March 27, 2012

Psssst! Just Ride

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 9:16 pm

Our big race, the Solavaca Cat Claw Classic is now ten days past. The day after the race, the sky opened and dropped 3.2″ of rain on us. If you rode the race, or were here, you know we were already dealing with standing, running, and percolating water over about 10% of the trail. With the help of extreme trail hand Chris Purser, all kinds of tricks and gadgets were built to give the racers a surface to roll on in the worst wet areas. We were laying carpet and throwing down lengths of newly constructed ladders right up and into Saturday night. It helped us make the most of a compromised trail and the racers responded with good times and a hearty thanks at the end. It was a great race where I also learned about themonstercycle.

We appreciate all our MTB friends that came out, enjoyed the weather, rode, camped, volunteered, cheered, and respected the venue.

Now it gets tricky. I have to talk to a few people. Taking care not to whine, I have to tell these few people how they threaten to spoil things for everybody. And I have to let the large majority read what is intended for those few who need a talking to. Hopefully, some of the majority can take notice and perhaps become part of the solution. But it will finally fall on the few to change their ways.

As I walk this rain soaked trail, I notice more than ever before, places where a rider or a few riders, have taken it upon themselves to make changes in the trail – mostly during pre-rides. Breaking limbs, moving rocks, cutting across corners, and generally destroying small sections of sweet single track for their own purpose. It is no secret that building and maintaining a trail is a labor of love. And it is not a democratic process. One person gets to envision what can be done with the land so that it will sustain minimum damage and still provide a good MTB experience. The application of that vision requires some work. Hard labor kind of work. It is what defines the line that you ride when you ride that man’s trail. If you are a volunteer on a public trail, that may be 20 feet of trail. If you are the architect of the whole trail, maybe miles of it is your baby. But either way, you want the rider to ride the line you have made.

Before mountain biking, I used to rock climb. I developed some routes as they are called. But mostly I climbed established routes. You are not in that sport for a day before you learn that it is forbidden to alter an established route. The guy who put the route up, sets the line. All climbers police and enforce this ethic. There is no holding back either. A climber lands on the guilty party’s back like a crazed banshee (verbally of course). You just do not alter somebody else’s route. Even if it is not designed very well. If you don’t like it, don’t climb it.

I have heard other trail builder’s rail about this. It is pretty common in our sport. We need, we all need, to watch for riders who take those liberties with the trails and call them out. Some of the changes these people make might tend to make you happy – a way around a difficult section, a nice little challenge thrown in, something in the way of your flow, or whatever. But it works against you in the long run.

The term Trail Steward has a clue for you. A steward is somebody who takes responsibility for the good of something or somebody. In the case of trail stewards, it is his, and only his, job to set the lines. The trail steward’s reward is that he gets the credit, or the blame, for how it rides. Just ride it.

Let’s protect the trails by developing an ethic like the climber’s have. Don’t do bandit trail alterations and don’t stand by and let anybody else do it either.

March 17, 2012

CatClaw! Time

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 10:23 pm

It’s 10:11PM. This day marches into night with some tired volunteers on the Solavaca. The crowds today were great. The final preparations for the race tomorrow are either done or don’t matter anymore. So many pre-riders today were beaming and talking about the fine quality of the trail. Does that mean it is in perfect shape? In a way, yes. There is mud, and drying corners that make you wonder if your speed will spill you or if the loose gravel will be just tight enough to shoot you along. The raggedness makes it a new trail every time.

The slight chance of rain does not matter now. The race will be run and if by chance we catch a nose full of rain, we will snort it out and ram those thundering wheels down the trail to the finish.

The Solavaca Cat Claw comes alive again tomorrow. The lucky ones will have a skinny seat between their legs. What will you be sitting on?

March 14, 2012

Wednesday Update

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 7:43 am

The trail is going to open this morning. The big pasture is blocked off so that it can dry some more. As you approach it, immediately after you hit the rocky hump, hard u-turn to the right. This will be opened up by Friday if things dry well. So the Pecan Pasture loop will be in for the race barring unkind and sudden rain.

Twist ‘n Shout will be Twist ‘n Slide for today and maybe longer. No standing water but it has a slimy surface in some spots.

The rain chances keep falling as each day dawns. Currently, rain has been taken out of today’s forecast and Friday’s forecast – depending of course on whose forecast you watch. I am watching NOAA.

I got a call yesterday from Bobby Duncan in Dallas. He is exhorting the DFW racers to come out in big numbers and he observed some rain clouds from the direction of Glen Rose. But we are 95 miles SW and we had clouds, some sun, and no rain. But I feel just like Bobby. Any hint of rain makes me nervous as a tomcat in a room full of rockers.

Work is going on here to cover the sloppy spots as much as possible. There are very few if you take the total length into account. One fun spot is the last 100 yards coming up the hill to the finish. Two wet places are stubbornly demanding to stay for the race. So if you want to sprint, you might better add an extra 30% to the effort because of the soft track.

March 12, 2012

4 Days Out.

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 7:09 am

Cat Claw cranking up unofficially Friday. The dirt desperados will be anxious to get in here starting Friday. Rain stopped late morning yesterday. Sun came out at 1:00. Beautiful day. Total rainfall for the weekend was 1.2″. The trail was looking pretty good already by late Sunday. We should hit the target for opening the trail Wednesday. Perhaps even Tuesday mid-day. There are warnings of rain chances from Wednesday on, but those appear to be lackluster. Does not mean they can’t happen but we are pretty determined to dodge and duck whatever punches that Mom Nature throws.

The creek is under control, running at a brisk but not inflamed pace. The crossings are less than 5 inches deep, And the creek beds have good rock bottoms.

Obviously. running a quality race is the first priority. Next is to accomodate pre-rides. Then the camping, pre-race events like Kids Kup, and festival buzz comes next.

CAMPING. Access to tent camping is very good. RV is good but I am watching those areas to be sure we have solid ground to use. Today, most of that is ready for RV’s. More rain at the wrong time could mess up our RV master plan. We will decide by Thursday.

PARKING: 90% of that is good. We may have to park some cars outside the front gate along the wider right-of-way where the county has left us a good rock surface to utilize. That’s convenient isn’t it?

The registration and Expo area will have sections roped off due to percolating ground water making wet zones. But we will have enough room to get things done, show off the sponsors, and run the race.

The creek is running, and it occurs to me that those who need a cold water shower can use the creek instead. It is really beautiful and you can bath in it if you like shockingly cold water. Please bring bio-degradable soap or ask me and I might have some to loan you.

March 11, 2012

Race Weekend – Riding, Camping, and Racing

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 10:11 am

Here on Sunday Morning at 9:30 the rain that has hounded us for a while is winding down. What is supposed to happen is a better afternoon and then maybe 2 really good drying days on Monday and Tuesday. So this 1.3″ of rain should soak in and drain off and let us get about the real business of preparing for the Cat Claw races on Sunday. There are still weak threats of more rain later in the next week, but those are unlikely. So we are putting on our sunny face. By topic, here are some things that you might be asking.

PRERIDES: Should be able to start those on Wednesday. And hopefully have a normal weekend with the Kids Kup, the First-Time riders Clinic, the arrival of team and sponsors, and pre-riding.

TENT CAMPING: Tent camping in the largest tent camping area – Camp Area #1 – should be unaffected. That area takes rain better than almost any other. The drainage ditch that must be crossed looks like a small creek, but it has a rock bottom under maybe 2″ of silt. Drive right through it at a normal speed and you will not lose traction, or bog. Just stay in the ruts. Other areas where we have allowed tent camping will also be fine.

RV CAMPING: That might be something to consider. I will have to inspect the areas where we put RV’s. Each day I will look that over. If you are bringing an RV, have an alternative plan. Like Oak Dale Park in Glen Rose. I think we will be fine. But the last thing you need is to get into a muddy camping spot – and try get out. I will have final recommendations on Wed evening.

PARKING: That should be OK. A few areas may be too wet, but we can use the gravel parking area just outside the gate if needed.

RACING: There are going to be some alterations of the course to get around the worst spots. Also some carpet on the creek exits. These solutions will be problematic, less than perfect, and annoying. Welcome to mountain biking. Otherwise we expect the races to come off pretty much as planned. The start line will have to be moved. If we get some last minute rain, there may be from a few tenths to 2 miles knocked off of the lap distance due to re-routes.

These are all part of this business and most of you know that. We may need an extra measure of patience and cooperation but when the races start, you will forget all that and enjoy another version of fun at the Solavaca. Embrace it.

March 10, 2012

Prerides – When Might That Be Possible?

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 8:53 am

With the Cat Claw Classic coming up next weekend, this should be a big weekend for pre-riders to test the trail. As was once said, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” The rain cycle which started on Thursday is just barely ruining the day here on Saturday, but even as I try to justify opening a marginalized trail, the weatherman drops this load on us – Saturday and Saturday night, 100% chance of rain. I cannot see it developing on the radar just yet, but my advanced math tells me that 100% means it will develop. Even so, this rainy spell is lacking a certain commitment so far. That’s good. We measured 1/2″ yesterday and the trail can dry pretty fast with just 10-12 hours of drying conditions. But those precious hours seem to be a few days off. And even though rain is said to be certain, that can mean a sprinkle or a deluge.

There are probably 100’s of us trying to wish this rain into March 19 at least. It may work. We have dodged some pretty big threats in past races. So I watch, build re-routes around wet places, dig drainage ditches, lay down board-walks and carpet, and try to think positive. But the bottom line is, I can’t be positive that I can open for pre-rides at any given time. I can keep you updated with information as it changes. You can see that first on my home page , right near the top, under Trail Status Updates or follow ‘solavaca’ on Twitter.

You may notice that I am not discussing the subject of racing in the rain. We may have to do that. But this is the requirement that will be applied: bike tires must be able to roll. Frame jamming sludge, bottom-bracket-cloging goop, and miles of bike pushing is wartime desperation stuff, if you are a man of bikes, you should check this review on the brightest lights for a bike. Let’s hope those are dark and unnecessary broodings of a rainy day and that next weekend, all this rain talk will be forgotten as we welcome Texas racers back to the great Cat Claw Classic on the Solavaca.

March 6, 2012

Cat Claw Version 2012 – Notes on the course.

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 10:10 am

Reporting as of March 6. Those of you who have experience on the trail or even in the past races might want to pay attention. This year the trail will not have much different in terms of navigating around, but it will ride differently because of the number of seasonal springs that pop up when the big rains come. And we had two big rain events in February. These springs are not the bubbling spout of water, but seeping wetness that covers a larger area. It generally lays atop the ground until I cut a ditch in it. Then that ditch will fill and run for weeks sometimes.

A pre-ride is always the best idea, but this year, there are wet places where you would not expect them. So a pre-race experience will be particularly useful if you can get it. Wet spots in the turns will require some testing to see what speed they can take. I like the less agressive knobs out here usually, like CrossMarks, Small-Block 8’s, or the Specialized Renegades. But you may want some knobbier tires in those wet turns. It’s not like the whole trail is wet. Most of the wet areas are within 1/4 mile of the expo area. In the pasture where the bridge is located and north along the lazy slopes coming off the hill to the west, there are multiple areas of seepage. Twist ‘n Shout is soft but not sloppy.

Then there are wet creek crossings. All of them except the one just after mile 4, which has a short bridge over almost all the flow. The water in not deep, but it is pretty wide at crossing 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. In 2010, the problem was at the exits to the crossings. As riders came out of the creek, they dragged water up the banks and in some cases, the banks became so wet that they dissolved into a muddy sludge. The first and 3rd creek crossing in the Lower Creek were armored after that race and so that problem will be somewhat under control. But the mud will probably develop 40-50 feet up the hill from the exits after a hundred or so riders hit it. We are putting carpet at some places in an effort to improve that.

There will also be a re-route at about mile 8.2 in order to avoid a long stubborn swamp in the bridge area.

Ironically, the rest of the trail, about 97% of it, could use some rain. It is loose in a few corners and very dry in many stretches.

I hope that helps. We like to think that these challenges will just make for another great day of fun on the solavaca. Come see what mountain biking can be!

February 19, 2012

Big Bend Dirt Fest 2012

Filed under: Rides and Trips — mack @ 7:52 am

This is the second year that wife Shari and I have taken in the Dirt Fest at Terlingua/Lajitas in the Big Bend. I notice, and maybe you have too, that there are lots of books on the Big Bend – picture books, historical books, technical books on the geology, the plants, the wildlife, the art, and the list just goes on and on. The reason is that this land of over a million acres is a compelling inspiration on so many levels. The fist thing about it is its grandeur. The views are stunning as you approach it, and every corner you turn is painted with colors and lines like no other place you have ever seen. The landscape is so dramatic that it stirs feelings of danger and primal threat as you imagine those first humans who made some kind of life out here – or tried to. You forget most of the time that half of your vista is taking in Mexico because the Rio Grande lies behind and below the maze of volcanic afterthought that is left from the creation of the place. When you do travel to places where the river can be experienced, you sense that this mostly lazy thread that winds between the hills and canyons takes its turn in the battle to alter the rocks in some awesome explosion of force when the rains pull the trigger upstream. This is not a visit, or a trip, or a mere sightseeing side-trip. The Big Bend in many ways is a chance to see the Earth’s past and touch the power and beauty that hints to us everywhere but punches you squarly in the face here.

The great mountain biking here cannot be fully understood, nor quickly taken in. It’s bigger, longer, and threatening to contemplate. Exactly what the sport can be in your wildest dreams.

January 12, 2012

Hadley Hubs

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 12:36 pm

~~Secret and Confidential~~

Best kept secret in mountain biking. Hadley Hubs are super good and you should get some. I have had mine for about a year and a half. When I put them on along with my new wheelset, I reduced the weight of my bike by almost 2 lbs. Anyway, I decided I would service them even though they say that people go forever without doing that and have no problems.

So I called the factory to see about the tools required. A real eye opener. I was helped in great detail by Suzanne. She knows every part inside the things, how to get at them, what to do, and what tools you need. I couldn’t even keep up with her she was so thorough. Fiinally I asked. Is this a family owned business? Answer is yes. And Suzanne’s last name is Hadley.

Made 100% in the USA. Thse hubs are not only bombproof, they are smooth and strong. An elegant combination of Steel, aluminum, and fine silk. All machined and designed for performance if you ask me.

Why don’t more people have them? Because this is a secret. Didn’t you read the top?

Oh, nevermind that I saved some $ over C Kings, Hope, and I9.

November 29, 2009

Race: Solavaca Cat Claw Classic Apr 24-25

Filed under: Trail News - Solavaca Ranch — mack @ 2:11 pm

After kicking around lots of names for our fist annual TMBRA Championship Series XC Race in the Spring, we came up with ‘Solavaca Cat Claw Classic’. Since we have a lot of that devilish plant, the cat claw, on our ranch, and since we named a whole section after it, and since we kept the cat theme for the hardest climb on the trail, then we liked the idea of carrying that onto the big TMBRA race. We are making big plans for that weekend and we expect to get tremendous support from the Glen Rose/Granbury community. The Steering Committe has already been working hard on ideas and plans. Here’s the names of the guys on the committee. Adam Eyres, Andy Lawler, Chris Purser, Barney Benner, Leonard Nucholls, Larry Colvin, and me, Mack Hargrave.

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