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Archive for the 'Cold' Category

Cold, but still rolling

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

So far both mornings this week have seen single-digit temperatures, and below-zero windchills. But I’m getting pretty good at this (again) and riding to work really hasn’t been a problem. I’m still working out exactly the right set of layers, but only making small tweaks at this point. It is a little silly how many layers I have to peel off when I arrive at work, though.

On a side note, I have long wanted studded tires, but I haven’t been able to justify the cost. Until this weekend, that is: I found a “used” pair — actually brand new, the guy bought them and realized they wouldn’t work with his tubeless mountain bike setup, so they had never even been ridden. He was selling the pair for $70 (each tire normally goes for about $55) so I snatched them up. They’re Nokian Mount & Ground tires, 26×1.9″. So far I’ve only mounted the front tire, and we don’t have ice at the moment, so I will have to wait to formulate an opinion.

I will say that to the front tire actually rolls BETTER than the old, crummy, knobby tire I had on there before. These Mount & Grounds have less-aggressive knobs and are a little narrower. The carbide studs make a pretty unpleasant noise as I ride, but I think it’ll be worth putting up with it to stay vertical.

More winter mountain biking: Nebo Ridge

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Well, the snow in the forecast for the weekend never materialized, but the temperatures did stay low enough to allow for some fantastic mountain biking. On Sunday, I headed out to Nebo Ridge, one of my favorite trails in the area. It was nearly a three-hour ride, with temperatures in the teens, and single-digit windchills. Fortunately, it was sunny outside which helped a little bit.

Nebo Ridge is a long enough ride that I have never done it during the winter. And the trailhead is remote enough that if we did have snow, it would be hard to get to. So, I felt lucky that I got to ride this trail in January.

The trail starts at the bottom of a big hill. There was quite a bit of ice at the bottom, but once I started up the hill, the ice dissipated. The trail was nicely frozen and crunchy, though there were some frozen tire ruts throughout the trail that made it extremely rough.

The climb went better than I expected. I made myself stop a couple of times to catch my breath, after the coughing fits I experienced after a long climb on another cold ride. These breaks seemed to help, and I was able to avoid any major coughing fits.

After climbing for a while, I reached this sign. I was headed out on the Nebo Trail and would come back up on Combs “Road” (which is more of a fire road than an actual road).

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After the long climb, the trail throws some rather large rolling hills at you. These were a lot of fun and I once again felt that the 29er’s increased momentum was helpful. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the rest of the trail, the first half seems like it’s mostly climbing and rolling hills, but the last 2 1/2 miles are a real blast, as they’re almost entirely downhill.

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When I reached the end of the trail, I stopped for a snack. I grabbed a Clif Bar from my Camelbak and tried to take a bite. Frozen solid! I literally could not get a bite. I held it in my hands for a few minutes, and eventually warmed it up enough that I could take small bites. I am going to have to find a better snack food for cold weather. I’m not particularly fond of energy bars, but I usually buy them anyway because they are convenient. Any suggestions for snack items that won’t freeze would be much appreciated.

At this point, I had a decision to make. I had considered riding back along the trail, or riding down to the road to do a loop with a few miles of paved/gravel/fire roads. Ultimately, I decided to make the loop. I knew it would be colder down on the road, so I put on an extra layer. As I put my Camelbak back on, the buckle for the waist strap broke. Damn!

After my break, I felt very cold for a few minutes. I got a little worried that I wouldn’t warm up again, but I did after a few minutes.  The road section has a very different feel from the trail, the scenery is a bit more varied, and the road goes by a creek, some farms, etc.

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I reached Combs “Road”, a fire road of sorts, and here you have to pass through a gate. No cars back here. There were a few creeks to cross, which gave me some pause. They were icy, as were parts of the “road,” and I knew if I got my feet wet, I’d get cold. I made it through a few creeks, some of which had ice on them. I tried to ride across the last creek, but the ice cracked and my wheel fell in. I had to put my feet down to catch myself, and they got wet. Fortunately the water was only a few inches deep, but it was COLD.

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This is the one that got me

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After a while, I reached the end of the “road” and had a tough climb back up to the trail. This climb is hit or miss for me: sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t. It was hard, but I made it up.

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After that there was a bit more climbing and then I reached the trail proper and had a rough mile and a half downhill to the parking lot.

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This was a great ride, and as I do more winter rides, I gain confidence that I can do many of the same rides I love, even if it’s cold outside.

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.

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