May 15, 2013 Leave a comment
October 9, 2012 Leave a comment
Our team of Johnny & Chris has finally recovered from their second place finish at the epic 2012 Pisgah Stage Race – 5 days, 195 miles and 28,000 feet of climbing on some of North Carolina’s best mountain bike trails. Now that they’ve had some time to recover, we’re handing the blog over to Johnny, to wrap up their racing experience.
So I have had over a week to reflect on the 2012 Pisgah MTB Stage Race. I want to give you the highs and lows, products I am glad I had, and a few final thoughts. If you are thinking about doing any mountain bike stage races, especially the Pisgah MTB Stage Race, be sure and read this post along with our coverage during the race.
- Incredible world class trails – My new favorite place to ride.
- Descents – Challenging, yet rewarding. You have to know how to ride a bike here.
- Waterfalls/scenery – In one county alone there are more than 250 waterfalls and many of the 400 miles of singletrack pass right by some of the best.
- Fellow racers – Everyone who participated and volunteered at the event was super friendly, ready to help out, and just a joy to be around.
- Less of a race feel – It didn’t have the feel of a race. I mean this in a good way. There were no signs of prideful, ego-boosting personalities.
- Satisfaction of completion – Finishing this grueling event is a feat in and of itself.
- Weather – While the rain of Stage One was rough, the blue skies, low humidity, and fresh mountain air overly compensated for it.
- Weather – Part of the Pisgah National Forest is considered a rain forest, I believe it now.
- Climbs – Long, never ending. Each time you think the next turn will bring relief, the trail goes up even higher. A familiar phrase from course marshals was, “Straight up that way.”
- Mental – You get used to the physical difficulty of the race. What is more important is being strong mentally to keep going and keep pushing, no matter what it looks like around the next bend.
- Bike part destruction – Your bike and parts will be put to the test. Bring a spare bike, just so you know you have a replacement of every part on a bike. It is truly the easiest way to ensure and bring all the spare parts you might need.
- Recovery? There is a question mark because by the time you finish the stage, get cleaned up, eat, and get your bike ready for the next day, there isn’t much time left before you wake up, wash, rinse, and repeat.
- Forte Pisgah MTB Tires – With the weather on day one, tire selection was critical to maintaining forward momentum on the narrow, rock strewn, rooty singletrack (or as some call it, halftrack). Therefore I was very glad I had the Forte Pisgah tires below me to grab hold of the rugged terrain. The Forte Pisgah excels at gaining traction in this type of environment. They did such a good job of maintaining traction on the trails that they boosted my confidence while riding and given the trail conditions I was more willing to attempt difficult sections, knowing the tires would not break loose. Let’s just say the tires definitely earned their right to be named Pisgah and also a long term place on my bike.
- White Brothers Loop 140 TCR 26″ Suspension Fork – Pisgah Mountain Bike trails are for true riders. One has to know how to handle a bike to survive the trials in the Pisgah National Forest. With that in mind, I enjoyed checking out the other racers bikes to see what products they were using. On multiple occasions I spotted a white brothers loop soaking up the roots and rocks at Pisgah. I have been riding the Loop now for about 9 months and with Pisgah to cap off my testing I can honestly say it has earned its keep on the front of my bike. The fork just works, it comes out of the box ready to go and it isn’t overly complicated with buttons, knobs, dials, and levers everywhere. In most cases, with such long days on the trail with varying terrain, I could just set the threshold damper all the way and leave it all day.
- Shimano XTR RD-M985 Shadow Plus Rear Derailleur – As I am sure you know by now, the trails at Pisgah are tough, rugged, yet rewarding. I was glad to have the XTR Shadow Plus rear derailleur. I imagine the sound of chain slap would have driven me crazy by the end of the 5 day event. This technology is here to stay, as SRAM now has a similar feature in their TYPE 2 models. I did have to add some tension on one occasion during the week with the built in tool. I am curious to try out the SRAM version to see how it holds up because I am not sure how many seasons the Shimano mechanism will make it through.
- Shimano XT PD-M785 MTB Trail Pedals – Slippery Roots, skinny trails, creek crossings, and mud strewn singletrack call for two things when it comes to pedals; secure footing and mud clearance. The XT trail pedal has both.
- DT Swiss Tricon XM1550 Wheels – As mentioned before, the Mountain Bike Trails at Pisgah are tough. They will test a rider and the bike to the limits. The trails are laced with rock gardens, roots, drops, and high speed descents with all of the above. I was riding these wheels to find out if we should bring them in to our product lineup, and these wheels took it all in stride. They are very stiff with a low weight, the perfect combo for a multiday stage race. After multiple encounters with rocks, roots, and drops they are still spinning true.
- Brakes – We quickly realized how important brakes are at Pisgah. If you don’t know what I am talking about, see the post on Stage One. I began the race with the new Magura MT series disc brake. They are light weight and have great modulation. Once the pads were gone after stage one and no shops in town had a replacement set of pads (keep this in mind when gathering spare parts to bring to an event), I had to switch over the set of Shimano XTR BR-M988 Hydraulic Disc Brakes for Trail off of the spare bike. The Shimano brakes were a little heavier than the Magura’s; however, the increased power and finned pads were welcomed on the steep mountain descents. My verdict: All Mountain Riding: Nothing beats the power and cooling technology of the XTR’s. Cross Country Riding: Light weight and superior modulation make the Magura MT series a top contender.
- Grips – I was fortunate enough to try out both the Ergon GS1 and GA1 grips throughout the stage race. My thoughts. The Ergon GA1 is labeled as All Mountain and it is when compared to the other grips in the Ergon line. I loved the feel and shape of the grip. The contour through the palm was excellent, as it filled the gap you normally find in the center of your palm when wrapped around a bar. These grips excelled on the descents, dampening vibrations and providing a solid feel. These have made a permanent home on my bike.The Ergon GS1 grips have a larger surface area for your hand to rest on. Some people love these grips and use them on all their bikes; however, they are not for me. I enjoyed them on the climbs, being able to adjust my position and rest my hand some. On the other hand, with the steepness of the descents, I found myself sliding forward and with nothing to really wrap around I had to hold on much more tightly to keep my weight back on the bike. I had the feeling on many occasions that I was going to slide over the bars. These may be for you if your typical rides aren’t as steep on the downhill sections.
- Rockshox Reverb Adjustable Seatpost – This is one item I would not do the Pisgah Stage Race without. Having the ability to lower my seat to clear so many trail obstacles was priceless. I am not the only one who feels this way. Just ask most mountain bike riders and they will tell you their dropper post is their most favorite piece of equipment. The RockShox Reverb set the bar high and is one of the best dropper posts in the market.
- Devinci Dixon- It was a blast riding this bike at Pisgah. Even though the Devinci Dixon is made in Canada, I think it was built with the Pisgah trails in mind. What a bike. The split pivot suspension design works very well under power and braking. My consensus for the race; Most others brought the efficient climber (29er hardtail) to race on with the thought they would just suffer through the descents. The climbs were difficult in that everyone suffered, no matter the bike. Therefore, I was one of the few having a blast on the Dixon bombing down Farlow and Pilot Rock. If having fun, ripping down world class singletrack is your thing; you must try the Devinci Dixon.
October 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Since there is almost no way to see everything at the annual Interbike trade show, in our wrap-up we’re just talking about the interesting bikes and gear that caught our eye as we walked the convention hall floor or the Outdoor Demo. Check out our photo album on Facebook for even more shots from the show, and if you missed Part 1 of our wrap-up, you can find it here.
When we visited the Outdoor Demo at Interbike, the bikes we really wanted to check out were the new carbon mountain bikes from Devinci - they’ve updated their entire lineup, from the World Cup winning Wilson downhill bike, to the nimble 29er Atlas to the super fun Dixon all-mountain 26″ ride. We had a blast testing out their new bikes, and even got suspension designer Dave Weagle to break down the 2013 lineup for us:
And since he was hanging out, we even got Dave to explain how Devinci’s patented Split Pivot rear suspension works, and what makes it great:
While we’re talking bikes, Fuji has a great lineup of road, mountain and cyclocross bikes on tap for next year, with updated graphics and components. One of our favorites was this gorgeous 13.2 pound Altamira road bike with Oval components tubular wheels:
Giro was at Interbike with an updated 2013 lineup, but their new Air Attack helmet was drawing lots of attention. Its aero shape may look odd, but Giro designers claim that it is almost as efficient at cooling your head as their standard helmets, yet almost as efficient aerodynamically as their time trial helmets:
Meanwhile their new Empire shoes are all about style, adjustability and fit – laces are back, and they’ve never looked so good:
Pearl Izumi was busy at Interbike showing off their Project X mountain bike shoes, which are as colorful as they are well thought-out. The heart of these new shoes is the sole, which features a flexible carbon shank embedded in the bonded outsole.
Louis Garneau debuted their lightweight Course lineup of shoes, helmets and clothing at Interbike – including this great-looking new helmet and Boa lace-closure cycling shoe:
Louis Garneau won a design award for this Course vest, which features a gripper hem and open back panel so that you can reach in your back jersey pockets – one of those “why didn’t anyone think of that before” moments:
Ergon was on hand with new grips and packs, but their most interesting new gear was this intriguing CF3 Pro Carbon seatpost. It is designed to act as a leaf spring to absorb shock while riding – and it’s intended for use on the road:
And finally, just to show that even the hottest new trend has been tried before, check out this pair of 650B (or 27.5″) mountain bikes from Ritchey – the one on the left is their latest and greatest creation, while the one on the right is Ritchey’s first foray into the 650B world… from 1977!
September 23, 2012 2 Comments
A more detailed write-up of the final stage and a full race retrospective including in depth product reviews is on the way. We didn’t want to leave you in suspense however, so let it be known that we held onto second place duo team. If you just can’t wait to learn more about Pisgah Stage 5, check out Cycling Dirt’s video recap here (you’ll notice one particular Team Performance cyclist bravely pulling the field at about 1:16).
More to come!
September 21, 2012 1 Comment
If any of you remember our coverage from the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race from two years ago, you may remember that Team Performance had a VERY rough stage 4. We limped across the line after 7 hours and 30 minutes of the most difficult riding we had ever done. Having that experience going into stage 4 2012 created a sense of dread as we lined up for the start.
The stage was basically identical so we knew in advance that we had to start by climbing the steep side of Black Mountain.
Black Mountain eventually gave way to Turkey Pen Gap. Todd (the race organizer) called this section of trail the most “back woods” section of the race and he wasn’t kidding. The trail was so overgrown that riders could barely see a couple of feet in front of their front wheels. This didn’t decrease the technical nature of Pisgah Forest, so it was a game of reflexes trying to stay upright.
Once through the dense Turkey Pen Gap we headed back onto Squirrel Gap. This time we rode it the other direction and it was dry. What a difference! We were cleaning lines that only days ago we had to walk.
At the end of the day we solidified our lead over third place (and lost even more time to the first placed team). Tomorrow brings the climb up Laurel Mountain and the Pilot Rock descent. It’s going to be a brutal day but at least it won’t be snowing!
September 20, 2012 Leave a comment
We were informed last night by the Pisgah Stage Race director that today would be the easy day. Let’s just say that an “easy day” in the Pisgah Stage Race is one of the most difficult days back home! While there were some lovely high speed sections, we also encountered the usual Pisgah Stage Race mountain climbs where only the strongest riders can power up while staying in the saddle. But first let’s take a look at some videos from Stage 2. Here’s the start of the stage:
A quick view in the pack mid-race:
And then the madness that is Farlow Gap:
Now let’s get back to the third stage – our day started like every other.
The Performance Team felt strong today, now three days in. We know you are wondering, and yes we were able to put a little time back in between us and the third place team. The cheering section out there was also in full regalia:
Tomorrow we’re going to work on capturing some video as we tackle the stage that everyone calls the most difficult stage in the race. In the meantime, you can find us doing us what we do best in the latest video from Cycling Dirt here. (That would be eating)
The product of the day is Paceline Eurostyle Chamois Butt’r.
If there’s one product that I (Christopher) would not be able to live without at an event like this, it would be good chamois cream. Paceline’s Eurostyle has just the slightest hint of the cooling effect that differentiates it from non-eurostyle types of cream. It’s not overpowering and it really does last a very long time. Proper “body” care is absolutely essential to surviving an event this long and difficult and my care starts with Paceline.
September 20, 2012 Leave a comment
With minutes to spare we got our last needed set of brake pads replaced (check yesterday’s post to see why) and headed to the starting line of stage #2 of the 2012 Pisgah MTB Stage Race. The stage started out of the Cradle of Forestry, a first ever for the Pisgah Stage Race.
The Performance Team of Chris Danz and Johnny Pratt ended up in second place for the duo team category after stage one. Therefore, we had to do our best with sore muscles to maintain our position. While the weather for stage one created a mindset of strictly business to finish the stage, day two’s sunshine brought about smiles, excitement, and chatter among the racers as we barreled down the technical singletrack.
Do not be fooled however, because pretty soon the climbing ensued. The beast of the stage was a particularly steep 4 mile climb that put our mental game to the test. With mind and body battling it out we anticipated the infamous Farlow Gap downhill. Let’s just say this section is extremely difficult to complete in dry conditions, with so many drops, ledges, and boulders making up the descent. Then you throw in the downpour from yesterday and you now have the Farlow Gap Waterfall. Johnny was able to clean the line somehow, all the while passing racer after racer attempting to walk (more like slide) down with their bikes.
Meanwhile Chris was putting his medic skills to use bandaging up victims of the descent.
Now we’re just a few back-porch repairs away from sleep. Tomorrow’s stage will be the shortest of the race at only 25 miles. Does that mean we’ll have a super easy time of it? Will our bikes hold up? Will we hold off that third place team? Stay tuned to find out!
September 18, 2012 3 Comments
Stage one of the 2012 Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race started just as the Weather Channel predicted it would – with rain.
The White Squirrel Loop is the reason that Pisgah trails are sometimes referred to as “half-track” (as opposed to single-track). The trail is narrow, there are roots and rocks everywhere, and there tends to be a cliff’s edge to one side or the other.
Sadly, even though we were up to the challenge of riding in the rain for 6 hours, our cameras didn’t quite excel. Suffice it to say, it was very wet all day and more than a little muddy. How muddy was it? Without exception, everyone we talked to had the same issue at the end of the day:
. . . worn out brake pads! Those pads were only weeks old and looked like they were brand new at the beginning of the day. No matter the brand and no matter the rider, we all are spending our evenings cleaning muddy bikes and replacing worn out pads.
Tomorrow we tackle the fabled Farlow Gap. We’re in second place so far in the team standings, so wish us luck and check back for more updates soon!
August 9, 2012 Leave a comment
Last week the lucky winner of our Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway, Kaden (from Ann Arbor, Michigan), got to live out his dream to visit the place where his new bike was designed, built and tested. So we packed up our own suitcase to go along for the ride to find out what the guys (and gals) at Devinci are up to up north.
The first thing we found out was just how far north Devinci‘s factory really is – scenic Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada is about 2 1/2 hours drive north of Quebec City (if you drew a straight line across, the latitude of Chicoutimi is about the same as the North Dakota/Canada border). So why Chicoutimi? It’s easy – aluminum. Chicoutimi (and the surrounding Saguenay region) are a global hub for the aluminum industry. With a deep water harbor on the Saguenay River, huge cargo ships carrying bauxite (the principal ingredient of aluminum) unload their cargo to feed the aluminum factories of Rio Tinto Alcan. Once the aluminum ore leaves the ship, it never travels more than a few miles from the Devinci factory in Chicoutimi before it is turned into the durable hand-crafted bikes that Devinci is famous for.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit – let’s start at the beginning of our journey to Canada. As soon as our trip winner, Kaden, arrived in Chicoutimi, Julien, our Devinci guide for the next few days, ushered him to the local ski hill for a little taste of Canadian downhill mountain biking. Once Kaden got a handle on how to ride up the T-bar (which is harder than you would think), he was having a blast on a loaner Devinci Dixon mountain bike. Devinci sponsored the trails, and it seemed like the entire Devinci factory turned out to ride on this Wednesday evening. As we came to learn, everyone who works at Devinci has a passion to ride – and ride really fast! Folks were shredding the downhill runs, but they still took the time to wait up for us from time to time – since that also gave them the chance to take in the view over La Baie.
After a rousing few runs, and just as we were getting the hang of riding the T-bar, the sun was setting and it was time to grill. The post-ride hangout is the same everywhere – everyone was dirty and tired, but still basking in the glow of some great riding while recapping their greatest runs (although there was definitely more French spoken than at our usual trailhead). After some tasty grilled hot dogs and chips, it was off to bed after a long day.
The next day, we were up early with Kaden to get the factory tour started. The Devinci factory sits in an unassuming industrial park outside of town – the only indication of what was going on inside was the near universal bike rack on the back of the cars in the parking lot. But once inside, it was more than clear that what was going on was bikes, bikes and more bikes. We started our tour in the Devinci offices, where the bikes are dreamed up and designed. Every office had a Devinci road or mountain bike leaning against the wall, ready for the requisite lunchtime ride – their creations have to tested in the real world, of course. We learned about the Devinci design process, from the initial meeting to start the ball rolling, through the computer-aided design and testing (where all of the bikes are put through their paces virtually before any metal or carbon is ever used), to the first real prototypes where the final designs start to take shape. Their mantra is to test, test and re-test – Devinci strives to create innovative bike designs, but also well-thought and thoroughly tested bikes.
Once we left the offices, we moved into the hubbub of the Devinci factory floor. While the space isn’t huge, it was full of activity, material and bikes in various stages of construction. Our hosts walked Kaden through all of the steps of the bike building process, from shaping the raw tubing, to CNC machining, to welding, heat-treating, and ultimately painting and assembly of the finished bike. A lot of experienced hands touch each bike as it makes its way through the construction and testing process.
At the time we visited, their assembly line was busy cranking out BIXI bikes – the world-renowned bike share system currently in use in London, Minneapolis, Washington, DC and other cities around the globe. As you can see below, the current fleet of bikes under construction was for New York City’s new bike share program – you’ll soon see thousands of these big blue bikes at bike rental stations across the city, every one of them built by Devinci in Chicoutimi. Since Devinci has such an experienced bike-building team, BIXI contracts with them to build these rugged bikes – they are a far cry from Devinci’s own line of mountain and road bikes, but the BIXI bikes are built with practicality and reliability in mind above all else.
Of course the real fun part of Kaden’s trip to the Devinci factory was in getting to try out the steps of the bike-building process first-hand. Up first was electrostatic spray painting – after a few quick words of advice from Devinci’s in-house paint expert, Kaden fired up the spray gun on a new Devinci Atlas frame. His painting mentor said that his first effort was pretty good – although that could have just been a friendly translation from French that meant “he wouldn’t have been immediately fired from a job as a painter”.
Next up was the real fun task, welding. When welding together a bike frame, the first step is to have an apprentice welder tack the shaped tubes together as they are held in a jig to maintain their alignment. Only then does an expert welder step in to finish the frame, in a carefully choreographed series of buttery welds. It’s vital that the welder have a steady and skilled hand to end up with a bike frame with perfect alignment – Devinci welders apprentice for over a year before they are entrusted with creating the smooth finish welds on a bike frame. Needless to say, we weren’t exactly ready for a real frame, but everyone in our group had fun testing out their arc welding skills (even Julien, our Devinci guide).
Running the CNC machine was a less skill-intensive task (since most of the work is done in the computer beforehand), but it was neat to see the before and after results. Into the machine would go a basic metal shape, and moments later out would come an intricately carved and shaped bicycle frame component.
Once Kaden had seen every step in the design and build process, he wanted to check out the finished product, of course. Overlooking the Devinci factory floor was the storage area with all of their new 2013 bike models, including the sweet new ride that Kaden had won – a Devinci Atlas RC 29er mountain bike. With 110mm of Devinci’s patented Split-Pivot suspension and a 29″ wheel platform, Kaden’s new Atlas is perfect for ripping the trails back on his home trails in Michigan.
And we did mention that the folks at Devinci love to ride, right? After our factory tour was over, we literally headed out the back door to hit the trails that Devinci bikes were born to shred. Just a few minutes ride from the factory was a great local trail network – full of twisty singletrack, rocks, roots and bridges. If there was ever a spot to test out a mountain bike, this was it – since their bikes are designed to stand up to these trails, the guys at Devinci know that their bikes can take whatever abuse you throw their way (and which is why their bikes are guaranteed for life).
Speaking on behalf of our contest winner, Kaden, we had a blast visiting Devinci‘s factory and hometown – whether riding or welding, everyone at Devinci was friendly and fun to hang out with. When you ride a Devinci bike, you can know that not only are you getting a machine that was designed and built by experienced craftsman, but also by folks that are passionate about their brand and love to ride as much as you do. It’s an old adage, but at Devinci they really do work hard and play hard, and it shows in their bikes.
July 12, 2012 1 Comment
As our giveaway winner, Kaden is going to receive a 3-day, all-expense-paid, hands-on Devinci factory tour where he will get to meet Devinci staff, see how Devinci bikes are designed, tested, machined, welded and assembled and help build a Devinci bike with his own hands, from machining to assembly. To top it off, he will also get to ride local trails with Devinci staff, plus take home a Devinci Atlas RC 29er Mountain Bike as a souvenir of his trip!
Kaden was so excited to win that he wanted to share a few words with us about what he’s looking forward to most about his upcoming trip up north:
When I was a kid, Toys R Us would run these lotteries for a kid to have a one-or two-minute shopping spree in their completely empty store. Touring the Devinci Factory in Chicoutimi feels kind of like winning my own Toys R Us lottery. Instead of heading to the local shop to view bikes I only wish I could own, I get to go to the place where bikes–and not just any bikes–SWEET bikes are born! I won’t mortify anyone with my current ride, but suffice it to say, winning the Atlas RC 29er is a major, major upgrade. It’s like switching from Dewar’s(serviceable) to Lagavulin 16-year single malt (egads).
I’ve ridden all over lower and upper Michigan. The former’s filled with tricky, rock-and rolly-single track if you know where to look and don’t mind driving a bit, and the latter’s a sweaty mix of steep, rooty climbs, shade-peppered piney loops and endless swaths of sandy washes. I love being the first one on the trail in the morning and I’m going to love being on the trail on probably the sweetest bike I’m ever likely to own. I can’t wait to see the craftsmanship that goes into bike-building at Devinci. They source the aluminum for some of their frames locally and I am stoked to tour the factory and see how a bike comes into existence, from conception to completion.