Surviving the Marji Gesick ~ physical elements.

15 08 2018

Wow. It’s been a while since I updated what was supposed to be a triptych of articles about preparing for the Marji Gesick.

As it rolls around again, maybe now isn’t such a bad time to revive them.

You need to be physically prepared for this monster. It *is* going to hurt. Therefore, your first step is to become accustomed to pain. Ride. Ride lots. Ride some more. Aim to be used to 12 hours or more in the saddle in one go. Make sure your taint is toughened up and your ham strings are elastic.

The next way to become accustomed to pain is to do intervals. Preferably hill climb intervals. Over and over again. Time yourself. Get strong.

Although some of the hills are going to seem like they last f o r e v e r in the race, they are actually relatively small as far as hills go. But they are steep and relentless. You need resilience and a good lactate threshold. Go to it.

Nutrition is something you will need to think about. Eat well leading up to the race. But critically, you need to be able to consume calorie dense fuel through the race. You will use *a lot* and it may well be humid and hot. Just keeping hydrated is going to be an issue and getting food on board when hydration is a real issue is even more difficult. I’d actually recommend doing some reading about the physical aspects of extreme exercise. Knowledge weighs nothing but is priceless when the shit hits the fan. Understand the principals and practice some different food stuffs when you are in extremis. For example, I know that turkey meat, cheese or ham rolls and some milder jerky is extremely effective and generally attractive nutrition when I am hitting the wall. When the redline is teetering a tyre width away, for me, it’s Mike n’ Ikes. But beware! once you start hitting short chain carb, you have to keep it going.

Hydration. It goes without saying you need a strategy here. Watch the weather and try to work out how you are going to resupply – you are not going to be able to carry enough, though the generosity of locals is *amazing* you can’t rely on it. If memory serves I went through 20 odd bottles worth of fluid. Without being able to refill at the aid stations and with some kind folk along the course I would have been desiccated.

The last physical thing I will talk about is comfort: that means your bike set up, clothes, shoes, gloves, trying to minimise weight on your back and then application of chamois cream through the hours you are likely to be out there.

Think about it. Visualise (maybe not the chamois cream) but know how you will want to react in certain circumstances and it will breed confidence. Practice and confidence allows action under extreme effort with considerably less requirement for thought and thinking ain’t going to be easy when you are 10 hours deep.



12 08 2018

Occasionally, I packraft. Sometimes, I don’t feel I need a full on PFD. They are bulky to carry and especially if I am crossing flat water, not far from shore and I have a bike with me, I have desired a less bulky solution.

Andrew Skurka – a champion of backcountry minimalism – had a near mythical vest made by Mountain Laurel Designs a number of years ago – the ‘Thing’ AKA the Mopacka.

There is a simple formula for working out how much floatation you need. It is surprisingly little. I need around 5 Litres to be buoyant.

That can be achieved with 2x2L and 1x1L Platypus bottles and I have been planning to sew a vest to keep them in for a number of months now.

While the rain tumbled down and I had a free afternoon, I decided to get after it.

The pattern was taken from my trusty M&S vest, some webbing of various sorts trimmed and the X pac and low denier cordura cut. Why that mix? the X pac will afford some water resistance, fwiw and the cordura will drain and dry fast whilst being tough enough to take stitches well.

The idea is more volume on your front so if you happen to loose concsiousness you float face up. It also helps when you are sitting with your back against the seat band of the Alpacka.

Soon enough I had a serviceable PFD. On trying it on, I had some redundant material under the arms so I went back and trimmed it off. Done, though of course, I had forgotten to attach the label and I couldn’t have that.

First bar end tool: complete.

11 08 2018

After a total redesign, I got to the point where I had to decide how I was going to mount the quick links to the shaft.

I had reasonable luck with ‘plunge’ milling the side of the shaft on a previous iteration, if I kept the tool close to the point at which it was bolted to the cross slide tool holder. I augmented this with a G clamp and kept my fingers crossed.

It worked well enough and I then cross-drilled the job for the quick link ‘stubs’.

I then took the shaft down to the same diameter as the flats of the quick link mount area and skimmed off a wee bit of material here and there (nearly wrecking it in the process – but that is another story).

End cap on, Dynaplug tool in place and boom! it is done.

I learned a lot. Not least that there is significant variation between different bars and so this is truly a one off type of tool. Yes, I could make more, but my hope that with different O rings you could adapt it to different bars is extremely unlikely to come to fruition. As such, this will not be joining the DeWidget as a dRj0nbagworks offering….oh well!

The next project is a bar end plug for the Chain Barrel by Clever Standard and then the one after will be a bar end plug that will accept a PVC tube holding C6 bits for a bit driver hex key tool. I *may* adapt a pivoting hex key that would utilise the PB Swiss magnetic bit holder that mounts to a 5mm hex key and thus the whole thing will go in the bars. We’ll see.

The PVC tube idea is lifted from Industry 9 – whose MatchStix is a great inspiration. Ok for now.


6 08 2018

Further progress – then I messed up.

First step was to drill a 3mm hole right through the job.

Next, widen one end to 5mm the other to 4mm so I could tap them to M6 and 3/16″ respectively.

I test fitted an M6 bolt and the Dynaplug driver just to make sure and all was well. The next step was probably the most tricky. I needed to machine a flat surface on both sides of the central shaft, then drill it so they could hold both parts of a Quick link. Milling on a lathe is a complex issue. They are not designed to tolerate the forces milling causes and the rigidity is often wanting. You can get milling slides for the cross slide, but I don’t have one (yet).

In this instance, yet again, I was scratching my head to find a way to hold the job.

Eventually, I decided to try and thread in a long M6 bolt, abut the job against the (round shaft) tool holder and align it so the end mill in the chuck would cut across the job until the start of the flat section was formed, then use the cross slide to extend this down the job.

It went well at first, but I needed to go back and take a little more material off and in so doing….


Dissappointing to be sure! but I had actually come to realise that the central shaft wasn’t *quite* long enough so was intent on making V2 anyway.

I decided to follow through and finish it off just to see if I encountered any more problems. The second flat surface went well as I took less material off with each pass and then I corss-drilled it for the Quick links. V2 will have another notch for an O ring to hold them in place.

So, done with V1. Learned stuff. Need to be able to mill.

Machine Tools.

5 08 2018

Spun up the lathe today and made an initial attempt at a bar end plug tool holder. This one is almost a direct copy of one made by Menhir Cycles as noted in a previous post. It will hold either one or two Quick Links – to be decided – a dynaplug tubeless plug inserter and perhaps something else. I will make another for a Clever Standard Chain Barrel soon.

I learned a lot – the steps of the process are vital. I would have liked to remove some material from the middle close to both ends, but because I parted it off first, I could not hold it square in order to do so. Live and learn.

The slot for the O ring went well and I managed to get a reasonable surface finish.

More soon.


31 07 2018

A few months ago, I bought some extra insertion tubes for Dynaplug tubeless repair tools. I had been inspired by Nathan Riddle, who had been experimenting with a One Up EDC steerer tube tool kit and fitting in some Dynaplug parts.

I usually carry a Genuine Innovations Mountain Pipe pump. It is a great pump! it uses a small CO2 cartridge as the pump handle, but it can also accept this into the pump head which then works as an inflator. If I threaded a section of aluminium bar to screw into the CO2 canister female threaded hole in the pump, then drilled and tapped it to accept Dynaplug inserts, I could use the pump as a tubeless anchovy driver too.

Eventually, I found the correct Tap and die combination and went to it.

The first iteration was hand made with and a bit squint, but it worked. The second was more accurately made, on my then-new lathe, and I knurled the handle, which I made a bit longer than previously so I could use it on its own or in a pump if needed.

Recently, I was travelling so I wanted to add a quick link to my 11 speed Shimano chain. I had some KMC links, but had bought the Shimano ones, because I thought they would probably work the best. After a beast of a time fitting them and then 4 rides where I could not get it to bed in without a stiff link, I fitted the KMC. Nevertheless, I did buy the One Up chain pliers for their EDC tool as a ‘carry along’ option. Small and neat, they do work well, even though the leverage is diminutive.

In the kit, One Up also send a tiny adaptor to – wait for it! — thread into a CO2 canister female threaded hole and this is then drilled for One Up’s own anchovy fork – reminiscent of the Genuine Innovations one. I suspect they had seen what Riddle was doing and a light bulb came on – just like it had for me.

My next lathe project is some bar end plugs – similar to the Berts-a-like ones made by Menhir Cycles for a Concours de Machines project – also covered on Pinkbike from Eurobike (where I have taken the following picture from) read the article – it’s an interesting beast!

I’m *hoping* to get hold of a Clever Standard chain tool to mount in there as well….we will see if they come back into stock soon!

I’ll be back once I have made some progress.


25 07 2018

I have ridden in Rothrock Forest , State College a number of times since the single speed worlds in 2005.

The riding here is rocky, intense and generally awesome.

I made good friends with some of the guys who live here and have met others over the years of visiting, or passing through en route to Harrisonburg, VA or elsewhere.

On day 2 or 3 I destroyed a maxxis Ikon but lets be serious, I was under-tyred for following a talented local into the chundery rock gardens. The replacement, a maxxis DHR has been amazing and not too draggy when I have needed to use dirt or sealed roads.

I purchased the tyre from Freeze Thaw Cycles, a superb shop filled with a knowledgeable and helpful team of staff and mechanics.

It also has a Grove Innovations museum! well worth a visit!

The Police bike lacked the doughnut holder that came with it – apparently they were thrown away by the non-plussed bike cops who used the bikes!

The bike has been a delight to pilot through these trails. Plus tyres are a real boon for rocky riding if you want to go hardtail or even rigid. A year on, and I wouldn’t change a thing on this bike. It is unreal.

So, a few scuffs have been added along with a bunch of smiles, brews and memories.