Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Ride of 2007

My last ride of 2007 was your basic Upper Paugussett State Forest Polly Brody to my new trail loop for a total of 5 miles. Had to finish the year on the Qball and as you can see I learned my lesson from the other day by putting on the rear fender and it was godsend! Could have used something upfront, too, which I have but I just didn't have the time to take it off the Fixation. In fact, I should probably get another for the 'Horse. The best thing to do is see if I can just get another adapter or two and then I can switch the front fender to which ever bike I am riding.

Had a bit of another Nor'easter last night that put a nice mix of snow and ice on the ground totaling about an inch. The prediction was up to eight inches and if that were the case I would have went XC skiing this morning rather than mountain biking. Still by 1:30 PM with the wind blowing it was chilly, to say the least.

To combat the windy conditions I wore my new Columbia Howling Wind Jacket and it was toasty warm. I think the perfect combination with that jacket, when it's above 30 degrees is just one layer underneath of either a turtle neck or long sleeve T-shirt. I had a long sleeve T and a short sleeve T on underneath and I hadn't gone but a quarter mile up the Polly Brody when I had to open zip pits because I was already too hot.

The micro fleece ear band that Santa gave me for Christmas was perfect and my neoprene socks of course always do the trick in the feet department. I skipped tights and wore a pair winter weight BDU pants, and of course my C'dale winter gloves.

I was able to climb the Polly Brody in most places except on the first climb by the old rusted out Jalopy because the snow was too deep and then the steepest part, the leaves were way too slippery. On the back side, though, there was more snow and at slower speeds I felt I was on a ski bike rather than a mountain bike. When I got a little momentum going, though, it seem to help somewhat, in fact it might have been better than the 'Horse in the snow. Of course, a Surly Pugsley would have been really nice here, as well. I don't think it's in the cards to get one in 2008.

There was an ATV track in the snow, from the last snow, that I had noticed right after that storm. I wish the DEP would lay some logs or rocks near the gate across from Silver City to make it harder for the bastard(s) to get in. I know, I know, they'll just find another way in but why make it so easy? I hate to say this but having that ATV track through the snow actually made sections in which there was more snow actually ride-able. None-the-less, there should be no ATVs. I wonder if the owner lives on Bramble Trail? Saw some ATV tracks between the last house on Bramble and Hanover.

There was a hunter parked in the Echo Valley lot. I met this guy before, he drives a black El Camino and I think he told me that he hunts mainly on the west side of the forest along the blue trail. Good thing I was wearing blaze orange!

The shot above of the Qball is heading towards the right-of-way trail aka the new section of my trail and wouldn't you know it, I had another mechanical! I thought I fixed my rear brake issue where the cable was coming out of the lever but obviously I didn't. Gotta love the Avid Speed Dials, though, because after tightening one end of the cable at the caliper I was able to make some fine tune adjustments on the lever which solved the problem.

The Tunnel of Love was pristine, not even a hunter had been through it and I cleaned it's clock like it was butter. Still, making that hard right is still a tough maneuver and something that I wouldn't even try in the with snow on it. Still, the Qball rolled it perfectly.

Also of note, while riding back on Sanford road, there were a lot of pink engineer tapes lining what could be the start of a new trail? My guess it's hunters but it follows the forest boundary and could be interesting to investigate further.

As the for coming new year, I am going to focus on riding more trail miles. I did achieve a new milestone this year of breaking the 500 miles of trail riding this year and continue to shoot for 1000 miles but it will be tough. In addition to trail riding, my road riding/commuting goal for 2008 is ride a 1000 miles. It means I have to ride to work at least once a week for 10 months. That gives me a little cushion during the winter months, however, I have most of the cold weather gear that I need (except Booties!) so unless there is snow on the roads or subzero temps I am going to try it.

And of course, the bike project for this year is to take my old Fuji Royale from College and turn it into a commuting/touring bike, which cyclecross touches. Of course if I can get my hands on a 59cm Fetish Position, then I may forgo that project altogether but I doubt that will happen. Still, I will continue to troll the 'bay to see if something pops up.

Happy Trails!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saddle up little doggies!

I am back on the 'Horse! Picked her up from EMS two weeks ago but due to the weather and the holidays just didn't have a chance to see how she runs after the almost month long visit to EMS. If they tuned it up, I sure can't tell if they did anything except address the issues that I brought it in for, which by the way appear to be resolved.

I went out to Collis P Huntington State Park today and started at the Dodgingtown lot. Conditions were absolutely crappy. If you weren't riding on crusty, slushy, packed snow/ice then it was wet everywhere and I should have thought to have brought my mud flaps! Doh!

I initially planned on doing just a circumference ride on the blue trail but had to give the singletrack that starts by the glacial erratic a shot. Half way through I thought my rear tire was a little low on air so I stopped to put some more in but the release valve snapped off and the tire immediately went flat. Good thing I had a spare tube on me.

This was a first for me because I don't think I have ever had to change a flat while on the trail. I initially snapped a tire lever trying to get the bead off the rim and I thought I was screwed but I found my other tire level and was able to get the tire open and changed tubes. I think I must have lost 30 to 40 minutes on that operation and had to cut my ride shorter.

Still the conditions were awful. Hopefully Monday will be better as I go for my last ride of 2007.

I did get to try out some new gear, though. It was in the 40s so I had a short sleeve jersey on, turtle neck, and my official Bikerag "Don't shoot me bro" blaze orange riding jersey.

Also tried out my new Camel, too. The Mule, which I thought, for some reason, would have more little compartments than my first hydration pack made by Sierra Designs. It is, however, more roomier with a main compartment that is not shared with the water bladder as in the SD one. On top is a media pouch which my Magellan fits nicely in. Have to try the GPSMAP60 and see if I get better reception here because on the strap, where I rode with it today, I got a horrible track. Good thing I had the Magellan for back up!

I really like it's fit and how forms to the body. I could barely tell it was even there at times. The 100 ml bladder will be nice in the summer. The SD has a 70 ml bladder.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Road tested the commuter and ...

the first time out was a complete failure! Someone on said that 700c wheels with a cyclecross tire will just fit. Picked up a pair of Kendas from the Bicycle Goodie Shop in Bethel and here it is.

Plenty of room with the new Surly fork, however, the rear is a different story.

This is the amount of room I had on the horizontal support between the seat stays while rigged for single speeding.

I started with a 44:14 gear ratio but found that it was just too tall of a gearing combo. Wheel would pop out of alignment because the chain tugs would slip off the drops. On that initial test ride, Christmas eve, I did a measly four miles. The only way to maintain proper wheel alignment with horizontal drops is to shove the axle all the way forward, which means either getting a chain tensioner or going gears. Since I don't have a tensioner laying around, I decided to go with gears. I have an eight speed shifter and a nine and seven speed cassettes. Went with the 9 speed.

But as you can see, tire spacing on the horizontal support between the chain stays is a mere 2 or 3 millimeters! Rides nicely

Second test ride with the larger wheels and first time out with gears was a learning experience. I can forget about a second career as a bike mechanic. Ran into problems on the first climb on Hanover Road before Tamarack with the rear derailleur. It needed more tuning but I decide to press on. Rode down Alberts Hill only to find that it's closed because the section of the road close to the lake is eroding. With the snow and ice on the unplowed section made for some interesting riding. I got about 20 yards before I gave up and walked the rest of the way.

It was pretty much all downhill or flat to Walnut Tree Hill but my troubles started on the next climb. I never realized how steep this road is. Part way into the first climb my chain popped off the front sprocket while trying to downshift. After a quick fix I was able to climb the whole hill but it was tough, especially knowing that I couldn't quite stay in the lowest gear.

On School House Road, the chained popped off again. Same situation. I road back down Hanover and went for a final loop on Lake and the chain popped twice in that circuit. So, it's back to the stand for more work.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Once again, I don't have my Edge.

Called Garmin last week about sending my Edge back for warranty service only to find that it wasn't registered. Huh? I asked how was I able to do the initial warranty service last summer and they seemed to not have any record of that.

Had to send them a copy of the receipt in order to show that it was still within a year, turns out it was purchased at the end of November but Garmin said that was cool and to send it in for servicing.

Shipped it with UPS but it dawned on me afterwards that it was quite possible it could get lost because of the packaging. I had thought that UPS would stick it in one of their envelopes but I had put it in a small envelop with bubble wrap thinking that would provide it extra protection.
Good thing I insured it for the full amount of the unit.

Got the confirmation today that it was received by Garmin. Can't wait to get it back because relying on my MAP60 is no fun. In fact, I have been having such poor performance with it that I am now also riding with my Magellan, too.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

2nd Week and no 'Horse!

EMS in Fairfield is turning into a big let down, as a bike shop. Maybe it's because now it's the off season and they are focused on selling snow and skiing related equipment but it's now two weeks since I dropped off the 'Horse and it looks like it's going to extend to three. I am disappointed.

On a brighter note, I did get a Surly 1x1 fork in white to complement the Fixation in it's Schwarz und Weiss motiv (that's Black and White). I think I have finally decided to scrap the redline wheelset and just stick with the bombshells on this bike. They are beefier and will look great with a pair of 2.6 or 2.7 inch wide tires. For now, though, I am still using the rear wheel on the Dumpgoose until I decide to scrap the bike. Still up in the air on whether to dump it or not.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Single Speeding in the Snow

It was 20 degrees this morning when I got into the car and headed to Jump Hill. Was supposed to meet Tren at the intersection of Sunset Hill and Rte 58 in Bethel but the kids were up and I had to feed them before leaving. Also preparing for a cold weather ride was a lot of work. I hooked a with a group of guys that were light years beyond my capabilities but I think this ride was the biggest assembly of 29ers in Fairfield County that I have seen. I had my Qball and there were some guys from Bethel Cycle with a 21 lb Cannondale FG prototype and I think there was one other.

Here is the Cannondale:

Here is my Qball:

I didn't get a shot of the third 29er but if was fully and geary (full suspension and gears) something I haven't seen to date. One guy from Ridgefield showed up with a rigid Salsa A La Carte, now that rocks!

I put on sock liners and neoprene socks because I still don't have over booties. I think it's time to get a pair! I put on bib tights and BDU cutoffs and up top I had a wicking shortsleeve, turtle neck, henley, and my Columbia Windstopper Fleece. Started riding with a face mask and my Canondale gloves but the fingers got cold and had to switch to my deep freeze polar fleece gloves, that is until both my head and hands got way too hot and went to a knit cap and the C'dale gloves.

Jump Hill parking is tight and can hold 8 to 10 cars if you park with some care. There is Dave P. in red getting ready. There was this guy in an Escalade, obviously not a Mountain Biker that wanted to park but couldn't and was very upset that he couldn't. He could have parked on Country Club Lane but drove away disgusted. Guess he didn't like the idea of first come first serve. Below is Dave F., ready for action.

The trail from Jump Hill climbs a big hill. I decided to go last and by the time I got to top of the hill the rest of the riders were long gone! It seems I started out on the wrong foot from the get go. Riding a single speed with this crowd was not the best choice of bike but then again, I had no choice of bike. Then I was too cold, then I was too hot, brakes were squealing, my seatpost was too high, then it was too low. But I wasn't quitting, rather I had already planned on cutting this trip short.

Somewhere along the way Tren came back to get me.

By the one hour mark I figured we should start heading back so we turned onto a trail that I knew would take us back to the White Trail and we could ride back to Jump Hill. Once back on the White trail we road back up to the intersection with the red when Woody, Dave and Rich caught up with us.

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Riding in Snow

Shot sequence of Woody, Dave and Rich climbing back up the red trail.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Pursuit of Orange

It's hunting season here in Connecticut and if you want to ride Monday through Saturday and not get mistaken for Bambi then you need to ensure that you are dressed appropriately or ride in areas where hunting is not allowed. You can check to see when hunting season is taking place in Connecticut by looking at the Hunting & Trapping guide on the CT DEP's website. Another good place to check out is whether the location you will be riding is open to hunting or not, but remember, even if it's not open to hunting beware of poachers!

So, if you are going to ride on a day and in an area where there is hunting you might want to ensure that you are wearing blaze orange. Another good tip is to not where a white helmet or one that has white in it. Why you might ask? Have you ever seen a deer running in the woods? It's tail sticks straight up showing the white fur underneath. Why they run this way, I don't know, but if I had to venture a guess I would say so that other deer in the heard could follow. However, that "white tail" that you see is also what a hunter will see and you could get shot at.
Also, don't forget to make a lot of noise. One way to do that is to put some bells on your bike or your CamelBak. Seems kind of stupid and if you get the jingle bells someone might think you are Santa Claus, but if it alerts the hunter to your presence and keeps you safe from a hunting accident then who is the wiser? Of course if ride in non hunting areas then chances of having a hunting accident are significantly reduced.

My clothing choice for riding in the fall this year is now blaze orange. It is a really bright, dayglow color that is easily recognized out in the woods. I started by picking up a few T-Shirts at Target, figuring I could throw them on over a henley or long sleeve T-Shirt or jersey but they just didn't have that familiar glow. Then I found a Lands End/Sears a nice fleece pull over, not blaze orange, but orange that actually went nicely with the Orange Down Vest that I bought from there last spring on clearance. Still, when out in the woods it, it wasn't bright enough. Not to mention it looked good and except for layering, I thought it might be better for less strenuous wear.

I missed the boat on an Ascent Thermal Jersey that was on Nashbar or JensonUSA, it wasn't blaze but it was pretty bright none-the-less. Finally, I went to Cabelas and bought a long sleeve T, and a blaze Henley, shown below. Now that is bright!

I asked Santa for an Orange riding jacket from Adidas but I can't guarantee he will come through on that order. Then, just the other day, I stumbled upon Sierra Trading Post site and while browsing through the jackets I found this marvelous item: The Columbia Sportswear Howling Wind Jacket.
Check out these features:

Columbia Sportswear's Howling Wind jacket, made of no-noise polyester fleece, is breathable and water- and wind-resistant to keep you concealed and comfortable.
  • Reverse-zip armpit vents
  • Hand pockets
  • Moisture-wicking mesh shoulder yoke
  • Drawstring waist
  • Length: 28”
  • Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz.
  • 100% polyester
What more could you ask for? What sealed the deal was the zip pit vents. Those are key for riding.

I think my orange riding wardrobe is now complete. Probably pick up a shirt from that was made specifically for this season in which I had a little input on but I think I have it all now.

Guess I am riding my single speed this weekend.

Took the 'Horse in for tune-up at Eastern Mountain Sports down in Fairfield. The Bike Mechanic there, Samory, is mountain biker himself, and a really nice guy. During the Black Friday ride I noticed my shifter was sticking and the rear derailleur was shifting past the last gear into the spokes (not good when you are trying to climb).

Much to my chagrin, found out today that the 'Horse won't be ready for the weekend :( so it looks like I will be riding the Qball this weekend, of course, that is if the weather cooperates. If there is snow Sunday morning it would be interesting to see now the 29er does in snow. Could be interesting.

In other biking news, after the Turkey Day ride with the kids, the rear axel on the Dumpgoose got bent from the Burley Trailer, so I need to fix that and I think I need another solution for the chain tensioner because I found the other day that I cannot take off the rear wheel (to fix a flat) without breaking the chain. Oops! Have to do this anyway because I am going to take the Fixation apart and make it back into a rigid 1x9.

I finally found a white Surly 1x1 fork on eBay that will do rim and disc brakes (been looking for one for the past 3 months) and I expect it early next week. I thought I might try running a 44T outer ring for road riding and gears to see if I can get a little more speed out of it for my commute. Might also see if I can find an inexpensive road cassett at Bicycle Goodie Shop in Bethel. If I can push a 13t, I certainly don't need the lower gears for what I am riding.

Pictures to follow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

CT NEMBA's final ride of the 2007 season culminated at Collis P Huntington State Park the day after Thanksgiving on the day more commonly known as Black Friday. Instead of fighting the crowds to get the best price on an LCD HD TV, iPod, or toys for the kids, quite a few people turned out to burn off some of that Thanksgiving feast from the previous day. Also, this ride was a charity ride where everyone was asked to bring a can of food. The ride organizer, Paula Burton collected 14 cans of food.

There were some new people that I had never met or ridden with and then quite a few that I had. There was Heather La Palme (below), Tren Spence, a guy named Mark whom I never met before and his buddy Dave, Paul from Newtown, Bill, Ed Perten, Paula Burton of course, Vince Rinaldi, a friend of Tren's named Derek who actually lived nearby and was the only one wearing shorts that morning and of all things, bobby socks! Additionally, there was this guy whom I had always known as Calvinator at MTBR by the name of Kevin. I think there might have been others but I don't recall their names off hand.

This is Paul from Newtown.

Below is the ride track from my GPS. This route, in terms of map distance comes out to be 14 miles, which is the longest, contiguous ride I have made on the 'Horse yet. Granted, I am not sure whether to believe that number or not because my Garmin Edge displayed 9.5 miles on screen. Never-the-less, three and half hours in the saddle makes for a long ride. The funny thing, though, is I am so comfortable riding my Iron Horse that I was ready for more after that.

The ride started out at the D-Town lot (Dodgington) and we went down the main carriage road towards the Sunset Hill Lot (the one with the statues) but then turned down the blue trail, the one trail that I have never felt comfortable on, that is until I started riding the 'Horse. On the way there, I noticed that my right shifter was sticking and thought that it might be due to the thicker gloves that I was wearing because it was a cold morning. I think it was in the low 30s that morning.

The Blue Trail is best ridden in one direction, downwards! I think I might have climbed it once and probably spent more time hiking rather than biking. Going down the trail the first obstacle is stone wall in which you have to make a hard right turn. For the first time, I made it but swung out too wide, went off the trail, stopped short and did a slow motion superman over the bars (OTB). The ground was pretty soft but I was still glad I was wearing protection.

Further down, there are a series of water bars and log crossings that make the trail really fun to bomb down. Somewhere in the middle of this section there is a little rock garden that I found with right momentum you can just sail through. Then through another rock wall, only its a combo deal, where you ride a short roller and you have to huck it at the end or you may go OTB. Then, on the flat part of the trail, there is another nasty rock garden, a rooty, techy, gnarly steep down and then you are at the bottom. All in all, except for the little Endo after the first rock wall, I cleaned the whole thing!

Followed the blue trail to the glacial erratic where the new mapped singletrack starts and set off down that trail. What's a ride without mechanicals? Somebody in the group had a problem so we all stopped to lend a hand, some advice, or just wait to get rolling again. Kevin was having a front brake cable problem that required some zip ties to remedy.

Ed Perten atop his brand new Stump Jumper dressed for a blizzard.

Dave (?) on the left and Bill on the right.

Tren on the left and Derek on the right.

Followed the carriage roads to the start of Rock and Roll but I ended up playing sweep because I had to remove a layer, change gloves, and take off my knit cap. I was getting too hot. The Rock and Roll trail is probably the most challenging trail in the park because it twists and turns through a myriad of rock gardens, armored stream crossings, a cordory, a few bridges, and quite a few rock faces that can be rolled and/or dropped. Below, Bill is doing a rock climb.

Here I am rolling a little rock face.

Now Paula.

And Vince.

Heather got this great shot of Kevin dropping it on the tail end of Rock and Roll.

Then we headed over to the Big Burn, the twisty singletrack section past the seasonal Dodgingtown Lot. There are tons of rollers and drops interspersed throughout and area probably the size of four acres of land. There is one roller that I had never seen before and gave it a shot, and cleaned it easily.

From here we hit the lollipop trail but instead of hitting the new bridges that were built this summer, some us wound up doing the figure eight loop, hitting the Ho Chi Mihn Bridge and popped back out on the Blue Trail. From there, we took some single track that Rich Stinchcomb and I rode a few weeks back in the reverse direction with the connector to Little Vomit. Continued up Little Vomit and wrapped around to the trail that goes into Newtown and eventually hooks back around to the Blue Trail. If you haven't guessed it by now, the blue trail basically runs around the entire circumference of the park. Along the way, we ran into Dave Plain and Tom Curruthers, who didn't quite make the 10 AM start time.