Sunday, February 16, 2014

Womens Events from Real Bikes Venice

Cycling is booming in south Sarasota County. The busy winter season has filled the Legacy trail with snow birds, the Carlton Reserve with mountain bikers and now the events are stacking up. The good people at Liv/Giant have teamed up with Real Bikes Venice for not one but two cycling related events specifically for women.

The first is a basic bicycle maintenance clinic. Jen Audia of Liv/Giant will be teaching participants about basic bike parts & how to perform a safety check. How to fix a flat & remove/re-install a rear wheel plus troubleshoot basic mechanical issues at home or on the road. It's a good place for locals to eat, drink, & make new friends to ride with!
There will also be give-aways!

The clinic takes place Thursday, Feb 20th, 6pm at the Real Bikes Venice store.
581 US Hwy 41 Bypass N, Venice, FL. 34284 - (941) 485-3113

Liv/Giant Women's Bike Maintenance Clinic

During the same week local women can join a No-Drop fun ride at the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve. During the ride they will cover proper gearing, braking and body positioning which will help make you a more confident and efficient rider. All levels of riders are welcome and encouraged to attend.

You can reserve a 2014 Liv/Giant mountain bike for the ride in advance by contacting Real Bikes at (941) 485-3113. Please arrive at 8am if you've reserved a bike. Bring your helmet, shoes, a a credit card and ID. This event is free. Feel free to bring your own bike for the clinic and ride.

The ride takes place Saturday, Feb 22nd, 9am at the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve.
1800 Mabry Carlton Parkway, Venice, FL. 24292

Women's Mountain Bike Ride/Demo

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The S-Works Stumpjumper 29er Review

Every once in a while I dream about what it must be like to live the life of a Professional Mountain Biker. Traveling around Europe to all the big events, exploring new places, new trails, eating new foods and of course riding those amazing top of the line machines. While most of these things can be achieved with the right amount of money, one of them can be experienced for FREE!

On February 4th, 2014 the Specialized Mountain Bike company sent one of their trucks to Venice, Florida. They met up with the local riders at Sleeping Turtle Preserve for one of our Tuesday night rides. You wouldn't normally see a truck show up for a group ride but ours has been growing in size at an amazing rate. Last year we drew in 10 to 15 riders per night but now the norm is more like 25 to 40 riders. It is a perfect place for a big bike company to lend out their new models for demonstrations.

As the parking lot slowly filled to the brim, the big red Specialized trailer swung open its doors. Inside was 28 different models, from full suspension to hardtail, men's and women's styles but mostly the upper tier rides. Let's face it, no one wants to Demo an entry level bike. This is about trying new technology, the kind that opens people's eyes to the future of Mountain Biking.

I was second in line that night. I filled out the electronic waiver, handed over my license and credit card then climbed aboard a dream machine. While in Colorado during July of 2013 I had tried one of their Stumpjumper EVOs, a brilliant full suspension rig but this time I wanted something more suited to Florida's flat lands. The S-Works Stumpjumper 29er hardtail is not your typical trail klunker, it's more like the Formula One version of a race bike and it was my chosen weapon to slay the Carlton singletrack.

This was a special night for many reasons. Not only did Specialized grace us with their Demo bikes but SCORR had just completed connecting the "BoldlyGo" singletrack with the well known Red trail allowing all kinds of loop possibilities. I had opted to bring the Stumpjumper on a ride with the B group, who usually do about 15 miles at a relatively fast pace. It was demanding enough for a test but moderate enough that I probably wouldn't crash a creation that cost as much as my car.

Cruising down the road towards the trailhead another rider, who also had a 29er, asked, "Do you feel like you're driving a truck?" It was a thought. My body was more laid out than usual. I could feel my lower back stretching, elongated while my hips were positioned for maximum output. I also felt more weight on my hands but less tightness in my triceps. Would this body position affect my riding? We'll find out.

The second quality that was hard to ignore was the power. There was no question that the Stumpjumper was built to fly! The 2 by 10 drivetrain and Fast Trak tires combined with loads of uber light Carbon Fiber combined to produce the knobby tire version of a lightning bolt. Each pedal stroke provided notable efficiency that thrust me forward at speeds that would take some getting used to.

Everyone knows a good rider can do amazing things on a bad bike but what could a moderate rider achieve on an amazing bike? I was starting to wonder.

Our first challenge would be 6 miles of singletrack. I was the second man in and sat on the lead rider's back tire through the first section. The larger hoops and SID Brain fork ate up the palmetto roots and spit them out. I took new lines as there was less fear of getting hobbled by a blind bump or shadowy pig hole. "Go ahead, lead on," He pulled aside and let me put the pedal to the dirt. I wanted to see what it could do full out!

Concerns about the turning ratio of the 29er wheels was immediately disproved. Every tight twist and swerve was easily banked with grace and ferocity. This was no doubt due to the Stumpjumper's centered geometry which keeps the rider from leaning too far forward, a problem that causes lesser 29ers to understeer. On the rare occasion that I did go off track, it was due to my inability to catch up to the velocity of this beast. I almost needed headlights that could see around corners. A daylight run would have been like saddling a basilisk through a mouse maze. Luckily the Shimano XTR hydraulic disc brakes kept me in check. A one finger tap of the handle and I could skid around the corner like an expert.

Stumpy continued to impress when we reached the rolling hills. Here I suspected that larger wheels might not groove well over these whoop-de-doos and first time through it seemed true but on the return trip the momentum kicked in and there was no stopping me. Deeper into the marsh trail we hit the unfinished section where doorway turns were made difficult by random stumps, here you were lucky to keep going without putting a foot down. Again the larger wheels and Brain fork were even smarter I was. Easy rolling allowed me to make the necessary adjustments so that I never dropped out of line.

Breaking through to the Red trail was the halfway point of the ride. As we all stopped to regroup, I refueled on some homemade energy bars and waited excitedly for the next section. This wider double track allowed for a kick up in horsepower as we barreled onward. The Specialized representative, named Dan, worked his way into our group and sat in second position. He even took the time to direct me past him as he took out his phone to get action video of the fast rolling procession. It was a wild ride from then on as everyone went for broke on the final 4 miles of the singletrack as we hit it in reverse.

It was in the last five miles that I noticed the two drawbacks to this Carbon demon. One was the harsh stiffness of the frame. While the fork and wheels did compensate for most trail clutter, any shocks from the rear wheel shuttered right up through that unforgiving seat post. Worse yet was the Phenom seat which appears more suited to road riding. I just can't imagine spending 3 hours or more bouncing on it without suffering damage to my nether regions.

At the end of the night I reluctantly rolled back to the truck, dropped off the bike and picked up my plastic. I took one last look at that seven thousand dollar machine and started imagining yet again. As I walked away, my head low, another rider asked where my dream bike went? I answered, "They wouldn't let me take it." In the back of my mind I was thinking, for now. They can hold it, for now. Next on my list, I need to find a company that allows people to Demo trips to France. I've got my sights set on climbing Alpe d'Huez.

Keep an eye out for more upcoming events from Real Bikes Venice which will all
be re-posted on the SCORR Facebook page.

If you want to check out all the amazing technology being developed check out the Specialized website.

 Click here to see Alex' complete library

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Carlton Trail System Boldly Grows

Southwest Florida's newest off road system lies at the heart of the T.Mabry Carlton Reserve on the outskirts of the city of Venice. The lead trail has become known as "BoldlyGo" and in the short span of one year it has attracted the attention of countless visitors. At the parking lot is a kiosk with a map that displays this long span of singletrack snaking its way through the woods for almost 4 miles. As of now, this popular trail has been made even longer.

The Sarasota County Off Road Riders (SCORR) are the group responsible for trail building and maintenance. They created BoldlyGo and over the past couple weeks they extended it to complete a loop that is easily accessible for the public.

SCORR started the new year by hiking through the brush, flagging new paths. This required traversing deep woods and fields of palmetto while picking appropriate routes. Mountain bike trails are usually narrow and often swerve back and forth giving riders the illusion of speed while enjoying the technical challenges of nature. Developing such trails requires an eye for optimizing the available terrain. Once the direction was flagged and measured, it was time to gather some muscle.

Volunteers are hard to come by when backbreaking work is involved but SCORR put out the word on their Facebook Page and pulled in a dozen workers for gatherings on two weekends.

SCORR waded into the marsh to find the high ground. They moved fallen trees, cut old branches and carved out nearly two miles of new trails. It was not an easy task. Despite the use of GPS navigation it was easy to get lost in the depths of the forest. After more than 15 hours of construction and a few missed turns, they connected BoldlyGo with the long standing Red trail.

This new Carlton Loop will allow riders to start at the parking lot, follow BoldlyGo for 6 miles then turn left on the Red trail, stay left onto the Blue trail and follow it back to the parking lot for a full ride of 10 miles.

The Carlton Loop is now available for riding. Mountain bikers can try it on their on, join a Tuesday night ride with SCORR or a Sunday family ride with Real Bikes Venice. The more wheels that cover the beaten track, the faster it will be carved into a fluid path fit for rippers.

Most importantly, get out there and have some fun!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to make your own Energy Bars

It wasn't until I completed the 40 mile version of Piggy's Revenge, my first endurance mountain bike race that I realized how much energy cyclists use. Nutritionists say that you must ingest 200-300 calories for each hour spent on the bike. That's 3 snacks for a 3 hour ride. Since that race I have been running out of money buying bars and gels just to stay fueled on the trails. There must be a cheaper way.

My lovely wife Terri B had the great idea of making our own energy bars. She looked up a recipe online and said it would be easy. If it had been anyone else I would have been skeptical but Terri is a trained pastry chef with a decade of experience so she knows food. It was time for an experiment.

I'm not much of a cook so whatever Terri had in mind needed to be easy, cheap and plentiful. We took a trip to the Richard's Whole Foods store on Indiana ave right next door to Real Bikes Englewood. Richard's had the perfect selection for our needs. We bought 2 pounds of a dried fruit and nut mix which contained bananas, coconut, peanuts, raisins and apricots. Next we grabbed 1 pound of California pitted dates which acts like nature's glue when blended with other morsels. That was all we needed.

Back at home we placed the mixture in a food processor and chopped it into the smallest possible pieces. This took a couple refills of the processor because we had so much trail mix. The end result was a thick, malleable clump of food. Terri kneaded all the extra bits into the mass and then placed it on a sheet tray that had been covered with aluminum foil. The clump was flattened against the pan, covered and then placed in the refrigerator.

Recipe: Equal parts Dates, Dried Fruit and Raw Nuts.

Two hours later we pulled out the hardened pancake. After measuring the bars to a size that would be easy to carry while riding, we cut them with a straight edge and wrapped them in aluminum foil. Done, simplicity achieved. The entire procedure including processor, shaping, cutting and wrapping took little more than thirty minutes.

Now let's talk about cost and abundance. Our bars most resemble the popular snack known as Clif Bars but at about half the size. A 12 pack of Clif bars goes for $30 but you'd need about 24 of them to equal what we blended in one batch. Our homemade creation chopped out 40 bars for a total cost of $13. They are now chilled and ready for use.

Of course the ultimate test was a matter of taste. There is no point in making something to snack on if you don't like the flavor. Terri and I both enjoyed the bars but would the trail thugs? I brought a pocket full of these goodies to an early morning trail building session at the Carlton Reserve and let the guys from SCORR dig in. The response was encouraging.

"I think they taste better than Clif bars," said the first volunteer. The sentiment was echoed by others who not only enjoyed the flavor but also noticed the difference that "freshness" can make. Many all-natural store bought bars tend to be dry while the gooey ones are often full of preservatives. When I told them how little it cost, suddenly this sounded like an idea that needed to be adopted.

So there you have it. A simple recipe that can be assembled by anyone. You need only buy the ingredients, which can vary depending upon your tastes. You must have a food processor for blending and a roll of aluminum foil or plastic baggies for storage. The bars we made were small but densely packed with carbohydrates and protein. They came out to about 150 calories each. One batch in this size could get a cyclist through 10-15 rides and save them about $40. Then you can put that money towards something that really matters on the trails, perhaps a new bike? Enjoy.

 Click here to see Alex's complete library