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Archive for the 'Flat Tire' Category

Winona Lake

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I took Sarah up to Fort Wayne to visit her family this weekend. I brought my mountain bike so that I could go ride at Winona Lake, which is in Warsaw, IN (about an hour’s drive west of Fort Wayne). I had tried to ride there last year, but that didn’t work out. Needless to say, I was excited to ride on this trail. It was also a bit of a scouting mission to help decide whether to ride in the 24 Hours of DINO race.

The first thing I noticed as I was getting ready was that it was cold. I wasn’t really prepared for how much cooler it was there. I was pretty comfortable, though, even in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. I felt a little bit cool, but I don’t mind that. Of course, the first thing the trail did was go through a creek. By the time I had gone less than a quarter of a mile, I was already drenched and freezing. I knew I’d warm up and dry out, so I wasn’t worried. It was really hard to shift right from the start; I did a number on my derailleur cables on my last mountain bike ride, which was very dusty (see the Pre-Breakdown Shakedown).

Winona Lake is an interesting trail because it has numerous points where there are more difficult sections of trail, and you can choose whether to go on the harder part or take an easier bypass around the obstacles. I checked out the first difficult section, and it had a pretty big drop-off. I decided against riding it. I knew I could probably make it, but the consequences for messing up would have been pretty severe, and I was riding alone. If something happened, getting help would have been difficult. So, I backtracked and took the easier way instead.

I got a bit confused a couple of times about how to follow the trail. It’s an overlapping network of trails, with signs, and I had a map, but it was still pretty difficult to follow. I figured out a good way to go. I rode some more and came across another difficult section, and rode it. I went flying down a hill, up a ramp to a narrow wooden bridge, and then dropped back down and crossed a big log. The trail wound around, and I had a little trouble keeping good traction. The soil was sandier and looser than what I’m used to, and it took me a while to figure out how to keep good traction.

The trail wound around some more and spit me back out on a paved road. I saw that the trail continued on the other side, and kept riding. I saw a drop-off coming up, but didn’t realize how big it was until the last moment. I almost tried to stop, but instead kept going, catching some good air and landing safely. The trail wound was a bit straighter for a few minutes, with some small climbs and descents. I looked up and saw a huge deer. At first, I didn’t even think she was real, she was huge and standing very stoically and looked statuesque. Then she moved and I realized that she was the real deal. She was pretty different from the deer I usually see at home, much bigger and with grey fur instead of a reddish brown.

One thing that took me a while to get used to at Winona Lake is that it goes near a paved path and a bunch of subdivisions and other signs of civilization. It’s clear that they had a pretty small piece of land and wanted to cram as much trail on it as possible, because the trail loops around in sort of weird ways and you often find yourself going back in the direction from which you came. At first, I took this to mean I was going the wrong way, until I realized the trail was doing a bit of zig-zag action. This also means sometimes you’ll ride right by a section of trail you already rode on. It’s a little disconcerting when you’re used to trails that go somewhere.

I kept riding, and took another one of the difficult trails. I stopped short when I saw a cascade of 3-4 big dropoffs. I wanted to try it, but I didn’t have the nerve. Again, maybe if I hadn’t been riding alone, I would have given it a shot. Alas. I took the easier way and then found myself on the very interesting Field Trail, which is appropriately named. Suddenly, I found myself out of the woods and in an open field with tall grasses growing in it. The trail wound through this field for a while. It was pretty cool, and reminded me a bit of the balds we saw in the mountains. I took the wrong trail at the other end of the field, but corrected my mistake and went flying down a big hill with a banked turn at the bottom of it.

The trail followed a creek for a while, which was really pretty. Then, it crossed a bridge and got twistier on the other side of the creek. There were a couple of difficult trails in this section, including the Caution Trail, which has a lot of extremely sharp turns. There were a number of logs and big roots to jump, some short, steep climbs, and some really fun descents. My memory is a little hazy on this section of trail, but the thing I remember most is all the sharp turns. There was also a fun mounded dirt jump at one point, and a “Black and Blue” big dropoff that I didn’t attempt. The trail followed the creek some more and spit me out at the beginning.

I decided to ride the loop a second time, now that I had a sense of the trail and which technical features to attempt and which to skip. I got a little past the narrow wooden bridge when I noticed my tires making noise. I thought it was just the slightly-crunchy rocks in the soil at first, but I looked down to check my tires. The front was fine. The rear had gone flat. Crap!

Fortunately, I had a pump and patch kit in my Camelbak. I got to work on finding and fixing the leak. I found a small hole in my tire, and a matching one in the inner tube. There was no sign of anything still being stuck in the tire. A couple of runners went by, asking if I needed help. One of them even had a pump! But I had everything I needed, and they continued running. I messed up putting the first patch on, but got it right on my second try. I got anxious and tried to put the first one on before the glue was completely dry. I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes through all of this — I hadn’t noticed them while I was riding, but as soon as I stopped, they attacked.

The second patch took, and I seated the tire and tube and started pumping. My pump worked surprisingly well. I say “surprisingly” because it doesn’t work well at all on my road bike. It probably took a couple hundred pumps, but I think I got my tire up to around 50 psi, which is where I normally run it. I didn’t have a pressure gauge to check.

Once I got moving again, the rest of my ride went very smoothly. I was finally getting used to the loose, rocky, sandy soil and learning how to get better traction. I also did better on the technical features. I enjoyed my second lap a lot more than the first, since I was more familiar with the trail and was able to really let loose a couple of times where I had to be more cautious the first time around.

All things considered, I really enjoyed my ride. The Winona Lake trail was not what I expected — I was hoping for something that would cover more ground, rather than zigzagging across the same small piece of land — and it didn’t even go by the lake. But it was a lot of fun in its own right, I enjoyed the twisty sections, technical features, and the dropoffs I did do. I’m still not sure if I’d want to ride on it for 24 hours (or 12), although that’s still under consideration.


Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Back in May, Sarah’s friend Julia came to visit. We spent a couple of hours with her cousin, Christopher. We went over to his place to hang out for a while, and as soon as we entered his kitchen, Julia spotted a sign that said “Simplify” in block letters. She started laughing and asked, “You have one, too?” Apparently, one of their relatives gave a “Simplify” sign to each of them. Both of them kept it, but neither seemed to be sure why.

This “Simplify” sign had a surprising impact on me.  I’ve thought about it a few times since then. Then yesterday, I looked at my bank statement online and felt stupid — “this transaction was unnecessary,” I thought. “This one, too.” There were several things on there that I just didn’t need. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much stuff is cluttering up my life.

Then, on my way home from work (I drove, since my bike had a flat tire), I saw a man laying on the ground and a cyclist trying to help him. I turned off on a side street so I could turn around and see if I could help. I turned around, and I was stuck at the intersection, but I could see across. A few people were trying to help the man, and at least two people had already called 911. The man appeared to be unconscious. He started to convulse a little bit. Moments later, he regained consciousness and tried to get up. Someone helped him to his feet. He seemed to have enough help, and I could hear an ambulance already, so I decided to continue on my way.

Another reason I didn’t stick around was that I knew I couldn’t do much. I don’t know much about first aid, and I took a CPR class back in high school, but that was a long time ago. I felt helpless. Fortunately, this guy already had people helping him, but what if I was the only one there, and I didn’t know what to do? I felt silly that I had worried earlier that day about my flat tire and getting a new tire and how I was anxious to get home quickly. Those things are so trivial compared to a human life.

I need to get back to basics. I’m going to make a concerted effort to simplify my life. I’m not sure yet what that will mean, but I need to figure that out. Two things I know it will involve are buying less crap and learning some first aid and CPR. Especially with all the cycling I do, and the hiking Sarah and I do together, I really need to know those things. Sarah said she’d take some classes with me, which is a great idea. I think I can get rid of a lot of the junk I already have, too. I have a lot of clothes that don’t fit anymore, and stuff I don’t use. It needs to go. I have two old bicycles I’ve been meaning to get rid of, but haven’t. I have no idea why, I just keep putting it off.

I’m hoping this simplification will help on several levels. It should help me save money, and I think having less clutter will make me more comfortable. It’ll be easier to find things if I don’t have so much junk to dig through. But more importantly, I have been trying to be more self-reliant in general, and I think that learning first aid — and trying to depend less on things I should be able to do without — should help me do that. I already feel more self-reliant from cycling. If my car broke down, or I crashed it, or something happened and oil prices skyrocketed even further, I could still get around. But if one of my loved ones got hurt, I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything. That is unacceptable.

Meeting a goal for June; Hobbieville Ride

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

I met the main cycling goal I had set for myself for June: to ride over 400 miles for the month. I ended up riding a bit over 410 miles. I would have had more, but I had a migraine or something like it on Saturday, and didn’t ride that day.

I was planning on riding on the road one day this weekend and mountain biking the other day, but since I didn’t get to ride on Saturday, I ended up scrapping mountain biking in favor of a long road ride on Sunday. I’ve been digging road riding more recently, although my interest seems to alternate between the two.

It took me a while to figure out what route to ride. I ended up settling on the Hobbieville Ride, which is a Bloomington Bicycle Club route, although I was riding solo. The length was about what I had in mind (it says 46.05 miles on that Routeslip route), and it goes through an area where I hadn’t ridden before. It looked like a lot of fun. I posted a video at the end of this post, scroll down to watch it.

Unfortunately, I did not adequately compare the cue sheet with the map, and had some problems. The cue sheet doesn’t indicate that Church Lane changes into Victor Pike almost immediately. I figured I was going the right way (and I was), but it was a little unsettling. Victor Pike was pretty interesting, it went through some industrial and farm areas, and then had a big climb up to a Victor Oolitic Stone Company limestone quarry. Even though we have hundreds of quarries around here, they always fascinate me, as they look like their own small worlds, almost like stumbling upon a forgotten city. I knew I was at quite a high elevation and got a glimpse of what looked like a good view, but it was obstructed by some huge stones. I stopped to see if I could get around the stones or climb on them. I was able to simply walk around, and I was greeted with this view (click to see other sizes):

Victor Oolitic Stone Company limestone quarry

Another problem I had was that a lot of streets had no signs, so I had a lot of difficulty figuring out which way to go at a couple of different times. In particular, I went the wrong way on Rockport Road. Actually, I made a mistake I often make — I went the right way, second-guessed my instincts, and went back the other way. I ended up calling Sarah to have her double check the map. She confirmed my suspicion that I had gone the right way the first time. My mistake added about six miles to my ride.

I went by the fire station that houses the Indian Creek Fire Fighters, and the Indian Creek Community Park. I stopped at the park to rest and see if I could find a water source to refill my water bottles (I didn’t). On a side note, I just found this page about a township trustee who has been trying to shut down the fire department. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty pissed off if an official I elected decided it’d be a good idea to shut down the fire department and contract the work to a further department with a 20-minute response time (instead of 6 minutes).

The route took me across a bunch of farms on some pretty crummy roads. It was pretty, but not as pretty as my rides near Morgan-Monroe State Forest. However, people in this area were extremely bicycle-friendly. Not only did I not have trouble with cars, I got a lot of waves, smiles, nods, and even a couple of thumbs-up!

On State Road 54, I passed an awesome tiny library, the Eastern Branch of the Bloomfield-Eastern Greene County Public Library. I wanted to take a photo, but I didn’t really have time, and I didn’t want to stop. But I thought of Sarah and made sure to tell her about it when I got home. Maybe she can get a job there.

I found myself on State Road 43 for a stretch, with a fun descent, numerous climbs, and a sighting of some kind of squirrel-like rodent that I think might have been a groundhog. I’m not sure. I rode into the wind from this point until I got home, approximately the last 10 miles of the ride. I made yet another mistake and missed one of the signs to stay on 43, going straight instead of turning left. I climbed a bunch more hills, finally finding a place to refill my water bottles — a tire shop that was closed, but had a vending machine.

My missed turn had further repercussions, as I ended up having to ride back on State Road 45, which isn’t bad on the east side of town. But where I was, it was a 2-lane, busy road with speed limits around 50 mph, with no shoulder. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I did OK. As I rode along, though, into the wind, I could feel the rear end of my bike moving laterally a bit with the wind gusts, and realized that the pressure in my rear tire was very low. I stopped to fix it.

I pumped up the tire as much as I could with my mini pump (which, I discovered, sucks) to see if I could find a leak. It seemed to be mostly holding air at this point, so I decided to go ahead and ride on it. It had a leak, but a slow one. I rode a few more harrowing miles on 45, got into town, and followed my usual commute route home.

I haven’t investigated the leak further. I need to do that tonight. I think I’m going to buy some replacement tires. I may or may not need them yet, but I do think these tires are getting pretty worn, with over 1300 miles on them.

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