Here's a rather long winded writeup on the San Jacinto Enduro, a timed self supported 80 mile, 11k of elevation gain, ride in the San Jacinto mountains in Southern California, along with a review and pictures of my new Siren. Scroll down to skip the review and just see the pictures.
So FINALLY, after riding the same old POS Bianchi since early 2006, which has been broken and rewelded and broken again, i decided to get myself a new frame. I'm not sure if it was the safety factor, or the constant ridicule by my friends and strangers on the trail that made me do it, but i think anyone who saw my other bike could agree it was long overdue. I had some parts on it that i was partial to, and some that needed to be replaced, but at least the expensive stuff was still usable. Three things were for sure though... one being that it should really be somewhat custom sized as i don't have typical proportions (long legs for my height). The second being that it had to be 100mm susp corrected, and the last being that it needed to be 26er and 650b compatible. Sorry 29er guys, i owned one and it just isn't my gig. I also opted for an aluminum frame with all the cable lugs for gears (god forbid i ever need them) and sliding dropouts, although i had quite a few options there. With all that in mind, i turned to my local builder and riding buddy Brendan from Siren. He already had a good idea of what i needed so the whole thing was a pretty simple process. Brendan has a "homework assignment" he sends you and with all the info you give him, he's able to dial in what you want to a T.
As for the color, it was pretty simple really, it just needed to be really obnoxious and go good with anodized purple.
So after i got the word that the frame was going to be ready, i started working on anodizing all the parts i was going to put on it, as well as picking up some new stuff like cables, a tire, bars, stem, brake pads, etc. I have a new post on order, but it hasn't come in yet. Once all that stuff was ready, i worked my way up to Idyllwild, CA (Siren headquarters) to build the bike up. Me, running late as always, got there just before dark leaving us only a few hours to get this thing built before the 80 mile self supported timed ride called the San Jacinto Enduro the next day, which was going to be this bike's "shakedown ride". After the last bolt was tightened and a bunch of beer was finished, i called it a night and decided to do any final adjustments in the morning when i had my shoes on..... or so i thought. I ended up getting to the race 2 minutes before the start so i basically just had to jump on and go.
Pleasantly to my surprise, the bike seemed dialed. Not a single squeak, rattle, or rub. I figured things may still need to be adjusted after the first LONG climb, but no, it still seemed right. Once i got to the first decent, i decided to just let her rip and see what she can do. Holy CRAP does that thing handle! I couldn't believe how stable it was in the fast fireroad curves. My confidence was up and i was probably riding a little out of my limits. It certainly didn't feel that way, but after coming around a blind corner and being surprised by a massive rock in my line, i decided to take it down a notch. Afterall, there was another 70 miles left, and i didn't want to do it injured. I really cant wait to get the 650b wheels on there... i think it'll be downright fast.
After the first downhill was the dreaded control road climb that was probably close to 10 miles long without a break. It was at this point where i really started to appreciate the custom sized frame. After riding improper sized bikes for so long, it was amazing to see how much easier climbing was when your bike actually fits you.
Shortly before i reached the top of the climb, a local geared rider Freddie (also on a new Siren) caught up to me. This was probably a good thing as i quickly realized that my cue sheets were kinda worthless without a computer on my bike, and this was an unmarked course. Freddie rides those trails alot, and he also had a GPS, so i tried my best to stay with him for the rest of the ride. It actually worked out quite well as we kept a pretty matched pace, and it was nice to have someone to talk to out in the middle of nowhere.
Once Freddie and i reached the top of the control road climb, we were greeted by Brendan's wife Mary and son Alexander with fresh fruit. It was definitely a much needed and deserved break after that PITA climb. We quickly chomped down a banana and headed on through town to get to Cowbell, which is the first singletrack of the ride, and about 9 miles from the finish of the 50 mile long first loop.
From here it was mostly downhill singletrack back to camp, but some of it was quite techy, and i was definitely a bit sloppy this far into the ride. Freddie crashed a couple times, and luckily i was able to keep the rubber side down, but i had a few close ones. The bike handled great here as well, however i was just too tired to really enjoy it. I needed a friggin beer already. Freddie had started talking about pizza he had back at the camp, so i know he was doing about as good as i was.
After what seemed like a long 9 mile downhill, we finally rolled through The Tunnel Of Love and back to camp to complete our first loop. I was pretty relieved to crack a beer, eat a sammie, and sit on something that wasn't a bike seat. I apparently was the first singlespeeder in, so i decided to just relax and wait for the next SSer to roll in before i left for loop 2, which was a bit shorter at 30 miles, but included some sketchy singletrack and no shortage of climbing.
The next SSer in happened to be my buddy Dave from Pedal1Long, who had the eye of the tiger and was determined to kick some ass. Freddie wasn't quite ready to leave yet, so i hung out for a little while longer until i discovered Dave snuck out after refilling his bottles. It was nice to get a good 45 minute break, but i didn't exactly want to work to make up for the 5-10 minute head start that Dave put on me for loop 2. As Dave knows, there's positively no way in hell that i would let him beat me without a fight. Unfortunately he was riding stranger than i anticipated, so it took probably 30-45 minutes to catch him at a brisk pace. Unfortunately his knee was bothering him, so he wasn't the happiest camper in the world, but he was chugging along and i know he was going to finish the ride regardless. Strong work Dave, really.
The point where we passed him happened to be on a decently long climb, so i was hoping to make some time up on him as i know he might do a little better than me on the singletrack downhill, being his neck of the woods and all.
Sure enough, Freddie and i made good time to the top of the singletrack, only to find that it was friggin gnarly. I had a hunch that Freddie already knew this as he wanted me to go in front, but i refused since i was feeling a bit beat after the climb. On the first part of the decent, Freddie pulled the old Seinfeld "stop short and grab" move on me, however, he forgot the grab and i hit a rock with the binders on and went over the bars. Luckily it was a clean fall and i caught myself without any injury. I figured I'd learn my lesson and stay back a little for the rest of the jaunt, but it still didn't really help much as i managed to go off the trail a couple times, even running over a cactus or three on one occasion. I thought for sure it would be flat city, but i got lucky somehow.
After our sketchy decent, we made our way over to start our 8+ mile climb up Thomas Mtn. I remembered this climb from the previous year, but man, it hurt more after already doing 60-something miles. This hill really sucked as it seemed to get steeper towards the top, and there were so many areas that i *thought* were the top, only to find myself climbing for another 30 minutes. Once Freddie assured me that we were actually almost at the top, i was pleasantly surprised by Dave's family and a bunch of fresh baked brownies, cookies, and some oranges. I got down on some brownies for the win. It took some restraint not to eat them all, as they were mighty good. I wouldn't kick those brownies out of bed for eating cookies, that's for sure.
After we were sufficiently satisfied, Freddie and i made our way down the Ramona trail. This trail is generally a blast, but sad to say, i was just in survival mode and nursed my way down. Watching Freddie crash in front of me didn't help much either. Towards the bottom, i started getting some of my energy back, and gave myself a chance to enjoy the handling of my new Siren on some singletrack. I really cant say enough how well that thing seems to track in the turns... especially at high speed. It totally makes up for me sucking at riding (and you thought it was only a screen name).
Once at the bottom, i quickly remembered that we still had the pole line road left, which is an energy sucker for sure. The climbs are short yet steep/rocky, which sucks when you're short on power. I think both Freddie and i walked the first one. The worst part about this trail is that it parallels the paved road, which is nice and flat, and you can see it the whole time. Talk about a cock tease when you're grunting up some steep section. We FINALLY made it off the trail and onto the last 3 mile stretch, which was paved. There was a pretty healthy headwind, and Freddie had gears, so i wasn't too optimistic about hanging with him here. Fortunately i was able to hang for a while, just enough to get to a slight uphill grade, where we were a little more matched. I was winded though, and even said i was giving up and riding my own pace for a second until i saw the hill. Freddie and i were both putting down the hammer at this point, however i think i was suffering a little more than him at this point. We sprinted in camp and it was pretty much a photo finish, although i decided it was only fair to give it to him since i would have still been out there if it wasn't for him and his GPS.
I'll have to admit, I'm glad it was over. 11k feet of climbing and 80 miles. Not the most I've done, and not even the fastest I've done it in, but i was pretty happy with myself, considering I haven't been riding worth a damn lately. My only regret was taking that long of a break between laps... i would have beaten quite a few more people since it was fairly close, even with the beer pit stop. Regardless, i was still the first singlespeeder in so i got the victory beer (thanks Brendan!).
Well, that's the end of my review of the SJE and my new Siren. A bit long winded, but i did warn you!
Overall, i was completely happy with the bike and i really cant wait to try the 650b wheels, which i may be getting today. I'm also looking forward to doing more longer rides on this bike, including possibly the Tour Divide (coincidentally, Mary, Brendan's wife, rode a couple years ago, and was featured in the movie).
Check out the first link for the SJE (including some pictures of the ride), and the second link to Siren's blog page with a writeup on my new frame as well.
Siren 26er/650b frame, aluminum with sliders, and all cable stops. Custom sized.
2005 Manitou Minute 2:00 (rebuilt, revalved)
dt-swiss xr1540 wheelset
kenda sb8 rear, blue groove front
avid bb7's and speed dial 7's
thomson seatpost (on order)
purple anodized cane creek headset
kore carbon stem with ti hardware
Homebrewed Components chainring and ti cog
KMC K810sl chain
truvativ stylo bars
xtr m960 cranks, modified and ceramic coated
custom anodized goodies all over
custom made steertube and cog spacers
salsa grips (love these!)
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