Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for December, 2008

Winter mountain biking setup

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Since I’ve done a few snowy rides recently, on very different trails from where I rode back in Indiana, I’ve noticed some serious shortcomings in the way my mountain bike is set up. Here are the problems I’m experiencing, and what I plan to do about them. Of course, now that I’m getting laid off, anything that costs money is going to have to wait.

Poor traction

I already replaced the Kenda Blue Groove I had on my front wheel with a Panaracer Fire XC Pro, on the advice of my closest bike shop, Main Bike World. I’ve only done one ride on the new tire so far, but it worked very well. Now, I’ve noticed the rear Kenda Nevegal isn’t gripping too well. It’s fairly worn anyway.

Possible solutions: Get another Fire XC Pro (2.1″ wide) to put on the rear wheel. Or, get a Fire FR (2.4″ wide) for the front, and move the 2.1″ tire to the rear wheel. I’m leaning toward getting the wider tire for the front; I haven’t needed it yet but once the snow gets deeper, I think I will need it.

Clipless pedal problems

My Shimano SPD cleats are always getting leaves, mud, snow, and ice stuck in them, often to the point where I can’t clip in at all, or I randomly come unclipped. It’s infuriating. I am constantly having to bang my shoes on the pedals to try to get anything caught in the shoes to fall out. It’s especially bad when I have to push my bike for a while; when I try to get back on the bike, my shoes are clogged.

Cold feet – even with shoe covers, my feet get cold.

Possible solution: Put platform pedals on my mountain bike. I switched to platforms on the road when I got the Trucker, and I love the ability to wear any shoes I want. I’ve been sticking with clipless pedals on the mountain bike, and prefer them in general. For winter, going with platforms would allow me to wear my hiking boots, which keep my feet warmer and won’t get so clogged with snow and ice. Bonus: I have an extra pair of platform pedals laying around.

Moon Lake: more snow biking

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

On Sunday, I went mountain biking at Moon Lake Park. I had never been there before, so it was an interesting experience. There was a bit of snow on the ground (maybe an inch) and they made no effort to clear the roads in the park. Fortunately, the road going up the mountain was clear, and the park itself is fairly flat. I didn’t have any trouble, but my Ford Taurus is not really built for this kind of thing.

Park office

My first order of business was to go to the park office to get a map. Unfortunately, the map looked like a photocopy of a fax, and it was very difficult to make any sense of it. I couldn’t even tell the nearest access point from the map.

moon lake official trail map
Moon Lake Trail Map

The park officer pointed me toward the Nature’s Way trail. I got my stuff ready, set a waypoint in my GPS for the car, and headed out. At first, there were signs pointing the way, but then the signs stopped and the only markings were colored blazes on the trees. Now, notice something about the above map: it’s in black and white, and there’s no legend. I got lost a few times during this ride. In fact, at one point I lost the trail entirely. Here is the route I ended up riding. On the right side, you can see where I got lost and tried every possible way of going before eventually finding my way back to the trail.

View Larger Map

Making the first tracks, for the first time this year

Gently curving trail

The riding was fairly easy for a while, save the few times I encountered some rocks. They were difficult to see because of the snow, and slick. Of note: my new front tire (a Panaracer Fire XC Pro) worked very well in this snow. Somehow, I took a wrong turn and ended up by the road. I went back and spent a while riding on a fire road. It was easy, but a lot of fun. It’d be a great place to ride once the snow gets deeper, since I think the harder trails would be too difficult in those conditions.

Rear wheel, derailleur, snow, leaves, etc

Easy fire road riding

I think, in hindsight,  that the fire road was not the way I was supposed to go. Or, looking at the map now, I think I bypassed the Salamander trail. Whoops.

I turned onto another trail, which had some fun logs to hop and some nice scenery.

Tire treads


Soon, I was at the campground.


A would-be excellent view, if not for the bathrooms

Anyway, before long I was back on singletrack, and it got a lot more difficult. The trail went into a lot of twists and turns, the rock quotient increased, it got hillier as well. There were some very impressively-designed switchbacks along the way. They’d be tricky in dry conditions. With the snow, some were impossible. There was also a skill-building area set up with rocks to climb, jump off, etc. I didn’t do any of that. Maybe I’ll try it when there isn’t snow on the ground.



A reason to be happy I have disc brakes

Skill-building area

My bicycle

Sloped, narrow trail

I ended up pushing my bike a lot through this section. There were no long climbs, but a lot of short, steep ones. That, combined with curvy, narrow trails, steep sideslopes, and a plethora of rocks, meant I was slipping around a lot.

Narrow trail

The hill, including the trail, is on a pretty severe angle. My bike kept slipping off the rocks and over to the left.

I was impressed with these trails, but once again I felt this would be very difficult, even when dry. The trails here are much more technical than the ones in Indiana. The rocks are the main hazard, but the extremely twisty trail design made things more difficult. I can’t wait to ride this section once the trails are clear; it was really too hard for me, with the snow on it.

Guardian angel squirrel

Crazy rocks


Tight switchback

Eventually, I ended up back at the campground. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I had a really hard time finding the trail. I rode through the campground looking for it, and it was vacant and a little eerie. There were no signs anyone had been there since it snowed, and I could hear the wind whistling through the area. The playground looked absolutely forlorn.


Eventually, I did find the trail. I took the service road up to a maintenance area, and then I found the trail. I also had to reconnect with it by the scout camp.

Sewage treatment?

A tank of some sort

The trail I found was a blast, It still had a lot of twists and turns, but they weren’t as sharp. I was able to get in a good groove and even ride over some long rock gardens. I was having a blast.


Rock garden

The trail connected with the road

Scout camp

The trail went into a long downhill stretch. It was nice to let loose and let gravity do most of the work. There were some nice views through the trees. Tough to capture in photos, but I saw some distant mountains, and the gap between them. I had to keep my speed conservative due to the snow, but I bet you can really fly through here when the trails are clear.

Downhill riding, with a bit of a view

For a while, the trail was mainly fast and flowing, but occasionally threw a rock garden or log pile at you — or even a rock pile.

Treacherous — riding over a pile of snowy rocks, with that tree waiting to stab you (I walked this)

The trail went through a narrow gap between two stone walls

I reached some other trails, some of which were signed, but I once again got confused about what trail I was on. By this time I had lost the trail map and while it wasn’t very good, I still wished I had it. I came upon a creek, which the trail crossed several times. Soon afterwords I ran out of water. This almost never happens to me, as I am very careful to always carry enough water. I was a little disconcerted, but I knew I couldn’t have too much further to go.


Creek crossing

A bend in the creek

After a bit, I worked my way back to the road. I didn’t quite get to ride all the trails in the park, but since I was out of water, I wanted to head back to the car. If I hadn’t wasted so much time being lost, I would’ve had plenty of time to finish riding the trail system. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back!

I enjoyed Moon Lake immensely. It had some very difficult parts that would be a fun challenge when dry. Next time I might bypass some of the sketchier parts, if there is still snow on the ground. Also, I want to ride the Salamander trail and ride the trails in the system that I missed.

I rode just over 8 1/2 miles. In these conditions, it took me nearly 3 1/2 hours! I hiked a big part of it, and getting lost slowed me down a lot. But overall, it was a great 3 hours in the snowy woods.

Some GPS fun

Monday, December 8th, 2008

I’ve been really enjoying looking at the tracklogs captured by my GPS. It allows me to look at some interesting data about both my riding and the terrain. One common element in many of my rides is Bunker Hill Road. Have a look at it, as seen in Google Earth.

Bunker Hill Road, in Google Earth

As you can see, it winds its way up the mountain. Note: partway between Bunker Hill Road (in blue) and 309 (in yellow), you can see a greyish line. That’s the Back Mountain Trail, another way I often ride. I’m constantly amazed at the level of detail you can see in Google Earth.

Not as flashy, but at least as useful, if not moreso, is TopoFusion. Here’s a topographic view of roughly the same area.

Topographical map from TopoFusion

It struck me during my ride that it takes an awfully long time to get up the mountain, but a much shorter time period to get down. I didn’t think to time it, but by looking at the GPS data in TopoFusion, I can get the information I want.

The crosshairs on the lower left of the profile are pointed at the start of the climb. All data is as of that point.

Now, I look at the data at the end of the climb

As you can see, the climb lasted from 9:25 to 31:07, or 21:42 spent on this climb. Climbing-wise, at the beginning of the hill I had already climbed 218 feet. By the time I reached the top, I had climbed 1,000 feet, so the climb was 782 feet.

As I look at the descent in the same manner, I see that it took merely 6:48 to get down the mountain. This time, I “only” hit about 30 mph on the descent, but it was too cold to handle going any faster. Tears were streaming from my eyes and obscuring my vision. And with the twists and turns, 30 is plenty fast anyway.

A view, looking down (from a previous ride). it’s exhilarating accelerating down toward the valley/city

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