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New Year’s Ride: Mountain Biking

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

On New Year’s Day, it was nice and cold. Finally, cold enough that I could head out to Brown County State Park and ride on some of the trails there. I rode the Pine, North Tower, and Aynes Loops. Here’s a map of my ride.

It was in the upper teens (Fahrenheit) during my ride, and the ground was frozen solid. This makes for some of my favorite riding conditions; frozen trails, so long as they aren’t too rough or icy, give you great traction, and the hard trail surface means you can go FAST.  The crunching sound of the ice beneath your wheels is a wonderful thing.

Things were actually a bit rough at first, as there were ruts from when people rode when it was too muddy, which had since frozen solid. It’s jarring riding over frozen ruts. But once I got up the hill a little bit, conditions improved.

This was only my second trail ride on my new mountain bike, and I wasn’t sure how it would do. It rode great on paved and gravel roads but trails are quite different. The bike exceeded my expectations. I am still astonished at how great the traction is with 29″ wheels. And during this ride I noticed that while it takes a little more effort to get up to speed, once you’re moving, the bike just wants to keep going. Momentum is very important in mountain biking, and I really felt that this bike helped me use it to my advantage.

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Between the North Tower and Aynes Loops, there are a few creek crossings. There wasn’t much ice, and I did well, even on one particularly tricky one that I sometimes don’t even attempt.

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The Aynes climb was the first major test of the bike’s off-road climbing ability. I have to say, it felt sluggish. But on the other hand, going over rocks and roots while climbing felt a lot more doable; the bigger wheels roll over them more easily. Still, climbing on this bike is going to take some practice, and I still think I may need to lower the gearing slightly.

When I reached the top of the Aynes climb, I enjoyed being able to see more of a view. There is a lot that you can see that’s normally obscured by leaves.

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But, as soon as I reached the top of the hill and stopped for a break, I had a huge coughing fit. I was breathing hard, and I guess I’m not used to breathing in such cold air. I felt pretty bad for a couple of minutes, until I caught my breath and stopped coughing. I decided that when it’s this cold, I need to stop more often, especially when climbing, so I don’t overdo it and breathe in too much cold air.

I turned my attention to my bike, and noticed a small icicle forming on the down tube, and some other ice frozen flat. The ice must have come from the creek crossings, water splashed up and froze. It’s weird to see ice on your bike! There were also a number of frozen droplets on my shoe covers.

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The climbing on the Aynes Loop pays off in some great donwhill riding. At first it’s quite rocky, and you have to go slowly. The bike handled the rocks great, and the best was yet to come: a long, fast, flowing descent. This is where this bike really excels. It was easy to keep my speed up and just fly through most of it. There were a few muddy spots on some of the more exposed southern-facing slopes, but otherwise the trail conditions were still fantastic.

I stopped at the pond for a moment, then headed back toward the car. I had a ways to go still at this point, but I didn’t take a lot of photos on the way back.

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More ice on the bike

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This was a great way to start the 2010 riding year. I was thrilled that I finally got to take my new mountain bike for a good shakedown ride, and surprisingly, even though it was in the teens, there were only a couple of times when I felt cold.

7 Responses to “New Year’s Ride: Mountain Biking”

  1. Jon Grinder Says:

    Man, I’ll be glad when our trails thaw out.

    Looks like you had a great ride. I’m a bit jealous…

  2. Chandra Says:

    Don’t worry about the cold, am making sure I eat enough for all of us LOL!
    Glad you had fun !

    Peace 🙂

  3. Apertome Says:

    Jon: we have the opposite problem around here. The trails freeze at night and thaw during the day, making for a muddy mess. So, until spring, frozen trails are the best we can hope for.

  4. Steve A Says:

    Very nice looking trails. Except for the creek crossings and maybe the frozen ruts, they look like you could do them on a cross bike?

  5. Redbike Says:

    I’ve just gone down the 29er route myself and i’m keen to know just what other rides think of them (good and the bad).

    So far i’ve not had chance to test the bike off-road in ‘normal’ conditions due to deep snow /ice here in England.

  6. Apertome Says:

    Steve: I imagine you could do these trails on a cross bike, or at least the easier ones. The harder trails have some rocky sections that would be a real problem, although even those you could do; you might have to walk a few places, but I have to do that even on a mountain bike. I’ve seen a couple of people riding out there on cross bikes, they were hardcore/insane, but it can be done.

    Redbike: congrats on the new bike! I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on it, too.

  7. Jon Grinder Says:

    Well, when I say “thaw”, I really should say “melt”. My favorite trails have a couple of feet of snow on them. And, since snowmobiles aren’t allowed on most of them, there’s not much way to ride them until the Spring Thaw.

    Redbike: I built up both a 650b and a 29er, last year, so that I could compare all 3 popular mtb wheel sizes (29er, 650b and good ol’ 26…not to mention the 69er I rode for part of 2008). I ended up falling in love with my 29er after doing a 24-hour solo race on it. I run a rigid fork, and mustache bars, so it rides very much like a super-monstercross. Apparently, in my old age, I have turned into a retrogeek.

    Now, I’m all about the 29er for “real” mountain biking, and I ride a Bridgestone XO-2 with 26″ wheels and 1.35″ wide knobbies on the road and for “cross-style” rides.

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