Carrabassett Challenge Debacle Report

This weekend I was faced with a difficult choice -- Hampshire 100k, Holiday Farm marathon, or something else.

Well, the Hampshire 100k was $100 and only 5% singletrack, whereas Holiday Farm was $50 and 95% singletrack. Ok, so that makes that decision easy. But do I really want to race for six hours? Uh, maybe.

I decided I didn't, so I ended up heading north to stay with Linnea and her family and go race a little event up at Sugarloaf called the Carabassett Cycle Challenge. Apparently it was the only mountain bike race in New England that was less than 6 hours this weekend. Anyway, after nearly a month on the sidelines I wanted to get back to it.

The big problem was that my bike is still broken. How is this possible, you ask? Well, an exciting combination of incompetence from all parties. So first I broke it, and I called the nearest Jamis dealer (Cambridge bikes) to order a new one the next day. So 9 days later I figure it's time for my part to show up, so I call the guys over a Cambridge Bikes. Where's mah part?

The guy on the phone looks through the list of stuff and finds my name. "Colin Reuter...2001 Jamis....Dakar...Pro....2?? Er... you didn't want two frames... right?"

Surprisingly enough, no. I wanted two derailleur hangers. Luckily for me the clown I had talked too couldn't be bothered to write down the item I needed nor order it for me, so pretty much nothing had happened for nine days. But it's ok, the dude on the phone is gonna take care of things.

Well, I did get a derailleur hanger 3 days later. Unfortunately it was definitely not for a 2001 Jamis. So someone at Cambridge Bikes and/or Jamis has no idea what they are doing. It's entirely possible this could be Jamis' fault, but the track record of Cambridge Bikes is not so good at this point. In fact, I'd say they've pretty much reached the "boycott" level of satisfaction with me. Your mileage may vary.

And then I ripped my knee open and was on crutches and basically forgot about this for a week. So I'm just as much at fault. Anyway, my bike was still inoperable, but lucky for me Linnea's dad has a hardtail I can ride. Sweet!

This bike had actually been tuned up pretty recently and rode pretty well, at least for something that came from a dumpster and probably wasn't worth more than $600 new. I figured it would be a good test of my "equipment doesn't mean jack" theory of racing, so next thing I know I'm lined up with a whopping 14-person expert field at 10am.

I forgot how hilly races at ski areas are. This course was 7.5 miles long and featured a nice 2.5 mile middle ring climb. Yup, 15 minutes of grinding it out and wondering when it would end. I knew the area well enough to be not too surprised by this and was actually feeling pretty good by the top. I was ahead of 5 or 6 people by then so I guess that put me... 7th or 8th.

As soon as you hit the top you descend some really hard singletrack, big rocks, drops and lots of erosion. The hardtail was feeling okay, although really soft in the front end, when I came around a corner, jammed my front wheel on a rock and did a nice side-endo. Next thing I know I'm on the ground and I landed on my knee that had stiches taken out less than 24 hours prior. Marvelous.

I get back on the bike and something is WRONG. Every time the front end hits anything it makes a terrific racket, and the brakes are rubbing pretty hard too. I ride out the rest of the singletrack with my bike going clunk every second and get off to inspect the damage. Weird, it almost seems like the hub is "broken." Can a hub even break? There's a ton of slop in the front wheel, I can grab it and shake it side to side. And the front brakes, what the heck, they're rubbing and look totally loose... like the centering tension is just... gone.

So I don't really feel like racing anymore, but whatever. I get out the tools and loosen up the brakes a bit so they don't rub a much, and I up the centering tension a bunch. It doesn't fix things as much as I'd hoped but it seems a little better. It still makes a sound like I have the quick release open every time I hit a bump, and during this pit stop I've moved into last place.

What is actually wrong with my bike is left as an exercise to the reader! Can you figure out the culprit from the symptoms? I sure as hell couldn't so I started riding again. It will be revealed later on.

Unfortunately, the 2.5 miles of climbing left me with a lot of super-rough singletrack descending, and a front end that sounded like it was going to break in half at any moment. The fork was too soft so I was bottoming it a lot, and I couldn't shake the feeling that one of these big hits was going to end with the front end collapsing and me breaking my collarbone. These are not the kind of thoughts that make you go downhill fast.

I thought about dropping out after one lap, but what the heck, my legs still feel ok and I'll probably get a prize if I just finish. So I rolled through the finish still in last place and kept going. I could see a guy in front of me, which gave me a bit of a reason to ride.

I caught him on the long climb and passed him by the top. I kept an eye out for someone else to chase but the field was really strung out by now, so I was just riding alone in the woods. But I was still feeling pretty good, save for my back which was finding the dead-forked hardtail to be much harder to pilot downhill than a dualie. My bike was still clanging metal on metal for every bump but I was used to it by now.

Apparently my new bike-kryptonite powers were not done, because near the end of the second lap I flatted my front tire on one of the few smooth sections. The whole thing was out of air in probably five seconds. I pulled over, sat down, and tried to decide if I actually wanted to fix this thing. I figured it would be good practice even if I was pretty much done racing, so I busted out the levers and started work. During this time I got passed back to retake last place.

I was diligently stuffing the new tube in when I glanced over at my fork, now free of the wheel. This is what I saw:

Sooooo yeah, that's probably not good, huh? Even though I'd ridden an entire lap with it like that, I really couldn't convince myself to ride a third lap in last place with a broken fork. So I walked it in and took a seat.

I decided I found a flaw with the Manitou fork design -- because the fork crown is behind the legs, it's almost impossible to notice if it breaks, whereas if the crown on my Reba broke (which it won't, because it's not crap) I'd see it every time I looked down.



Anonymous said…
Good thing for my bike that I put the lead shielding on it before I lent it to you - unfortunately, the bad mojo was amplified and reflected back to you, resulting in your knee injury.

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