Wow, talk about an ass kicking time! 24 Hours of Big Bear was this past weekend and I went out with a (supposed) 4 person team to race (ride) in the "just for fun" category with some guys from Proteus, Jim, Ben and Zach, who mysteriously never showed up...
I rode the Jamis Exile 29'er, still rigid single speed and basically had my ass handed to me; at least on the first lap. It's funny how I use my upcoming blog posts to distract myself when riding through the pain and suffering of a race. This course (and my first lap more specifically) was the hardest mountain biking I have ever done. The key tipping point for this? My tires were pumped to 50 PSI... a number a rigid 29'er in my eyes should NEVER see. Wes came out and played mechanic though and really hooked us up with some much needed bike tuneups before and between laps. The one thing we didn't so much get right though was that tire pressure.
During my first lap I should have been able to figure something like that out, but my mind simply was not there and I just took the beating of a lifetime; unable to sit for the majority of the lap due to the rough terrain. The rocky steep downhill sections were terrifying especially when I realized my brakes were set too low after a handlebar adjustment as well. Anyway, despite all this bitching and moaning I did survive my first lap with a reasonable (for me) time of 1 hour 47 minutes and got some rest and adjustments on the bike.
My second lap started off great with my lights on as it was about 10:30 or so. With the tire pressure back down to 30 I was feeling 100 % better and my comfort on the bike was back. For the first three miles things were golden until on a steep climb where I just couldn't quite make it I pulled the right brake lever to keep from rolling back while i dismounted. The brake didn't engage and I was rolling back anyway. When I managed to get off I looked at the brake line and there was a liquid running down it. My brake line had popped off the compression fitting; goodbye rear brake.
This of course was before the horrifyingly steep and rocky downhill section so I kept going, riding the front brake through the majority of downhills to prevent any necessary hard stopping though still endo-ing a couple of times. On the steepest downhill section I managed about halfway but on my 5th or 6th front wheelie I decided to call it quits and walk the rest of the way. Considering there were guys on fully suspended rigs doing the same thing around me in the dark I didn't feel too bad about it, though I really didn't want to be doing it that way.
When I finally made it back in I checked with the mechanics on hand; no dice, the bike, or at least the brake was out of commission for the day. On that note I decided to actually follow through on my desire to ride one of the Ellsworth's being demo'd at the race and managed to score the full squishy 29'er, the Evolve. I've never ridden a full suspension bike before so I didn't have too much to compare it to but WOW! This bike was incredible. From the moment I hit the trail on it I just felt amazing. I could fly over the toughest of sections with ease and comfort and could keep the lines I'd struggled with so much previously. Having gears was pretty cool too, with some pretty serious climbing at the end of the course they certainly came in handy. The downhill sections were a breeze; nothing like before.
In the end I came out with my fastest lap being my last lap; by far. I cut somewhere around 10 minutes from my previous best lap time, and actually I won the contest being put on by Ellsworth. Biggest time improvement by a rider with their demo bike over the riders' own bike. They told me that at about 1:30 and said I could stick around until 2:30 for the awards ceremony to get the prize, a new messenger bag but as my whole team and crew were long gone I figured I'd rather just get my tired ass home.
So, while maybe this is telling me I shouldn't be riding a rigid single speed at this point in my development as a mountain biker, I'm choosing to take it as I shouldn't be riding that kind of a race on one. While I am now dreaming of buying that bike, it is financially out of reach at this point and quite frankly I don't do enough of that kind of serious and technical mountain biking at the moment to justify a full suspension, much less a new mountain bike. For places like Patapsco and Wakefield and Rosaryville I think I've got just the bike I need. A front fork will likely be my next bike part purchase but otherwise I'm happy where I am.
Now, if I were to ever consider that race solo? There is no way in hell I'd even consider riding anything less then a fully suspended 29'er. I think I'll stick to my riding to camp mentality.
My Team: Proteus/Racin Union
My Personal "Scores"
Oh and as you can see from the team page, we "ghost-lapped" the times when Zach should have been riding. None of us had the energy or desire to make up for his laps so we just skipped them. I figure if we had a full team we'd have had a solid 2 more laps (maybe three due to the longer "sleep in" ghost lap time overnight). Good for anywhere from 9th to 18th place as opposed to our 23rd.