More bike than i needed… but the bike i wanted!

2019 Stumpjumper Comp Carbon
2019 Stumpjumper Comp Carbon

i picked up the 2019 Specialized Stumpjumer Comp Carbon 29er a few months back and have put 200 miles or so on it at the time i type this, so here are my thoughts:

It’s my first full-carbon mountain bike: She’s Carbon fiber from head tube to rear dropouts! Plus for 2019 Specialized only makes one carbon Stumpjumper frame. That means my Comp Carbon Stumpy has the same frame as the S-works stumpy… which is pretty amazing!

Back to full-squish: i’ve spent the last year riding a hard-tail mountain bike. My old bike was also a “sport” bike. A sport bike that i rode in non-sport conditions from time-to time. So getting by bum over a VERY capable full suspension bike has been amazing!

29er: Since one of my jobs is at a bike-shop i have access to demo bikes from time to time. Riding a decent spread of bikes has lead me to the conclusion that for me 29ers are faster, and more fun. i have nothing against 27.5″ bikes, they’re just not my preferred cup-of-tea right now.

 

Here’s what i love about my 2019 Stumpjumper: 

  1. it’s forgiving: Stray off-line, land a little crossed-up, get distracted & sloppy? Stumpy don’t care. Stumpy eats trail for breakfast. Stumpy eats trail however you throw it at the trail. Stumpy woke up hungry for trail… Stumpy ALWAYS hungry!
  2. Big Squish! i know, it’s considered a “trail bike” it’s not like i’m shredding downhill on an enduro bike but for me 150mm up front and 140mm in the back is a LOT of travel! i’ve grown accustomed to 120mm up front and chain stay flex and creaky knees in the back. Rocky and rooty trails that i had started to avoid are now a pleasure to ride.
  3. All that carbon fiber: My first carbon road bike made me a believer in carbon fiber bikes. rough choppy roads became buttery smooth, yet the bike felt like a rocket when i put the hammer down. Carbon fiber frames are engineered to be flexy where flexy is good and still where stiff is good. You just don’t get that sort of control from any other material currently.
  4. S.W.A.T.: i really like the S.W.A.T. box on the bike. on shorter rides i’m notorious for taking nothing but a water bottle out there with me (tools, tubes, etc are in a camelbak that i typically only wear on longer rides). The S.W.A.T. box means that i have a place to stuff all that stuff without an unsightly bike-scrotum dangling from my saddle. The Multi-tool integrated onto the bottom of the bottle cage is equally nice!
  5. Stability: My stumpy has proven to be maybe the most stable platform i’ve ever ridden (definitely the most stable platform i’ve ever ridden REGULARLY). Even when the trail gets loosey-goosey and the tires start sliding around  the bike stays under me and goes where i point it. It actually makes those previously terrifying sections of trail super fun.
  6. Position on the bike: It was a HUGE adjustment for me. i lean towards XC style bikes and the stumpy is a trail bike through and through. The Stumpy has me riding in a more upright and neutral position. I’m accustomed to getting my weight waaaaaay back on technical sections but on the Stumpy i find that i can just ride those sections and the bike loves it and eats it up. The more neutral position also means that at the end of a bigger ride when i’m beat my body doesn’t feel as generally beat-up as it used to.

 

Things i don’t love so much:

  1. Climbing: i know, it’s not built to be a climber. i’m fully aware of that. But i enjoy the long slow suffering most days. If i don’t want to die on a bike at least once on a ride then it’s an “easy ride”. Don’t get me wrong: for a 150/140 travel bike it climbs pretty well. The rear shock stiffens up but doesn’t lock all the way out (which i wish it did). The fork will lock out but only on fire-roads or the rare hard-top connector do i ever lock the fork out. There’s some magic to the geometry that keeps the fork from feeling too bobby on climbs for me.
  2. S.W.A.T. rattle: i LOVE the S.W.A.T. box… (see above). Love it! but no matter how i adjust the contents or how firm i pack stuff in there; stuff rattles when the trail gets gnarly. Given the nature of the S.W.A.T. box i don’t see how there’s anyway around this. Its a hollow part of the down-tube you can stick stuff in. Then you ride the bike, with the down tube stuffed with stuff, down rough stuff and stuff shakes around. This is a SUPER minor thing, but i mention it.

 

Conclusion: Yeah the Stumpjumper is really too much bike for me. I’m not out there shredding like those crazy kids! My ride style is much more XC-Fun. But i wanted a bike for once that leaned more to the Fun side, so i got one. The more i ride this bike the more i like it, and i liked it a lot on the first ride! My dislikes are really silly things, one is evident from the style of bike the other is price you pay for that convenience. My likes are all solid reasons to buy and ride the bike! Would i recommend the 2019 Stumpjumper? Hands down! With zero reservations! Loving this big ole squishy bike!

 

Now watch this ridiculous promo-video Specialized produced: Watch it and love it! Stumpjumper 2019 Promo

 

Race Day (first one in a loooong time)

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It has been YEARS since i actually participated in a real race. So i decided to break the streak and sign up for one.

12 miles of pretty familiar trails in the Blue Ridge mountains. Since i work part-time (on my day off every week) at a local bike shop (Blackwater Bike Shop, in Lynchburg VA- an amazing bike shop that was my go-to shop long before i started fumbling with wrenches there) i felt it was appropriate to zip-tie a number on a bike, throw a jersey on, represent the shop on the local trail system, and ride my way to glory!

Ok, so not ride my way to glory! Here’s a summary: i didn’t ride in a way i am particularly proud of… but i didn’t ride myself into embarrassment either! i left myself room for improvement, and may have developed an itch… an itch for competition. There’s a spark kindled inside me that wants to get better, to get faster, to be more technically sound, to get faster, to build more endurance, to get faster… ok, i really want to get faster. Mountain biking is fun! Cycling in general is fun for me, and the faster i can do it the more fun it gets.

The race gave me an honest assessment of where i stand as a rider. Hopefully my next race will give me another glimpse into the single-track-mirror and i’ll find that i’ve improved. Maybe i’ll let you know… (unless i do really poorly, then we shall never speak of it!)

FYI: i rode the race on a Demo Bike from the shop. Specialized Epic: the more i ride the bike the more i like The Brain. The shop is currently rolling over the demo fleet so if you’re interested in an Aluminum Epic: look up the shop and reach out to us, it’s definitely for sale!

What Year Am i?

My former “youngest”  child is a senior in High School this year…

Now there’s a surprise child on the way!

These two spectrum spanning life events happening on top of each other have me feeling a little topsy-turvy about the whole age thing!

 

Some days i feel better than i ever have. 42 year old me could totally take 23 year old me on those days! i’m like Will Smith, fine wine, or a charred oak barrel of bourbon: i just get better with age!

Other days i feel like i’m leaning against a wall of geriatric destiny. Like rechargable batteries, a bag of apples, and CGI special effects: aging is not my speciality!

 

My early 40’s have been some interesting few years for me already. It takes me longer to recover when i get banged up. My feet and ankles hurt most mornings. Injuries i sustained in my 20s remind me that they happened. My parents have gone through a bout of medical issues. i had my worst year on the bike that i’ve ever had (guess it’s time to actually watch what i eat?)… i could moan on and on.

Conversly: people still call me when they have technical issues with electonics, i still get alot of new humor (helps that i have a 17 year old who prides himself on meme-lore), while i logged fewer miles and made almost no gains on my road-bike i did get faster on average on my mountain bike this year… guess you could say that i’m still pretty awesome!

 

it’s an odd age to live through that’s for sure… Sometimes, i’m a wisened old seer; othertimes i still get carded when i buy a beer (of course ONLY when covering my dome with a hat)… Hopefully in 2018 i’ll sort out if i’m old or young… or just here!

A bad day on the bike…

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Set out Sunday morning to bag an epic climb here in central Virginia: Thunder Ridge!

i’ve done it many times before… on my road bike. Sunday was the day to make it happen on two fat tires! The off-road climb to the top of the longest continuous climb on the Blue Ridge Parkway in The Old Dominion!

i met up with some friends, unloaded my bike and noticed… the rear wheel was out of true! What the heck? How have i not noticed this before. i started checking spoke-tension and found to my dismay: a broken spoke! This went from inconvenient and annoying to an actual problem!

It’s mostly gravel, fire-roads, and double-track so i figured i’d roll the dice and make the ride. My compatriots, who were serving as guides as i didn’t know the route, assured me that the only serious section of single-track was on the way back down. Risk was now solidly in the acceptable zone for me! We loaded up and rolled out.

The weather was perfect. The route proved to be gorgeous. Conversation was entertaining. Oh, and my allergies were kicking my asthma! i’d meant to take a couple of hits off the ole inhaler before leaving, maybe taking it with me but i remembered all of this a couple of miles in… Oh well, cost-effective altitude training maybe?

Soon we were up an over the first climb of the day (the smaller one) and my rear brake started acting up. It wasn’t long before it was really compromised. i stopped on a long gravel road descent and did some trail-side adjustments. Not long after that we rolled onto the foot of the big climb for the day. 3000+feet of elevation gain to go! (after bagging about 1400 feet already)

i like climbing. The rhythmic suffering of it. It’s very “blue-collar”, just keep spinning the pedals, just keep sweating, find that edge you can push yourself to and keep chunking the coal into the burner to keep yourself there. This was the moment i had been looking forward to for days!

This epic climb started out alright. The grades felt a little steeper than they looked, but sometimes that’s just cycling! Just keep pedaling… Just keep spinning… chunk the coal in that internal motor…

But i was fading. Fading hard. It wasn’t until we were about 3/4 of the way up this miles-long climb that i started to get suspicious. We hit a little down-hill and everyone else zipped away as i had to dig hard just to keep my speed up. i stopped, hopped off my machine, and gave the rear wheel a spin. It made about a revolution and a half and slowed to a stop… The rear brake was dragging. After some fiddling drastic measures were taken. i removed the rear brake and started pedaling, i was a free man! i could climb again!

Well, i could climb again for about 10 minutes, then the fatigue from riding with a sticky brake for the majority of this massive climb really set in. i was toast. My legs were done. But there i was in the wilderness, no idea where trails go. My friends had their own aspirations for a great day on their bikes just like i had when i awoke that morning. So i sucked it up and limped up the mountain. Made it to the top of Apple Orchard (leg cramps and all).

Shortly after we had a pow-wow and i had to admit (tail tucked and shame-faced) that i was cooked… i felt like i had let them down. One of them kindly volunteered to serve as my guide back down the unfamiliar trails and to the cars. i’ll be in his debt for quite some time.

So here’s the thing that really cheeses me the most: It was ALL MY FAULT! i had not properly maintained my bike and it had cost not just me, but friends of mine as well.

Lessons learned? Take care of my crap (this is a lesson i keep “re-learning” in life). My inactions didn’t just affect me, they had an effect on my friends (who had graciously extended the invitation to roll out on this epic route with them).

On a positive note: it was still time on the bike. Bad rides are better than no rides! And the views i saw, the trails i experienced, and the graciousness of my friends were all things that were beautiful in their own ways.

What am i doing here?

Years ago i had a blog…

i would regularly write as a way to collect my thoughts, and post them there. Over time that collection of my thoughts became something that i cherished. So i did what came naturally: i deleted them all and stripped that old blog down to absolutely nothing… No need getting soft, right?

But here i am, a few years older, probably not much wiser, and thinking it’s a thing i’d like to do again. It provided me with a time of reflection and introspection and gave me a spot to ruminate on ideas. So i’m endeavoring to post something weekly here, for at least the next 3 months (and hopefully beyond). i’ve sprung the minuscule funds to get my own domain, and set-up this woefully simple site; so here goes!

To provide some structure for myself, and whoever else may misstep and find themselves here, i want to post within a few categories, categories pertinent to who i am. So, who am i? My bride once wrote a great 6 word biography for me, “My life is love and mischief.”  In my Instagram profile (the only social media i’m really very active on by the way) i’m self-described as: “Part time curiosity seeker, reader of things, spreader of mirth, and Oxford comma advocate.”  My everyday friends know that i’m an avid cyclist. My cycling friends know that i’m a pretty hard-core nerd. Life, work, and my quest to seek out curiosities mean that i like to go new places, aka i’m a traveler.  At the root of things i’m spiritual, just maybe not like everyone wants me to be.

Those things fairly concisely describe me and most of my interests so i’m going to catalogue my ramblings as follows:

Reading: Books i love, books i hate, books i read, ingredients on shampoo bottles, book club stuff (when i’m involved with one) etc etc etc.

Travel: i go places, i see things, i drink in life. May have an addiction to the National Park Service! When i ramble and my mind rambles i’ll hammer away on my keyboard under this heading.

Spiritual: i made a living as a professional minister for years, my faith is VERY important and sacred to me. It’s probably the thing i wrestle internally with the most in this life. i’m prone to doubt and question… Spiritual moments will be filed here!

Cycling: Life is better on two wheels. traveling down road or trail with only yourself as an engine! Reflections on life as a two-legged-motor will be under Cycling.

Nerdity: i’ve been a nerd for my entire existence.  i will passionately debate the finer points of the LOTR mythos, am in a razor thin minority who loves Kirk AND Jean Luc, get frustrated when people can’t tell 12 sided dice from 20 sided dice, have a solid strategy for winning base Catan a majority of the time, and will smite you down (left handed) if you bad-mouth The Princess Bride!    i also love Carl Sagan and what he did to make real science accessible and alluring to the average person, think it’s a great time to be alive when Neil deGrasse Tyson is a public figure, want to give NASA more money to do cool space stuff, and have a near encyclopedic knowledge of mammalian life forms on this planet! i’m a sort of renaissance nerd! Post containing Nerdity will be posted under this category.

Life: Someone once said, “Life… It just keeps coming at you, right up to the end.” i have no idea who said that (it could’ve been me, i dunno) but it’s true. Life just keeps happening. The vast majority of the time i drink it in, sometimes though it knocks me on my butt. Posts that fall under all things life and living will be sorted thus.

 

So… thus this thing begins.