Fatty’s First Ride

I took my fatty out for its first ride yesterday, and boy was it a awesome! I’ll do a full review of the 2013 Surly Moonlander soon. A few things that stood out that I would like to share. Don’t kid yourself this thing slays the downhills. Its heavy, so once it gets going good luck slowing it down. I took it down the CBMR Evolution Bike Park and it had no problem getting air and turning in burmed corners. It also climbed better then I thought a 37lb bike would climb, sure its still sluggish but it likes it that way. I had to get used to the heavy wheels, especially from my Stan Crest’s, but once I did, I was rolling into corners almost more freely then my Stumpjumper HT. There is some super rocky terrain on the Upper Loop, the large wheels stayed on top of the rocks almost making it easier to take on then my cross country bike. All in all it was a great ride, and I didn’t baby it at all. Check out some photos from its inaugural ride.

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Just riding the the backyard, no big deal!

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Mr. Moonlander, all shiny and clean.

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Fat!

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I took my time on the ride up Tonys trail in Crested Butte, I really had no choice. Its not like my 21 pound Hardtail.

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I slogged my way up a road at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. But I took a downhill trail down. I was shocked what this bike could handle.

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My Fatty! I need to get a few more rides on it, but a full review in the eyes of an adventure junky to come.

2013 Vapor Trail 125

vaporWell, its been a few days since The Vapor Trail 125, and since then its still drilled into my head. I’m upset with myself for handing over 1st place as easy as I did. But my excuse, I was exhausted, empty, drained. There is always next year, but who knows if I’ll ever feel this good again. Check out my write up on Singletracks.com for the full play by play. This was one very hard race.

http://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-events/race-report-vapor-trail-125-salida-co/

Minnesota on my mind.

So I’m in Minnesota until Monday, with no access to a bicycle. It’s a bit tough for me but at the same time, it’s good for me. My last post shared how much pain I was still in, so this weekend of drinking beer, sunbathing, and relaxing may just be what the body needs. I just need to remember to stretch in between beers. If I can’t bike I need to get my bike fix somehow. I decided a few days ago that I’m going to attempt my first fat bike race this winter. It’s quite fitting actually as the Arrowhead Ultra is in Northern Minnesota.

I figured I would start the process now as it’s going to take some time and money. This gear list is specifically for the Arrowhead Ultra and it seems pretty standard for an ultra fat bike race from my what I have gathered so far. I’m doing this so I can figure out how much stuff I will actually need, here we go.

MANDATORY GEAR (from race start to race finish):

  • Minus-20F degrees sleeping bag or colder rating. Colder than -20F almost all previous races. If you skimp here you are foolish. And we will not allow you to skimp. So do not skimp. Fool. 2011 it was -42F on trail. *I have a 0 degree bag, but that wont cut it. *Need to get a new bag*
  • Insulated sleeping pad. *Check*
  • Bivy sack or tent (space blankets/tarps do not count). – *Check*
  • Firestarter (matches or lighter). *Check*
  • Stove. *Check*
  • 8 fl. oz. fuel at ALL times (either gas, alcohol or 2 canisters of propane/butane 100 g. each or 12 Esbittablets). *Check*
  • Pot (min. volume is 1 pint) *check*
  • 2-qt (64 fl. oz.) or just under 2 liters, insulated water container. (Yes, Camelbacks count) *will need to figure out a way for the water to stay in liquid form*
  • Headlamp or flashlight. Suggest minimum ~100 lumen good for 12 hours/bike or 20 hours on ski/foot. *Check*
  • Flashing red LED lights, both on front and back of sled or bike (or on backpack if skier). Everyone have at least 10 square inches of reflective material on front and back of the person for this race. Two lights total are required, one on the front of the bike, sled or racer (runner or skier with backpack), one on the back of the bike, sled or racer (runner or skier with backpack). Each light must have minimum three flashing red LEDS. Keep ON ALL THE TIME. HIGHLY IMPORTANT….THIS MAY WELL PREVENT YOU FROM BEING HOOD ORNAMENT ON LARGE FAST-MOVING SNOWMACHINEs. *need to figure out, but not very expensive*
  • Whistle on string around neck to call for help, because your mouth is too numb to yell. *ohhhhhh Whistle*
  • 1-day food ALL times (3000 calories) (tip: pound of butter or jar of peanut bar 3200 calories). *I love food*

That’s mandatory gear, not all that bad. It’s very similar to the ITI (Iditarod Trail Invitational) which is the ultimate goal.

RECOMMENDED GEAR:

  • Extreme conditions mittens, head gear and outerwear. *need to get some mittens, already have my eye on some*
  • Down sweater, spare undershirt/socks etc.*mostly check*
  • Over-boots, Gaitors.*need to figure out aswell as different shoes maybe*
  • Duct tape, vasoline, sunglasses, lipbalm, moleskin, ibuprofin, etc.*check*
  • Map/compass/gps. Real outdoorspeople don’t need GPS though. Reflective vest good idea.*need to load GPX track and find a good map*
  • 5,000-7,000 calories of food, preferably items which remain chewable at way below zero and colder.*this is going to be fun, finding cold friendly food*
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Improved cell phone coverage especially on course highpoints makes carrying phone smart. Preferably off and in a warm spot to so it works, use for emergencies. *I love my technology*

This is obviously a basic list of what I will need, but I still want to keep it simple. I’m not going to get caught up in bringing gear I don’t need like I did on the Arizona and Colorado Trail Races.

I also need to get a Fat Bike, I have two in mind currently. The Surly Moonlander and the Specialized Fatboy. Both bikes have a wider tire width which is what I specifically want, especIally when biking in Colorado. I really like the Moonlander’s burly steel setup. It’s been around for years and has a good reputation. The Fatboy has yet to be released, and it’s a lighter setup. The new Specialized fat bike ground control tires are very intriguing. Bottom line, I’m going to buy the bike that is the least expensive, and I believe that will be the Moonlander.

Now back to drinking beer, and eating food! ūüôā

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The Pain

The Colorado Trail Race is almost three weeks past and since then the world has continued to spin. Nothing has changed for anyone else. But for me and maybe a few others this race is drilled in my head. I can’t stop writing about it, I can’t stop thinking about it, and can’t even stop dreaming about it. In my dreams I keep worrying about someone catching me and passing me. I dream about stubbing my toe on every damn rock in Sargents Mesa. I dream about finishing and how anti-climatic it was, but how the feeling was totally awesome. Anyways I should probably stop talking about it, so this is my last hurrah until next year.
The pain that I endured during the 5 days on my bike has really set me back, as far as getting back on my bike. I have had ridiculous pain in my knees. ¬†From what I’m told my my meniscus is not getting enough blood flow. This happens when muscles around your knee don’t have anywhere to go — which in turn squeezes the veins and cuts blood flow to the meniscus. I’m not quite sure I believe it or not. Ice, arnica, and rest has only recently helped me stop walking like I’m 75.
My achilles tendon, which creaks like an old rocking chair, has continued to do so, on and off for a good part of a year now. It’s fine when I don’t hike my bike, but I tend to put myself in dumb situations like climbing Block and Tackle Trail, up Brush Creek Road near Crested Butte, or entering the CTR for that matter. Still rest, stretching, and yoga have yet to cure my ailing achilles.
My hands, ohhhh boy. After the Arizona Trail Race I experienced numbness caused by entrapment of the Ulnar nerve. What I understand is that this is very common for many racers participating in long multi-day races. Slowly the numbness went away with a few hand exercises I was told to do — but be warned it’s no fast fix. For the Colorado Trail Race, I experienced the same thing, but this time, it feels like I’m recovering from a broken wrist. The motion in my right wrist is far worse than the left. The strength in my fingers is very weak, especially my middle three fingers. To top it off, my pointer finger is bent, mimicking the position of gripping my break (this is kinda funny looking).
My toes were absolutely crushed, especially in the Sargents Mesa section. My bike shoes have too big of a toe box creating lots of movement. They also have very little stiffness and protection near the toe. Those two elements have killed both my right and left big toe nails. Also, the CTR created a wicked blister on my left big toe that had finally stopped pussing a week ago. Oh and the big toes are also numb.
Last but not least, I can’t remember eating so much food in a two week period ever in my life. The cravings I am having for junk food are way over the top. Gummy Bears, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Butterfingers……..Yum. Then you add Ice cream into the mix, Third Bowl has seen me far too often, Ice cream cookie sandwiches taste far to good for the price I get them for, and I can’t even stop eating home made shakes, which in turn keep me up all night because I’m so damn full. The cravings have slowly stopped. Luckily, because it was starting to really put a dent in my already small bank account.
All of this hardship you think would have me never considering a bikepacking race again. I told myself, “no way in hell am I ever doing this again” when I was on the trail. I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but I seem to just block out and forget the bad times. Fortunately or unfortunately, the reward of such a race is so great, there is no stopping my inner drive from doing the Arizona or Colorado Trail Races next year. At some point throughout the winter, I’m sure I will heal up and be ready to go at it again, thats the beauty of time. You would think being a bit younger, your body would heal up faster? But thinking about it, the strongest riders are in the 30’s or 40’s and maybe their bodies have already gone through such agony that ‘The Pain’ is second nature. At any rate, I can’t wait feel normal on my bike again!

About Neil

First off if you would like to check out my current blog visit Gimmearaise.com. I am in the works of changing blog hosts. WordPress has so much more to offer, and I regret not using them in the first place. Since working for Deep Creek PR, I have learned that WP is much more friendly in terms of SEO among other things. Although it might be a bit more difficult to initially get the blog rolling, its the right decision. I also would like to announce an online publication I will be presenting for next summer. It will be based around bikepacking, bikepacking races, and a little bit of touring. It will entail gear reviews, race reports, and more!!!

Below is an bit from an article about me.

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Neil Beltchenko grew up in Libertyville,Illinois. In highscool he was obsessed with camping gear and started to get into backpacking. That love of the outdoors brought him up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he attended school at Northern Michigan University. That¬†didn’t¬†last long as he seeked¬†bigger¬†and better things. After taking a National Outdoors Leadership School semester in Washington he transported to the Gunnison Valley to attend Western State College in January of 2008. He studied Outdoor Leadership and Resort Management and graduated in December of 2010.

After college he moved up to Crested Butte where things started to take shape. He was on a mountain bike very little until he rented a bike one day from Peak Sports up in Mt. Crested Butte. Since then biking has been his passion. 2012 was a year of exploration and adventure in and around the Crested Butte area by bike. Last August he through-biked the Colorado Trail with a friend in 10 days. In the fall he participated in his first race, The Crested Butte Classic, where he finished 5th place overall.

Neil decided he wanted to take a stab at the race scene, mainly endurance races. He started the 2013 race¬†schedule¬†with the¬†Arizona Trail Race¬†300 mile version. After a broken fork and a detour into Tucson he finished in a time of 2 days and 21 hours taking 6th place overall. Neil has also participated in a few other races so far this summer.¬†The Kokopelli Trail Race¬†on May 18th was completed in 143 miles 15 hours and 27 minutes, taking first place.¬†The Original Growler¬†was Neil’s first race with¬†Team GO¬†and he finished 24th overall and 5th in his age group.¬†Salidas Big Friggin loop¬†was his latest race, where he finished 107 miles and 12,500 feet of elevation gain in 9 hours and 27 minutes, taking 4th place.

After a June filled with weddings and fun, Neil will be heading to Durango on July 20th for the Colorado Trail Race start. This is the race he is looking forward to the most this summer. He will also be racing the Vapor Trail as well as the Crested Butte Classic. His goals for the future are to attempt the Arizona Trail Race, Tour Divide, and Colorado Trail Race in a single season. However, he really enjoys the century races because he can enjoy the luxury of sleeping in a bed. Check out his blog where he shares all his race reports and stories.

Gear differences…Colorado Trail Race vs. Arizona Trail Race

Now that I have completed the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) I want to go over my gear difference between the Arizona Trail Race (ATR) and the CTR. There are some obvious differences, I mean one race is in Arizona and the other in Coloado. But there are also many similarities and they are both ridiculously hard adventure races. I’m so very happy to be done with my adventure races for the year, but at the same time I super excited to start planning for next years Arizona and Colorado Trail races.

Arizona Trail Race rig
Colorado Trail Race rig

The gear you bring is so important, especially when dealing with scorching hot days, and freezing cold rainy nights. Lets start with my sleep system. For both races I carried a Revelate Design Sweet Roll. It packs down very small and is waterproof. This prompted me to carry my important dry items in the

My Sweet Roll is stuffed.

front, which included most of my sleep system. I use an older Big Agnes Zerkel 25 degree sleeping bag, the Big Agnes Clearview Pad (which I stored in my saddle bag as it didn’t need to stay dry), and a Marmot Alpinist bivy sac. The bag is a bit old and not quite at the 25 degree¬†rating it once was, but it has worked well for both races. I was cold my first night in the Cataract section of the CTR, luckily for me it was the only night I was cold. The pad and bivy sac are extremely light. The bivy sac worked wonders in Colorado when is started to rain on me at night. It also dried very fast, which was important as my rig was already heavy enough. For next year,¬†I think I’m going to get a new sleeping bag, I have to do my research but I’ll probably stick with a 25 or 30 degree bag, just something lighter. I also may just go without a sleeping pad. I used my pad every night in the AZT and CTR but one night. I really like not dealing with deflating and packing it that one night. I have a few things to mull over for next year, but in general it was a flawless setup.

The Nuke’s Little boy with custom lime green accents.

As far as saddle bags go, I used a Revelate Design Viscacha for the ATR, and a Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks Little Boy for the CTR. I was having issues with the Viscacha hitting my rear tire when I stuffed it full. For the AZT I put little in the saddle bag just a few clothes and my sleeping pad. It worked very well and it cinched down very small. I decided that I would purchase something a bit Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks, near the end of the ATR. We chatted about bikepacks and his side business. I¬†bought a Little Boy Saddle Bag from him in June. It worked great for the CTR, but I didn’t really have enough to fill the bag. I cinched it down as far as it could go, however there was still a bit of play. This bag would work wonders if you intend to pack more things but I did not. For next year I think I’m going to ditch the saddle bag all together for a full frame bag. Both bags, however, were very strong and¬†tough, repelled water and held up as they were intended to. smaller for the CTR. I rode with Dave Wilson, owner and seamstress of

The main compartment that can fit a lot of food.

I purchased a¬†partial frame bag from¬†Revelate Design (the Tangle Frame Bag) before the ATR, and also used it for the CTR. I absolutely love this thing. For the ATR I packed food and a full 3 liter bladder in it.¬†Because¬†of the heat¬†in Arizona,¬†it’s¬†a good idea to carry extra water. This bag has won me over because of the side pouch¬†which is¬†just so convenient. In both races it carried my maps and cues sheet. My replacement sunglass lenses and my phone. For the CTR I packed a whole lot of food in the main section of the bag. Seriously, I packed way too much food. Near the end of the CTR I assessed my food, I still had 5 Tuna packets, a big bag of precooked bacon, huge bag of trail mix and other little snacks. I honestly never needed to really buy food as I packed the frame bag to capacity. You live and learn I guess. The seams and zippers held up great and I had no issues with water penetration when it rained. Like I said above, I might go with a full frame bag next year. It’s more convenient and it should keep the weight more centered on my bike.

The Jerry Can and Gas Tank.

I carried two top tube bags from Revelate Design, the Jerry Can (rear) and Gas Tank (front). I love both of these small bags, as the access is so easy. For both races I carried all my spare batteries, my Ipod Shuffle¬†and headphones, sunscreen, chap-stick, and chamois butter. As for the Gas Tank, I filled that thing with snacks, it can fit soooooooo much… 4 Cliff bars, 4 protein bars, 10 fruit leathers, Emergen-C packets, and more. When the bag got low, I transferred a few snacks from my frame bag to the Gas Tank. They are also great bags for long day rides if you don’t want to carry a backpack. I can fit my rain Jacket in the Jerry Can, and I can adjust the Gas Tanks velcro to cinch it smaller.¬†Overall, these are¬†two great products. ¬†I will no doubt be using these two bags again for next year.

On to the debate of the backpack. A lot of people like backpacks for races like these. It’s a convenient way to store water, and things you may need throughout the day, arm warmers/coolers, knee warmers, etc.¬†Backpacks are¬†also a convenient place to put a bunch of extra, unneeded¬†crap making it feel like your carrying bricks on your back. I used an Osprey Raptor for the ATR, and I stuffed¬†it to the max. On top of a 3 liter bladder, I put all of my extra things in the large compartment. By the end of the race, my back started to cramp, creating issues for a long time after the race as well. I decided to change it up for the CTR. I bought a¬†Camelbak Octane. It a lumbar backpack that holds two liters of water horizontally around your waist. My thinking behind this was to keep the weight lower on my back. I also knew I would not need to carry as much water as it is plentiful on the Colorado Trail. It’s also much smaller and holds very little, alleviating the issue of carrying unnecessary items. I ended up storing my bike repair kit and a few other things. This was a much better option for my back. I will most likely be using this for the ATR next year for water storage. As¬†far as next year’s CTR, I’m going to attempt to do it without a backpack.

The lumbar 2 liter bladder.

Lights are another very important piece of gear on races like these, if you ride at night you will need lights. I bought two Fenix LD 20 Lights over the winter. I liked them a lot, they are bright enough at 100 lumens on high (which I rarely used), super light weight, and battery operated.¬†However, during both the ATR and CTR, I had one of my lights fail on me. The light wouldn’t turn on. I replaced the batteries, took the thing apart, and even threw it. It brought upon negativity which is what needs to be avoided at all costs on a race like this. I even questioned finishing both races. Luckily I had my Black Diamond Spot headlamp as backup. I’m super happy I packed it for both races, if not I would have really struggled in the dark. I have already ordered and received my AyUp Adventure V4 Lighting System. It is¬†a 2 light rechargeable lighting systems that comes with mounts and batteries packs. I know it will work for the AZT next year as long as I carry the necessary amount of batteries. But for the CTR I’ll need to figure out something else, in order for the lights to last long enough, I would need to carry a lot of batteries.

I road a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon HT for both races. I love this bike and it’s currently the only thing I have. I have wondered what it would be like if I had a full suspension for both races. I feel like the amount of beating I took was tough on my arms, back, and butt. I did however love it on any of the road sections, I felt like it was a small advantage. With the technology of these new full suspension bikes, I am leaning towards a full suspension for both races. I’ve been looking at the new Specialized Epics, and the Salsa Spearfish. I’m going to steer clear of carbon, so I’m leaning towards the Spearfish — especially with it’s new split pivot technology. The drivetrain was a 2X10 with 24/38 tooth chain rings. I had not issues other then a chain link breaking in the Taryall section of the CTR. For the AZT I used my stock Roval rims, they worked but I was excited to get a new set. I had Southern Wheelworks¬†build me up a much lighter wheel. Hope Pro Evo 2 Hubs, with DT Swiss Competition spokes and Stans Crest Rims. They held up great and really reduced the weight of my bike. On those wheels I rode only the best, Maxxis Icon EXO 2.2 tires.

To be honest, not much was different in terms of gear for the two races. I carried much more water on the AZT and much more food on the CTR. Both were fit into my frame bag so the weight distribution felt the same. I¬†am¬†really¬†going to try and cut some weight down for next year. Clothes I never used, food I never used, and a lighter sleeps system should all contribute to a lighter rig. I also just received and installed my new XX1 drivetrain that I will most likely be using from here on out. I’ll have to play around with front chainring sizes but I’m really looking forward to testing it out in the next few days.

Brand spanking XX1 Drivetrain.