Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My four year old rides a Fixed Gear!

Took some clips of my son actually riding his bike that he got nine months ago! You'd think he would have done this a lot sooner with all my biking but he just picked it up on his own accord. Of course, the bike is now way too small for him so now I have to find him another bike.

World's youngest Bike Messenger.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Last Ride ... after work!

With daylight, that is. Since I didn't ride Sunday I rode after work on Monday and as you can see by the shot below you can see how muted the light is now in the forest. In fact, in the image below I lightened it up so that you can see some a feature of the Gussy Trail that needs work. I think this section will need to be benched in sections because where you can see the darkest points that is essentially wet soil.

The only problem with benching is that the pitch is so shallow there only direction water might flow is down the trail itself. Might have to consider rerouting this section. Going to have to look at it at the next trails day, which is a little less than two weeks away.

Took a shot of the switch back. Lots of leaves down yet there is also a lot of green still up. Didn't see any hunters, either on the trail or cars in the lot. Still, I wore a blaze orange long sleeve T over a wicking a shirt to be safe. I was hot but I felt better that I could be seen. The spot where I endo'd on Saturday rides much better now that I fixed it.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fall on the Gussy

I had originally planned to ride Huntington with a buddy yesterday morning but those plans fell through when he came up short on the time needed. At first, I wasn't going to ride because of the weather but I was jonesin for some hammer time, or I should say my legs were. Now that I am riding three to five times a week, my body wants more and more, or maybe it's the mind, I don't know. What I do know is that if I don't ride, I have to do something, and the only time I had for this weekend was right now.

I was supposed to ride to work Friday morning but Nor'easter dumping rain on Southern CT didn't seem like a wise move. I think this means that I am still a fair weather commuter. I want to try riding in the rain, it's just a question at this point of how much rain is safe to ride in? Pouring cats and dogs with leaves on the road which could make for very slippery conditons or light rain. I think from a risk management perspective the latter is the safest bet. On Friday, to make up for the lack or riding, I pushed myself at the gym.

At 8 am on Saturday I decided to go for it because with all the weekend activities I wasn't entirely sure whether I would get out at all the rest of the weekend. The Qball was calling me. I had 398 miles on the bike and it was asking to go over 400. I broke the 400 mark with the fixation last week but half of those miles are rode miles but the Qball is all trails. In fact, the 'Horse has over 200 trail miles on it!

The Brody Forest Road of the trail, as you can see in the photo below, was covered with a very wet plethora of sugar maple leaves. It's funny how every fall, they are the first to go yet there is a such a mix of other trees that don't turn so quickly that you hardly notice them. My main concern, however, is whether I would be able to climb the entire fire road to the Gussy Trail head. I did stall out the last time I tried it and these conditions seemed like a precursor for immenint failure.

Here I am at the intersection with west side blue trail and the Brody looking all chipper and barely winded. The Jalopy climp was a walk in the park, even with the wet conditions. You will notice that I am wearing orange but that was a mistake because it was probably boardering 70* F and the humidity was hovering around 80%. Conditions were not what I would call Indian Summer, rather Rainforest revisited. At this point I could feal the heavy cotton hunting shirt already weighing me down with sweat.

I did, however, clean all the climbs on this portion of the trail! In fact, the 34:20 ratio feels a little tougher but not by much. On the Gussy, it was the same way I was hitting most of the ups with plenty of power left over. I still need a good metaphor to describe the area in which the trail runs down the side of a flatish, twisting gully and then a quick downhill flight onto the original old logging road. This section starts after you hit that little roller and then you start working your way down hill along the edge of the vale. Below is the area that I am talking about.

It kind of reminds me of a baby's boot or a horse stirrup. Now that might work, after all the Gussy trail is also a horse trail, this section could be called the Stirrup.

Now there is Fall as in the change in seaons evidenced by all the leaves coming down on the trail and then there is fall, as in the pull of gravity whereby my body goes over-the-bars, with the bike following because I didn't get my other foot out of the clips in time because on this particular up-and-over the rocks on the landing tread were displaced which created a gap that was perfect to stop my tire dead. That was fun! I had thought about not wearing the knee guards but decided to do so any way. Good thing.

Just got a little dirty from the fall. No injuries thankfully. I did, however, go back and correct the problem making it better than I think it initially was.

Did a little work at Via Roma when I found the south end of the armoring in need of some more work. Added a few more rocks cover some of the muddy area.

One thing I think that will be necessary sooner, rather than later is some benching is needed on the eastern section of the trail after the third stream crossing. Not pictured but after riding through here a few times with all the rain that we have had, it's just way to soft.

Probably a good thing that I was wearing blaze orange and had my bells on this morning because if the owner of this truck was lurking around the Gussy trail, I never saw him.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Friday Fix: 5 Reasons to ride Single Speed or Fixed Gear

Found this on the Boston Craigslist. Excellent marketing ploy but a total rip off.  I wouldn't pay $250 for that pig, because it's simply your run of the mill 27" road bike converted to single speed with no love and all original parts.  He must be betting on the PT Barnum Principle.

Here are a few observations:  The chop bars are really chopped down to resemble bull horn bars, so he's lying in the offer when he says they are bull horns.  Original brakes (should have at least left a little curvature on the bars and mounted the brakes fang style).  Looks like the original handlebar tape, too.  Absolutely no attempt to take up the chain slack in making it a single speed by using the original cassett.  In fact, he left so much slack in the chain that all you would have to do is sneeze and it would probably fall off.  What is with the pie plate? That's so gauche!

I do like the seller’s marketing campaign but if you put lipstick on a pig (and this guy didn’t even use any), it’s still a pig!  I think the seller made a mistake and put an extra 0 in the price.  $25 clams is reasonable.

Here are the 5 Reasons:

1. Direct Chain Line - You have a more powerful and efficient pedal stroke with a straight, short chain line – rather than snaking the chain through derailleur pulleys.

2. Less Expensive Bicycle – Shifters and derailleurs comprise a large portion of the price of a new bike – often in the hundreds of dollars.

3. Easy cleaning of bike. – It is far easier to keep a bike clean and humming without gear clusters, derailleurs, extra cables, etc.

4. Less maintenance of bike – Shifting problems are a major source of malfunction on bicycles. Who needs the angst of shifting problems.

5. Fight the Power ! Shimano has a monopoly on shifting components. Why do they make such flimsy, over-priced, incompatible shifters and derailleurs, which never work correctly ? - Because they can !! Let’s make bicycling

Boston Cyclists that use Craigslist are definitely unique.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I think I found it!

My next commuter bike that is.  It's either going to be a 2007 Kona Unit 2-9 or a Kona Kula 2-9.  
I would venture that they are essentially the same bikes, just in 2008 the geary version of the Unit 2-9 was renamed the Kula so as not to confuse buyers.  Both seem able to mount 700c wheels, at least the 2007 Unit 2-9 according to the Sellwood Cycle Repair Shop in Portland, Ore.

Now, I just have to find one in my size.  The one at Sellwood is a 19" and that is probably on the low end for me but I will find out.  I am thinking 20 or 22" would fit me much better.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cold Commute

Here is my new commuter, my remissioned Fetish Fixation. The bike just was not getting it's due on the trails and after selling the Bianchi it was the logical choice for a commuter, not to mention it was the only filly in the stable that could be quickly converted to road duty.

Yesterday morning's ride started out at 50 degrees. Fortunately, I decided to wear a riding jacket otherwise I would have been miserable. I left at 6:40 am and I rode with the headlight mounted to the bars and I used it on low the whole time. It never dimmed. I think I have to plan for a little more for colder weather now and plan on wearing thicker socks, warmer gloves, and I may even consider wearing an earband because my ears got cold, too.

I still can't get over how nicely this bike rides. Much better than the Bianchi. Was it the lighter frame (aluminum) which felt really nimble between my legs or was it the smaller wheels (26") that seemed to acclerate more quickly? Climbing was nice, again much nicer than the Bianchi. I have it geared 42:16 using the freewheel and I have a TomiCog coming soon so I can go back to riding fixed, again.

I think I am going to add drop bars, just waiting for them to come in. Overall, I am really pleased with this bike. Question now, is if I continue with my plan to build a monster cross, do I go steel with a Redline D440 or a aluminum with the NYCBikes Monster Cross? I have never ridden an aluminum 29er and since I am not intending to take this bike on Singletrack, maybe aluminum will be OK.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Four Legged BMX for sale on Craigslist!

Thought this might be worthy of some attention.  I flagged it for the Best of Category.  Not sure how the ride is but it looks like you might get at least a few good steaks out of it.

Trail building at Waldo in Southbury

Sun. Sept. 28 -- Trail Building in Southbury at Waldo Park. Meet 8:30am at park entrance on Purchase Brook Rd. Bring work gloves and water. Long pants a good idea. Heavy rain cancels. Paula Burton 203-426-5369 or 203-733-2963(day of event). PEBurton@aol.com

Monday, September 22, 2008

Last Day of Summer

I was supposed to be in Hebron, CT yesterday morning attending CT NEMBA's Fall Fiesta at Greyville Falls Park enjoying some really wild singletrack and awesome trails. However, a family birthday celebration was more important so my consolation prize was to finally take the 'Horse out to the Dingle Brook Trails in North Newtown and Brookfield. I used to call this place Burr Farm because the section in Brookfield is called just that but the trails run along Dingle Brook and I think that name is more fitting for the entire area.

Below is a map that I did for Bikerag.com back in 2005. Nice thing about this map is it does give you a better idea where this place is and where to park. The GPSVisualizer maps are great to show the tracks on the topography but not really good if you are looking to find the parking areas. At some point I might try integrating more interactive maps but haven't quite found the right online provider yet.

The trails in the Newtown portion of the area are a combination of old farming roads and newer but older ATV trails. Fortunately, no body rides quads in here anymore. Now these trails are ridden mainly by horses and an occaisional local mountain biker, such as myself or Frank. On yesterday morning's ride, though, the only tracks that I did notice were from horses. I think Frank is digging the Upper Gussy Trail so much now that he doesn't ride here at all.

In the Newtown section, most of the trails are pretty well defined and others are you just have to know where to go. However, on the Brookfield side, the trail is blazed with blue paint. Crossing from Newtown to Brookfield, the route breaks off into two options. Continue following the blue blazes on a washed out, fall line trail, or take the bypass which initially is a little sketchy to follow at first but then opens into an old farming road which eventually takes you to the old right of way that comes off of Lake George Road.

On the map above, I have called out a section to emphasize a new stream crossing that I found was already there but just needed a little organizing. If you should ever decide to ride this area alone, then I would recommend the following:
  1. Park at the Pond Brook Boat Ramp off of Hanover Rd.
  2. Follow Pond Brook Road till you cross over a little brown or beige bridge and hang a right onto what seems like an old gravel driveway/road. It's blocked with debris to keeps the jeeps out.
  3. Follow that road in, it turns into a trail further in and is marked with engineer tape.
  4. The best ride is to do the loop in Newtown counter clockwise and loop in Brookfield clockwise.
  5. Both loops and the stretch down Pond Brook is about 6 miles.
The initial part of the trail is pretty soft and can get rather muddy in places but then it passes through a stone wall and opens into a field. I think this first open field is owned by Newtown Forestry Association but I am not entirely sure. Need to look at the property maps again. There is potential for another trail looping that property and my friend Tom who rides his horse on these trails has been looking at it. Who knows, once the Gussy Trail is completed I might set my sights over here.

You have to climb up the first field and it's pretty overgrown. You pass through another stone wall and the trail cuts right through middle of the next field. I believe this field is owned by the yellow house off to the east of this location. As you can see in the picture below, at 7 AM it was pretty foggy out and a cool 47 degrees.

Even though it's Sunday, I am still wearing orange because this is mostly private land and even though Sunday hunting is still forbidden, I don't take any chances.

I round this old fence post along the first section of trail that skirts Dingle Brook. I never noticed it before but it still has the old iron holders for the rails.

As I mentioned earlier, the second loop encompasses Brookfield's Burr Farm Open Space area. The trail pops out in an residential area and then cuts shaprly back into the woods. This part of the trail has some really steep descents and that is why I recommend riding this section clockwise. Clearly, mountain biking was not on the minds of the person who created this trail. In fact, the trail runs right into a stone wall at one point and on the other side is a stream crossing.

Twenty yards from the trail crossing I found an old farmer's ford through the stream and cleared some fallen branches to open it up.

Never noticed this before but there appears to be a white marker on the tree below. Of course, that could be flower from the Hash House Harriers. They have been known to run in here from time to time.

I added a few flat rocks as a precaution over some of the areas that could get muddy after a little more use. The stream bed is really solid so you can hammer right through it. Picking up the trail again is easy, just keep curving to your till you pick it up again.

Once you get down to Dingle Brook this is a little bench which makes for an excellent photo opportunity. That blaze orange really stands out in the woods!

From the bench you have to climb back up. It's mostly rideable with the exception of a few downed trees. I am surprised at how will I can climb these days.

When you get back into Newtown after the Brookfield loop, you could always follow the trail the way back you came but I am not a big fan of that. There is another trail that heads east from the junction of where you go to the Brookfield portion. There is a trail that is marked with a faded green/yellow piece of engineer tape. You basically have to look for the depression in the ground to realize there is a trail there. You can follow this trail if you miss the turn off for this little bypass section which will eventually bring you around to where you want to be.

The Newtown section is not clearly marked and many trails end up in people's back yards. So your best bet is to download this track from Crankfire.com if you ever want to try this alone or contact me for a tour.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cold Toes in the Wet Spot

It was a chilly 45 degrees this morning at 7:30 when I hit the trail and my toes actually got cold half way into the ride.  At the Echo Valley Lot, there were two cars in the lot and that meant there were at least two guys hunting on this side of the forest.  That van looks very familiar.  A couple of years ago I was riding through here and noticed a guy sitting in a van in the lot with the side door wide open.  I stopped to chat.  Asked him if he had gotten any hooved rats, started on about the weather - it was unseasonably warm that fall, on and on - I am pretty gabby.  He wasn't much for words, though, and then I noticed why:  the guy was sitting atop a makeshift porta-potty and he was taking a dump!

Never saw the Van Dumper but ran into these two gents from Stratford.  They didn't get anything but the one on the left said he was creaping up on buck that was rubbing his antlers on a tree.  Didn't have a shot, so while he was trying to get into position, the buck saw him and bolted.

Climbing up the back side of the hill is getting easier and easier.  I just power up and hammer the hill.  A little ways down is a soft spot that is capture a lot of waffle tracks.  I think the Maxis treds are probably Frank's. 

I think those are Maxis Small Block Eights.  On the left is my treds but I have two different tires on so the tracks get kind of blurred.

 If you have been following the development of the Upper Gussy Trail, there is this one area within the trail that is a unique challenge.  Recently it was changed so that horses could pass on the right and bikes should ride on the left.  It's kind of a technical skinny.

Here is a little video I made riding this section.  If you listen closely, you will hear sleigh bells.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Commuter Bike Update

Cycle Snack: What am I gonna ride now?

In the previous post I said I was going to set up my fixation back to a commuter.  I put the 42t crank on and took off the 32t.  Decided to to set up the 16t cog in the rear on the free wheel hub.  Tried to do a Ghost Chain but couldn't find the right chain length, which was largely due to having the 42t crank up front.

Drive train was good to go but then disaster struck.  As I was replacing the stem and going to my profile design 135 degree riser stem, I was tightening the headset cap when I heard a click.  I knew that couldn't be good.  Took off the cap and saw that the star nut had totally shifted to one side.  So I am not riding to work tomorrow.  Fortunatley, I have another star nut, so I dropping the fork off at the Bicycle Goodie Shop in Bethel tomorrow and hope that I get it back in time so that I can put the bike back together.

I did try the riser stem with the drop bars and it was totally goofy.  It felt like riding my father-in-law's comfort bike.  I think I am going to try a 5 degree rise stem and go with the flat bars.  Hopefully my TomiCog will come in and I can get it all together in time for Tuesday's commute.

RbW: Duck a l'Orange

Got out this morning at 6:15 am and even though it was light enough, I still road with the light.  Road on low and held charge nicely.  I think I need to get out earlier and try riding on high and see how long it will really last.  Granted, I have to ensure that I have a full charge in on the Light and Motion Solo Logic.  According to the website, here are the burn times for this light:
High 13.0 Watts- 2.0 hrs
Med  10.0 Watts- 2.8 hrs
Low   6.0 Watts- 4.0 hrs
Today's ride, while not really needed, it did last the whole time I was using this time.  I really like the operation and it works nicely.  Sun wasn't quite up by the time I hit the Echo Valley Farm before hitting the forest.  When I did get into the forest, the first thing I noticed was that the parking lot was empty - no hunters!
Here is me on the Gussy Trail.  That steam is coming off of me.  Of course I was riding with a blaze orange T-Shirt from Cabelas.  Underneath I had a wicking shirt on but I finally go over my insecurity of wearing biking shorts and just wore a pair of gym shorts.  I have decided to only wear padded shorts biking shorts for longer rides.  These short, workout rides don't require the full kit.

The shot below is three quarters of the way down the Gussy trail where it crosses the blue trail near the old jeep trail off of Sanford Road.  As you can see it's pretty light out and it's quite 7 AM.

Back at the house, wearing orange and my new Dakine gloves.  Qball is running great.  I am totally loving 34:20 and think 34:19 or 34:18 might be in my future soon.  If I am going to race the Qball, probably going to ride with a 19t but I am going to trail with the 18t.  When I got home, I realized that I was missing a crucial component to my Duck a l'Orange attire, my orange helmet.  I will wear that on Saturday.  

And, if you were out on the trail you would have heard me coming.  Here are the jingle bells that I put on the Qball announce my presence.  I would have thought they would make a lot more noice but they don't.  I think the next ride on the Qball and it will break 400 miles!  

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Colorado Cyclist Cover Girl is Hawt!

Look what came in the mail today! The Colorado Cyclist Catalog! If you don't get this catalog, get it! This catalog has to be the Victoria Secrets catalog for cycling. Every issue is always sporting some down to earth woman that looks fantastic in biking attire!

Granted, I don't think I have ordered anything from this Catalog but I love every edition! Take for instance, this raven haired beauty dressed in black spandex! Holly smokes!

Now if they would only have one these models on a Niner Jet 9, I might be convinced sooner rather than later to purchase one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What am I gonna ride now?

Sold the Bianchi last night to an up and coming hipster that I know will treat her right.  Of course that means I need a new commuter and it looks like for the time being I am going back to the Fetish Fixation.  It makes sense, since it's really not getting the usage it deserves.  I am finding for my off road pleasures that two bikes is really enough.  So it seems that the Fixation is now the odd man out.

Below are three different configurations that I tried for commuting.  The first one is sporting the Rox Shox Jett that I took off the Dump Goose.  I have another cheapo 26er fork from one of the bikes that my friend Tom dropped off from the dump that I have been slowly cannibalizing although, I think the only thing I have been able to use from that bike were the axle nuts and the skewer from the front wheel.  It has a decent looking RST suspension fork on it that might be worth trying.  

This version is using the Qstick fork from the Qball.  The only draw back using this fork is that the steering tube is so short that I have to use my Avid SAAGO (Stiff As All Get Out) stem (that's the review from Bike Magazine, note the MSRP). It's funny, here is company renowed for brakes, introduces a new product, which is revolutionary in design and concept but in comparison to the competition which is a threadless stem riser, I think really didn't do enough market research in terms of what people are willing to pay for when it comes to this type of component.  
The MSRP from the Bike Mag review was $120, on MTBR, I saw $70, however, the threadless stem risers will run you around $20.   I don't know how well they marketed this product but from what I understand, it was discontinued shortly.  Don't get me wrong, it's great, super strong, and looks cool, too.  Too bad it went down the tubes due to bad marketing.
I think what I will do, is mirror what I did below.  For the time being, however, the only change I am going to make, so I can ride to work on Thursday is to keep everything the same in it's current 69er configuration and just run two 26er wheels.  I did, however, order a 16t TomiCog last night in order to continue my Direct Drive Fixation.  When that comes in, I am going to go back to the Ritchey flat bars, bar extenders, and the profile design riser stem, and keep the Surly 1x1 fork in place.  Probably go back to Cantis in the front, too.  I got them, might as well use them.  What might be cool to try are bullhorn bars - I really like them.

Below are my next two projects.  A 1975 Raleigh that I am gong to convert to a one brake fixedgear bike.  Question is, which brake to use, front or back?  I am thinking back because I think I can remove the braking components for a much cleaner look.  I am going to try the Surly Fixer on the rear FIR wheel, so all I need to get is a bull horn bar, a front 700c wheel, some rubber, tubes, a Seat and Seat post, pedals, and a brake cable.
Here is my next Commuter Fixed Gear.  My old Fuji Royale from college.  I bought it used in 1984 so I figure it's an early 1980s bike.  60 cm frame.  This bike will probably not get bull horns because I have aero brakes that I want to use on it.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

Update: The Grapes of Wrath - Newtown MTB race 9/20

Update: The Grapes of Wrath - Newtown MTB race 9/20

Further update:  Spoke with Terrance, the race organizer and the goal this year is to start with baby steps and follow up next year with more of a bike fest.

I was told to not bother looking for the trails because they will be all contained within the Vineyard Property and that the property is heavily hunted.  hint hint

Might try to stop by and see how things are going on Saturday morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Broken Chain Tour

In a follow up to yesterday's post about this Mountain Bike race to be held next weekend in my town I decided to take a look at where I thought the race would be held if my assumptions were correct. However, I never made it. I spent some time Friday night working on the Qball - the goal, drop down to 20t. I got the wheel off last night and that was it. 

Saturday morning, I ended up cleaning the chain in kerosene, wiping down the whole bike, cleaning out all the crud between the bash guard and the front sprocket and then putting it all back together. After some errands I went back to the Qball and added another link to the chain because after a little test ride, I thought the rear wheel was too far up and should be back a little more.

After making the necessary changes I got out.  Didn't really notice much of a difference with the 20t but I wasn't really riding anything too steep or technical.  Got out on the pipe line when I felt my cranks go slack and there was no chain!  I backed up and found my chain.  I brought everything with me except a chain too!  So, I walked and coasted back home.  Walking with those front cleats on is tough!

Got home, added another link back in and went for a test ride up the Brody Road at Upper Paugussett State Forest.  I have so much power in my legs that I almost couldn't tell the difference between 22t and 20t, until that is I hit the Vomitorium.  I felt it there and only made it half way.  I probably should have strategized this climb a little better after Tropical Storm Hanna and the seven inches of rain we got because there was a pretty good sized washout running down the center of the fire road here - right down the fall line!

I probably should have gotten to the other side much sooner because getting over the washed out section took a lot of my momentum away and lost more to make the slight course correction back up hill sapped more momentum caused me stall out.  There will be a next time and atleast my chain withstood the climb.  At the turn off to the Mulikin Trail I shot this little video.

As you saw in the video, who should come riding up the other side but my friend Rob.

Rob took this shot of me.  Then we road down to the split off with the Gussy Trail.  He took the Gussy and I went back down the Brody Road.  Wish I would have had more time to ride with him.