Sunday, October 14, 2007

Retirement Tour Off to a Great Start

Matt and I have been having a great time during the first two days of our riding adventure. I flew into Phoenix yesterday, and we headed out to ride the old Cactus Cup course. This is a short loop, only about an hour, but mildly technical, and fun. Of course it was pretty damn hot, but that's par for the course in Phoenix. We'd met up with Fletcher, a friend of Matt's, who was in full racer mode during the ride (we saw him for about the first 15 minutes). After that, headed back to Fletcher's house for lunch, showers, then we jumped back in the Sportsmobile and headed to Flagstaff.

In Flag we returned the Niner RIP 9 I had rented, and I requested a refund on my 2nd day rental fee (Matt picked up the bike two days prior), as they were idiots and put what was likely an 18" flat handlebar on the bike. Seriously, no, really, I mean, I felt like I was riding with my hands on each side of the stem. Oh, also, they'd thought to replace the shift cables the day before, but negelected to stretch the cables, and so I had to re-adjust the rear derailleur. It doesn't end there... about half the threads in the pedal hole of the cranks arms were stripped/gone, and I actually had one of my pedals unscrew on the trail. Nice job guys, way to ensure your demo rider has a good experience on the bike!

Grand Canyon
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey

Anyway, grabbed a quick espresso and sandwich and hauled ass for the Grand Canyon.

Unfortunately we arrived after dark at the GC. But, thankfully I had my tripod and DSLR, and managed to get some shots that make it look like we were there during the day! Pretty amazing place - I'd never been before, need to go back.

Camp outside Moab
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey

After that we drove late into the night to 30 miles outside Moab, and found a clearing a ways off the road to spend the night. Nice and quiet and dark, perfect. Asleep before 2am Utah time (lost an hour). Up the next morning to a nice sunrise, got the espresso/moka flowin', and headed into Moab.

Click the photo to play the video

In Moab we hooked up with Michael and Sylvi, and four other friend's of Matt's, and rode Sovereign trail. Absolutely great trail. About a 2hr ride, on prime Moab terrain - very rocky/slickrock, sandy, technical stuff. I rode my rigid Niner, which was brutal at times, but actually quite nice at others (really nice for rolling up and over ledges). We had the helmet cam in full effect. Should have video avail, once we get a chance to edit down the couple hours we have. Matt wore the camera to chase Nicole (former pro DH racer) down, which was sweet (this woman can fly!). I am renting a full suspension bike for tomorrow, as we're doing a mega downhill shuttle (as long as it doesn't snow at the top).

Finally, back into town, had some food, hung out, then a great dinner with Michael and Sylvi at Buck's. Massive double pork chop, wine, stories. Now, back in the Sportsmobile, calling it a night soon, early shuttle ride tomorrow morning.

For all the pictures, check my Retirement Tour tag on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Yesterday's Road Ride

I went out on the road yesterday. As I was getting ready, it was pouring, no dumping, no, I started looking for scuba gear! I almost bagged it, but then the rain let up a bit, and I was really eager to ride. I had the waterproof tights on, booties, jacket, rain gloves, hat, etc. I also had a new set of Specialized All Conditions Armadillo Elite tires (my review here).

I rolled out in the rain, and plunged down the descent from my house to the first climb. Up and over that (it's steep, but short), and out into the Lorane valley. The first 20 minutes or so are on Lorane Hwy with heavy trees, almost tree-tunnel type setup. It was wet. But upon popping out of the tree tunnel area, and passing the Grange... what was this? It was dry, and partly cloudy! I hammered on.

About 15 minutes later, it'd gotten darn near hot (at least when you're wearing all the rain gear), and I stopped by the side of the road to shed. Off came the booties and jacket, stuffed into my rear jersey pockets. Onward, but then was really getting warm (well, relatively, was probably in the low 60's). Stopped again and shed the rain gloves. Riding at this point felt like I had a big messenger bag on - my jersey pockets were totally stuffed with rain gear (plus the food, pump, etc. I had in there already). Now for the series of climbs.

The climbs are quite nice back in this area. There are wineries, and just the most beautiful trees at this time of year. Red, orange, yellow leaved maples line the road, making for a beautiful ride. I continued through the countryside, and wound my way back home. As I got back to the tree tunnel area, it was a little wetter, but fine.

Now then, up the steep climb to my house, where obviously it started to rain again :) The rain was light though, and I didn't need to put any gear back on. This was a great ride. Oh, and the tires worked really well, amazingly well in fact - killer in the corners, and I've never seen a road tire spray up so little water in the rain, a definite bonus!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Specialized All Conditions Armadillo Elite road tires

The rainy season appears to have begun here in Eugene, OR. My road bike is now setup for it, with the final change being to mount up some Specialized All Conditions Armadillo Elite 700x23 tires. Last year I ran Conti GP 4 Seasons, and prior to that nothing special in terms of a winter tires.

Right off the bat, you can tell these things are grippy, but still seem to roll pretty well. Not as fast as my regular Vredesteins, but good (and I think better than the Contis). Today's ride started out in some pretty heavy rain, and of course with the usual fast long descent from my house down to the first climb. The tires worked great on the descent, and I was immediately noticing how little water they threw off, or rather, threw off at me. Very nice!

Next up, the rest of the ride... What was particularly nice about today's ride was the complete spectrum of weather (absent snow, I guess if you want to be a stickler). I rode for a ways in the rain and then about 30 minutes in, the sun was shining and the roads were totally dry! This gave me a chance to try these tires out under "normal" conditions. Worked well - same as mentioned, slower than the Vreds, but faster tha the Contis, and good all around.

Not much later, I was stripping off my booties, jacket, and gloves, it was getting warm! I also got a chance to do some more significant cornering on descents, and these tires caught my attention - they railed!

Finally, on the final about 20 mins home, it was raining again. Good little descent, and again, great in the corners. Then the burly climb. All in all, very happy wit the new setup.