Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

3rd place Singlespeed solo category at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo (24hitop), 2012, 280 miles

Finished 3rd in the Singlespeed solo category at the 2012, 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.  It took almost exactly 25 hours without resting to get 280 miles (17 laps) and around 20,000 feet of elevation gain.  Ouch!  I was hoping to repeat my win from 2011 but the competition tough this year!  At one point in the morning 1st place through 5th place appeared to be within a lap of each other.  The weather was relatively nice compared to last year which led to some record breaking efforts.  This is a great event held just outside Tucson Arizona by Oracle.  Around 3,500 participants this year in a variety of different categories.

Race results   

I ran 32x19 gearing which was the same as the last two years.  For this course I chose to run Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires (snakeskin version) on the front and rear with the “new and improved” tread pattern.  They stuck to the trail like glue and performed flawlessly.  What I really noticed after the race was how well they wore during the race compared to the previous version.  They have lots of miles left in them!

The race started out with the usual carnage that comes with stuffing 700+ racers onto a small rough trail.  There was a multi bike pile up that I somehow avoided on the first decent.  Just a short distance after that the two riders next to me had a collision, ran into my leg, and they both crashed while somehow I stayed upright. 

During the first few laps the top solo singlespeed riders were all frequently within sight of each other.  I went back and forth with Mike Melley (Eventual race winner) several times over the first couple laps and we discussed the possibility that we all may be going to hard initially for a 24 hour effort and if that was a good idea.  Obviously Mike thought it was because he suddenly put down the hammer and in a few minutes I couldn’t even see him anymore.  (A tactic??? LOL)  There were two other guys who seemed to be working together drafting off each other every time I saw them.  Not sure how they ended up placing.  I also went back and forth with Neil Becwar (Eventual 2nd place finisher) throughout the night.  After the race he admitted followed me a good portion of a lap talking to me and sizing me up then snuck by when I pitted.  I remembered it but must have never turned around to see who was behind me.

In the middle of the night I had a Bobcat run directly in front of me and stop up on some rocks on my right to check me out.  Very cool!!!!  During the night I also had a guy taco his rim on a rock right in front of me (He was okay).  It sounded like a gunshot!  Also, somewhere out on the trail someone shot off fireworks right over my head.  That woke me up!

Sometime during the night a “Red Solo Cup” appeared on the trail and was there until the end of the race.  For the rest of the race I couldn’t get that song by Toby Keith out of my head and I really don’t like it.  Just an additional level of torture during the race!!

I slowed during the early morning laps but when the sun came out I consistently kept improving my lap times until I had a 1:18 time on the last lap.  The wind definitely kicked up during the morning which kept it cool and required more effort.  

It was great to have friends on the course giving me encouragement throughout the race!  I was very happy to be done when I crossed the finish line at 1:00!!!!

Thanks to my wonderful wife and Daughter (who was my biggest fan, super cool!!) for help during the race and teammate Tr Larson for staying up all night helping in the pit!

Mike Melley really crushed it and ended up with a record setting 18 laps (He also set the last record at 17 laps),  Neil Becwar ended up 2nd with 17 laps, I ended up 3rd with 17 laps, Eddie Urcadez finished 4th with 16 laps and Simon Zmyslinski ended up on the podium with 16 laps.  16 laps would have won in some previous years.  Great job everyone!!!
The podium

A couple laps in the race, Photo by Shawn Bolduc
The pre-race setup, Jeff Hemperley's pit is to the right

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Arizona Black Canyon Trail mountain bike ride in one day, on a singlespeed

The Black Canyon Trail is one of my favorite Arizona desert rides.  Typically it’s done as an in-n-out, a shuttle or a loop utilizing a nearby road.  The trail is well built and perfect for a singlespeed.  The access is easy and trail access is plentiful not far from I-17.  If you have driven this route before don’t think that you have already seen all the scenery around there.  It is spectacular along the trail and the builders planned the route well to take advantage of the canyons and vistas.  More information is available at http://www.bctaz.com/

We chose to shuttle the entire route north to south (hwy 69 to hwy 74) and mountain bike it in one day.  Don’t let the word shuttle fool you.  You will definitely end up lower than you started but there is still a lot of climbing in between and you may want to take a bike light.

The trail is well marked but there are a couple of sections where the route crosses or gets on 4wd roads that could be confusing.

My favorite sections were Antelope Creek and south of Black Canyon City but the rest is all great riding as well.  The section south of New River Road is not that fun unless you just want to do the entire thing.  There is some more singletrack north of highway 69 and there are plans to eventually go all the way to Prescott but at this time the best northern start is at 69.

Jeff Hemperley and I started at highway 69 and Old Sycamore Road.  There is a fire station there.  We rode up Old Sycamore Road and caught the trail on the north side of hwy 69.  We passed the singletrack the first time and had to backtrack.  It wasn’t marked well there.  When the Trail crosses Antelope Creek Road it is a bit confusing.  Just continue straight across the road onto a 4wd road that veers to the right and look for the trail just past that.  Eventually you cross the mesa and then descend on the Antelope creek section which is sweeeeeeet. 

There is a fair amount of ups and down as you are heading south through the Bumble Bee area on this section of the trail.  The trail is easy to navigate until north of Black Canyon City where it gets on and off of 4wd roads.  Just watch for the trail like a hawk so you don’t miss it and end up in Black Canyon City.

You will cross the Agua Fria River wash multiple times.  At certain times of the year there may be a lot of water to ford or it may even be impassable.  West of Black Canyon city there is a spur to the left going to a trailhead but you want to go right.  If you need to resupply this is the place to the left.  It is a relatively short ride to a store in Black Canyon City. 

The next section that heads west away from Black Canyon City then veering south is one of my favorites.  This also has the biggest climb on the route.   

Follow the trail signs and you eventually get to the Agua Fria River crossing.  This can be kind of confusing.  On the other side of the sandy crossing go left on the old road and watch for the trail on the right.  Two trails climb out of the wash and then join again at the top.  Take either one but I like the right better.

After crossing the Table Mesa road you will start the last significant climb.  After that there are still ups and downs but not as big.  There is a very cool section with gigantic saguaros with arms point in all kinds of crazy directions.  North of the New River road there is a “Y” left is better, going right puts you on an old 4wd road.

The last section before reaching the New River Road is fun and is well marked but does require some navigating where it goes on and off of 4wd roads.

The section south between New River Road and the Carefree Hwy 74 is kind of flat and boring.  If you were going to cut anything off of this ride it would be that section.  We ended up riding most of this section in the dark and it made it harder to navigate the mess of old roads.  Starting just a half hour sooner would have avoided any night riding but it made it fun.

Great trail and a great ride!