Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for December, 2009

New tire for the Trucker

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I got a new tire for the Long Haul Trucker, which until now still had the stock tires on it (Continental Contact 700×37). The rear tire was getting worn, and while it still has some life left in it, the tread was mostly worn off, the tire had a few deep cuts, and I was starting to have some traction problems, especially in wet conditions. The tire had over 2900 miles on it, which seems like a reasonably good life, especially for a rear tire. Since the tire is still usable, I’ll save it for an emergency.

The Continental Contact tires have been fantastic. Over the course of those 2900 miles, I’ve only had ONE flat tire in the rear tire, and none in the front. I ride in all conditions, and on surfaces … ranging from smooth pavement to rough, debris-strewn city roads, gravel roads, fire roads, grass roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. The one flat tire happened in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, after I rode through a bunch of broken glass on the road. A large piece of glass punctured the rubber and managed to get through the protective belt.

While I like these tires a lot, I wanted to try something different. Something more supple and perhaps a little lighter. I ordered a Panaracer Pasela TourGuard 700×35. I’ve read mostly good things about the Paselas, so I’ll see how they work for me. They aren’t too expensive, but I think they’ll be a step up from the Contacts. Some people seem to prefer the non-tourguard versions, but I really wanted the puncture protection.

I moved the front Contact tire to the rear, and put the new Pasela on the front. This way I can have the best traction in the front, where it matters most. I’ll post some thoughts on the Pasela once I get to ride it a bit.

Snow … sort of

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Saturday’s forecast called for snow … up to an inch of accumulation. And snow did fall, but with temperatures hovering at or slightly above freezing, it melted on contact, for the most part. I set out for a ride in the snow, even if it wasn’t exactly the winter wonderland I had hoped for. The good thing about the warmer temperatures was that the roads, while wet, were for the most part clear of snow and ice. The snow was pleasant except that since it melted on contact, it was almost like riding in the rain. It was a dark, brooding, overcast day, and the snow added a hazy atmosphere.

I had something of a route planned, in familiar areas, but parts were questionable and had me exploring some new roads. Sometimes it surprises me when I look at a map of an area where I ride all the time and notice how many roads I have yet to explore. I hoped to find some new roads, without straying too far from my usual riding areas. Here’s a map.

View 2009-12-19 Lake Lemon exploration in a larger map

I started by taking State Road 45 to Mount Gilead Road, where I ride quite frequently. The road follows a rolling ridgetop before dropping sharply into a valley, crossing a creek, and climbing up the other side. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but wet snow was falling for most of the ride.






Next, I took Tunnel Road, another road I ride on fairly often. Some of the fields had more snow along here. I did something different this time, I rode all the way down the big hill, to where it ends by Lake Lemon, at Riddle Point Park. I had only ridden down this way once or twice before, because the road dead ends there. Sort of.


The lake was icier/snowier than I expected, and looked absolutely breathtaking.




No one was to be found anywhere, and I enjoyed a few quiet moments by the lake. The snow was still coming down, and I was getting a bit wet from it. But I didn’t feel cold; my wool layers worked wonders. A few notes on gear in the photo below: a visor under my helmet helps keep the falling snow out of my glasses and eyes (the helmet visor is basically useless for this). The orange vest over my jacket probably wasn’t strictly necessary for warmth, but I felt it helped, from a visibility perspective. I also ran front and rear blinking lights.




I turned onto my first new road of the day, and it turned out to be gravel. Not only that, the gravel was covered with snow. Very wet snow, which severely limited my traction. It was a beautiful and quiet back road that took me past some homes, skirted the edge of Lake Lemon, climbed higher for some views, and went through some wooded areas. I love discoveries like this. I got snow on my camera lens and didn’t realize it, but in some cases the effect is appealing.







Soon, though, the road ended. I knew this might happen, but I didn’t expect it to happen quite where it did. My GPS gave me some idea where I wanted to be, so I tried to find a path there. I found a power line cut, and rode up it a little bit. But the ground was soft and muddy, and the hill was steep, so I walked up the rest of the way. I was worried I would hit a dead end, but instead, within about 1/4 mile, I reached gravel road.



The gravel road was covered in snow. Now, I love riding in snow, so I was very happy to have found not one but *two* snowy gravel roads, on a day when I thought it was going to be too warm. The road didn’t last long — maybe a mile — but this remote, snow-covered gravel road made me smile.





I was a little disappointed when I reached pavement. But, the riding was still great, and the scenery got a little more varied. And I still had the roads to myself.





The road was flat for a little bit, but then climbed a very large, steep hill. One of the harder hills around (Miller Road). It was particularly hard on this day, given that the road was wet and slippery and my movements were generally slower.



I turned onto something of a busier road (that means I saw a couple of cars, rather than none). I rode past the Butler Vineyards, up a small hill, through a neighborhood, and down a fairly large hill.





I was now in a valley, and an unfamiliar one at that. I rolled past several farms and admired the hills looming over me. It was going to be a lot of fun to climb back out of the valley …


After a couple of flat miles in the valley bottom, I reached the bottom of a huge hill. At this point, the road turned to gravel, went through (not over, through) a creek, and turned steeply upwards. Once again, the gravel surface was covered in icy wet snow. I rode through the creek, and as far up the hill as I could, but there just wasn’t much traction. I dismounted and pushed my bicycle about 1/4 mile up the slick, steep road. (For the locals, it turns out I was on Earl Young Road.)






It would have been easy to get frustrated at this point, but I was really enjoying myself — even the pushing. It was just a great day to be out on a bicycle, even though it seemed like a terrible day to be out on a bicycle.

When I reached the top of the hill, it was flat for a bit. I crossed some railroad tracks and found myself back at State Road 45. Now I just had a few relatively easy miles of riding to get home.



This was the only part of my ride with any noteworthy traffic. It wasn’t too bad, but some drivers were less than patient. I’m not sure if the weather put them on edge, or what. Somewhere along here, the snow picked up and I was getting pelted in the face for a while.

I arrived back at home, having ridden a mere 26 miles, but it felt like a lot more. Between the weather, the gravel, the snow, and the hills, I had to work for those miles. The ride took about 2 1/2 hours.

Perhaps surprisingly, I never felt cold during the ride. It wasn’t until I got home and started peeling layers that I got cold. But, once I was dry and had a hot cup of tea, I felt a lot better.

I’d say this ride was a resounding success. Riding in less-than-ideal conditions is always interesting, and I love discovering new roads that are just slightly off the beaten path.


Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I’ve been on a mountain biking/gravel-roads-on-the-mountain-bike kick. But on Sunday, I was feeling the need to stretch my legs on a longish road ride. I decided to do a modified version of the Paragon route, which I have done before. Here’s  a map.

View 2009-12-13 Paragon.kml in a larger map


The day was cool (upper 30s), grey and dreary. I actually really enjoy riding on overcast days. There’s no need to wear sunglasses, and they can seem moody, in a good way.

The first few miles were flat, as I rolled through town. I was immediately glad I had fenders on my bicycle. It wasn’t raining, but the streets were wet from rain earlier in the day. The streets were oddly deserted, with few cars and no other bicycles to be seen.




I rode through Cascades Park, past a Tibetan Monastery, up a big hill, and past a golf course. Gradually, I left the city behind.





I crossed State Road 37, a busy highway, and then I had really reached country roads.



I rode down a big hill, and once in the valley I enjoyed some flat riding for a few miles. Creeks levels were high, and some fields were flooding from all the rain.




All of this flat, easy cruising lulled me into a false sense of security. I rode about four miles with just a few small hills, and got to thinking, “Hey, this is easy!” No sooner had I had that notion when I hit some hills. The road climbed some 200 feet, plunged back down another 200 feet, and then back up again.



Once I reached the top of the second big hill in two miles, I had a couple more miles of flat riding, this time on top of a ridge.



I came to a point where I had to choose whether to go on an out-and-back section to the small town of Paragon, or continue on my way. I opted not to go to Paragon. I didn’t need more water, and didn’t feel I needed to add more mileage to the ride.

I rode on Paragon Road, back to cross State Road 37 again. The scenery was lovely, with some fields, wooded areas, flatlands, and hills.




Once I crossed 37 again, I was in Morgan-Monroe State Forest. I’ve ridden here many times, except this time I took a small detour to ride down some excellent gravel on Jack Weddle Road.The gravel road was relatively smooth, but very greasy from the rain. I heard numerous gunshots as I rode through this area … hunters in the state forest. I saw a deer carcass that someone had left by the side of the road. Sad.





The rest of the ride was on familiar roads, but they looked different from usual on this ride, thanks to the dreary day and wet conditions, including a little flooding on Anderson Road.






My route had me stopping by Lake Griffy, always a beautiful place. The lake had a thin layer of cracking ice on top of it, despite the rain and the rather warm conditions. The water level was high, almost up to the boat dock.



It was getting dark at this point, so I turned my lights on.  Within a few miles, I was home.

This ride started out deceptively easy, and had several easy sections in the middle, but overall there were about seven large climbs. So, it was plenty challenging. It felt great to hit the open road for a few hours; the conditions were really quite wonderful, and I enjoyed the solitude.

Ear to the Breeze is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).