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Archive for the 'Cold' Category

Winter mountain biking setup

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Since I’ve done a few snowy rides recently, on very different trails from where I rode back in Indiana, I’ve noticed some serious shortcomings in the way my mountain bike is set up. Here are the problems I’m experiencing, and what I plan to do about them. Of course, now that I’m getting laid off, anything that costs money is going to have to wait.

Poor traction

I already replaced the Kenda Blue Groove I had on my front wheel with a Panaracer Fire XC Pro, on the advice of my closest bike shop, Main Bike World. I’ve only done one ride on the new tire so far, but it worked very well. Now, I’ve noticed the rear Kenda Nevegal isn’t gripping too well. It’s fairly worn anyway.

Possible solutions: Get another Fire XC Pro (2.1″ wide) to put on the rear wheel. Or, get a Fire FR (2.4″ wide) for the front, and move the 2.1″ tire to the rear wheel. I’m leaning toward getting the wider tire for the front; I haven’t needed it yet but once the snow gets deeper, I think I will need it.

Clipless pedal problems

My Shimano SPD cleats are always getting leaves, mud, snow, and ice stuck in them, often to the point where I can’t clip in at all, or I randomly come unclipped. It’s infuriating. I am constantly having to bang my shoes on the pedals to try to get anything caught in the shoes to fall out. It’s especially bad when I have to push my bike for a while; when I try to get back on the bike, my shoes are clogged.

Cold feet – even with shoe covers, my feet get cold.

Possible solution: Put platform pedals on my mountain bike. I switched to platforms on the road when I got the Trucker, and I love the ability to wear any shoes I want. I’ve been sticking with clipless pedals on the mountain bike, and prefer them in general. For winter, going with platforms would allow me to wear my hiking boots, which keep my feet warmer and won’t get so clogged with snow and ice. Bonus: I have an extra pair of platform pedals laying around.

Moon Lake: more snow biking

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

On Sunday, I went mountain biking at Moon Lake Park. I had never been there before, so it was an interesting experience. There was a bit of snow on the ground (maybe an inch) and they made no effort to clear the roads in the park. Fortunately, the road going up the mountain was clear, and the park itself is fairly flat. I didn’t have any trouble, but my Ford Taurus is not really built for this kind of thing.

Park office

My first order of business was to go to the park office to get a map. Unfortunately, the map looked like a photocopy of a fax, and it was very difficult to make any sense of it. I couldn’t even tell the nearest access point from the map.

moon lake official trail map
Moon Lake Trail Map

The park officer pointed me toward the Nature’s Way trail. I got my stuff ready, set a waypoint in my GPS for the car, and headed out. At first, there were signs pointing the way, but then the signs stopped and the only markings were colored blazes on the trees. Now, notice something about the above map: it’s in black and white, and there’s no legend. I got lost a few times during this ride. In fact, at one point I lost the trail entirely. Here is the route I ended up riding. On the right side, you can see where I got lost and tried every possible way of going before eventually finding my way back to the trail.

View Larger Map

Making the first tracks, for the first time this year

Gently curving trail

The riding was fairly easy for a while, save the few times I encountered some rocks. They were difficult to see because of the snow, and slick. Of note: my new front tire (a Panaracer Fire XC Pro) worked very well in this snow. Somehow, I took a wrong turn and ended up by the road. I went back and spent a while riding on a fire road. It was easy, but a lot of fun. It’d be a great place to ride once the snow gets deeper, since I think the harder trails would be too difficult in those conditions.

Rear wheel, derailleur, snow, leaves, etc

Easy fire road riding

I think, in hindsight,  that the fire road was not the way I was supposed to go. Or, looking at the map now, I think I bypassed the Salamander trail. Whoops.

I turned onto another trail, which had some fun logs to hop and some nice scenery.

Tire treads


Soon, I was at the campground.


A would-be excellent view, if not for the bathrooms

Anyway, before long I was back on singletrack, and it got a lot more difficult. The trail went into a lot of twists and turns, the rock quotient increased, it got hillier as well. There were some very impressively-designed switchbacks along the way. They’d be tricky in dry conditions. With the snow, some were impossible. There was also a skill-building area set up with rocks to climb, jump off, etc. I didn’t do any of that. Maybe I’ll try it when there isn’t snow on the ground.



A reason to be happy I have disc brakes

Skill-building area

My bicycle

Sloped, narrow trail

I ended up pushing my bike a lot through this section. There were no long climbs, but a lot of short, steep ones. That, combined with curvy, narrow trails, steep sideslopes, and a plethora of rocks, meant I was slipping around a lot.

Narrow trail

The hill, including the trail, is on a pretty severe angle. My bike kept slipping off the rocks and over to the left.

I was impressed with these trails, but once again I felt this would be very difficult, even when dry. The trails here are much more technical than the ones in Indiana. The rocks are the main hazard, but the extremely twisty trail design made things more difficult. I can’t wait to ride this section once the trails are clear; it was really too hard for me, with the snow on it.

Guardian angel squirrel

Crazy rocks


Tight switchback

Eventually, I ended up back at the campground. I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I had a really hard time finding the trail. I rode through the campground looking for it, and it was vacant and a little eerie. There were no signs anyone had been there since it snowed, and I could hear the wind whistling through the area. The playground looked absolutely forlorn.


Eventually, I did find the trail. I took the service road up to a maintenance area, and then I found the trail. I also had to reconnect with it by the scout camp.

Sewage treatment?

A tank of some sort

The trail I found was a blast, It still had a lot of twists and turns, but they weren’t as sharp. I was able to get in a good groove and even ride over some long rock gardens. I was having a blast.


Rock garden

The trail connected with the road

Scout camp

The trail went into a long downhill stretch. It was nice to let loose and let gravity do most of the work. There were some nice views through the trees. Tough to capture in photos, but I saw some distant mountains, and the gap between them. I had to keep my speed conservative due to the snow, but I bet you can really fly through here when the trails are clear.

Downhill riding, with a bit of a view

For a while, the trail was mainly fast and flowing, but occasionally threw a rock garden or log pile at you — or even a rock pile.

Treacherous — riding over a pile of snowy rocks, with that tree waiting to stab you (I walked this)

The trail went through a narrow gap between two stone walls

I reached some other trails, some of which were signed, but I once again got confused about what trail I was on. By this time I had lost the trail map and while it wasn’t very good, I still wished I had it. I came upon a creek, which the trail crossed several times. Soon afterwords I ran out of water. This almost never happens to me, as I am very careful to always carry enough water. I was a little disconcerted, but I knew I couldn’t have too much further to go.


Creek crossing

A bend in the creek

After a bit, I worked my way back to the road. I didn’t quite get to ride all the trails in the park, but since I was out of water, I wanted to head back to the car. If I hadn’t wasted so much time being lost, I would’ve had plenty of time to finish riding the trail system. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back!

I enjoyed Moon Lake immensely. It had some very difficult parts that would be a fun challenge when dry. Next time I might bypass some of the sketchier parts, if there is still snow on the ground. Also, I want to ride the Salamander trail and ride the trails in the system that I missed.

I rode just over 8 1/2 miles. In these conditions, it took me nearly 3 1/2 hours! I hiked a big part of it, and getting lost slowed me down a lot. But overall, it was a great 3 hours in the snowy woods.

Ride around Frances Slocum Lake

Monday, December 8th, 2008

I was feeling pretty down on Saturday. Really, I’ve been feeling down since I found out I’m losing my job, but on Saturday I was feeling the very kind of existential angst I’ve been hoping to avoid. I planned to get up early with Sarah (she had to work), but instead I slept in and was moping around the house, not wanting to do much of anything. I didn’t even want to ride my bicycle! You know there’s something wrong when I don’t want to go on a bike ride.

However, I knew I would feel better if I did ride, and I forced myself to get off my butt and go ride. During the week, I had been envisioning a nice long ride on Saturday, maybe riding 30-40 miles and exploring a new area, maybe to the west or south. I didn’t really feel like planning such a route so instead I extended a familiar route into some new territory. Here is the route.

View Larger Map

The ride started on familiar roads. The Bunker Hill climb was harder than usual, probably because I’ve ridden significantly less in the past couple of weeks. Also, it was cold enough (in the 20s) that it was hard to breathe deeply enough to get enough air.

Since I have learned that some local mountain bike clubs ride along power lines at times, I’ve gotten curious about land access issues, and I tend to watch for places near power lines that look like they’d make for a good ride. I saw some great potential places from Bunker Hill Road, but I don’t know how to find out about how to get to them, and how to find out if it’s OK to ride there.

Trail following the power lines

This one might be a little difficult

Once I completed that long climb, I had a fun descent. I kept my speed down, as it was awfully chilly. Also, my bulkier cold weather clothes slow me down considerably. I’m realizing more and more just how difficult it is to stay comfortable when riding in the mountains. During the climb, I generated a lot of heat and pushed up my sleeves and unzipped my jacket to cope with it. But then as I (almost immediately) started down the other side, I had to pull my sleeves back down, and zip my jacket as far as it’d go. Almost immediately I began climbing again … you get the picture. I’m never on flat ground for very long around here, and I’m still learning the implications of that simple fact.

On my way up Manor Road, I saw a really cool geodesic dome house. The road was mostly climbing for the next mile.

Geodesic dome house

Green Road


I passed a Christmas tree farm where a family was cutting down a tree with a chainsaw, rode by a new subdivision that’s in development, and passed a tempting piece of land of questionable ownership. I almost rode there but decided against it. There was a gate, although there was a nice clear spot next to it that I could easily fit through.

Who owns this land? And can I ride on it?

I passed a few trailheads for trails in Frances Slocum State Park. Soon, I enjoyed a fun, twisty descent, a little climbing, and then I was at the main park entrance. I decided to ride through the park. I wanted some different views of the lake, and I thought the park roads would be fun to ride on. I was right.

A fun road

Main park entrance

As I rode through the park, I realized that a DCNR truck was following me. They pulled me over, and I was more than a little confused. I didnt’ see any signs saying the road I was on was closed, or anything like that. The park ranger got out of his truckand told me, “I just read your blog!” He said he recognized my bike. We talked about the park for a few minutes, he offered me a map, and I went on my way. He backed up to go back the way he came from. I guess he’d gone out of his way to track me down. So, if you’re reading this, Mr. Park Ranger, thanks for introducing yourself!

Frances Slocum Lake

I rode down to a pier, and walked out on it. The lake had a thin layer of ice on it that creaked and cracked as the pier moved slightly as I walked. I had some nice views of the lake, but it sure was cold. The wind was stronger than I realized until I was really out in the open.

The sun reflects off a thin layer of ice

The Trucker on the pier

I had a fun climb back to the road. It looked worse than it felt, actually. Then some big rolling hills took me to 8th Street.

The climb toward the park entrance

Looking behind me as I climb

I rode by the water tower, and it was interesting to see it up close, after seeing it from my mountain bike ride last weekend. It was bigger than I expected, I guess. It’s just barely visible in this shot from last weekend.

Water tower

Rolling hills (there’s also a big cemetery to the left, and some mountain views to the right)

Next I enjoyed a descent of a mile and a half. I once again kept my speed down, but even so tears were streaming from my eyes as the cold wind reached them. It’s a beautiful ride through a gap of sorts. I could have taken 8th all the way down to the valley, but I have done that a few times. I opted instead to climb Carverton Road and go down Bunker HIll Road, back the way I came. I had quite a bit more climbing, and I stopped by Frances Slocum Lake to get yet another perspective, this time from the dam at the southeast corner of the lake.

Climbing Carverton Road

View from the dam

Looking the other way from the top of the dam

After that climb, I got to go downhill briefly, and then had another 300-foot climb before I could start the descent down Dug/Bunker Hill Road. It was simply brutal, but I knew I had nearly three miles of descending ahead. I got another great view near the top.

View from Dug Road

It was another eye-watering descent. It’s got a lot of twists and turns, so I kept my speed in check. It’s a thrilling ride, especially since the road skirts the edge of the mountain and you can see a long way down. My ears popped probably three times on the way down.

It was a most enjoyable ride. Even though I only got to see a little new territory, I got to explore some new places, at least. And the ride did lift my spirits, as I thought it would. I’m still trying to get used to how challenging the rides are around here, though. I rode 20 miles and was gone nearly two hours, climbing 2400 feet in the process. In Bloomington, I could do my ride around Lake Lemon, about 35 miles, in about the same time (then again, that ride had less than 1300 feet of climbing).

I need to start thinking of my rides in slightly different terms; in the past, I’ve paid more attention to distance than anything else, but that doesn’t tell the whole story here.

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