My New Mountain Bike–3rd Time is the Charm

As many are well aware, I love PINK and really love riding pink bikes.  It was no surprise to anyone, especially not to Ironman Danish, that I would want to replace “Ma,” my 26er hardtail mtb with an even pinker replacement when the time came.  That time was approaching fast all summer, as I noticed small cracks in the seat tube of my frame.  Safe to say, after a summer that included ORAMM, riding in Breckenridge, and the Leadville Trail 100 mtb, “Ma” was ready to retire.  The small cracks were becoming big cracks, and one day the seat post just poked through the frame while working on jumping and wheelies with my MTB Coach Bob McCarty (of AG McCarty Factory Racing/McCarty Training).

"Ma" enjoying the view and fresh air at 12, 000 feet atop Wheeler Pass in CO.

“Ma” enjoying the view and fresh air at 12, 000 feet atop Wheeler Pass in CO.

So the search began.  Ma and I had a real attachment, it was not going to be easy to find a replacement.  I tried to get my hands on some pink bikes, but none seemed to be coming to fruition.  I was about to give up all hope and just order a run of the mill black bike and accessorize it with pink until I got a text from Bob.  He rides for this bike company, based and built in the USA (and not just in the USA–in MIA…that’s right there is a little ‘dale’ in my bike)–AG Bicycles.  AG has been developing their custom brand for a little while now and were excited at the idea of making a pink MTB (which I also was pretty excited about).

Bob and his AG (not sure he names his bikes...)

Bob and his AG (not sure he names his bikes…)

Now, obviously, I had to first see if I even liked riding their bikes.  Since I had been bike-less since the seat post incident and had been living on borrowed bikes (and racing on them–thank you Darren from the Scoot, Skate, Bike Co aka Miami Bike Shop for EVERYTHING he did and does to get me out on the trails), I had a pretty strong feeling for the type of bike I like.

Me racing on one of the sweet-ass bikes Darren let me test.

Me racing on one of the sweet-ass bikes Darren let me test.

I knew that I liked the way the Jamis that Mike has rides (at the time, he was riding the 2012 version of this bike, now he is on this sweet machine).  It was stiff, snappy, and didn’t feel like a 29er.  So upon my next lesson at the trails, Bob and I traded machines for a lap at Amelia Earhart Park (he had Mike’s Jamis and I had Bob’s AG–that’s right, I got to ride Bob’s bike–we are all the same size as luck would have it).  I was SHOCKED.  The AG FELT LIKE HOME!!  It felt like if I closed my eyes and you told me it was Mike’s Jamis, that I would believe you–only it felt a hair lighter (granted, this could have been the fact I had an empty water bottle).  I was sold–this would be my bike AND IT COULD (and WOULD) BE PINK!

Hot damn! Hot pink!

Hot damn! Hot pink! (note: this is not just a primer)

It could not have turned out any better.  In fact, I sort of wanted to cry because the guys at AG Bicycles were so amazing (including Bob and local MTBer and AG McCarty Factory Racing Team Manager John Koch who provided me with status updates).  The care and detail that went into this bike was unreal.  The AG guys even took me to the paint mixer to make sure it was a pink I liked!!  Amazing!  But nothing could compare to when I saw the finished product.  They went ABOVE and BEYOND….and so, with no further ado, I introduce you to Babs:

Babs

Babs, aka a nickname for Barbara, is inspired by several strong women in my life who have owned this name.  Babs because in my head I always secretly referred to every Barbara I knew as Babs.  One of them had the strongest handshake anyone has ever encountered.  She was and is a powerful woman.  The other was outrageously outgoing who was not afraid to tell anyone who she was and was all about having a fun time.  Strong, confident, and fun? What could be three better attributes to a sweet ride?

Now to face the facts–riding a hot pink bike in Cat 1 racing–I have NO CHOICE but to ride this bike as fast as I can and show the power of pink!

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Sport

I have officially upgraded my Mountain Bike racing category from a “Base” women’s racer to a “Sport” women’s racer.  This past Sunday was my first venture into the world of “sport” up at Haile’s Trails.  Haile’s Trails are on a quarry that is actually on someones private property (they also happened to have a sweet moto cross course on the property also–these people are sort of badass apparently).  The trails are only opened twice a year–for racing only.  I was pretty excited as I had heard this course has “a lot of climbing” (although, I was pretty sure that was a Floridians explanation of a lot of climbing, not someone from NC, CO, CA, or pretty much anywhere else with actual hills).

Regardless, I was pretty excited to “climb.”  I busted out the HOT OFF THE PRESS 2012 Rose Bandit Team Kit–which is BAD ASS thanks to the amazing design talents of CRE843 designer BZ–and even gets comments while riding in the trees (apparently, it is not all that camouflage–we stick out).

Probably wouldn't choose to wear my kit if I was a guerrilla fighter...lucky for me, I am not a guerrilla fighter, 'cause, damn is it awesome!!!

So, I lined up against 7 other women, including friend and competitor Beata Wronska who, like me, was also lining up for her first race in sport.  She and I had both independently pre-rode the course on Saturday and both were AMAZED at how hard the course was–I was excited, she, less excited especially after a recurring knee injury was worsened the weekend before when we both competed in XTerra Miami.  Before the race, we laughed at how we were both so nervous we felt like puking–laughing because we had no reason to be nervous, we shouldn’t have any expectations, being it our first race in a harder category.

Beata and me after the race...

The whistle blew and for the first time in my short MTB or any racing on a bike experience, I had a hard time clipping in–turns out I had some serious mudd in my cleat–doh!  A couple of bangs on the pedal took car of that issue, but when I finally clipped in I was sitting in 6th/7th or so for the hole shot.  The first 15 minutes of this course are EXCEPTIONALLY demanding.  There are steep climbs (yup, this section definitely had me eating my words about climbing in FL) with steep drops not he other side, not to mention off camber switchbacks on roots–awesome.  I knew I had to make a move towards the front and lucky for me, many struggled on the second climb and I maneuvered my way into 4th.  The top 4 almost immediately had a sizable gap as we were able to power over the tough climbs in the beginning while those behind us got either stuck behind someone who could not (thus being forced to walk) or had trouble themselves.  I didn’t look back to see the source of the issue.

Almost done the first 15min and I am all smiles about that...

We finally got past that section (that ends with some tough rocks to get over/through) and into the single track.  I have never been so happy to see single track–time to recover and see how these girls ride.  Almost immediately the girl in first opened a small gap and the girl in second was lagging at a slow pace.  She was riding well but just not fast enough.  I was in 4th and the girl in front of me was riding less well, but was able to pull of the pass for second and I got stuck still in 4th going slower than I would have liked.  I decided since it was my first race in Sport, I should settle in and I assumed they knew something I didn’t about pacing themselves.  Wrong.  Gave them too much credit or myself not enough.  I was able to pull of the pass for 3rd on one of the steep climbs out of one of the quarries.

ok, there really were REAL climbs...in and out of quarries...here I am on a "ridge line" of one of the quarries...

By now, there was a gap though between me and second.  She was in sight, but it was about 30 seconds and another 30 to the race leader. The race continued, almost uneventfully, although it did get briefly exciting when Ironman Danish and Fast Freddy passed me towards the end of my last lap.  I finished the race in 3rd and at a manageable pace–in fact, so manageable I sort of felt like a 4th lap wouldn’t be THAT big a deal (of course, it was probably toooo manageable a pace, probably should have gone harder on the third lap).  I definitely didn’t give myself enough credit to battle to the front, and have learned my lesson for my next race in Sport.  Beata battled knee pain and finished 4th–a great race for both of us.

note: knees black with dirt, mouth full of flies (protein)

The course was surprisingly dirty on race day.  In fact, it was so not dirty on the pre ride on Saturday Ironman Danish and I commented on it.  Overnight, there was a decent amount of rain, and I am guessing this contributed to my being covered in dirt/mud.  Someone asked if I fell/crashed and I was pleased with my witty response: “no, I was just on fire and had to stop drop and roll….”  Feel free to use that one…..

woo hoo! (and, damn, that kit looks good)

** Special thanks to Beata’s hubby Pax for the AWESOME shots from the race!!!