Monday, February 25, 2013

More races, more gear — Part one

Not too long ago, I mentioned I filled my plate with some righteous racing. Well, guess what? I got a bigger plate! After running my first trail half-marathon in San Angelo on March 9, I will switch gears for my second Spinistry ride — the Red River Riot, a 120-mile gravel grinder on March 30 in Muenster, Texas. After an excellent time at the Texas Chainring Massacre, I am quickly learning that gravel is where it's at.

Oh, and I also signed up for the Triple Threat — the Wee-Chi-Tah mountain bike race on Friday, Aug. 23, which precedes the Hotter  'N Hell Hundred, which is followed by the Wee-Chi-Tah half-marathon trail run.

My calendar is looking friggin' rad these days. Many weekends this spring and summer will involve rides, runs, rallies and races, and spectating the crap out of events that TPG and others are signed up for.

It's not a maxim, but many times races/training means more gear. One piece that's essential for training for and racing in my first 24-hour race:
A bright-ass bike light. I looked at so many comparison guides and reviews to figure out the appropriate lumen ratings, the necessary accessories (batteries, cables, helmet attachments) and reasonable price (pro tip: your light shouldn't cost more than your bike). I finally settled on a sweet Gemini Duo. Such a compact design and lightweight, this little dude packs a manufacturer's rating of 1400 lumens (some reviews say its actual lumen rating is 1100). What does that look like?
That's outstandingly bright! My Duo arrived today, and I can confirm it is just that bright. I can't wait to give it a try on a dark trail!

Light. Check. That was an easy purchase. In addition to running a couple of Niterider handlebar lights, I am set for riding at night. The harder decision? Buying a new bike. I have flipped and flopped many times about whether I really needed a new bike. I like my 10-year-old Trek hardtail. It's the bike that got me hooked me on mountain biking. I've had other mountain bikes — newer, nicer, pricier, but it's the one I've kept. So why upgrade? The key factors are performance and comfort. Technology has improved, and my old hardtail isn't the most comfortable, efficient-shifting rig.

My needs: A full-suspension ride (80-100 mm front and rear), 29-inch wheels, light as possible, best mix of components (no off-brand brakes, no low-end part specs). Oh, and it has to ride like it's on rails and be fast as %#$*.

The best things about bike shopping? Staring at beautiful machines, the smell of new tires and riding bikes of course. The worst part? Visiting multiple bike shops. I have stated my opinions of local bikes shops and their wildly different levels of customer service.

First up, I visited the LBS nearest to my home. Dallas Bike Works is just about 4 miles from Casa del Trece. DBW's selection is incredible, too. Of the brands and models I wanted to ride, they carried a few. Even better, the shop has a grassy hill and BMX pump track behind it, so you can actually get a decent idea how a bike will perform on dirt.

Santa Cruz Tallboy
I have a soft spot for SC. It has made sick skateboards for decades and the bikes have always caught my eye. In fact, about 7 years ago, I almost bought an SC Blur. As much as I loved the look of that bike, it just didn't fit me — too much of a trail bike and not as well-suited for cross-country riding. That's kind of the same verdict for the Tallboy. I enjoyed riding it, but it didn't seem very agressive. It handled OK and was comfortable, but it lacked the quickness and agility I sought.

Orbea Occam 29 H30
How do you know you're in a good bike shop? The owner lets you test ride his personal bike. That was the case at Dallas Bike Works. For the second day in a row, I hopped off at White Rock Station on the DART Blue Line to swing by the shop closest to my home and test ride the next bike.

While Boyd Wallace's H30 was extremely modified — RockShox SID World Cup fork and carbon wheelset, for starters — I got a great feel for the bike's geometry. It passed the test better than the Tallboy. It inspired confidence. I knew I had a serious contender. I even fell in love with the brown/gold color.

To be continued ...

No comments: