Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I've got to learn bike maintenance

Jason and I are big fans of Sun and Ski and their lifetime maintenance for bikes purchased there. However, we would like to be able to do minor maintenance ourselves rather than hauling a bike out to Opry Mills. My full-suspension Haro Sonix nearly came apart a couple of weeks ago while riding the last couple of miles of Chickasaw Trace. Even being an engineer, I wasn't quite sure what was causing the wobble, so I took it to Sun and Ski (Carl). Turned out everything was causing the wobble and Carl fixed it up for me.

After riding Monkey Bell two days ago, I noticed some slow shifting. Jason has been trying to get up to speed with gear maintenance and is taking a course this Saturday at Cumberland Transit. He passed on a great website:

I am going to scan this site over and try to figure out some of the shifting myself. As I learned with the Garmin Oregon, reading the instruction manual can be a good thing to try as well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monkey Bell 8-25-09

Yesterday I returned to the trail where I severely broke my ankle on the day after Thanksgiving last year. I had to have a plate and 7 screws to put everything back together. The break, a spiral fracture, was due to clipless pedals not releasing. Now I ride BMX style platform pedals, which are fine in terms of grip. My feet don't slip often and although I occasionally get a flesh wound, I am not attached to the bike, which for me is great for not breaking bones. I think I ride a lot more cautiously these days.

With that as backdrop, I am always a bit hesitant about going to Monkey Bell (my affectionate nickname for Montgomery Bell State Park). There are over 20 miles of trail out there, ranging from beginner to advanced/expert. I stay on the beginner to intermediate trails. Yesterday I rode 9.1 miles of red, blue and white. The trail map of the park may be downloaded here. The red is the perimeter trail, and is smooth and flowing. The "Back Blue" is a favorite section of mine, very fast and scenic. "Lonesome Blue" is tough, very steep in parts and uphill (at least the direction I rode) and the "Hayne Branch" white is fun, but very slow going, as I have found all of the whites to be. I broke my ankle on "Storm Track."
Good ride all in all. I like Monkey Bell because the ride is never the same, you get to pick the trails and choose the order, making for a different ride every time. When you go to Chickasaw (another favorite trail), you have a distinct path to follow (ride the trail until you see your car again), though you can come out and ride a section again after a brief asphalt ride. Some riders go through that trail backwards for variety (and to scare me, I think) and they race in that direction. I came across a backwards rider one time and I was fortunately not on a downhill section.
Anyway, trail conditions at Monkey were excellent and I hope to get out there several more times before the leaves start falling, making trail navigation more difficult.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chickasaw Trace Mountain Biking - 8-19-09

The weather forecast was completely off today (mostly cloudy and thunderstorms) so I decided to ride my home course, Chickasaw Trace in Columbia, TN. I really like this course since it has a nice mix of technical sections and singletrack. I think it is really challenging with climbs, especially in the aptly named "Trail of Tears" and "Blackhill Trail."
I got my handheld mapping GPS and wanted to try it out with tracing my tracks. I am learning the hard way how to do this. Some things I am learning include:
  1. Power the GPS on and let it get satellites while you are getting ready. I turned it on, threw it in the backpack and was off. It never got a good read of the satellites as a result.
  2. Read the owner's manual. This helped me figure out where to save tracks, clear old tracks, etc. Even though I am a GIS person and can edit these files, I am making it harder than it has to be.
  3. Save the tracks then clear the current track right before you go into the trail.
Here is the track from yesterday:

Not bad overall, but it is seriously off in some places.

Special thanks go out to the Columbia Cycling Club for their maintenance of the trail. It had rained earlier in the week so there were some muddy spots, concentrated near the end of the trail (as usual, this is how the drainage works out there).