Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beer Review: Rogue Brutal Bitter vs. Rogue Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red

As some, or many, of you may know I am into beer. Let me rephrase that I am into good beer. There are some beers that I absolutely refuse to drink (e.g. Coors, Bud, etc.) due to their lack of flavor and quality beer merit. I am not saying that I only like darker beers, though this is by far my preference when choosing a beer in the liquor store, I do enjoy many lighter beers. However the key to a good light beer is still flavor and complexity in my view.

In addition to liking beer a lot I was also brought up in a home that not only encourages but supports wholeheartedly trying new beers and seeking out the most interesting beers one can find from around the world. Additionally, I have also begun to dabble in my own craft brewing with my lovely fiance so have learned about many of the techniques used in brewing beer to accomplish specific flavors. Because of this I feel as though I am fairly well qualified to discuss the various merits of one beer over another.

So now on to the meat of this post, a simple comparative review of Rogue Ale's Brutal Bitter and Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale.

Let me start with the Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale. When thinking of a red ale a reasonably standby that comes to mind is Killian's Red. A red ale tends to be on the maltier side of ales with a crisp sweeter finish. Something that is not bad and definitely an enjoyable beer. What Rogue has done with this beer is in addition to adding hops during the initial brewing process they also added more hops during the first fermentation process, called dry hopping. By doing this it allowed that "bitter" flowery, grapefruit flavor to really invest itself in the beer. Because of this, in addition to the solid red malty nature of this beer there is a strong and salient hop flavor that comes through with every sip. I think the complex nature of this beer that they have created definitely makes it a great one to keep in the fridge and to match up with strongly flavored foods like barbecued or smoked fresh sockeye salmon.

Now onto the Brutal Bitter. Let me start with quoting the Rogue Ales website with regard to their Brutal Bitter:

"Dedicated to Justin Fisch, the Shade Man, and the official beer of the Rogue Nation. Brutal combines Oregon hops with English Malts. The Oregon grown Crystal hop is a triploid variety developed from the German Hallertau aroma hop variety with contributions from Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green. Crystal is the only hop used in brewing Brutal and it provides a massive amount of aroma without dry-hopping."

This description is easily spot on. Rogue has accomplished something very interesting in this beer. By taking a traditional English style beer, a bitter, and creating something wholeheartedly American and amazing out of it. They do this by using English Malts and then using a highly refined American hop in order to create a wonderful mixture of sweetness to bittnerness throughout all while keeping with a beautiful aroma.

I don't think I could pick a favorite of these two different beers at all. In fact it would honestly depend on my mood for the day. However, if you are capable of purchasing these or any of the fine beers made by Rogue Ales I strongly suggest you do. They are worth every cent and every sip.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And the winner is....

As I've mentioned on Twitter a few times I received a new fork for my Yeti ARC recently. Granted this is not a brand new fork, in fact it is 2007, but it is in new condition. When it arrived last night (well really when I arrived home last night and it was sitting on the couch) it took all the mental strength I could muster to not break out the work stand, toolbox, and work rags. But I held off until this morning.

Above you can see photos of the build, final product, and the weight of my complete race bike (this is more because I made a cassette upgrade while I was back east and knocked off a considerable amount of weight there). Yeah, just under 24 pounds is not super impressive for a hard tail cross country race weapon, but, this is one durable cross country race bike! Not to say there aren't changes I could make, in fact, I am still toying with the idea of going 1x9 with the mrp 1.x to drop a little bit over 300 grams as well as get rid of chain suck in bad race conditions and just make the bike that much more durable. We'll see though...if I do that I might have to spend a little more time on my singlespeed over the winter to build up the strength to push a 36 tooth front ring up some of the climbs we have on the US Pro XCT circuit.

Back to the build. This was the fastest fork change I have ever done. Though pulling the crown race off of my old Reba Team was a little difficult. Yet, putting it on the Fox 32 F100 was a piece of cake - a sign of what was to come.

Well the build was done, the brakes were set up, my rotor was re straightened, and now to set up the fork pressure. Looking over the Fox manual online I gathered that I should set the pressure to roughly 65 psi for my weight and see how it handles. I did the necessary work to do so and thought the fork felt a little squishy compared to what I was used to.

Ok, well now that I am talking about how the fork feels I might as well dive right into it's first ride. Since my legs have been feeling slightly fatigued from a solid weekend of back to back 3 hour mountain bike rides I opted to head out for a semi-short endurance ride at Marshall Mesa to test out the new fork and give my legs a little spin with the option of giving it some gas if they were feeling it (by the way, they were!)

Marshall Mesa is not terribly technical. It has some more technical bits but overall it is pretty smooth and just fun. I also rode the Prairie View trail, Dowdy Draw Trail, and Spring Brook Loop on the other side of the highway for good measure, some solid mountain biking. Fun, good fun fast and slightly rocky singletrack.

Even though when I initially set up the fork I thought it was soft I discovered quickly on the trail that though at first it feels soft this is the way Fox forks are designed. For a 100mm fork, a travel length I have been running since last august, this fork feels bottomless. The travel starts out being super responsive to the slightest trail alteration and as you move through it becomes progressively stiffer. What this means to us mountain bikers, go and rip it.

My Reba has never felt this way in the year I rode it. It was always a consistent feel from beginning to end. Not to say that is bad, but I could clearly tell when I was bottoming it out, not so with the Fox. In addition to this I felt as though the Fox definitely allowed for more input from the rider.

As a hard tail rider it takes a certain amout of bike handling skills to handle technical terrain smoothly and fast. Something that has taken me a year to really get the handle of and I still can't do it 100% of the time. One thing about the Fox with it's amazingly smooth feel and quick reacting rebound it really helps you make those late big bunny hops over boulders on the outside of corners you would have otherwise plowed into and certainly endowed. When this happened today it was great how quickly the fork reacted and I was up and over the boulder without even touching my tire to it.

You might think that I just didn't have my Reba set up properly in order to have that kind of feel. I have owned 2 different Rock Shox forks as of now and no matter how well I set them up and work to make them feel the best they can they never felt like this new fork does.

So, today not only is the winner my bike, but the winner is also Fox Suspension, you guys really know what youare doing.

As a quick side note a good friend of mine is starting a huge part of his racing season this weekend at the Suicide 6 race in New York to tune up for the Shenandoah 100. Best of luck to Jason Hilimire as he heads out to rock a series of super hard and awesome events! If you click on his name you can follow updates on his blog of his training, racing, and life in general. Definitely well worth it.

Till next time....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Career Change

Typically people go through a career change somewhere in their 30's or so after spending numerous years slaving away at something they are not in love with. At least that is how I always saw it. After college (well really during my senior year of college) I thought about what I wanted to do with my life and what seemed to be the best option was to continue studying philosophy and see what kind of job I could do with that at the very least. Very quickly I packed up, moved to the Boulder, CO area and started as a master's candidate in Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

I love philosophy. I love the reading, the thinking, the curious problems we spend time dealing with. Most of all I love the diverse range of topics studied for philosophers along with our ability to use what is happening in other fields as fuel for thought.

Unfortunately it seems that not only am I less motivated to continue with philosophy as a career move but I have been missing one aspect of my college career far too much, design. As a student at Bard College though I was a philosophy major I spent a large amount of time in the theatre working for the electrics crew. My capacity was doing everything from hanging lighting instruments to focusing and finally in the last couple of years to designing for various dance and theatre shows around campus. My greatest accomplishment by far was making the Spanish Dance Concerts in the Multi-Purpose Room (MPR, though we called it the NPR, No-Purpose Room, for it's completely useless layout for anything whatsoever) look good. Which is nearly impossible if you are remotely familiar with this room and the constraints one must work with.

Not having done any design work for over a year now I realize that maybe my love for philosophy is slightly trumped by my love for projects that involve interesting physical challenges to design around, like working on dance concert lighting designs.

After talking with many family members and friends as well as my other half (Shannon) it seems that after I finish my master's in philosophy I will be making a drastic shift to the world of engineering.

Yes, this is a huge shift from my previous academic exploits. However, I was never a philosophy major because I was a weak math and/or science student (very important subjects for engineers). In fact I have always been a very good math and science student. Unfortunately this also means I have to go back to Undergrad to make up a number of courses I neglected while being an undergrad at Bard College in order to apply for Grad School again in another year or two.

Well, I guess it is back to the books in the next week. Time to figure out what to write my Master's Thesis on before I start thinking about remembering how to do Calculus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back in Colorado

It's been a little over a week since my last post and quite a bit has happened as well. Since I left my parents up in the adirondacks of New York and headed back down to the familiar catskills I spent a lot of time just relaxing and preparing for the Pro XCT finals at Windham Ski Resort in Windham, NY.

Of the 5 days of the normal work week I spent 3 of them up at the mountain riding the course and trying to get a rhythm on it. Turns out it paid off pretty well, unfortunately you can't see that from my finishing results, but during my brief interlude in the race I knew things were going well.

Quick Race Report: knowing how short the course was and how much I would really need to be have my engine running on all cylinders for the start I opted for the slightly longer warm up, something that has definitely helped me in the past for the harder events. Fortunately I also was able to stay cool during my warm up by staying in the shade and not really pushing too hard at all until my ritual pre race efforts roughly 15 minutes before call ups begin. I was feeling good and ready to go by the time we lined up.

Race started in the parking lot on the pavement at the front of the resort building this year. Unfortunately something that has always bothered me is the fact that so many mountain bike racers (whether they are pro or not) seem to have difficulty riding fast in a large group. After nearly being wrapped up in 2 crashes before even hitting the dirt (maybe 500 ft of pavement total at this point) I started to make my way up the hill and towards the first bottleneck where my two years of cross racing really paid off. Hit the bottleneck running and just booked it by a bunch of guys trying to figure out what to do. As we kept heading up the mountain I noticed my legs started to feel better and better and I was just crushing the gears and feeling really smooth as a bike rider, while all the while hacking up copious amounts of dust and mucus from the start and feeling in general pretty asthmatic in the long department.

After a solid 5-7 minutes of climbing up the mountain we hit the last climb up a short exposed fire road before the ripping fast descent. I set about setting a blistering pace for the group I was with and then suddenly I felt that warm fuzzy feeling all over the body. From experience I knew my body was overheating. Quickly grabbing for my bottle I slugged back some Heed and backed off quite a bit trying to save some and get cool before having to head back up the climb again.

After riding the descent conservatively on the first lap I came around and proceeded to hit it as hard as I could without overheating again like on the first lap. I cleared the top and started heading down. When you are not racing at the front of the race and just trying to survive one great tip is to remember why you started racing in the first place - it is FUN! So I started jumping off stuff on the descent and having a generally good time.

As I reached the bottom I thought for sure I was going to be pulled for falling below the 80% rule and at the same time saw a few riders just ahead soft pedaling, ok... definitely going to get pulled might as well make up every spot I can in the last 1000 meters. I really laid the hammer down coming around the parking lot loop and up the subsequent power climbs catching 2 guys and just cruising only to come up over the last little power climb to the finish and not hear the whistle.... Oh CRAP! I have another lap to do and I just burned every match I had left.

Last lap I thought, just stay alive.... that is all you have to do, stay alive. I cruised the last lap and ended up with a 60th place finish of 63 finishers and somewhere in the realm of 70-75 starters, on par with the rest of my Pro XCT results.

Even though this was not a great result it was definitely a race where I felt like I really deserved to be a professional on the race circuit. My legs felt good, I could actually ride up the mountain, unlike at Mount Snow. The biggest hurdle of the day was the heat, something I have struggled with consistently for the last 2 years and have had to spend multiple races sitting on the side of the trail trying to get my body to cool off.

I am coming into the tail end of the season now with some unfinished business at the Mountain States Cups before Cross season officially begins, maybe I can pull something out for the last couple of races and score some USA Cycling rank points before the end of the year.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thanks Mom and Dad

Another year and another Mount Snow is in the books. I have definitely had a love hate relationship with this mountain. Last summer at the Root 66 Kenda Classic at Mount Snow I was rocking it and after destroying a front wheel and being able to fix it I rode to a 4th place finish only seconds off 3rd. A couple of week later I could barely get myself up the climbs and finished in 10th, embarassing.

This year was quite a bit different. The day before I was feeling awesome and powering up the climbs super well. Unfortunately I was not flowing the technical stuff too well that day. Race day rolled around the next day and I was climbing like a small child. It was really embarassing. I just could not ride up hill with any speed whatsoever, so sad. Fortunately I was actually able to clean the technical parts of the course like none other, I was definitely stoked on that! Alas, with not being able to ride uphill on one of the hardest uphill courses in the USA I lasted for 2 laps of the 5. By far my worst performance of the year.

But if now is a low point then things can only get better from here. After the race I made my way up to Lake Placid, NY and spent the next two days with my parents enjoying the adirondacks.

Before I continue I would like to thank my parents for being the coolest ever. While at Mount Snow the sole of my shoe began to tear off leaving me to attempt to super glue it back together the night before the race. Though it looked like it was going to hold I definitely finished the race and found it farther disconnected than before. When I arrived at Lake Placid and announced this misfortune to my parents they said they would take me around to the local bike shops in order to solve my problem. After much searching we were able to find a pair of Shimano M182 shoes and some new Crank Brothers cleats on sale for an awesome price. Thanks mom and dad you guys are the best and always keep me rolling when times are tough!!!!

After solving my shoe problem I headed out for a ride in the Adirondacks. In the Lake Placid area if you want to ride at White Face Mountain you are required to pay and sign a waiver. Though I am totally down on signing a waiver (I do it every time I have to race) paying to ride my bike when I am not using lift access is pretty ridiculous to me. I quickly got some beta that you could ride this trail from White Face over to the Flume Trails outside of Wilmington. These trails are sick. They really aren't all that technical (there are some more technical bits) but they are super fun. There are parts that are like riding down a pump track. Just pump it and you accelerate down the mountain, can you say Wicked!!!!

Overall even though I raced horribly on Saturday I would say it was a pretty good weekend. Now to regroup, get fit, and try to rip it at Windham. Though I would love it to be wet and sloppy I highly doubt that would happen.

Cheers and happy riding.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Making My Way Back East

After spending a few days at the parents house in Pennsylvania I loaded up the car and headed to Round Top, NY; the home of an old friend from my NY living days Seamus Powell. The drive was pretty uneventful but once arriving it was such a welcome atmosphere that I felt right at home.

Seamus' parents are awesome! After one of the best dinners ever of lasagna, salad, and homemade italian bread I was ready for a huge nap (bed time for the night) before the short trip up to Mount Snow the next day.

The short trip to Mount Snow as definitely an adventure to say the least. It took roughly an hour to figure out how to load up the car with 3 bikes (only 2 bike racks) and 6 wheels. Solution, tie our wheels to our bikes on the roof rack and put one bike in the backseat. Overall it worked out pretty well until Macky picked up another frame when we arrived at Mount Snow that Colt from Cyclingdirt was holding on to for him. Hmmm.....

A quick preride of the new* Mount Snow course and we were on our way. Our new gracious hosts for the weekend were Andrew Freye and his girlfriend Haddey, Mike Joos, and John Burns. They've rented a sweet house (with wi fi) for the weekend and cooked up an awesome pasta dinner.

Today is race day and it is time to fix my nerves (a problem I was having at Nationals a few weeks ago) and see how things go. The course is tough in terms of climbing but not overly hard in terms of descending this year. I think when Mount Snow shortened their course the descents (though very similar and the same to last years) lost a large part of their technical nature purely because you don't go have to go down for as long making things much more interesting than years past at least on the pro race side.

We'll see what happens, the goal today is to hold on for 5 laps, legs feel good, so.....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Western Pennsylvania Singletrack

For the past couple of days I have been hanging out at my parents home in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Though I grew up here in the quaint and very small town of Meadville my cycling heritage is very Colorado centric. I spent 4 summers during high school riding my mountain bike in Colorado. Because of this I have never really known where to ride in Western PA, until about 2 years ago.

2 years ago on my way through town I knew that I would be stopping by for a week or so and couldn't imagine a week without mountain biking. First things first, rolled down to the local shop and asked where to go. Answer: nowhere.

Ok, that doesn't really seem true, we're in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains only 30 or 40 miles from the Allegheny National Forest, hmm....

After a quick internet search I found this place called Moraine State Park outside of Slippery Rock, PA (BTW there is a really good brew pub there if you are ever in that neck of the woods that is worth checking out if you are into amazing craft beers!) I loaded up and headed down with the intent of getting pretty lost in the woods, and I did so.

Since I knew I would be coming back through town for almost a week I figured this would be the perfect way to prepare for Mount Snow and Windham, ride super sick and super tech trails. Well to say the least my memory was a little foggy from 2 years ago of what the trails are like here and man are they tough, but that makes them fun!

What is interesting is that for many areas of the network the trail is really just a series of rock bridges from one van sized boulder to the other. During a dry summer this isn't so bad, you just have to have some good point and shoot skills while you bounce around and try to float. This summer has been exceptionally wet and with the thick foliage cover the rocks (covered in a slick lichen) have not particularly dried at all, making things very interesting!

To say the least I love trying to ride these trails. There aren't the ripping fast descents or the high alpine singletrack that has made Colorado famous, but you can never go wrong with a slow techy ride where just cleaning a 10 foot section of trail is all the exhilaration you need!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Man I need to get some pictures up on this thing

Well now that I am getting back to blogging on this site I should definitely get some pictures up on this thing asap. Unfortunately I don't have any at the moment, hmm.... Well when I go back to Moraine State Park tomorrow I will make sure to stop and take some as this place is pretty ridiculous an awesome.

Currently I am relaxing at my parents in Northwestern Pennsylvania enjoying the uncharacteristically cool weather, however, it is ridiculously humid, and riding my bike a fair bit as training has fallen off slightly last week unfortunately.

Yesterday I drove down to Moraine State Park outside of Slippery Rock to session the most ridiculously technical trails one will ever ride short of Rothrock Forest in State College, in fact I would say these trails are harder purely because the climate is just slightly damper.

The name of the game at Moraine is rocks. Though it is the east coast and there are plenty of roots they are not really a problem here. From beginning to end of these trails there are monstrous rock gardens where every rock is damp and covered in moss making it ride like an ice rink. To make it more interesting there are car and bus size boulders that have rock bridges and wood bridges built on and off of them to facilitate interesting riding. If you can find a rhythm here and flow these trails you can rock any race course. I guess I'll be heading back down again tomorrow, maybe if I ride super tech trails all week I will be ready for Mount Snow and just rip it so fast that I scare myself.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Getting back in the Swing of Things

This blog has been a little stale recently (well that is a bit of an understatement, it's really been completely dead). With the hope of bringing things back around and getting regular posts up I will start again.

The past 2 days have been exceptionally stressful and tiring as I made my journey from Longmont, CO to Meadville, PA. Originally the plan was for me to drive solo (well with my dog, Lucas) but at the last minute Shannon was an angel and decided to come with me as my driving companion only to fly back to Colorado immediately (she should be arriving momentarily at DIA) and then fly to Albany, NY and meet me again for my return trip. With this change of plans this meant that we would leave a day later and several hours later than originally planned.

Day 1: meet Shannon at work (roughly 4:30) drive one car to DIA parking lot and then get on the road with the ultimate goal of making it to Omaha, NE (500 miles away from our starting point). After many slight problems with leaving on time we finally were on the road and on our way. Though the drive was uneventful we arrived at our hotel in Omaha at roughly 2:30 in the morning completely worn out and then find the box with our key for our room wouldn't open with the code we were given. Fortunately the woman at the front was able to get us set up and into our room. After a beer and calming Lucas down (he has a hard time with hotels for some odd reason) we were able to get to sleep.

Day 2: woke up at 9 am. Though this seems late with the amount of sleep we got it was unfortunately ver early. However, with 900 miles left to go before we got to Meadville, PA we had to try and get on the road. By 10 we were loaded up and heading out only to find that no fast food restaurant was still serving breakfast. A couple handfuls of grapes, an apple, and some coffee and we kept on trucking (I am a firm believer in eating breakfast food for breakfast no matter what time of day it is, in fact breakfast food is my favorite food so I will readily eat it any time of day, but most importantly must consume it for breakfast). Once again this was only another uneventful day of driving across the middle of the United States. Once again we arrived in the early hours of the morning to promptly sit down for a beer before going to bed.

Now it is time for me to try and relax and keep me head straight for the upcoming races at Mount Snow and Windham. With fast and challenging courses these will be some of the toughest races of the year. Let's if all that time up at altitude will give me some sort of edge.