Cycling

Trail Maintenance

I think most mountain bikers have a love/hate relationship with trail maintenance. Let’s face it, maintaining a trail is hard work and how many of us get excited to not ride our bike to go do hard work? I’m guessing not too many hands went up. On the other hand, we love riding nice trails. Whether it’s raking leaves, clearing over growth, building berms or even cutting new trails, someone needs to do this. I can’t think of a trail system that isn’t maintained by public works or some other non-cycling resource. Our trails are maintained by us. When you’re shredding a sweet trail  or struggling through a trail that needs a little TLC just remember it’s you and your fellow mountain bikers that responsible for the trails and they need your help!

Next time you have an off day from cycling instead of sitting in front of the TV watching football feel free to grab a rake or a pair of trimmers and head down to your local trail to do your share. Every little bit helps!

Advertisements

1-Month Review: Foundry Broadaxe

This is my first review so bear with me. I’ve been riding my Foundry Broadaxe for a little over a month now and I thought this would be a good time to put together a quick initial review. I started out the season on a 2011 Rocky Mountain Vertex SE and in early June had this grand idea that I was getting older and would benefit from a full suspension bike. I pulled the trigger on Santa Cruz Superlight and raced on it from June through August. The full suspension ride definitely had some advantages over the RM Hardtail however I desperately missed the hardtail explosiveness on straight-aways and climbs.  After a particularly poor race I decided it was time to go back a hardtail frame.  I did quite a bit of research on carbon hardtail frames prior to making the purchase, I didn’t want to continue the frameset roulette I had begun. My criteria was simple, a lightweight, race-ready hardtail frame backed by a solid warranty and not too expensive. I also try to avoid mainstream bikes if I can, you know, I just like being a little different. Enter the Foundry Broadaxe.

For those of you not familiar with Foundry, they are one of Quality Bicycle Products’ house brands (Surly, Salsa, All-City, etc…). The goal behind Foundry bikes was to build high end carbon frames, understated graphics and at a reasonable price backed by a 10-year warranty. Complete bikes or Frame only options are available from local Foundry dealers. I went with the Broadaxe Frame and was able to use most of the parts from the Superlight.

My Build:

Frame: Foundry Broadaxe XL

Fork: Rock Shox Sid RCT 3 (My original build had a Fox CTD)

Drivetrain: XTR

Brakes: XTR

Cockpit: Thomson

Wheels: Mavic Crossmax ST

Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin

Bike Weight: 20.6 lbs

 

Initial Impressions:

When I first pulled the frame out of the box I was shocked at how light it actually was. It weighted in at 1390g for an XL frame including the rear thru axle. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the frame came with an FSA Headset and Seat Color. If you’re into understated graphics this frame is beautiful. Where the graphics aren’t applied it appears it’s just raw carbon with a clearcoat over it. The build went together without issue, a little fiddling with the internal cable routing but actually a lot easier than I anticipated. I am in no way an expert on carbon fiber or frame building but I have handled a lot of bikes and as far as quality goes this one can hold it’s own against anyone. All the joints are perfectly smooth, the headtube and BB shell were free of any hangers or sharp edges.

 

First Ride:

I took my newly built bike down to my local trail which is a short 1 mile loop with twisty and bumpy singletrack. The Broadaxe handles like it’s on rails as the steep angles respond quickly to any steering input. One thing that was noticed instantly, this is a very stiff frame. The rear end doesn’t soak up any bumps, the BB shell stays put when hammering and both ends respond to all rider input and let you feel exactly what you’re riding on. Despite what Foundry says this is a thoroughbred for XC racing.

Second Ride:

I wasted no time putting the Broadaxe into action. It’s second ride was Chequamegon S&F race (I didn’t get drawn for the 40). The race consisted of 15 miles of rolling fire roads and XC ski trails and about 1 mile of fast single track. This was the ride that sealed the deal for me, the Broadaxe was just a rocket on the high speed track. I was able to hammer out of saddle up every climb and on the descents the bike just tracked wherever I wanted it to go. Again,   the frame is incredibly stiff and lets you know exactly what you are riding on.

Since the Chequamegon I’ve put on a few hundred miles of varied XC trails. The best way to describe this bike is that there are zero surprises. It will handle anything you throw at it, the only limitation I’ve found is my own ability. For an XL/29er this is a big bike but because of the bike geometry and light weight it handles incredibly and is surprisingly nimble in the tightest of singletrack. I haven’t ridden any big drops or any gnar so I can’t give a true “what can it handle” test but I feel like the Foundry Broadaxe can hold it’s own against any other carbon hardtail out there. I’ll also add that if you’re into the weight weenie game, this thing will go light! A nice set of race wheels, some Thunder Burt tires and a couple of switcheroos and I could be at or a hair under 19lbs. Throw on a rigid carbon fork and we’re talking 17lbs for an XL 29er!

 

1 month conclusion:

If you can’t tell, I love this bike. The Foundry Broadaxe is everything I hoped it would be! Should you buy one? If you are in the market for a feather weight XC hardtail, I’d definitely put it towards the top of your list. With that being said, there are a lot of very good carbon frames on the market today. Is this one the best? I don’t know… In all the frames I looked at, I didn’t find one that was better. If bright shiney graphics are your thing I’d probably steer clear but otherwise I really don’t think you could go wrong with this  frame. The main series that I race in is the Minnesota MTB Series and Foundry is one of the main supporters/sponsors of this series. To be honest, this was the one of the top reasons I chose the Foundry. I really like to support companies that support local racing and riding and as Foundry often tweets ~ #racingmatters. For me, the Foundry Broadaxe gave me everything I was looking for plus they are  local company who is supporting local riding, it doesn’t get more win/win than that.

 

-I am in no way affiliated with Foundry or QBP, I purchased the frame retail and built it myself. I’m just a guy with a cycling addiction 🙂

 

Wednesday Gravel

For the past couple of months Wednesday evening has meant gravel Wednesday evening. Earlier this summer I built up a Twin Six/Handsome Cycles Speedy Devil, Singlespeed gravel grinder. It’s been a tremendous change in pace from the typical road training. In my short couple months experience I can conclude that gravel roads have almost zero traffic, tougher climbs and much better scenery than any paved roads, at least in Southern Minnesota.

With the season winding down I decided to change gears again and took the gravel grinder down to the new mountain bike trail in town. The trail is a very basic 1 mile loop with no significant hills and the only obstacles are a few log piles and what seems to be endless twists and turns. It’s definitely not the toughest riding you’ll find but on a rigid steel singlespeed with 700×32 tires it turned out to be quite the challenge. I actually went down 3 times. Twice my front tire washed out on leaf covered turns and the other time I did a complete superman after getting wide on a corner and plowing into a log. No doubt about it, it was a good time.

I find that it’s good to mix up the regular routine and to try different things. I wouldn’t ever want to building a training program around the off road CX ride but it was definitely a challenge and helped me build new skills. And much to my surprise, I snagged an off-road KOM on a SSCX!

Happy trails

 

Strava Winds

Strava, now a staple to our cycling world. I was definitely a latecomer to the world of Strava as this was my first year in the virtual racing scene. I set off for my evening trainng ride and I got thinking about what Strava brings to the table, is it good for cycling or has it ruined it? There’s not an answer to these questions but I think we can all agree that Strava has changed  the way we ride. In my previous life of cycle racing I would follow a pretty regimented training plan that revolved around certain routes on certain days. Monday was an easy 14mile loop, Tuesday was intervals out on Hwy 96, Wednesday was along day out to Marine on the St. Croix, etc…. Structured and I stuck to the plan. Nothing wrong with this, it sort of worked. The main problem was fighting off boredom as I got into July and August.

Fast forward 15 years and now we have Strava. Sure, I still put together a regimented training plan but I can use Strava to find new routes, new segments to incorporate into my routes and new challenges to conquer throughout the season. Strava allows to focus on a segment, put together game plan and go out and nail the KOM. But has virtual racing ruined our sport? Let’s say you’re out on a group ride, everyone is having a good time, a certain someone is sitting in the back of the pack doing everything they can to suck wheels and then you approach a climb and boom! They’re gone. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with some spirited group racing or an attack on a climb. But this individual who sucked wheel for the past hour isn’t racing the group, he’s racing the internet gang. After the climb he slides back into the pack and waits casually until the next segment.

Scenario two – Easy Monday. You had a tough weekend of riding and are looking forward to an easy day but you still feel pretty good. You look outside and the wind is just right for that segment you’ve been after all summer. You need the rest but that segment is calling your name… You can always rest on Tuesday, right? What if you go easy on 95% of the ride and just push that 1-mile segment… Your body needs rest!!! Don’t give in to the temptation that is Strava.

Strava has certainly changed things and introduced more competition into your daily training rides. Organized racing may be down in the U.S. but virtual racing is most certainly on the rise.

What if we can harness this tool and use it to our advantage? Tonight for example, I spent my day in the office from 7 -4, staring out the window at the gloomy skies. It’s a typical October day in the Northland, high temp in the mid 50’s but after 4 it drops like a rock. I only have a week or two left of hard riding for the year before I shut things down. It’s dark by 6:30 now so the number of days I can ride after work are very limited. I checked the weather arond 3:30, 55 degrees, cloudy and 20mph west wind. It would have been easy to blow this ride off. It’s a Tuesday which is typically my tough day but it would be easy to justify just going home and having a nice warm cup of coffee and watching Seinfeld reruns. But something stuck out, something had me ready to go, today was the day, the day I’ve been waiting for….A strong west wind….Strava Winds!  There is a segment that I occasionally ride that is a moderate climb about 1.5 miles long and it climbs straight East. The problem is, it’s about 16 miles to get to the climb, which means a minimum 33.5 (16+16+1.5) mile ride…and it’s dark by 6:30. 4:00 hits, I rush home, grab a quick bite to eat, slip into my kit and I’m gone. 16 brutal miles fighting a 20 mph side wind and plummeting temps. Finally I arrived at my segment and I crushed it! I gave it everything I had and as I crested the top I just hoped it was enough. Mission complete? Not even close. Now I had the 16 mile race against darkness fighting the same 20mph side wind with even colder temps.

I made it back, I survived and I now have one more KOM to my name! Had it not been for Strava, I probably would have stayed home. Use Strava to push yourself but don’t let it consume every moment of your cycling life. Remember your off days and remember to fun. Tomorrow when I go to work, no one will know what I accomplished the night before. I’ll just be the quiet guy in the cubicle again. But that doesn’t matter, I know I have the crown by my name…Until the Strava winds kick up again and someone else attacks the CR19 Climb.

 

A Bad Day of Cycling

The bike gods were not kind to me to me today. First let me clarify, a bad of cycling is when you don’t ride. I’m not sure it’s possible to have a truly bad time when you are on a bicycle. As the title dictates, I didn’t get a ride in today. Go ahead and check my strava page, no  ride…

Last week I sent the fork from my mountain bike back for a warranty issue that I was concerned with. Today I heard back and my warranty claim was denied….

I ordered a couple parts from a mail order site and the package arrived today and the wrong item was sent by mistake.

I wanted to change the chainring on my single speed and the bolts were seized pretty good. I went down to the local bike shop to see if they had chainring bolt tool, which they did. However still no lock, the bolts are on there forever.

By this time it was dark and no ride…

Oh well, live to ride another day right? I guess now it’s time to shred a little guitar and research which fork to put on my mountain bike.

Fall Riding

The race season is winding down, the temps are dropping and the days are getting shorter.  Fall is here and it’s time to get out and ride. But wait, you’ve been riding all year?  I don’t mean training or logging miles, I mean actually get out and ride because you enjoy it. Instead of racing Strava segments, attacking climbs and pushing for 10 more seconds in zone 5, try taking a single speed down a gravel road. Feel free to stop on the side of the road and admire the scenery as the few weeks that we call Autumn are going to be gone soon.