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Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Can't Believe it's Autumn

It's getting harder and harder to find time on the weekends to ride.  All the kids are tied up with their fall sports and activities now and while my wife and I play chauffeur and rooting section.  Saturday, I was still able to get out on the Cannondale for quick Fall Foliage ride around town.  I found a better plastic bottle for my vintage Cannondale seatbag that gives it much more volume. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

This week in Bike Commuting: Hot and Cold

I came up with a new solution for the front rack on the Randomuter to hold the battery for my headlight.  Using some additional hook and loop straps I was able to mount my Timbukt2 top tube back to the rack and the forward facing straps hook nicely on to the upward section of the rack.  It's a perfect fit for the battery and extra wire with room to spare for anything else I might need.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

F2R2: Fall Folliage Roadie Ride

Originally, I was going to do my Three Lake Populaire (Lilly, Waramug, Zoar) sans Gravle route which is about 66 miles but blew that off and hung around with my sons and played commuter games, also it was a cold and that made a better excuse to chicken out.  The afternoon warmed up and I had 3 hours to kill and what better way to do that but on the bike!

Instead of three lakes, I rode, two.  Over Lillilonah into Bridgewater and then up my favorite hill, Town Line, in which there is a barn with an American flag painted on it.  Every time I see it I get goose bumps and it makes me proud to be an American.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Week in Bike Commuting: Continental Tour Ride Failure

This was a great week for bike commuting.  Weather stayed warm in the mornings and afternoon temps were perfect, now if my equipment lived up to what it was supposed to do it would have been a great week!

Tuesday's forecast was for some really warm weather in October, no less.  I headed out quite early with lights for my first morning darkness commute on the Randomuter.  I left early enough to try a new 20 mile route that didn't include Castle Hill but rather Boggs Hill, which isn't as climby as the prior hill so I figured I would make better time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

20014 Fall Fiesta at Gay City State Park

8 years of visiting Gay City State Park
Gay City State Park is one those riding areas in Connecticut is great for every level of riding.  There is a great mix of single and dual track in which, from a mountain biking perspective, can cover a lot of ground.  The other big attraction to Gay City is that it abuts Case Mountain and you can also get to Meshomasic State Forest, aka Mesh. That's why the Central Connecticut Chapter of New England Mountain Bike Association has it's annual Fall Fiesta there each year.  

It was a crisp fall morning in the eastern part of Connecticut and not a cloud in the sky.  The amount of riders showing up this year was incredible!  With a wide range of bikes of all tire sizes.  There were still some bikes with 26 inch tires but those seem to pale in comparison with all the 29ers and recent addition, 27.5 inch tires.  And don't forget the fat bikes.  A couple of rigid bikes and even a few with front suspension forks!


After the advanced ride took off and the other big rides left the area I hung out till 10 to take the late comers out with me which entails riding through the park and then picking up the Ribbon Trail and taking that over to Blackledge Falls and then riding back to Gay City on the Blackledge Falls trail.

We didn't ride the Ribbon Trail last year because of wet conditions and there was an ongoing property owner dispute with a trail that came off it that made riding in that section of the park sensitive but it appears that has been squared away now with a tremendous stone wall.

I ended up taking two guys out with me on my ride.  We headed out on the same initial loop that we have been riding for years but split off from the marked course and started the long climb towards Case Mountain.  We weren't heading into Case but that was the way you need to go in order to get to the start of the Ribbon Trail.

The Ribbon Trail starts off the trail that splits off from the Case Mountain connector trail.  It's a great trail that is fast and flowy with plenty of rock rollers and plenty of technical sections to test your meddle.


Along the edge of the disputed property with the Stonehenge like barrier my barend caught sapling and I went down hard.  The funny thing was that I was riding kind of slow.  Got a nice cut and scrape near my ankle but it wasn't bleeding profusely so I left it alone.  Further down the trail though my shifting got a little wonky and then my chain went behind the cassette and we had to stop and get it out.  That's when I discovered that the derailleur hanger was bent.  

Instead of a 9 speed bike I was now down to 3 or 4 speeds so basically just kept the bike in one gear and rode it like a singlespeed the rest of the way which was 3 more miles.  

Getting back to the main trail at Gay City we ran into some of the bigger rides that were returning from their adventures into Case Mountain.  

My route
Once back at the parking area there was the best pizza from Glastonbury and it was bring your own beverage.  I visited with my buddies from ECHO (Eastern Connecticut Hammer Organization), who just happened to be holding their annual ECHOFest at the same time. They didn't do much riding and were a little subdued than previous years, I guess they are getting old.

While not riding, they were raffling off a Corona, Full Suspension Mountain Bike.  It was a small. They were seeing who could throw a used rubber (tire) the furthest.  I wanted to stay for the additional events but had to get home to the family.  Maybe they'll start riding and brewing again to make bring back ECHOFest to it's former prominence. 

Gay City Trails in 3d

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Banjo Brothers Barrel Bag Test Ride

Midday Saturday I hoped on the Randomuter and headed north towards Roxbury for a little test ride with the Barrel Bag.  As I feared, my thighs were hitting the bag on each downward pedal stroke.  I got used to it after awhile but it was mildly annoying.  I am going to try lowering it and see if that makes a difference.  Had a great ride and climbed Town Line Hill.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Banjo Brothers Barrel Bag for the Randomuter

I have been looking for a replacement for my over sized seat bag with the addition of the back rack because it interferes with my trunk bag (see above), which I also want to replace at some point.  I have been looking online for quite some time but nothing really stood out except for the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Saddle trunk but that thing is huge and would also interfere with a trunk bag, too.  Then I found some pictures of their barrel bag that looked kind of enticing since it also can work on the front of the bike which is something I have also been looking for my Bianchi San Jose.

Just about everything I saw online were with Brooks Saddles and since I owned one I thought it might be time move the Cambium back to the Randomuter since it's finally starting to feel broken in. The straps for the Barrel Bag are a perfect fit for the Brooks because the saddle has strap holes on the back.  The Barrel Bag also has good blinky holder, another one of my prerequisites, along with enough volume to hold riding jacket, extra gloves, and my first aid kit. 

Unlike other bags that would attach to the seat post the Barrel Bag has an elastic strap that can attach to the seat post or frame to prevent swaying.  Sitting on the bike it seemed like the back of my thighs might just hit the sides the edges of the bag.  That is something that I will have to test out when I go for a test ride.

I also attached my old Army Butt Pack to the rear rack as another pannier.  I found it in my old Army trunk in the attic and thought that this would hold my lunch bag perfectly.  It mounted to the rack nicely but I will have to find some small snap links for the top of the rack if I want to make it more removable.  Since the butt pack seems to work fine, I probably don't need a another trunk bag.  A test ride is what is needed now.

This week in Bike Commuting: Predicting the weather

I forgot to check the the weather forecast Tuesday morning and after getting all duded up for the ride to work it starts to rain.  I checked Bob Maxon's forecast on News Channel 30, and he said this morning's rain should end early.  It was so warm out that despite the wet weather I could not pass up the opportunity to ride to work.  I threw on some portable fenders and took off.  On Friday, the temperature turned sharply colder in the morning requiring a full snivel gear dress up. 


Sunday, October 05, 2014

F2G2 2014: Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder

You could not ask for a better day to be riding the Gravle in the Berkshires!  Will and I got to the Cantebury Farm in Becket and it was around 38 degrees but the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky!  I felt it was still cold enough of bib shorts and I went went two layers under my jersey but my feet and fingers were cold for the first 10 miles, otherwise it was outstanding!

The field was limited to 200 riders due to the amount of parking at the Cantebury Farm and the smaller amount of riders made this event more colloquial and friendly.  For Will and I, this ride was to be our second attempt at Schermerhorn Hill.  

We tried to ride it previously in July but the Park Rangers recommended against it and directed us to ride New Lenox Road and Whitney Place Road (red track below) which turned out to be the Gravel Grinder from Hell because it was more of a mountain bike/motocross trail and the bugs were horrendous!

Today's ride had us on some Gravle that we were originally supposed to ride last July but didn't due to time constraints and somewhere we had to be.  Each of the Rest Stops were being run by the Pittsfield High School Cross Country Teams and each one had a theme that we had to vote on at the end of the ride.  

The team with the best theme would win a pizza party courtesy of Berkshire Cycling Association.  I ended up voting for the second team because they seemed to have the most enthusiasm, strawberry shortcake shots, and these little moon pies with butterscotch filling that was so delicious I think I had a couple of them.  All the teams were great and it was hard to choose just one.

Will and I rode the bonus loop, which was an additional 8 miles through Beartown State Forest, and it was basically all climbing.  One section was a dual track trail but the Surly Cross Check handled it fine. 

From Beartown State Forest we road down Brace Road, which when you look on all the map engines isn't listed as a road.  The only one that shows it's a road is the USGS Topography Map and I think it's actually part of the Appalachian Trail.  The flat part was puddled and then it led into a steep downhill.

Eventually we came out on Tyringham Road.  When Will and I rode through here in July we did it in the opposite direction which took us all the way to Lee.

Although it's paved the view across the valley was stupendous.  That ridge was what we just rode down.

The next big hill was George Cannon.  In July we came down George Cannon and riding the other way was obviously a lot tougher.  For some reason I thought it was a lot flatter but in this direction it was just climb, climb, climb.  I filmed the descent and loaded it on Vimeo and you can see that we are going to really fast but going down just didn't feel as steep as it does from the other direction.

From the top of George Cannon we road down to Route 20 and through East Lee to the entrance to October Mountain State Forest.  A little ways in from there the road turns to dirt that is this outstanding view of Shermerhorn Hill.

The climb up Shermerhorn Hill was brutal!  Brad Herder, the one responsible for creating this fantastic event actually went out with a leaf blower to clear a path on Shermerhorn Hill otherwise I am not sure it would have been rideable.  If it were dirt it would have been fine but since it was actually paved those rocks would have made it slippery as hell.  Once it's all said and done you come up to Anderson Vista.  From here you can see the Zephyr at Jiminy Peak, the windmills atop Brodie Mountain and you can even see Mount Greylock.

Getting to this point was a victory.  Of course there was a food stop here, too, and once again both the quantity and selection was amazing.  The highlight here was the Maple Syrup shots.  It tasted like Sunday morning pancakes without the pancakes!

The highest mountain in Massachusetts is pictured here, Mt Greylock.  I hope to ride it some time.  From here it was just 9 miles back to the Cantebury Farm.  They were serving Brats, Chilli, and soup with plenty of sides.  The beer was from Wandering Star Craft Brewery in Pittsfield and I had the Mild at Heart Porter.  It was just what the cyclist needed!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

This week in Bike Commuting: National Bike Challenge Completed

Monday and Tuesday were the last two days of the National Bike Challenge and the race was on.  I was neck and neck with this one woman on the New Milford River Trail Team.  She did a hundred miler on Sunday that put her in the lead when all of a sudden this couple comes out of no where and the wife takes over the lead.  So it was game one for the last two days of the challenge.

For me to stay in the race it meant two days, back to back 30 mile round trip commutes and with the waning sunlight in the afternoons it meant two mornings riding my 20 mile Castle Hill Route. Monday morning was kind of over cast with a little sun breaking through but nice temps.  In the after noon it was back to short sleeves again.