Saturday, October 01, 2022

Not Rough Enough

 I volunteered to be a tea bag for Tim G’s rough water coaching certificate.

The plan was to launch out of Ft. Weatherill, but the prevailing winds were knocking down any conditions.

After some discussion, we decided on King’s Beach in Newport as an alternate launch. It faces the other direction, is more exposed, and has reefs to make things more interesting.

King's Beach was better, but still not rough enough to meet the requirements for the coaching certificate. John Carmody, the evaluator, decided that it was best to cancel the exam and reschedule for a different day.

Since a bunch of us had traveled and the weather was perfect, we decided to go have a play in the conditions we could find.

We found some nice play spots between King's Beach and First Beach, where the rocks and swell set up some interesting surf zones. There was also some nice rock gardening to be had.

Sadly, I had to leave at lunch and get home. It was definitely a fun morning and the rest of the group stayed and continued to explore.

Monday, September 19, 2022

2022 Oiz H10 TR

A very nice bonus from work, and some well planned savings, got me to where I needed to afford upgrading to a full suspension mountain bike this spring.

It turns out saving up for the upgrade one is the easiest part of upgrading...

Picking the right full suspension bike is like picking the right kayak.

There are a zillion different things that change how a suspension bike rides. The tire size, the amount of suspension, the suspension tuning, the confounding number of frame measurements like reach and down tube angle, and the level of components.

The component level and frame material are dependent on the price - more money better components and carbon frames.

My budget meant that I could get good components on an aluminum frame or OK ones on a carbon frame. To me the decision was easy: better components are worth more than a few pounds.

The rest of the things to think about made my head hurt while doing online research and trying to narrow down the list of bikes to test out.

I came up with a shortish list and headed down to the local bike shops where most of the bikes on my list were out of stock… COVID did a number on new bike availability between the surge in demand and the constricted supply.

Fortunately, Wheelworks in Belmont had a decent selection and plenty of sales people with mountain biking experience to help me sort through the details. They had me try bikes in a range of suspension sizes from 120mm fronts to 150mm fronts paired up with 100mm backs to 150mm backs and whole boatload of geometries. Doing test rides on pavement wasn’t ideal, but it did let me get a sense of the differences between the bikes.

In general, more suspension means a bigger, heavier bike. It also means a slacker head tube angle and a longer wheelbase. This makes the bike more plush and well mannered. On the road test I could tell that the bigger bikes would be great fun bombing down steep rocky hills while not feeling like riding on the wrong edge of control.

The bikes with smaller travel, 100-120mm, felt more lively. Less squish means more bounce. The geometries on the short travel bikes were more variable. The longer and slacker bikes were bouncy but well mannered. The shorter steeper ones turned and accelerated quickly. The agility translates into feeling like one is on the wrong edge of control when bombing down steep rocky hills. 

The slack short travel bikes were easy to rule out. I didn’t think the trade offs were made for a better ride. If I was going to lose out on some comfort, I definitely wanted to gain something.

In the end I narrowed my list to two bikes by Obera: the Occam, a 140mm trail slayer, and the Oiz TR, a 120mm XC speed daemon.

In the end I picked the Oiz H10 TR. The H10 version is the top end aluminum model. The TR version of the Oiz is basically the same frame geometry as the standard Oiz, which is a dedicated XC race bike, but with and extra 10mm of travel and a dropper post.

It felt like a rocket ship and turned on a dime. Super fun…

The first ride on the trails it was obvious that the Oiz was a rocket ship with way more capabilities than I could handle. I spent more time falling than moving despite being on easy trails that I know well.

After three or four rides I got a better handle on the suspension controls and using the dropper post and I started going faster, and trying harder features. I didn’t start falling less though…

My skills hadn’t improved enough to match what the bike was capable of tricking me into doing. I am not always good at knowing my limits until things get really uncomfortable. On my old hard tail things got uncomfortable just before I reached the edge of what I could manage. On the Oiz, things rarely got uncomfortable until I was past the edge. It accelerated faster, turned faster, and maintained speed better than I the old bike. It also felt more controlled at much higher speeds and much sketchier situations.

For example, there is a nice switchbacking descent near my house that I had gotten pretty comfortable riding on the hard tail. I wasn’t blazing fast and always felt pretty close to the edge, but I also never fell. The first few times down the descent on the Oiz, I felt great and was moving fast until I would hit one of the turns a little too fast and a tad off the proper line and end up eating dirt.

Now that I’ve gotten a handle on how the Oiz rides and relearned how to ride the trail, I fly down at speed and have way more fun doing it. I’m not as fast as some of the people I ride with who have longer, slacker bikes with more suspension.

However, I crush them on the ups and the more flowy trails. I can pick up speed much quicker and snake through tight turns faster. On flat sections of trail, I can lock out the suspension and put all of my energy into going forward. On climbs, I can adjust the suspension for the best combination of tractions and efficiency.

I think it is a fair trade off. I get 95% of the downhill fun and a whole lot more efficiency for longer rides.

The upgrade required some break in time before I could really start using the bike. Once I got over that hump, I started gaining the skills needed to really have fun. I still have a lot to learn, but now I have a much better platform.

Saturday, September 10, 2022


URI’s Bay Campus beach is a great place to launch for a paddle because it offers a variety of paddles. You can paddle up the Bay for a nice touring paddle; you can cross over to Jamestown; you can paddle down the bay to get more ocean conditions.

Our plan for the day was to head south along the Narragansett shore and look for rocks and swell for some playing.

The way south didn’t offer much. The conditions were mostly flat along Bonnet Cliffs and crossing the cove.

Whale Rock looked relatively fierce. The spot just in front of the tower offered a nice spot to bob around and practice holding position in swell.

After Whale Rock we headed back north to the cove just south of Bonnet Shores. The swell was setting up  nearly perfect for surfing. The was a biggish outer break and a smaller inner break that were spaced so that you could catch the outer break and link your ride with one from the inner break. You could also be adventurous and use the break close to the rocks and catch a bigger break.

We spent a good amount of time playing before heading in for lunch.

After lunch, we went back out and did more surfing.

The surf was perfect for the group. People could hang inside and take the small waves, head to the back and ride the big waves, or test your mettle trying to catch a big wave and not get surfed into a rock. There was also plenty of space to just float and enjoy the weather.

I mostly spent my time on the outside break and trying to maintain speed and control so I could extend my rides by catching the small break. When I didn't mistime the wave or just misjudge a swell that looked like it would break, I did pretty well.

I worked on using forward strokes to maneuver without killing my speed. The Aries is swede form boat with most of its rocker upfront on the flat planing bow, so the bow never takes much to swing around. It is the stern that has all the keel and requires a bit of work to free up. I good sweep stroke was enough to keep things going straight. I also was more conscious of using my edges to control the hull. The edging seemed to help in freeing up the stern enough to keep the wave from overpowering my attempts to maneuver the bow.

Catching the second break was always a nice little rush. Just as I could feel the kayak losing speed, the stern would lift up a little. A few quick strokes and I was flying along again.

Compared to the surfing, the paddle home was tame. We did try to find some rocks to dodge.

Back at the beach people thought rolling practice was a good idea, so I joined the fun. For a while I was just being a spotter and offering my bow to anyone who needed a boost. When it was my turn, I managed OK. One on each side.

I also tried some rest position sculling where you lay flat back on the water and gently scull to catch your breath. I hadn't done it in years, but once I got over the nerves it was pretty easy. Kayaking and bike riding  are pretty similar in that once you learn, you never forget.

The rolling and sculling was a great way to end a great day.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

King's Beach Touring

A paddle out of King’s Beach is always a rocks and surf paddle.

Then there was today’s paddle out of King’s beach...

The water was like glass. It was a perfect day to ogle the mansions and ostentatious luxury of the Newport scene.

We paddled over along to the cliff walk and inspected the wave damage.

We took advantage of any play spots we could find. In most cases, it took a lot of imagination to call what we found “play” spots. They did all involve rocks, wavelets, and some quick maneuvering, so they made for good practice for the real thing.

We lunched on a small rocky beach near the cliff walk.

The conditions on the way home were slightly rougher, but hardly typical for King’s Beach.

We stuck closer to the coast on the return so there was more opportunities to maneuver around rocks.

The nice thing about kayaking is that you don’t need conditions to enjoy the day. A nice relaxing tour of a lovely coast can be just as reinvigorating.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

I Lead a Paddle?

Life has been getting a little rough as of late and I needed some kayak time - preferable kayak time involving at least the possibility for danger. I kept watching the RICKA message board for someone to post a paddle, but by Thursday I was getting desperate. I couldn’t run the risk of nobody posting, so I took the leap.

The plan was to launch from Ft. Wetherill and paddle towards Beavertail with at least a few people confirmed. (I am not allowed to paddle solo.)

The first thing I did in the pre-launch briefing was make it very clear that I was not leading anything…. I was just a person with a desperate need to paddle. I was more than happy to do whatever the group wanted as long as it involved paddling.

The conditions looked promising in the morning. There was enough swell rolling in to make the rocks between Wetherill and Mackreel Cove interesting. I hoped that it would also make the coast going down towards Beavertail fun as well.

We made our way out of Wetherill hugging the coast to make the most of the conditions. There was plenty of bounce in the water to make the rocks fun and create the illusion of danger. At a minimum it was feeding my need for adrenaline.

We found a nice play spot where waves were breaking over a rock. It was a feature that looked challenging and appeared to offer some level of danger. After a few runs, the feature maintained its fun level but lost its sense of danger.

Fortunately, one of us mistimed a wave just enough to get knocked over. It was a minor thing. Paddler and kayak were unscathed (ego might have been a bit bruised).

The rescue also brought the sense of danger back to the rock and we milked it for all it was worth.

From there we worked our way along the coast playing in any rocks the looked interesting. We  found plenty of opportunities before we got to Mackerel Cove.

From Mackerel Cove to Hull Cove conditions flattened out.

We lunched at Hulls Cove. We hoped to find some surf, but it was pretty dead.

The return paddle was mostly just a touring paddle. We tried to eke out any play opportunities we could find, but they were few and far between.

It was probably best that the return trip was less active.