaga lays down a base line that continues to keep the euphoric feelings coursing through the body. A smile stretches wide as the bike leaves the ground to float over the rubble. Touching down, the feet level back out to keep the crank arms parallel to the ground. Faster. Faster! FASTER! No brakes necessary. The scenery is but a blur as the sole focus of the eyes is on the trail ahead. Then the saddest part of the entire trail approaches… the end.

Dropping back into the saddle as the tires touch the pavement, one thought cements itself – That was why I do what I do. I A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y love the thrill that comes from the realization that passion led me down that hill.


Can’t wait to do it again tomorrow…

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