Sunday, April 30, 2017

Roubaix to Brew: 3 States of Gravel

Ralph in the lead up Mt Riga Road, followed by Mike and Curt

After a long winter and wet spring, by the time May rolled around it was finally starting to dry out a bit and that meant it was time for another gravel ride involving a brewery stop. I wanted to do a variation of last year's Big Elm Roubaix to Brew ride only start in Salisbury and get the big climbing out of the way first.  If you are going to ride dirt roads in this area you have to ride Mt Riga Road and Sunset Rock. However, since we were riding on a Sunday and Big Elm isn't opened on Sundays the brewery destination became the Barrington Brewery.

I got a few people to join me that included a fellow Newtown Lunartics rider, Mike, as well Ralph, whom I have ridden with before, and one of his riding buddies, Curt. This ride was also intended for another Lunartics rider who is slowly getting into dirt roads in order to wake him to what it really means to ride dirt roads but he bailed at the last second.

The climb up Mt Riga Road was a great way to warm up for the rest of the ride and a few miles in Mike had a shifting issue that Ralph helped him figure out. Turns out he had a bent derailleur hanger, which is common with Cannondale CAADX bikes. The hangers are really soft and if ever bumped will quickly fall out of alignment.

Descending down through Bash Bish to the Copake Depot was really chilly but once out in the sun at the Depot Deli we were able to warm up, get more water, and put a little more fuel into our bodies before tackling the steepest dirt road climb in the area, Sunset Rock Road.

At the onset of the climb up Sunset Rock I quickly fell behind.  Being a seasonal allergy sufferer, it was hard a little hard to breath and my eyes were watering profusely.

I finally made it to the top of Sunset Rock, albeit really slow, but I didn't walk.  The road was in pristine condition and if you are planning on ever riding D2R2 you need to ride these two roads to give you a taste of what it will be like.

The descent down behind Catamount was refreshing and cooled us off.  Instead of turning right onto Jug End Road, we turned left and headed into an area that I have never ridden before with new dirt roads to try. It was also the dirtiest route to Great Barrington, this side of the Housatonic River.

The dirt roads that I found leading up to Great Barrington all went through and were really good. 

This part of Housatonic River Valley really flat and gave us the opportunity to make up some time. The weather, on the other hand seemed to be changing. It started out partly sunny when we left Salisbury but now it was cloudy and the clouds seemed to be getting darker.

Before turning onto Route 7 we were riding along one stretch of road that was wooded to south. Suddenly, I noticed this small black thing just inside the tree line and I didn't realize it was a bear cub until Ralph shouted out bear.  Realizing it was a bear cub and that it's momma must be nearby we picked up the pace to get out of there quickly.

We got to the brewery just in the nick of time because after we parked our bikes under their fest tent the heavens opened up and it started to pour!  We were so lucky that they had the tent set up but weren't serving outside yet.

It poured for at least an hour and a half.  The forecast did call for a 20% chance of rain so it appeared we were in that 20% chance area.  We decided to stick it out until the heavy rain moved out of the area.

Of course, this meant more time for lunch and to sample their beers.  I had a flyte consisting of their American Pale Ale, English Bitter, American IPA, Porter and Stout.  Of the five beers I sampled I filled my half growler with the porter for just $5!  It's funny but it seems only in the Boston area is where the micro breweries will only fill their branded growlers with their beer but here in Western Mass, you can show up with just about any type of container and they will fill it.

Getting back on the bike after lunch and 20 oz of beer was kind of tough, not to mention the temperature had dropped 10 degrees. Fortunately, I had a cycling jacket which kept me warm, while Ralph and Curt both had plastic garbage bags.  The ride up towards Beartown State Forest was a steep climb up Blue Hill Road and then the road continued into a preserve that was really grassy and full of ticks.

It was a tough slog up hill because it was really wet and traction was really pour.  We walked some sections and rode others and by the time we got back to the paved portion of the road again it was time to take off all the snivel gear. 

I had never ridden this road before but knew it was a climb and it was a big climb!  A couple of turns later and we were in Beartown State Forest and riding the dirt roads that the Fall Folliage Gravel Grinder has used over the years.

Right before descending down into New Marlboro there is a driveway to someone's house that has the interesting rock garden configured and is a perfect vantage point to look down the valley.  

From this point you can see Mt Frissel and Mt Everett.  Of course it looks way better if it's sunny.

I call this view the Sound of Music because it reminds me of the lush, green valleys, of the Austrian Alps when I lived over there.  The picture above was taken on the first running of the Fall Folliage Gravel Grinder (F2G2) and when ever the route goes through this part I make sure to stop and take a picture.

From here, we rode the dirt roads down through New Marlboro, where at one time was my home away from home during the winters and where I skied at Butternut throughout my high school years. Then we made our way through all the dirt roads through the Sheffield plain and back down into Connecticut and road Between the Lakes and then back into Salisbury.

You can relive this ride.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Upper Mulikin Trail is Closed

I enlisted the help of my boys to assist Pete and I with the physical closure of the Mulikin Trail today. They needed some fresh air and some exposure to the woods.

We set the first closure sign about 50 yards in from where the White Blazed & Purple Blazed (Mulikin Trail) split.  Pete made up some signs and bought some stakes from Newtown Hardware.  We also used pink engineers' tape across the trail.

Just in case someone didn't take the first closure seriously we added some additional signage further in.  The thing to note here is this is where the re-route is going to begin.

While we were adding this secondary warning another pair of hikers came down the trail.  In fact we saw more more hikers using the Mulikin Trail than mountain bikers.  Actually there were none using trail during the time we were there.  We did come across a pair of riders stuggling up the Poly Brody.

Since the Mulikin is both and up and downhill trail we also put interior and exterior signs coming from the other direction, too.

As we were putting up the last one we met up with someone walking his dog on the Unmarked and Unsanctioned Trail.  That is a first!  On rare occasions I have come across the loan hiker or shirtless, wandering priest on the Gussy Trail, but this is the first time I have seen a non mountain biking person on DSP.  

Saw some hoof prints on the Brody Road

These two, father and son, were struggling up the steepest section on the Brody Road.
The son had a full face helmet on, that I thought was a bit of overkill

On the way back we walked down the White Blazed trail to where it intersected with the Lower and Upper Mulikin Trails and then went a way that I used to ride many years ago before I found the Lower Mulikin Trail.  It's an old trail that leads to an old skidder path that hooks up to the Hunter's Tree Stand Trail. Right off this trail is a tree stand that someone erected and locked it to the tree that it is on. 

Given the nature of this trail being so straight and the fact that it goes right past the tree stand I would assume that it was made of the hunter/owner of the tree stand.  No competent mountain biker worth his or her weight would bother making a trail so straight. Given the amount of area in this part of the forest you could create a serpentine route that would easily stretch the length of the trail to at least another mile.  Not to mention using a fall line climb after the stream crossing, too.

Today's route:

A 3-D view of the route

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trail Closure: Upper Mulikin

As you know from my last post I was on the Mulikin Trail and couldn't believe how torn up and rutted it was.  I contacted the land manager for the forest and he has given me permission to close this trail and do a re-route.

Please do not ride this part of the trail. 

There are plenty of other ways to get to the Upper Gussy Trail. 
The re-route might take a month or two, faster if I get some volunteers to help out with benching and berming.

So stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Can't get a date by eight, try ...

Fat Amy!

I got home later than I wanted to on Monday but figured there would be enough light for a quick ride in the forest. This would be an excellent opportunity try out my new helmet that I got from Brookfield Bicycle Center, a Giant Rail Helmet. Finally found a replacement for my old Giro MX & Fox Helmets. I really love it because it has plenty of vents, a goggle strap in the back (perfect for holding my headlight cable), and straps that are closer to the side of your head than my other mountain biking helmets provided. 

Why is that important? My feeling is that the helmet hold better on your head and doesn't wobble as much.  There are also plethora safety features, too, but if you want to learn about that, just ask Shawn at Bicycle Center to explain them.  That's what sold me on the helmet.

I happened to notice that a fellow mountain biker that I have known over the years recently rode Upper Paugussett and his track followed the route I like to take snowshoeing during the winter but then took an interesting turn. Instead of heading down to the Mulikin his track went up an old skidder path that I used to ride back in the day that intersects with the Purple Trail and the Mulikin.

Clearly, rather than foot rake this route someone came in with a leaf blower to initially establish this illegal trail.  However, as I continued to ride it appeared that someone had blown all the trails. While you may think you are doing everyone a solid you are actually eff'ing up the trails. The reason why the Gussy drains so well and you can usually ride it a day after a big rain is because of the leaves on the trail.  Leaves act as a moisture barrier that helps keep water from soaking into the trail.

Now that there are no leaves, it leaves the treadway exposed to soak up all the water from each rain. In the picture above, this is how the trail should look. You can still see where the trail goes by leaves that look flattened as opposed to those on the either side that aren't. So, now I would say that after any rain you should wait at least 2 days for the Gussy to dry out. Of course riders in this area won't care and don't have the patience to wait a day or two to let the trails dry out, so they are going to ride anyway and that's going to make these trails turn to mush, like what is happening on the Mulikin Trail.

Speaking of the Mulikin. First and foremost, you should stay off the Mulikin in the spring.  The only time it should be ridden is when the ground is frozen or when it's bone dry.  That means winter (only if the ground is frozen or there's at least a few inches of snow on the ground) and summer.  I put it out on all the Social Media sites that it is a closed trail but it appears that I am not getting through to everyone. I need to go in there and put up some signs now. Hopefully people still have some common sense and will stay off the trail.

In case you don't know what or where I am talking about, above is a map of what I call the Mulikin Trail. It's the single/dualtrack that everyone rides to avoid riding up the forest road to the trails.  We'll see how long they last. No matter what you used to think about Upper Pauggussett being well drained, it is no longer that way due to Mr Leaf Blower.

You guys should know better than to ride through this! This is a freaking travesty! Through your carelessness, this trail stands to get shut down by the DEEP.  It's not an official trail so the DEEP can do what they want with it. If they decide they are going to block it there is nothing anyone can do. I am currently trying to persuade the State Forester to let me do a re-route so it doesn't come to that and we can keep this trail open. What I don't need right now is to see anymore of these stupid shenanigans and mountain bikers who think they are entitled to do what they want because this is public land. Sure, its public and you can access it but it doesn't give you permission to build anything you want.

After treading lightly through this section I got back on Fat Amy and rode over to the Gussy Trail. The Gussy was blown, too, and quite a few sections of the trail were really soft.  When I got to where the Hornets Nest used to be I noticed a new development that made me even angrier.  Someone built a jump!  WTF?  Don't you guys know that you don't build that crap on State Land?  Go build in your back yard if you are looking for a quick thrill but not here on the Gussy Trail.


This has got to go and this crap has got to stop!  Who ever is doing this crap has to realize that you are jeopardizing the future of mountain biking at Upper Paugussett State Forest. I have already been called by the DEEP on the new trail that comes off the Gussy. I have also heard through other channels that the state is concerned about whats happening here and that could lead to additional closures. This has got to stop. Next time I am in the woods I will be dismantling this jump and going to have this tree cut in half so that who ever built this can't do it again.   

On my way out, I took the horse trail off the Gussy and then rode this purple blazed trail that I think some hiker built illegally. It too has issues, namely a fall line climb and it goes through a wet area at the base of the climb and then uses an intermittent stream bed for the trail.    

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

To Hell and Back on the 2017 Ronde De Rosey

Woke up Sunday morning a little hung over and got ready for the my first Ronde De Rosey. I think overdressed a bit and while at the Washington Square Pub I dropped a layer.  The Dirty Half Dozen consisted of Greg, the team leader, his friend Derek, Scott, Mike and myself.  We left the starting point 5 minutes late and it was probably after the first single track section that we lost sight of Greg and Derek.

The first 13 miles of the ride was a mix of hard ball roads and singletrack, which slowed us down greatly.  

We stopped in the Needham Town forest for snacks and to lose a layer.  I took my jacket off and stuffed it into it's stuff pocket, then used the straps to attach it to my waist so I probably looked like a Fred riding with a fanny pack.  At that point I realized that I should have brought my seat trunk. I had brought my barrel bag but forgot to bring one of the straps so I left it in the car. Never again.

Trails through the forest were a little better and eventually we popped out onto a rail trail. It was nice to have a break from the trails while at the same time not having to ride with the traffic.

From the rail trail we rode along side the Charles River which was at a flood stage and it was quite impressive.

The next off road adventure was in the Noanet Woodlands.  Heading into this forest preserve there was some really muddy dual track and then it started to climb.  A few yards up the trail there was a stream crossing and I thought the left side had a good line.  However I didn't have enough momentum and my front tire landed in the stream I stopped short and I went down into the water.  My worst nightmare, getting wet on a ride and getting hypothermia. Fortunately, it was warm enough that I didn't think I would have a problem.  However, my knee was a different story. 

At first it didn't seem to be bleeding too much but as I rode on it really started to bleed so I had to stop and perform a little trail first aid.  Bandaged up and ready to role we pressed on until we came to field that started out dry but the further we rode, the soggier it got.   Then a little road, a wrong turn resulting in a little backtracking and then more trail that led us into Rocky Woods Reservation. We stopped at the camp store but questioned whether or not to fill bottles because they guy in charge didn't know if the water was potable.  He kept saying it was well water like it was a bad thing.

The route passed Greg's house and he had texted earlier to say that there was water and beers for us. Greg's wife offered us food, Scott and I had bananas while Mike tried some gluten free PB&J Sushi. I took the opportunity to dry out a bit, too.

After that convenient rest stop we headed down the road to the Lollipop feature of the route only ended up taking a wrong turn and bailing on the rest of the trails.  All of us, by this point were sick of trails. Back on the course we road through a cemetery and then some more trails, more roads, more trails and eventually we came to a dysfunctional mental institution.  Heading back into woods I was almost attacked by a dog.  

We rode into Medfield State Forest and it was really nice going on an old road and then more singletrack. Eventually we popped out into another field.  The field was muddy, too, along with the trail that led out to a paved road.  This ride wasn't a gravel grinder, it was more of a mud slide.

After a few more trails we eventually came out onto an aqueduct and rode that back to Waban.  At one point I was a little behind a group of riders and trail went quickly from light to dark and my eyes didn't adjust in time to see a railroad tie/water bar in front of me and I wasn't able to completely stop in time and crashed into it.  While I got a nice bump on my leg and another gash that wasn't bleeding profusely. must have been the mud. I first made sure my front wheel wasn't taco'ed.  Scott caught up to me and we eventually made our way back to Washington Square by a little before 3 PM!

While I am not a huge fan of American IPAs, this West Coast IPA from Green Lash was awesome. Definitely a great ride and I hope I can do it again next year.