Moose Brook Fat Bike Race

Weeks ago when I signed on for this event I said to myself, Wow, this should be pretty cool. Racing on snow with other fast dudes that got caught by the fatty bug which has exploded exponentially this Winter. That of course brings us to this past Sundays race in Gorham NH. It’s my belief that just a couple of years ago there would not have been nearly enough folks that owned fatty’s to conduct a race of this sort.

Fat City

Fat City

What a mix. Steel, carbon, aluminum, and carbon. Everything was on display. The rule was 3.5″ minimum tire width. That was clearly not an issue for these race participants.

As the race drew closer. I found myself playing things out in my head. Four laps of four miles. Wait a minute! Who the heck has been riding their fatty’s more than 12 miles at a time? Heck, Stratham Hill is only doing 30 minute heats. Sixteen miles at race pace and the race filled up in only a couple weeks? I’m not sure folks thought this one through. I factored laps for this one to be thirty minutes at least. Yep, two plus hours in the saddle at race pace pushing tires 2480g mated to 1700g of rims and top it off with some 900g inner tube weight! You get the picture. It’s the rotational mass. Now add in the time of year, a negative two degree starting temperature, and gusting headwind and you’ve got yourself a real winter fat race!

Pre Race Meeting

Pre Race Meeting

Driving North on 93 at 5:30AM watching the outside temperature going down, my only thought was of frost bite. Minus 15 coming through Franconia Notch. Yep, I’m going to freeze. Temps upon arrival were just below zero. Clothing selection. 45 North FasterKat shoes, wool socks, Pearl Izumi fleece leg warmers, Gore Windstopper bib tights, base layer fleece lined long sleeve race jersey, Gore Windstopper jacket, Gore Windstopper Baclava, Pearl Izumi lobster gloves, two packs of hand warmers, and one pair of foot bed warmers. Tire choice with a fat bike is so critical as is the pressure you run.  I chose the stock 127 TPI Huska Du’s. They’re light at just 1240g each and roll pretty well. Of course what you gain in rolling efficiency you loose in grip. My only other option would have been to have left my 27 TPI steel studded wire beaded Dillingers that I’ve been running on for the 16 miler. I opted for the race tire and wondered about my decision the whole drive up.

Getting dressed in the passenger seat was like watching a NASA astronaut getting ready for a space walk. Heat cranking, one item at a time, taking care to seal up any gaps in the layering. In the end it was just the tip of the nose with exposure. So how does one warm up in Arctic like temps? Well, you don’t. I rode up the first climb to the turn into the woods. Came right back down and doubted my bodies ability to force blood into my extremities. I’d soon find out my fate.

The Start

The Start

Luckily the race officials didn’t let us stand around too long. I ended up leaving my hydration pack on the picnic table since it was frozen. The smart guys either had insulated bottles or hand ups. I have no idea how anyone can eat either. Taking the lobster glove off or trying to get something from a pocket or opening a wrapper would have been a disaster. So for me it had to be 2 hours of survival.

The Prez navigating Rimmers Ravine

The Prez navigating Rimmers Ravine

I took the outside line. Since everyone considers themselves “advanced intermediate” I knew I had to get positioning in the top 10 into the first single-track downhill section. Gauvin, Rowell, Starrett, Carver, Rumsey, Littlefield, Nelson, Seib, and myself. So this of course isn’t your run of the mill bike race. It’s snow, ice, wind, climbing, narrow bridges, quick transitions and virtually no flat sections. Rumor has it Starrett flatted. If so that had to have happened in the tiny brook crossing where I rimmed out 3 of the 4 laps. Once through the first section you begin a small climb where I moved past Rick Nelson. You continue up the longest double-track section before taking a left hander and hitting some fun downhill action. The climbing isn’t over though as there was a nice series of uphill switchbacks. It was here where Seib pulled over due to block (frozen) hands. At this point, I was starting to calculate my position. I was figuring fourth or fifth spot. Plenty more single track from this point on, handling skills would be key here. Following Ryan Littlefield, we hit a raised bridge with a built in lefthander. Ryan lost his front tire and crashed out. From here I hooked onto and would spend a good portion of the rest of my morning racing for 3rd place.

Rumsey (right) Forrest Carver (left)

Rumsey (right) Forrest Carver (left)

I began lap 2 with Ryan Rumsey and Forest Carver. We rode the next 7-8 miles together. Forrest was killing the DH sections with his monster truck tires. I did my best to get away on the switchback climb, but he wouldn’t go away. Finally, the elastic started to stretch. I began my fade off Rumsey’s wheel on the way to the high point of lap 3. Carver was still turning over what looked like 5″ wide tires and went with him.

Solo

Solo

I could see them just ahead. There was still another lap to go. No water and 4 miles left. Lots of gear work would commence. Big ring, little ring. By lap four you knew the course. You knew the right line, and I knew where the last quick uphill was that required momentum due to a large ice sheet. I spun out and ended up running it lap two. With about 1/4 of a mile to go all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere Ryan Littlefield appears behind me. I was all set at that point to coast into the finish. The icy sections were coming up so it was again game on. I accelerated and started taking some risks. Loosing my line and frantically overshooting some corners. I nailed the last quick uphill and emptied the rest of the tank to the finish line. Looking back there was no threat of a sprint finish on fattys, but I Guess that would have been pretty cool. I finished the race in 5th spot on the day.

Snotcicles

Snotcicles

Heck of an event which I’m guessing will grow in 2015. it was well organized and I have to say the chili afterwards was so good! Especially since it was served in real bowls with real stainless steel spoons. This will be one of those memorable races for me. In my opinion, a true mountain bike course with all the fixings. Add in the super adverse conditions and longish course for a January race and you’ve got your Winter Moose Brook Classic. “If it was easy, then everyone would do it”  Race Results here

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The White Flash

It was supposed to be a 1-3″ non event snowfall. I guess they got it wrong. We got 5-7″ in Southern NH. Enough to spark a snow emergency in Nashua.

I pulled out the Beargrease at 11:30 AM with about 1-2″ already on the ground. The concern was as always is, how much ice is there under the snow? The answer? ALOT! Even with 480 carbide studs on the Dillingers. With a thin quarter inch of compacted snow between the ice and stud contact point you get zero grip. Early in the ride I went for a 20 yard slide on the access road down to the Bowman lot at Horse Hill. Things would continue to improve as the snow depth continued to rise.

With the heavy snow only a few folks were out on the trail and just as few cars on the roads. In many spots I just rode in the middle of the road. Folks out clearing their driveways waved and shook their heads as I inched by. Finally we got some packable snow which began pulling on evergreen branches. By the time I got over to Greens Pond and Wasserman trails I was riding through what seemed to be snow tunnels. Made me think about tree skiing back in the day after a large snow dump. Quiet and peaceful.

If you got fat tires. Get out and pack your local trails and get ready for some great riding this week!

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Bring it on Mother Nature!

Merrimack has had 29″ of the white stuff this winter. I guess we were long overdue for a tough winter. I’ve always dreaded the deep snow. Wishing for warm sunshine to melt it all away. Nowadays I’m wishing for more to fall locally so I can ride my fatty around in the woods. The never ending cycling season is now a reality.

We’ve put together a great dedicated group of local fat riders that not only love to ride but also share a passion for keeping the trails open and riding smooth. friday night -4 degrees…. No problem 4 men on snowshoes packing 4 miles of trail pulling a weighted groomer sled behind. Yet another group at Horse Hill Saturday morning packing another 6 miles. Not enough you say? Got an E-mail a few hours ago letting me know that another fellow fat biker went in with snowshoes and shovel and repaired a popular downhill section of trail. Building berms and benching where needed. Thanks Pete!

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Getting Fat In 2014

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Christmas Eve FatPak Ride

Pete's Carbon Beargrease

Pete’s Carbon Beargrease

We’ve been hard at work grooming the trails at Horse Hill. Unfortunately the heavier than expected rain and foot traffic destroyed much of our grooming efforts. That doesn’t however deter the FatPak riders from getting their fix.

Top Of Blodgett Hill

Top Of Blodgett Hill

 

10:AM Christmas Eve Fatty ride. What better way to kick of the holiday festivities than a pre present opening snow ride. We’ve got more than our share of early season snow this year. Perfect for those of us that made the jump to the 4″ tires.

Paul Carving the Crust

Paul Carving the Crust

Conditions were mixed from Ultra choppy to, fine corduroy. The less the foot traffic the better. Pipeline and GPC III were in fine form, smooth and flowy. Parts of loop trail were torn  to pieces making me desire a hideous thud buster post to take the edge off.

Anthony (Cycle Loft) Representing

Anthony (Cycle Loft) Representing

Apparently we’re not the only group that enjoys riding in the white stuff either. Snowmobiles (helpful), Quads (not helpful) were having some fun as well.

Not even a set of Clown Shoes could negotiate the chute.

Not even a set of Clown Shoes could negotiate the chute.

Our Groomer worked as intended. GPC 3 which is one of our newest trails had seen zero boot traffic and it was perfect. Only a stray deer print could be found on a smooth paved 18″ ribbon of single-track.

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Merrimack 50 2013

This gallery contains 78 photos.

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Build, Ride, Repeat

Unlike many racer folk that race for a shop or club. We NEMBA racers race for…. well….to race. Sure we do our fair share to promote the organization and construction of sustainable trails as well, but that just comes with the love for the sport. No fancy shop name in fact no sponsor names at all. One thing we know is that we love dirt. We love the woods. We also love to build trails.

It’s been a few months since I did an entry. Some of you may have thought I gave up the race scene. That’s far from the story though. Those of you with little ones at home know that This time of year means back to school, sports, homework, club activity, birthday parties, and parent teacher meetings. Throw in a large home construction project and something just has to give. So with less focus on racing, there has to be something for me to pass the time.

So I’ve been digging in the dirt a bit earlier than in past year and more frequent as well. As a matter of fact within the last 3 years, Merrimack has seen numerous trail improvements and a large expansion of its network. Six new trails since 2010 and we’re not even close to complete. Outer Ledges, Twister, Fat Cat, Pipeline, Greens Pond, and Blodget Hill Bypass. No longer do we ride our private stock, well maybe a little private stock. The word is out, and riders as far as Portsmouth NH have made the trek to check out our handy work. With the white stuff coming we’ve got yet more scheduled to build.

Here’s some of the images of what we’ve been up to.

Greens Pond Connector Drainage

Greens Pond Connector Drainage

Composite Bridge to Palmeri Drive

Composite Bridge to Palmeri Drive

 

New  Blodget Hill Bypass

New Blodget Hill Bypass

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This was the free donation from FOMBA.

Bridge From FOMBA that they didn't want.

Bridge From FOMBA that they didn’t want.

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Deer Flies I can’t take it anymore!

I’ve just about had it this year with these things. Seems like a wetter than average year has sent these things into a baby boom not seen in years.

Deer flies (also known as yellow flies, or stouts in Atlantic Canada) are flies in the genus Chrysops of the family Tabanidae that can bepests to cattlehorses, and humans. A distinguishing characteristic of a deer fly is patterned gold or green eyes.[1]

Deer flies are a genus that belongs to the family commonly called horse-flies (Tabanidae). They are smaller than wasps, and they have coloured eyes and dark bands across their wings. While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be extremely painful, and allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns. Pain and itch are the most common symptoms, but more significant allergic reactions can develop.[2]

They are often found in damp environments, such as wetlands or forests. They lay clusters of shiny black eggs on the leaves of small plants by water. The aquatic larvae feed on small insects and pupate in the mud at the edge of the water.[1][3] Adults are potential vectors of tularemiaanthrax and loa loa filariasis.

23 + a Head and some legs

23 + a Head and some legs

These Tred-Not patches work pretty well. They’re about a buck a piece and you can probably get a couple uses out of them. I’m not 100% sold on being a human fly trap though. They peel off pretty easy and don’t leave a sticky residue. I certainly see more road miles in the near future for sure.

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NECS # 4 The Pinnacle Happy Fathers Day

This makes year four in a row for me racing the Pinnacle. It’s what I would consider a “classic” mountain bike race. That is, all aspects of rider ability is tested. Endurance, climbing, and downhill bike handling skills. The loop is approximately 6 miles and consists of 3 large climbs, followed by a brief downhill followed by a small uphill traverse before a longer more sustained downhill section. Large berms await you followed by the Pinnacle Plunge which takes you back to the start finish where you’ll get to do it twice more.

Pinnacle Start

Pinnacle Start

Fitness this year has been good for me and unlike last year I haven’t burned out with over-training. The new Scalpel has over 400 miles on her now and is serving a purpose.

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Bit of Air on the Plunge

Course conditions were wetter than in prior years. Good for me, as I usually do well in adverse conditions. There’s always concerns though. For a few weeks now, I’ve expressed concerns on the skinny Racing Ralph’s. I’m running them tubeless and they are aired up on the Reynolds carbon hoops. Due to the lower volume I’ve dared not run them less than 25 psi. This race would be no different.

Not only is the Scalpel the quickest handling bike I’ve owned since my old Klein Attitude back in 99. It’s also the  most air pressure run in my tires since Summer of 09 when I ran little wheels, tubes, and big travel. Over the last three seasons racing 22 psi and 2.3″ tires have been mainly the race tire of choice.

They lined us up Vet I and Seniors. My guess was 20 riders in all with no real way of knowing who was in your group. Other than Carl there wasn’t one other familiar face in the crowd. Immediately there is a crash on the dry grass. I knew better and was off to the left. Whole shots in mountain bike races with this much climbing are overrated. Especially on this start where you just climb. Flat field sprint, into the woods, false flat pavement, to false flat double track to a punch in the face.

Senior Crash

Senior Crash

I felt ok out of the gate in the initial first few minutes as the line began to form. Single file with a few stragglers out off the side doing their own thing. The large climb on lap one had me 20 seconds off the leaders at the top. No problem, I thought, I’ll make up some of those seconds on the down hill sections. It was wet and muddy on the way up. Lots of extra energy due to rear wheel slippage and front root deflection. On the first downhill the course would show me how slippery it was. There is a small open rock face on a slight left hander. First time through I nearly bit it into the tree just beyond. Further down on the second down, I lost it and went off course. I saved the fall and got right back on.

As each lap ends a new one begins. Each one a little slower and a little more tired. The more fatigue the more mistakes would come. Still, on the water tower turn I could see the JRA jersey Carl Devincent (2nd place) Just ahead. I was feeling good, maybe I was reeling the leaders back? More dabs in the darkness. It was dark in some sections. I wrestled with maybe taking off my dark sunglasses a few times. Looking back I probably should have.  I would follow a single speed guy for the entire down hill on lap II. He was going just fine and I had no desire to risk a pass.

At the start of lap three I grab my last gel and some additional hydration. Unknowingly running in fourth and just out of podium range. Matt chandler came from nowhere and passed me on the first punchy climb just after the start finish. I tried to stay with him but even on the flat sections I was slipping and sliding. More suffering would ensue on the final climb and towards the top the top Vet II’s caught me. On the final descent and in a line of 4 or 5 guys on the first downhill I went down. My first hard crash in many races. I got up got back on the bike, chain was dropped , and left lever was spun all the way around and was now facing me.

In the end all I could muster was a 6th place finish. I was really hoping for a podium. My legs have been so good for me so far this year and I’ve been climbing fairly well. Upon closer look my times were comparable to last year when the conditions were a little warmer but dry.

Smith & Devincent post Pinnacle

Smith & Devincent post Pinnacle

Sunday I didn’t fair so well on the technical descents and wet exposed roots. I suffered my first crash of the season. One thing that everyone will tell you is that these bikes are made to climb.  It felt at times like absolute amateur hour on the descents. Modifications are a coming.

Fathers Day with my Boys

Fathers Day with my Boys

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NECS # 2 Weeping Willow 2013

Holy smokes a mountain bike race on Saturday! Finally, a race falls on Mother’s day weekend forcing the race God’s to schedule a Saturday Race. So whats wrong with Sunday races? How about the big let down of the usual long drive home only to have to get up and head to the office the next day. You know you’ve all felt the same way.

Ah the month of May, a month where the weather can be unpredictable. It’s also the month of one of the largest mountain bike races in the Northeast. For me, this was my fourth year in a row racing this event and third year in Expert. It’s only an hour away and the trails are always super fun and have great flow. Also, don’t expect the same course ever. It changes every year. Distance and direction changes to keep you on your toes.

If you’re partaking in the points series, I should also note this is a race where points are at a premium. Do well here and steal some tough points and you’ve got yourself a decent head start on the series on your rivals. The best 7 of 9 points totals from your races are counted towards the overall.

I drove in with my fellow large legged buddy and NEMBA Racing teammate Andrew Schnellinger. (Yes, the rubbing on his new S-Works stays are from his legs.) I know it sounds ridiculous, but true. Andrew and I live only about a mile or so from each other so we’ve been building and riding the local trail network all season. The mood during the drive over to Ipswich MA wasn’t  too upbeat. Neither of us had much in the lines of expectations. Of course I’ve heard that from him before. I took him down to the Burlingame mountain bike TT in April and he crushed it with an elite like result. So I was expecting the same at the Willow.

As far as my expectations for the day? I could have flipped a coin. 15 pre registered and one day of registrant. Non familiar names, with the exception of that DeVincent guy, this was not last years race. Vet II stole a few, Colorado took another, Elite took a couple more. Course was being run in reverse, same as 2011, which was a detractor for me. Weather was in my favor, conditions were perfect. Even a few drops of rain fell while we were out on course, bonus! I had my new Scalpel, and no expectations for the day. During my warm up I found myself talking to myself. So, whats it going to be today? Good legs? Bad?

The starting line. Maybe the only good thing about Expert Vet I is the start. We don’t get 25 guys lining up at the start blowing themselves up for the top 5 into the woods. You can keep track of the boys that are out in front fairly easily. As we moved up for the start I said to Carl, check it out, I’ve got the sweet hard pack single track ribbon under my wheel. He then proceeded to move up to the front row and move me out of the way. Now I was on field grass with corn stalks that rip derailleurs off bikes. Thanks man.

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Carl not holding back at the start.

So we’re off, a fairly long stretch of double track meets us and continues for about a mile. Zero to 22 miles an hour out of the start. Careful drafting would ensue for that mile. Carl and Andrew were around fourth and fifth wheel as I sat around tenth position into the first single track section. To my surprise the group was all together but you could see a small fraction from time to time starting to form with the rider in 6th position. I could still see the leaders at all times.

I wasn’t feeling terribly taxed coming out of that first section and most of the group was still intact. Maybe 12 of 16 still in the mix. I wanted to get to the front before the next section of ribbon. I threw down a hard acceleration on a small incline moving around about four gents and pulled even with Andrew. How you feeling man? I got back something like “not great” not great and hanging in fourth. Not bad I thought. I pulled even with Carl just after and asked him how he was feeling? “Actually, I feel pretty good” he says.  As we continue up the incline I feel the speed increase a bit and with Carl just off to my left shoulder I take a glimpse out the back. I yell four. Carl confirms “Four with a couple of stragglers”. He’s always so detailed.

Continuing on the fire road section and Carl yells out sharp left to show he still has feelings for his old NEMBA Racing mate as we enter the second section of single track. At this point I was third wheel and feeling decent. Wait a minute? What was that in front of me? To my astonishment there was a guy on a 26er hard tail! As we all have known for years now in the New England 26″ bikes are all but extinct, and probably should be outlawed for use due to the dangers they create during the races. Anyway this would not last long as his inferior contact patch would wash out on a downhill sweeping right turn burping his tire and sending him for a ride into the tick infested New England brush. In the process though the 2nd place rider also had to take evasive action and pull off course to avoid the same fate.

Well, just like with NASCAR avoiding the crashes and keeping your ride intact is half the race. I found myself in first position with Carl on my wheel. Together again, only this time he didn’t pass. We continued at a fairly brisk pace and I believe got separation from any remaining riders. Plenty more single track would follow and I just kept the pedals turning waiting for the only climb on the course. I knew what climb it was but was unaware where it was. It was the same climb from 2011 which I hated. Carl was not far back when he let me know that it was coming up. Left Turn and the climb starts shortly after. The climb was punchy at the beginning, but survivable to the top. Carl would be back on my wheel.

During a quick up into a loose marbles sharp lefty. Carl took an outside line and decided he wanted to get off his bike. Maybe his only mistake of the day? I asked if he was ok and he said yes so I continued on, fully expecting to see him grab my wheel on the next double track. I think that was the last time I would see him.

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Eric Marro with the Chain Gang feed zone support.

I rode the rest of the race passing the remnants of the earlier fields and somewhere mid lap two I would pass teammate Mark Tucker who took 4th on the day in the single speed division.

My day was not done though. With about two miles to go and not long after passing Mark, my lack of road miles this year started to show. Endurance I thought was suspect heading into the day and that would certainly come to fruition. My right inner quad was cramping. I was sitting in first as nobody had passed me. I found myself trying to work through it. Shift up, shift down. Nope, still not helping. Only thing I could do was let up on the gas. Tank was about empty anyway.  Just prior to the final punchy little climb I could see out of the corner of my eye another rider. As he passed, I didn’t recognize him. I couldn’t follow, just watched. He was going pretty good. As we hit the last fire road I watched him disappear. I crossed the line with the suspension locked (so I could pedal standing up like on my single speed) so my quad wouldn’t cramp 2nd place on the day and with the 4th best time in Expert overall. Results here

Who was that guy that caught me? Alexandre Frappier, a three-time Quebec Cup Masters Champion and currently races on the Opus national Cross-Country team.

podium

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