Last Saturday Stoner, Full Keg and I headed west to Pittsburgh for the Dirt Rag Punk Bike Enduro, the annual stage race fun fest put on by the yinzers who operate the race's namesake magazine. With a truck full of beer and biking gear we were prepared for almost anything and with the weather forecast looking like less than ideal it looked like we were going to get served up healthy dose of tough riding.
We rolled into the Iron City in the early evening where Justin (DR subscription dude) and Carol (endurance racer and ex-DR staff) graciously put us up for the night. A hearty meal of veggie curry followed by a substantial amount of beer set us right for the night. With a massive breakfast of potatoes, eggs and bacon (Justin is going to make someone a good wife) under our belts we headed out into the rain the next morning. Temps were just above freezing and it was forecast to rain all day.
Fenders and rain gear were the order of the day. Single speeds were the wise weapon of choice because things were muddy, sloppy and wet. Before I suffer too many slings, arrows and body blows for being a hypocrite, let it be known that the race was run primarily on ATV and moto trails that were already thrashed beyond repair. I trust the judgment of the locals and like any other race you've run in less than ideal conditions, they'll be out there undoing any damage after everything is said and done. Of course, most of this stuff is already ripped as you can see here. Now that we have that out of the way, let's get back on track.
I'm not sure when exactly it was, a few days prior or maybe a week, but I made a decision not to race this year but just go out to ride. Every year I've done the Punk Bike I've placed in the top 10 and I've fought hard trying to obtain that coveted #1 spot (never have though), but this year I tried to take a page out of the Larry Camp philosophy book and treat it as a big group ride with friends. Ride hard but don't worry about placing or blowing a gasket. It was actually kind of liberating.
Stoner and I ran fixed gear which turned out good except for the steep, fall line downhills where you were outrunning your front brake. Slowing with the pedals did no good on a greasy 45 degree pitch. Saw PA single speed superhero Topher rocking the fixed too, but I think he was the only other one. Lots of single speeds though and I know anyone who didn't have one was probably wishing they did shortly into the all day muck ride.
Lots of spectacular spills and a few injuries but everyone made it out alive. You can see some of the video action here. I make my appearance in video #2 towards the end, yellow jacket and yellow bike. Seems the fixed gear did me right ;) Met Mr. Fxdwhl and his cohorts while we were out there, always good to put a name with a face. In case you missed it, he did the Crush the Commonwealth article in Dirt Rag in issue #130. Read it, it's good stuff.
When it all wrapped up we were cold, soaked to the bone and muddy as hell but still had smiles on our faces. Post ride grub out at the fire hall potluck and then on the road in a torrential downpour to arrive home grab a little sleep and go back to the grindstone the next morning. Days later I was still cleaning mud off and out of the bike gear. I've got a few photos from the trip over here.
Wednesday gave us what many of us had been longing for, the first snow ride of the year. We got about 6 inches up on the Catoctin ridge which meant the hills were made for hiking but the rest was pure sweat and fun. Lots of work but truly satisfying, especially since it was a night ride. With a low of 18 degrees F it was a little chilly but we still had 9 riders out.
The snow was all gone shortly as the rain moved in the next couple of days leaving soggy trails. Sunday saw 12 hearty souls come out for the final trail work day of the season. Rain, fog and cold weather made it interesting, just like the Punk Bike without the bike riding.
The temps are back up, the rain has been continuing and who knows what is on the menu moving forward, I might actually have to hit the road bike. We need the precip, but this is December, it should be snowing, not raining.