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.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

In order to give Michele a fighting chance to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for her family, I took the kids on an 11.5 mile bike ride on the Trumbull Rail Trail. We started at Whitney Avenue and rode the new section that heads north, which passes by Parlor Rock, and goes under Rte 25 along side the Pequonnock River, since the original roadbed is blocked by the high way. Unfortunately, there are two parts of this section of the trail that are not completed and it made riding through there impossible. One was under the high way and the other was near Old Mine Park.

Here is picture of me, taken by Katie, with the infamous Dumpgoose 69er. This bike is something that a buddy of mine found at the town dump and thought I might be able to do something with, and as you can I was able to. It's probably the only single speed mountain bike with center suspension and two different sized wheels. The center suspension is actually pretty nice because it acts like a shock post.

As with every ride with the kids, it's always punctuated with plenty of snack breaks and hamming it up for the camera.

Juice boxes are always a big hit.

The boys love riding in the Burley and funny thing is that they can be so quite that I have to stop from time to time to check and see if they are not sleeping. Elliot usually falls to sleep but the last couple rides with both boys they just like to see scenery go buy.

Of course with the wet trails and mud in a few places I realized that Brodie was on the receiving end of everything from my rear tire so I put up the screen. Brodie didn't like it at first but he quickly got used to it.

Here is one of the sections of the trail that still needs a lot of work.

Katie love to go fast.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Took the 'Horse to Mianus

I don't think I have had Veterans Day off from work since I got off active duty from the Army so in honor of Veteran's day, Tren and I hit up Mianus River Park. I know, I know, there are all sorts of euphemisms for Mianus, especially when the trail conditions are wet and muddy. Only today the conditions were dry and pretty leafy, which actually made it slippery.

Tried some new stuff, rode some old stuff, did some stunts and all in all had a pretty good XC fest. Rode the River Trail that Friends of Mianus River Park built on the Tree Tops property that the State acquired a few years ago. Thanks to those salamanders and vernal pools this adjacent section of the park is now for ever preserved as openspace. Gott Sei Dank!

I think this trail is probably the newest trail in the park and its pretty good. Quite bit of little rocks to roll or huck along the way and it passes by Indian Rock, there is a witty little description of the terrain feature, a carved out bowl in a boulder.

We also ventured over to the parking lot in Greenwich off of Connewagh Road that I have never seen. Alot less parking there but there are some nice log rides, drops, and rollers worth hitting up along the way.

Following the new map that I had some input on and helped out with my GPS along the Swamp and Laurel Trails, we hit up alot of stuff that I have ridden before but always with someone else leading the way.

At one stream crossing on the Greenwich side, not sure what I was thinking, but trying to avoid the water, I rode the rocks to side, stalled and when down. Good thing I was wearing arm guards or it would have been bad, and while trying to avoid getting wet, boy did I get wet! Fortunately, since we were hammering, I never had a chance to get cold.

We did 8 miles altogether. Mianus is great little nugget tucked away within some pricey neighborhoods.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Hunting Day

Two more changes for the Qball, a red Salsa Moto stem and a red saddle. Got the stem from a guy on Craig's List and the saddle from riding buddy who bought it off another guy. Great saddle, has titanium rails.

I got the Qball dressed up to ride in North Newtown this morning. Paula wanted to see the Burr Farm area that I posted on Crankfire so I agreed to lead a ride. She checked with her riding posse and found only one other take, Heather. So it was three of us, riding on a Saturday in the middle of hunting season. I usually don't ride on Saturdays because its hunting season, but I was still prepared with a blaze orange Henly that I got from Cabelas. It's really brite!

Riding up from the Pond Brook boat ramp, we headed up Pond Brook Road and turned into the old road right after crossing Pond Brook. Last time I was here the ground was pretty soft but I was amazed to find it so dry. There was no mud!

Started on the first loop going counter clockwise through the horse trails and I cleaned all the hills! Then we started the second loop which starts in Newtown and then moves into Brookfield which is part of the Burr Farm Open Space property.

Then started the second loop which is a series of downhill shots till you get to bench at Dingle Brook. We stopped and took a few pictures.

When we got back to the boat ramp, Paula wanted so more, so we headed off into Upper Paugussett State Forest where we encountered three different groups of hunters and it's shot gun season, now! One hunter I have run into before at the start of bow season last year. He was out showing his kids how to hunt with a 20 gauge, looking to pop a few squirrels but all the squirrels were actually over by the Polly Brody.

We took the connector trail to the old right of way that will be part of my new trail, if DEP ever approves it - its been six months now - and through the tunnel of love, which is an up and over I built from a bunch of trees that were knocked down when that tornado ripped through town last spring.

Then we hit the opening part of my new trail and I got to show off the Play Ground, in which the trail winds around many different kinds of exposed rocks that will make excellent rollers and drops in the future.

Dropped down onto the jeep trail that exits the Forest at Sanford Road and road home.

All in all, it was an 11.5 mile ride!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dump, dump, Goose!

A good friend of mine saw this frame at the town dump and thought I might be able to do something with it. Well here it is, the first ever Mongoose 69er! I have the Qstick upfront with the 29er wheel and the 26er wheel in the back.

For one, thing, this is where I got the Rock Shock Jett for the Fixation. So, after stripping it down, even took the shock off and was about to send it back to the dump, when I realized that it has a unified rear triangle. That is where the bottom bracket (where the crank arms connect to the frame) and the rear axel are connected and the suspension is off of this triangle. This idea came to me while daydreaming one day only to find out that it's been done before. I figured since I have all the parts I need, it would be a snap to assemble.

As for riding, I have only ridden on the Monroe Rail Trail with it pulling the boys in the Burley Trailer. It rides like a comfort bike and the center suspension takes the bumps out of your back. Need to take it out on some single track and see how it really rides but I am having too much fun with my 'Horse and Qball right now. For now, it's the kid puller and it also proves a point that I can fit four bikes in my garage. In fact, I think I can fit 5 bikes. So, we'll see what next summer brings to the stable!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rube Goldberg, eat your heart out!

Here is the latest update to my commuter. Still pushing a 32:13 gear ratio, but I have added a few things, like fenders, a mirror, a RockShock Jett fork, a new stem that lifts up the handlebars a good three inches and a rechargeable headlight.

The RS Jett is nice because it probably has somewhere between 30 and 60 mm of travel and is still quite stiff. It smooths out the ride on the bumpiest of roads and makes taking the speed bumps in the office park at higher speeds really fun.

The profile design stem puts the bars in a nice position. Before, I was using the Misphit Psycles stem that only had 5 degree rise. It worked fine with the Qstick fork because the extra crown height brought the bars up to a nice riding configuration. When I went to the Jett, the front end dropped considerably, so I needed a stem with an increased rise. Wait till you see what I did with the Qstick fork!

Using a one inch U bolt, which fit nicely over the bars once I provided some padding so it wouldn't slip, I mounted the U-bolt to a bottle cage in which the light fits in very snuggly. I had to create a half inch spacer between the bar and the bottom of the bottle cage so that only a minimal amount of the thread were exposed on the underside of the cage. The spacer, made of wood, also helps hold the whole thing in one place because the wood compresses against the bar when I tightened the bolts. I don't think I have ever fully changed the light. Right now, I get about an hour out of it, but that is all I need.

Total build cost: $22, compared to the $100 to $500 light sets you can buy, this worked out great, but it's a temporary solution until I can afford a real light set, like the Light & Motion Solo Logic, that maybe Santa Claus will put in my stocking this year. Let's hope.

As for the ride, I have found the ideal route that minimizes exposure to Route 25 and still gives me 10 mile ride in total. Of course riding when is 32 degrees out in the morning presents other challenges, like keeping the feet, hands, and face warm enough. Already have started riding with a face mask, over gloves (but I probably needs some lobster mits) and neoprene socks (I am going to give galoshes a try, though). My old Army PT uniform works great for the outer wear.

Here is the best route: