I set 4 new PRs/KOMs; Mountain King Tires in wet conditions.
Sometimes stress, irritation and being in a foul mood can be channeled into positive energy. Yesterday morning was a perfect example of that. When I hit the trails, I took all the negativity I was feeling out on the pedals.
We’ve had a lot of rain lately (which we desperately need). The trail conditions yesterday were a mixed bag. On one hand the sugar sand was packed down from the rain, but on the other hand the leaves, pine needles and roots were extremely slick.
Come to think of it, yesterday was the first time my Fuel has seen really wet trail conditions since I made extensive modifications to it in early March. I’ll talk a bit about the wet weather performance of the bike a bit further down.
I decided to ride at Wekiwa because I wanted to do what I call “The Big Loop“. This is the loop that hits all the remote hiking trails, which have countless numbers of large roots. I wanted to test the bike–especially the tires–on the wet roots.
There was no one at the trailhead when I arrived, which is very unusual. I guess no one else wanted to be out there under the brooding clouds, which looked as though they could open at any moment. Good. No people on the trails to slow me down.
There was a light drizzle as I unloaded my bike from the truck. The humidity was at least 10,000%, and the mosquitoes were circling me like nasty little blood-sucking buzzards. The ugly weather didn’t bother me, in fact it just added fuel to my fire. There was nowhere else I would have rather been.
I knew I was going to attempt to break my own record on the entire ~9.5 mile loop, but I also wanted to break my records on several of the segments that make up the loop.
The first segment, Wekiwa State Park – Sand Lake Trailhead to Marker 13 (Red Blaze Trail), is a ~2.7 mile section of trail I’ve been timing myself on for a long time now. I purposely held back just a little on this segment because my time on that section of trail is already very dialed in and quite fast, and I wanted to save enough energy to break my records on the three segments that followed (as well as my record on the entire loop).
I must have been riding faster than I thought on that first segment, because I completed it with my second best ever time: 14m04s. That time is just 10 seconds slower than my all-time best of 13m54s.
My best time of 13m54s is more than 3.5 minutes faster than the second fastest rider on that same segment (17m35s). As an aside, it looks as if Strava is going back in time and (slowly) matching up people who have ridden the same segments, because the guy with the second best time rode that back in early 2011.
Deeper into the ride the roots start to become much larger and much more prevalent. The roots are a challenge even in dry conditions, but when they are wet they are very tricky: hit one even at a slight angle and you’re definitely going down. I was anxious to see how the Continental Mountain Kings tires performed on the wet roots….
Before I get into how the tires did on the roots, I need to mention that I was less than impressed with how the tires hooked up on the trails in the wet conditions. The tires slid out from under me quite a bit on the wet leaves and pine needles, and once they were caked with sand and mud things became even worse.
I could not believe how poorly the tires performed on the wet roots. I felt like I was riding with slicks. I didn’t wreck, but the tires sure wanted me to. I believe my familiarity with the trail is the only thing that saved me yesterday. It’s a miracle I’m not in the hospital with a broken leg right now.
I should quickly mention that apart from the tires, the rest of the bike performed brilliantly in the mud! Shifting was as smooth and fast at the end of the ride (see the above picture) as it was when I started it.
The trail conditions are pretty wet about half the year here, so these Continental Mountain King II tires are simply not going to cut it. I have a brand new set of WTB Velociraptors, and I think I’m going to put those on. The ‘raptors are heavier than the MK IIs, but I think the performance (and safety) will make up for it. The hunt for the perfect, light-weight tire continues…
Adding to the hazards of the mud and wet roots, my sunglasses (the awesome Ryders 2012 Hex Polar/Photochromic Sunglasses, which have small steam vents at the top of the glass) were still no match for the thick humidity and almost completely fogged up in the dense moisture-trapping forest. I really should have stopped and taken the sunglasses off, but I knew I was on record pace and, half blind, kept going.
By the end of the ride I was a muddy, sweaty and chewed up mess, but I felt great! I set 4 new personal records/KOMs:
With the exception of the Wekiwa State Park – Sand Lake Trailhead to Marker 13 (Red Blaze Trail) segment, I knocked a significant amount of time off each of those segments, and even shaved several minutes off my best time on the entire loop. With a decent set of tires, I know I can do even better!