Lap #1 – Ibis Tranny – 1:05.39
This lap was a modified lap, because it included a two minute run and we went down an opening fire road that bypassed the first section of trail that everyone would ride from lap two onward. But the difference in time between this modified lap and the standard lap was negligible. The start was as insane as I expected. I had a good run and was 10th man on the bike but quickly got spun out in the mad dash of geared riders. In the very first corner turning onto The Bitches, some guy with more fitness than skill ran out of talent in front of me. I had nowhere to go but right into his bike. Fortunately, bike and body were unscathed, but unfortunately my front tire had burped about 10 psi, leaving me with barely 20 psi in my front tire for the entire first lap. Not a good start! I quickly got back on the Tranny and settled into a solid pace. There was a wicked headwind on the backside of the course for a good 20 minutes, which meant finding a wheel was crucial. Because of my partially deflated front tire, I had to back off a bit on the downhill sections, a place where I typically make up lost ground. Definitely would have been in the 1:04s with a fully-inflated front tire.
Lap #2 – Bailey 29er – 1:07.20
The first lap on the Bailey went very well. No issues at all. The bike was extremely comfortable, and compared to the darty, zippy, somewhat unstable riding nature of the Tranny, the Bailey was smooth and composed over all rocky and technical sections. It was clearly an easier bike to ride with control. But there was a variable emerging I hadn’t factored in before the start of the race – lapped traffic. By the time I was on my second lap it was nearly 5PM and we were passing A LOT of people. I stopped counting how many people I passed at 50.
Passing on the Old Pueblo course is a dangerous proposition due to the sea of cactus covering every square inch of the race course. If you clip a corner by even six inches, you’re getting a face full of cholla. Although there were numerous sections of fire road, most of the course was single track no wider than two feet. The 20 mph headwinds on the backside of the course made passing even more difficult at times.
The big wheels of the Bailey were noticeably harder to accelerate when passing, and when you had to do it more than 50 times in a lap, the exerted effort started to add up. The big wheels also tended to understeer in corners, forcing me to use much more body English to get the Bailey through turns quickly and smoothly.
Lap #3 – Ibis Tranny – 1:08.42
It should be noted that this was the first nighttime lap, so times are naturally a little bit slower. On this lap I had eaten a sandwich a little too close to my lap time, resulting in some stomach issues. My legs felt good, but I felt as if I was riding slower than I should have. Headwinds had died down, but there was still a ton of traffic to pass. I noticed immediately once getting into the singletrack that the Tranny was far easier to accelerate and shoot past people with.
Set up as a rigid bike, the Tranny felt like a tight and dialed cruiser BMX bike on the downhills; a little twitchy, but undeniably fast with razor-sharp precision through the turns, rewarding a rider willing to push it into corners with fast exit speeds. When I came in and looked at my lap time, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was going to be slower than the time showed.