A random collection of thoughts associated with the sport of cycling, as relayed by one hopelessly devoid of too many competing interests. It's a one track blog I'm afraid. But hey, if you like bikes you might enjoy it. So keep reading and the worst that'll happen is it might rot your brain..

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dirt Drops and some woods riding

I had a rare weekend full of nothing, no obligations meant I could go for a ride and try out my new bars. I picked up some WTB Dirt Drops a week or so ago via the online garage sale that is MTBR. Originally I intended to turn the Karate Monkey into a "monstercross" bike but I quickly realized I wasn't that cool, and I didn't want to mess with a good thing. So I figured I'd pop them on the On One and see how they work with a fixed/singlespeed 'cross bike.

They're really made for mountain bikes but I had a feeling this would be a nice bar for the Il Pompino. The first ride was weird, my body wanted to disagree with where my hands were and riding in the drops felt odd. The next ride things got better and I was digging the added leverage on the steeper climbs. Saturday I threw on my other wheelset shod with Ritchey Excavaders and a 16t ACS freewheel for a little off road riding. The 35c Ritcheys are probably about as big as it's going to get on the On One, there's not a ton of room back there. The gearing is steeper than I used to ride SS cross at 40x16 but I figured it would be doable. Here's what it looks like in 'cross mode:

I rode up to Chase the way I always do; N Main to Smithfield Ave and eventually riding in behind the school on Old River road. From this entrance you can ride a little bit of trail before hitting the wide open grassy sections. I rode a few laps of Chase and then did a loop of all the trail in the Eastern corner. The gearing proved to be pretty spot on for Chase and the road riding wasn't too bad either. I was never really in danger of spinning out while not feeling over geared, pretty much perfect. The bars elicited the feel of SS mountain biking with really wide swept bars when I was climbing in the drops. Being able to torque on bar that afford a ton of leverage made a huge difference, and this allowed me to make it up a few climbs at Lincoln Woods I otherwise would have walked. I almost made the long climb from the ball fields but I stalled out and walked a bit to where it levels off before continuing the ride to the top. After letting my heart migrate from my head back to my chest I wanted to see how secure things felt at speed. To do this I cut across the middle of the Coaster and shot down the old rock roller across the wall ride trail, and I eventually sped down towards Goat Rock. As long as I stayed in the drops things were great, and the more technical riding reinforced the idea that the bars are meant to be ridden in the drops while in the woods. I kept riding in LW and found myself riding much of my usual MTB loop with very few issues. The ride wasn't as fast as it would've been on a mountain bike, but it wasn't super slow either.

I headed out of LW via the trails on the South side of the park and hit Cobble Hill road. On my way out I thought about how much room for some new trail there is in that small pocket of woods. There's just enough room to build a sorely needed beginner loop - maybe something to look into.. Anyway, I decided to ride over to the Old North Burial Ground as it was on my way home, and it only sits about 2 tenths of a mile from my place. I don't ride in there enough. In fact I always think this after a ride in this cemetery. The decrepit state of the pavement in the burial ground makes it perfect for knobby 'cross tires. Instead of the squirmy cornering you become accustomed to on smoother (that's a relative term around here, I know) pavement you'll find the tires grip like glue in the cemetery. There's so many interesting nooks in there and a few little hills make it more enjoyable. In the south west corner you'll find a large plot of unknown graves marked only by numbers. These people were re-interned after the land known as the free burial ground was developed. It's a kind of depressing little place nestled between the river and Interstate 95. Not surprisingly no one is ever back there. Seeing the river out of it's latest commercial context is kind of cool, at least no one lights it on fire this far out...

I took a few pics before the battery died on me, lighting was tough mid afternoon with a really bright sun in the sky.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

1000 feet of fun

So last Friday Ben joined the Friday night crew for a tour of Lincoln Woods. He had a GPS unit with him, and as it turns out there's 1000 feet of climbing in the loop I normally ride. It's also about ten miles long. I'm not really surprised but it's nice to quantify it for those wondering what to expect. Descriptions such as "hilly with kinda hard climbs followed by fun descents" don't work for some folks. When I'm in shape the loop takes an hour, in the winter it's at least 15 minutes slower. The Friday rides take it easy, and it can take two hours depending on who's there and what they'd like to ride/re-ride in the techy sections.

There's a nastier version that adds another fire road climb, at least a few hundred feet and nearly another mile of trail (it repeats a descent). The fire road climb is particularly lame because it feels like you're riding up a road constructed entirely of marbles. Lots of fun. I don't subject people to that one, there's this pesky part of me that actually likes other people a little bit.. Anyways, 1000 feet ain't much for those residing near actual mountains, but for those of us near sea level this is about as much climbing as we will find. I'll take it though, at the very least it takes the edge off of those few times I find myself on an actual mountain each year.

Speaking of actual climbing.. when I do find myself shuffling up a larger hill/mountain like a withered goat I'm nearly always forced to reconsider just what it is we do in the woods on our bikes in a place like RI. Is it really mountain biking? Without the climbing is it more likely just woods riding? Is there anything wrong with that? Probably not, at least I don't really care. Just random thoughts being tossed out there.

For anyone wondering how life is with the Honda Fit all I can say is; Great! Last tank came in at 40.2 MPG. That's with ~ 70% highway and 30% city driving. It has enough room for a bike standing up with the front wheel removed, and a whole lot of extra space for gear. Ask Noah, it holds a lot of crap.

I may have mentioned it earlier but my Twin Six duds arrived a while ago. They design some really sharp clothing, the argyle jersey is snazzy enough to convince me to wear a lycra jersey more than wool. And I'm not just saying that because I get a small discount on the goods. I'd pay full price for the stuff any day. On a related note I noticed that a guy I used to ride(and occasionally work) with in Winston Salem, NC is also on the team. A fast guy by the name of Marc Driver. Marc, if you happen upon this drop me a line. There's no contact info for you on the T6 site.

No picture so here's some music. Fishbone's much improved version of a Sublime tune you may recognize.

Here's the video from Brad's comment --->

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's about damn time...

I finally commuted to work in 2008. It seems I've definitely turned into a fair weather commuter this year. In years past I'd start in March or April, now it has to be 70 degrees and sunny for me to slog the mostly uphill 22 miles to work. Today's ride convinced me that the road tires need to be installed ASAP. Kenda Kwicks are neither quick nor are they actually the advertised 700x30, they're more like 32s. They're sloooow on the road. Not too surprisingly they felt fast on the roughest pavement. You know the kind that's porous and feels like Velcro with road tires? I'm talking about the kind of road surface that normally makes you look behind to see if you have a rear flat. Yeah, well apparently that stuff feels great when ridden with big ass 'cross tires. Too bad there's not more of that stuff out there.

The ride home is mostly downhill so I have that to look forward to. Well, that and the inevitable cluster f*ck that the Lincoln bikepath will become after 5:30. But I'll deal with that any day as it at least gets me away from Mendon Rd for a few miles.

I think I'm going to hang out at work for a little while after 5:00 to let the Franklin, MA Soccer Mom Deathcar Brigade thin out a bit. You DO NOT want to mess with little Billy's trip to his pre-planned activities.. no, no, no, you don't. Believe me when I tell you this; Don't fuck with the Suburbs. They fight back with blithely ambivalent driving skills piloting MiniSuVans equipped with XL Mocha Lattes, whining little angels, navigation screens, DVD players, cell phones and a nasty attitude. There's no room for hippies in "spandex", so get the hell off the road you fruits!

Cripes, don't I sound like a bitter asshole... What I meant to say was: Ride to work folks, it's good for your health!

Monday, June 09, 2008

'Cross Bike Recon and a Blue Schwinn Project Underground

For those who don't know I procured a Fuji 'Cross bike last month from a nice guy named Nate in Providence. $600 bought me a barely used '07 Fuji Cross Comp with some nicer spec goodies and an Ultegra wheel set. I know it was barely used because I was the one to shake out all the kinks. During it's first ride up to the old Rehab Hospital trails in Woonsocket the following transpired; 1 loose cassette lockring, 1 crank arm self extraction, 1 loose brake pad and then I got a flat (my fault). And, to top it all off, I was bumped off the road by a car mirror on Cobble Hill Rd. This was the worst ride in recent memory by far. All that said I still enjoyed the ride and the bike immensely. The descent down the power lines in the Rocket back to the new bike path trailhead was a blast. The time spent in Chase Farm and Lincoln Woods was equally enjoyable as well. The bike is exactly what I wanted, something quicker handling than my old Poprad and also quite a bit lighter. Watch out C class goons, I'll be at least marginally faster on this rig!

For the second outing I decided to ride up to Cumberland to explore the "other side" of Diamond Hill. This is what was once Diamond Hill State Park but is now town conservation land in Cumberland. The parcel of land sits between Tower Hill Rd and 114 and it can be accessed from either road. I rode in off of 114 and went to work exploring the network of double track. The trails are really soupy at first but eventually things dry out as you get on the hillside itself. If you head up there expect to find a lot of loose rock trails running straight down the hill, these are intersected by more of the same running along the width of the hill. I spent about 40minutes grunting up climbs and blasting around on the rolling stuff. While I wouldn't recommend driving there to ride mountain bikes it does make for a nice 'cross bike challenge, and depending on your route, makes for a 40 + mile ride with some woods riding thrown in for good measure. Bring some bug spray as it is your atypical swampy Southern NE mess in many spots.

This Saturday I rode out to Rocky Woods in Taunton to explore the area for the first time in a long time. I used to ride there with the Providence Bicycle gang when I had first moved back to the area (1999/2000). This was when there was a regular Saturday ride leaving the shop, and we needed to find new riding spots to keep it interesting. I also raced there in 2000 as part of a now defunct racing series that included the Master Blaster race in Attleboro, MA. Ah yes, the days of local MTB racing... Anyways, back to the matter at hand. I had no idea what to expect and the reports from the NEMBA message board were less than stellar. I figured worst case scenario I'd get in a 50 mile ride on 'cross tires early in the day before it became hotter than the Devil's armpit. That plan didn't work out so well due to my spending too much time discussing Metalocalypse with Captain Stupid at the Fez. So I rolled out at 11:00 AM and proceeded to ride over to Rocky Woods at a surprisingly strong pace considering the singlespeed ride the night before at Lincoln Woods.

I arrived at Rocky Woods before it became unbearably hot and rode in right at the end of Glebe St. in Taunton. From this entrance I lucked onto what is apparently the best kept section of trail. Most of what I found was moto double track laced with the usual rocks, roots, mud and streams. Most of the swampy atv/moto ruts had cheater lines around them, and this allowed me to stay on the bike for almost all of the 45 minutes I spent exploring. After spending around 30 minutes out there I ran across a really big surly snapping turtle, at this point I decided life would simply be easier if I just yielded the trail and headed out. It seemed like a good point to turn back anyways. I popped out of the woods completely spattered with stanky swamp goop, and I must've looked like a rolling version of Pigpen while riding home. At one point I was joined by a Union Cycles rider 107 miles into his ride, and he asked me what the hell happened to me. I really hadn't noticed that my legs were completely covered in dust and mud, and that the bike was really nasty with big globs of crud all over the rear end. I'm slightly shocked the 10 speed stuff didn't explode on me. Word on the street is this stuff dislikes the mud. The rest of the ride home was uneventful, hot as hell, but uneventful. My FSA bottom bracket finally broke in on this ride, that was a nice touch.

Yesterday I built up a bike that's probably familiar to some of you. This is my third Schwinn Project Underground frame. I bought this last September for a ridiculously low price and I swore I'd get around to building it into a rideable whip. That day finally came yesterday, and I took it for an hour long shakedown ride at Lincoln Woods late in the day. Aside from the beautiful pewter Race Face Turbines the build is nothing to get excited about, but it all works just the same. For those wondering what's so special about an 11 year old Schwinn go here and read up. And yeah, you guessed it, that's one of my old bikes. I traded it into the wonderful bicycle museum Jeff Archer has built in Statesville, NC. The frames make excellent singlespeeds due to the overbuilt bottom bracket area, and the light weight doesn't hurt either. My new one is geared 2:1 with a 34x17 drivetrain, a Surly 1x1 fork and a DMR tensioner.

Riding this bike was like throwing on an old pair of shoes. Even though I haven't ridden a 26" wheeled bike in almost 6 months, and I hadn't ridden one of these frames in roughly two years, it was almost instantly familiar. I forgot just how much quicker a 26" mtb will scramble up steep punchy climbs, and how a taller gear will make you feel like you are on a rocket ship. The relatively light weight helps with this, but the fundamental acceleration difference in wheel size is so readily apparent it's kinda surprising. I think for longer climbs it's a wash between the 29er and a 26, it's on the short steeps that the 26 just blazes up stuff. I won't be ditching my 29ers to ride an old Schwinn anytime soon, but it's nice to have this ride to change it up from time to time.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lincoln Woods Friday Night Rides

Soooo fast, soooo fun. Faster than Adam even. You know you want to be like Frate, and go fast, and wear white camo and be cool. So show up and ride, OK?