Thursday, November 30, 2006

2007 Gary Fisher Paragon - Single Track Review

After having a couple of weeks on the new 2007 Gary Fisher Paragon, I've been able to get myself re-trained about how to handle a bike off-road. Some of that is due to my being without a mountain bike for a season, and some of it is due to the changes in the geometry that are just required by a 29er.

I have the Prolouge and Inner Loop cleared up until you hit the deep rock creek. I was out of fuel for the trail-clearing equipment, and had some family coming into to town, so I headed out for home at that point, leaving me with a good trail to get some practice on later. The weather was -- well -- dang hot. It felt more like late-April/early-May temperatures rather than late November. But at least the poison ivy was dead and gone.

The Paragon is still a lot of fun to get on, and pretty addictive. The larger wheels are without a doubt more comfortable for me. I don't feel beat up at all after a good 90 minute workout on it. Certainly nothing like I used to feel after a ride on the Homegrown with the SX-R fork. The Paragon's Reba fork gives off a prounounced "woosh" sound on bumps, and that has taken some getting used to. The SX-R was pretty much silent in comparison. The lockout on the Reba is definitely a nice feature when I'm on the road headed home.

There's no doubt you sit higher off the ground on this bike. Way off the ground! Gary Fisher may be technically correct when he says the center of gravity relative to the center of the wheel is lower than on a 26" wheeled bike, but you're still so high off the ground on this bike that getting on and off on steep, off-camber climbs can be an adventure. This height off the ground, along with the crazy wide handlebars make for some difficult handling situations on the really tight trail we have here. Climbing, provided you stay hooked up with the ground, is improved. The front end doesn't want to lift on you, and the rear wheel stays glued to the turf better than I remembered. For a while, I was upset that my all-time favorite tire -- Panaracer Fire XC-Pro -- wasn't available for 29er bikes, but these Bontrager stock tires are doing nicely, and I don't have any plans to change them right now.

The hydraulic brakes are doing their job. The rear brake has developed a roughness to the feel, though, and I may need to get that checked out. You can feel the cuts in the rotors when you brake on the rear. The front is as smooth as it can be, in comparison.

Toby's tip for turning the new Bontrager Sweep bars down was a big help. Your elbows tend to stay in more, I've noticed, compared to traditional flat bars with little sweep.

Some posts you may have read elsewhere indicate there is a problem with tire clearance on the Paragons. Let me set the record straight: there isn't a problem. There is plenty of clearance with the stop setup. If you want to run some monster 2.8" tire, then you will have a problem. A bigger potential issue is the location of the front derailleur cable. As you can see in the picture below, there isn't much clearance for the derailleur cable at all. So far there has been no problem, however.

I'm getting more and more comfortable with how to handle it with every additional ride. You can corner quicker if a) you've got the room to lean it hard and b) you've got the guts to lay it out like that. In other words, it corners like a road bike, and not like a traditional 26" mountain bike. It just sticks well in the corners.

Hairpins require a little more thought because of the longer wheelbase. It took a few hours of riding to get comfortable with riding into those corners with the front wheel initially way outside, and planning where the rear wheel is going to go. It's second nature now, though, and not a problem at all.

The added comfort of the bike is enough for me to give it a high recommendation. I'm not beat up at the end of the ride like I used to be. I'd like to get in some 4-hour rides over Christmas break on it. And like you read before, the Bontrager saddle that comes stock is super comfortable. Don't replace it without at least trying it out for a couple of rides.

Back in the saddle...I think...

Alright, I've been warned by the cycling gods that I am only to dedicate any real effort to cycling and cycling only. As some of you are aware, I severely paid the price of my MVP performance at my school's Student vs. Faculty flag football championship of the world. I tore my prufundis tendon in my left ring finger and had to undergo surgery last Tuesday, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving(Darn young kids!). Let's just say that it was a very bleak Thanksgiving because of the pain that I was in and I also had to deal with wearing a hard cast that kept my wrist in a very weird position. I went to have the cast taken off; after a couple of fainting spells(yes, cycling has really turned me into a tough man!) I got to take a look at the stitches....not pretty. The finger is not too tender anymore, but I have lost a good bit of flexibility which I will work on in therapy. I had to spend a great deal, at least to me, off the bike...bummer! However, I'm back! I think. I tried out the trainer and everything felt fine. It looks like I will be able to begin riding again on the road bike only. It looks as though I may be off the mtn bike for some time, at least until mid Jan. As far as the road bike is concerned, I can pull the brake levers fine, shift gears fine, and ride on the hoods or drops if need be. I went out on the road yesterday and it felt very good to be back. So, all my training will be on the road bike this December. I know a lot of you guys are into mtn bike mode right now...but if you get the urge to do some slow-med pace road rides, let me know...just don't tell my doctor;) (Brian-don't you dare tell your brother!)

I'll be on the road bike on Saturday. Give me a call or shoot me a note if you want to hook up!

I'd love to ride up to ride with Clint at Lynch's Woods...but that ain't going to happen :(

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lynch's Woods -- Mostly Cleared

I worked in Lynch's Woods most of the day on Friday. I have it about half-way cleared except for some larger trees and brush that I'll need to hit with a chainsaw. It's a lot improved, but I'll have to wait until I get off work in a couple of weeks to finish it out.

I'll be in the woods on the Paragon if anybody's up this way.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Is there any top-secret training going on Sunday?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

2007 Gary Fisher Paragon - Short Review

Hi folks. I've just taken on a 2007 Gary Fisher Paragon to replace my old Schwinn Homegrown. Both bikes were similarly equipped: the Schwinn had a mix of XT/LX and V-brakes, while the new Paragon has Sram X-9, and a mishmash of Bontrager components. The paint on the frame is a bright red with some fine gold metal flake in the deep clearcoat. It's a good-looking frame to replace the bass boat blue Homegrown. I'm so sick of flat black/silver. A bike needs some flash to it and Fisher has been putting good colors with flaked clearcoat on the Paragon for a couple of years now.

I got the bike on Friday night, and except for the cursory ride around the parking lot, had no saddle time until I was warming up on it for the Harrisburg Half Short Track series.

The biggest difference is the wheel size. The Paragon uses the new "29er" size compared to 26" hoops on traditional mountain bikes. This bike seems ideal for me on short track. The bike rolls over stutter bumps with a lot less chain slap and shock to the booty compared to 26" wheel hardtails, thereby allowing you to focus on your 180+ heart rate and wearing your lungs like a backpack.

Shifting with the X-9 shifter is taking some re-learning because of the push-push design compared to Shimano's trigger shifters. There were some shifts missed going to smaller cogs, but I suspect that is due to getting the cables stretched/broken-in.

The bike is easy to lean over for the bermed corners. On the Harrisburg track, I got into a groove of doing the single track descent with only a couple of touches of the brake -- a significant improvement compared to the race I did on the cyclocross bike.

The new Bontrager Sweep bars were hard on my hands: the ends were turned up just slightly, but enough to put excessive pressure on the outside of my palms, resulting in a good bit of pain by the end of the race. Toby P suggested pointing the bar tips down to the rear, and I'll have to report back later to see if that will fix things. I sure would like a good set of comfortable bar ends -- that's the old guy in me, though. Bar ends are just more comfortable for me when I'm standing on the climbs.

If you get a Paragon, at least try the Bontrager saddle that comes with it. Yes, it is made with a vinyl cover and has cromoly steel rails. And yes, it probably does weigh more than 120g, but it is a very comfortable saddle and a good match for the hardtail. I used to ride off-road with a Flite saddle, and it beat me senseless. The stock Bontrager may not be the most expensive saddle around, but it's dang comfortable.

I had my strongest start and best finish of the short track series on the bike, so obviously I'm going to be a fan. The best compliment about the bike that I can give is this: this bike won't be an excuse for how you finish. It's a smooth ride, a great position, and is stocked with dependable and reasonably serviceable components. Unlike my 'cross bike (which held me back on the singletrack descent), the Paragon won't hold you back.

Thumbs up on the Paragon 29er.

The next series for short track starts in January, and I hope to improve my handling on the Paragon in the time that I'll have off from work during December. If I remember correctly, this course will be a little bit more technical than Harrisburg, but will have some extended road sections -- kinda sounds like 'cross but without the barriers.

Winter Training Q&A

Courtesy of

Winter training

I wouldn't pretend to be an expert on winter training methods, but I find validity of both arguments in doing long winter rides and short 20 minute power intervals. I've been riding/training racing for the past 20 years.

I also understand a little about athletic training/physiology/kinesiology as a physical rehab therapist. I've found in the past when I have done mostly the long winter base mile training, I came into the season unable to sustain high energy intervals and my sprinting ability was terrible. It makes sense to perform shorter high power workouts. After all, muscles are keenly activity specific.

When I've gone the other way and engaged in mostly shorter high intensity workouts, I've come into the season fairly competitive, but lacked the endurance to perform high intensity efforts over time. I think the old maxim "Ride your bike" has always been the most obvious and wisest method.

When one looks at resistive weight training to build muscle mass and strength, one can see how repetitive training with a specific muscular activity improves that muscles ability to perform that particular task. I'm certain it's the same for high effort intervals, sprinting and climbing.

Whatever you're looking to improve, constant repetition with an eye to push the envelop is the key. Coaching or experience is important to know how much and how hard and how often and how and when to rest. I find the longer winter ride is also a great time to work on pedal speed and stroke efficiency.

Scott Saifer replies:

You are 100% right that a winter of all base will bring you to the season unprepared for hard effort, and a winter of all harder effort, or of training with hard effort being a large percentage of training time, will bring you to the season without the endurance to survive the races strong enough to take advantage of your ability to make a hard effort. The weak, argumentative answer is that you can get your speed back in a few weeks or a month, but that once you start racing you won't get endurance so if you have to choose all base or all intervals, choose all base. The stronger answer is to note that each component of training has a typical time course, and to commence each component the appropriate time before the important races of the year so that you peak in all aspects of physical and mental fitness at the correct time for your season or for the races you care about most. For most riders, that can be accomplished by having a few months of pure base, followed by a few months in which more intensity is gradually

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Winter Training Camp!

I received this note from Peter pan the man. Let's try to get a group together that can head up to Charlotte!

"I'm trying to get a group of us together for an early winter training camp(of sorts). Hopefully, we can all get together on Sunday, Dec 10th, a Sunday so that "der Kaiser" Paul can join us too. The route is about 55-60 miles, half flat, half hilly. There is a nice, short, steep climb in the middle just for fun(14 percent!) We'll be leaving from my(Peter) house in Charlotte at some point in the morning. I have plenty of room for guest if you want to come up the night before."

Thanks for the invite Peter!

Peter's email is

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Harbison Training Ride--Saturday!

Fellow gear heads: I, along with some of my riding buddies, plan on riding at Harbison on Saturday. We will meet in the parking lot at 8:00a.m. and ride from there. I don't think we plan on doing a whole heck of a lot, maybe 2 hours or so. If you are in town and want to knock out your ride early, grab some coffee and come on out. I'm sure the pace will be a comfortable medium pace?.....maybe. I'm sure the epetome of smooth, Toby-single ring-Porter will be in the house! Once again, we can discuss the awesome team tactics of the past weekend? Toby, please feel free to enlighten us on that....want you?

Clint, can you come down from Newberry?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bank of NC Short Track Series Results

Soon, when I can sit down and find the time, I will update everyone on our results at the Bank of NC short track series. I'm already looking forward to the next short track series set to kick off in Charlotte on Jan 20th. I'll try to post some pics also! We have some great photos of Clint, Toby P, Monty and myself(of course!) A special Thank You goes out to Toby P for the awesome display of team strategy! We sure had those Hincapie boys confused on how to handle the situation!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sumter Trip

Joe and Leroy are riding Manchester this Sunday at noon.
Hop over to his link and drop him a line if you want to carpool. Spread the word!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Swamp Sweat

Swamp Sweat XC race on Saturday in the Charleston area. Who is in for the trip?