Brad Cobb (2)
With the crazy times of COVID and the cancellation of so many races, I have found myself looking for challenges that are both safe and provide a sense of accomplishment when they are completed. The Dirty 130 is one that checks both boxes very very well. I did the 130 on a gear bike in June, and while I absolutely loved it, it is a hard day on the bike and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to try it again so soon. However, I love the route and the challenge, so I decided that attempting it on a single speed might be a great option (also, one of my best riding buddies, Spencer Whittier, had a mechanical when he tried it in June and we picked this weekend to try it again as the weather looked perfect). I sent my Trek Check Point up to Scotts to convert it to a single speed (I have very little bike knowledge, but I do know that I had a 40 on the front and after conversing with my good friend Chris Joice, they put a 22 on the back). As with most races for me, I have a hard time sleeping the night before and this challenge was no different. I wanted to get an early start so I could finish around the same time as Wiygul (doing the course in reverse on gears) and Spencer (doing the regular 130), so I planned to start around 6 am. I found myself wide awake at 3:20 am Saturday morning with nothing on my mind but the approaching 10 plus hours on one gear in some of the prettiest places in the area.
As much as I have raced in my days, I have become very aware of what my body needs in the area of food/fluid/temperature/effort to be most successful. One of the most important for me is weather (actually temperature), and this past weekend could not have been more perfect. It was cold enough that my fluid needs were much less than during hot rides but not so cold that I used a lot of energy trying to stay warm. So, when I suited up, it was a perfect 44 degrees and a beautiful morning. I set out from Kim’s parking lot at 6:09 (after giving a fellow 130’er just pulling in to the lot some well wishes). I had two large bottles, a water filter, a flask of pickle juice, four sandwiches (turkey/cheese/mustard/hot sauce), and about 20 gels. The first hour was actually a lot slower than I expected because it was so dark and my light didn’t provide very good visibility (only mattered on the short down sections but it made it a lot slower). I have done these gravel roads many times in sections, and it would be a busy day if I passed two cars on Kimsey Mountain during a ride; however, as I learned later in the day, bear season opened recently, and I must have passed at least 45 to 50 trucks (80% being Toyota Tacomas) with dog boxes and bright orange everywhere. Apparently they aren’t used to seeing anyone up there either because most of the time, they were stopped in the middle of the road with dogs running around. It caused most of the descents to be a bit slower in the blind corners (some of the trucks didn’t give an inch to a little guy in spandex flying down a mountain which caused a few sketchy moments).
As expected, the flat areas were miserable (between Webb Brothers and Star Mountain and especially from the tail of Ivy Trail to the bottom of Buck Bald) as I wanted to throw my bike in the river a few times. I had anticipated that the tough parts would be the climbs, but ironically, a SS on these grades were pretty nice (a few steep sections). Another benefit of riding these roads more frequently is you learn which parts are miserable and which are fun. Fingerboard, Buck Bald, the climb after the power station, and the 236 climb are the ones I dread the most. This time was no different. In fact, the two times I started to hit the wall were during these sections. After crossing the powerhouse bridge, I started to fall apart, but thanks to a BC cocktail (three gels, half a flask of pickle juice, and my remaining Mtn. Dew from Coker Creek), I rebounded and made it to the water pipe and knew I was homeward bound.
In closing, I would say that my Saturday effort/time is about as fast as I will ever complete it on a single speed. I had zero mechanical issues, the weather was perfect, the roads were damp enough to keep the dust down but not be sticky, and my nutrition was pretty spot on. As I said the last time I did the 130, there is not a better route in the southeast to see an incredible sunrise, views, streams, and forests. I highly recommend this challenge to all!!!