Monday, May 31, 2010

Race reports are lame. Here's mine

Ohh it was a good time this weekend at Hardwood. Had a bunch of transients staying on my floor for the race. Pretty convenient when you live 200 meters away from the start line. It was an amazing weekend weather wise. I'm sure you all remembered how crappy it was last year when it actually snowed for 5min at the start of our race.
Was hot hot heat and the course was pretty rough and tumble so I knew it would be hard to recover if I went too far into the red zone. Lucky for me it wasn't really much of an option since I really haven't been training fo real since I got back from down South. I had no power anyways. I started right at the back of the pack with my friend Cory. About 50m off the start there was a pretty big crash mid pack on my far left and we cruised right by. An easy way to make up 20 spots right off the start lol.
It was a slow start for our group. I think the fog of war (aka thick ass cloud of dust) limited our visibility to about 10 feet for the times you weren't blinded by watery eyes. Mouth felt like it was full of baking soda toothpaste. I made sure to hock out all of my spit in the first couple km's to avoid ingesting too much of that crap. The slow start made it easy to catch back up with the main group just in time for the traditional first singletrack slow down.
All in all it was a good time. I didn't have any wipeouts and I actually don't think I got passed once during the race. I had a late last lap surge going by the tech zone and managed to pass 4 more people before the finish line. Finished up mid pack in 34th which is probably much better than last year when I really sucked. Maybe in the next couple months I'll be able to get my top end speed back up to par with some training. My fitness and endurance is great cause I have still be riding quite a bit, just nothing structured. Hard not to ride given my surroundings. Anyways Mountainview this weekend should be fun. I DNF'd last year due to the heat so it should be easy to top that lol.
Nice dirt line post race

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HSB is throwin' down.

Getting some good riding in at Hardwood Ski and Bike as always. Seems like I have been having trouble lately resisting the urge to hurl my body against the ground in a I-hope-nobody-saw-that-flail fashion. Luckily both times there were no witnesses and also both times my bike came out of it pretty much un-injured. I would say I too for the most part have come out un-injured given the serious potential of the crashes.
First one was on Friday. For some reason my pedal came unclipped just as I was cresting the steepest part of boneshaker. Thought I was going to be able to ride it out but just as I was reaching the steepest part my bike got spooked and tossed me upside-down onto a nice new patch of quick-crete. It's like landing on 2-grit sandpaper lol. That one got me pretty much all up the right side with a swollen ankle, wrist, and a bit of rash on my calf, hip, arm, and back. Again was lucky to get away with only superficial damage.
Today I was doing some tempo laps and my front wheel washed out on a steep downhill corner. It was one of those 20km/h launches where you have about 36 seconds of hang time in the air before gravity brings you back down to reality. In the interest of protecting my sore wrist I decided to break my fall with my face which worked really well. At this point I am glad I bought the Rudy Project sunglasses that were designed for S.W.A.T. to be impact resistant. Amazingly my helmet shows no damage but I think I should probably replace it to be safe. Got a bit of a shiner on my forehead and added to my raspberry collection on my knee and arm and hip. All in all a good day in the saddle.

The Canada Cup course is pretty tough and it is going to be a hard race. Laps are long and moderately technical with lots of climbing and very little rest. It is going to be a race of attrition with lots of people struggling on the later laps. Hopefully my fitness will make up for my lack of top end speed and I can come out of it in a decent position. It is already very slippery and dusty so if this heat and dryness keeps up it is going to be a really tough race. You know the ones where black dust sticks to your whole body and lungs and nostrils and you cross the finish line looking like an 80 year old coal miner.
Should be fun as always!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Carolina guided tour info

New tour format.

Put the mountain in mountain biking. Come spend a week with me in beautiful South Carolina. In the spirit of affordability I have come up with a good solution to the traditional cycling tour.

What is provided:
-4 days of guided riding, create your own tour itinerary
-Accommodations for the week in the beautiful 5000 square foot house
-Training program guidelines and advice for your early season if required
-Full service by a trained bicycle mechanic, me
-Rides include beginner to advanced instruction when required
-Instructors are first aid certified - 2 coaches for groups over 5 people
-End of week BBQ and celebration on Friday

Arrive on the Saturday and stay till the next Saturday, a full week! Usually the best plan is to spend Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday on the bikes. Average ride is targeted for 4 hours. This is aimed at riders with a decent fitness base who are wanting to take their cycling and fitness to the next level. All options including coaching and instruction and even participation are just that, options. So if you feel tired that day and would rather do your own thing you are welcome to. Or if you just want to get in some amazing riding without all of the coaching and instruction well that's fine too. Come out and enjoy some of the finest cycling North America has to offer. It's no wonder why I am going back for my 7th year in a row! South and North Carolina feature epic ridge riding at Tsali, huge slick rock trails at Dupont, technically abundant riding at Pisgah, and super fast snaking singletrack at Issaqueena. On the asphalt you can experience long switchback mountain climbs, rolling twisty back roads, courteous drivers, and great pavement! Amazing vistas are absolutely awe inspiring and beautiful weather will put a smile on your face year after year. I will show you the best of the best.

What is not provided:

Bring your own car and buy your own groceries. This keeps my overhead low which saves you hundreds of dollars and me a logistical nightmare. Convoy to the trailhead in your own vehicle.

The tour is now available on any of the 9 weeks. There will be a dozen or so different ride and lesson options to choose from. Create your own tour itinerary! Book early to have first choice of how you want your tour week to be organised. Different groupings include Road, Mountain, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, with lots of options for each. Mix 'n' match, do 1/2 road and 1/2 mountain, or 33.33% mountain and 66.66% road, or 1/4th road and 3/4ths mountain, or 100% road, or 100% mountain (percentages over 100% not available).

Pricing breakdown - Includes accommodation at The Palace
1-2 people = $450/person/week
3-5 people = $400/person/week
6-10 people = $350/person/week

Ride options: click on a ride for more info - more to come!

Mountain Biking options
Issaqueena Dam trails
DuPont State Forest trails
Pisgah National Forest - Black Mountain

Road Riding options
Caesar's Head

Lake Keowee house info

February 26 - April 30
Click here for a suggested driving route.

What is the deal with this South Carolina house?
Every year I rent this big place in the Northwest of SC right at the base of the Appalachian mountains. It's big, it sleeps about 13 people very comfortably, is quite large, the property is right on a huge lake, and the house is big. We get folks from all over the place and at all different ability levels. There's the pro's like Derek Zandstra, the has beens bordering on never was like myself, the recreationals, the families, and the folks who don't even ride but appreciate the awesomeness of staying in a mansion down South by the mountains on a lake.
You are free to do your own thing while staying at the house. In fact you might not even notice I'm there unless you eat my peanut butter or make tons of noise at 6am.
Stay on your toes as the 2011 SC Easter bunny could strike at any time. The bunny is known for reducing even the hardest of core athletes to eating jelly beans and peanut butter eggs for breakfast.

House Info
Top Floor - 2 Bedrooms, one with a Queen and a Twin. The other with a Queen, full, and twin.
Main Floor - 3 Bedrooms. Master Bedroom has a King. 2 Bedrooms have Queens.
Walk out Basement - 2 Bedrooms. One with a Queen and a Twin. The other with a Queen, full, and twin.
-65" TV with Blu Ray in the main fireplace room. It is spectacular!
-Wireless internet
-LCD TV's with cable in each bedroom.
-Pool Table
-6 bathrooms, 7 showers
-Fully furnished rooms and kitchen
-big dining room table
-on the water with a nice dock and big deck
-2 car garage for bikes with custom bike rack and lots of parking outside
-full central air conditioning (yes we've used it before)
-gas fireplace
-2 refrigerators
-2 laundry rooms with washers/dryers
-towels/sheets/pillows provided

The riding
Well this is really the best part of the whole experience. Hard to believe given all of the awesome stuff mentioned already. Besides the hundreds of miles of snaking, nicely paved roads you can also find about 100miles of really good singletrack within a 25min driving radius of the house. Explore into nearby North Carolina to find the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah, Dupont, and Tsali. Take part in some of the SERC XC racing series or weekly police escorted club road rides in Greenville.
People tend to informally organise themselves in groups depending on what they feel like riding that day, their ability level, and whether or not they actually get out of bed in the a.m. hours of the day.

Weeks available - Updated regularly
Week 1: Feb 26 - March 5
Week 2: March 5 - March 12 (Booked up)
Week 3: March 12 - March 19 (Booked up)
Week 4: March 19 - March 26 ( Booked up )
Week 5: March 26 - April 2 ( Booked up )
Week 6: April 2 - April 9 ( Booked up)
Week 7: April 9 - April 16 ( Booked up )
Week 8: April 16 - April 23 (2 spots left)
Week 9: April 23 - April 30

You must book by the week in whole weeks. Arrive any time on the Saturday of your week and leave up to any time the Saturday of your departure week.

No pricing change for 2011!! Yes I am that awesome. Only thing that has changed is the deadline to get the cheapest price, it has been bumped to January 1st. Pre-booking is very helpful to me and deserves to be rewarded :-)

Pricing before January 1st

Pricing after January 1st

How to book your stay:
Email, call, or text me with the weeks you want to stay. Please reference the week number instead of saying "last week of March" since that could potentially mean 2 different weeks. For each single or couple that are booking there is a $50 deposit for each week being booked. So if you want to stay as a single or couple for weeks 3 and 4 then $100 is due at the time of booking in order to hold your spot. Remaining balance is due February 1st or before.

*Small print* Deposit is 100% refundable until February 1st, 2011. After February 1st the total balance is paid and is non-refundable after February 15th ,2011. Any money paid including deposit and balance are 100% refundable until February 14th, 2011.

Ben Dawson
cell: 705 229 6923

Misc Photo's - Send me yours if you want to share.

What better way to spend an afternoon?Driving these roads is 1/2 the fun!
Derek replenishes his vitamin D
Heading out to the trails
Me and Andy ride up over Ceasar's Head on a perfect afternoon
A typical SC road
Stephan does the robot while applying sunscreen as Shirley and Scott, the home owners, take us out for a boat ride and tour.
Check out the Pickens flea market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. My camera could only capture about 1/4 of what was there.
Trails at Issaqueena are some of my favourite.

Ben's South Carolina 2013

Lake Keowee house info

Guided tour/private lesson, hourly rate

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ouch legs

Extra strength Tylenol for me tonight. Did the Mansfield Epic 8 hour today in the Tag Team under 70 (combined lol) age category. Got 3rd in our category, it was awesome. I am super proud of my partner in crime for cranking out some fast laps.
My times were nice and consistent, I was pleased.
29:56, 29:54, 30:31, 30:19, 30:03, 30:13, 30:46, 31:57
Darn last lap.Guess my old man legs just couldn't hold out any longer;-) Right now I am devouring a big bowl of chili since it is the only thing in my fridge that is ready to go and I resisted the McDonalds temptation. Gotta save that coin for the Skyline, oh and yeah it's bad for you too.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The X-Ben 2x9 Experiment

What I am running this year and why

*pictures and weights to come
I have been getting a fair amount of interest in my current 2x9 setup whether it be online or passers by. Seems I am not the only one that has been left wanting more in terms of shifting performance, gear ratios, and weight savings. So I am here to set the record straight about my setup and how it came to be.
*disclaimer - yes I know that I am in no way being original and I got most of my ideas from other peoples setups.
It's really much less scientific than you might think. Pretty much the story goes........ I am used to running 11-34 cassettes with long cage derailleurs and triple rings up front (22-32-44). In the past, lets say, 5 years of riding and racing I have not come upon a situation that required me to use my 22 tooth or granny ring........ever. Sure there are situations that may exist, like Trans Rockies or maybe a super steep climb in Pisgah NC but I have learned to get by on a near 1:1 ratio from front to back. So in a conventional setup the easiest gear I would use was a 32 on the front and a 34 on the back (pretty well a 1:1 ratio). I would keep the small ring on for safety purposes. I could never really get a top swing front derailleur to completely block out the small ring using the lower limit screw. I found it would always start to impede the entire movement of the derailleur a few screwdriver turns from where I needed it to be to not have the chain fall down to the BB with no small ring. This problem is easily rectified by running the lower limit with cable tension alone but it is not a fool proof option, hence the reason for me leaving the granny on.
I was looking for a solution to shed grams and have tighter intervals between shifts. If you look at a race car you will find a close ratio transmission. This is to keep the rpms at an efficient rate and not have such big jumps between gears that will bog down the motor. My legs are no different. I found 1x9 had too large of intervals between shifts and I really couldn't be efficient to such large changes in gear ratio. I am somewhat sensitive to having the right cadence, it's just the way I train.
The 2x9 setup fixes every single problem I was having with conventional gearing except for one, I will talk about that later.

The Cassette
I am using a 9 speed 7700 DuraAce 11-27 cassette. Actually Shimano never made an 11-27, only a 12-27. I took the 11 tooth cog and cassette lockring off of a mountain bike cassette I had laying around to give me a little bit harder of a big gear. It shifts beautifully, it is very light, and it has shorter intervals between gears.

The Derailleur
I am using a 10 speed 7900 DuraAce short cage rear derailleur. Now this was a leap of faith for me. I had heard that Shimano had changed the pull ratio of this derailleur so that is was not compatible with older shifters. I guess this was not true. What dictates how many speeds a derailleur is, is the shifter. A 9 speed shifter makes a 10 speed derailleur a 9 speed derailleur, make sense? I am using a DuraAce rear derailleur because it tucks in close the the smaller diameter road cassette and guides the chain better along the cassette during shifts. Also it is a short cage so it keeps better tension on the chain which results in less slop overall. I did not require the longer tension leverage of a long cage rear derailleur because the difference from my largest cog to my smallest cog has narrowed significantly. The 7900 rear derailleur bolted on no problem and has worked perfectly ever since.

The Chain
I am using a KMC x10SL Gold 10 speed road chain. I heard from some folks that the narrower 10 speed allowed for better cross chaining and it also runs better through the 10 speed DA rear derailleur. It is extremely light as well.

I am using Specialites TA Chinook chainrings in 26/38 tooth counts. I have used these rings before in 26/40 combo and found I wanted to go a bit smaller on the big ring so that I could stay in the larger ring for slower singletrack. It also narrows the interval between shifting which increases smoothness up front which is a big factor for front chainrings. I am running these chainrings on the two inner mounting points, so where the middle and granny rings would be. This allows for much better cross chaining.

Front Derailleur and Cranks
I am now using the XTR 980 front derailleur designed for their 2 ring setup.  It is specifically profiled for 26/38 chainrings and it shifts my TA rings unbelievably well. I am also using stock XT cranks.

Out on the trail
This system performs amazingly well. The rear shifting is right on par, if not better, than any high end mountain bike system on the market. My easiest gear is now a 26 on the front and 27 on the back. That is very close to the ratio of a 32 on the front and 34 on the back which is the ration I have been using as my easiest gear for the past 5 years. There was zero adaptation curve with the new system for easiest gear and climbing. They are virtually identical gear ratios.
I have to shift 2 gears at a time sometimes where there are larger pitch changes. I think the 970 XTR triggers would work better because you can shift down 2 gears at a time with the release lever. Minor factor.
The front chainrings are decent. They are not spectacular but really do perform much better than their price. I have no major complaints about these. The only problem with the 2x9 system is you find yourself shifting a bit more with the front derailleur. Sometimes for the same section of singletrack the big ring is too much at times and the small ring is too small at other times. That would be my one and only complaint of the 2x9 system.
I have about 1500kms' on these components with almost no sight of wear. The chain is still well within its stretch limit, the cassette looks great, the chainrings are also in great shape.

Weight Specs of a conventional 3x9 setup vs my X-Ben 2x9
Rear Derailleur
XTR 970 11-34 - To come
DuraAce 7700 11-27 - To come

XT 870 22/32/44 - To come
Specialites TA 26/38 - To come

XTR/DuraAce 7700 - To come
KMC x10SL Gold - To come

Total Weight
Conventional 3x9 - To come
X-Ben 2x9 - To come

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ok I'm back in Canada

Yes it has been a while since I wrote to you my friends. The deal is, to be honest, I really don't have anything that interesting to add. Kind of the point of this site was more to be a hub for various practical bike info and less of a Bens day to day because keeping a record of such activity (or lack thereof) really doesn't do anybody any good. And I am here to improve your lives.
Speaking of life improvement, Shirley surprised us with an amazing 65" 1080p TV and Blu Ray player for the last couple weeks that I was at the house. I was very sad to leave it and come back to my lowly 42" but it is better to have loved and lost. The Silver Bullet made it home with zero hiccups. Only 2.5 tanks of gas and shaved a full hour off my personal best from SC to Hardwood by making the trip in only 14.5 hours. It was still light out when I got home! Car was getting about 600km per fillup which is great for a 40 litre tank. Cars blow my mind. Don't worry about the CEL on the dash. Just need a new cat or something along the lines.
Boy did I miss my apartment. Everything is strategically placed and eerily untouched. Except my poor plant, it is going to need some nursing back to health.
Anyways that's about it. I have soooo much that I wanted to add but I made cookies instead which is a really good excuse and now it is time for bed.
Nom nom.
Big Ass TV


Oh yes and I made little styrofoam airplanes the other day that Santa left in my stocking at Christmas. Maybe I was wrong about the uninteresting part. Good thing you tuned in.