Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mini Gravel Grinder: 75 Percent Dirt

Got home Tuesday afternoon/evening hoping it would stop raining but it didn't.  Still it was so warm out it would be a shame not to ride so I hopped on the diSSent and went for a little Gravel Grinder route.  I would have taken the Qball but I just got the diSSent back from The Bicycle Center in Brookfield because something in the headset wasn't right.  Shawn and his team quickly diagnosed the problem and fixed it so I wanted to check it out.

The route was mostly dirt road, some dual track (Poly Brody Forest Road), some single track, and a little pave.  Climbing up George's Hill was a real bitch but doing so at night making it easier to focus on a good pedal cadence to get up the hill without seeing the top of the hill and wondering what's taking so long.  I think with drier conditions, better gearing choice on the Qball, and some route modifications, using Burr Farm and the neighboring horse trails in Newtown you could have a really nice Monster Cross training route.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Monster Cross

I have been wanting to do this route for quite some time and today I made it happen.  I wanted to leave at 7 AM but it was just too cold at that time, 29 deg, so I waited until 10 AM when it had warmed up to 40 deg and I didn't need as much snivel gear, in fact the only thing I wore in that department was the ear muffs that come with my BDU patrol cap that I was wearing underneath my helmet.

The night before I almost changed my meats but then realized I was saving the 700x38c for the Centurion Iron Man Dave Scott Expert build that I am still working on (slowly, ever so slowly painting) which will be my first geared road bike that I keep for myself.  I ended up keeping the Cross Marks because once I got onto the Rail Trail, the knobbies would be handy.

It was 7 miles from my house to the start of the rail trail in Newtown, which is technically closed but people run and ride through there all the time so I figured why not.  The first part isn't that great and there are quite a  few trees down making it somewhat difficult to ride and of course my 44:18 gearing wasn't a lot of help in the single track.  Thinking about going to 44:20 and maybe try a little fixed action with Tomi Cog on the Larkin Rail Trail sometime.

The unofficial Railtrail turned into the official Newtown Railtrail, 1600 feet of dead end greenway in need of gravel and drainage improvements.  Then you hit the Monroe Section.  North of the Purdy Street Parking area, it's pretty empty but south of that it get's busy.  Didn't bring a bell so it was a lot of "On your lefts" called out in front of me.  After Wolfe Park, which was closed - never seen that before, the other end of the Monroe section to Vitrinox is usually pretty empty and into Trumbull until you hit Old Mine Park.

Between Old Mine Park and the Rt 25 underpass I saw some mountain bikers riding new single track between the rail trail and the Pequonnock River.  Never seen that before and thinking the next time I ride Trumbull from Whitney Avenue I am going to have to check that out.  

About a 1/2 mile before the terminus I tried to feed while riding only to have to stop and put my hydration pack on again and then stop again when my dried blueberries fell out of my jacket.  I realized that I should have picked up that top tube back from Brookfield Bicycle Center on Saturday so when I go to pick up the diSSent after it's checkout I might have to pick one up.  That way, I can put the camera, black berry, and snacks in there while the shoulder bag holds the more bulkier foods and I won't have to rely on the small back pouch of riding jacket that I usually can't get into while riding.

Got down to Taits Mill Road, turned around and headed north, stopping at the Kiosk to Tweet and take a Goo shot before starting again.  Took off the riding jacket only to find that it was the only thing keeping me warm since my long sleeve and under lying t-shirt was soaked.

While the ride down to Taits Mill is a gradual downhill, the way back is the opposite but I had plenty of energy.  The one thing I realized is that it did take me longer than I expected to get down there but there were some issues that were issues that I don't think I would have next time around.

The ride home seemed to go quicker or maybe I was just in more of hurry to get home because it was taking longer than I expected.  I would say the most boring section of the rail trail is the Monroe Section, there is just nothing there except the old Station at Stepney, while the Trumbull section is fraught with history from Old Mine Park and Parlor Rock, to old foundations for the ice house at the old reservoir, the dam, and various roads that crossed the tracks along the way.

However, it's the Newtown Section that I like the most because there are still rails in place.  They will never hold a locomotive or a rail car but it's cool to think about the trains that used to travel on these rails.

Not to mention, Botsford Junction, like Hawleyville was a major railroad intersection back in the day.

Case Mountain: Trails Perspective

I uploaded my GPS Track from Friday to, the only GPS website that I know that allows you to see multiple tracks over a given map, and also has a good base map of the local trail system.  Friday's puts things in perspective for me because it shows just how close we were to Gay City State Park, a location that I ride at least once a year.  And just think what you could do riding out of Gay City?  The possibilities are endless!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday: Case is the Place

CT NEMBA's annual Turkey Burner was held at Case Mountain in Manchester this year and there was an incredible turn out, over 40 riders were present.  We started out with three groups: advanced; intermediate; and novice and I went with the intermediate group.  Our group started with 19 riders but somewhere before steel bridge we lost four, or they decided to go off on their own.

What an awesome place.  We started out on the Yellow Trail which turned into the white trail (I think) and where that flattened out we headed east on the first singletrack riding that all the way to a steel framed bridge that no longer had planks on it.  From there we rode up the Fern Trail to the powerlines.  Those same powerlines are the ones that cut through the bottom of Gay City State Park.  From there we road down an awesome trail that's formerly known as the Tinti trail, working our way around the reservoir and eventually climbing up to an over look where you could see Hartford.  Then it was back down to the parking lot!.  11+ miles of fantastic riding.

Salem Mazzawy

Art Roti and Matt Viara

Mr and Mrs Isch

Time to hit some real single track

At the Steel Bridge

End of the Fern Trail at the Power Lines - didn't see any ferns

Hartford in the distance

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Monster Cross Thanks

I really didn't feel like going out for a ride before the temperature got above 40 degrees so procrastinated most of the morning by doing the dishes, making sure the kids were fed, and even did a little a work and by the time it was warm enough to ride my daughter surprised me by saying she wanted to ride, too.  Loaded up the car and headed down to the Monroe Rail Trail.  This was cool because I would finally get to see whether my gearing would be good for rail trails and it was awesome!

Heading up from Pepper Street, we ventured into the Newtown section of the trail which was really wet.  It just needs a few drainage nicks and it would be fine.  Guess I am going to have to suggest that at the next trails committee meeting.  Might be a good Boy Scout project.

End of the line
If you are not familiar with Newtown's one and only rail trail, it is 1600 feet long, ends at a superfund site and can only be legally accessed from another town (Monroe), which is more irony that you can shake a stick at.  100+ Years ago, Newtown had 4 rail lines passing through the town and all we can get from this is a mere 1600 feet of an old railroad bed and one that still needs quite a bit of work.  I have ridden most of the the other road beds but they are not open trails, unfortunately.

Looking south from the terminus

The Monroe section was much better so we road down to Wolfe Park, took a break and then headed back.

Thought I would try to recreate a scene in which I took a picture of Katie riding down this side trail five years ago.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It isn't even Thanksgiving!

On Sunday's ride I came across the town Christmas Tree
already lit up?  WTF?  It's not even Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Late afternoon Monster Cross

Things were not quite right on the Qball Saturday evening as I was prepping it for it's inaugural Monster Cross ride, these Origin 8 rotors I bought are crappy so I to switch out the rear rotor for an older model Avid and also added a Surly Tugnut to the drive side, too.  It's kind of overkill to have two bottle openers on one bike but at least now you can open two beers at the same time, on both sides of the bike.  Sunday morning I ended up switching out the front rotor, too, and then spent another 1/2 hour adjusting the brakes - BB5s suck!

Too many things going on today to get out and enjoy the warm weather so I had settle for an afternoon ride. Fortunately, I had the foresight to charge the Light and Motion because where I was headed I knew I would be needing a little illuminated assistance.  My gearing choice (44:18) turned out to be a little tall for some the climbs but then again I chose this gearing for rail trails and didn't think my first Monster Cross ride would be a dirty road ride, so I just crawled up some of the stuff.  I think, however, for one of my Shepaug Monster Cross rides (coming soon) I am going to go to at least a 44:20 or even 44:21 because there is some monster climbing involved on those routes.

First dirt was Pond Brook and the fatties were loving every minute of it.  A special treat followed, more dirt after the intersection with George's Hill because the town is repaving a section after installing drainage.  As usual, they have fallen short of fixing the rest of the road that is probably one of the most uneven roads remaining in town that's not dirt.  Hopefully they'll throw a layer of black top over that section.  Hooking back Currituck and heading toward the Flagpole I was lured off the main road by the sight of gravel on Signal Post Road only to find that it turns into a private drive after 10 yards (stupid) and just ends.

Got some more dirt on Deep Brook Rd and then it was over to Fairfield Hills and up the Recreation Trail.  At the water tanks I banged a right and started down the trail.  It started out as crushed asphalt and slowly gave way to dirt and got narrower and narrower until I was riding singletrack.  Not what I was looking for with this gearing but the trails were blown clean of leaves and this section was flat.  Then it was out onto Mine Hill and down to Sandy Hook.

It's been a few years since I last rode the gas line/old rail line from Walnut Tree Hill to Echo Valley.  Initially, there were a few trees down but they were passable but on the other side of the Winery is where it got much worse.  Quite a few trees down blocking the entire route.  The ATVs have already rerouted around them but riding those goarounds with basically road gearing proved impossible.  The last section, closer to Echo Valley, was completely blocked and then after that blockage it's so soggy that I couldn't pedal through it.  It was awful.

As a Singlespeed Monster Cross, the bike is really in it's element.  Granted, singlespeed and rigid is what the Qball was initially designed for but using the Soul Cycles CroMo fork improves the over all rideability of the Monster Cross platform.  The forward rake tends to rattle under heavy braking, which is where the Qstick was better, but I think the forward rake gives the bike a better ride in more technical situations.  What can I say about Wood Chippers except they are fantastic.  Four hand positions and wide enough for the stability leverage needed on trails.

My tire selection was limited to 29x2.1 Nano Raptors, 29x2.1 CrossMarks, or 29x1.95 Kenda Klaws, short of buying more tires.  The Klaws are really off road tires and I have tried the Nano's before but figured the small block pattern on CrossMarks would be really good for paved roads and they were!  There was very little knobby vibration and noise while descending big steeps and absolutely no drag while climbing.  For this kind of riding, though I might go back to my Kenda Kross tires, or another pair cyclocross tires I have sitting around that I have never tried which I will have to throw on for a Tribury Gravel Grinder or a Roxbury loop.  Any Shepaug riding, though, I think I am going with the CrossMarks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lost and Found and Lost, Again!

It's still light enough at 4 PM to see the trail but to get out of the woods you definitely need some illuminated assistance.  Glenn met me at my house and we rode over to Upper Paugussett.  There were a few cars in the lot, including the Hunter Dumper's van - he's the guy that I met awhile back who keeps a little porta-potty where the back seats would be and when I first met him he was taking a dump but I didn't realize that was taking place after striking up a conversation with him.  

Part way up the Brody my left crank arm fell off!  You might recall this happened to me when I first bought the Kona and I guess after 100 miles of riding the bike I probably should have checked it again.  No biggie really, just put it back on and off we go and not a minute later up the Poly we ran into the Hunter Dumper walking down the trail.  When ever I am riding in the woods during hunting season I see his van or run into him on the trails but he never seems to have shot anything.  

Just as we were nearing the start of the Gussy, Glenn's phone rang and it was Paula calling from the lot saying she was here, so we turned around to go back to the lot to get her and while en route I noticed the crank arm coming off again.  Glenn went ahead and this time I tightened even more - it held for the rest of the ride. Came across another hunter walking back to the lot with his wife who was wearing blaze orange but unarmed, now that's devotion.  Met up with Paula and Glenn in the lot, turned around and headed back up the Poly Brody.

I was still able to see without lights but turned mine on when we started climbing the back hill.  Paula and Glenn had newer lights which are much brighter than my old school Light and Motion Solo Logic.  Might have to pick something up to supplement the illuminated riding experience because as long as there isn't 3 feet of snow on the ground I am going to keep riding this way until Daylight Savings kicks in again.

Glenn hit all the stuntry along the way while waiting for Paula.  She was a little skittish in the dark riding her new bike with Big Girl Wheels, in fact we were all on big wheels:  Glenn on his Monocog, Paula on her Superfly, and me on the Kona.  Along the way, I found that beer can I lost last weekend and then lost it again.  It will be a good test to see who ever else is riding the Gussy to see if they are considerate enough to pick it up.  In a way, I hope it's still there for the next time I ride through because it's worth some money!  

It was perfect riding weather, albeit a little cold in the upper 30s, but the cold temps and the dark night felt great for riding.  Afterwards, he went back to my house and finished off the rest of my 'Gannsett Porter Tall Boys.