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Archive for the 'Night' Category

Photos from a few rides

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Here are some photos from a few rides that don’t necessarily need their own entries, but that I want to make sure to share. I’ve done a few night rides lately. Since the sun now sets around 4:45 pm, it’s dark by the time I finish working. This means that I have no chance of riding during daylight after work; I’ve learned that it’s better to wait until 6 or 7 to ride when possible, since before that there’s more traffic. I haven’t seen enough traffic around here to call it “rush hour,” but there is noticeably more traffic earlier in the evening.

I’ve found that I really enjoy riding on the Levee trail at night. There are very few people there, and part of it feels sort of remote. I ride along, hearing only the quiet whirring of my wheels, and get caught up in the repetitive act of pedaling. It’s very relaxing.

I have made a few attempts at night photography as well, and with my cheapish digital point & shoot camera, it’s challenging. However, it does have a Night mode that works pretty well for long exposures, so long as I have a solid place to set the camera. I sometimes use a Gorillapod, but it is pretty limited. I wish I had a taller, but still portable, tripod. Anyway, here are a few shots, most taken from near the Market Street Bridge.

Cyclist on Market Street Bridge

The Trucker on the bridge

Glowing lights over the Susquehanna River

Riding action shot — notice the headlight beam

Eerie full moon shot by the river


Moon and pillars

My old mountain bike (the Trucker was in the shop)



I also took some photos during a daytime ride in which I combined Bunker Hill and Larksville Mountain. There was a little more traffic than I would’ve liked during part of it, but overall it was quite enjoyable. There was one huge climb, and I was about to snap a great photo of the mountain when my camera refused to cooperate. Alas, I’ll have to go back.

Looking back, partway up the Bunker Hill climb

Trucksville United Methodist Church

“The White Church on the Hill”


I learned the other day that the Back Mountain Trail, which I have ridden a few times now, has been extended by about two miles. This should bring the total length to around 4.5 miles. The existing section is very enjoyable and provides a gradually-climbing, traffic-free way to get to the Back Mountain area. Unfortunately, the new section currently ends in the woods; hopefully, they’ll be able to make it go through soon.

The comments section of the article about the trail is quite interesting as well. Mostly positive, but there are some negative opinions in there as well, that sort of surprised me.

Another great evening ride

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Last night I did a modified version of a route I’ve done before. It had me riding longer on trails, and riding a more difficult section of trail. In the past I’ve gone out Smith Road to Moore’s Pike, down Lampkins Ridge, and then over to the trail, taking a flat, direct route through the trail. This time, I went the opposite direction and took the hillier, more overgrown and more technical section of trail. I’ve ridden the Long Haul Trucker on the easier section of trail several times now so I knew it handled well there, but how would it fare on something a little more intense?

I rode over to the trail, where the first thing I had to do was go down a hill on an eroded, root-filled trail. I had to take extra care to avoid pedal strike, since the Trucker rides so low to the ground, but I found I could roll over the roots quite well. I made it most of the way down the following hill, although I did walk the  dropoff at the bottom, as it was just too eroded. If I had knobby tires, I might have tried to ride down the sloped section you can see on the left side of the photo.

Eroded trail down a hill

Once down the hill, I had to go up the other side. It’s only a small hill and I had no trouble. I’m continually impressed with how well these Continental Contact tires handle, even offroad. They do have a tread pattern, but it’s pretty tame. Still, they grip well even in dirt. Once up the hill the trail was flat for a while  and curved gently through the forest. The main challenges here were avoiding the overgrown brush and the walnuts and sticks on the ground.

Enveloped by trees

I stopped where the trail intersects another trail. I am very familiar with these trails so I know that the connecting trail goes alongside a ravine and then very steeply drops down into the ravine before climbing out the other side. Parts aren’t even ridable on a mountain bike, so I didn’t try going this way.

Stopped by the ravine

Instead, I continued in the direction I was going. The trail made a long descent into a valley. The Trucker handled well, but I kept my speed down because I felt hard braking would not work too well with these tires. Also, the last time I rode here there was a tree down across the trail toward the bottom of the hill, and I didn’t want to hit it. But the tree is no longer there. My thanks to whomever moved it!

I was pretty surprised how well I was able to just roll over rocks, roots, and the numerous sticks that still cover the trail after the winds Ike sent our way. At one point, a stick got stuck in my front fender. I have to be really careful about this, if it got stuck the wrong way, it could lock up the wheel and wash out or send me over the bars. There was one log I would hop on the mountain bike, but on the Trucker I’d probably smash the chainring into the log. Not something I want to deal with, so I walked over it.

Lots of sticks on the trail

The Trucker in the woods

By the creekbed. The creek is completely dry.

Looking toward the trail

Next came a long climb out of the valley. I had to walk the steeper parts, as my rear wheel spun out beneath me. But once past the steepest part, I was able to ride the rest of the way. It took a lot of effort, but it was doable. It’s a tough hill.

The trail spit me out onto a gravel road.

Gravel road

I rode down this and pretty soon it turned to pavement and went down a steep hill, curving on the way down. I’ve ridden up this hill several times but never down it. I had to ride the brakes most of the way, it’s just too curvy to let loose.

I was on familiar roads for a while. Kerr Creek Road is very bumpy and my front light broke during this stretch of road. The light snapped right off of the bracket that holds it on the handlebars. I really need to get my lighting situation squared away on this bike.

I saw three deer grazing on a lawn and actually managed to get a photo. After I took a photo, they ran off but were running in the same direction I was going, so I rode alongside them briefly.


The sun hides behind some hills

I rode over to Friendship Road, which again I have ridden, but not in this direction. It’s flat and easy gravel riding for a few minutes.

Friendship Road

Fields, hills, and wildflowers line Friendship Road

I turned on Lampkins Ridge Road, knowing it would be mostly climbing in this direction. It climbs around 300 feet, mostly in the first mile and change. Only one section is steep, but it’s a lot of climbing and pretty tiring. I saw a few more deer while I climbed.

Climbing Lampkins Ridge Rd.

Almost at the top

It was getting pretty dark, although I could still see well enough to ride. I was mostly worried about being seen. Fortunately, my rear blinky was fine. I just had to be careful of cars going the opposite direction, who might turn in front of me. Lampkins Ridge has very little traffic anyway but I knew there would be more closer to town.

It was especially dark on Lampkins Ridge as it’s heavily wooded. Once I reached a clearer part, there was more light. And more still when I hit Moore’s Pike. I was treated to a gorgeous sunset over the hills as I headed back toward town.

Sunset on Moore’s Pike

All in all, a short ride, at under 15 miles. It felt a lot longer, though, with the trails and gravel roads, and a couple of long climbs. I’ve been doing shorter post-work rides these days; I really need to figure out my lighting situation so I can stay out longer. I’m loving these fall sunsets though and the air cooling significantly over the course of my rides.

Nighttime mountain bike ride

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Last night was a milestone: my first mountain bike ride since my accident back in June. My finger has been ready for a while, a few weeks at least, but my mountain bike had some problems and it took me a while to take it in to the shop (which was silly, they fixed my main problems in about 15 minutes, while I waited).

I met my mountain biking friend Dave at Brown County State Park, probably our favorite and definitely most-ridden mountain biking location, around 6:45. We were on the trails by about 7:00. With the days getting shorter, the sun sets around 8:00 now. This didn’t give us as much sunlight as it would have a month ago. But we brought lights, so we weren’t worried.

We started our ride with the climb up the parking lot connector toward the North Tower Loop. I expected to feel a bit awkward on the mountain bike after so long off it, and so much road riding, but it felt completely natural to be on the trails again. The bike didn’t feel sluggish, and I felt strong.

We rode the parking lot connector and the North Tower Loop without incident. We were moving at a good pace and really enjoying the fantastic flow of the trails. I won’t say it was effortless, there was definitely effort involved in riding, but everything just clicked and we glided through the woods, at times making conversation and at others simply riding quietly. We came around a bend and saw three deer mere feet from the trail, two adults and a young lady who still had her spots. We encountered them again a minute later after going through a couple of switchbacks and coming back in their direction. The trails were in fantastic shape, a little dry but some small rains in the past few days kept the dust under control.

We finished the North Tower and started riding the Aynes Loop. We were losing daylight quickly, but figured we could ride the hardest parts at least before needing our lights. We made the long climb, which never seems to get any easier, no matter what kind of shape you’re in, in pretty good time. I made it up all the rocks on the way up and through the rocky switchback at the very top. I just tackled them enthusiastically and handled them very well.

The sun was setting just as we reached the top of the hill and stopped at our usual resting place. We caught our breath and gazed at the sun setting behind the neighboring hills, its warm light filtering through the trees. It was quite a sight to see. I wished I had my camera.

We started down the other side of the hill while the sun was still in sight. All that climbing pays dividends when it comes time to descend, but we wanted to at least make it past the hardest part before dark. It’s a narrow, sketchy off-camber section with some sizable rocks in the trail, including some rather loose ones. Last time I rode here I choked and just narrowly avoided disaster in this section, but this time I rode over the rocks with confidence, stayed off the brakes and allowed momentum to carry me through. Sometimes, riding is 90% confidence.

Once past this tricky part, the rest of the trail is less technical, mostly downhill and full of switchbacks and a few short climbs. We were both riding very well and moving at a good clip. It got darker by the minute, but we made an unspoken decision to try to see if we could finish the Aynes Loop without our lights. It went well for the most part but as we approached the final descent, which is right on the edge of a steep ravine and fraught with rocks and roots, we couldn’t see much.

Fortunately we’ve ridden this enough times that we have a pretty good idea where the obstacles are, we went a little slower than usual and were able to navigate it safely. It was so dark I was tempted to close my eyes and just focus on riding. Obviously that would’ve been worse, but it didn’t seem like it’d make that much difference. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I am pretty sure we used The Force to get down this hill safely.

Once at the bottom, we rode to a clearing and were surprised by how much more light there was there. We put our lights on our helmets, a process which took a while due to our jury rigged “system” of flashlights, velcro zip ties, and helmet vents. I have a handlebar-mounted light, but it’s not enough on its own.

By the time we started riding again, it was dark. The moon was big and bright and provided some light, but we were pretty much fully reliant on our lights at this time. As soon as we started riding, I was reminded of how much I enjoy riding at night. It’s not something I simply tolerate to allow me to get a few extra miles in, I truly do enjoy it. I wouldn’t want all my rides to be night rides, but it can be a lot of fun, and the trails seem completely different under these circumstances.

We had some climbing to do, and then a few minutes of descending. We were riding through a thick forest and when we weren’t on the edge of a ravine, the trees formed a tunnel through which we rode. Or at least it felt that way. It probably wasn’t a complete tunnel, but when all you can see is what’s illuminated by a couple of flashlights, it really feels like a tree tunnel. Ravines seemed bottomless, as we could not see very far down. Dave described it as “precipitous,” which I thought was apt. Falling down one of these ravines could have dire consequences, but it seems even more that way when they look like an abyss.

As we made our way back we passed a point where there is a root sticking out of the trail. You have to pay attenton and ride on either side of this root, known to us as Collin’s root,  you’ll be in a lot of trouble. (Collin didn’t heed our warnings about this route and ended up having an off-the-bike experience.) I always know to look for this root, but this time, it took me by surprise as I couldn’t even see it until it was about 6 feet in front of me, and we were careening downhill. I still managed to miss the root. Dave commented that it wouldn’t be a night ride without at least a couple of “oh shit moments.” I couldn’t agree more.

Just as we approached the parking lot, we saw three other riders just starting a ride. They told us to go ahead, and got off to the sides of the trail to let us pass. We were of course blinded by their lights. It was a little hard to figure out where to go, since we couldn’t see, but we made it past them safely. I hope they had a good ride.

It was fantastic to hit the mountain bike trails again, and I hope I can do so again soon. The Brown County Breakdown is just about a month away and I need some more practice (plus, it’s fun).

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