Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for August, 2011

Hicksville Ride

Monday, August 8th, 2011

This weekend, Sarah and I headed to Fort Wayne to visit her family. I wanted to do a bike  ride while we were there, as I often do, when we’re in town. This gives Sarah some quality time with her family, and I get to ride. It works out well.

I rode with Bill Lambert again — this time, we rode with the Three Rivers Velo Sport club. Bill rides with them sometimes, and I rode with them once a few years ago, on the opposite side of Fort Wayne.

This ride started in New Haven, just east of Fort Wayne, took us into Ohio for a stop in the small town of Hicksville. Then back, with part of the return trip along the Maumee River. Here’s a map of our route.

The ride started early, at 8:00 am. At least, that’s early for me. I drove to the ride start and got ready. I arrived a few minutes early, unusual for me. I connected with Bill, and in a few minutes, we were off.

The morning was wonderfully cool. I don’t know what the temperature was, but after weeks on end of 90+-degree days, it felt quite refreshing. Also, there was a bit of fog over the fields.

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A few minutes after we rolled out, I heard a train horn blowing in the distance. Soon the train caught up with us and was moving along on tracks parallel to the road. We picked up the pace a little, as if being pulled along by the train.

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The terrain in northern Indiana is quite different from what I’m used to: it’s quite flat. I enjoy having opportunities to ride in areas with all kinds of terrain, so it’s a nice change of pace. Speaking of pace, we were moving at a good clip, but being in a double-paceline most of the time, I just had to hold on and try to stay with the group. The pace was brisk, but not so fast that I couldn’t hold on. Drafting can do wonders, especially on flat ground.

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As we rode, the sky grew more and more ominous. Eventually, it started raining — lightly at first, but falling harder and harder.

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I’ve done plenty of rainy rides, but usually I’m on the Trucker, which is equipped with fenders. I consider this the “best” way to ride in the rain, but riding in a double paceline in the rain is another experience entirely. There’s something visceral about riding a skinny-tired road bike in the rain, with water and grit flying everywhere, getting drenched to the bone, water getting in your eyes and on your glasses, but still spinning right along. I quite enjoyed it, and the rain cooled me off even more. So refreshing!

It rained for quite a while … maybe 20 miles. It was challenging at times, with brakes not working well in the rain, and not being able to see very well. But we just kept on going.

After a while, we reached Hicksville, OH. At this point I realized that I had been meaning to pay attention when we crossed the state line, but it had completely slipped my mind. After a convenience store stop, we were rolling again.

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At some point, the rain stopped, but it mostly remained cool and overcast. Eventually Bill and I felt that we had had enough of pushing the pace, and we dropped off the back. It was fun to push myself for a while, but really the later part of the ride, once we slowed down, I got to enjoy the scenery, and conversation, more.

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Check out Bill’s snazzy Ohio Randonneurs jersey!

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Crossing the Maumee River

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Amish country

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When we were just a few miles from the end, the sun managed to burn through the clouds, and the air started to warm up immediately. It never got terribly hot, but I sure appreciated the cooler weather earlier in the day.

We rode through New Haven on our way back, and saw folks setting up a tent with a sign that read, “Brew Haven.” Apparently, they were having a craft beer festival. If it had been later in the day, I might have been tempted.

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We finished the metric century around noon. I couldn’t believe how quickly we completed this ride. Drafting a lot, on flat ground, certainly helps. Actually, Bill had ridden to the ride start, and was going to ride home, so he probably finished the day with 85 miles.

I enjoyed this ride immensely. It was different from what I’m used to, but that made it even more fun. Riding in a double paceline in the rain was a blast, the Three Rivers club guys have always been good to ride with, and Bill as well.

Singlespeed Mountain Biking (finally!)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Since our ride was cut short on Saturday, Dave and I met at Brown County again on Sunday, to try again. This time, we had a successful ride. I took very few photos, and most of the ones I did take didn’t turn out very well. Once again, it was hot and humid and my camera lens seemed to be eternally fogged up. That, and my camera wasn’t as accessible as it usually is, when I ride on the road.

We started out by riding the North Tower Loop, a good choice as it’s a fairly easy trail, with mostly gradual climbs and only moderate technical challenges. It’s the main trail I rode when I was first learning how to ride trails, so it also served as a good way of learning how to ride a singlespeed on the the trails.

Frankly, it took me quite a while to find my groove. The climbs required a different rhythm from what I’m used to, and the on downhills I had to go extra slow because my brakes weren’t operating at 100% capacity. Try as I might, I could not get them adjusted quite right. My rear brake in particular just didn’t have much stopping power. So, on the downhills, I had to keep my speed down. If I got going too fast, I would have had a hard time stopping.

Since I’m used to riding a front-suspension 29er on the trails, the rigid singlespeed was quite an adjustment. But after a while, I discovered that these trails just aren’t that rough, so I only really missed the suspension when I had to ride over a log or a rock, when normally, it would soak up some of the bumps. In terms of gearing, a few times I felt like the gearing was a little too high. But, there were times when it was just right. Some rolling hills in particular were a lot of fun as I made better use of momentum than I normally would. When I did find the flow of the trails, it was a blast.

After the North Tower Loop, we stopped for a brief break on the connector trail, which is a wider, flat trail that takes you back to the Aynes Loop and beyond. On the singlespeed, I found myself out of breath more often, since I couldn’t switch to a lower gear and spin up the hills. Thankfully, there were very few sections on this trail that were very steep. Most climbs were gradual enough to be quite doable (actually, they were ALL doable, just some more than others).

After that, we had the hardest climb of the ride, up part of the Aynes Loop, counter-clockwise. This is the easier way up Aynes, I think, but it’s still a long climb, and I have to say, it was pretty damn difficult, without any lower gears. Hard enough that I almost … almost had to stop to catch my breath partway up. But I made it.

Finally, we got to the Green Valley Trail, which Dave and I had only partially ridden before, when it was still a work in progress. I was so excited to ride it in its entirety.

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I really can’t say enough good things about this trail. It might become my favorite trail in the park. It has some wonderful flowing downhills, tricky but fun climbs, and enough technical challenges to keep you on your toes, including a few that test the limits of my ability, but not a single thing that’s unridable. And the scenery is great, from ridgetop views to creekside and back again, frequent views of other parts of the trail from across a ravine, and even glimpses of a lake.

By this time I had found my stride on the singlespeed, and while as I said, I was slow on the downhills (not due to gearing, really, due to braking limitations) I felt faster on the climbs, at times. In fact, I did better on some of the more technical sections than I had on my 29er before! I was pretty surprised by that development, but in this case, I had no choice but to just tackle some of the tricky parts, rather than getting into some stupid-low gear and approaching at too low a speed.

The photo below illustrates one really fun part. You come down a hill, then reach a creek in the bottom. The trail crosses the creek on some rocks, and there’s a twisty, narrow trail on the other side, which you use to climb up away from the creek. I almost stalled on a short, steep section here, but I managed to keep rolling. It was a blast.

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The Green Valley Trail also has a significant amount of climbing. A couple of different times, I stopped at the top of a hill to catch my breath, especially since the day was heating up. I really had to slog up some sections and I found the barend sections of my handlebars quite helpful for this.

All in all, it was a great ride. Only about 10 miles, but 10 miles of hilly singletrack, on a rigid singlespeed, gave me quite a workout. It was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait to get out on the trails again.

N – 1

Monday, August 1st, 2011

So, there’s a saying among bicycle addicts that the number of bikes you need is N+1 (where N is the number of bikes you currently have).

I sold a bicycle yesterday, so I guess that puts me at N – 1. Furthermore, now the number I need is N + 2.

The bike I sold is the Little 500 bike. I’ve been considering it for a while, and posted it on Craigslist about two weeks ago.

It made me a bit sad to do this, as it is a  fine bicycle, but I really didn’t need it, and it didn’t fit me as well as some of my other bikes. A shorter stem would have helped, but I just didn’t want to dump money into it.

Here are the photos that I posted on Craigslist, of the bike as it was when I sold it:

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The guy who bought it seemed nice, and said he wanted to use it mostly for commuting, and riding around town. He paid my full asking price, which was a pleasant surprise. I’m glad the bike went to a good home.

I’m guessing there’ll be another singlespeed road bike in my future, eventually, but for now I really have all the bikes I need, and this sale will help get a new wheel for my 29er, and pay a couple of bills. And now that I have The Beast set up as a singlespeed, it can fill this role somewhat, too.

I felt a little bad about one thing — Wil had given me (quite generously), a fixed-gear wheel to experiment with on this bike, and I can’t use that wheel at the moment. I did hold onto it though. I didn’t think it would be right to sell it. So, I’ll hold onto that wheel until I find a use for it, or maybe I’ll pass it along to someone who needs it more than I do.

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