So to follow up with the previous post, I wanted to break down the initial ride thoughts with lots of close ups. Always interesting to see how the dust settles on initial rides! This build was literally trial by fire with no time to do any pre-ride checks or take a few short rides to dial things in. So it made for a bit of fly by the seat of your pants riding. Good news is that the fit was dialed from the get go. The adjustments I made to the cockpit length were well suited for the terrain and allowed me to have periods of rest to shake out the arms and legs between tech sections, which for the Hampshire 100 sweep this year, there weren’t many. And sweeping the 100 mile course is what I did as my first real ride on this set up (The new course is a 35 mile lap – so 1 lap is 50k, 2 is 100k and a 3rd makes it 100 miles for the seasoned veterans and pro’s who want to take on the challenge). Each year for the past 3 or so years I’ve volunteered my Saturday and Sunday to help out where I can with the race with registration and such, then with sweeping the course to finish up the event. It’s nice to do this as it teaches me not only about my physical shape, but also the rigors that go into longer rides and what adjustments I need to make with the builds. The course was tough this year. Really tough. I can’t imagine having to come back into Oak Park like all the 100k and 100 milers had to and go out for a 2nd or 3rd lap as I was spent after 1 lap on this new course. The frequency of chunk and tech were stacked up back to back in many grueling sections with little chance for rest or time to refuel/hydrate. A few weeks ago I had adjusted the air pressure in my Fox 120mm Talas fork, making it a touch stiffer. On shorter rides of 10-15 miles, that made sense. But on a longer 35 mile ride with that much tech back to back, I just was not using all the travel of the fork and was getting hammered as a result. It was stiffer on longer dirt road sections which was good, but with little time to react or make on the fly adjustments, the fork was set up too stiff. Mental note for next time! I did adjust some air pressure in the tires as the day wore on which helped a bunch but with all that pounding from the tech back to back already was killing my arms, thighs and shoulders. The WTB Trail Boss’s were a sight for sore eyes on those gravel roads and 6th class roads. Conditions were a mix of dry powdery soil but with some muddy sections but since it was hot/humid, the air was condensing on the rocks so you’d have these odd sections of dry soil with slippery rocks. The Trail Bosses made a big difference when the going got tough but rolled fast enough not to feel like I was slowly being drug down. The Industry 9 wheels with their instant engagement made a big difference as always in the tech sections, and the added stiffness certainly relayed itself to when I needed to hit the gas to keep up with the other two sweepers (who were basically riding at race pace but said “no we’re not”… 18-20 mph hour on flat 6th class roads and double track I noted. That’s not race pace eh?). They were also on full suspension bikes which were a clear advantage on a course of this type. Where I had to check speed, they could open it up and let it hang loose. I was a bit cautious knowing I’m all by myself for the month of August, and a trip to the emergency room wouldn’t be good. So I played it safe and just rode a good steady pace keeping things in perspective. Plus I wanted to have fun and not kill myself. One thing I have come to really dig is using my GPS unit as a tempo based heart beat of sorts. With some experimenting, I’ve come to realize that anything over 20 miles in length, I need a good 10-15 miles to just warm up properly. And a good pace that I can hold a conversation at and not feel like I am working is around the neighborhood of 10mph. So I keep an eye on the miles initially and the average speed. That keeps me in check and allows me to warm up properly. Later in the ride I then feel like I can turn it up a few notches, but slowly. Any sudden burst and it throws that off and I can feel cramps start. So being mindful of sections where I can sit down and spin are important as that allows for some rest, to sip some water to maintain hydration and take in a few calories. I’ve also taken to the rhythm of “Eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m thirsty”. No more schedule to remind me. I just listen to what my body is telling me. And I’ve found that being ever so slightly hungry works for my body. I eat a little bit to stop that feeling, ride a while and when it returns, eat a bit more and drink a bit more. Some times I’m tempted to really suck down some water, but that can make you feel sick initially – so it’s best to nurse the water and sip frequently. I accidentally drank some water with HEED in it at a feed station, and it immediately gave me a stomach ache. I drank more water and within 15-20 minutes things were back to normal. So the Garmin isn’t necessarily there to record the route or look at the elevation. It’s more of a tempo device I’ve come to rely on for longer rides. The new XTR cockpit worked flawlessly. What I really like about the shifter is the dual shift mechanism and you can dump gears a handful at a time or march up the cassette to spin and let the legs loosen up. The shifter has a nice positive feel and the brakes work flawlessly to scrub speed when needed. Powerful without feeling too powerful. I run a 180mm rotor up front and a 160mm Rotor out back. The 11-40t cassette is a thing of beauty really. And that 40t cog is just perfect for long sustained climbs when you want the feel of a true granny. It made the steepest climbs not so bad and when I need to kick back and rest, the range on the low end of the cassette were all usable. The transition of the jump from the 35t to the 40t is very smooth vs Sram’s 36-42t on their XX1 cassette in comparison. The 12x142mm axle made things stiff without being too stiff so good power transfer was at hand. I’m quite pleased with this setup this way. The dusty conditions in sections did make the low end of the cassette a bit noisier though as the day went on as the spacing is tight between the cogs and the chain is crossed over some when you’re up on the cassette with shorter chain stays. Despite the mud in sections the WTB Trail Boss’s stayed clean and the clearances between tire/stays was ample. Nothing got lodged and somehow no dry leaves were picked up along the way (which is usually good for 1 time per ride!). I’m also pleased with how this area turned out too. Good balance of positive and negative space from a visual perspective. When I need to get off the back of the bike and really get low over the rear wheel, there was plenty of leg clearance room thanks to those deeply formed seat stays and chain stays and the low slung nature of the frame. The course is well supported, and not having the weight of a hydration pack makes a huge difference. I refiled my bottles 3-4 times throughout the ride and came back with them pretty much empty. That little bit of extra clearance made for accessing that second bottle much easier than the last frame (which it was really tight). Connection point wise, these pedals made all the difference. Good platform and positive snap into place. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I couldn’t be happier with my XTR pedals! Overall I had a great time. I was tired at times and later in the ride I was just plain tired from maintaining that pace and tackling the sheer amount of tech on the course which was back to back. I found myself really, really wanting to sit down for more than a mile and just spin. There was a section on dirt roads between 2 down hill sections that allowed for this, but then you went into a tough, long climb via a dirt road. So that small repose didn’t last long. I reached the last checkpoint with lights on and the course marshal’s wanted me back to Oak Park ASAP to report so I took the last 5 miles by pavement… which was a welcome sight even in the dark. By the time I got back to Oak Park, that little bit refreshed me and I was actually ready for more, but the kitchen was open and having reported in to the race directors… A double helping of just about all they had was in order. I also helped myself to two massive helpings of cake. I must have ate my weight in food on return. That wraps up yet another Hampshire 100, most likely the toughest course to date I’d say and another sweep is in the books. This one was interesting since it was kind of my first ride on this new set up (I had led a pre-race ride the night before, but was pretty busy talking with racers than to take notes on the bike). So this really was a full boar head first plunge into a shakedown ride which made it interesting. From a ride perspective, the bike did what I asked it to, and reacted when I reacted. So it further emphasized that extension between rider and trail I try and accomplish with each build. See you on the trail.