Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for April, 2009

First flat tire in over 1200 miles

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Yesterday, I got my first flat tire ever on the Long Haul Trucker. There was a bunch of glass on the road that I couldn’t avoid. I rolled right over it, and at first everything seemed OK. But within a few minutes, my rear tire went flat. I was only two blocks from home at this point, so I just walked home. I have yet to fix it, but there is an obvious shard of glass sticking out of the tire. Hopefully, it’ll be easy to find and patch the hole.

I still have the stock tires on the bike, Continental Contacts (700×37). So far, these have been great tires. I am amazed that I have gone so long without a puncture — I have ridden through and over all kinds of glass, rocks, sticks, thorns, etc., on and off the road. They don’t exactly have a cushy ride, but traction is great and the puncture protection seems to work very well. When it comes time to replace them, I’m going to have a hard time deciding whether to get more Contacts, or try to find something a little more supple that still has puncture protection.

Of course, now I’m bracing myself for a bunch more flat tires. These things usually come in groups. At the beginning of last year, I got flat tires on three or four consecutive rides. I hope I don’t repeat that string of bad luck.

The hydration problem

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I drink a lot of water — on and off the bike. But especially when I’m hiking or biking, I make a point of staying well-hydrated. The downside of this is that I have to carry a lot of water.

On the Trucker, I have three water bottle cages. I can fit two 24-ounce bottles and one 20-ounce bottle, for a total of 68 ounces of water. When hiking or mountain biking, I bring my Camelbak, which holds up to 100 ounces — but this is very heavy and unwieldy. If I fill the Camelbak completely, I’m carrying 6.5 pounds of water alone. This is quite uncomfortable and on very long rides in hot weather, I can still run out of water.

Even when road riding, I find that there are very few places to refill my water bottles around here. There are a lot of “towns” on the map, but they often turn out to be nothing more than a few houses at an intersection. I sometimes ride for hours without seeing a convenience store. I have a feeling that if I rode on busier roads, I’d encounter more convenience stores, but that wouldn’t be much fun.

Does anyone else have trouble carrying enough water? How do you handle it?

As for me, I think I’ve found a solution: I bought a water filter. It’s a Katadyn Hiker Pro. On my hikes and road and mountain bike rides, I frequently pass rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds. Now, I can carry less water and safely fill up whenever I need to, using any body of water. The “Pro” edition of this filter even includes connectors to allow you to fill a hydration pack through the drinking hose, without removing the bladder from the pack. And it only weighs 11 ounces — less than an extra water bottle.

I haven’t tried my new water filter yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how well it works. I’ll post some thoughts here once I’ve put it through its paces.

Moosic Mountain

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

After my last mountain bike ride, which was in the rain, my bike was in pretty bad shape. I took it in for a tune-up, and had new disc brake pads installed. It took a while, because they had to order the brake pads. So by the time I got my mountain bike back, I was itching for a trail ride.

I had pretty much already decided I wanted to ride at Moosic Mountain. Eight miles of new trails, built last year by the Hubbard Bicycle Club. I didn’t know much about the trails, but they sounded very interesting based on what I had read.

So, on Sunday, I set out, expecting to ride for maybe an hour and a half. But I had no idea what I was in for: it ended up being the eight hardest miles of riding I’ve ever done.


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Pennsylvania has a reputation for being insanely rocky, and while Frances Slocum and Moon Lake are rockier than anything I rode in Indiana, they weren’t too crazy. The Moosic Mountain trails, on the other hand, are built on top of a mountain. The high, windy location, combined with the fact that there have been fires here in the past, make for a lot of exposed rock. There’s a lot of slickrock, and even the singletrack is quite rocky and technical.

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Crazy rock armoring before I’ve even left the parking area

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Slickrock

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The first of many open areas of slickrock

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Winding trail

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My bicycle, and a nice view

I was startled by how unusual the landscape was on Moosic Mountain. It was rather barren, and it became even more barren in other places during the ride. It almost felt like a desert at times. There were frequently great views, thanks to the sparse vegetation and the fact that most of the plants that were there were mostly low-lying brush.

The riding was tough right off the bat. The slickrock was quite rough, actually, and even the parts that looked like normal trails were quite soft. Partially because there had been some recent rain, partially because of some kind of brush on the trails, and partially because these are new trails.

This short trail soon ended and I found myself at an access road. Even this was loose, rocky and tough to ride on. I found my way to the trail leading to the rest of the trail system and crossed a creek. Here, things got rockier. There was more slickrock, but there were other rocks on top of it. Really, there were layers of rock and frequently you would ride over a smooth portion, then up and over some layers jutting upwards, then off a dropoff back to a smooth part. In some places, there were layers of dirt on top of the slickrock base, but even then, there were still rocks jutting up through the dirt.

I had never encountered rocky terrain like this. I was able to ride more of it than I would’ve expected, but it was very tricky, and it was slow going. The trail was often nothing more than a path across the rocks, marked by cairns (piles of rocks), blazes painted on the rocks, and the occasional pink flag tied to a branch.

I had great traction most of the time. These rocks are Conglomerate, which is quite porous and offers excellent traction. In fact, this trail is called the Conglomerate Trail.

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Rocky singletrack

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The … uhh … trail

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My mountain bike

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I found this sign humorous

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Creek crossing

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My bike, on a large slickrock surface

I continued to be stunned by the landscape. I’m curious what all of this will look like later in the spring, when everything has grown in. I saw a few buds here and there, but not many signs of spring.

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Singletrack, with strange vegetation

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A nice view, over the brush

The trail went by some very large stones — some probably as tall as I am —  in the “Stonehenge” section, then took me on some more singletrack and slickrock before dumping me out on a power line access road with more great views. Like the access road I rode on previously, this one was very rocky and loose. In some sections water was draining across the road, basically creating small creek crossings.

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“Stonehenge”

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More slabs slickrock — you have to maneuver from one slab to the next

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Power line access road

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My bicycle

Next, I rode the High Voltage Loop. This took me on huge slabs of open slickrock. Again, cairns and blazes on the rock marked the way. I have to say, the trail was well-marked, although at this point you could really take any path you wanted across the rock, so long as you ended up in the right place. I followed the markings as closely as I could, for fear that I might lose the trail. The trail took a meandering, but fun, path through the rock.

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Beginning of the High Voltage Loop

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Slickrock, more great views

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Looking back — several of the cairns are visible in this photo

The next challenge was an old quad road. I had read that this was loose and rocky. Now I know that if someone from Pennsylvania tells you something is rocky, you listen! This was one of the parts of the ride I enjoyed least. I was riding across very loose rocks and while I was riding downhill, I felt that the downhill riding was largely wasted just trying to clear these stupid rocks. And unlike the slickrock, I didn’t feel like this was very rewarding. It’s basically just a connector trail. All day, I was waiting for a fast, flowing singletrack descent that never materialized. This would’ve been an obvious place for it; maybe they have plans to route around the quad road, I don’t know.

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Rocky quad road

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Looking back up the quad road

Once I got past the quad road, the terrain was pretty similar to before — alternating sections of singletrack and slickrock. However, the trail took me by a pretty lake, O’Conner Reservoir, and some other interesting features. I also had more great views.

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Ruddy brush

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A fun slickrock climb (I made it!)

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More slickrock

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The trail parallels a stream

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Creek crossing, and a climb

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O’Conner Reservoir

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The trail crosses the dam

At some point, the amount of singletrack increased, but it remained quite technical. I think if I were a stronger/more technical rider, I could have had some real fun with it, but by this time, I was getting quite tired. The trail remained quite beautiful, but I found myself walking more and more as I ran out of steam. The trail took me through some wonderful blueberry patches. This section will be fantastic when they bear fruit.

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Blueberry plants

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Singletrack

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Looking down at the lake

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Brushy singletrack, and a very nice view

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My bicycle

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Small waterfall

Eventually I found myself back on the access road. I had quite a climb ahead of me, and once again the access road was loose and rocky. I was really running out of steam, and I stopped several times during the climb. I looked back at some more great views, while I stopped.

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Access road

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Looking back during the climb

I still haven’t decided what I think of this ride overall. It was very difficult, to the point where at many times, it wasn’t much fun. I like a challenge, but I am not a big fan of uber-technical trails. There weren’t any long, sustained climbs, except for the access road at the end, but this trail still really wore me out. And I never did find a section of flowy singletrack, which was really what I was hoping for.

All that said, I think riding at Moosic Mountain forced me to improve my technical skills. I also think that the stronger I get and the better I get at handling rocks, the more fun I could have. The Hesitation Point trail back in Indiana was this way for me for some time. It was so hard that it just wasn’t fun. But the better I get at riding, the more fun it gets. It starts to flow, if you have the skills to ride it properly.

Furthermore, the scenery was incredible. I guess this is one of those rides that I look back on more and more fondly as time passes and I forget how painful it was at the time.

The true test is: will I go back? I would guess that I will, but this is not a ride I feel the need to repeat on a regular basis. Besides, there are a lot of other trails to explore in this area.

I rode 7.71 miles and was out riding for about 3 1/2 hours. My moving average was, incredibly, under 3 mph.

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