Monthly Archives: April 2018

Pisgah Punishment: 5 Days of the Pisgah Stage Race

This is year 4 for me and there is an obvious reason why I keep coming back. At least It’s obvious to me and, I am sure, all the others that take the plunge into the Rhododendron covered, bench cut, old school woods of Pisgah. Over the course of 5 days you get to ride the most iconic single track the Ranger District of Pisgah has to offer. You can do it at pace or you can tour it. You can stop for snacks or blow right past the aid stations looking for new PR’s. Either way, everyone has FUN and this year was no exception. 

We all congregated for stage 0 on Monday night. Dinner and packet pick-up was followed by an intro into the first stage, what was expected, and thus the initial injection of butterflies/nerves.

From years passed, I knew that stage 1 was the fastest. Having Spencer Paxson in town for the race last year saw a new course record of about 1:45 for 24.7 miles and 4130’ of climbing. The competition was a little deeper this year so I was expecting the pace to be pushed even harder.

Sure enough, by the time we hit the first single track selection the lead group had dwindled down to 5 riders and the gaps were already wide open. I didn’t give enough thought to my positioning into the single track and got stuck behind some bobbles and then held up on the descent. 

Tristan Cowie got away early, which had Travis Livermon, Tristan Uhl (TEX), and I chasing the rest of the day. 

After stage 1, It was obvious that Tristan C. and Trav were on another fitness level. Therefore, I pushed aside my hopes of GC glory and settled in for the task of maintenance. 

Stage 2 started much the same way. Trav was on a mission early and Tristan C. was forced to join in. In the wake, Tex, Stephano, and I were stuck playing our own game. Tex and I separated ourselves from Stephano on Squirrel Gap and kept the pace high in hopes of staying ahead of Stephano for the enduro section at the end of the stage. 

This is when I consciously decided to go for the Enduro overall. After a second day of watching Tristan and Trav ride away, I knew I wasn’t going to put a dent in their time gap so I shifted perspective and decided that getting pitted on the enduro sections was my best card to play. 

I managed to go into first in the enduro overall after stage 2 and was excited to push the pace over stage 3 and 4, as they are some of my favorite trails in the forest. 

Stage 3 is dubbed the queen stage. The most climbing and the most technical climbing throughout the race. Heart rates surged early, as we started uphill right off the line. We ascended Black Mountain, which was built for going downhill, not up… and hit Buckhorn to Club gap and into the enduro section of the day, Avery Creek. 

By this time the gaps were big enough to land an airplane in so there wasn’t much concern about getting held up on the enduro. Thus, it was throttle wide open and smiles from ear to ear. 

I got 1st on the stage and extended my lead in the enduro to 30 seconds over Tex. However, stage 3 wasn’t all peaches. I did lose time to Stephano, cutting the time gap from 4:20 to 2min between 3rd and 4th in overall. That’s the difference between one mistake!

I was dreading stage 4 from the start of the week… The climb up Laurel Mtn is a 50 min+ grunt, at pace. That meant I needed to come into that climb with a big buffer to hold off the climbers and hope for a clean run on the enduro, which dropped off the top of Laurel and turned into Pilot Mt trail.

Stephano pushed the pace from the gun and I was forced to follow. He gapped me some but I gritted my teeth and kept it manageable to the point where I was able to pass him just as we hit Squirrel Gap. 

I pushed the pace on the narrow single track opening up a gap and hit the gravel climb up to Laurel mtn seeing red and on a mission. 

The next 1:15 was a struggle but it passed soon enough, at least looking back on it. I crested the top and held on as my Hei Hei bounced down the chunkiest of the descents that Pisgah has to offer. 

The top of Pilot is comprised of big massive rock slabs with tight loose switchbacks. The trail opens up halfway through but the rocks become smaller and they seem to multiply like bacteria in a public bathroom. The speeds get higher and the arm pump becomes a real issue. By the bottom, my arms were the limiting factor. I struggled to pull up over some curb sized water bar obstacles but pushed on through to the finish. 

I missed out on the enduro stage win by 5 seconds to another Kona mate on a Process. Understandable, Kona’s are the bike of choice when trying to fight the signs and symptoms Pisgah punishment. 

Going into stage 5 I had 1 min on the Enduro overall and a solid gap to 4th in the GC overall. The theme for stage 5 was smooth sailing, which is easier said than done when Farlow Gap is looming in the near future. 

I held my own pace up the 20 min + climb to the Farlow descent. The boys at the front were on fire and I was trying not to blow up. The enduro section was at the end of the day so I needed to save some matches. T. Cowie, who had second in the enduro knew the section much better than I. A fewslip-upss could cost me the top step. The enduro was the longest of all the others at 22 min and the most pedally, more like a super d. (do ya’ll remember those?)

After ripping down Farlow and rejoining the lead group, we ran into a cheer squad handing out bacon feeds, which really elevated my mood. Then I missed a bacon feed, which was the biggest bummer of the whole week.

The lead group split apart on the climb up to the back of Bracken. T. Cowie and I sat back and enjoyed a nice party pace into the enduro while the others traded blows. 

I was gassed pushing my way through that final enduro. It was obvious as Tristan put 20 seconds into me closing down the gap from 1st to 2nd in the overall to only 45 seconds. 

Wiping sweat from my brow I was all smiles, but even the muscles to help me smile were sore. After 5 days of pushing the pace with my comrades, I was feeling it. I hadn’t done any efforts prior to the race except for training races. It’s crazy to look back and think that I just got back from the Euorpean CX racing scene 2 months ago. 

A few beers were had to celebrate… 

My little dude came into town with Emily to check out the end of the race and explore Pisgah Forest. He even helped me look good on the podium.

We capped off the night with s’mores and passing out before 10pm. Until, next year. Cheers!

Kona Dream Builds: Peter’s Just a Little Bit of Bling Process 153 CR DL

Not all custom dream builds need to be dripping with bling. Sometimes that dream build might just be the right mix of parts that work, parts you’ve used on many bikes before on different builds or parts that you can just plain rely on. Roll all that together on one bike though and you most certainly have yourself a dream build. Peter’s Process 153 CR DL proof of just that, with a little bit of bling thrown in for good measure.


Key features of Peter’s build are the Rock Shox Pike RC, with Vorsprung Luftkappe installed, the Hope Pro 4 hubs laced to Stans Flow MK3 wheels (with color-matched decals) and 2.4 Maxxis Aggressor rear tire, 2.5 Maxxis Minion DHRII front tire.

Almost all my “big” mountain bikes have been Konas, starting with my 2007 Kona Stinky that is almost solely responsible for wanting to hurl myself down mountains on two wheels. A few years later, I bought a used 2005 (2006? I don’t actually know the year.) Kona Freight Train frame that took on a lot of the Stinky parts to form a bruiser of a bike. Then in 2016, I picked up a 2015 Carbon Supreme Operator frame in black to build my dream downhill bike. But those were all one trick ponies, and I wanted something I could pedal all day in the mountain forests of Pisgah National Forest and Western North Carolina, without giving up the ability thrash the bike like a DH sled. My trail bike prior to the Process was a Santa Cruz Bronson, a wonderfully made bike, that never really felt like “me.” It never inspired confidence to find the edge of control, or get weird with trail features. I built this Process to continue my love affair with Kona, and to create a bike that does nothing but generates good times. I tried to pick parts based on their ability to meet that goal, and not to meet a bling factor (maybe a little bling), or a scale reading. The Process just embodies my idea of what an enduro bike should be, fast as hell, smartly simple, and ready for anything.

The saddle is just my trusty WTB volt, the bars are uncut Deity Skyline 787’s in a 25mm rise, the stem is a  stubby 35mm Deity Copperhead, and the grips are Deity Knuckledusters. The DHRII up front is a 27.5×2.5, with the rear Aggressor coming in at 27.5×2.4. The Fox Transfer is a standard 150mm example, which suits my legs just fine. I should also note that the fork (sans Luftkappe, I installed that while waiting for my frame), seat, pedals, cranks, and brakes were all carried over from the Santa Cruz to help keep costs in check and because they’re solid parts.

The drivetrain is an eclectic mix. A 2 X SRAM crankset with One Up alloy pedals connects to a OneUp’d Shimano 11-42 cassette (now 11-47) with a classic Shimano XT derailleur and shifter. Braking is courtesy of Shimano SLX ice-tec brakes with 203mm rotors
A Wolftooth lever controls the Fox 150mm Transfer while the Deity grips are attached to a matching Deity bar and stem.

The bars are uncut Deity Skyline 787’s in a 25mm rise…

…The stem is a stubby 35mm Deity Copperhead.


Spencer Paxson’s PROgram

Adventure team rider Spencer Paxson is no stranger to punishing days in the saddle. Last year’s monster 32,000 feet of vertical in a single day proved exactly that. Paxson’s drive to elevate his base fitness so he can handle the big days comes with a ton of training. Recently Stages Cycling profiled one of his workouts to show just what goes into his training practices.

 

Cory Wallace’s Nepalese Winter

Kona Adventure Team Rider Cory Wallace knows a thing or two about high altitude training. This past winter, Wallace spent five months pedaling his Kona Hei Hei around the Hymalian mountains and the surrounding cities. His experiences ran the gauntlet from peaceful and extraordinary, to stressful and frustrating, exactly what true adventure should be. Wallace took the time to write up this recap of his trip. Check out some of his tips on where to visit and where to avoid- especially if you’re someone who appreciates sleep.

You can read his full write up here. 

 

Vlogging His Way Through The Pisgah Stage Race

Kerry Werner of the Kona Pro Cross Team and Adventure Mountain Bike Team is taking on two new challenges this week. One, the Pisgah Stage Race. This will be his 4th time competing in the event, which is held in Brevard, NC and is comprised of 5 stages baring 140 miles of the most iconic trails in the area.

The second challenge is vlogging! A longtime contributor to the Kona Cog via typing blog entries Kerry is trying something new in hopes to of engaging with ya’ll a little bit more and give a more personal look into the life of a racer and what it’s like. Mostly showing that it isn’t all serious and it’s really fun!

Check out the first episode below and give him a follow on Instagram (@KerryW24) for updates the rest of the week as today is stage 1! Good luck Duder!

Kona Rider Elliot Smith Qualifies for Red Bull Pump Track Championship Finals

This past weekend in Wellington, New Zealand, the second round of the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship went down and the country’s capital lived up to its reputation of being pretty darn windy. 178 days a year the wind gusts at or above 39mph (63 km/h) in Wellington, and Saturday was one of those 178 days. The wind started off as a northerly and then pulled a 180 around lunch time to finish the day as a southerly. Despite the wind, riders put down some blazingly fast times around the small but well-designed Velosultions pump track. Competitors from as far as Christchurch in the South Island had made the trip, but a win was not going to come easily.

After laying down the 12th fastest qualifying time, local 16-year-old Elliot Smith rode his Kona Shonky though the 32 strong knock out rounds, besting both elite BMXers and fellow mountain bikers. After a day of hard racing (and quite a bit of play in practice), Elliot would finish off in fourth place, qualifying for the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship finals later in the year at an undisclosed location in Europe.

Connor Fearon Wins Gravity Enduro South Australia at Cobbler Creek

Connor Fearon and fellow south Australian Kona rider Shelly Flood competed at the Cobbler Creek round of the GESA (Gravity Enduro South Australia) series over the weekend. Despite the dusty conditions, 34ºc heat (93.2ºf) and the course being more like an XC stage race, Connor laid down the watts to take the win against a solid field of SA’s fastest riders. Shelly also put the hammer down and pulled of a strong second, bested only by a local XC racer.

“I love getting out to these races to ride with all my mates and familiar faces. Fortunately, I hadn’t left for the first World Cup yet so I was able to race the first round of the year at Cobbler Creek. It was such a hard day, the park doesn’t have much elevation at all so some of the stages were strung out pretty far. It was actually like a different sport. I thought of it as a staged short course cross country race. The stages did have some fun sections in-between all the sprinting. I ended up with a clean sweep of all the stages in front of some fast local pinners. That’s the last bit of racing for me until the world cups in a couple weeks, so its good to know I’m heading in fit and healthy.” -Connor Fearon

All Photos Ryan Finlay

Kona Dream Builds: Flying Under The Radar with Austin’s Process 134 SE

When we released the G2 Process last year, the classic and much-revered Process G1 didn’t disappear. A selected and carefully curated parts spec on both the G1 Process 153 SE and Process 134 SE frame meant that the G1 Process was now within reach of a broader range of mountain bikers. Process G1 fan Austin Hughey saw the 134 SE model as a blank canvas to start a custom build and has put together this pretty cool build, that at first glance flies under the radar. Closer inspection reveals the color matched Fox Factory shocks,  Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes and a few other gems. The only stock parts left on the bike are the bars, stem, saddle, and cranks.

“The motivation was to build a bike that’s confident on steep rowdy terrain as well as at home on the climbs. The 134 does just that. It’s beefy enough to race in Enduro races and efficient enough to pedal on all day rides. The bike weighs in at a mere 30 lbs! Saying the bike punches above its weight class doesn’t do its capability justice. I can’t give enough credit to the team at James Bros Bikes for assisting me in choosing parts for the build and stepping in where my mechanical skills were lacking. This is my second Kona build up, and I couldn’t be happier.” – Austin Hughey

Austin replaced the stock brakes and rear mech with Shimano XT. The Fox Transfer dropper post is controlled by a Wolf Tooth remote. Up front for suspension he’s opted for a Fox Factory 34 in 150mm.

Out the back, Austin has gone for a Fox Float DPX2.

The Trans X post has been replaced with Fox’s Transfer post.

 The whole setup rolls on a Race Face Turbine R Wheelset, up front its shod with a Maxxis DHF 2.5 and out back you’ll find High Roller II 2.4’s