Monday, November 16, 2009

If one bike is good and two bikes is better...

...then heed the lessons learned at Lock 4: always bring 2 bikes if you have the room in the back of your vehicle (one does no good when your bike breaks down and the other is an hour away) and always have spare parts (or rely on the generosity of strangers)!

Jason and I headed out to Lock 4 yesterday morning. I was excited about getting back out there on the Mary SS again to see if I could do two laps without getting off the bike to push. We started in on BLT1 and maybe 2 minutes in my chain came off the rear cog. No big deal, flipped the bike upside down and the chain was back on. Unfortunately, this was a sign of things to come...once we crossed the road into BLT2 (maybe one mile into the nine mile course) I heard a loud noise and my chain came completely off.

When I looked down and saw the chain carnage I figured my day was done. I was running a couple of minutes late and decided I did not have time to throw another bike into the back of the Tahoe (I would have brought "Gary" the geared Mary XC). Single speed mountain bikes use a thicker chain than geared bikes and this kept the spare chain link that Jason wisely brought with him from being able to get me out of my predicament. After returning to the trailhead, another singlespeed rider kindly let me take a couple of links off a spare piece of chain he kept around (I will always bring some spare pieces of chain after this event) and I was back on the trail.

I learned a heck of a lot about the bike by going through this...adjusting the eccentric bottom bracket to maintain chain tension was the biggest lesson I learned. Additional pieces of chain, a good chain tool (not just one on a multi-tool), and the generosity of other riders are nice to rely on when you are riding.

Jason headed back to the trailhead about halfway through the loop trails and I continued to finish out the loop. All in all, a great day on the trail. The weather was great (almost hot), Lock 4 was in almost perfect condition and the ride was challenging. I did get off the bike to push at the very end.

So, in a previous post, I was proud of riding an entire loop without getting off to push. Well, it turns out I am not an animal. Saturday was the Lock 4 Challenge, an endurance race to see how many laps you (or your team) can complete in 6 hours. There are numerous categories, expert, clydesdale, singlespeed, beginner, teams, etc. The solo rider who completed the most laps (8) was riding a single speed! 8 laps of a 9-mile course is 72 miles...over 6 hours equals an average (AVERAGE) speed of 12 mph! And doing this on a single! Very were many of the other riders. The results are available here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chickasaw Trace 11-09-09

When I read yesterday on (a great resource for trail conditions, advice, etc.) that Chickasaw Trace in Columbia, TN was in great shape, I had to go. The trail had hosted Jailbreak in muddy conditions in late September/early October and the rains we have had recently have kept it from being ridable. With rain in the forecast for the following day, I headed for Columbia.

The trail indeed was in great shape and it was a perfect day for riding. I went into the trail head at about 3:45 and came out after one loop just before it was getting too dark to ride without lights. The trail is a favorite of is very challenging and I don't think I will be riding my single speed there anytime soon, at least not on the last two trails: Trail of Tears and Blackhill Trail. Those are very steep trails with too many climbs to count. I pushed my Mary XC around a lot in those areas.

I met a couple of Columbia natives (Jeff and Jeremy) who do night rides there on Tuesday and Wednesdays at 5:30 of each week. If I thought I could keep up with them I would meet them there, those guys were moving through the trail on the Blackhill trail when they passed me.

Here is my GPS trail:

Chickasaw Trace

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lock 4 - 11/7/09

I left work at 2:30 (best part of academia is the schedule) and headed toward Lock 4 where I would meet Lindsay. She just got a full suspension mountain bike (more of a road biker) and has ridden Hamilton Creek and Long Hunter State Park. Lock 4 was a real treat after riding Fairview through 4 inches of leaves Thursday. 

The weather was perfect, the trail was in good condition (BLT 3 had some huge mudholes that we stepped around) and we had a great time. It was my first time out on the Mary SS on a trail other than Long Hunter. I was at Lock 4 on the geared Mary and got off the bike 4 times to push. I figured I might have been pushing the SS all over the place...unbelievably, I didn't get off the bike once! It doesn't make sense other than single speed bikes make you momentum-conscious and you find yourself pedaling hard before and at the beginning of a grade. It evens out the effort around the trail and I feel less tired after riding the SS. 

We rode into the trailhead at about 3:45 and were out a little after 5:00. I was very glad I had my light, I needed it on the last trail. I am looking forward to some evening rides with the handlebar lights and a helmet light. 

Here is our track:

Lock 4

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Fairview - after 4 inches of leaf accumulation

I rode Fairview yesterday (Bowie Nature Park) hoping to get some exercise in. Unfortunately, at this time of year the entire trail was covered in at least 4 inches of leaves. This is problematic since part of the reason I crashed and broke my ankle last year was because the trail was covered in leaves and I was off the trail then (and didn't know it), secondly, leaves have a great tendency for hiding roots and rocks, which will grab you if you are not careful or if you don't know that they are there.

I rode the Mary XC (geared). I took the 26" full suspension Haro Sonix for a spin in my neighborhood and it feels really weird...kind of like I am riding a kid's bike. 29" wheels are definitely the way to go, but I hope to get the Sonix out to Hamilton Creek (rock and root paradise) soon.

The Mary XC is pictured below:

Fairview is a nice trail for exercise, mainly fire/Jeep roads with some good climbs and beautiful scenery. The City of Fairview recently decided not to opt out of the firearms in their city parks law, so I was wary of (illegal) hunters and people wanting to exercise their second amendment rights out there. I was also thankful for the color of the Mary (bright orange, above) and the fact that I was not wearing a helmet with antlers.

I rode one lap (5.0 miles) and it was very clear that the park police/rangers were ready to close the place out due to the park closing at sundown. I didn't want to head back in there for another loop with the leaves the way they were anyhow.

Here is my path on EveryTrail:
Fairview Mountain Biking at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: Travel Community

I am looking forward to riding the Mary singlespeed this afternoon on Lock 4.