Friday, December 11, 2020

Bib shorts in December

One of the advantages of working from home during this Pandemic is being able to go out for a lunch ride. Just so happens the temperature today was 48 degrees and perfect riding weather for bib shorts and a sweater.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

New Bike Day: Vassago Verhauen 29+ Singlespeed

Last spring I got the itch to build up a monster cross, which is a mountain bike with dirt drop bars. It took me about 6 months to scrounge everything that I wanted for this bike. My other goal was to try and use as many parts that I have laying around as possible but before anything could happen I needed to find a frame. A friend of mine knew I was looking for a frame and he knew someone selling a beat up, distressed (intentional) steel Vassago Verhauen frame. 

I always wanted a Jabberwocky but this would do. There are couple design elements on this frame that I found frustrating. The head tube has a 44mm diameter requiring a larger headset. I had one from an old Cannondale mountain bike #roadscore that I took for parts but it turned out to be a piece of crap. So I went out and got one from FSA.

The same friend who told me about the frame for sale contacted me later and wanted to if I wanted to try a 29+ wheel that had QR adapters. Since I would be riding rigid I thought it would be fun and make the ride a little softer.  

Gearing right now is 34x21. I bought a replacement 34t chainring for one of my other bikes that didn't workout so rather than send it back I kept in hopes of another application. I used it here but it makes it tough for climbing so I am going to have to get a bigger rear cog.

With the exception of climbing really steep stuff the bike handles really well and is really maneuverable, something that I have found to be always the case with a 3 inch tire. After the first ride, though I felt like I had been through the ringer.  


Sunday, November 08, 2020

Teufelsschwanz Gravel Grinder

With S'Autumn coming to end soon I planned out a slightly more aggressive route for my return to Voluntown, CT to ride some of the roads that I didn't get to during my last visit. I call this route the Teufelsschwanz or Devil's Tail because I added added a leg to stop in a nearby town for food and water at the 40 mile mark.

You could not have asked for a better day!  It was 50 degrees by the time I got to Voluntown and where I parked I was the only cyclist amongst a sea of Moto Crossers, and the smallest car in the lot, too. Apparently, there was a remembrance ride taking place from here for a fallen comrade. The beauty of starting from this part of the forest is availability of porta-jons! I am glad I exported the route to a GPX and then loaded to RWGPS because when I tried to load the route from the Komoot app on my Garmin it wouldn't work.  I thing what probably should have done was have my phone on and downloaded the route with the phone connected.

This time I was was wearing my blaze orange riding jersey with an equally as bright day glow green long sleeve jersey that I had to remove because the temperature just kept rising and rising. Leaving from the parking lot, you start to climb but it's on nice dirt roads, which you come to appreciate more later on in this course which has a big impact on the quality of ride. By that mean Hero Dirt vs Napoleon's Death March.

This sign pretty much sums up what a lot of the route turned into. Many of the roads I was routed the course on were really trails that have suffered quite a bit of abuse from the Moto Crossers.  They may appear on Komoot or RWGPS as roads but they are really just trails which at times were ride-a-ble and many times were not. The biggest hindrance being loose rocks and washed out trail beds.

This is what Davis Road looked like and all those little rocks were indeed like landmines

I was able to ride most of this section but I did have to stop and walk in a few places

Flat Rocks started out totally sweet

 There was tons of slick rock to ride

At the top of the climb there is a great overlook

I had to remove a layer at this point

And then more land mines. In fact it was so bad some Moto Crossers who passed me on the descent even left the trail

Again more semi-rideable trail better suited for a mountain bike

More guys on dirt bikes

More slow going trail

Then I came out onto Hell Hollow and rode that to the end

After a short down hill I came to another trail that I started riding and then it turned into the Pachaug trail, which for the most part was rideable but would have been more enjoyable on a mountain bike. 

File back to Hero Dirt! I rode this a couple of weeks ago in the other direction only this time it was a wonderful descent.

Left the nice dirt road for another trail. The way down to the bridge was tough and slow but once over it the trail turned nice and pleasant to ride. At the end of this trail I came out on a paved road and my route was supposed to take me to Hazard Road in Rhode Island. I thought I would be riding through an old neighborhood of sorts only to find out that it's an active camp ground and the caretaker/owner stopped me and said I couldn't proceed.  

I finally picked up my route again and found where the next turn was but decided against it because it looked like more trail so I continued heading east on the road that I was on and picked up my course again. Heading south again, I turned onto Welch Hollow which started out nice but then turned nasty.  

I stayed on it, past the turn onto Narrow Lane which my route was on because it looked pretty rough. To the left you could see a cranberry farm. I kept on riding Welch Hollow until the next turn and I am glad I did because it was righteously smooth.

Turns out this was called Wickaboxet Rock Road and it was a pleasant change to the bone shaking ride on the previous trail.

I had to ride some pavement to get to the next road/trail called Plain Road.  It had good parts and bad parts but when it made a hard right to the west again I was back in familiar territory and the biggest climb of the planned part of the ride.

After the climb I headed down a new dirt road that was really a treat after all the trails that I had ridden and by the time I got to the intersection with Old Ten Road Road I had a decision to make.

Do I continue or head back to the car. What I didn't know at the time was if I came back in the dark would I still be able to get our of the parking area?  I opted to cut the ride short and ride back to Voluntown.

I rode up Old Ten Road Road and it had a really tough climb on it as well. I tried to follow the trail down to the road but after the driveway I lost the trail so I back tracked and headed down the driveway.

The ride back to the car was 10 miles and it was long and hilly.  It was 8 miles of pavement and 2 miles of dirt.  At least I ended on dirt! I can't wait to return, knowing what I know now.  Next time, I am going to do the first route I rode with Richard, only in reverse with a few tweaks.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Newtown Lunartics' K2G2 - Kent Kafe Gravel Grinder

It was high time that the Newtown Lunartics did a ride with one of our members who recently moved away, somewhat. Mike actually moved to Gaylordsville, which is a village of New Milford and is 20 miles away. New Milford, as it turns out is the gateway to Western Connecticut gravel so it was only fitting that we do a gravel ride. 

We met at the Gaylordsville Diner parking lot and then started pedaling up Gaylord Road, passed Mike's house to First Dirt at 1.4 miles into the ride and a major climb up Stillson Hill. The climbing starts on Gaylord Road from that point its 1.3 miles at an average grade of 7% for a 395 feet ascent and a max grade of 12.5% A significant climb just a mile into the ride.  

From Stillson Hill to Rt 37 its 2.5 miles and then a little less than a mile you are crossing over the Housatonic Railroad Tracks and heading into Sega Meadow Park.  3/4s of the way through the park it's a gravel road that eventually gives way to a wide trail that's easy to ride with cross tires. The trail from Sega Meadows spills out into a parking lot and a quick connector to River Road. You are on dirt for the next 4.5 miles and then you climb up Station Road and cross the Housatonic Railroad tracks.  

Sunday, October 25, 2020

All Day Gravel

 I got an invite to join a Westchester Cycling Club gravel ride starting at the Roxbury Town Hall.  Since I worked late Friday and didn't get out on the bike I decided to ride to Roxbury from my house, which is only 12 miles.  It was misting when I left the house and contemplated going back for a jacket but it was so warm to start and it was supposed to get warmer as the day went on so I pressed on.

In Bridgewater it was still misting but as I descended Rt 67 into Roxbury it actually started to lightly rain.

I met up with the Westchester Cycling Club behind the Town Hall. After introductions were made and the ride leader, Nick, gave a brief route description we headed off. We started with 11 riders and it started raining again.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Next Ride: Teufelsschwanz Gravel Grinder 11/1/2020

Here is a route that I am going to try riding on November 1st. The Devil's Tail Gravel Grinder (Teufelsschwanz GG). 

It's somewhat of a reversal of the route I rode this past Sunday and it's close to 90% Gravel Roads and Dual Track Trails.

I will keeping an eye on the weather and if it looks like rain then the rain date will be the following Sunday.

This is a self-supported ride and there will be one opportunity to stop around the 42 mile point.

Please wear orange (blaze orange is best) because it is hunting season and while hunting in CT on public lands is still not allowed it is allowed on private lands and sometimes those boundaries get a little blurry. RI, hunting is allowed on Sunday.

Ride starts from the intersection of Cut Off Road and DEEP Trail 1 in Pachaug State Forest at 9 AM. (Cutoff Rd, Voluntown, CT 06384 41.593631, -71.867397)

 Plenty of parking and port-a-jons at this location. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Crazy Eddie Gravel Grinder

A fellow Gravel rider, Richard, who lives in New London, CT, reached out to me a few weeks ago and wanted to know if I wanted to try a route that he came up with that connects Pachaug State Forest (CT) and Accadia State Forest (RI) and the dirt roads in between. I was so excited to be riding out this way that I spent all of my free time updating my own gravel map, Roubaix to Brew, There is a plethora of dirt out that way.

We met Sunday morning at a parking lot on Trail 2 and Hopeville Road at 9 AM. Although sunny, it was still pretty cold, a brisk 32 degrees but the weather report said it would be warming up. When Rich was getting ready I noticed the last thing he threw on was an orange reflector vest, the kind you would wear if you were out jogging on the roads. Funny, I was going to wear an orange cycling jersey but opted for my D2R2 one instead but I should have gone with the orange. In fact, I even have a blaze orange jersey in my car for emergencies. Come to find out, you need to wear orange during hunting season. However, it's still not allowed in CT on Sundays, except on private land, but is allowed in RI.


No need for a first dirt picture today because we started on dirt and it stayed that way for the first 4 miles of the ride, then there was a three mile paved section until we were back on dirt and it stayed that way for 8 more miles. Funny thing about the weather. As soon as we climbed higher it got warmer but then bombing down the road to Voluntown I was glad I kept my cycling jacket on because it got cold again. When he hit Fish Road, the start 8 miles of dirt I took my jacket off but kept my arm warmers and shoe covers on. 

From Green Fall Pond to the intersection with Rockville Road there were some challenging parts because it was really soft and sandy. Had it not rained on Friday it would have been really dry and tough on the climbs. Also, we were passed by a big group of dirt bikes. The best thing you can do with these guys if you hear them is move off the road/trail ASAP on any turns or where there is a limited sight line.

After crossing Rockville Road (Rt 138) the route follows a dirt path that doesn't have any name but dumps out onto one that does, Noahs Ark Road.  

Turning south onto unnamed track that happens to be the boundary between Rhode Island and Connecticut.  Eventually, the route we were following turns into Kinney Hill Road.

At the start of the ride, Richard warned me that there might be a dog or two that could come out after us. Sure enough, when we passed the first farm house on Kinney Hill I almost got T-Boned by this huge Chocolate Lab. We started pedaling harder to get away from it and it wasn't really trying to bite us. It was just chasing us and barking. Richard yelled at as I was reaching for my water bottle with the intention of spraying water in its face but it finally gave up the chase. 

The dirt roads in Arcadia were so sweet. Rich kept offering to try some trails for variation but why would you want to slow down when you could just cruise these dirt roads.

We actually came across quite a few groups of horses. Of course, you always slow down when passing horses which we did. Even the horses were decked out in blaze orange.

The biggest climb on the route was on Plain Road that headed through Arcadia State Forest. It has a max grade 10.6% for nearly 300 feet of elevation gain over 1.2 miles. Maybe not the steepest, that was on the ride up from where we parked but this was certainly the longest climb of the ride.

When you first turn onto Old Voluntown Road and see the Dead End side you have to realize that's only for cars.  The road is not dirt but it has gravel like texture, maybe a bigger stone used for the chip seal. It has steep descent followed by a steeper climb that maxes out 17.5%! 

Eventually, the road does end at a trail that is leaf covered and rocky but still rideable. The rain from earlier in the week made many wide puddles in the trail and I was glad that I had kept my shoe covers. At the start of the ride I was thinking that I should have taken my fenders off but now I was glad that I didn't. 

Old Voluntown Road ends at this impenetrable gate.  Apparently its been reinforced to keep out everyone except bikes to prevent people trying to 4x4 through here and end up getting stuck.

Continuing north and back into Pachaug State Forest it was flat for a mile or two but then starts to climb then descends and climbs again to Bailey Pond Road.

At Bailey Pond Road the road continues but Richard said that it turns to singletrack so we headed west on this this paved section of the route and a formable climb of a mile at an average 5% grade. 

It's about 4 miles to the next dirt road. Sand Hill Road starts out as paved but then gives way to dirt.

From Sand Hill, we rode all dirt roads to Hell Hollow, which wasn't dirt but were only on that for a short bit and then we were back in the State Forest and from there, it was all down hill and dirt back to the cars.

The Gravel Roads here are INSANE!