Monday, March 30, 2009

Getting a head start on Earth Day

I got a head start on Earth Day on Sunday, almost a month early in fact. Some neighbors called Sunday morning to say that there was a bike in Pond Brook. Headed down to Pond Brook road with my rubber boots and walked along the base of the old Shepaug Railroad bridge abuttment and dragged the bike out.
Looks like someone just threw it in the river rather than taking it to the dump. Kind of sad that someone would think that way. Must have been kids.

It's a Pacer S/S ladies bike. Seems the bike is known as a Concord Pacer S/S and hails from the early 1980s. When I get it up on the rack I will find the serial number and date it exactly but from what I have read on the interwebs it's just another frame made at the Giant Factory. While I don't have a need for this style of frame and I don't think there is much of a market for them either it does have some nice components that might be able to use on my next project, another Peugeot UO-8 that showed up at the dump last month.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ride of the Dead Salamanders

We had another fine day Saturday with temps in the mid 60s. I had hoped to get out sooner to but schedules got tight and I wasn't able to start riding until 4 PM. Still, it was nice enough to ride in shorts, although my arms were a different story. I headed over to Pequonnock River Valley, aka Trumbull, with the Qball for some Trail Ambassador-ing and also to prep for the up coming race at Hop Brook in two weeks. I figure some trail riding on the weekend and single speed commuting during the week will do the trick.

Actually took last week off from spinning and commuting because after spinning Friday, then riding Saturday and Sunday, and then spinning again on Monday my left knee started to hurt. I think that much activity was too much and I need alternate more. I think the hammer fest at Wilton Woods started it but the spin class on Monday was icing on the cake. Knee started to feel better on Friday and by Saturday it felt really strong.

What can you say about Trumbull that's bad? Nothing. This place rocks and has something for everybody. It's basically a river valley with some really interesting geologic features. Supposedly there are caves and this area is often referred to as Indian Caves, but I have yet to see any. There are some really big cliffs of bare rock exposed on the east side of the valley that look like they were created by glacial movent. This also means there are beaucoup drops and rollers, one of which is the famous Green Monster.

I started out at the Park Street Commuter Lot off of Daniels Farm Road and took the same route that I usually take which the white trail to the red trail split. Follow the red trail to where it meets up with the yellow trail. On this part of the ridge, the yellow and red trails crisscross each other numerous times and it's hard to keep track of them, however the red trail does try to stay on the outermost edge.

Above is a picture of a typical branching of the yellow and red trails. I think I took this shot where the trails split off prior to the stream crossing (where they meet up again). Since I was out Trail Ambassador-ing, I had on my new CTNEMBA Trail Ambassador Jersey but didn't come across anyone who was lost, injured, or broken down. So it was a nice quite ride. To keep the riding alone theme I of course was riding with my RPGs.

After the picnic tables I came across some big salamanders, one in the middle of the trail and the other off to the side. They weren't moving and looked like they both met their demise sometime today. The one pictured immediately below looked as if it had been run over by a bike because it's mid section was flattened. Guess, after going through all that it was still able to crawl to the side of the trail.

The other salamander looked precariously close to where tires run down this rock but it wasn't flattened and by the looks of it, it seemed out of place and it wasn't kicking.

These salamanders are known as Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). According to the website that I used for identification:

With their bright yellow spots on a deep blue/gray background, the Spotted Salamander is hard to confuse with other mole salamanders. The mole salamanders are so named because most of their life is spent beneath the leaf litter and underground in burrows. Come late winter/ early spring the Spotted Sallies emerge from the ground to converge in vernal pools. Here they mate, spend a few days in the water, and leave for the woods once again.

These salamanders can live for up to 10 years, if they don't get run over during their migration. They can secrete a sticky, milky substance from their skin to deter predation by mammals.

After the first few warm rainy nights of late March - early April, walk along the edges of a vernal pool and you may find spermatophores and egg masses. The latter are gelatenous structures that can be transparant or milky white. In a couple weeks, the salamander larvae will wriggle out and feed upon a variety of tiny creatures in the pond.
Poor bastards, probably done in by fatties.

Overall, the trails were really dry, in fact this part of New England is experiencing the beginning of a very dry spring and the trails show it. Looks like the trail gnomes have been busy, too. Found a new trail that was even recently raked that has a nice flowy, downhill racking quality to it that starts at the bypass trail from the Picnic Tables and runs down to the Rusty River. Even saw a fish in the Rusty River.

And speaking of trail gnomes there is a new trail that runs from the intersection of the two trails that go around the picnic tables down to the Rusty River. The trail has a nice flow to it and it's not as washed out as the other trail that heads down to the Rusty River but unfortunately It it will be rutted out at the end of the season unless someone comes back and does some proper maintenance. That's the problem with building trails, most people think all they have to do is clear a path and voila, you have a trail. Unfortunately, it not that easy because you really need to learn about benching and grades to properly build a trail.

Noticed quite a few fire pits scattered through out the park including the one show below. Absolutely despicable. First of all fires are not allowed but then to leave all the bottles and cans is a travesty.

Added to the new trails is this bridge that crosses over the Rusty River, further down stream, by the blue trail. Bad thing about it is both trees were cut from the north side of the stream bank making one side of the span thicker than the other. Over time, as these spans dry out and begin to rot, most likely they'll break either together or very close to one another. What the builders really should do is make the span with two 12' pressure treated 4x4 but then that would probably mean they have permission to do this work and doubt that is the case. Too bad because this area could use a nice foot bridge.

In the distance of this shot below you can see the Trumbull Rail Trail and coming down from it is an old road that forded the river at this point and most likey connected with what is the white trail. There might also be an old road that parallels the river but I am not sure if it goes through or not. Further upstream at the foot bridge that crosses the Pequonnock there seems to be a trail that runs along the river and I wonder if these two trails ever connect.

I have heard that some people night ride at Trumbull but if they are using this kind of equipment, they have to be nuts!

My last loop of the ride I hooked back on the blue trail along the river. It follows precariously close to the river and is really challenging. I was feeling good and needed another loop before heading home. The proximity to the trail head meant more fire pits, too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Friday Fix: Fixies on the Greenway

If you thought people that rode 29 inch wheels were strange then check out this guy on a 36 inch unicycle! We passed him on the way down and then met back up with him here on our way back up. Now that is the true fixed gear experience.

You don't see many people riding fixed on the Greenway but you would think there would be more with the proximity to New Haven but this woman we came encountered down in Hamden with a beautiful Orange (my favorite color if you didn't know) Motorbecane fxied gear with sporting 50+ front ring. You can tell she doesn't ride hills with that big ring upfront.

The guy on the uni never stopped and the fixed gear rider took off almost simultaneously that made it look like they were riding together but with that big front ring, once she got up to speed she'd be smoking his fourth point of contact all the way back to New Haven.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

188 Acres = 5 miles

Kind of hard to believe that you can ride 5+ miles in an area less than 200 acres but it can be done at Wilton Woods. Met up with a bunch of people from all over CT at Branch Brook Road Sunday morning. The weather was cold but when the sun came out it warmed right up only to cool back down when the clouds rolled in.

I think we started out with 9 people and then midway through a tenth showed up. The ride in was a good warm up by climbing to the highest point in the park and then working our way down. The first stop along the way was an exposed rock ridge. One of the guys on the ride, on the last part went down hard and nearly broke his arm. Even in pain he continued riding.

Then we headed onto the black diamond trail which was a twisty, flowy, droppy ride with tons of stuntry along the way. The trail basically makes a serpentine flow down a steep incline that has tons drops and up-and-overs.

The Ride leader pointing out that you can go this way for pure technical hell or that was for more technical hell, basically if you don't like technical trails you shouldn't ride Wilton Woods.

Meet Holly. She attempted a rock up and over which was actually a huck. Her front tire snagged a root and she went OTB with a face plant in the dirt for good measure.

Check out this skinny, complete with extra traction and guard rails.

Rally point: Waiting for everyone to catch up for more punishment.

Map of my last two rides here. I am amazed at what you can get out of so little area.  Kind of looks like a chilli pepper.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Northampton Road Ride

I took the boys on Saturday to ride from the Chesire section of The Northampton Road, which is now known as the Farmington Canal Greenway.

Didn't get enough last weekend so the Boys and I went back for more. This time we started out on the Chesire side of the trail and parked at Cornwall Avenue. It was a lot colder yesterday and it was a good thing I planned for that. The "trunk" of the Burley was filled to the top with extra jackets, hats, gloves, and a vest for me in which Brodie insisted wearing like a Poncho.

The highlights of the ride for the boys were before riding having lunch with their Great Grandfather whom they just call Grandpa Earl and the stop at Brooksvale Park. We rode down to Mt Carmel Station where we can get a good look of the Sleeping Giant:

There is a really interesting history of the area called Born Among the Hills by Nancy Davis Sachse that I found on line that is worth reading about the area.

All the historical Topography maps indicate there was a station here and the buildings that are still standing appear to be arranged as such.

In the image above I merged the 1892, 1914, 1954 and 1976 topography maps of Mt Carmel Station into one image.Had a snack and some water and then turned around and rode back to the park. Elliot wanted to go all the way to the end of the line but we didn't have enough time.

At the park everybody need warmer jackets and hats because it started to get really chilly. Brodie liked to go down the slide on the little jungle gym, then run across the path to swings, jump on and do a belly swing and then scoot back.

Once they were good and hot from all the running around it was time for some Juice boxes.

Sipping juice in tandem

I love this birch tree at the park

The boys sipping their juice boxes from another angle
For the ride back to the parking lot I mounted my camera to the arm of the Trail-a-bike and filmed Elliot almost the entire 2 miles back to the car. It's a long video but he is so cute between his questions from left field and singing to himself. You will notice a few times where I had to stop and appease Brodie a few times.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Friday Fix: Tired of all the fixie hoopla?

The Crazy Eddie of Framingham Sales Technique seems to be spinning off to other place. Take for example this amped up obviously generic branded mountain frame. The only thing going for it is the front cranks and the wheels. In reality, you are buying an overpriced wheelset.

Reply to:
Date: 2009-03-08, 1:14PM EDT

Tired of all the fixie hoopla? Do you feel like you are about as zen-like as you can be? Well I hope not! This is a fixed gear mountain bike (yes, it's rideable). This vintage steel frame was built up with a Tange steel rigid fork and heavy duty components.

As you hipsters know, fixed parts take a beating (if you ride your bikes, you posers, you). So this rig has a steel 34t Surly chainring, an E-13 poly bashring, and a steel 16t Shimano cog.

Furthermore, the wheels are overbuilt Sun RhynoLites laced to Shimano hubs with 14g DT Swiss spokes. The frame does a great job of taking a bit of the shock out, but I've also installed a suspension seatpost for a bit of extra cush.

Pedals are Welgo platforms. Install clipless at your own risk and probable demise. Saddle will not be the one pictured - I love it too much. Instead, you'll get a Velo or none at all.

Let me know if you have any questions or need further clarification. Fear not, I will not make fun of you, think less of you, or reply in sentences containing "gnarly", "wicked", "bobo", or the like. This has been built and ridden by a professional mechanic and, as such, is safe, fun, and godawful to look at.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Facebook Biking Ads

Social Networking means social engineering to the tune of determining your interest in something and then bombarding you with advertisements about that subject. Not sure who does them better, Google or Facebook. The difference between the two seems to be Facebook in that it's a little more graphical and thus eye catching. I normally don't click on the ads because they seem to have been misleading by drawing you to a site in which to get information from you but not give you anything in return, that is until this ad caught my attention.

The RASE (Rapid Adjust Seatpost) is interesting and I have been thinking about getting something like this. Here are some of the features from the website:
  • Instantly raises or lowers “on the fly” up to a full 9 inches and locks securely into place at all intervals
  • Operates easily from a remote lever on the handlebars
  • Is constructed of lightweight but highly durable 7075 Aluminum with a cool “black mamba” finish
  • Provides the ultimate in control when faced with tackling challenging and variable terrain
Of course the price tag is a shocker: $349 but what do you expect for American ingenuity and creativity.  Seeing that the company is from New Hampshire I am surprised to not see them advertising in NEMBA's Singletracks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fat, Dumb, and Happy

Saw this at Brooksvale Park in Hamden on my ride with the boys this past weekend. This is an electric bike where the motor is upfront. That big, thick rack in the back is the battery that powers it. Not only did it have a front shock but a shock post as well.

We passed the guy who owns this bike on the Greenway and he clearly relied on the electric motor too much. You know, this is technically a motorized vehicle and they aren't allowed on the Greenway.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chicken Shizt Meter

On Monday, I began my one day-a-week, save gas and ride to work day. It was 27 degrees yesterday morning and I was close to chickening out. However, once I got moving it was OK. Still, to get suited up for the ride was an ordeal in itself and took 15 minutes. Today I tried a fleece vest, riding jacket, fleece pullover and a Techwik T-shirt. I wore my winter riding bibs, spandex shorts, and fleece snowboarding shorts. For the feet, I finally got to test out my overshoes and they did the trick! It was the perfect combination of clothing for the temps.

I rode the Bridgestone with the freewheel single speed, 42:16, and it rocked. It was a little slow climbing but it wasn't like I had to do the walk of shame. The bike felt rock solid, if not a little on the heavy side and small. Adding to the weight was my garment bag panniers and I was carrying my laptop in a backpack. That is the only drawback about commuting on Mondays is that invariably I will be bringing home the laptop for the weekend and it means I will have to drag it back on my back.

Had one mechanical along the way, my seat clamp wasn't tight enough and the saddle shifted backwards. Had to stop and fix that before I could go any further. Unfortunately, I think the bike is too small for me. It's probably a medium, and if I do sell it I am still in a quandary about what to do with the rear wheel. I have a Surly Fixxer but I already have enough money into the bike that I am afraid to add any more.

I am using the wheel from the Fetish but since it has vertical drops it's overkill to use a bolt on hub. That leaves the wheel it came with, in which case it can only be marketed as a single speed or I could go with the Bombblast wheel I still have, which is overkill on the roads, and that way I can still get some fixed gear riding in. The best scenario is to find a 26 inch flip flop wheel, cheep, and use that.

On the way home I wore just shorts, Techwik, and riding jacket but it was too cold after a mile and a half so I threw the fleece pullover on and a hat and I was much more comfortable. Bike performed flawlessly.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kid Train

I took the boys to the Farmington Canal Greenway in Hamden, CT today. Since both won't fit in the Burley trailer togehter anymore I hooked it up the Trail-a-bike and made a train. I tried this once before over on the Housatonic Greenway in Monroe. It works great but I don't think I get much help from Elliot. I think he just likes the idea of cruising and letting me do all the work.

Brodie loves sitting back and watching the scenery go by. At one point, he got a little upset sitting back there so I offered him my cell phone. Told him if the phone rings, hit the green button, and talk to who ever calls. My wife called and they had a pretty good conversation. Later, Brodie's grandmother called, too, and they talked.

I think this is the first official parking lot for the Greenway. We parked over by the Stop & Shop but it didn't look like official Greenway parking. Apparently, you can park over the near CVS and start from the beginning to get the full experience, which I might try next time.

I wore my helmet with the camera mount and aimed at Elliot and Brodie but as you can tell by the angle it should have been pointed down further.

Kid Train from Mark on Vimeo.

Above is the map of the route, which includes the little foray into Brooksvale Park. The boys needed to run around since they were accustomed to doing this on the Monroe Rail Trail I figured why not. What's nice is the Town of Hamden built a bike path off of the Greenway that comes right into the park. One one side, next to the Sugaring Shack, is a little jungle gym and the other side is swings.

I let the boys bounce back and fourth while trying to get snack foods into them. The only draw back to the park was the lack of facilities, which were closed at the moment. Even if they were open, they were still pretty far away and up a hill. Not sure if is on purpose for plumbing or gravity issues. As soon as I got Brodie settled in he informed that he had to go! I took him over to another parking that was a little more secluded so that he was water the plants.

This was the first ride on the 'Goose with the new Ergon Grips and they are simply outstanding! I was skeptical at first but everyone I have spoken to swore by them and now I see why. They were so comfortable, I think mainly because my palms had a place to rest. We stopped at Monroe Cycle Fitness to pick up a few tubes, which I forgot to bring in case of a flat I picked up a brass bell. It mounted perfectly to quill stem and resonates loudly. I got a little horn for Brodie to use in the Burley, too.

Another new thing I finally tried is the heart rate monitor on my Garmin Edge. Sportracks has a great feature to let you analyze your heart rate with a few different graphs. I think if I weren't stopping all the time you would see a smoother graph.

While looking for parking areas I found a little history on the Greenway that you can read about here: Farmington Canal Rail to Trail Association. After the ride we met the boys' Grand Parents and their favorite Uncle, Uncle Mike, at Eli's for Pizza. They loved it. I think we are headed back next weekend, only this time I am going to plan on trying to ride to the end, and then on the way back hit the park for a picnic lunch.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just in time for winter?

Now that winter is undwinding and spring is a mere 9 days away, what perfect timing to unveil my new winter commuter. It's a 1992 Bridgestone MB-5 that came into my position via the town dump. Unbelievable how someone could throw out a classic bike.

Below is what it looked like when I got it. In order to make it a Singlespeed I had to use a different crankset. I originally tried to get the bottom bracket off but it wouldn't budge. Took it to the shop and they couldn't make it budge either. Rather than putting a torch to it that may or may not work I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and just find different cranks with square splines. The cranks that came with it had an offset but I couldn't use them with a single ring up front becasue they all mounted in the spider at one point. Ended up finding a drive side single crank with an off set and ordered the left side through the LBS.

I got a 130 mm comfort quill stem from Nashbar with a removable face plate so that I could use my Ritchey Flat Bars that I originally got with the Qball. I was hoping to trade a friend of mine a few bottles of BBC for my FUBars that I traded to him last summer for an aero brake lever but we never connected. I have some old Avid levers, Seras ergonomic grips, and a mount for my Topeak bar bag. The cable housing upfront were a little ratty so they got replaced with some slick mauve ones.

Right now, I am using the rear wheel from the Fixation until I finish rebuilding the rear hub with a Surly Fixxer. Gearing is 42:16 with horizontal drops. Before he passed, Sheldon Brown told me the best gearing was 42:15 for horizontal drops but I couldn't get that to work with minimal chain sag. With this gearing, the sag is minimal. Right now I have the freewheel set up but when I start commuting with this bike I'll use the 16t TomiCog.

For rubber, I got some old Kenda Kross tires from the dumpster at my LBS. They were cool with it because the prior week I bought some tires from them. The seat post came from when I traded my Peugeot UO-8 for two seat posts to a French bike afficianado, which by the way I got another one the other day that I think I might build into a fixie for a quick Fix and Flip. Planet Bike fenders, that I had to shave in the front in order for them to fit in the fork crown. Crank Brothers pedals from a friend that got a new bike but only rides Shimano. I am using a San Marco saddle and I replaced the brake pads.

Just have to get a rack for panniers and it will be ready. I had one but ran over it in the garage and had to throw it out. I have a Blackburn but it doesn't have the seat stay mounts that the newers one.