Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

After work on Friday, I spent most of the evening organizing gear and checking the weather because it had rained all day long. We set the departure time for 5:30AM to head out to Tellico Plains. Morning came quickly since I was up until midnight getting prepared. Bishop arrived at the pad first, followed shortly by Jason. We packed up Jason's ride and were on the road before 6. The first stop was at the Cracker Barrel for a serious breakfast and some coffee.

We arrived at Tellico Plains, TN and made a quick stop at the local market for a few last minute preparations before the death march began. Another mile or so down the road was a nice little roadside parking area right by the river. Thanks to all of the recent rain, the river was moving nicely, which was further solidified by the numerous amount of kayakers at the base of the mountain. While I suited up, I was thinking of all of the possible scenarios concerning weather changes and food requirements along the trip. We each made our final choices and decided to go for it. The river side parking area was right at 900ft elevation.

The first few miles were mild and rolling. By mile 2 the first climb began and it did not stop for quite a while. The next 3 miles went up and then the next few went up even more. The roads were wet and the visibility was even worse. I snapped a quick photo at the first elevation sign I came to along the way...2000ft. As I continued up the climb, I came to the 3000ft mark, followed by the 4000ft sign. It was so foggy that I was worried that cars that passed us could even see us. I had about 15 to 20 feet of visibility at the most. Within the next mile, I finally rode up to the cloud line. At one point, the clouds were whipping upwards like smoke as they crashed into the side of the mountain. I took this photo as I rode because it was so awesome looking. With about 1000ft of climbing left to do, I could see that the sun was waiting for us at the top. As I marched on, we finally made it to the top of the Cherohala Skyway. The view was unreal. We chilled out and took a few pictures to further document the event and zipped up the jackets, put on the stocking caps and began the long decent.

As I started down the mountain I began to freeze. Trying not to think about cold and more about the fact that I was not climbing was the current goal. I came to a 9% grade sign and was stoked. We were going to fly down the mountain. Once I made the next few turns, I started working back into the cloud line only to find sketchy, wet roads. Ones that were not too good for descending at speed. The need to focus on the wet road made me forget about the fact that the cold air was running through me. This went on for the next several miles and I finally found a small line in the road that seemed to be the most dry. Near the bottom of the mountain was this killer mountain inn that was kind enough to let us stop in for some water. We hung out and enjoyed the sunshine for a few minutes and proceeded to head the rest of the way down the mountain to the river.

From the river it was 11 miles of climbing back to the top of the skyway. This was a long steady climb that had about three kickers along the way. It did not seem to take very long, but I know that I tried to space out for a little while along the way and enjoy the scenery. I was having some serious negotiations going on with my legs as they began to go on strike. I was telling myself that if I make it to the top I can easily make it back to the car. That seemed easier said than done. By the time I made it back to the top, all I could think about was bombing the hill back down and trying to carry as much momentum as I could to cancel out the last few miles of rollers. I went all out on the way back just hoping that had enough in the tank to carry me through. As we pacelined down the mountain, we hit the cloud line again to find some more wet streets. I don't think that anyone cared about that anymore, it was all about getting back to kill the food that we had in the car. We came down the last pass along to see the river again. A few nice cool down miles along the river allowed me to finally realize that I had actually pulled this off.

All in all, this was an amazing ride. It had all of the elements that a killer ride brings. A sense of apprehension that turns into an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when you are finished. I had a good day on the bike, albeit a road bike, with some great friends. I will defiantly return to the skyway several more times this coming season. I believe in the power this ride can give you. To take to survival approach this time only makes me look forward to the time when I can kill it. After one warm up ride and then the skyway ride, I think I need to spend more time on the road bike.
More photos of the ride here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Slow Ride

Things are a little slow around the shop today. I think that it is the calm before the storm. The great thing about not having 20 things on your plate is you get to rummage through the stack of papers that have been pushed to the back corner of your desk...only to realize that there are 10 more things you have forgot to finish. I guess that is the way it is. I am feeling fortunate to have the opportunity to work some amazing people, not only my work peeps, but the various individuals that we call customers. Each person I work with is uniquely different yet we all have the love for bicycles in our hearts and minds. For that I am grateful. Looking forward to a few more days off and then the New Year.

During this slow day, we have been thinking about our preparations for next year. What bike shows to attend. Interbike for sure, but what about Eurobike? With our international dealer base growing rapidly, I think we should attend. It is a selfish goal for sure, but why not. What about the North American Handmade Show? We would be considered a large builder at that show, but we do make all of our bikes by hand and everything is made here in the US, Chattanooga to be exact. I have been thinking about the perfect bike to crush that show, but I think I am going to save it for the Single Speed Worlds. It will be the envy of all. The only problem with such object is that it demands a level of riding that is sometimes hard to live up to.

Before I go into details, I would like to state that Chattanooga is a bad ass place to road ride, even when you suck.
Last night's road ride was an eye-opening experience on two levels. The fact that I have not ridden a geared bike in many, many moons was the first of my problems. I think that I have completely lost the ability to know what gear to be in and when to shift. The second issue I ran into was the intense level of elevation gain that exists on a relatively short loop right outside my front door. Merry those issues with two hard core racing locals and you will get your ass handed to you. I really wish that I had a heart rate monitor on just to have some idea of how much I suffered. Now I have something to look forward to over the next few months. My new goal is three hours on this loop. This is my new Snake Creek Gap training route and I cannot wait to see how it stacks up.

The most unforgiving part of last night was the thought that kept running through my mind as I felt horrible up each long climb...Am I ready for this Cherohala Skyway trip? I know that I can make it and that the ride will be amazing, but I now realize that it is going to hurt...big time. Well what does not kill you, makes you stronger...that's what they say, whoever they are. I am basically doing this ride because I have never ridden the skyway and Snake Creek Gap is next weekend. I plan on taking my small camera to capture some of the views along the way and a couple of shots of me to verify my suffering. Pictures and a post to follow tomorrow night upon my return...peace be with me and also with you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

So Long Nashville, I'm out!

I made it through Christmas and am now looking forward to the New Year...the "Ocho" as we have now named it. I foresee many good things coming in the Ocho. 2007 was a trying year for me on many levels, while I made some profound accomplishments, I also struggled big time. The move to Chattanooga was filled with optimism but the decline in the housing market forced me to renovate, remodel and stage my old house in Nashville...paying a mortgage for a year while not living in a house really sucks. But we are now free from that burden and should be able to live much easier in the Ocho. While I have no real plans on purchasing a home in Chatt, I do dig my rent house and it has been nice to not worry about the regular financial inconveniences that owning a home brings. Just when you have saved enough money for that sweet new single speed or whatever, your roof needs to be replaced, or your furnace goes out. The list is endless. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing more American than owning a home, but I do remember the joys of the college years and beyond of not worrying about anything other than the rent.

While I am living on easy street this year, the fleet will find some friends along the way, that is for sure. While my eyes are currently on a killer new full-suspension bike, my mind reminds me of how much I hate the noise and unpredictable ride characteristics of such bike. I love rigid, hardtail single speeds and that is about it. Maybe a new fixie commuter or the like. Or maybe a new XBOX younger brother-in-law has one and I know that it will not help my riding at all, but damn, Guitar Hero is an awesome game. Over Christmas, we spent two straight days playing and I am now a rock god...if only cycling was so easy. Actually, thank god it is not.

Just returned to the office today and it is always hard getting focused again after a long weekend plus a few more days off. It was nice to hear some great words from those who received new bikes for Christmas or whatever it was that they celebrated. As this year winds down, we find ourselves preparing for the next. Big things on the rise for us this year. Now we hope to meet the demand while still having the time to create new products.

On Saturday I drove up to Raccoon Mountain for a couple of laps of pure bliss. I barely missed my boy Ivory who came down from the 'boro which was a bummer. We had a few house guests on Saturday so I had to get the ride in early. Next ride took place on Monday at Montgomery Bell. That trail is finally starting to grow on me. It used to be so tight and twisty that you rarely had a chance to gain any speed before you were forced to make a hairpin turn. Now, the new sections have a really nice flow. I will say this about Chattanooga, after a year of riding here, anything in Nashville is way I can move back there.

Tonight I am going to roll out the road bike for few hours in preparation for this weekend's death march on the skyway. I have some apprehensions but I am looking forward to the challenge. If it was an 81 mile mtb ride, then honestly I would feel better, but I rarely ride my road bike except on the rollers. The weather should be unpredictable along with my riding, so it will be an adventure for sure.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are we done yet?

This week has absolutely flown by. Not sure if the holiday mess has turned things up or if I have hit what is known to some of us as the Cracker Barrel time warp. I will clarify that for those who may not know what a Cracker Barrel time warp is. First, the Cracker Barrel is a southern-ish glorified Denny's with more random crap than a swap meet fixed to the walls of the inside of the restaurant. It seems like what should take no more than 45 minutes to be seated, order and eat somehow always takes 2 hours which they manage to make seem like 30 minutes. Maybe it is actually a time warp, still not sure...more details to come.

The work scene has been rocking this week. From the final few Christmas bikes making it out the door to some new products, we have been crushing it around here. We had the pleasure of a visit from the True Temper/Alpha Q boys this week. Looks like we getting another order of carbon road and cross forks as well as some steel tubing...that's right folk, steel tubing. We are going to build a few prototypes next week and I cannot wait to ride one. Not sure what I am going to have built, but I will have a few days to think about it over the holidays. Ben and Bert are great guys and we are very excited to get to work with them on a regular basis.

We are looking forward to hosting the Dirt Rag crew sometime in the next couple of months. No official plans have been made yet, but we are looking to have them down to Chattaboogie for some bike riding, custom fitting and of course some misbehaving. Maybe even a test bike for review...I will keep my fingers crossed. I will take any open bets for which lucky member of the Dirt Rag posse will get the bike to test.

Had an awesome phone conversation with my pal Brandi at Industry Nine this week. We are going to have them build us a custom 650B/27.5 wheelset for a custom bike we are going to be building for RC @ Mountain Bike Action. I am looking forward to this project for many reasons. This will be my first interaction with RC and our first 650B that will go out past the prototype stage. I am beginning to like the idea of a 27.5" wheel. But for me the 29er works well, so I am not sold just yet. I can totally see the merit of a full-suspension 650B bike. Now I want one of those. Anyone out there what to hook a brother up, just drop a line. That is about all I have on the work front at this time. More to come after the holidays.


This week's riding schedule has been pathetic at best. Other than our Tuesday night ride, which was awesome, but freezing cold, I have made 2 solid efforts on the rollers this week and that is all. Thursday was on the books for this week, but the weather was rainy and cold, plus I went to dinner with Ben from Alpha Q. We will try again next week for sure. I plan on riding Raccoon Mountain tomorrow morning, then more obligations, then off to Nashville for Christmas. Thinking about bringing the road bike for a trip up to Joelton just like the good ole days. I need to spend some time on the road bike considering that we are doing an 81 mile training ride up the Cherohala Skyway next weekend. I think that I have ridden my road bike about 4 times since moving to Chattanooga a year ago. Not counting the rollers of course. There is way too much awesome mountain biking here to waste good riding time on the road.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Holidaze are here

It seems that the holidays have taken over and I am now on auto-pilot. I just show up where I am supposed to, eat whatever is presented to me and open whatever someone gives me. Not a bad thing, just has become somewhat mindless. I have a large extended family and my wife has one that is even larger...she is one of 50+ grandchildren...that is math that I can not do. It has seriously cut into my riding time, at least on the weekends. Lately I have been shopping, shipping, driving and visiting instead of riding. We have been keeping the night riding alive and that has been great.

Speaking of night riding, it appears that this week will be adding Thursday night to the mix. I knew it was a good idea, now we will have to see it through. Tomorrow is Tuesday and that means I bail out of the office like Fred Flintstone when the whistle blows, race home in traffic to meet up with the fellas at 6PM. Get home around 10 or so, eat, shower and sleep. Nice and simple, just like I like it. Now I get to pull the same routine on Thursday as well. I am already very excited.

Going to make up on some serious riding time while I am home for Christmas...a few days off will certainly help make that happen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's all about Tuesday nights

Shop life has been pretty cool this week. We have tons going on as usual, but the sense of urgency is in the air. There are several frames that are going out as Christmas presents and each has required something special. I really love the idea of getting or giving a custom bike to someone as a present...I have been the fortunate recipient and it is sweet. Mine was a birthday present, theirs will be Christmas presents...hooray for presents. Hooray for bikes as presents. I am working on getting some new photos posted of recent bikes, but they keep coming in and going out so fast, it has been hard to catch them all. Efficient machine we run. An amazing custom tri bike and a twisted tube custom will be back from paint tomorrow... both are to come.

About 6 weeks ago, the first Tuesday night ride of the winter season took place. By now it has become one of the week's finest pleasures...something that I look forward to as much as the weekend. What started out as a whim has become a necessity. The route keeps getting longer and more varied, yet more difficult. As a new climb is incorporated, the following week it becomes a fixture. At this rate, we should be pulling 4 to 5 hours of balls out riding come Spring. And that will just be on Tuesday night. A mixed bag of city roads, single track, double track and fire roads keep it interesting. That is the beauty of Chattanooga...lots of great riding right out your door, well at least mine. I have hurt myself and my pride all during a few hours in the dark early in the week. Long grueling climbs, technical single track, a trip through the city and plenty of leaves have made the ride different each time. I love it so much that I am proposing that we add Thursday to the roster and double up during the week. Throw in the normal weekend adventures coupled with some mid week roller sessions and I should make a solid showing in the Spring. I can hope anyway.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tricycles and a Farewell Ride

The week has begun again and the weekend seemed to blow by...AS USUAL. But with each passing week, new stuff is created, old stuff is torn up and irony always finds it's way into the picture. It started late Thursday when I was taking pictures of a titanium tricycle...yep, I said it, titanium tricycle. A kid out there is getting a titanium tricycle for Christmas this year. I wish him or her well and I am a bit jealous. We are going to brush it and etch their name in it...I cannot believe they give me money for this. Happy Holidays y'all.

Friday was equally swell in the fact that I was able to take the time to photograph our new Mazak CNC machines. These things are unreal...we cannot even begin to think about what we can do with these. It's like having the ability to make just about anything you want out of steel, aluminum or titanium, or whatever else for that matter. Within a few weeks we have already begun designing and developing all of own small parts like cable stops, brake saddles and headtubes. 2008 is going to be very exciting for product development. We have several sweet new products coming and I will keep you posted as they develop.

On the other side of life...
I woke up early on Saturday morning to let the dog out because he would not stop pacing. Nothing like waking up to impatience. It was still dark and while standing on the deck, I realize that I cannot see more than 10 feet. There was so much fog and mist, the dog disappeared instantly. I walked back in the house, turned on the coffee pot and opened the laptop....straight to Normally I would have went back to bed, but today was Justin's Farewell Ride at Franklin State Forest.

I had been looking forward this ride for several days. Jut and I talked on Wednesday and thought it would be killer to meet up between Nashvegas and Chattaboogie. The trip up Monteagle mountain was somewhat surreal due to the fog and mist. It seemed like it was going to rain the entire drive, but it was actually stranger that it did not.

I was the first to the cabin, shortly to follow were the Murfreesboro crew. We hung out in the parking lot for about 30 minutes before the Nashvegas boys arrived. The trail was in great shape but completely covered in leaves...completely. It was a full on day of high speed, flat track cornering and hidden gems that nearly knocked your fillings loose. But the gems caused many, many tire was like a flat tire repair clinic at your local shop. On one stop we had 4 out 11 people changing flats. The leaves caused me to make some poor line choices and I am very lucky to have missed out on the clinic. I did have two funky line choice that caused injury. Once to me and once to Thad...for which I am very sorry. We had a traffic jam at a technical climb and the 29er gave me some hell for picking the line I did and I had to dab. Which in turn caused Thad to dab, but he slipped and caught his ankle in between some rocks and fell. I did not realize that any of this had happened. I was back on the bike and heading down the trail when this went down. Shortly after, I launched off a root and was diving into the trail and the left turn was not possible with the air and momentum I had going, so I knew I was going down. Nice to have leave sfor falling, but not so good for steering. One hurt ankle, one shredded pair of bibs, one more ride with the Yazoo Crew, and one more day living the life. All in all, it was an great day of riding and a killer day to hang out with your friends. I look forward to another farewell ride.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Good things come to those who wait

I have been meaning to get an open line of communication established for some time now and here it is. Finally I might add. While encouraging many folks to use the wonders of the web, I have avoided this avenue like the plague. Not because I did not think it would be useful, amusing or strictly a complete waste of time, but what would I even be able to bring to the blog table. I spend much of my time each day pounding away on the keys promoting bicycle frames and all things Lynskey Performance, the last thing I usually want to do after work is more work. Not to mention, there are many racer friends of mine out there that keep us all up-to-date on the latest race happenings and recaps on their blogs. The end result is still unclear, but I hope to bridge the gap between bicycle racing and the development, design, R&D and promotion of bicycles. I expect there to be a mixed bag of race oriented chatter and some musings about the in's and out's of working in the bike industry. All we can do is see how it goes.