Monday, September 25, 2023

Let's talk about buttered sausage

What do you do the week after Marji Gesick? Besides talking about buttered sausage, where it comes from, what it does, and why it's doing what it's doing, of course. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it means you're behind on what the "kids" are talking about nowadays, and you probably need to look up "Gary Busey buttered sausage".

But first, please, if you do nothing else today, scroll down and take a look at the elegant gallery of Simon. After reading the rest of the blergh, of course.

Ok, on we go. I had a lot of bike work to do after Marji Gesick, some of which was getting to use a q-tip for yet another unintended purpose. I mean, seriously, has anyone ever actually used a q-tip for what they're supposed to be used for?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Marji Gesick 2023: The Buckle Edition

I went into the Marji Gesick 100 this year with one goal: get the belt buckle. In order to get the belt buckle, I'd have to finish the race in under 12 hours; a difficult feat on the challenging course. Usually, only 10 or 12 people out of more than 500 racers get the buckle. It's a long race. Lots of people take over 20 hours to finish, and lots of people don't finish at all.

The last singlespeeder to get the buckle was Justin Holle, back in 2021. I was just coming off of a 2nd place finish to Justin at Breck Epic, so I was interested to see how I would compare to his time at Marji Gesick. All of this is just to highlight the fact that it was far from a sure thing to get the buckle. I thought I had the fitness, but at the same time, I really didn't have anything to base that off of. Last year, I missed the buckle by 40 minutes, albeit on a slippery wet course. 

Going into Marji this year, my motto was "buckle or bust". I knew the time splits I had to make, so I was going to push as hard as I needed to make those splits, and if I blew up, I'd just crawl to the finish line with disappointment.

The buckle class of 2023

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Onion 2023

Kennerdell is a little river town up in the great northwest of Pennsylvania, and if you've ever been there, you can't help but feel there's something special about it. Even before I started mountain biking, my family used to do camping trips on the Allegheny River, and Kennerdell was typically the town where we'd put the kayaks on the water. So you see, Kennerdell, despite being an oft-forgotten nook along the winding river, has a bit of nostalgia for me. When you add in fantastic backcountry trails and awesome friends, it's easy to see why the Onion is one of my favorite weekends.

Admittedly, I've only been to a few Onions, but despite some, uh, difficulty on a past Onion for me, it's something that will always be on my calendar. The name "Onion" comes from the idea that people can "peel" (bail and head back to camp) off from the route at any point. Those who do the whole ride are the "core" of the Onion.

The new Onion poster (left) and the Dahn Pahrs send-off poster (right)

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Shenandoah 100!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, 100 mile mountain bike races are my favorite kind of racing. For one, I love the patterns you recognize in races. It start's off fast, you find a groove, you feel great, you feel crappy, maybe you feel great again, and so forth. That narrative seems all the more dramatic when you're in the moment. 

And then there's the adventure. Climbing up abandoned forest roads, traversing along ridge-tops, and flying down literal mountains is the epitome of mountain biking. You get all the great views and all the great trails all while getting to race and push yourself. That's a win-win, win.

Perhaps the most important to me, though, is the experience of being at the race. That's intentionally vague because it encompasses so much. Spending a weekend with family and friends - and new friends - is a blast. Racers camp together and then the now-veterans of the race hang out at the finish line after the event. If only for a weekend, mountain bikes seem like everything.

Being from Pittsburgh, there are three 100-mile races that stand out. The term "Triple Crown" perhaps seems a little bit ostentatious, but still, for the Pittsburgh area, it's hard to argue that there are more iconic 100-mile races than these: the Mohican 100, the Wilderness 101, and the Shenandoah 100. Now that I think of it, perhaps that's only true among my friend group of singlespeeders, but I'm a singlespeeder, so that's alright.

Dan, me, Stick

Monday, August 28, 2023

Breck Epic 2023 Part 2: PARTY PARTY PARTY

Alright, so maybe it wasn't all party, but it was pretty dang fun.

Picking up where I left off, it was now time for stage three. This is the day I crashed on last time, so in the back of my head, I just wanted to finish this stage strong. There's nothing particularly crazy in terms of danger about this day, but still, I was getting in my own head. Luckily, all those feelings immediately go away when I put my leg over the bike on the start line.

The Pittsburgh (plus Ohio) singlespeed gang on Boreas Pass. One of the best memories ever.

I don't want to over-hype this stage, but to me, stage three is certainly the hardest day. I kept this in mind as we rolled out of the start line, and I did well managing my effort on the first long climb. It was mostly rideable with only a little hiking, which meant I stayed in good position going into the big climb up French Pass.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Breck Epic 2023: The Pre-Amble and First Stages

The Breck Epic has became one of the ultimate Pittsburgh singlespeed traditions. For years now - dating back to 2010 with Montana - singlespeeders from the 'Burgh have been pilgrimaging out to Breckenridge to suffer for six days of epic racing. I first went out in 2021, but a big crash on stage three forced me to pull out of the race with a DNF. It was one of my biggest regrets - especially since the crash was extremely stupid - so going back this year was particularly meaningful to me. As always, we had a fantastic group of people going out and staying in our AirBNB. I really mean that,  I look forward to hanging out with everyone just as much as I do racing.

Before I get started with Breck, I do want to briefly talk about the week leading up to the race. I know, I know, I tricked you with the title, but you're going to have to deal with a few paragraphs of general road-trip stuff before you get to the Breck stuff. Or you can just scroll down, it's all the same to me.

Race photo!

Friday, August 11, 2023

Durango With the Family

Unlike most of my road trips, this time I’m staying completely in one state: Colorado. After a few days in Salida, I was off to Alamosa (a little over an hour south) to meet up with my family. It was a nice change of pace to sleep in a hotel room and eat at a restaurant, and meeting up with my family halfway across the country is always fun.

The first real destination for the family trip was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Zach and I were determined to do a ride from the park, so we set off on a dirt (well, actually, sand) road toward Medano Pass. It ended up being a lot more challenging than anticipated, and we had to hike quite a bit in the sand. After airing my tires down to about 10 or 12 psi, I was able to ride a little bit more, but there was still a lot of hiking. Thankfully, the road got more hard-packed as went along and we were able to ride most of it as we approached the pass itself. The road kicked up quite a bit – probably around 20% grade – and I had to briefly get off and walk. That being said, I surprised myself with how much I was able to ride, especially at nearly 10,000 feet elevation.

Patch of snow just below Rolling Pass, a good cover picture

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Thoughts From Boreas Pass Road

I was halfway up Boreas Pass Road, sitting on my cooler on the side of the road with my guitar in hand. A woman in a car came driving down the road from above and slowed down when she saw me. Long hair, a guitar, an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, and a dusty Subaru Outback with two bikes on the back: I was certainly a sight to behold.

The lady’s window was down, and she yelled out to me, in a friendly way, “you’re doing it right!”


I just smiled and said, “thank you”, and she continued her way down the pass.


It got me thinking, though, about how fortunate I am. As I write this now, I’m sitting on the side of Boreas Pass Road – perhaps a mile below where I was playing guitar – and staring out at vast mountains and the town of Breckenridge in their shadow. I’m lucky to be able to do this. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve saved up money, I’ve planned out these trips for months, but still, there’s a big part of me that realizes how out-of-the-ordinary my life has been these past few years.


My view from where I was writing

Of course, there’s always two sides to every coin. Most times when you see people out traveling – or biking – or whatever – you only see what they want you to see. You see the magnificent views, the pristine singletrack, and clear sailing ahead. What you don’t see is not taking a shower for a few days, not eating a meal at a restaurant in the same time, and spending nights camping off the sides of forest roads to save money on campsites. 


That’s not to downplay how much I’m enjoying the time I’m spending, and it's not to justify my life to anyone. I love those forest road campsites, and cooking ramen on a jet-boil in the evening is oddly satisfying. Even the ultimate dirtbag move, not showering for a few days, is something I’ve gotten used to and it’s become part of the routine. Now, trust me, the second I get a chance to shower, I take it. I even use soap, too. It’s not like I’m a dirty person (despite what my mom says), but when I’m out traveling, I’ve learned that I can sacrifice many comforts of civilized life to stretch my budget a little further, and the more I travel, the more I realize there are a lot of people with that same mindset.


This is all very situationally dependent. I’m in college (yes, still) and I save up as much money as possible during the school year so that I can travel in the summer. To me, money is limited, but in the summer, time isn’t. But as I said, it’s situationally dependent. When I get a job and have more responsibilities of adulthood, time won’t be quite as abundant. My hope, though, is that money might be a little bit less scarce. If that’s the case, I probably won’t be sleeping in my car at rest stops or eating tuna packs and tortillas for lunch. My hope is that even if time becomes more limited, having just a little bit more money can help pay for expediency. Instead of driving to California, maybe I’d fly there and rent a car. More expensive? Sure. But it saves time. I guess what I’m trying to say, and I’m telling myself this as much as I’m writing it for the reader, is that I feel confident that I will never let the feeling I have right now slip away.


Thursday, August 3, 2023

Rocky Mountain Riding in Salida

I got a late start to this road trip, and by late, I mean I think I pulled out of my driveway on Wednesday at 4:03 AM instead of my usual 3:59 AM start. Four whole minutes, tisk tisk. I've done the whole road trip thing enough times now to learn some patterns: the driving at the start before sunrise goes by fast, I get super tired right as the sun comes up, and then I get a second wind for most of the day. As the sun sets again in the evening, I begin searching for a rest stop to pull over at and sleep.

Blogger chooses first picture to be the thumbnail, and this is a pretty cool picture of Agate Creek Trail off of the Monarch Crest

This time, I made it all the way into central Kansas before pulling off at a rest stop to sleep. It was hot, and obviously my car doesn't have air conditioning when it's turned off, so I spent most of the night sweating on my foam sleeping pad in the back of my car. Oh well, I still contend it's better than a hotel room, because when I wake up, all I have to do is hop out of the back of the car, jump into the front seat, and start driving.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Wilderness 101: 2023 Edition

Hundred-mile mountain bike races are pretty cool. That seems like such a platitude, and it is, but still, it feels worthwhile to say.  It's the perfect mix of physical suffering, accomplishment, and hanging out with friends old and new. The Wilderness 101 is the epitome of those feelings, and it's a race that will always be special to me. 

If you don't want to read any of my pre-pre-amble, you could scroll down to the race start line photo for the actual race recap. But, I would encourage you to read on. Or not. This website actually costs me money, and the more views I get, the more it encourages me to keep spending money on the domain. So actually, maybe stop reading now. Bless and thank. But anyways...

Chris Scott and Shenandoah Mountain Touring do a phenomenal job of turning the sleepy little town of Coburn, Pennsylvania into a mountain bike party for the better part of three days, and with the strong field of riders and countless friends that came this year, it was an especially rad party.

100 mile SS podium, from L to R: Joe, Kevin, me, David, Nate

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Mr. Hamburgers Goes to Park City

Forget about training zones, intervals, and power numbers. Forget about silly things like rest or recovery. And most of all, forget about shifting gears. After all, this is Dahn Pahr's Park City Singlespeed Training Camp, and you only get one gear. But don't worry, you're allowed to have more than just one margarita, so maybe it balances out.

I've been fortunate to have ridden in some pretty great places over the past few years. From the Canadian Rockies of Banff to the high-desert of Moab, it's a wild world out there. But still, of all the places I've ridden, I think it's hard to beat Park City for riding singletrack day-in and day-out. 

You see, lots of places have incredible trails. But what most places don't have - and what Park City does have - is an almost endless amount of trails. It's quality and quantity. Dahn and I rode over 320 miles in 8 days, and each day was something different. That's something that can't be said about most other places. Plus, the equally-as-important factor about Park City is that Dahn lives there, and I had a place to stay. I don't mind sleeping in my tent or the back of my Subaru Outback, but I must admit, a big comfortable bed and air conditioning is a huge step up.

Mid Mountain Trail (L); climbing up to Mid Mountain Trail near the Olympic Park (R)

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Wyoming, South Dakota, and Colorado on the Road Trip

My next destination on the road trip was Sundance, Wyoming. It’s a small town in the western side of the Black Hills, only a few miles from the South Dakota border. My drive there took me through South Dakota (my first time ever in SD!) and Montana before making my way into Wyoming. The drive was actually interesting, and it included around 30 miles of driving on a gravel road in Montana. I even stopped at Devil's Tower in Wyoming to do a little hike and check out the unique rock formation.

Devil's Tower

Once I got to Sundance, I grabbed some ice from a gas station for my cooler, and made my way to a national forest campground. I got set up, and then went out for a little ride. I was extremely, let me emphasize, extremely, tired from my rides in North Dakota.

Friday, June 16, 2023

An overnight loop in North Dakota

 Before I dive in, just a quick preface of what my trip is all about. North Dakota is just the start of it. I’m sort of just taking a couple weeks to travel around to any place I feel like out west and ride wherever I want to. I had some rough plans when I started, but they’ve since changed, as it always goes. I do really enjoy writing, so I figure I’ll make a post about each section of the trip.

Up first was a bikepacking loop in North Dakota. I left my house at 3:55am on a Friday morning, and by 10 o’clock at night (central time, so 11 o’clock back home), I pulled off at a rest stop on I-94 in eastern North Dakota to sleep in my car. I slept well, and the next morning, I finished the last few hours of driving to Medora, ND.

Once in Medora, I got some breakfast at a local restaurant, visited the bike shop to pick up some last minute things, and assembled my bikepacking rig out in front of the shop. The bike shop, Dakota Cyclery, was actually really cool. They had a shop cat (as opposed to a dog), and two friendly women were running it. I even chatted with a stranger who stopped at the bike shop, and he told me about how he biked from Chicago to Arizona or something in his past. I think it’s pretty amazing that so many people have so many awesome journeys like that. After last summer on the Great Divide with Will, I definitely feel like a part of that category. I didn’t do it for the storytelling aspect (although that is a positive aspect), but for the personal satisfaction with having accomplished a dream. But I digress.

Doubletrack near Medora

Monday, May 22, 2023

Mohican 100 plus more Ohio domination

My alarm went off at 4:55 AM, and I immediately heard the sound of rain on my tent. I was expecting that, so at least it wasn't a surprise. I ate breakfast still in my sleeping bag and I contemplated life's many mysteries, like why I was going to crawl out of my dry tent into the rain before sunrise to get ready to race my bike all day.

After getting dressed in the campsite bathroom, I rode down to the finish line area in the campground, where I met up with Thad, Simon, Anthony, Joe, and Joe Sr. I forgot my ankle timing monitor (how the race records your finish time), so I had to race back up to my campsite to grab it from my car. After I got it, I met back up with everyone at the finish line, and then we rode the two miles into downtown Loudonville for the start of the race. Of course, it was pouring down rain all the while.

The Mohican 100 mile singlespeed podium

Monday, May 15, 2023

Gradumication (noun)

I graduated from Penn State last week. Well actually, the official "graduation" was last Saturday while I was racing PMBAR in North Carolina, but I guess they'll mail me my diploma? Bless and thank.

Edited to add: damnit, sorry, this post got pretty long and out of hand.

Either way, four years of Penn State is over. My official degree is a B.S. in General Science with a minor in Mathematics. But please don't ask me to do maths. I forgot already.

It's not really as dramatic as some college graduations, however, because I'm not really done yet with college. I want to be a high school math teacher, which means I need to go back and get a teaching certification before I can officially become an adult and get a jerhb. Just kidding, I will never be an adult. But I will get a jerhb as a math teacher.

For now though, I need to figure out where to get my teaching certification. Most likely, it's going to be somewhere close to home. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which being that living at home will save over $10,000 in housing. Plus, after the difficult winter (for mountain bikers, that is) they had out west, it seems less and less appealing for me to go somewhere for school where I can only ride my bike on dirt for two weeks out of the year.

But enough about looking ahead. Let's look back, because hey, tomorrow is tomorrow and yesterday is today. Mebbe? I don't know, but either way, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at my time at Penn State. Surprise, it's mostly about bikes.

When I chose to go to Penn State, I really had no idea that Rothrock was such a good trail system. And plus, the first two years of college I lived at home and went to Penn State Beaver, a branch campus only 25 minutes from my house. When I applied to Penn State in high school, I didn't even apply to main campus. In fact, the only place I applied to at all was Penn State Beaver. I got accepted like a week or two after I applied, and that was that.

One of the first rides I did with Will, photo courtesy of Simon